AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Slaughter Trail
Director: Irving Allen (Dir)
Release Date:   Oct 1951
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles opening: 11 Oct 1951
Production Date:   late-Jan--mid-Feb 1951; 1 Jun--7 Jun 1951 at Motion Picture Center Studios
Duration (in mins):   77
Duration (in feet):   6,895
Duration (in reels):   9
Print this page
Display Movie Summary

Cast:   Brian Donlevy (Capt. Dempster)  
    Gig Young (Vaughn)  
    Virginia Grey (Lorabelle Larkin)  
    Andy Devine (Sgt. McIntosh)  
    Robert Hutton (Lt. Morgan)  
    Terry Gilkyson (Singalong)  
    Lew Bedell (Hardsaddle)  
    Myron Healey (Heath)  
    Ken Koutnik (Levering)  
    Eddie Parks (Rufus Black, drummer)  
    Ralph Peters (Matt McGroot, stagecoach driver)  
    Ric Roman (Chief Paako)  
    Lois Hall (Susan Wilson)  
    Robin Fletcher (Nancy Dempster)  
    Ralph Volkie (Sentry)  
    Fenton Jones (Dance caller)  
    Emmett Lynn (Old timer)  
    Frank McGrath (Jamora, Indian scout)  
    Jody Gilbert (Fat lady)  
    Chuck Hayward (Wounded Indian)  
    Don Frost (Corporal)  
    Miles Shepard (Orderly)  
    Sherry Atkins (Child)  
    Joanne Franklin (Child)  
    Gene Fran├žois (Child)  
    Eric Neilson (Child)  
    Richie Kuller (Child)  
    Sid Brokaw (Musician)  
    Rudolph Friml Jr. (Musician)  
    William Wright (Musician)  
    Earl Colbert (Musician)  
    Eugene Englund (Musician)  
    Jimmy Ames (Poker player)  
    Earl Hodgins (Poker player)  
    Dorinda Clifton    

Summary: In 1882, a San Francisco-bound stagecoach, carrying mail down the "Slaughter Trail" through New Mexico, is held up by three masked bandits, who kill the guard. Vaughn, the bandits' leader, takes jewels from a package in the mail sack and hands them to his accomplice, Lorabelle Larkin, who has been posing as a passenger. During their escape, Vaughn and cohorts Heath and Levering steal fresh horses from some Navajo Indians, whom they kill, save for one, who escapes, wounded. When the stage arrives at Fort Marcy, Captain Dempster, the commanding officer, informs Lorabelle that he is delaying the stage's onward journey until the guard can be replaced. Dempster, suspecting that the Vaughn gang may be responsible for the holdup, assigns Lt. Morgan to bring them in. Lorabelle persuades Dempster to allow the stage to proceed by telling him that her grandmother is dying in San Francisco. Meanwhile, the wounded Navajo reports the attack to Chief Paako, who declares war and attacks the stagecoach. However, Morgan and his troops come to the rescue and all return to the fort. Dempster is surprised by the Indians' attack as he and Paako have been friends for a long time. In an attempt to get away from the fort, Lorabelle strikes up a friendship with Dempster's young daughter Nancy. Morgan and Dempster ride out to meet Paako, who tells them that white men have killed his brothers and that because their treaty has been broken, he will seek revenge. Anxious to maintain peace, Dempster promises Paako that he will catch the culprits, and Paako gives him two days to do so. In the meantime, Vaughn, posing as a cattleman, returns to the fort to rescue Lorabelle. Dempster informs Vaughn that all civilians are confined to the fort due to the uprising. After Vaughn tells Lorabelle that they will sneak away at night, Lorabelle apologizes to Dempster for her behavior, and he thanks her for being kind to his daughter, whose mother was killed during the last Navajo war. Dempster tells Lorabelle that he can only appease Paako by handing over the three outlaws, but that he could not do that even if they were proven guilty by a federal court. At the regular Saturday night social, a traveling companion of Lorabelle recognizes Vaughn's laugh from the stagecoach robbery and informs Dempster. As Lorabelle participates in a vigorous square dance, the small bag of jewels fall out of her dress. Vaughn takes it and, at gunpoint, makes Nancy his hostage and orders the fort gates to be opened. Lorabelle, however, refuses to go with him. Vaughn escapes, dropping Nancy off outside the fort, and meets up with Heath and Levering. However, they are seen by the Indian they wounded, and Paako attacks, forcing them to return to the fort, where they are then arrested. Paako comes to the fort under a flag of truce and demands that Dempster hand over Vaughn and his men within a few minutes. Dempster sends an Indian scout to another fort for reinforcements, but the scout is killed by the Navajo. Dempster then has three volunteer soldiers, along with the Vaughn gang, go outside the fort to create a perimeter of defense. When the Navajo attack, Lorabelle helps defend the children inside the fort. The Navajo kill Vaughn and his men and call off the attack. Lorabelle walks back into her cell and refuses to come out. When Dempster visits her, he finds Nancy there, and she asks her father not to send Lorabelle away. Dempster tells Lorabelle that she is free to go, and although a romance has started to blossom between them, she leaves. She is hopeful, however, that she may meet Dempster and Nancy again some day. 

Production Company: Justal Productions, Inc.  
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Irving Allen (Dir)
  Jack Berne (Asst dir)
  Cy Roth (Asst dir)
  George Loper (Asst dir on retakes)
Producer: Irving Allen (Prod)
Writer: Sid Kuller (Scr)
  Oliver Crawford (Contr wrt)
Photography: Jack Greenhalgh (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: George Van Marter (Art dir)
Film Editor: Fred Allen (Film ed)
  Joe Gluck (Film ed)
Music: Darrell Calker (Mus dir)
Sound: Ben Winkler (Sd)
Special Effects: Howard Anderson (Spec eff)
Dance: Val Raset (Dance dir)
Make Up: David Newell (Makeup artist)
Production Misc: Harold Knox (Prod mgr)
  Rose Carter (Welfare worker)
Stand In: Cliff Lyons (Stunts)
  June Davies (Stand-in)
  Jimmy Dase (Stand-in)
  Fred Vleck (Stand-in)
Color Personnel: Wilton R. Holm (Col consultant)
  Clifford D. Shank (Col consultant)
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "Hoofbeat Serenade" and "Ballad Bandelier," words and music by Lynn Murray and Sid Kuller; "The Girl in the Wood," words and music by Terry Gilkyson and Neal Stuart; "Everyone's Crazy 'Ceptin Me," words and music by Terry Gilkyson and Sid Kuller; "Jittery Deer-Foot Dan," words and music by Terry Gilkyson; "I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground," traditional.
Composer: Terry Gilkyson
  Sid Kuller
  Lynn Murray
  Neal Stuart
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. 10/10/1951 dd/mm/yyyy LP1421

PCA NO: 15273
Physical Properties: Sd: RCA Sound System
  col: Cinecolor

Genre: Western
Sub-Genre: with songs
Subjects (Major): Deception
  Navajo Indians
  New Mexico
  United States. Army. Cavalry
Subjects (Minor): Arizona
  Fathers and daughters
  Flags of truce
  Folk songs
  Horse thieves
  Moral reformation
  Officers (Military)
  Postal service
  Scouts (Frontier)
  Square dances
  Stagecoach robberies
  Women outlaws

Note: According to an undated credit sheet submitted to the PCA, contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, this independent production was to be "An Eagle-Lion Classics Release," presented by Joseph Justman. The PCA file also indicates that a completed version of the picture, starring Howard Da Silva as "Capt. Dempster," was submitted to the PCA in Apr 1951. When the film was acquired for release by RKO early in May 1951, the studio, then run by Howard Hughes, announced that, due to Da Silva having testified as an unfriendly witness before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, his scenes would be reshot with Brian Donlevy in his role.
       Some scenes were filmed on location at the Ray Corrigan Ranch in Simi Valley, CA. Although Fred Allen is credited onscreen as editor, HR production charts list Joe Gluck as editor. According to the DV review, footage from Irving Allen's earlier film New Mexico was reused in Slaughter Trail . Much of the film is accompanied by songs from folk singer Terry Gilkyson and a male chorus. One song, heard only briefly in the film, "The Girl in the Wood," became a hit recording for Frankie Laine. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   15 May 1951.   
Daily Variety   11 Oct 51   p. 3
The Exhibitor   24 Oct 51   p. 3174.
Harrison's Reports   13 Oct 51   p. 162.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Feb 51   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Feb 51   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   15 May 51   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Jun 51   p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Jun 51   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Oct 1951.   p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner   5 May 1951.   
Los Angeles Times   12 Oct 1951.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   18 Oct 1951.   

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.