Archive for January, 2010

A couple weeks ago, Bob Boze Bell of True West Magazine plugged this blog in his blog. It resulted in a rash of hits — folks I hope are making a habit of passing through (my increased numbers might indicate they are).

So how do I repay the favor? By ripping off his two-day-old sketch of John Wayne in The Searchers (1956). Sorry, Bob. I really love it. (The subject of this post is a line from the picture.)

I encourage you all to check out what’s going on at True West. I’m a fan of Henry Cabot Beck’s film/DVD reviews — his piece on the 40th anniversary of The Wild Bunch is really Good — and Bob’s blog provides a shining example of how all blogs oughta be. After all, he can draw his own pictures rather than steal them!

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This just in. At least some Walmart stores have the Western Classics Collection DVD set for just $15. You get:

Escape From Fort Bravo (1953) — William Holden directed by John Sturges in Ansco Color. You can read a really good post on this one at Riding The High Country.

Many Rivers To Cross (1955) — Robert Taylor, Eleanor Parker, Victor McLaglen, CinemaScope.

The Law And Jake Wade (1958) — Richard Widmark, directed by Sturges again. Maybe the best of the bunch.

Saddle The Wind (1958) — Robert Taylor, Julie London and — what? — John Cassavetes!

Cimarron (1960) — I’m a bigger fan of Anthony Mann’s smaller pictures, but this is good stuff. With Glenn Ford and farther down the list, Charles McGraw.

The Stalking Moon (1968) — Gregory Peck in a Western that plays like a horror film. Interesting. Peck carries a Henry rifle, which is always cool.

That’s a lot of wonderful-ness for just 15 bones. So, if you were wondering what to do with that 20-dollar bill Aunt Belle stuck in your Christmas card…

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Warner Archive has a really great promotion going on through the end of the month — the Wild Western Sale — giving you 35% off every Western in their catalog.

There’s so much good stuff to choose from: Joel McCrea in Colorado Territory (1949), Wichita (1955), The First Texan (1956) and more; Randolph Scott in things like Badman’s Territory (1946), Carson City (1952) and Westbound (1959); and then there’s pictures like The Rounders (1965), The Badlanders (1958) and The Command (1954, the first Western released in CinemaScope — co-written by Sam Fuller and also shot in 3-D!). I’m partial to the 50s, naturally, but their Westerns span the 30s through the 70s.

Be sure to click over and root around. This is a good time to fill a few holes in your collection — and maybe discover something new. (I’m looking forward to Canyon River.)

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Yesterday’s Robert McGinnis post inspired today’s — art for paperbacks that became 50s Westerns, or 50s Westerns that became paperbacks. These are all Anthony Mann-related, beginning with The Furies (1950).

Then comes The Border Jumpers, which was called Man Of The West (1959) by the time it got the typically-brutal Mann treatment.

Night Passage (1957) began as another Jimmy Stewart – Anthony Mann collaboration, but some disagreements between the two sent Mann packing. As a result, The Man From Laramie (1955) was their last film together. (By the way, The Man From Laramie by T. T. Flynn is back in print.)

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Here’s Robert McGinnis’ painting of John Wayne in The Searchers. It was done in the early 80s, and I believe it’s titled “Ethan.” If you compare the art to the film itself, he even got the shape of the rocks right! (Be sure to click on it so you can see it larger.)

McGinnis painted hundreds upon hundreds of paperback covers (some sources say 1,200) in the 60s and 70s — mostly mystery and crime stuff — and he’s still at it. He created the poster art for many of the James Bond films (the Connery/Moore era), along with the iconic art for Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Jane Fonda in Barbarella. There’s tons of ’em.

In the Westerns department, he painted the cover of the Horse Soldiers movie tie-in paperback and one of the more recent editions of Hondo. And his Western art is incredible, including a piece called “The Stage To Lordsburg,” based on Stagecoach (1939).

Please don’t get the impression that all he does anymore is paint John Wayne stuff — not that there’s be anything wrong with that!

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Hulu’s offering up a 1957 Western starring John Derek, Fury At Showdown.

Director Gerd Oswald performs a minor miracle here, since this cool little picture was shot in a week. His credits also include A Kiss Before Dying (1956), Crime Of Passion (1957, an excellent film noir starring Barbara Stanwyck and Sterling Hayden) and tons of TV: Star Trek, Perry Mason, The Outer Limits, Bonanza, etc.

The Director of Photography, Joseph LaShelle, was nominated for a number of Oscars, and won for Laura (1944). LaShelle shot big films (How The West Was Won, 1962) and small films (I Was A Teenage Werewolf, 1957) — color and black and white, flat and ‘Scope and Cinerama — ending his career with a varied and impressive list of credits.

When you’ve got a spare 75 minutes, check it out.

UPDATE: Hulu has taken down Fury At Showdown, which is a big drag.

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This being Elvis Presley’s birthday (he’d be 75), and this being a blog about Fifties Westerns, it seems kinda obvious that Love Me Tender (1956) would appear here today.

Elvis’ first film began production as The Reno Brothers — but the title was changed to match the song that was already racing up the charts. Presley would knock Love Me Tender later, but it’s a pretty good show if you take it for what it is — a RegalScope picture at heart (low budget, black & white ‘Scope), whose status was elevated by the simple fact that Elvis was in it. His next Western, Flaming Star (1960), directed by Don Siegel, is terrific. And he’s terrific in it.

By the way, the Reno Brothers — a gang of post-Civil War train robbers — are also the subject of the Randolph Scott picture Rage At Dawn (1955), which has a really incredible ending.

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There’s a blog I’ve been checking out the last few days — The Great Silence — dedicated to old movie locations. Many of the locations are from various Fifties Westerns shot around Lone Pine.

Example: above is a shot from Hangman’s Knot (1952).

And here’s what the same spot looks like today. When you have some time, be sure to check it out. I highly recommend it.

Kevin Closson has tracked down locations from The Gunfighter (1950), The Searchers (1956), many of the Scott-Boetticher pictures, and High Plains Drifter (1973), among others. He even includes GPS numbers in case you wanna see them for yourselves. God knows I do!

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Both barrels, part 2.

Henry Cabot Beck of True West Magazine brought this to my attention. The through-the-gun-barrel shot had been used in William Wellman’s Yellow Sky back in 1948, predating Fuller’s Forty Guns by nine years. That’s Gregory Peck, and Anne Baxter’s got the bead on him. I’d completely forgotten about it.

Since they’re both Fox pictures, wonder if the Yellow Sky effect/matte/whatever was simply drug out and dusted off for Forty Guns? “Hey Sam, what about this? Worked last time.”

Thanks for the tip, Henry.

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Both barrels.

Samuel Fuller’s Forty Guns (1957) is one of the most visually stunning films I’ve ever seen. Long takes. Mile-long tracking shots. Odd angles. Extreme close-ups in CinemaScope (certainly noticed by Sergio Leone). All in very noir-ish black & white, courtesy of cinematographer Joseph Biroc. Every time I see it, I’m blown away by something new.

It’s a picture that has been listed as an influence by all sorts of people.

But there’s a certain shot, as Gene Barry looks through a gun barrel at the gunsmith’s daughter (Eve Brent), that must’ve made an impression on a handful of English guys in the early 60s.

From the second James Bond film, From Russia With Love (1964).

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