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Archive for the ‘John Sturges’ Category

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James Garner
1928 – 2014

Some celebrities, you’d swear you actually knew them. Maybe you invite them into your home every week (through your TV). Perhaps you can’t remember a time when you weren’t aware of them. Or it could be that they just come off so real. All of those apply to James Garner.

Garner didn’t make much of a mark on the 50s Western, at least not in theaters. (1957’s Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend is the only one he did.) But his Maverick is still a milestone in Westerns on TV. And John Sturges’ Hour Of The Gun (1967, above) is one of the best post-50s Westerns out there, largely due to Garner’s performance — and one of the most sadly overlooked.

I was 10 years old when The Rockford Files (below) debuted, and after binge-watching it countless times over the years, I’m convinced it’s the greatest TV show ever. If I ever fall into a lot of money, you can bet that a gold mid-70s Pontiac Firebird Esprit will find its way to my driveway.

But there’s so much more. The Great Escape (1963). Grand Prix (1966). Marlowe (1968). Those great Doris Day pictures. Support Your Local Sheriff (1969). I’m just getting started.

I’m not making a lot of sense here. Thinking of James Garner and his body of work is a bit mind-boggling right now, and I’m struggling to find a coherent thread through it all. So I’ll just say I miss him already and thank God we can continue to benefit from his talent.

Visit Laura’s place for her thoughts on Garner. An obituary is here.

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William Holden
(April 17, 1918 – November 12, 1981)

Last night, my daughter mentioned that today is William Holden’s birthday. Don’t tell me she’s not getting a well-rounded education!

Probably one of Hollywood’s greatest stars, Holden made a number of good Westerns. John Sturges’ Escape From Fort Bravo (1953) is one of the best. The last couple reels are really outstanding.

Of course, Western fans these days know him for Pike Bishop in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969), a performance right up there with Stewart in The Man From Laramie (1955) and Wayne in The Searchers (1956).

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OK at AFI

Today (Monday), Tuesday and Thursday, the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD will run a 35mm print of John Sturges’ Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957). It’s part of a Burt Lancaster series that’s been going on since February.

Of course, the new Blu-ray of Gunfight is wonderful, but the chance to see it on film is something not to be missed.

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A blogger friend of mine did a year-end wrap-up of his favorite DVD releases of the year. I think a lot of my friend, and imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I decided to steal his idea. Here’s my Top Five. Comment away!

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5. Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953, Columbia) The work of Fred F. Sears, a prolific director at Columbia, deserves a look, and this is a tough, tight little Western that nobody seems to remember. John Derek’s good and Ray Teal gets a sizable part.

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4. Randolph Scott Western Collection (Various, TCM/Sony) Four Columbia Scotts — Coroner Creek (1948), The Walking Hills (1949), The Doolins Of Oklahoma (1949) and 7th Cavalry (1956, above) — go a long way toward making all his 40s and 50s Westerns available on DVD.

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3. Movies 4 You Western Classics (Various, Shout Factory) Four medium-budget 50s Westerns — Gun Belt (1953), The Lone Gun (1954), Gunsight Ridge (1957) and Ride Out For Revenge (1957) — for an amazing price.  I’d love to have a hundred sets like this.

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2. Shane (1953, Paramount) There was so much controversy about the aspect ratio — the studio-imposed 1.66 vs. the original 1.33 George Stevens shot it in — that we all forgot to talk about what a lovely Blu-ray was ultimately released (in 1.33).

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1. Showdown At Boot Hill (1958, Olive Films) This is probably the worst movie on this list, but my favorite release. The very thought of a Regalscope Western presented widescreen and in high definition makes me very, very happy. Olive Films promises the best of the Regals, The Quiet Gun (1956), in 2014 — which you can expect to see on next year’s list.

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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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Burton Stephen “Burt” Lancaster 
(November 2, 1913 – October 20, 1994)

This would’ve been the 100th birthday of one of my favorite movie stars, Mr. Burt Lancaster.

He’s seen here, with Kirk Douglas in the background, in John Sturges’ Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957). Gunfight is a flawed film — for instance, Lancaster didn’t like the script — that still has a certain magic about it.

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Universal’s Vault Series is serving up a handful of 50s Westerns, basically taking the TCM Western Horizons set and selling them as single discs (available exclusively from Amazon).

Horizons West (1952) has Budd Boetticher directing Robert Ryan, Julie Adams and Rock Hudson in a Technicolor post-Civil War tale.

Saskatchewan (1954) puts Alan Ladd, Shelley Winters, J. Carrol Naish and Hugh O’Brian in the hands of the great Raoul Walsh.

Dawn At Socorro (1954) was directed by George Sherman, which is enough for me. Factor in Rory Calhoun, Piper Laurie, Mara Corday, Edgar Buchanan, Skip Homeier, James Millican and Lee Van Cleef, and you’ve really got something going.
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Pillars Of The Sky (1956) stars Jeff Chandler and Dorothy Malone. Support comes from Ward Bond, Olive Carey (both appeared in The Searchers the same year) and Lee Marvin. George Marshall directed in CinemaScope. I love this film.

Backlash (1956) comes from John Sturges and stars Richard Widmark, Donna Reed and William Campbell. Good stuff.

These will make a welcome addition to anybody’s collection, but what I want to know is: where are A Day Of Fury (1956) and Last Of The Fast Guns (1958)?

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lasttrain

I was a recent guest on Todd Liebenow’s excellent podcast Forgotten Filmcast, which features a film blogger covering a movie they consider under-appreciated. We focused on Last Train From Gun Hill (1959). Todd had never seen it, and I was so happy to hear he loved it. It’s a great 50s Western, one of my favorites, and I hope we did it justice.

The show’s now available from iTunes or the Forgotten Filmcast site.

The terrific illustration of Kirk Douglas in Last Train From Gun Hill was done by Roger Koch, who goes by the name Zombie Dad. Permission to use it is greatly appreciated.

Last Train podcast

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This ad appeared in the Tucson Daily in September 1959 to promote the upcoming Last Train From Gun Hill, one of my favorite 50s Westerns.

My wife’s been helping out with some web research — she’s better at it than I am — and came across this one. Another thing she unearthed, thanks to Hedda Hopper: Ziva Rodann, who’s plays Kirk Douglas’ wife, was Miss Israel.

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Depending on your outlook, this latest set from Sony and Turner Classics might be seen as a prayer answered. The Randolph Scott Westerns Collection gathers up four really good ones for a September release:

Coroner Creek (1948) This tough Cinecolor picture from Ray Enright, based on a Luke Short novel, is one of Scott’s best pre-Boetticher Westerns. His character here is practically a prototype for the burned-out, obsessed guy we know from the Ranowns.

The Walking Hills (1949) is John Sturges’ first Western. Scott is joined by Ella Raines, Edgar Buchanan, Arthur Kennedy and folk singer Josh White. The crisp black and white location work in Death Valley is really something to see.

The Doolins Of Oklahoma (1949, above) comes from Gordon Douglas. George Macready, Louise Allbritton, John Ireland and Noah Beery Jr. are on hand. Douglas has Yakima Canutt on his second unit, and as you’d expect, the action scenes are excellent.

7th Cavalry (1956) comes up on this blog quite often, as we’ve warned each other about some lousy DVDs. It’s a Joseph H. Lewis cavalry picture in Technicolor and widescreen (1.85), with Barbara Hale, Jay C. Flippen, Frank Faylen, Leo Gordon, Denver Pyle, Harry Carey Jr. and Michael Pate. It’s not as strong as A Lawless Street (1955), Scott and Lewis’ previous collaboration, but the cast and director alone make it worthwhile. Cross your fingers that it’s presented 16×9.

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