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.
Archive for the ‘Warner Bros.’ Category
Gregory Peck was loaned out to Warner Bros. for Only The Valiant (1951), a picture produced by James Cagney’s brother William and directed by Gordon Douglas — and coming on DVD and Blu-ray from Olive Films in August.
The combination of Gordon Douglas and Ward Bond is hard to resist, but I’ve always had a hard time with this film — along with anything else the tragic Barbara Payton appeared in. To me, she personifies the dark side of Hollywood, and it’s hard to disconnect her sad story from the image on the screen.
The cast also includes Gig Young, Lon Chaney, Michael Ansara and John Doucette. It’s based on a book by Charles Marquis Warren. And though Gregory Peck never missed a chance to knock the film (granted, it’s a long way from 1950′s The Gunfighter), it’s a pretty solid early-50s cavalry picture.
The old release from Lions Gate had to be one of the worst-looking DVDs ever released — almost as bad as the various dollar-store copies of One-Eyed Jacks (1961) I’ve wasted my money on. I’m sure we can count on Olive Films to give us something worth looking at.
Eric Hilliard “Ricky” Nelson
(May 8, 1940 – December 31, 1985)
Ricky Nelson only made one Western, but what a Western he made — Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959). His birthday seems like a good excuse to post this rather odd behind-the-scenes photo from my favorite cowboy movie.
Incidentally, Ricky’s older brother Dave also made a great Western in ’59, Andre de Toth’s Day Of The Outlaw.
Directed by Andre de Toth
Screen Play by Winston Miller
From a story by Winston Miller and Finlay McDermid
Director of Photography: Edwin DuPar, ASC
Music by David Buttolph
Film Editor: Clarence Kolster, ACE
CAST: Randolph Scott (Jim Kipp/James Collins), Dolores Dorn (Julie Spencer), Marie Windsor (Alice Williams), Howard Petrie (Sheriff Brand), Harry Antrim (Dr. R.L. Spencer), Robert Keys (George Williams), Ernest Borgnine (Bill Rachin), Dubb Taylor (Eli Danvers), Tyler MacDuff (Vance Edwards), Archie Twitchell (Harrison), Paul Picerni, Phil Chambers, Mary Lou Holloway.
Randolph Scott made six films with director Andre de Toth — two for Columbia, four for Warner Bros. The first two, Man In The Saddle (1951) and Carson City (1952) are quite good. But by the time they got to The Bounty Hunter (1954), their sixth collaboration, a noticeable fatigue was beginning to set in.
It’s a shame because the story’s a good one (Winston Miller also wrote Ford’s My Darling Clementine), with Scott a notorious bounty hunter recruited by the Pinkerton Agency to find some murderous train robbers and recover their loot. Scott’s a cold, hard, driven man here — a prototype for his later work with Budd Boetticher. He rides into Twin Forks and starts nosing around, putting the entire town on edge — an idea we’d see again with Audie Murphy in No Name On The Bullet (1959). Red herrings come fast and furious, making it impossible to figure out who the bandits are, which builds tension as it heads toward a satisfying end.
De Toth’s action scenes in The Bounty Hunter are uninspired, surprising since action’s usually his strong suit.
De Toth: “I had the feeling that I was at a dead end. There was less and less left in me to give.”*
There’s less cutting, slower pacing, clumsy staging and a noticeable sloppiness to the action sequences. For instance, the 3-D effect when Randy shoots off the the sheriff’s hat (sending it sailing, lazily, toward the camera) is not only silly, but poorly done. It would never have made the cut in, say, Carson City.
De Toth was one of the best of the stereoscopic directors, if not the best — he also directed House Of Wax and Scott’s The Stranger Wore A Gun (both 1953). He was blind in one eye and therefore unable to see depth. Shot in the summer of 1953, The Bounty Hunter wasn’t released until September 1954. By then, the 3-D craze has peaked and was on its way out, so there were no 3-D engagements. Interestingly, the transfer I saw still contained 3-D’s necessary intermission card.
As usual, Scott is joined by an able cast. Dolores Dorn has a good part as the good girl, and Marie Windsor is typically wonderful as the bad one.
Marie Windsor: “Randolph Scott was such a gentleman, and as for Ernest Borgnine, I sure like that man—he’s a good actor, too!”**
Borgnine is one of the townspeople under suspicion by Scott (and us), along with Dub Taylor (listed as “Dubb” in the credits) and Howard Petrie. They’re every bit as good here as you’d expect.
While it’s easy to find fault with The Bounty Hunter, it’s impossible for me to be completely objective about it. After all, it’s a 50s Western starring my favorite actor and actress: Randolph Scott and Marie Windsor. The Scott-Boetticher pictures (the Ranown Cycle) showed us just what a Randolph Scott movie could be, and films like The Bounty Hunter — solid, entertaining medium-budget Westerns — suffer by comparison today. There can only be one Seven Men From Now (1956). The intriguing story and Scott’s early attempt at an anti-hero make The Bounty Hunter maybe more interesting than good — but like any chance to spend 75 minutes or so in the company of Scott, Windsor or de Toth, well worth your time.
The Bounty Hunter is unavailable on DVD or Blu-ray in the States. It falls under the jurisdiction of Warner Archive. I contacted them about it through their Facebook page and was told it’s on hold, as they consider a 3-D Blu-ray release.
SOURCES: * De Toth On De Toth by Andre de Toth and Anthony Slide; ** an interview appearing on Western Clippings,
Was looking through some old issues of Variety (while working on my One-Eyed Jacks book) and came across something interesting: there was a time when Yellowstone Kelly (1959) was to star Charlton Heston and Ricky Nelson! Of course, those parts went to Clint Walker and Ed Byrnes (seen here).
My favorite Western, Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959), is coming to The Historic Texas Theater in Dallas — and Angie Dickinson’s coming along with it.
It’s part of TCM’s Road To Hollywood — a series of free screenings leading up to the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood.
Rio Bravo (1959)
Hosted by Ben Mankiewicz, with special guest Angie Dickinson
The Historic Texas Theater, Dallas, TX
Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 7:30 (CT), Tickets available Feb. 8.
If my wonderful grandparents from Strawn, TX, Zelma and Flint McCullough, were still with us, it’d be time to pay them a visit!
Posted in 20th Century-Fox, Columbia, DVD reviews, releases, TV, etc., Lippert/Regal, MGM, Monogram/Allied Artists, Olive Films, Republic, RKO, United Artists, Universal (-International), Warner Bros. on December 25, 2012 | 22 Comments »
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).
Canadian Pacific (1949)
Caribou Trail (1950)
The Gambler From Natchez (1954)
Pony Soldier (1952)
Sierra Baron (1958, Scope)
The Silver Whip (1953)
Arrow In The Dust (1954)
At Gunpoint (1955, Scope)
Bitter Creek (1954)
Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957, Scope)
Jack Slade (1953)
Kansas Territory (1952)
Oregon Passage (1957, Scope)
The Rawhide Trail (1958)
The Tall Stranger (1957, Scope)
Wild Stallion (1952)
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)
Stage To Tucson (1950)
The Texas Rangers (1951)
The Walking Hills (1949)
Heaven With A Gun (1969)
The Hired Gun (1957, Scope)
The Eagle And The Hawk (1950)
Flaming Feather (1952)
Red Mountain (1951)
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)
California Passage (1950)
Dakota Incident (1956)
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)
Trail Of Robin Hood (uncut, 1950)
Woman They Almost Lynched (1953)
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)
Abilene Town (1946)
Beast Of Hollow Mountain (1956, Scope)
Gun Belt (1953)
Ride Out For Revenge (1957)
Apache Drums (1951)
Black Horse Canyon (1954)
Bronco Buster (1952)
A Day Of Fury (1956)
Day Of The Bad Man (1958, Scope)
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)
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)
Warner Archive has announced that it will soon be offering Blu-rays. These will not be MOD discs, and will be pressed in limited quantities.
In other words, if something you like comes out, get it — who knows how long inventory will last. (This was the key to collecting laserdiscs back in the day.)
No idea how they’ll decide which titles get the HD treatment — the ones listed are not previous Warner Archive releases. The Command (1954), the first CinemaScope Western, is a nice-looking Warner Archive title — and it’d be a swell Blu-ray.
My guess is that the hand and light meter belong to director of photography Bert Glennon.
Directed by Delmer Daves
Produced by Martin Jurow and Richard Shepherd
Screenplay by Wendell Mayes and Halsted Welles
From the novel by Dorothy M. Johnson
Director of photography: Ted McCord, ASC
Music by Max Steiner
Song: “The Hanging Tree” — Lyrics by Mack David, Music by Jerry Livingston,
Vocal by Marty Robbins
Film Editor: Owen Marks
CAST: Gary Cooper (Dr. Joseph Frail), Maria Schell (Elizabeth Mahler), Karl Malden (Frenchy), Ben Piazza (Rune), George C. Scott (Grubb), Karl Swenson (Mr. Flaunce), Virginia Gregg (Mrs. Flaunce), John Dierkes (Society Red).
All through college (1982-87), I worked in video stores. One of the films we were constantly asked for was The Hanging Tree (1959). When it finally showed up on VHS, everyone agreed that it was ratty-looking — but we were so excited to see it we didn’t care. As time went on and VHS passed the torch to DVD, The Hanging Tree started showing up on Want Lists all over again. You’d hear there were rights problems, and the material was in bad shape — along with the promise that sorting it out was a priority.
It took a while, but Warner Archive has come through with a nice-looking widescreen transfer that does justice to this worthy film (even if it’s more a sprucing-up than a true restoration). The Technicolor camerawork is well represented in both the interior and exterior scenes, with occasional variances in contrast the only complaint. Grain and a blemish here and there are welcome reminders that this is a film.
From its setting in the Montana gold camp of Skull Creek to its troubled, injured or downright degenerate cast of characters, there’s no other Western like The Hanging Tree. And that makes it a real treat waiting to be discovered or revisited.
By the late 50s, Gary Cooper had matured, much like Randolph Scott, to become the perfect Western lead. His Doc Frail is one of his most complex roles, a physician as handy with a pistol as he is with a scalpel who rides into Skull Creek hoping to escape a troubled past.
Maria Cooper, Gary’s daughter (in a New York Post interview): “He was very interested in this particular character because he was able to portray many facets. He was horrible, controlling and brutish yet he had this tremendously kind, mothering sense of caring for people. It’s not your simple black-and-white hero and it’s not your typical Western.”
Frail becomes involved with a young sluice-robber Rune (Ben Piazza) and an injured immigrant Elizabeth (Maria Schell), and rumors start to spread around the camp about his dark past and relationships with his houseguests. Frail’s secret, a “glory hole” gold strike and mob hysteria all come together for a fiery, violent climax.
Delmer Daves made some outstanding Westerns in the Fifties, with 3:10 To Yuma (1957) and The Hanging Tree maybe the best (bet that’s gonna launch a thread). Both use terrific performances from their leads to create a real sense of unease. In Yuma, we’re somehow charmed by Glenn Ford’s slimy villain, while here we don’t know what to make of Cooper’s compassion for his patients and his conflicting violent side.
Karl Malden as the dirtbag prospector Frenchy and Ben Piazza as Rune are excellent. (Incidentally, Malden directed some scenes when Daves became ill.) George C. Scott makes his debut as Grubb, a drunken fire-and-brimestone preacher. Maria Schell is wonderful and completely believable as the beautiful, hard-working Elizabeth. Though this is Cooper’s film from its fade-in to fade-out, Schell deserves credit for much of its success — and it’s no wonder this is a Western women seem to really respond to. (Those video store requests I mentioned often came from women.)
Ted McCord was a master at outdoor cinematography (The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre), and he works wonders with the Washington locations (doubling as Montana). Daves is often criticized for his fondness for crane shots, but they work well here — sometimes going from sweeping mountains vistas to tighter shots of the scruffy tent city without a cut. The early scenes, with Cooper looking down on the makeshift town, are really effective. Max Steiner provides a score that complements the more melodramatic scenes without pushing them over the top. And Marty Robbins’ title song provides the perfect punctuation in the final scene (the song has been added to the CD of his classic album Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs).
The Hanging Tree is a key Western of the 50s, one that’s been out of circulation far too long. This DVD, which adds a trailer as a bonus feature, is further proof of the real value of the Warner Archive (and similar programs) to collectors like us.