Red Skies of Montana

Red Skies of Montana

Infobox_Film
name = Red Skies of Montana


amg_id =
imdb_id =
producer = Samuel G. Engel
director = Joseph M. Newman
writer = Harry Kleiner
(story)
Art Cohn
starring = Richard Widmark
Constance Smith
Jeffrey Hunter Richard Boone Warren Stevens James Griffith Joe Sawyer
Gregory Walcott
Richard Crenna
Larry Dobkin
Robert Adler
music = Sol Kaplan
cinematography = Charles G. Clarke
editing = William Reynolds
distributor = 20th Century Fox
released = Flagicon|USA February, 1952
country = USA
runtime = 99 min.
language = English

"Red Skies of Montana" is a 1952 adventure drama in which Richard Widmark courageously attempts a daring forest fire rescue, not only to save his men, but to redeem himself to his father who was tragically killed in a fire which has forever plagued him as accountable.

The film was very loosely based on the August 1949 Mann Gulch fire. [Maclean, Norman. "Young Men and Fire". Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1972. p.155 ISBN 0226500624]

Plot

Cliff Mason, a veteran foreman of the United States Forest Service's elite smoke jumper unit, is called out with his men on an emergency, despite the fact that they have not rested in three days. Accompanied by R. A. "Pop" Miller and four other men, Cliff leaves the smoke jumper base at Missoula, Montana for a fire deep in the woods of Bugle Peak in the Selway National Forest. Hours later, at headquarters, superintendent Richard "Dick" Dryer becomes worried because Cliff has not yet radioed in. The next day, Dick heads a search and rescue operation and is stunned to find only an hysterical Cliff wandering through the devastated region. Cliff is rushed to the hospital, where he gradually recovers, although he cannot remember how he got separated from his men, or why he was the only one to survive.

Upon his return home, Cliff is greeted by Pop's son Ed, who is also a smoke jumper. Ed expresses genuine concern for Cliff, but Cliff, sensitive about his lack of memory and worried about his possible role in Pop's death, is rude to the younger man. Soon after, a board of review conducts a hearing into the matter, and Cliff grows increasingly irritable after several grueling days of questioning. Cliff's paranoia about being considered a coward who deserted his men escalates, despite the assurances of his devoted wife Peg and Dick, who places him in charge of training. Ed continues to question Cliff, asking him why he was found in the protected rockslide area while the corpses of his men were found on an exposed ridge dozens of yards away. Cliff and Ed's relationship deteriorates as Ed's suspicions about Cliff grow and Cliff reacts even more bitterly. One night, an emergency crew is called out to repair a downed power line, and when crew member Boise is hit by a live line, Cliff heroically saves him, although Ed casually remarks that it was not necessary to prove his bravery. Soon after, despite having been cleared by the board of review, Cliff confides to Peg that he is plagued by doubts about his courage. Later, Dick gives Ed a watch that was mistakenly sent to Winkler's family, and Ed recognizes it as his father's. Upset that the watch was found on the ridge, rather than the rockslide, Ed confronts Cliff, whose memory is finally jogged by the item.

Cliff recounts that when the fire began to race along the treetops, he urged his men to dig in and seek protection in the rockslide, but they got spooked and ran. Cliff attempted to stop Pop, but Pop, in a blind panic, knocked Cliff to the ground. Ed furiously accuses Cliff of deserting his men and goes AWOL, driving his motorcycle day and night, then taking an airplane to Bugle Peak, where he finds Pop's identification bracelet on the ridge, not on the rockslide, where Cliff says he saw Pop last. Believing he has obtained proof that Cliff abandoned his men on the ridge, Ed returns to base, only to discover that Cliff and another team of men have been sent to Carson Canyon. There, Cliff and the men are battling a fierce blaze. Despite their apprehension about Cliff's leadership, the men succeed in beating back the fire, although high winds threaten to restart it. Cliff requests more equipment and men, and even though Dick had fired Ed for his grudge against Cliff, Ed joins the team heading for Carson Canyon. When he arrives, however, Ed tracks down Cliff and fights with him. Ed breaks his leg when he tumbles off a small ridge, and Cliff immediately returns to the main encampment to summon help. After sending two men to retrieve Ed, Cliff orders the other men to dig foxholes, as the heightened blaze is about to pass over them and burying themselves is their only hope for survival. The men protest, preferring to run, but acquiesce when Cliff insists. While he is being rescued, Ed is surprised to discover that Cliff is responsible, and when he is brought back to the others, Cliff helps to cover him in a foxhole. Later, after the fire has passed, the men smile gratefully at Cliff, and Ed, realizing that he was wrong about Cliff, apologizes. Back at headquarters, a relieved Peg and Mrs. Miller learn that Cliff and Ed are safe, as the men radio in for reinforcements.

Trivia

*The working titles for the film were "Smoke Jumpers", "Fire", "Fire Devils", "Hellfire", "Wild Winds and Wildfire".

*One of the studio's most elite stars. Linda Darnell, was initially set as the film's female lead. William Lundigan and Stephen McNally were also considered as possible co-stars.

*Active pre-production of the picture did not begin until July 1950, but after a slow start, the picture began production in Missoula, Montana in September, with Louis King directing and with Victor Mature, Jean Peters and John Lund as the stars. Due to injuries suffered by Mature and Lund, and the likelihood of bad weather, the project was "put off till spring." The production was soon abandoned, however, and in April 1951, it was reported that the screenplay was going to be completely rewritten, and that Glenn Ford was going to be the picture's star.

*"Red Skies of Montana" marked the motion picture debut of actor Richard Crenna.

*A one-hour television adaptation, entitled "Smoke Jumpers" , for the "20th Century-Fox Hour" was broadcast in November 1956. The telefilm was directed by Albert S. Rogell and starred Dan Duryea, Dean Jagger and Joan Leslie.

ee also

*List of firefighting films

References


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