Archive for March, 2011

To me, the value of any award can be gauged by its judges. For instance, wouldn’t a songwriting trophy mean more if one of the judges was Bob Dylan rather than, say, Dick Vitale? “Awesome tune, baby!”

So to have Moira over at Skeins Of Thought bestow a Stylish Blogger Award upon me and 50 Westerns From The 50s is a big, big deal. I enjoy her blog as much for the way she writes as for what she writes about. People like her keep the rest of us on our toes — and show us how this whole blog deal is supposed to be done.

The way this award works, the black block logo thing has to appear on the page. Check. I have to list seven things about myself. Check (see below). And I have to pass the award on to seven other blogs. Check again (see below-er). Well, here goes.

Seven Things About Me

1. I only wear black shoes.

2. I hate ketchup. Hate.

3. My all-time favorite movie has been Where Eagles Dare (1969) since I was nine years old. The Number Two slot, however, has fluctuated quite a bit.

4. Most of my heroes are dead — Roy Rogers, George Harrison, Joel McCrea, Ed Roth, Randolph Scott, Carl Perkins, Budd Boetticher, Alex Chilton, my mom, etc. — but I’d love to meet Brian Wilson.

5. Perhaps my most memorable movie-going experience: William Friedkin’s Sorcerer (1977) in a nearly-empty theater on its opening night. When the lights came up, it was like all of us had been punched in the stomach. Or maybe it was watching Metropolis (1926) with Forrest J. Ackerman.

6. The opportunity to introduce my daughter to some of my favorite films, music and books — from Trail Of Robin Hood (1950) to The Kinks to The Wind In The Willows — has been a real blessing. Should I take her to a screening of The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) this weekend?

7. Over the years I’ve discovered that the overall effectiveness of a film can be attributed to a few key elements: writing, direction, acting, cinematography, editing, score — and whether or not or you have a box of Raisinets.

Seven Blogs That Deserve This Award

1. Riding The High Country Colin has had a huge impact on this blog (and ultimately, my book). My appreciation (or loathing in a couple cases) of a film is always enhanced by his writing on it.

2. The Classic TV History Blog Stephen Bowie’s commitment to getting it right has been quite an inspiration as I’ve worked on my book. His knowlege is a much better resource than the IMDB.

3. Greenbriar Picture Shows John Elwee’s collection of film paper gives his blog an edge over most of the others out there. He’s covering Son Of Paleface (1952) these days, as perfect a film comedy as has ever been made (and an occasional Number Two; see #3 above). That alone qualifies him for this list.

4. Speaking of Son Of Paleface and quality blogging, let’s not forget Ivan Shreve, Jr. and Thrilling Days Of Yesteryear.

5. Musings Of A Mule-Skinner: Deke Dickerson’s Blog The guitar virtuoso (and founder of The Untamed Youth and The Dave And Deke Combo) tracks down vintage guitars — and the people who played them. Fascinating.

6. Please Pass The Pie Abbie Kiefer is a former co-worker, an all-around swell person, an excellent writer and quite a cook. She even makes food I don’t like sound (and look) good.

7. Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings Laura’s blog does something you don’t find very often. It gives you a very good idea of what she’s like as a person — without taking away from the quality film coverage. That’s quite a trick.

Thanks to Moira, and to my Roy Rogers Riders lucky piece, for this honor.

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Warner Archive is celebrating their second anniversary with a terrific sale — five titles for $50 — through the 28th.

Free shipping, too.

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This weekend, the 2011 Palm Springs WestFest will feature a three-day Western film festival highlighting Gene Autry’s film and TV work.

Two of the films are among Gene’s best — South Of The Border (1939) and Hills Of Utah (1951, which includes the song “Peter Cottontail”).

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Chasen’s Chili

The passing of Elizabeth Taylor has resurrected the old story of her having chili from Chasen’s Restaurant in Beverly Hills sent to Rome during the shooting of Cleopatra (1962).

In the photo above, Don Taylor, Ardis Holden, William Holden (Escape From Fort Bravo, 1953), Nancy Reagan and Ronald Reagan (Tennessee’s Partner, 1955) visit the Old Hollywood landmark. (Reagan’s booth is on display in his presidential library.)

Here, in honor of Miss Taylor, is Chasen’s chili recipe.


Chasen’s Famous Chili

1/2 pound dry pinto beans


1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice

1 large green bell pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 cups onions, coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup parsley, chopped

1/2 cup butter

2 pounds beef chuck, coarsely chopped*

1 pound pork shoulder, coarsely chopped*

1/3 cup Gebhardt’s chili powder

1 tablespoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons Farmer Brothers ground cumin**


Rinse the beans, picking out debris. Place beans in a Dutch oven with water to cover. Boil for two minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand one hour. Drain off liquid.

Rinse beans again. Add enough fresh water to cover beans. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered, for one hour or until tender.

Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Simmer five minutes. In a large skillet, saute bell pepper in oil for five minutes. Add onion and cook until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic and parsley. Add mixture to bean mixture. Using the same skillet, melt the butter and saute beef and pork chuck until browned. Drain. Add to bean mixture along with the chili powder, salt, pepper and cumin.

Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for one hour. Uncover and cook 30 minutes more or to desired consistency. Chili shouldn’t be too thick – it should be somewhat liquid but not runny like soup. Skim of excess fat and serve.

NOTE: You can freeze this chili for several months. When reheating refrigerated leftover or frozen chili, add a few tablespoons of water to regain proper consistency.

* Chasen’s used the best beef chuck, center cut, trimmed completely of fat. The restaurant used a special meat grinder, but for the home cook, meat chopped into one-quarter to one-half-inch chunks is much better than ground meat for this chili.

** Sometimes cumin seed is used in place of the ground cumin. It’s a matter of personal preference.




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I haven’t seen Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957) in ages, but I remember it being a pretty goofy excuse for a Randolph Scott movie. That’s not necessarily a criticism.

Laura over at Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings wrote a nice post on it over the weekend, pointing out one of the few things I remember about it — it feels more like a Warner Bros. TV show from the period than a theatrical feature.

Turns out the picture is available on Netflix Watch Instantly. I’ve never taken the Netflix plunge, but now I’m giving it some thought.

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Coming in June from Universal, part of the TCM Vault Collection — The Audie Murphy Westerns Collection. This set is something a number of you (and I) have been wanting. Let’s hope it’s the first of many. It includes:

Sierra (1950) is an early one.  Directed by Alfred E. Green, it also stars Wanda Hendrix (at one point Mrs. Audie Murphy), Burl Ives and Dean Jagger.

Ride Clear Of Diablo (1954), in Technicolor. Directed by Jesse Hibbs. This one features Susan Cabot, Dan Duryea and Russell Johnson.

Drums Across The River (1954) — Nathan Juran directs Walter Brennan, Mora Corday, Hugh O’Brien and Jay Silverheels. Technicolor.

Ride A Crooked Trail (1958), directed by Jesse Hibbs, in Eastman Color and CinemaScope. Written by Borden Chase. The cast includes Gia Scala, Walter Matthau and Henry Silva.

With a release date of June 6, it’s available for pre-order now.

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Here’s wishing you a great Saint Patrick’s Day — and wishing the DVD of The Quiet Man looked a bit better. Regardless of the quality of the transfer, I’m sure it’ll be spinning in plenty of households tonight.

Wouldn’t this have been a terrific Blu-ray release this week?

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Here are a few quotes from Joel McCrea, pulled from various sources I’ve come across.

“I liked doing comedies but as I got older, I was better suited to doing Westerns. I felt at home in them, you know?”

“If I’m gonna do claptrap, I may as well do claptrap on horseback.”

“No one had to tell me to be careful of my own image. I got the idea watching stars I admired: William S. Hart in the beginning, and Gary Cooper later on. Harry Warner — the smart brother — told me that I should never play a heavy or an antihero. I agreed and I never played a bad guy.”

“Coop, Wayne and I all learned to act in the movies by acting in the movies. I think the most important lesson we ever learned was when to hold back. The Broadway actors still haven’t learned that one trick.”

“I think the trouble with most movie actors is that they think about everything but acting. They are either doping the horses or worrying about what their stocks are doing or mulling some deal to buy an apartment house. They devote their time to everything except what brings in the money to invest — motion pictures. The movies are a warm, satisfying business. But it’s an exacting business, too. And you can’t give a good performance when you worry about that call to your business agent.”

“Give me a deal at a major studio every time and I’ll be happy. As soon as the sneak preview is over, so are my worries. I’ve studied this business for 15 years, and it’s convinced me an actor’s place is in front of the cameras… The only time I got shoved around in all my years as an actor was when I owned 35 per cent of the movie I was making.”

“After 87 pictures in 47 years, I knew when to quit.”

“I did the best I could — without trying too hard.”


Last Of The Cowboy Heroes by Robert Nott

Romantic Comedy In Hollywood: From Lubitsch To Sturges by James Harvey

An interview with Gerald Peary

Various newspaper stories, usually plugging one of McCrea’s 50s Westerns

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The Maverick Queen (1956) paired Barbara Stanwyck and Barry Sullivan (a year before Sam Fuller’s Forty Guns). For Republic, this was a pretty lavish picture — color, widescreen and location work in Silverton, Colorado.

From the New York Times review on June 4, 1956:”The Maverick Queen introduces Republic’s wide screen process, called Naturama. Republic reportedly spent two years developing this anamorphic system. (Its projection aspect ratio of 2.35 to 1 is somewhat narrower than that of CinemaScope). Thus equipped, the film has plenty of room to show, in color, the wide open spaces of Colorado, where it was made. But The Maverick Queen shows also that Republic, too, has recognized the growth of the screen—sideways. For the film is an old horse opera in still another technological dress.”

It’s ironic, and a bit sad, that since its original release, Naturama’s maiden voyage has been seen only via terrible pan and scan transfers.

Director Joe Kane: “The studio was scraping the bottom of the barrel to get a big moneymaker and they finally let me have color and Naturama and Barbara Stanwyck… It was a real pleasure to work with a grand trouper like Missy. She’d do anything, and you had to darn-near hogtie her to keep her from breaking her neck on a dangerous stunt.” (From Close Up: The Contract Director, Scarecrow Press, 1976)

There are similar stories of Miss Stanwyck being repeatedly drug by her horse for Forty Guns‘ sandstorm sequence.

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A tip from Henry Cabot Beck and True West Magazine

Since 1961 the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s annual Western Heritage Awards have honored excellence in Western literature, music, television and film. Of course, the list of winning works includes many of the finest of the genre. The Western Heritage Awards encourage the telling of the West’s rich history and legacy through the creative arts.

In recognition of Andy Devine’s contribution to Western films the National Cowboy Museum will recognize his body of work with his induction into the prestigious Hall of Great Western Performers. He will join such legendary Western film actors as John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, Joel McCrea, Jimmy Stewart, James Garner, Tom Selleck, Charleton Heston and Sam Elliot.

The 2011 black tie ceremonies will be held on Saturday, April 16th in the Museum’s Sam Noble Special Events Center.

That’s Andy seated between John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart on the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).

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