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Archive for the ‘Rory Calhoun’ Category

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Four Guns To The Border (1954) is an excellent 50s Western from Universal-International. It’s a hard one to track down, unfortunately.

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The picture gave actor Richard Carlson one of his few directing credits. He does a tremendous job; wish he’d done more. Here, he’s working with Rory Calhoun and Colleen Miller.

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Here’s Colleen Miller on a Western street. Iverson, maybe?

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Rory Calhoun takes a phone and cigarette break.

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Here’s Miller again, this time with George Nader. The terrific cast includes John McIntire, Walter Brennan, Nina Foch, Jay Silverheels and Nestor Paiva.

Will get around to a real post on it soon. Why isn’t this thing on DVD?

 

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Martha Hyer
(August 10, 1924 – May 31, 2014)

Laura told me last night that Martha Hyer had passed away at 89.

Her list of credits reads like a checklist for my cinematic upbringing: a bunch of 50s Westerns (including a few Tim Holt pictures), an episode of The Lone Ranger, Abbott & Costello Go To Mars (1953), Bikini Beach (1964), even an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. She turned up a lot, which was fine by me. I always liked her.

In 1966, she married producer Hal Wallis, not long after appearing in his The Sons Of Katie Elder (1965), alongside John Wayne and Dean Martin. After his death in 1986, she moved to Santa Fe and lived there till her passing.

Click on the shampoo ad for an obituary. Note that the ad promotes one of her best 50s Westerns, Red Sundown (1956). It’s a favorite of mine — and of many of you out there.

 

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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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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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Directed by Harmon Jones
Screen Play by Jesse L. Lasky, Jr.
From a novel by Jack Schaeffer
Director of Photography: Lloyd Ahern
Musical Director: Lionel Newman

CAST: Dale Robertson (Race Crim), Rory Calhoun (Tom Davisson), Robert Wagner (Jess Harker), Kathleen Crowley (Kathy Riley), James Millican (Luke Bowen), Lola Albright (Waco), J.M. Kerrigan (Riley), John Kellogg (Slater), Ian MacDonald (Hank), Burt Mustin (Uncle Ben), John Ducette, Chuck Connors.

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It had been ages since I’d seen The Silver Whip (1953), and I remembered very little about it. Revisiting it thanks to the Fox Cinema Archives DVD-R, I didn’t expect much more than an interesting pairing of Dale Robertson and Rory Calhoun.

Turns out, I really underestimated this film. There’s a lot more going on here than just pairing a couple cowboy stars. It’s a strong story built around a few key action scenes, given plenty of punch by editor-turned-director Harmon Jones.

Race Crim (Robertson) is a stagecoach guard who recommends young driver Jess Harker (Robert Wagner) for his first major run. It goes horribly wrong when Slater (John Kellogg) and his gang shoot up the stage. Sheriff Tom Davisson (Calhoun) and Harker go after the gang, trying to get to them before Race, who’s out for revenge, does. This creates an interesting three-way conflict with both justice (Calhoun and Wagner) and vengeance (Robertson) going after Slater. I won’t go any further than that — this is a cool movie and I don’t want to spoil it.

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Of course, Robertson and Calhoun are terrific. A lot of us have been enjoying Calhoun pictures lately, and this has become one of my favorites. But the film belongs to Dale Robertson, whose change from Calhoun’s best friend and Wagner’s mentor to a bitter, obsessed rival gives The Silver Whip a lot of its strength in the last few reels. Robert Wagner (seen in a color still below) seems so young — he was still three years away from The True Story Of Jesse James (1956).

Harmon Jones never seemed to make much of an impression as a director, or at least nothing to match his clout as an editor (Yellow Sky, Panic In The Streets), and he spent the bulk of his career directing TV (Rawhide, Perry Mason). But the final chase here, expertly staged along a tall ridge, shows he had the chops. (I’m fond of his 1956 Universal Western, A Day Of Fury, again starring Dale Robertson.)

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We’ve all been hard on the 20th Century-Fox Cinema Archives DVD-R program for problems with aspect ratio, etc. I’m happy to report that this one looks great. It’s 1.37, as it should be, with a black and white transfer that shows off Lloyd Ahern’s crisp cinematography. Unlike some of you, perhaps, I like a little dirt and dust in these things. Growing up watching 16mm prints of films like this, a speck here and there is part of the experience.

It’s so easy to recommend The Silver Whip, along with its appearance on DVD (available from major online retailers).

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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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Directed by Louis King
Produced by André Hakim
Screenplay by Geoffrey Homes, from a story by Sam Hellman
Based on a book by Stuart Lake (Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal)
Director of Photography: Edward Cronjager
Film Editor: William B. Murphy
Musical director: Lionel Newman

CAST: Rory Calhoun (Chino Bull), Corinne Calvet (Frenchie Dumont), Cameron Mitchell (Mitch Hardin), Penny Edwards (Debbie Allen), Carl Betz (Loney Hogan), John Dehner (Harvey Logan), Raymond Greenleaf (Prudy), Victor Sutherland (Alcalde Lowery), Ethan Laidlaw, Robert J. Wilke, Harry Carter, Frank Ferguson, Harry Hines, Hank Worden, Paul E. Burns.

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If you were to measure the quality of a film by the character actors that turn up in it, Powder River (1953) would rank with the finest movies ever made. John Dehner, Frank Ferguson, James H. Griffith, Robert J. Wilke, Paul E. Burns, Ethan Laidlaw — the list goes on. (I’ve heard Hank Worden’s in it, but I didn’t see him.)

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It’s another variation on the Earp-Holliday story, with no mention of the O.K. Corral. Rory Calhoun is Chino Bull, an Earp-ish lawman who gives up his guns and badge to try a little prospecting — but is forced to put them back on when his partner (Frank Ferguson) is killed. Cameron Mitchell is Mitch Hardin, a take on Doc Holliday (a doctor with a brain tumor this time). Corrine Calvet runs the local saloon and Peggy Edwards (who stepped in at Republic when Dale Evans was on maternity leave, appearing in Trail Of Robin Hood and others) is the woman who comes from the East in search of Mitch. John Dehner is a gambler and Robert J. Wilke is, of course, a bad guy.

While we’ve seen all this play out in other films, some of them better (and featuring some of the same cast), there’s a freshness and watchability to Powder River that delays us from making the inevitable comparisons until long after its 77 minutes are up. (Face it, to compare this film to My Darling Clementine is both unfair and ridiculous.)

Rory Calhoun has a confidence and  easygoing manner that makes him an ideal 50s Western lead, and Powder River fits him like a glove. Cameron Mitchell is a seriously underrated actor, and his take on Holliday is intense, but avoiding the histrionics of other actors. They have a few good scenes together — I especially liked them talking shop in the saloon as Mitchell showed off his flashy gun belt. Good actors, solid script.

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The rest of the cast goes about its business, doing the things that kept them so busy working in so many of these films — and making each one better in the process.

Louis King, the brother of director Henry King (The Gunfighter), began his career as an actor in the Silents, and made the shift to directing long before sound came in. He was a busy contract director throughout the 30s and 40s — Charlie Chan, Bulldog Drummond, etc., and ended his career on TV (Adventures Of Wild Bill Hickock, The Deputy). Powder River was one of his last features, and his assured, unpretentious direction is a large part of its success. Is this a great film? Of course not. Would I watch a thousand just like it? Absolutely.

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The DVD-R from Fox Cinema Archives seems to have been transfered from a Technicolor print, and at certain points, it’s absolutely beautiful. But if you’ve seen a number of dye-transfer prints, you know they can be inconsistent, with registration, contrast and color varying quite a bit. That’s the case here, and while it doesn’t make for the kind of spotless, flawless experience we’re coming to expect — it’s what these films have looked like for decades. It’s sharp and clear and the audio is clean — and I like seeing those reel changeover cues make their appearance.

This is a minor Western that I certainly recommend — and a great introduction to the work of Rory Calhoun.

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