Fate is the Hunter (1964): Ralph Nelson’s Disaster Thriller, Starring Glenn Ford

Ralph Nelson’s “Fate is the Hunter” is a well-executed thriller-mystery about a fatal crash of an airplane investigated by airline executive Glenn Ford.

Grade: C+ (** out of *****)

Fate Is the Hunter
Fate Is the Hunter FilmPoster.jpeg

Theatrical release poste


Rest of the cast includes Rod Taylor and Suzanne Pleshette (both right after appearing in Hitchcock’s “The Birds”), Jane Russell, Nehemia Persoff and Wally Cox.

The storyline concerns the crash of a commercial airliner that killed all aboard except for one of the crew, a stewardess. Civil Aeronautics Board investigators blame pilot error, but the airline’s Director of Flight Operations, himself a pilot, refuses to accept that conclusion and demands a deeper probe.

The film explores the lives of passengers and crew as well as the technical operations of aircraft, the investigation, and the pressures by relentless news media and industry politics.

In the end, McBane powers up the second engine, disregarding its fire warning, and the plane returns safely to the airfield. Savage is therefore exonerated of pilot error by the chain of coincidences that caused the accident.

The film features an early film score by composer Jerry Goldsmith.

The disaster movie genre would become much more popular in the 1970s with franchises like “Airport,” and star-driven blockbuster “The Poseidon Adventure,” and “The Towering Inferno.”


Oscar Nominations: 1


Cinematography (b/w): Milton Krasner


Oscar Alert


The winner was Walter Lassally for “Zorba the Greek,” which also was nominated for Best Picture and other awards.


The three other nominees were Joseph Biroc for “Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte,” Gabriel Figueroa for “The Night of the Iguana,” and Philip H. Lathrop for “The Americanization of Emily.”



Glenn Ford as Sam McBane
Nancy Kwan as Sally Fraser
Rod Taylor as Jack Savage
Suzanne Pleshette as Martha Webster
Jane Russell as Guest Star
Constance Towers as Peg Burke
Wally Cox as Ralph Bundy
Nehemiah Persoff as Ben Sawyer
Mark Stevens as Mickey Doolan
Max Showalter as Dan Crawford
Dorothy Malone as Lisa Bond (uncredited)
Howard St. John as Mark Hutchins

Taylor plays harmonica and hums Blue Moon


FX showed the movie April 19, 2020.