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The Yellow Canary is a 1963 American thriller film directed by Buzz Kulik and starring Pat Boone and Barbara Eden. It was adapted by Rod Serling from a novel by Whit Masterson, who also wrote the novel that was the basis for Orson Welles' Touch of Evil. The film was photographed by veteran Floyd Crosby and scored by jazz composer Kenyon Hopkins.[1]

The Yellow Canary
The Yellow Canary (film poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBuzz Kulik
Produced byMaury Dexter
Robert L. Lippert
Screenplay byRod Serling
Based onEvil Come, Evil Go
Whit Masterson
StarringPat Boone
Music byKenyon Hopkins
CinematographyFloyd Crosby
Cooga Monga Productions
Distributed byTwentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Release date
June 15, 1964
Running time
93 min.
CountryUnited States


Andy Paxton (Boone) is an arrogant, obnoxious pop idol who is about to be divorced by his wife Lissa (Eden) and constantly abuses his staff, including his bodyguard - ex-cop Hub, his manager Vecchio, and his valet, Bake.

Andy begins an engagement at the Huntington Hartford Theater in Los Angeles. Hub and he arrive home to find a maid hysterical – his infant son Bobby has been kidnapped and the son's nurse murdered. The ransom note has the code word "canary" and they summon the police, led by Lt Bonner (Klugman). Andy does not tell the police about the code word out of fear that his son may be killed. A second message arrives demanding $200,000 ransom, which Andy manages to raise, and the money is delivered to an isolated beach, but nobody comes to meet him. Hub takes Andy to a lonely inn and tortures a woman into giving them the address of a man who might have been in touch with the kidnappers. They find the man, but he is dead.

After Bake is found murdered, Andy receives further instructions by telephone from the kidnapper, and realizes that Hub is one of the few people who know their unlisted number. Andy and Lissa return to the inn and rescue their baby, and Andy shoots the mentally deranged Hub as police cars surround the inn.




In 1961, Pete Levathes, head of 20th Century Fox, authorised the studio to pay $200,000 for the rights to Whit Masterton's novel Evil Come Evil Go. The film was always envisioned as a vehicle for Pat Boone, who had made a number of movies for Fox; he had a three-picture deal with the studio at fee of $200,000 per movie, which would be credited to his production company, Cooga Mooga Productions.[2][3]

Rod Serling, then at the height of his Twilight Zone fame, was paid $125,000 to write the script.[4][5] With a star and writer of that caliber, the film was originally estimated to have a budget between $1.5 and 2.0 million and be shot over 10 weeks.[3][6] Ann Margaret was mentioned as a possibility for the female lead.[7]

Film Becomes Low BudgetEdit

Peter Levathes was fired in the wake of cost over-runs on Cleopatra, and Darryl F. Zanuck took over the studio. Zanuck called a halt to all productions at the studio, literally shutting down the backlot on 26 July 1962.[4]

Zanuck was obliged to pay a fee to Boone and Sterling. By this stage, the studio also had commitments to Barbara Eden and Steve Forrest (the latter at a fee of $25,000).[8] Zanuck assigned the film to Robert L. Lippert's company, Associated Producers Inc, who specialized in making lower-budget films for Fox.[9] Zanuck gave Lippert $100,000 to finish the film and a shortened schedule. (Maury Dexter, who produced the film for Lipper, puts this figure at $250,000 in his memoirs.[8])

The New York Times reported that Boone "fears that the 10-day shooting schedule will deny it the artistic and production values it might have had with the 10-week shooting schedule he expected" - he decided to proceed with the film anyway.[3][4]


Filming began on 10 December 1962. Some shooting was done for the film on the Fox lot, which was otherwise closed.[10] During production, the title was changed to The Yellow Canary.[11]

The cast included Jeff Corey, who had been blacklisted and not made a movie for a number of years. Boone had been taught by Corey and he pressured the studio into casting him.

In a September 2012 interview at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, Boone stated that the film was slated for a ridiculously short 12-day schedule. When they were wrapping the last day with several key scenes left to be filmed, Boone paid $20,000 out of his own pocket to buy one more day of shooting. He felt strongly about the film because it gave him the chance to play "a bad guy for a change."[4]

Maury Dexter later recalled:

The film was a nice production, but didn’t really come off. It did nothing at the box office and the critics panned it. Serling, Boone, Forrest, and Eden were all play-or-pay contracts, so... [Fox] preferred to play instead of paying off the commitments. (Probably should not have thrown good money after bad.) I produced the show, and with due respect to all concerned, the production overshadowed the drama.[8]


According to Diabolique magazine:

Boone whined about Fox’s cheapness, but Zanuck was right. Serling’s script isn’t very good with too much flowery dialogue. Because it’s a thriller, the low budget didn’t necessarily have to hurt in the hands of an imaginative director. But Dexter was a second-rater. It is interesting to see Boone play someone unpleasant who proves his manhood by shooting someone dead. This was a rare film where the actor used a gun. The movie flopped at the box office. [12]


  1. ^ The Yellow Canary at AllMovie.
  2. ^ Looking at Hollywood: Pat Boone to Star in Kidnap Film Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 11 Dec 1961: b17.
  3. ^ a b c LOW-BUDGET FILM PLANNED FOR FOX: Pat Boone, Its Star, Fears Effect of Hasty Shooting By MURRAY SCHUMACH Special to The New York Times. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 05 Nov 1962: 37.
  4. ^ a b c d Mark Thomas McGee, Talk's Cheap, Action's Expensive: The Films of Robert L. Lippert, Bear Manor Media, 2014 p 271-272
  5. ^ Serling Tells Secrets of How Not to Write Freeman, Donald. Chicago Daily Tribune 22 Apr 1962: n8.
  6. ^ 14 Films Planned This Year by Fox Studios: Multi-Million Dollar Productions Set for Release in 1963, Executives Announce Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 01 Mar 1962: C15.
  7. ^ Albright in 'Fix' With Gene Barry: Ransohoff Holding Garner; Dore Schaiy in Total Recall Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 14 May 1962: C13.
  8. ^ a b c Maury Dexter, Highway to Hollywood, p 110
  9. ^ SUCCESS FORMULA: Lippert Combs Honey From B's SEIDENBAUM, ART. Los Angeles Times 16 Mar 1963: B7.
  10. ^ Shooting at 20th Starts on Schedule: 'Take Her, She's Mine' Rolls; Axelrod to Walk 'Starpath' Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 24 Apr 1963: C11.
  11. ^ Title Changed Los Angeles Times3 Jan 1963: C7.
  12. ^ Vagg, Stephen (10 September 2019). "The Surprisingly Interesting Cinema of Pat Boone". Diabolique Magazine.

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