The Guns of Fort Petticoat
|The Guns of Fort Petticoat|
Original film poster
|Directed by||George Marshall|
|Produced by||Harry Joe Brown
|Written by||Walter Doniger
C. William Harrison (short story)
|Music by||Mischa Bakaleinikoff|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Release date(s)||April 1957|
|Running time||82 minutes|
|Box office||$1,080,000 (US rentals)|
The Guns of Fort Petticoat is a 1957 Western produced by Harry Joe Brown and Audie Murphy for Columbia Pictures. It was based on the 1955 short story "Petticoat Brigade" by Chester William Harrison (1913-1994) that he expanded into a novelization for the film's release. It was directed by George Marshall and filmed at the Iverson Movie Ranch and at Old Tucson. The working title of the film was Petticoat Brigade; screenwriter and television director Walter Doniger was originally set to have directed the film. The fictional story tells the tale of an Army deserter training a disparate group of women to be Indian Fighters climaxing in a Battle of the Alamo type action.
In 1864 during the American Civil War, Texan Lt. Frank Hewitt (Murphy) is serving with the U.S. Cavalry under Colonel John Chivington. On patrol, Hewitt meets a group of Indians who are unarmed and returning to the Sand Creek reservation which they were not supposed to leave. While briefing Col. Chivington, the Colonel orders the Sand Creek Massacre. Hewitt not only disagrees with the punishment of the Indians, but realizes they will use the attack as an excuse to unite and spread terror throughout the Southwest, including his own hometown in Texas which has been emptied of the majority of its menfolk who are fighting for the Confederacy. Colonel Chivington sees Indian attacks on Texas as a bonus to create havoc in the Confederacy. Violently objecting, Hewitt is placed under arrest and confined to quarters.
Hewitt (Murphy) deserts to warn the Texans but is hated and ignored as a traitor by his now confederate and former neighbours who despise him for serving with the Union. No one believes him until he brings home the dead body of a woman murdered by Comanches who have joined the uprising. Hewitt organizes a petticoat brigade of women training them in marksmanship and combat tactics. Armed and given military ranks, Hewitt and the ladies seize the day and hold onto the only safety they have in an abandoned mission (The Guns of Fort Petticoat). Hewitt, the "blue belly traitor", and the confederate petticoat brigade face desertion from the only remaining man and fight off scavengers and Comanches as they struggle to build trust and work together during the onslaught of blood thirsty killers. As the final gun fight is over Hewitt and his greatest female critic fall in star-crossed-love left over from childhood memories. But Hewitt cannot reciprocate because as an honorable soldier he must return to his post at Sand Creek and face charges for desertion. Col. Chivington's Commanding General happened to enter the trial room in the final hour as the Hewitt is being renounced as a deserter and a liar about a most fantastic story of helping to rescue the women in Texas and training them to fight off Commanches. As the guilty sentence and execution is about to be pronounced the female confederates return the favor marching armed into the trial to stop the proceeding. The Commanding General in amorous good will orders a surrender to the armed ladies who have saved the day proving Hewitt's trustworthiness. Hewitt's testimony snares Col. Chivington (who is relieved of command and ordered held for trial) and his hopes in his newfound confederate love are restored.
- Audie Murphy as Lt. Frank Hewitt
- Kathryn Grant as Anne Martin
- Hope Emerson as Hannah Lacey
- Jeff Donnell as Mary Wheller
- Jeanette Nolan as Cora Melavan
- Sean McClory as Emmett Kettle
- Ernestine Wade as Hetty
- Peggy Maley as Lucy Conover
- Isobel Elsom as Mrs. Charlotte Ogden
- Patricia Tiernan as Stella Leatham
- Kim Charney as Bax Leatham
- Ray Teal as Salt Pork
- Nestor Paiva as Tortilla
- James Griffith as Kipper
- John Dierkes as Storekeeper
- Ainslie Pryor as Colonel Chivington
Murphy produced the movie through Brown-Murphy Pictures, which he had set up with producer Harry Joe Brown. On November 9, 1955, Murphy signed a contract with Brown-Murphy Pictures to appear in two films, of which this was the first. Brown wanted Murphy to make another movie; Murphy, who had the right to select stories, submitted proposals to appear in adaptations of Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen and The Idiot by Dostoevski. Brown accused Murphy of trying to get out of his contract and sued him for $1 million.
The Guns of Fort Petticoat is shot in Technicolor.
It doesn't matter where a man was born. He fights for what he thinks is right. - Lt. Hewitt
- "Top Grosses of 1957", Variety, 8 January 1958: 30
- "Audie Murphy Sued for $1,000,000 by Producer", Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 18 Sep 1957: B1.
- The Guns of Fort Petticoat at the Internet Movie Database
- The Guns of Fort Petticoat at Audie Murphy Memorial Site