One Eyed Jacks promotional poster
|Directed by||Marlon Brando|
|Produced by||George Glass
Frank P. Rosenberg
|Written by||Charles Neider (novel)
Sam Peckinpah (uncredited)
Rod Serling (early draft)
|Music by||Hugo Friedhofer|
|Editing by||Archie Marshek|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||Theatrical cut:
300 minutes (Has been destroyed, cut footage does not exist)
|Box office||$4.3 million (US/ Canada rentals) |
One-Eyed Jacks, a 1961 Western, is the only film directed by actor Marlon Brando. The picture was originally planned to be directed by Stanley Kubrick from a screenplay by Sam Peckinpah, but studio disputes led to their replacement by Brando and Guy Trosper. Brando portrays the lead character Rio, and Karl Malden plays his partner "Dad" Longworth. The supporting cast features Katy Jurado, Ben Johnson, and Slim Pickens.
Rio (also called "The Kid"), a shameless philanderer, his mentor Dad Longworth, and a third man named Doc rob a bank of two saddlebags of gold in Sonora, Mexico. The robbery is successful, but Mexican Rurales track them and catch them celebrating in a cantina, killing Doc. Dad and Rio manage to escape, followed by the Rurales.
After getting cornered on a high ridge, with Rio's horse dead, Rio figures the Rurales will be "swarming all over us inside an hour". Deciding that one partner might take the remaining pony and ride to a little jacalito down the canyon about five miles and return with fresh mounts, they shake for it, with Rio fixing the deal so his pal Dad can be the one to go.
Dad gets to a corral, strapping the swag bag onto a fresh pony, but he gets second thoughts. He casts one eye towards a point on the ridge sure to be taken by the Rurales, and with the other he gazes off in the opposite direction out past a low-lying treeline towards the border and safety. One way leads to danger and a poor chance at surviving with half the booty, the other towards a virtual certainty with all of it. After a decidedly short moment of reflection, he takes the latter and leaves his friend to be taken by Rurales. Rio is arrested, and is transported to prison by way of the jacalito where he learns firsthand of Dad's betrayal from the owner.
Rio spends five hard years in a Sonora prison, giving him ample time to mull over Dad's betrayal before escaping with new partner Chico Modesto (Larry Duran) and going hunting for him. When he locates him, Longworth has used his wealth to become the sheriff of Monterey, California. Instead of ambushing Dad, Rio gives him a chance to explain why he left him back in Mexico, pretending he had never been captured to put him off-guard, but his awkward self-serving story is easily seen through.
All along Rio planned not only to kill Dad but to pull off a bank robbery in Monterey with his new partners Chico and snakelike "scum-suckin' pig" Bob Emory (Ben Johnson) (who used his knowledge of Dad's whereabouts to force their partnership), but his plans are sidetracked when he falls in love with Longworth's beautiful virginal stepdaughter Louisa (Pina Pellicer), and takes advantage of a fiesta to spend the night with her on the beach. When Dad finds out, he tries to make Louisa confess to being deflowered, but after intervention by his wife Maria (Katy Jurado) he backs down. He then traps Rio in town and administers a vicious beating with a whip in front of the entire town, smashing Rio's gun hand with the butt of a shotgun in an attempt to end his gunslinging days.
While recovering from his wounds near the ocean, Rio struggles with his conflicting desires to love the girl and to kill her stepfather for revenge. He decides to forgo vengeance, fetch Louisa and leave, but Emory, having decided that Rio will never be fast enough to challenge him again kills Chico and pulls off the bank job without his knowledge. Worse, the heist goes wrong and a young girl is killed. Rio is falsely accused and locked up by Longworth after whipping the town up into a lynch mob state. Dad desperately wants to kill Rio in an attempt to absolve his own guilt over the earlier betrayal. Knowing that the trial's outcome is certain, and Rio is sure to be hanged in two days, Dad has one last private talk with him, again attempting to excuse himself, and disbelieving Rio's confession to being imprisoned for five years, to which Rio replies, “You may be a one-eyed jack around here, but I’ve seen the other side of your face.”
Louisa visits Rio in jail, first to confess that she is going to have his baby, and then to attempt to smuggle a miniature pistol, which she accomplishes, but without ammunition. Rio bluffs his way out of jail with the unloaded pistol, helping himself to the revolver of sadistic deputy Lon Dedrick (Slim Pickens) after a tense scene. Later, in the center of town, under fire and left with no choice, Rio kills Longworth in a final showdown.
In the closing scene, Rio and Louisa ride out to the dunes and say a sentimental farewell. Rio will now be a hunted man and tells Louisa that he's going to Oregon but to look for him in the spring.
- Marlon Brando as Rio
- Karl Malden as Dad Longworth
- Ben Johnson as Bob Emory
- Katy Jurado as Maria Longworth
- Pina Pellicer as Louisa
- Slim Pickens as Lon Dedrick
- Larry Duran as Chico Modesto
Adaptation and development
Rod Serling, already famed as the creator of The Twilight Zone series, wrote an adaptation of the novel The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones by Charles Neider (1956), at the request of producer Frank P. Rosenberg. The book was a fictional treatment of the familiar Billy the Kid story, relocated from New Mexico to the Monterey Peninsula in California. The treatment was rejected.
Rosenberg next hired Sam Peckinpah, who finished his first script on 11 November 1957. Marlon Brando's Pennebaker Productions had paid $40,000 for the rights to Authentic Death and then signed a contract with Stanley Kubrick to direct for Paramount Pictures. Peckinpah handed in a revised screenplay on 6 May 1959. Later, Brando fired Peckinpah and hired Calder Willingham, but he and Brando stalled, so both Willingham and Kubrick were fired. Guy Trosper became the new screenwriter and worked on the story with Brando, who volunteered to serve as director.
The movie had very little resemblance to the Neider novel, and what remains has much more resonance with history than fiction. At various times, the two credited screenwriters and the uncredited Peckinpah have claimed (or had claimed for them) a majority of the responsibility for the film. When Karl Malden answered the query about who really wrote the story he said: "There is one answer to your question — Marlon Brando, a genius in our time."
The film was Paramount Pictures' last feature released in VistaVision. Cinematographer Charles Lang received an Academy Award nomination in the Best Cinematography, Color category that year. Upon release, it made little money, leading to a string of unsuccessful films for the actor.
Brando shot five hours of additional footage that was later destroyed. Later, other directors worked on the rest of the film after Brando walked away from the production. He did not direct another film in his later years, but he did continue to act.
The picture was the first American film for Pina Pellicer, who died in 1964 at age 30, a presumed suicide.
One-Eyed Jacks received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 50% critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 6.2/10. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times, favorably influenced by Brando's efforts, noted: "... Directed and played with the kind of vicious style that Mr. Brando has put into so many of his skulking, scabrous roles. Realism is redolent in them, as it is in many details of the film. But, at the same time, it is curiously surrounded by elements of creamed-cliché romance and a kind of pictorial extravagance that you usually see in South Sea island films." Variety, on the other hand, wrote: "It is an oddity of this film that both its strength and its weakness lie in the area of characterization. Brando's concept calls, above all, for depth of character, for human figures endowed with overlapping good and bad sides to their nature." Dave Kehr of The Chicago Reader wrote: "There is a strong Freudian pull to the situation (the partner's name is “Dad”) that is more ritualized than dramatized: the most memorable scenes have a fierce masochistic intensity, as if Brando were taking the opportunity to punish himself for some unknown crime."
In popular culture
One-Eyed Jacks is the name of a brothel in the TV series Twin Peaks created by David Lynch and Mark Frost. That it shares the same name as this film is acknowledged in dialogue between Donna Hayward and Audrey Horne, where Audrey asks Donna if she has heard of One-Eyed Jacks and Donna responds "Isn't that that Western with Marlon Brando?"
- "All-Time Top Grossers", Variety, 8 January 1964 p 69
- Stuart Mitchner. Karl Malden and Marlon Brando in One-Eyed Jacks: “We Had the Very Best of Each Other”. Retrieved November 6, 2011.
- Mark Frankel. One-Eyed Jacks (TCM Film Article)
- Movie Review: One-Eyed Jacks (1961).
- One-Eyed Jacks.
- One-Eyed Jacks.