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Archive for the ‘Warner Bros.’ Category

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Directed by Richard L. Bare
Produced by Richard Whorf
Written by John Tucker Battle and D.D. Beauchamp
Director Of Photography: Carl Guthrie, ASC
Art Director: Stanley Fleischer
Music by Roy Webb
Film Editior: Clarence Kolster, ACE

CAST: Randolph Scott (Capt. Buck Devlin), James Craig (Ep Clark), Angie Dickinson (Priscilla King), Dani Crayne (Nell Garrison), James Garner (Sgt. John Maitland), Gordon Jones (Pvt. Wilbur “Will” Clegg), Trevor Bardette (Sheriff Bob Massey), Don Beddoe (Mayor Sam Pelley), Myron Healey (Rafe Sanders), John Alderson (Clyde Walters), Harry Harvey, Sr. (Elam King), Robert Warwick (Brother Abraham).

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Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957) sticks out like a sore thumb in Randolph Scott’s filmography. It sits right in the middle of the Ranown cycle (coming between The Tall T and Decision At Sundown) — a cheap little black-and-white contract killer shot on the backlot in 19 days by a crew (and sometimes cast) more accustomed to TV than features. It’s known more today for the early work it gave Angie Dickinson and James Garner than for Scott’s participation.

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James Garner: “The movie couldn’t decide if it was a comedy or a drama, maybe because [director Richard L.] Bare had gotten his start directing the ‘Joe McDoakes’ comedy shorts in the 1940s.”

Bare made a name for himself in shorts like the McDoakes pictures, directed a few features, then really found his place in early TV. He directed episodes of both Cheyenne and Maverick (he discovered James Garner in a bar on Sunset), and would go on to direct everything from The Twilight Zone to Green Acres (over 150 episodes of that one).

Richard L. Bare: “I was glad to see that my few years in TV had not knocked me out of the box for feature assignments. It was a story of three ex-soldiers who dressed up like preachers to avenge the death of Scott’s brother.”

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The soldiers are Scott, a pre-Maverick James Garner and Gordon Jones, and their journey takes to them to the rather lawless prairie town of Medicine Bend. Ep Clark (James Craig) runs the town and quickly winds up in Randy’s sites.

Richard L. Bare: “We were shooting a scene that called for the three of them [Scott, Garner, Gordon Jones] to swim in a lake [on the WB backlot] and come to shore. Scott said to me, ‘I’m not going in that water.’ I said, ‘Randy, the other guys are going to do it.’ He said, ‘Not me, not in that filth.’ So what I did was put Scott’s double in the water, and in the foreground I put Scott out of view behind a huge log, and when I called action, a prop man dumped fresh water on Scott, and Garner, Jones and Scott’s double swam to shore and ran to the log, and Scott’s double disappeared behind the log and Scott, all wet, popped up. And it worked just fine.”

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It’s a bit convoluted and goofy, and often played for humor. The action scenes are well done, and the film has the look and feel of a longer-than-usual Warner Bros. TV Western, which works just fine. Garner’s inexperience shows (“…my acting still wasn’t very good”). He lacks that supreme cool that came later. Angie Dickinson was two years away from Rio Bravo (1959), and comparing the two films, it’s amazing how much she developed as an actress during that time. (How much of that was Hawks’ doing?) Randolph Scott is, of course, Randolph Scott, and he handles the lighter, humorous stuff with ease. As he masquerades as a Quaker, his delivery makes the most of each line of dialogue. It’s fun to be in on his ruse.

Dickinson, Scott, Crayne - Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend

Warner Archive has given Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend a level of respect it’s probably never received before. It looks great, framed to the proper 1.85, with the contrast dialed-in just right. The audio’s got plenty of punch, letting Roy Webb’s score really shine. You might come to this one with high curiosity and low expectations. My advice: enjoy it for what it is. Recommended.

SOURCES: The Garner Files: A Memoir by James Garner and Jon Winokur; Confessions Of A Hollywood Director by Richard L. Bare; Last Of The Cowboy Heroes by Robert Nott

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Directed by Richard L. Bare
CAST: Randolph Scott, James Craig, Angie Dickinson, Dani Crayne, James Garner, Gordon Jones

This is one we’ve all been waiting for and it’s on its way from Warner Archive: Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957), a fairly obscure Randolph Scott movie that gave early roles to Angie Dickinson and James Garner. There’s a big connection between this film and Warner Bros.’ Cheyenne and Maverick TV series. Director Richard L. Bare directed episodes of each, Garner and Dickinson appeared in both (Garner, or course, was a lead on Maverick), and DP Carl Guthrie shot some of each show. In fact, being in black and white, Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend has the feel of a Warner Bros. TV Western. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

TCM ran this recently as part of their tribute to James Garner (it was his first Western feature), and it’s a pretty solid Western with an oddball touch here and there. Warner Bros. must not have seen much promise in it; a Scott Western hadn’t been shot in black and white since 1949. But it looks good, thanks to Carl Guthrie, who shot a number of excellent late-50s Westerns. His color work on Quantez (also 1957) is terrific.

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Raton Pass HS

Directed by Edwin L. Marin
Starring Dennis Morgan, Patricia Neal, Steve Cochran, Scott Forbes, Dorothy Hart

The last seven films Edwin L. Marin directed were Westerns. All but one starred Randolph Scott. That non-Scott film is Raton Pass (1951), and he died shortly after its release.

It’s a fairly heavily-plotted story of a fight over a ranch, starring Dennis Morgan and Steve Cochran, with strong women’s roles for Patricia Neal and Dorothy Hart. What’s interesting here is that it’s the rancher’s wife trying to take things over.

Raton Pass is coming from Warner Archive in September. It’s interesting to note that Patricia Neal was put on suspension by WB for refusing to appear in one of the Marin/Scott pictures I mentioned previously, Sugarfoot (1951).

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Produced and Directed by Mervyn LeRoy
Screenplay by Frank Butler
Cinematography by Harold Rosson
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin

CAST: Greer Garson (Dr. Julia Winslow Garth), Dana Andrews (Dr. Rourke O’Brien), Cameron Mitchell (Lt. David Garth), Lois Smith (Spurs O’Brien), Walter Hampden (Father Gabriel Mendoza), Pedro Gonzales Gonzales (Trooper Martinez Martinez), Robert J. Wilke (Karg)

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Strange Lady In Town (1955) is, well, a strange lady in town. An odd mixture of melodrama, romance, feminism and all the usual Western riding and shooting stuff, I didn’t know what to make of it at first. Watched it a second time a couple days later and decided I really did like it. Somehow it all seems to come together.

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While the picture itself is certainly interesting, and we’ll get to that in a bit, the story of its production has even more melodrama. Greer Garson had left MGM for Warner Bros. At a WB dinner party she told writer Frank Butler about her love of the Santa Fe area, and Butler put together a story of 1880 Santa Fe perfectly tailored for Garson.

Warner Bros. started construction of 34 new sets around Old Tucson and got to work on casting the picture. Dana Andrews was signed, along with Cameron Mitchell and Lois Smith (in a part Natalie Wood had tried out for). Smith had just appeared in East Of Eden (1954). Shooting began in August of 1954 in Old Tucson, with snakes having to be evicted from the sets each morning and temperatures climbing into the hundreds every afternoon. Then there were some health issues.

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Mervyn LeRoy (seen above with Greer Garson): “In those days, Andrews had a drinking problem… that made my life difficult… Possibly more serious was Greer Garson’s health. She isn’t the complaining sort, so when she said she felt poorly, I knew she must have felt rotten. We called the company doctor, and he got [four] doctors from the Tucson clinic for consultation. It was unanimous; she had appendicitis. The doctors agreed she really should have the appendectomy immediately. ‘No,’ Greer said, with her red-headed stubbornness. ‘I can’t do it now. There is an entire company depending on me. They’d have to shut down for a few weeks. It wouldn’t be fair to them.’ That’s what they used to call a trouper. Every night, they piled bags of ice on her abdomen. Every day, they fed her pills and the nurse was there, sticking a thermometer in her mouth between every scene.”

Back in Hollywood, Jack Warner was having a fit, as the picture went behind schedule and over budget. Finishing their Tucson work, the cast and crew headed back to California. In October, Greer Garson was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. Production was shut down for 27 days. During that time LeRoy filled in for an ailing/bingeing John Ford on Mister Roberts (1955).

Harry Carey, Jr.: “I don’t think he had an inkling of what Mister Roberts was, but he took over. In fact, he shares directorial credit with Ford.”

When Strange Lady In Town resumed production on Stage Two at Warner Bros., LeRoy was under pressure to get it done. Scenes taking place in Boston were struck to save time and money. The picture finally wrapped, and was previewed in February 1955. It premiered in Austin, Texas, on April 12. Greer Garson hit the road for the film, something she’d never done before. It seems to have worked. Strange Lady In Town earned back its $3 million cost and turned a healthy profit.

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Garson plays a doctor from Boston who, tired of being looked down on for being a woman, heads to Santa Fe in 1880 to be near her brother (Cameron Mitchell), a lieutenant in the cavalry. She quickly butts heads with the local doctor (Dana Andrews) over how to practice medicine—and about everything else. The picture packs in everything from glaucoma to bank robbery to domestic violence to Billy The Kid (Nick Adams)—and somehow it all works.

Dana Andrews, drunk or sober, is very good here. His extended fistfight with Robert J. Wilke is one of the best scenes in the film. This may be Wilke’s slimiest villain of them all, which is really saying something. Lois Smith is excellent; so is Cameron Mitchell (he never got his due). Nick Adams doesn’t have enough screen time to make much of an impression. He’d be a lot better in The Last Wagon (1956) and wonderful in Fury At Showdown (1957). Of course, this is Greer Garson’s movie, and she carries it with ease.

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Warner Archive has done it again, giving us an early CinemaScope picture exactly the way it ought to be seen: widescreen with its stereo intact. Old Tucson looks terrific (even in WarnerColor) and Dimitri Tiomkin’s score is full and rich. Strange Lady In Town is an offbeat Western, for sure. Maybe it’s not for all tastes. And though it took me a while to wrap my head around it, I came away really liking it.

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Sources: A Rose For Mrs. Miniver: The Life Of Greer Garson by Michael Troyan; Take One by Mervyn LeRoy; Company Of Heroes: My Life As An Actor In The John Ford Stock Company by Harry Carey, Jr.

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As part of an all-day tribute to James Garner on Monday, July 28 (at 8AM ET), TCM is running a hard-to-find Randolph Scott Western, Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957). Directed by Richard Bare, it stands as Garner’s only 50s Western — and a rather oddball entry in Scott’s final decade as a Western star. It’s also noteworthy as one of Angie Dickinson’s first films. (They’re not listing this as being letterboxed, but we’ll manage.)

Warner Archive, what’s holding this one up?

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Directed by Ray Enright
Starring Joel McCrea, Alexis Smith, Zachary Scott, Dorothy Malone, Douglas Kennedy, Alan Hale, Victor Jory, Bob Steele, Art Smith, Monte Blue.

South Of St. Louis (1949), a rock-solid Joe McCrea picture, is due September 23rd from Olive Films on both DVD and Blu-ray. With gorgeous Technicolor from the great Karl Freund and a terrific score by Max Steiner, this remake of the James Cagney gangster picture The Roaring Twenties (1939) is a winner all the way. Released the same year as McCrea’s Colorado Territory, and just before Saddle Tramp and Stars In My Crown (both 1950), this is Joel McCrea at the top of his game.

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The climactic scene, with the bells on the three partners’ spurs jingling as they blast away, has to be one of the most satisfying wrap-ups in all of Westerns. Ray Enright made plenty of good Westerns in the 40s and 50s. Don’t want to start a big debate (or maybe I do), but I’d hold this one up as his best. Can’t wait for September!

Thanks for the tip, Laura!

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Short notice, for sure. But certainly worth your while. And I’d be wasting my time to think I needed to tell you how great this film is.

Click on either image for ticket information.

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