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Archive for the ‘Tim Holt’ Category

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This is a big, big deal. Warner Archive has come through with the fourth volume in their Tim Holt series, giving us the beginning, and end, of Holt’s time at RKO. It’s a three-disc, nine-movie set that includes Wagon Train (1940, which got the series off to a terrific start), The Fargo Kid (1940), Cyclone On Horseback (1941), Riding The Wind (1942), Land Of The Open Range (1942), Thundering Hoofs (1942), Overland Telegraph (1951) and Trail Guide (1952). 

Overland Telegraph (seen in the Mexican lobby card above) is a particularly good one, giving Holt and Richard Martin a top director, Lesley Selander, and really good cast to work with: Gail Davis, Hugh Beaumont (as the bad guy!), Mari Blanchard, George Nader and Robert J. Wilke.

The set is available now. Thanks to everyone at Warner Archive for their dedication to getting these wonderful little films out there.

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Happy Birthday, Tim Holt.

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Tim Holt
(February 5, 1919 – February 15, 1973)

This week, Tim Holt Tuesday moves to Wednesday. It’s his birthday.

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Tim Holt Movie Thrills Spread

This week’s Tim Holt Tuesday is brought to you by Paula over at The Ben Johnson Fan Page. It’s an article by Tim himself, or his ghost writer (Ghost Rider?), about his dad Jack, and you can download a PDF of it here.

A brief sample: “When I signed my contract with RKO Studios I asked just one favor: I asked them to give me the same dressing room my Dad had occupied there for so many years. They granted my request and it’s been a sort of permanent inspiration to me.”

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Directed by Lesley Selander
Produced by Herman Schlom
Written by Norman Houston
Director Of Photography: J. Roy Hunt, ASC
Music by Paul Sawtell
Film Editor: Robert Swink

CAST: Tim Holt (Kansas Jones), Richard Martin (Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty), Jacqueline White (Priscilla “Dusty” Willis), Reed Hadley (Clint Burrows), Robert Barrat (Sheriff Cole), Robert Clarke (Harry Willis), Tom Tyler (The Ringo Kid), William Tannen (Trump Dixon).

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When unemployed cowhands Holt and Martin come to the aid of Dusty Willis (Jacqueline White) and her brother Harry (Robert Clarke), duking it out with saloon owner Clint Burrows, she gives them jobs on her ranch. Turns out Harry owes Burrows $3,000 in gambling debts, and Harry agrees to let Burrows’ men rustle some of his sister’s cattle to erase the debt. This kicks off a series of events that results in Holt being wanted for a murder he didn’t commit.

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220px-Lesley_SelanderRiders Of The Range was directed by Lesley Selander (right), who did about 20 of the Holts for RKO. Selander worked his way up through the Hollywood studio system, from assistant cameraman to assistant director (learning a great deal from William S. Van Dyke on the Buck Jones pictures) to director. He did excellent work on the Hopalong Cassidy series for Paramount, signed on at Republic for a time, and wound up at RKO for the Holts. Selander worked miracles on the Holt films, turning out superior Westerns on RKO’s tight budgets (that were still more than other B Westerns were working with), getting plenty of production values from the incredible Lone Pine locations. In fact, regardless of budget, his Westerns (such as 1948′s Panhandle or 1955′s Shotgun) are always a cut above.

To me, Lesley Selander’s titles are the best of the Tim Holt series. And Riders Of The Range is a good one, with his usual pacing and focus on almost constant action. There are a number of fistfights, a few gunfights and lots and lots of riding and shooting. Before you know it, the hour’s up and Tim and Chito are riding off. Jacqueline White has a nice part, too.

Adventures_of_Captain_Marvel_(1941_serial)_2Tom Tyler plays The Ringo Kid, an outlaw employed by Burrows for the arranged rustling. A champion weightlifter, Tyler started his movie career as a stuntman in Silent Westerns, progressing to serial roles like Captain Marvel and The Phantom in the early 40s. (The Phantom is an excellent serial.) His career stalled when he was stricken with scleroderma (originally diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis), which limited him to smaller and smaller supporting roles, often without credit. His friends came to the rescue. John Ford gave him work (They Were Expendable, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, What Price Glory), Gene Autry put him in a couple episodes of his TV show, and Lesley Selander cast him a few of the later Holts. As Tyler’s condition grew worse, and he could no longer work in movies, he moved in with his sister in Michigan. Tom Tyler passed away in 1954, almost penniless. (Before working together on these RKOs, Tim Holt and Tom Tyler both appeared in John Ford’s Stagecoach in 1939, with John Wayne as The Ringo Kid.)

Jacqueline White: “We shot the picture up at Jack Garner’s ranch, who rented out the place for lots of movies. Tim’s wife was with him and also along was his wife’s dog, a Doberman Pincher! Well, this dog hated Tim!… Richard Martin was a charming guy—real nice and tall! A good looking fellow.”*

Riders Of The Range is the last picture in the Tim Holt Western Classic Collection Vol. 2 from Warner Archive. Like all the films in the three volumes (released so far), it looks terrific. J. Roy Hunt’s camerawork is startling at times, and the DVD-R presents it flawlessly.

* Western Clippings interview

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Tim Holt Tuesday #4.

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No review this week, just a few odds and ends.

In a followup to the excellent interview he shared with us all, here’s photo of John Brooker with Tim on the front steps of Oklahoma TV station KLPR back in 1967. Thanks so much for sending this along, John.

Laura commemorated Richard Martin’s birthday last week.

Here’s hoping everyone put those Warner Archive Holt sets on their Christmas list. Tell Santa they’re on sale this week.

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Directed by George Archainbaud
Produced by Herman Schlom
Written by Norman Houston
Director Of Photography: J. Roy Hunt
Music by Paul Sawtell
Film Editor: Desmond Marquette

CAST: Tim Holt (Ross Taylor), Richard Martin (Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty), Jane Nigh (Stella), John Doucette (Bat), House Peters, Jr. (Rod), Inez Cooper (Anita Castro), Julien Rivero (Philipe), Ken MacDonald (Sheriff Carrigan), Vince Barnett (Pokey), Robert Peyton (Del), David Leonard (Padre), Tom Monroe (Dimmick).

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Here at 50 Westerns From The 50s, Tuesday belongs to Tim Holt. 

When an earthquake hits Mexico, Senorita Anita Castro (Inez Cooper) organizes a relief effort in Arizona. Loading a mule train with donations of all sorts — including gold, silver and jewels — she heads toward the border. A gang of thieves, headed by John Doucette and House Peters, Jr. and assisted by Jean Nigh, get wind of Anita’s plan and plot to steal the treasure. Tim (called Ross Taylor this time) and Chito (Richard Martin) end up involved, of course — and lots of riding and shooting ensue.

Border Treasure (1950) is one of the later RKO Holts, and I’ve always considered it one of the stronger entries in the series. First, the bad guys are terrific — and Nigh has a good role as Stella, the saloon girl who falls in with John Doucette and House Peters, Jr. There’s a great, extended saloon fight between Holt and Doucette. And Richard Martin adds a nice touch as he shows compassion for Mexico and its people following the earthquake. (This one has Tim and Chito doing some real ranch work, mending fence, which I always find a cool addition. Come to think of it, Tim does the work — Chito conveniently disappears.)

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This time, George Archainbaud directs. He got his first director credit in 1917, and spent much of his career at RKO. His The Lost Squadron (1932) is excellent. Archainbaud got heavily into TV in the 50s, with much of his work coming from Gene Autry’s Flying A Productions. For a while, he was alternating between Gene’s TV show and later features (including 1953′s Last Of The Pony Riders, which turned out to be Gene’s Autry’s final film).

Director of Photography J. Roy Hunt spent a number of years at RKO, where he shot Val Lewton’s I Walked With A Zombie (1943),  The Devil Thumbs A Ride (1947) and Mighty Joe Young (1949) — in between many of these Holt films. Hunt retired not longer after the Holt series came to an end, never making the transition to television that kept so many of his contemporaries employed well into the 1960s.

These RKO Holts make great use of Lone Pine’s Alabama Hills, perhaps rivaled only by Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott’s Ranown Cycle. Some work for Border Treasure was also done at the area’s Anchor Ranch. The RKO Ranch in Encino and the beautiful San Fernando Mission of L.A.’s Mission Hills district are also featured. (Boy, I gotta get out to California — my Points Of Interest list is getting longer and longer.)

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Border Treasure is one of 10 Holt pictures in Warner Archive’s Tim Holt Classic Western Collection Volume 3 — and it’s a beautiful thing from logo to logo. The Lone Pine scenes are sharp and bright, with a real feeling of depth. I’d love to take a frame from one of the Lone Pine scenes and hang it on my wall (over the sofa would be nice) — and this transfer seems sharp enough to let me do it.

In the early days of this blog, the Holt RKOs were high on our want lists. To have them presented like this is more than I expected. To say I highly recommend this — the DVD-R set or the movie itself — would be ridiculously redundant at this point.

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This week’s Tim Holt Tuesday is a real treat, an interview conducted by John Brooker in 1970. John sent this as a comment to a previous Holt post, but it screamed for a better showcase than that. It appeared in Western Clippings about five years ago. I’m really stoked to be able to feature it here. Thanks so much, John.

The Tim Holt Westerns that were released in the UK had a high profile with us Front Row Kids because, more often than not, they were shown in tandem with the latest Disney feature. But they were shown in haphazard order so while some of the later ones never made it across the Atlantic the occasional pre-War title such as Bandit Trail didn’t get a UK release until the early 50s.

The first time I met Tim Holt was in October 1967 at the KLPR Radio and TV Station in Oklahoma where he was sales manager, but my recording equipment had quit on me so I had to be content with a chat, a look around the station and a couple of pictures.

I decided if I returned to the US I would call on Tim again, and I did just that three years later. I found him very much like his on-screen Western character — matter of fact and unassuming — and a little dismissive of his movie career. I waited for Tim to light his pipe and then turned on the recorder…

John Brooker: Tim, how did you get into Westerns at RKO?

Tim Holt: The first time was with George O’Brien in The Renegade Ranger with Rita Hayworth who was just getting started. I believe George O’Brien quit over money so RKO needed another Western star and I was put forward.

JB: How many Westerns were there in your RKO series?

TH: Too many I think (laughs). All in all I think I made 141 (Tim gave this figure in other interviews around this time, but he actually appeared in just over 70 movies, 47 of them starring B Westerns at RKO – JB)

JB: Did you have your own screen horse in either series?

TH: Oh yes…. before the war I had a horse called Duke which was, strangely enough, American standard bred and after that I had a horse that was half thoroughbred and half quarter horse… called Lightning.

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JB: Are they still alive?

TH: No, they’ve both passed away… and I probably should have (laughs)

JB: Can you remember the budgets on your series?

TH: They were very, very low — anywhere between 65 and 75 thousand.

JB: Was that pre-War or after?

TH: That was the early ones….the later ones ran 90… that’s when the producer would tear his hair out.

JB: That was a high budget for a B Western.

TH: Oh yes… and they would still net half a million apiece.

JB: Did you do your own stunts and fights?

TH: Most of them, yes. Strange thing, John… they’d leave all the dangerous stuff where you might get hurt or cut up or something like that until the last day of the picture. That way, if you got hurt you wouldn’t delay production…they were very considerate that way.

JB: Davey Sharpe doubled you in a couple…

TH: Davey was in the early ones…. I did most of it in the later ones. (In Dynamite Pass, for example, Tim does a fast horse to wagon transfer – JB)

JB: What sort of stunts would you not have been allowed to do… because of insurance?

TH: I don’t think there were any… of course in those days we didn’t have what they call a falling horse like they have now… we used a running W… that would automatically fold up the horse’s front legs… but you knew exactly when it was going to happen… you either put your foot in the stirrup or you used a set of steps on the side of the stirrups… and then as the horse would fall out from under you you would just hit the ground and tumble…

JB: Did you get hurt?

TH: I had my share of knocks… broke a few bones…

JB: Could you give brief details of your working day.. what time you got to the studio…

TH: In those days it was a long day… for the simple reason that we would have to travel an average of.. I would say.. about 80 miles to locations.

JB: Where were they?

TH: Oh, they were all over… Victorville.. the Garner Ranch… Agoura… Lone Pine. Now at Lone Pine, we would have to travel and stay there. We went to work when the sun came up and it was light enough to shoot… and we kept shooting til the sun went down… bit like KLPR… a daylight to dusk operation…. we did most of the interiors on the RKO lot.

JB: How long was each film in production?

TH: You mean the actual filming… average about eight days… but then it had to be scored… the music had to be put into it… it had to be edited… it would take about three months to get a picture out in general release.

JB: Why did the series come to an end?

TH: Howard Hughes decided he didn’t want to make any more B pictures. TV was hitting the theatres hard. It wasn’t economically viable to make our pictures any more.

JB: Is that when you left Hollywood?

TH: Yes. I came to Oklahoma in 1947 with a rodeo and that’s where I met my wife. When the series finished I headed back here for good. I never did like Hollywood that much… there was nothing magical about it for me.

JB: What’s happened generally since then, since your series ended?

TH: Well, I went up to Iowa to get a degree in animal nutrition. Then I went into the home building business until 1962… then in ’62 I came here with KLPR.

JB: How about film-wise?

TH: I’ve done about six or seven.

JB: The Monster That Challenged The World (1957).

TH: It wasn’t bad for a science fiction… wasn’t too bad a picture at all.

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JB: The last time we met you mentioned making a Western with Nick Adams but since then he passed away.

TH: Yes, we were going to do a sequel to Treasure Of The Sierra Madre. It was his idea… and it was a great idea but unfortunately he passed away a couple of years back.. Treasure Of The Sierra Madre was one of my favourite films… that and The Magnificent Ambersons. They gave me a change from the Westerns. I just finished a film that was a satire on hillbillies ….the story about a Reverend who’s a moonshiner. I don’t think they’ve decided on a title yet (This Stuff’ll Kill Ya – JB).

JB: Do you know the name of the production company?

TH: Yes. Ultima… out of Chicago.

JB: Is it a full length feature? What sort of running time?

TH: Feature length… it will be shown in theatres. I have also just done an episode of The Virginian (Season 8′s “The Woman Of Stone”— TR). And I thought we worked fast at RKO!

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JB: Do you keep in touch with any of your Hollywood contemporaries?

TH: Not really. Richard Martin’s still a good friend… we keep in touch. We had such fun together on the series.

JB: Don Barry’s talking about launching a new series of B westerns in colour. Do you think they could ever come back?

TH: I think so…. the time could be right….we need family entertainment… in the old days children identified with their cowboy heroes and stars like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry set them a good example…. nowadays the sex and violence is overdone…. I think the pendulum could swing the other way.

The interview was finished but Tim took me around the station and loaded me up with a dozen or so country music albums. In the movie library there was just about every Three Stooges two-reeler on the racks. They were being shown over and over again on a daily basis. But there wasn’t a Tim Holt Western in sight.

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tim holt_dynamite pass LC fixed

Directed by Lew Landers
Produced by Herman Schlom
Written by Norman Houston
Director Of Photography: Nicholas Musuraca, ASC
Music by Paul Sawtell
Film Editor: Robert Swink

CAST: Tim Holt (Ross Taylor), Richard Martin (Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty)*, Lynn Roberts (Mary Madden), Regis Toomey (Dan Madden), Robert Shayne (Jay Wingate), Don Harney (Missouri), Cleo Moore (Lulu), John Dehner (Anson Thurber), Don Haggerty (Sheriff), Ross Elliott (Stryker), Denver Pyle (Whip).

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Here at 50 Westerns From The 50s, Tuesdays belong to Tim Holt. 

From 1940 to 1952, Tim Holt made 46 B Westerns for RKO. Well written, sharply directed and beautifully filmed (usually by Nicholas Musuraca in Lone Pine), they stand as some of the best series Westerns ever made. While Holt served in the Air Force during World War II, the series was interrupted — Robert Mitchum filled in for a couple titles — but was picked up again when Holt returned. At this time, Richard Martin was added as Chito Rafferty, Holt’s Mexican-Irish sidekick. By the early 50s, television was hurting the series Western, and at RKO, Howard Hughes scaled back on B-movie production — and the Holt series came to an end in 1952.

Dynamite Pass (1950) came toward the end of the run, and RKO’s cost-cutting was beginning to show. Dan Madden (Regis Toomey) is a surveyor hired to lay a new road from Mesa City to Clifton, accompanied by his wife Mary (Lynn Roberts). Rancher John Dehner has the only road between the two towns and charges the locals outrageous tolls to pass through his land. Naturally, Dehner doesn’t want the new road to go through, and they sabotage Toomey’s effort to survey the area by stealing his equipment. However, the Maddens have Ross Taylor (Tim Holt) and Chito (Richard Martin) on their side. And, yes, there is some dynamite.

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It’s impossible for me to be objective about these films. I love them. And while Dynamite Pass isn’t one of the better ones, it’s plenty good enough. Holt and Martin have a real easy-going chemistry, and their friendship seems very real (turns out it was). It’s a joy to watch them at work in these things.

John Dehner makes quite an impression as the greedy rancher, even though his screen time is limited. And it’s always good to see Regis Toomey turn up in something.

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One of Hollywood’s most prolific directors, Lew Landers (real name: Louis Friedlander) worked for every studio in town, with the bulk of his work coming from RKO and Columbia. Westerns, jungle movies, crime pictures — he made them all. Like a lot of B directors, he bounced between features and TV in the 50s. He’s remembered today primarily for the 1935 Karloff-Lugosi film The Raven. Landers’ Holt pictures don’t have the snap to them that Lesley Selander’s do, but that’s more of an observation than a complaint.

At this time, Dynamite Pass has not turned up in one of Warner Archive’s Tim Holt Classic Westerns Collection sets. Like the rest of the series, it turns up on TCM from time to time.

* I’m usually strict about listing the cast according to the titles, but there was no way I could put Richard Martin last.

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Since the beginning of this blog, I’ve wanted to find a way to single out Tim Holt. His films are so good, and he’s so underrated — how many can boast of being directed by Ford, Welles and Huston? — and I want to do my tiny part to fix it.

So welcome to Tim Holt Tuesday, a more-or-less weekly celebration of Holt’s work — especially the Westerns he made for RKO. Largely shot around Lone Pine, and directed by Lesley Selander, they’re as good as the series Western ever got.

Lesley Selander: “…he was a better actor than many would have you believe, and his pictures are among the finest I worked on.”*

So far, three volumes of the RKO Holts are available from Warner Archive. 16mm prints of these things (especially the post-War ones co-starring Richard Martin as Chito) were big collectors’ items back in the day, and they’re essential viewing for fans of 50s Westerns.

Tim and I will see you next week.

* From Close Up: The Contract Director by Jon Tuska, Scarecrow, 1976.

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You’ve got till 4/6 at 11:59PM PST to head ‘em off at the pass. Mount up!

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