Introduction by Mark Harris (Journalist/Author)
By the late ’60s, many directors who had started working during the heyday of the studio system lost their bearings. The two major exceptions were John Huston and Mankiewicz, both of whom adapted to the seismic shifts in tone and style with great ease. Mankiewicz’s penultimate film, his only Western, was based on a screenplay by the two hottest writers of the moment, David Newman and Robert Benton, and their three irreverent sensibilities were well synchronized. Kirk Douglas is Paris Pitman, an outlaw in 1870s Arizona who has stolen and hidden away $500,000. Henry Fonda is the upright lawman who finds him and locks him away in the penitentiary, where he later becomes the warden. This often violent “Dickensian” (Mankiewicz’s term) comedy of mores and manners is peopled with a rich array of secondary characters played by Martin Gabel, Lee Grant, Warren Oates, Burgess Meredith, Arthur O’Connell, Gene Evans, and, as an elderly, squabbling couple, Hume Cronyn and John Randolph.