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Archive for the ‘1959’ Category

Fred M article

Want to pass along the link to a piece on Fred MacMurray’s 50s Westerns. These are favorites of many of us that hang around this blog.

Of the eight Westerns he made between 1953 and 1959, four are available in the States on DVD, and you’ll find them at ClassicFlix.com.

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Wayne On Westerns.

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From an article that appeared in the Tucson Daily Citizen on May 10, 1958, here’s John Wayne talking about the Western genre from the set of Rio Bravo (1959).

John Wayne: “I see no reason for running down Westerns or masking them under such phony subtitles as ‘adult,’ ‘psychological’ or ‘different.’ Westerns are our folklore, and they became folklore in less than a hundred years. Folklore is important in every country’s history and background… I don’t condone Westerns that are just an excuse for gunplay and gore. They’ve got to have a good human story, and as long as they have a real story, Westerns will always make for top entertainment.”

Thanks to my wife Jennifer for digging this up. She’s found a lot of the really cool stuff I get to put up here.

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Brian over at Rupert Pupkin Speaks has been running an ongoing series of posts on underrated Westerns, getting lists from all sorts of folks. I was honored to be among those he asked to play along. Be sure to scroll around and see the other lists. Some great stuff. I was really glad to see Joe Dante suggest No Name On The Bullet (1959). He mentioned it in an interview years ago, and it helped start my drive to see as many of these things as I could.

Naturally, I stuck with the 50s and recommended films we’ve gone over here time and time again. Click on De Niro and off you go.

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Here’s a frame from Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (1960), a real landmark in French cinema’s New Wave. That’s about the last thing this blog is about, so let’s focus on the marquee, as Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg stroll past a theater running Budd Boetticher’s Westbound (1959) — and go inside to avoid the police.

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Face Of Fugitive OS sized

You’ve probably heard of getTV, the newest TV sub-channel from Sony Pictures Television. (It’s one of the digital broadcast channels we get here in Raleigh.) Tomorrow, March 1, they’re offering up the excellent Fred MacMurray Western Face Of A Fugitive (1959) at 7:00 and 10:40 PM. It gave James Coburn a really good early role. A great way to spend a Saturday night.

This is one I highly recommend, both to whoever out there has a chance to watch it — and to Columbia for a nice widescreen DVD release.

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Last Of The Comanches Saunders

Character actor Hugh Sanders stayed busy throughout the 50s, in both features and on TV — with parts in pictures like The Wild One (1953), Jailhouse Rock (1957) and To Kill A Mockingbird (1962).

From Illinois, Sanders worked in radio before making the move to Hollywood in 1949. He made a number of Western features before his death in 1966 (at just 54), such as Last Of The Comanches (1953, above), The Guns Of Fort Petticoat (1957) and Warlock (1959, below). He played a lot of lawmen, as he did in City Of Bad Men (1953). And as is so common with character actors in this period, he often went without credit.

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On TV, you’ll see him in Western shows like The Lone Ranger, Rawhide, Tales Of Wells Fargo and Maverick, along with Perry Mason, The Twilight Zone and The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. And that’s just scratching the surface.

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Recently, I’ve had the extreme pleasure of speaking with Mr. Jack N. Young, a Navy frogman turned stuntman who worked on many of the movies this blog holds dear. Look him up, it’s incredible.

“Blackjack” Young, as he became known, was a busy utility stuntman. He’d hire on for a film and provide what they needed, when they needed it. He worked frequently at Old Tucson, both in the films shot there and as part of their stunt show, and would eventually help run the place.

Transcribing it all is taking a while, and I want to hold onto some of it for the book, but this stuff’s too good to sit on. Among the many films he worked on is my favorite Western, Rio Bravo (1959), which was shot at Old Tucson.

Jack Young: “During the shootout at the end, I came out of the barn and got shot before they blew it up…  Ricky Nelson was a good kid. I play harmonica, and we’d sit around after work or something and sing. God, that kid was good!”

Rio Bravo foreign poster

Young: “Dean shot me in the saloon and I fell out of the loft. (Jack’s stunt inspired the foreign poster above.) We gaffed our own stunts. It was a whole bunch of cardboard boxes. We’d put ‘em together — about three-by-three, probably 10 of ‘em, with a rope tied around them to hold ‘em steady — and then put a tarp over it. Works perfect. I worked before the airbag. I’d do a roof fall, up to about 10 feet, without a pad. I’d hit the ground rolling, almost like a tumbler. I never got hurt.”

Talking to Jack has been an honor, and he’s provided a lot of insight into how these films were made. Watch for more, including a bit on City Of Bad Men (1953), which just showed up in my mailbox today.

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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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Produced and Directed by Wallace MacDonald
Written by Clark E. Reynolds
Director Of Photography: Irving Lippman
Film Editor: Al Clark, ACE
Assistant Director: Leonard Katzman

CAST: Robert Knapp (Gil Reardon), Jana Davi (Rosita), Walter Coy (Ben Keefer), Paul Birch (Marshal Matt Crawford), Don C. Harvey (Deputy Dave), Clarence Straight (Deputy Frank Ross), Jerry Barclay (Jordan Keefer), Roy Hayes (Walt Keefer), Charles Horvath (Coloradas), Jean Moorhead (Katy Reardon).

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Don’t think I’d ever heard of this one. Gunmen From Laredo (1959) is a cheap, 67-minute B Western from Columbia. It doesn’t have a whole lot going for it, except for the fact that it’s a cheap, 67-minute B Western from Columbia. That’s good enough.

There’s a real Sam Katzman feel to Gunmen From Laredo — if anything, it might be even cheaper than Jungle Sam’s Westerns. The assistant director is Katzman’s nephew Leonard, who’d go on to a long, successful career in television.

Gil Reardon (Robert Knapp) is framed for murder by Ben Keefer (Walter Coy), who killed Reardon’s wife (Jean Moorhead). As Reardon tries to clear his name and bring Keefer to justice, with the help of Rosita (Jana Davi) and Laredo’s marshal (Paul Birch), we’re treated to a number of shootouts, a prison escape, a dust storm, a few fistfights and more — all cleverly spaced to keep the kids from getting restless.

Gunmen From Laredo sized

Robert Knapp worked steadily in TV from the 50s into the 70s (appearing in both incarnations of Dragnet). He didn’t make many features and had very few leads. Knapp doesn’t have the presence of, say, George Montgomery or Guy Madison, who appeared in these sorts of things, but he’s serviceable.

Jana Davi is Maureen Hingert, 1955′s Miss Ceylon. She appeared in a handful of 50s Westerns, including an uncredited part in Pillars Of The Sky (1956). Walter Coy is the bad guy here; we know him as John Wayne’s brother in The Searchers (1956). And Paul Birch, who’s in a slew of Roger Corman’s 50s films (how can you forget him in 1957′s Not Of This Earth?), is his dependable self as the marshal who comes to Knapp’s aid.

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Jean Moorhead (Playboy‘s Playmate Of The Month, October 1955) plays Knapp’s wife. She had a short film career, but somehow managed to work with both Ed Wood (The Violent Years) and John Ford (The Long Gray Line). The part of Laredo, Texas, is played by the Iverson Ranch. Bronson Canyon’s in it, too.

The director-producer was Wallace MacDonald, who hadn’t directed a film since the Silents. He’d been a busy producer between those directing jobs, from Boston Blackie Goes Hollywood (1942) to Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956). Shot in March of 1958, Gunmen From Laredo would be his last film.

Irving Lippman was a staff cinematographer at Columbia, shooting pictures like  Hellcats Of The Navy and 20 Million Miles To Earth (both 1957). He also has the distinction of having shot a few of the later Three Stooges shorts, a few of  their features and almost every episode of The Monkees. For Gunmen From Laredo, he kept things bright and sharp and makes the Columbia Color behave, and nicely frames everything for 1.85. Again, it looks like a Sam Katzman film.

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Gunmen From Laredo was obviously put together for the bottom of a bill, and the kids were probably happy with it. And while it’s not very good, it’s great to know there are more of these things out there — maybe better than this one, maybe worse — waiting for us to find them.

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