The Sons of Katie Elder
Drama / Western
Directed by Henry Hathaway
Written by William H. Wright, Allan Weiss, Harry Essex and Talbot Jennings (Story)
Produced by Paul Nathan, Hal B. Wallis and Joseph H. Hazen
Cinematography by Lucien Ballard
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
John Wayne as John Elder
Dean Martin as Tom Elder
Martha Hyer as Mary Gordon
Michael Anderson Jr. as Bud Elder
Earl Holliman as Matt Elder
Jeremy Slate as Ben Latta
James Gregory as Morgan Hastings
Paul Fix as Sheriff Billy Watson
George Kennedy as Curley
Dennis Hopper as Dave Hastings
The Sons of Katie Elder trailer
The four Elder brothers reunite in Clearwater, Texas for their mother’s funeral. Each of the sons has gone off to make his mark on the world. John, the eldest, is a notorious gunslinger, Tom has a reputation as a gambler, Bud is the only one of the four that shows signs of being respectable, as he is going to college, but deep down Bud desires to emulate John. Upon returning the four sons learn that their father was murdered after a card game, losing the family farm in a bet. The town looks down on the boys, as their mother was well liked and respected in spite of her poverty and misfortune and many of the townspeople feel her boys neglected her.
The Elder sons feel guilty about their behavior and set out to make things right. They discover that Morgan Hastings and his son Dave are the only ones who know what happened the night their father, Bass Elder, was killed. Before the Elders can go to the sheriff, Morgan has the sheriff killed and frames the boys for the murder. To make matters worse, the deputy swears in a bunch of Hasting’s gang to bring the Elders to justice. The new deputies from Hasting’s gang intend to do no such thing, they simply intend to kill all four of them to hide their crimes. Can the Elders avenge their good name, get their farm back and become the men their mother wanted them to be?
Just before filming The Sons of Katie Elder John Wayne was diagnosed with lung cancer and had one of his lungs removed. To prove that the surgery hadn’t slowed him down, Wayne insisted on doing all of his own stunts .
Originally Bud Elder was to be played by Tommy Kirk, but he was arrested for possession of marijuana on Christmas Eve, 1964. Michael Anderson Jr. was able to fill in for the role with short notice.
When John Wayne is dragged into the river, you can hear a child call out “Dad!” The voice is that of three year old Ethan Wayne who was very concerned for his father. It turned out that Wayne nearly developed pneumonia from the stunt.
The film made its television premier on ABC on the same night as Heidi on NBC. NBC cut away from one of the most dramatic comebacks in NFL history to air a remake of the famous children’s story Heidi at exactly 7:00. The repercussions the network faced were historic.
The hearse from Katie Elder’s funeral currently is parked in front of the Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World.
A real life Kate Elder did exist in the West. She was known as Big Nose Kate and was a prostitute and sometimes companion of Doc Holiday.