Chisum


1h 50m 1970
Chisum

Brief Synopsis

A cattle baron enlists Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid to help him fight a land war.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Historical
Western
Release Date
Jan 1970
Premiere Information
Dallas opening: 24 Jun 1970
Production Company
Batjac Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 50m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

In 1878 John Chisum, the owner of a huge New Mexico cattle ranch, discovers that Lawrence Murphy, a corrupt businessman, is trying to gain control of the surrounding land by illegally foreclosing mortgages. When Chisum comes upon some of Murphy's men rustling cattle, he enlists the aid of J. H. Tunstall, his English neighbor, and the notorious Billy "The Kid" Bonney to gun the cowboys down. Stranger Pat Garrett arrives and informs Chisum of Murphy's growing power and particularly his influence on Sheriff Brady, who was appointed by Murphy. When the ranchers attempt to set up a general store of their own and Murphy's men interfere, Tunstall decides to report his actions to the governor; on his way, however, Tunstall is killed by Sheriff Brady. Billy, enraged by the murder of his friend, shoots Brady and his deputies in revenge. Chisum's niece Sally, who had been attracted to Billy, realizes the extent of his violent character and turns her affection to Pat Garrett. Murphy then uses the killings to persuade the governor to send bounty hunter Dan Nodeen to apprehend Billy and his gang. Murphy Joins Nodeen in the fierce gunfight against Billy; Chisum stampedes his cattle through town and in the resulting confusion, Billy chases Nodeen out of town and Chisum kills Murphy. The town is left in ruins, but Garrett is appointed sheriff, and Chisum is once again in control of his cattle empire.

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Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Historical
Western
Release Date
Jan 1970
Premiere Information
Dallas opening: 24 Jun 1970
Production Company
Batjac Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 50m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

Chisum


The first thing you notice when the opening credits begin is how out of place they seem in 1970. As the camera jumps to different parts of paintings by Western scene artist Russ Vickers, the theme song, sung by a male chorus with spoken word by William Conrad, plays over the soundtrack. "Chisum, John Chisum," they sing while Conrad intones, "Weary, saddle-worn. Can you still keep goin' on?" Placed at the start of a Western in 1955, they'd seem perfectly fitting but in 1970, after a grittier, harder-edged Western had made its way into the cinematic world of the sixties, led by Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah, they seem like the opening credits from another era entirely. With John Wayne in the lead and Ben Johnson in tow as his best friend, Chisum opens as majestically (John Wayne silhouetted on a hill next to a lone tree) as any classic Western but it takes only a moment for the dated opening credits to stop feeling dated and feel exactly right. Chisum is a loose retelling of history, about the real life John Chisum, played by Wayne, a cattle farmer who took on big business and, while not coming out the victor he hoped, emerged a hero to the little man and a legend in the west. You don't start a movie like that with gritty, new-fangled credits. You start it out with a song and a painting and more than a little reverence for and deference to the past.

Chisum begins with John Chisum (John Wayne) and his ranch hand James Pepper (Ben Johnson) heading to town to greet Chisum's niece, Sallie (Pamela McMyler), only to backtrack when they discover some of Chisum's horses have been rustled by a group of bandits paid off by the business leader of the town, Lawrence Murphy (Forrest Tucker). Along the way they pass by Chisum's friend and neighbor, Henry Tunstall (Patrick Knowles) whose cattle hand, William Bonny (Geoffrey Deuel), offers to help. Anyone who knows their Wild West history knows the name William Bonny and he is, in fact, the infamous Billy the Kid. His skill with a gun helps Chisum easily defeat the bandits but when Chisum learns of his past, after he's invited him to meet his niece, things get awkward. Chisum won't rescind the invitation but wants Bonny to keep his distance. Later, when the conflict between Chisum and Murphy turns into the Lincoln County War, Bonny fights for Chisum and the two form an uneasy alliance.

Chisum was based on a short story by the screenwriter Andrew Fenady and while taking some mild liberties with the history, including some basic name changes and timeline shifts, does a fairly good job of conveying the spirit of the dispute between Chisum and the big business interests that moved into New Mexico after Chisum and other ranchers had already set up shop with a thriving cattle trade. And it doesn't shy away from the fact that Chisum and Bonny were allies. Since that is what actually happened, and Bonny's later death at the hands of Pat Garrett, also a character in the movie, is of no consequence to this story, Billy the Kid is simply portrayed, for the most part, as one of the good guys because, at that moment in history, in this particular instance, he was.

Chisum was directed by Andrew McLaglen, son of the actor Victor McLaglen, and someone who was well-acquainted with John Wayne. He was assistant director on John Ford's The Quiet Man and his first two films as director were both financed by John Wayne's Batjac Productions. He later directed John Wayne several times, in Chisum, of course, as well as McLintock!, Hellfighters , The Undefeated, and Cahill U.S. Marshal.

John Wayne was entering the last stage of his career with Chisum. He would only make movies for another six years before passing away in 1979 and while the movies he made in those six years, from this one to The Shootist, aren't thought of as highly as many of his earlier classics, as an actor, he was never more confident or assured in front of the camera. In all honesty, the last decade of John Wayne's career is the decade of his finest work. Chisum may not rank on the same level as a John Ford classic like The Searchers or Stagecoach but it's just as entertaining and exciting and stands alone in 1970 as one of the last old fashioned westerns Hollywood made.

By Greg Ferrara
Chisum

Chisum

The first thing you notice when the opening credits begin is how out of place they seem in 1970. As the camera jumps to different parts of paintings by Western scene artist Russ Vickers, the theme song, sung by a male chorus with spoken word by William Conrad, plays over the soundtrack. "Chisum, John Chisum," they sing while Conrad intones, "Weary, saddle-worn. Can you still keep goin' on?" Placed at the start of a Western in 1955, they'd seem perfectly fitting but in 1970, after a grittier, harder-edged Western had made its way into the cinematic world of the sixties, led by Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah, they seem like the opening credits from another era entirely. With John Wayne in the lead and Ben Johnson in tow as his best friend, Chisum opens as majestically (John Wayne silhouetted on a hill next to a lone tree) as any classic Western but it takes only a moment for the dated opening credits to stop feeling dated and feel exactly right. Chisum is a loose retelling of history, about the real life John Chisum, played by Wayne, a cattle farmer who took on big business and, while not coming out the victor he hoped, emerged a hero to the little man and a legend in the west. You don't start a movie like that with gritty, new-fangled credits. You start it out with a song and a painting and more than a little reverence for and deference to the past. Chisum begins with John Chisum (John Wayne) and his ranch hand James Pepper (Ben Johnson) heading to town to greet Chisum's niece, Sallie (Pamela McMyler), only to backtrack when they discover some of Chisum's horses have been rustled by a group of bandits paid off by the business leader of the town, Lawrence Murphy (Forrest Tucker). Along the way they pass by Chisum's friend and neighbor, Henry Tunstall (Patrick Knowles) whose cattle hand, William Bonny (Geoffrey Deuel), offers to help. Anyone who knows their Wild West history knows the name William Bonny and he is, in fact, the infamous Billy the Kid. His skill with a gun helps Chisum easily defeat the bandits but when Chisum learns of his past, after he's invited him to meet his niece, things get awkward. Chisum won't rescind the invitation but wants Bonny to keep his distance. Later, when the conflict between Chisum and Murphy turns into the Lincoln County War, Bonny fights for Chisum and the two form an uneasy alliance. Chisum was based on a short story by the screenwriter Andrew Fenady and while taking some mild liberties with the history, including some basic name changes and timeline shifts, does a fairly good job of conveying the spirit of the dispute between Chisum and the big business interests that moved into New Mexico after Chisum and other ranchers had already set up shop with a thriving cattle trade. And it doesn't shy away from the fact that Chisum and Bonny were allies. Since that is what actually happened, and Bonny's later death at the hands of Pat Garrett, also a character in the movie, is of no consequence to this story, Billy the Kid is simply portrayed, for the most part, as one of the good guys because, at that moment in history, in this particular instance, he was. Chisum was directed by Andrew McLaglen, son of the actor Victor McLaglen, and someone who was well-acquainted with John Wayne. He was assistant director on John Ford's The Quiet Man and his first two films as director were both financed by John Wayne's Batjac Productions. He later directed John Wayne several times, in Chisum, of course, as well as McLintock!, Hellfighters , The Undefeated, and Cahill U.S. Marshal. John Wayne was entering the last stage of his career with Chisum. He would only make movies for another six years before passing away in 1979 and while the movies he made in those six years, from this one to The Shootist, aren't thought of as highly as many of his earlier classics, as an actor, he was never more confident or assured in front of the camera. In all honesty, the last decade of John Wayne's career is the decade of his finest work. Chisum may not rank on the same level as a John Ford classic like The Searchers or Stagecoach but it's just as entertaining and exciting and stands alone in 1970 as one of the last old fashioned westerns Hollywood made. By Greg Ferrara

TCM Remembers - John Agar


TCM REMEMBERS JOHN AGAR, 1921-2002

Popular b-movie actor John Agar died April 7th at the age of 81. Agar is probably best known as the actor that married Shirley Temple in 1945 but he also appeared alongside John Wayne in several films. Agar soon became a fixture in such films as Tarantula (1955) and The Mole People (1956) and was a cult favorite ever since, something he took in good spirits and seemed to enjoy. In 1972, for instance, the fan magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland mistakenly ran his obituary, a piece that Agar would later happily autograph.

Agar was born January 31, 1921 in Chicago. He had been a sergeant in the Army Air Corps working as a physical trainer when he was hired in 1945 to escort 16-year-old Shirley Temple to a Hollywood party. Agar apparently knew Temple earlier since his sister was a classmate of Temple's. Despite the objections of Temple's mother the two became a couple and were married shortly after. Temple's producer David Selznick asked Agar if he wanted to act but he reportedly replied that one actor in the family was enough. Nevertheless, Selznick paid for acting lessons and signed Agar to a contract.

Agar's first film was the John Ford-directed Fort Apache (1948) also starring Temple. Agar and Temple also both appeared in Adventure in Baltimore (1949) and had a daughter in 1948 but were divorced the following year. Agar married again in 1951 which lasted until his wife's death in 2000. Agar worked in a string of Westerns and war films such as Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), Breakthrough (1950) and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949). Later when pressed for money he began making the films that would establish his reputation beyond the gossip columns: Revenge of the Creature (1955), The Brain from Planet Arous (1957), Invisible Invaders (1959) and the mind-boggling Zontar, the Thing from Venus (1966). The roles became progressively smaller so Agar sold insurance and real estate on the side. When he appeared in the 1988 film Miracle Mile his dialogue supposedly included obscenities which Agar had always refused to use. He showed the director a way to do the scene without that language and that's how it was filmed.

By Lang Thompson

DUDLEY MOORE, 1935-2002

Award-winning actor, comedian and musician Dudley Moore died on March 27th at the age of 66. Moore first gained notice in his native England for ground-breaking stage and TV comedy before later building a Hollywood career. Like many of his peers, he had an amiable, open appeal that was balanced against a sharply satiric edge. Moore could play the confused innocent as well as the crafty schemer and tended to command attention wherever he appeared. Among his four marriages were two actresses: Tuesday Weld and Suzy Kendall.

Moore was born April 19, 1935 in London. As a child, he had a club foot later corrected by years of surgery that often left him recuperating in the hospital alongside critically wounded soldiers. Moore attended Oxford where he earned a degree in musical composition and met future collaborators Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett. The four formed the landmark comedy ensemble Beyond the Fringe. Though often merely labelled as a precursor to Monty Python's Flying Circus, Beyond the Fringe was instrumental in the marriage of the piercing, highly educated sense of humor cultivated by Oxbridge graduates to the modern mass media. In this case it was the revue stage and television where Beyond the Fringe first assaulted the astonished minds of Britons. Moore supplied the music and such songs as "The Sadder and Wiser Beaver," "Man Bites God" and "One Leg Too Few." (You can pick up a CD set with much of the stage show. Unfortunately for future historians the BBC commonly erased tapes at this period - why? - so many of the TV episodes are apparently gone forever.)

Moore's first feature film was the 1966 farce The Wrong Box (a Robert Louis Stevenson adaptation) but it was his collaboration with Peter Cook on Bedazzled (1967) that's endured. Unlike its tepid 2000 remake, the original Bedazzled is a wolverine-tough satire of mid-60s culture that hasn't aged a bit: viewers are still as likely to be appalled and entertained at the same time. Moore not only co-wrote the story with Cook but composed the score. Moore appeared in a few more films until starring in 10 (1979). Written and directed by Blake Edwards, this amiable comedy featured Moore (a last-minute replacement for George Segal) caught in a middle-aged crisis and proved popular with both audiences and critics. Moore's career took another turn when his role as a wealthy alcoholic who falls for the proverbial shop girl in Arthur (1981) snagged him an Oscar nomination as Best Actor and a Golden Globe win.

However Moore was never able to build on these successes. He starred in a passable remake of Preston Sturges' Unfaithfully Yours (1984), did another Blake Edwards romantic comedy of moderate interest called Micki + Maude (1984, also a Golden Globe winner for Moore), a misfired sequel to Arthur in 1988 and a few other little-seen films. The highlight of this period must certainly be the 1991 series Orchestra where Moore spars with the wonderfully crusty conductor Georg Solti and leads an orchestra of students in what's certainly some of the most delightful television ever made.

By Lang Thompson

TCM Remembers - John Agar

TCM REMEMBERS JOHN AGAR, 1921-2002 Popular b-movie actor John Agar died April 7th at the age of 81. Agar is probably best known as the actor that married Shirley Temple in 1945 but he also appeared alongside John Wayne in several films. Agar soon became a fixture in such films as Tarantula (1955) and The Mole People (1956) and was a cult favorite ever since, something he took in good spirits and seemed to enjoy. In 1972, for instance, the fan magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland mistakenly ran his obituary, a piece that Agar would later happily autograph. Agar was born January 31, 1921 in Chicago. He had been a sergeant in the Army Air Corps working as a physical trainer when he was hired in 1945 to escort 16-year-old Shirley Temple to a Hollywood party. Agar apparently knew Temple earlier since his sister was a classmate of Temple's. Despite the objections of Temple's mother the two became a couple and were married shortly after. Temple's producer David Selznick asked Agar if he wanted to act but he reportedly replied that one actor in the family was enough. Nevertheless, Selznick paid for acting lessons and signed Agar to a contract. Agar's first film was the John Ford-directed Fort Apache (1948) also starring Temple. Agar and Temple also both appeared in Adventure in Baltimore (1949) and had a daughter in 1948 but were divorced the following year. Agar married again in 1951 which lasted until his wife's death in 2000. Agar worked in a string of Westerns and war films such as Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), Breakthrough (1950) and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949). Later when pressed for money he began making the films that would establish his reputation beyond the gossip columns: Revenge of the Creature (1955), The Brain from Planet Arous (1957), Invisible Invaders (1959) and the mind-boggling Zontar, the Thing from Venus (1966). The roles became progressively smaller so Agar sold insurance and real estate on the side. When he appeared in the 1988 film Miracle Mile his dialogue supposedly included obscenities which Agar had always refused to use. He showed the director a way to do the scene without that language and that's how it was filmed. By Lang Thompson DUDLEY MOORE, 1935-2002 Award-winning actor, comedian and musician Dudley Moore died on March 27th at the age of 66. Moore first gained notice in his native England for ground-breaking stage and TV comedy before later building a Hollywood career. Like many of his peers, he had an amiable, open appeal that was balanced against a sharply satiric edge. Moore could play the confused innocent as well as the crafty schemer and tended to command attention wherever he appeared. Among his four marriages were two actresses: Tuesday Weld and Suzy Kendall. Moore was born April 19, 1935 in London. As a child, he had a club foot later corrected by years of surgery that often left him recuperating in the hospital alongside critically wounded soldiers. Moore attended Oxford where he earned a degree in musical composition and met future collaborators Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett. The four formed the landmark comedy ensemble Beyond the Fringe. Though often merely labelled as a precursor to Monty Python's Flying Circus, Beyond the Fringe was instrumental in the marriage of the piercing, highly educated sense of humor cultivated by Oxbridge graduates to the modern mass media. In this case it was the revue stage and television where Beyond the Fringe first assaulted the astonished minds of Britons. Moore supplied the music and such songs as "The Sadder and Wiser Beaver," "Man Bites God" and "One Leg Too Few." (You can pick up a CD set with much of the stage show. Unfortunately for future historians the BBC commonly erased tapes at this period - why? - so many of the TV episodes are apparently gone forever.) Moore's first feature film was the 1966 farce The Wrong Box (a Robert Louis Stevenson adaptation) but it was his collaboration with Peter Cook on Bedazzled (1967) that's endured. Unlike its tepid 2000 remake, the original Bedazzled is a wolverine-tough satire of mid-60s culture that hasn't aged a bit: viewers are still as likely to be appalled and entertained at the same time. Moore not only co-wrote the story with Cook but composed the score. Moore appeared in a few more films until starring in 10 (1979). Written and directed by Blake Edwards, this amiable comedy featured Moore (a last-minute replacement for George Segal) caught in a middle-aged crisis and proved popular with both audiences and critics. Moore's career took another turn when his role as a wealthy alcoholic who falls for the proverbial shop girl in Arthur (1981) snagged him an Oscar nomination as Best Actor and a Golden Globe win. However Moore was never able to build on these successes. He starred in a passable remake of Preston Sturges' Unfaithfully Yours (1984), did another Blake Edwards romantic comedy of moderate interest called Micki + Maude (1984, also a Golden Globe winner for Moore), a misfired sequel to Arthur in 1988 and a few other little-seen films. The highlight of this period must certainly be the 1991 series Orchestra where Moore spars with the wonderfully crusty conductor Georg Solti and leads an orchestra of students in what's certainly some of the most delightful television ever made. By Lang Thompson

Quotes

I think in some ways, the two of them are a lot alike.
- Sallie Chisum
Who?
- Pat Garrett
Uncle John, Billy Bonney. Don't you think they are? Don't you?
- Sallie Chisum
Not in the important things.
- Pat Garrett
Like what?
- Sallie Chisum
Sheriff Brady, Jess Evans, this is Alex McSween. Uh, he's part of the family.
- Lawrence Murphy
Howdy.
- Jess Evans
What does he do?
- Sheriff Brady
Well, he used to be a storekeeper and now he's my lawyer.
- Lawrence Murphy
I prefer storekeepers!
- Jess Evans
Why get in a frazzle over Chisum? You turn me loose on him... there'll be a sudden funeral right here in Lincoln.
- Jess Evans
Uh-huh. Yours.
- Lawrence Murphy
How's that?
- Jess Evans
Do you play chess?
- Lawrence Murphy
Chess? What the hell has that got to do with Chisum?
- Jess Evans
You good people witnessed the cowardly murder of our beloved Sheriff Brady by Billy the Kid right over there. Governor Axel has appointed a new sheriff, Dan Nodeen. Governor Axel has awarded the arrest and conviction of Billy the Kid and I am issuing the further reward of $500,000 dollars. Do you have anything you wish to add Sheriff?
- Lawrence Murphy
Just this, I'm going to bring Billy the Kid in dead or alive! Now you people can either help me, or stay the hell out of my way!
- Dan Nodeen
I've only been out here a little while and I'm just getting started. You have anything to say to that Mr. Chisum?
- Lawrence Murphy
Well, I don't fancy talking to vermin, but I'll talk to you just this once. You're not just getting started, the lines have already been drawn. What Billy did balanced the books so far, but one of your men sets foot on my land or touches one of my cows or does anything to my store, I'm not going to the sheriff, the governor or the President of the United States, I'm coming to see you!
- John Simpson Chisum
Mr. Chisum, that sounds like a threat!
- Lawrence Murphy
Wrong word, fact!
- John Simpson Chisum

Trivia

While in production on this film in Mexico, star 'John Wayne' won the Golden Globe and found out he was nominated for the Oscar for the film True Grit (1969).

Notes

Location scenes filmed in Durango, Mexico.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1970

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1970