The Young Land


1h 29m 1959

Brief Synopsis

During 1848 California's newly inaugurated statehood, a newborn justice system is put to the test in the trial of a hotheaded gunslinger who shoots a repected Hispanic citizen in a state that is a volatile balance beteween whites and Hispanics.

Film Details

Also Known As
Frontier Frenzy
Release Date
May 1959
Premiere Information
world premiere in Cody, Wyoming: 25 Apr 1959
Production Company
C. V. Whitney Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Thousand Oaks, California, USA; Thousand Oaks, California, United States; Thousand Oaks--Conejo Ranch, California, United States; Mexico
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "Frontier Frenzy" by John Reese in The Saturday Evening Post (30 Oct 1954).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 29m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Film Length
7,960 or 7,975ft (10 reels)

Synopsis

In the town of San Bartolo, California, in 1848, just after Mexico cedes California to the United States, Hatfield Carnes shoots Francisco Quiroga as Quiroga draws, then fires at him until Quiroga dies. Young sheriff Jim Ellison, who prefers using his fists rather than his guns because he realizes others are better shots than he, arrests Hatfield, who remarks that he "had to shoot me a Mexican." The distinguished New England judge Millard Isham, arriving with Deputy U.S. Marshal Ben Stroud to conduct the trial, is astounded to learn that Jim, formerly a corporal in the Marines, has not received his authority from the U.S. territorial government, but from Don Roberto de la Madrid, the former alcalde, who still runs most of the area. At a birthday celebration for Don Roberto's attractive daughter Elena, Ben and Jim select a jury that includes several new Mexican-American citizens. When Elena asks Jim, who is shy, to dance, he first asks her father's permission. The next day, during the trial, which is held in a converted animal hide warehouse, Jim testifies that although Hatfield frequently bullied Mexicans, none had ever tried to attack him. When Hatfield takes the stand and uses the term "Mex," the judge reprimands him, saying that the Mexicans present would find the word distasteful. Hatfield relates his version of the events: After he told Quiroga, who had been drinking in the same saloon as Hatfield and his friends, that he did not belong there, he assumed there would be a fight and told Quiroga to step outside. When Quiroga went for his gun, Hatfield beat him to the draw. After Hatfield admits that he had previously killed four Mexicans, Ben contends that he deliberately antagonized Quiroga. General store owner Clarence Tolliver, a witness to the killing, testifies that Hatfield told Quiroga, "You talk big, Mex. Let's see if you got guts enough to draw on a white man." Judge Isham instructs the jury that they must return a guilty verdict if they decide that Hatfield, knowing he was more adept with a gun than Quiroga, goaded him into drawing. If, however, Hatfield shot in self-defense, he must be set free. Mexican cowboys known as vaqueros, who have gathered in town because of the trial, believe Hatfield will not be convicted because killing Mexicans has never been considered murder in the area. Upon seeing the vaqueros, Hatfield worries about a lynching, but Jim maintains they are American citizens now and have a right to their opinion. When Don Roberto arrives in town with Elena, Jim takes him to meet the judge, who is honored. After Isham sends Jim to quiet a mariachi band hired by Lee Hearn, a man Ben has recognized as an outlaw from Fort Omaha, Jim bests Lee in a fight. When the judge berates Jim for leaving Hatfield alone and orders him to appoint a deputy to guard the prisoner, Jim convinces Lee to do the job. Over dinner, Don Roberto tells Judge Isham that the case puts American justice on trial; he wants to believe that Mexican-Americans are citizens entitled to all rights, as the Treaty of Guadaloupe Hidalgo states, but wonders if an American jury will be as stern with Hatfield as they would be if a Mexican killed a white American. Judge Isham frankly states that he does not know, but hopes the jury will be fair. When the judge apologizes for some rowdy whites in the cantina, Don Roberto acknowledges that ruffians are needed for a young land. Later, the rowdies from the cantina circle the jail, riding and shooting in the air, and when Jim sees the vaqueros reaching for their guns, he tries to send Elena home, but she refuses to go. He brings her to the jail for protection, but Hatfield embarrasses her with talk about his sexual exploits with "squaws." Lee, who sympathizes with Hatfield, offers to help him escape. Judge Isham invites Don Roberto to join him on the bench when the jury returns its verdict, as he wants the Mexican people to feel represented. Learning that Lee is a wanted man, the judge castigates Jim for choosing him as a deputy, but Ben attests that quite a number of lawmen started out with bad records. After the jury announces its guilty verdict, Jim disarms the whites and the vaqueros in the courtroom. Isham sentences Hatfield to twenty-five years in a federal prison, but because the crime was committed during a period of transition to constitutional law, he suspends the sentence on the condition that Hatfield never own, wear or touch a firearm again. As soon as Hatfield is set free, he grabs Lee's gun and hits him over the head. Jim gets a pistol and follows Hatfield outside, while Ben stops the whites and vaqueros from following. Unhappy with the quality of the pistol, Jim makes his way to the jail to get his rifle, as Hatfield boasts that after he kills Jim, he will come after Elena. At the jail, Elena urges Jim not to go out, saying they could barricade the door until help comes, but Jim says he would then be ashamed to look in the mirror. He kisses her for the first time, then goes out and orders Hatfield to drop his gun. After Hatfield is killed in the ensuing shootout, Judge Isham tells Don Roberto that American justice has been completely vindicated. He commends Jim, who, though slightly wounded, embraces Elena.

Film Details

Also Known As
Frontier Frenzy
Release Date
May 1959
Premiere Information
world premiere in Cody, Wyoming: 25 Apr 1959
Production Company
C. V. Whitney Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Thousand Oaks, California, USA; Thousand Oaks, California, United States; Thousand Oaks--Conejo Ranch, California, United States; Mexico
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "Frontier Frenzy" by John Reese in The Saturday Evening Post (30 Oct 1954).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 29m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Film Length
7,960 or 7,975ft (10 reels)

Award Nominations

Best Song

1959

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The opening credits contain the following acknowledgments: "We wish to express our appreciation to the citizens of the Republic of Mexico for their cooperation in the making of this motion picture, and to the following organizations: The Charro Association of Old Mexico; The Los Angeles Sheriff's Charro Posse." According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, the story "Frontier Frenzy," which was also the working title of The Young Land, was bought in October 1955 by C. V. Whitney Pictures, Inc. At the time, Merian C. Cooper was to be the film's executive producer, and Frank Nugent was hired to write the screenplay. It has not been determined if Nugent completed any work for this production.
       According to modern sources, Cooper earlier had talked Whitney, one of the world's leading industrialists, into forming the company. As noted in publicity materials contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library, The Young Land was the third in Whitney's "Americana" series, following John Ford's The Searchers, which Nugent also scripted, and The Missouri Traveler. Motion Picture Herald noted that Whitney was "dedicated to films that have a common denominator, themes that embrace the people and growth of America."
       Although Hollywood Reporter news items place Charles Morton, Dan Borzage, Ted White and Dale Van Sickle in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. According to a July 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item, release of this film was held up after Buena Vista, which had originally planned to distribute the film, dropped out following a dispute concerning the release of The Missouri Traveler. Warner Bros. considered releasing the film before Whitney contracted with Columbia. The Young Land was the last film made by Whitney, who dismantled the company after the film was completed.
       Outdoor scenes were shot in a pueblo constructed at the Conejo Ranch in Thousand Oaks, CA, according to an August 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item. According to the film's publicity materials, John Ford persuaded Roberto de la Madrid, the film's technical adviser, to act in the film. Ford's son Patrick, who had been associate producer of The Searchers, produced this film, which marked the first starring role for John Wayne's son Pat, who was eighteen at the time. The Young Land marked the film debut of Dallas-born actress Yvonne Craig, a nineteen-year-old former ballerina. Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington's song "The Young Land (Strange Are the Ways of Love)" was nominated for an Academy Award.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1959

Producer Patrick Ford is the son of director John Ford and actor Patrick Wayne is the son of John Wayne.

Released in United States 1959