Flaming Star : 20th Century Fox 1960

By: Elvis Australia
Source: www.elvis.com.au
March 5, 2005 - 3:22:00 PM
Elvis' Movies


Flaming Star - 20th Century Fox
Flaming Star - 20th Century Fox
Elvis' sixth movie was 'Flaming Star'. A serious movie not only displaying the singer Elvis and his songs. Elvis plays under direction of Don Siegel (Dirty Harry) the son of a Indian mother and a white father. Originally the role was meant to be done by Marlon Brando. The original title of the movie was 'Black Star', but that was changed because of commercial goals.

Pacer (Elvis Presley) and Clint (Steve Forrest) Burton arrives at their parents' ranch in the early evening. They are welcomed with a surprise party for Clint's birthday by their parents, Neddy (Dolores Del Rio) and Sam (John Mclntire), and some friends. Among them are Tom (L.Q.Jones) and Will (Douglas Dick) Howard and their sister Dorothy (Anne Benton). The party breaks up early because the Howards have a ten-mile ride. A Kiowa war party, led by Buffalo Horn (Rudolpho Acosta), is waiting for the Howards and everyone is killed and their ranch burned.

A posse of white men led by Dred Pierce (Karl Swenson) arrives at the Burtons' ranch. They demand a declaration that the Burtons are on their side. They insult Neddy (who is a Kiowa), which results in a shooting incident, after which the posse shoots some of the Burton cattle and scatters the rest. The next day Sam and Clint go to catch the remaining of the cattle, and Pacer stays to guard his mother. Pacer feeds two trappers, who, while he is outside, humiliate Neddy. She hits one with a ladle, and they fly when Pacer tells them that Sam and Clint have returned.

Next morning Buffalo Horn arrives and asks Pacer to join him. When Pacer refuses, he is told that his ranch will be the next to go. He and Neddy decide to go with Buffalo Horn to the Kiowa camp to try to stop this impending disaster for everyone. Neddy is refused by the Kiowa but Pacer is accepted and allowed to return home before making his decision. He and Neddy are escorted by his boyhood friend, Two Moons (Perry Lopez) . Will Howard has survived the massacre and is wandering the countryside, obsessed with vengeance. He kills Two Moons and badly wounds Neddy. At the ranch Sam takes care of his wife. But when he leaves to water the stock, she follows some deep instinct to go into the mountains in search of her 'Flaming star' of death. Sam sees her, and she dies in his arms. Pacer, Clint, Roz and the doctor arrive too late. In his grief, Pacer curses all those who delayed the doctor and decides to join the Kiowa.

Clint, decides to fight the Indians and attacks them in the middle of the night. He kills the chief, but gets badly wounded. In order to save his brother Pacer leaves the Kiowa again and ties his brother on his horse and sends him to the city. He keeps the Indians busy until he's sure his brother is safe. Clint wakes up in bed and wants to get up to help his brother. He sees Pacer arriving in the city and wants to take care of him. But Pacer, who is still too much Kiowa knows his time has come and rides towards his flaming star.

Belgian Flaming Star Movie Poster
Belgian Flaming Star Movie Poster.

The film almost didn't happen. It was based on a novel written by Clair Huffaker that was published in 1958. Pre-publication, the publisher first announced the title as 'The Brothers of Broken Lance'. They also announced that Fox had bought the movie rights to the novel, going so far as to say that Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra would play the Burton brothers. The title changed to 'The Brothers of Flaming Arrow' and filming was to start in June of 1958. Negotiations with the actors broke down and the film, by then named 'Flaming Lance', was put on hold until June of 1960, when it was announced that Elvis Presley would play the lead role of Pacer Burton.

Elvis has a cut on his ankle attended to, on the set of Flaming Star
Elvis has a cut on his ankle attended to, on the set of Flaming Star.

By August of 1960 another title change took the film from 'Flaming Lance' to 'Flaming Heart', which became 'Black Heart' and then 'Black Star'. Elvis recorded the title song 'Black Star' before the final title change to 'Flaming Star' and then had to re-record the title song to fit the final change.

Elvis reported for pre-production work on August 1, 1960 and began two weeks of riding lessons to increase his riding skills. He was thrown once while practicing, but wasn't hurt. Elvis would own and enjoy riding horses for the rest of his life. On August 4, 1960 blue-eyed Elvis was fitted for brown contact lenses for his role as Pacer Burton, a character who was Caucasion, half Native American.

Ultimately, he would not the use them in the role.

On August 16, 1960 principle photography began. Interior scenes were shot on the Fox stage while exteriors were shot at locations in the San Fernando Valley, including the Conejo Movie Ranch near Thousand Oaks. Elvis's friend and entourage member Red West had a small uncredited role as an Native American.

Shooting for 'Flaming Star' wrapped up by October 4th and Elvis went into the recording studio on the 7th to re-record the title song, using the final title name 'Flaming Star'.

On November 23 and 25, 1960 polls taken at advance screenings of the film showed that the audiences preferred that two of the songs originally recorded for the film be left out of the final print. As a result, the songs 'Britches' and 'Summer Kisses, Winter Tears' were cut from the movie. The movie opened nationwide on December 22, 1960. It was #12 on the National Box Office Survey for that week. The movie which focused on the complications of a bi-racial family was banned in South Africa due to the strict laws of racial separation there. Elvis was honored by a tribal council for his positive portrayal of a Native American.

Actor Steve Forrest played Clint Burton, half brother to Elvis' character Pacer. Steve Forrest was born William Forrest Andrews and his brother is actor Dana Andrews. In 1954, Mr. Forrest shared a Golden Globe Award as Most Promising Newcomer Male with actors Hugh O'Brien and Richard Egan, (Egan co-starred with Elvis in 'Love Me Tender' in 1956.) Steve Forrest worked in such films as 'The Longest Day', 'The Deerslayer', 'North Dallas Forty' and 'Mommie Dearest'. He also has had a number of roles in TV series including 'Dallas'.

Steve Forrest played Clint Burton, half brother to Elvis' character Pacer in Flaming Star.
Steve Forrest played Clint Burton, half brother to Elvis' character Pacer in Flaming Star.

Barbara Eden played the role of Clint's girlfriend Roslyn Pierce. When Ms. Eden was first approached for the role, she was busy with other commitments. British actress Barbara Steele was hired instead. Ms. Steele's heavy accent proved to be too problematic and she was let go. By that time, Barbara Eden was available and she played the part. Ms. Eden was a cheerleader and a pop singer as a teenager. She made her film debut in the movie 'Back From Eternity' followed by roles in 'Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?', 'Voyage To the Bottom of the Sea', and 'Harper Valley P.T.A.' The latter inspired a TV series in which she starred. She is best known for her long-running role as the Jeannie, the genie in a bottle, in the 'I Dream of Jeannie' television series. That role garnered her Golden Globe Award nominations in 1967 and 1970.

Dolores del Rio played Pacer's Kiowa mother Neddy Burton. Ms. del Rio was born and raised as an aristocrat in her native Mexico and she became known as the 'First Lady of Mexican Cinema'. She emigrated to Hollywood in the early 1920s and, with her exotic beauty, she was often referred to as 'the female Rudolph Valentino'. She played sultry Latin women as well as Polynesian and French ladies. It was her role as Longfellow's heroine Evangeline that inspired a statue of her likeness as Evangeline to be made and placed beside St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church in St. Martinville, Louisiana. It is on the spot marking the alleged burial place of Emmeline Labiche, who is said to have been Longfellow's inspiration. In 1942 Ms. del Rio moved back to Mexico and continued her career there and was nominated for the Silver Ariel, Mexico's version of the Academy Award. She was nominated five times, winning three. She only periodically returned to Hollywood to play supporting roles such as the one she played in 'Flaming Star'.

Crusty character actor John McIntire played Pacer's father Sam Burton.

McIntire grew up in Montana where he learned to ride and raise horses. He attended USC and started his long career as a radio announcer. It was his rugged features and deep voice that helped propel him into his many roles in Western films and TV series. He and his wife of 56 years, actress Jeanette Nolan, often acted together. He might be best remembered for his starring role as Christopher Hale in the TV series 'Wagon Train' and his role as Clay Grainger in the series 'The Virginian'.

Rodolfo Acosta played the role of Buffalo Horn. He, like Ms. del Rio, was born in Mexico and had roles in a number of Mexican films. He received a nomination in 1950 for a Silver Ariel Award as Best Supporting Actor. He moved to the U. S. where he was very successful in playing Mexicans and Native Americans and most often the Western villain. He had roles in such films as 'One-Eyed Jacks', 'How the West Was Won', 'The Sons of Katie Elder' and 'The Greatest Story Ever Told'. He had a recurring role as Vaquero in the the TV series 'High Chaparral' as well as making numerous guest appearances on other TV series.

Karl Swenson played Dred Pierce. His long career as a character actor also included a number of TV series. Most notable might be his long time role as Lars Henson on the TV show 'Little House on the Prairie'. He also had roles in such films as 'North To Alaska', 'How The West Was Won' and 'The Sons of Katie Elder'.

Ford Rainey played Doc Phillips. A native of Idaho, Mr. Rainey studied acting in New York where he pursued work on stage. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II then moved to California and began his film career in 1949. He has had hundreds of roles in both film and TV.

Virginia Christine played Mrs. Phillips. This veteran character actress was also a concert pianist and trained soprano. She studied dancing and acting and spoke several languages. She had roles in such films as 'High Noon', 'Judgment At Nuremberg' and 'Guess Who's Coming To Dinner'. However, she is best known for her twenty-one years playing Mrs. Olson on the TV commercials for Folgers Coffee. In her hometown of Stanton, Iowa, the city water tower was made into the shape of a coffee pot in her honor.

Clair Huffaker had written for the TV series 'Lawman', 'Rawhide' and 'Bonanza'; however, adapting his novel 'Flaming Star' was his first attempt at a screenplay. The studio teamed him with seasoned veteran Nunnally Johnson to write for this film. Mr. Huffaker went on to write for the 1962 film 'The Commancheros', for which he received a Western Heritage Award. He also wrote for the films 'The War Wagon' and 'Flap' among others.

The producer was David Weisbart, who had also produced Elvis' first film 'Love Me Tender'. After 'Flaming Star', he produced the Elvis films 'Follow That Dream' and 'Kid Galahad'. Other films Mr. Weisbart produced were 'Rebel Without a Cause', 'April Love', 'Goodbye Charlie' and 'Valley of the Dolls'. He also worked as a film editor on such films as 'The Glass Menagerie', 'Mildred Pierce' and 'A Streetcar Named Desire'. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his editing work in the 1949 film 'Johnny Belinda'.

Mr. Weisbart brought in Don Siegel as the director. Mr. Siegel was educated at Cambridge and trained at the London Royal Academy of Dramatic Art as an actor. He didn't do well as a performer and turned to directing in the 1930s. He first worked on montage sequences for Warner Brothers. He then worked on films such as 'Riot In Cell Block 11', 'Baby Face Nelson', and the original 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers'. Later, he teamed with Clint Eastwood on the films 'Two Mules For Sister Sara', 'Dirty Harry', 'The Beguiled' and 'Escape From Alcatraz'.

Richard Jaeckel played Angus Pierce. He began his career after working in the mailroom at Fox. He would go on to have roles in many Western films and war films such as '3:10 To Yuma', 'Come Back Little Sheba', 'Chisum', 'The Dirty Dozen', and 'Sands of Iwo Jima'. For his performance in 'Sometimes A Great Notion' he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor of 1972. He also had a role in the TV series 'Baywatch' as Lt. Ben Edwards. He was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994.

L. Q. Jones played Tom Howard. You might also recognize him from his roles in the Elvis films 'Love Me Tender' and 'Stay Away Joe'. Mr. Jones began life in Texas a Justus McQueen. He took on the name of his character L.Q. Jones in his first film, the 1955 movie 'Battle Cry' and used throughout his long career in movies and TV. He has had roles in such movies as 'The Young Lions', 'Ride The High Country', 'Major Dundee' and 'The Wild Bunch'. His most recent parts were in the films 'The Patriot', 'The Mask of Zorro' and 'Route 666'.

Douglas Dick played Will Howard. He began his movie and TV career in 1946. 'Flaming Star' was his last movie role. His last TV role was in 1967 on the show 'Mannix'. Mr. Dick retired from acting and became a psychologist.

Native American actor Rodd Redwing played an Indian brave. Years later, he had a role in the Elvis film 'Charro!' Redwing was a renowned fast-draw artist and he taught gun handling to many actors, including Elvis. He also made the gun holster that Elvis used in the film 'Charro!'

Charles Horvath, one of the top stunt men in the industry, played the man who attempted to molest Pacer's mother. Mr. Horvath was a judo and karate instructor for both the FBI and the U.S. Marines.

The cinematographer for 'Flaming Star' was the five-time Academy Award nominee Charles G. Clarke. Mr. Clarke won a Technical Achievement Academy Award in 1944 for the development and application of a device that composed artificial clouds into motion picture scenes during production photography. In 1980 he received a Medal of Commendation from the Academy 'in appreciation for outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences'.

The film editor was Hugh S. Fowler. He received an Academy Award in 1971 for his work in the movie 'Patton', which was a film that happened to become one of Elvis' personal favorites to watch.

Elvis' manager, Colonel Tom Parker, scheduled a number of visitors to the set of Elvis' sixth film, 'Flaming Star'. Included in the visitors was photographer Don Cravens who photographed Elvis on the set as well as at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel for an article in 'Life' magazine.

Mr. Cravens was also commissioned to photograph Elvis for future record covers including the sleeve for the single 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?' and the gospel album 'His Hand In Mine'.

On September 9, 1960, after Elvis and his rowdy entourage wore out their welcome at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Elvis then leased a home in Bel Air at 525 Perugia Way. On September 12, 1960, Elvis and Juliet Prowse, his co-star from the movie 'G.I. Blues', attended a special showing 'G.I. Blues' for theater owners. Also attending was gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and the film's choreographer Charlie O'Curran and his wife, singer Patti Page. On Septenber 27, 1960 Elvis was visited on set by his father Vernon and Vernon's friends from Memphis, Mr. and Mrs. Nichols, who had been to Hollywood in 1957 with Elvis' parents and visited him on the set of 'Loving You'. Also on this trip to visit was Elvis' Memphis fan club president Gary Pepper.

Behind the Scenes of Flaming Star

Some Presley biographies have indicated that the role of Pacer Burton was originally written for Marlon Brando, adding credence to the commonly held notion that Elvis could have been another Brando if he had not been stuck with so many musical comedies. This is too simplistic an interpretation of what really transpired in terms of the script for this film. Hollywood projects often go through many studios, changing focus and casts at every turn, and this was certainly the case with Flaming Star.

In 1958, Twentieth Century-Fox had purchased the rights to Clair Huffaker's newest novel, which was not yet complete. Titled The Brothers of Broken Lance at the time, the storyline focused on two characters instead of one. Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra were offered and accepted the two main roles, that of the Burton brothers. Later, negotiations broke down with both stars, and neither decided to star in the film.

When the novel was completed, it was retitled Flaming Lance. While the novel was being adapted to the script, the focus of the film shifted to one brother. Elvis was the only actor offered the role of Pacer Burton. During production, the film went through a number of title changes, including Flaming Heart, Black Star, and Black Heart, before finally being released as Flaming Star. The role Elvis accepted differed from the original conception of the character that had been offered to Brando. To imply that Elvis replaced Brando in this film is misleading.

In Flaming Star, Elvis was given the opportunity to prove himself as a serious actor. That this film was considered an important feature is indicated by the choice of director, scriptwriter, and supporting cast. Don Siegel, who had directed the science-fiction classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers and who would later direct Dirty Harry, guided Elvis through Flaming Star. With author Clair Huffaker, respected scriptwriter Nunnally Johnson adapted the screenplay. The cast included the legendary Dolores Del Rio, a screen star in Mexico as well as in America. Flaming Star was her first appearance in an American film in 18 years.

Though the movie provided Elvis with one of his few opportunities to act, the film's producers and Colonel Parker were nervous about the reaction of fans. To hedge their bets, they attempted to insert four songs into the film. Director Siegel was not pleased with that decision and fought to keep the songs out even after he had shot them. The final version of the film contains two songs. Siegel realized from his experiences with Flaming Star that Elvis' chance of pursuing a serious acting career was doomed. He later told Rolling Stone magazine, 'I found [Elvis] sensitive and very good, with the exception that he was very unsure of himself...He felt he could have done better things. And his advisors -- namely the Colonel -- were very much against doing this kind of straight role. They tried to get him to sing throughout the picture. Obviously, they didn't want him to get off the winning horse. But when I was able to calm him down, I thought he gave a beautiful performance'.

Soundtrack

Elvis Presley Lyrics Flaming Star
Elvis Presley Lyrics A Cane and A High Starched Collar

Although four songs were recorded for the soundtrack of Flaming Star (the other two being 'Summer Kisses, Winter Tears' and 'Britches'), Elvis was only seen singing 'A Cane and A High Starched Collar' in the picture while 'Flaming Star' was played behind the title credits.

Recorded at:
20th Century Fox Studios, Beverley Hills, California. August 1960

Musicians:
Elvis Presley (vocals), Howard Roberts, Tiny Timbrell (guitars), Myer Rubin (bass), Bernie Mattinson (drums), Dudley Brookes (piano), Jimmie Haskell (accordian), the Jordanaires (vocals).

Directed Don Siegel
Writing Credits Clair Huffaker, Nunnally Johnson

Cast Overview
Elvis Presley .... Pacer Burton, Steve Forrest .... Clint Burton, Barbara Eden .... Roslyn Pierce, Dolores del Rio .... Neddy Burton, John McIntire .... Sam Burton, Rodolfo Acosta .... Buffalo Horn, Karl Swenson .... Dred Pierce, Ford Rainey .... Doc Phillips, Richard Jaeckel .... Angus Pierce, Anne Benton .... Dorothy Howard, L.Q. Jones .... Tom Howard, Douglas Dick .... Will Howard, Tom Reese .... Jute, Marian Goldina .... Ph'sha Knay, rest of cast listed alphabetically, Henry Armago .... Brave.

Photos Elvis Presley : Flaming Star wardrobe test : August 10, 1960

Buy Flaming Star DVD
Buy Elvis Sings Flaming Star CD


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