AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Desert Fury
Alternate Title: Desert Town
Director: Lewis Allen (Dir)
Release Date:   15 Aug 1947
Production Date:   mid-Aug--early Nov 1946
Duration (in mins):   94-95
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Cast:   John Hodiak (Eddie Bendix)  
    Lizabeth Scott (Paula Haller)  
    Burt Lancaster (Tom Hanson)  
  And introducing Wendell Corey (Johnny Ryan)  
    Mary Astor (Fritzie Haller)  
    Kristine Miller (Claire Lindquist)  
    William Harrigan (Judge Berle Lindquist)  
    James Flavin ([Sheriff] Pat Johnson)  
    Jane Novak (Mrs. Lindquist)  
    Ana Camargo (Rosa [Mexican maid])  
    Milt Kibbee (Mike, bartender)  
    Ralph Peters (Pete, café owner)  
    John Farrell (Drunk in jail)  
    Ray Teal (Bus driver)  
    Harlan Tucker (Chuck, crap dealer)  
    Lew Harvey (Doorman)  
    Tom Schamp (Dan, sheriff's deputy)  
    Ed Randolph (First dealer)  
    Mike Lally (Second dealer)  

Summary: Eddie Bendix and his mentor and henchman, Johnny Ryan, two gangsters in the gambling trade, return to the small desert town of Chuckawalla, Nevada, outside Reno, and stop at a bridge where Eddie's wife died in a car crash. Having run into some trouble conducting business in Las Vegas, Eddie now hopes to get involved in the local gambling racket. Johnny is determined to move on to Los Angeles, however, where he is sure Eddie will make a fortune. Chuckawalla's gambling trade is run by Fritzie Haller, who owns the Purple Sage saloon and was once an acquaintance of Eddie. On the day of Eddie's arrival, Fritzie's nineteen-year-old daughter Paula returns home, having quit yet another boarding school, and meets Eddie when he stops near the bridge. Against the admonitions of deputy sheriff Tom Hanson, an old friend of Paula who is in love with her, Paula begins a love affair with Eddie, believing he is a virile man of action. Fritzie, who has always tried to maintain strict control over Paula, offers Tom a ranch if he proposes to her daughter. Tom loyally exposes Fritzie's scheme to Paula, whose anger at her mother deepens. Fritzie then forbids Paula from seeing Eddie, but she sneaks out to his ranch for secret rendezvous. Johnny, meanwhile, grows increasingly resentful of Eddie's blind devotion to Paula and his lack of ambition. One day when Paula comes to see Eddie, Johnny threatens to kill her if she ever returns to the ranch. After Eddie learns of Johnny's threat, he races to Paula's house and asks her to elope with him. Finally, Fritzie confesses to Paula that years ago Eddie had promised to marry her, too, but deserted her. Paula refuses to believe her mother, and leaves with Eddie. On their way out of town, they pick up Johnny. While they are stopped at a roadside diner, Johnny, seething with rage because Eddie has deserted him, tells Paula that it is he who has always made the important decisions for Eddie, who is really a spineless brute. Johnny then reveals that Eddie killed his wife on Johnny's orders after she learned too much about his criminal activities and tried to leave Eddie. In a panic, Paula runs to her car just as Eddie shoots Johnny dead. Eddie then pursues Paula, and Tom joins in the car chase and saves Paula before Eddie's car goes over the bridge in the same spot where his wife had perished. Tom pulls Eddie from the burning car, but finds he is already dead. After Fritzie races to the scene and embraces her daughter, Tom and Paula agree to marry and buy a ranch. 

Production Company: Hal Wallis Productions, Inc.  
Production Text: A Hal B. Wallis Production
Distribution Company: Paramount Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Lewis Allen (Dir)
  Richard McWhorter (Asst dir)
  Gerd Oswald (Asst dir)
Writer: Robert Rossen (Scr)
  A. I. Bezzerides (Adpt)
  Ramona Stewart (Adpt)
Photography: Charles Lang (Dir of photog)
  Edward Cronjager (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Perry Ferguson (Art dir)
Film Editor: Warren Low (Ed)
Set Decoration: Sam Comer (Set dec)
  Syd Moore (Set dec)
Costumes: Edith Head (Cost)
Music: Miklos Rozsa (Mus score)
Sound: Harry Lindgren (Sd rec)
  Walter Oberst (Sd rec)
Special Effects: Gordon Jennings (Spec photog eff)
  Farciot Edouart (Process photog)
Make Up: Wally Westmore (Makeup supv)
Production Misc: Ross MacKenzie (Helicopter cam and pilot)
Color Personnel: Natalie Kalmus (Technicolor color dir)
  Francis Cugat (Assoc)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel Bitter Harvest by Ramona Stewart (New York, 1946).
Authors: Ramona Stewart

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Hal Wallis Productions, Inc. 15/5/1947 dd/mm/yyyy LP998 Yes

PCA NO: 12062
Physical Properties: col: Technicolor
  Sd: Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording

Genre: Drama
Subjects (Major): Gambling
  Mothers and daughters
Subjects (Minor): Automobile accidents
  Automobile chases
  Romantic rivalry
  Saloon keepers

Note: This film's working title was Desert Town . Ramona Stewart's novel was serialized in Collier's from 24 Nov to 8 Dec 1945. Desert Fury marked the screen debut of Broadway actor Wendell Corey. Paramount borrowed John Hodiak from M-G-M for the film. Par News reported the following production information: The Main Street scenes were shot in the small town of Cottonwood, AZ, which was rented by the studio. Cottonwood residents appeared as townspeople along with actors. Locations also included Palmdale, CA and Sedona, AZ. Truckloads of Arizona's red sandstone earth and gravel were transported to Los Angeles for additional shooting. Although studio press releases claimed that a helicopter was used for the first time in motion picture production when flier Ross MacKenzie shot panoramic views of the desert, helicopters had been used previously to film the 1946 Columbia picture The Bandit of Sherwood Forrest (see above). 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   2 Aug 1947.   
Daily Variety   29 Jul 1947.   
Film Daily   1 Aug 47   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Jul 46   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Aug 46   p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Nov 46   p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Jul 47   p. 3, 7
Hollywood Reporter   1 Oct 1947.   
Independent Film Journal   9 Nov 46   p. 42.
New York Times   25 Sep 47   p. 35.
Variety   30 Jul 47   p. 8.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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