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Archive for the ‘Universal (-International)’ 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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Directed by Harmon Jones
Produced by Robert Arthur
Screenplay by James Edmiston and Oscar Brodney
Story by James Edmiston
Director Of Photography: Ellis W. Carter, ASC
Film Editor: Sherman Todd, ACE
Music Supervision by Joseph Gershenson

CAST: Dale Robertson (Jagade), Mara Corday (Sharman Fulton), Jock Mahoney (Marshal Allan Burnett), Carl Benton Reid (Judge John J. McLean), Jan Merlin (Billy Brand), John Dehner (Preacher Jason), Dee Carroll (Miss Timmons), Sheila Bromley (Marie), James Bell (Doc Logan). Dani Crayne (Claire), Howard Wendell (Vanryzin), Charles Cane (Duggen), Phil Chambers (Burson), Sydney Mason (Beemans), Helen Kleeb (Mrs. McLean).

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Not too long ago, I wrote about Harmon Jones’ The Silver Whip (1954), a film I found better than its reputation, and with much more going for it than just its pairing of Dale Robertson and Rory Calhoun. That lit a fire under me to track down a copy of A Day Of Fury (1956), which brought Jones and Robertson together again — this time at Universal-International. It’d been years since I’d seen Fury, and I was really knocked for a loop by how good it is.

There’s been speculation that A Day Of Fury was an influence on Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter (1973), an honor that actually goes to the spaghetti western Django The Bastard (1969, which is available from VCI as The Stranger’s Gundown). That said, Eastwood’s picture certainly has a few things in common with A Day Of Fury. In both, a mysterious stranger comes to town, and his very presence turns that town inside out. (No Name On The Bullet works somewhat the same way.) This time, the gunfighter is Jagade (Dale Robertson). The town marshall (Jock Mahoney) owes Jagade his life, which complicates matters quite a bit. What’s more, Jagade and the marshall’s fiancé (Mara Corday) were once an item. But there’s so much more to it than that.

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Dale Robertson: “It was an interesting story. After I finished it, I read it again. I figured this guy (Jagade) was the Devil. He, himself, never did anything wrong. He merely set things up to show the weakness of other people. (Producer) Bob Arthur rewrote the story… and he took away a lot of the little subtle things that were so wonderful in the original script.”#

Watching the picture with Robertson’s Devil idea in mind is very interesting, and I’d love to see that original screenplay. Robertson seems to be enjoying himself in a part that lets him stretch out a bit, while Jock Mahoney is stuck in a goodguy role that is maybe a little too good.

Dale Robertson: “They were trying to push Jock Mahoney… He was the most agile, one of the most fluid actors in the whole business. He was really wonderful, he was athletic, had great moves.”#

Mahoney proves Robertson’s point in the first scene in the movie, when he does a horse fall. It’s not often that you see one of the leads do such a stunt on his own.

Mara Corday: “The director, Harmon Jones, was a nice man, had been an editor. He told you line readings — in other words, how to say the lines. He’d put emphasis on certain words that I wouldn’t have. It made everyone stilted.”*

Jan Merlin committed the age-old actor’s trick of saying he could ride a horse when called about the part, then getting to the set and proving he could not. This was his first Western. “Harmon was marvelous… He was kind to me. Anybody else would have lost their temper after all I’d done.”#

A Day Of Fury is unavailable on DVD in the States, though it’s received a Blu-ray release in Europe. It’s an excellent film, well outside the normal Universal Western. Highly recommended.

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SOURCES: * Westerns Women by Boyd Magers; # Universal-International Westerns, 1947-1963 by Gene Blottner (McFarland);

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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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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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Rails Into Laramie TC

Thanks to everyone who entered the 50s Western Matte Painting Contest. Unfortunately, there was no winner.

The image (seen below) was from Rails Into Laramie (1954), a good Universal-International Western directed by Jesse Hibbs. As is typical of films from this period, there is no credit of any kind for the matte work.

If you get a chance to see Rails Into Laramie, I recommend it. James H. Griffith, one of my favorite character actors, has a good-sized part — and John Payne was on a real roll in the mid-50s.

Of all the entries I received, John Knight came closest. He was pretty sure it was a Universal-International picture.

Matte Painting

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If you don’t have these, consider this essential. If you do, it’s a good way to free up some shelf space. Universal has packaged 10 previously-released Westerns — including a couple only available on DVD-R — in a snazzy package. You get:

When The Daltons Rode (1940) George Marshall directs. Randolph Scott leads an incredible cast — Kay Francis, Brian Donlevy, Broderick Crawford, Andy Devine, George Bancroft, Edgar Buchanan. I prefer Scott with more age on him, but this picture has do much action, you don’t have time to care.

Texas Rangers Ride Again (1940) A 67-minute Paramount Western — a sequel to their Texas Rangers (1936) — starring Ellen Drew, John Howard, Broderick Crawford and Anthony Quinn.

The Spoilers (1942) John Wayne and Randolph Scott in the same movie. (Yet some people still wonder if there’s a higher power.) Marlene Dietrich and Harry Carey are in it, too. The climactic saloon brawl is terrific.

The Virginian (1946) Joel McCrea is stunning Technicolor. Universal’s getting a lot of mileage out of this one — it’s also available on DVD-R from the Universal Vault Series and as part of the Joel McCrea Westerns Collection.

Albuquerque (1948) Ray Enright directs Randolph Scott again, this time in color and with Gabby Hayes, Scott Hayden  and Lon Chaney on hand.

Whispering Smith (1948) Any movie that has both William Demerest and Frank Faylen in its cast is worth seeking out.

Comanche Territory (1950) The great, and unsung, George Sherman directs Maureen O’Hara and Macdonald Carey.

Sierra (1950) Audie Murphy is joined by Wanda Hendryx, Burl Ives, Dean Jagger, Tony Curtis, Houseley Stevenson and James Arness. It was directed by Alfred E. Green, in Technicolor. Murphy and Hendryx were husband and wife at the time.

Kansas Raiders (1950) Audie Murphy again,backed by Brian Donlevy, Marguerite Chapman, Scott Brady, Tony Curtis and Richard Arlen. Ray Enright directed.

Tomahawk (1951) stars Van Helfin and Yvonne De Carlo and was directed by George Sherman. Also available as part of the Universal Vault Series, where this one film costs more than the set we’re looking at here. Do the math, order one today.

By the way, its release date is Tuesday, March 12. Thanks to Mike for the tip.

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To mark the anniversary of the siege of the Alamo, The Egyptian is running Budd Boetticher’s The Man From The Alamo (1953), starring Glenn Ford and Julie Adams.

It’s good. It’s in 35mm. And Miss Adams will be in attendance.

Saturday, February 23, 7:30PM
The Egyptian Theatre
6712 Hollywood Boulevard 
Hollywood, CA 90028

 

 

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Directed by James Neilson
Produced by Aaron Rosenberg
Screenplay by Borden Chase
Based on a story by Norman A. Fox
Director Of Photography: William Daniels, ASC
Music composed and conducted by Dimitri Tiomkin
Film Editor: Sherman Todd, ACE

CAST: James Stewart (Grant McLaine), Audie Murphy (The Utica Kid), Dan Duryea (Whitey Harbin), Dianne Foster (Charlotte Drew), Elaine Stewart (Verna Kimball), Brandon de Wilde (Joey Adams), Jay C. Flippen (Ben Kimball), Herbert Anderson (Will Renner), Robert J. Wilke (Concho), Hugh Beaumont (Jeff Kurth), Jack Elam (Shotgun), Tommy Cook (Howdy Sladen), Paul Fix (Mr. Feeney), Olive Carey (Miss Vittles), James Flavin (Tim Riley), Donald Curtis (Jubilee), Ellen Corby (Mrs. Feeney), John Day (Latigo).

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Over the three-year life of this blog, few topics have generated the level of response as a recent post — nothing more than a few production photos, really — on Night Passage (1957). It’s a film with quite a history, and that history has affected its reputation to a large degree.

That history, in a nutshell. By the time Night Passage came around, James Stewart and Anthony Mann had collaborated on some of the greatest Westerns of all time (I’ll assume you know what those are). Stewart proposed Night Passage as their next film. And while there are numerous variations on how it came about (and which I will outline in my book if the film makes the cut), Mann did not end up directing the picture. That job went to James Neilson, a TV director and former still photographer making his feature debut on a very grand scale. (What a thankless task: there was no way this film wouldn’t be compared to the Mann-Stewart films.)

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Producer Aaron Rosenberg: “I think Jim had grown tired of playing the anti-hero — the man with hate in his heart and a rage that leads him to violence.”**

Grant McLaine (Stewart) is a former railroad trouble shooter reduced to playing the accordion for tips. He’s re-hired to escort the payroll to the track’s end — the workers are plenty tired of having their pay stolen by Whitey Harbin (Dan Duryea) and The Utica Kid (Audie Murphy). Along the way, Stewart comes into contact with a number of people from his past — including his brother, The Uttica Kid. To go much further might spoil some of the fun.

The story is pretty simple, but Borden Chase’s script feels a bit over-plotted. Every character seems to have some kind of history with the others, bringing up relationships that don’t really impact the story. Of course, throughout the picture, we’re awaiting the meeting between Stewart and Murphy — the advertising was built around it — and our patience is certainly rewarded. Their scenes together are terrific, with Stewart trying to save his little brother’s soul and Murphy torn between the two sides of his personality. It all concludes with a well-staged shootout at a deserted mine.

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The first film in Technirama — basically, VistaVision squeezed anamorphically to combine improved clarity and depth with the full Scope width — and shot around Durango, Colorado, Night Passage is a truly gorgeous thing to behold. William Daniels’ photography gives the picture a real epic feel, and avoids the tighter shots a TV director like Neilson tends to gravitate towards. It seems like the bulk of the film takes place outdoors, and the location work was grueling.

Dianne Foster: “That was a hard picture to do. We started in late autumn and were trying to get out by winter because snowfall would have changed the landscape, so we were on a tight schedule. We had trucks with oxygen masks and cots in them, set up like a mini-hospital… We would do a sequence and then get so winded and exhausted that we’d have to go lay down for a while, get some oxygen and then go back in and finish the scene… the schedule stretched from weeks into months, and in the end we still had to shoot some scenes with rear projection in the studio.”*

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Along with its grand scale, action sequences and startling location work, the performances really stand out in Night Passage. Stewart is as good as ever, though his part isn’t as troubled, or flashy, as in the Mann films. He’s at his best in the touching, pivotal scene with Audie Murphy. This may be the best performance of Murphy’s career. From his enjoyment in taunting Duryea to his powerful scene with Stewart, everything he does rings true. It’s a complex part and he nails it.

The way Dan Duryea plays Whitey is rather odd. The character is a bit under-developed, which may have led Duryea to play it broadly, and loudly — he screams every line. But his scenes with Murphy, as the Utica Kid needles Whitey, are tense and funny. Elaine Stewart and Dianne Foster don’t have much to do, but do it well.

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The supporting cast is terrific: Jay C. Flippen, Brandon de Wilde, Hugh Beaumont, Jack Elam, Robert J. Wilke, Paul Fix, Olive Carey and Ellen Corby. And Dimitri Tiomkin’s score is as excellent as you’d expect.

Night Passage delivers on everything it promises, and it’s time for it to come out from the sizable shadow created by its older brothers, the Mann-Stewart films. Kinda like the Utica Kid.

To promote Night Passage, Murphy made an appearance in Salt Lake City before its premiere on July 18, 1957, touching on his PTSD in a newspaper interview. Stewart hit the road for the picture as well, and he never worked with Anthony Mann again.

Suggested reading: the comments from my previous Night Passage post, along with the excellent write-ups on it at Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings and Riding The High Country.

SOURCES:
* Last Of The Cowboy Heroes by Robert Nott; ** Jimmy Stewart: The Truth Behind The Legend by Michael Munn.

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Night Passage red sized 1Night Passage (1957) is a film I’ve taken my time getting around to. It’s been years since I sat down and watched it, though I’ve looked at bits and pieces of the gorgeous transfer Universal cooked up for the DVD. (The Technirama would be incredible on Blu-ray.) William H. Daniels’ cinematography is some of the best widescreen outdoor stuff I’ve ever seen, but it doesn’t take much to make Durango, Colorado look good.

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One of the problems with Night Passage is that we don’t look at it as 50s Westerns fans. We come at it as Anthony Mann snobs, putting it (and its eventual director, James Neilson) down and speculating about what it could’ve been if he’d hung around long enough to direct it.

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But the truth is, anything with Jimmy Stewart going up against Dan Duryea is gonna be worthwhile. Add in Audie Murphy, not to mention Jack Elam, Dianne Foster, Elaine Stewart, Hugh Beaumont, Jay C. Flippen, Brandon de Wilde, Olive Carey and Paul Fix — how could it miss?

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I’ve been reading up on it — from it being the first use of Technirama to the various versions of why Mann left to Stewart being excited about the chance to play accordion in a film — and I’m eager to revisit it. Watch for a post on it soon.

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Don’t know if you’ve been naughty or nice, but one thing is certain: you people sure know your cowboy movies. Going through your responses for this year’s Want List, I was reminded of several films I’d forgotten. Thanks to everyone who played along.

The titles have been grouped by studio, according to their original release — independent productions such as The Hired Gun (1957) are with their distributor (MGM in this case). I’ve indicated the widescreen films (off the top of my head, not researched — sorry, it was really late).

20th Century-Fox
Canadian Pacific (1949)
Caribou Trail (1950)
The Gambler From Natchez (1954)
Pony Soldier (1952)
Sierra Baron (1958, Scope)
The Silver Whip (1953)

Allied Artists/Monogram
Arrow In The Dust (1954)
At Gunpoint (1955, Scope)
Bitter Creek (1954)
Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957, Scope)
Fargo (1952)
Jack Slade (1953)
Kansas Territory (1952)
Oregon Passage (1957, Scope)
The Rawhide Trail (1958)
The Tall Stranger (1957, Scope)
Wild Stallion (1952)

American International
Gunslinger (1956)

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Columbia
Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953)
Cripple Creek (1952)
Domino Kid (1957)
The Doolins Of Oklahoma (1949)
Face Of A Fugitive (1959)
Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956)
The Gunfighters (1947)
Gunman’s Walk (1958, Scope)
The Hard Man (1958)
Jack McCall, Desperado (1953)
Jesse James Vs. The Daltons (1954)
The Pathfinder (1953)
Reprisal! (1956)
Stage To Tucson (1950)
The Texas Rangers (1951)
The Walking Hills (1949)

MGM
Heaven With A Gun (1969)
The Hired Gun (1957, Scope)

Paramount
The Eagle And The Hawk (1950)
Flaming Feather
(1952)
Red Mountain (1951)

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Regal (all RegalScope)
Ambush At Cimarron Pass (1958)
Apache Warrior (1957)
Badlands Of Montana (1957)
Copper Sky (1957)
Frontier Gun (1958)
The Quiet Gun (1956)
Ride A Violent Mile (1957)
Showdown At Boot Hill (1958)

Republic
Brimstone (1949)
California Passage (1950)
Dakota Incident (1956)
Hellfire (1949)
Last Stagecoach West (1957, Naturama)
A Man Alone (1955)
Man Or Gun (1958, Naturama)
Ride The Man Down (1953)
The Road To Denver (1955)
Rock Island Trail (1950)
The Savage Horde (1950)
The Showdown (1950)
Stranger At My Door (1956)
Timberjack (1955)
Trail Of Robin Hood (uncut, 1950)
Woman They Almost Lynched (1953)

RKO
The Big Sky (1952)
Blood On The Moon (1948)
Great Day In The Morning (1956, SuperScope)
The Lusty Men (1952)
Run Of The Arrow (1957)
Treasure Of Poncho Villa (1955, SuperScope)

United Artists
Abilene Town (1946)
Beast Of Hollow Mountain (1956, Scope)
Gun Belt (1953)
Ride Out For Revenge (1957)

Destry

Universal (-International)
Apache Drums (1951)
Black Horse Canyon (1954)
Bronco Buster (1952)
A Day Of Fury (1956)
Day Of The Bad Man (1958, Scope)
Destry (1954)
Four Guns To The Border (1954)
Incident At Phantom Hill (1966, Scope)
Last Of The Fast Guns (1958, Scope)
The Lone Hand (1953)
The Man From Bitter Ridge (1955)
Man Without A Star (1955)
Money, Women And Guns (1958, Scope)
Rails Into Laramie (1954)
Raw Edge (1956)
Saddle Tramp (1950)
The Saga Of Hemp Brown (1959, Scope)
Showdown At Abilene (1956)
Slim Carter (1957)
The Spoilers (1956)
Stagecoach To Dancer’s Rock (1962)
Star In The Dust (1956)
Walk The Proud Land (1956, Scope)
The Yellow Mountain (1954)

Warner Bros.
The Big Land (1957, Scope)
The Bounty Hunter (1954)
Charge At Feather River (1953)
Drum Beat (1954, Scope)
Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1958)
South Of St. Louis (1949)
Sugarfoot (1951)

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