Blood on the Moon


1h 28m 1948
Blood on the Moon

Brief Synopsis

A gunslinger hired to drive off a rancher falls in love with the man's daughter.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Western
Release Date
Nov 9, 1948
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Gunman's Chance by Luke Short (New York, 1941).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,899ft

Synopsis

After he is nearly trampled by a herd of runaway steers while camping on Indian reservation range land, Jim Garry is questioned by the herd's owner, John Lufton. The wary Lufton reveals to Jim that, after years of supplying the local reservation with beef, he is being forced out by Jake Pindalest, the new Indian agent. Lufton is also fighting rancher Tate Riling, who has organized the area homesteaders to prevent him from moving his cattle back to the basin grazing land that was once his. Although suspicious that Jim may be one of Tate's hired guns, Lufton asks him to deliver a note to his family, who have a house in the basin. As Jim approaches the spread, he is shot at by a woman, who turns out to be Lufton's daughter Amy. After Jim hands the note to Lufton's eldest daughter Carol, he meets with Tate, an old friend who had summoned him in a letter. Tate reveals to Jim that his true plan is to force Lufton, who must soon vacate the reservation, to sell his cattle to him at a cutrate price and then sell the herd to Pindalest, with whom he is in league, at an inflated rate. Because he is broke, Jim agrees to become one of Tate's henchmen, but expresses no enthusiasm for the scheme. The next day, Carol and Amy ride to meet their father at the basin crossing point indicated in his note. When they arrive, however, they are greeted by Tate, Jim and the gang. Amy reveals that her father deliberately wrote the wrong location on the note and angrily accuses Jim of betraying its contents. Unknown to Amy, Carol, who is in love with Tate, relayed the information to him and later agrees to tell him where her father actually crossed. Soon after, as Amy informs Lufton about Jim, Tate and his men storm into their cattle camp and start a stampede. During the ensuing chaos, one of Lufton's cowboys is trampled to death and homesteader Fred Barden is shot. A saddened Jim informs Fred's father Kris, a former avid supporter of Tate's efforts, about his son's death and then rides into town. There Jim saves Lufton when he is almost gunned down in the street by Frank Reardan and Joe Shotten, Tate's other hired guns. After a grateful Amy apologizes to him, Jim leaves town. While stopped at a cantina, however, he is confronted by Tate, who now wants him to make the purchase offer to Lufton. Disgusted by his friend's greediness, Jim refuses to help, and the two men fight each other until Jim knocks Tate unconscious. The exhausted, wounded Jim is then saved by Kris, who shows up with a gun just as Reardan is about to shoot him. After Amy lovingly tends to his injuries, Jim suggests to Lufton that he can help delay Pindalest's deadline by a week, enough time for the rancher to round up his now-scattered cattle. Believing that Jim intends to kill the agent, Lufton refuses his offer, and Jim leaves the ranch in a huff. Amy, however, convinces Jim to execute his plan with Pindalest. To that end, Jim confers with the agent and, posing as Tate's go-between, tells him that Tate is demanding $3,000 more for Lufton's cattle. As hoped, Pindalest declares that he must go to town for the extra cash, and once he and Jim are in the open range, Jim reveals his intention to hold the agent captive until Lufton has rounded up his cattle. The next morning, however, as a snowstorm blows in, Jim is ambushed and knifed by an Indian who is in cahoots with Tate. Although Jim soon overwhelms the Indian, Pindalest escapes, and Jim flees to Kris's ranch. A concerned Amy soon arrives there and insists on fighting Tate, Reardan and Pindalest alongside Kris. As the gunfire starts, Amy and Jim declare their love for each other. Eventually, Jim regains enough strength to sneak out of the ranch house and surprise Reardan and Pindalest. Jim then outdraws Tate, who dies in his friend's arms. With Pindalest in custody, Jim and Amy announce their impending marriage to a delighted Lufton.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Western
Release Date
Nov 9, 1948
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Gunman's Chance by Luke Short (New York, 1941).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,899ft

Articles

Blood on the Moon


Having broken through to success with his key supporting role in The Story of G.I. Joe (1945), which earned him an Oscar nomination (astoundingly, his only one), Robert Mitchum was a hot commodity by 1948. RKO, which had him under contract at $3,000 a week, was so impressed with him that the studio was willing to pay David O. Selznick $12,500 per week (for a ten week shoot) to secure the actor's services. Mitchum also had a deal with Selznick's Vanguard productions, and it was Selznick's turn to use him in a picture. But RKO, who had done well with such previous Mitchum films as the Western Rachel and the Stranger (1948) and the film noirs, Out of the Past (1947) and Crossfire(1947), was more than willing to shell out big bucks for the rising star.

For Blood on the Moon (1948), Mitchum proved to be the right choice for a story that played on his morally ambiguous image. As Jim Garry, he first appears as an old friend to the scheming Tate Billing (Robert Preston), agreeing to serve as a hired gun for Billing's plot to get rich off another cattleman's herd. But as the story progresses, Garry learns of his friend's treachery and falls for the victimized cattleman's daughter, revealing a forthright side to his character. He confronts Billing in a lengthy knockdown fistfight that's reminiscent of the final brawl between John Wayne and Montgomery Clift in another popular Western of the year, Red River (1948). "In keeping with the realistic style of this film," according to director Robert Wise (in the biography Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don't Care by Lee Server), "I wanted to avoid one of those extremely staged-looking fistfights used in all the movies, where the stuntmen did this elaborate, acrobatic fighting and you saw the real actors only in close-ups. I wanted this to look like a real fight, with that awkward, brutal look of a real fight, and when it was done for the winner to look as exhausted as the loser. And Mitch was excited about this. He knew exactly what I was going for. I think he probably knew more than I did about barroom fights like this one."

Reviewers at the time remarked on how Blood on the Moon avoided the generic Western formula. In the dark, shadowy nature of the look, characters, and themes of this movie, it resembled more the film noir work at which Mitchum and director Wise excelled at this time. Although known more today for his blockbuster musicals West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965), Wise started out at RKO as an expert editor - counting Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) among his early work - and as one of the key directors in Val Lewton's legendary "horror" unit at the studio. Wise directed the darkly suggestive The Curse of the Cat People (1944), which was more psychological fantasy than horror film, and the Boris Karloff melodrama The Body Snatcher (1945) for Lewton. He also made Born to Kill (1947), a quintessential noir thriller, although rarely seen today. Wise always referred to Blood on the Moon as his "first big feature," but he was on record as saying he disliked the Western genre (he made only three).

Mitchum, as mentioned above, already had impressive film noir credentials and brought to this picture many of the laconic, ambiguous qualities he displayed in his crime dramas. But he also looked completely at home in the Western genre. In the aforementioned Lee Server biography, Wise recalled, "the first scene we shot after Mitch got outfitted was in the barroom. Walter Brennan was sitting at a table with a couple of pals and Brennan was very interested in the Old West, it was a hobby of his. And I'll never forget when Bob came on the set, just standing there, with the costume and the whole attitude that he gave to it, and Brennan got a look at him and was terribly impressed. He pointed to Mitchum and said, "That is the goddamndest realest cowboy I've ever seen."

Considering the combined backgrounds of director, star and production team, it's no surprise Blood on the Moon came off as more of a tense psychological study than an epic of the open-air West. Cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca was a veteran of such dark thrillers as Out of the Past, The Locket (1946) - both starring Mitchum - and The Spiral Staircase (1946), as well as several of the Lewton productions (including The Curse of the Cat People with Wise). Working with art directors Albert D'Agostino and Walter Keller (also key players in RKO's noir and horror cycles), he created a sense of claustrophobic tension by shooting much of the film indoors, on low-ceilinged sets (echoes of Welles), with a contrasting play of light and dark - none of them hallmarks of the typical Western. Roy Webb, who composed the score, was also no stranger to creating music for moody, mysterious tales, having written for all the above-mentioned Mitchum noir films, many of the Lewton productions, and Hitchcock's Notorious (1946).

Although not a near-instant classic like the other big Westerns released the same year, Red River and Fort Apache, Blood on the Moon did well critically and commercially. And Mitchum's stock continued to rise so swiftly that even his 1948 arrest and brief imprisonment for possession of marijuana (an expected career-killer at the time) did not hinder his success.

Director: Robert Wise
Producer: Theron Warth
Screenplay: Lillie Hayward, from the novel by Luke Short
Cinematography: Nicholas Musuraca
Editing: Samuel E. Beetley
Art Direction: Albert S. D+Agostino, Walter E. Keller
Original Music: Roy Webb
Cast: Robert Mitchum (Jim Garry), Barbara Bel Geddes (Amy Lufton), Robert Preston (Tate Billing), Walter Brennan (Kris Barden), Phyllis Thaxter (Carol Lufton).
BW-88m. Closed captioning.

by Rob Nixon
Blood On The Moon

Blood on the Moon

Having broken through to success with his key supporting role in The Story of G.I. Joe (1945), which earned him an Oscar nomination (astoundingly, his only one), Robert Mitchum was a hot commodity by 1948. RKO, which had him under contract at $3,000 a week, was so impressed with him that the studio was willing to pay David O. Selznick $12,500 per week (for a ten week shoot) to secure the actor's services. Mitchum also had a deal with Selznick's Vanguard productions, and it was Selznick's turn to use him in a picture. But RKO, who had done well with such previous Mitchum films as the Western Rachel and the Stranger (1948) and the film noirs, Out of the Past (1947) and Crossfire(1947), was more than willing to shell out big bucks for the rising star. For Blood on the Moon (1948), Mitchum proved to be the right choice for a story that played on his morally ambiguous image. As Jim Garry, he first appears as an old friend to the scheming Tate Billing (Robert Preston), agreeing to serve as a hired gun for Billing's plot to get rich off another cattleman's herd. But as the story progresses, Garry learns of his friend's treachery and falls for the victimized cattleman's daughter, revealing a forthright side to his character. He confronts Billing in a lengthy knockdown fistfight that's reminiscent of the final brawl between John Wayne and Montgomery Clift in another popular Western of the year, Red River (1948). "In keeping with the realistic style of this film," according to director Robert Wise (in the biography Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don't Care by Lee Server), "I wanted to avoid one of those extremely staged-looking fistfights used in all the movies, where the stuntmen did this elaborate, acrobatic fighting and you saw the real actors only in close-ups. I wanted this to look like a real fight, with that awkward, brutal look of a real fight, and when it was done for the winner to look as exhausted as the loser. And Mitch was excited about this. He knew exactly what I was going for. I think he probably knew more than I did about barroom fights like this one." Reviewers at the time remarked on how Blood on the Moon avoided the generic Western formula. In the dark, shadowy nature of the look, characters, and themes of this movie, it resembled more the film noir work at which Mitchum and director Wise excelled at this time. Although known more today for his blockbuster musicals West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965), Wise started out at RKO as an expert editor - counting Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) among his early work - and as one of the key directors in Val Lewton's legendary "horror" unit at the studio. Wise directed the darkly suggestive The Curse of the Cat People (1944), which was more psychological fantasy than horror film, and the Boris Karloff melodrama The Body Snatcher (1945) for Lewton. He also made Born to Kill (1947), a quintessential noir thriller, although rarely seen today. Wise always referred to Blood on the Moon as his "first big feature," but he was on record as saying he disliked the Western genre (he made only three). Mitchum, as mentioned above, already had impressive film noir credentials and brought to this picture many of the laconic, ambiguous qualities he displayed in his crime dramas. But he also looked completely at home in the Western genre. In the aforementioned Lee Server biography, Wise recalled, "the first scene we shot after Mitch got outfitted was in the barroom. Walter Brennan was sitting at a table with a couple of pals and Brennan was very interested in the Old West, it was a hobby of his. And I'll never forget when Bob came on the set, just standing there, with the costume and the whole attitude that he gave to it, and Brennan got a look at him and was terribly impressed. He pointed to Mitchum and said, "That is the goddamndest realest cowboy I've ever seen." Considering the combined backgrounds of director, star and production team, it's no surprise Blood on the Moon came off as more of a tense psychological study than an epic of the open-air West. Cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca was a veteran of such dark thrillers as Out of the Past, The Locket (1946) - both starring Mitchum - and The Spiral Staircase (1946), as well as several of the Lewton productions (including The Curse of the Cat People with Wise). Working with art directors Albert D'Agostino and Walter Keller (also key players in RKO's noir and horror cycles), he created a sense of claustrophobic tension by shooting much of the film indoors, on low-ceilinged sets (echoes of Welles), with a contrasting play of light and dark - none of them hallmarks of the typical Western. Roy Webb, who composed the score, was also no stranger to creating music for moody, mysterious tales, having written for all the above-mentioned Mitchum noir films, many of the Lewton productions, and Hitchcock's Notorious (1946). Although not a near-instant classic like the other big Westerns released the same year, Red River and Fort Apache, Blood on the Moon did well critically and commercially. And Mitchum's stock continued to rise so swiftly that even his 1948 arrest and brief imprisonment for possession of marijuana (an expected career-killer at the time) did not hinder his success. Director: Robert Wise Producer: Theron Warth Screenplay: Lillie Hayward, from the novel by Luke Short Cinematography: Nicholas Musuraca Editing: Samuel E. Beetley Art Direction: Albert S. D+Agostino, Walter E. Keller Original Music: Roy Webb Cast: Robert Mitchum (Jim Garry), Barbara Bel Geddes (Amy Lufton), Robert Preston (Tate Billing), Walter Brennan (Kris Barden), Phyllis Thaxter (Carol Lufton). BW-88m. Closed captioning. by Rob Nixon

Robert Wise (1914-2005)


Robert Wise, who died at age 91 on September 14, was the noted film editor of Citizen Kane (1941) and other movies before he became a producer and director, and all his works are marked by striking visual rhythms. He is best remembered for two enormously popular musicals, West Side Story (1959) and The Sound of Music (1965), which brought him a total of four Oscars® -- each winning for Best Picture and Best Director. (Wise's directorial award for West Side Story was shared with Jerome Robbins.)

Born on September 10, 1914 in Winchester, Ind., Wise was a child of the Depression who quit college to earn a living in the movie industry. He began as an assistant cutter at RKO, where he worked his way up to the position of film editor and earned an Oscar® nomination for his bravura work with Orson Welles on Citizen Kane. He also edited The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) for Welles, along with several other RKO films.

Wise became a director by default when RKO and producer Val Lewton assigned him to The Curse of the Cat People (1944) after Gunther von Fritsch failed to meet the film's production schedule. Wise turned the film into a first-rate psychological thriller, and enjoyed equal success with another Lewton horror film, The Body Snatcher (1945).

Critical praise also was showered upon Wise's Born to Kill (1947), a crime melodrama; and Blood on the Moon (1948), an unusual psychological Western starring Robert Mitchum. Even more highly regarded was The Set-Up (1949), a no-punches-pulled boxing drama that won the Critics' Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Wise moved on from RKO in the early 1950s, directing one of the movies' classic alien invasion films, The Day the Earth Stood Still, for 20th Century Fox.

At MGM he directed Executive Suite (1954), a compelling all-star boardroom drama; Somebody Up There Likes Me, a film bio of boxer Rocky Graziano that established Paul Newman as a major star; and The Haunting (1963), a chilling haunted-hause melodrama. His films for United Artists include Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), a submarine drama with Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster; I Want to Live! (1958), a harrowing account of a convicted murderess on Death Row, with Susan Hayward in her Oscar-winning performance; and the crime caper Odds Against Tomorrow (1959).

Wise served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Directors Guild of America. He was awarded the Academy's Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1966, and the Directors Guild's highest honor, the D.W. Griffith Award, in 1988. He remained active as a director through the 1970s. His final film, Rooftops (1989) was a musical with an urban setting that recalled West Side Story.

The films in TCM's salute to Robert Wise are Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Curse of the Cat People (1944), The Body Snatcher (1945), Born to Kill (1947), Blood on the Moon (1948), The Set-Up (1949), Executive Suite (1954), Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), B>West Side Story (1959), Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) and The Haunting (1963).

by Roger Fristoe

Robert Wise (1914-2005)

Robert Wise, who died at age 91 on September 14, was the noted film editor of Citizen Kane (1941) and other movies before he became a producer and director, and all his works are marked by striking visual rhythms. He is best remembered for two enormously popular musicals, West Side Story (1959) and The Sound of Music (1965), which brought him a total of four Oscars® -- each winning for Best Picture and Best Director. (Wise's directorial award for West Side Story was shared with Jerome Robbins.) Born on September 10, 1914 in Winchester, Ind., Wise was a child of the Depression who quit college to earn a living in the movie industry. He began as an assistant cutter at RKO, where he worked his way up to the position of film editor and earned an Oscar® nomination for his bravura work with Orson Welles on Citizen Kane. He also edited The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) for Welles, along with several other RKO films. Wise became a director by default when RKO and producer Val Lewton assigned him to The Curse of the Cat People (1944) after Gunther von Fritsch failed to meet the film's production schedule. Wise turned the film into a first-rate psychological thriller, and enjoyed equal success with another Lewton horror film, The Body Snatcher (1945). Critical praise also was showered upon Wise's Born to Kill (1947), a crime melodrama; and Blood on the Moon (1948), an unusual psychological Western starring Robert Mitchum. Even more highly regarded was The Set-Up (1949), a no-punches-pulled boxing drama that won the Critics' Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Wise moved on from RKO in the early 1950s, directing one of the movies' classic alien invasion films, The Day the Earth Stood Still, for 20th Century Fox. At MGM he directed Executive Suite (1954), a compelling all-star boardroom drama; Somebody Up There Likes Me, a film bio of boxer Rocky Graziano that established Paul Newman as a major star; and The Haunting (1963), a chilling haunted-hause melodrama. His films for United Artists include Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), a submarine drama with Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster; I Want to Live! (1958), a harrowing account of a convicted murderess on Death Row, with Susan Hayward in her Oscar-winning performance; and the crime caper Odds Against Tomorrow (1959). Wise served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Directors Guild of America. He was awarded the Academy's Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1966, and the Directors Guild's highest honor, the D.W. Griffith Award, in 1988. He remained active as a director through the 1970s. His final film, Rooftops (1989) was a musical with an urban setting that recalled West Side Story. The films in TCM's salute to Robert Wise are Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Curse of the Cat People (1944), The Body Snatcher (1945), Born to Kill (1947), Blood on the Moon (1948), The Set-Up (1949), Executive Suite (1954), Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), B>West Side Story (1959), Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) and The Haunting (1963). by Roger Fristoe

Quotes

I've seen dogs that wouldn't claim you for a son, Tate.
- Jim Garry

Trivia

Notes

Luke Short's novel was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post between March 15, 1941 and April 26, 1941. Its British publication title was Blood on the Moon. Although the Homestead Act of 1862 was not mentioned in the film itself, the Daily Variety review notes that the story's action takes place after the passage of the legislation, which granted free family farms to settlers. A June 1947 Hollywood Citizen-News news item reported that James Stewart was to star in the picture. According to the Los Angeles Daily News review, exteriors for the film were shot thirty miles from Flagstaff, AZ. A Hollywood Reporter news item, however, claims that location shooting was done in New Mexico. In a modern interview, director Robert Wise added the following information about the production: RKO bought Short's novel years before his involvement in the project, but shelved it because of script problems. Wise and producer Theron Warth liked the story, however, and got RKO's "front office" to agree to allow them to make the picture if they could solve the script's problems. Although Wise had directed several films prior to Blood on the Moon, including The Curse of the Cat People and The Body Snatcher (see entries below), he described this picture as his "first big feature." Wise noted that he strove for realism in the cantina fight scene, in contrast to most film brawls, directing Robert Mitchum and Robert Preston to "go at it really all the way" so that "even the winner is almost completely exhausted at the end." Wise added that the fight is "the most distinctive scene in the whole film." Contemporary reviewers also singled out the scene for praise: the Hollywood Citizen-News critic commented that "the fistfight is about the best thing Blood on the Moon has to offer," while the New York Times review noted that the fight "ought to satisfy most savage instincts." The New York Times also pointed out that Wise, "a comparative newcomer to directorial ranks...has managed to keep the atmosphere of this leisurely paced film charged with impending violence."

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States on Video September 12, 1990

Released in United States Fall November 9, 1948

Released in United States Fall November 9, 1948

Released in United States on Video September 12, 1990

Broadcast in USA over TBS (colorized version) November 23, 1990.