The Legend of Sam and Major Dundee

major-dundee-blogFifty years ago, director Sam Peckinpah’s controversial Major Dundee, starring Charlton Heston and Richard Harris was floundering at the box office. It had been was released in March to mixed reviews, an outcome that the feisty director had anticipated after the initial release of a 136 minute film was cut a further 13 minutes. Major Dundee became a kettle of distilled chaos in Peckinpah’s storied career in Hollywood, a kettle that he would dip into for the rest of his career as a bitter reminder of his failure to control his creativity. The famed director, who shot 400,000 feet of film making Major Dundee on location in Mexico, would be shut out of the final editing process and shut out of Columbia Studios in one of the most famous feuds with a producer, Jerry Bresler, in the history of Hollywood. According to biographer David Weddle, Peckinpah actually didn’t see the final cut for release until the premier at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on February 5, 1965. Shaken, but not broken, Peckinpah would use the film to fuel his passion to for making great cinema. With great creative ferocity he drove himself towards the most productive era of his career as one of America’s foremost auteur directors, directing The Wild Bunch, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Straw Dogs, Junior Bonner, The Getaway and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid between 1968 and 1973. Few directors, before or since, have ever had such a creative run of iconic American films.

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