Archive for February, 2010

Here’s a shot from The Gunfighter (1950), a film often listed as one of the first “Adult Westerns.” That’s Gregory Peck atop the rock. And below, taken from The Great Silence, what that Lone Pine location looks like today.

The watering hole they created at the base of the rock is still there.

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My wife and I were married 12 years ago today in Las Vegas. We made our way to a dude ranch in Wickenburg, Arizona, for our honeymoon.

While we were there, the weekly Movie Night featured The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) — because I picked it. It’s become a special film around our house — and not just because it’s hands-down one of the finest Westerns ever made. (My daughter really likes Wayne kicking Strother Martin.)

Today seemed like a good day to put it up here, even if it’s not from the 50s. Fittingly, we’re going out for steaks tonight — smaller cuts than those at Peter’s Place.

I posted this last night, or early this morning, and Colin at Riding The High Country sent a well-wishing comment. (Thanks Colin!) That somehow got me thinking about people’s relationships with certain films — and prompted me to revisit this.

It’s a great thing for a couple or family or group of friends to have a connection to a film, much in the way couples have Their Song. Since I grew up in a house full of movies, my family has lots of pictures that feel like old friends. Of course, for my wife and I, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is the cream of the crop.

So, I’d love to hear about other folks’ connections to a particular film — especially if it’s a Western. You can do it through the comments thing. (Colin, I’d really like one from you.)

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Just saw on Self-Styled Siren that the For The Love Of Film Blogathon raised over $10,000 for film restoration. I’m smiling as I type this.

If 10 cents of that came from my post, I’m overjoyed. And even if it didn’t, I’m stoked to be in some small way associated with such an undertaking.

And if there’s another blogathon next year or whenever, I’m in — with a better, more thorough piece. About Westerns, of course.

Oh, and the subject line? It’s thrown around as being from the Gary Cooper The Virginian (1929). The actual line is “If you want to call me that, smile!”

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Been reading quite a bit of the stuff that has grown out of For The Love Of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon. It’s quite impressive, and they’ve proven their case time and again that there’s a real need to preserve American films. I don’t have the chops to tackle such a thing officially, so I’ll cheer them on from the sidelines — and encourage everyone to donate.

Many 50s Westerns (and lots of other genre pictures) were produced by small independent outfits, and regardless of their legal status, many of these films have had their negatives lost or damaged over time. You’ve probably heard the horror stories — the camera negative’s been in a basement in Encino since the picture quit playing drive-ins back in ’59, then the producer dies and his kids toss the whole thing out along with a musty old stack of Variety. That kinda thing.

I’m not sure what the actual story is on Stranger On Horseback (1955), but it might not be too far from that. Joel McCrea and producer Leonard Goldstein cooked up a deal where McCrea did it for 25% of the profits. It took a while, but McCrea made a bit of money off the 66-minute, Ansco Color gem — directed by the mighty Jacques Tourneur.

Flash forward 40 years or so. McCrea, who passed away in 1990, is a Western icon. Jacques Tourneur has gained quite a cult following, thanks largely to Cat People (1942) and Out Of The Past (1947). But Stranger On Horseback hasn’t been seen in years. Not on television. Not on video. Nowhere. (I’ve heard crummy-looking black and white videotapes were floating around.) Finally, a 35mm print turns up at the British Film Institute and the good folks at VCI convince the BFI to loan it to them — and Stranger On Horseback is now sitting in the DVD collection of discerning Western fans everywhere. How’s that for a happy ending?

To be frank, it could look better — a film in Ansco Color could always look better. But it’s available. We can enjoy it any time we want — something you can’t say for far too many films.

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Here’s a few more of the Western posters Reynold Brown did for Universal-International. First up, The Last Of The Fast Guns (1958), directed by George Sherman.

Walk The Proud Land (1956) starred Audie Murphy and Anne Bancroft. The director, Jesse Hibbs, was one of John Wayne’s teammates on the USC football team. Hibbs played for the Chicago Bears before becoming a director. (He also directed To Hell And Back based on Audie Murphy’s autobiography — and starring Audie Murphy.)

Note this boasts a “print by Technicolor,” which means they shot the film using the cheaper Eastmancolor monopack stock, then had real Technicolor prints made, ensuring that vivid color on a tighter budget. Universal-International was big on that trick.

Quantez (1957) stars Fred MacMurray and Dorothy Malone. It was directed by Harry Keller, who around this same time was one of the uncredited directors doing re-shoots for U-I as they worked to “fix” Orson Welles’ Touch Of Evil. Poor Orson.

See Brown’s art for Pillars Of The Sky (1956) for another take on Dorothy Malone.

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Here’s the Spanish poster for the Randolph Scott picture Abilene Town (1946). Reminds me of some of the terrific art done for Spaghetti Westerns a couple decades later. Now, check out the promotional piece below. The title translates to The Street Of Conflict.

This was on sale the other day somewhere out there on the World Wide Web. As cool as it is, a 60-year-old paper knife wasn’t worth the fistful of Euros they were asking. Even if Randolph Scott’s name is on it. So these scans will have to do.

Abilene Town is a good one. And if you go looking for it, be careful. It’s in the public domain, and there are some really ratty-looking DVDs of it out there. I’ve tried a few of them with some pretty dismal results.

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Deep Discount has announced they are now carrying titles from The Warner Archive. To kick off the new arrangement, they’ve got a special promotion running through the 26th. Basic shipping is always free at Deep Discount, which also helps.

Here’s a great opportunity to catch up on those George Montgomery pictures you’ve had your eye on, like Man From God’s Country (1958).

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Okay, so this isn’t a 50s Western. But I’d say there wouldn’t have been much in the way of Westerns in the 50s if it wasn’t for John Ford’s hugely influential Stagecoach (1939). Criterion has announced a DVD release of this incredible film for May.

I’m perfectly content with the existing Stagecoach DVD, which includes an American Masters documentary called Ford/Wayne and commentary. Though not perfect, it was the best the picture had looked in ages. I actually like transfers with a little dirt here and there — reminds me that I’m watching a film, even if it’s on TV.

Criterion’s promising some goodies with this new DVD, but the real good news is that there will be a Blu-Ray version.

Stagecoach is the first movie I remember seeing where I was actually aware of the camerawork. (I would’ve been around six.) In the scene above, I particularly love the split-second loss of focus as they track in on Ringo (John Wayne). The film’s filled with stuff like the shot below. Breathtaking.

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Not far at all, as it turns out. Movie Morlocks has an interesting piece on Raoul Walsh’s Colorado Territory (1949) and the picture it’s a remake of, Raoul Walsh’s High Sierra (1941). It provides a good rundown of the many parallels between the two films — one a crime picture, the other a Western. Read it here. The post also comments on the quality of both on DVD and DVD-R.

Colorado Territory is one of my favorite Westerns. Period. (Of course, I’d watch Joel McCrea brush his teeth.) High Sierra ain’t too shabby either.

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Here we go again. Another gang of Westerns with female leads. (Check out the first one here.) Couldn’t resist starting things out with Marie Windsor. Here’s the insert for Dakota Lil (1950) co-starring George Montgomery and directed by Lesley Selander.

Bandit Queen (1950) was a cheap Lippert picture. Aren’t they all? Barbara Britton had been in The Virginian (1946) with Joel McCrea — and both Gunfighters (1947) and Albuquerque (1948) with Randolph Scott.

Republic Pictures gave us Woman They Almost Lynched (1953), directed by Allan Dwan. Audrey Totter was a veteran of some prime 40s film noir — The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), Lady In The Lake (1947) and The Set-Up (1949).

Last, we’ve got The Buckskin Lady (1957) starring Patricia Medina from The Beast Of Hollow Mountain (1956, which we covered yesterday). Carl K. Hittleman produced and directed Gun Battle At Monterey, starring Sterling Hayden, the same year. The Buckskin Lady runs just over an hour, was shot at the Iverson Ranch, and has Hank Worden in it, putting it pretty high up on my Want List. It’s out on DVD from Alpha, but their quality’s all over the place. Anybody know what it looks like?

That, my friends, is a great poster.

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