The Burning Hills

The Burning Hills is a 1956 Warner Bros. CinemaScope Western starring Tab Hunter and Natalie Wood, based on a 1956 novel by Louis L'Amour.

The Burning Hills
Original film poster
Directed byStuart Heisler
Produced byRichard Whorf
Written byLouis L'Amour (novel)
Irving Wallace
StarringTab Hunter
Natalie Wood
Skip Homeier
Eduard Franz
Claude Akins
Earl Holliman
Music byDavid Buttolph
CinematographyTed D. McCord
Edited byClarence Kolster
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • August 23, 1956 (1956-08-23)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.5 million (US)[1]


When Trace Jordan's brother is murdered and several of their horses stolen, Trace sees by the tracks that three men are involved. One man wears Mexican spurs, one walks with a limp, and one smokes cheroots. Upon arriving in the town of Esperanza, Trace sees a destroyed sheriff's office and discovers the only law in Esperanza is Joe Sutton. He also discovers that the stolen horses have been rebranded with the Sutton brand, and their riders who match the description of their tracks work for Sutton. Trace enters Joe Sutton's (Ray Teal) ranch and wounds him in a shooting.

The enraged Sutton sends his son Jack (Skip Homeier), his foreman Ben (Claude Akins) and ten ranch hands to track down Trace before he goes to an Army fort to bring law to Esperanza. Wounded in his escape, Trace is helped by courageous half Mexican woman named Maria Colton (Natalie Wood). Unable to locate the hidden Trace, Joe Sutton enlists a half Indian tracker Jacob Lantz (Eduard Franz).


Louis L'Amour said he wrote the novel for Gary Cooper and Katy Jurado.[2] Jurado tried to buy film rights to the novel.[3]

L'Amour's novel Hondo had been successfully filmed with John Wayne in 1953 and there was interest in The Burning Hills. Warner Bros purchased the screen rights in May 1955 and assigned it to Richard Whorf to produce.[4] Irving Wallace wrote the script and John Wayne was announced as a possible star.[5] In December 1955 Tab Hunter was assigned to the lead.[6]

The book ended up selling over a million copies.[7]


  1. 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956', Variety Weekly, January 2, 1957
  2. Don'ts for Horse Operas Stressed: Write for the Experts, Says Best-Selling Louis L'Amour Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 01 July 1958: C9.
  3. Schallert, E. (1955, May 24). 'Heart of jade' boosted for todd-AO; 'burning hills' launches whorf. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  4. Schallert, E. (1955, May 24). 'Heart of jade' boosted for todd-AO; 'burning hills' launches whorf. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  5. Schallert, E. (1955, Jul 13). 'Burning hills' grows bright for wayne; 'lola montez' speeded abroad. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  6. Drama. (1955, Dec 01). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  7. GERALD, B. C. (1975, May 28). How an author's pen wins west. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from

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