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Archive for the ‘Gary Cooper’ Category

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Buy this Blu-ray or Cooper gets it!

One of the toughest, slimiest, most brutal and just plain best-est 50s Westerns of them all, Anthony Mann’s Man Of The West (1958), is getting a much-needed upgrade this November from Kino Lorber.

It’s hard to put my finger on just why I love this one so much. For starters, it’s one of the finest Westerns ever made. But there’s other stuff, too. Like the awful Cleggs in Wagonmaster (1950), the bad guys here are of unbelievable scuzziness. (It’s hard to believe this is the same Jack Lord I love in Hawaii Five-O, not a hair out of place.) There are very few movies that impact me the way this one does: Mann is at the absolute top of his game here, twisting us around and ringing us out like a dishrag. (Just looking at this still is giving me the willies.) And Cooper brings incredible depth to Link Jones, maybe the ultimate Mann Western character—sorry, Jimmy—and certainly one of Coop’s best performances.

If you can watch this one and not be affected, check your pulse. You’re dead.

Thanks to Dick Vincent for the news. And Blake, if you don’t have a Blu-ray player yet, you’ve run out of excuses, pal.

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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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It’s been a while since I did a Character Actor Of The Day, so I decided on a big one: Robert J. Wilke (May 18, 1914 – March 28, 1989).

Wilke started out as a stuntman in the 30s, and was soon a very prolific bad guy in movies and eventually on TV. He has hundreds of credits, most in Westerns. Here he is (center) with Lee Van Cleef and Sheb Wooley in High Noon (1952). He was appearing in many of the Tim Holt pictures from around the same time.

Before breaking into the movies, he was a high diver at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. And he was known as one of the best celebrity golfers in Hollywood. Wonder if he and Randolph Scott set up a game during Badman’s Territory (1946)?

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Sony Movie Channel is focusing on Westerns next month, with a terrific all-day marathon scheduled for Sunday, July 28 that should keep readers of this blog firmly planted on their sofas — or scrambling to make room on their DVRs.

The directors represented here — Boetticher, Sherman, Daves, Karlson, Castle, Witney — make up a virtual Who’s Who of 50s Westerns directors. The times listed are Eastern. Put the coffee on, it’s gonna be a long day!

4:40 AM Face Of A Fugitive (1959, above) One of those really cool, tough Westerns Fred MacMurray made in the late 50s. James Coburn has an early role, and Jerry Goldsmith contributed one of his first scores. It’s not out on DVD in the States, and the Spanish one doesn’t look so hot, so don’t miss it here.

6:05 AM Relentless (1948) George Sherman directs Robert Young, Marguerite Chapman, Willard Parker, Akim Tamiroff, Barton MacLane and Mike Mazurki. Shot around Tucson (and the Corrigan Ranch) in Technicolor. I may be in the minority, but I like Robert Young in Westerns.

7:40 AM A Lawless Street (1955) Joseph H. Lewis knocks another one out of the park, directing Randolph Scott and Angela Lansbury. This film doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

9:05 AM Decision At Sundown (1957) Part of Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott’s Ranown cycle, this one tends to divide fans. I think it’s terrific. It’s certainly more downbeat than the others (Burt Kennedy didn’t write it), with Scott’s character almost deranged vs. the usual obsessed.

10:25 AM The Pathfinder (1952) Sidney Salkow directs George Montgomery in a low-budget adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper, produced by Sam Katzman. Helena Carter and Jay Silverheels round out the cast.

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11:45 AM Battle Of Rogue River (1954) William Castle directs George Montgomery (seen above with Martha Hyer) the same year they did Masterson Of Kansas. I’m a real sucker for Castle’s Westerns, so it’s hard to be objective here.

1:05 PM Gunman’s Walk (1958) Phil Karlson’s masterpiece? A great film, with a typically incredible performance from Van Heflin, that really needs to be rediscovered. Not available on DVD in the U.S. Don’t miss it.

2:45 PM They Came To Cordura (1959) Robert Rossen directs a terrific cast — Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, Van Heflin, Tab Hunter and Dick York. Set in 1916 Mexico, it has a look somewhat similar to The Wild Bunch (1969). Looks good in CinemaScope.

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4:55 PM Jubal (1956, above) Delmer Daves puts Othello on horseback. Glenn Ford, Ernest Borgnine, Rod Steiger, Valerie French, Charles Bronson, Jack Elam, Felicia Farr, Harry Carey, Jr. and John Dierkes make up the great cast. Charles Lawton, Jr. shot it in Technicolor and CinemaScope.

6:40 PM Arizona Raiders (1965) Wiliam Witney directs Audie Murphy in a picture that plays like a cross between a 50s Western and a spaghetti one. Murphy got better as he went along, and his performance here is quite good.

8:20 PM 40 Guns To Apache Pass (1966) Witney and Murphy again. This time around, Murphy is after a missing shipment of guns.

If all that’s not enough, there’s the Back In The Saddle sweepstakes, a chance to win a three-day dude ranch getaway. Check SonyMovieChannel.com to find out more.

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Jack Benny is a real favorite around my house, so I don’t care of this post is a bit of a stretch, Western-wise.

Shout Factory has announced a three-disc set containing 18 Benny episodes — “unseen since their original broadcast — that have been lovingly restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Jack, Don, Mary, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson and a constellation of guest stars are all here in this first-of-its-kind DVD collection.”

The guest stars include Gary Cooper and John Wayne, which gives me a real honest-to-goodness reason to put together a post on this.

Sorry for the drop-off in activity. Have one of those “family emergencies” we’re tending to.

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Vera Cruz pressbook sized

With Burt Lancaster’s 100th birthday on the horizon, UCLA has put together a terrific program to celebrate one of the greatest stars of them all. Running through June, it offers up a great sampling of Lancaster’s career.

For me, and readers of this blog, the best night of the bunch might be this Friday, with a 35mm screening of both Vera Cruz (1954) and The Professionals (1966). Both are terrific, with Vera Cruz being a highlight of the 50s Western. Like Shane (1953), it’s one of the films that fell victim to the widening of theater screens in the wake of CinemaScope. This time around, Robert Aldrich’s picture was cropped/blown up to SuperScope’s 2:1 ratio (it was probably shot for 1.85).

Another great evening will be the June 7 screening of Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957), a film I find flawed but wonderful. Its VistaVision should be a gorgeous thing on the big screen.

Vera Cruz (1954) and The Professionals (1966)
April 12, 2013 – 7:30 pm

Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957) and I Walk Alone (1948)
June 7, 2013 – 7:30 pm

The Billy Wilder Theater
10899 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(310) 206-8013

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UPDATE: Burt and Coop’s costar in Vera Cruz, Spanish actress Sara Montiel, passed away today at 85. She was once married to Anthony Mann.

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You’ve got till 4/6 at 11:59PM PST to head ‘em off at the pass. Mount up!

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iipsrvDid your aunt Suzy put a twenty in your Christmas card? Well, here’s a good place to use it.

Warner Archive is having a Thank You sale through the 14th, with more than 1,000 titles at five DVD-Rs for just $45. And free shipping. The link is here.

There are some really fine films in the Warner Archive Collection, including some terrific 50s Westerns like Westward The Women (1951), Carson City (1952), The Command (1954), Wichita (1955), The Fastest Gun Alive (1956) and The Hanging Tree (1959). Columbia’s Choice Collection and sets like the Tim Holt RKOs are not part of this promotion.

So have at it. And remember, it’s only good through the 14th!

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Blake Lucas pointed this out, and it’s certainly worth highlighting here — 3:10 To Yuma (1957) has been added to the National Film Registry by the Library Of Congress.

It’s the seventh 50s Western to make the Registry, the others being High Noon (1952), Shane (1953), The Naked Spur (1953), Johnny Guitar (1954), The Searchers (1956) and The Tall T (1957). While you can maybe argue the titles (I would’ve gone with Winchester ’73), you certainly can’t complain about the directors they’ve chosen to honor.

So when’s Rio Bravo (1959) gonna get in there?

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Directed by Delmer Daves
Produced by Martin Jurow and Richard Shepherd
Screenplay by Wendell Mayes and Halsted Welles
From the novel by Dorothy M. Johnson
Director of photography: Ted McCord, ASC
Music by Max Steiner
Song: “The Hanging Tree” — Lyrics by Mack David, Music by Jerry Livingston,
Vocal by Marty Robbins
Film Editor: Owen Marks

CAST: Gary Cooper (Dr. Joseph Frail), Maria Schell (Elizabeth Mahler), Karl Malden (Frenchy), Ben Piazza (Rune), George C. Scott (Grubb), Karl Swenson (Mr. Flaunce), Virginia Gregg (Mrs. Flaunce), John Dierkes (Society Red).

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All through college (1982-87), I worked in video stores. One of the films we were constantly asked for was The Hanging Tree (1959). When it finally showed up on VHS, everyone agreed that it was ratty-looking — but we were so excited to see it we didn’t care. As time went on and VHS passed the torch to DVD, The Hanging Tree started showing up on Want Lists all over again. You’d hear there were rights problems, and the material was in bad shape — along with the promise that sorting it out was a priority.

It took a while, but Warner Archive has come through with a nice-looking widescreen transfer that does justice to this worthy film (even if it’s more a sprucing-up than a true restoration). The Technicolor camerawork is well represented in both the interior and exterior scenes, with occasional variances in contrast the only complaint. Grain and a blemish here and there are welcome reminders that this is a film.

From its setting in the Montana gold camp of Skull Creek to its troubled, injured or downright degenerate cast of characters, there’s no other Western like The Hanging Tree. And that makes it a real treat waiting to be discovered or revisited.

By the late 50s, Gary Cooper had matured, much like Randolph Scott, to become the perfect Western lead. His Doc Frail is one of his most complex roles, a physician as handy with a pistol as he is with a scalpel who rides into Skull Creek hoping to escape a troubled past.

Maria Cooper, Gary’s daughter (in a New York Post interview): “He was very interested in this particular character because he was able to portray many facets. He was horrible, controlling and brutish yet he had this tremendously kind, mothering sense of caring for people. It’s not your simple black-and-white hero and it’s not your typical Western.”

Frail becomes involved with a young sluice-robber Rune (Ben Piazza) and an injured immigrant Elizabeth (Maria Schell), and rumors start to spread around the camp about his dark past and relationships with his houseguests. Frail’s secret, a “glory hole” gold strike and mob hysteria all come together for a fiery, violent climax.

Delmer Daves made some outstanding Westerns in the Fifties, with 3:10 To Yuma (1957) and The Hanging Tree maybe the best (bet that’s gonna launch a thread). Both use terrific performances from their leads to create a real sense of unease. In Yuma, we’re somehow charmed by Glenn Ford’s slimy villain, while here we don’t know what to make of Cooper’s compassion for his patients and his conflicting violent side.

Karl Malden as the dirtbag prospector Frenchy and Ben Piazza as Rune are excellent. (Incidentally, Malden directed some scenes when Daves became ill.) George C. Scott makes his debut as Grubb, a drunken fire-and-brimestone preacher. Maria Schell is wonderful and completely believable as the beautiful, hard-working Elizabeth. Though this is Cooper’s film from its fade-in to fade-out, Schell deserves credit for much of its success — and it’s no wonder this is a Western women seem to really respond to. (Those video store requests I mentioned often came from women.)

Daves and Cooper on location.

Ted McCord was a master at outdoor cinematography (The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre), and he works wonders with the Washington locations (doubling as Montana). Daves is often criticized for his fondness for crane shots, but they work well here — sometimes going from sweeping mountains vistas to tighter shots of the scruffy tent city without a cut. The early scenes, with Cooper looking down on the makeshift town, are really effective. Max Steiner provides a score that complements the more melodramatic scenes without pushing them over the top. And Marty Robbins’ title song provides the perfect punctuation in the final scene (the song has been added to the CD of his classic album Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs).

The Hanging Tree is a key Western of the 50s, one that’s been out of circulation far too long. This DVD, which adds a trailer as a bonus feature, is further proof of the real value of the Warner Archive (and similar programs) to collectors like us.

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