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Archive for the ‘Howard Hawks’ Category

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Directed by Richard L. Bare
Produced by Richard Whorf
Written by John Tucker Battle and D.D. Beauchamp
Director Of Photography: Carl Guthrie, ASC
Art Director: Stanley Fleischer
Music by Roy Webb
Film Editior: Clarence Kolster, ACE

CAST: Randolph Scott (Capt. Buck Devlin), James Craig (Ep Clark), Angie Dickinson (Priscilla King), Dani Crayne (Nell Garrison), James Garner (Sgt. John Maitland), Gordon Jones (Pvt. Wilbur “Will” Clegg), Trevor Bardette (Sheriff Bob Massey), Don Beddoe (Mayor Sam Pelley), Myron Healey (Rafe Sanders), John Alderson (Clyde Walters), Harry Harvey, Sr. (Elam King), Robert Warwick (Brother Abraham).

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Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957) sticks out like a sore thumb in Randolph Scott’s filmography. It sits right in the middle of the Ranown cycle (coming between The Tall T and Decision At Sundown) — a cheap little black-and-white contract killer shot on the backlot in 19 days by a crew (and sometimes cast) more accustomed to TV than features. It’s known more today for the early work it gave Angie Dickinson and James Garner than for Scott’s participation.

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James Garner: “The movie couldn’t decide if it was a comedy or a drama, maybe because [director Richard L.] Bare had gotten his start directing the ‘Joe McDoakes’ comedy shorts in the 1940s.”

Bare made a name for himself in shorts like the McDoakes pictures, directed a few features, then really found his place in early TV. He directed episodes of both Cheyenne and Maverick (he discovered James Garner in a bar on Sunset), and would go on to direct everything from The Twilight Zone to Green Acres (over 150 episodes of that one).

Richard L. Bare: “I was glad to see that my few years in TV had not knocked me out of the box for feature assignments. It was a story of three ex-soldiers who dressed up like preachers to avenge the death of Scott’s brother.”

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The soldiers are Scott, a pre-Maverick James Garner and Gordon Jones, and their journey takes to them to the rather lawless prairie town of Medicine Bend. Ep Clark (James Craig) runs the town and quickly winds up in Randy’s sites.

Richard L. Bare: “We were shooting a scene that called for the three of them [Scott, Garner, Gordon Jones] to swim in a lake [on the WB backlot] and come to shore. Scott said to me, ‘I’m not going in that water.’ I said, ‘Randy, the other guys are going to do it.’ He said, ‘Not me, not in that filth.’ So what I did was put Scott’s double in the water, and in the foreground I put Scott out of view behind a huge log, and when I called action, a prop man dumped fresh water on Scott, and Garner, Jones and Scott’s double swam to shore and ran to the log, and Scott’s double disappeared behind the log and Scott, all wet, popped up. And it worked just fine.”

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It’s a bit convoluted and goofy, and often played for humor. The action scenes are well done, and the film has the look and feel of a longer-than-usual Warner Bros. TV Western, which works just fine. Garner’s inexperience shows (“…my acting still wasn’t very good”). He lacks that supreme cool that came later. Angie Dickinson was two years away from Rio Bravo (1959), and comparing the two films, it’s amazing how much she developed as an actress during that time. (How much of that was Hawks’ doing?) Randolph Scott is, of course, Randolph Scott, and he handles the lighter, humorous stuff with ease. As he masquerades as a Quaker, his delivery makes the most of each line of dialogue. It’s fun to be in on his ruse.

Dickinson, Scott, Crayne - Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend

Warner Archive has given Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend a level of respect it’s probably never received before. It looks great, framed to the proper 1.85, with the contrast dialed-in just right. The audio’s got plenty of punch, letting Roy Webb’s score really shine. You might come to this one with high curiosity and low expectations. My advice: enjoy it for what it is. Recommended.

SOURCES: The Garner Files: A Memoir by James Garner and Jon Winokur; Confessions Of A Hollywood Director by Richard L. Bare; Last Of The Cowboy Heroes by Robert Nott

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Here’s wishing Angie Dickinson a happy birthday. Of course, I’m gonna offer up a photo of her on the set of my favorite Western, Rio Bravo (1959).

Howard Hawks gives the film such a cool, friendly vibe, and the performances are so good, that I feel like I’ve known its characters all my life.

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Recently, I’ve had the extreme pleasure of speaking with Mr. Jack N. Young, a Navy frogman turned stuntman who worked on many of the movies this blog holds dear. Look him up, it’s incredible.

“Blackjack” Young, as he became known, was a busy utility stuntman. He’d hire on for a film and provide what they needed, when they needed it. He worked frequently at Old Tucson, both in the films shot there and as part of their stunt show, and would eventually help run the place.

Transcribing it all is taking a while, and I want to hold onto some of it for the book, but this stuff’s too good to sit on. Among the many films he worked on is my favorite Western, Rio Bravo (1959), which was shot at Old Tucson.

Jack Young: “During the shootout at the end, I came out of the barn and got shot before they blew it up…  Ricky Nelson was a good kid. I play harmonica, and we’d sit around after work or something and sing. God, that kid was good!”

Rio Bravo foreign poster

Young: “Dean shot me in the saloon and I fell out of the loft. (Jack’s stunt inspired the foreign poster above.) We gaffed our own stunts. It was a whole bunch of cardboard boxes. We’d put ‘em together — about three-by-three, probably 10 of ‘em, with a rope tied around them to hold ‘em steady — and then put a tarp over it. Works perfect. I worked before the airbag. I’d do a roof fall, up to about 10 feet, without a pad. I’d hit the ground rolling, almost like a tumbler. I never got hurt.”

Talking to Jack has been an honor, and he’s provided a lot of insight into how these films were made. Watch for more, including a bit on City Of Bad Men (1953), which just showed up in my mailbox today.

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Gunfight at the OK Corral RLC

VistaVision is a wonderful thing on Blu-ray, and here’s one I’ve been waiting for — Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957).

It’s coming from Warners and Paramount on March 11, 2014. Also on the way are a couple John Wayne – Howard Hawks pictures, Hatari! (1962) and El Dorado (1967).

Thanks for the tip, Paula.

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Rio Bravo (1959)

According to an article by Bob Thomas that appeared in the Anniston Star on July 7, 1958, Howard Hawks and John Wayne toyed with the idea of shooting Rio Bravo (1959) in the three-camera, 2.59:1 Cinemiracle process.

Hawks: “I think the time is ripe for putting a story on that big screen. Wayne and I have a story which I think would work — a kind of a Western… It won’t be easy. You’ve got to have a very special kind of story for the big screen; one that gives you a variety of backgrounds.”

I’m guessing the story of Rio Bravo changed a bit, since the finished film doesn’t boast a “variety of backgrounds” — just the sheriff’s office, a couple saloons, the hotel and a couple spots in Old Tucson.

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Eric Hilliard “Ricky” Nelson
(May 8, 1940 – December 31, 1985)

Ricky Nelson only made one Western, but what a Western he made — Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959). His birthday seems like a good excuse to post this rather odd behind-the-scenes photo from my favorite cowboy movie.

Incidentally, Ricky’s older brother Dave also made a great Western in ’59, Andre de Toth’s Day Of The Outlaw.

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