Seven Cities of Gold (film)

Seven Cities of Gold is a 1955 historical adventure DeLuxe Color film directed by Robert D. Webb and starring Richard Egan, Anthony Quinn and Michael Rennie, filmed in CinemaScope. It tells the story of the 18th. Century Franciscan priest, Father Junípero Serra and the founding of the first missions in what is now California. The screenplay is based on the 1951 novel The Nine Days of Father Serra by Isabelle Gibson Ziegler. The tag line of the film was “This is the story of the making ...and the forging...of California...when men chose gold or God...the sword or the Cross”.

Seven Cities of Gold
Directed byRobert D. Webb
Produced by
Screenplay byRichard L. Breen
Based onThe Nine Days of Father Serra
1951 novel
by Isabelle Gibson Ziegler
Music byHugo Friedhofer
CinematographyLucien Ballard
Edited byHugh S. Fowler
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • September 8, 1955 (1955-09-08)
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.5 million[1]

Plot summary

In 1769, the expedition of Captain Gaspar de Portolà (Anthony Quinn) to California is in search of fabled cities of gold. Its religious advisor, peace-loving missionary Father Junipero Serra (Michael Rennie), wishes to establish good relations with the local natives and to build a string of missions, beginning at San Diego Bay. He is unexpectedly aided when Portola's prideful second in command, Lt. Jose Mendoza (Richard Egan), saves the life of Matuwir (Jeffrey Hunter), the son of the local chief. But when a supply ship fails to appear and the expedition prepares to return to Mexico a failure, Mendoza betrays Matuwir's sister Ula (Rita Moreno), whom he has seduced, resulting in her accidental death by a fall from a cliff. Threatened with annihilation by Matuwir's warriors when both Portola and Father Serra refuse to turn him over, Mendoza prevents war by surrendering himself to Matuwir for torture and execution. As the Spaniards begin to leave, the supply ship appears in the bay as if by a miracle.



The film was based on the book The Nine Days of Father Sierra which was published in 1951.[2] The New York Times called it a "brief, tender, impressive novel."[3] Film rights were bought by 20th Century Fox who in June 1952 announced Charles Brackett would produce and John C Higgins would write the script.[4]

In April 1953 Fox announced the film would be made in CinemaScope and that Richard Breen was working on the script. (NB The Gun and the Cross was the title of a story by Gus Field that Fox purchased in 1951 about the relationship between a priest and a gunfighter.[5] The title appears to have been re-appropriated.)[6]

In October 1954, it was reported Joseph Petracca was writing the script and that the film would star James Mason.[7]

By January 1955 the film was titled Seven Cities of Gold. Brackett was out as producer, replaced by the husband and wife team of Barbara McLean, normally an editor, and Robert D. Webb, who would direct. The stars would be Richard Egan, Michael Rennie, Rita Moreno and Cameron Mitchell.[8] Jeffrey Hunter was cast as a Native American on the basis of his success as a Native American in White Feather, which he had just made for Webb.[9] Mitchell was eventually replaced by Anthony Quinn.[10]

Filming began 15 March 1955 and included location filming in Mexico.[11] It finished by 20 June.[12]


The film was premiered in San Diego.[13]

See also


  1. Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p249
  2. Books--Authors New York Times 29 Mar 1951: 23
  3. Hero-Priest of Old California Photograph by Josef Muench in "West Coast Portrait.". New York Times 22 Apr 1951: 216.
  4. REPUBLIC TO MAKE FILM ON GABRESKI: Flying Ace May Play Himself in Picture Based on Story by Richard Tregaskis Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES30 July 1952: 19.
  5. FOX PLANS MOVIE OF 'GUN AND CROSS': Story Concerns Priest and a Western Badman in 1840's --Taylor to Produce By THOMAS F. BRADY New York Times 2 Feb 1951: 32
  6. STUDIO PLANS 20 CINEMASCOPE FILMS: 20th Century-Fox Announces It Will Release Spectacles in Fall and Continuing in 1954 CINEMASCOPE Los Angeles Times 2 Apr 1953: A1.
  7. Story of Pioneer Missionary in West to Be Told in Film Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 2 Oct 1954: 16.
  8. 'Seven Cities of Gold' to Star Richard Egan Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]18 Jan 1955: A6.
  9. Las Vegas Story Looms for Gable; Unique Navy Subject Put on Program Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 21 Feb 1955: B9.
  10. THEODORA PLANS ITS SECOND MOVIE: Independent Firm of Cornel Wilde and Wife to Make 'Storm Fear' for U. A. By THOMAS M. PRYOR New York Times 7 Mar 1955: 23.
  11. 'Othello' Big Ring Event Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 9 Mar 1955: 17.
  12. Film Completed Los Angeles Times 20 June 1955: b8.
  13. 'Seven Cities of Gold' Premiered in San Diego Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 9 Sep 1955: b8.
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