Was looking through some old issues of Variety (while working on my One-Eyed Jacks book) and came across something interesting: there was a time when Yellowstone Kelly (1959) was to star Charlton Heston and Ricky Nelson! Of course, those parts went to Clint Walker and Ed Byrnes (seen here).
Archive for the ‘Clint Walker’ Category
Have at it, folks! Five Warner Archive titles for just $45 with free shipping.
Lots of good stuff to choose from, from Devil’s Doorway (1950) to Yellowstone Kelly (1959) — with Carson City (1952) somewhere in between. Unfortunately, those Tim Holt sets don’t count.
And if you want a non-50s non-Western, I’d recommend On Borrowed Time (1939). What a wonderful little movie it is.
Spoke to Richard Eyer over the weekend about Fort Dobbs (1958). He listed it as one of the favorite shoots of his career — mainly since school was out and they were on location. I’ll post sections of that interview once it’s transcribed. Of course, he had nothing but nice things to say about Clint Walker.
Mr. Eyer brought up staying at Parry Lodge with his mom and brother while the picture was being shot around Kanab, Utah — and returning there for one of the Western Legends Roundup events.
Dozens of stars — John Wayne, Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and others — stayed at Parry Lodge over the years, and it’s now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. When my family and I get out that direction, this will be one of our stops.
Also, it was pointed out to me today that Fort Dobbs is mentioned in Walker Percy’s National Book Award winning 1961 novel The Moviegoer.
Cheyenne was a landmark TV Western. It was the first hour-long dramatic series. It was one of the first TV shows produced by a major Hollywood studio (Warner Bros.). And it made Clint Walker a star.
Clint Walker: “… I found out they [Warner Bros.] turned down some pretty nice features that I could’ve done… I heard that when people inquired, they were told, ‘When Clint Walker does features, he’ll do ‘em for Warner Bros.’ So that’s where we had the difference of opinion.” *
So, he walked off Cheyenne, which certainly got the studio’s attention. Soon, he had a new contract — and Fifteen Bullets From Fort Dobbs was in production.
Written by Burt Kennedy and George W. George, Fort Dobbs (1958) comes pretty close to the tone Kennedy set for the Scott/Boetticher “Ranown Cycle.” Like those films, dialogue is kept to a minimum. In fact, you’re almost 15 minutes into the picture before the first dialogue scene of any real length.
Walker plays Gar Davis, one step ahead of a posse, who escorts Virginia Mayo and her son (Richard Eyer) through Comanche territory to Fort Dobbs. Along the way, they encounter the Comanches and Brian Keith, an old acquaintance of Davis’ looking to sell a load of Henry repeating rifles. These rifles provide a major plot point — the working title (Fifteen Bullets From Fort Dobbs) might refer to the fact that 15 cartridges could be loaded into the Henry at a time.
Fort Dobbs is a tough, gritty Western that wears its smallish budget well. The country around Kanab, Utah, offers up plenty of production values. There are very few interiors. And William Clothier’s black and white cinematography gives it a stark, noir-ish look that suits the tone of the picture.
Clint Walker is fine in a part that makes the most of his incredible physical presence. Virginia Mayo is quite good as the widow, Mrs. Gray, though her Southern accent comes and goes. But Brian Keith almost steals the picture as the likable, despicable Clett.
Along with the tight script, effective performances and striking camerawork (by William H. Clothier), credit is due to director Gordon Douglas. An exceptional action director who’s unjustly overlooked, Gordon gave us Dick Tracy Vs. Cueball (1946); The Doolins Of Oklahoma (1949), a really terrific Randolph Scott picture; Them! (1954), the first and best of the giant bug movies, to name just a few. He also directed two more Clint Walker pictures for Warner Bros., Yellowstone Kelly (1959) and Gold Of The Seven Saints (1961). All three Walker/Douglas films are now available from Warner Archive.
Max Steiner’s music is effective and gives the picture a big feel. I noticed a cue or two lifted from The Searchers (1956) and suspect further cues were borrowed from other Warner Bros. Westerns.
Fort Dobbs is a high-water mark for Warner Archive. The transfer is stunning at times, really doing Clothier’s photography justice. The occasional stock shot, with its grain and shift in contrast, is the only complaint — and it would’ve been a complaint back in 1958. The audio is very clean with plenty of range, so those all-too-familiar Warner Bros. sound effects (some I recognize from Bugs Bunny cartoons) are crisp and clear.
The packaging, making good use of the original poster art, is a big improvement over Warner Archive’s early releases. (They seem to be going back and reworking the artwork throughout their catalog, and I wish packaging upgrades were available.) A trailer is included, and while that’s not exactly a treasure trove of supplemental material, it goes beyond the program’s usual bare bones presentation. To me, the best bonus feature is a gorgeous transfer, which this DVD-R certainly delivers. And speaking of DVD-R’s, my copy played flawlessly.
Fort Dobbs was a picture I was eager to see again. It didn’t disappoint. Neither did the DVD. You can get it from Warner Archive here. Recommended.
* From a recent phone conversation.
The first of three pictures Clint Walker did for Warner Brothers in the wake of his Cheyenne TV fame, Fort Dobbs (1958) is coming from Warner Archive. And if you ask me, it’s the best of the lot. Written by Burt Kennedy (with George W. George), it comes pretty close to the tone he set for the Scott/Boetticher pictures (The Ranown Cycle) — and that’s certainly a recommendation. Having Virginia Mayo and Brian Keith on hand don’t hurt, either.
Gordon Douglas was a good action director, and his work is usually worth seeking out. The Doolins Of Oklahoma (1949) is a really terrific Randolph Scott picture — the next year’s The Nevadan (1950) is almost as good. Them! (1954) is the first, and best, of the giant bug movies. Follow That Dream (1962) is an amiable Elvis flick. And the Frank Sinatra vehicles he did in the late Sixties — Tony Rome (1967), its sequel Lady In Cement (1968) and The Detective (1968) — are often quite good, even if Frank seems to be walking through them at times.
The other two Walker/Douglas films, Yellowstone Kelly (1959) and Gold Of The Seven Saints (1961, which has Nestor Paiva in it), are already available from Warner Archive. (Note to self: do a post on Paiva.)
[An aside: It's been interesting lately to see just how fast the "International Old Western Geek Network" — of which I'm a proud member — spreads the news about these things. Keep up the good work.]
In the early 50s, big cowboy stars like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry were making the transition from theaters to TV. Roy’s final theatrical picture was Son Of Paleface (1952) until his return in Mackintosh And T.J. in 1975. Gene’s last was Last Of The Pony Riders (1953).
By the late 50s, the tide had turned. Instead of television pilfering movie stars, TV actors were cropping up in theatrical films. Some, like Davy Crockett, King Of The Wild Frontier (1955) and The Lone Ranger (1956), were features based on, or edited from, a hit show. And things like Yellowstone Kelly (1959, directed by Gordon Douglas) simply loaded the cast with popular actors and actresses from the small screen and made sure we knew where they came from. It was a ploy that seemed to work. Yellowstone Kelly was a hit. (By the way, it seems this story was intended for John Wayne at one point.)
Warner Archive is giving away two copies of Yellowstone Kelly to readers of this blog! Write in using the form below, naming two other 50s Westerns directed by Gordon Douglas. The first two (correct) responses will receive the remastered widescreen DVD-R. This contest is limited to the United States. Act fast — you people know your movies, so rattling off a couple Douglas pictures shouldn’t take any time at all.
UPDATE: Both DVDs have been claimed. Congratulations to Heather and Jimmy. And a big thanks to all who wrote in.
UPDATE #2: The New York Post has a brief interview with Clint Walker about Yellowstone Kelly.