Mackenna’s Gold may not have enjoyed a lot of commercial success when it released in 1969, it went on to become a cult western classic in later years. It stars Gregory Peck, Omar Sharif star as treasure hunters looking for gold who face a mystical force during their journey.
• The film didn’t adhere to the nationalities of the characters which were a mix of Mexicans and Apache Indians. Egyptian actor Omar Sharif and Keenan Wynn who is of Jewish-Irish descent played Mexicans, while Ted Cassidy, Julie Newmar, and other Caucasian actors played the Indians and wore brown makeup.
• George Lucas documented the making of the film for a project while he was at film school.
• Mackenna’s Gold was initially offered to Clint Eastwood who said no as he was busy shooting for Hang ‘Em High. Among other actors who were considered was Steve McQueen.
• From the beginning, actor Gregory Peck was not too keen about the movie and was persuaded by
J Lee Thompson to take up the role. Later, he went on to reveal later that “Mackenna’s Gold was a terrible western. Just wretched”.
• It was supposed to be shown in a single lens Cinerama with reserved seat roadshow engagements. However, to save money, Columbia shelved the idea, and the film was drastically cut down immediately prior to its release, from nearly three hours (plus an intermission) to just over two hours.
• It was photographed on 65mm stock, but some scenes were filmed in 35mm anamorphic.
• The film may not have been successful commercially, but its theme song Old Turkey Buzzard became very famous. It was shot at Monument Valley, on the Arizona-Utah border. Interestingly, the bird is actually a black vulture rather than a turkey vulture (buzzard).
• Old Turkey Buzzard was dubbed with Russian lyrics by Leonid Derbenyov, a Russian poet and lyricist widely regarded as one of the stalwarts of 20th-century Soviet and Russian pop music. It was performed by then-popular Soviet singer Valery Obodzinsky.
• Mackenna’s Gold enjoyed international success and was loved by those in the former Soviet Union. Shown at the eighth Moscow International Film Festival in 1973, it was viewed by 63 million people and now stands fourth in the all-time rating of a foreign film distribution there.
• Julie Newmar’s character wasn’t supposed to be nude in the swimming scene and was to be topless and wearing a loincloth. She later revealed in an interview that it was her decision to appear nude and no one contested it.
• The canyon was purchased as unsafe by the movie company, and actually destroyed on film.
• The action sequences which take place at the pool and waterfall were man-made and the water was brought in by a tanker.
• The scene where the treasure seekers’ raft breaks up in the rapids of the river they are crossing was edited together. The wreckage of the raft that comes up on top of a waterfall is shot in High Force in Teesdale, Co Durham, England.
• This was Raymond Massey’s final film before his death on July 29, 1983, at the age of 86