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Archive for the ‘Ray Nazarro’ Category

Gail Davis signed photo

All of us in the 50s Westerns From The 50s bunkhouse are really excited about this latest project from VCI: The Annie Oakley TV Collection. My daughter Presley really really digs this show.

Working with Gail Davis’ daughter Terrie, VCI promises plenty of photos and other memorabilia, and there’s a documentary is in the works.

The show ran from 1954-57 in syndication, produced by Gene Autry’s Flying ‘A’ Productions. If Gail Davis isn’t cool enough for ya, episodes featured folks like Slim Pickens, Lee Van Cleef, L.Q. Jones, Denver Pyle and James H. Griffith. And one of our favorites, Ray Nazarro, directed about a dozen of the 81 episodes.

Release-wise, Annie and Target should come riding into your living room this fall.

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White Squaw HS

Another low-budget Columbia 50s Western is always a welcome thing. The fact that The White Squaw (1956) was directed by Ray Nazarro (and that I’ve never seen it) makes this really good news. It stars David Brian, who you might remember from Dawn At Socorro (1954), and May Wynn, who was also in The Violent Men (1955).

It’s a Columbia Classics release — and it’s available now. (Thanks for the tip, Paula!)

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When it comes to The Durango Kid, I’ve really dropped the ball — especially given that the bulk of the series was directed by Ray Nazarro and Fred F. Sears. Charles Starrett made the first one, The Durango Kid, in 1940. (It’s available from VCI.) Columbia didn’t get around to The Return Of The Durango Kid till 1945. Making up for lost time, Columbia cranked out 62 more Durango Kid pictures before shutting down the series in 1952 — at which point Starrett retired from movies.

Trail Of The Rustlers (1950) has been announced as part of the Columbia Classics Collection, to be released on January 28. Starrett’s backed by a great cast this time around — Smiley Burnette, Gail Davis and Tommy Ivo (who later became a big-time drag racer). Starrett is doubled by Jock Mahoney, still a few years from being a Western star himself.

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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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Timeless Media Group has corralled all five seasons of The Gene Autry Show (1950-1955) into a single set for release on December 10.

GeneAutryShow_CompleteCEThis blog is not about TV. Other people know a lot more about it than I do and do a much better job covering it than I ever could. But when you’re familiar with the features, seeing how Gene transitioned from theaters to living rooms is fascinating — and in keeping with what happened to Gene’s career, and the Western itself, over the course of the decade.

When Autry stopped making features — the TV series began in 1950, the movies lasted into 1953 — he brought a lot of actors and crew over to the show. George Archainbaud, for instance, directed Gene’s last feature, Last Of The Pony Riders (1953), and TV shows throughout its run. William Bradford, who shot a number of the later features, did all but a handful of the TV shows. (How’d they pull all this off?) Many of the TV writers had also written for the Autry features at some point, including a single episode by brothers Dorrell and Stewart E. McGowan, who’d scripted one of Gene’s best, South Of The Border (1939). (They also wrote one of my favorite films, 1949′s Hellfire).

The shows really have the feel of an Autry feature. Shorter and cheaper, of course, with a plot that’s even more bare-bones than the movies — and usually limited to a single song. Each episode exists as its own entity, too. From one show to the other, Gene is everything from a rancher to a U.S. Marshall, it’s the Old West one week and the Fabulous Fifties the next, and sometimes Gene doesn’t even know his sidekick Pat Buttram. Gene was a great businessman, and he was smart enough to stick with a sure thing — whether it’s a cameraman or a formula.

Making my way through the series, what really struck me was the incredible stream of actors and actresses that turn up from week to week: Denver Pyle, Alan Hale, Jr. (who’s a sidekick for a while), James H. Griffith, Kermit Maynard, John Doucette, Fuzzy Knight, Lyle Talbot, Robert J. Wilke, Tom Tyler, Jack Ingram, Clayton Moore, Chill Wills, Glenn Strange, James Best, Francis Ford, Lee Van Cleef. Gloria Talbott, Nestor Paiva, Peggy Stewart, “Curly” Joe Besser, Tommy Ivo and a million more. (That has to be the longest sentence I’ve ever written.) Autry’s acting leaves a lot to be desired — though he’d come a long way since The Phantom Empire (1936), but he surrounded himself with some real pros, and they do wonders for these shows.

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You can’t help being knocked for a loop by the color episodes. Two first-season shows were done in color as an experiment and the fifth season is color all the way. The type of color isn’t identified — my guess would be Eastmancolor — and it looks pretty weird, a little blown out in spots. But that’s the fault of the original material, not something we can complain to Timeless Media Group about. It’s terrific to see Gene and Roy and Champion in color. These were transfered from Gene’s personal material and are spotless, with supplements like radio shows, photo galleries and commercials — along with an extra DVD that gives you episodes of other shows from Autry’s Flying ‘A’ Productions. Recommended.Gene Autry - GA rehearsing

Gene Autry at work on his TV show. Photo lifted from Steven Lodge’s blog.

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91ip3etFhjL._AA1500_Shout Factory has done us all a huge favor, pulling four 50s Westerns from the MGM/UA/Fox libraries — featuring no less than George Montgomery, Rory Calhoun and the mighty Joel McCrea — and offering them at a great price. All four pictures boast nice, clean transfers. They’re all presented full-frame, though three (the post-1953 titles) played theaters cropped to widescreen. I played around with the zoom on my HDTV and was satisfied with the results.

As we all know, there are dozens and dozens of films like these, and the more the better. Let’s hope this is the first of many.

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Gun Belt (1953)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
CAST: George Montgomery, Tab Hunter, Helen Westcott, John Dehner, Jack Elam, James Millican, Willis Bouchey.

George Montgomery is Billy Ringo, a gunslinger who wants to settle down. We’ve all seen enough of these films to know how that usually works out.

Before the picture’s 77 Technicolor minutes are up, Johnny Ringo hands Ike Clanton over to Wyatt Earp! Director Ray Nazarro began his career as an assistant director in the Silents and ended it with these George Montgomery films, a few with Rory Calhoun and TV for Gene Autry’s Flying ‘A’ Productions.

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The Lone Gun (1954)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
CAST: George Montgomery, Dorothy Malone, Frank Faylen, Skip Homeier, Neville Brand, Robert J. Wilke.

Who cares what it’s about when you have Montgomery, Dorothy Malone, Skip Homeier and Frank Faylen, not to mention Ray Nazarro, on hand? For what it’s worth: George Montgomery goes after the Moran brothers — alone, thanks to the gutless townspeople.

Produced by the Color Corporation Of America, it was probably done in the SuperCineColor process. It looks good here, with the color surprisingly true. It was originally run 1.66.

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Gunsight Ridge (1957)
Directed by Francis D. Lyon
Cinematography: Ernest Laszlo
CAST: Joel McCrea, Mark Stevens, Joan Weldon, Slim Pickens.

I found this a good, tight little Western — better than its reputation. McCrea’s charm and strength, along with Ernest Laszlo’s beautiful black and white cinematography, make the most of an uneven script. Mark Stevens is a tortured, evil bandit pursued by McCrea, as a Wells Fargo agent, through and around Old Tucson.

Joan Weldon is wasted in a nothing part, but Carolyn Craig — who’s in a couple of my favorite films, Fury At Showdown (1957) and House On Haunted Hill (1959) — has a nice scene at the end of the picture. There are enough ideas here for half a dozen 50s Westerns — Stevens being a frustrated pianist is a good one — but they aren’t given the time and attention they need in this brisk 85 minutes. Those with a keen eye and a nice TV will see a jet trail and an autombile.

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Ride Out For Revenge (1957)
Directed by Bernard Girard
CAST: Rory Calhoun, Gloria Grahame, Lloyd Bridges, Vince Edwards.

In the mid-50s, a number of Westerns went beyond the sympathetic, or apologetic, approach to Native Americans of, say, Broken Arrow (1950) and tackled racism itself. John Ford’s The Searchers (1956), of course, is the best of these — though I urge you to seek out George Sherman’s Reprisal! (1956). Ride Out For Revenge is a solid B film, from Kirk Douglas’ Bryna Productions, that manages to make its point without sacrificing action. Probably the best film in the set, and I have to admit I knew almost nothing about it beyond the title and cast. A real find.

Beulah Archuletta, “Look” in The Searchers, can be seen in a couple shots. She’s also in Calhoun’s The Hired Gun, from the same year.

This blog was set up to champion films like these, and I urge you all to give Shout Factory a strong economic reason to release further volumes.

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Shout Factory! has announced a set of four middle-budget United Artists Westerns from the 50s — coming May 14 for around $10. They call it Movies 4 You: Western Classics.

The Lone Gun (1954) was directed by Ray Nazarro and stars George Montgomery, Dorothy Malone, Frank Faylen, Neville Brand, Skip Homeier and Robert J. Wilke. It’s in color.

Ride Out For Revenge (1957) stars Rory Calhoun, Gloria Grahame, Lloyd Bridges and Vince Edwards. It was directed by Bernard Gerard and shot by the great Floyd Crosby.

Gunsight Ridge (1957) stars Joel McCrea, Mark Stevens, Joan Weldon, Slim Pickens and L.Q. Jones. It was directed by Francis D. Lyon. (As ridiculous as some of these titles seem, there is a Gunsight, Texas. My great-great grandparents lived there at one point. Not sure if it has a ridge.)

Gun Belt (1953) puts George Montgomery, Tab Hunter, Helen Westcott, John Dehner and Jack Elam in the capable hands of Ray Nazarro. In Technicolor.

Haven’t seen any aspect ratio information on these yet.

Don’t know about y’all, but I’ll buy packages like this, at these prices, as long as they can scrape up 50s Westerns to put in ‘em.

A big thanks to Mr. Richard Vincent for the heads-up.

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Columbia Classics has announced a few 50s Westerns for MOD release on October 2. First is The Phantom Stagecoach (1957), directed by Ray Nazarro. It stars William Bishop, Kathleen Crowley, Richard Webb, Frank Ferguson — and plenty of Iverson Ranch location work.

From Sam Katzman’s unit comes a couple from William Castle. Duel On The Mississippi (1955) may not be a Western, since it takes place in Louisiana, but it’s got Lex Barker, Patricia Medina, Warren Stevens and John Dehner, so it’s close enough.

In a post back in March of 2010, I wrote: “I’m not gonna hold my breath waiting for Columbia to release Masterson Of Kansas (1954) on DVD.” Two years later, I’m really happy to be announcing that it’s on its way. To me, this is easily the best of the Westerns William Castle made for Sam Katzman’s unit at Columbia — George Montgomery is Bat Masterson and James Griffith is very, very good as Doc Holliday. Well worth checking out. (Along with Roy Roger’s double-crown hats and Wayne’s ragged hat from Rio Bravo, George Montgomery had some of the coolest hats in 50s Westerns.)

All three films should be widescreen, with the two Castle pictures being in Technicolor. The longest of the three is 74 minutes (Masterson), so you can count on some fast-paced fun.

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Today is Joanne Dru’s birthday. So today’s a good day to report that Southwest Passage (1954) is coming to MGM’s MOD program. No release date is listed.

This Edward Small production, released through United Artists, has a great cast: Rod Cameron, Joanne Dru, John Ireland, John Dehner, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams and Morris Ankrum. It was directed by Ray Nazarro, an old hand at this sort of thing. It’s got cowboys and camels. And it was originally in 3-D (and Pathecolor).

Dru and Ireland were husband and wife when Southwest Passage was released. They divorced in 1957.

Thanks to John Knight for the info.

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Have to admit, I’ve never seen Return To Warbow (1958). But looking at this still, I can’t wait to track it down — which is a pretty simple task, since it’s on sale right now from Warner Archive (widescreen, I believe).

Left to right, you’ve got Andrew Duggan, James Griffith and Robert J. Wilke — a Dream Team of 50s Westerns character actors. Add to that Phil Carey, Jay Silverheels and Paul Picerni. It’s directed by Ray Nazarro, who excelled at this sorta medium-budget thing. And it only runs 67 minutes!

The more of this type of picture I see, especially the ones from Columbia and Universal-International, the more I like them.

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