Rancho Notorious

Overview

The original title for Rancho Notorious was Chuck-a-Luck, which is also the title of the soundtrack ballad written by Ken Darby which unifies the plotline, à la High Noon. Frontiersman Vern Haskell Arthur Kennedy wanders throughout the West in search of the man who robbed and murdered his fiancée. He is told that he'll probably find the culprits at Chuck-a-Luck, a combination horse ranch and criminal hideout overseen by saloon chanteuse Altar Keane Marlene Dietrich. To gain entrance to Chuck-a-Luck, Haskell poses...
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Overview

The original title for Rancho Notorious was Chuck-a-Luck, which is also the title of the soundtrack ballad written by Ken Darby which unifies the plotline, à la High Noon. Frontiersman Vern Haskell Arthur Kennedy wanders throughout the West in search of the man who robbed and murdered his fiancée. He is told that he'll probably find the culprits at Chuck-a-Luck, a combination horse ranch and criminal hideout overseen by saloon chanteuse Altar Keane Marlene Dietrich. To gain entrance to Chuck-a-Luck, Haskell poses as an escaped prisoner. Keane warns him that the ranch has only one rule: "Don't ask questions." Still, he has ways of finding things out. Haskell is compelled to keep up his charade when the dirty denizens of Chuck-a-Luck plan a big bank holdup, but this has the result of exposing the killer of his girl. Director Fritz Lang had a rough time with RKO head Howard R. Hughes, who insisted upon making changes in the film that might have hurt it irreparably. The biggest argument centered over the title; Hughes complained that no one overseas would understand the meaning of Chuck-a-Luck, whereupon Lang riposted sarcastically that "I'm sure that everyone will understand Rancho Notorious." One of the principal villains was Lloyd Gough, but you'd never know it from the opening titles; Hughes, incensed that Gough had refused to testify at the HUAC "witch hunt," ordered that the blacklisted Gough's name be removed from the credits.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Tom Wiener
The third Western directed by Fritz Lang whose personal papers were found after his death to contain dozens of paperback Western novels, Rancho Notorious was made under trying circumstances. Not only was Lang fearful that producer Howard Welsch and the studio might not let him complete the film, but star Marlene Dietrich proved a worthy adversary for the autocratic director. Working from a story idea he had developed with former collaborator Sylvia Richards, Lang and screenwriter Daniel Taradash fashioned a Langian tale of revenge featuring a male character on a quest that takes him from Wyoming to the Southwest. Another Lang signature touch was the love triangle involving Altar Keane Dietrich, the vengeful Vern Haskell Arthur Kennedy, and gunslinger Frenchy Fairmont Mel Ferrer. That Dietrich was 13 years the senior of Kennedy and 16 years older than Ferrer doesn't seem to matter; at age 50 she projected believable sexual allure. Lang and Taradash skillfully take their time in getting Vern to Chuck-a-Luck, the outlaw hideout Altar maintains, weaving in flashbacks of Altar's past that establish her as a resourceful woman who is also beholden to Frenchy. Kennedy is well cast as the cowboy tortured by his thirst for revenge, and Dietrich is more iconic than natural, which suits the role just fine. One of the film's best scenes has the two of them riding away from the other outlaws for a private chat, and when it dawns on Altar that she's falling for this cowboy, she tells him to leave the ranch "and come back ten years ago." Less successful is the use of ballads written by Ken Darby to move the story along. The device seems to work only rarely in this genre, though directors never tire of it. Two films which did it successfully are Tony Richardson's Ned Kelly, with songs by Shel Silverstein, and Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller, using previously composed works by Leonard Cohen.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 10/20/2009
  • UPC: 883316213339
  • Original Release: 1952
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Archives
  • Presentation: Full Frame
  • Time: 1:29:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 36,282

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Arthur Kennedy Vern Haskell
Marlene Dietrich Altar Keane
Mel Ferrer Frenchy Fairmont
Lloyd Gough Kinch
Gloria Henry Beth Forbes
William Frawley Baldy Gunder
Jack Elam Geary
Lisa Ferraday Maxine
John Raven Chuck-a-Luck Dealer
George Reeves Wilson
Frank Ferguson Preacher
Francis McDonald Harbin
Dan Seymour Comanche Paul
John Kellogg Factor
Rodd Redwing Rio
Stuart Randall Starr
Roger Anderson Red
Felipe Turich Sanchez
Joe Dominguez Gonzales
John Doucette Whitey
Dick Wessel Deputy
Lane Chandler Sheriff Hardy
William Haade Sheriff Bullock
I. Stanford Jolley Deputy Warren
Charlita Mexican girl in bar
Ralph Sanford Politician
Fuzzy Knight Barber
Fred Graham Ace Maguire
Dick Elliott Storyteller
Technical Credits
Fritz Lang Director
Ken Darby Songwriter
Wiard Ihnen Production Designer
Joe King Costumes/Costume Designer
Don Loper Costumes/Costume Designer
Otto Ludwig Editor
Hal Mohr Cinematographer
Emil Newman Score Composer
Robert Priestley Set Decoration/Design
Daniel Taradash Screenwriter
Howard Welsch Producer
Frank Westmore Makeup
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