Cast & Crew
In the 1870s, Martin Brady, an American who has lived most of his life in Mexico, crosses the Rio Grande and comes to the Texas town of El Puerto. Martin, who works as a hired gun for the Castro family who rule Northern Mexico, has come north to deliver gold ore and pesos in exchange for rifles on behalf of his padrone , Don Cipriano Castro. In town, Martin breaks his leg when the Andalusian stallion he is riding trips and falls. Some of the townspeople suspect that Martin, who they believe is Mexican, stole the stallion. Ellen Colton, the estranged wife of the newly arrived cavalry commanding officer, sends for Doc Stovall, who sets Martin's leg. In lieu of his fee, Stovall asks that Martin's horse Lagrimas, which is Spanish for "tears," be put to stud with his mare, and Martin, who received the horse from the Castros, agrees. Martin convalesces in the barn of Ben Sterner, a German immigrant who supplies the Castros with rifles. When Sterner's nephew Ludwig, newly arrived from Germany, becomes friendly with Martin, Sterner warns that Martin is an assassin to be avoided. Ellen's husband Major Colton asks Martin's help to facilitate a joint military operation between his troops and the Castros' forces against the southern Apaches, who hide in the Castros' territory after raiding the north. Martin scoffs at the possibility, as the Mexicans disparagingly think of Anglos as "gringos." However, Travis Hight, a jovial agent of the Continental and Southern Railroad, plans to offer money to the Castros for helping to wipe out the Apaches. Captain Rucker of the Texas Rangers, whom Martin has avoided, tells Martin that he knew his father and suspects that as a child, Martin killed his father's murderer, then fled to Mexico. Revealing that his father's murderer was a wanted man and therefore Martin did not have to flee, Ricker asks Martin to join the Rangers and encourages him to start a new life. At a party, Ludwig fights a drunk who has made malicious remarks about Ellen's supposed promiscuity and slurs about Martin. After the drunk breaks a bottle and viciously cuts Ludwig, Martin slugs the drunk and shoots him dead when he goes for his gun. Martin escapes to Mexico, where he finds that Don Cipriano has left for the capital city to see the governor. Martin meets with Don Cipriano's younger brother, Marcos, who insults Martin and sends him to the capital to explain the loss of the rifles, which had been stolen from his compatriot Diego Casas while Martin recovered from his broken leg. At the capital, Martin finds his padrone , who has now taken over the government, strangely lethargic and complacent. After a few weeks, Martin meets Hight, who has arranged a meeting between Colton and the Castros. During a fiesta, Ellen, who has come to Mexico with her husband, goes off alone with Martin. She rebukes him for being a hired killer, and when she contends he is not a whole man without his gun, he removes the gun and kisses her. Later, the Castros agree to join Colton's cavalry in a joint campaign against the Apaches. After learning that his brother plans to assassinate him, Don Cipriano sends Martin to kill Marcos. When Martin refuses the assignment, Don Cipriano insults him, calling him a "gringo" and warns that according to their law, he has the right to kill Martin if he attempts to leave his employ before the debt for the rifles is paid. Defiantly, Martin says that is not his law and rides off. When Lagrimas' hoof becomes injured, Martin takes refuge with Santiago Santos, a peasant farmer, and his family. After Apaches, challenged by the combined forces, attack a nearby ranchero, Santos is saddened that the peace of twenty years is now over. While riding out to help defend a neighboring ranchero, they come upon Tobe Sutton, a black U.S. officer, who informs them that the cavalry has been attacked and that Major Colton has been severely wounded. At the Calvary's camp, Martin finds Colton, who despite his condition, orders his men to carry him to a rendezvous with Captain Rucker and the Mexican forces 100 miles away. When scouts see Apaches below with a wagon, the major orders an attack over Martin's objections, but after Colton passes out, Martin joins the attack to carry out Colton's wish. Following a gun battle in which the Apache leader is killed, the rifles are recovered. Before dying, Colton asks Martin to take Ellen his ring. Upon reaching the fort, Martin tells Ellen that what they feel for each other is not wrong, and she responds that if he wants her, he must come cross the Rio Grande and leave Mexico. Meanwhile, Rucker returns the rifles to Marcos, who relates that Don Cipriano is dead. As the new governor, Marcos orders the Rangers to leave Mexico and demands that Rucker turn over Martin for murdering the drunk. Rucker refuses however, and tells Martin that witnesses testified that Martin killed the drunk in self-defense. As Martin rides towards the river, an assassin wounds Lagrimas, but Martin shoots the assassin, then kills his severely wounded horse. That accomplished, he puts down his gun, gunbelt and hat, and approaches the Rio Grande.
José B. Carles
Alma J. Clark
Richard C. Harris
R. J. Lannan
Maurice De Packh
Luis Sanchez Tello
The Wonderful Country
This melancholy Western, similar in style to John Ford's The Searchers (1956), draws a portrait of a passing way of life, and of a traditional Western hero who finds that his violent ways have separated him from the pioneering community he helped develop. Mitchum affects a subtle Spanish-Mexican accent to play Brady, whose loyalties to two countries are marked by the dividing line of the Rio Grande, which he frequently crosses.
Singer Julie London provides Mitchum's love interest as the sultry, restless wife of an Army major. Baseball hero "Satchel" Paige has a cameo role as the leader of an Afro-American unit of the U.S. army. And Tom Lea, who wrote the novel on which the movie is based, has a bit part as a barber who gives Mitchum a shave. Lea, a well-known Texas artist as well as a writer (he also wrote The Brave Bulls), passed his time on the set sketching Mitchum. He later recalled his involvement in the film in Lee Server's biography, Robert Mitchum: Baby I Don't Care: "We thought the perfect guy for the part would be Henry Fonda, but he wasn't interested at all. And then we went to see Gregory Peck, and he had just married a very nice French girl and he wasn't interested. And Bob [Parrish] had done a picture with Mitchum before, and Mitchum said he was interested. And Mitchum had a very sharp lawyer, and finally he took the whole thing over. And it might interest you to know that the only pay I ever got for the use of my novel was what I made acting a bit part in the movie. And I decided to make that my last experience with Hollywood. The hell with this! I thought. But I got to like Mitchum. And Bob Parrish was a fine man."
The Wonderful Country was filmed in and around Durango which at that time was "full of bars and hookers and that's about it," according to co-star Anthony Caruso. Mitchum, of course, was in his element and would hang out after hours with his stunt double "Bad Chuck" Roberson at the local cantinas. One night the duo actually witnessed a fatal shooting in a bar and reported the incident to the local police. For the most part though, the shoot was relaxed and the occasion for many practical jokes, usually at Mitchum's expense (for a bathing sequence, a cast member dumped a bucket of ice water over Mitchum's naked body instead of the expected lukewarm water).
When The Wonderful Country opened nationally, it passed virtually unnoticed among the major film releases of that year. Yet some critics praised it as a lyrical and beautifully shot Western and it's much more highly regarded today. According to Kathie Parrish, wife of the director, in Lee Server's biography, "Mitchum came over to the house once after the picture, and he was trying to tell Bob that he liked the picture, that it had been a good experience and it was a good picture. And it was just so difficult for him. He could not say that he was grateful or that he loved you. It embarrassed him to show emotion, affection, even with Dottie [Mitchum's wife]. He could come on to girls and all that, but real emotion was difficult. He'd take a drink instead."
Producer: Chester Erskine, Robert Mitchum (executive producer)
Director: Robert Parrish
Screenplay: Robert Ardrey, Walter Bernstein (uncredited), from novel by Tom Lea
Cinematography: Floyd Crosby, Alex Phillips
Production Design: Harry Horner
Original Music: Alex North
Editing: Michael Luciano
Costume Design: Mary Wills
Principal Cast: Robert Mitchum (Martin Brady), Julie London (Helen Colton), Gary Merrill (Maj. Stark Colton), Albert Dekker (Texas Ranger Capt. Rucker), Jack Oakie (Travis Hyte), Charles McGraw (Dr. Herbert J. Stovall).
by Roger Fristoe
The Wonderful Country
According to news items, director Robert Parrish met with author Tom Lea in Lea's hometown of El Paso, TX late in 1951 concerning the production of a film based on his novel, which had not yet been completed. In November 1953, Lea sold the film rights to Parrish and Gregory Peck, who announced the next month that they were forming an independent company to produce the film in Mexico in 1955. Parrish worked on the screenplay with Lea in El Paso in October 1954, and shortly after, the two formed a partnership to make the film. By July 1958, the film rights were owned by Lea, Parrish and Chester Erskine. According to a letter in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, in September 1958, D.R.M. Productions, Inc. was about to produce the film under M.P.L. (Mitchum-Parrish-Lea) Productions. Lea portrayed a barber in the film.
The Wonderful Country was Jack Oakie's first film since Tomahawk in 1951, aside from a brief, cameo appearance in the 1956 film Around the World in 80 Days. A November 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Oakie's wife, Victoria Horne, also had been cast, but she did not appear in the released film. In his autobiography, Parrish stated that when he had trouble casting the role of the African-American cavalry officer, Robert Mitchum suggested "Satchel" Paige, the great baseball player from the American Negro League, who had never acted in a film before.
According to news items, the film was shot entirely in Mexico. Most of the shooting was done in Durango, San Miguel de Allende and La Punta. Although several reviewers praised the atmosphere of the film, the Hollywood Reporter reviewer was critical of the way the film dealt with the historical significance of the use of African-American cavalry to fight the Apaches, commented, "the script never probes the emotions of a race, recently released from slavery, being used to fight an Indian tribe desperately fighting for its freedom."
A modern Mexican source adds the following actors to the cast: Alberto Pedret, Alberto Mariscal, José Chávez Trowe, Ignacio Villalbazo, Antonio Sandoval, Hernando Name and Salvador Godínez.
Released in United States 1959
Released in United States 1959