Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

If you’ve spent much time on this blog, you’ve probably wondered “Why’s this guy so hung up on those Regalscope pictures?” Not so sure myself.

I recently wrote a short piece on them for The Old Corrall at classicflix.com. Click on Charles Bronson, from 1958’s Showdown At Boot Hill, to read it.

And let’s not forget Mark Thomas McGee’s Talk’s Cheap, Action’s Expensive: The Films Of Robert L. Lippert, an excellent book that covers the Regalscope films.

Read Full Post »

Lippert

A few weeks ago, I broke my glasses and began relying on an old (pre-trifocals) pair while I scrambled for an eye exam and new frames. Reading became very, very difficult. Not the best time to receive a book you’re really excited about. But that’s exactly when Mark Thomas McGee’s Talk’s Cheap, Action’s Expensive: The Films Of Robert L. Lippert, from BearManor Media, turned up in my mailbox.

Lippert Pictures (and related companies) cranked out cheap little Westerns like 1952’s Outlaw Women, along with gems such as Sam Fuller’s I Shot Jesse James (1949) and The Quiet Gun (1957). (They covered the other genres, too.) I’m a big fan of these films and was determined to make my way through the book with or without spectacles, holding it so close I risked paper cuts on my nose.

McGee set the book up very well. The first 80 pages or so read as a biography and history of Lippert and his career, from the theater business to film production. I had a working knowledge of the Lippert story going in, but was always coming upon something I didn’t know. There’s a filmography, arranged by company, that makes up the bulk of the book. And finally, there’s a listing of the Lippert theaters (the closest to me was in Chattanooga, TN).

red desert HS

What’s not to like about a book like this? It’s packed with information on movies I grew up with, movies I love. Rocketship X-M (1950). The Steel Helmet (1951). Superman And The Mole Men (1951). Forty Guns (1957). Showdown At Boot Hill (1958). The Fly (1958). The Alligator People (1959). House Of The Damned (1963). They’re all in here, and you’ll come away with a better understanding of what went into getting them made. Where I think McGee really excelled was in making sure the book, as informative as it is, stayed as fun as the films it’s about. (The same goes for his previous books on Roger Corman and AIP.)

copper sky

If there’s a downside to this book, it’s that the filmography points out film after film that you’d love to track down and see. You’ll find a lot of them available from Kit Parker Films and VCI, and others scattered here and there. Some of the Fullers were even given the Criterion treatment. As for the rest, well, happy hunting.

It’s very easy to recommend Mark Thomas McGee’s Talk’s Cheap, Action’s Expensive: The Films Of Robert L. Lippert. Now that my new glasses are in, I’m reading it a second time.

Read Full Post »

johndoucette-goldtownghost

Directed by George Archainbaud
Produced by Armand Schaefer
Story and Screen Play by Gerald Geraghty
Director of Photography: William Bradford, ASC
Film Editor: James Sweeney, ACE

CAST: Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Gail Davis (Cathy Wheeler), Kirk Riley (Ed Wheeler), Carleton Young (Jim Granby), Denver Pyle, John Doucette.

__________

Goldtown Ghost Riders is a pretty solid Gene Autry movie, one of six released in 1953, his last year in theaters. Along for the ride are Champion, Smiley Burnette and Gail Davis, still a year or so away from playing Annie Oakley. Support comes from Kirk Riley, Carleton Young, Denver Pyle and John Doucette.

Gene’s a circuit judge looking into fake gold strikes, blackmail and murder in Goldtown — and trying to solve the mystery of the Ghost Riders. (Why didn’t he sing “Ghost Riders In The Sky” in this one?) There’s a bit of a Scooby Doo feel to the whole thing, and it’s quite clever. The bulk of the film is done in flashback, a fairly unusual structure for a B Western. It works pretty well, and if things get a little confusing, there’s plenty of riding, shooting and singing to keep things moving along. What’s interesting is that Gail Davis isn’t involved in all that riding and shooting, playing a pretty typical B Western female lead. As we all know, she was capable of so much more.

home-goldtown-ghost-riders-2-lrg

I really enjoy these later Autry films. Like the Roy Rogers films from the same period, they’re more stripped down and a bit more adult. The fancy outfits have been replaced by more practical stuff. The songs may not be as good, but Gene seems a bit more relaxed in front of the camera. (He should be; he’d made almost 90 movies by this time.) Some of the plots strive for something a little different, and the writers certainly deserve credit for that. (Gerald Geraghty, who wrote this one, cooked up the story for Gene’s first film, the whacked-out and wonderful 1936 serial The Phantom Empire.)

About a decade ago, a large-scale restoration project, working from Autry’s own 16mm and 35mm uncut material, made sure these films would look and sound terrific. So these four-film, two-DVD sets from Timeless Media Group are an easy recommendation. Each film comes with a batch of extras, making them one of the best DVD bargains around. But be warned: they’re a bit like potato chips, you can’t stop at just one!

The 50s Westerns spotlight on Gail Davis will continue. Next up: Overland Telegraph (1951).

__________

On a somewhat related note: Researching this film, I discovered that the Lewis B. Patten book Gene Autry And The Ghost Riders (1955) was reprinted by Wildside Press. It’s a good young adult Western novel, from the guy who wrote the story Red Sundown (1956) came from.

Read Full Post »

Harry-Carey-Jr.-gum-card-295

In a way, this is more a thank you note than a review.

Company Of Heroes: My Life As An Actor In The John Ford Stock Company by Harry Carey, Jr. is one of the best of the many books written about John Ford. I’ll even go so far as naming it one of the best books on making movies, period. To have it back in print, from Taylor Trade Publishing, is something to celebrate.

What makes it so good? Harry Carey, Jr. (or Ol’ Dobe, as he was called) was there. When he tells the John Ford stories we’ve heard before — the torture, the bullying, the hidden soft side, etc. — it’s with a depth that’s missing from all the other books (unless they quote from this one). His descriptions of Ford, from his dangling shirt sleeves to his body language, will ultimately add to your appreciation of his work.

Carey covers all the Ford films he appeared in, from 3 Godfathers (1948, shown below) to Cheyenne Autumn (1964), serving in Ford’s Navy film unit, and their personal relationship that spanned from Carey’s birth — Ford and Carey Sr. got drunk while Olive Carey was in labor — to Ford’s death in 1973. He pulls no punches, especially the ones aimed at himself, and relates everything in an easygoing style that feels like he’s telling you these things face-to-face. It’s very funny, often touching, a quick read — and I wish it was twice as long.

The new paperback edition has an prologue from Carey’s children. They seem as happy to have it back in print as I am. If you don’t have the 1992 Scarecrow edition, by all means get this one. Absolutely essential.

Screen shot 2014-01-02 at 5.07.26 PM

Read Full Post »

john wayne 9

Paula has passed along some great news — Company Of Heroes: My Life As An Actor In The John Ford Stock Company by Harry Carey, Jr. will be back in print in December.

It’s one of the best books ever written on making movies, and it’s absolutely essential for fans of John Ford, John Wayne or 50s Westerns. Original hardback copies go for pretty big money, especially if you come across a signed one, so this paperback edition will certainly be welcome.

By the way, Carey’s chapter on filming The Searchers (1956) has been added to a recent paperback edition of Alan LeMay’s original novel. A very smart move on someone’s part.

Read Full Post »

Allan Dwan sketch cropped

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.

984fem111

June 24-25
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.

June 29-30
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.

Picture 45

July 3,5
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.

Read Full Post »

tumblr_m31gyrlgG31qlc0voo1_500

John Ford didn’t have much interest in discussing his creative process. Anybody who’s read a book or two on him knows he downplayed his incredible artistry (and sentimentality) at every turn, preferring to fall back on his reputation (deserved) as a mean old man who happened to make great movies.

Ford’s greatest collaborator, John Wayne, worked very hard to look like he wasn’t working at all. The fact that so many today think of Wayne as more a personality than an actor shows how well he succeeded.

Ward Bond was a natural, plain and simple. Over 200 films and a TV series, Wagon Train, certainly benefited from his style (or lack of style).

942276_10152879710740495_1097840882_nThe politics of these three men were as varied as their approach to their craft, but they formed a fast friendship that lasted for decades — from Wayne and Bond playing football at USC in the late 20s to Bond’s death in 1960 and on to Ford’s passing in 1973. It’s a sort of father-sons relationship that just happens to include some of the finest films ever made.

If you’re a frequenter of this blog, you’ve probably got shelves loaded with books on Ford and Wayne. Some are indispensable, some are good, some aren’t so hot but maybe contain a still you can’t live without. I’d put Three Bad Men in the indispensable stack.

What Scott Allen Nollen does that sets Three Bad Men apart is use Bond’s biography (which has never been tackled before, to my knowledge) as the backbone on which the rest of the book hangs. Nollen covers the films they made together, along with the pictures that came between them. The book really benefits from this larger context, from the ups and downs of their individual careers (Wayne’s picture before The Searchers was The Conqueror; Bond went from My Darling Clementine straight to It’s A Wonderful Life) to the irony of Ford’s later years, when Wayne’s superstardom and Bond’s TV success made it harder for Pappy to line up his cast — when he could get a project off the ground.

ward-bond-jfAs with most books about these men, tales of drinking and mischief fly fast and furious, along with valuable insight into their working relationship. Nollen strikes an almost perfect balance between the meticulously researched and the engagingly told. I found this a fun, fast, enlightening read — up there with the Bogdanovich book. (Some sections have already seen a second pass.) My only complaint: I would’ve liked another 20-30 pages on They Were Expendable (1945). Inspired by this book, I’m planning a Ford/Wayne/Bond binge, beginning with the Blu-ray of The Sun Shines Bright (1953).

Three Bad Men: John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond by Scott Allen Nollen, foreword by Michael A Hoey

398 pages Published 2013 by McFarland & Company, Inc  – ISBN 978-0-7864-5854-7

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 171 other followers