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Archive for the ‘John Ford’ Category

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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.

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On Facebook, Cricket White Green recently posted some old photographs of films being shot at White’s Ranch in Moab, Utah. Here’s a few showing location work for John Ford’s wonderful Wagon Master (1950).

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That’s Hank Worden on the left.

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Left to right: Hank Worden, Charles Kemper and Ward Bond.1509048_10203213393519486_full

The crew and the wagon train. Looks like some reflectors on the right.

Thanks for letting me share these, Cricket!

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John Ford
(February 1, 1894 – August 31, 1973)

Here’s to one of the greats on the anniversary of his birth.

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Directed by Lesley Selander
Produced by Herman Schlom
Written by Norman Houston
Director Of Photography: J. Roy Hunt, ASC
Music by Paul Sawtell
Film Editor: Robert Swink

CAST: Tim Holt (Kansas Jones), Richard Martin (Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty), Jacqueline White (Priscilla “Dusty” Willis), Reed Hadley (Clint Burrows), Robert Barrat (Sheriff Cole), Robert Clarke (Harry Willis), Tom Tyler (The Ringo Kid), William Tannen (Trump Dixon).

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When unemployed cowhands Holt and Martin come to the aid of Dusty Willis (Jacqueline White) and her brother Harry (Robert Clarke), duking it out with saloon owner Clint Burrows, she gives them jobs on her ranch. Turns out Harry owes Burrows $3,000 in gambling debts, and Harry agrees to let Burrows’ men rustle some of his sister’s cattle to erase the debt. This kicks off a series of events that results in Holt being wanted for a murder he didn’t commit.

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220px-Lesley_SelanderRiders Of The Range was directed by Lesley Selander (right), who did about 20 of the Holts for RKO. Selander worked his way up through the Hollywood studio system, from assistant cameraman to assistant director (learning a great deal from William S. Van Dyke on the Buck Jones pictures) to director. He did excellent work on the Hopalong Cassidy series for Paramount, signed on at Republic for a time, and wound up at RKO for the Holts. Selander worked miracles on the Holt films, turning out superior Westerns on RKO’s tight budgets (that were still more than other B Westerns were working with), getting plenty of production values from the incredible Lone Pine locations. In fact, regardless of budget, his Westerns (such as 1948′s Panhandle or 1955′s Shotgun) are always a cut above.

To me, Lesley Selander’s titles are the best of the Tim Holt series. And Riders Of The Range is a good one, with his usual pacing and focus on almost constant action. There are a number of fistfights, a few gunfights and lots and lots of riding and shooting. Before you know it, the hour’s up and Tim and Chito are riding off. Jacqueline White has a nice part, too.

Adventures_of_Captain_Marvel_(1941_serial)_2Tom Tyler plays The Ringo Kid, an outlaw employed by Burrows for the arranged rustling. A champion weightlifter, Tyler started his movie career as a stuntman in Silent Westerns, progressing to serial roles like Captain Marvel and The Phantom in the early 40s. (The Phantom is an excellent serial.) His career stalled when he was stricken with scleroderma (originally diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis), which limited him to smaller and smaller supporting roles, often without credit. His friends came to the rescue. John Ford gave him work (They Were Expendable, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, What Price Glory), Gene Autry put him in a couple episodes of his TV show, and Lesley Selander cast him a few of the later Holts. As Tyler’s condition grew worse, and he could no longer work in movies, he moved in with his sister in Michigan. Tom Tyler passed away in 1954, almost penniless. (Before working together on these RKOs, Tim Holt and Tom Tyler both appeared in John Ford’s Stagecoach in 1939, with John Wayne as The Ringo Kid.)

Jacqueline White: “We shot the picture up at Jack Garner’s ranch, who rented out the place for lots of movies. Tim’s wife was with him and also along was his wife’s dog, a Doberman Pincher! Well, this dog hated Tim!… Richard Martin was a charming guy—real nice and tall! A good looking fellow.”*

Riders Of The Range is the last picture in the Tim Holt Western Classic Collection Vol. 2 from Warner Archive. Like all the films in the three volumes (released so far), it looks terrific. J. Roy Hunt’s camerawork is startling at times, and the DVD-R presents it flawlessly.

* Western Clippings interview

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The folks at ClassicFlix let me write for them every once in a while. Here’s a piece on John Ford’s 3 Godfathers (1948), a pre-1950 Christmas Western that I love dearly, no matter how overly sentimental and sappy you might think it is.

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It’s also one of the most beautiful color movies ever made. Easy.

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John Ford’s Rio Grande (1950) is one of the major 50s Westerns I’ve somehow neglected over the life of this blog. As a small attempt to remedy that, here’s a photo of John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara and the crew shooting a scene. Ford’s not visible here, unfortunately.

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My nephew Ethan Jeremy Taylor Webb, 20, was killed in a car wreck last Saturday night. He was laid to rest today in Hillsville, VA, after an incredible memorial service. This image was in my head throughout the day.

Ethan’s girlfriend Pamela is in a coma. If you’re a person of faith, please pray for her.

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Sam Elliott (interviewed in the current issue of Cowboys & Indians): “One of the great perks of the movie business is that you get around and you get to be around some very interesting and talented people. One all sides of the camera. The first movie I starred in was a Western called Cactus (released in 1972 as Molly And Lawless John) with Vera Miles. We shot in Santa Fe; we did some interiors at Studio Center in the San Fernando Valley. One day John Ford showed up — he was there to visit Vera. John Ford! That stopped the show for a while. It might as well have been the pope.”

Photo: Ford demonstrates the kiss he wants Jeffrey Hunter to plant on Vera Miles for The Searchers (1956). Olive Carey looks on.

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Produced and Directed by Wallace MacDonald
Written by Clark E. Reynolds
Director Of Photography: Irving Lippman
Film Editor: Al Clark, ACE
Assistant Director: Leonard Katzman

CAST: Robert Knapp (Gil Reardon), Jana Davi (Rosita), Walter Coy (Ben Keefer), Paul Birch (Marshal Matt Crawford), Don C. Harvey (Deputy Dave), Clarence Straight (Deputy Frank Ross), Jerry Barclay (Jordan Keefer), Roy Hayes (Walt Keefer), Charles Horvath (Coloradas), Jean Moorhead (Katy Reardon).

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Don’t think I’d ever heard of this one. Gunmen From Laredo (1959) is a cheap, 67-minute B Western from Columbia. It doesn’t have a whole lot going for it, except for the fact that it’s a cheap, 67-minute B Western from Columbia. That’s good enough.

There’s a real Sam Katzman feel to Gunmen From Laredo — if anything, it might be even cheaper than Jungle Sam’s Westerns. The assistant director is Katzman’s nephew Leonard, who’d go on to a long, successful career in television.

Gil Reardon (Robert Knapp) is framed for murder by Ben Keefer (Walter Coy), who killed Reardon’s wife (Jean Moorhead). As Reardon tries to clear his name and bring Keefer to justice, with the help of Rosita (Jana Davi) and Laredo’s marshal (Paul Birch), we’re treated to a number of shootouts, a prison escape, a dust storm, a few fistfights and more — all cleverly spaced to keep the kids from getting restless.

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Robert Knapp worked steadily in TV from the 50s into the 70s (appearing in both incarnations of Dragnet). He didn’t make many features and had very few leads. Knapp doesn’t have the presence of, say, George Montgomery or Guy Madison, who appeared in these sorts of things, but he’s serviceable.

Jana Davi is Maureen Hingert, 1955′s Miss Ceylon. She appeared in a handful of 50s Westerns, including an uncredited part in Pillars Of The Sky (1956). Walter Coy is the bad guy here; we know him as John Wayne’s brother in The Searchers (1956). And Paul Birch, who’s in a slew of Roger Corman’s 50s films (how can you forget him in 1957′s Not Of This Earth?), is his dependable self as the marshal who comes to Knapp’s aid.

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Jean Moorhead (Playboy‘s Playmate Of The Month, October 1955) plays Knapp’s wife. She had a short film career, but somehow managed to work with both Ed Wood (The Violent Years) and John Ford (The Long Gray Line). The part of Laredo, Texas, is played by the Iverson Ranch. Bronson Canyon’s in it, too.

The director-producer was Wallace MacDonald, who hadn’t directed a film since the Silents. He’d been a busy producer between those directing jobs, from Boston Blackie Goes Hollywood (1942) to Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956). Shot in March of 1958, Gunmen From Laredo would be his last film.

Irving Lippman was a staff cinematographer at Columbia, shooting pictures like  Hellcats Of The Navy and 20 Million Miles To Earth (both 1957). He also has the distinction of having shot a few of the later Three Stooges shorts, a few of  their features and almost every episode of The Monkees. For Gunmen From Laredo, he kept things bright and sharp and makes the Columbia Color behave, and nicely frames everything for 1.85. Again, it looks like a Sam Katzman film.

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Gunmen From Laredo was obviously put together for the bottom of a bill, and the kids were probably happy with it. And while it’s not very good, it’s great to know there are more of these things out there — maybe better than this one, maybe worse — waiting for us to find them.

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John Ford and I are excited to see the Dodgers going to the playoffs. Unfortunately, they’ll be taking on my other favorite team, the Atlanta Braves.

(Maybe the cap my daughter got me is good luck.)

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