Warner Bros.’ first CinemaScope release. The first CinemaScope Western. The first film shot in both CinemaScope and 3-D. That’s a lot of history, or trivia, for a single medium-budget cowboy picture to carry. But that’s what fate, and Jack Warner, did to The Command (1954) — and to director David Butler and cinematographer Wilfred M. Cline.
Production got under way as Rear Guard, based on the novel White Invader by James Warner Bellah, part of his series of Fort Stark stories. John Ford’s Fort Apache (1947), She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950) had already been adapted from these stories. Here, Guy Madison had the lead, with Joan Weldon, James Whitmore and Harvey Lembeck (Eric Von Zipper himself) rounding out the cast.
Director David Butler covered The Command in his DGA oral history —
“We made it very, very cheaply, but it looked great… We made it out at the Warner Bros. Ranch. Guy Madison was one of the nicest guys that I’ve ever met. He was a manly man. He’d never done much, and this picture put him over very big. Harvey Lembeck had a comedy part. Also, it was David Weisbart’s first picture as a producer. He had been a cutter, and he was a hell of a nice fellow. All of us were just delighted that this picture turned out the way it did. A swell little picture.”
“For 3-D, we had to line the people straight back because the dimension went that way, and in CinemScope we had to stretch them out. Every scene had to be staged differently. We would wind up with two pictures.”
The Command is available from Warner Archive, with its CinemaScope, WarnerColor and stereophonic sound nicely represented. The 3-D version seems to have never been released. Same with The Bounty Hunter (1954).