Gregory Peck (Jim Douglas), Joan Collins (Josefa Velarde), Stephen Boyd (Bill Zachary), Albert Salmi (Ed Taylor), Henry Silva (Lujan), Kathleen Gallante (Emma), Barry Coe (Tom), George Voskovec (Steinmetz), Herbert Rudley (Elroy Sanchez), Lee Van Cleef (Alfonso Parral), Andrew Duggan (Padre), Gene Evans (Butler)
“Go to sleep. You never hear the shot that kills you.”
20th Century Fox obtained the rights to Frank O’Rourke’s yet-to-be-published book, saying Edward Dymtryk would direct the movie. Yet once things got started, King was the man in charge. Several writers–including John O’Hara and Richard Breen worked on the script, but only Philip Yordan was credited. The finished screenplay improved on O’Rourke’s work, as in the book there’s no revenge theme and Peck’s character doesn’t exist.
King at first turned down the The Bravados, wondering why Jim loses his thirst for vengeance at the end, letting Lujan go. He finally came up with the idea of having Butler as the actual murderer of Jim’s wife, therefore the man’s search has been all for naught and he now sees himself as a murderer.
Although the score was written by Alfred Newman and Hugo Friedhofer, it’s credited to Lionel Newman. It’s widely believed Alfred Newman gave his brother the recognition due to the man’s overseeing the score overseas recording. (It was recorded in Germany due to a musicians’ strike.) Friedhofer actually wrote the majority of the music.
Peck would eventually say he didn’t care for The Bravados as “my character is unbelievably grim and straight faced.” The actor found the confession scene “very difficult for me to do.” Peck was proud of his once scene with Silva, stating an actor “does have little ornaments hanging on the tree here and there, work that he’s proud of that maybe no one really noticed.”
The one leading the outlaws away from the posse, Lujan’s the most fascinating character in the picture as he’s Jim’s opposite number. While the others are perplexed by the moves their pursuer, Lujan never is, as he totally understands the man. At the cantina, when he sees Jim slay Bill, Lujan has the opportunity to back shoot Jim–But he’s not a killer. This is why he lets the man who’s chased him all these miles go when Jim invades the sanctity of his home. Yes, Lujan’s a thief, but never do see him harm a soul.
Discovering those he’s killed weren’t his wife’s murderers shatters Jim’s soul. True, they were scheduled to be executed–But not by him. Not by him. He comprehends too late that when he killed the trio, it was for something they didn’t do. Thus, his actions have turned him into a mirror image of those he’s hated the last six months and the man doesn’t know how he’ll live with himself. This is why he turns to the Padre.
Sadly, The Bravados seems to be one of those beautiful motion pictures that has slipped through the cracks with time’s passing. As always, Peck’s superb, and despite being miscast, Collins seems to work. Boyd and Salmi are out and out sinister while Van Cleef is marvelous. But it’s Silva’s work that truly takes the honors. With Leon Shamory’s exquisite camera work and a stupendous score, The Bravados reminds us that revenge is not a dish we want on the table.
J.M. Harrison is the author of Evil At EnoroMart.