AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Thunder Mountain
Alternate Title: To the Last Man
Director: Lew Landers (Dir)
Release Date:   Jun 1947
Production Date:   mid-Oct--early Nov 1947
Duration (in mins):   60
Duration (in feet):   5,428
Print this page
Display Movie Summary

Cast:   Tim Holt (Marvin Hayden)  
    Martha Hyer (Ellen Jorth)  
    Richard Martin (Chito Rafferty)  
    Steve Brodie (Chick Jorth)  
    Virginia Owen (Ginger Kelly)  
    Jason Robards (Jim Gardner)  
    Harry Woods (Trimble Carson)  
    Richard Powers (Johnny Blue)  
    Robert Clarke (Lee Jorth)  
    Harry Harvey (Sheriff Bagley)  
    Dick Elliott (Express agent)  
    Richard Foote (Eddie)  
    Allen Lee (Jim, stagecoach driver)  

Summary: In 1890, in the Grass Valley, Arizona saloon, ranch hand Chito Rafferty happily informs alcoholic lawyer Jim Gardner that their old friend, Marvin Hayden, is returning to his family's ranch after a long absence. Saloon operators Johnny Blue and Trimble Carson, who desperately want to buy the Hayden ranch, panic at the news and, aware that the Hayden family has been involved in a bloody feud with the neighboring Jorth family, tell brothers Chick and Lee Jorth about Marvin's return. Their old hatreds rekindled, Lee and Chick rush off to intercept Marvin's stagecoach, but are outridden by Chito, who stops the coach in time to prevent Marvin's death. Marvin, meanwhile, has been enjoying a flirtation with his attractive fellow passenger and is dismayed to learn that she is Lee and Chick's sister Ellen. The equally upset Ellen reminds Marvin that, years before, his father killed her father. After Marvin accuses the Jorths of murdering his father, Ellen threatens to kill Marvin unless he leaves Grass Valley immediately. Marvin, however, plans to stay, especially after he is told that the Hayden ranch is to be auctioned in a week unless $6,000 in back taxes are paid to Sheriff Bagley. While Chito discusses the situation with a now-sober Jim, who is the Hayden family lawyer, the crooked sheriff apprises Carson and Johnny that Marvin intends to save his ranch. Carson and Johnny want to buy the ranch so that they can sell it to an irrigation company, whose plans to build a dam in the area they have kept a secret. To prevent Marvin from interfering in their scheme, Johnny tells Lee and Chick that, despite Ellen's warnings, Marvin is still in the area. Chito, meanwhile, has retrieved Jim from the saloon and has also offered a housekeeping job to saloon girl Ginger Kelly, who was fired by Johnny after she helped Chito rescue Marvin. At the Hayden ranch, Jim informs Marvin that his father had $4,000 in a Phoenix bank account and hands him a pair of Marvin's father's guns. Marvin rejects the weapons, and when Lee and Chick ride up looking for a confrontation, he tells the brothers he never carries a gun. Marvin fights hand-to-hand with Chick, then is warned by Ellen not to trespass on Jorth land. Later, while Jim picks up the $4,000 that has been sent from Phoenix, Marvin drives some lost Jorth cattle back to their range and is met by a gun-wielding Ellen. Marvin fools Ellen into believing that she has accidentally killed him with a warning shot, then playfully spanks her. Their hostilities momentarily abated, Ellen and Marvin ride to the dusty canyon that was the source of their parents' feud. Anxious to prove that her father, who wanted to build a dam in the canyon, truly owned the land he claimed was his, Ellen searches for the survey marker that indicates the boundaries between Jorth and Hayden land. Just as she and Marvin stumble on a marker inserted by the irrigation company, they are shot at by Carson and Johnny, who are hiding above the canyon. Although neither is hurt, Marvin assumes Ellen's brothers attacked him and accuses Ellen of setting him up. After Ellen denies Marvin's charges, Chick finds his rival and convinces him of his innocence. Chick then comes upon Johnny and Carson and accuses them of the shooting. While Johnny and Chick fight, Carson kills Chick with a large rock, confident that the gunless Marvin will be accused of the crime. Marvin's joy at receiving Jim's money, which includes a $2,000 bank loan, is curtailed when Bagley arrives to arrest him. Unsure of Marvin's guilt, Ellen agrees to help Jim, Ginger and Chito find the real killer and takes them to the canyon, where they make a close inspection of the irrigation marker. Jim deduces the significance of the marker and instructs Chito, Ellen and Ginger to look for a spent shell from the earlier attack. and they find a .45 caliber bullet. Within earshot of Bagley, Jim then tells the jailed Marvin that he has found some helpful evidence and presents the sheriff with the ranch money. Bagley stalls Jim, however, and rushes over to the saloon, where Chito overhears him, Johnny and Carson plotting Jim's demise. Before they can execute their plan, Ginger tricks Johnny into allowing her to demonstrate her phony Annie Oakley-style shooting act and grabs Carson's .45 caliber gun. Ginger manages to flee with the gun, but she and Jim are pursued by Carson and Johnny, who then kill Jim and retrieve the gun. After Chito breaks Marvin out of the jail, the two men join forces with Lee and confront Bagley, Carson and Johnny in the now-deserted saloon. During the ensuing gunfight, Bagley and Johnny are killed by Chito and Lee, while Marvin finally outdraws Carson. His name cleared, Marvin then reunites with Ellen. 

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Lew Landers (Dir)
  John Pommer (Asst dir)
Producer: Herman Schlom (Prod)
Writer: Norman Houston (Scr)
Photography: Jack MacKenzie (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino (Art dir)
  Charles F. Pyke (Art dir)
Film Editor: Philip Martin (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Darrell Silvera (Set dec)
Music: C. Bakaleinikoff (Mus dir)
  Paul Sawtell (Mus)
Sound: John C. Grubb (Sd)
  Roy Granville (Sd)
Special Effects: Russell A. Cully (Spec eff)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel To the Last Man by Zane Grey (New York, 1922).
Authors: Zane Grey

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. 21/5/1947 dd/mm/yyyy LP1072

PCA NO: 12067
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

Genre: Western
Subjects (Major): Feuds
  Land sales
  United States--History--19th century
Subjects (Minor): Alcoholics
  Brothers and sisters
  Dance hall girls
  Dismissal (Employment)
  Mexican Americans
  Annie Oakley
  Saloon keepers

Note: The working title of this film was To the Last Man . In the opening credits, Zane Grey's name appears above the title. Modern sources state that because of competition with a proposed Liberty Films production, RKO was forced to change the picture's title from To the Last Man to Thunder Mountain . Although Grey's novel Thunder Mountain is listed as the film's source in some publications, onscreen credits do not specify a particular Grey work, and the film's plot more closely resembles that of To the Last Man than Thunder Mountain . Some scenes were shot on location in Lone Pine, CA. With Tim Holt's return to filmmaking following four years of service in the Army Air Corps, RKO reinstated its "Tim Holt" western series, which it had started in 1940. Richard Martin's "Chito Rafferty" character was the only character the studio continued from the earlier series. According to HR , James Warren was originally set to star in the picture and Lesley Selander, who directed many later Tim Holt Westerns, was to direct. For more information on RKO's Tim Holt westerns, see entry below for Wagon Train . In 1923, Victor Fleming directed Richard Dix and Lois Wilson in a silent Parmount version of Grey's novel, called To the Last Man (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.5749). In 1933, Henry Hathaway directed Egon Brecher and Fuzzy Knight in a second Paramount adaptation of the novel, also titled To the Last Man (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.4641). 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   24 May 1947.   
Daily Variety   14 May 1947.   
Hollywood Reporter   20 Sep 46   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Oct 46   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Nov 46   p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter   14 May 47   p. 3.
Independent Film Journal   26 Oct 46   p. 51.
Variety   14 May 47   p. 15.

Display Movie Summary
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.
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.