Tap Roots
Original lobby card
Directed byGeorge Marshall
Written byAlan Le May
Lionel Wiggam
Based onTap Roots
by James H. Street
Produced byWalter Wanger
StarringVan Heflin
Susan Hayward
Boris Karloff
Julie London
CinematographyWinton C. Hoch
Lionel Lindon
Edited byMilton Carruth
Music byFrank Skinner
Walter Wanger Productions
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • August 25, 1948 (1948-08-25)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,293,658[1]

Tap Roots is a 1948 Technicolor Western war film set during the American Civil War. It is very loosely based on the true life story of Newton Knight, a farm owner who attempted to secede Jones County from Mississippi.[3]

Made by Walter Wanger Productions and Universal Pictures, it was directed by George Marshall and produced by Walter Wanger from a screenplay by Alan Le May, based on the 1942 novel Tap Roots by James H. Street, with additional dialogue by Lionel Wiggam. The original music was by Frank Skinner and the cinematography by Winton C. Hoch and Lionel Lindon.

The film stars Van Heflin and Susan Hayward with Boris Karloff, Julie London, Whitfield Connor, Ward Bond and Richard Long. Karloff plays a Choctaw Indian.[4][5]

A radio version of Tap Roots, with Van Heflin, Susan Hayward and Richard Long reprising their film roles, was broadcast by the Lux Radio Theatre on September 27, 1948.


A poor Mississippi farmer who has never owned slaves finds himself conscripted into the Confederate States Army to fight to defend the right of wealthy slaveowners to be able to maintain their grasp on their black property. After witnessing much deprivation and depravity, he deserts, returns home, and soon finds himself at the head of a band of former slaves, other Confederate deserters, and American Indians who had remained in Mississippi in defiance of the Indian Removal Act, fighting against the Confederacy and its sympathizers.



Variety wrote that the film earned $2.5 million in rentals in the US.[6]

The film recorded a loss of $380,385.[1]

On November 18, 2023, Universal remastered Tap Roots in 4K, which was premiered for the first time at The Linda Theatre in Akron, OH during their 75th Anniversary.[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Matthew Bernstein, Walter Wagner: Hollywood Independent, Minnesota Press, 2000 p444
  2. ^ Or $.5 million – see Variety, 18 February 1948, p. 14
  3. ^ Stephen Jacobs, Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster, Tomahawk Press 2011 p 324
  4. ^ "'Tap Roots,' story of Civil War, at Loew's Criterion--Two other films arrive". The New York Times. August 26, 1948.
  5. ^ "'Tap Roots' now at the Regent". The Battle Creek Enquirer and News. October 24, 1948.
  6. ^ "Top Grossers of 1948", Variety, 5 January 1949, p. 46
  7. ^ "[1]", Linda Theatre", 15 November 2023