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Vera Cruz is a 1954 American western film starring Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster, and featuring Denise Darcel, Sara Montiel, Cesar Romero, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson and Jack Elam. The movie was directed by Robert Aldrich from a story by Borden Chase. The picture's amoral characters and cynical attitude toward violence (including a scene where Lancaster's character threatens to murder child hostages) were considered shocking at the time and influenced future Westerns such as The Magnificent Seven, The Professionals, Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, and the films of Sergio Leone, which often featured supporting cast members from Vera Cruz in similar roles.

Vera Cruz
Vera Cruz Movie Poster.jpg
Directed byRobert Aldrich
Produced byJames Hill
Written byRoland Kibbee
James R. Webb
StarringGary Cooper
Burt Lancaster
Ernest Borgnine
Denise Darcel
Cesar Romero
Charles Bronson
Jack Elam
Sara Montiel
Music byHugo Friedhofer
CinematographyErnest Laszlo
Edited byAlan Crosland Jr.
Hecht-Lancaster Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
December 25, 1954
Running time
94 min.
Budget$1.6 million[1][2]
Box office$11,000,000 (estimated)[3]
4,508,964 admissions (France)[4]

The film was spoofed in the 1986 cult comedy Three Amigos, directed by John Landis.



Gary Cooper as Trane

During the Franco-Mexican War, ex-Confederate soldier Ben Trane (Cooper) travels to Mexico seeking a job as a mercenary. He falls in with Joe Erin (Lancaster), a lethal gunslinger who heads a gang of cutthroats (including Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam, Charles Bronson, and Archie Savage). They are recruited by Marquis Henri de Labordere (Cesar Romero) for service with the Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico (George Macready) After an almost-miraculous display of shooting with a lever-action Winchester rifle, the Emperor offers them $25,000 to escort the Countess Duvarre (Denise Darcel) to the seaport city of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico. Trane uses a compliment to the Countess to get the Emperor to double it, impressing Erin with his boldness. During a river crossing, Trane and Erin noticed that the stagecoach in which the countess is traveling is extremely heavy. Erin later discovers that the stagecoach contains six cases of gold coins. First Trane and then the countess discover him looking at the gold. The countess informs them that it is worth $3 million which is being transported to pay for troops for Maximilian's French army. They form an uneasy alliance to steal and split the gold. Unfortunately for their plans, the Marquis was listening from the shadows.

Also involved in the mix is General Ramírez (Morris Ankrum), a heroic Juarista leader. He and the other Juarista leaders soon suspect that there is more to the expedition than the Countess and ambush the column several times. Eventually, the rest of Erin's group also learn that something suspicious is going on and they demand to be let in on the secret. The different groups, including Juarista secret agent Nina (Sara Montiel), conspire to steal the gold for their own purposes. Alliances are formed, quickly dissolved and others are formed. A ruse is successful in getting the gold to Veracruz where the Juarista troops attack the French in a bloody battle over the ownership of the gold. Erin attempts to steal the gold for himself by getting the countess to reveal the location of the ship she had hired to transport the gold. However, Trane arrives in time to stop him.

The expedition passes through the ruins of Teotihuacan.

In the end, Trane and Erin face off in a showdown that concludes with Erin's death. Trane leaves the gold and walks through the dead bodies from the battle while the wives and mothers of the Juarista troops search among the dead and wounded for their loved ones.



Burt Lancaster and Harold Hecht had just signed a contract with United Artists to make two films, starting with Apache, directed by Robert Aldrich. Just before filming on that movie began in October 1953, Lancaster announced they second film would be Vera Cruz with himself and Gary Cooper, based on a story by Borden Chase.[5]

In December 1953, after Apache finished filming, Lancaster announced Aldrich would direct Vera Cruz.[6]

United Artists would be so happy with Apache they changed the two-picture deal with Hecht and Lancaster into a two-year deal covering seven films.[7]

Mari Blanchard was meant to play the female lead and Hecht signed to borrow her from Universal. However, there was a clause forbidding her to appear in television which Heckt disagreed with. Instead they cast Denise Darcel.[8]


Filming started in February 1954 in Mexico. By May the unit had shifted to Churubusco Studios.[9]

Aldrich and Lancaster got along well on Apache but on Vera Cruz the director says "we probably had a less amicable relationship than we anticipated. This was because Burt, until he directed The Kentuckian, thought he was going to be a director and when you're directing your first great big picture you don't welcome somebody else on hand with directorial notions. There were a few differences of opinion about concepts and about action."[10]


The film earned an estimated $5 million at the North American box office during its first run[11] and $9 million overall.[12]

The movie was a particularly big hit in France.[4]

In 1963 Aldrich announced he was working on a sequel There Really Was a Gold Mine but it was never made.[13]


Vera Cruz was released to DVD by MGM Home Video on April 1, 2003, and to Blu-Ray on June 7th, 2011.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p. 79
  2. ^ Alain Silver and James Ursini, Whatever Happened to Robert Aldrich?, Limelight, 1995 p 236 - this puts the figure at $1.7 million
  3. ^ Vera Cruz at the TCM Movie Database
  4. ^ a b French box office results for Robert Aldrich films at Box Office Story
  5. ^ GARY COOPER TAKES 'VERA CRUZ' ROLE: Actor in Hecht-Lancaster Film -- Three Other Productions by Independent Planned By THOMAS M. PRYOR New York Times 17 Oct 1953: 11
  6. ^ ALDRICH TO DIRECT 2D LANCASTER FILM: He Will Work on 'Vera Cruz,' Also Starring Gary Cooper, After 'Bronco Apache' By THOMAS M. PRYORS New York Times 19 Dec 1953: 19.
  7. ^ HOLLYWOOD SURPRISE by THOMAS M. PRYOR. New York Times 14 Feb 1954: X5.
  8. ^ TV-RIGHTS DISPUTE CHANGES FILM CAST: Hecht-Lancaster Cancel U.-I. Agreement to Borrow Mari Blanchard for 'Vera Cruz' By THOMAS M. PRYOR New York Times 2 Mar 1954: 22.
  9. ^ 'Vera Cruz' Interiors Being Shot in Mexico Los Angeles Times 9 May 1954: D3.
  10. ^ Higham, Charles; Greenberg, Joel (1971). he celluloid muse; Hollywood directors speak. Regnery. p. 30.
  11. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1955', Variety Weekly, January 25, 1956
  12. ^ Kate Buford, Burt Lancaster: An American Life, Da Capo 2000 p 140
  13. ^ Aldrich Film Program to Cost $14 Million Los Angeles Times 30 Oct 1963: E11.

External linksEdit