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Archive for the ‘Mara Corday’ Category

Lippert

A few weeks ago, I broke my glasses and began relying on an old (pre-trifocals) pair while I scrambled for an eye exam and new frames. Reading became very, very difficult. Not the best time to receive a book you’re really excited about. But that’s exactly when Mark Thomas McGee’s Talk’s Cheap, Action’s Expensive: The Films Of Robert L. Lippert, from BearManor Media, turned up in my mailbox.

Lippert Pictures (and related companies) cranked out cheap little Westerns like 1952’s Outlaw Women, along with gems such as Sam Fuller’s I Shot Jesse James (1949) and The Quiet Gun (1957). (They covered the other genres, too.) I’m a big fan of these films and was determined to make my way through the book with or without spectacles, holding it so close I risked paper cuts on my nose.

McGee set the book up very well. The first 80 pages or so read as a biography and history of Lippert and his career, from the theater business to film production. I had a working knowledge of the Lippert story going in, but was always coming upon something I didn’t know. There’s a filmography, arranged by company, that makes up the bulk of the book. And finally, there’s a listing of the Lippert theaters (the closest to me was in Chattanooga, TN).

red desert HS

What’s not to like about a book like this? It’s packed with information on movies I grew up with, movies I love. Rocketship X-M (1950). The Steel Helmet (1951). Superman And The Mole Men (1951). Forty Guns (1957). Showdown At Boot Hill (1958). The Fly (1958). The Alligator People (1959). House Of The Damned (1963). They’re all in here, and you’ll come away with a better understanding of what went into getting them made. Where I think McGee really excelled was in making sure the book, as informative as it is, stayed as fun as the films it’s about. (The same goes for his previous books on Roger Corman and AIP.)

copper sky

If there’s a downside to this book, it’s that the filmography points out film after film that you’d love to track down and see. You’ll find a lot of them available from Kit Parker Films and VCI, and others scattered here and there. Some of the Fullers were even given the Criterion treatment. As for the rest, well, happy hunting.

It’s very easy to recommend Mark Thomas McGee’s Talk’s Cheap, Action’s Expensive: The Films Of Robert L. Lippert. Now that my new glasses are in, I’m reading it a second time.

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Picture 20

Olive Films have announced a few titles they’ll have to us in 2014. There are three 50s Westerns in there, and they’re good ones.

Woman They Almost Lynched (1953)
Directed by Allan Dwan
Cast: John Lund, Brian Donlevy, Joan Leslie
Dwan directs a sort-of spoof for Repubic. Good stuff.

Stranger At My Door (1956)
Directed by William Witney
Cast: Macdonald Carey, Patricia Medina, Skip Homeier, Slim Pickins
This film should be much better known than it is. The scene with the horse (if you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean) is Witney at his best.

The Quiet Gun (1957)
Directed by William F. Claxton
Cast: Forrest Tucker, Lee Van Cleef, Mara Corday, Jim Davis, Hank Worden
Maybe the best Regalscope Western. I’m dying for this one!

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Directed by Harmon Jones
Produced by Robert Arthur
Screenplay by James Edmiston and Oscar Brodney
Story by James Edmiston
Director Of Photography: Ellis W. Carter, ASC
Film Editor: Sherman Todd, ACE
Music Supervision by Joseph Gershenson

CAST: Dale Robertson (Jagade), Mara Corday (Sharman Fulton), Jock Mahoney (Marshal Allan Burnett), Carl Benton Reid (Judge John J. McLean), Jan Merlin (Billy Brand), John Dehner (Preacher Jason), Dee Carroll (Miss Timmons), Sheila Bromley (Marie), James Bell (Doc Logan). Dani Crayne (Claire), Howard Wendell (Vanryzin), Charles Cane (Duggen), Phil Chambers (Burson), Sydney Mason (Beemans), Helen Kleeb (Mrs. McLean).

 __________

Not too long ago, I wrote about Harmon Jones’ The Silver Whip (1954), a film I found better than its reputation, and with much more going for it than just its pairing of Dale Robertson and Rory Calhoun. That lit a fire under me to track down a copy of A Day Of Fury (1956), which brought Jones and Robertson together again — this time at Universal-International. It’d been years since I’d seen Fury, and I was really knocked for a loop by how good it is.

There’s been speculation that A Day Of Fury was an influence on Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter (1973), an honor that actually goes to the spaghetti western Django The Bastard (1969, which is available from VCI as The Stranger’s Gundown). That said, Eastwood’s picture certainly has a few things in common with A Day Of Fury. In both, a mysterious stranger comes to town, and his very presence turns that town inside out. (No Name On The Bullet works somewhat the same way.) This time, the gunfighter is Jagade (Dale Robertson). The town marshall (Jock Mahoney) owes Jagade his life, which complicates matters quite a bit. What’s more, Jagade and the marshall’s fiancé (Mara Corday) were once an item. But there’s so much more to it than that.

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Dale Robertson: “It was an interesting story. After I finished it, I read it again. I figured this guy (Jagade) was the Devil. He, himself, never did anything wrong. He merely set things up to show the weakness of other people. (Producer) Bob Arthur rewrote the story… and he took away a lot of the little subtle things that were so wonderful in the original script.”#

Watching the picture with Robertson’s Devil idea in mind is very interesting, and I’d love to see that original screenplay. Robertson seems to be enjoying himself in a part that lets him stretch out a bit, while Jock Mahoney is stuck in a goodguy role that is maybe a little too good.

Dale Robertson: “They were trying to push Jock Mahoney… He was the most agile, one of the most fluid actors in the whole business. He was really wonderful, he was athletic, had great moves.”#

Mahoney proves Robertson’s point in the first scene in the movie, when he does a horse fall. It’s not often that you see one of the leads do such a stunt on his own.

Mara Corday: “The director, Harmon Jones, was a nice man, had been an editor. He told you line readings — in other words, how to say the lines. He’d put emphasis on certain words that I wouldn’t have. It made everyone stilted.”*

Jan Merlin committed the age-old actor’s trick of saying he could ride a horse when called about the part, then getting to the set and proving he could not. This was his first Western. “Harmon was marvelous… He was kind to me. Anybody else would have lost their temper after all I’d done.”#

A Day Of Fury is unavailable on DVD in the States, though it’s received a Blu-ray release in Europe. It’s an excellent film, well outside the normal Universal Western. Highly recommended.

Day Of Fury newspaper ad

SOURCES: * Westerns Women by Boyd Magers; # Universal-International Westerns, 1947-1963 by Gene Blottner (McFarland);

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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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Fiend who walked the west TC

I’ve fallen a bit behind on the upcoming DVD and Blu-ray releases, so here’s a post to get things caught up.

The Fiend Who Walked The West (1958) is a black and white CinemaScope remake of Kiss Of Death (1947), remounted as a Western, with Robert Evans overacting his way through the Richard Widmark part. Hugh O’Brien stars. You never come across anything positive about this film, though I found it a lot better than its reputation. Directed by Gordon Douglas and shot by Joe MacDonald in B&W ‘Scope — it deserves another chance.

Silver Whip adThe Silver Whip (1953) stars Dale Robertson, Rory Calhoun, Robert Wagner, Kathleen Crowley and James Millican. Many of us have been on a Calhoun kick of late, and I’m really looking forward to this one. Directed by Harmon Jones, who also directed the excellent A Day Of Fury (1956), starring Robertson, Jock Mahoney and Mara Corday.

Siege At Red River (1954) was an independent picture from Panaramic Productions, a company hoping to take advantage the widescreen craze (1.85 in this case). Directed by Rudolph Mate, it’s got a good cast: Van Johnson, Joanne Dru, Richard Boone, Milburn Stone and Jeff Morrow. At various times, Dale Robertson (who starred in Gambler From Natchez for Panaramic) and Tyrone Power were listed in the trades as having the lead.

All three 20th Century-Fox Cinema Archives titles are available from major online retailers.

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Rex and Roy

Rex Allen and Roy Rogers, somewhere on the Republic lot.

Mara Corday Raw Edge cropped

Mara Corday studies the Raw Edge (1956) screenplay.

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Donna Reed and Richard Widmark at work on Backlash (1956). That’s John Sturges obscured in the ball cap.

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Howard Hawks shows Kirk Douglas how to do a fight scene for The Big Sky (1952).

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Ronald Reagan and Barbara Stanwyck discuss the arms situation on the set of Cattle Queen Of Montana (1954).

Satchel Paige and Robert Mitchum in The Wonderful Country with Julie London

Satchel Paige and Robert Mitchum shoot the breeze between takes on The Wonderful Country (1959).

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In what is, without doubt, one of the coolest developments since this blog (and book) got going, I’ve had the honor of helping producer-director Maury Dexter prepare his memoirs, Highway To Hollywood (The Hard Way).

Mr. Dexter covers his childhood, stint in the military and Hollywood career — which includes everything from acting in a Three Stooges short to working for Lippert during the Regalscope years to directing The Mini-Skirt Mob to being a key member of Michael Landon’s production team. I found it a fascinating read.

We can all thank Mr. Kit Parker (of Kit Parker Films) for making this happen. All I did was some proofreading and project management while a designer friend, Jim Briggs, took on the task of creating both a PDF and ePub from Mr. Dexter’s manuscript. (That’s the cover up top.)

Of course, we also owe a big thanks for Mr. Dexter for sharing his story. Make that giving us his story. It’ll cost you nothing.

You can download the PDF here:

Highway To Hollywood

L-R: Maury Dexter, Mara Corday, Jody McCrea on the set of The Hanging Judge, which was released as Naked Gun (1956).

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