Today’s movie is The Hallelujah Trail (1965). This movie is a western comedy that skewers everyone, as competing groups try to intercept a wagon train filled with whiskey. This movie has a surprising cast of big stars led by Burt Lancaster and Lee Remick.
Pamela Tiffin played Louise Gearhart, daughter of the Colonel and follower of the temperance movement. Tiffin was covered in One, Two, Three (1961).
Bing Russell played Horner, one of the miners. Russell was covered in Episode 12 – Billy the Kidd Versus Dracula (1966).
Dub Taylor played the head of the Denver miners Clayton Howell Taylor was first covered in Episode 15 – The Undefeated (1969).
Whit Bissell plays newspaper man Hobbs who sets the events in motion. Bissell was covered in Episode 30 – Birdman of Alcatraz (1962).
Brian Keith played the role of Frank Wallingham, businessman, and tax paying Republican. Keith was covered in Episode 37 – The Violent Men (1955).
John Anderson played the role of Sgt. Buell. Anderson was born in 1922 in Illinois. He was primarily a television actor and left an incredible 242 credits at the end of his career. Anderson served in the Coast Guard during World War II. His career included stage work and television mini-series such as “North and South” 1985. His credited movie career began as the car salesman in Psycho (1960). Other films include Ride the High Country (1962), Day of the Evil Gun (1968), Solider Blue (1970), The Lincoln Conspiracy (1977), where he reprised an uncredited Lincoln role from The Fortune Cookie (1966), and Smokey and the Bandit (1980). Anderson died in 1992 at the age of 69.
Lee Remick played hot-blooded temperance leader Cora Templeton Massingale. Lee Remick was born in Massachusetts in 1935, but I would have bet real money she was a southern bell. At Barnard College, Lee studied dance. She also began working on stage and television. In her first film role, she played a sexy baton twirler in A Face in the Crowd (1957). This was followed by another belle role in The Long, Hot Summer (1958). This was followed by Anatomy of a Murder (1959) where Lee played a hussy whose husband is on trial for murdering a man that allegedly raped her.
Lee was in several other movies, but for playing an alcoholic in Days of Wine and Roses (1962) she was nominated for an Oscar. She was great in The Hallelujah Trail (1965) standing up to the Colonel played by Burt Lancaster. She had a role in Sometimes a Great Notion (1970), in the demonic tale The Omen (1976), and the Cold-War thriller Telefon (1977). She remained active in film and television well into the 1980s. Sadly, this great actress died in 1991 at the young age of 55.
Jim Hutton played young Capt. Paul Slater. I briefly talked about Hutton in Episode 11 – The Green Berets (1968) but he deserves a little more attention. Jim Hutton was born in upstate New York in 1934. He was a little wild and said to have attended 5 or 6 different schools. He eventually got a journalism scholarship to Syracuse University but quickly became interested in acting which resulted in him leaving prior to graduation. He also flunked out of Niagara College but did manage to perform in summer stock programs.
He spent about a year living in Greenwich Village try to get stage work to no avail. On the verge of starvation, he joined the US Army. He was assigned to special services, never to be confused with Special Forces. In Berlin, he founded the American Community Theater and starred in most of its productions. A director saw him on the stage in “The Caine Mutiny” 1954 and offered him a movie role. Hutton shot A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958) while on leave for 22 days.
Universal offered him a contract but Hutton still had a year and a half on his enlistment. By the time, he made it to Hollywood, the offer was gone. Eventually, he would sign with MGM. Hutton had some very small roles in 1959 and 1960 until he knocked it out of the park as the zany TV Thompson in Where the Boys Are (1960). In this movie, he was paired with the lovely Paula Prentice and the pair made a great, very tall, couple.
Hutton and Prentiss were paired three more times but they never found the magic again. The movies were The Honeymoon Machine (1961), Bachelor in Paradise (1961), and The Horizontal Lieutenant (1962). Following these flops, Hutton tried to get better roles and this resulted in him being away from film for 15 months. Finally, Hutton appeared in Looking for Love (1964), with Connie Francis. Francis was also in Where the Boys Are (1960).
Free from his contract at MGM, Hutton played a young Lt. in the Sam Peckinpah-directed mess known as Major Dundee (1965). Before you start, I didn’t say it wasn’t fun to watch, just a mess. This was followed by The Hallelujah Trail (1965) where Hutton played a young Lt. opposite his commander played wonderfully by Burt Lancaster. He had a very small, but funny, uncredited role The Trouble with Angels (1966). That same year, he was in the laugh a minute, Walk Don’t Run (1966) with Cary Grant.
Hutton was also in a farcical heist film, Who’s Minding the Mint? (1967), Hutton teamed up with John Wayne for a couple of real stinkers, Hellfighters (1968) and The Green Berets (1968) where he played a young Sergeant. Again, I didn’t say that they weren’t fun to watch. It seems like these two Duke movies ended Hutton’s film career. He switched to television and did well until he hit it big again with the detective series “Ellery Queen” 1975-1976. He also started working in theater and had a reunion with his son from his second marriage, actor Tim Hutton. Sadly, Jim Hutton died of liver cancer in 1979 at the age of 45.
Donald Pleasence played the booze inspired seer ‘Oracle’ Jones. Pleasence was born in 1919 in England. He went to work in the rail business but was accepted as an assistant stage manager on the Isle of Jersey in 1939.
World War II interrupted his plans and he joined the RAF. He was shot down over France and suffered in a German prisoner of war camp. Following the war, Pleasence went to London and began in the theater.
Pleasence had his first credited film role in The Beachcomber (1954) but it would be almost a decade before his talents were fully recognized. To American audiences, the movie that would get him this attention was the star-studded POW escape film The Great Escape (1963). Pleasence plays a forager that slowly goes blind as the escape draws nearer. Some of his movie highlights include a bloody-thirsty preacher in Will Penny (1967), the cat-stroking evil genius in You Only Live Twice (1967), which was the model for Dr. Evil, an alcoholic in an Australian drama Wake in Fright (1971), Lord Thomas Cromwell in Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972), Nazi Heinrich Himmler, in The Eagle Has Landed (1976), a sleuthing psychiatrist in Halloween (1978) and most of the sequels, and the president in Escape from New York (1981). Pleasence died in 1995 at the age of 75.
Martin Landau played Chief Walks-Stooped-Over. Landau was born in 1928, in Brooklyn, New York. At 17, he became a cartoonist for the New York Daily News. By 1951, he was doing stage work, way off-Broadway. In 1955, Landau and Steve McQueen were the only students admitted to Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio.
Soon Landau was working mostly on stage and in television. His first movie role was in Pork Chop Hill (1959), starting Gregory Peck. That same year, Landau hit it big playing a sadistic killer in North by Northwest (1959), with Cary Grant. He had another good performance in Cleopatra (1963). However, Landau was primary a television actor and did very well there.
Producer Gene Roddenberry wanted Landau to play Mr. Spock on “Star Trek” 1966-1969 but Landau was already committed to his most famous television show, “Mission: Impossible” 1966-1973. However, Landau left the show in 1969 over a contract dispute and was replaced by Leonard Nimoy, the man that got the role of Mr. Spock.
Landau continued to work in films and television but it seemed his best days were gone. He came back with a vengeance though in the Francis Ford Coppola directed Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988) and Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). Landau received an Oscar nomination for both of these films.
However, he had one more great performance to give. He played Bela Lugosi in the Tim Burton directed Ed Wood (1994) and he was amazing. At the age of 89, Landau is still working.
The movie begins in the Rocky Mountains with the narrator (John Dehner) describing what is happing out west in late 1867 and tells the reason behind the story. The Civil War has ended and hardened US cavalry patrols the west. On the reservation, the Indians are being issued war surplus rifles. There were signs that it was going to the be a harsh winter. Miners are shown walking across the street in Denver and it is said by the narrator that their actions led to the Battle of Whiskey Hills and Disaster at Quicksand Bottoms.
At the miners meeting, held in the saloon, Clayton Howell (Dub Taylor) tells the men that there are only 10-days of whiskey left in the city. Clayton says they need a plan. One of the miners suggests they talk to ‘Oracle’ Jones (Donald Pleasence). A sunburned Oracle is playing solitary in the back of the saloon. When they give him whiskey, he says it’s going to be a long winter. The more he drinks the clearer his visions of the future become. He says they should combine all of the whiskey orders into one and get a guarantee from the sellers. He sees 40 wagons coming with the whiskey.
Back in Julesburg, the whiskey contractor, Frank Wallingham (Brian Keith), storms into the newspaper office and demands to know from Editor Hobbes (Whit Bissell) why he printed a story about the whiskey. Hobbes says it is news. Then Wallingham asks what if the Indians get word of the shipment. Hobbes says Indians don’t read newspapers. Wallingham then asks about revenuers to which Hobbes accuses him of not paying his federal taxes. Wallingham says he is an honest businessman and a good Republican. Wallingham says he is going to accompany the wagons himself.
Wallingham says he will be asking for an Army escort. When he leaves, Hobbes sends a telegram to temperance marcher Cora Templeton Massingale (Lee Remick), who, as luck would have it is currently at Fort Russell.
They show a montage of Native American messaging from smoke signals, to hides, to tied knots. In 48 hours, ever Plains tribe was aware of the shipment. Sioux Chief Five Barrels (Robert J. Wilke) and his sub-chief Chief Walks-Stooped-Over (Martin Landau) meet with the chief of the Crow to decide who will recon the wagons. Finally, Chief Five Barrels clubs the Crow chief over the head to end negotiations.
Meanwhile, back at Fort Russell, Cora has organized a temperance meeting. The commander Col. Thaddeus Gearhart (Burt Lancaster) is out on patrol and he has left Capt. Paul Slater (Jim Hutton) in charge. Slater is dating Col Gearhart’s daughter, Louise (Pamela Tiffin). The ladies begin marching and singing and are escorted by the troops and the regimental band.
When Col Gearhart and his troops ride into hearing distance, Sgt. Buell (John Anderson) thinks it is Indian war cries. They hear bugles and charge towards the fort. The men in the fort are so excited by the singing they begin firing the cannons.
Gearhart and company ride in ready to fight. The drawn guns’ kind of put a dampener on the singing. Gearhart arrests the band and orders the cannon firers to report to his office in the morning. When he finds out that Slater allowed the rally to take place he orders the captain to his quarters. He is shocked to find Slater making out with his daughter by the fire. Louise says she was making out with Slater so he wouldn’t stop the rally. Louise says she will stand with Cora and storms out.
The Col. is okay with Slater dating his daughter and gives him the order to escort Wallingham’s wagons saying he is a taxpayer and a good Republican. Gearhart settles down to take a bath, smoke a cigar, and drink whiskey. As soon as he gets comfortable Cora comes in and demands that the Col. not send the military escort for the whiskey wagon train. He says he has to because Wallingham is a taxpayer and a good Republican. Cora says she will be forced to take action.
The next morning Slater and his troops head out to intercept the wagon train. The wagon train was moving along the north of the South Platt River. The last 10 wagons were driven by Irish teamsters. Their leader was Kevin O’Flaherty (Tom Stern) and he was more concerned with striking for better working conditions than moving the wagons. Chief Five Barrels is leading his band in search of the wagons. It is at this time that the movie mentions Chief Walks-Stooped-Over is sometimes called Sky Eyes because of his blue eyes. Chief Scar in The Searchers (1956) was cast as blue-eyed German actor Henry Brandon.
The Col.’s daughter badgers him into letting Cora have one more temperance meeting in the mess hall. Cora announces in the meeting that she is heading to Denver to meet the wagons of whiskey. Louise and the other ladies decide to all go to Denver. Although Sgt. Buell has doubled the guard, the women break out and start marching. The cannons start firing again.
In the morning, the Col. has a bad hangover. His daughter brings him coffee and Cora comes in and starts caring for him. She starts massaging his neck and soon has control. So, Cora gets the wagons she needs and a large military escort that includes the Col. There are disgruntled husbands waiting at the gate because their wives are going along.
In Denver, the miners have another meeting. They take their last bottle of whiskey to Oracle who is playing solitary in the back of the saloon. The more he drinks, the better his vision. He sees Indians and men on the march. Someone says cavalry to which he replies this ain’t no time for children. The thought of no whiskey for the winter sends the Denver miner’s militia out looking for the wagon train. So, we have the miners, two troops of cavalry, the temperance ladies, and the Indians all converging on the wagon train.
When a wheel falls off O’Flaherty’s wagon, Wallingham asks what his excuse is this time “you ignorant immigrant lump.” O’Flaherty issues a set of labor demands and implies he will strike. At this time, Captain Slater and his troop arrive to escort the wagon train. Wallingham asks about Indians and seems more scared when he hears the name, Cora Templeton.
One night the ladies from the temperance movement start taking baths and all of the soldier escorts climb trees to watch. Gearhart bust in where Cora is taking a bath just like she did to him earlier. Cora tells the Col. that the temperance women are going to intercept the whiskey wagon train before it gets to Denver. He says he will not escort her on the crazy scheme to stop the wagons.
Gearhart comes up with a detached contact plan where they will shadow the temperance women from a distance without directly traveling with them.
The Indians find the wagon and make a plan to attack when the Sun is two hands high over Iron Mountain. They divide into three groups. Naturally, a giant sandstorm hits in the morning before all of the groups converged.
Oracle can’t see without whiskey, the Indians can’t figure out what time to attack, and Wallingham thinks he hears temperance singing. All of the groups are passing each other in the storm but never making contact. The miners, the whiskey wagons, and the Irish separately all forms circles. Shooting starts and bullets are flying in all directions. Slater has his men firing in two directions protecting both rears simultaneously.
They show the positions of each group at the Battle of Whiskey Hills but it is nonsense because you can’t tell where anyone is located. When the storm ends, no one has been shot. Gearhart decides to hold a conference. All parties come including the Indians. Wallingham says he is a taxpayer and a good Republican. Clayton Howell wants to take the cargo to Denver. Oracle says he is there as a guide. O’Flaherty tries to turn it into a labor negotiation. A problem comes up if the Irish don’t drive. If the miners drive, they are such bad barflies that they will need a soldier guard and then the soldiers will need to be guarded as well. Cora says she wants the whiskey dumped. Chief Walks-Stooped-Over says they were peacefully hunting buffalo and they want presents. Gearhart thinks they want to give him a present and he says no thanks and sends them on their way. Five Barrels wants 20 wagons of whiskey. Gearhart shakes their hands and the Indians think they have a deal.
The combined group heads for Denver with the Indians following. The combined group makes camp for the night and the Col. finds the men preparing a bath for him compliments of Cora. The Col., the Sgt., and Oracle go to the Indians and find out they are waiting for their presents, 20 wagons of crazy water.
Oracle breaks into a whiskey wagon and has another vision. Oracle tells Wallingham to head his wagon towards Quicksand Bottoms. They camp there that night with the Indians still following and camping nearby. O’Flaherty goes on strike and takes 10 wagons and makes their own circle. The temperance ladies have joined the strike while Wallingham and the miners are heading to take the booze back. The cavalry tries to stand between the two groups.
That night the temperance ladies go to the Indian camp and have a nice sing-along. The Indian’s all sign temperance paper. The band sneaks in and joins the singing. Cora goes back to the wagon to hand out axes and hammers to the other ladies. In the middle of the meeting, the Indians capture the women and disarmed Slater’s men. The Indians demand 20 wagons of whiskey.
Gearhart declares martial law. It is against the law to give Indians whiskey. Cora says she has a woman in each wagon ready to destroy the whiskey. Gearhart agrees to the 20 wagons for the women. Oracle goes into the swamp to do something. Gearhart goes back to his tent for a bath. Cora comes in and feels bad that she has ruined Gearhart career. Cora begins to cry before having a few drinks of whiskey. The two are about to kiss when Slater comes in with Chief Walks-Stooped-Over and says they have agreed to 10 wagons for the women, the number controlled by O’Flaherty and the Irish. Cora gives the Col. a kiss before she drunkenly walks back to her tent.
Oracle comes out of the swamp and tells Wallingham he has marked a path through the swamps with stakes and tied on strips of his underwear. The plan is to take the 30 wagons through the swamp and leave the women, the cavalry, the Irish, and the Indians behind. Cora finds out about the stakes and has some of her ladies move the stakes.
Everyone meets for the wagon exchange at dawn. O’Flaherty tells Cora that the 10 wagons are filled with champagne that will explode if hot and shaken.
Cora decides to stick a hatpin in the butt of each horse on the team. As each team comes forward, a horse gets stuck. The champagne starts exploding. The other teams get so excited that they take off running. Trying to catch the wagons, the Indians let the other women go free. The cavalry chases the wagons and thinks the champagne explosions are gun fire.
Wallingham tries to moves out into the swamp with 30 wagons but they charge towards the other wagons before they can be turned around. In the quicksand, the wagons quickly sink but the horses and men are rescued.
The cavalry starts firing at the Indians who form their remaining wagons in a circle while the cavalry rides around outside. The Indians decide to surrender and go home drunk with their few remaining bottles of champagne.
Wallingham is financially destroyed having lost his cargo. The temperance ladies are marched back to Fort Russell. The have a double wedding at the fort. Slater marries Louise and Gearhart marries Cora who quits the temperance movement.
Oracle and Wallingham build a little house by the quicksand and wait for barrels of whiskey to slowly surface. The miners return to Denver and live through one of the mildest winters in history.
World-Famous Short Summary – May-December couple find each other on a western trip
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Beware the moors