The Last Sunset (film)

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The Last Sunset
The Last Sunset - Film Poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed byRobert Aldrich
Produced byEugene Frenke, Edward Lewis
Written byHoward Rigsby (novel Sundown at Crazy Horse), Dalton Trumbo
StarringRock Hudson
Kirk Douglas
Dorothy Malone
Joseph Cotten
Carol Lynley
Music byErnest Gold, Tomás Méndez (song "Cu Cu Ru Cu Paloma")
CinematographyErnest Laszlo
Edited byMichael Luciano
Brynaprod S.A.
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • June 7, 1961 (1961-06-07) (United States)
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million[1][2] or $3.5 million[3]
Box office1,655,692 admissions (France)[4]

The Last Sunset is a 1961 American Western film directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Rock Hudson, Kirk Douglas, and Dorothy Malone.

The film was released by Universal Studios and shot in Eastman color in Mexico. The screenplay by Dalton Trumbo was adapted from Howard Rigsby's 1957 novel Sundown at Crazy Horse.

The supporting cast features Joseph Cotten, Carol Lynley, Neville Brand and Jack Elam.

Plot summary[edit]

Brendan O'Malley (Douglas) crosses the border into Mexico to escape justice for a murder. He arrives at the ranch of a former lover, Belle Breckenridge (Malone) and her husband, the well-mannered Virginian drunkard and coward John Breckenridge (Joseph Cotten). Brendan is determined to win back Belle.

O'Malley meets her daughter Melissa (Carol Lynley). He is immediately attracted to Missy, who reminds him of Belle when they were lovers years ago. Breckenridge, meanwhile, hires O'Malley to drive his herd to Texas. Bren accepts under condition he is paid bu one fifth of the herd, but also tells Breckenridge he will take his wife once the cattle drive is finished. Breckenridge doesn’t take him seriously.

Sheriff Dana Stribling (Hudson) is pursuing O'Malley. He arrives at the ranch to serve a warrant for the murder.

Stribling does not have jurisdiction to arrest O'Malley in Mexico so he also agrees to join the cattle drive to Texas. He promises to deliver O'Malley to the law upon their arrival. After a several bust-ups between the two, O’Malley finds out that the man he murdered was Stribling’s brother-in-law and that his sister hanged herself after the kill.

During the cattle drive Breckenridge separates and goes to a bar where he gets drunk. Two former Confederates confront Breckenridge and accuse him of cowardice during a battle in the Civil War. Although Stribling and O'Malley team up to try and save Breckenridge's life, Breckinridge is shot in the back and killed trying to leave the bar. Stribling and O'Malley respond by shooting the man who shot Breckinridge, and then bury Breckinridge back at the cattle drive camp.

Along the journey, Stribling and Belle become attracted to each other and plan to marry. O'Malley is crushed when he sees them and eventually falls in love with Missy, who convinces him she’s not too young for him.

The group manages to get safely to Texas where Belle begs Stribling not to confront O’Malley. He has mixed feelings but doesn’t want to back down. On the eve of the showdown between the two men, Belle discloses the secret that Missy is the daughter of O'Malley and their incestuous love cannot continue. He is stunned but refuses to believe her. He spends the day with Missy and promises to leave with her. At the gunfight, O'Malley faces the sheriff with an unloaded gun, effectively committing suicide.



In 1959 Kirk Douglas announced he had bought the rights to Day of the Gun by Richard Telfair (the pen name for Richard Jessup).[5]

In December 1959 it was announced Douglas and Rock Hudson would star in Day of the Gun from the novel by Howard Vechel, filming to begin in Mexico in March. It was the ninth film from Bryna, Douglas' production company.[6]

Douglas wanted Sandra Dee to play a key support role.[7] Then Tuesday Weld was cast but was unable to do it due to delays on High Time so Carol Lynley played the role.[8]

Douglas hired Robert Aldrich to direct. Aldrich later said he was "dead broke" at the time, after having made "two bad pictures" in Europe and spent months on an unsuccessful attempt to make a film of Taras Bulba. Aldrich says the film was a "very unpleasant experience". He says Dalton Trumbo had written a script but left the project to go and work on Exodus for Otto Preminger. He did return to Last Sunset but Aldrich says "it was too late to save it" by then. Aldrich says "Kirk was impossible. He knew the screenplay wasn't right. The whole thing started badly, went on badly, ended badly. Rock Hudson of all people emerged from it more creditably than anyone. Most people don't consider him a very accomplished actor but I found him terribly hardworking and dedicated and very serious... if everybody on that picture, from producer to writer to other actors, had approached it with the same dedication it would have been a lot better."[9]

During filming the movie was known as The Day of the Gun, Journey Into Sunset and The Hot Eye of Heaven.[10]

In May 1960 it was announced that Dalton Trumbo was on set working on the script. Trumbo had previously written Spartacus for Douglas' company and Universal. At this stage Universal had not decided if Trumbo would get screen credit for his work on Spartacus. However United Artists had said they would give Trumbo credit for his work on Exodus.[11]

"That was a toughie," said Aldrich. "I found it extremely difficult personally to do the film. But in this business you have to stay alive. You have to take subjects like this to make money to eat, to buy more properties and float another project."[12]

Aldrich admitted part of his problem with Douglas was Douglas discovered Aldrich had three writers, including Lukas Heller, staying with the him during filming to work on other projects. This upset Douglas, who felt Aldrich should be concentrating on The Last Sunset. "He went beserk," said Aldrich. "He just went crazy." Aldrich sent his writers away to Mexico City.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Big Spender Reticent on Statistics By James Bacon. The Washington Post, Times Herald 11 Sep 1960: G3.
  2. ^ Alain Silver and James Ursini, Whatever Happened to Robert Aldrich?, Limelight, 1995 p 255
  3. ^ Scheuer, P. K. (1961, Jul 25). How low-budget is low budget today? Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  4. ^ French box office results for Robert Aldrich films at Box Office Story
  5. ^ STAGE IS A SMASH IN MOVIE CAPITAL: Hollywood Area Has Off-Broadway Flavor With 10 Theatres in Operation By MURRAY SCHUMACHS New York Times ]30 Apr 1959: 36.
  6. ^ Of Local Origin New York Times 24 Dec 1959: 14.
  7. ^ SANDRA DEE: An Old Pro in Teen-agers' Ranks Teen-age Sandra Dee a Hollywood Old-Timer Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 17 Apr 1960: E2.
  8. ^ Looking at Hollywood: Top TV Brass Gives Skelton an Ovation Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 04 May 1960: b1.
  9. ^ Higham, Charles; Greenberg, Joel (1971). The celluloid muse; Hollywood directors speak. Regnery. pp. 36–37.
  10. ^ Katharine Hepburn Signs for Star Role: Aldrich Slates 'Now We Know'; Welles Wins Pact for 'Tartars' Scott, John L. Los Angeles Times 2 June 1960: A13.
  11. ^ TRUMBO IS AUTHOR OF NEW U.-I. MOVIE: ' Hot Eye in Heaven,' Third Known Film by Blacklisted Writer, in Production By MURRAY SCHUMACHS New York Times 31 May 1960: 27.
  12. ^ Arnold, Edwin T; Miller, Eugene L (2004). Robert Aldrich : interviews. University Press of Mississippi. p. 17.
  13. ^ Higham p 38

External links[edit]