After her car breaks down in the Arizona desert, New York socialite Amanda Lawrence accepts a ride from Jonathan Dartland, a mining engineer, and his friend Hugh Slater, a doctor with a penchant for liquor. Invited to a party hosted by her wealthy mother at the resort where they are staying, "Dart" claims to dislike mothers, especially those of spoiled beautiful daughters, but he and Amanda fall in love and quickly marry. Amanda's mother is not pleased to hear that Dart's mother is an Apache Indian princess, once married to a Boston college professor, who has taken back her Apache name and never sees her son.
Dart works in the mining community of Lodestone for Tyson Copper, where women are not welcome because of miners' superstitions, but wants to re-open the abandoned "foxfire" shaft, where he hopes to find a legendary vein of gold. Amanda adjusts easily to the rustic living conditions of Lodestone, and to the meddling opinions of the wife of the mine superintendent Jim Mablett, but feels devalued when Dart apparently does not want children. When his attention is completely occupied trying to get the foxfire project going, she innocently spends time with Hugh, who makes no secret to others that he is still attracted to Amanda, causing gossip in town begun by the jealous Maria, Hugh's nurse.
Dart is reticent about his background and ambitions. A pregnant Amanda opens a footlocker he mysteriously keeps locked, learning more about Dart's background. Dart resents the intrusion, believing she did so only out of bored amusement. Trying to win his trust, Amanda persuades the reluctant company owner, Mr. Tyson, to back Dart's foxfire project but this also backfires when Dart's pride is injured. She seeks out his mother, who explains her son's cultural attitudes, which include a belief that love is only temporary and that fathers do not acknowledge sons until they come of age and abandon their mothers. Dart has heard the rumors and misdirected by Maria, believes she is having a tryst with Hugh. When she returns, he is intoxicated and accuses her of being unfaithful. After she explains, he is contrite but they continue at cross purposes when she angrily rejects his drunken advances.
Amanda falls during a dizzy spell and has a miscarriage. Dart, unaware she was pregnant, tries to see her in the hospital but accedes to Hugh's dissuasion not to. Hurt by Dart's adherence to the "old ways" and telling him that he has treated her "like a squaw," Amanda intends to return home with her mother. At the foxfire shaft, which legend has is on ground sacred to the Apaches, many of them refuse to continue working after one of them has a seizure. Dart goes into the shaft to overcome their superstitions. It collapses and injures his hands, but he also finds the vein of gold. Informed at the airport by Maria that he's been hurt, Amanda rushes back, where Dart admits that the mine collapse showed him that he needs her and is no longer afraid of love. At the mine a new "Foxfire Gold Company" sign is erected.Jane Russell as Amanda Lawrence
Jeff Chandler as Jonathan Dartland
Dan Duryea as Hugh Slater
Mara Corday as Maria - Hugh's Nurse
Barton MacLane as Jim Mablett
Frieda Inescort as Mrs. Lawrence
Celia Lovsky as Princess Saba
Eddy Waller as Old Larky (as Eddy C. Waller)
Robert F. Simon as Ernest Tyson
Charlotte Wynters as Mrs. Mablett
Robert Bice as Walt Whiteman
Arthur Space as Foley
The film's script updated Seton's novel by changing the setting from the Great Depression and Prohibition to the post-World War II time contemporary with the making of the film. It retained most of the characters, locations, and many plot events but substantially reworked the story line, particularly by eliminating villains intrinsic to the original story and eschewing a melodramatic quest by three embittered treasure seekers for a Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine in favor of a more prosaic search in an already working mine to prove a myth as reality. In the process all the main characters had their motivations and emotional responses significantly altered.
Universal originally announced that June Allyson, who matched Seton's description of her heroine, would co-star with Jeff Chandler. Filming was pushed back; Allyson dropped out and Jane Russell played the lead instead. Russell was paid $200,000 for her role and had the right to draw on Chandler's services for a film later on for her own production company.
The movie was filmed on location at the Apple Valley Inn in Apple Valley, California and in Oatman, Arizona.
Chandler described the role as one of his favorites as "I don't have to be so darned monosyllabic in this one."
A.H. Weiler of the New York Times said: "Jeff Chandler, who wrote the lyrics of the title tune, and who, we are told, sings it, does well by the role of the brooding, brawny and handsome engineer. Although his problems appear to be bigger than they actually are, he makes a fine, romantic figure of a man. Miss Russell, if the appraisal isn't redundant by now, is a fine figure of a woman in a variety of revealing gowns and negligees. Her cheerfully sincere efforts to make her marriage work are worthy of sympathy, but, all things considered, Mr. Chandler's acting rings truer."
Despite the NYT criticism of Russell, Jack Moffitt of The Hollywood Reporter said: "...Jane Russell, as the wife, does some of the best work she has done to date," while Variety wrote: "Miss Russell is extremely likable in her breezy characterization, playing it with becoming naturalness." Saturday Review said, "the [role of the] socialite, well played by Jane Russell is a surprising sensible girl," and noted "Ketti Fring's script probes unusually deep in analyzing the position of women in an Apache tribe and their relationship to their men." Hazel Flynn of The Beverly Hills Daily Newsline said, "Jane here continues in the trend she has been following of late...that is, acting instead of just exhibiting her charms. She is really good in "Foxfire" as is Jeff Chandler as the Apache with whom she falls in love."
On 25 July 1956, Foxfire was the film playing aboard the SS Andrea Doria at the time it was stuck by the MS Stockholm.