Day of the Outlaw

Day of the Outlaw is a 1959 Western film starring Robert Ryan, Burl Ives, and Tina Louise. It was directed by Andre DeToth; this was DeToth's final Western feature film.[1]

Day of the Outlaw
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAndre DeToth
Produced byPhilip Yordan
Sidney Harmon
Written byPhilip Yordan
Based onDay of the Outlaw
by Lee Wells
StarringRobert Ryan
Burl Ives
Tina Louise
Alan Marshal
Music byAlexander Courage
CinematographyRussell Harlan
Edited byRobert Lawrence
Security Pictures
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • July 1959 (1959-07)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States


Blaise Starrett (Robert Ryan) is a ruthless cattleman who helped found the small, bleak community of Bitters, Wyoming. He is at odds with homesteaders who, having established new farms in the area, have taken to putting up barbed wire to keep their livestock from wandering. Starrett is particularly aggrieved with Hal Crane (Alan Marshal), who not only inspired this use of barbed wire, but who also is married to Helen (Tina Louise), the woman Starrett loves.

In spite of the fact that Helen has told him she can never love him if he carries out his threat to murder her husband, Starrett sets his mind on doing just that. The stage is set for a final, bloody showdown when into town rides Jack Bruhn (Burl Ives), and his band of rogue cavalry men.

This gang holds the town hostage while Bruhn, who was wounded in a recent bank robbery, receives some treatment. Realizing that they would have no qualms about wiping Bitters out, Starrett tries to save his town and perhaps, in the process, redeem himself. He takes the gang out into the desolate landscape to help them escape, or so they believe, across the snow-covered mountains.



The film was based on a 1955 novel of the same title by Lee Edwin Wells (1907-1982), that also ran in several newspapers as a serialized story in the fall of 1955 and others in the late summer 1956.[2]

Producer Buddy Adler originally purchased the film rights as a vehicle for Robert Wagner.[3]

Philip Yordan read the novel and insisted on writing a script based on the book.[4] Filmed in central Oregon at Dutchman Flat and Todd Lake Meadows near the town of Bend in late November and early December 1958, with Leon Chooluck the unit director doing many of the long exterior shots.[5]

Yordan called the script "one of the best I've ever written," but said the problem with the film was that the budget, at $400,000, was not big enough. Yordan told author Franklin Jarlett, in his biographical book about Robert Ryan, that DeToth was having personal problems at the time of filming and it was apparent on the set. Other problems included Ryan's being out for a week with pneumonia; snowstorms causing delays in filming; DeToth's changing his mind about where some scenes were to be shot (from interior to remote exteriors); and finally running out of money, packing up, and going back to Hollywood. Yordan lamented what "could have been."[6]


Roger Horrocks, in his book Male Myths and Icons, says that the film is a 'gold nugget' and on par with Budd Boetticher.[7]


  1. Day of the Outlaw at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. (NOTE: a selection of excerpts available at various newspapers over a year time period (1955-1956) at Google News).
  3. Parsons, Louella (March 13, 1957). "Special Story Bought for Robert Wagner". The Milwaukee Sentinel. International News Service - INS. p. 13 (Part 1).
  4. Pryor, Thomas M. (November 16, 1958), "HOLLYWOOD SCENE: Offbeat 'Outlaw'", The New York Times, p. X7
  5. "Diner-Dance Bid Given Movie People", The Bulletin, p. 6, November 21, 1958
    Grant, Ila S. (November 24, 1958), "World's Most Beautiful Red Head Here For Film", The Bulletin, p. 8
    "Over The Pass (image)", The Bulletin, p. 8, November 24, 1958
    "Movie Backdrops", The Bulletin, p. 4, December 6, 1958
    Arnold, Jeremy, "Home Video Reviews: 'Day of the Outlaw'", Turner Classic Movies, Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc.
  6. Jarlett, Franklin (1997), Robert Ryan: A Biography and Critical Filmography, McFarland, p. 103, ISBN 978-0-7864-0476-6
  7. Horrocks, Roger (1995), Male Myths and Icons: Masculinity in Popular Culture, Palgrave Macmillan, p. 59, ISBN 978-0-312-12623-0
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