Foxfire (1955 film)
Foxfire is a 1955 American drama romance Western film released by Universal-International, directed by Joseph Pevney, and starring Jane Russell, Jeff Chandler, and Dan Duryea. The movie was loosely based on a best-selling 1950 novel by Anya Seton.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joseph Pevney|
|Produced by||Aaron Rosenberg|
|Screenplay by||Ketti Frings|
|Based on||novel by Anya Seton|
|Music by||Frank Skinner|
|Cinematography||William H. Daniels|
|Edited by||Ted J. Kent|
|Box office||$1.9 million (US rentals)|
Foxfire is historically notable in that it was the last American film to be shot in three-strip Technicolor, which process had been displaced by the coarser-grained and less chromatically saturated, but much cheaper, Eastmancolor single-strip process.
After her car breaks down in the Arizona desert, New York socialite Amanda Lawrence accepts a ride from Jonathan Dartland, a mining engineer, and his friend Hugh Slater, a doctor with a penchant for liquor. Invited to a party hosted by her wealthy mother at the resort where they are staying, "Dart" claims to dislike mothers, especially those of spoiled beautiful daughters, but he and Amanda fall in love and quickly marry. Amanda's mother is not pleased to hear that Dart's mother is an Apache Indian princess, once married to a Boston college professor, who has taken back her Apache name and never sees her son.
Dart works in the mining community of Lodestone for Tyson Copper, where women are not welcome because of miners' superstitions, but wants to re-open the abandoned "foxfire" shaft, where he hopes to find a legendary vein of gold. Amanda adjusts easily to the rustic living conditions of Lodestone, and to the meddling opinions of the wife of the mine superintendent Jim Mablett, but feels devalued when Dart apparently does not want children. When his attention is completely occupied trying to get the foxfire project going, she innocently spends time with Hugh, who makes no secret to others that he is still attracted to Amanda, causing gossip in town begun by the jealous Maria, Hugh's nurse.
Dart is reticent about his background and ambitions. A pregnant Amanda opens a footlocker he mysteriously keeps locked, learning more about Dart's background. Dart resents the intrusion, believing she did so only out of bored amusement. Trying to win his trust, Amanda persuades the reluctant company owner, Mr. Tyson, to back Dart's foxfire project but this also backfires when Dart's pride is injured. She seeks out his mother, who explains her son's cultural attitudes, which include a belief that love is only temporary and that fathers do not acknowledge sons until they come of age and abandon their mothers. Dart has heard the rumors and misdirected by Maria, believes she is having a tryst with Hugh. When she returns, he is intoxicated and accuses her of being unfaithful. After she explains, he is contrite but they continue at cross purposes when she angrily rejects his drunken advances.
Amanda falls during a dizzy spell and has a miscarriage. Dart, unaware she was pregnant, tries to see her in the hospital but accedes to Hugh's dissuasion not to. Hurt by Dart's adherence to the "old ways" and telling him that he has treated her "like a squaw," Amanda intends to return home with her mother. At the foxfire shaft, which legend has is on ground sacred to the Apaches, many of them refuse to continue working after one of them has a seizure. Dart goes into the shaft to overcome their superstitions. It collapses and injures his hands, but he also finds the vein of gold. Informed at the airport by Maria that he's been hurt, Amanda rushes back, where Dart admits that the mine collapse showed him that he needs her and is no longer afraid of love. At the mine a new "Foxfire Gold Company" sign is erected.
- Jane Russell as Amanda Lawrence
- Jeff Chandler as Jonathan Dartland
- Dan Duryea as Hugh Slater
- Mara Corday as Maria - Hugh's Nurse
- Barton MacLane as Jim Mablett
- Frieda Inescort as Mrs. Lawrence
- Celia Lovsky as Princess Saba
- Eddy Waller as Old Larky (as Eddy C. Waller)
- Robert F. Simon as Ernest Tyson
- Charlotte Wynters as Mrs. Mablett
- Robert Bice as Walt Whiteman
- Arthur Space as Foley
The film was based on a novel by Anya Seton which she started writing in 1949 and was published in 1951. Seton had family members who were in mining; researched the background of the novel's setting by spending time in Gila County, Arizona, going down gold mines and spending time in an Indian reservation.
The film's script updated Seton's novel by changing the setting from the Great Depression and Prohibition to the post-World War II time contemporary with the making of the film. It retained most of the characters, locations, and many plot events but substantially reworked the story line, particularly by eliminating villains intrinsic to the original story and eschewing a melodramatic quest by three embittered treasure seekers for a Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine in favor of a more prosaic search in an already working mine to prove a myth as reality. In the process all the main characters had their motivations and emotional responses significantly altered.
In July 1953 Universal-International announced that June Allyson, who matched Seton's description of her heroine, would co-star with Jeff Chandler in a film adaptation of the novel. Filming was going to start April 1954.
Filming was pushed back as Allyson dropped out and Jane Russell was offered to play the lead instead. Russell was paid $200,000 for her role and had the right to draw on Chandler's services for a film later on for her own production company.
Linda Christian was to play the role of the girl in love with Chandler but Universal decided to put her in another movie and gave her part to Mara Corday.
A.H. Weiler of the New York Times said: "Jeff Chandler, who wrote the lyrics of the title tune, and who, we are told, sings it, does well by the role of the brooding, brawny and handsome engineer. Although his problems appear to be bigger than they actually are, he makes a fine, romantic figure of a man. Miss Russell, if the appraisal isn't redundant by now, is a fine figure of a woman in a variety of revealing gowns and negligees. Her cheerfully sincere efforts to make her marriage work are worthy of sympathy, but, all things considered, Mr. Chandler's acting rings truer."
Despite the NYT criticism of Russell, Jack Moffitt of The Hollywood Reporter said: "...Jane Russell, as the wife, does some of the best work she has done to date," while Variety wrote: "Miss Russell is extremely likable in her breezy characterization, playing it with becoming naturalness." Saturday Review said, "the [role of the] socialite, well played by Jane Russell is a surprising sensible girl," and noted "Ketti Fring's script probes unusually deep in analyzing the position of women in an Apache tribe and their relationship to their men." Hazel Flynn of The Beverly Hills Daily Newsline said, "Jane here continues in the trend she has been following of late...that is, acting instead of just exhibiting her charms. She is really good in "Foxfire" as is Jeff Chandler as the Apache with whom she falls in love."
In June 1955, Decca records released a single recording of Jeff Chandler singing the theme song to FOXFIRE. The "B" side is Jeff's vocal of SHANER MAIDEL . Decca Records 9-29532, format: 45 rpm; 29532, format: 78 rpm. Orchestra by Sonny Burke; vocal by Jeff Chandler with The Rhythmaires. Billboard Magazine said of the release: "That very good movie actor, Jeff Chandler, sings pleasantly, albeit with little ‘fire,’ on the haunting theme from his new picture, Foxfire.” Shaner Maidel: “Chandler warbles sincerely on a warm folk ditty with a soothing minor melody.”
Home media release
The film has been aired on television but has never been on any type of home media since its theatrical release. On December 11, 2018, Foxfire was released on both DVD and Blu-ray for the first time by Kino International under its subsidiary "Kino Lorber Studio Classics" from licensing by Universal Pictures. Both formats present the film in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2:1 (the film was originally shot in the academy ratio at 1.37:1). Reviews of the Kino Lorber release were excellent and praised the performances of both Jane Russell and Jeff Chandler.
- 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1955', Variety Weekly, January 25, 1956
- "Dye-Transfer Process". Technicolor100, Eastman Museum. Archived from the original on 25 December 2015. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
- Futile Gold Hunt Brings Better Love Elwood, Irene. Los Angeles Times 7 Jan 1951: D5.
- Books -- Authors New York Times 17 Sep 1949: 15.
- magazine of BOOKS: Anya Seton Finds the West as Wild and Rugged as Ever Hensen, Harry. Chicago Daily Tribune 4 Feb 1951: h9.
- 'Yankee Pasha' Next for Jeff Chandler Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 18 July 1953: A6.
- JUNE ALLYSON TO DO 'FOXFIRE' IN COLOR: Actress Will Be Co-Starred With Jeff Chandler in Universal's New Film New York Times 31 July 1953: 11
- Universal-International Plans 34 Major Films During Year Los Angeles Times 0 Oct 1953: A3.
- Tony Curtis Trains for Role in Musical Los Angeles Times 24 Oct 1953: 10.
- Patty Andrews to Star in 'Three Charms'; Hope Starts 'Fory' Next Month Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 25 June 1954: B7.
- A TOWN CALLED HOLLYWOOD: Top Stars Now Share in Profits of Major Pictures Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 24 July 1955: d2.
- 'Indian' Chandler Changes Pace; He's Now Half Indian Los Angeles Times27 June 1955: 23.
- Linda Christian Role Goes to Corday; Granger 'Charlemagne' Choice Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 27 July 1954: A7.
- A.H. Weiler, "Story of Half Breed and Heiress Opens" July 14, 1955 https://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9B0DE7DE1F3AEF34BC4C52DFB166838E649EDE
- Hollywood Reporter, June 14th, 1955
- Variety, June 15th, 1955
- Saturday Review, July 30, 1955
- Beverly Hills Daily Newslife, June 30th, 1955