A Gunfight

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A Gunfight
A Gunfight t.jpg
Directed byLamont Johnson
Produced byHarold Jack Bloom
A. Ronald Lubin
Written byHarold Jack Bloom
StarringKirk Douglas
Johnny Cash
Jane Alexander
Music byLaurence Rosenthal
CinematographyDavid M. Walsh
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • August 25, 1971 (1971-08-25)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million[1][2]

A Gunfight is a Western movie from 1971 directed by Lamont Johnson, starring Kirk Douglas and Johnny Cash.

The film was financed by the Jicarilla Apache Tribe, although there are no leading Native American characters in the story.

Douglas' fee was $150,000 plus a percentage of the profits.[1]


Will Tenneray and Abe Cross are two aging, famous gunfighters, both in need of money. Cross rides into town, having failed as a gold prospector. His reputation is such that everyone expects him to shoot it out with Tenneray, who capitalizes on his legend by working at the saloon to "sucker fools into buying drinks." To the town's surprise, Tenneray and Cross take a liking to one another. There is no hostility between them whatsoever.

Tenneray is desperate for money, however. He comes up with the idea to stage a duel to the death in a bullfight arena, with the ticket proceeds going to the winner. Unfortunately, by killing Cross, he reasons to Nora, his wife, "I could lose my best friend." The actual gunfight is shot in a low-key and unromanticised fashion, and is over in a couple of seconds, Cross killing Tenneray with the first bullet. (This defies conventions with the "man in black" winning.)

There is an extended fantasy sequence near the end, where we see what might have happened if Tenneray had won, which may have confused some viewers. It may be open to interpretation if this is Cross's fantasy or Tenneray's widow's fantasy.



The film was based on an original script by Harold Bloom who sent it to Kirk Douglas who loved it and decided to star and co-produce. Douglas persuaded Johnny Cash to co star. Finance came in part from the oil-rich Jicarilla tribe, whose head, Chief Charlie, was an admirer of Johnny Cash. Filming took place in New Mexico.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kirk Douglas: Hollywood's Moverick-Agent-Star Haber, Joyce. Los Angeles Times 14 Feb 1971: r11.
  2. ^ a b {{Cite title=Gambling Bucks: As Big Studios Fade, Chief Charlie, Apache, Bankrolls a Western The Making of 'A Gunfight' Shows How New Practices Undermine Old Hollywood Johnny Cash & a Naked Lady Gambling Bucks: As Studios Fade, Chief Charlie Bankrolls a Western|first=Earl C.|last=Gottschalk Jr|newspaper= Wall Street Journal|date= 18 June 1971|page= 1}}

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