Cast & Crew
In Vancouver, British Columbia, charter pilot and recovering alcoholic Vince Heldon and his wife Julie sadly place Vince's two young children, Don and Janet, on a commercial flight to return to their mother, Nora Stead. The children, who adore Vince and Julie, want to stay, but according to his custody agreement, Vince can only have the children six weeks a year. As Vince and Julie drive toward their lakefront home and business, the radio broadcasts a news report that the children's plane is on fire. They rush back to the airport, but after several hours, all contact with the plane has been lost. Although it is not yet daylight, Vince decides to take his seaplane out and search for the wreckage himself. Meanwhile, the children awaken near their plane, the only survivors of the mountainous crash. Don takes charge of the situation, gathering food and beverages from the plane and picking up a lighter and gun that belonged to a detective killed in the accident. Following the pre-crash words of the stewardess, Don tells Janet that they must stay near the plane, even though he knows that Vince's seaplane can only land on water. The next morning, an exhausted Vince flies home just as Nora, who is also a flier, arrives. Julie and Vince's partner, "Brandy," are wary of the aggressive Nora, who easily coerces Vince into resting instead of immediately going out again. At the crash site, when the children awaken, Don dismisses Janet's dream of seeing "a big pussycat," but when he then spots mountain lion tracks, he tells Janet that they must leave. Remembering that Vince had told him if you follow a stream it will always lead to a lake or river, Don takes Janet to a small lake. When she starts to cry from hunger, Don discovers that he left their only food at the plane and must return for it. Advising her to go wading in the lake up to her chest if she sees the "pussycat," he returns to the wreckage. A short time later, Janet sees the mountain lion and runs screaming into the icy water. While Don is at the crash site, he sees gasoline leaking from the fuel tank and decides to use the lighter to start a signal fire. The fire causes an explosion that incinerates the plane, but scares the mountain lion off. Back at the airport, Nora and Vince attend a briefing given by Wayne Langmuir of the transportation board. Langmuir believes strongly that they should not risk losing a plane to find one already lost and cautions that all rescue pilots must follow his plan. Although an Indian guide has reported the explosion and fire Don set, Langmuir dismisses it and wants the pilots to search a more likely area. Vince has a hunch that the explosion is the crash site, but Nora strongly disagrees. Vince finally convinces Langmuir to let him search that area by himself and takes off the next morning, accompanied by Julie. The fog is so dense that they cannot see anything on the ground, even though Don and Janet hear the plane and are sure that it is their father. While he is in the air, Nora learns that her own plane is going to be grounded for repairs. When the exhausted Vince returns, Nora goes to Langmuir and tells him that Vince has over-extended his flying time for the month. After checking the log, Langmuir grounds Vince, thus enabling Nora to take over his plane. When Vince again seems to acquiesce to Nora's wishes, Julie and Brandy are disgusted. While an embittered Vince goes off by himself, Julie goes to Nora's room and accuses her of deliberately sabotaging Vince for her own purposes and drags her out of bed to make Langmuir change his mind. When they find Vince, both Julie and Nora think that he has fallen off the wagon and Julie tells him that she will leave him if he goes back to drinking and self-pity. He is not drunk, though, and when he finds out what Nora has done, he determines to go looking for the children again after Nora convinces Langmuir. With Julie, Vince flies over his hunch area. When she spots the burned wreckage, he notices a nearby stream and follows it, knowing that Don would have looked for its source. Meanwhile, on the ground, the mountain lion has again started to stalk the children. Because Don had earlier emptied the gun to scare off the cat, they have no choice but to run and climb a tree. A few moments later, Vince sees the small lake and, with Julie's encouragement, makes the difficult landing. Just as the mountain lion is about to climb the tree and attack the children, Vince hears Janet's screams and runs toward them. He arrives in time to stop the lion and kill it with a large tree branch. Vince, Julie and the children are reunited just as Nora and Brandy fly overhead. Seeing the happy family, Nora breaks down and tells Brandy he has won: the children are safe and with the parents with whom they belong.
A. Arnold Gillespie
Rudolph G. Kopp
Edwin B. Willis
This was Keel's second-ever dramatic role after a string of musicals and comedies, and his first for a Hollywood studio. (His film debut had been in the tense British crime drama The Small Voice, aka The Hideout .)
Variety called Desperate Search "strictly a routine offering" but praised Joseph Lewis' directing skill, which it said "hammers home as much tension and suspense as possible."
Lewis later told author Peter Bogdanovich (Who the Devil Made It) that he had to fight to get the look he wanted for this picture, because MGM was the kind of place where "if you asked for a little clothes closet, they'd give you an eight-room house." MGM, in other words, thought big about everything. It was simply the studio mindset, but it wasn't appropriate for all kinds of pictures.
MGM wanted Lewis to shoot on location but he chose not to. He did, however, venture out with his art director for research purposes, or as Lewis put it, "just to see. We spent three weeks there just looking. After three or four days, I called the studio and said, 'All we want to do is look around. We're not going to pick locations -- I think we can do it all on the back lot, and better.' And after three weeks we came home, and shot it all on the back lot. I'll bet we took a thousand photographs. But I had my art director with me, you see, so each time I'd say something, why, he knew what I wanted. There was no second-guessing." A few location shots were made in the California mountains for backgrounds and aerial angles, but the actors did all their work at the studio.
Lewis' next film for MGM, the Louisiana-set Cry of the Hunted (1953), was also shot on the Metro back lot. For a director who had recently scored brilliantly with the low-budget noir Gun Crazy (1950), working on the cheap -- and enjoying the creativity that that unleashed -- appeared to be simply ingrained in his way of thinking as an artist.
Producer: Matthew Rapf
Director: Joseph Lewis
Screenplay: Walter Doniger (writer); Arthur Mayse (novel)
Cinematography: Harold Lipstein
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Eddie Imazu
Film Editing: Joseph Dervin
Cast: Howard Keel (Vince Heldon), Jane Greer (Julie Heldon), Patricia Medina (Nora Stead), Keenan Wynn (Brandy), Robert Burton (Wayne Langmuir), Lee Aaker (Don Heldon), Linda Lowell (Janet Heldon), Elaine Stewart (Stewardess).
by Jeremy Arnold
TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th
PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
Callaway Went Thataway (1951)
Ride, Vaquero! (1953)
War Wagon (1967)
"MGM Parade Show #14"
(Keel talks with George Murphy about his latest MGM picture "Kismet")(1955)
Kiss Me Kate (1953)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
HOWARD KEEL (1919-2004):
Howard Keel, the strapping singer and actor whose glorious baritone took him to stardom in the early '50s in some of MGM's best musicals, including Showboat, Kiss Me Kate and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, died on November 7 of colon cancer at his home in Palm Desert, California. He was 85.
He was born Harry Clifford Leek on April 13, 1919, in Gillespie, Illinois. His father, was a coal miner and his mother, a strict Methodist, forbid the children from enjoying popular entertainments. When his dad died, his mother relocated the family to California when Harry was still a young teenager.
After he graduated high school, Keel had a brief stint as a singing busboy, but had not considered a professional career as a vocalist....until one fateful evening in 1939. It was at this time he saw celebrated opera singer, Lawrence Tibbett, at the Hollywood Bowl. Keel was inspired, and he soon began taking voice lessons. Over the next several years, he carefully trained his voice while entering any singing contest he could find. It wasn't long before his talents caught the attention of Rodgers & Hammerstein.
In 1946, they signed him to replace John Raitt in the Broadway production of Carousel, changed his name to Howard Keel (His proper surname Leek spelled backwards), and Keel was on his way to international stardom.
After his run in Carousel ended, he sailed to London the following year to play the role of Curley in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma. He received rave reviews from the London press, and by the time he returned to the United States in 1948, he was ready to make his move into films.
Keel made his movie debut in the British thriller, The Small Voice (1948), but it would be his second film, and first for MGM, portraying Frank Butler, Betty Hutton's leading man in Annie Get Your Gun (1950), that sealed his success. Keel's several strengths as a performer: his supple, commanding singing voice; his athletic, 6'4" frame; striking, "matinee-idol" good looks; and his good humored personality made him one of the studios' top leading men over the next few years. Indeed, between 1951-55, Keel could do not wrong with the material he was given: Show Boat (1951), Lovely to Look at (1952), Kiss Me Kate (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), and Kismet (1955). Clearly, he was a shining star in this golden era of the MGM musical.
By the late '50s, movie musicals began to fade out of fashion, but Keel returned to the stage and had success performing with several touring companies. He made a brief return to films when he was cast as a seaman battling carnivorous plants from outer space in the popular British sci-fi hit, The Day of the Triffids (1962). Television also provided some work, where he guest starred in some of the more popular shows in the late '60s including Run For Your Life, and The Lucy Show.
Keel would keep a low profile over the next decade, but he made an amazing comeback in 1981, when he was cast as Clayton Farlow, Ellie Ewing's (Barbara Bel Geddes) second husband in the wildly successful prime time soap, Dallas. Not only did he play the role for ten seasons, but Keel would also be in demand for many other shows throughout the '80s and '90s: The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Murder, She Wrote, Hart to Hart, and Walker, Texas Ranger, to name a but a few. By the late-'90s, Keel retired to his home in Palm Desert, California, where still made public appearances now and again for a tribute or benefit. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Judy; a son, Gunnar; daughters, Kaija, Kristina and Leslie; 10 grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.
by Michael T. Toole
Important Milestones on Howard Keel:
Moved to Southern California at age 16 (date approximate)
Worked as a singing busboy in a Los Angeles cafe
Worked for Douglas Aircraft as a manufacturing representative travelling among various company plants; work included singing; won a first prize award at the Mississippi Valley while on the road; also won an award at the Chicago Music Festival
Began singing career with the American Music Theatre in Pasadena, California
Chosen by Oscar Hammerstein II to perform on Broadway in "Carousel"; succeeded John Raitt in the leading role of Billy Bigelow; also took over the leading role of Curly in "Oklahoma"
Recreated the role of Curly when he opened the London stage production of "Oklahoma"
Made feature film debut in a non-singing supporting role in the British crime drama, "The Small Voice"
Signed by MGM; became instant star as the male lead of "Annie Get Your Gun"
Provided the offscreen narration for the Western saga, "Across the Wide Missouri", starring Clark Gable
First film opposite Kathryn Grayson, "Show Boat"
First leading role in a non-musical, "Desperate Search"
Made best-remembered film, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"
Last musical starring roles, and last musicals for MGM, "Jupiter's Darling" and "Kismet"
Went to Britain to play the leading role in the action drama, "Floods of Fear"
Last leading role, "Red Tomahawk"
Last feature film appearance for over 20 years, "Arizona Bushwhackers"
Starred on the London stage in the musical "Ambassador"; later brought the role to Broadway (date approximate)
Toured the nightclub circuit, sometimes teaming up with his co-star from three MGM musicals of the 1950s, Kathryn Grayson
Toured in stage productions of musicals and comedies including "Camelot", "Man of La Mancha", "Paint Your Wagon", "I Do! I Do!", "Plaza Suite", "Gigi", "Show Boat", "Kismet", "The Most Happy Fella" and "The Fantasticks"
Teamed with Jane Powell on record-breaking national theater tour of "South Pacific"
Reprised screen role of eldest brother Adam in a touring stage version of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", opposite original screen co-star Jane Powell
Joined the cast of the CBS primetime serial drama, "Dallas", which had premiered in 1978; played Clayton Farlow
Recorded first solo album, "And I Love You So"
Was one of the hosts of the feature compilation documentary, "That's Entertainment III", revisiting the MGM musical from the coming of sound through the late 1950s
Keel was President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1958-1959.
TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
The uncredited music used is Miklos Rozsa's score for "The Asphalt Jungle".
Arthur Mayse's novel was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post (5 January-9 February 1952). As the film begins, Keenan Wynn as "Brandy" briefly narrates an introduction to the story. Some sources refer to the film as The Desperate Search. Hollywood Reporter news items indicated that Betsy Drake was initially cast opposite Howard Keel and that location shooting took place at the Hemet Reservoir near Idyllwild, CA. Although a pre-production news item indicates that "location scouting" was being done in Vancouver, B.C., that most likely was for backgrounds and aerial photography. As noted another Hollywood Reporter news item, this film marked Matthew Rapf's first producing assignment as part of a new M-G-M unit organized by studio head Dore Schary. The unit was under the direction of Charles Schnee.
Released in United States January 1957
Released in United States Winter January 1957
Released in United States January 1957
Released in United States Winter January 1957