The ABC's of Film Noir
The ABC's of Film Noir

Warlock (1959) Classic Movie Review 31

Warlock (1959)

Warlock (1959)

And so they'll come into town, and you'll shoot them all down dog-dead in the street, is that it?

Warlock (1959) is a rehash of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral with an all-star cast that includes Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, and Anthony Quinn.

Rough Script Warlock (1959)

Welcome to Episode 31 – Warlock (1959). I am sorry if you were expecting a horror film as this is a classic western. We are continuing with the Richard Widmark line that was begun in Episode 23 The Long Ships (1964). This is a very complex movie and I will use a quote from the Tennessee Word Smith, with a link on WordPress, to outline the movie:

“Imagine a movie with an intricate plot, driven not so much by events as by the tangled relationships between several well-drawn characters. It is a movie with obvious homoerotic undertones and some surprisingly intense violence. To further stretch your imagination, envision it as a film made in 1959 –and a Western, at that.”
Tennessee WordSmith

That’s a pretty good summary so I will jump right into the characters.

Richard Widmark plays Johnny Gannon, one of the cowboys that walked away from the gang. I covered Widmark extensively in Episode 23 – The Long Ships (1964).

Henry Fonda was cast as Clay Blaisedell a gunslinger and Marshall for hire. He was also a gambler and runner of the faro wheel. They liberally borrowed from Wyatt Earp for this part.

Henry Fonda was born Nebraska which probably contributed to his even pace and speech patterns. Fonda moved from the Omaha Community Playhouse, the Cape Cod University Players, and finally to Broadway where he remained until 1934.

He has had so many great roles listing just a few will give a disservice to many others. Of his 50 years of movies, I will list just what is important to me. They include: Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), Drums Along the Mohawk (1939), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), My Darling Clementine (1946) as Wyatt Earp type character, Fort Apache (1948), Mister Roberts (1955), 12 Angry Men (1957), How the West Was Won (1962), The Longest Day (1962), Advise & Consent (1962), Spencer’s Mountain (1963), Fail Safe (1964), Battle of the Bulge (1965), In Harm’s Way (1965) which we covered in Episode 4, A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Sometimes a Great Notion (1970), The Cheyenne Social Club (1970), Midway (1976), and On Golden Pond (1981).

In his career, he was nominated for two Oscars and won one for playing the old poop in On Golden Pond (1981). He is the father of Peter and Jane Fonda as well as the grandfather of Bridget Fonda.

Anthony Quinn played the partner of Clay Blaisedell (Henry Fonda) Tom Morgan. Quinn was born in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1915. The family moved to Los Angeles where Quinn attended but eventually dropped out of high school. Quinn spent some time boxing and then studied architecture with Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright encouraged Quinn to try acting and by 1936 he was in Hollywood.

Quinn’s first role in tinsel town was The Plainsman (1936) directed by his future father-in-law Cecil B. DeMille. That’s one way to make it big. As part of the studio system at Paramount Quinn was given many ethnic bit parts. Since he was not a US citizen he did not serve in WWII but received extra roles as many actors were away.

At the end of his contract, he returned to the stage to sharpen his skills. Elia Kazan cast Quinn and Marlon Brando as a brother in Viva Zapata! (1952). Quinn won the Oscar for best-supporting actor and became the first Mexican-American to win one of the golden statuettes. Quinn wasn’t done as he got his second one for Lust for Life (1956), opposite the great Kirk Douglas. He continued to work in the US and Italy. In 1957, he received a third nomination, this time for best actor, Wild Is the Wind (1957). In 1961, Quinn was cast as a Greek in The Guns of Navarone (1961). He played a down and out boxer in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962). One of his two greatest roles was that of an Arab leader in Lawrence of Arabia (1962). The other was Zorba the Greek (1964) where he was again nominated for best actor.

In 1968, Quinn had a hit and a miss. He hit with his portrayal of a humble pope in The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968) but he missed with The Magus (1968). The 70s found him forced to return to small ethnic roles. He continued to act into the 90s before retiring to run a restaurant in Rhode Island. He died at the age of 86.

Dorothy Malone was cast in the role of Lily Dollar. That could be the greatest saloon girl name ever. I have to admit I didn’t know much about Malone when I started this review. She was very beautiful with blonde hair and dreamy eyes. Malone was born in Chicago but was raised in Dallas. After high school, she attended SMU with plans on being a nurse but an RKO talent scout saw here in a college play and she was offered a contract.

Since the Studio System was in full swing they started training the, at the time brunette and casting her in small roles. However, at the end of two years, they let her contract end. Warner Brothers picked up her contract and cast her in The Big Sleep (1946) with Bogie and Bacall. The movies goers like what they saw. The studio gave her some large western roles which showed her riding skills but did little to advance her career. In 1949, Warner Brothers did not renew her contract and she returned to her family in Texas.

Malone tried to settle into an acting job but a trip to New York hooked her again. She moved to New York and began studying acting. In between studies she took roles in B-westerns and other films. In 1954, as a platinum blonde, she starred in Young at Heart (1954) with Doris Day. In Battle Cry (1955) she had a smoky love scene with all-American boy Tab Hunter.

Now with Universal, she made a few more westerns before landing the role of a sultry nymphomaniac in Written on the Wind (1956). The leads for this film were Rock Hudson and Lauren Bacall but co-star Robert Stack and Malone stole the show. They were both nominated for an Oscar and Malone won in her category.

Then it was back to B-movies. As her career slowed she married and had children. Her second child had just been born when she took the role in Warlock (1959). She left acting shortly after this movie and didn’t begin working on television until the early 60s with Payton Place. After her television career ended she once again returned to Dallas. He last film was a cameo in Basic Instinct (1992). Like Betty Field, she was a great actress that never found the right vehicle to take her to the top.

Dolores Michaels was cast as Jessie Marlow the love interest of Clay Blaisedell (Henry Fonda). I gave a longer bio of Michaels in Episode 26 – Time Limit (1957)

Wallace Ford played the role of Judge Holloway. Ford had over 200 roles in his 30 plus year career. Born in England Ford was separated from his parents and grew up in Canadian foster homes. After coming to the US Ford worked in vaudeville and in regional theater. He made it to Broadway by 1921.

In 1932, Ford signed with MGM and made two movies, Possessed and Freaks. In Freaks (1932) he played the kind clown Phroso. A couple of years later Ford was in The Lost Patrol (1934) with Boris Karloff.

Although he had a good start Ford never became a big star but he worked steadily as a character actor By the 1950s Ford had put on a lot of weight and had a lot more gray hair. Often called the second part of his career he began to show up as a bit character in westerns such as The Man from Laramie (1955) with Jimmy Stewart, and Warlock (1959) with Henry Fonda and Richard Widmark.

He died within months of the death of his wife of 44 years in 1966.

Richard Arlen had a small role as Bacon. This story sounds a little wild so I not sure if it true. Arlen was a pilot in the Royal Canadian Flying Corp in WWI but never saw combat. Follow the war he was kicking around until he ended up becoming a motorcycle messenger in LA. One day he crashed his bike into Paramount’s gate and broke his leg. Once they say his good looks they gave him an acting contract. His first big break came in the William Wellman classic Wings (1927) as one of the pilots. His career continued into the talkie era until the end of the 40s when he went deaf. In 1949, he had an ear operation and returned to make movies and the 50s and 60s.

DeForest Kelley was cast as Curley Burne. He was a member of the cowboys that eventually had a redeeming quality. Of course, this character is named after cowboy Curly Bill Brocius. I covered Kelly in Episode 16 Night of the Lepus (1972) so I won’t add anymore her except this movie showed me what a great actor he really was.

Vaughn Taylor was cast as Henry Richardson. He worked with a pencil-thin mustache and has been described as an accountant. He struggled as an actor prior to his service in the Army during WWII. Following the war, he consistently received small parts in movies and serials. Two of his most important movie roles were in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), and as the boss of Janet Leigh in Psycho (1960).

On television, he was in the Twilight Zone five times. Spinal problems forced Vaughn to retire from acting in 1976

Whit Bissell played a small role as Petrix. Every time this guy shows up I skip over him because he has a small role. But it is always a solid performance and like a great actor should he pulls off his role. Bissell does it again. Well, no more the line stops here. Bissell ended his career with over 200 credits. These include the evil scientist that turned Michael Landon into a lycanthrope in I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) and more serious roles such as Birdman of Alcatrz (1962), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), Hud (1963), Seven Days in May (1964), The Hallelujah Trail (1965), and Soylent Green (1973). He was also featured in a time-travelling television show, The Time Tunnel from 1966-1967.

Frank Gorshin played Billy Gannon the brother of Johnny Gannon (Richard Widmark). He spoke and was shot down in the middle of Main Street and was somehow uncredited in this film. Gorshin was born in Pittsburgh. When he was in high school he worked at a movie theater and that is where he started doing impressions. He won a talent contest and met Alan King. He attended drama school and performed at night.

In 1953, he was drafted into the Army and stationed in Germany. He worked in the Special Services which should never be confused with Special Forces. Following his time in the Army an agent he met through an Army buddy got him a role in The Proud and Profane (1956). He was offered a role in Run Silent Run Deep (1958) but crashed his car as he was driving cross country. When he woke four days later the role had gone to funnyman Don Rickles.

Gorshin began making B-movies such as Hot Rod Girl (1956), Dragstrip Girl (1957), and Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957). However, my favorite is his role as coke-bottle lens wearing Basal in Where the Boys Are (1960). The scene where he dives in the mermaid tank in Florida without his glasses is one for the riot reel. Gorshin really made it big when he got the role of “The Ridder” on “Batman” 1966.

In all, he had over 70 movies and made over 40 guest appearances on television series. Gorshin died at age 72 in California.

L.Q. Jones played Fen Jiggs, a messenger, but was uncredited. Born in Texas he took his stage name from the character he played in Battle Cry (1955). Jones was rail thin with a sharp angular face. This led to him be cast in many WWII films such as The Young Lions (1958), The Naked and the Dead (1958), Hell Is for Heroes (1962), and Battle of the Coral Sea (1959).

In 1962, he began working with director Sam Peckinpah. He was in Ride the High Country (1962), Major Dundee (1965) with Charlton Heston, The Wild Bunch (1969) with pal Strother Martin, again with Martin in The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970), and in Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid

Jones began directing and shot A Boy and His Dog (1975) starring a young Don Johnson. He kept working on the state and screen playing the same type of character. One of my favorites was as the retired Texas Ranger Dakota along with Chuck Norris in Lone Wolf McQuade (1983). One of his last big roles was that of a powerful player in state politics along with Robert De Niro in the Martin Scorsese’s mob flick Casino (1995).

Gary Lockwood played one of the cowboy gang members and was uncredited. This was Lockwood’s first movie role. I covered him in Episode 24  – The Magic Sword (1962).


Warlock is a small western town in the 1880s. The west is starting to simmer down as more school marms and church people arrive and the country heads towards the 20th century. However, there are a group of cowboys from one of the ranches led by Abe McQuown (Tom Drake) that don’t want to give up their old rootin-tootin cowboy ways. I took a little time to look this often used cowboy phrase up. The rootin part comes from poking around and the tootin part is from blow a horn not eating beans by a campfire as suggested in Urban Dictionary and Blazing Saddles (1974). Well anyway, the cowboys come into town a rootin and a tootin and shootin. The mob of cowboys face down the sheriff and run him out of town in the most unceremonious way. His name is scratched from the wall as a part of long list of sheriffs that have already been sent packing.

One of the cowboys, Johnny Gannon (Richard Widmark) is drinking heavily and I kind of thought he was going to be like Robert Mitchum/Dean Martin in El Dorado (1966)/Rio Bravo (1959). But Johnny doesn’t really take part in any of the meanness. When the cowboys get ready to leave town Johnny’s brother Billy (Frank Gorshin) has to scoop him up from the alley to take him home. One of the drunken cowboys murders the barber for nicing him during a shave.

The town committee holds a meeting and they decide to hire a town marshal, Clay Blaisedell (Henry Fonda) who is a gunfighter and has cleaned many a western town. The town is named Warlock but it has often been said that Clay’s character was also a male witch or warlock with his gun. Judge Holloway (Wallace Ford) wants to keep using traditional law enforcement and Jessie Marlow (Dolores Michaels) opposes hiring the gold handled pistol wearing pseudo-lawman.

Clay arrived in town with a faro wheel, a “French Palace” saloon sign, and friend Tom Morgan (Anthony Quinn). Morgan decorates the living quarters for both men in an odd scene. Morgan who is devoted to clay is an ex-solider with a club foot. It was at this point in the movie I realized that this was a chopped up version of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral with Clay as Wyatt Earp, and Morgan as Doc. Holiday, and well the cowboys as The Cowboys. Historically Morgan was the name of one of Earp’s brothers and Doc Holiday was sick with TB but in this case, it was changed to a club foot.

The cowboys come to town to have a showdown with Clay, but by the clever placing of shotguns, they are able to force the cowboys to back down making the cowboys angrier than ever. Johnny Gannon leaves the cowboys and in town.

After some time has passed Fen Jiggs (L.Q. Jones) tells Morgan that his old sweetheart, Lily Dollar (Dorothy Malone), is coming on the stage with Bob Nicholson (Sol Gorss) the brother of Big Ben Nicholson, who Clay recently killed. Apparently Lily had left Morgan for Big Ben and she knows that Morgan tricked Clay into killing him.

Morgan heads out of town towards the stage but sees some of the Cowboys heading to rob the stage. He sets up a firing position and when Nicholson is forced out of the stage by the bandit, Morgan shoots him from a distance unseen by all. When Lily arrives in town and sees Morgan she suspects he is behind the shooting. Morgan asks her to come back to him and she implies that he has pimped her out before when he needed money.

They arrest the robbers, including Billy, Johnny Gannon’s brother. The law has to protect the three robbers from a mob in Warlock and send them to Bright City for trial when they are released by people that are afraid of the cowboys. The Bright City sheriff is looking for a new Warlock deputy and Johnny Gannon takes the job.

Billy Gannon and the two other robbers come into town seek revenge against Clay. Johnny Gannon refuses to take sides and begs his brother not to fight Clay. In the gun battle, tow of the three are killed and some town folks begin to turn against Clay.

Curley Burne (DeForest Kelley) posts signs saying the cowboys are regulators and have a right to kill Clay. Of course, Curley is the name of one of the Cowboy names from the historic O.K. Corral.

As many in the town grow tired of the gunfighters at the same time Jessie Marlow (Dolores Michaels) tracks him down and they fall crazy and love and Clay is going to settle down in Warlock. Morgan blows a gasket when he hears the news.

The Cowboys come to town to face down Gannon for turning on the gang and enforcing the law. Clay is going to help but Morgan holds a gun on him and keeps him out of the fight. Gannon wins the shot out because Curley stops a back shooter. Again Morgan goes crazy because Clay is not the hero of the town. Morgan starts drinking and shooting up the town. Clay lock him in the jail and goes to stop Morgan. Morgan shots off Clay’s hat and Clay fires back killing him. Morgan dies happy that Clay in now back on top.

Clay carries Morgan into the saloon and changes as he does. He kicks the crutch out from under the judge. He then burns the saloon and what many have characterized as a Viking funeral for his friend. Gannon being upset that he was locked in his jail orders Clay out of town by morning.

Jessie begs Clay to stay but he says he can’t be a farmer or a store clerk. Lily who is now romantically involved with Gannon begs Clay for his life. Clay and Gannon met in the street in the morning and Clay is wearing his gold-handled revolvers. Clay easily outdraws Gannon but each time throws his gun in the dirt. Clay rides away to find another town and another Morgan.

Below I have listed 15 Gun Fight(s) at the O.K. Corral. All are movies except the Star Trek episode which DeForest Kelly was also in.

Frontier Marshal (1934) with George O’Brien
Dodge City (1939) with Errol Flynn
Frontier Marshal (1939) with Randolph Scott
Tombstone, the Town Too Tough to Die (1942) with Richard Dix
My Darling Clementine (1946) with Henry Fonda
Angel and the Badman (1947) with John Wayne
Wichita (1955) with Joel McCrea
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas
Cheyenne Autumn (1964) with James Stewart
Gunmen of the Rio Grande (1965)
Hour of the Gun (1967) with James Garner
“Spectre of the Gun” (1968), an original Star Trek episode
Doc (1971) written by Pete Hamill
Tombstone (1993) with Kurt Russell
Wyatt Erp (1994) with Kevin Costner

This was an odd little movie where Morgan clearly hero worshiped Clay if he was not in love with him. When Morgan was gone Clay realized he could not live with him.

World-Famous Short Summary – Buddies have a difference of opinions about work

(Visited 236 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.