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The Iron Mistress (1952)

The life of nineteenth-century pioneer Jim Bowie is portrayed.


Gordon Douglas


James R. Webb (screenplay), Paul Wellman (novel) (as Paul I. Wellman)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Alan Ladd ... Jim Bowie
Virginia Mayo ... Judalon de Bornay
Joseph Calleia ... Juan Moreno
Phyllis Kirk ... Ursula de Varamendi
Alf Kjellin ... Philippe de Cabanal
Douglas Dick ... Narcisse de Bornay
Anthony Caruso ... Black Jack Sturdevant (as Tony Caruso)
Nedrick Young ... Henri Contrecourt (as Ned Young)
George Voskovec ... John James Audubon
Richard Carlyle Richard Carlyle ... Rezin Bowie
Robert Emhardt ... Gen. Cuny
Don Beddoe ... Dr. Cuny (as Donald Beddoe)
Harold Gordon Harold Gordon ... Andrew Marschalk
Jay Novello ... Judge Crain
Nick Dennis ... Nez Coupe


Barely historical presentation of the life of Jim Bowie. Here he goes to New Orleans to sell lumber but falls in love with Judalon. To match his rivals he must become sophisticated and does so. By the time he sells the mill, starts a plantation and tries to wed Jedualon the woman has wed playboy Phillipe. Along the way to true wisdom he designs a special knife made from part of a meteorite. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


JIM BOWIE...a man with his name on a knife - and a woman with a weapon all her own!


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English | Spanish

Release Date:

12 March 1953 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

La maîtresse de fer See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This film was physically hard on Alan Ladd - he injured a knee during the shoot and broke a hand on the last day of filming. See more »


When the girl is hitting the pinata she is blindfolded, but you can see clearly that she is following the pinata swing as she hits it. See more »


Black Jack Sturdevant: You got the guts for a ten foot circle, wrists strapped together?
See more »


Referenced in The Red Balloon (1956) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A forced fit of romance and knife fights, gun fights, sword fights, fight fights...
17 June 2010 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

The Iron Mistress (1952)

I don't get the whole call of honor that leads to duels at the slightest provocation (or less). In some movies it's a fabulous dramatic point, but here it's a nagging and recurring trick, a reason for some male chest-thumping and a little bloodshed. It also represents the way the movie depends on forced drama to make the events jump.

There are exceptions, like a really beautiful and unusual hand-to-hand knife/sword fight occurring in a darkened room, with an occasional bolt of lightning like a strobe going off. This is cinema trickery, a real pleasure, not part of the real story, but it's a moment of relief from the costume drama and dueling the rest of the time.

This is how this movie goes. Moments of unique drama are followed by long stretches of stiff plot development. I'm not sure how the movie reflects the real story of James Bowie, whose name was given to the famous Bowie knife (knives naturally have a big role in the movie, including the forging of the first true Bowie knife). But what works best is the sense of period sets and time-travel to pre-Civil War Louisiana. The romance isn't highly romantic, and the plot is generally stiff, but it is a kind of history story come to life. If you overlook the obvious liberties and gaffes, it's not an unwatchable movie, just a routine one. Alan Ladd, it must be said, is a little cool even for Alan Ladd (an understated actor).

The film does lay out the gradual shift in cultivation of the South to cotton farming, and brings out lots of old rules like the fact divorce was impossible in Louisiana without an act of the legislature. People interested in this certain kind of movie making, for its own sake, should check out "Drums Along the Mohawk" (a better movie by far, but with a similar feel somehow). Here, the camera-work by the talented John Seitz is strangely dull (though it is in true Technicolor), and the scored music by the incomparable Max Steiner is straight up functional. Most of all, the many ordinary parts are put together without great art or intensity.

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