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Red Skies of Montana

Red Skies of Montana(1952)

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The working titles of this film were Smoke Jumpers, Fire, Fire Devils, Hellfire, Wild Winds and Wildfire. Although a August 6, 1948 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Twentieth Century-Fox had purchased the novel Fire, by George R. Stewart, and would receive cooperation from the U.S. Forest Service in filming a picture based upon it, no source from that time confirms Stewart's contribution to Red Skies of Montana. Los Angeles Times reported that Wanda Tuchock would be writing the screenplay, with Linda Darnell set as the film's star. The project was put on hold until August 1949, however, according to a Hollywood Reporter news item, and later 1949 Los Angeles Times news items announced William Lundigan and Stephen McNally as possible co-stars.
       Active pre-production of the picture did not begin until July 1950, as noted in Hollywood Reporter. The picture began production in Missoula, MT in September 1950, with Louis King directing and with Victor Mature, Jean Peters and John Lund as the stars. Due to injuries suffered by Mature and Lund, however, and the likelihood of bad weather, the project was "put off till spring," according to a September 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item. The production was abandoned, however, and in April 1951, Los Angeles Examiner reported that the screenplay was going to be completely rewritten, and that Glenn Ford was going to be the picture's star.
       Although Hollywood Reporter news items and studio publicity include Gayle Pace, Tony Linehan, Helen Westcott, Shirley Clarke, Russ Saunders, Bill Hale, Paul Dubov and technical advisor Fred Brauer in the cast, their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. Harry Jackson, who served as the director of photography on the aborted 1950 production, filled in for director of photographer Charles G. Clarke when Clarke had to leave the project to begin location shooting on The Snows of Kilimanjaro (see below). As noted in Hollywood Reporter news items, portions of Red Skies of Montana were shot on location in Missoula. According to a July 6, 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item, a special camera crew shot footage of a forest fire near Gila, NM for inclusion in the film.
       Red Skies of Montana marked the motion picture debut of actor Richard Crenna (1927-2003). The studio used Art Cohn's story and Harry Kleiner's screenplay as the basis for a one-hour television production, entitled Smoke Jumpers, for the 20th Century-Fox Hour. Broadcast in November 1956, the telefilm was directed by Albert S. Rogell and starred Dan Duryea, Dean Jagger and Joan Leslie.