|Seven Cities of Gold|
|Directed by||Robert D. Webb|
|Screenplay by||Richard L. Breen|
|Based on||The Nine Days of Father Serra|
by Isabelle Gibson Ziegler
|Music by||Hugo Friedhofer|
|Edited by||Hugh S. Fowler|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
Seven Cities of Gold is a 1955 historical adventure DeLuxe Color film directed by Robert D. Webb and starring Richard Egan, Anthony Quinn and Michael Rennie, filmed in CinemaScope. It tells the story of the eighteenth-century Franciscan priest, Father Junípero Serra and the founding of the first missions in what is now California. The screenplay is based on the 1951 novel The Nine Days of Father Serra by Isabelle Gibson Ziegler. The tag line of the film was "This is the story of the making ...and the forging...of California...when men chose gold or God...the sword or the Cross".
In 1769, the expedition of Captain Gaspar de Portolà (Anthony Quinn) to California is in search of fabled cities of gold. Its religious advisor, peace-loving missionary Father Junipero Serra (Michael Rennie), wishes to establish good relations with the local natives and to build a string of missions, beginning at San Diego Bay. He is unexpectedly aided when Portola's prideful second in command, Lt. Jose Mendoza (Richard Egan), saves the life of Matuwir (Jeffrey Hunter), the son of the local chief. But when a supply ship fails to appear and the expedition prepares to return to Mexico a failure, Mendoza betrays Matuwir's sister Ula (Rita Moreno), whom he has seduced, resulting in her accidental death by a fall from a cliff. Threatened with annihilation by Matuwir's warriors when both Portola and Father Serra refuse to turn him over, Mendoza prevents war by surrendering himself to Matuwir for torture and execution. As the Spaniards begin to leave, the supply ship appears in the bay as if by a miracle.
The film was based on the book The Nine Days of Father Sierra which was published in 1951. The New York Times called it a "brief, tender, impressive novel." Film rights were bought by 20th Century Fox who in June 1952 announced Charles Brackett would produce and John C Higgins would write the script.
In April 1953 Fox announced the film would be made in CinemaScope and that Richard Breen was working on the script. (NB The Gun and the Cross was the title of a story by Gus Field that Fox purchased in 1951 about the relationship between a priest and a gunfighter. The title appears to have been re-appropriated.)
By January 1955 the film was titled Seven Cities of Gold. Brackett was out as producer, replaced by the husband and wife team of Barbara McLean, normally an editor, and Robert D. Webb, who would direct. The stars would be Richard Egan, Michael Rennie, Rita Moreno and Cameron Mitchell. Jeffrey Hunter was cast as a Native American on the basis of his success as a Native American in White Feather, which he had just made for Webb. Mitchell was eventually replaced by Anthony Quinn.
The film was premiered in San Diego.