The Iron Mistress

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The Iron Mistress
The Iron Mistress.jpg
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Produced by Henry Blanke
Written by James R. Webb
Based on The Iron Mistress
1951 novel
by Paul Iselin Wellman
Starring Alan Ladd
Virginia Mayo
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography John F. Seitz
Edited by Alan Crosland Jr.
Release date
19 November 1952
Running time
110 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $2.9 million (US rentals)[1]

The Iron Mistress is a 1952 film drama directed by Gordon Douglas and starring Alan Ladd as Jim Bowie. It ends with Bowie's marriage to Ursula de Veramendi and does not deal with his death at the Battle of the Alamo.[2]

It was the first film Ladd made at Warner Bros. after spending a decade at Paramount Pictures.


In the early 19th century, Jim Bowie leaves his home in the bayou to sell lumber in New Orleans. He inadvertently offends Narcisse de Bornay by defending the artist James Audubon and is challenged to a duel, but charms his way out of it, and Narcisse becomes his friend.

Narcisse notices that his sister Judalon has caught Jim's eye and is concerned, knowing how haughty and spoiled she is. Henri Contrecourt, a man who has been courting her, kills Narcisse and challenges Jim to a fight, his sword versus Bowie's knife. To the surprise of everyone watching, Jim kills him. Later on, a blacksmith creates a special new knife for Bowie, partly made from the remains of a meteor.

Judalon rejects his proposal to marry wealthy Philippe de Cabanal instead. A disappointed Jim returns home and gets into the cotton business, upsetting Juan Moreno, a wealthy Mississippi cotton grower. He soon encounters Judalon, who says she wants to divorce Philippe and hints she would then marry Jim, if only he could help them erase a huge gambling debt Philippe has incurred to dangerous Bloody Jack Sturdevant.

Jim learns he has been betrayed by her again, that Judalon actually intends to wed Moreno for his money. In a fight, he kills Moreno, upsetting her. Jim is wounded and nursed to health by Ursula Veramendi, daughter of the Texas territorial governor. And when both Philippe and Sturdevant come to kill him, they accidentally end up murdering each other. Realizing once and for all that Judalon only wants money, not love, Jim begins a new life with Ursula.


Original novel[edit]

Paul Wellman's novel was published in 1951. The Los Angeles Times called it "a rattling good story".[3] The New York Times called it "an excellent quasi fictional biography from that skein of tangled legend and fact."[4]

The book became a best seller.[5] Warner Bros bought the film rights and Errol Flynn was mentioned as a possible star.[6] However Alan Ladd had also signed a contract with Warners; he read a copy of the novel and wanted to do it.[7]


Henry Blanke was the producer and James Webb was assigned to do the screenplay.

During filming a fire swept through the Warner Bros lot but the unit for Iron Mistress was on location at the time.[8] Alan Ladd injured his knee during the shoot[9] and broke his hand on the last day of filming.[10]


  1. ^ 'Top Box-Office Hits of 1952', Variety, January 7, 1953.
  2. ^ Bosley Crowther, "The Iron Mistress", New York Times, November 20, 1952 accessed July 6, 2012.
  3. ^ Books: Adventures, Loves of Alamo Hero Told James Bowie's Life Traced From New Orleans to San Antonio Tragedy Jordan-Smith, Paul. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 22 July 1951: D5.
  4. ^ The Man With a Knife By HOFFMAN BIRNEY. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 29 July 1951: 156.
  5. ^ The Nation's Best Sellers The Washington Post (1923-1954) [Washington, D.C] 07 Oct 1951: B7.
  6. ^ WARNERS TO FILM LIFE OF COL. BOWIE: Studio Purchases Wellman's 'The Iron Mistress,' Novel About Hero of Alamo By THOMAS M. PRYOR Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 11 Oct 1951: 59
  7. ^ Looking at Hollywood: Alan Ladd Expected to Star in 'The Iron Mistress' Film Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 21 Dec 1951: a4.
  8. ^ WARNER BROS. STUDIO SWEPT BY $1,500,000; FIRE: Stars Help to Fight Big Studio Blaze Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 17 May 1952: 1.
  9. ^ Alan Ladd's Knee Injured in Film Fight Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 26 Apr 1952: 18.
  10. ^ Alan Ladd Breaks Hand Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 29 May 1952: 4.

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