AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Blood on the Moon
Director: Robert Wise (Dir)
Release Date:   9 Nov 1948
Production Date:   16 Feb--mid-Apr 1948
Duration (in mins):   86 or 88
Duration (in feet):   7,899
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Cast:   Robert Mitchum (Jim Garry)  
    Barbara Bel Geddes (Amy Lufton)  
    Robert Preston (Tate Riling)  
    Walter Brennan (Kris Barden)  
    Phyllis Thaxter (Carol Lufton)  
    Frank Faylen (Jake Pindalest)  
    Tom Tully (John Lufton)  
    Charles McGraw (Milo Sweet)  
    Clifton Young (Joe Shotten)  
    Tom Tyler (Frank Reardan)  
    George Cooper (Fred Barden)  
    Richard Powers (Ted Elser)  
    Bud Osborne (Cap Willis)  
    Zon Murray (Nels Titterton)  
    Robert Bray (Bart Daniels)  
    Al Ferguson (Chet Avery)  
    Ben Corbett (Mitch Moten)  
    Joe Devlin (Barney)  
    Erville Alderson (Settlmeir)  
    Robert Malcolm (Sheriff Manker)  
    Chris-Pin Martin (Bartender at Commissary)  
    Ruth Brennan (Townswoman)  
    Harry Carey, Jr. (Cowboy)  
    Hal Taliaferro (Cowboy)  
    Al Murphy (Cowboy)  
    Iron Eyes Cody (Toma)  

Summary: After he is nearly trampled by a herd of runaway steers while camping on Indian reservation range land, Jim Garry is questioned by the herd's owner, John Lufton. The wary Lufton reveals to Jim that, after years of supplying the local reservation with beef, he is being forced out by Jake Pindalest, the new Indian agent. Lufton is also fighting rancher Tate Riling, who has organized the area homesteaders to prevent him from moving his cattle back to the basin grazing land that was once his. Although suspicious that Jim may be one of Tate's hired guns, Lufton asks him to deliver a note to his family, who have a house in the basin. As Jim approaches the spread, he is shot at by a woman, who turns out to be Lufton's daughter Amy. After Jim hands the note to Lufton's eldest daughter Carol, he meets with Tate, an old friend who had summoned him in a letter. Tate reveals to Jim that his true plan is to force Lufton, who must soon vacate the reservation, to sell his cattle to him at a cutrate price and then sell the herd to Pindalest, with whom he is in league, at an inflated rate. Because he is broke, Jim agrees to become one of Tate's henchmen, but expresses no enthusiasm for the scheme. The next day, Carol and Amy ride to meet their father at the basin crossing point indicated in his note. When they arrive, however, they are greeted by Tate, Jim and the gang. Amy reveals that her father deliberately wrote the wrong location on the note and angrily accuses Jim of betraying its contents. Unknown to Amy, Carol, who is in love with Tate, relayed the information to him and later agrees to tell him where her father actually crossed. Soon after, as Amy informs Lufton about Jim, Tate and his men storm into their cattle camp and start a stampede. During the ensuing chaos, one of Lufton's cowboys is trampled to death and homesteader Fred Barden is shot. A saddened Jim informs Fred's father Kris, a former avid supporter of Tate's efforts, about his son's death and then rides into town. There Jim saves Lufton when he is almost gunned down in the street by Frank Reardan and Joe Shotten, Tate's other hired guns. After a grateful Amy apologizes to him, Jim leaves town. While stopped at a cantina, however, he is confronted by Tate, who now wants him to make the purchase offer to Lufton. Disgusted by his friend's greediness, Jim refuses to help, and the two men fight each other until Jim knocks Tate unconscious. The exhausted, wounded Jim is then saved by Kris, who shows up with a gun just as Reardan is about to shoot him. After Amy lovingly tends to his injuries, Jim suggests to Lufton that he can help delay Pindalest's deadline by a week, enough time for the rancher to round up his now-scattered cattle. Believing that Jim intends to kill the agent, Lufton refuses his offer, and Jim leaves the ranch in a huff. Amy, however, convinces Jim to execute his plan with Pindalest. To that end, Jim confers with the agent and, posing as Tate's go-between, tells him that Tate is demanding $3,000 more for Lufton's cattle. As hoped, Pindalest declares that he must go to town for the extra cash, and once he and Jim are in the open range, Jim reveals his intention to hold the agent captive until Lufton has rounded up his cattle. The next morning, however, as a snowstorm blows in, Jim is ambushed and knifed by an Indian who is in cahoots with Tate. Although Jim soon overwhelms the Indian, Pindalest escapes, and Jim flees to Kris's ranch. A concerned Amy soon arrives there and insists on fighting Tate, Reardan and Pindalest alongside Kris. As the gunfire starts, Amy and Jim declare their love for each other. Eventually, Jim regains enough strength to sneak out of the ranch house and surprise Reardan and Pindalest. Jim then outdraws Tate, who dies in his friend's arms. With Pindalest in custody, Jim and Amy announce their impending marriage to a delighted Lufton. 

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Robert Wise (Dir)
  Maxwell O. Henry (Asst dir)
  Art Rosson (2d unit dir)
Producer: Sid Rogell (Exec prod)
  Theron Warth (Prod)
Writer: Lillie Hayward (Scr)
  Harold Shumate (Adpt)
  Luke Short (Adpt)
Photography: Nicholas Musuraca (Dir of photog)
  Fred Bentley (Cam op)
  Ollie Sigurdson (Stills)
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino (Art dir)
  Walter E. Keller (Art dir)
Film Editor: Samuel E. Beetley (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Darrell Silvera (Set dec)
  James Altwies (Set dec)
Costumes: Edward Stevenson (Gowns)
Music: C. Bakaleinikoff (Mus dir)
  Roy Webb (Mus)
Sound: John L. Cass (Sd)
  Terry Kellum (Sd)
Special Effects: Russell A. Cully (Spec eff)
Make Up: Gordon Bau (Makeup supv)
  Hazel Rogers (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: Eddie Killy (Prod mgr)
  Bill Shanks (Scr supv)
  Tom Clement (Grip)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel Gunman's Chance by Luke Short (New York, 1941).
Authors: Luke Short

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. 10/11/1948 dd/mm/yyyy LP2010

PCA NO: 13029
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

Genre: Western
Subjects (Major): Duplicity
  Land rights
  Hired killers
Subjects (Minor): Betrayal
  False accusations
  Fathers and daughters
  Fathers and sons
  Indian agents
  Indians of North America
  Indians of North America--Reservations
  Snow storms

Note: Luke Short's novel was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post between 15 Mar 1941 and 26 Apr 1941. Its British publication title was Blood on the Moon . Although the Homestead Act of 1862 was not mentioned in the film itself, the DV review notes that the story's action takes place after the passage of the legislation, which granted free family farms to settlers. A Jun 1947 HCN news item reported that James Stewart was to star in the picture. According to the LADN review, exteriors for the film were shot thirty miles from Flagstaff, AZ. A HR news item, however, claims that location shooting was done in New Mexico. In a modern interview, director Robert Wise added the following information about the production: RKO bought Short's novel years before his involvement in the project, but shelved it because of script problems. Wise and producer Theron Warth liked the story, however, and got RKO's "front office" to agree to allow them to make the picture if they could solve the script's problems. Although Wise had directed several films prior to Blood on the Moon , including The Curse of the Cat People and The Body Snatcher (see entries below), he described this picture as his "first big feature." Wise noted that he strove for realism in the cantina fight scene, in contrast to most film brawls, directing Robert Mitchum and Robert Preston to "go at it really all the way" so that "even the winner is almost completely exhausted at the end." Wise added that the fight is "the most distinctive scene in the whole film." Contemporary reviewers also singled out the scene for praise: the HCN critic commented that "the fistfight is about the best thing Blood on the Moon has to offer," while the NYT review noted that the fight "ought to satisfy most savage instincts." The NYT also pointed out that Wise, "a comparative newcomer to directorial ranks...has managed to keep the atmosphere of this leisurely paced film charged with impending violence." 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
American Cinematographer   Dec 48   p. 411, 424.
Box Office   13 Nov 1948.   
Daily Variety   10 Nov 48   p. 3.
Film Daily   11 Nov 48   p. 5.
Hollywood Citizen-News   4 Jun 1947.   
Hollywood Citizen-News   1 Jan 1949.   
Hollywood Reporter   16 Feb 48   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Feb 48   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Apr 48   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Nov 48   p. 4.
Los Angeles Daily News   1 Jan 1949.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   6 Nov 48   p. 4375.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   13 Nov 48   p. 4382.
New York Times   12 Nov 48   p. 30.
Variety   10 Nov 48   p. 15.

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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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