Linda Cristal made her American film debut in the 1956 western COMANCHE. The film told of efforts by the U.S. government and the Comanche nation to negotiate a peace treaty that were sabotaged by renegade Indians and by the short-sighted Indian Commissioner (Lowell Gilmore). The film was, according to an onscreen acknowledgment, "filmed in its entirety in Durango in Old Mexico for historical authenticity....Most of the characters, places, dates and events in this story are factual."
The film opens in 1875, as a group of renegade Comanches led by the warlike “Black Cloud” (Henry Brandon) attacks and burns a Mexican village, kidnaps a number of women, including beautiful young “Margarita Alvarez” (Linda Cristal), and escapes Mexican troops by crossing the border into U.S. territory. Dana Andrews stars as scout “Jim Read” in the film.
Linda Cristal (left) and Henry Brandon (center) in COMANCHE
Dana Andrews had a severe drinking problem during this period. While shooting the film he also fell in love with his leading lady, Linda Cristal. While not big news in the tabloids stateside, the Mexican papers had a field day with this news about the co-stars. When Andrews phoned his wife Mary and told her that even she would like Linda, Mary hopped on a plane to Mexico.
George Sherman directed the 1956 release. Herschel Burke Gilbert’s score was released on LP by Coral Records. MCA (Japan) re-issued it on CD in 1995. COMANCHE grossed $3.3 million at the box office, putting it well behind the top-performing westerns of 1956: THE SEARCHERS ($14 million) and WESTWARD HO THE WAGONS! ($7.9 million).
In THE LAST OF THE FAST GUNS, gunfighter “Brad Ellison” (Jock Mahoney) is hired by millionaire “John Forbes” (Carl Benton Reid) to find his long-lost brother, “Edward” (Eduard Franz), who disappeared in Mexico many years ago. If Edward isn't found, his share of the business goes to Forbe's conniving partner, “Miles Lang” (Gilbert Roland). Lorne Greene plays “Michael ‘King’ O’Reilly,” the biggest rancher in San Vicente, and Linda Cristal is his daughter “Maria.”
Linda Cristal, Lorne Greene, Gilbert Roland, and Eduard Franz in THE LAST OF THE FAST GUNS
All of THE LAST OF THE FAST GUNS, except the opening sequence, was filmed in Mexico, and director George Sherman hired a full Mexican crew. The 1958 film was Sherman’s second with Linda Cristal. The uncredited score was provided by Hans J. Salter and Herman Stein.
On the strength of his television stardom, Hugh O'Brian got his first lead role in a feature film in 1958's THE FIEND WHO WALKED THE WEST. O'Brian played bank robber "Dan Hardy." As Dan was led away to prison, he assured his pregnant wife “Elena” (Linda Cristal) that the head of the robber gang, “Finney” (Kenneth Scott), would take care of her and their daughter in his absence. Gordon Douglas directed the 20th Century Fox production. The film’s title came from a marketing executive trying to cater to both western and horror film audiences.
Linda Cristal and Hugh O’Brian in THE FIEND WHO WALKED THE WEST
The film was affected by the 1958 musicians' strike and used a stock music score, including tracks from Bernard Herrmann's THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, much to Herrmann’s displeasure.
To pacify 104 sex-starved male soldiers building an Arctic radar base, Army psychologist “Vicki Loren” (Janet Leigh) suggests choosing one by lottery to have THE PERFECT FURLOUGH as selected by the men: three weeks in Paris with their favorite pin-up queen, “Sandra Roca” (Linda Cristal). Since winner “Paul Hodges” (Tony Curtis) is a tireless Don Juan, Vicki is ordered to keep Paul and Sandra out of bed. But who will guard the guardian?
Tony Curtis and Linda Cristal in THE PERFECT FURLOUGH
Producer Carl Krueger filed a $4 million breach of contract suit against Linda Cristal and Universal, stating that Cristal had signed an exclusive contract with him in 1955, and requested that she be prevented from working on THE PERFECT FURLOUGH. On 24 January 1958, the Hollywood Reporter reported that a federal judge denied the injunction.
Blake Edwards directed this 1959 romantic comedy. It was the second of four films that Edwards made with Tony Curtis. The others were MISTER CORY (1957), OPERATION PETTICOAT (1959), and THE GREAT RACE (1965). Frank Skinner’s score has not had a release. The film grossed $6.6 million.
In the 1959 crime drama CRY TOUGH, John Saxon plays "Miguel Estrada," who has just returned home to his Spanish Harlem tenement after serving a one-year prison sentence for assisting some racketeers in the commission of a crime. On the way to his family's apartment, Miguel visits his friends in the Carlos Mendoza mob, not to take up his old position in the gang, but rather, as he tells them, to celebrate old times. Nevertheless, Miguel again falls in with his old gang. One night, as he is leaving Mendoza's nightclub, he is mesmerized by one of its hostesses, the beautiful “Sarita” (Linda Cristal), and agrees to meet her after work.
Writer-producer Harry Kleiner borrowed John Saxon and Linda Cristal from Universal for the film. CRY TOUGH was television director Paul Stanley's first effort at theatrical film-making. Famed Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida scored the film. In his "Movie Guide," Leonard Maltin notes that the film got its initial publicity because of the "torrid love scenes shot for foreign markets."
In LEGIONS OF THE NILE, Roman Emperor Octavian (Alfredo Mayo) rules the empire from Rome, and his rival Marc Antony (Georges Marchal) has taken Egyptian queen Cleopatra (Linda Cristal) as his lover and seized the eastern empire, ruling it from Alexandria. Octavian intends to regain his empire by landing his army at Alexandria, besieging the city and capturing and executing the pair. However, while Octavian's army is bigger than Marc Antony's forces, he and Cleopatra have allies who can come to their aid. Both sides prepare for a final showdown.
Linda Cristal in LEGIONS OF THE NILE
Although Argentine actress Linda Cristal spoke English quite well, and is obviously speaking her lines in English, her voice for the English-language version of the film is dubbed by that of another actress.
Vittorio Cottafavi directed and co-wrote this 1959 Italian-Spanish-French co-production. Originally released in Europe as “The Legions of Cleopatra,” Twentieth Century-Fox bought the film from its producers for $1 million, retitled it, and gave it a quick playoff in late 1960 so it wouldn't draw potential customers away from its own upcoming CLEOPATRA (1963). Renzo Rossellini’s score was released by Saimel in 2014.
In John Wayne’s epic production of THE ALAMO, Linda Cristal was cast as “Flaca,” a Mexican woman whose family was killed by Santa Anna (Ruben Padilla) and who is being pressured to marry “Emil Sande” (Wesley Lau), a local merchant who has curried favor with the Mexican general. Wayne’s Davey Crockett soon falls in love with Flaca, and they enjoy a brief romance before destiny intervenes.
John Wayne and Linda Cristal in THE ALAMO
Producer-director Wayne borrowed Linda Cristal from Universal for his film. At the time of the film’s October 1960 opening, it ran 192 minutes. Wayne then cut thirty minutes from the film for its general release, in response to a study of audience reaction indicating restlessness during the early parts of the film. Two of the cut scenes involved Linda Cristal, as most of her involvement in the story was in the lead-up to the battle.
John Wayne was originally interested in playing the role of Sam Houston and had originally intended to play a small part, so that he could concentrate on producing the film. However, United Artists would agree to back the project only if he starred in it, as it was too much of a risk without him. Wayne disclosed that, besides United Artists, backers of the film included brothers I. J. and O. J. McCullough, and Clint Murchison, all oilmen, and the Yale Foundation.
Wayne also tried to interest Warner Bros. in the production, without success. So, Wayne put up the rest of the money himself. He eventually mortgaged his house, his production company and other holdings to finance the film. In an October 1960 Limelight article, Wayne was quoted as saying, “Every last damn dime I have in the world I tied up in this thing.”
Although several sources report that the cost of the film was $12 million, a 5 October 1960 Daily Variety news item reported that Wayne’s “final tally” for the film was $14 million and that the film would have to gross $17 million before he netted a profit. In the end, THE ALAMO was the fifth most popular film of 1960 and grossed $22.6 million, so perhaps Wayne came out whole.
Nevertheless, the film was not the huge blockbuster that was expected, which is one reason why the planned two-LP set of Dimitri Tiomkin’s score was reduced to a single LP. But that recording remained in print for many decades on LP and then CD. Although the original is now out-of-print, fans were graced by a faithful 3-CD 2010 re-recording of the complete score on the Promethus label by Nic Raine, performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and the Crouch End Festival Chorus.
Linda Cristal returned to Italy for the filming of another Egypt-set epic. In THE PHARAOH’S WOMAN, two cousins, “Prince Sabaku” (John Drew Barrymore) and “Prince Ramsisu” (Armondo Francioli) become rivals for the hand of a beautiful village girl named Akis (Cristal). Unknown to them, however, she has fallen in love with the young “Amosi” (Pierre Brice), the court physician and one of Ramsisu’s close friends. When Ramsisu is declared Pharoah, Sabaku declares himself pharaoh of “lower Egypt” and takes Akis as his bride. The stage is set for conflict.
Pierre Brice, Linda Cristal, and John Drew Barrymore in THE PHARAOH'S WOMAN
Viktor Tourjansky directed the 1960 film, which was cut by 12 minutes down to 88-minutes for its U.S. release in 1961 by Universal-International. THE PHARAOH'S WOMAN was the first film released in Techniscope, which would become the favored format for so many Italian westerns in the 1960’s. Giovanni Fusco’s score has not had a release.
Producer Stan Shpetner was inspired to make a Western with director John Ford and actor James Stewart after learning the two had always wanted to work together. In search of a property, Shpetner discovered Will Cook’s “Comanche Captives” serial, published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1959, and optioned the screen rights. Once Ford and Stewart were on board, Shpetner brought the project to Columbia Pictures, and the studio agreed to finance it.
Titled TWO RODE TOGETHER, the film focused on corrupt “Marshal Guthrie McCabe” (Stewart), who is pressured by his army friend “Lt. Jim Gary” (Richard Widmark) into negotiating the release of white captives of the Comanches, but finds that their reintegration into society has its consequences. McCabe and Gary obtain the release of “Running Wolf” (David Kent), a white boy raised as an Indian, and Elena de la Madriaga” (Linda Cristal), a young Mexican woman who has been forced to become the squaw of Comanche warrior “Stone Calf” (Woody Strode).
John Ford, Linda Cristal, and James Stewart on the set of TWO RODE TOGETHER
Principal photography began in Brackettville, Texas, on 17 October 1960, with the Happy Shahan Ranch (aka “Alamo Village”) as the primary shooting location. Since THE ALAMO (with Cristal and Widmark) had recently been shot there, sets from that picture were reconstructed for TWO RODE TOGETHER.
When Shpetner asked to visit set, the notoriously difficult John Ford told him that no producers would be allowed, “but you can come as my friend.” Musician Danny Borzage, a longtime collaborator of Ford’s, reportedly “serenaded” the film crew in the style of “set-side, mood-creating” musicians popular during the silent film era.
Ford had difficulty finding fifty Native Americans for roles representing Comanche Indians, Lipan Apaches, and Seminoles. A weeklong search in San Antonio, TX, was said to have been unproductive because the local Native Americans were “too rich to care about donning war paint,” too assimilated into white culture, or “not facially ferocious or physically imposing enough.” Casting director Thomas Roselle ultimately hired “200 nationals from Mexico” to portray Comanche Indians.
Critical reception for the 1961 film was mixed. While the Los Angeles Times review described TWO RODE TOGETHER as the “most disappointing western” of John Ford’s career, The New York Times praised James Stewart’s performance as a career best. The picture was the only American film from a major studio chosen to be screened at the Locarno Film Festival, and it was named as one of the ten best films of 1961 by the recently re-launched film magazine, N.Y. Film Bulletin. Box-office earnings were listed as “disappointing” at $4.1 million, leaving the film out of the top 50 films of the year.
The picture was one of the first seven to be shown as part of Trans World Airline’s new “midair film projection” program for first-class passengers in 1961. George Duning’s score has not had a release, although it appears as an isolated score track on the 2014 Twilight Time Blu-ray release of the film. Following TWO RODE TOGETHER, Ford and Stewart reteamed for another two westerns: THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962) and CHEYENNE AUTUMN (1964).
In 1967, Linda Cristal signed on to the cast, and became the only regular female presence, in the television western “The High Chaparral”. Invited to an audition, she found the set script as too saccharine and bland. Audaciously improvising, she re-imagined her character as more tempestuous, resourceful and proud, later saying in an interview that she knew the producers "were looking for a heroine with fire and spunk".
The show is set in the 1870s, and revolves around "’Big John’ Cannon” (Leif Erickson), a rancher living in the dry desert of the southern Arizona Territory, near the Mexican border, in Apache Indian country. John runs a ranch, called "The High Chaparral" (named for a local brushy plant), with his brother “Buck” (Cameron Mitchell) and his own son “Billy Blue” (known as "Blue Boy") (Mark Slade).
Blue Boy's mother, “Anna-lee Cannon” (Joan Caulfield), is killed in the first episode by an attacking Apache Indian arrow. John then marries a beautiful Mexican woman named “Victoria” (Linda Cristal), 30 years his junior, the daughter of a powerful neighboring Mexican rancher, “Don Sebastián Montoya” (Frank Silvera). In what is initially a marriage of convenience, she soon appreciates his strength and character, falls in love with him and becomes very supportive. John's marriage to Victoria also brings her brother “Manolito” (Henry Darrow) to live with the American "gringo" family on the extensive ranch.
The cast of “The High Chaparral”: Leif Erickson, Mark Slade, Linda Cristal, and Henry Darrow
The series premiered on Sunday, 10 September 1967 at 10 PM. The show was opposite “Mission: Impossible,” then beginning its second season on CBS, and “The ABC Sunday Night Movie.” The programs split the audience, and all survived to the next season. Linda Cristal was nominated for an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Drama.” She lost to Barbara Anderson for “Ironside.”
Linda Cristal in “The High Chaparral”
For its second season (1968-69), NBC moved the show to a new timeslot—Fridays at 7:30 PM. Here, “The High Chaparral” competed with the new “Operation: Entertainment” on ABC, a variety show filmed on a different military base every week. But its most direct competition came from “The Wild, Wild West,” beginning its fourth and last season on CBS. Since that show was on the downslide, and “Operation: Entertainment” ended up being cancelled, “The High Chaparral” moved into another season.
In it’s third season (1969-70), the series gradually evolved to make Manolito and Buck the most prominent characters, as they were the ones who tended to get into trouble; both were somewhat irresponsible, particularly under the influence of drink. For what was generally regarded as a serious Western TV series, their scenes provided "comic relief" for the show. “The High Chaparral”’s all-new competition this season was a slate of game and comedy shows on both competing networks—“Let’s Make a Deal” and “The Brady Bunch” on ABC, and “Get Smart” and “The Good Guys” on CBS. At midseason, “Let’s Make a Deal” was replaced with “The Flying Nun,” and “The Good Guys” was replaced by the “Tim Conway Show.” But as the only dramatic alternative in that hour, “The High Chaparral” delivered enough ratings to move to another season. At the Golden Globe Awards, Linda Cristal won for “Best TV Actress – Drama.”
Leif Ericson and Linda Cristal in “The High Chaparral”
In season 4 (1970-71), the show faced “The Brady Bunch” and “Nanny and the Professor” on ABC, and a new dramatic series, “The Interns,” on CBS. Although, “The Interns” was cancelled at the end of the season, so was “The High Chaparral,” the series just having run its course. The show was a steady mid-level performer throughout its four-season run, never breaking into the top 30 shows.
For the final season of “The High Chaparral,” Linda Cristal was nominated for an Emmy Award for the “Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Series.” She lost to Susan Hampshire for “The First Churchills.” Cristal also received a Golden Globe nomination as Best TV Actress- Drama, losing to Peggy Lipton for “the Mod Squad.” David Rose composed the well-known theme music for the show.
Filmed before Linda Cristal started working on “The High Chaparral,” PANIC IN THE CITY was a 1968 thriller that was released in the middle of the show’s first season. In the film, an American agent, “Dave Pomeroy” (Howard Duff), is assigned to track down a renegade Soviet spy (Nehemiah Persoff) who is building an atomic device in Los Angeles and plans to destroy the city with it. Linda Cristal plays radiologist “Dr. Paula Stevens,” who aids Pomeroy in his investigation. Eddie Davis directed the film, which has an unreleased score by Paul Dunlap.
After “The High Chaparral” ended in 1971, Linda Cristal did some television series guest shots, before returning to feature film work in 1974 with Charles Bronson’s MR. MAJESTYK. Bronson played the title character, a melon farmer who battles organized crime and a hit man who wants to kill him. Linda Cristal played “Nancy Chavez,” a migrant worker and a union organizer with ties to the National Farm Workers Association.
Linda Cristal and Alejandro Rey in MR. MAJESTYK
The film was shot in Colorado because Charles Bronson was not available to start until September 1973, and the melon-growing season in California was over by that time. When the filmmakers offered a farmer with an 160-acre “Rocky Ford” melon ranch near Manzanola, CO, $3,500 for the rental of his property, the farmer insisted on $10,000 because the film had been publicized in the La Junta Tribune-Democrat as a multi-million dollar venture.
Richard Fleischer directed the film. Although the film was not one of Bronson’s more popular pictures, it grossed $10.6 million and finished in the top 50 films of the year. It was, however, eclipsed by another Bronson film that opened a week later, DEATH WISH, which earned $26.7 million and finished in the top 25 for 1974. Intrada released Charles Bernstein's score in 2009.
In 1974, for Mexican television, Linda Cristal co-starred with Jorge Rivero (who had appeared with John Wayne in RIO LOBO) in the telenovela “El Chofer (“The Driver”). The show ran for 187 episodes.
Returning to the U.S., Cristal co-starred in the 1975 made-for-television film THE DEAD DON’T DIE. This supernatural period piece, set in the mid-1930s, has sailor “Don Drake” (George Hamilton) becoming drawn into the netherworld while trying to prove that his brother was wrongfully executed for murder. While investigating the crime for which his brother was falsely accused, Don is sitting in a hotel restaurant, when a strange French woman approaches him. She is “Vera LaValle” (Linda Cristal), and she warns him to leave town because the sinister “Varrick,” someone she has never met but knows is a Zombie Master, has plans to raise an army of the dead for his own evil reasons and will not allow him to interfere with those plans.
Curtis Harrington (NIGHT TIDE) directed the film, which was written by Robert Bloch (PSYCHO). The film aired on NBC on 14 January 1975. Robert Prince provided the unreleased score.
Linda Cristal’s final feature film appearance came in the low-budget independent film LOVE AND THE MIDNIGHT AUTO SUPPLY. Michael Parks, with his cowboy hat, leather jacket, and snide remarks, stars as “Duke,” proprietor of Midnight Auto. He and his boys sneak into parking lots, strip cars belonging to rich folks, and re-sell the stolen parts. Midnight Auto adjoins a brothel operated by Duke’s girlfriend, “Annie” (Linda Cristal). Through convoluted circumstances, Duke gets involved with “Peter” (George McCallister), son of a local bigwig, and Peter’s revolutionary pal,” Justin” (Scott Jacoby). Together, these unlikely allies develop a scheme for funneling profits from their various criminal enterprises to a group of oppressed farm workers.
The Los Angeles Times review of the 1977 film reported that it represented “an interesting attempt by writer-director James Polakof to introduce a political theme into an otherwise bland car-chase exploitation movie.” Don Johnson and Anjanette Comer were originally cast as the lovers, but were replaced by Parks and Cristal. The budget for the film was estimated at $250,000. Ed Bogas’s score has not been released.
In the early 1980s, Linda Cristal did a few guest shots on U.S. television series, then, in 1985, appeared in the Mexican TV series “Rossé,” which lasted a single season. Her final film work was a 12-episode arc on “General Hospital” in 1988 as the mistress of a mob boss. In the intervening periods between acting jobs, Cristal had worked for some time as a realtor, presided over her own import/export business, and invested wisely to become financially very well-off. She spent her remaining years between residences in Beverly Hills, Palm Springs and Buenos Aires and passed away at her Beverly Hills home on June 27 2020 at the age of 89.