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Archive for the ‘William Elliott’ Category

last bandit coming

This is a bit of a cheat. Came across this while researching something else and had to use it.

A post on The Last Bandit (1949) IS in the works, however.

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Hellfire TC

So far, the great cinematographer Jack A. Marta has hardly been mentioned here. I’m ashamed and with today’s Wild Bill Wednesday, I’m taking care of it. So many outstanding movies. What Price Glory (1926). The Night Riders (1939). Dark Command (1940). Flying Tigers (1942). Hellfire (1949). Trigger, Jr. (1950). Spoilers Of The Plains (1951). The Last Command (1955). The Bonnie Parker Story (1958). Cat Ballou (1965). Duel (1971).

On that last one, Steven Spielberg’s breakthrough TV movie Duel, Marta’s experience shooting outdoors in the desert helped get the thing completed on its 10-day schedule.

Steven Spielberg (from the excellent book Steven Spielberg And Duel: The Making Of A Film Career): “Jack was a sweetheart. He was just a kind, gentle soul who you know had never worked that fast in his entire career; none of us had, and yet there was nothing he didn’t do or couldn’t do, and he really enjoyed himself.”

No offense to Mr. Spielberg, but I have a feeling Duel‘s 10-day shoot, though exhausting, was probably nothing new for Marta, who’d done beautiful work on Republic’s tight schedules, in both black and white and Trucolor, and worked on plenty of television shows like Route 66 and Batman.

When Elliott co-produced Hellfire (below) for Republic release, a film he saw as a very special project (and considered his best film), Jack Marta was the director of photography. Was he randomly assigned the job by Republic, or did Elliott request him after working together on The Gallant Legion (1948) and the Trucolor The Last Bandit (1949)? (I’m getting pretty good at finding new ways to sneak Hellfire into this blog.)

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bill-elliott_vigilante-terror

Directed by Lewis Collins
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Written by Sid Theil
Photographed by Ernest Miller, ASC
Film Editor: Sam Fields, ACE
Music by Raoul Kraushaar

CAST: Wild Bill Elliott (Tack Hamlin), Mary Ellen Kay (Lucy Taylor), Robert Bray (Gene Smith), Stanford Jolley (Matt Taylor), Henry Rowland (Mayor Winch), Myron Healey (Brett), George Wallace (Brewer), Fuzzy Knight (Strummer), Zon Murray (Bill), Richard Avonde (Artie), Michael Colgan (Jamison), Denver Pyle (Sperry), Lee Roberts (Wilson), John James (Jed Hamlin).

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Things have gotten so bad that the citizens of Pinetop have formed a vigilante committee to maintain order, but the Brewer gang continues to operate. (And the vigilantes seem almost as bad as the outlaws.) Tack Hamlin (Wild Bill Elliott) comes to town and is soon recruited for sheriff, and he gets right to work, trying to stop both the bandits and the masked vigilantes. Turns out that Brett (Myron Healey), who owns the saloon, leads both the outlaws and the vigilantes, planting false evidence to avoid suspicion.

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As far as I can see, this town is full of bad shots and bluster.”
— Wild Bill Elliott

This is a good entry in the series of Westerns Elliott made for Monogram/Allied Artists near the end of his career. By this point, his “peaceable man” persona was well established, and he goes about his business with his typical cool determination. The sequence about halfway through the picture, as Elliott the newly-appointed sheriff cleans up the town, is terrific. Later, the vigilantes drag Elliott and Fuzzy Knight to the hanging tree, making for a very tense scene that illustrates just how tough the B Western became in its final years. What’s more, in the climax, one of the Brewer gang is shot in the face!

vigilante

Fuzzy Knight is great as Elliott’s old friend and deputy. They have a good chemistry together. Mary Ellen Kay does well with a pretty limited part, and makes quite an impression toward the end when she picks up a gun. The badguys, from Myron Healey to George Wallace to Denver Pyle, have locked horns with Elliott before. Same thing behind the camera, from the director (Lewis Collins) to the writer (Sid Theil) to the editor (Sam Fields) and on down the line. Of course, we all know the familiar Iverson and Corriganville locations.

Vigilante Terror is not available on DVD, though it’s one Warner Archive will probably get around to one of these days (that’s a hint, Matt). Watch for it.

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Screen shot 2014-05-13 at 10_27_18 PM

Wish I knew more about this photo. Where, and when, it was taken. What the story is behind it. (Also wish I had a higher-resolution version of it.)

It’s widely known that Bill Elliott patterned much of his “peaceable man” persona after his idol, the great silent cowboy star William S. Hart. Hart passed away in 1946, which is the only way I know to date this. To meet him must’ve been a real thrill for Wild Bill. If anybody knows more about this, please let me know. (I’ll put my wife and 50s Westerns staff researcher Jennifer on the case. If she digs something up, we’ll revisit this.)

It takes someone like Hart to make a sweater vest look cool.

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Elliott rodeo photo

Please forgive the quality of this photo. It’s William Elliott riding with kids in a Lubbock rodeo, August 1950. The news article mentions The Showdown (1950) as his latest picture.

wray-wildbill sized

Here’s Wild Bill in the early 50s with Link Wray and his Ray Men. Link (left) is the genius behind hugely-influential instrumental classics like “Rumble” and “Jack The Ripper.” It’s weird to see two of my heroes in the same picture like this. By the way, Link was from Dunn, North Carolina, which has finally organized a music festival in his honor.

Screen shot 2014-02-24 at 12.38.58 AM

Elliott gets ready for a take. To me, this looks like one of the later, bigger-budgeted Republics.

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Homesteaders LC

Directed by Lewis Collins
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Written by Sid Theil and Milton Raison
Photographed by Ernest Miller, ASC
Film Editor: Sam Fields, ACE
Music by Raoul Kraushaar

CAST: Wild Bill Elliott (Mace Corbin), Robert Lowry (Clyde Moss), Emmett Lynn (Grimer), George Wallace (Mead), Buss Henry (Charlie), Stanley Price (Van), Rick Vallin (Slim), William Fawcett (Hector), James Seay (John Kroger), Tom Monroe (Jake), Barbara Allen (Jenny Moss), Ray Walker (Col. Peterson).

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Hauling unstable dynamite (that’s turned to nitroglycerine) is a surprisingly common plot device. There’s Wages Of Fear (1953), of course, and Sorcerer (1977), one of my all-time favorite films. There’s a B-movie version, Violent Road (1958), that replaces nitro with rocket fuel, even an episode of Little House On The Prairie. In The Homesteaders (1953), one of William Elliott’s late-period Westerns from Allied Artists, Wild Bill gets his shot at transporting the temperamental stuff from Point A to Point B in one piece. To complicate matters, his crew is made up of men just released from an Army jail and the route runs right through Indian territory.

$_57 (1)

For my money, you can’t beat Elliott in this period. From his two-gun rig to his pipe to his off-the-rack Levi’s, there’s a coolness about him that really carries these films. And he certainly carries this one. The script isn’t as tight as some of the others, borrowing some of its structure from the first film in the series, The Longhorn (1950). Lewis Collins’ direction isn’t as assured as usual — and the pacing, typically so lean and efficient, seems a bit off. None of this is really a complaint, just an observation, and all of these films are highly recommended. Just as it was dying, the B Series Western hit a real peak.

The supporting cast, however, is right on the mark. Emmett Lynn is perfect as the grizzled old-timer who helps Elliott guide the wagons to their destination. He keeps the character just grounded enough. George Wallace, who’d been Commando Cody in Republic’s Radar Men From The Moon the year before, is sufficiently hateful as one of the prisoners-turned-trail hands. And James Seay is fine as the crook who wants Elliott’s dynamite for his own purposes.

Homesteaders still

Warner Archive’s Wild Bill Elliott Western Double Feature gives us The Homesteaders paired with Fargo (1952). The transfer is strong, with just a hint of dirt and dust. (I like a little of that every so often.) Let’s hope we see further sets in the near future (with the last few titles in their proper 1.85). They call these DVDs on-demand, so let’s demand ‘em!

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wildbillelliot15-20 sized

Tim Holt Tuesdays have been a lot of fun, and people seem to like ‘em, so I’m adding Wild Bill Wednesdays to the week. Like the Holt day, it’s a not-quite-weekly way to call attention to William “Wild Bill” Elliott, a cowboy star who doesn’t get his due. (I realize I’m preaching to the choir here.) His later Westerns, the ones that followed the Red Ryder series, are particularly strong, and they’re what I’ll focus on (approximately 1946-54). Elliott’s career was a long one. He was a working character actor for years (often uncredited) before becoming a top-billed cowboy star, so I’ll be dealing with a tiny sliver of his filmography.

Of course, like most Republic pictures, Elliott’s are absent on DVD or Blu-ray. (Dear Olive Films: if you only knew how badly I want a Blu-ray of Hellfire.) The old VHS copies are decent-looking if you want to search ‘em out, and some of them turn up on The Westerns Channel or Netflix from time to time. (1954’s Bitter Creek is scheduled for TCM in June.)

But if you look beyond the Republics, the outlook’s brighter. Warner Archive’s given us a couple of the Monogram/Allied Artists Westerns (Fargo and The Homesteaders), and VCI put out the first of that series, The Longhorn (1951). Then there’s that cool detective series.

We’ll have a real post on Elliott next Wednesday.

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