The Kentuckian is a 1955 American CinemaScope Western film directed by Burt Lancaster, who also starred. This was one of only two films Lancaster directed (the other was The Midnight Man), and the only one for which he has sole credit. It was Walter Matthau's film debut. The film is an adaptation of the novel The Gabriel Horn by Felix Holt. The film was shot in locations around Kentucky, including Cumberland Falls, the Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park near London, Owensboro, and Green River, and at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Village near Rockport, Indiana. A feature landmark is the natural arch Sky Bridge .
|Directed by||Burt Lancaster|
|Written by||A.B. Guthrie Jr.|
|Based on||The Gabriel Horn|
by Felix Holt
|Produced by||Harold Hecht|
|Edited by||George E. Luckenbacher|
|Music by||Bernard Herrmann|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||$2.6 million (US)|
Frontiersman Elias "Big Eli" Wakefield (Lancaster) decides to leave 1820s Kentucky and move to Texas with his son "Little Eli" (Donald MacDonald). Along the way, they run into two women who take a liking to the pair, indentured servant Hannah (Dianne Foster), who wants to go with them, and schoolteacher Susie (Diana Lynn), who would rather have Big Eli marry her and settle down. Big Eli has to deal with villainous Stan Bodine (Matthau), who cracks a bullwhip. The film features an appearance by the famed sternwheel riverboat Gordon C. Greene, the same steamboat used in Gone with the Wind and Steamboat Round the Bend.
- Burt Lancaster as Elias Wakefield
- Dianne Foster as Hannah Bolen
- Diana Lynn as Susie Spann
- John McIntire as Zack Wakefield
- Una Merkel as Sophie Wakefield
- John Carradine as Ziby Fletcher
- John Litel as Pleasant Tuesday Babson
- Rhys Williams as Constable
- Edward Norris as Roulette Dealer
- Walter Matthau as Stan Bodine
- Donald MacDonald as Little Eli Wakefield
- Lisa Ferraday as Gambler
- Clem Bevans as the pilot of the River Queen (uncredited)
Near the end of the film, a ferocious fight occurs between Lancaster's character and Matthau's whip-wielding villain. Matthau was doubled by whip expert Whip Wilson, who cut Lancaster across the shoulder after the star asked him to "hit me and make it look real". Lancaster had also taken a real whipping during the filming of Norma Productions' first film Kiss the Blood Off My Hands in 1948.
As part of the publicity, the producer, Hecht and Lancaster, commissioned Thomas Hart Benton to create the painting The Kentuckian, which depicts a scene from the film. The painting belonged to the Hecht family for years but was ultimately donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1978.
- 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1955', Variety Weekly, January 25, 1956
- "Notes". Turner Classic Movies.
- Andreychuk, Ed (2000). Burt Lancaster: a filmography and Biography. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 82. ISBN 0-7864-0436-1.
- "Picture of the Month: Kiss the Blood Off My Hands", Modern Screen December 1948 p 57
- "The Kentuckian". Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Retrieved February 13, 2017.