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The Deadly Companions

1961

The Deadly Companions is a 1961 American Western film directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring Maureen O'Hara, Brian Keith, Steve Cochran, and Chill Wills. Based on the novel of the same name by A. S. Fleischman, the film is about an ex-army officer who accidentally kills a woman's son, and tries to make up for it by escorting the funeral procession through dangerous Indian territory. The Deadly Companions was Sam Peckinpah's motion picture directorial debut.

Plot
After her young son is killed in a bank robbery, Kit Tilden (Maureen O'Hara) is determined to bury him beside his father in Siringo, now deserted and located in Apache territory. Yellowleg (Brian Keith), the ex-army sergeant who accidentally killed her son, decides to help take the body across the desert to be buried, whether Kit wants help or not.

Starring

Maureen O'Hara as Kit Tilden
Brian Keith as Yellowleg
Steve Cochran as Billy Keplinger
Chill Wills as Turk

Featuring

Strother Martin as Parson
Will Wright as Doctor Acton
Jim O'Hara as Cal, General Store
Peter O'Crotty as Mayor of Hila City
Billy Vaughan as Mead Tildon Jr.
Big John Hamilton as gambler (uncredited)

Production
Directorial debut
After the cancellation of his 1960 television series The Westerner, Brian Keith was cast as the male lead in The Deadly Companions. He suggested Sam Peckinpah (the producer and director of The Westerner) as the director for this film, and producer Charles B. Fitzsimons accepted the idea. By most accounts, the low-budget film shot on location in Arizona was a learning process for Peckinpah. Unable to rewrite the screenplay or edit the picture, Peckinpah vowed to never again direct a film unless he had script control. The Deadly Companions passed largely without notice and is the least known of Peckinpah's films.

Cast and crew
Charles B. Fitzsimons (1924–2001), a former actor, was Maureen O'Hara's younger brother. In addition to his listing as producer, the film's opening credits indicate "song by Marlin Skiles & Charles B. Fitzsimons; sung by Maureen O'Hara" (the title of the song, which is heard through the entire length of the opening credits, is not specified). Another younger brother, Jim O'Hara (1927–1992), played the seventh-billed role of Cal (the family surname is Fitzsimons, also rendered as FitzSimons).

Leading man Brian Keith was also Maureen O'Hara's co-star in The Parent Trap which they completed immediately before The Deadly Companions and which premiered on June 12, 1961, six days after the Tucson premiere of The Deadly Companions. They re-teamed for one additional film, 1966's The Rare Breed, which top-billed James Stewart. Cinematographer William H. Clothier also worked on The Rare Breed as well as two other films with Maureen O'Hara, 1963's McLintock! and 1971's Big Jake, both starring John Wayne.

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