Archive for April, 2010

Last night, someone brought up Delmer Daves’ The Last Wagon (1956), which made me think of Richard Widmark tied to the wagon wheel. It’s one of those movie images that has really stuck with me over the years — in a movie that’s tough and brutal and well-paced. All the stuff you want in a 50s Western. Oh, and it’s got Timothy Carey in it. Enough said.

Further proof that 1956 was the year for Westerns.

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It doesn’t take much time on this blog to figure out I’m a huge Joel McCrea fan. So it’s big news around here that Joel McCrea’s Thousand Oaks ranch is not only on the National Register Of Historic Places, but that the 90-year-old home will be preserved as a visitors center. It should be ready for tours in about a year.

Joel McCrea bought the ranch in 1933, and he and Frances Dee called it home till his death in 1990. Over the years, according to McCrea’s wishes, pieces of the ranch have been donated to the YMCA and other groups.

You can read more about the ranch and the plans for it here. I came across this wonderful bit of news through Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings. Thanks, Laura.

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Broken Arrow (1950) is often held up as the first postwar film to sympathetically portray Native Americans. It came out within weeks of Jimmy Stewart’s other 1950 Western, Anthony Mann’s Winchester ’73.

The Oscar-nominated screenplay, based on the novel Blood Brother by Elliott Arnold, is credited to Michael Blankfort — who was actually serving as a front for the blacklisted Albert Maltz, one of the Hollywood Ten. (The Writers Guild has since corrected the credits for these blacklisted writers.)

But Broken Arrow and its writer(s) have another distinction. The “Apache Wedding Prayer” recited in the film must’ve really resonated with people, because it’s been used in actual weddings over the years. Do these happy couples believe they’re adding a beautiful Native American tradition into their nuptials? Or do they realize they’re quoting an old cowboy movie written by a suspected Commie?

Either way, it’s a great Western. And a very nice set of vows. Here they are:

Now you will feel no rain,
For each of you will be shelter to the other.

Now you will feel no cold,
For each of you will be warmth to the other.

Now there is no more loneliness,
For each of you will be companion to the other.

Now you are two bodies,
But there is one life before you.

Go now to your dwelling place,
To enter into the days of your togetherness.
And may your days be good and long upon the earth.

You know, I can completely understand why someone would want to incorporate that into their ceremony.

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I found this quite interesting, especially since I’ve been working on a post about the various Earps and Hollidays we were treated to in the 50s. Enjoy.

Arizona Court Discovers Original O.K. Corral Papers.

By Jonathan J. Cooper, Associated Press Writer

PHOENIX — A missing handwritten transcript from a coroner’s inquest done after the legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral has resurfaced in a dusty box more than 125 years after the most famous shootout in Wild West history.

The document had been missing for decades – last seen when it was photocopied in the 1960s.

It was found when court clerks stumbled on the box while reorganizing files in an old jail storage room in Bisbee, about 20 miles south of Tombstone, the Arizona frontier town where the gunbattle took place.

Stuffed inside the box was a modern manila envelope marked “keep” with the date 1881.

The inquest was done after lawmen Wyatt Earp, his two brothers and Doc Holliday confronted a gang of drunken outlaws, sparking a 30-second gunbattle in the streets of Tombstone that killed Frank and Tom McLaury and Bill Clanton.

It made folk heroes of Earp and Holliday and inspired numerous movies (such as 1957’s Gunfight At The O.K. Corral, above) about the untamed Old West.

Officials showed off just one page of the transcript on Wednesday — a thick sheet of paper with blue lines and sloppy cursive writing in dark ink. It appeared to contain the beginning of testimony by William Claiborn, identified by a historian as a friend of the three dead outlaws.

“I was present on the afternoon of Oct. 26th ’81 when the shooting commenced between outlaw parties,” the testimony reads.

Court officials have turned the document over to state archivists. Experts will immediately begin peeling away tape, restoring the paper and ink, and digitizing the pages.

The first pages could show up on the library’s website for historians to review as soon as next week.

It’s unlikely the transcript will provide any shattering revelations about the gunfight, since historians have already reviewed photocopies and the inquest was covered in detail by newspapers at the time.

Still, historians have long argued over who fired first and whether Tom McLaury was armed when he was shot. Earp and the other lawmen said they were defending themselves. Friends of the outlaws called it murder.

Wild West fans still argue over who was right, even though a judge and grand jury found insufficient evidence to try Holliday and the Earp brothers.

History buffs said the transcript is enlightening nonetheless because it has the potential to clear up fuzzy passages and reveal small notes that don’t appear in the photocopies.

“They were handled by the people of that moment, and they’re the actual artifact that encapsulated that time period,” said GladysAnn Wells, Arizona State Librarian.

The document is legible, but the paper has darkened to an amber beer color and is brittle like a potato chip, said Cochise County Court Clerk Denise Lundin. The handwriting can be difficult to read because the court reporter was rapidly taking notes, she said.

The inquest was done by coroner Henry M. Matthews.

Even if the document doesn’t reveal new information, the discovery helps historians feel more comfortable with the record, said Gary Robertson, a Wild West historian and author of the book Doc Holliday, the Life and the Legend. But most importantly, it sparks the imagination.

“Every time you find one it gives you hope that maybe you’ll find some more,” Roberts said. “Maybe there will be something else that we’ve all been dying to get our hands on.”

Lundin is convinced that somewhere in her courthouse are records of the inquest for Johnny Ringo, another legendary outlaw.

“These things aren’t something you can go search for,” she said. “You really just have to watch for them.”

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.

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The first week of November, back in 1957, was a good one at The Ulmerton Drive-In Theatre (formerly The Palm) near St. Petersburg, Florida.

A Western every night of the week. Dig the Joel McCrea/Bill Elliot double bill, The Virginian (1946) and Fargo (1952), for just a buck a car!

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Richard Carlson (right, with Richard Denning and Julie Adams) stars in one of my all-time favorite films, The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954), along with lots of other stuff. (Sorry, I was in a hurry and couldn’t get my hands on a shot of Carlson with The Creature.)

Carlson also directed a handful of films and TV, including a couple of pretty good Rory Calhoun Westerns for Universal-International. First was Four Guns To The Border (1954), which rounds out the cast with Colleen Miller, Walter Brennan and John McIntire.

Next came The Saga Of Hemp Brown (1958). Carlson’s got another great cast riding along along with Rory: Beverly Garland, John Larch and Russell Johnson. And CinemaScope, too.

I love these U-I posters and wanted an excuse to post a couple. What are our chances of seeing this stuff on DVD in our lifetime?

And speaking of Universal-International Westerns (and The Creature), Julie Adams was in a ton of ’em, such as Anthony Mann’s Bend Of The River (1952) and Budd Boetticher’s Wings Of The Hawk (1953).

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When I started working on 50 Westerns From The 50s, and the blog that goes along with it, I made a decision to stay away from TV Westerns. Nothing against them, I just didn’t want to take on too much (and to be honest, I don’t know all that much about them).

But I’m gonna make an exception with Robert Culp. Mainly because I like him. And because I was inspired by Stephen Bowie’s terrific piece on him at The Classic TV History Blog. Go read it.

Culp never appeared in a Western feature in the 50s (at least none that I know of), but he did a lot of Western TV — including The Rifleman, Bonanza, Zane Grey Theater and two seasons of Trackdown (which he starred in, and is unavailable on DVD). There’s also a particularly good Rawhide episode, “Incident At The Top Of The World,” with Culp excellent as a Civil War veteran addicted to morphine.

He was good. He was cool. And he will certainly be missed.

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Today I’d like to celebrate James Griffith, a character actor who doesn’t get near the recognition he deserves. That’s him in Rails Into Laramie (1954), in the green shirt, holding the double barrel shotgun.

Mr. Griffith was a musician first and foremost — a one-time member of Spike Jones’ band, but his busy acting career took off and lasted into the 80s. If you have a pulse and have ever sat in front of a television set, chances are good you’ve seen him. He’s in multiple episodes of Dragnet, The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Batman and Emergency!, to name just a few. To give you an idea, the Internet Movie Database (not the most trustworthy of references) gives him over 200 actor credits.

Griffith both scored and appeared in Bullwhip (1958), and he co-wrote, scored and acted in Russ Meyer’s Lorna (1964). Standout film roles — his feature work is made up largely of Westerns — include the airline manager at the end of The Killing (1956), Pat Garrett in The Law Vs. Billy The Kid (1954) and a great turn as the ailing Doc Holliday in Masterson Of Kansas (1954, below with George Montgomery).

How many actors can say they worked for Stanley Kubrick, William Castle and Russ Meyer? Now that’s a career!

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Henry Cabot Beck at True West Magazine tipped me off to some astonishing cover art by Frank Frazetta to be found at Golden Age Comic Book Stories. This is a Tim Holt cover for Magazine Enterprises. Click on the image to see it larger. The detail is incredible.

The same post has more Tim art, along with a few Ghost Rider covers.

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Just heard that VCI Entertainment will be offering up Apache Rifles this summer.

Starring Audie Murphy and directed by William Witney, the picture plays like a 50s Western — even though it was released in 1964. I’ve always liked this one, and I’m sure VCI will do a nice job with it.

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