Yellow Sky

Director: William A. Wellman
Screenwriters: W.R. Burnett, Lamar Trotti

Institute History

  • 1996 Sundance Film Festival


Like The Ox-Bow Incident, Yellow Sky was a western ahead of its time. Its gritty setting in a ghost town in the middle of the desolate salt flats, whose only inhabitants are a feisty young woman (Anne Baxter) and her crusty miner grandfather (James Barton), and its tarnished good-bad-man hero (Gregory Peck) link it to the work of Anthony Mann and other creators of the darker and more “adult” westerns which began to dominate the genre during the 1950s and 1960s.

Yellow Sky is a morality play about hate and love, sin and redemption. Peck plays Stretch, the leader of a gang of outlaws whose greed for gold drives their lives. After meeting Mike (Baxter), a typical strong, self-reliant Wellman woman who insists on accepting the world only on her terms, he changes his mind about stealing her grand-father’s cache, which puts him in confrontation with the evil Dude (Richard Widmark in a performance which comes close to stealing the film).

Yellow Sky was scripted by Lamar Trotti, who also did the screenplay for The Ox-Bow Incident, and its crisp black-and-white photography, economical story line, terse dialogue, and reliance on action parallel its predecessor. Peck once described Wellman as a “master of the art of telling a story with pictures.” Yellow Sky exemplifies perfectly what he meant.

— Barbara Bannon

Screening Details

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