Cast & Crew
In the 1860's, Phoebe Titus, the only American woman living in the territory of Arizona, is possessed with a dream of owning the biggest ranch in the territory. Phoebe is also possessed with an indomitable spirit, which puts her into conflict with the corrupt Lazarus Ward, who runs Tucson and owns the only freight line that supplies the town. One day, while at Solomon Warner's general store to purchase supplies for her pie business, Phoebe suggests that Solomon become her partner in a freight business, which would challenge the exorbitant rates charged by Ward. Phoebe offers Peter Muncie, a restless adventurer to whom she has taken a liking, the job of managing the line, but Peter declines, telling Phoebe that he is headed for California but will return to her. Phoebe's line prospers until the calvalry is called out of the territory to defend the Union, thus creating a state of fear which is exploited by the newly arrived Jefferson Carteret. While masquerading as a concerned citizen, the ruthless Carteret secretly becomes the power behind Ward. To put Phoebe out of business, Carteret offers the Indian chief Mano guns to attack her wagons. Carteret's plan works and lawlessness rules the territory until the Union soldiers return, accompanied by Sergeant Peter Muncie. Peter senses something strange about Carteret, but Phoebe ignores his warnings and asks Peter to intercede with his Colonel to win her a freight contract with the army. With the $15,000 that she is awarded for the contract, Phoebe plans to send Peter to Nebraska to purchase the cattle to make her dream of a ranch come true. On the night that Phoebe is paid, however, Carteret's men rob her, and the next day Carteret offers to lend her the funds if she will put up her freight line and ranch as security. Phoebe agrees, and on the day that Carteret notifies Phoebe that he is foreclosing on her mortgage, Peter returns with the herd of cattle. Peter swears that he will eliminate Carteret, but first he and Phoebe decide to marry. As the wedding ceremony begins, Carteret cleans his gun and after completing his vows, Peter finishes his business with Carteret and the newlyweds return to their ranch to build the future of Arizona.
Earle S. Dewey
Thomas P. Dillon
William G. Lomax
Major George C. Mcbride
Lieutenant George Blagoli
M. W. Stoloff
Frank [a.] Tuttle
Best Art Direction
The story opens among the adobe huts and clapboard mercantile establishments that comprised the cityscape of Tucson in 1860. Carving out a settlement life there is suited only to the toughest of men, and one incredibly tough woman--Phoebe Titus (Jean Arthur); she is small but swaggering, and ready to draw on anyone who feels they can take advantage of her. Her boundless reserves of attitude, as well as her other attributes, soon capture the fancy of Peter Muncie (William Holden), a handsome young drifter traveling with a wagon train through the territory. Skeptical of his attempts at courtship, Phoebe very soon finds herself swapping her denims for ladies' finery. As much as he enjoys her company, his wanderlust gets the better of him, and he's soon pressing on for the California coast.
Disappointed but unbowed, Phoebe determinedly pursues her ambition of founding a freight line to service the town's burgeoning economy. Gentlemanly encouragement soon comes at the hand of mannered Confederate dandy Jefferson Carteret (Warren William). He has a hidden agenda, however, hoping to sabotage her and profit from her future failure via a covert partnership with the town's established shipper, the small-minded Lazarus Ward (Porter Hall). The conniving pair tries everything from slandering her business to the Union army to bribing the Apache to target her wagons. Just when defeat seems eminent, Peter returns to help Phoebe turn the tables on her enemies.
Jean Arthur was at the height of her prestige on the Columbia lot when Arizona went into production, and the role of Phoebe Titus-- proud, hard-edged, tough-talking, and capable of looking cute in crinoline-- made a custom fit for the spirited star. As for the male lead, Ruggles wanted Gary Cooper, and was ready to settle for Joel McCrea, but the encroaching budgetary restraints from Columbia forced him to look on the studio lot for a cost-efficient replacement. Holden, fresh off his screen debut with Golden Boy (1939), was only twenty-two (and thirteen years Arthur's junior) when the film was shot; still, he offered a mature and manly performance, one of the best from that early phase of his screen career. William and Hall are effective as the heavies, and the palate of supporting characters is rich, notably an early performance from Edgar Buchanan as the town's pompous justice of the peace.
Holden's hiring would be one of many compromises that Ruggles would make in bringing Arizona to the screen. The $2 million budget (up from an original allotment of $1.6 million) was extraordinarily lavish by Columbia's standards, and the studio wound up spending an additional $300,000 to finish the film. It wasn't long after the project was given the go-ahead in August 1939 that Hitler's tanks rolled into Poland, and Columbia boss Harry Cohn, afraid the investment couldn't be recouped with the loss of the European market, pulled the plug. With lobbying from Ruggles, and recognition of the $300,000 already sunk into the project, the studio relented by November 1939, but not without scaling back. Besides replacing McCrea, Ruggles' intent to shoot the film in Technicolor fell by the wayside.
If the world crisis was the set-up for Arizona's fiscal failure, the knockdown came as a result of the location filming at Pima County. Ruggles' crew diligently reconstructed Old Tucson on an open lot some fourteen miles outside of the city. The production delays pushed the start of filming to April 1940. Arizona's climate is unforgiving on a good day, and the elements contributed to a grueling four-month shoot. Temperatures would reach 140 degrees, and that, combined with flat summer light, made the mid-days unworkable. Eighteen days were lost either to dust storms or rain. Despite the efforts of an on-set medical welfare unit to monitor the water intake and diet of cast, crew, and 2,500 extras, Ruggles took ill. Their sweating was probably outpaced by that of Columbia's bookkeepers, as expenses of $20,000 a day ticked off.
Ultimately, Arizona opened to moderately enthusiastic notices, and didn't make back its money. The sole Oscar® nomination went to Lionel Banks and Robert Peterson for Best Black and White Art Direction. Columbia did ultimately get its share of mileage from Ruggles' elaborate prairie set pieces, as they provided stock footage for many of the studio's subsequent "B" oaters.
Producer: Wesley Ruggles
Director: Wesley Ruggles
Screenplay: Claude Binyon, Clarence Budington Kelland (story)
Cinematography: Fayte Browne
Film Editing: William A. Lyon, Otto Meyer
Art Direction: Lionel Banks, Robert Peterson
Music: Stephen Foster, Victor Young
Cast: Jean Arthur (Phoebe Titus), William Holden (Peter Muncie), Warren William (Jefferson Carteret), Porter Hall (Lazarus Ward), Edgar Buchanan (Judge Bogardus), Paul Harvey (Solomon Warner).
by Jay S. Steinberg
William Holden and Jean Arthur in Arizona on DVD
Phoebe finally has her head turned by a new arrival in town: young, strapping drover Peter Muncie (William Holden), who is on his way to California. A witness to the scene in the saloon, Muncie is both amused and fascinated by the woman who is so obviously able to hold her own in a man's world, and strikes up a romance, though he still intends to continue west. Feeling that she might have finally met the right man, Phoebe hits on an idea that will hopefully kill two birds with one stone: Commerce to and from Tucson is crippled by the crooked Lazarus Ward (Porter Hall), who has the only freight company in town and charges double the going rate for hauling. Along with longtime friend Solomon Warner (Paul Harvey), Phoebe decides to open a freight business that will compete with Ward, with the intention of having Muncie manage their wagons as they cross the country. Certain that they can make a killing buy undercutting Ward, Phoebe hopes that this will bring in enough money to start her ranch.
Although he's interested in Phoebe, Muncie can't bring himself to give up his desire to see California and finish sowing his wild oats (in modern terms, fear of commitment), and leaves with the next cattle drive. Phoebe and Solomon go ahead with their freight business, and as she predicted it flourishes: but the one thing Phoebe hadn't counted on was the heating of up the Civil War, which results in the contingent of soldiers who were set to guard the outposts of the new frontier being called back east to fight. It is then that sleezy promoter Jefferson Cartaret (Warner William) moves into town and teams up with Ward to try and put Phoebe out of business. Ward and Cartaret strike a deal whereby they will trade guns to the Indians, and in return the Indians will attack any wagon train freighting goods that are not part of the Ward franchise.
Cartaret's plans are successful at first, stifling Phoebe's business, until a new regiment of soldiers is sent to the outpost from California to help maintain law and order--and the regiment includes the recently enlisted Muncie, who resumes his romance with Phoebe and plans to help her save the business and start up the ranch. Faced with the failure of his plan to run Phoebe out of business, Cartaret hatches a new and deadlier plan to rob Phoebe of everything, including calling for a showdown with Muncie on their wedding day!
Arizona is lively Western fare with a surprising feminist bent, and a story that offers something for everyone, from romance to shootouts. Although Jean Arthur plays up the swagger a bit much, she convincingly conveys a woman who has earned some rough edges while plying life the new frontier. William Holden gives a charming early performance as her love interest, believably developing from dreaming drifter to mature mate. And Warren William's hilariously oily performance as Cartaret appears to have been the inspiration for Snidely Whiplash on Rocky and Bullwinkle: he does everything but twirl his mustache. The cast is rounded out by the always reliable Porter Hall as the fawning Ward, and Edgar Buchanan as the town's amoral judge.
Sony's new release of the film exhibits some debris, and as often happens with films of this era the clarity of the DVD format exposes the grain of the film stock used: at times the image is very noticeable grainy. But for the most part the transfer is very good, with the image nicely contrasted, the black very deep, and shadings clearly defined. The audio shows some mild deterioration, but on the whole is very good.
For more information about Arizona, visit Sony Pictures. To order Arizona, go to TCM Shopping.
by Fred Hunter
William Holden and Jean Arthur in Arizona on DVD
A wagon train come in headin' for California and I'm joinin' up with it.- Peter Muncie
When?- Phoebe Titus
Sundown.- Peter Muncie
Well, sundown is a good time to leave. Indians don't hanker much for night fightin'.- Phoebe Titus
Mr. Oury, am I hearing you right? Are you talking about giving Arizona back to the Indians?- Phoebe Titus
That's one way of saying it, Phoebe.- Grant Oury
Like Oury says, it's better to leave what we built here than get our bones picked clean by buzzards.- Judge Bogardus
What did you ever build?- Phoebe Titus
Are you asking me to marry you?- Phoebe Titus
Around about. Is there still something you don't like about me?- Peter Muncie
No, it's not that. If there wasn't something I didn't like about a man, I couldn't stand the sight of him.- Phoebe Titus
Now, the prisoner at the bar, the charge against you is that you up and blowed the head plumb off of Gus Modesko. In consequence of which said shooting said Gus is deader than blazes. Are you guilty or not guilty?- Judge Bogardus
Well, Judge, I don't reckon I could say not guilty when everybody seen me do it.- Joe Briggs
Now what in tunket made you act like that, Joe?- Judge Bogardus
Drinking. Just drinking.- Joe Briggs
Well the verdict of this here tribunal is that Joe Briggs is fined five dollars for disturbing the peace. The court is hereby adjourned to Lazarus Ward's Bar where said fine will duly be disposed of.- Judge Bogardus
I figure it sounds crazy to most people...going to California just to see it. But there's a gallivanted bug in my blood and that's the way I am.- Peter Muncie
Now sometime before morning, I'm going to let off both barrels of this shotgun right at you. I don't know just what time it'll happen...whenever my finger gets to itching too much. But you can depend on it. You're gonna have a double hole blown clear through you. Maybe ten minutes, maybe two hours. All you have to do is sit comfortable until I think it's the right time.- Phoebe Titus
Clarence Budington Kelland's novel was serialized in Saturday Evening Post from 25 February-April 15, 1939. According to news items in Hollywood Reporter, Gary Cooper, Joel McCrea and James Stewart were considered for the lead in this picture. The film was shot on location in Tucson, AZ at the Old Tucson Studios. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, Chief Fighting Bear, who served as technical advisor on the film, was head of the Black River Apaches. New York Times notes that Wesley Ruggles began to build his sets in the fall of 1939, but the war halted production until 1940. A news item in Hollywood Reporter, however, notes that Ruggles canceled production on the film in September 1939 when Columbia threatened to slash the budget. The picture received Academy Award nominations in the Art Direction (Black-and-White) and Music (Original Score) categories.