Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Walter Van Tilburg Clark. Scen.: Lamar Trotti. F.: Arthur C. Miller. M.: Allen McNeil. Scgf.: James Basevi, Richard Day. Mus.: Cyril J. Mockridge. Int.: Henry Fonda (Gil Carter), Dana Andrews (Donald Martin), Henry ‘Harry’ Morgan (Art Croft), Anthony Quinn (Francisco Morez), Harry Davenport (Arthur Davies), Francis Ford (Alva ‘Dad’ Hardwick), Jane Darwell (Jenny ‘Ma’ Grier), William Eythe (Gerald Tetley), Frank Conroy (maggiore Tetley). Prod.: Lamar Trotti per Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp . 35mm
Wellman bought the rights for The Ox-Bow Incident from Harold Hurley, a not-successful-enough B-movie producer at Paramount, who, according to Wellman, dreamed of casting Mae West in order to have her “sing some songs to these tired cowboys”. Once given the green light, Wellman took the project in a different direction and cast Henry Fonda, of whom Wellman said, “Fonda, of course, is a fine actor, but he lacks that one something that makes a great star. I call it ‘Motion Picture Personality'”. But herein lies the key to The Ox-Bow Incident, as Wellman detailed in his autobiography A Short Time for Insanity: “Hank Fonda, perhaps the best actor I have ever directed, certainly the most dedicated. Six weeks before we started The Ox-Bow Incident, he wardrobed himself, had me okay it, and then lived and probably slept in it. The boots, the Levi’s, the hat, the short, the bandanas, became a part of Gil Carter (the character he portrayed), not Hank Fonda because Hank had become Gil. He looked it, talked it, felt it, and by the time we were ready to shoot the picture, smelled it, and his performance was perfection”. What we find in The Ox-Bow Incident is not a story of a man but the story of a situation. Fonda blends in and lurks in the background, observing the movie’s real protagonist: progress. Wellman also looked at progress, in a contrasting vein, in another picture he would make: the Joel McCrea vehicle Buffalo Bill, which Zanuck demanded Wellman make as a precondition for green-lighting Ox-Bow. With Buffalo Bill, Wellman flips the coin and very cynically documents the demise and capitalization of the frontier, the after-effect of the governmental law and order so desperately sought after in Ox-Bow. A cyclical film, in story and in camera movement, Wellman’s The Ox-Bow Incident opens and closes with an image of an old dog rummaging around on the street, of which Wellman said, “Oh, that dog. She was an old female with enormous tits that hung way down; I loved her. I used that as a frame for the picture; it started it and ended it. Maybe I’m an artist in some sense, I don’t know. I can’t draw. I just make pictures”.