Escape from Fort Bravo

Escape from Fort Bravo is a 1953 Anscocolor western film set during the American Civil War. It stars William Holden, Eleanor Parker, and John Forsythe.

Escape from Fort Bravo
1953 Theatrical Poster
Directed byJohn Sturges
Produced byNicholas Nayfack
Written byMichael Pate
Phillip Rock
Frank Fenton
StarringWilliam Holden
Eleanor Parker
John Forsythe
Music byJeff Alexander
CinematographyRobert L. Surtees
Edited byGeorge Boemler
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • December 4, 1953 (1953-12-04)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,158,000[1]


Fort Bravo is a Union prison camp with a strict disciplinarian named Captain Roper (William Holden). A pretty woman named Carla Forester (Eleanor Parker) shows up to help with a wedding of her friend but is really there to assist in freeing some prisoners including her previous beau Confederate Captain John Marsh (John Forsythe). Roper falls in love with her (and she with him) and the escape happens after the wedding celebrations and Carla goes with the 4 confederate escapees. This gives Roper an additional motive to recapture the escapees. He does just that, but on the way back to the fort, they are attacked by fierce Mescalero Apaches who are hostile to both sides and the group ends up trapped in a shallow exposed depression. Roper frees and arms his prisoners, but even then, it looks like the Apaches will wipe them out. Bailey (John Lupton), a proven coward, escapes when one of their loose horses returns in the night. One by one, the rest of the group are killed, including Campbell (William Demarest), Young (William Campbell), and the Kiowa guide. Marsh and Lieutenant Beecher (Richard Anderson) are wounded. The next morning, to try to save Carla, Roper makes it look like he is the only one left alive and walks out in plain view. He is wounded, but the cavalry comes to the rescue just in time. Roper thanks Bailey for coming with help, while Marsh dies after smiling at Bailey who has come through and shown he is not a coward.


Several members of the supporting cast would have notable careers in television shows of the 1960s and ‘70s.

Production notes

The working titles of this film were Rope's End and Fort Bravo. Production dates: early April to late May 1953. Most of the film was shot on location in Gallup, NM and at Death Valley National Monument, CA.


At the time of the film's release, H.H.T. of The New York Times was unimpressed. While he found Sturges's direction full of "professional smoothness," he had many problems with Frank Fenton's "fuzzily defined" characters. The cast, he goes on, "seems confused throughout."[3] Leonard Maltin disagrees, calling the film "well-executed" and awarding it three stars.[4]

The film serves as inspiration for the fifth title in the Belgian comic book series Les Tuniques Bleues (The Bluecoats) by Raoul Cauvin and Willy Lambil, a graphic novel titled "Les Déserteurs" (1975)

Box office

According to MGM records, the film earned $1,525,000 in the US and Canada and $1,633,000 elsewhere, resulting in a profit of $104,000.[1]


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. Glenn Lovell, Escape Artist: The Life and Films of John Sturges, University of Wisconsin Press, 2008 p82
  3. T., H.H. (1954-01-23). "' Escape From Fort Bravo,' Civil War Story Set in West, Opens at Mayfair". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  4. Maltin, Leonard (2009), p. 420. Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide. ISBN 1-101-10660-3. Signet Books. Accessed May 7, 2012
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