Archive for January, 2010

I’ve always wondered about jean jackets in 50s Westerns. Jimmy Stewart wears one in Winchester ’73 (1950, above), Richard Widmark in The Law And Jake Wade (1958, below). There are plenty of others.

The Levi jacket was hugely popular throughout the 50s, so I always questioned whether short-waist jean jackets were part of an authentic cowboy wardrobe, or just something the costume people thought ought to be in a cowboy wardrobe.

Hopping on the Internet, I came across an interesting document called “A Short History Of Denim” offered by Levi-Strauss & Company’s historian Lynn Downey. She writes that short jean jackets were offered in 1849, though not by Levis. And while this isn’t exactly Mythbusters, we’ll proclaim it not bogus that Stewart, Widmark and others ride the range in these things.

And by the way, I also came across the fact that John Wayne wore 501s in Stagecoach (1939).

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No doubt inspired by The Warner Archive, Universal has kicked off their Vault Series of DVD-R releases — released exclusively through Amazon — of stuff they figure nobody but us geeks and obsessives will care anything about.

As you know, Universal-International put out a slew of Westerns in the 50s. They weren’t big-budget affairs, but some of them are excellent (Pillars Of The Sky, No Name On The Bullet, The Naked Dawn). Some are quite good (Cattle Drive). And the rest — well, I always liked ’em (The Star In The Dust).

However, I’m sorry to report that this first batch is Westerns-less. Not a one! (Well, there’s Shoot Out, but it’s from 1971, and I don’t know if I’d count the wonderful Ruggles Of Red Gap.)

The 1954 Dragnet feature is certainly nice to have, I’ve been wanting that one for years, and The Black Shield Of Farnsworth is really cool, but what about one of the six Joel McCrea U-I Westerns? An Audie Murphy picture? Or since they leaned heavy on Tony Curtis, how about Rudolph Maté’s The Rawhide Years (1955)?

The bulk of first string of titles:

40 Pounds Of Trouble (1962)
Black Shield Of Farnsworth (1954)
Blue Collar
The Chalk Garden (1964)
Death Takes A Holiday (1934)
Dragnet (1954)
House Of Seven Gables (1940)
Kitten With A Whip (1964)
List Of Adrian Messenger (1963)
The Perfect Furlough (1958)
Ruggles Of Red Gap (1933)
Shoot Out (1971)
Spawn Of The North (1938)

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Making cowboy movies wasn’t all some of our heroes were up to in the 50s.

I’ve never tried Carling’s. Guess it’s about time. If it’s good enough for Randy…

Wayne’s lung cancer makes these cigarette ads a little creepy, but he sure looks cool in this one.

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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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