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Archive for the ‘Nicholas Ray’ Category

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If I ever had the chance to organize a 50s Westerns retrospective (something I’d love to do), this is certainly one of the evenings I’d set up: Fritz Lang’s Rancho Notorious (1952) paired with Nick Ray’s Johnny Guitar (1954). I can’t think of a better night at the movies.

It’s especially cool that Rancho Notorious is a 35mm print. If you make it out to The Castro Theatre in San Francisco on April 23, have a box of Raisinets for me.

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According to the Sweetwater Reporter, this would’ve been a good weekend to be in Sweetwater, Texas. It was probably hot as blazes, but there were sure plenty of cool movies to see.

I know it’s not a Western, but Republic’s Hell’s Half Acre (1954) has to be seen to be believed. Olive Films has given you the chance — it’s out on DVD and Blu-ray.

My wife has been doing some research on my family’s history and came upon a great online Texas newspaper search tool. Obviously, I’m using it for a different purpose.

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Character Actor Of The Day is something I’ve been meaning to kick off for a while, and when discussion of the great Frank Ferguson (1899-1978) cropped up the other day, I knew I’d waited too long.

As a kid, I came to know Ferguson as Mr. McDougal, owner of the house of horrors in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Once he was on my radar, it became obvious he’s in just about everything (as a gauge, the IMDB gives him 600 credits). He’s seen here with Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar (1954), one of the many 50s Westerns that benefitted from his (often-uncredited) presence.

The other day, Blake Lucas called Ferguson “essential,” and that’s the perfect word for him. Boy, I would’ve loved to interview him.

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My daughter caught Beverly Garland in Gunslinger (1956, above) yesterday (on broadcast TV!) and loved it. She thought Beverly was about the coolest thing ever — which, of course, she is. She also thought her horse was pretty.

Blake Lucas suggested Johnny Guitar (1954) as a followup, and I thought of Hellfire (1949, below).

By then, this was looking like something we could all have fun with. So, while I have the opportunity to turn my little girl into a (cap) pistol-packing 50s Western fan, let’s program a 12-year-old girl’s 50s Western Film Festival. Put your picks in a comment.

You know, maybe it’s time 50 Westerns From The 50s had a guest blogger.

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Sterling Hayden
(March 26, 1916 – May 23, 1986)

Let’s remember one of my favorite actors on what would’ve been his 97th birthday.

The fact that Hayden claimed he was acting only because the money was good, and would support his love of sailing, didn’t keep him from making some great films — The Asphalt Jingle (1950), Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar (1954), The Killing (1956), Dr. Strangelove (1964),  The Godfather (1972), etc. — and appearing in a string of medium-budget 50s Westerns like Gun Battle At Monterey (1957). What a fascinating man he was. His books, the autobiography Wanderer and novel Voyage, are still in print.

He’s seen above in Gun Battle At Monterey with Lee Van Cleef and Ted de Corsia. What casts some of these cheap things had!

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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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Picture 6Hop over to the Home Theater Forum for a chance to vote for what classic titles you’d like to see Fox release on Blu-ray.

Arranged by decade — the Thirties through the Sixties — you’ve got some good stuff to choose from. 50s Westerns are represented by Broken Lance (1954), The Tall Men (1955), The True Story Of Jesse James (1956) and The Bravados (1958). I’m sorry to say they’re all getting smoked by The Desk Set (1957). So get out and vote — you can vote in every decade every day — let’s give The Bravados a fighting chance.

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Blake Lucas pointed this out, and it’s certainly worth highlighting here — 3:10 To Yuma (1957) has been added to the National Film Registry by the Library Of Congress.

It’s the seventh 50s Western to make the Registry, the others being High Noon (1952), Shane (1953), The Naked Spur (1953), Johnny Guitar (1954), The Searchers (1956) and The Tall T (1957). While you can maybe argue the titles (I would’ve gone with Winchester ’73), you certainly can’t complain about the directors they’ve chosen to honor.

So when’s Rio Bravo (1959) gonna get in there?

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Jeffrey Hunter (Henry Herman “Hank” McKinnies)
(November 25, 1926 – May 27, 1969)

Today let’s remember Jeffrey Hunter, an actor whose career was cut way too short. He’s seen above, at right, as Frank James in Nicholas Ray’s The True Story Of Jesse James (1956). He’s excellent in this underrated film.

Western fans also know him for his strong performance in John Ford’s The Searchers (also 1956). Not many actors could threaten John Wayne and not get laughed off the screen.

He was in the first Star Trek pilot.

And he played Jesus in Ray’s King Of Kings (1961) — he’s parlayed the role in my mind’s eye ever since. Another Nick Ray movie that doesn’t get its due.

There’s also The Great Locomotive Chase (1956), The Longest Day (1962) and many others. A remarkable body of work for someone who passed away at just 42.

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The Egyptian and Aero Theatres have organized Ernie: A Tribute To The Great Ernest Borgnine — August 16-19 — and the first night features The Badlanders (1958) and Johnny Guitar (1954).

The lineup is really strong — it includes The Wild Bunch (1969) and Emperor Of The North Pole (1973) — but it would take many, many night to really cover this man’s incredible body of work.

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