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Been meaning to do a piece on Hank Worden for quite a while. He turned up in an episode of The Lone Ranger last night, so I figured now’s the time.

His real name was Norton Earl Worden, and he was born in Rolfe, Iowa in 1901. He grew up on a ranch in Montana, attended both Stanford University and the University of Nevada, served in the Army, and worked on the rodeo circuit as a bronco rider. While rodeoing in Madison Square Garden, he and Tex Ritter were chosen to play cowhands in Green Grow The Lilacs on Broadway.

That’s Hank in the yellow shirt to the right of Tex Ritter.

Worden broke into the movies with Cecil B. DeMille’s The Plainsman in 1936, and was soon appearing in Tex Ritter’s B Westerns.

Hank with Joanne Dru in Red River (1948)

Hank had a small part in Howard Hawks’s Come And Get It (1936), and they say Hawks recommended Worden to John Ford. For Hawks, he did Red River (1948) and The Big Sky (1952). (Why wasn’t he in Rio Bravo?)

Right, as one of the vile, dim-witted Cleggs in Ford’s Wagon Master (1950)*

As a member of John Ford’s stock company, Worden’s in Stagecoach (1939), Fort Apache (1948), Three Godfathers (1948), Wagonmaster (1950), The Searchers (1956, up top) and more.

As the Parson with Frankie Avalon in Wayne’s The Alamo (1960)

Hank continued to work with John Wayne — as part of his stock company. Their last picture together was Cahill, US Marshall in 1973.

Left, with Forrest Tucker and Kathleen Crowley in The Quiet Gun (1957)

He turns up in so much stuff: a couple of the Ma and Pa Kettle movies, Hellfire (1949), The Quiet Gun (1957), Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957), One-Eyed Jacks (1961‚ Marlon Brando killed him off way too early), Smokey And The Bandit (1977) and Clint Eastwood’s Bronco Billy (1980). On TV, he was on The Lone Ranger, Bonanza, Wagon Train, Petticoat Junction, even a few episodes of Twin Peaks (his last role).

Hank Worden added something special to every movie he was in, but it’s Mose Harper in The Searchers that he’ll always be remembered for. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

* One of my favorite photos ever posted on this blog.

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Written, Produced, Directed by Samuel Fuller
Cinematography: Joseph Biroc
Art Direction: John Mansbridge
Music: Harry Sukman
Film Editing: Gene Fowler Jr.

Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Jessica Drummond), Barry Sullivan (Griff Bonnell), Dean Jagger (Sheriff Ned Logan), John Ericson (Brockie Drummond), Gene Barry (Wes Bonnell), Robert Dix (Chico Bonnell), Jidge Carroll (Barney Cashman), Paul Dubov (Judge Macy), Gerald Milton (Shotgun Spanger), Ziva Rodann (Rio), Hank Worden (Marshal John Chisum)

__________

With a Sam Fuller movie, there’s always something kinda off. Not off in a bad way, off as in different from anything else you’ve ever seen — except another Sam Fuller movie. The performances, pacing, editing, dialogue — they’re just different. And that’s before you get to the story itself.

A great example of this is Fuller’s Forty Guns (1957). It’s unlike any Western you’ve ever seen.

Forty Guns is a big sweeping epic on one hand and a glorified Regalscope picture on the other. There’s a scene pretty early in the movie where John Ericson and his gang of punks are busting up the town. They throw stuff, shoot stuff and just generally create total mayhem. Fuller cuts back and forth across the street as they shoot from one side and their bullets hit windows or whatever on the other side — then to the helpless, wigged-out townspeople watching all this. The footage doesn’t cut together in the smooth, traditional Hollywood way, but it perfectly creates the chaos and movement the scene needs.

Barbara Stanwyck is terrific as Jessica Drummond, a female take on the rancher who runs the town. Barry Sullivan is Griff Bonnell, a former gunman now working for the government. So far, it sounds like one of your standard B Western plots — how many times was Roy Rogers a government agent? But that’s where the similarities end, as Forty Guns goes off in directions only Sam Fuller would even think of taking it. And he’s got a cast and crew eager to help him get there.

It has one of the damnedest opening sequences I’ve ever seen, as the Drummond and her 40 guns come thundering along a deserted and pass by Sullivan and his brothers. I’d love to experience it on a big curved CinemaScope screen.

But from one end to the other, Forty Guns is a movie absolutely filled with striking images, cooked up by Fuller and delivered in gorgeous B&W CinemaScope by Joseph Biroc — and all flawlessly captured on Blu-Ray by Criterion. They’ve really got the contrast perfectly dialed-in on this one. Wish every black and white movie looked like this on video — everybody who helps bring old movies to TV and video needs to take a look at this.

Of course, it’s got a typically Criterion-ish slew of extras — interviews, a documentary, even a chapter of Fuller’s autobiography. It’s a pretty deep dive, and it’s always a treat to wallow in Sam Fuller. He was a real character, a true original and one helluva filmmaker. Highly, highly recommended.

The new year, and each and every morning, is getting off to a great start. COZI TV, which brings lots of cool old shows to NBC stations (5.2 here in Raleigh) has added four episodes of The Lone Ranger to their morning lineup.

What a great way to start the day, though it has really slowed down my morning routine.

Directed by George Sherman
Starring Joel McCrea, Yvonne De Carlo, Pedro Armendáriz, Howard Petrie

There’s a company in France called ESC Editions, and they’ve started announcing some upcoming Universal Westerns on Blu-Ray. One of those is George Sherman’s Border River (1954), one of the six terrific Westerns Joel McCrea made for Universal. The comments around here have been buzzing about this thing, and for good reason — to have these coming to high-definition is a big deal.

I’ll post more information — aspect ratio, region, etc. — as it’s verified.

Happy New Year!

From Variety, January 5, 1949 — and from 50 Westerns From The 50s, 70 years later.

Mill Creek has announced a 20-picture Roy Rogers DVD set — “authorized by the Roy Rogers estate” — for release in March. But so far, I can’t track down its actual contents. I have my doubts that it’ll give us uncut, color versions of the movies we’re all waiting for, since those are controlled by Paramount these days. Plus, it sounds suspiciously like the old King Of The Cowboys set from Timeless.

Stay tuned.

2018 In Review, Part 1.

When I started doing DVD and Blu-Ray commentaries, it no longer felt appropriate to survey the best 50s Westerns DVD and Blu-Ray releases for the year. So, as a substitute (maybe a poor one), here’s a reminder of a few things we were treated to this year — and we’ll let all the praise, complaints or ranking come from you in the comments. Part 2 can be found next door at The Hannibal 8.

2018 didn’t see a lot of 50s Westerns turn up on DVD, but what turned up was certainly worthwhile.

The Durango Kid Collection
Mill Creek has come through with some terrific multi-picture sets over the last few years. They’re often Columbia pictures, and many have been available already as MOD releases, but they look great, the prices can’t be beat, and they’re big space savers as we watch our collections gobble up our square footage. The Durango Kid movies are fun, and this set gave me an excuse to really wallow in them for a while.

The Fastest Guns Of The West: The William Castle Western Collection
Another Mill Creek set, this offers up eight William Castle Westerns, most of them done for Sam Katzman. This was very eagerly awaited around here, and many of us are hoping for a second volume.

The True Story Of Jesse James (1957)
Twilight Time gave The True Story Of Jesse James a Blu-Ray release, giving us all a great opportunity to re-assess this Nicholas Ray picture — which was mangled by 20th Century-Fox. CinemaScope really benefits from 1080 presentation, and Ray is known for his great use of ‘Scope.

Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher & Randolph Scott At Columbia
It was about time somebody got around to the Ranown cycle in true high definition. So, where’s Seven Men From Now (1956)?

A Man Alone (1955)
This under-appreciated Ray Milland Western got a thorough restoration from Paramount — and a nice DVD and Blu-Ray release from Kino Lorber. It even played at the Museum Of Modern Art.

So there’s a few to get us going. What Western DVD and Blu-Ray releases stood out to you this year?