Cast & Crew
In the 1880s, soon after being paroled from a Southwest prison, rancher Joe Devereaux, a half-breed, is taken to see the governor, an old friend of Joe's father Matt, who has arranged a meeting between Joe and his three white half-brothers, Ben, Denny and Mike. Determined to take over the ranch now that their father is dead, the brothers offer Joe $10,000 to move to Oregon and forget the place. Joe refuses the offer, throwing the money into a spittoon, and then goes to the deserted Devereaux ranch house. While staring at a portrait of Matt, Joe's thoughts go back to a time when his father was still alive: One day, Matt discovers that his sons Mike and Denny are part of a gang of rustlers who are stealing cattle from him. Matt strikes Mike when he tries to justify the rustling by complaining about his father's low wages. Ben also demands higher wages and sides with his two rebellious brothers, and only Joe remains loyal to his father. As punishment, Matt banishes Ben, Mike and Denny, giving them only a few stolen cattle to support themselves. Days later, Matt is upset to find that Joe has brought home Mike and Denny, and that his exiled sons are mingling with his dinner guests. The guests include the governor and his young daughter Barbara, with whom Joe is smitten. Soon after discovering that his cattle are dying, Matt learns that his herd has been poisoned by waste in the river coming from the Associated Western Copper Mine. Matt and his sons demand that the owner of the mine, McAndrews, stop polluting the river, and when the miner rejects their demand, Matt vows to get an injunction against him. Before leaving the mine, Matt punches McAndrews and destroys the mining company's refinery. Later, Barbara tells Joe that she is not concerned about his Indian roots, but her father, who is prejudiced against Indians, wants the couple separated. When Matt discovers the governor's prejudice, he determines to have him removed from office. A trial concerning Matt and the mining company gets underway with Van Cleve, McAndrews' lawyer, making the case that Matt never sought to use the proper legal channels to handle his dispute with the miners, and that his attack was premeditated. During the trial, Matt's lawyer makes a deal with Van Cleve, in which McAndrews agrees to drop his charges in exchange for a promise by Matt to repair the damage from the attack on the mine. Matt reluctantly accepts the deal but is troubled by the part of the bargain that requires Joe to take the blame for the attack and be jailed. The court defeat, along with the shame he suffers when Ben, Mike and Denny refuse to abide by the provisions of the deal, causes Matt to have a stroke. After making a partial recovery, Matt tries to get Joe out of prison by asking Ben to sacrifice his share of the ranch, but Ben refuses. Matt dies while following Ben on a horse. Joe is permitted to leave prison to attend his father's funeral, during which he formally severs his ties with his brothers and proclaims a blood feud. As Joe comes out of his reverie, his mother enters the house and persuades him to forget revenge and leave the country. Joe decides to take her advice, but when Ben intercepts him with the intent to kill him, the two half-brothers engage in a hand-to-hand battle that ends when Two Moons, the Indian ranch foreman, shoots Ben dead. Time passes, and Joe and Barbara, now married, visit Matt's grave. There, Joe sees the down-turned lance, the Indian symbol for a blood feud, and breaks it in half, thus ending the fight forever.
E. G. Marshall
Carl Benton Reid
George E. Stone
James F. Stone
Arthur Q. Bryan
Chief Geronimo Kuthlee
W. D. Flick
Edward B. Powell
Walter M. Scott
Sol C. Siegel
Darryl F. Zanuck
Best Writing, Screenplay
Best Supporting Actress
Broken Lance -
House of Strangers, a now-classic film noir starring Edward G. Robinson as an autocratic father of four sons, had been written by Philip Yordan and based on a 1941 novel by Jerome Weidman. For this western version, Murphy moved the action to Arizona but kept the basic story intact. Matt Devereaux (Spencer Tracy) is a stern cattle baron with three sons from his first wife and a fourth son from his current marriage to a Comanche woman (Katie Jurado). This half-caste son (Robert Wagner) is the object of much resentment from his three half-brothers, who also hate their father. As director Edward Dmytryk later said, "Broken Lance is a story about family, jealousy, the difficulty of change and the harsh beauty of the rural west...The theme that appealed to me is racial hatred, racial distinction."
Dmytryk was a former film editor who had transitioned to directing in the late 1930s and made increasingly successful and important films, culminating in a Best Director Oscar nomination for Crossfire (1947). That same year, he was blacklisted as one of the Hollywood Ten for refusing to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee about his past Communist affiliations. He fled to England, where he directed two films before changing his mind about testifying; he returned to America, served over four months in prison, and now cooperated with the committee, naming names of fellow artists and damaging their careers. Afterward, he resumed his own Hollywood career by directing several pictures for producer Stanley Kramer, including The Caine Mutiny (1954). That film, an enormous critical and commercial success, was still awaiting release when 20th Century Fox signed Dmytryk to direct Broken Lance.
Dmytryk was in awe of his leading man, Spencer Tracy. After rewriting one particular scene that Dmytryk thought had been too "stiffly written," the director showed the new version to Tracy. But Tracy had already memorized the first version and wanted to try it as originally written. Dmytryk agreed and was amazed to watch Tracy make the problematic dialogue sound believable. "He hadn't changed a word in the original speech, but he broke it up and played with it in such a way that it seemed the most natural scene in the world," Dmytryk wrote. "The odd thing was that he felt it was nothing special--that it was just something that every actor owed his art."
For the part of the half-caste son, Spencer Tracy recommended Robert Wagner after seeing him in Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953), one of several recent hits for the fast-rising young star. Fox chief Darryl F. Zanuck had envisioned Jeffrey Hunter in the role but agreed to Wagner. Dmytryk was very happy with the result, later writing, "I think it's the best thing [Wagner] has ever done."
In a surprising supporting role, given his stature at the time, Richard Widmark plays the oldest son, Ben. He later said he hadn't wanted to do this film but had been forced to by Zanuck. Widmark had recently refused to sign a new contract with Fox, "because I was tired of being shot from one movie to another--finishing one on a Saturday and starting another on Monday. I could get more money on the outside and get a wider variety of stuff." According to Widmark, this "teed off" Zanuck, who reacted by assigning him to this small part. Dmytryk, aware of all this, later wrote that Widmark "was professional enough to do his job with a minimum amount of griping, and to do it well. Subsequently, I made several films with him."
Playing Spencer Tracy's Comanche wife is Katy Jurado, a Mexican star who had broken through in Hollywood with Budd Boetticher's Bullfighter and the Lady (1951) and shot to greater attention with High Noon (1952). She would receive the sole Academy Award nomination of her career for Broken Lance.
This was a major film for Fox, with roughly a $2 million budget, and was one of the studio's earliest features to be filmed in the wide, anamorphic CinemaScope format. Dmytryk loved his first time working in 'Scope. "I felt the old experimental thrill," he later wrote. "The soft, distant mountains formed a low, broad horizon; men on horseback filled more screen horizontally than vertically; even the squat, spreading architecture of the American West suited the new dimensions perfectly. I was thirty again." Broken Lance filmed on location in southern Arizona as well as on Hollywood soundstages; it was a smooth shoot, finishing fifteen days under schedule and $250,000 under budget.
While not considered a particular classic today, it was well received at the time by audiences and critics. The New York Times deemed it "refreshingly serious" and trade paper Variety called it a "topnotch Western drama. Scenes of breathtaking beauty...are captured by Joe McDonald's [sic] exceptional use of the C'Scope lens. This footage shows a grown-up CinemaScope, a process that has lived up to the promise of the pioneer The Robe (1953)... Wagner does his best work yet [and] Widmark's gift for menace rates a hackle-raising display."
In addition to Jurado's Best Supporting Actress nomination, Broken Lance won the Oscar for Best Story. It was awarded to Philip Yordan, who had written House of Strangers, even though Yordan had nothing directly to do with this film's screenplay. According to Dmytryk, "even Yordan protested" his own win.
By Jeremy Arnold
Michael Buckley, "Richard Widmark." Films in Review, May 1986
James Curtis, Spencer Tracy
"Director's Cut: Edward Dmytryk on Broken Lance." American Movie Classics Magazine, June 1999
J. D. Marshall, Blueprint on Babylon
Broken Lance -
Broken Lance on DVD
That's the nutshell verdict on the 1954 western Broken Lance, now on DVD. While state of the art for its day - in the new processes of CinemaScope and Stereophonic Sound! - it is, ultimately, nothing more than a garden-variety studio picture. It has an able star (Spencer Tracy) and sturdy co-stars (including Robert Wagner, Richard Widmark and Katy Jurado), but the direction by Edward Dmytryk (Murder, My Sweet, The Caine Mutiny) and the script by Richard Murphy (refashioning 1949's modern-day non-western House of Strangers) can't unearth much genuine drama behind all the handsome presentation.
Tracy plays Matt Devereaux, a larger-than-life, self-made rancher who lords over his four grown sons as much as he lords over his 50,000 head of cattle. There are three from his first marriage: Ben (Widmark), bitter at being forever treated (and paid) like a ranch hand, Mike (Hugh O'Brian) and Denny (Earl Holliman), the last two ineffectual buffoons. Then there's Joe (Wagner), his youngest, from his current marriage to a beautiful Comanche woman (Katy Jurado). Joe is the only son headstrong enough to stand up to his father face to face, and the only one to earn his bullheaded dad's respect. Not surprisingly, the older brothers resent Joe.
Not much drama emerges because, despite the movie's moral grays, all of these relationships remain fixed. The conflict here mostly involves the transformation of the wide-open Wild West into a more legal, business-minded place. Ben can't get his father to open up an office 'in town' to maximize and diversify his business, and when Devereaux and his sons run roughshod over a copper mining camp that's polluting the stream the Devereaux cattle drink from, the patriarch finds himself in court, for the first time in his life unable to resolve disagreements in his usual strong-arm fashion.
But this plot comes across flatly, and the movie¿s relentlessly bright and clean look reflects its overall lack of grit (there's also a very bland romantic subplot with half-breed Joe and the "nice girl" played by Jean Peters). Tracy is his dependable self and totally believable in a rare western, while Wagner, best known for lighter TV fare made in the decades after Broken Lance, holds his own. But, disappointingly, Widmark is in the background most of the time, though he finally gets to show some fire during his big tell-off scene with Tracy, after the elder Devereaux has split up his land among his sons to prevent it being seized in the lawsuit the copper company "from back east" files. Another disappointment is seeing Jurado (High Noon, One-Eyed Jacks)¿who plays Wagner's mom despite being only six years older than him - relegated to a submissive, conscience-of-her-husband role and asked to merely look noble, pretty and exotic.
Even more irritating than her being relegated to such a role is the fact that Jurado was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar® for it. It's a little disturbing to think Hollywood eagerly rewarded her with a nomination for a meek role, not her more fiery roles. But Broken Lance has some very weird Academy Award connections. In addition to Jurado's nomination, the movie also won in the defunct Story category that focused on source material. As far as I can tell, this means Philip Yordan won for having written House of Strangers. So he actually won a statue for Broken Lance because he wrote an entirely different movie. Maybe that's one reason they eliminated the category in 1956. Of course, that's no weirder than Yordan being awarded for this and not the superior movies he wrote in the mid-1950s, like The Man from Laramie, Johnny Guitar and The Big Combo.
Broken Lance's odd brush with Oscar® figures in an extra included on the DVD, but not even mentioned on the packaging. An excerpt from a Fox newsreel about 1954's awards mentions the movie' nominations and win, but doesn't even identify Yordan or show Jurado. There's also the movie's trailer, again unmentioned on the packaging, which touts the technical innovations of the movie as much as the story. I can't blame the trailer. Those technical innovations have aged better than the story.
For more information about Broken Lance, visit Fox Home Entertainment. To order Broken Lance, go to TCM Shopping.
by Paul Sherman
Broken Lance on DVD
TCM Remembers - Katy Jurado
KATY JURADO, 1924 - 2002
Katy Jurado, an Oscar nominee and major actress in Westerns, died July 5th at the age of 78. She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico on January 16th 1924 as Maria Cristina Estella Marcela Jurado Garcia, daughter of a cattle rancher and an opera singer. Jurado started to appear in Mexican films in 1943. After 15 films in her native country, director Budd Boetticher saw Jurado attending a bullfight (Jurado wrote about the subject for Mexican newspapers) and cast her in his Bullfighter and the Lady (1952), her Hollywood debut. For much of her career Jurado alternated between the two film industries. In the US, she was memorable for the sensual energy she brought to roles in High Noon (1952), One-Eyed Jacks (1961) which was directed by Marlon Brando, Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) and John Huston's Under the Volcano (1984). She was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for Broken Lance (1954). Jurado's Mexican films were in a broader range of genres and included Luis Bunuel's El Bruto (1952), Ismael Rodriguez's We the Poor and Miguel Littin's The Widow Montiel (1979). She won three Ariel Awards (Mexican equivalent to the Oscars) and one special award. She was married to Ernest Borgnine from the end of 1959 to summer 1963. One of her final films was The Hi-Lo Country (1998), a contemporary Western directed by Stephen Frears and co-starring Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup and Penelope Cruz.
by Lang Thompson
DOLORES GRAY, 1924 - 2002
Broadway and nightclub star Dolores Gray died June 26th at the age of 78. Her movie career was brief but consisted of high-profile MGM musicals which guaranteed her a place in film history. Gray was born in Chicago on June 7th, 1924 (and where, according to a common story, she was accidentally shot by a gangster as a child and had a bullet in her lung her entire life). As a teenager she began singing in California until Rudy Vallee featured her on his radio show. Gray moved to Broadway in 1944 and then to the London stage in 1947, solidifying her reputation as a singer/actress while constantly giving the gossip columnists plenty to write about. She had two small singing roles in Lady for a Night (1941) and Mr. Skeffington (1944) but didn't really light up the big screen until It's Always Fair Weather (1955) even though Gray reportedly didn't much care for the role. Her rendition of "Thanks a Lot, But No Thanks," which has her gunning down a slew of male dancers on-stage and kicking them through trap doors, is a genuine showstopper. Three more unforgettable musical roles quickly followed: Kismet (1955), The Opposite Sex (1956, which Gray turned down Funny Face to do) and Designing Women (1957). That was it for Gray's film career. She kept busy with TV appearances (mostly singing though she did one 1988 episode of the cult show Dr. Who) and a busy recording and nightclub schedule. In 1987, she appeared in a British production of Follies at Stephen Sondheim's request.
by Lang Thompson
ROD STEIGER, 1925 - 2002
From the docks of New York to the rural back roads of Mississippi to the war torn Russian steppes, Rod Steiger reveled in creating some of the most overpowering and difficult men on the screen. He could be a total scoundrel, embodying Machiavelli's idiom that "it's better to be feared than loved" in the movies. But as an actor he refused to be typecast and his wide range included characters who were secretly tormented (The Pawnbroker, 1965) or loners (Run of the Arrow, 1965) or eccentrics (The Loved One, 1965).
Along with Marlon Brando, Steiger helped bring the 'Method School' from the Group Theater and Actors Studio in New York to the screens of Hollywood. The Method technique, taught by Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, insisted on complete immersion into the character's psyche and resulted in intense, dramatic performances and performers. Steiger made his first significant screen appearance as Brando's older brother in On the Waterfront (1954). Their climatic scene together in a taxicab is one of the great moments in American cinema.
It was a short leap from playing a crooked lawyer in On the Waterfront to playing the shady boxing promoter in The Harder They Fall (1956). Based on the tragic tale of true-life fighter Primo Carnera, The Harder They Fall details the corruption behind the scenes of professional boxing bouts. Steiger is a fight manager named Nick Benko who enlists newspaperman Eddie Willis (Humphrey Bogart in his final screen appearance) to drum up publicity for a fixed prizefight. While the boxing scenes were often brutally realistic, the most powerful dramatic moments took place between Steiger and Bogart on the sidelines.
As mob boss Al Capone (1959), Steiger got to play another man you loved to hate. He vividly depicted the criminal from his swaggering early days to his pathetic demise from syphilis. In Doctor Zhivago (1965), Steiger was the only American in the international cast, playing the hateful and perverse Komarovsky. During the production of Dr. Zhivago, Steiger often found himself at odds with director David Lean. Schooled in the British tradition, Lean valued the integrity of the script and demanded that actors remain faithful to the script. Steiger, on the other hand, relied on improvisation and spontaneity. When kissing the lovely Lara (played by Julie Christie), Steiger jammed his tongue into Christie's mouth to produce the desired reaction - disgust. It worked! While it might not have been Lean's approach, it brought a grittier edge to the prestige production and made Komarovsky is a detestable but truly memorable figure.
Steiger dared audiences to dislike him. As the smalltown southern Sheriff Gillespie in In The Heat of the Night (1967), Steiger embodied all the prejudices and suspicions of a racist. When a black northern lawyer, played by Sidney Poitier, arrives on the crime scene, Gillespie is forced to recognize his fellow man as an equal despite skin color. Here, Steiger's character started as a bigot and developed into a better man. He finally claimed a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as Sheriff Gillespie.
Steiger was an actor's actor. A chameleon who didn't think twice about diving into challenging roles that others would shy away from. In the Private Screenings interview he did with host Robert Osborne he admitted that Paul Muni was one of his idols because of his total immersion into his roles. Steiger said, "I believe actors are supposed to create different human beings." And Steiger showed us a rich and diverse cross section of them.
by Jeremy Geltzer & Jeff Stafford
TCM Remembers - Katy Jurado
According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Legal Files at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, Richard Murphy's screenplay for Broken Lance was based on Philip Yordan's screenplay for the 1949 Twentieth Century-Fox film House of Strangers (see below). Yordan's screenplay, in turn, was based on Jerome Weidman's 1941 novel I'll Never Go There Any More. According to the Screen Achievements Bulletin, Yordan was given sole screen credit for the story of Broken Lance, even though it was based on a "slight story line" from Weidman's novel.
On December 7, 1953, Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column announced that Ben Gazzara and Montgomery Clift had been considered for roles in the film. The legal files add that Dolores Del Rio was originally contracted for the role of "Señora Devereaux." On March 5, 1954, Hollywood Reporter stated that Del Rio had to be replaced because she could not get the necessary visa in time. Fox borrowed Spencer Tracy from M-G-M for the production. According to studio publicity material contained in the AMPAS Library file on the film, Chief Geronimo Kuthlee, grandson of the legendary Geronimo, appeared in the film in a small role. Hollywood Reporter news items include Harry Carter and George Wallace in the cast, but their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. The publicity material also notes that ninety percent of the picture was filmed in Arizona's Santa Cruz Valley.
Legal files list Elgin and Nogales, AZ, as specific location sites. Yordan won an Academy Award for Best Original Story for his work on the film. Actress Katy Jurado was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. In addition to the 1948 film, which was directed by Joseph Mankiewicz and starred Edward G. Robinson, Richard Conte and Susan Hayward, Weidman's novel and Yordan's screenplay were the basis of a November 30, 1956 CBS network television broadcast on the 20th Century Fox Hour, entitled "The Last Patriarch," starring Walter Slezak, John Cassavetes and Vince Edwards. In 1961, James B. Clark directed Esther Williams and Cliff Robertson in The Big Show, a Fox production that is considered by some modern sources to be a remake of Weidman's novel. In 1975, according to the legal files, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. requested a 16mm print of Broken Lance because it had been deemed an adaptation of Shakespeare's play King Lear.
Released in United States Summer August 1954
Released in United States on Video November 22, 1989
Released in United States on Video November 22, 1989
Released in United States Summer August 1954