Vera Cruz (film)

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 towards 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 (1960), The Professionals (1966), Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969), 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
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Aldrich
Screenplay byRoland Kibbee
James R. Webb
Story byBorden Chase
Produced byJames Hill
StarringGary Cooper
Burt Lancaster
Denise Darcel
Cesar Romero
Sara Montiel
CinematographyErnest Laszlo
Edited byAlan Crosland Jr.
Music byHugo Friedhofer
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
December 25, 1954
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.6 million[1][2]
Box office$11,000,000 (estimated)[3]
4,508,964 admissions (France)[4]
The expedition passes through the ruins of Teotihuacan.


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 gunslinger who heads a gang of cutthroats (Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam, Charles Bronson, Archie Savage, and others). They are recruited by Marquis Henri de Labordere (Cesar Romero) for service with Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico (George Macready) Maximilian offers them $25,000 to escort Countess Duvarre (Denise Darcel) to the city of Veracruz. Trane gets the emperor to double the offer.

During a river crossing, Trane notices that the stagecoach in which the countess is traveling is extremely heavy. Erin and Trane later discover that hidden inside are six cases of gold coins. The countess informs them that it is worth $3 million which is intended to pay for reinforcements from Europe. They form an uneasy alliance to steal and split the gold. Unbeknownst to them, the marquis is listening from the shadows.

The Juaristas, led by General Ramírez (Morris Ankrum), attack the column several times. Pickpocket and Juarista undercover agent Nina (Sara Montiel) joins the convoy. When Trane, Erin and their men are surrounded by the Juaristas, Trane persuades Ramirez to join forces and agree to pay them $100,000. The marquis succeeds in getting the gold to Veracruz. In the Juarista attack, the French are defeated, but most of Erin's men are killed. Erin attempts to steal the gold for himself by getting the countess to reveal the location of the ship she had hired to transport it. He even kills one of his own men. However, Trane arrives in time to confront him. They face off in a showdown that ends in Erin's death. Trane and Nina leave, while women search the dead for their loved ones.



Gary Cooper as Trane

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 their 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 were 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 on television which Hecht disagreed with. Instead they cast Denise Darcel.[8]


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

Aldrich and Lancaster got along well on Apache but as to Vera Cruz, the director said "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]

Critic and historian Dave Kehr would later cite Vera Cruz as one of the most influential films of the 1950s, inspiring later Westerns by such directors as Sam Peckinpah and especially Sergio Leone.[14][15] Kehr also praised Cooper and Lancaster's performances in the film, writing that "the generational transition from an aging star to his up-and-coming replacement has seldom been handled with better humor or more biting wit."[15]

Home mediaEdit

Vera Cruz was released to DVD by MGM Home Video on April 1, 2003, and to Blu-Ray on June 7, 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 'Veracruz' 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.
  14. ^ Kehr, Dave (July 1, 2011). "An Influential Director, Two Distinct Directions". New York Times. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  15. ^ a b Kehr, Dave (May 22, 2007). "Critic's Choice - New DVDs: Gary Cooper". New York Times. Retrieved January 9, 2022.

External linksEdit