Archive for November, 2009

Doing a little research over the Thanksgiving break, I came across the Sony Pictures Entertainment Museum site.

There I found this photo and an accompanying letter Jimmy Stewart wrote to Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures, during production of Anthony Mann’s The Man From Laramie back in December 1954. Dig that letterhead!


Dear Harry Cohn:

The still pictures made on location in New Mexico, where we filmed almost all of our picture, are beginning to come through the lab, and this was among the first batch.

I promised to send you a sample, so Bill Goetz picked this one out himself, insisting that this particular shot had the combined elements of tension, excitement and dramatic power of the Saturday Evening Post serial, as well as the rugged background of the Pueblo Indian country. And who am I to argue with the boss?

Fact is, we’re all quite excited — cast, crew and front office — with the results of one of the toughest, and yet one of the most rewarding, locations in my experience.

Hope the picture gives you some idea why we feel this way.

My best,


James Stewart

The MAN From Laramie

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Pillars Of The Sky is a good Universal-International picture starring Jeff Chandler and Dorothy Malone. Watched it over the weekend. Like so many U-I Westerns, it really deserves the widescreen DVD treatment. Notice it says “Print by Technicolor,” not “Color by Technicolor.”

Pillars was written by Sam Rolfe, who co-wrote The Naked Spur (1953) and a bunch of TV, ranging from The Man From UNCLE to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Ward Bond and Lee Marvin have very good roles. And it was directed by George Marshall — who did both You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man and Destry Rides Again in 1939. (He also did the Audie Murphy remake Destry.)

But what I’m celebrating here today is the picture’s incredible poster art by Reynold Brown. Up top, the half sheet. Below, a couple details from a different layout. (Click on them and they get large enough to really study.)

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This what you were looking for?

One of the things I like about WordPress is all the statistical/analytical stuff that comes with it. It’ll tell you everything from the number of hits to which posts are the most popular to referrals from other sites. It’s a pretty useful tool, I think. And if nothing else, it’s just kinda cool to look at all the charts.

This morning, I noticed something particularly interesting. There’s a feature that shows you the searches people used to reach your blog. Usually, they’re pretty self-explanatory: “Budd Boetticher” or “Curse Of The Undead,” for instance. Pretty mundane stuff.

But sometime last night, somebody found their way to 50 Westerns From The 50s via “underwear from westerns.” Hunh?

Not exactly sure what they were looking for, but I have a feeling that person was disappointed by what they found. So, here are a couple things to hopefully make it up to ’em.

First, here’s Robert Mitchum in his long johns from Howard Hawks’ El Dorado (1966).


Next, a pretty silly publicity still of Charlene Holt from the same film (looks more like something outta Son Of Paleface.)

What’s odd about this whole exercise is that in order to find these photos, I had to pretty much do the same goofy search that seemed so weird to me this morning.

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John Wayne had been trying to get Herbert J. Yates, head of Republic Pictures, interested in a film about The Alamo. He’d been looking for locations and had James Edward Grant working on a script. Yates strung Wayne along for a while, then turned the project down as too expensive. Once his contract expired, Wayne never worked for Republic again.

As Wayne tells it, “I was sore at Yates, not just because he wouldn’t let me make The Alamo but because he went and filmed the story anyway — a picture called The Last Command. It was a big-budget picture for Republic, but not as big as the film I planned.”

That’s pretty much how The Last Command is remembered today — Republic’s screw-you to John Wayne. (It uses at least some of Grant’s screenplay.) That’s a shame. Because while it certainly doesn’t have much to offer in the way of historical accuracy, it’s got a great cast: Sterling Hayden, Richard Carlson, Ernest Borgnine, Arthur Hunnicutt, J. Carrol Naish and Anna Maria Alberghetti. It was the final picture for Oscar-winning director Frank Lloyd (Mutiny On The Bounty, 1935). Max Steiner provided a good score. And it was the last screenplay by Warren Duff (Angels With Dirty Faces, 1938) before he made the move to TV.

It plays pretty well and doesn’t get gobbled up by its size the way Wayne’s The Alamo (1961) does.

Unfortunately, The Last Command was saddled with some of the worst poster art ever. Did they really think that looks like Sterling Hayden? Notice that since we all know how an Alamo movie’s going to end — with the entire cast dead — the poster makes no mention of the tragic fortress.

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This is pre-1950 — a newspaper strip ad for RKO’s Return Of The Bad Men (1948).

I found this, and others such strips, at The Fabulous Fifties.

By the way, Return Of The Bad Men can be found at Warner Archive.

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Sorry to report that there’s not much happening 50s Westerns-wise on the DVD front.

Warner Archive has Stewart Granger in Gun Glory (1957) on the way. Since their debut, Warner Archive has become a good source for this stuff.

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Here’s to a thousand hits!


According to WordPress’ nifty statistics, 50 Westerns From The 50s received its 1,000th hit this morning.

Mr. Errol Flynn, star of 1950’s Rocky Mountain, seems to think that’s something worth raising a glass to. (Like he needed an excuse!)

Thanks to everyone who’s stopped by. Hope you’ve had a good time. I sure have.

Rocky Mtn half sheet cropped

Thanks (and apologies) to Life for the photo of Flynn with an adult beverage.

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The Hired Gun (1957)


A cheap (some say really cheap) black and white CinemaScope Western from 1957.

Starring and co-produced by Rory Calhoun.

Costarring Anne Francis, who’d been in Forbidden Planet the year before.

Directed by Ray Nazarro — who did a slew of these things.

Shot at Lone Pine.

Runs just over an hour.

I’m dying to see it.

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William Witney


Here’s director William Witney with a Mr. Leonard Franklin Slye.

Witney was one of the finest action directors ever. Quentin Tarantino sang his praises in a New York Times article and I’d like to think it made people load up their Netflix lists with stuff like SOS Coast Guard and Bells Of Coronado. From that article:

“I’ve found directors of some of these movies who I’m really into, but William Witney is ahead of them all, the one whose movies I can show to anyone and they are just blown away.”

Stranger At My Door (1956) might be the best of his many films. But it’s really hard to beat his later Roy Rogers pictures like Trail Of Robin Hood (1950) and Spoilers Of The Plains (1951).

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If you’ve seen 7 Men From Now, you know how good this ad is. And with it based on that incredible closing shot, how could it not be?

If you haven’t seen it, what the hell are you reading this for? Come back in 78 minutes.

Working in Advertising, I’ve always been interested in how movie campaigns are put together. They often seem to be from a different movie than the one I saw. But some really nail a picture. Like this one. I’d love to know how much input, if any, Randolph Scott or Budd Boetticher or John Wayne’s people had in this.

Aside from the theme song, is there anything to do with 7 Men From Now that’s not terrific?

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