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Archive for the ‘William Elliott’ Category

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Written and Directed by Daniel B. Ullman
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Director of Photography: Ellsworth Fredricks, ASC
Music by Marlin Skiles
Jazz Sequences by Shorty Rogers And His Giants
Supervising Film Editor: Lester A. Sansom
Film Editor: William Austin, ACE
Dialogue Supervisor: Sam Peckinpah

CAST: Bill Elliott (Lt. Andy Flynn), Keith Larsen (Ralph Wyatt), Helene Stanley (Connie Wyatt), Paul Picerni (Norman Roper), Jack Kruschen (Lloyd Lavalle), Elaine Riley (Gloria), Robert Bice (Sgt. Colombo), Rick Vallin (Deputy Clark), George Eldredge (Major), Regina Gleason (Mrs. Roper), Rankin Mansfield (Doctor), Mort Mills (Photographer).

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The Warner Archive two-disc set Bill Elliot Detective Mysteries created a good deal of excitement around here when it was announced a few weeks ago. Now that it’s arrived, I’m even more stoked about it.

Briefly, the story behind these films goes like this: cowboy star “Wild Bill” Elliott traded his Colt .45s for a snub-nosed .38, making five tough little detective pictures for Allied Artists to end his Hollywood career. Dial Red O (1955) is the first.

Keith Larsen (Ralph Wyatt), a troubled veteran, escapes a VA hospital to visit his wife on the day their divorce becomes final. Elliott sets out to find him, and when the new ex-wife (Helene Stanley) turns up dead, Larsen is quickly tagged as the top suspect. That’s as much of Dial Red O as you’ll get out of me. I don’t want to spoil what is a cool little crime picture, running a lean, mean 64 minutes.

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Elliott is cool as a cucumber as Lt. Andy Flynn of the LA Sheriff’s Department, methodically going about his police work smoking his pipe. The brim of his fedora seems a little large, a subtle reminder of his cowboy persona. (His name would become Andy Doyle for the rest of the series, since there was a real Andy Flynn working in LA law enforcement.) Ralph Wyatt is good as the veteran and Jack Kruschen is fun as the ex-wife’s somewhat beatnik neighbor. Sam Peckinpah, who was working as dialogue supervisor, appears as a short-order cook.

urlThis cheap little cop movie looks like a million bucks, thanks to the folks at Warner Archive (and to the craftsmanship of DP Ellsworth Fredricks and his crew). It’s even given the proper 1.85 widescreen framing. The other four films in the set look just as good.

It’s a real shame these films are largely seen as a curio — “Hey look, Wild Bill’s a policeman!” — when they’re tough little movies with plenty to recommend them. And I recommend them highly indeed.

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Bill Elliott-Fargo

Directed by Lewis Collins
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Story and Screenplay by Jack DeWitt and Joseph Poland
Director of Photography: Ernest Miller, ASC
Music by Raoul Kraushaar
Film Editor: Sam Fields, ACE

CAST: Bill Elliott (Bill Martin), Myron Healey (Red Olson), Phyllis Coates (Kathy MacKenzie), Fuzzy Knight (Ted Sloan), Arthur Space (Austin), Jack Ingram (Rancher MacKenzie), Robert Wilke (Link), Terry Frost (Alvord), Robert Bray (Ed Murdock), Denver Pyle (Carey), Tim Ryan (Sam), Florence Lake (Maggie), Stanley Andrews (Judge Bruce), Richard Reeves (Bartender), Eugene Roth (Blacksmith).

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Warner Archive’s Will Bill Elliott Double Feature is hopefully the first of a series that will eventually put all 11 of these excellent “last-gasp” B Westerns* in our hot little hands. It gives us Fargo (1952) and The Homesteaders (1953). (The first picture in the series, The Longhorn (1951), has been available for a while from VCI.)

The last of the Elliotts to bear the Monogram logo, Fargo tosses a few curveballs into the usual ranchers vs. settlers tale. Bill Martin (Elliott) rides into Fargo to settle his brother’s estate and ends up trying to carry his brother’s work — advocating the use of barbed wire to fence off the range. A gang of thugs, lead by Red Olson (Healy) are determined to keep the range undivided. There’s a tough, adult spin on the usual B Western here, typical of series Westerns from this period. For instance, an early saloon brawl is particularly brutal, and the badguys do something to Elliott about halfway through that”ll make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. (No spoilers here, folks.) And there’s a Rube Goldberg-ish barbed wire machine that I found fascinating. 

Fargo LC detail

One of the real joys of 50s Westerns is the cast, and here we get the chance to spend time with folks like Elliott, Phyllis Coates, Fuzzy Knight, Jack Ingram, Denver Pyle and Robert Wilke. Of course, Myron Healey is every bit as despicable as you’d hope. But what I really appreciated about Fargo was its excellent use of the Iverson Ranch. Many of the familiar rock formations we know and love pop up over the course of its 69 minutes.

Warner Archive makes sure Fargo looks good, not eye-popping, but far better than you’d expect a Monogram cowboy movie to look in 2014. Originally released in sepia tone, we get it black and white, which is fine. The audio’s strong. Judging from the comments that have come in about these Elliott pictures, I’m not the only one happy with this twin-bill DVD — and I’m not alone in wanting the rest of the series.

• Thanks to John for the phrase “last-gasp B Westerns.”

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This is a big one, folks. After making his B Western, The Forty-Niners (1954), for Allied Artists, William Elliott ended his Hollywood career with five tough little crime pictures for the same studio, released 1955-57. After playing Detective Lieutenant Andy Flynn of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in the first one, Dial Red “O” (1955), he became Andy Doyle in the other four.

The Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries from Warner Archive presents all five films in 16×9 widescreen. Most run about an hour — and have been on the Want Lists of “Wild Bill” Elliott fans for ages. They’ll be on the Warner Archive lineup on Tuesday.

Sudden Danger LC

Dial Red “O” (1955) An unhinged vet triggers a citywide manhunt when his soon-to-be-ex-wife gets bumped off. With Paul Picerni and Sam Peckinpah (uncredited as a cook).

Sudden Danger (1955) Elliott investigates a suspicious suicide — and the prime suspect turns out to be a blind man. With Beverly Garland and Lyle Talbot.

Calling Homicide (1956) Elliott connects the dots between a cop-killing and a model’s murder.  With Don Haggerty (who’d appear in the rest of the series), Lyle Talbot and James Best.

Chain of Evidence (1957) A reform school grad is accused of murder. With Haggerty, Timothy Carey and Dabbs Greer.

Footsteps In The Night (1957) A high-stakes poker game ends in murder. Directed by Jean Yarbrough.

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Daniel B. and Elwood Ullman, who wrote several of Elliott’s Monogram Westerns, are on hand for these films, and they make the transition from the Old West to the City Of Angels with ease.

You might be interested in these as a curio more than anything else, but they’re cool little movies and Elliott is as terrific as ever. Highly recommended.

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You’ve got till 4/6 at 11:59PM PST to head ‘em off at the pass. Mount up!

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Bill+Elliott-Fargo

William “Wild Bill” Elliott is one of my favorite cowboy starts — Hellfire (1949) alone would see to that. The 11 Westerns he made for Monogram (later Allied Artists) in the early 50s have been on our collective Want List for some time. They’re smart, tough, adult takes on your typical B Western. The Longhorn (1951) is currently available from VCI. The just-released Warner Archive double feature, which I hope is the first of a series, includes Fargo (1952) and The Homesteaders (1953). Both were directed by Lewis D. Collins. And both come highly, highly recommended.

More 50s Westerns on today’s Warner Archive roster: a Wayne Morris double bill — The Marksman (1953) and The Fighting Lawman (1953). Also good stuff.

Sorry for a rather slapdash post — had to work this in around meetings (actually, put it together while in one). Thanks to John Knight for the tip.

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One of my favorite Westerns can be seen on that Netflix streaming thing — Hellfire (1949) starring Bill Elliott, Marie Windsor, Forrest Tucker and Jim Davis. It’s a real gem from Republic and director R. G. Springsteen. And it’s in Trucolor.

But don’t just take it from me. Of all the wonderful films Marie Windsor made, she always listed this, The Narrow Margin (1952) and The Killing (1956) as her favorites.

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Republic’s Hellfire (1949) — starring Willilan Elliott, Marie Windsor and Forrest Tucker — is one of my favorite Westerns.

The cowboy firing his guns at the camera in the “Man with his misdeeds…” opening montage is stuntman Fred Carson.

So now you know.

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At the end of 1949, the Motion Picture Herald announced the top stars for the year, as chosen by exhibitors. As you can tell from the headline, Bob Hope took the top slot away from Bing Crosby, with the help of The Paleface. Being that Bob never got the girls in their films together, this might’ve been a bit of a consolation.

There was a separate list for Western stars, with Roy Rogers being indeed the King Of The Cowboys. Looking at this list today, you can easily see the change in the Western genre that was about to take place. By the next summer, The Gunfighter and Winchester ’73 (both 1950) would show us what a 50s Western was — and by 1953, most of these cowboys were out of theaters for good.

1. Roy Rogers: Roy’s TV show would debut in 1951. His last feature would be Son Of Paleface in 1952.

2. Gene Autry: On television by 1950, he’d leave the big screen with Last Of The Pony Riders (1953).

3. Gabby Hayes: Cariboo Trail (1950) with Randolph Scott would be Gabby’s last picture. He’d have his own TV show the same year.

4. Tim Holt: His excellent series for RKO would wrap up in 1952. He wouldn’t make another Western.

5. William “Wild Bill” Elliott: His last Western came in 1954, with the last of his Monogram/Allied Artists pictures. His last feature was released in 1957.

6. Charles Starrett: Like Holt, Starrett would ride into the celluloid sunset in ’52 with the last of his Durango Kid pictures.

7. William Boyd: Hopalong Cassidy would make the switch to TV in 1952, and hang up his spurs in ’54.

8. Johnny Mack Brown: His last series Western came in 1953, but his career kept going into the 60s.

9. Smiley Burnette: He’d make Autry’s Last Of The Pony Riders his final film, but have a quite a career in television with Green Acres and Petticoat Junction. (By the way, he eventually had his named legally changed to Smiley.)

10. Andy Devine: Andy’s filmography was always a diverse one, and he rode out the death of the series Western with ease and continued in features (including The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) and on TV.

* William Holden in The Wild Bunch (1969)

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Yesterday was William Elliott’s birthday, so it seems about time to finish up a piece I started a while back on The Longhorn (1951), the first of 11 films “Wild Bill” made for Monogram Pictures (later known as Allied Artists). It’s available on DVD from VCI, packaged with Charles Starrett’s first Western, Stampede (1936), as Cowboy Heroes Volume 1.

Elliott’s a cattle rancher planning to cross-breed his Longhorn cattle with Herefords. Before its 70 minutes are up, The Longhorn treats us to a cattle drive, a double cross, rustlers and Phyllis Coates. Not to mention plenty of gunplay. The plot has a few twists, so I’m keeping this spoiler-free.

For a cheap cowboy picture aimed at the Saturday matinee crowd, The Longhorn has plenty going for it. For starters, it boasts a tight, surprisingly adult script by Dan Ullman. Ullman wrote a slew of 50s Westerns, from programmers like Kansas Pacific (1953) with Sterling Hayden to the excellent Face Of A Fugitive (1959), a favorite of many who frequent this blog. The Longhorn was directed by Lewis D. Collins, who started with silent shorts and passed away a few years after this one. (By the way, Monogram paired Ullman and Collins on the cool Hot Rod in 1950.) Then there’s the cinematography by Ernest Miller, another veteran of the silents, who shot hundreds of B pictures and TV shows before his death in 1957. One of his standout credits is Sam Fuller’s The Steel Helmet (1951).

With so much talent on either side of the camera, how could The Longhorn miss? These six Monogram/Allied Artists pictures were Elliott’s last Westerns, and he went out on a high note — even if it’s a low-budget one.

This series was released in sepia tone, which gave the pictures an extra bit of class. William Elliott always supplied quite a bit of class, too. The VCI DVD of The Longhorn, unfortunately, isn’t presented that way, opting for standard black and white. Can’t say I blame them — sepia tends to monkey with the contrast, but it’d be nice to see how these films looked in theaters. The transfer here is fine, probably from 16mm — clean and complete, if a bit soft. My only real complaint is that VCI didn’t follow this up with the other Monogram Elliotts. (Are these things PD?) Bitter Creek (1954), which co-stars Beverly Garland, has been on my Want List for ages.

In summary, The Longhorn is a good example from the last days of the series Western, showing real toughness and maturity. VCI has given us a nice DVD. And most important, you can never go wrong with Bill Elliott. Recommended.

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Wild Bill Elliott

October 16, 1904 – November 26, 1965

Lesley Selander: “Bill Elliott was a real gentleman. He was always on time, knew his lines, and in every sense of the word was a professional. He learned to ride damned well, considering that when I first saw him at MGM in the early 30s, he didn’t know one end of the horse from another.”

Photo: Hellfire (1949), one of my favorite Westerns.

 

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