Tribute to a
Bad Man

James Cagney

To give a fresh look to this Western, Wise shot it in the Colorado Rockies, "way up high at about 8,500 feet, with great snowcapped mountains that had never been in pictures...We thought that would be a good change in the background for a Western."*

Tribute To A Man

Irene Papas and Don Dubbins

The film originally starred Spencer Tracy, but there were problems between him and Wise from the beginning. After many delays, Tracy worked on the picture for five days and then declared that he could not tolerate such a high altitude. This was the last straw for Wise. Tracy was taken off the picture and replaced by James Cagney, who wound up getting excellent reviews for his performance.

This was to be the last Western for Wise, as well as for Cagney. Wise realized he didn't really like making Westerns. "They're big and cumbersome." he stated. "You're always at the mercy of the weather, and horses don't take direction very well. Also, by that time, I felt that the western genre seemed overdone."*

Synopsis Young easterner Steve Miller, making his way west, comes on rich land owner and horse breeder Jeremy Rodock, who is trapped by horse thieves. Miller frightens them off and removes a bullet from Rodock's shoulder; they go to Rodock's ranch, where Rodock gives Miller a job. There he meets former dance hall hostess Jocasta Constantine, living as Rodock's Souvenir Programgirl on the ranch. More horses are stolen and Rodock, against the wishes of Jocasta, rides out to hang the guilty man. With the "hanging fever" on him, he is a different man, vengeful and half-crazed. The thieves are cornered, one is hanged; another, Rodock's former dishonest partner L.A. Peterson, is killed by gunfire; and the third escapes. Returning Peterson's body to his family, Rodock is told by Peterson's son Lars that he will avenge his father's death. Along with McNulty (a disgruntled ranch hand that Rodock fired for making advances to Jocasta) and Barjack (the horse thief who got away), Lars Peterson conspires to rustle more of Rodock's stock. Steve Miller, now disillusioned, begs Jocasta to leave with him, but she sends him away. He finds evidence of the rustling and returns to warn Rodock. They catch the thieves, who have maimed the horses. Rodock strips them of their boots and forces them to march barefoot in front of him to the nearest town, 40 miles away. The brutal punishment forces McNulty and Barjack to collapse, but Peterson pushes on. Rodock, realizing that he has been thirsting for vengeance, not justice, sets the men free and returns to the ranch. Jocasta and Miller, however, fed up with Rodock's vicious behavior, have decided to leave together. Realizing this his brutality has cost him the woman he loves, Rodock lets Jocasta go without a fight. Sensing that Rodock's reluctance to seek revenge might mark a turning point in his personality, Jocasta sees hope for their relationship and returns to the rancher. Grateful for her faith in him, Rodock vows to become a more compassionate man and asks Jocasta to marry him. Miller rides off alone, at last a man.

From The Motion Picture Exhibitor, March 27, 1956, and The Motion Picture Guide, Volume VII, p. 3543.

Wise Facts
  • This film marked the debut of Greek actress Irene Papas as "Jocasta Constantine," a role that Grace Kelly had turned down.
  • The original title was JEREMY RODOCK.
  • Credits:95 min. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Distributed by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer;  Directed by: Robert Wise;  Produced by: Sam Zimbalist;  Screenplay by: Michael Blankfort, based on a story by Jack Schaefer;  Edited by: Ralph E. Winters;  Director of Photography: Robert Surtees;  Music by: Miklos Rozsa;  Art Direction by: Cedric Gibbons, Paul Groesse;  Color Consulting by: Charles K. Hagedon;  Set Decoration by: Edwin B. WIllis, Fred MacLean;  Recording Supervision by: Dr. Wesley C. Miller;  Costumes for Irene Papas by: Walter Plunkett;  Make-up by: William Tuttle;  Hair by: Sydney Guilaroff.
    James Cagney Cast  James Cagney (Jeremy Rodock), Don Dubbins (Steve Miller), Stephen McNally (McNulty), Irene Papas (Jocasta Constantine), Vic Morrow (Lars Peterson), James Griffith (Barjak), Onslow Stevens (Hearn), James Bell (L. A. Peterson), Jeanette Nolan (Mrs. L. A. Peterson), Chubby Johnson (Baldy), Royal Dano (Abe), Lee Van Cleef (Fat Jones), Peter Chong (Cooky).

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    1. Robert Wise On His Films, p. 129
    2.Robert Wise On His Films, p. 36

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