The Brave One
Cast & Crew
On the day of his wife's funeral, Rafael Rosillo is ordered by Vargas, the chief accountant for Rafael's boss, millionaire ranch owner Don Alejandro Videgaray, to return a cow owned by the ranch. Despite the protestations of Rafael's ten-year-old son Leonardo, who states that Alejandro gave them the cow in gratitude for saving his life, Vargas insists that the ranch owns the cow and its soon-to-be-born calf. That night, a storm awakens Leonardo, who rushes outside to rescue the cow. Although he is too late to save her, he brings back to his bed her newborn calf. While his father and sister Maria admire the calf for his bravery, Leonardo names him "Gitano," meaning gypsy. The boy soon develops a strong bond with the similarly motherless youngster. In school, where he will be the first Rosillo ever to graduate, Leonardo learns about former Mexican president Benito Juarez, who rose from the lower classes but never forgot his roots. After class, the boy asks his teacher, Señorita Sanchez, to help him write a letter to Alejandro, reminding him that the cow was a gift. Over the next months, Gitano grows into a fine bull who loves to fight. One day, Rafael spots Leonardo using a red cape while playing with Gitano, and warns the boy not to train the bull to enjoy the cape, or he will become a killer in the bullfighting ring. Leonardo begs his father not to sell Gitano to the ring, but Rafael ignores him, confident that Leonardo will outgrow his childish attachment. Soon after, Vargas insists that Gitano be branded with the rest of the Videgaray herd, and Rafael is forced to assent. When Leonardo hears the news, he rushes to the ranch, shaming Rafael with his tears. Days later, however, Señorita Sanchez reveals that a letter has arrived from Alejandro that once again grants Gitano to the Rosillos. On the next holy day, Leonardo brings Gitano to be blessed by the priest, and after the bull kneels before the clergyman, he receives a double blessing. When Gitano is two years old, he is entered in a public test of bravery at Alejandro's ranch. Before the ceremony, Rafael promises Leonardo that if the bull proves himself courageous, the boy can keep him. Meanwhile, Alejandro invites the famous bullfighter Fermin Rivera and an American starlet, Marion Randall, to attend the tests with him. As they drive through the ranch, Gitano attacks their car, impressing them with his spirit. They are shocked when Leonardo, showing no fear of Gitano, forcibly pulls the bull away from the car, then rides away on his back. At the ceremony, Maria frets for the safety of her boyfriend, Manuel, who wants to be a bullfighter. As Alejandro tries to explain to Marion why bullfighting is noble rather than cruel, he is distracted by the sight of Gitano in the ring, easily outsmarting the matadors. Too strong for the local bullfighters, Gitano cannot be contained, and soon tramples Manuel. Leonardo is heartbroken, but as Manuel recovers, and Maria thanks her brother for curing him of his desire to be a matador. Over the next months, while Rivera wins the hearts of the Mexican people with his courage and grace in the ring, Alejandro wins trophies at his hobby, car racing. On the day of Leonardo's graduation, however, as Rafael celebrates in drunken pride, they learn that Alejandro has died in a car crash. The ranch possessions are soon put up for auction, and Vargas, who was impressed by Gitano in the ring, declares that the bull belongs to the ranch, as he bears the Videgaray brand. Leonardo searches for the letter from Alejandro but, unable to find it, is forced to let Vargas return Gitano to the herd. Late that night, Leonardo sneaks into the ranch and calls Gitano to him, then takes the bull back home through the woods. When he stops to sleep for the night, a mountain lion attacks, but Gitano kills it, saving the boy. At home, Rafael chastises Leonardo and convinces him to return the bull to Vargas, who sells Gitano at auction to businessman Dr. Gajona. Upon learning that the bulls will be driven to Mexico City, Leonardo secretly hitches a ride on one of the trucks. In the city, he is amazed by the culture and people, and horrified at the sight of the arena, where Gitano will surely be killed. Leonardo searches throughout the city for Gajona, to no avail. Desperate, the boy stops by a statue of Juarez and, remembering his teacher's words, is inspired to speak directly to El Presidente. He heads to Juarez's home, only to learn that the current president lives in the National Palace. As the fights begin in the Plaza de Mexico, an exhausted Leonardo finally reaches the palace and is allowed to see the president. After hearing the boy's story, the president agrees to write a letter asking Gajona to release the bull. A police escort rushes Leonardo to the arena, but he is too late; Gitano has entered the ring and now fights against Rivera. The fight is long, the bull performing bravely and Rivera fighting valiantly. The matador lances Gitano several times, but cannot kill him, as the bull holds his head too high to allow a stab to hit its mark. The crowd is soon entranced by Gitano, whom the announcer calls "the noblest bull ever," and begins to call for his release. Although no bull has been spared in the ring since 1937, the chant gains momentum, and the officials finally agree. Thrilled, Leonardo hops into the ring and runs toward Gitano. The crowd is horrified, certain that the furious beast will kill the boy, but Gitano approaches his friend peacefully. As Leonardo hugs Gitano, promising him that "now we can live," the crowd roars its approval.
The Munich Symphony Orchestra
Merrill G. White
Merrill G. White
Best Writing, Screenplay
The Brave One
Trumbo's readiness to slice more than fifty pages of his own script testifies to his pragmatism and professionalism. He was a Hollywood veteran, after all, with such major hits as Sam Wood's Kitty Foyle (1940) and William Wyler's Roman Holiday (1953) among the dozens of screenplays and screen stories he had penned. During the 1940s he'd been a member of the Communist Party, though, and in 1950 he'd been sentenced to almost a year in prison for refusing to cooperate with the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the Congressional commission investigating alleged communist influence in the film industry and elsewhere. After finishing his sentence he found himself on the infamous Hollywood blacklist, so he moved with his family from California to Mexico City, writing screenplays under pseudonyms and selling them via friends and colleagues who served as fronts.
When his original story for The Brave One won the Academy Award - Best Motion-Picture Story was still an Oscar® category in 1956 - hardly anyone knew who had written it, since the person named in the credits, Robert Rich, didn't exist. (The screenplay, credited to Harry Franklin and the film's editor, Merrill G. White, was not nominated.) Since an Academy rule held that Communists couldn't get Oscars®, the statuette was accepted at the ceremony by Jesse L. Lasky, Jr., vice-president of the Writers Guild of America screen branch. Not until 1959 was the "blacklist bylaw" repealed, allowing Trumbo to reveal his authorship, and in 1975 he received an official Oscar® with his name on it. Happy ending.
The Brave One has a happy ending too, but not before a great deal of anguish and suspense for Leonardo Rosillo, a Mexican boy who fears that his beloved bull, Gitano, will be slain in the arena to amuse a crowd that doesn't appreciate the creature's special qualities. Leonardo and his family live on a ranch owned by wealthy Don Alejandro, where Gitano was calved. Don Alejandro has let Leonardo raise Gitano while retaining official ownership - a satisfactory arrangement until Don Alejandro, a racecar driver as well as a rancher, is killed in a crash. Gitano has attracted attention for his size, strength, and cleverness, and with Don Alejandro out of the picture it's inevitable that Leonardo's pet will be sent to Mexico City for a fatal showdown with a matador. And not just any matador, but the celebrated Fermín Rivera, who plays himself in the movie. Leonardo follows Gitano's hoof prints, racing the clock to reach the capital and plead for a presidential pardon that will save the animal he cherishes.
Originally slated for filming in either Portugal, Madrid, or Barcelona, the production ended up in Mexico City, which helped out the budget (about $2 million) and lent a degree of authenticity to scenes not photographed on soundstages at the Churubusco studio. The project was put together by King Brothers Productions - they had made the classic Gun Crazy, another Trumbo pseudonym job, in 1950 - and distributed by RKO, which claimed that everyone in the cast was Mexican except two: Swiss-born Michel Ray, the twelve-year old who plays Leonardo, and American actress Joi Lansing, who appears briefly as a bimbo hanging out with the rancher and the matador. The producers express gratitude to the picture's Mexican hosts in a text at the end of the story, concluding, "Salud amigos!"
In addition to the Academy Award brouhaha, The Brave One sparked half a dozen lawsuits asserting that the script had been plagiarized from someone else; claims were advanced in the names of Orson Welles, Robert Flaherty, and Lasky, among others. None of them prevailed, although King Brothers settled at least one with a hefty cash payment out of court. As editor Helen Manfull wrote in her 1970 book Additional Dialogue: Letters of Dalton Trumbo, 1942-1962, which contains much of Trumbo's delightful correspondence, "When no Robert Rich could be found, it was inevitable that others should try to take advantage of the situation." Perhaps more to the point, she cites Trumbo's observation that "when you have a story about a Mexican boy with a pet bull, it is bound to bear a resemblance to a number of other human interest stories." That's hard to argue with.
Apart from footage shot on real Mexico City locations, The Brave One isn't nearly as realistic as Trumbo wanted it to be, relying on conspicuously artificial sets and falling regrettably short in the acting department. The picture builds considerable excitement in its final scenes, though, and it was well received. Kudos went to director Irving Rapper, who's best remembered for directing actresses like Bette Davis in Now, Voyager (1942) and Jane Wyman and Gertrude Lawrence in The Glass Menagerie (1950), and also to cinematographer Jack Cardiff, who shot the CinemaScope and Technicolor movie in between two very different assignments, King Vidor's War and Peace (1956) and Laurence Olivier's The Prince and the Showgirl (1957). American reviews were generally good, and the film was "exuberantly praised by critics throughout South America," according to Trumbo, "as a warm and friendly portrayal of Mexican life." The public loved it as well. Trumbo wrote that in Venezuela's capital the picture out-earned every previous release except one.
Trumbo also noted, more in sadness than in anger, that although blacklisted American talent had been successfully integrated into the Mexican film industry, insiders south of the border "openly deride the United States for its blacklist of film personalities, and the derision fortifies Mexican nationalism at the expense of Mexican-American friendship." It is likely that Trumbo intended The Brave One as a gesture of goodwill toward his Mexican neighbors, and they evidently took it as such. The opening-day crowds in Mexico City were so large, Trumbo proudly wrote, that "the pressure of people waiting for the theatre to open broke down the glass doors [leading into] the lobby." Olé!
Producers: Maurice King and Frank King
Director: Irving Rapper
Screenplay: Harry S. Franklin and Merrill G. White; based on a story by Robert Rich [Dalton Trumbo]
Cinematographer: Jack Cardiff
Film Editing: Merrill G. White
Art Direction: Ramon Rodriguez
Music: Victor Young
Cast: Michel Ray (Leonardo), Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr. (Rafael Rosillo), Elsa Cardenas (Maria), Carlos Navarro (Don Alejandro), Joi Lansing (Marion Randall), Fermin Rivera (himself), Jorge Trevino (Salvador).
by David Sterritt
The Brave One
The working title of this film was The Boy and the Bull. Clarence Eurist's opening credit reads: "Production supervisor and assistant director." The film ends with the following written statement: "We cannot sufficiently express our gratitude to the Government and the people of the Republic of Mexico, without whose courtesy and kindliness this motion picture could never have been made. Salud amigos! ¿King Brothers Productions."
In August 1953, Variety announced that The Boy and the Bull would be shot in Barcelona, in English, Spanish and German, with Kurt Neumann directing and RKO releasing. A November 1954 article in Daily Variety noted that co-producer Maurice King was scouting locations in Portugal, and in December 1954, Hollywood Reporter reported that the film would begin in Madrid on February 7, 1955. On January 20, 1955, however, a Hollywood Reporter article stated that the production had been moved to Mexico due to expensive "production problems" in Spain, and was set to start on March 1, 1955 with Irving Rapper directing.
According to a May 27, 1955 Hollywood Reporter article, Nassour Pictures won a Title Registration Bureau arbitration to prevent King Brothers from using the title The Boy and the Bull, because of its similarity to Emilio and the Bull, which Nassour planned to produced for United Artists "shortly." [That film was never made.] By August 1, 1955, it was announced in Hollywood Reporter that the title had been changed to The Brave One.
As noted in studio press materials, the film was based on a true incident that occurred on April 12, 1936, during which a notably brave bull was pardoned to its young owner. The film was shot on location entirely in Mexico, including at Estudios Churubusco and various Mexico City sites. A December 29, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item reports the final budget as two million dollars. Press materials state that all the actors in the film, except Michel Ray and Joi Lansing, were Mexico natives. Some reviews noted the fact that Ray, who was born in Zurich, Switzerland, did not look particularly Mexican. Although an Hollywood Reporter news item in January 1955 stated that Lupe Calderona, a female matador, would appear in the picture, she was not in the released film. Hollywood Reporter news items add Rosita Puentas, Carlos Beckeril and Pedro Galvan to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. According to a February 14, 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, actor-announcer Art Gilmore was hired to narrate the picture's television and theatrical trailers. Studio press materials note that in conjunction with the film's release, Decca records produced an album of music "taken directly from the soundtrack."
After being released in London, Rome, Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Rome in June 1956, The Brave One played at the Edinburgh Film Festival on August 19, 1956. It had its official American opening in October 1956. Upon its release, The Brave One was widely praised. The Los Angeles Herald Express reviewer called it "a tribute to where [it] was filmed and a tribute to what Hollywood moviemaking stands for." The Hollywood Reporter review stated, "The Brave One is one of the finest, most absorbing and most thoroughly enjoyable pictures made in this or any other year."
Despite its successful reception, the film was also the subject of much controversy. First, as noted in a February 1957 Hollywood Reporter article, Nassour Pictures sued RKO and King Brothers for $750,000 for "misappropriating" the film from their recently completed picture, Emilio and the Bull. The second controversy concerns the film's story credit. During the Academy Awards ceremony in March 1957, credited story writer "Robert Rich" won the Oscar for Best Motion Picture Story. "Rich" was, in fact, a pseudonym for blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo, who, under a February 6, 1957 Academy bylaw declaring Communist Party members ineligible for Oscars, could not publicly accept his honor. Instead, Jesse Lasky, Jr., head of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), accepted the award, stating, according to a modern source, that Rich was in the hospital where his wife was giving birth.
Soon after, the WGA admitted that they had no member named Robert Rich. Numerous press stories circulated questioning the writer's identity (modern sources suggest that Trumbo himself fueled the press fury), spurred on by the discovery that the King Brothers had a nephew of the same name, and by Frank King's physical description of Rich. As noted in an April Los Angeles Times article, King claimed to have met Rich in Munich in 1952. Reporters and industry members hazarded many guesses as to Rich's identity, including Trumbo and fellow blacklisted writer Albert Maltz and Paul Jarrico. Meanwhile, many other writers claimed credit, including Paul Rader, who in a April 3, 1957 Hollywood Reporter article stated that he wrote the film and sold it to Nassour six years earlier.
On April 15, 1957, Life reported that Fred Zinnemann credited documentarian Robert Flaherty with the original idea, which Orson Welles then bought in 1944 and tried to produce. In the same article, Willis O'Brien alleged that The Brave One's story should be credited to him, because years earlier he sold the Emilio story to Jesse Lasky, Jr., who then sold it to Nassour.
On April 8, 1957, Daily Variety reported that the Academy had issued a statement declaring that if "Rich" was not found, the award could be given to the runner-up. The organization stated in a April 12, 1957 Hollywood Reporter item that if Rich did not appear in person at Academy headquarters, the 1956 Oscar would be rescinded.
In July 1958, the controversy intensified when Mrs. Carmen Duval sued King Brothers for $300,000, stating that her late husband, Juan Duval, wrote the script. That suit, as noted in a July 2, 1962 Daily Variety news item, was eventually settled out of court. On July 25, 1957, the Los Angeles Mirror noted that a writer named Philip Creed also alleged to be the writer.
Soon after, Pierre Boulle won the 1957 Best Screenplay Adaptation Oscar for The Bridge on the River Kwai (see below), which was widely known to have been written by blacklisted writers Michael Wilson and Carl Foreman. The following year, blacklisted writer Nedrick Young won for co-writing The Defiant Ones (see below) under the pseudonym Nathan E. Douglas. On January 14, 1959, Film Daily announced that the Academy Board of Governors had repealed the blacklist bylaw. Immediately afterward, on January 17, 1959, Los Angeles Times announced that Trumbo acknowledged that he was Robert Rich. As a result, the WGA, as a February 4, 1959 Hollywood Citizen-News article reported, launched an official search for Rich, spurring Trumbo, Duval and writers John Fante and Norman Foster to petition for recognition of credits for various films. In 1975, the Academy issued an Oscar to Trumbo bearing his name as the film's writer. Trumbo died of cancer a year later. On August 4, 2000, Hollywood Reporter reported that the WGA had officially restored credits to numerous films, including naming Trumbo as the story writer of The Brave One. Universal's 1960 Spartacus marked the first film after the blacklist for which Trumbo received onscreen credit. (For more information, see the entry for Spartacus, below.)
In 1958, RKO turned over The Brave One, as part of a block of films, to Universal for distribution. In response, according to a November 4, 1958 Daily Variety article, King Brothers sued RKO and Universal for six million dollars, declaring that the sale of the film lessened its value "because of decreased competition."
In addition to the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture Story, The Brave One received nominations for Film Editing (Merrill G. White) and Sound Recording (John Myers). It was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award as Best Film Promoting International Understanding and won the Le Grand Prix Femina Belge, which honored the American film shown in Brussels that contained the "highest artistic and moral qualities."
Released in United States Fall October 1956
Released in United States Fall October 1956