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Archive for the ‘1950’ Category

On Facebook, Cricket White Green recently posted some old photographs of films being shot at White’s Ranch in Moab, Utah. Here’s a few showing location work for John Ford’s wonderful Wagon Master (1950).

H Worden Wagon Master set 1

That’s Hank Worden on the left.

H Worden W Bond Wagon Master 2

Left to right: Hank Worden, Charles Kemper and Ward Bond.1509048_10203213393519486_full

The crew and the wagon train. Looks like some reflectors on the right.

Thanks for letting me share these, Cricket!

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Another day, another reason I’m living on the wrong end of the country. UCLA will present a very thorough Anthony Mann retrospective, covering all the noir and Westerns we know and love, at the Billy Wilder Theater starting this week. Click on Gary Cooper for details.

The 50s Westerns include:
The Furies (1950) January 31
Devil’s Doorway (1950) March 3
Winchester ’73 (1950) March 15
The Naked Spur (1953) February 9
The Far Country (1954) March 23
The Man From Laramie (1955) February 5
The Last Frontier (1956) February 21
The Tin Star (1957) March 30
Man Of The West (1958) March 30

1955 The man from Laramie - cropped

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Three Monogram cowboys ride tall in the latest volume of Warner Archive’s Monogram Cowboy Collection. This time, some of the films creep into the 50s. As we all know, the B Western was in its last days.

Expect lots of action, expertly transferred. These things always look terrific. Here’s what you get:

Johnny Mack Brown
Trigger Fingers (1946), Whistling Hills (1951) and Man From The Black Hills (1952);

Jimmy Wakely
Saddle Serenade (1945) and Across The Rio Grande (1949)

Whip Wilson
Gunslingers (1950), Silver Raiders (1950), Arizona Territory (1950) and Lawless Cowboys (1951).

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Tim Holt Movie Thrills Spread

This week’s Tim Holt Tuesday is brought to you by Paula over at The Ben Johnson Fan Page. It’s an article by Tim himself, or his ghost writer (Ghost Rider?), about his dad Jack, and you can download a PDF of it here.

A brief sample: “When I signed my contract with RKO Studios I asked just one favor: I asked them to give me the same dressing room my Dad had occupied there for so many years. They granted my request and it’s been a sort of permanent inspiration to me.”

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When it comes to The Durango Kid, I’ve really dropped the ball — especially given that the bulk of the series was directed by Ray Nazarro and Fred F. Sears. Charles Starrett made the first one, The Durango Kid, in 1940. (It’s available from VCI.) Columbia didn’t get around to The Return Of The Durango Kid till 1945. Making up for lost time, Columbia cranked out 62 more Durango Kid pictures before shutting down the series in 1952 — at which point Starrett retired from movies.

Trail Of The Rustlers (1950) has been announced as part of the Columbia Classics Collection, to be released on January 28. Starrett’s backed by a great cast this time around — Smiley Burnette, Gail Davis and Tommy Ivo (who later became a big-time drag racer). Starrett is doubled by Jock Mahoney, still a few years from being a Western star himself.

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The Sony Movie Channel’s Western Round-Up Marathon serves up a weekend full of excellent Westerns featuring folks like Audie Murphy (The Texican, 1966), Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster and James Garner. Of particular interest to fans of 50s Westerns is a Sunday morning devoted to Randolph Scott.

Sunday, January 26

10 AM The Nevadan (1950) Gordon Douglas directs Scott, Dorothy Malone, Forrest Tucker, Frank Faylen and George Macready. The Cinecolor looks OK, but it takes a lot more than an oddball color process to spoil Lone Pine.

11:30 AM The Tall T (1957) The second of the Scott-Boetticher-Kennedy Ranown Cycle (the first was 1956′s Seven Men From Now) is one of the best, maybe the best. Richard Boone is terrific and Skip Homeier gets his face blown off.

1 PM Comanche Station (1960) The last of the Ranowns, with Boetticher and Charles Lawton Jr. shooting Lone Pine in CinemaScope.  Claude Akins is the bad guy this time, and Skip Homeier’s back for good measure.

While we’re on the subject of Randolph Scott, Henry Cabot Beck brought a Budd Boetticher interview to my attention. Good stuff.

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Directed by Lesley Selander
Produced by Herman Schlom
Written by Norman Houston
Director Of Photography: J. Roy Hunt, ASC
Music by Paul Sawtell
Film Editor: Robert Swink

CAST: Tim Holt (Kansas Jones), Richard Martin (Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty), Jacqueline White (Priscilla “Dusty” Willis), Reed Hadley (Clint Burrows), Robert Barrat (Sheriff Cole), Robert Clarke (Harry Willis), Tom Tyler (The Ringo Kid), William Tannen (Trump Dixon).

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When unemployed cowhands Holt and Martin come to the aid of Dusty Willis (Jacqueline White) and her brother Harry (Robert Clarke), duking it out with saloon owner Clint Burrows, she gives them jobs on her ranch. Turns out Harry owes Burrows $3,000 in gambling debts, and Harry agrees to let Burrows’ men rustle some of his sister’s cattle to erase the debt. This kicks off a series of events that results in Holt being wanted for a murder he didn’t commit.

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220px-Lesley_SelanderRiders Of The Range was directed by Lesley Selander (right), who did about 20 of the Holts for RKO. Selander worked his way up through the Hollywood studio system, from assistant cameraman to assistant director (learning a great deal from William S. Van Dyke on the Buck Jones pictures) to director. He did excellent work on the Hopalong Cassidy series for Paramount, signed on at Republic for a time, and wound up at RKO for the Holts. Selander worked miracles on the Holt films, turning out superior Westerns on RKO’s tight budgets (that were still more than other B Westerns were working with), getting plenty of production values from the incredible Lone Pine locations. In fact, regardless of budget, his Westerns (such as 1948′s Panhandle or 1955′s Shotgun) are always a cut above.

To me, Lesley Selander’s titles are the best of the Tim Holt series. And Riders Of The Range is a good one, with his usual pacing and focus on almost constant action. There are a number of fistfights, a few gunfights and lots and lots of riding and shooting. Before you know it, the hour’s up and Tim and Chito are riding off. Jacqueline White has a nice part, too.

Adventures_of_Captain_Marvel_(1941_serial)_2Tom Tyler plays The Ringo Kid, an outlaw employed by Burrows for the arranged rustling. A champion weightlifter, Tyler started his movie career as a stuntman in Silent Westerns, progressing to serial roles like Captain Marvel and The Phantom in the early 40s. (The Phantom is an excellent serial.) His career stalled when he was stricken with scleroderma (originally diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis), which limited him to smaller and smaller supporting roles, often without credit. His friends came to the rescue. John Ford gave him work (They Were Expendable, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, What Price Glory), Gene Autry put him in a couple episodes of his TV show, and Lesley Selander cast him a few of the later Holts. As Tyler’s condition grew worse, and he could no longer work in movies, he moved in with his sister in Michigan. Tom Tyler passed away in 1954, almost penniless. (Before working together on these RKOs, Tim Holt and Tom Tyler both appeared in John Ford’s Stagecoach in 1939, with John Wayne as The Ringo Kid.)

Jacqueline White: “We shot the picture up at Jack Garner’s ranch, who rented out the place for lots of movies. Tim’s wife was with him and also along was his wife’s dog, a Doberman Pincher! Well, this dog hated Tim!… Richard Martin was a charming guy—real nice and tall! A good looking fellow.”*

Riders Of The Range is the last picture in the Tim Holt Western Classic Collection Vol. 2 from Warner Archive. Like all the films in the three volumes (released so far), it looks terrific. J. Roy Hunt’s camerawork is startling at times, and the DVD-R presents it flawlessly.

* Western Clippings interview

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Trail of RH in Statesville NC 2

xmasmovieThis is my contribution to The Christmas Movie Blogathon. The post is an expansion of a previous piece I’ve been wanting to revisit. This blogathon gave me the chance. The old post has been largely removed, but I left something there to preserve the comments.

Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ work. Some are folks who pass through here every so often. I’m particularly looking forward to the post on The Bishop’s Wife (1947), a personal favorite, and Ivan’s thoughts on The Lemon Drop Kid (1951), a very funny Bob Hope picture.

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Directed by William Witney
Associate Producer: Edward J. White
Written by Gerald Geraghty
Music: Nathan Scott
Director of Photography: John MacBurnie
Film Editor: Tony Martinelli
Special Effects: Howard and Theodore Lydecker

CAST: Roy Rogers, Trigger, Penny Edwards (Toby Aldridge), Gordon Jones (Splinters McGonigle), Rex Allen, Allan “Rocky”Lane, Monte Hale, William Farnum, Tom Tyler, Ray Corrigan, Kermit Maynard, Tom Keene, Jack Holt, Emory Parnell (J. Corwin Aldridge), Clifton Young (Mitch McCall), James Magill (Murtagh), Carol Nugent (Sis McGonigle), George Chesebro, Edward Cassidy (Sheriff Duffy).

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By the late 40s, the Roy Rogers pictures had become relatively elaborate musicals, reducing the action to make room for production numbers — complete with pretty girls and orchestras — and with Roy’s outfits looking more chorus than corral. The story goes that the head of Republic, Herbert J. Yates, had been wowed and inspired by seeing Oklahoma on Broadway. John Wayne said of Yates, “He was a nice enough guy but he had no taste.”

Of course, glitz, glamour and music rights come with a pretty hefty price tag, especially compared to two guys in western wear punching each other in the face. So with the smaller budgets came fewer songs — and more action. Good thing Roy’s director at the time was William Witney.

Witney fan Quentin Tarantino describes it like this: “After their first few movies together, Witney had gotten Roy out of his fringe-and-sparkle attire and was dressing him in normal attire, blue jeans and stuff. They stopped being these crazy musicals. He turned them into rough, tough violent adventures.”

Such was the state of the Roy Rogers Movie when Trail Of Robin Hood (1950) went into production. It’s in Trucolor, Roy’s traded his Nudie suits for plaid shirts, and the action comes fast and furious. Oh, and in spite of its title, it’s a Christmas movie.

TORH Roy Jack H sized

Here, Roy works for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service and comes to the aid of cowboy star Jack Holt, who’s retired and growing Christmas trees — which he intends to sell at cost, so every kid can have one. A large Christmas tree conglomerate doesn’t like Holt’s business model and takes to stealing Holt’s trees, sabotaging his operation and threatening his workers. Naturally, Roy, Trigger and Bullet will have none of this.

I don’t want to give too much away. Just know that the whole thing is actually goofier than it sounds — and that it’s full of fights, chases, fires and other mayhem. Along the way, Roy and the Riders Of The Purple Sage sing a couple Christmas songs (“Ev’ry Day Is Christmas Day In the West” is very good), there’s a young girl (Carol Nugent) with a pet turkey named Sir Galahad, and a number of Republic cowboy stars turn up to help save Holt’s farm. On hand are Allan ‘Rocky’ Lane, Monte Hale, William Farnum, Tom Tyler, Ray Corrigan, Kermit Maynard, Tom Keene, Rex Allen and George Chesebro.

Trail of Robin Hood LC

Roy’s daughter Cheryl Rogers-Barnett, who has a small part in Trail Of Robin Hood, points out, “They used that formula of putting all their cowboys into one as sort of a promo for the other cowboys. Rex Allen was not a big name yet, and it was a way of promoting him.”

With Trail Of Robin Hood and the other late-period Rogers films (his last Republic picture came out in 1951), William Witney did more than just cut the music and stir in more violence — he turned up the pacing. He creates excitement, builds suspense and sets the pace through skillful editing. And the story is told visually whenever possible. The comedy (from Gordon Jones this time) and songs don’t get in the way or slow things down.

But maybe most important, Witney keeps things simple. There’s not an ounce of fat in the picture’s 67 minutes, and camera movement is always purposeful, never flashy. As Tarantino explains, “These guys were storytellers. They knew how to move the camera to convey information so they didn’t have to shoot another dialogue scene to explain something.”

Trail Of Robin Hood behind scenes

Cheryl Rogers-Barnett says of Witney: “He was a great action director, and loved Trigger. He was always trying to come up with extra things for the Old Man to do.”

$(KGrHqFHJCUFECuZN7JtBRzlRwtOIQ~~60_57Dale Evans, of course, was Mrs. Roy Rogers and his steady co-star. But she was on maternity leave. So Penny Edwards appears in Trail Of Robin Hood — in a part obviously written with Dale in mind. Penny transitioned from singer to actress, was under contract at Warner Brothers, made six films with Rogers in 1950-51, and left the picture business in 1954 to serve the Lord. She returned a few years later, appearing in lots of TV shows and commercials.

Gordon Jones plays Splinters McGonagle, the usual broad sidekick part you expect in a B Western. He was in six Rogers pictures, made a few other Republic films (including Woman They Almost Lynched) and would soon appear as Mike The Cop onThe Abbott & Costello Show. Carol Nugent is quite good. And of course, Jack Holt and all the guest stars are terrific.

Cheryl Rogers-Barnett: “The main thing I remember is being absolutely in awe of Jack Holt and just about everybody else was, too. There were a lot of cowboy stars in there that made a lot of movies, but Jack Holt was a Movie Star, and Republic didn’t have many Movie Stars working on that lot. They did, but it was so different. He had worked for all of the big studios and he’d been a star in Silents and Talkies, and everybody was sort of in awe of him. And he was so sweet to me. The one and only line I get is with him [she asks Holt for his autograph], and I think it took me like three tries. Dad was getting really upset because Republic liked one and done. I stammered a little.”

TORH LC 6

Another standout is the villain. Tall and thin, with a cleft chin and a voice deeper than you’d expect, Clifton Young makes a particularly nasty bad-guy, especially considering he works for a Christmas tree company. Young had been one of Our Gang, “Bonedust,” making the transition from silent to sound. Not long after Trail Of Robin Hood, he was killed in a hotel fire.

Trail Of Robin Hood is wonderful, and it’s a shame it’s not better known as a Christmas movie (note the holiday engagement in Statesville, NC advertised up top). We can thank the title for that, probably selected more or less at random from Republic’s list, or file, of candidates. It was available uncut on VHS from Republic back in the day. But what you’ll find on DVD is cut by at least 10 minutes. Roy, and this great little movie, deserve a lot better than that.

TORH HS? cropped

Sources: Quentin Tarantino from a 2000 NY Times piece; Cheryl Rogers-Barnett from a phone conversation with the author.

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John Ford’s Rio Grande (1950) is one of the major 50s Westerns I’ve somehow neglected over the life of this blog. As a small attempt to remedy that, here’s a photo of John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara and the crew shooting a scene. Ford’s not visible here, unfortunately.

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Directed by George Archainbaud
Produced by Herman Schlom
Written by Norman Houston
Director Of Photography: J. Roy Hunt
Music by Paul Sawtell
Film Editor: Desmond Marquette

CAST: Tim Holt (Ross Taylor), Richard Martin (Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty), Jane Nigh (Stella), John Doucette (Bat), House Peters, Jr. (Rod), Inez Cooper (Anita Castro), Julien Rivero (Philipe), Ken MacDonald (Sheriff Carrigan), Vince Barnett (Pokey), Robert Peyton (Del), David Leonard (Padre), Tom Monroe (Dimmick).

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Here at 50 Westerns From The 50s, Tuesday belongs to Tim Holt. 

When an earthquake hits Mexico, Senorita Anita Castro (Inez Cooper) organizes a relief effort in Arizona. Loading a mule train with donations of all sorts — including gold, silver and jewels — she heads toward the border. A gang of thieves, headed by John Doucette and House Peters, Jr. and assisted by Jean Nigh, get wind of Anita’s plan and plot to steal the treasure. Tim (called Ross Taylor this time) and Chito (Richard Martin) end up involved, of course — and lots of riding and shooting ensue.

Border Treasure (1950) is one of the later RKO Holts, and I’ve always considered it one of the stronger entries in the series. First, the bad guys are terrific — and Nigh has a good role as Stella, the saloon girl who falls in with John Doucette and House Peters, Jr. There’s a great, extended saloon fight between Holt and Doucette. And Richard Martin adds a nice touch as he shows compassion for Mexico and its people following the earthquake. (This one has Tim and Chito doing some real ranch work, mending fence, which I always find a cool addition. Come to think of it, Tim does the work — Chito conveniently disappears.)

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This time, George Archainbaud directs. He got his first director credit in 1917, and spent much of his career at RKO. His The Lost Squadron (1932) is excellent. Archainbaud got heavily into TV in the 50s, with much of his work coming from Gene Autry’s Flying A Productions. For a while, he was alternating between Gene’s TV show and later features (including 1953′s Last Of The Pony Riders, which turned out to be Gene’s Autry’s final film).

Director of Photography J. Roy Hunt spent a number of years at RKO, where he shot Val Lewton’s I Walked With A Zombie (1943),  The Devil Thumbs A Ride (1947) and Mighty Joe Young (1949) — in between many of these Holt films. Hunt retired not longer after the Holt series came to an end, never making the transition to television that kept so many of his contemporaries employed well into the 1960s.

These RKO Holts make great use of Lone Pine’s Alabama Hills, perhaps rivaled only by Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott’s Ranown Cycle. Some work for Border Treasure was also done at the area’s Anchor Ranch. The RKO Ranch in Encino and the beautiful San Fernando Mission of L.A.’s Mission Hills district are also featured. (Boy, I gotta get out to California — my Points Of Interest list is getting longer and longer.)

Mission_San_Fernando_Postcard,_circa_1900

Border Treasure is one of 10 Holt pictures in Warner Archive’s Tim Holt Classic Western Collection Volume 3 — and it’s a beautiful thing from logo to logo. The Lone Pine scenes are sharp and bright, with a real feeling of depth. I’d love to take a frame from one of the Lone Pine scenes and hang it on my wall (over the sofa would be nice) — and this transfer seems sharp enough to let me do it.

In the early days of this blog, the Holt RKOs were high on our want lists. To have them presented like this is more than I expected. To say I highly recommend this — the DVD-R set or the movie itself — would be ridiculously redundant at this point.

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