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Track of the Cat

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Track of the Cat
Track of the Cat (1954) movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWilliam A. Wellman
Screenplay byA. I. Bezzerides
Based onthe novel The Track of the Cat
by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
Produced byRobert Fellows
John Wayne
StarringRobert Mitchum
Teresa Wright
Diana Lynn
CinematographyWilliam H. Clothier
Edited byFred MacDowell
Music byRoy Webb
Color processWarnercolor
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • November 19, 1954 (1954-11-19)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2 million[1]

Track of the Cat is a 1954 American Western film directed by William A. Wellman and starring Robert Mitchum, Teresa Wright and Diana Lynn. The film is based on a 1949 adventure novel of the same name by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. This was Wellman's second adaptation of a Clark novel; the first was The Ox-Bow Incident in 1943. Track of the Cat was produced by John Wayne and Robert Fellows for their production company Batjac Productions.

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  • Track Of The Cat Original Trailer
  • Track of the Cat (November 27, 1954) title sequence



The squabbling Bridges family spends a harsh winter on their remote ranch in Northern California in the early years of the 20th century. Crude and quarrelsome middle brother Curt bullies his noble, unselfish eldest brother Arthur, while youngest brother Harold endures Curt's abuse in browbeaten silence. Their mother is a bigoted religious zealot and their father is a loquacious, self-pitying drunk. Bitter old-maid sister Grace is temporarily gladdened by the arrival of Harold’s fiancée, the spirited Gwen.

The family's hired Indian hand Joe Sam alerts the family to a panther prowling the hills; many years before, his family was wiped out by a panther. Joe Sam’s superstitious dread of the cat irritates the domineering Curt, but Curt and Arthur split up to track the panther while the family tensely awaits their return.

Gentle Harold tries to avoid conflict with his parents, while Gwen tenderly encourages him to assert his claim to an equal share of the ranch. Harold refuses to demand his share out of respect for Curt, who'd saved the ranch singlehandedly years ago. Although Grace tries to support her youngest brother and his fiancée, Ma Bridges is hatefully suspicious of Gwen, who ignores the family’s histrionics calmly for Harold’s sake.

Arthur and Curt both die in pursuit of the panther, which is ultimately killed by Harold. The surviving characters seem hopeful that their ordeal may have created the basis for a happier future.



The outdoor scenes were filmed on Mount Rainier in Washington and Mitchum regarded shooting in the deep snow and cold as the worst filming conditions he had ever experienced.[2]

Director William A. Wellman had always intended to film a black-and-white movie in color. His idea was that if a film were to be shot in mostly monochromatic shades, with stark blacks and whites and otherwise mostly very subdued colors that were almost shades of grey, he could use bright colors very sparingly for intense dramatic effect. William Clothier's cinematography was designed to highlight black and white and downplay colors. Only key elements such as the blue matches, the fire and Mitchum's red coat stand out.


Writing in The New York Times, critic Bosley Crowther called the film "a sort of Eugene O'Neill-ized Western drama" and provided a mixed review: "... Mr. Wellman's big-screen picture seems a heavy and clumsy travesty of a deep matriarchal melodrama or a Western with Greek overtones. And the business of the brother hunting the panther in the great big CinemaScope outdoors, while the family booze and blather in the ranch-house, has the nature of an entirely different show ... This, in the last analysis, is the trouble with the film: it has no psychological pattern, no dramatic point. There's a lot of pretty snow scenery in it and a lot of talk about deep emotional things. But it gets lost in following some sort of pretense."[3]

Other contemporary reviews were also mixed despite their acclaim for the film's scenery. The Richmond News Leader called it "gloomy"[4] but a review in The Spokesman-Review categorized Track of the Cat as "another psychological puzzler, but easily one of the best of the year."[5]

More recently, film critic Dennis Schwartz wrote positively about the film in 2005: "A brilliantly realized ambitious dark, brooding Western set in the 1880s in northern California on an isolated snowbound ranch. It is based on the book by Walter van Tilburg Clark, one of whose other books, The Ox-Bow Incident, had also been filmed by William Wellman. The scorching literate script is by A.I. Bezzerides. It has the haunting feel of a Poe work and the primitive savageness of Indian folklore. Cinematographer William H. Clothier bleached out the primary colors and that gave the images the look of a black and white film. The haunting luminous look created was very effective in charging the film with the sub-textual sexual energy that lingers from the hot melodramatics and also giving it an alluring aura of mystery."[6]


  1. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1955', Variety Weekly, January 25, 1956
  2. ^ Lee Server, Robert Mitchum: "Baby, I Don't Care", St. Martin's Press, 2001, page 259.
  3. ^ Crowther, Bosley (December 2, 1954). "The Screen in Review: 'Track of the Cat' Is Seen at Paramount". The New York Times. p. 38.
  4. ^ "'Cat' Picture Appreciated For Scenery". The Richmond News Leader. December 11, 1954. p. 11.
  5. ^ Powers, Dorothy R. (December 10, 1954). "'Track of Cat' Is One of Best". The Spokesman-Review. p. 5.
  6. ^ Schwartz, Dennis, "Track of the Cat", Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, December 24, 2005. Accessed: June 30, 2013.

External links

DVD Reviews

This page was last edited on 20 May 2023, at 05:50
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