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Archive for the ‘Warner Bros.’ Category

Shootout Medicine Bend 36

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.

Shootout Medicine Bend 4

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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.

Strange Lady LC

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.

Strange Lady Andrews

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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MedBendGrp

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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Searchers screenng 1

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.

Searchers screenng 2

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Here’s a frame from Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (1960), a real landmark in French cinema’s New Wave. That’s about the last thing this blog is about, so let’s focus on the marquee, as Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg stroll past a theater running Budd Boetticher’s Westbound (1959) — and go inside to avoid the police.

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