Broken Lance

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Broken Lance
Broken Lance film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byEdward Dmytryk
Produced bySol C. Siegel
Screenplay byRichard Murphy
Story byPhillip Yordan
Based onI'll Never Go There Any More
(1941 novel)
by Jerome Weidman
StarringSpencer Tracy
Robert Wagner
Jean Peters
Richard Widmark
Katy Jurado
Music byLeigh Harline
CinematographyJoseph MacDonald
Edited byDorothy Spencer
Color processTechnicolor
20th Century Fox
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • July 29, 1954 (1954-07-29) (New York City)
  • September 25, 1954 (1954-09-25) (United States)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3.8 million (US rentals)[2][3]

Broken Lance is a 1954 American Western film directed by Edward Dmytryk and produced by Sol C. Siegel. The film stars Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner, Jean Peters, Richard Widmark, and Katy Jurado.

Shot in DeLuxe Color and CinemaScope, the film is a remake of House of Strangers (1949) with the Phillip Yordan screenplay (based upon the novel I'll Never Go There Any More by Jerome Weidman), transplanted out west, featuring Tracy in the original Edward G. Robinson role, this time as a cowboy cattle baron rather than a Lower East Side Italian immigrant banker in New York City. It has also been widely noted that the storyline bears a strong resemblance to King Lear.


Matthew Devereaux (Spencer Tracy) is a ranch owner who has built an enormous ranch and mining empire. He raised his sons to carry on his fierce, hard-working Irish settlement spirit that helped make him a success. However, as a consequence, he's never shown his three older sons by his late first wife, Ben, Mike, and Denny (played respectively by Richard Widmark, Hugh O'Brian, and Earl Holliman), his affection as a father. He treats these grown men (in their 30s to their 40s) little better than hired help.

Even though they are managing the day-to-day operations of the ranch and other enterprises full time, Matt Devereaux still retains complete authority, right down to the smallest decisions, which angers his eldest son. So, the three elder sons are united against him, for reasons that have nothing to do with either the ranch or its management.

Joe (Robert Wagner) is Matt's son by his second wife, a Native American pretending to be Mexican, "Señora" (Katy Jurado). Because of Joe's mixed ethnicity, he is treated prejudicially by his three half-brothers—all Caucasian sons of Matt's first wife. The town's people call her Señora out of respect for Matt, but not out of respect for her. Matt's power and prestige keeps the discrimination by the townspeople towards Joe to a minimum, so long as Joe, an emerging young adult, is principally interested in riding the range alone, and spending time at his mother's native American reservation and with her people.

Joe loves his father and would do anything for him. Because of his wife's insistence that he change his attitude towards their son, Matt comes to appreciate his youngest son. This allows Matt to converse with the son, who shows no interest in owning and running the ranch empire. The older brothers interpret Matt's relationship with Joe as a rejection by their father, and his attempt to pretend that he has only one son and not four. Resentment ensues.

The two middle sons rustle cattle and get two Mexicans killed when they are caught by Matt, Ben and two Indian workers. An outraged Matt banishes his sons, though he reluctantly takes them back into the family when a crisis arises.[clarification needed]

After 40 head of cattle die, Matt determines that a copper mine is polluting a stream where he waters his cattle. He becomes furious and leads a raid on the mine offices and director. The mine is on Matt's land, and he has leased out the mineral rights. The court issues a warrant to arrest whoever was responsible for the attack. To spare his father the agony and humiliation of a stay behind bars, Joe claims responsibility and is sentenced to three years in prison.

Ben and his other brothers rebel against their father in Joe's absence with such fierceness that the old man suffers a fatal stroke. Joe is permitted to leave prison long enough to attend his father's funeral, during which he formally severs his ties with his brothers and proclaims a blood feud.[4]

Released from prison several years later, Joe returns to the ranch. The señora, his mother, persuades him to forget revenge and leave the country. Joe decides to take her advice, but Ben, fearing Joe's revenge because Ben had indirectly caused their father's death, crosses Joe's path and tries to kill him. The two half-brothers fight until Two Moons, the ranch foreman, shoots Ben dead to save Joe´s life. Time passes, and Joe and his new wife Barbara (Jean Peters) visit Matt's grave. There, Joe sees the down-turned lance, the Indian symbol for a blood feud, and breaks it in half, thus ending the feud.[4]



The film won the Oscar for Best Story for Philip Yordan. Katy Jurado was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Jurado's role was originally for Dolores del Río. The film also won a Golden Globe Award as Best Film Promoting International Understanding. New York Times reviewer A. H. Weiler wrote, “Although the saga of the self-made, autocratic cattle baron… is familiar film fare, Broken Lance… makes a refreshingly serious and fairly successful attempt to understand these towering men... [T]he rugged, vast and beautiful terrain of the Southwest is impressive and pleasing in the colors and CinemaScope in which it was filmed.”[5]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD on May 24, 2005. Viewers have the option of watching either a "pan and scan" full screen version or the original wide screen version. Both versions have stereophonic sound and have been digitally restored.[6] The film has since been released on Blu-ray by Twilight Time in the correct CinemaScope aspect ratio of 2.55:1.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Solomon, p249
  2. ^ Solomon, p225
  3. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1954', Variety Weekly, January 5, 1955
  4. ^ a b Broken Lance at the TCM Movie Database
  5. ^ Weiler, A. H. (July 30, 1954). "The Screen in Review". The New York Times. p. 9. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  6. ^
  • Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1.

External links[edit]