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Archive for the ‘1958’ Category

Griffith in Bullwhip

James H. Griffith
(February 13, 1916 – September 17, 1993)

Here’s to one of my favorite character actors on his birthday. James Griffith is seen here with Guy Madison in Bullwhip (1958), which also starred Rhonda Fleming.

I knocked out a profile on Griffith a few years ago. You can find it here. Whether it’s a 50 Western, Dragnet or even an episode of B.J. And The Bear, he’s always worth watching.

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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

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Happy Birthday, Paul Newman.

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Paul Leonard Newman
(January 26, 1925 – September 26, 2008)

It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that Paul Newman isn’t with us anymore. The world’s a lot less cool without him. Who else would put a supercharged Ford V-8 in a Volvo station wagon?

Newman’s seen above on the set of Arthur Penn’s Left Handed Gun (1958), a 50s Western I consider great in spots, kinda crummy in others.

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A blogger friend of mine did a year-end wrap-up of his favorite DVD releases of the year. I think a lot of my friend, and imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I decided to steal his idea. Here’s my Top Five. Comment away!

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5. Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953, Columbia) The work of Fred F. Sears, a prolific director at Columbia, deserves a look, and this is a tough, tight little Western that nobody seems to remember. John Derek’s good and Ray Teal gets a sizable part.

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4. Randolph Scott Western Collection (Various, TCM/Sony) Four Columbia Scotts — Coroner Creek (1948), The Walking Hills (1949), The Doolins Of Oklahoma (1949) and 7th Cavalry (1956, above) — go a long way toward making all his 40s and 50s Westerns available on DVD.

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3. Movies 4 You Western Classics (Various, Shout Factory) Four medium-budget 50s Westerns — Gun Belt (1953), The Lone Gun (1954), Gunsight Ridge (1957) and Ride Out For Revenge (1957) — for an amazing price.  I’d love to have a hundred sets like this.

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2. Shane (1953, Paramount) There was so much controversy about the aspect ratio — the studio-imposed 1.66 vs. the original 1.33 George Stevens shot it in — that we all forgot to talk about what a lovely Blu-ray was ultimately released (in 1.33).

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1. Showdown At Boot Hill (1958, Olive Films) This is probably the worst movie on this list, but my favorite release. The very thought of a Regalscope Western presented widescreen and in high definition makes me very, very happy. Olive Films promises the best of the Regals, The Quiet Gun (1956), in 2014 — which you can expect to see on next year’s list.

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I’ve fallen a bit behind on the upcoming DVD and Blu-ray releases, so here’s a post to get things caught up.

The Fiend Who Walked The West (1958) is a black and white CinemaScope remake of Kiss Of Death (1947), remounted as a Western, with Robert Evans overacting his way through the Richard Widmark part. Hugh O’Brien stars. You never come across anything positive about this film, though I found it a lot better than its reputation. Directed by Gordon Douglas and shot by Joe MacDonald in B&W ‘Scope — it deserves another chance.

Silver Whip adThe Silver Whip (1953) stars Dale Robertson, Rory Calhoun, Robert Wagner, Kathleen Crowley and James Millican. Many of us have been on a Calhoun kick of late, and I’m really looking forward to this one. Directed by Harmon Jones, who also directed the excellent A Day Of Fury (1956), starring Robertson, Jock Mahoney and Mara Corday.

Siege At Red River (1954) was an independent picture from Panaramic Productions, a company hoping to take advantage the widescreen craze (1.85 in this case). Directed by Rudolph Mate, it’s got a good cast: Van Johnson, Joanne Dru, Richard Boone, Milburn Stone and Jeff Morrow. At various times, Dale Robertson (who starred in Gambler From Natchez for Panaramic) and Tyrone Power were listed in the trades as having the lead.

All three 20th Century-Fox Cinema Archives titles are available from major online retailers.

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Today would be composer Jerome Moross’ 100th birthday. 50s Western fans know him for his terrific score for The Big Country (1958), William Wyler’s epic Western starring Gregory Peck. It’s easily one of the best to be found in any Western — and it’s got some stiff competition.

Moross’ daughter (who has been a huge help with my research) has organized a number of showcases for her dad’s work. You can follow the festivities at moross.com.

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When the Charles Bronson Regalscope Western Showdown At Boot Hill (1958) showed up on Blu-ray, it seemed too good to be true. For decades, it’s been impossible to see these things in their proper black-and-white ‘Scope glory — unless you came across a 16mm print or a bootleg tape made from one. (An adapted ‘Scope print of Escape From Red Rock sits nearby.) Designed to show off their 2.35 format, the Regalscopes are absolutely unwatchable when they’re pan-and-scan.

Now we can thank Olive Films for Clint Eastwood in Ambush At Cimarron Pass (1958), set for a September 24 release. Clint has called it the worst Western ever made, though I certainly wouldn’t go that far. Scott Brady is the star, along with Margia Dean and Eastwood as a young hothead. All the Regalscope pictures are cheap — this one isn’t able to rise above its budget in the way Stagecoach To Fury (1956) and The Quiet Gun (1957) do. Of course, an early Eastwood role will be the appeal for most folks.

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Also on the way is The Americano (1955), with Glenn Ford, Frank Lovejoy, Cesar Romero and Ursula Thiess. This troubled production was begun by Budd Boetticher in Brazil and finished some time later by William Castle (seen below with executive producer Sam Wiesenthal and Ursula Thiess).

Also on the way is John Wayne, Marie Windsor and Oliver Hardy in Republic’s The Fighting Kentuckian (1949) and Joseph H. Lewis’ The Big Combo (1955, not a Western, but terrific).

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Harry Keller directing Audie Murphy and Joan O’Brien in Six Black Horses (1962).

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Ray Enright and Dorothy Malone on the set of South Of St. Louis (1949).

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Jesse Hibbs directing Gia Scala (left) and Joanna Moore (right) in the Audie Murphy picture Ride A Crooked Trail (1958).

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Sony Movie Channel is focusing on Westerns next month, with a terrific all-day marathon scheduled for Sunday, July 28 that should keep readers of this blog firmly planted on their sofas — or scrambling to make room on their DVRs.

The directors represented here — Boetticher, Sherman, Daves, Karlson, Castle, Witney — make up a virtual Who’s Who of 50s Westerns directors. The times listed are Eastern. Put the coffee on, it’s gonna be a long day!

4:40 AM Face Of A Fugitive (1959, above) One of those really cool, tough Westerns Fred MacMurray made in the late 50s. James Coburn has an early role, and Jerry Goldsmith contributed one of his first scores. It’s not out on DVD in the States, and the Spanish one doesn’t look so hot, so don’t miss it here.

6:05 AM Relentless (1948) George Sherman directs Robert Young, Marguerite Chapman, Willard Parker, Akim Tamiroff, Barton MacLane and Mike Mazurki. Shot around Tucson (and the Corrigan Ranch) in Technicolor. I may be in the minority, but I like Robert Young in Westerns.

7:40 AM A Lawless Street (1955) Joseph H. Lewis knocks another one out of the park, directing Randolph Scott and Angela Lansbury. This film doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

9:05 AM Decision At Sundown (1957) Part of Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott’s Ranown cycle, this one tends to divide fans. I think it’s terrific. It’s certainly more downbeat than the others (Burt Kennedy didn’t write it), with Scott’s character almost deranged vs. the usual obsessed.

10:25 AM The Pathfinder (1952) Sidney Salkow directs George Montgomery in a low-budget adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper, produced by Sam Katzman. Helena Carter and Jay Silverheels round out the cast.

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11:45 AM Battle Of Rogue River (1954) William Castle directs George Montgomery (seen above with Martha Hyer) the same year they did Masterson Of Kansas. I’m a real sucker for Castle’s Westerns, so it’s hard to be objective here.

1:05 PM Gunman’s Walk (1958) Phil Karlson’s masterpiece? A great film, with a typically incredible performance from Van Heflin, that really needs to be rediscovered. Not available on DVD in the U.S. Don’t miss it.

2:45 PM They Came To Cordura (1959) Robert Rossen directs a terrific cast — Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, Van Heflin, Tab Hunter and Dick York. Set in 1916 Mexico, it has a look somewhat similar to The Wild Bunch (1969). Looks good in CinemaScope.

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4:55 PM Jubal (1956, above) Delmer Daves puts Othello on horseback. Glenn Ford, Ernest Borgnine, Rod Steiger, Valerie French, Charles Bronson, Jack Elam, Felicia Farr, Harry Carey, Jr. and John Dierkes make up the great cast. Charles Lawton, Jr. shot it in Technicolor and CinemaScope.

6:40 PM Arizona Raiders (1965) Wiliam Witney directs Audie Murphy in a picture that plays like a cross between a 50s Western and a spaghetti one. Murphy got better as he went along, and his performance here is quite good.

8:20 PM 40 Guns To Apache Pass (1966) Witney and Murphy again. This time around, Murphy is after a missing shipment of guns.

If all that’s not enough, there’s the Back In The Saddle sweepstakes, a chance to win a three-day dude ranch getaway. Check SonyMovieChannel.com to find out more.

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John Knight just brought this to my attention. Olive Films has announced Showdown At Boot Hill (1958) for DVD and Blu-ray release in June. For me and many of you out there, a widescreen presentation of a Regalscope picture is a dream come true. To be able to enjoy every bargain-basement, black-and-white Scope detail in high-definition is icing on the cake.

70814_largeShowdown stars Charles Bronson, Robert Hutton, John Carradine, Carole Mathews and Argentina Brunetti. It’s a very early lead for Bronson — his TV show Man With A Camera would debut in late 1958. Director Gene Fowler Jr. worked as an editor for the bulk of his career, cutting everything from Sam Fuller’s Forty Guns (1957) and Monte Walsh (1970) to Gilligan’s Island and The Waltons. The screenplay is by Louis Vittes, who also wrote I Married A Monster From Outer Space (1958) and a number of episodes of Rawhide.

Olive Films also has the rights to Ambush At Cimarron Pass (1958), a Regalscope starring Scott Brady, Margia Dean and Clint Eastwood. Let’s hope it’s not far behind.

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