After working with former blacklist screenwriter Dalton Trumbo on Spartacus to great success, Kirk Douglas hired the writer to adapt Howard Rigsby’s 1957 novel Sundown at Crazy Horse.
The title of the 1961 film The Last Sunset will see runaway Hollywood star Brendan O’Malley cross the Mexican border and seek refuge on the ranch of his ex-lover Belle, played by Dorothy Malone.
Meanwhile, US Marshal Dana Stripling, portrayed by Rock Hudson, arrives outside his jurisdiction to keep an eye on O’Malley.
Kirk hired Robert Aldrich to direct the movie, but the director doesn’t look fondly on the experience at all.
Years later, the director said of filming The Last Sunset: “It was difficult. I found it very difficult to do the film personally. But in this business, you have to survive. You have to take on subjects like this to make money to eat, to buy more.” Real estate and float another project.
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The main catalyst for his falling out with Kirk was after the star discovered that Aldrich had a number of writers staying with him on the Mexico set working on other projects.
Aldrich said how upset the actor was that he wasn’t as focused on The Last Sunset as he wanted him to be. “He’s gone crazy, he’s gone crazy,” the director claimed. As a result, he sent the book away to Mexico City.
The director found it particularly frustrating that Trumbo had written the script, but then left to work on Otto Preminger’s Exodus. By the time he returned “it was too late to save him”.
He said, “Kirk was impossible. He knew the script wasn’t right. It all started badly, went badly, and ended badly.” However, Aldrich did not blame Trumbo for leaving to work on Exodus, saying he was “2,000 percent right” in doing so.
Given that the communist screenwriter came off the Hollywood blacklist after more than a decade, he needed to re-establish his career.
Despite his issues with Kirk Aldrich, he admired his co-star, saying, “Rock Hudson got more cred out of him than anyone else.
“Most people don’t consider him a very accomplished actor, but I found him to be very hardworking, dedicated, and very serious… If everyone in that picture, from producer to writer to other actors, had approached him with the same devotion he would have had it would have been much better.”