Flaming Star

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Flaming Star
Film poster
Directed byDon Siegel
Produced byDavid Weisbart
Written byClair Huffaker (novel)
Clair Huffaker
Nunnally Johnson
StarringElvis Presley
Barbara Eden
Dolores del Río
Music byCyril J. Mockridge
CinematographyCharles G. Clarke
Edited byHugh S. Fowler
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • December 16, 1960 (1960-12-16) (New York)[1]
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.7 million[2]
Box office$2 million (US/ Canada)[3]

Flaming Star is a 1960 American Western film starring Elvis Presley and Barbara Eden, based on the book Flaming Lance (1958) by Clair Huffaker. Critics agreed that Presley gave one of his best acting performances as the mixed-blood "Pacer Burton", a dramatic role. The film was directed by Don Siegel and had a working title of Black Star. The movie reached No. 12 on the box office charts.

It was filmed in Utah, Los Angeles and in Wildwood Regional Park in Thousand Oaks, California.[4] A road near Wildwood in Thousand Oaks has been named Flaming Star Avenue after the movie.[5]


Elvis Presley plays Pacer Burton, the son of a Kiowa mother and a Texan father working as a rancher. His family, including a half-brother, Clint, live a typical life on the Texan frontier. Life becomes anything but typical when a nearby tribe of Kiowa begin raiding neighboring homesteads. Pacer soon finds himself caught between the two worlds, part of both but belonging to neither.

Primary cast[edit]



The film rights for Flaming Star had been circulating around Hollywood since 1958 when 20th Century Fox finally decided to cast Presley in the lead role.[6] Originally Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando were lined up to play the brothers.[6]

Nunnally Johnson, who wrote the first draft, later recalled the studio "said they couldn't make it because it would cost too much for a western and a western couldn't get in as much as it would cost, something like that."[7]

The executive producer was Buddy Adler, but he died a week before the start of filming, his duties taken by David Weisbart.

With Presley on board, the film started production under the name 'Black Star'. A song was recorded by Elvis to be used as the theme song, but was later rerecorded as "Flaming Star" using the same words and melody.[8]

Presley's previous film, G.I. Blues, had been a success at the box office and had led to one of his best selling albums to that point.[9] However, determined to be taken seriously as an actor, Presley asked for roles with fewer songs.[6] Flaming Star was initially to include four songs, but after Presley demanded two be removed, it ended up with only the title song and a short number at the opening birthday party scene.[6]

Johnson was contacted when abroad by Clair Huffaker who had written the original novel. He said Elvis Presley was going to star wanting know if Johnson objected to Huffaker having credit on the script. "I'd always objected to that, but I couldn't say no to the guy," said Johnson. "He didn't do anything, as he admitted. I was wondering what in God's name they would do with Elvis Presley In this. All they did was put in a kind of a hoedown dance and Presley sang a song at the opening and then they went right on into the picture."[10]

Barbara Steele, originally signed to play the love interest, was replaced during filming by Barbara Eden after studio executives decided that Steele's British accent was too pronounced.[6] (Steele claims she quit.[11])


Parts of the film were shot in Delle, Lonerock, and Skull Valley in Utah. Filming also took place at Conejo Ranch in Thousand Oaks, California.[12]



Box Office[edit]

The film was released only one month after G.I. Blues but did not achieve the same degree of box office success, reaching number 12 on the Variety box office survey for the year.[6]

Publicity stills of Presley from the film were used by Andy Warhol to create several silkscreens, among them Double Elvis.


The film received generally positive reviews, with a few critics lauding Presley's performance and noting his improvement as an actor. A. H. Weiler of The New York Times praised the film as "an unpretentious but sturdy Western that takes the time, the place and the people seriously."[13] Variety called the plot "disturbingly familiar and not altogether convincing, but the film, attractively mounted and consistently diverting, will entertain and absorb the audience it is tailored for."[14]

Harrison's Reports graded it "Very good," calling Presley "believable" and John McIntire "a powerful figure."[15] Charles Stinson of the Los Angeles Times appraised the film as "standard for its type — the half-breed tragedy — but done well enough to head a program double bill." Stinson wrote of Presley that "he seems to be improving noticeably with every film. He has, of course, rather a distance yet to go to dramatic power and polish. But 'Flaming Star' and 'G.I. Blues' are a long way up from 'Jailhouse Rock.'"[16] Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post criticized the film for "flat, one-syllable dialogue" and "ruthless predictability," though he found some of the outdoor shots "handsome."[17] The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote that although the film "never really gets beyond the comic strip weepie stage," director Siegel "has managed to communicate considerable excitement through flashes of imaginative cutting and handsome composition, notably in the first Indian attack, and in some realistically staged fight, chase and battle passages ... But Siegel's main achievement is his direction of Elvis Presley, still basically not an actor, but no longer a joke as a screen personality. Given the full, virile build-up, he plays the half-breed with a brooding presence that is surprisingly effective."[18]

Johnson eventually saw the film and said he "liked it very much." He thought Siegel "did a first-rate job and also Presley did."[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Flaming Star - Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  2. ^ 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. p. 252
  3. ^ Solomon, p. 228. Please note figures are rentals accruing to distributors.
  4. ^ Schad, Jerry (2009). Los Angeles County: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide. Wilderness Press. Pages 35-36. ISBN 9780899976396.
  5. ^ Bidwell, Carol A. (1989). The Conejo Valley: Old and New Frontiers. Windsor Publications. Page 82. ISBN 9780897812993.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Victor, Adam, The Elvis Encyclopaedia, p.167
  7. ^ Johnson p 128
  8. ^ https://www.elvis.com.au/presley/black-star-david-bowies-connection-to-elvis-presley.shtml
  9. ^ Victor, Adam, The Elvis Encyclopaedia, p.190
  10. ^ Johnson p 128-129
  11. ^ "Reluctant Scream Queen: A Conversation with Barbara Steele - Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict". popcultureaddict.com.
  12. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.
  13. ^ Weiler, A. H. (December 17, 1960). "'Flaming Star' Opens". The New York Times: 19.
  14. ^ "Flaming Star". Variety: 6. December 21, 1960.
  15. ^ "'Flaming Star' with Elvis Presley, Barbara Eden, Steve Forrest, Dolores Del Rio, John McIntire". Harrison's Reports: 207. December 24, 1960.
  16. ^ Stinson, Charles (December 23, 1960). "Elvis Presley Caught in Warfare of Races". Los Angeles Times: Section II, p. 7.
  17. ^ Coe, Richard L. (January 6, 1961). "Everyone's Old Texas". The Washington Post: A20.
  18. ^ "Flaming Star". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 28 (326): 31. March 1961.
  19. ^ Johnson p 129


External links[edit]

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