Run for Cover (film)

Run for Cover is a 1955 Technicolor Western film directed by Nicholas Ray and starring James Cagney, Viveca Lindfors, John Derek, and in his final film, Jean Hersholt.[2] Distributed by Paramount Pictures, this film was made in VistaVision.

Run for Cover
Directed byNicholas Ray
Produced byWilliam H. Pine
William C. Thomas
Screenplay byWinston Miller
Story byHarriet Frank, Jr.
Irving Ravetch
StarringJames Cagney
Viveca Lindfors
John Derek
Music byHoward Jackson
CinematographyDaniel Fapp
Edited byHoward Smith
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • April 20, 1955 (1955-04-20) (Los Angeles)
  • April 29, 1955 (1955-04-29) (New York City)
  • May 14, 1955 (1955-05-14) (United States)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.5 million (US)[1]


Matt Dow meets young cowboy Davey Bishop for the first time. As they take turns shooting at a hawk, a train that has recently been robbed goes by. Mistaking it for an attack by train robbers, a bag of money is tossed from the train toward the two men.

Dow and Davey take the money to town, where they are presumed to have robbed the train. Davey is shot, wounded and taken to the Swenson farm to recover. Matt explains what happened and is made welcome by Helga Swenson and her father.

The townspeople regret the shooting of Davey, whose limp will be permanent. Matt accepts a job as sheriff, trying to redeem himself for a shady past. He also begins to court Helga.

Outlaws led by a man named Morgan rob the town's bank and Helga's father is killed as they escape. Morgan had recognized Matt, which makes the townsfolk worry that Matt might be in on the robbery.

A posse is formed, after a hard ride, most of the thieves are found dead with Comanche arrows in them. Matt sets out to capture one of the robbers, and Davey, despite being a deputy, fails to stop another thief from being lynched. Eventually Matt and Davey are the only members of the posse left.

Davey double-crosses Matt, confessing that he was in on the robbery all along. Davey and Matt are trapped by Comanches and hide the money. A wounded Matt tries to make it across a river, but Davey leaves him to drown. However he clings to a log and follows Davey to some ruins, where he finds him with Morgan.

Davey and Morgan discuss how to get the money back. Matt confronts them and shoots Morgan in self-defense. He tells Davey that he will take him back to town to be hanged, where he will serve as an example to others; the only thing he is good for.

Morgan regains consciousness and reaches for his gun. Davey spots him, and shoots, but Matt thinks that Davey is drawing on him, and shoots Davey. He realises that, in the end, Davey was not beyond redemption.



The film was based on a story by Harriet Frank, Jr and Irving Ravetch. They were a married couple who worked separately for ten years then decided to collaborate. They worked on a number of stories together, including Run for Cover before becoming established as a major screenwriting team with The Long Hot Summer (1958). Of Run For Cover Frank later said, "We weren't very picky in those days."What was presented was written."[3]

The movie was made by Pine-Thomas Productions who were best known for their low budgeted movies. By 1954 however they had abandoned low budget filmmaking and were concentrating on "A" movies.[4]

William Dieterle originally signed to direct.[5]

In March 1954 Nicholas Ray signed to direct. It would be Ray's second Western, after Johnny Guitar. James Cagney agreed to star, his first western since The Oklahoma Kid (1939) (his third and last Western would be 'Tribute to a Bad Man').[6] John Derek signed to play the second male lead.[7]


The title song Run for Cover is by Howard Jackson to lyrics by Jack Brooks.[8]

See also


  1. "The Top Box-Office Hits of 1955". Variety Weekly. January 25, 1956.
  3. McGilligan, Pat (1997). Backstory 3 Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1960s. University of California Press. p. 281.
  4. IT'S BEEN 14 YEARS AND FILMS CHANGE: So Pine-Thomas (We Want to Make a Million) Switch to Million-Dollar Movies By THOMAS M. PRYOR New York Times 25 Feb 1954: 25
  5. "Variety". Variety. 24 February 1954. p. 23.
  6. Looking at Hollywood: Ricardo Montalban Will Do Planter Who Fights Commies Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 23 Mar 1954: a2.
  7. COLUMBIA ASKING RIGHTS TO MUSICAL New York Times30 Mar 1954: 24.
  8. Geoff Andrew -The films of Nicholas Ray: the poet of nightfall 2004 -p181 "; art dir: Hal Pereira, Henry Bumstead; set: Sam Comer, Frank McKelvy; ed: Howard Smith; mus: Howard Jackson; song 'Run for Cover' by Jackson and Jack Brooks. Ip: James Cagney (Matt Dow), John Derek (Davey Bishop), ..."
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