The Proud Rebel
Cast & Crew
Olivia De Havilland
After the Civil War, former Confederate soldier John Chandler brings his ten-year-old son David to Aberdeen, Illinois in search of a doctor. In the office of kindly Doc Enos Davis, John reveals that David, who is otherwise completely healthy, lost his voice after witnessing his mother being killed in a fire. Enos informs John that, although the malady is likely psychological, a Dr. Eli Strauss in Minnesota might be able to help. Newly hopeful, John brings David to the local store to buy supplies for their trip, but their way is blocked by the sheep herd of rancher Harry Burleigh and his sons, Jeb and Tom. John instructs their dog, Lance, to clear the street of the sheep, and the expert herding dog complies, attracting the attention of the Burleighs. As John trades silver for supplies inside the store, they hear Lance bark and rush out, to discover that the Burleigh brothers are attempting to steal the dog. John is forced to fight them, and is winning when Harry joins the fray and knocks him out. David, distraught, throws himself in front of a passing wagon to ask the driver, Linnett Moore, for help. Moved by the medallion David wears identifying him as a mute, Linnett holds him as Harry pours bourbon over John's head and then tells the approaching sheriff that John drunkenly attacked him. In court, Judge Morley, who dislikes Southerners, sentences John to thirty days in jail or $30, and when John cannot pay, Linnett announces that he can work the fine off on her farm. Once there, Linnett gruffly informs John about the amount of work he will be required to perform, but simultaneously tidies up the bunkhouse to make it comfortable. When she asks David for help with the horses, John announces that David is not to work, but later both are proud to see David disobeying his father's orders. Weeks pass, with both father and son enjoying their hard work and its effect on the farm, as well as Linnett's attentions. Despite John's contentment, he warns Linnett that he will be taking David to Minnesota as soon as his debt is repaid. One day, the Burleighs drive their sheep directly onto Linnett's land. Linnett prepares to shoot at them, but John stops her, instead using Lance to control the herd. While local dog breeder Birm Bates watches, impressed, the Burleighs are forced to retreat. Birm immediately offers to buy Lance, but John states that the dog is not for sale, and as Linnett observes David's attachment to Lance, she deduces John's motives in keeping the dog. That night, after Linnett reads to David and speaks sign language with him, John thanks her, but cautions her that David should not grow too attached to her. He also reveals that David lost his mother when Yankee soldiers burned down their house, and then was sent to an orphanage, forcing John to search for the boy for months. Since then, they have been traveling from doctor to doctor, hoping to find a cure. Linnett begins to fall in love with father and son, but one day, Enos visits to announce that Dr. Strauss has agreed to see David free of charge. They must reach Minnesota within a week, however, and the trip will cost $300. Too proud to borrow money from Enos or Linnett, John tries to sell his horse, to no avail. Later, Harry offers John $500 to join him in convincing Linnett to give up her ranch, thus affording him free access to her grazing land, but John refuses. With no other options, he admits to Linnett that he plans to sell Lance to Birm, explaining that David's voice is more important than the dog, but Linnett strongly objects. As they argue, the Burleigh brothers set fire to the barn, and although David is terrified by the flames, he cannot yell a warning. Linnett and John finally see the fire and struggle to contain it, but fail. In the morning, Linnett confesses to John that now, with no place to store her crop, she must sell out, but John announces that he will stay to rebuild the barn and find another way to earn the money for his trip. That Sunday, John and David prepare to go to church, and are stunned to see the typically plain Linnett looking lovely in her Sunday-best clothes. In town, John overhears a nosy neighbor woman insinuating to Linnett that her living arrangement with John is fodder for gossip, and distracts Linnett by taking a photograph with her. They are interrupted by the sound of local boys calling David "dummy." Dismayed, John finds Birm and offers him Lance for $300, then convinces Linnett to take David to Minnesota while he watches the farm. As Linnett and David are leaving, John, unable to admit to the boy that he has sold Lance, tries to tell Linnett how he feels about her, but the wagon takes off too soon. Over the next days, Linnett sends John letters detailing David's progress and warning that he misses Lance terribly. John rebuilds the farm as he waits, optimistic that Dr. Strauss's planned operation will cure David. When they return, however, David remains mute, and is devastated to find Lance gone. John tries to explain but the boy hits his father and collapses in tears. Hoping to buy Lance back, John visits Birm, who reveals that the dog would not work for him, so he sold Lance to the Burleighs. After John then sees the ranchers dragging a howling Lance by a rope, he returns to the farm and straps on a gun, despite Linnett's pleas that Harry is deliberately antagonizing him in hopes of getting rid of him. Although she reveals that she cares only about him and David and will happily lose the farm to save them, John insists he must confront the rancher. John goes to Harry, who, after calling David "a dummy," grandly informs John he can have Lance back. As John retrieves the dog from the shed, however, Harry instructs his sons to shoot John as a dog thief. Meanwhile, David has followed his father, and appears just in time to see Jeb training his gun on the barn door. Desperate, David struggles until he is able to shout a warning, saving his father, who runs out to protect him. After John shoots Jeb, Harry advances on him in a murderous rage, and John is forced to shoot him. Although Tom raises his gun, he cannot bring himself to shoot the Chandlers. John takes David and Lance and returns to Linnett, who collapses in joyful tears when she hears David call her name.
Olivia De Havilland
Roscoe S. Cline
Samuel Goldwyn Jr.
Samuel Goldwyn Jr.
Al St. Hilaire
Willard J. Stratman
W. Lloyd Young
The Proud Rebel -
Goldwyn wanted Alan Ladd for the role of a southern widower journeying to Illinois after the Civil War in search of a doctor who can cure his son, who has been mute ever since witnessing the murder of his mother and the burning of his Atlanta home. To play the boy, Goldwyn wanted Ladd's own son, 11-year-old David Ladd, an idea Goldwyn hatched after seeing both Ladds on screen together in The Big Land (1957). The idea was a good one, for young David proved extremely effective in the role and drew much praise. The New York Times said he "contributes an astonishingly professional and sympathetic stint..... not only extremely likable but also projects movingly and with surprising naturalness and fidelity...as the mute."
Rounding out the key cast are Dean Jagger as a villainous, one-armed sheep farmer, Olivia de Havilland as a no-nonsense farm woman who takes father and son under her wing, and -- in the vital role of Lance the dog -- a real-life champion border collie named King. According to the film's production notes, King and his two canine stand-ins were deemed so important by the production team that they were given their own hotel room "in one of Utah's finest motels right next to Ladd's and de Havilland's quarters."
It might seem unusual for a film set in Illinois to be shot in Utah, but as Goldwyn said in an interview during production, "[There are] no high mountains in our camera. We're above them. This is Illinois right after the Civil War. That and the fact they've got sheep here is why we came." Indeed, the locations in and around Kanab were at a two-mile altitude, which took some getting used to for cast and crew. But cinematographer Ted McCord took full advantage of the breathtaking scenery, shooting in a muted Technicolor palette (avoiding flamboyant colors such as red) to great effect.
The Proud Rebel was budgeted at $1.6 million and released by Buena Vista. It did respectable, though not blockbuster, business and earned uniformly good reviews, with many critics saying the picture recalled Shane (1953). Variety declared it "heartwarming" and The New York Times found it "a truly sensitive effort... Cleaves to the premise that a 'little' story, honestly told, can be just as persuasive as the sound and fury of a 'blockbuster.'"
This was Alan Ladd's last major film, and his first time working with Olivia de Havilland and director Michael Curtiz, who themselves had worked together seven times -- twenty years earlier. According to Ladd biographer Beverly Linet, the two stars got on very well and formed a friendship that lasted for years afterward. "He was a proud and sensitive man," de Havilland said of Ladd. "Very sensitive. And throughout the picture he was very concerned about the boy. Because Mike Curtiz could be quite harsh with people, Alan was afraid that Mike would be rough on David." She added, "He needed the assurance of somebody who had faith in him as a performer... His confidence would be destroyed if he was handled without great tact by a director."
By Jeremy Arnold
The Proud Rebel -
Although David Ladd's credit in the opening credits reads "and introducing," he had previously appeared with his father, Alan Ladd, in the 1957 Warner Bros. film The Big Land. According to studio press materials, producer Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. persuaded his father, Samuel Goldwyn, to sell him the rights to the James Edward Grant story on which The Proud Rebel is based. A April 23, 1958 Hollywood Reporter article noted that, after two years of work on the script, Goldwyn, Jr. turned to United Artists for financial backing, but was told that he would be limited to a budget of $1,200,000. Instead, he financed the film himself for $1,600,000, after which he sold the domestic distribution rights to Buena Vista. According to the SAB, Loew's, Inc. handled foreign distribution.
Adolphe Menjou was originally cast in the film, but Los Angeles Times reported on September 7, 1957 that he had torn ligaments in his leg and groin and would have to be replaced. Studio press materials note that King, the border collie who plays "Lance," was a Western champion sheep dog; press materials also state that, during production, Olivia de Havilland ended a highly publicized feud with her sister, actress Joan Fontaine, that had started over a perceived slight to de Havilland's first husband. A August 27, 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that production was halted temporarily when director Michael Curtiz had an emergency appendectomy. Although the press notes state that The Proud Rebel was shot in wide-screen, contemporary reviews indicate that it was released in standard format. Hollywood Reporter news items in September 1957 state that the film was shot partially on location in Cedar City and Kanab, UT. As noted in press notes and news items, University of Utah coed Marcia Wilson won a studio contest to play "John Chandler's wife." Her only appearance in the completed film, however, is in a photograph.
Although October 1957 Hollywood Reporter news items and production charts add Bert Grant, Ricky Murray, Mike Ladin, Hugh Corcoran, Percy Helton and Geoff Parish to the cast, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Contemporary reviews praised the picture highly, noting especially the performances of de Havilland and David Ladd. An April 1958 Hollywood Reporter article stated that, although The Proud Rebel was "a better picture" than Disney's Old Yeller, the 1957 film benefited from promotion via the Disneyland television program, to which The Proud Rebel would not have access.
Released in United States Spring April 1958
Released in United States Spring April 1958