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A Million Feet Of Film: The Making Of One-Eyed Jacks is the story of Marlon Brando’s One-Eyed Jacks, his first, and only, time as director and a picture that may be better known for its troubled production than its merits as a film. 

More than three years from contracts to premiere. Six months of shooting. Almost 200 miles of negative exposed. A revolving door of personnel, including Rod Serling, Sam Peckinpah and Stanley Kubrick — all gone before the first frame was shot. A budget that ballooned from $1.8 million to $6 million. And the eventual takeover of the film by Paramount. Click the cover to order.

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Doing some research on Night Passage (1957), I came across an article from The LA Times, reporting that the ongoing editing of Men In War (1957) was forcing Anthony Mann to back out of Night Passage. It also pointed out that this would free up the director to do The Tin Star (1957) for Paramount.

There are lots of stories about why Anthony Mann left what would’ve been his sixth Jimmy Stewart Western. This was a new one for me.

A Decade Of 50s Westerns.

This month, 50 Westerns From The 50s hits its 10th anniversary.

A few numbers. This is post #1,334. There have been 2.5 million views. It’s followed by over 200 people. To all of you out there who’ve made that happen, a big fat thanks.

Now let’s mount up for another 10 years on the trail.

Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Starring Virginia Mayo, Robert Stack, Ruth Roman, Alex Nicol, Raymond Burr, Leo Gordon, Regis Toomey

Jacques Tourneur’s post-Civil War picture Great Day In The Morning (1956) is coming to Blu-Ray from Warner Archive in November. Whether it’s morning or not depends on where you are in the world, but another Tourneur Western in high-definition makes for a great day indeed! The Superscope, Technicolor cinematography by William Snyder is incredible. This somewhat overlooked picture comes highly recommended.

This followed Tourneur’s better-known Westerns Stranger On Horseback and Wichita, both with Joel McCrea and both released in 1955. It’d be great to see those get a Blu-Ray release, too!

Directed by Henry Levin
Produced by Pat Duggan
Written by Harry Essex & Robert Smith
Cinematography: Lionel Lindon
Music by Van Cleave
Film Editor: William B. Murphy

Cast: Jack Palance (Jacob Wade), Anthony Perkins (Riley Wade), Neville Brand (King Fisher), Robert Middleton (Ben Ryerson), Elaine Aiken (Ada Marshall), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Willie), Claude Akins (Blackburn), Lee Van Cleef (Faro), Harry Shannon (Dr. Fisher), James Bell (Judge Hart), Adam Williams (Lon), Denver Pyle (Brad), John Doucette (Sundown Whipple)

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It’d be easy to call The Lonely Man (1957) another gunfighter-wants-to-hang-up-his-guns movie, with an estranged son tossed into the mix. But you’d be really selling this one short. After all, one thing you learn from watching a couple hundred 50s Westerns is that the fun often comes from seeing what each picture does with a well-worn, basic framework we’ve all seen before.

After many years, gunman Jacob Wade (Jack Palance) comes home to lead a normal, peaceful life, only to find the wife he abandoned dead (suicide?) and his son a very bitter young man. Father and son wind up at Wade’s other ranch, where Ada (Elaine Aiken), a herd of mustangs and plenty of trouble await. That trouble, it’s some guys from Wade’s past — Neville Brand, Claud Aikens, Lee Van Cleef and Elisha Cook — and they have a score to settle. And to top it all off, Jacob’s going blind.

Palance is dressed a bit like his character, Jack Wilson, in Shane (1953), but all similarities end there. Jacob Wade has a conscience here, and is filled with regret. This isn’t how he wanted things to turn out, and he hopes to make things right with his son. Anthony Perkins is quite good as Riley Wade. He has plenty to learn, but he doesn’t come off as a spineless toad. Though he’s angry and spiteful, we still like him and feel for him.

Robert Middleton, who’s always good, has a great part as the one member of Wade’s old gang who’s still loyal. We like him, but we don’t really trust him.

9209_0007__20151015141858Elaine Aiken is really good as the woman Jacob’s been with since leaving his family. She didn’t make many movies, this was her first, but she became a noted acting teacher — and a founder of the Actors Conservatory. The bad guys, from Neville Brand to Lee Van Cleef, have well-rounded parts — and the actors make the most of their limited screen time.

The dialogue by Harry Essex and Robert Smith is terrific and the direction from Henry Levin and editing by William Murphy are very tight. This is solid picture.

But for my money, the real “star” of The Lonely Man is cinematographer Lionel Lindon. He did some fine work over the course of his long career — from Road To Utopia (1945) and The Black Scorpion (1957) to The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and The Munsters, but this one is just stunning. (Let’s not forget his beautiful Trucolor work in 1955’s A Man Alone.) The rich shadows of the interiors and the deep focus of the Alabama Hills exteriors are gorgeous in black and white VistaVision.

The Paramount DVD of The Lonely Man has been around for a while, and it’s a terrific example of what a good transfer can be. The VistaVision is sharp as a tack, as it should be, and the blacks are absolutely perfect, and that’s critical to appreciating Lionel Lindon’s work on this film. The Alabama Hills have rarely been presented so beautifully. I’d love to see this make it to Blu-Ray.

The Lonely Man certainly deserves more attention than it gets. Highly, highly recommended.

Interestingly, a few months later, Anthony Perkins and Neville Brand were back in another black and white VistaVision Western for Paramount — Anthony Mann’s The Tin Star (1957).

Since Monte Hellman’s The Shooting and Ride In The Whirlwind (both 1966) come from outside the parameter of 50s Westerns, I placed the review of the Criterion twin-bill on my other blog. Click on the package above to mosey over thee.

RIP, Jan Merlin.

Jan Merlin
April 3, 1925 – September 20, 2019

Heard over the weekend (thanks, Bert) that the character actor Jan Merlin has passed away at 94.

After serving in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II, he started acting in summer stock. His Broadway debut came with Mister Roberts.

Merlin had a long, busy career in movies and TV. He was a regular on Tom Corbett, Space Cadett, for one, and he appeared on everything from Perry Mason to Laramie to Mannix to The A-Team. In features, he did stuff like A Day Of Fury (1956, above with Dale Robertson), Hell Bent For Leather (1960) and The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967). He was usually a bad guy — and he was really good at it.

Merlin started to write, knocking out several novels and winning a Daytime Emmy as a writer for Another World. Luckily, he was interviewed a number of times over the years, preserving his decades of experience around Hollywood.

Happy Birthday, Clayton Moore.


Clayton Moore
(September 14, 1914 – December 28, 1999)

Clayton More was born 105 years ago today. From his serials to all those episodes of The Lone Ranger, he did some great stuff.

He was also a crusader for kids everywhere, encouraging them to stay in school, be respectful and follow The Lone Ranger Creed. Where is he when we need him?