After “Ulysses” and “The Passionate Life of Vincent Van Gogh”, Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn share the poster again in “The Last Train from Gun Hill”. During the filming of this western signed by John Sturges, the atmosphere was tense between the two actors.
The Last Gun Hill Train: alone against an entire city
Before entering the 1960s with The Magnificent Seven then The great EscapeJohn Sturges ends the previous decade with another western and another war movie: The Last Gun Hill Train and The prey of the vultures. The first marks the reunion between the filmmaker and several members of the Scoring at the OK Corralincluding producer Hal B. Wallis and comedian Kirk Douglas.
The actor embodies here the marshal Matt Morgan. After the rape and murder of his Native American wife Catherine, the sheriff sets off in pursuit of her killers. One of them left his horse’s saddle at the scene. The latter features the initials “CB”, which are those of Craig Belden (Anthony Quinn), a wealthy cattle rancher whom Morgan has known for many years.
Their friendship is shattered when, after arriving in the town of Gun Hill where the businessman reigns supreme, the marshal learns that the individual who killed his wife is none other than Rick Belden (Earl Holliman). , Craig’s son. Determined to take revenge, the hero finds himself alone against an entire village, led by an old companion who has become his worst enemy.
Carolyn Jones and Brad Dexter complete the cast of the feature film, a rare western to openly address racism, and this from its striking opening. Alone against all and in search of justice, the character of Kirk Douglas is also reminiscent of those played by Van Heflin and Gary Cooper in 3h10 for Yuma and The Train will whistle three times.
Tense reunion for Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn
When they meet in The Last Gun Hill TrainKirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn have already shot twice together in Ulysses and The Passionate Life of Vincent Van Gogh. According to film historian Leonard Maltin, the biopic on the Dutch painter directed by Vincente Minnelli causes tensions between the two actors. Eager to get the Oscar for his incarnation of the artist, Kirk Douglas would have had a hard time accepting his defeat against Yul Brynner for The King and I but also the presentation of the trophy for Best Actor in a Supporting Role to Anthony Quinn for his interpretation of Paul Gauguin.
On the set of John Sturges’ western, the atmosphere is therefore not good between them, as Leonard Maltin explains in a commentary present in the Blu-Ray bonuses. If Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn have trouble getting along, it’s also because they both want to produce and carry a movie about Spartacus. The first ended up winning and entrusted the production of the peplum to the young Stanley Kubrick, with whom he had already collaborated on Paths of Glory.
At any rate, these differences in no way affect the quality of their respective performance. The friendship of their characters and their difficulty in provoking a duel are two of the qualities of the Last train from Gun Hillan effective feature film whose tension continues to increase until the tragic and inevitable finale.