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Archive for the ‘Gene Autry’ Category

AnnieOakley_Complete_f

Gail Davis is just wonderful as Annie Oakley, a part she was probably born to play. This upcoming set from VCI (due October 21) gives you all 81 Annie Oakley episodes, restored, with all sorts of extras: a documentary, the pilot, commercials, photo galleries and more.

Some terrific character actors rode through this series: Slim Pickins, Helene Marshall, James Best, John Doucette, James H. Griffith, Lee Van Cleef, Alan Hale Jr., Dickie Jones, Fess Parker, Clayton Moore, Denver Pile, LQ Jones, Glenn Strange and more. (Even Shelly Fabares!) And in the director’s chair from week to week, you might find the likes of George Archainbaud, Ray Nazarro, Earl Bellamy or John English. Produced by Gene Autry’s Flying A Productions, many of these folks were veterans of Gene’s movies and series. Then there’s Lone Pine locations and those beautiful double-action Colts.

We’re gonna get a lotta mileage out of this thing at my house. My daughter Presley really loves this show.

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D Jones Strawberry Roan

Dick Jones
(February 25, 1927 – July 7, 2014)

Dick Jones passed away this week. He’ll be remembered by most as the voice of Pinocchio (1940). But Westerns fans, we’ll remember Buffalo Bill, Jr. and The Range Rider on TV. And, of course, a string of appearances in Gene Autry movies and his TV show. He’s seen above with Gene in The Strawberry Roan (1948).

He had a great role in the underrated Errol Flynn Western Rocky Mountain (1950).

 

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Gail Davis signed photo

All of us in the 50s Westerns From The 50s bunkhouse are really excited about this latest project from VCI: The Annie Oakley TV Collection. My daughter Presley really really digs this show.

Working with Gail Davis’ daughter Terrie, VCI promises plenty of photos and other memorabilia, and there’s a documentary is in the works.

The show ran from 1954-57 in syndication, produced by Gene Autry’s Flying ‘A’ Productions. If Gail Davis isn’t cool enough for ya, episodes featured folks like Slim Pickens, Lee Van Cleef, L.Q. Jones, Denver Pyle and James H. Griffith. And one of our favorites, Ray Nazarro, directed about a dozen of the 81 episodes.

Release-wise, Annie and Target should come riding into your living room this fall.

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winning-west-4-lrg

The sixth installment in Timeless Media’s Gene Autry series offers up four titles from Gene’s later years on the big screen.

The Strawberry Roan (1948)
Longer than usual and in Cinecolor, this is one of Autry’s best films. It plays a bit like Roy Rogers’ My Pal Trigger (1946), giving Champion a real chance to shine. Gloria Henry, Jack Holt and Pat Buttram co-star.

Rim Of The Canyon (1949)
Gene plays himself and his dad! Much of the film takes place in a ghost town and really pours on the atmospherics.

Barbed Wire (1952)
Gene and Pat Buttram find themselves caught between feuding ranchers and homesteaders.

Winning Of The West (1953)
One of Autry’s last co-stars Gail Davis and Smiley Burnette, as they battle crooks masquerading as Indians. (The photo up top is from this film.)

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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.

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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).

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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.

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autry5

These sets from Timeless Media Group are getting around to the films Autry made in the 50s. I know Gene was also on TV at this time, and these probably weren’t getting as much attention as they had, but I’ve always liked them. (I don’t give Autry enough time on this blog. Sorry, Gene.)

This fifth volume, which is available now, includes:
Loaded Pistols (1949)
Gene Autry And The Mounties (1951)
Night Stage To Galveston (1952)
Goldtown Ghost Riders (1953)

These have looked great so far and have boasted some cool extras. Will have a review of this one soon.

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Pat-Buttram-Gene-Autry-television-series-DVD-photo

Timeless Media Group has corralled all five seasons of The Gene Autry Show (1950-1955) into a single set for release on December 10.

GeneAutryShow_CompleteCEThis blog is not about TV. Other people know a lot more about it than I do and do a much better job covering it than I ever could. But when you’re familiar with the features, seeing how Gene transitioned from theaters to living rooms is fascinating — and in keeping with what happened to Gene’s career, and the Western itself, over the course of the decade.

When Autry stopped making features — the TV series began in 1950, the movies lasted into 1953 — he brought a lot of actors and crew over to the show. George Archainbaud, for instance, directed Gene’s last feature, Last Of The Pony Riders (1953), and TV shows throughout its run. William Bradford, who shot a number of the later features, did all but a handful of the TV shows. (How’d they pull all this off?) Many of the TV writers had also written for the Autry features at some point, including a single episode by brothers Dorrell and Stewart E. McGowan, who’d scripted one of Gene’s best, South Of The Border (1939). (They also wrote one of my favorite films, 1949’s Hellfire).

The shows really have the feel of an Autry feature. Shorter and cheaper, of course, with a plot that’s even more bare-bones than the movies — and usually limited to a single song. Each episode exists as its own entity, too. From one show to the other, Gene is everything from a rancher to a U.S. Marshall, it’s the Old West one week and the Fabulous Fifties the next, and sometimes Gene doesn’t even know his sidekick Pat Buttram. Gene was a great businessman, and he was smart enough to stick with a sure thing — whether it’s a cameraman or a formula.

Making my way through the series, what really struck me was the incredible stream of actors and actresses that turn up from week to week: Denver Pyle, Alan Hale, Jr. (who’s a sidekick for a while), James H. Griffith, Kermit Maynard, John Doucette, Fuzzy Knight, Lyle Talbot, Robert J. Wilke, Tom Tyler, Jack Ingram, Clayton Moore, Chill Wills, Glenn Strange, James Best, Francis Ford, Lee Van Cleef. Gloria Talbott, Nestor Paiva, Peggy Stewart, “Curly” Joe Besser, Tommy Ivo and a million more. (That has to be the longest sentence I’ve ever written.) Autry’s acting leaves a lot to be desired — though he’d come a long way since The Phantom Empire (1936), but he surrounded himself with some real pros, and they do wonders for these shows.

gene autry show

You can’t help being knocked for a loop by the color episodes. Two first-season shows were done in color as an experiment and the fifth season is color all the way. The type of color isn’t identified — my guess would be Eastmancolor — and it looks pretty weird, a little blown out in spots. But that’s the fault of the original material, not something we can complain to Timeless Media Group about. It’s terrific to see Gene and Roy and Champion in color. These were transfered from Gene’s personal material and are spotless, with supplements like radio shows, photo galleries and commercials — along with an extra DVD that gives you episodes of other shows from Autry’s Flying ‘A’ Productions. Recommended.Gene Autry - GA rehearsing

Gene Autry at work on his TV show. Photo lifted from Steven Lodge’s blog.

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