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Alvarez Kelly is a 1966 Pathécolor war Western film set in the American Civil War starring William Holden and Richard Widmark. The film was based on the historic Beefsteak Raid of September 1864 led by Confederate Major General Wade Hampton III.

Alvarez Kelly
Alvarez Kelly poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byEdward Dmytryk
Produced bySol C. Siegel
Written byFranklin Coen
StarringWilliam Holden
Richard Widmark
Music byJohnny Green
CinematographyJoseph MacDonald
Edited byHarold F. Kress
Sol C. Siegel Productions
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • October 1966 (1966-10)
Running time
116 minutes
110 minutes
(Sony print)
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.4 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)[1]


Cattleman Alvarez Kelly (William Holden) is contracted to deliver a herd to the Union Army in Virginia. As he nears the end of his long cattle drive, Kelly is captured by Confederate raiders led by Colonel Tom Rossiter (Richard Widmark). The Confederacy desperately needs the beef to feed its soldiers besieged in Richmond.

Kelly is "persuaded" to help shanghai and deliver the stolen herd to Richmond. Despite the hatred between the two men, they manage to work together. Kelly first teaches Rossiter's men how to drive cattle. Then, they proceed to capture and drive the herd away, despite the efforts of Union officer Major Albert Stedman (Patrick O'Neal). As revenge, Kelly arranges passage for Rossiter's discontented fiancée, Liz Pickering (Janice Rule), on a blockade runner leaving the besieged city.



The film was shot in the vicinity of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.substituting for central Virginia and the Civil War battlefield areas around the Confederate and state capital of Richmond and Petersburg encircled and under siege in 1864.[2]


The film was generally well received by critics. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times remarked that it was "a good picture—nice and crisp and tough", praised the script writer Franklin Coen for "blueprinting a fresh idea, and salting it with some tingling, unstereotyped behavior and gristly dialogue". He further praised the cinematography, the casting of Holden and Widmark, which he considered "sardonic perfection", and added that the "picture perks up beautifully in the ripely-detailed homestretch".[3] Variety praised the action sequences with the cattle stampede but, unlike Crowther, thought there were some issues with the script which they believed "overdevelops some characters and situations, and underdevelops others".[4]

Author John H. Lenihan compares the film to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, in that both films "offer no consolation in their vivid deglamorization of war. The heroes, or antiheroes, of both films pursue selfish pecuniary ventures as a conscious alternative to becoming committed in a pointless destructive war".[5]


  1. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1966", Variety, 4 January 1967 p 8
  2. ^ "Notes". TCM. Retrieved 6 May 2017.
  3. ^ Crowther, Bosley (17 November 1966). "Alvarez Kelly". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 May 2017.
  4. ^ "Alvarez Kelly". Variety. 31 December 1965. Retrieved 6 May 2017.
  5. ^ Lenihan, John H. (1980). Showdown: Confronting Modern America in the Western Film. University of Illinois Press. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-252-01254-9.

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