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Directed by Marvin Chomsky
Starring Roy Rogers, Clay O’Brien, Andrew Robinson, James Hampton, Joan Hackett, Billy Greenbush, Luke Askew

Roy Rogers’ last feature, Mackintosh And T.J. (1975) has been announced for Blu-Ray release in May from The MVD Rewind Collection. It’s a good little movie, and Roy’s terrific in it. So glad to see that it’s being given the 4K treatment it deserves.

Happy New Year!

You’re looking at Roy Rogers with the saddle he (and Trigger) used in the Rose Bowl Parade on New Year’s Day, 1952. He was the Grand Marshal.

At this point, Roy had left Republic and features for TV, though Paramount’s Son Of Paleface would arrive later in ’52.

Here’s wishing everybody out there a great 2021. And as Roy used to say, “May the good Lord take a likin’ to ya!”

So Long, 2020.

As we close the door on 2020, I’m not sorry to see it go. This has not been the best year for any of us.

But in 2020, as it’s been from year to year since the beginning, this blog and the folks who read it (and comment on it) have been a blessing — “just as sure as the turning of the earth.”

Thanks to you all.

Merry Christmas!

Here are a couple of trading cards from the Sears Happy-Time Toy Town, circa 1951. Hope everybody out there has a safe and happy Christmas.

And if you haven’t done it already, think about dragging out your copy of Trail Of Robin Hood (1950). And remember, “ev’ry day is Christmas in the West!”

One of my favorite images in all of Cinema — John Wayne in John Ford’s 3 Godfathers (1948), shot by Winton C. Koch. He’s holding a baby (Robert William Pedro Hightower) and keeping the sun out of a dying friend’s eyes.

To me, this is a Christmas movie. To some, it just happens to take place around the holiday. There’s no snow, no Christmas trees, but the drunks in New Jerusalem sing “Silent Night.”

What do you think? Is 3 Godfathers a Christmas movie?

Kino Lorber’s second set of 50s Westerns on Blu-Ray serves up some good ones: The Redhead From Wyoming (1953), Pillars Of The Sky (1956) and Gun For A Corward (1957). It’s due April 6.

The Redhead From Wyoming (1953)
Directed by Lee Sholem
Starring Maureen O’Hara, Alex Nicol, William Bishop, Alexander Scourby, Robert Strauss, Gregg Palmer, Jack Kelly, Dennis Weaver, Stacy Harris

Maureen O’Hara runs a saloon and ends up in the middle of the usual cattlemen vs. settlers thing. It’s short, fast and beautifully shot by Winton C. Hoch.

Pillars Of The Sky (1956)
Directed by George Marshall
Starring Jeff Chandler, Dorothy Malone, Ward Bond, Keith Andes, Lee Marvin

Jeff Chandler is a calvary officer trying to keep his troops and Dorothy Malone from being scalped. Harold Lipstein shot it in CinemaScope on location in Oregon. Filmed right after The Searchers wrapped, it features a number of the same players (Ward Bond, Walter Coy, Olive Carey, Beulah Archuletta).

Gun For A Coward (1957)
Directed by Abner Biberman
Starring Fred MacMurray, Jeffrey Hunter, Janice Rule, Dean Stockwell, Bob Steele

This one weaves a family struggle into a cattle drive and rustlers story. It looks great in CinemaScope and MacMurray is terrific.

All three come with a trailer and commentary (I’m doing Pillars Of The Sky). And given Kino Lorber’s track record with their Universal movies, they’ll look terrific.

Directed by R. G. Springsteen
Written by Executive Producers Dorrell and Stuart McGowan
Director Of Photography: Jack Marta
Art Director: James Sullivan
Music by Dale Butts
Film Editor: Tony Martinelli
2nd Unit Director: Yakima Canutt
Special Effects: Howard and Theodore Lydecker

Cast: William Elliott (Zeb Smith), Marie Windsor (Doll Brown/Mary Carson), Forrest Tucker (Marshal Bucky McLean), Jim Davis (Gyp Stoner), H. B. Warner (Brother Joseph), Paul Fix (Dusty Stoner), Grant Withers (Sheriff Martin), Emory Parnell (Sheriff Duffy), Esther Howard (Birdie), Jody Gilbert (Full Moon), Louis Faust (Red Stoner), Harry Woods (Lew Stoner), Denver Pyle (Rex), Trevor Bardette (Wilson), Dewey Robinson (Bartender), Hank Worden

This is an entry in The Marie Windsor Blogathon, a celebration of the actress’s life and work.

I love  Hellfire (1949). I’ve seen it countless times, and it’s the main reason Marie Windsor is, and always has been, my favorite actress. Thought I should get all that out of the way before my extreme bias starts to show.

It goes like this. Zeb Smith, a card sharp (William Elliott), is caught cheating. He’s saved by Brother Joseph, a circuit preacher (H. B. Warner), who ends up catching a bullet for his good deed. Elliott tends to the dying old man, and learns that Joseph’s only regret is that he didn’t get the chance to build a church. Elliott promises to square things by building that church — even though he has to do it according to the Bible, not by simply racking up a wad of cash in a poker game.

Enter Doll Brown (Marie Windsor), a young woman with a price on her head for gunning down the abusive Lew Stoner (Harry Woods). Elliott figures her reward will cover Brother Joseph’s church, but when he finds her, things get complicated. You see, the rest of the Stoner boys want to give Doll a taste of frontier justice for gunning down their brother. Marshal Bucky McLean (Forrest Tucker), a friend of Zeb’s, is also on Doll’s trail. And Doll is really Mary Carson, and she’s looking for her long-lost sister Jane. Add to all that the fact that the recently, and reluctantly, converted Zeb has to do things according to the “rule book.”

“According to the rule book, I’m supposed to be
a peaceable man. Sometimes I kinda forget.”
— Zeb Smith (William Elliott)

While Hellfire looks like a typical minor-A Republic Western, with the distinctly weird Trucolor palette, and plays like most of Elliott’s “good badman” pictures, there are a number of things that set it apart.

First and foremost, there’s the spiritual angle, which takes the redemption theme found in so many Westerns to a new, more literal level. While Hellfire‘s theology sometimes seems at odds with the picture’s gunplay and violence, it’s heartfelt, it gives Elliott and Windsor nice character arcs to work with, and it’s quite moving toward the end (that’s Psalm 23, by the way). The pastel hues of Trucolor give the film a fable-like quality that perfectly complements the religious themes.

There’s a heavy dose of symbolism here, too. Fire is a common thread, from the titles to Elliott’s getaway after the card game (setting a stack of six-guns ablaze) to Elliott himself being burned along the way (one torture scene is hard to watch) to the name of the movie itself. Fire turns up in the Bible a lot, too, of course — both literally and conceptually. 

Another key differentiator is Marie Windsor. She’s perfect here, as Doll Brown, who’s riding the West looking for her sister. We easily believe she’d be capable of gunning a man down. Her softer side, Mary Carson, works, too. Windsor pulls it off beautifully, a part that could’ve been laughable in less capable hands.

William Elliott greets Marie Windsor on the first day of shooting.

The screenplay came from brothers Dorrell and Stuart McGowan. They written a handful of pictures for Republic — from Mountain Rhythm (1943) to Valley Of The Zombies (1946) to Don’t Fence Me In (1946). This time, they were listed as executive producers. Elliott was a producer as well; the film is credited as “An Elliott-McGowan Production.” One  of Republic’s ace house directors, R.G. Springsteen, was given the assignment.

Republic got a lot of press back in 1949 out of William Elliott’s attempts to get the name of his movie past the Johnson Office. “Hell” had not been in a movie title in 15 years.

Elliott also insisted on Marie Windsor. The studio wanted Adrian Booth, who they had under contract. Elliott had seen Windsor in a test and the recent Outpost In Morocco. When he heard she could ride, that sealed the deal. He worked with her on gun-twirling, and she did a lot of her own stunts.

Marie Windsor: “Republic was a cozier and smaller studio… I love Hellfire. I was so thrilled to get that well-written part of a female bandit, Doll Brown.” 

Republic sent a second unit to Sedona to shoot some riding scenes. The rest of it was shot at the Iverson Rancho and the Republic lot. The cast is made up of the usual Republic roster: Forrest Tucker, Jim Davis, Paul Fix, Grant Withers and Denver Pyle.

Marie Windsor: “Hellfire should have been a Western that would have changed my whole career. Studio owner Herbert Yates promised to spend a lot of money to sell the film. Mr. Yates suddenly got involved in trying to get the communists out of the industry. He made a film called The Red Menace (1949), which he spent a great deal of money to sell and did nothing for Hellfire.”

Yates’ lack of promotion for Hellfire prompted Elliott-McGowan Productions to sue the studio for not holding up its end of the bargain — and for not letting the producers look at the books.

Marie Windsor: “At his own expense, Bill set up an opening publicity tour in Salt Lake City for Hellfire.”

William Elliott made only one more film at Republic, again with the McGowans, Showdown (1950). Its religion them is subtler, and Trucolor is missing, but Marie Windsor is back. It’s certainly worth tracking down.

Believe it or not, Republic sometimes paired Hellfire with Brimstone, a Rod Cameron Western from the same year. One theater near Cincinnati got creative and had the Devil himself taking tickets. 

Elliott considered Hellfire his best film, and Marie Windsor always listed it as a personal favorite (along with The Narrow Margin and The Killing). 

Paramount currently owns the Republic Pictures library. They restored hundreds of these films, Hellfire included. And though the restoration played at the Museum Of Modern Art as part of a Republic retrospective, it hasn’t made its way to DVD or Blu-Ray. 

Directed by Lesley Selander
Produced by Jack Jungmeyer
Screenplay by Maurice Geraghty
Story by Frank Gruber
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography: Jack Greenhalgh
Film Editor: Francis D. Lyon

Cast: George Montgomery (Tom Horn / Steve Garrett), Rod Cameron (Harve Logan / Kid Curry), Marie Windsor (Dakota Lil), John Emery (Vincent), Wallace Ford (Carter), Jack Lambert (Dummy), Larry Johns (Sheriff), Marion Martin (Blonde Singer), James Flavin (Secret Service Chief), Walter Sande (Butch Cassidy)

This is an entry in The Marie Windsor Blogathon, a celebration of the actress’s life and work. It comes from guest blogger Boyd Cathey.

Marie Windsor always evokes wonderful memories for me, and on this day, December 11, 2020, which would have been her 101st birthday, I think back to the films with her that left an imprint on me, and that since my childhood I’ve managed to see and in many cases finally acquire.

When I was young boy my dad and I would go from time to time to a movie house in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, usually on a Saturday, to see a Western double feature. Our favorite was Randolph Scott. My dad’s family is from Charlotte, and my grandparents were acquaintances with Randy Scott’s family, also in Charlotte, so we had a connection. One of the first films I recall featuring Marie Windsor was The Bounty Hunter (1954). I think it was a re-release at one of the lesser, second-run theaters that used to exist in the city, as the original release was in 1954, and I was too young to go to movies back then. I remember her role as the wife of a notorious bandit—she wasn’t the main star, but she seemed to give an extra spark to this Scott Western, which like most of his Warner oaters seemed less polished than the Columbia products.

Anyway, I was taken by her. Okay, I was maybe only about 10, but I was captivated—she was beautiful and perky, and along with Sophia Loren, she became my idolized female star. In the late 1950s until her retirement in 1991, she also frequently acted in television. She made appearances in Maverick, Rawhide, Perry Mason, even Murder, She Wrote with Angela Lansbury, one of the best American crime mystery series. And Windsor was always beautiful and captivating, she never seemed to age.

A few years later—probably the early 1960s or so—a local television station broadcast Dakota Lil (1950), one of those films that stations would broadcast usually late at night. I begged my parents to let me stay up—it was a school night, and my normal bedtime was 10 p.m. Somehow they agreed, maybe because dad wanted to see it also. Anyway, we both viewed it, and immediately Dakota Lil became a favorite.

The plot is fairly simple, although the development is more complicated. George Montgomery, Secret Service undercover agent Tom Horn (as Steve Garrett), is charged with breaking a major counterfeit outfit, the “Hole-in-the-Wall” gang in Wyoming. To do this he travels to Matamoros, Mexico, to enlist the aid of Windsor—Dakota Lil—noted for her ability to perfect an exact replication of official signatures. They both head to Wyoming, but she initially begins working with the chief culprit and the particularly nasty Rod Cameron (Harve Logan/Kid Curry)

The first thing you notice is the film score: it’s by the award-winning composer Dmitri Tiomkin, and it is gorgeous and memorable. In fact, its themes remained in my mind long after I first watched the DVD. Certainly, Fox by charging Tiomkin with the music of Dakota Lil intended it to be more than just another “super-B” Western.  Additionally, John Emery, who plays the role of Vincent, a former concert pianist and hanger-on to Windsor, offers up several short pieces by Frederic Chopin! Marie—Dakota Lil—sings various songs, with the singing voice of Anita Ellis. She executes excellent lip-syncing.

Although Dakota Lil showcases a youngish George Montgomery, Windsor steals the show and adds essential sparkle to the film. She invests the generally unremarkable dialogue with some real panache, indeed with just a face gesture or an inflection in her voice she can steal a scene. When she shows up at the Wind River, Wyoming, saloon (owned by Cameron) and comes upon the current diva, that chanteuse asks her: “What are you staring at?,” Windsor responds dryly: “A no talent performance.” Likewise, her dialogue with Cameron on how they plan to split the proceeds of the counterfeit government bonds shows comparable spunk and her mastery of crisp exchange, even humor. One can see how Marie Windsor fit so well into film noir, indeed, Dakota Lil shares certain characteristics of that genre. Consider, for example, Cameron’s preferred method of killing his enemies—by brutal strangling, almost matter-of-fact in its cruelty.

It was only in 2015 that I discovered that a DVD existed, in fact, two DVD releases. And I snatched up a copy as soon as I could. Both are in the PAL European video format, which means they will not play in American NTSC DVD players; but All Region DVD players are easily available and can be had inexpensively via Amazon.com and elsewhere. One copy was issued in Spain, which I have not seen. My copy is issued by Simply Media, a British company, which licensed their copy from Renown Films.

Although Dakota Lil was originally released by 20th Century-Fox in Cinecolor (February 1950), to my knowledge no color issue has emerged since its original release. Neither of the available DVDs is in color. Since Cinecolor was a less stable and reliable color process than Technicolor, one wonders if such a copy still exists somewhere in the Fox archives. Kino Lorber has done some wonderful restoration work with Scott’s The Cariboo Trail and Canadian Pacific, both Fox releases, so maybe we are allowed to hope?

Both the Simply Media copy and the Spanish release are available reasonably from the American firm, DaaVeeDee.com and also from Amazon.com. My copy is a good B & W issue, with a sharp picture and no sign of deterioration.

Directed by warhorse director Lesley Selander, Dakota Lil is surely one of his finer efforts. It deserves to be much better known. No, it’s not perhaps as good a vehicle for Windsor as, say, Hellfire (1949, with Wild Bill Elliott), but it merits attention…and perhaps a full digital restoration?

In any event, it should be seen for Marie Windsor’s fine performance which raises this film above the dozens similar to it released in 1950. Happy Birthday, Marie, and may your legacy on film continue to be enjoyed and appreciated!

Marie Windsor
(December 11, 1919 – December 10, 2000)

My favorite actress, Marie Windsor, was born 101 years today. Seems like a good time for a blogathon celebrating her life and work. Through Monday the 14th, there will be posts about Ms. Windsor’s work in movies and TV from a number of film bloggers. This post will serve as a hub, or index, for those posts (see below).

Emily Marie Bertelsen was born in Utah and went to Brigham Young University. She headed for Hollywood in 1939 and studied acting at Maria Ouspenskaya’s school (around the time Ouspenskaya played the old gypsy woman in The Wolf Man). Around this time, she started using the name Marie Windsor.

Marie worked on radio, was a telephone operator and did lots of bit parts before getting a really good role in Force Of Evil (1948) with John Garfield.

A string of noirs and Westerns followed, so much good stuff: Hellfire (1949), The Fighting Kentuckian (1949), The Showdown (1950), The Sniper (1952), The Narrow Margin (1952), Trouble Along The Way (1953), The Bounty Hunter (1954), Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy (1955), The Killing (1956), Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971) and The Outfit (1973). That’s just a few.

She stayed busy in TV, too: Cheyenne, Maverick, Perry Mason, Rawhide, Batman, Adam-12 and many, many more.

She was often called The Queen Of The Bs, but I think that belittles both her talent and the many terrific little movies she made. No matter how cheap the movie might be (like 1957’s The Parson And The Outlaw, up top), or how small the part, she always, always gave it her best. 

The Marie Windsor Blogathon

Post #1: Double Deal (1950)
The Hannibal 8

Post #2: Dakota Lil (1950) by guest blogger Boyd Cathey
50 Westerns From The 50s

Post #3: Maverick – The Quick And The Dead (1957)
Caftan Woman

Post #4: Hellfire (1949)
Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings

Post #5: Force Of Evil (1948)
The Oak Drive-In

Post #6: Hellfire (1949)
50 Westerns From The 50s

Post #7: So This Is Love (1953)
Pure Entertainment Preservation Society

Had the extreme pleasure of being a guest on the Western Podcast. We talked about Don Siegel’s terrific Elvis Western Flaming Star (1960). Hope you have as much fun listening to it as I did recording it. 

Where else can you hear French and Southern accents bumping into each other like this?