Disney Film History: Third Man on the Mountain

third man

The 1950s had been an interesting time for Walt Disney. He had grown to enjoy the process of live action film making. He built his idealistic park for families. He had regrown his studio from a place made out of bank loans, to a profitable studio that was churning out multiple films a year. With so much on his plate and with such success, he deserved a vacation or two and there was no better vacation spot for him than Europe. He took his family multiple times and found inspiration for the studio, because he was never off the clock, and got excited about projects to come. One such instance was after a several skiing trips in Switzerland. He got excited about the location and making a picture in or near the Swiss Alps. That movie became Third Man on the Mountain.

Shooting started in the summer of 1958 under the name “Banner in the Sky”. The title came from a book of the same name written by James Ramsey Ullman. Walt thought the story of a man who had died upon a mountain and his son who wanted to climb that same mountain in the name of his father was a great story. It’s a heroes journey and a man versus nature story. The film was shot over the course of 3 months, between the Switzerland location and a studio in London. James McArthur, who had played the lead in The Light in the Forest, played the hero Rudi in the film. Janet Munro, who had been in Darby O’Gill, came aboard to play the love interest of Rudi, and Michael Rennie, who had been a big star in The Day The Earth Stood Still, played Rudi’s boss and mentor.

third man 1

A great cast, an amazing backdrop, and a very good story won over film critics. Walt Disney was proud of the film, but when the film was released on November 10th, 1959, people didn’t want to see the film. It could be that the film didn’t do well as Disney’s name had been on so many movies in the past few years and the world had tired of the Disney name. It could be that the story is suited for a niche audience. Third Man on the Mountain is basically an action story with a love story shoved in. That being said, we could be missing out on a female audience for the film or even the family audience Disney had been known for.

The film was expensive to shoot due to the travel the cast had to go through to get to different areas of Europe. To make money out of the film, Walt decided to show the film in parts on his Disneyland TV show under the novel’s Banner in the Sky name. The film was never released in theaters again and has seen minimal home video release, the last release being in 2004. It’s a shame as this film is much better than many of the western films made off the back of Davey Crockett.

third man 2

The shining light at the end of the tunnel came in strange fashion. The film, which did poorly, gave us one of Disney’s new Disneyland ideas in the late 1950s. Filming took place on a mountain titled Matterhorn mountain, and when developing new attractions for the park, Walt thought building a roller coaster inside of the Swiss mountain would work for the park, especially since there was such a large mound of dirt from them digging up areas of the park. The Matterhorn is now a Disneyland classic and constantly has a long line at the park. If anything, Third Man on the Mountain gave us Disneyland’s first roller coaster and an attraction never replicated anywhere else in the world.

Josh Taylor
Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube

Previous Film: Darby O’Gill and the Little People
Next Film: Jungle Cat


About The Modern Mouse Crew

Modern Mouse Radio is a multimedia Disney fan site run by Josh Taylor and put together by a crew of amazing individuals. Check us out. You won't be disappointed.

Posted on January 6, 2016, in Articles, The Whole Picture and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: