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Archive for the ‘Lesley Selander’ Category

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Directed by Lesley Selander
Produced by Herman Schlom
Screen Play by Adele Buffington
Story by Carroll Young
Director Of Photography: J. Roy Hunt, ASC
Music by Paul Sawtell
Film Editor: Samuel E. Beetley, ACE

CAST: Tim Holt (Tim Holt), Richard Martin (Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty), Gail Davis (Terry Muldoon), Hugh Beaumont (Brad Roberts), Mari Blanchard (Stella), George Nader (Paul Manning) Robert J. Wilke (Bellew), Cliff Clark (Terence Muldoon), Russell Hicks (Colonel Marvin), Robert Bray (Steve), Fred Graham (Joe).

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This time around, Tim Holt and Chito get involved with the transcontinental telegraph. Terry Muldoon (Gail Davis) and her father are running the wire westward, and its completion will close down a number of military outposts. This will destroy Paul Manning’s supply business, and keep him from paying off his loans to Bran Roberts (Hugh Beaumont). Roberts and his bunch (which naturally includes Robert J. Wilke) take matters into their own hands —a “Gang-Stooge Terror Plot,” according to the ads — and eventually run afoul of Tim and Chito.

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Overland Telegraph (1951) is one of my favorite Holt pictures. It’s a lot of fun to watch Hugh Beaumont as a bad guy. Mari Blanchard doesn’t have much to do but look pretty as Nader’s saloon-girl fiancé. But having Gail Davis on hand is a real asset, displaying a bit of the riding and shooting skills that would make her such a great Annie Oakley on TV. The Iverson Ranch is featured quite a bit, too.

b70-5266Gail Davis: “It was a good part for the girl, not just one of those smile into the sunset pictures. Tim was really cute, he had a friendly personality but was a bit of a kidder. So was Dick Martin, but both were very conscientious about their pictures.”*

Of course, director Lesley Selander and editor Samuel Beetley deserve a lot of the credit. They keep things moving at such a clip that the hour’s over before you know it. If you’ve ever seen a lousy B Western, you know that in the wrong hands, an hour can last forever. Selander is such a pro and has such a flair for these things that his films stand apart from the rest. He should’ve written a textbook on film pacing.

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Overland Telegraph is part of Warner Archive’s fourth volume of the Tim Holt Western Classics Collection. It has several of the earlier entries and the last few, providing a great overview of the series. B Westerns didn’t come any better than these. As with the previous sets, the transfers are exquisite — a real tribute to the care and craftsmanship that went into these films. Highly, highly recommended (as if you hadn’t figured that out already).

SOURCE: * Westerns Women by Boyd Magers and Michael G. Fitzgerald.

 

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This is a big, big deal. Warner Archive has come through with the fourth volume in their Tim Holt series, giving us the beginning, and end, of Holt’s time at RKO. It’s a three-disc, nine-movie set that includes Wagon Train (1940, which got the series off to a terrific start), The Fargo Kid (1940), Cyclone On Horseback (1941), Riding The Wind (1942), Land Of The Open Range (1942), Thundering Hoofs (1942), Overland Telegraph (1951) and Trail Guide (1952). 

Overland Telegraph (seen in the Mexican lobby card above) is a particularly good one, giving Holt and Richard Martin a top director, Lesley Selander, and really good cast to work with: Gail Davis, Hugh Beaumont (as the bad guy!), Mari Blanchard, George Nader and Robert J. Wilke.

The set is available now. Thanks to everyone at Warner Archive for their dedication to getting these wonderful little films out there.

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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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Since the beginning of this blog, I’ve wanted to find a way to single out Tim Holt. His films are so good, and he’s so underrated — how many can boast of being directed by Ford, Welles and Huston? — and I want to do my tiny part to fix it.

So welcome to Tim Holt Tuesday, a more-or-less weekly celebration of Holt’s work — especially the Westerns he made for RKO. Largely shot around Lone Pine, and directed by Lesley Selander, they’re as good as the series Western ever got.

Lesley Selander: “…he was a better actor than many would have you believe, and his pictures are among the finest I worked on.”*

So far, three volumes of the RKO Holts are available from Warner Archive. 16mm prints of these things (especially the post-War ones co-starring Richard Martin as Chito) were big collectors’ items back in the day, and they’re essential viewing for fans of 50s Westerns.

Tim and I will see you next week.

* From Close Up: The Contract Director by Jon Tuska, Scarecrow, 1976.

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Directed by Leslie Selander
Produced by Scott R. Dunlap
Associate Producer: Edward Morey, Jr.
Screenplay by Adele Buffington
Adaptation by Tom W. Blackburn, from Curtis Bishop’s novel Shadow Range
Photographed by Harry Neumann, ASC
Film Editor: John C. Fuller, ACE
Musical Score and Direction: Edward J. Kay

CAST: Edmond O’Brien (Ben Anthony), Helen Wescott (Linda Garnett), Bob Lowery (Harry Odell), Barton MacLane (Marvin Parker), Peggie Castle (Melba Sykes), James Millican, Robert Wilke, Raymond Hatton, Tom Tyler, Jack Ingram.

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When the series Westerns were put out to pasture in the early 50s, Monogram became Allied Artists and shifted from series Westerns like The Long Horn (1952) with William Elliott to Westerns like Cow Country (1953). These films have the feel of series cowboy movies executed on a larger scale — bigger casts, better sets, about 20 minutes longer. There’s still the slimy banker, the plot to snatch land from the smaller ranches, lots of riding and shooting and bad guys like Barton MacLane and Robert Wilke. You’ve seen it all a thousand times, and it’s just as welcome in this form as it was before.

So while there’s nothing particularly new about Cow Country, there’s nothing to dislike about it, either. The plot’s a little convoluted, but you’re familiar with it. The area cattle businesses is in a bad way, and Bob Lowery, Barton MacLane and Robert Wilke are trying to take their land away. Edmond O’Brien runs a freight business and ends up being the hero. There’s a love triangle between Lowery, Helen Westcott and Peggie Castle. And, boy, do a lot of people get shot.

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O’Brien looks cool in a Levi jacket with his hat slightly cocked to one side. He didn’t make many Westerns, and his Bronx accent seems a little out of place, but he’s such a great actor, it works like a charm. He didn’t make many Westerns; I recommend Silver City (1951) and Denver And Rio Grande (1952) — and he’s remarkable in The Wild Bunch (1969).

Peggie Castle is known to B movie fans for turning up in about every genre you can think of, and looking terrific in them all. Here, however, she gets a part that lets her show what she’s capable of, and she’s very good. Whatever it was that kept her in low-budget movies, it wasn’t her acting ability. Her big scene here, where she goes after Lowery with a bullwhip, is very satisfying.

Cow Country gives James Millican a good part as an immigrant farmer, and Robert Wilke gets more screen time than usual — he’s a real slimeball in this one.

Leslie Selander could direct a film like Cow Country in his sleep, with this one coming hot on the heels of those wonderful Tim Holt Westerns for RKO. It moves so quick, and plays so smooth, that you never have a chance to think that you’re watching a clever variation on something you’ve seen many, many times before.

Cow Country is not available on DVD, but Allied Artists pictures turn up from Warner Archive. Watch for it.

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Turner Classic Movies’ Summer Under The Stars heads West with Randolph Scott. Of the 15 movies scheduled, 12 are Westerns.

The pick of the litter might be Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957), which isn’t the best film on hand, but is very hard to track down these days.

Thanks to Blake Lucas for the tip.

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shortgrass

Warner Archive has announced another group of Westerns, with only one from the 50s: Short Grass (1950). Directed by Lesley Selander, it boasts quite a cast: Rod Cameron, Cathy Downs, Johnny Mack Brown, Alan Hale Jr. and Morris Ankrum.

$T2eC16V,!zEE9s3!Y,10BRbgeTm(gQ~~60_3Based on the novel by Thomas W. Blackburn, who also wrote the screenplay, Short Grass is quite ambitious for an Allied Artists picture from the period. The cowboys here are cowboys, not gunfighters — which really distinguishes what could’ve been just another series Western range war tale. This is a good one.

Blackburn wrote a number of excellent Westerns films throughout the 50s — Colt .45 (1950), Riding Shotgun (1954) and Cattle Queen Of Montana (1954, story only), to name just a few — before making the move to TV — often for Walt Disney. He not only wrote the Disney Davy Crockett shows (which of course became the 1955 film Davy Crockett: King Of The Wild Frontier).  His place in popular culture history is secured by the fact that he wrote the lyrics for “The Ballad Of Davy Crockett.”

Another tip from John Knight.

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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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Warner Archive has announced another wagonload of Westerns, and there are a few good 50s ones in there.

Cole Younger, Gunfighter (1958) is an Allied Artists CinemaScope concoction with Frank Lovejoy as the famous outlaw. The always capable R.G. Springsteen directed.

Fort Vengeance (1953) is a Cinecolor Canadian Mountie picture from Lesley Selander, starring James Craig and Rita Moreno.

Hiawatha (1953) is an adaptation of the Longfellow poem from Kurt Neumann. John Knight pointed out that this was the last film to bear the Monogram logo.

The Boy From Oklahoma (1954) stars Will Rogers, Jr., Lon Chaney, Wallace Ford and Merv Griffin. Michael Curtiz directed. It was the basis of the Sugarfoot TV series.

The Gun Hawk (1963) isn’t a 50s Western but with Rory Calhoun and Rod Cameron in it, it might as well be. A quick glance at the still below will tell you where some of it was filmed.

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Here’s a stack of photos of Tim Holt, courtesy of Shaeffer Holt, Tim’s grandson.

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A Norman Rockwell illustration of Tim for The Magnificent Ambersons (1942).

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This publicity photo with Richard “Chito” Martin is probably from The Stagecoach Kid (1949) — judging from the TSK in the lower right corner. The Stagecoach Kid was directed by Lew Landers, who only did a handful of these films among his hundreds of credits — the majority of the RKO Holts were directed by Lesley Selander.

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