Archive for May, 2011

Raoul Walsh.

Raoul Walsh’s later pictures are often dismissed. But when you turn out both White Heat and Colorado Territory in the same year (1949), you’re entering the 1950s with talent very much intact.

His Fifties Westerns, Lawless Breed (1952) and Gun Fury (1953), pale in comparison with Colorado Territory. They’re a great way to kill 80 minutes, however.

He knew how to make movies — and he’s endlessly quotable. Here are a few things pulled from various sources, along with Lee Marvin talking about him.

Walsh (in 1952): “Most movie scripts today are overwritten. I go through them and cut out the dialogue wherever I can. That may be why my pictures are so popular in foreign countries.”

Lee Marvin (who played Blinky in Gun Fury): “I don’t think he was much interested in dialogue. He was an action director. He loved horses, stagecoaches and explosions. He was an old timer and rolled his own cigarettes. If you had a scene to do with dialogue, he’d say ‘You’re over here, you’re over there, roll it.’ Then he’d look down and roll a cigarette and when all this talking had stopped he’d turn to the script girl and say, ‘Did they get it all.’ She’d say, ‘Yeah,” and he’d say, ‘Print it.’ But for the action stuff he’d get all excited… ‘OK, we’re over here with a 35mm lens. Now the stagecoach comes rolling down the pass and the gunmen gallup out from behind this rock.’ Raoul would come to life!”

Walsh: “A lot of actors didn’t want to work with me because I worked too fast. I believed it was a motion picture, so I moved it.”

Walsh: “I made some hits, I made some near-hits and I made a lot of turkeys. You make a lot of pictures. It’s like raising children. Some go out and make good, and some don’t. And you don’t want to play any favorite. Let it go, you know.”

Sources: various newpapers, The Men Who Made The Movies, Raoul Walsh: The True Adventures Of Hollywood’s Legendary Director.

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Clint Eastwood turns 81 today. Before Rowdy Yates, before the Man With No Name, before Dirty Harry, before the Oscar-winning director and all that, he was Tom in Star In The Dust (1956), a Universal Western starring John Agar. It was a part with no credit, but it had dialogue (more lines than he had in Revenge Of The Creature the year before).

Making these pictures in the last days of the studio system, working with directors like Jack Arnold (and later Don Siegel), helped Eastwood become the film-maker we celebrate today. Star In The Dust is hard to track down, and Eastwood might like it that way, but it’s a cool little film — like most Universal Westerns.

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Memorial Day

Here’s Lloyd Bridges and John Ireland in Little Big Horn (1951).

And here’s remembering all those who’ve given their lives for our country.

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Marion Mitchell Morrison

(May 26, 1907 – June 11, 1979)

Seen here in Rio Bravo (1959).

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This just in (courtesy of Henry Cabot Beck). Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment’s MOD program has announced the latest round of its MGM’s Limited Edition Collection. One of them is Joseph H.Lewis’ The Halliday Brand (1957). This is a picture I haven’t seen in eons. With Lewis and that cast, I’m looking forward to seeing it again.

Other Westerns on the way: Quincannon, Frontier Scout (1956) and Gun Duel In Durango (1957).

Not a Western, but also part of this batch of titles is Budd Boetticher’s The Killer Is Loose (1956). Released the same year as Seven Men From Now, this is not to be missed.

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If you’re out that way — or dedicated/crazy enough to make the drive — be sure to stop by the Harvest Moon Drive-In in Linden, PA for The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966).

The Harvest Moon certainly deserves the support of movie nuts everywhere for bringing classic films back to the drive-in.

Coming this summer is a dusk-to-dawn event featuring Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop (1971).

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Here’s John Payne celebrating his birthday on the set of Tennessee’s Partner (1955).

Left to right: Rhonda Fleming, Allan Dwan, Angie Dickinson, John Alton (kneeling), Ronald Reagan, Payne, Colleen Gray (in bonnet) and Benedict Bogeau.

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This is Big News, folks. The Big Country (1958) has been listed as an upcoming (as in May 24th) Blu-ray release — exclusively at Walmart. Walmart’s really stingy with the details and there’s no artwork to be found (someone placed a nice suggestion, above, on a forum).

If ever a picture cried out for the high-definition treatment, it’s this one. William Wyler made maximum use of the Technirama process, with stunning vistas that live up to the film’s title. The scenery is as much a character as the cast, which is a good one, by the way: Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Jean Simmons, Chuck Connors and Burl Ives (who won an Oscar for his incredible, and incredibly mean, performance). The opening credits were created by Saul Bass and the score by Jerome Moross is one of the best to ever grace a Western.

For years, The Big Country did nothing for me — it was a disaster in Sunday-afternoon TV showings. Many of you out there in Blogsylvania talked this one up, and I gave it a second chance. I was wrong, y’all were right. This is a great film — one of the few instances where “epic” isn’t a four-letter word. Quite an accomplishment.

The standard DVD is only OK. The picture’s undergone a restoration in recent years (on film, no less), and there are rumors of the stereo tracks being located. The old laserdisc featured a lot of extras — interviews, commentary, isolated score and more. Let’s hope those new elements and old supplements make up The Big Country we’ll be treated to — a Big Improvement rather than a Big Gyp.

Moral of the story: It’s getting harder and harder to put off buying a Blu-ray machine.

Update (6/1/2011): The Blu-ray of The Big Country, seen at left, turns out to be mono. The stereo tracks still haven’t turned up, but the non-compressed mono has plenty of punch to it. The score sounds like a million bucks.

Video-wise, this is a huge improvement over the old standard DVD, and from what I’ve heard, it’s the same gorgeous transfer that’s been turning up on TCM of late. It’s sharp as a tack.

The Big Country on Blu-ray is exclusive to Walmart. Which means there’s probably a copy within five minutes of your home. My copy was a birthday gift from my wife and daughter.

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Came across an old filmed interview with Harold Augustus Sinclair, author of The Horse Solders, which the 1959 John Ford picture was based on. The interview itself is pretty neat, but tacked onto the end are a couple minutes of silent behind the scenes footage of John Ford, John Wayne and the rest of the cast and crew.

The quality’s a bit shaky — that’s Wayne with, I think, Ken Curtis, in the above screen grab — but it’s fascinating to see these guys at work. Be sure to check it out.

My wife and I watched this picture the other night. (I’ve heard the Blu-ray is nice.) A much better film than I remember.

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I’ve been seeing stuff about a Blu-ray edition of Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941) arriving in September. That’s good news and all, but I just noticed something that’s not getting near the attention it deserves — at the same time, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) is also hitting the streets as a regular DVD.

Even though what we see today was edited to almost incoherence by RKO — Welles later said the first hour was left pretty much as he intended, The Magnificent Ambersons is a masterpiece. And it’s got Tim Holt in it. What more do you need?

You can find out more about the picture at ambersons.com. That’s where the behind the scenes shot of Welles and Holt came from.

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