AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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One Foot in Hell
Alternate Title: Gunslinger
Director: James B. Clark (Dir)
Release Date:   Jul 1960
Production Date:   mid-Feb--6 Mar 1960; mid-Apr 1960
Duration (in mins):   89-90
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Cast:   Alan Ladd (Mitch Barrett)  
    Don Murray (Dan Keats)  
    Dan O'Herlihy (Harry Ivers)  
    Dolores Michaels (Julie Reynolds)  
    Barry Coe (Stu Christian)  
    Larry Gates (Doc Seltzer)  
    Karl Swenson (Sheriff Olson)  
    John Alexander (Sam Giller)  
    Rachel Stephens (Ellie Barrett)  
    Henry Norell (Caldwell)  
    Harry Carter (Mark Dobbs)  
    Ann Morriss (Nellie)  

Summary: After his homestead is burned down by the Yankees at the end of the Civil War, Confederate sympathizer Mitch Barrett and his very pregnant wife Ellie take to the road in their covered wagon. When Ellie's delivery time nears, she begins to experience excruciating pain and Mitch hurriedly drives to the nearest town, Blue Springs, for medical treatment. There, Caldwell, the uncooperative hotel clerk, demands prepayment before granting them a room. Doc Seltzer, the town's sympathetic physician, writes Ellie a prescription which store owner Sam Giller then refuses to fill because Mitch lacks the $1.87 to pay for it. After Mitch demands the life-saving medicine at gunpoint, Giller summons Sheriff Olson, who detains Mitch. When Mitch finally reaches the hotel, he finds Ellie dead. Remorseful, Doc asks Mitch to give the town a second chance and Mitch accepts the job of deputy sheriff. Some years later, Mitch meets fellow Confederate Dan Keats, an embittered, self-pitying drunk. Taking note of Dan's drawing ability, Mitch, feigning Confederate comradery, enlists him in a plot to rob the bank of $100,000, assigning him to draw a plan of the town and formulate a potent explosive called liquid fire. Soon after, Olson and Mitch ride out of town in pursuit of some rustlers. As they camp along the roadside, Mitch recalls the cruel night, years earlier, when Olson's actions contributed to Ellie's death, and then guns down the sheriff in cold blood. Upon returning to town, Mitch blames Olson's murder on the rustlers and is appointed the new sheriff. Afterward, Dan and Mitch travel across the border to the squalid town of Royce City to recruit several reprobates for the robbery. Mitch, who is looking for a woman to pose as his bride, is approached by Julie Reynolds, a hardened saloon girl, who sees the theft as her chance for a fresh start. At the bar, Mitch spots Harry Ivers, an unscrupulous conman who carries a derringer up his sleeve, and enlists him. Determined to hire the winner of a big $500 shootout, Mitch attends the contest and watches as the brutish Stu Christian coldly guns down his unskilled opponent as the man's pregnant wife looks on in horror. Impressed, Mitch immediately offers Stu a job. Later, when Stu gruffly manhandles Julie, she rebukes him, prompting Mitch to hire her for her spunk. After Mitch insists on holding a wedding ceremony to lend legitimacy to their union, Dan, who has become smitten by Julie, simmers with jealousy. When Julie chides Dan for his excessive drinking, Dan voices his loneliness and longing for a new life. Soon after, Mitch, who has covered his absence from town with the story that he has gone to St. Louis to get married, rides into Blue Springs with his new bride. When the townsfolk welcome the newlyweds and present Mitch with the deed to his rented house, Julie wonders how he can betray his friends. Four days before cattle buyer Mark Dobbs is to arrive in town and deposit $100,000 in the bank, Mitch lays out the details of his plan. Mitch instructs Stu and Harry to split up after the robbery while he leads the posse on a wild goose chase and Julie and Dan wait at the house with the money. After Dan leaves the room, Mitch tells Stu to kill Caldwell and assigns Harry to murder Giller. On the day of the robbery, Dobbs and his cattle ride into Blue Springs while Julie, accompanied by Dan, drives a wagon loaded with liquid fire to town. Meanwhile, Harry goes to the general store and shoots Giller while Stu slaughters Caldwell. Dan then lobs the liquid explosives into the store, sparking a fire that stampedes the cattle, causing a diversion. At the bank, Mitch guns down Dobbs while Stu and Harry rob the vault. To make the robbery look authentic, Stu wounds Mitch in the arm before riding off. As the wounded Mitch leads the posse into the hills, Dan, now sober, starts to fall in love with Julie. Several days later, Mitch appears at Stu's hideout and tells him to ride back to town while he leads the posse astray. Unknown to Stu, Mitch has set him up, and when he steps out the door, the posse, waiting in ambush, guns him down. Back at Mitch's house, Dan voices his love for Julie and asks her to marry him and start a new life tilling his land in Virginia. After Julie accepts, they decide to renounce their share of the money and Dan rides to town to inform Mitch of their decision. When Dan sees the posse ride into town with Stu's and Harry's dead bodies hung over their horses, he realizes that Mitch has double-crossed them and hurries back to the house. There, Mitch diabolically explains that he hired the scum of the earth to work for him because they all deserved to die. When Dan tries to appeal to Mitch's reason, Mitch strikes Julie and Mitch lunges at him. After overpowering Dan, Mitch is about to shoot him when Julie kills him with a shotgun blast. In town, Dan and Julie return the money to Doc Seltzer, but when the compassionate Doc tries to convince them to escape, they insist on standing trial and accepting responsibility for their crime. Aware that they are facing a prison term, Dan and Julie embrace. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: James B. Clark (Dir)
  Arthur Lueker (Asst dir)
Producer: Sydney Boehm (Prod)
Writer: Aaron Spelling (Scr)
  Sydney Boehm (Scr)
  Aaron Spelling (Based on a story by)
Photography: William C. Mellor (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Duncan Cramer (Art dir)
  Leland Fuller (Art dir)
Film Editor: Eda Warren (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Gustav Bernsten (Set dec)
  Bill Calvert (Set dec)
  Walter M. Scott (Set dec)
Costumes: Bill Thomas (Cost des)
Music: Dominic Frontiere (Mus)
Sound: Frank Webster Sr. (Sd)
  Harry M. Leonard (Sd)
Make Up: Ben Nye (Makeup)
  Helen Turpin (Hair styles)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs:
Source Text: Based on the teleplay "The Last Man" by Aaron Spelling on Playhouse 90 (CBS, 9 Jan 1959).
Authors: Aaron Spelling

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 10/8/1960 dd/mm/yyyy LP17106

PCA NO: 19641
Physical Properties: Sd: Westrex Recording System
  col: De Luxe
  Widescreen/ratio: CinemaScope
  Lenses/Prints: lenses by Bausch & Lomb

 
Genre: Western
 
Subjects (Major): Alcoholics
  Betrayal
  Criminals--Rehabilitation
  Revenge
  Robbery
  Sheriffs
 
Subjects (Minor): Artists
  Confidence men
  Dance hall girls
  Death in childbirth
  Duplicity
  Gunfighters
  Murder
  Physicians
  Posses
  United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
  Wives

Note: The working titles of this film were The Last Man and Gunslinger . According to HR and DV news items, Bradford Dillman, Stuart Whitman, Adam Stewart, Brett Halsey and Ken Scott were all considered for the leads. An Apr 1960 NYT news item states that production was halted from 7 Mar--18 Apr 1960 due to a strike by the Screen Actors' Guild. Aaron Spelling's story "The Last Man," on which One Foot in Hell was based, was first broadcast on Playhouse 90 on 9 Jan 1959. The televised version was directed by John Frankenheimer and starred Carolyn Jones and Sterling Hayden. According to a DV news item, this was the first Playhouse 90 script sold to a major studio to be turned into a film.
       According to an Oct 1957 LAT news item, Dick Powell, Warner Bros. and Hecht-Hill Lancaster also bid on the story rights. A May 1958 LAT news item adds that Carolyn Jones, who starred in the television version and was Spelling's wife at the time, was most likely to be cast as "Julie." Although a HR production chart places Gloria Moreland in the cast, Moreland's appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. One Foot in Hell was Don Murray's last picture on his Twentieth Century-Fox contract. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   15 Aug 1960.   
Daily Variety   15 Jan 1958.   
Daily Variety   11 Feb 1960.   
Daily Variety   2 Aug 60   p. 3.
Film Daily   2 Aug 60   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jan 60   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Jan 60   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Feb 60   p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Apr 60   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Aug 60   p. 3.
Los Angeles Times   1 Oct 1957.   
Los Angeles Times   21 Jan 1958.   
Los Angeles Times   10 May 1958.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   6 Aug 60   p. 797.
New York Times   9 Apr 1960.   
New York Times   20 Oct 60   p. 42.
Variety   3 Aug 60   p. 6.

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