The Deadly Companions (1961)


The Deadly Companions (1961). Front Cover DVD
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The Deadly Companions (1961) Back Cover DVD
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The Deadly Companions is one of those star produced vehicles, in this case unofficially by Maureen O'Hara although her brother Charles Fitzsimons is the nominal producer. According to her memoirs she wanted Brian Keith as her co-star, but Keith wanted Sam Peckinpah to be given his first shot at directing a feature film. The film is an interesting and most adult western.

Keith is a Union army veteran whose thrown in with a pair of ex-Confederates, Steve Cochran and Chill Wills. But he's also got a mission to avenge a scar given him by a former Confederate sergeant in a brawl. Still he takes his time as he believes as that revenge is a dish best served cold.

While stopping over at a town where the three are contemplating a bank robbery, some other robbers beat them to it. Keith, Cochran, and Wills shoot it out with the others, but in the process Maureen O'Hara's son is killed by Keith.

The grieving widow is determined to take her son's body back to a place that is now a ghost town and the way is through Apache territory. Keith agrees to accompany her out of obligation, Cochran has his hormones in overdrive and Wills goes along for the ride. These are not three guys I would want to be out on the trail with and they prove it soon enough. Given all that happens to them and the characters that Peckinpah develops, they all should have died on the trail.

Charles B. Fitzsimons (1924–2001), a former actor, was Maureen O'Hara's younger brother. In addition to his listing as producer. Another younger brother, Jim O'Hara (1927–1992), played the seventh-billed role of Cal (the family surname is Fitzsimons).

Leading man Brian Keith was also Maureen O'Hara's co-star in The Parent Trap which they completed immediately before The Deadly Companions and which premiered on June 12, 1961, six days after the Tucson premiere of The Deadly Companions. They re-teamed for one additional film, 1966's The Rare Breed, which top-billed James Stewart. Cinematographer William H. Clothier also worked on The Rare Breed as well as two other films with Maureen O'Hara, 1963's McLintock! and 1971's Big Jake, both starring John Wayne.

After the cancellation of his 1960 television series The Westerner, Brian Keith was cast as the male lead in The Deadly Companions. He suggested Sam Peckinpah (the producer and director of The Westerner) as the director for this film, and producer Charles B. Fitzsimons accepted the idea. Sam Peckinpah got his start in television, writing and directing for Westerns such as GUNSMOKE, THE RIFLEMAN, and HAVE GUN- WILL TRAVEL. In 1959, he created the series THE WESTERNER, starring Brian Keith as a drifter named Dave Blassingame, noted for its extreme (for the time) violence. This film was Peckinpah’s first feature film, and the result is an interesting film which has brief flourishes of the style he later perfected in THE WILD BUNCH and PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID.

Cast

Maureen O'Hara as Kit Tilden
Brian Keith as Yellowleg
Steve Cochran as Billy Keplinger
Chill Wills as Turk
Strother Martin as Parson
Will Wright as Doctor Acton
Jim O'Hara as Cal, General Store
Peter O'Crotty as Mayor of Gila City
Billy Vaughan as Mead Tilden Jr.

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