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Archive for the ‘Ben Johnson’ Category

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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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The folks at ClassicFlix let me write for them every once in a while. Here’s a piece on John Ford’s 3 Godfathers (1948), a pre-1950 Christmas Western that I love dearly, no matter how overly sentimental and sappy you might think it is.

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It’s also one of the most beautiful color movies ever made. Easy.

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Paula Vitaris, who runs that great Ben Johnson site (and has been a huge help with my One-Eyed Jacks book), is having a good day. Wild Stallion (1952) is a picture she’s been asking Warner Archive about since the beginning. And they’ve announced it for May release.

I’ve never seen it, but anything with Ben Johnson, Edgar Buchanan, Martha Hyer and Hugh Beaumont in it — from Monogram in Cinecolor — is well worth tracking down. Can’t wait.

Thanks to John Knight for another tip.

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Heard last night that Dale Robertson has passed away. He had a very likable screen presence and by all accounts was a really nice man.

Despite making some excellent 50s Westerns, such as The Gambler From Natchez (1954) and A Day Of Fury (1956), it was on TV that he really made his mark — as Jim Hardie in Tales Of Wells Fargo. As a kid, he really impressed me in the TV movie Melvin Purvis G-Man (1974) — a role Ben Johnson played in John Milius’ Dillinger the year before.

The photo above is from The Silver Whip (1952). It is a crying shame that A Day Of Fury isn’t on DVD.

Thanks to Stephen Bowie for relaying the news.

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Harry Carey, Jr.
(May 16, 1921 – December 27, 2012)

My fingers don’t want to type this, as if that would make it not so. Harry Carey, Jr. has passed away at 91.

Above, he stands between Ben Johnson and Ward Bond in John Ford’s Wagon Master (1950). It’s one of the best Westerns of the 50s, and Carey’s easygoing performance is one of its considerable charms. So many pictures benefited from his presence: Red River (1948), Three Godfathers (1948), Rio Grande (1950), Silver Lode (1954) and The Searchers (1956), to name just a few.

He was the son of silent cowboy star Harry Carey and a member of John Ford’s stock company (his nickname was Dobe). His autobiography Company Of Heroes is one of the finest books on Western filmmaking you’ll ever read.

As far back as I can remember watching movies, I’ve been aware of Harry Carey, Jr. So forget about this stupid blog. Go watch Wagon Master.

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This is my contribution to the Paramount Centennial Blogathon, hosted by The Hollywood Revue. Be sure to check other bloggers’ pieces celebrating Paramount’s 100 years of great movies.

One-Eyed Jacks (1961), directed by and starring Marlon Brando, is a film Paramount probably wished they’d never made. It cost more than three times its original budget, took six months to shoot and over a year to edit (Brando turned in a cut over four hours long), and was nowhere near the hit they were hoping for. It was even the subject of jokes — Jerry Lewis: “Spend your vacation at One-Eyed Jacks.” But over the years, its reputation has evolved from trainwreck to cult film to maybe even a classic.

It’s the subject of my book-in-progress A Million Feet Of Film: The Making Of One-Eyed Jacks. For this blogathon, I’m focusing on a single sequence — one that was ultimately left out of the film.

Some say One-Eyed Jacks is a film with too many climaxes. If so, one of those climaxes is certainly the sequence where Dad Longworth (Karl Malden) ties Rio (Marlon Brando) to a hitching post, horsewhips him, then smashes his gun hand with the butt of a shotgun. It’s a brutal scene, with Rio striking a Christ-like pose as the whole town watches his torture.

Brando and his partners in crime withdraw to a Chinese fishing village for him to heal up, rehab his gun hand and plot his revenge. During the wait, tensions mount between Rio and a couple members of his gang, Bob Amory (Ben Johnson) and Harvey Johnson (Sam Gillman). In the script and Brando’s rough cut, there were scenes with Brando and a waitress in the village (Lisa Lu).

Marlon Brando: “I was supposed to get drunk, come in out of the rain and rape a Chinese girl. You can’t fake drunkenness in a movie, so I figured the scene would work better if I really got drunk.”

The scene was scheduled for a Friday afternoon, so Brando would have the weekend to recuperate.

Brando: “I started drinking about 4:15 in the afternoon of the day I was going to shoot the scene, after telling the other actors what I wanted them to do.”

Makeup artist Phil Rhodes: “So Lisa Lu brought in the food as instructed, but by then Marlon was so drunk he couldn’t say his lines.”

Brando: “It has never taken much alcohol to put me over the edge, so in no time at all I was staggering around, grabbing hold of the girl…”

Alice Marchak, Brando’s personal assistant: “The shots they did film were unusable.”

It was decided to try again the next Friday.

Brando: “It still wasn’t right and I had to do it a number of afternoons to get it right.”

Alice Marchak: “Each night filming came to a halt because Marlon was falling-down drunk… Mostly, it was Marlon falling out of bed, staggering around thoroughly enjoying himself, having loads of fun along with members of the crew… What nobody knew was that most nights before I left the studio, Marlon was so sick I had to hold his head to keep him from drowning in the toilet as he knelt and hugged while he threw up into the toilet bowl.”

All those weeks, all that money, all those hangovers — and the scene was cut.

Producer Frank P. Rosenberg: “The only sequence that was dropped in its entirety was an ancillary and transient love story between Brando and a Chinese girl. Everything about this episode was admirable except that it brought the film to a standstill.”

SOURCES: The New York Times; Neon; Me And Marlon by Alice Marchak; Brando: The Biography by Peter Manso.

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