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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

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Today would be composer Jerome Moross’ 100th birthday. 50s Western fans know him for his terrific score for The Big Country (1958), William Wyler’s epic Western starring Gregory Peck. It’s easily one of the best to be found in any Western — and it’s got some stiff competition.

Moross’ daughter (who has been a huge help with my research) has organized a number of showcases for her dad’s work. You can follow the festivities at moross.com.

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I’m really happy to have been involved, even to a tiny extent, with the CD release of a couple of 50s Western scores — Paul Dunlap’s score for Hellgate (1952) and Bert Shefter’s music for The Tall Texan (1953) — from David Schecter’s label Monstrous Movie Music. Both are Lippert pictures, available on DVD from Kit Parker and VCI.

Over the course of his career, Paul Dunlap scored over a hundred films, mostly B movies of various sorts — from I was A Teenage Werewolf (1957) to Shock Corridor (1963). There were lots of Westerns: Jack Slade (1953), Stranger  On Horseback (1955), The Quiet Gun (1956) and Oregon Trail (1959), to name just a few. While Dunlap wasn’t a big fan of some of the films he worked on, his name’s on some films I love. Every seen Big House U.S.A. or Shack Out On 101 (both 1955)?

Hellgate is an excellent film, a low-budget reworking of John Ford’s Prisoner Of Shark Island (1936). Sterling Hayden, Ward Bond, Joan Leslie and James Arness are directed by Charles Marquis Warren. It’s obvious Dunlap liked this film, and he came through with a terrific score. The CD presents the music in sequence, cue by cue, from a set of original acetates (a few cues have been lost to time). Dunlap’s score for The Lost Continent, a 1951 sci-fi picture starring Cesar Romero, is also included.

1974_Cover__Main_Page_Bert Shefter was a Russian-born concert pianist and conductor. He scored his first film in 1950 and by the time he retired, had more than 60 movies and hundreds and hundreds of TV shows to his credit. His scores include Cattle Empire (1958), Return Of The Fly (1959) and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965). His work on It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958) really knocked me out. Like Dunlap, Shefter never coasted, never give less than 100% — even if if the picture didn’t really deserve it.

The Tall Texan was directed by Elmo Williams, the Oscar-winning editor of High Noon, and shot by Joseph Biroc. A solid, low-budget 50s Western (it cost just $100,000), it stars Lloyd Bridges, Marie Windsor and Lee J. Cobb. Shefter gives themes to several of the main characters, including a menacing piece for the Indians, and makes good use of a couple popular tunes, “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Blow The Man Down.”

I really like these films, and it’s easy to recommend these CDs. Monstrous Movie Music has assembled a nice package, with thorough notes and some fascinating archival material. David Schecter says that if these titles do well, there are other 50s Western scores he’d like to get around to. Let’s help make sure he can.

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Here’s The Longboards, a Surf band from Bilbao, Spain, doing a beautiful cover of Peggy Lee and Victor Young’s theme from Johnny Guitar (1954). The Norwegian band The Spotnicks released a great version of this back in 1962.

And since we’re on the subject of Johnny Guitar, here’s an interview with Ernest Borgnine where he brings it up.

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It’s hard to even imagine it, but there’s more to life than 50s Westerns.

For me, there’s Surf Music. And I’m lucky enough to be just 34 miles from The Instro Summit, “America’s biggest all-instrumental music festival.” It’s more than 20 bands over three days, and it’s this weekend. All-Rockin’, No Squawkin’!

To mark the occasion, I give you Los Straitjackets’ terrific take on Elmer Bernstein’s “The Magificent Seven.”

Back in the saddle on Monday. In the meantime, go read Maury Dexter’s book.

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Happy Easter.

Even if Gene Autry did sing “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” in Hills Of Utah (1951), there’s not a lot of Easter to be found in 50s Westerns.

But with The Bravados (1958) coming up this week (Gregory Peck’s birthday was the 5th), I was reminded of the church scene towards the end. That’ll have to do. What a movie!

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Happy Birthday, Johnny Cash.

Johnny Cash

February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003

The Man In Black never appeared in a 50s Western, though he’s in A Gunfight (1970) and several Western TV movies. His LPs Ride The Train (1960) and Sings The Ballads Of The True West (1965) show Cash to be a real student of the Old West. These are great albums.

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“Brownsville Girl” (Bob Dylan, Sam Shepard)
from the Bob Dylan LP Knocked Out Loaded (1986)

Well, there was this movie I seen one time
About a man riding ’cross the desert and it starred Gregory Peck
He was shot down by a hungry kid trying to make a name for himself
The townspeople wanted to crush that kid down and string him up by the neck

Well, the marshal, now he beat that kid to a bloody pulp
As the dying gunfighter lay in the sun and gasped for his last breath
“Turn him loose, let him go, let him say he outdrew me fair and square
I want him to feel what it’s like to every moment face his death”

Well, I keep seeing this stuff and it just comes a-rolling in
And you know it blows right through me like a ball and chain
You know I can’t believe we’ve lived so long and are still so far apart
The memory of you keeps callin’ after me like a rollin’ train

I can still see the day that you came to me on the painted desert
In your busted down Ford and your platform heels
I could never figure out why you chose that particular place to meet
Ah, but you were right. It was perfect as I got in behind the wheel

Well, we drove that car all night into San Anton’
And we slept near the Alamo, your skin was so tender and soft
Way down in Mexico you went out to find a doctor and you never came back
I would have gone on after you but I didn’t feel like letting my head get blown off

Well, we’re drivin’ this car and the sun is comin’ up over the Rockies
Now I know she ain’t you but she’s here and she’s got that dark rhythm in her soul
But I’m too over the edge and I ain’t in the mood anymore to remember the times
when I was your only man
And she don’t want to remind me. She knows this car would go out of control

Brownsville girl with your Brownsville curls
Teeth like pearls shining like the moon above
Brownsville girl, show me all around the world
Brownsville girl, you’re my honey love

Well, we crossed the panhandle and then we headed towards Amarillo
We pulled up where Henry Porter used to live. He owned a wreckin’ lot outside of town about a mile
Ruby was in the backyard hanging clothes, she had her red hair tied back. She saw us come rolling up in a trail of dust
She said, “Henry ain’t here but you can come on in, he’ll be back in a little while”

Then she told us how times were tough and about how she was thinkin’ of
bummin’ a ride back to from where she started
But ya know, she changed the subject every time money came up
She said, “Welcome to the land of the living dead”
You could tell she was so broken hearted
She said, “Even the swap meets around here are getting pretty corrupt”

“How far are y’all going?” Ruby asked us with a sigh
“We’re going all the way ’til the wheels fall off and burn
’Til the sun peels the paint and the seat covers fade and the water moccasin dies”
Ruby just smiled and said, “Ah, you know some babies never learn”

Something about that movie though, well I just can’t get it out of my head
But I can’t remember why I was in it or what part I was supposed to play
All I remember about it was Gregory Peck and the way people moved
And a lot of them seemed to be lookin’ my way

Brownsville girl with your Brownsville curls,
Teeth like pearls shining like the moon above
Brownsville girl, show me all around the world
Brownsville girl, you’re my honey love

Well, they were looking for somebody with a pompadour
I was crossin’ the street when shots rang out
I didn’t know whether to duck or to run, so I ran
“We got him cornered in the churchyard,” I heard somebody shout

Well, you saw my picture in the Corpus Christi Tribune. Underneath it,
it said, “A man with no alibi”
You went out on a limb to testify for me, you said I was with you
Then when I saw you break down in front of the judge and cry real tears
It was the best acting I saw anybody do

Now I’ve always been the kind of person that doesn’t like to trespass
but sometimes you just find yourself over the line
Oh if there’s an original thought out there, I could use it right now
You know, I feel pretty good, but that ain’t sayin’ much. I could feel a whole lot better
If you were just here by my side to show me how

Well, I’m standin’ in line in the rain to see a movie starring Gregory Peck
Yeah, but you know it’s not the one that I had in mind
He’s got a new one out now, I don’t even know what it’s about
But I’ll see him in anything so I’ll stand in line

Brownsville girl with your Brownsville curls
Teeth like pearls shining like the moon above
Brownsville girl, show me all around the world
Brownsville girl, you’re my honey love

You know, it’s funny how things never turn out the way you had ’em planned
The only thing we knew for sure about Henry Porter is that his name wasn’t Henry Porter
And you know there was somethin’ about you baby that I liked that was always too good for this world
Just like you always said there was somethin’ about me you liked
that I left behind in the French Quarter

Strange how people who suffer together have stronger connections than people who are most content
I don’t have any regrets, they can talk about me plenty when I’m gone
You always said people don’t do what they believe in, they just do what’s most convenient, then they repent
And I always said, “Hang on to me, baby, and let’s hope that the roof stays on”

There was a movie I seen one time, I think I sat through it twice
I don’t remember who I was or where I was bound
All I remember about it was it starred Gregory Peck, he wore a gun
and he was shot in the back
Seems like a long time ago, long before the stars were torn down

Brownsville girl with your Brownsville curls
Teeth like pearls shining like the moon above
Brownsville girl, show me all around the world
Brownsville girl, you’re my honey love

Copyright © 1986 by Special Rider Music

Been meaning to post this for a while.

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Sound Advice.

Just saw that the folks at Counterpoint have released Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for Last Train From Gun Hill (1959). A number of us here at 50 Westerns From The 50s, writer and readers alike, are really big on this picture, and the score’s a big part of what makes it work so well. The CD is limited to just 2,000 copies. Love that artwork.

Speaking of music that really makes a movie work, Jerome Moross’ The Big Country (1958) score is also available. La La Land Records only pressed 3,000 copies. One of the best, if not the best, Western scores ever. Well known, too — they used a piece of it on America’s Got Talent the other night. (By the way, Moross’ daughter, Susanna Moross Tarjan, has been extremely generous with research material for my book.)

While I’ve got you reaching for your wallets, there’s Alfred Newman and Hugo Friedhofer’s collaboration on The Bravados (1958).

Great films, great scores.

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