Directed by Russell Rouse
Starring Glenn Ford, Jeanne Crain, Broderick Crawford, Russ Tamblyn, Allyn Joslyn, Leif Erickson, John Dehner, Noah Beery Jr., J. M. Kerrigan, Rhys Williams, Virginia Gregg, Chubby Johnson, John Doucette, Paul Birch, Glenn Strange, Kermit Maynard, Dub Taylor, John Dierkes

Warner Archive has announced The Fastest Gun Alive (1956) for its next batch of Blu-Ray releases (July, I believe). Glenn Ford made so many terrific Westerns around this time — Jubal (1956), 3:10 To Yuma (1957), Cowboy (1958), etc., and I’ve always felt Fastest Gun gets lost in the crowd. (That’s why it gets a chapter in my book.)

It’s a really terrific movie and George Folsey’s cinematography will look great in hi-def. And look at that cast! Highly, highly recommended.

Thanks to Mr. Richard Vincent for the news.

Dean Paul Martin (Dino Paul Crocetti
(June 7, 1917 – December 25, 1995)

Dean Martin was born 106 years ago today. He loved Westerns and he was good in ’em, especially playing Dude in Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959).

Happy birthday to JK, too.

Walter Stacy Keach, Jr.
(Born June 2, 1941)

Few actors that I can think of have a list of credits as interesting as Stacy Keach. From Fat City (1972) to The New Centurians (1972) to The Ninth Configuration (1980), he’s made some terrific, and just plain different, movies.

He brought Mike Hammer into the 80s and kept it good (probably quite a task) though two series and a handful of TV movies. Plus, he and his brother James spearheaded one of the last great Westerns, The Long Riders (1980).

Just completed a commentary track on that last one, and more than ever, I’m convinced that Walter Hill made a terrific film and that Stacy Keach is one of the finest actors of his generation.

Marion Robert Morrison
(May 26, 1907 – June 11, 1979)

John Wayne was born 116 years ago today. Here he is on the set of Howard Hawks’ magnificent Rio Bravo (1959). Even when he’s just screwing around between takes, Duke’s as cool as they come.

Walter Hill directing The Long Riders (1980).

As my commentary notes for The Long Riders (1980) take shape (for Imprint’s upcoming Blu-Ray set), I keep bumping into all sorts of interesting things. The coolest was a chance to speak with James Keach for a bit, making sure I had the story of the film’s development correct. (He is justifiably proud and fond of the film.)

This BFI interview with Walter Hill was terrific, covering his relationship with Budd Boetticher, working with Sam Peckinpah and Steve McQueen and his feel for Westerns. Enjoy!

Directed by Howard Hawks
Starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond, Claud Akins, John Russell

Warner Bros. is bringing their new restoration of Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959) to 4K disc in July. Haven’t seen any info on a new DVD or Blu-Ray. This is my favorite Western and it has never been all that stellar-looking on video, so I’m really stoked about this. Hope and pray it doesn’t have that sickly yellow tint that infects so many restorations of older films lately. 

Thanks to Dick Vincent for the news.

Undercrank Productions is bringing a couple of Tom Mix silent Westerns to Blu-Ray in July — Sky High (1922) and The Big Diamond Robbery (1929). They’re getting 2K digital restorations and scores from Ben Model.

Sky High (1922)
Written & directed by Lynn Reynolds
Starring Tom Mix, J. Farrell MacDonald, Eva Novak, Sid Jordan, Tony

Filmed at the Grand Canyon, this modern-day Western (with lots of airplane stuff) has Mix as a government agent trying to stop a gang smuggling illegal immigrants into the U.S. (things haven’t changed much in the last 101 years, have they?). 

The Big Diamond Robbery (1929)
Directed by Eugene Forde
Starring Tom Mix, Kathryn McGuire, Frank Beal, Tony

Mix’s last silent film is also a modern-day Western. Here, he helps a rich young woman chase down her prized diamond necklace. According to the folks at Undercrank, The Big Diamond Robbery hasn’t been seen since its original release in 1929.

Tom Mix is wonderful, and it’s hard to believe his films are around 100 years old. I absolutely love his The Great K&A Train Robbery — it’s one of my favorite silent movies — and I can’t wait to see these two. Recommended.

William Witney
(May 15, 1915 – March 17, 2002) 

William Witney was born 108 years ago. He was a true innovator in how action makes its way to the movie screen. He was working at Republic Pictures, and while on location for the 1937 serial The Painted Stallion, the director, Ray Taylor, was too drunk to work. Witney took over at just 21.

Watching Busby Berkeley put together one of his famous dance numbers, Witney realized that fight sequences could be choreographed and shot the same way. He under-cranked the camera to speed up the action — merely fast became death-defying. He experimented with the best place to put the camera car when tracking a chase — along the side of the car or stagecoach vs. shooting head-on, with horses charging straight at the camera.

After serving in a Marine combat camera unit in World War II, Witney returned to Republic for his last serial, The Crimson Ghost (1946), then took over the Roy Rogers movies. Dialing up the action, putting less emphasis on the music and bringing in a decidedly darker, more violent tone, Witney breathed new life into Roy’s final films.

William Witney was a genius, and his contribution the cinema has been pathetically under-appreciated.

Photo up top: William Witney and Cheryl Rogers on the set of Trail Of Robin Hood (1950). Photo courtesy of Jay Dee Witney.

Adele Mara (Adelaida Delgado)
(April 28, 1923 – May 7, 2010)

Adele Mara was born 100 years ago today.

She was under contract at Republic Pictures from the mid-40s through 1951. She was in pictures with John Wayne, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, William Elliott, you name it. Prior to Republic, she’d been at Columbia, where she was put in everything from Three Stooges shorts to Crime Doctor and Blondie movies. All sorts of cool stuff.

She was married to writer/director/producer Roy Huggins (Hangman’s Knot, Maverick, The Rockford Files) for over 50 years.

For three nights in June of 1956, Elvis Presley (with Scotty and Bill) performed at Atlanta’s Paramount Theater, between showings of Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956).

Fury At Gunsight Pass is a terrific low-budget Western from Fred F. Sears — and Elvis is, well, Elvis.

It’s coming across stuff like this that makes book research so much fun.