Cast & Crew
During the American Civil War, renegade Confederate officer William Clark Quantrill and his raiders unleash a savage attack against the city of Lawrence, Kansas. Jeff Travis, serving as an advance spy for Quantrill, is dismayed to see the city brutally pillaged and its citizens willfully murdered. When Jeff learns Quantrill intends to keep the spoils instead of using them for the Southern cause, he flees, enlisting in the Confederate Army, where he serves out the remaining war years. After the war, Jeff works on a river boat with his longtime girl friend, card sharp Josie Sullivan. On one trip, some men confront Jeff about his past connection with Quantrill, and with the help of a stranger, Jeff escapes. Josie warns Jeff that he is wanted for the Lawrence raid and on her advice, Jeff jumps ship and heads West. Some weeks later, Jeff arrives in Prescott, Arizona as a gang of thieves, headed by sophisticate Jules Mourret, makes an unsuccessful attempt to hold up a Conroy Stage Line coach, run by Jason Conroy and his daughter Shelby. Conroy avoided being robbed by hiding the gold in a different location for each trip, never revealing the hiding place to the driver. Jeff arranges to meet Mourret, whom he recognizes as the stranger who helped him escape the river boat. Impressed by Jeff's work for Quantrill, Mourret offers him a job spying on the Conroys to discover how large amounts of gold are being safely transported. Jeff agrees, assuming the identity of Mark Stone, an insurance detective requested by the Conroys, and informs them he will masquerade as a stage guard to protect the gold. The next day the Conroy stage arrives carrying Josie and Mexican bandit leader Degas, Mourret's rival, who also anticipates stealing the line's gold transports. Shortly afterward, an attempt is made to stop the stage by Degas' and Mourret's gangs, but Jeff gets the stage away safely. When Mourret angrily chastises him later, Jeff explains that he has learned that the next stage will be carrying $25,000 and thus will be a more important robbery. When that stage is attacked and the driver, Shelby's uncle Jake, is tortured and killed in an attempt to find the gold, Jeff guiltily reconsiders his association with Mourret. After Shelby tells Jeff that she and her father are reluctantly closing down the line to prevent more killings, he convinces them to keep the line going a little longer. Jeff then informs Mourret that the next stage gold shipment is to be $100,000 and says the Conroys have assigned him to drive. Mourret reveals that one of his men is missing and he suspects the man is being held by Degas. Jeff goes to Degas' hideout, where he finds Mourret's man, but intending to set a trap for Degas, tells him about the $100,000 transport and offers to kill Mourret for a third of the gold. The next day, Mourret sends one of his henchmen, Dan Kurth, to ride with Jeff on the stage, which is ambushed by both Degas and Mourret. Jeff pushes Kurth off the stage, then disappears as the gangs confront one another and Mourret ends up killing Degas. Jeff returns the gold to the Conroys, then in his hotel room confesses to Josie his distress about Jake's brutal murder and his life as an outlaw. Josie hesitantly admits that to keep Jeff dependent upon her, she lied to him about his being wanted for his association with Quantrill. Moments after Josie departs, Kurth and another Mourret henchman, Bull Slager, break into Jeff's room, demanding to know the location of the gold. After tying up Jeff, Kurth departs to get Mourret, and Jeff convinces Slager he will split the gold with him. When Slager loosens the ropes, Jeff breaks free and escapes. Jeff then runs into Kurth and kills him. Slager reports to Mourret at the saloon, and Mourret rouses the townsmen by revealing Jeff's connection with the infamous Quantrill. Josie tries to enlist the sheriff's help, but only finds his deputy, who refuses to get involved. Meanwhile, Jeff explains his entire past to the Conroys and, warned by Josie, evades Mourret and the vigilante group. Jeff remains missing through the night, and the next day Mourret grows anxious upon discovering the townspeople have lost interest in Jeff's capture. Soon after, Jeff arrives at the saloon to challenge Mourret and Slager. When a fight breaks out between the men, Josie throws a kerosene lamp at Mourret, and the saloon bursts into flames. Jeff shoots Slager and escapes as the burning ceiling collapses on Mourret. Afterward, Shelby asks Jeff to remain in Prescott, but he decides to start a new life with Josie in California.
Mary Lou Holloway
Harry Joe Brown
Frank [a.] Tuttle
Lester H. White
The Stranger Wore a Gun
Scott plays Jeff Travis, a spy for William Quantrill's raiders during the Civil War. Quantrill and his men were little more than terrorists, and it takes a while for this reality to dawn on Travis. After leaving Quantrill, Travis takes up with a group of outlaws who are hoping to gain control of post-war Prescott, Arizona. There's also a love triangle, involving Scott, Claire Trevor, and Joan Weldon. This situation, however, isn't as interesting as the rest of the film, since lovers in Westerns seldom fling items at the camera while coping with spurned affections. That's Anna Magnani territory. Film buffs should also keep an eye open for Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine in the supporting cast. The Stranger Wore a Gun is Borgnine's big-screen debut, and (although he pretended otherwise in order to win the role) was also the first time he ever rode a non-carousel horse!
Lee Marvin, who worked with Randolph Scott on three occasions, recalled one incident during the making of The Stranger Wore a Gun: "There was a flaming stagecoach in one scene, racing along while the cameras rolled in the driver's seat. Holding the reins sat the stunt man while 20 yards away, sitting in a canvas chair, sat Scott, all dressed in his cowboy outfit, with legs crossed, reading The Wall Street Journal." (from The Films of Randolph Scott by Robert Nott).
De Toth shot another, much more memorable 3-D picture in 1953 - the Vincent Price horror film House of Wax. But he was more than happy to work with his old buddy Scott once again, in a genre that they both understood. Before their respective careers were over, De Toth and Scott would collaborate on Man in the Saddle (1951), Carson City (1952), The Stranger Wore a Gun, Thunder Over the Plains (1953), Riding Shotgun (1954), and The Bounty Hunter (1954).
Scott was also pleased to be working with producer Harry Joe Brown on The Stranger Wore a Gun. "Harry Joe Brown was a very good, down-to-earth, nickel-and-dime producer," De Toth would say in an interview many years later. "He made a lot of films and drank a lot, even for those times. Scott drank a lot a too sarsaparilla and they understood each other because instead of reading scripts, they read The Wall Street Journal. They had financial interests together. Neither of them knew much about stories. It was a good combination. They didn't fight about story points. They were both gentlemen, nice people."
According to De Toth, Scott wasn't even all that interested in acting. He just did it to make a living. "I believe Randolph Scott could have gone further as a performer," De Toth said. "But he did not have the ambition to step up, to be better in anything except golf. Golf was all that counted. He was a handsome man; took showers twice a day, I believe. He was a man whose shoes shined. But he had a tremendous inferiority complex about his acting ability, and that made him stiff...he was Randy Scott. Which had advantages, but no surprises."
Director: Andre De Toth
Producer: Harry Joe Brown
Screenplay: Kenneth Gamet
Editor: Gene Havlick, James Sweeney
Music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff
Set Decoration: Frank Tuttle
Sound: Lambert Day
Cast: Randolph Scott (Jeff Travis, aka Mark Stone), Claire Trevor (Josie Sullivan), Joan Weldon (Shelby Conroy), George Macready (Jules Mourret), Alfonso Bedoya (Degas), Lee Marvin (Dan Kurth), Ernest Borgnine (Bull Slager).
by Paul Tatara
The Stranger Wore a Gun
TCM Remembers Andre de Toth
Born in Mako, Hungary to the son of a civil engineer, De Toth showed an early artistic bent, having his first exhibit of paintings and sculpture at age 14 and seeing his first play produced at age 18. After obtaining his law degree from the University of Budapest, he began acting, writing and working as a cameraman for cinematographer Istvan Eiben. In 1939, he went to England, where he worked as a second unit director for Alexander Korda on The Thief of Bagdad and other films. De Toth immigrated to Hollywood in the early '40s, and worked with Korda on The Jungle Book (1942) and several other films.
He made his Hollywood directing debut with the 1943 feature, Passport to Suez, a propaganda thriller about the Nazis wanting to bomb the Suez Canal.
Impressed with his ability, Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures, put the director under contract for one film and the result, None Shall Escape (1944), launched his Hollywood career. This tense, sensitive drama about a Nazi officer made to examine his actions was fascinating in its structure: Set after the war's end, the film centers around the trial of a Nazi butcher, Wilhelm Grimm (Alexander Knox), in Poland and makes excellent use of flashbacks illustrating the prosecution's testimony to form the bulk of the film. In a way, the film predicted the Nuremberg Trials after the war.
de Toth earned considerable critical acclaim with the taut, intense noir thriller Pitfall (1948) which he co-wrote. Starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott and Raymond Burr, this story of a bored insurance salesman who embarks on an affair because he feels stifled in his picture-perfect home (a devoted wife, son, nice house, successful career, etc.) was striking as one of the first films to examine the American dream gone sour. De Toth followed that with a shared Oscar nomination with William Bowers for Best Original Motion Picture Story for The Gunfighter (1950), a haunting character study of a killer (Gregory Peck) trying to live down his past.
His biggest commercial hit came with House of Wax (1953), the movie that launched Vincent Price's horror film career and is still regarded as the best of all three-dimensional films to be released during that period. Unlike other directors who seemed to be dabbling with a new technique, De Toth emphasized character and plot over the special effects: Price was a sculptor rebuilding his wax figure collection (destroyed by fire) by making statues out of his murder victims. The one-eyed de Toth was an odd choice to helm a 3-D film as he could not experience the stereoscopic process, having lost an eye in his youth, but he persevered and it was the most successful 3-D film of its day.
De Toth followed that hit with some fine films: Crime Wave (1954), a hostage thriller that boasts some fine performances by Sterling Hayden and Gene Nelson and excellent location shooting on the streets of Los Angeles; The Indian Fighter (1955) an exciting Kirk Douglas vehicle about a wagon master leading his train through rough territory that won accolades for depicting the Native Americans with more depth than contemporary directors; and Day of the Outlaw (1959), the stark, stylish, low budget western about an outlaw (Burl Ives) and his gang taking over taking a small town and matching wits with one of its citizens (Robert Ryan). For many, this film best articulated many of the recurring themes in De Toth's work that would be evaluated only decades later by film scholars: survival, betrayal, the capacity for evil and complexities of human relationships.
In the early sixties film work became increasingly scarce for De Toth and he found himself relegated to directing for television: Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip and The Westerner. Tired of the limitations he was finding in Hollywood, De Toth headed to Europe in the '60s, where he found work as an uncredited consultant and location scout on David Lean's extravagant Lawrence of Arabia (1962). He directed a few films abroad, the best of which was the World War II action film Play Dirty (1968), starring Michael Caine, and then he more or less retired from active filmmaking. It was not until recently that De Toth began to receive critical recognition for his entertaining body of work. The last few years have seen several retrospectives and he enjoyed a renewed popularity at film festivals from Scotland to San Francisco. His contributions to film were recognized with the 1995 life achievement prize by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the publication of his autobiography, Fragments: Portraits From the Inside, as well as an interview book, De Toth on De Toth, by Anthony Slide. De Toth was married for a time to Veronica Lake (1944-1952) with whom he had two children. He is survived by his wife, Ann Green.
by Michael T. Toole
TCM Remembers Andre de Toth
This town is a disgrace to everyone in it.- Shelby Conroy
The working titles of the film were I Ride Alone and Yankee Gold. Although the film was exhibited in the 3-D format, the print viewed was in standard format. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the script was originally rejected because of its "shocking violence...(and) acts of vicious brutality and gruesomeness." Producer Harry Joe Brown made multiple story eliminations in order to gain PCA script approval. For more information on Quantrill's Raiders, see the entry for the 1940 Republic film Dark Command in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40.