Marlon Brando and his father founded Pennebaker, Inc., one of several companies in the 1950s that were started by leading actors and backed by a major studio. This business model became popular as the “Big Five” studio system began to lose its grip on Hollywood. One-Eyed Jacks was the company’s first production.
A number of writers were attached to One-Eyed Jacks. The script was loosely based on The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones, Charles Neider’s novel about Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. First Rod Serling took a crack at it, then the project was taken over by a young Sam Peckinpah, who would later use ideas he developed in the working script to shape his own take on the story of the outlaw and sheriff, 1973’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. After Peckinpah came Calder Willingham, and finally Guy Trosper.
Originally, Stanley Kubrick was on board to direct the film. After six months of disagreements, Kubrick announced his departure in the Hollywood press, saying that he intended to spend time on his adaptation of Lolita. But before he could complete that project, he was enlisted to direct the Kirk Douglas vehicle Spartacus.
Due to a tumultuous production and several delays, the film took nine months to complete. Karl Malden, who had been on the payroll the entire time, earned enough money to buy a home in Hollywood, which Brando jokingly referred to as “the house that Jack built.”
Pina Pellicer was discovered by One-Eyed Jacks producer Frank P. Rosenberg at a casting call in Mexico City. She had recently acted in a television production of The Diary of Anne Frank and moved to Los Angeles to begin her role as Louisa. She died by suicide four years later at the age of thirty.
In one scene that was shot but ultimately dropped, Rio rapes a Chinese woman (played by Lisa Lu) who tends to his wounds while he and his posse are recuperating in a fishing village. To get into character, Brando drank a lot of booze. By the time filming was to commence, he was too drunk to act. The shoot was postponed to the following week, with the same outcome. After several attempts, the scene was cut altogether.
One-Eyed Jacks was the last Paramount movie to be shot in VistaVision.
Marlon Brando’s Paramount set was a major attraction. A number of celebrities, including the French filmmaker Jacques Tati, wanted a chance to see the star in action as a movie director.
To oversee the editing of One-Eyed Jacks, Brando had to fly back to California on weekends from New York, where he was shooting The Fugitive Kind (pictured above) with Sidney Lumet. The first cut he delivered to Paramount was rumored to be over five hours long.
Marlon Brando never approved the final cut of One-Eyed Jacks. With the project nearly four million dollars over budget and months behind schedule, Paramount took the film away from him. He never directed another film.
Special thanks to Toby Roan