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Howard Fast on: Cheyenne Autumn

from: Being Red pp. 162-163

I had sold The Last Frontier to Sidney Buchman at Columbia Pictures. I put through a call to him. The project had been shelved. Forever, as it turned out. You see, John Ford, the great director of that time, had been pleading with me to talk Buchman into allowing him, Ford, to direct The Last Frontier. He said, to quote him, "I'll direct it right out of your book, your dialogue and nothing else. No fucken screen-writer - no, sir. Right from the book." And he would have too, and it would have been a splendid film.

But then Columbia Pictures, which had bought the book for Sidney Buchman, was told by J. Edgar Hoover that no film was to be made from my book, whereupon Columbia shelved it. John Ford, furious, frustrated by a blacklist he had only contempt for, went to Warner Brothers, told them that the story was in the public domain, and then slipped my book to a screenwriter and told him to go ahead and do the screenplay. Neither honest nor decent, but Ford was not strong on those virtues, and the project went ahead. Meanwhile, Columbia Pictures obtained a copy of the screenplay, gave it to their lawyers with my book, and then slapped a hold on the completed film, with the prospect of a large and disgraceful plagiarism suit against Warner Brothers. Warner settled out of court, paying Columbia a huge sum of money and giving them a large piece of the completed film, which was released under the title Cheyenne Autumn. As far as I was concerned, my share of the booty amounted to nothing. After all, Columbia owned the book.


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