Hannan divides The Making of The Magnificent Seven into three parts: (1) the "movie's long genesis"; (2) the actual production and an analysis of the film; and (3) a brief discussion of its release and enduring appeal. The most engrossing chapters are those that deal with its production history.
"It was Anthony Quinn's idea," writes Hannan in his book's first chapter. That alone is likely a revelation to most of the film's fans. Quinn saw Seven Samurai in 1956 and came up with the idea to remake it as a Western. He mentioned it to Yul Brynner as a possible starring vehicle for the two of them. Over the next three years, The Magnificent Seven's journey to the screen would take many unexpected twists along the way.
Hannan meticulously charts Brynner's rise to stardom and his desire to direct. Originally, the actor was set to direct and star in The Buccaneer (1958). In fact, according to a Variety article (quoted by Hannan), Brynner wanted to pull out of the film as its star and only direct, "but DeMille wouldn't have it." Ironically, Anthony Quinn, who was DeMille's son-in-law at the time, was credited as director (although how much he directed vs. DeMille has been debated).
|The Spanish poster emphasizes|
the numeral "7."
Hannan goes to on to explain how John Sturges became attached as director, how the script was penned by six (or seven!) screenwriters, and how one of cinema's greatest casts was assembled. The author notes that the "final piece of 'casting'...was the recruitment of Elmer Bernstein to write the score." Amazingly, Bernstein was not the first choice as the film's composer. He joined the project after Dimitri Tiomkin, Aaron Copeland, and Alex North were considered and rejected.
Hannan's analysis of The Magnificent Seven focuses largely on Sturges' directorial style and a discussion of the film's themes ("Men in professions which cannot change are forced into inevitable collision with an altered world--that, in a nutshell, is the proposition of The Magnificent Seven").
|Hannan says McQueen removes his|
hat 9 times--to draw attention.
The Making of The Magnificent Seven (McFarland & Company, 277 pages) contains numerous photos, extensive footnotes, a bibliography, and an index. Its strongest virtue is the detailed history of the production. For that reason, we strongly recommend it for fans of The Magnificent Seven. It will also be an engrossing read for any film buff interested in the convoluted processes that go into the making of a movie.
McFarland & Company, Inc. provided a review copy of this book.