Archive for September, 2010

Tony Curtis, 1925 – 2010

Tony Curtis, who passed away yesterday at 85, was a Movie Star in every sense of the word. And when given a chance, he could really act.

He’s seen here in The Rawhide Years (1955) — a Universal-International Western I hoped to talk to him about someday. (Isn’t that a great photo?) In Hollywood’s typical ghoulish fashion, we might see this, and a slew of his other pictures, pop up on DVD before long.

Here’s his New York Times obituary. A previous post on this picture has some real insight from Tony on film acting.

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Happy Birthday

Angie Dickinson

Born September 30, 1931

Seen here working with Howard Hawks and John Wayne on Rio Bravo (1959). “I was so thrilled that I finally got to work with the great Howard Hawks, my first enormous job. And to be chosen over all those other women. So he knew you were considered lucky to be in one of his movies, to say the least. He was wonderful. Those were special times, and I was lucky to be there.”

Henry Cabot Beck reminded me that he interviewed Angie for True West Magazine. Read it here. (The above quote is from that interview.)

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Arthur Penn, 1922 – 2010

Director Arthur Penn has passed away at 88. An important director in the early days of TV, in features, he will forever be known as the guy that did (one of my all-time favorite films) Bonnie And Clyde (1967). His New York Times obituary is here.

Western-wise, he also directed one of the most psychological of the psychological Westerns of the 50s, The Left Handed Gun (1958) — with Paul Newman Method-ing his way through the story of Billy The Kid, the “anti-Western” Little Big Man (1970, which I have to admit I never really cared for), and the whacked out The Missouri Breaks (1976).

Here you’ll find a terrific interview from a couple years ago where Penn talks at length about making The Left Handed Gun.

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Aurora Zorro Kit Re-Issue

Atlantis is bringing back the Zorro kit from the old Aurora molds.

Guy Williams starred in the Disney TV series, which ran on ABC 1957-59.

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You don’t see many production shots from the Ranown pictures, so I was really excited to come across this one. Here’s Michael Dante, Randolph Scott and Budd Boetticher working on Westbound (1959).

Boetticher (from an excellent interview with Sean Axmaker): “Randy came to me and said ‘I have a very serious situation to discuss with you. I have one more picture to do at Warner Brothers and I don’t know what to do!.’ And that’s when I went to Warner Brothers and said ‘I don’t care how little I’m going to make, I want to direct the picture.’ And that was Westbound… I had complete control over the filming, but not over the script. The script was already ready to go, and it reverted right back to the old Randolph Scott westerns. Which were not that good.”

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Martin M. Goldsmith

Someone mentioned screenwriter Martin M. Goldsmith, and research lately has centered on writers, so I figured he was certainly worth putting up here.

Goldsmith will always be known for writing a couple of the best examples of film noir — Detour (1945) and The Narrow Margin (1952). Margin‘s script was nominated for an Oscar. But his Westerns are quite good, too.

He brought a lot of Detour‘s fatalism to Fort Massacre (1958) with Joel McCrea — it’s a really good picture with a tough, dark turn from McCrea. You hear complaints about how light McCrea’s 50s Westerns were, but this one will never be accused of that.

Others penned by Goldsmith were Overland Pacific (1954) with Jock Mahoney, Audie Murphy in Cast A Long Shadow (1959) and  another McCrea picture, The Gunfight At Dodge City (1959). This time around, Joel’s Bat Masterson.

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Screenwriter Irving Ravetch has passed away at 89. He wrote a number of excellent 50s Westerns: The Outriders (1950), Vengeance Valley (1951), The Lone Hand (1953) and Ten Wanted Men (1955).

Ravetch later collaborated with his wife, Harriet Frank, Jr. (that’s them to the right) on screenplays for pictures such as Hud (1963), Hombre (1967), The Reivers (1969), The Cowboys (1972) and The Spikes Gang (1974). The happy couple received Oscar nominations for Hud and Norma Rae (1979).

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Leonard Maltin (from his blog) on the restored print of Jubal screened at the TCM Classic Film Festival —

“Later that day I introduced a new 35mm print of Delmer Daves’ 1956 western Jubal. Sony’s Senior Vice President of Restoration, Grover Crisp, explained that it was only in recent years, with digital processes, that he and his team were able to restore the faded color and remove the deep scratches that existed in the original materials on this entertaining film. They also slightly shrank the extra-wide 2:55:1 widescreen image to fit into today’s conventional 2:35:1 CinemaScope frame. I was even more impressed with the original three-channel stereophonic sound, which showed off David Raksin’s score wonderfully well. After the screening I interviewed the indestructible 93-year-old Ernest Borgnine, who had fond memories of filming on location in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and great fondness for writer-director Daves. We talked about his career in general, and Borgnine completely charmed the audience.”

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Cattle Queen Of Montana (1954)

You never know where your research will take you.

Here are parts of letters Ronald Reagan wrote to Nancy while he was away from home on location for Cattle Queen Of Montana (1954) — printed in I Love You, Ronnie: The Letters Of Ronald Reagan To Nancy Reagan.

July 13

“The first day of shooting and like all first days I can’t tell you good bad or indifferent. Everything is hectic and upset what with the truck caravan arriving from L.A. in the dark last night. Most of the morning was spent getting the trucks unloaded and the equipment straightened out. Ben B. (producer Benedict Bogeaus) is on hand so things can really get buggered up. I think Alan D. (director Allan Dwan) is trying to get some of the story holes plugged and this morning changed one scene ‘a la’ a suggestion from ‘guess who.’ However our opposition is B.B. himself so I only whisper in an off-ear and let them fight it out. So far ‘Lady S.’ (Barbara Stanwyck) is no help — taking the attitude of ‘who cares in these kinds of pictures.”

July 17

“I don’t know how the picture is going. We started in confusion and have managed to develop that characteristic to an unusual degree. B.B. is still defending his script, I’m still feeding suggestions to A.D. and those two then huddle and argue.  Right now I’m waiting to go to work and the scheduled scene is one of those that needs changing the most… B.S. (Stanwyck again)  just continues to go her merry way in the exclusive company of two hairdressers and her maid. I wonder what picture she’s making.

This, incidentally, is my first crack at picture making since the big switch to TV film work in Hollywood and it bears out everything we’ve ever said. First of all — getting a crew was a case of rounding up who you could find. The industry, as we have so often said, literally forced our technicians to seek work in TV and now we reap the harvest. Ben said there was a scramble to get enough guys for this crew — with no thought whatsoever of picking and choosing.”

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Nathan Juran began his film career as an art director, eventually winning an Oscar for his work on How Green Was My Valley (1941). He was art director on Winchester ’73 (1950), and was directing Westerns for Universal-International — Law And Order, Tumbleweed (both 1953) and more — a couple years later. But the bulk of his feature work was in science fiction — including The Deadly Mantis (1957), 20 Million Miles To Earth (1957) and The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (1958). Later, he did a lot of TV. In fact, one of his episodes of Daniel Boone just wrapped up on RTV.

Interviewed for Starlog in 1989, and for the Audie Murphy biography No Name On The Bullet, he described making B pictures:

Nathan Juran (in Starlog): “I approached the picture business as a business. I always did pictures for the money, and for the creative challenges. I wasn’t a born director. I was just a technician who could transfer the script from the page to the stage and could get it shot on schedule and on budget. I never became caught up in the ‘romance’ of the movies.”

Nathan Juran (for No Name On The Bullet): “The terrible thing is that when you make these sort of B pictures it’s a terrible struggle because you get a B class director and you get second-rate actors and you get lousy music, and you get a cutter that’s on his way down… What you really need is a good star, or a hell of a story, but you get poor writing and you get poor everything. Costuming is whatever they had on the shelf and the sets are somebody else’s old sets, and it’s pretty tough.”

“You never reshot anything. When you finished it, that was it. Also you didn’t dare take too many takes of any particular shot because you didn’t have time, it would be at the expense of the show.”

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