You can count on VCI Entertainment to treat an old cowboy movie with respect, and they’ve brought us some terrific 50s Westerns (often in cahoots with Kit Parker). A few recommendations: Silver Lode (1954), Stranger On Horseback (1955), Darn Good Westerns Volumes 1 and 2.
Archive for the ‘Allan Dwan’ Category
Posted in 1953, 1954, 1955, 1957, Allan Dwan, Books, Cinematographers, Coleen Gray, Dan Duryea, Festivals, screenings, Harry Carey Jr., John Payne, John Wayne, Olive Films, Pre-1950, Randolph Scott, Republic, Rhonda Fleming, RKO, Ronald Reagan, VCI Entetainment, Ward Bond on June 13, 2013 | 4 Comments »
Director Allan Dwan’s career was as old as the Movies themselves, and many of the early technical developments were his doing. Going into the mid-50s, he was still making innovative, unique, personal films — usually for smaller studios that would leave him alone and let him do what he did best.
I went Wig City over Allan Dwan’s films of 50s, thanks to DVDs of his work from VCI, and that helped spawn this blog. So I was really stoked to hear about The Museum of Modern Art’s Dwan series — which will include several of those Westerns.
From the MoMA web site: The Museum of Modern Art presented a major retrospective of Dwan’s films in 1971, with Dwan in attendance, and while another exhibition was certainly due after 42 years, this series was prompted by the publication of Frederic Lombardi’s definitive study of Dwan’s work, Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the of the Hollywood Studios (McFarland, 2013).
If you can make it to any of these, by all means do so. The Westerns are:
June 14-15, 18
Frontier Marshal (1939)
With Randolph Scott, Nancy Kelly, Cesar Romero, John Carradine, Ward Bond.
This was once almost impossible to see (the bootleg tape I had of it was impossible to see). Another take on the O.K. Corral story. I prefer Randolph Scott with more age on him, but this is a really cool film.
Woman They Almost Lynched (1953)
With Audrey Totter, Joan Leslie, John Lund, Brian Donlevy, Ben Cooper.
Dwan made a string of films for Republic that are worth seeking out (Olive Films, you reading this?), with Sands Of Iwo Jima (1949) being the best known. Dwan approaches this as a spoof — evidently, he didn’t see any other way — and the results are terrific.
The Restless Breed (1957)
With Scott Brady, Anne Bancroft, Jim Davis, Scott Marlowe, Evelyn Rudie.
Dwan’s last Western. A revenge tale gets a light comic touch.
Tennessee’s Partner (1955)
With John Payne, Rhonda Fleming, Ronald Reagan, Coleen Gray.
John Alton’s Superscope cinematography almost steals the show, making the Iverson Ranch look like the most beautiful place on earth.
July 3, 6
Silver Lode (1954)
With John Payne, Dan Duryea, Lizabeth Scott, Harry Carey, Jr.
A key 5os Western, and the damnedest McCarthy comment you’ve ever seen. Again, Alton and his cameras roam the ranches of Hollywood to amazing results.
Be sure to look at the complete listing. I highly recommend Slightly Scarlet (1956), an incredible Technicolor, Superscope film noir shot by John Alton.
Thanks to Stephen Bowie.
(January 23, 1907 – June 7, 1968)
Let’s all remember Dan Duryea on his birthday. Here he is (as Waco Johnnie Dean) with Shelley Winters in Winchester ’73 (1950), one of the best Westerns of the 50s. Today would be a good day to pay your respects at the wonderful web site Dan Duryea Central.
Duryea was only 61 when he passed away, but he managed to squeeze a lot of terrific movies into those years. (Of late, I’ve become weirdly enamored of his odd performance in 1957′s Night Passage.)
Duryea (from a Hedda Hopper interview): “I thought the meaner I presented myself, the tougher I was with women, slapping them around in well produced films where evil and death seem to lurk in every nightmare alley and behind every venetian blind in every seedy apartment, I could find a market for my screen characters.”
Below, he appears in a personal favorite, Silver Lode (1954), with Stuart Whitman and Alan Hale, Jr.
Maybe you missed an Allan Dwan picture last week. Or you just realized you’ve gone all these years without a copy of Stranger On Horseback (1955). Well, now’s the time to right these, and other, wrongs — the fine folks at VCI Entertainment have extended their Annual Holiday Sale. Here’s how they tell it —
Due to the high volume of traffic on our website, we are extending our Annual Holiday Sale through December 5th at 11:59 pm (CST). All DVDs and Blu-rays are 50% off our suggested retail price! Visit www.vcientertainment.com and enter coupon code CYBEREXT on the “Checkout” page to receive your discount. If you have any problems placing your order, please call 800-331-4077 during regular business hours (M-F 8:30 am – 5:30 pm CST) and we will honor the coupon over the phone.
This time of year, it seems like everybody’s trying to make you spend your money. Pre-holiday this, Black Friday that, spend the night at Walmart to save five bucks on a ten-dollar toaster. It’s pretty disgusting.
That said, I really think you should take advantage of VCI’s annual Holiday Sale.
As an example, you can get Silver Lode (1954), one of my favorite 50s Westerns, for just $2.40. If you haven’t seen this film, please go get one.
VCI boasts a number of cool 50s cowboy pictures, along with more Allan Dwan stuff (Slightly Scarlet, etc.), their Forgotten Noir series and tons of cool British films (ever seen Genevieve?). Good stuff.
As we all know, and whether we really like it or not, the manufacture-on-demand DVD business is how we’ll feed our 50s Westerns habit in the future. So I’m pretty stoked that Fox has hopped on board with The Fox Cinema Archives.
In the first batch of titles is Van Heflin in Hugo Fregonese’s The Raid (1954). It costars Anne Bancroft, Lee Marvin and Richard Boone. Also appearing are Peter Graves, John Dierkes, Kermit Maynard and William Schallert. I’d watch Van Heflin brush his teeth, so take my opinion with a block of salt. It’s a good picture.
Also coming is Frontier Marshal (1939), Allan Dwan’s take on the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, starring Randolph Scott and Cesar Romero. Very highly recommended.
So now let’s load the comments section with all the Fox pictures we want.
Thanks, as always, to Paula for the tip.
Here’s John Payne celebrating his birthday on the set of Tennessee’s Partner (1955).
Left to right: Rhonda Fleming, Allan Dwan, Angie Dickinson, John Alton (kneeling), Ronald Reagan, Payne, Colleen Gray (in bonnet) and Benedict Bogeau.
If there’s any cinematographer whose work deserves the red carpet treatment on DVD, it’s John Alton.
Alton was a master. He worked fast — coming to the set fully prepared and not using a lot of lights. And while “painting with light” was his thing, evidently diplomacy was not. He was fired a lot, until he finally got fed up with the whole business and vanished. Along the way, he went from pictures like An American In Paris (1951), his first color film — and the one that earned him an Oscar, to film noir with Anthony Mann (T-Men, Border Incident, etc.) to cowboy pictures at Republic (Wyoming).
In 1954, Alton found himself at RKO, working with director Allan Dwan on a series of medium-budget films produced by Benedict Bogeaus. These pictures gave Dwan a level of authority (or maybe he simply took charge of things) he hadn’t enjoyed since the silent days. However it came about, he really made the most of it.
Allan Dwan: “John Alton was a fine cameraman and we hit it off well. He was good for us because he’s wonderful with lights — very economical.”
From 1954 to 1956, Dwan and Alton made seven pictures together, all produced by Bogeaus for RKO.
Dwan: “Never over around $800-850,000. About three weeks shooting each — 15 days. That was the design. They were token pictures to keep the studio alive — Hughes wasn’t interested in a big splurge. And none of our pictures warranted a big budget — they all went out and got their money back plus a profit.”
The next to last of these “token pictures,” and the third Western of the bunch, was Tennessee’s Partner (1955) — in Superscope with prints by Technicolor. (Dwan would later list it as his favorite of the films he made for Bogeaus and RKO.)
John Payne is Tennessee, a gambler who’s set up shop in Rhonda Fleming’s saloon — the Marriage Market in Sandy Bar. Ronald Reagan is Cowpoke, who saves Tennessee’s life. Tennessee later proves that Cowpoke’s fiancé, Colleen Gray, is a gold-digger (named, appropriately, Goldie). Speaking of gold, there’s a subplot involving Grubstake McNiven (Chubby Johnson) striking it rich.
Dwan: “…this was a good, honest story, and I liked Bret Harte… I believe the original story was more tragic than ours, but it was very definitely more downbeat. And it was a short story, so we had to stretch it out some way or other.”
To stretch it, they seemed to have played up the humor and action. Dwan’s breezy direction and John Alton’s luscious cinematography make this a real piece of eye candy — aided by the art direction of Van Nest Polglase (Citizen Kane). The way the camera glides through Rhonda Fleming’s gambling hall is worth the price of admission. Then there’s its Technicolor tour of the Iverson Ranch in the last two reels. It’s a gorgeous, yet completely unpretentious, story of friendship and double-crosses.
Tennessee’s Partner has been available on DVD, in a nice full-frame transfer, from VCI for years. Superscope extracted a 2:1 anamorphic image from a full-frame negative — which is what the new edition, again from VCI, replicates. (The lack of a Superscope logo in the credits indicates that full-frame source material was used.) As far as color and sharpness go, this is comparable to their first release. But with the new attention to the framing, Alton’s camerawork is even more impressive. He’s quoted somewhere as saying “It’s not what you light — it’s what you don’t light.” And the 2:1 image, especially in the gambling scenes, really highlights the way he used darkness.
VCI gives us original trailers to Tennessee’s Partner and the other Dwan/Alton/Bogeaus titles they have available. Seen together, they really had me wanting to put together a marathon some weekend.
With a new edition of any film, in any format, there’s always the question of value. Is this worth reaching into my wallet for, again? In my case, certainly, as I’ve been dying to see how Tennessee’s Partner looked in Superscope. For those who own the full-frame version, it’s a matter of personal taste. For the rest, it’s a good picture — a significant 50s Western — and this is by far the best it’s ever been presented on video. Get it here.
[The Allan Dwan quotes come from Allan Dwan: The Last Pioneer by Peter Bogdanovich, one of my favorite film books.]
That’s what I’ve always heard anyway. I’ve also heard that VCI has had to delay their new widescreen Tennessee’s Partner (1955) till May 3rd. Production issues. I hate it’s delayed, but look on the bright side — this gives me yet another chance to post about an Allan Dwan Western.
Henry Cabot Beck brought this to my attention — Time Out‘s list of the The 50 Greatest Westerns. It’s quite a list, with some really interesting choices. There were a number of pictures I was happy to see make the list, and some things that made me scratch my head, such as Decision At Sundown (1958) being included, but not The Tall T (1957). Seven Men From Now (1956) was also there.
My list would naturally lean heavily on the 50s, but I was glad to see Monte Hellman’s The Shooting (1966) appear. And while you expect these things to never match what you’d pick yourself, I was kinda cheesed off that Silver Lode (1954) was omitted.
So look it over, gang, and let’s tear it apart.
I’m really looking forward to VCI’s widescreen Tennessee’s Partner (1955), slated for the 19th. Their current edition of the film, which looks just fine, is full frame. The above image shows you about what to expect aspect-wise. Superscope pulled a 2:1 anamorphic image from a full-frame negative.
The film itself, supposedly Allan Dwan’s personal favorite of the 10 pictures he made with producer Benedict Bogeaus, is a lot of fun. Dwan’s breezy direction and John Alton’s luscious cinematography make this a real piece of eye candy — the way the camera glides through Rhonda Fleming’s gambling hall is worth the price of admission. It’s one of those instances where a sound stage is better than real life.
During the researching and writing of this book (and all the posts on this blog), these Dwan pictures have become some of my favorite 50s Westerns, especially Silver Lode (1954). I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Expect (still) more on Tennessee’s Partner once I get a load of the new DVD.