Nevada Smith

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Nevada Smith
Nevada Smith DVD cover.jpg
DVD Cover
Directed by Henry Hathaway
Produced by Henry Hathaway
Joseph E. Levine (executive producer)
Written by John Michael Hayes
Based on The Carpetbaggers
1961 novel 
by Harold Robbins
Starring Steve McQueen
Karl Malden
Brian Keith
Arthur Kennedy
Music by Alfred Newman
Cinematography Lucien Ballard
Edited by Frank Bracht
Embassy Pictures
Solar Productions
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • June 10, 1966 (1966-06-10)
Running time
128 minutes
Language English
Box office $6.5 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)[1]

Nevada Smith is a 1966 American Western film in Eastmancolor and Panavision directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Steve McQueen, made by Embassy Pictures and Solar Productions in association with and released by Paramount Pictures. The movie was a prequel to the novel by Harold Robbins entitled The Carpetbaggers, which had been made into a highly successful film two years earlier with Alan Ladd playing McQueen's part as an older man. The supporting cast of Nevada Smith features Karl Malden, Brian Keith, Martin Landau, Arthur Kennedy, Suzanne Pleshette, Pat Hingle, and Paul Fix.


In the West of the 1890s, a trio of outlaws – Bill Bowdre (Arthur Kennedy) and Jesse Coe (Martin Landau), led by Tom Fitch (Karl Malden) – robs, tortures and brutally kills the white father and Indian mother of young Max Sand (Steve McQueen). Max sets out to avenge their death. Fitch keeps a tobacco pouch containing a bit of deerskin decorated with Indian beads from Sand's mother's shirt – the tobacco pouch was made from the breast of Max's mother and Max knew this – and it is a clue Max uses in his search.

Max cannot read or write and is not skilled with a gun. He unsuccessfully tries to rob Jonas Cord, Sr. (Brian Keith), a traveling gunsmith. Cord recognizes that Max's revolver is unloaded and too old and rusty to be of use or even have ammo made for it. Cord then takes pity on Max, feeds him and teaches him how to shoot.

Max hunts the killers, who have since separated. With the help of saloon girl Neesa (Janet Margolin), a woman from the same tribe as his mother, he tracks down Jesse Coe in an Abilene, Texas saloon, killing him in a knife fight inside a corral. A wounded Max is taken to the tribe's camp by Neesa, who helps his wounds mend while becoming his lover.

After recovering, Max leaves Neesa to continue his pursuit. He pulls a robbery and deliberately gets caught, in order to be sent to a prison in a Louisiana swamp where Bowdre is now serving time. Pilar (Suzanne Pleshette), a Cajun girl working in the rice fields near the convicts’ camp, gives Max comfort and finds a boat to help him escape through the swamps. Max lets Bowdre join them and murders Bowdre along the way. The boat tips in the swamp, and Pilar dies from a snake bite.

Still blinded by revenge, Max goes after Fitch, the last of the murderers. He infiltrates Fitch's gang, calling himself Nevada Smith. Fitch is aware that Max Sand is out there somewhere, waiting to ambush him. Though he accepts Sand into the gang, Fitch is wary and suspicious, possibly accepting "Smith" to keep him close and under his eyes. While riding out to do a robbery with the gang, Sand is spotted by Cord, who calls out "Max," but Sand ignores Cord to not be given away, as the men ride on.

At the start of the robbery, Fitch suspects that one of the men is Max Sand without knowing who, and warns him not to make a mistake or Fitch will kill him. During the frenzy of the robbery, the gang greedily scoops up gold-- only Sand is alone, apart, looking down from a hill watching, uninterested in gold. Fitch sees that Nevada Smith is Sand, knowing now what Sand's real interest is, and, throwing down his share of the gold, runs for his life. Sand pursues and corners Fitch in a creek. The men trade gunfire. Sand's bullets find their mark and Fitch surrenders. But Sand continues to torture Fitch slowly, firing bullet after bullet into Fitch's body. The outlaw begs to be killed to release him from the agony. Max appears ready to kill Fitch, but finally decides not to, saying that he is not worth killing, and rides away.



The movie was produced and directed by Henry Hathaway with Joseph E. Levine as executive producer, from a story and screenplay by John Michael Hayes based on a character from Harold Robbins' 1961 novel The Carpetbaggers. The music score was by Alfred Newman and the cinematography by Lucien Ballard. The film is a prequel to 1964's The Carpetbaggers, in which Alan Ladd had played a much older version of the character Nevada Smith.

Nevada Smith was shot by Lucien Ballard on approximately 46 different locations in the Inyo National Forest (in parts of southern California and southwestern Nevada) and the Owens Valley (of southern California) in the Eastern Sierra mountains.

In the scene in the cattle pens when Max (Steve McQueen) fights Jessie Coe (Martin Landau), Max crouches behind a fence and opens the gate to let the cattle out. Some cattle come out the gate while others knock down the fence, and Max must dodge the flailing legs and hooves of the stampeding cattle. The knocking down of the fence was accidental, and Steve McQueen was very nearly trampled for real.[2]


  1. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1966". Variety. 4 January 1967. p. 8. 
  2. ^

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