Seven Men from Now
Cast & Crew
In Arizona, in the 1800s, former sheriff Ben Stride vengefully pursues seven men who murdered his wife during a holdup at the Silver Springs freight office. Stride catches up with two of the men and, when they draw on him, kills them. The next day, Stride encounters Annie Greer and her husband John, Easterners who rode through Silver Springs on their way to California. After pulling their wagon out of a mud hole, Stride travels along with them, as they are heading in the same direction and he knows they are unprepared for the dangers of the trail. Annie, thanking him for his help, admits that they have already had several mishaps on their trip. The grateful John, a salesman by profession, says he has never stayed with a job long, but expects to find satisfaction working in the shipping trade. He also confides that they have run out of money, necessitating his taking odd jobs to pay for the remainder of their journey. A man of few words, Stride listens to John's chatter, but is distracted by thoughts of Annie. In the hills above, Masters, an ex-convict whom Stride has twice arrested, and his friend Clete follow the travelers, without making their presence known. Later, soldiers led by Lt. Collins, who has been ordered to clear out the Chiricahua Indians in the area, ride up from the opposite direction. Stride points out to Collins that the dwindling tribe, which numbers about fifty, is mostly comprised of starving women, but, undeterred, Collins continues on with his mission and warns John that he should turn back for Annie's safety. After they leave, Stride suggests a longer, safer route that would bypass the nearest town of Flora Vista, but John is determined to continue as planned. When they reach a deserted relay station, Stride rides ahead and finds a drunk old man, who says the others left after hearing that Indians were in the area. As the old-timer leaves with his donkey, Masters and Clete ride up, and Masters, who seems to respect Stride, makes it clear that they were not involved in the robbery and murder of his wife. That evening, Annie cooks supper, and while Stride stands guard outside, Masters tells the Greers that Stride lost the last election for Silver Springs sheriff, a position he held for twelve years, because of his taciturn nature. After hearing that Stride's wife was murdered, Annie goes out to console him. At first Stride rebuffs her, but then admits that he feels responsible for his wife's death because his refusal to be demoted to deputy forced her to take the job at the freight office. Later, Masters tells Stride that he has been following him, because he wants the strongbox containing the $20,000 stolen by the gang. Although Stride does not know who killed his wife, Masters points out that he is an easy target, because they know him. As the group prepares to leave the next morning, Chiricahuas appear. Stride orders everyone not to shoot and the group tensely waits while Stride gives the hungry Indians one of their extra horses to eat. Satisfied, the Indians take the horse and leave. As the journey continues, Masters, who is growing enamored of Annie, wonders what she sees in John, whom he considers "half a man." While crossing the desert, they rescue a white man being pursued by Indians, unaware that he is one of the seven outlaws. After the Indians are chased away, the man takes aim at Stride's back, but Masters kills him before he fires. When they stop to set up camp, Masters watches Stride, who he realizes is secretly in love with Annie. Feeling guilty about his wife's death, Stride tells Annie that a man should be able to take care of his woman. Although Annie says she does not love John less for being weak, Stride suggests that she does. That night, during a storm, all take refuge inside the wagon, where Masters tells a story about a woman who left her husband for a rugged man. Later, when Stride suggests that Masters and Clete move on, they leave immediately. By morning, Masters and Clete reach Flora Vista, where Masters finds Pate Bodeen, the leader of the outlaws, and his three remaining accomplices, and tells them Stride is coming. In exchange for his help in killing Stride, Bodeen offers Masters a share of the loot, which he says will be delivered by John. Outside Flora Vista, Stride, expecting to walk into a gunfight, parts with the Greers. While saying goodbye, Stride and Annie forget themselves and almost kiss. Riding on alone, Stride is ambushed by two of Bodeen's men, whom he kills, but he is wounded in the confrontation. Later, the Greers find Stride unconscious. When Annie suggests that John fetch the doctor from town, John tells her that he accepted a job to deliver the strongbox, unaware that he was helping murderers, and the outlaws will be waiting for him. Stride, who has meanwhile awakened, tells them to leave the box and take an alternate route to California. Because he cannot identify the killers, he will force them to identify themselves by coming for the strongbox. The Greers leave, but instead of taking the safe route, John heads for Flora Vista to get the sheriff. In town, John tells Bodeen that Stride is waiting in a canyon with the strongbox and then walks toward the sheriff's office. Bodeen shoots John in the back, killing him. Surprised by John's courage, Masters admits to Clete that he underestimated the man. After following Bodeen and the remaining henchman to the canyon, Masters kills both outlaws and, wanting all the money for himself, also kills Clete. Then he meets with Stride and tells the former sheriff that John died heroically. Although he regrets that Annie will lose both John and Stride, Masters, expecting to win, suggests that they duel over the strongbox. Stride kills Masters in the shootout and later returns the strongbox to Silver Springs via Wells Fargo. Before leaving for Silver Springs to accept the deputy job, Stride tells Annie, who is taking a stagecoach to California, that he will be there if she needs him. She watches his departure, then, changing her mind, unloads her luggage, saying that she will stay a while to see how things work out.
Edward G. Boyle
William H. Clothier
Earl Crain Jr.
Nate H. Edwards
Gordon B. Forbes
Andrew V. Mclaglen
Robert E. Morrison
Seven Men from Now
And so, on the last day of shooting The Killer Is Loose (1956), director Budd Boetticher received a message from the Duke, asking him to stop by for a visit on John Ford's set. Five years earlier Wayne had produced and financed Boetticher's breakthrough film Bullfighter and the Lady (1951), and Boetticher felt he owed much of his success to Wayne. He walked over to Ford's set and found him. "Here," Wayne said, "read this and tell me what you think." Boetticher took the script away, and after an hour he returned. "Well, you couldn't-a read it in an hour!" Wayne exclaimed.
"I read 35 pages. That's all I had to read to know that it's great. I'd like to meet this Kennedy fellow."
"So shake hands with him," grinned Wayne, nodding toward the man next to him. Boetticher later wrote, "And so began a long, happy and fruitful partnership. It was the nicest thing John Wayne ever did for me."
The partnership between Boetticher and Kennedy would generate five superb westerns over the next four years, starting with Seven Men from Now. All starred Randolph Scott, usually in a variation of the same story of him avenging his wife's death. (Two further Randolph Scott westerns directed by Boetticher but not written by Kennedy are of lesser quality.) Seven Men from Now is perhaps the best of the bunch. Lean and spare at 78 minutes, it has a deceptively simple story which is actually full of psychological complexity. It has witty dialogue and taut visual storytelling. It is laden with humor, suspense and even some touching romance. And it has an incredibly appealing villain named Masters, played by Lee Marvin.
Casting Lee Marvin was Burt Kennedy's idea. As Boetticher later wrote in his memoir, "Burt and I agreed that western heavies over the years had been portrayed as much too heavy. They rode black horses and wore black hats. You never saw anything good about any of them. Well, we set out to make our villains extremely attractive. Sure they were going to get killed - eventually - by our hero, but we wanted our audience to really love 'em while they were still kickin'." Lee Marvin had been making his mark with vivid performances in films like The Big Heat (1953) and The Wild One (1953) and had even worked with Boetticher once before, in Seminole (1953). Seven Men from Now is easily one of his finest early roles, and it's a pleasure to watch him practice drawing his gun, speak his lines with an amused drawl, and leer at Gail Russell throughout the movie.
Wayne wanted to play the lead role but couldn't, as he was tied up with John Ford's The Searchers (1956). Instead, Boetticher recalled, "Wayne said, 'Let's use Randy Scott. He's through.' Well, the Duke's desire to throw poor Mr. Scott a crumb was the basis for five of the finest films I've ever made." Randolph Scott was one of the richest men in Hollywood; nearing the end of his career, he certainly didn't need any crumbs, or even to be making any more movies at all. But luckily he said yes to Seven Men from Now, as it and the westerns that followed would comprise by far the best work he ever did. Boetticher and Kennedy worked hard to forge new aspects of Scott's persona. Scott had rarely been asked, for example, to bring subtle emotional sensitivity or even sex appeal to the screen, but he did so quite well in these films. His characters were also not above admitting to fear. As Boetticher put it, "I thought the Scott character, before the pictures we made with him, was a pretty stuffy guy."
Aside from Scott's character, there were other unusual qualities in the picture which made it stand out from routine B westerns of the time, including strong undercurrents of longing, loneliness, and vulnerability - as in the unspoken romance between Randolph Scott and Gail Russell. Mostly, though, it's an extraordinary blending of tones which makes Seven Men from Now such an impressive entertainment. Boetticher always said that his favorite scene of all he ever directed was the covered wagon scene in this movie. Scott, Marvin, Russell and Walter Reed (as Russell's husband) sit inside the wagon on a dark and rainy night. Marvin taunts Reed as being less than a man ("Love, that's a mighty fancy word," he says) and in effect verbally makes love to Russell as everyone grows increasingly uncomfortable. Boetticher called this a sex scene in which no one lays a hand on each other, and indeed it is a marvel of subtext brilliantly written by Kennedy, timed to perfection by Boetticher and his actors, and given just the right blend of menace and humor. Most striking is how the scene, the movie, and Boetticher's westerns in general are filled to the brim with humor without losing their overall feel of drama and suspense.
The location Boetticher chose for this picture was one which had been used for dozens of films, mostly westerns, since the silent era - the Alabama Hills of Lone Pine, California. This barren landscape, with its massive, otherworldly rock formations and the high Sierras towering overhead, formed a perfect arena for such a spare story. Boetticher would return to Lone Pine for three more Randolph Scott westerns. He later said, "If you're going to make a western, you can't make a bad shot in Lone Pine. It's the greatest western location in the world. You had the mountains, the volcanic rocks, and across the road you had sand dunes and rivers. I [could] do my whole picture there.... In Seven Men from Now, I wanted one of my villains to get shot as he tries to escape through a crack in the rocks. And when he's dead, he just hangs there - he never falls to the ground. I found the crack and then I built the rest of the scene around [it] and it really worked."
Boetticher and Scott became great friends while making this film. Boetticher called him "a gentleman. There never was one finer. If the South had had a thousand Randolph Scotts, the Confederates would have won the Civil War." That was more than Boetticher could say about John Wayne, with whom he had a love-hate relationship. Boetticher actually said, years later, "I loved John Wayne, and I hated his guts. But he produced the two best pictures I ever made, so you gotta love him."
Seven Men from Now marked a comeback for the beautiful and talented Gail Russell. Of all the leading ladies in Boetticher's westerns, Russell delivered the finest performance, sensitive and well-modulated. She hadn't appeared on screen for five years because of paralyzing stage fright, a troubled marriage, and a descent into alcoholism. John Wayne befriended her in 1946 when they co-starred in Angel and the Badman (1947), and over the years he had tried to help her deteriorating career as best he could, which included offering her this part. But unfortunately Russell would make only three more movies before dying in 1961 from alcoholism.
After its initial release, Seven Men from Now was held back from public screening by the Wayne estate for over 40 years, for reasons that are still unclear. In 2000, the UCLA Film and Television Archive unveiled a beautiful restoration, with Boetticher in attendance, and the picture was a huge success all over again. Then 84, Boetticher traveled with his wife Mary to film festivals across the United States and Europe, introducing the film to eager moviegoers. He just loved sharing his stories with new audiences. At the 2000 New York Film Festival, Boetticher received a long, standing ovation when he appeared on stage after a sold-out screening. He later said, "It was absolutely the most spectacular week of my life. When you see a thousand people standing and applauding at Lincoln Center, you can't believe it. I haven't cried in a long time, and I didn't, but I wanted to." Boetticher died in November, 2001, at age 85.
Producer: Andrew V. McLaglen, Robert E. Morrison, John Wayne
Director: Budd Boetticher
Screenplay: Burt Kennedy
Cinematography: William H. Clothier
Editing: Everett Sutherland
Music: 'By' Dunham, Henry Vars
Art Direction: A. Leslie Thomas
Cast: Randolph Scott (Ben Stride), Gail Russell (Annie Greer), Lee Marvin (Bill Masters), Walter Reed (John Greer), John Larch (Bodeen), Don 'Red' Barry (Clete), Stuart Whitman (Cavalry Lieutenant).
C-78m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Jeremy Arnold
Seven Men from Now
Seven Men From Now (Collector's Edition) - Randolph Scott in Seven Men From Now on DVD
To order Seven Men From Now, go to
Seven Men from Now was the first collaboration for Boetticher, who'd knocked around with only middling success, and Scott, who, in his middle age, had settled into being a prolific star of low-budget westerns. Seven Men from Now and its follow-ups average only 75 minutes in length, and were made on tight shooting schedules. Some of them filmed for only 12 days with compact casts, often recycling locations like California's Lone Pine. But Hollywood's need to outdo television gave these westerns a little boost in budget and production values. They were made in widescreen and in color, two qualities TV couldn't yet match. With cinematographers like Seven Men from Now's William H. Clothier behind the camera, these low-budget genre pictures are as beautiful and visually dramatic as any A-movie.
The tight rein on resources carries over to their screenplays, usually written by Burt Kennedy. In Kennedy's Seven Men from Now script, the quest of Ben Stride (Scott) to avenge his wife's death during a robbery pits him against a crafty villain, Masters (Lee Marvin). Masters isn't one of the murderers, just an opportunist hoping to nab a lockbox of stolen gold as Stride pursues Payte Bodeen (John Larch), the leader of the gang of robbers. Scott characters seek similar vengeance for wronged women in Decision at Sundown, Comanche Station and Ride Lonesome, and tangle with another Masters-like opportunistic interloper in the last of those. Mostly, though, Scott characters find themselves locked in struggle with heavies like Masters who are a lot like them: self-reliant, often itinerant, world-weary and principled in their own way. Somewhere along the way, these men took a turn Scott's hardened yet caring characters didn't. Their natures aren't so different from Scott's heroes. But their choices were.
Marvin is among the most colorful, cocky and coy of the Boetticher-Scott antagonists. He gets nearly all of the best lines in Seven Men from Now and anchors the movie's signature scene during a rain storm midway through, delivering a brilliantly smug near-monologue in which he manages to subtly offend all three people listening to him. Typically for the Boetticher-Scott movies, Seven Men from Now turns out to be as much of a struggle of wills between these combatants, who might have been buddies in other circumstances, as it is a build-up to their inevitable shootout at the climax. Seven Men from Now's Annie Greer (Gail Russell) is the customarily flawed but alluring woman figuratively caught in the crossfire flying between Scott and the villain as the two jockey for supremacy. She's the husband of easterner John Greer (Walter Reed), who's not as self-reliant as Stride or Masters and not likely to survive the movie's journey. Masters shows his affection for the woman by mouthing off and leering, while Stride does so through quiet gesture and deed.
The unspoken romance that develops between Stride and Annie Greer is especially potent and unexpectedly poignant. There's an amazing shot when Stride parts from the Greers, to await the robbers and likely death. As the Greers' wagon comes towards us, we see Stride watching in the distance, framed by the arch of the wagon's cover, much as John Wayne (whose company produced Seven Men from Now) is framed by a doorway in a similar, yet much more famous, shot in John Ford's The Searchers. It's the most emotional moment in any of Boetticher's westerns.
If ever a director were suited to tales of individual battles against the destructive forces around his hero, as well as against those within that hero, it's Boetticher. Being a movie director wasn't even the Chicago native's boldest accomplishment. Being one of the few Americans to be a matador in Mexican bullfighting was. Bullfighting wasn't just among Boetticher's great accomplishments. It was the metaphor for his entire life. The 50-minute documentary included on the DVD, called Budd Boetticher: An American Original, touches upon the most pertinent details of Boetticher's life. The documentary has some of the clunky structure and graphics that DVD-extra documentaries often do, but it also benefits from its relationship to Bruce Ricker's more comprehensive, TCM-aired Budd Boetticher: A Man Can Do That (scheduled to have its own DVD release later this year). Because Paramount co-produced Ricker's documentary, it was given access to some of his interviews (including those with Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino and Taylor Hackford). So there's a better roster of interview subjects than such profiles usually have.
The DVD also includes a rather dry audio commentary by Jim Kitses, whose 1970s book Horizons West (recently out in a revised edition) was among the first to consider the Boetticher-Scott movies as a body of work, and interesting featurettes on Lone Pine and on Gail Russell, whose chequered life and career I was previously unfamiliar with. All in all, an impressive disc for a relatively obscure yet thoroughly rewarding movie.
For more information about Seven Men from Now, visit Paramount Home Entertainment.
by Paul Sherman
Seven Men From Now (Collector's Edition) - Randolph Scott in Seven Men From Now on DVD To order Seven Men From Now, go to TCM Shopping.
Portions of the film were shot at Lone Pine and Calabasas, California, according to Hollywood Reporter news items and production charts. Producer Robert E. Morrison was the brother of John Wayne, the founder of Batjac Productions, Inc. Seven Men from Now marked the first of seven Budd Boetticher-directed Westerns to star Randolph Scott and the first of four Boetticher/Scott Westerns written by Burt Kennedy.
Released in United States 2000
Released in United States November 2000
Released in United States September 2000
Released in United States Summer August 1956
Shown at London Film Festival (Treasures from the Archives) November 1-16, 2000.
Shown at New York Film Festival (Retrospective) September 22 - October 9, 2000.
Released in United States 2000 (Shown at New York Film Festival (Retrospective) September 22 - October 9, 2000.)
Released in United States Summer August 1956
Released in United States September 2000 (Shown at Telluride Film Festival September 1-4, 2000.)
Shown at Telluride Film Festival September 1-4, 2000.
Released in United States November 2000 (Shown at London Film Festival (Treasures from the Archives) November 1-16, 2000.)