The Proud Rebel

The Proud Rebel is a 1958 American Technicolor western film directed by Michael Curtiz, with a screenplay by Joseph Petracca and Lillie Hayward that was based on a story by James Edward Grant.[1][2] It is the story of a widowed Confederate veteran and his mute son who struggle to make a new life among sometimes hostile neighbors in the Midwest. Despite the implications of the title, the main character in "The Proud Rebel" does not dwell much on his Southern past, but finds his life complicated by sectional prejudice.

The Proud Rebel
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Curtiz
Produced bySamuel Goldwyn Jr
Written byJoseph Petracca
Lillie Hayward
Based onJournal of Linnett Moore
1947 story in The Country Gentleman
by James Edward Grant
Music byJerome Moross
CinematographyTed D. McCord
Edited byAaron Stell
Formosa Productions[1]
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution (USA)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (UK)
HBO Video (DVD)
Release date
  • May 28, 1958 (1958-05-28)
Running time
103 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States

The film stars Alan Ladd, Olivia de Havilland, Dean Jagger, David Ladd[1][2] and Cecil Kellaway and co-stars Harry Dean Stanton (credited as Dean Stanton) in an early film appearance. The Proud Rebel influenced the famous Indian artist Kishore Kumar, who remade it as Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein in 1964 starring his real-life son Amit Kumar playing the role of the mute son.


A former Confederate soldier, John Chandler (Alan Ladd) has come to an Illinois town with his 10-year-old son David (David Ladd) to see Dr. Enos Davis (Cecil Kellaway). The boy was struck mute after witnessing his mother's death in a fire, and hasn't spoken a word since. Dr. Davis recommends an operation by a doctor he knows in Minnesota.

With a flock of sheep blocking their path, John has their expertly trained dog Lance clear the way. The sheep belong to rancher Harry Burleigh (Dean Jagger) and his sons, Jeb (Harry Dean Stanton) and Tom (Tom Pittman), who try to steal the dog. John fights them while a passing stranger, Linnett Moore (Olivia de Havilland), holds the child. Harry knocks out John, pours whiskey on him, then tells the sheriff about being attacked by a drunk.

John must pay $30 or serve 30 days in jail. Linnett intervenes, suggesting to the sheriff, that Chandler can work off the debt on her farm. In exchange she offers to cover the fine, so that he will be released. Chandler disagrees at first, but is won over by her decency. Over the course of time, he discovers that Linnett is being pressured by the overbearing Burleigh to sell her land. It transpires that her land is blocking the easy passage of his sheep to pasture and the railroad. Gradually, John and Linnett grow closer, despite John determined to remain aloof, knowing he and his son will leave soon.

A trip to Minnesota for treatment will be expensive. John won't accept offers for the valuable dog, which the boy loves, but after the boy is taunted and roughed up by local children, John decides to sell Lance after all to finance his son's trip. He asks Linnett to accompany the boy up north while he rebuilds the barn, burned down by the Burleighs' men in an attempt to pressure Linnett to sell.

The operation doesn't work, and David is devastated to return home and find the dog is no longer theirs. John goes to the Burleighs to try to get it back and finds the dog being mistreated by them. Harry gives the dog back, but has his sons prepared to shoot John as a thief. The boy shouts out to save his father's life. In the end, John shoots Harry and his older son, then returns to Linnett with the dog and David, now able to speak.




The film was based on a 1947 short story by James Edward Grant. Film rights were bought by Sam Goldwyn who gave them to his son in 1950. Goldwyn Jr. said the film would be about his favourite kind of story, "the theme of the undefeated man."[4] He announced the project would be filmed in 1955 based on a script by Joseph Petracca.[5] However it ended up taking him a few years to source financing.

Goldwyn Jr. had budgeted the project at $1.6 million dollars but had trouble securing financing over $1 million dollars. He decided not to compromise and go for the larger budget without having sold it to a distributor. Goldwyn Jr.:

I really had no other choice. To me it was very important that this story be filmed as I thought it should be done or not at all. I suddenly realised that if I couldn't do it the way I saw it, I wouldn't be an independent producer. I was able to borrow $1,200,000 from the Bank of America - my father signed the loan with me - and I put up the rest of the money.[3]

Alan Ladd signed to co-star with his son David under the direction of Michael Curtiz.[6] Goldwyn Jr said "Michael Curtiz has drawn fine performances from both of them. The boy, when I first spoke to him, was stiff and frightened, but when I started talking to him about his father, his face lighted up and I knew he was right for the part."[4]

Adolphe Menjou was meant to play a supporting role[7] but pulled out.

The movie was shot in Cedar City, Utah.[8] Its external scenes depicting the U.S.Midwest--a flat and well-vegetated landscape, are a bit jarring to compare to Utah's arid, hilly and mountainous backdrop.

Once the movie was completed, Goldwyn Jr. showed it to distributors and succeeded in securing deals with Buena Vista for the U.S. and Loews internationally.[3]

See also


  1. "The Proud Rebel". AFI. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
  2. "THE PROUD REBEL(1958)". TCM. Turner Broadcasting System(Time Warner). Retrieved August 3, 2015.
  3. HOLLYWOOD AIMS: Frank Capra' Set for Return to Films -- Sam Goldwyn c. Plays for Keeps By THOMAS M. PRYOR HOLLYWOOD.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 18 May 1958: X5.
  4. Young Goldwyn at Work: Hollywood Letter By Richard Dyer MacCann. The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current file) [Boston, Mass] 17 Dec 1957: 5.
  5. 'THE PROUD REBEL' PLANNED AS FILM: Samuel Goldwyn Jr. Will Do Story of Boy and Father as His Next Production Special to The New York Times.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 09 Sep 1955: 19.
  6. Wayne Options Script of Cowriter Middleton; Curtiz Directs Ladd Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 06 July 1957: B3.
  7. Bright 'Forever' Break Beckoning Sandra Dee; Menjou in 'Proud Rebel' Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 13 Aug 1957: B7.
  8. GOLDWYN'S 'REBELS' TAKE TO THE HIGH GROUND: Round-Up From the Past By GRADY JOHNSON. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 13 Oct 1957: 127.
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