Fate Is the Hunter (film)

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Fate Is the Hunter
Fate Is the Hunter FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Ralph Nelson
Produced by Aaron Rosenberg
Written by Harold Medford (screenplay)
Based on Fate Is the Hunter (novel) 
by Ernest K. Gann
Starring Glenn Ford
Nancy Kwan
Rod Taylor
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Milton R. Krasner
Edited by Robert L. Simpson
Arcola Pictures Corp.
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • November 8, 1964 (1964-11-08)
Running time
106 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,525,000[1]
Box office $2.2million[2]

Fate Is the Hunter is a 1964 film about the crash of an airliner and the subsequent investigation: it was directed by Ralph Nelson and released by 20th Century Fox.

The film stars Glenn Ford, Nancy Kwan, Rod Taylor, and Suzanne Pleshette. It also features Jane Russell (playing herself entertaining for the USO in a flashback sequence), Nehemiah Persoff, Wally Cox, and Mark Stevens; it also includes an uncredited appearance by Dorothy Malone. It also features an early film score by prolific composer Jerry Goldsmith.[3]


Pilot Jack Savage (Rod Taylor) is suspected of drinking and causing an airliner crash that kills 53 people and leaves only a single survivor, Martha Webster (Susanne Pleshette), a flight attendant. The captain's wartime buddy, airline executive Sam C. McBane (Glenn Ford), is convinced of his friend's innocence and investigates doggedly. Flashbacks deal with both Jack's past and Sam meeting him, plus others they used to know.

Eventually, a test flight recreates the events of the ill-fated flight. They find that the crash was caused by a fateful malfunction of the aircraft's warning systems.


The airliner mock-up used in the film was an amalgam of two airframes.


Fate Is the Hunter was nominally based on the bestselling 1961 memoir of the same name by Ernest K. Gann, but the author was so disappointed with the result, as it bore no relation to the book which was about Gann's own early flying career, that he asked to have his name removed from the credits. In his autobiography, A Hostage to Fortune, Gann wrote, "They obliged and, as a result, I deprived myself of the TV residuals, a medium in which the film played interminably." (Some prints of the film were released with Gann's name still in the opening credits immediately before that of Harold Medford, author of the screenplay.)[4]

The "Consolidated Airways" jet aircraft used in the film was one of two fabricated from DC-7(B) donors, the second was used to create the crash scene (on the beach). The wings were reportedly removed and reversed, a Boeing 707 nose cone along with "supersonic spike" were also added in order to achieve the appearance of a modern jet airliner. Modifications to the rear section of the aircraft included the addition of two nacelles to accommodate the simulated jet engines. A rear-mounted Boeing 707 spike-styled HF antenna isolator, and antenna were also added to the tail section.[5]

An area of the Twentieth Century Fox back lot was converted into the tarmac, taxiway, and runway seen in the film. Because of the fear of litigation, it was reported that no airframe manufacturer or airline was willing to cooperate in the production of the film, making these steps necessary. The "Fate" aircraft was later used in the filming of an episode of the ABC television series "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" (1964-1968), and remained parked for several years on an overpass used for movie prop storage by the adjacent 20th Century Fox Studios.[5]


Releasing a film about aircraft accidents, especially done in the melodramatic manner that the film employed, led to a curious reception from both critics and public. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times, simply called it, "a stupid, annoying film."[6]

Awards and honors[edit]

Fate Is the Hunter was nominated for a 1964 Academy Award in Best Cinematography (Black-and-white).[7]

Cultural references[edit]

An excerpt from the film was used in the 1980 comedy film, Airplane!. The film is also mentioned several times in the 1995 JAG episode "Pilot Error"; it provides the protagonist with a clue in solving a fighter jet crash.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Solomon 1989, p. 254.
  2. ^ Vagg 2010, p. 102.
  3. ^ Clemmensen, Christian. "Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004) tribute." Filmtracks.com. Retrieved: April 14, 2011.
  4. ^ Gann 1978, p. 457.
  5. ^ a b Santoir, Christian. "Fate is the Hunter." Aeromovies. Retrieved: July 3, 2015.
  6. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "Movie Review: Fate Is the Hunter (1964), Screen: 'Fate Is the Hunter' Opens: Film of Plane Crash at Local Theaters Glenn Ford Is Starred With Nancy Kwan." The New York Times, December 10, 1964.
  7. ^ "Notes: Fate Is the Hunter." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: September 25, 2012.


  • Gann, Ernest Kellogg. A Hostage to Fortune. New York: Knoff, 1978. ISBN 978-0-3944-9984-0.
  • 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.
  • Vagg, Stephen. Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood. Duncan, Oklahoma: BearManor Media, 2010. ISBN 1-59393-511-0.

External links[edit]