Budd Boetticher - Director

Nationality: American. Born: Oscar Boetticher Jr., in Chicago, 29 July 1916. Education: Ohio State University. Family: Married
1) Karen Steele; 2) Emily Erskine Cook, 1946 (divorced 1959); 3) Debra Paget, 1960 (divorced 1961); 4) Mary Chelde, 1971. Career: Football star at Ohio State, early 1930s; after recuperating from football injury in Mexico, became professional matador, 1940; technical advisor on Mamoulian's Blood and Sand , 1940; messenger boy at Hal Roach studios, 1941–1943; assistant to William Seiter, George Stevens, and Charles Vidor, 1943–44; military service, made propaganda films, 1946–47; made cycle of Westerns for Ranown production company, 1956–60; left Hollywood to make documentary on matador Carlos Arruza, 1960; after many setbacks, returned to Hollywood, 1967.

Films as Director:

(as Oscar Boetticher)


One Mysterious Night ; The Missing Juror ; Youth on Trial


A Guy, a Gal and a Pal ; Escape on the Fog


The Fleet That Came to Stay (and other propaganda films)


Assigned to Danger ; Behind Locked Doors


Black Midnight ; Wolf Hunters


Killer Shark

(as Budd Boetticher)


The Bullfighter and the Lady (+ co-story); The Sword of D'Artagnan ; The Cimarron Kid


Bronco Buster ; Red Ball Express ; Horizons West


City beneath the Sea ; Seminole ; The Man from the Alamo ; Wings of the Hawk ; East of Sumatra


The Magnificent Matador (+ story); The Killer Is Loose


Seven Men from Now


The Tall T ; Decision at Sundown


Buchanan Rides Alone


Ride Lonesome (+ pr); Westbound


Comanche Station ; The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond


Arruza (+ pr, co-sc; production completed 1968); A Time for Dying (+ sc; production completed 1969)


My Kingdom for. . . (+ sc)

Other Films:


Two Mules for Sister Sara (Siegel) (sc)


Tequila Sunrise (Towne) (ro as Judge Nizetitch)


Los Años Arruza (Maille) (role)


Big Guns Talk: The Story of the Westerns (Morris—for TV) (as interviewee)



When in Disgrace , New York, 1971.

By BOETTICHER: articles—

Interview with Bertrand Tavernier, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), July 1964.

Interviews with Michel Ciment and others, in Positif (Paris), November 1969.

Interview, in The Director's Event by Eric Sherman and Martin Rubin, New York, 1970.

Interview with O. Assayas and B. Krohn, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), April 1982.

"The Bullfighter and the Director," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), October 1985.

"A la rencontre de Budd Boetticher," an interview with B. Tavernier, in Positif (Paris), July-August 1991.

"Rencontre avec Budd Boetticher," an interview with C. Anger, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1996.

"Budd Boetticher: le dermier des géants," an interview with Gérard Camy and Roland Hélié, in Jeune Cinéma (Paris), May-June 1998.

Interview with Jean-Loup Bourget and Christian Viviani, in Positif (Paris), July-August 1998.


Kitses, Jim, Horizons West , Bloomington, Indiana, 1969.

Kitses, Jim, editor, Budd Boetticher: The Western , London, 1969.

Buscombe, Ed, editor, BFI Companion to the Western , London, 1988.

Budd Boetticher , Madrid (La Filmoteca Espanola), n.d.

On BOETTICHER: articles—

"The Director and the Public: a Symposium," in Film Culture (New York), March/April 1955.

"Un Western exemplaire," in Qu'est-ce que le cinéma by André Bazin, Paris, 1961.

Sarris, Andrew, "Esoterica," in Film Culture (New York), Spring 1963.

Schmidt, Eckhart, "B.B. wie Budd Boetticher," in Film (Germany), October/November 1964.

Russell, Lee, "Budd Boetticher," in New Left Review , July/August 1965.

Coonradt, P., "Boetticher Returns," in Cinema (Los Angeles), December 1968.

Wicking, Christopher, "Budd Boetticher," in Screen (London), July/October 1969.

Sequin, Louis, "Deu Westerns d'Oscar 'Budd' Boetticher," in Positif (Paris), November 1969.

Schrader, Paul, "Budd Boetticher: A Case Study in Criticism," in Cinema (Los Angeles), Fall 1970.

Millar, Gavin, "Boetticher's Westerns," in Listener (London), 6 October 1983.

Hollywood Reporter , 2 July 1984.

Krohn, B., "Le retour de Budd Boetticher," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), November 1987.

Krohn, B., "Nouvelles de Budd Boetticher," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), July-August 1991.

Arnez, Nicholas, "Westerns (part two)," in Films in Review (New York), January-February 1995.

* * *

Budd Boetticher will be remembered as a director of Westerns, although his bullfight films have their fervent admirers, as does his Scarface -variant, The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond. Since Boetticher's Westerns are so variable in quality, it is tempting to overcredit Burt Kennedy, the scriptwriter for all of the finest. But Kennedy's own efforts as director ( Return of the Seven, Hannie Caulder, The War Wagon , etc.) are tediously paced dramas or failed comedies. Clearly the Boetticher/Kennedy team clicked to make Westerns significantly superior to what either could create on their own. Indeed, The Tall T, Seven Men from Now , and (on a slightly lower level) Ride Lonesome look now like the finest work in the genre during the 1950s, less pretentious and more tightly controlled than even those of Anthony Mann or John Ford.

Jim Kitses's still-essential Horizons West rightly locates Boetticher's significant Westerns in the "Ranown" cycle (a production company name taken from producer Harry Joe Brown and his partner Randolph Scott). But the non-Kennedy entries in the cycle have, despite Scott's key presence, only passing interest. One might have attributed the black comedy in the series to Kennedy without the burlesque Buchanan Rides Alone , which wanders into an episodic narrative opposite to the taut, unified action of the others; Decision at Sundown is notable only for its remarkably bitter finale and a morally pointless showdown, as if it were a cynic's answer to High Noon. The Tall T 's narrative is typical of the best Boetticher/Kennedy: it moves from a humanizing comedy so rare in the genre into a harsh and convincing savagery. Boetticher's villains are relentlessly cruel, yet morally shaded. In The Tall T , he toys with the redeemable qualities of Richard Boone, while deftly characterizing the other two (Henry Silva asks, "I've never shot me a woman, have I Frank?"). Equally memorable are Lee Marvin (in Seven Men from Now ) and Lee Van Cleef ( Ride Lonesome ).

Randolph Scott is the third essential collaborator in the cycle. He is generally presented by Boetticher as a loner not by principle or habit but by an obscure terror in his past (often a wife murdered). Thus, he's not an asexual cowpoke so much as one who, temporarily at least, is beyond fears and yearnings. There's a Pinteresque sexual confrontation in Seven Men from Now among Scott, a pioneer couple, and an insinuating Lee Marvin when the four are confined in a wagon. And, indeed, the typical Boetticher landscape—smooth, rounded, and yet impassible boulders—match Scott's deceptively complex character as much as the majestic Monument Valley towers match Wayne in Ford's Westerns, or the harsh cliffs match James Stewart in Mann's.

Clearly the Westerns of the sixties and seventies owe more to Boetticher than Ford. Even such very minor works as Horizons West, The Wings of the Hawk , and The Man from the Alamo have the tensions of Spaghetti Westerns (without the iciness), as well as the Peckinpah fantasy of American expertise combining with Mexican peasant vitality. If Peckinpah and Leone are the masters of the post-"classic" Western, then it's worth noting how The Wings of the Hawk anticipates The Wild Bunch , and how Once upon a Time in the West opens like Seven Men from Now and closes like Ride Lonesome. Boetticher's films are the final great achievement of the traditional Western, before the explosion of the genre.

—Scott Simmon

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