The King and Four Queens
Directed byRaoul Walsh
Screenplay byMargaret Fitts
Richard Alan Simmons
Produced byDavid Hempstead
Clark Gable
StarringClark Gable
Eleanor Parker
Barbara Nichols
Jo Van Fleet
CinematographyLucien Ballard
Edited byDavid Bretherton
Louis R. Loeffler
Music byAlex North
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • December 26, 1956 (1956-12-26)
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.25 million[1]

The King and Four Queens is a 1956 DeLuxe Color American Western adventure comedy/mystery film starring Clark Gable and Eleanor Parker and filmed in CinemaScope. Directed by Raoul Walsh, the film is based on a story written by Margaret Fitts, who also wrote the screenplay along with Richard Alan Simmons.[2] This film was the first (and last) project from Clark Gable's own production company, GABCO.[3] His partners in the project were movie star Jane Russell and her husband, Bob Waterfield, owners of Russ-Field Productions, and the film is often listed as a Russ-Field-GABCO production.


The story involves a middle-aged cowboy adventurer (Clark Gable) who learns that a stolen fortune remains buried on a ranch that serves as home to four gorgeous young widows and their battle-axe mother-in-law; the drifter turns on the charm.

Dan Kehoe, escaping from a posse, finds his way to a small frontier town. In the saloon, he learns of a nearby town that has been deserted, except for one family: the McDades. The four outlaw sons had returned with their loot, but were followed, and were trapped in a burning barn. However, only three burned bodies were recovered from the wreckage of the barn; nobody knows which of the four may have survived, or where their $50,000 loot is hidden. While treasure-hunters are interested, they are shot at if they approach.

Pretending to be escaping pursuers, Kehoe approaches the McDades, and is shot and slightly wounded. The McDade women, who prove to be the brothers' mother and wives, take him in and bandage him. The presence of a man in their midst provokes the younger women to look to their appearance, but their mother-in-law angrily points out that one of them is still married, and until it is determined which one it is, they must all act married. She also insists that he must leave the next day. Over the course of the next day, however, all four are varyingly flirtatious with Kehoe, who learns that the mother keeps a constant lookout for a signal from her surviving son, and will ring the large bell to let him know when it is safe to approach town. Kehoe tells Ma McDade a story suggesting that he may have met the surviving son in jail, but did not see him well enough to identify him. This piques her interest.

The sheriff arrives with a posse, intending to seize Kehoe, who talks him out of it by agreeing to signal when the last McDade brother arrives by ringing the bell. Ma McDade is sufficiently taken by Kehoe's persuading the sheriff not to arrest him that she allows him to stay a little longer. He seeks to befriend each of the widows enough to learn where the loot might be hidden, but Ma keeps interfering.


Production notes

At Clark Gable's request, the film was shot on location in southern Utah because he was familiar with the area, having hunted there for years. Footage was shot near St. George, Utah, in Snow Canyon State Park and at the Santa Clara River.[4] Additional footage was shot in Calabasas, California.

Book version

In 1956, Theodore Sturgeon novelized the original screen story by Margaret Fitts for Dell Books, which published it in December 1956 as a 25-cent paperback.[5]

See also


  1. ^ "Top Grosses of 1957". Variety: 30. January 8, 1958.
  2. ^ Shoilveska Henderson, Sanya (January 1, 2003). Williams, John (ed.). Alex North, Film Composer: A Biography with Musical Analyses of a Streetcar Named Desire, Spartacus, The Misfits, Under the Volcano, and Prizzi's Honor. McFarland Publishing. p. 221. ISBN 0-786-44333-2. OCLC 937257939.
  3. ^
  4. ^ D'Arc, James (September 1, 2010). When Hollywood Came to Town: A History of Movie Making in Utah. Gibbs Smith. p. 98. ISBN 978-1-423-61984-0.
  5. ^ Sturgeon, Theodore (2003). Williams, Paul (ed.). And Now the News...: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon. Vol. IX. North Atlantic Books. p. 375. ISBN 1-556-43460-X.