AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Riders of the Purple Sage
Alternate Title: Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage
Director: James Tinling (Dir)
Release Date:   10 Oct 1941
Production Date:   10 Jun--early Jul 1941
Duration (in mins):   56 or 58
Duration (in feet):   5,050 or 5,065
Duration (in reels):   6
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Cast:   George Montgomery (Jim Lassiter)  
    Mary Howard (Jane Withersteen)  
    Robert Barrat (Judge [Frank] Dyer)  
    Lynne Roberts (Bess)  
    Kane Richmond (Adam Dyer)  
    Patsy Patterson (Fay)  
    Richard Lane ([Steve] Oldring)  
    Oscar O'Shea (Noah Judkins)  
    James Gillette (Venters)  
    Frank McGrath (Pete)  
    LeRoy Mason (Jerry Card)  
    Ethan Laidlaw (Joe)  
    William Pagan (Red)  
    George Cleveland (Doctor)  
    Francis Ford (Drunk)  

Summary: Texas cowboy Jim Lassiter comes to Cottonwood, Arizona to seek revenge on the man who stole his sister Millie from her husband fifteen years previously. Jim is also searching for his sister's baby, who is by now full-grown. On his way into town, Jim prevents the whipping of ranch foreman Venters by a vigilante group led by Adam Dyer and Jerry Card. Jim receives the thanks of the ranch's owner, Jane Withersteen, who nonetheless remains cool to Jim, for she has maintained an intense dislike of guns since her father was shot in the back years before. At the town's courthouse, Adam confers with his uncle, Judge Frank Dyer, the head of the vigilante committe, which has become corrupt since the death of Jane's father. Dyer has used the vigilantes to terrorize the local ranchers and acquire their land, and he now intends to do the same to Jane. Adam protests, for he desires to marry Jane and acquire her land that way, but Dyer orders his reluctant henchman, Steve Oldring, to rustle Jane's cattle that night. Although one of the herds is stolen, Jim saves the others from stampeding off a cliff, for which Jane rewards him with the high-spirted bronco "Wrangle." The next day, while Venters and Jim try to locate the missing cattle, they run into two of Oldring's confederates, Bill and a mysterious masked rider. Bill is killed during the shootout, but Jim succeeds in capturing the masked rider, who is actually a young woman. Jim and Venters take the woman, who is named Bess, up a mountain face to a secret hideout that is the only entrance to the next valley. Venters holds Bess captive there while Jim, who was wounded in the gunfight, returns to Jane. A week later, the recuperated Jim confronts Oldring, who was once a hand on the Lassiter ranch. Oldring explains that the man who stole Millie gave him her daughter Bess to raise after Millie died. He is about to reveal the man's name when he is shot by Jerry, who warns Dyer about the incident, then steals two of Jane's thoroughbreds. Jim captures Jerry, however, and forces him to reveal that Dyer is the man who stole Millie and caused her death. Jane pleads with Jim not to resort to violence, but when Dyer kidnaps her ward Fay, Jim goes into town for a showdown. Jim succeeds in rescuing Fay and killing Dyer, but he is pursued by Adam and the rest of the gang. Jim, Jane and Fay reach Bess and Venters, who have fallen in love, and give them their horses. While Bess and Venters ride off in the hope of distracting some of the gang, Jim helps Jane and Fay climb the mountain. Adam and his men follow the climbers, and with no recourse left, Jim starts an avalanche that buries their pursuers and blocks their own return to the valley. Welcoming a new life together, Jim, Jane and Fay look to the next valley and smile. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: James Tinling (Dir)
  Charles Hall (Asst dir)
Producer: Sol M. Wurtzel (Exec prod)
Writer: William Bruckner (Scr)
  Robert Metzler (Scr)
Photography: Lucien Andriot (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Richard Day (Art dir)
  Chester Gore (Art dir)
Film Editor: Nick DeMaggio (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Thomas Little (Set dec)
Costumes: Herschel (Cost)
Music: Emil Newman (Mus dir)
Sound: W. D. Flick (Sd)
  Harry M. Leonard (Sd)
Production Misc: Harry Brand (Pub dir)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey (New York, 1912).
Authors: Zane Grey

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 10/10/1941 dd/mm/yyyy LP10837

PCA NO: 7483
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

Genre: Western
Subjects (Major): Cowboys
  Women ranchers
Subjects (Minor): Arizona
  Masked bandits
  Wards and guardians

Note: The film's opening title card reads: "Twentieth Century-Fox presents George Montgomery in Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage ." Some scenes were shot on location in Lone Pine, CA. This was the first of four Twentieth Century-Fox films based on Grey's works to star Montgomery. Grey's book was filmed by Fox three times previously, all under the title Riders of the Purple Sage : in 1918 with Frank Lloyd directing and William Farnum starring; in 1925 with Lynn Reynolds directing and Tom Mix starring; and in 1931 with Hamilton MacFadden directing and George O'Brien starring (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-40 ; F1.3719, F2.4578 and F3.3749). 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   13 Sep 1941.   
Daily Variety   10-Sep-41   
Film Daily   12 Sep 41   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jun 41   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Jun 41   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Jun 41   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Sep 41   p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   20 Sep 41   p. 275.
Variety   17 Sep 41   p. 22.

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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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