Archive for October, 2011

Character actor John Dierkes appeared in a string of really great 50s Westerns: Shane (1953, above, on the left), Silver Lode (1954), The Raid (1954), The Left Handed Gun (1958, he’s beyond terrific in this) and The Hanging Tree (1959), to name a few.

His other credits include The Thing From Another World (1950), The Red Badge Of Courage (1950), Abbott & Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1953), Friendly Persuasion (1956), One-Eyed Jacks (1961), The Haunted Palace (1963) and The Omega Man (1973). Not to mention John Wayne’s The Alamo (1960, below, he’s at the bottom right).

Just recently discovered that he tested for the part of Lurch on The Addams Family. Of course, the part went to Ted Cassidy.

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Noticed Randy hadn’t ridden through this blog in a while, so here’s Phyllis Kirk on Thunder Over The Plains (1953) and its director Andre de Toth.

Phyllis Kirk: “Now, Andre de Toth was just a remarkable guy… I admired him and liked him very much. He was really a remarkable director, and a director who was much more appreciated in Europe than he was here. In France and in England, and maybe even in Italy, he was considered a very imaginative, fine talent… He was a director — and man — who knew what he wanted, and saw to it that he got it. I adored him, he was a wonderful guy and I like him very much.”

Phyllis Kirk: “The picture was the usual not-very-complicated Western. Andre lifted it a little bit above the normal. It wasn’t a great film. In fact, if I hadn’t been under contract, I wouldn’t have done it!”

Sources: I Was A Monster Maker by Tom Weaver, The Films Of Randolph Scott by Robert Nott.

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At the end of 1949, the Motion Picture Herald announced the top stars for the year, as chosen by exhibitors. As you can tell from the headline, Bob Hope took the top slot away from Bing Crosby, with the help of The Paleface. Being that Bob never got the girls in their films together, this might’ve been a bit of a consolation.

There was a separate list for Western stars, with Roy Rogers being indeed the King Of The Cowboys. Looking at this list today, you can easily see the change in the Western genre that was about to take place. By the next summer, The Gunfighter and Winchester ’73 (both 1950) would show us what a 50s Western was — and by 1953, most of these cowboys were out of theaters for good.

1. Roy Rogers: Roy’s TV show would debut in 1951. His last feature would be Son Of Paleface in 1952.

2. Gene Autry: On television by 1950, he’d leave the big screen with Last Of The Pony Riders (1953).

3. Gabby Hayes: Cariboo Trail (1950) with Randolph Scott would be Gabby’s last picture. He’d have his own TV show the same year.

4. Tim Holt: His excellent series for RKO would wrap up in 1952. He wouldn’t make another Western.

5. William “Wild Bill” Elliott: His last Western came in 1954, with the last of his Monogram/Allied Artists pictures. His last feature was released in 1957.

6. Charles Starrett: Like Holt, Starrett would ride into the celluloid sunset in ’52 with the last of his Durango Kid pictures.

7. William Boyd: Hopalong Cassidy would make the switch to TV in 1952, and hang up his spurs in ’54.

8. Johnny Mack Brown: His last series Western came in 1953, but his career kept going into the 60s.

9. Smiley Burnette: He’d make Autry’s Last Of The Pony Riders his final film, but have a quite a career in television with Green Acres and Petticoat Junction. (By the way, he eventually had his named legally changed to Smiley.)

10. Andy Devine: Andy’s filmography was always a diverse one, and he rode out the death of the series Western with ease and continued in features (including The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) and on TV.

* William Holden in The Wild Bunch (1969)

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Laura has posted a review of Lesley Selander’s Shotgun (1955), a tough, gritty Western with Sterling Hayden, Yvonne De Carlo and Zachary Scott.

This is one I haven’t given much coverage on this blog. It has an interesting production history, and one of these days I’ll get around to it. Luckily, I second most of Laura’s thoughts on the picture, especially when it comes to Yvonne’s hairstyle. It was an odd, and unfortunate, choice.

VCI has done a wonderful job with the DVD, part of their Darn Good Westerns Vol. 2. Recommended.

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Karl Malden: “I had watched him on the big screen for years, and there is something about a Western star that, to me, makes him especially bigger than life. I was so excited to be working with him that I completely reverted to being the new kid, so awestruck that it took me several days to warm up and figure out what I was doing.”

Malden (who directed a few days when Delmer Daves became ill): “Cooper knew himself and he knew the lens of the camera… Cooper knew what to avoid and what to do. He always relaxed in front of the camera and concentrated on the role. He knew what would appear on the screen and he played for it. People have often mistaken his ability to relax on the set for indifference, but he was very interested in the making of the film, the acting process.”

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This blog has received quite an honor — a place in the Comfy Chair over at Speakeasy.

Being noticed is always terrific, and being singled out on a top-notch movie blog like Speakeasy, that’s really something.

{That’s Henry Fonda in John Ford’s My Darling Clementine (1946). As if you don’t know.}

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Just dawned on me that October marks the second anniversary of this blog. Seems like a good time to rest a spell on the Joel McCrea bench in Camarillo, CA. One of these days, I will sit on that bench.

Thanks to all of you who’ve passed through 50 Westerns From The 50s.

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“Brownsville Girl” (Bob Dylan, Sam Shepard)
from the Bob Dylan LP Knocked Out Loaded (1986)

Well, there was this movie I seen one time
About a man riding ’cross the desert and it starred Gregory Peck
He was shot down by a hungry kid trying to make a name for himself
The townspeople wanted to crush that kid down and string him up by the neck

Well, the marshal, now he beat that kid to a bloody pulp
As the dying gunfighter lay in the sun and gasped for his last breath
“Turn him loose, let him go, let him say he outdrew me fair and square
I want him to feel what it’s like to every moment face his death”

Well, I keep seeing this stuff and it just comes a-rolling in
And you know it blows right through me like a ball and chain
You know I can’t believe we’ve lived so long and are still so far apart
The memory of you keeps callin’ after me like a rollin’ train

I can still see the day that you came to me on the painted desert
In your busted down Ford and your platform heels
I could never figure out why you chose that particular place to meet
Ah, but you were right. It was perfect as I got in behind the wheel

Well, we drove that car all night into San Anton’
And we slept near the Alamo, your skin was so tender and soft
Way down in Mexico you went out to find a doctor and you never came back
I would have gone on after you but I didn’t feel like letting my head get blown off

Well, we’re drivin’ this car and the sun is comin’ up over the Rockies
Now I know she ain’t you but she’s here and she’s got that dark rhythm in her soul
But I’m too over the edge and I ain’t in the mood anymore to remember the times
when I was your only man
And she don’t want to remind me. She knows this car would go out of control

Brownsville girl with your Brownsville curls
Teeth like pearls shining like the moon above
Brownsville girl, show me all around the world
Brownsville girl, you’re my honey love

Well, we crossed the panhandle and then we headed towards Amarillo
We pulled up where Henry Porter used to live. He owned a wreckin’ lot outside of town about a mile
Ruby was in the backyard hanging clothes, she had her red hair tied back. She saw us come rolling up in a trail of dust
She said, “Henry ain’t here but you can come on in, he’ll be back in a little while”

Then she told us how times were tough and about how she was thinkin’ of
bummin’ a ride back to from where she started
But ya know, she changed the subject every time money came up
She said, “Welcome to the land of the living dead”
You could tell she was so broken hearted
She said, “Even the swap meets around here are getting pretty corrupt”

“How far are y’all going?” Ruby asked us with a sigh
“We’re going all the way ’til the wheels fall off and burn
’Til the sun peels the paint and the seat covers fade and the water moccasin dies”
Ruby just smiled and said, “Ah, you know some babies never learn”

Something about that movie though, well I just can’t get it out of my head
But I can’t remember why I was in it or what part I was supposed to play
All I remember about it was Gregory Peck and the way people moved
And a lot of them seemed to be lookin’ my way

Brownsville girl with your Brownsville curls,
Teeth like pearls shining like the moon above
Brownsville girl, show me all around the world
Brownsville girl, you’re my honey love

Well, they were looking for somebody with a pompadour
I was crossin’ the street when shots rang out
I didn’t know whether to duck or to run, so I ran
“We got him cornered in the churchyard,” I heard somebody shout

Well, you saw my picture in the Corpus Christi Tribune. Underneath it,
it said, “A man with no alibi”
You went out on a limb to testify for me, you said I was with you
Then when I saw you break down in front of the judge and cry real tears
It was the best acting I saw anybody do

Now I’ve always been the kind of person that doesn’t like to trespass
but sometimes you just find yourself over the line
Oh if there’s an original thought out there, I could use it right now
You know, I feel pretty good, but that ain’t sayin’ much. I could feel a whole lot better
If you were just here by my side to show me how

Well, I’m standin’ in line in the rain to see a movie starring Gregory Peck
Yeah, but you know it’s not the one that I had in mind
He’s got a new one out now, I don’t even know what it’s about
But I’ll see him in anything so I’ll stand in line

Brownsville girl with your Brownsville curls
Teeth like pearls shining like the moon above
Brownsville girl, show me all around the world
Brownsville girl, you’re my honey love

You know, it’s funny how things never turn out the way you had ’em planned
The only thing we knew for sure about Henry Porter is that his name wasn’t Henry Porter
And you know there was somethin’ about you baby that I liked that was always too good for this world
Just like you always said there was somethin’ about me you liked
that I left behind in the French Quarter

Strange how people who suffer together have stronger connections than people who are most content
I don’t have any regrets, they can talk about me plenty when I’m gone
You always said people don’t do what they believe in, they just do what’s most convenient, then they repent
And I always said, “Hang on to me, baby, and let’s hope that the roof stays on”

There was a movie I seen one time, I think I sat through it twice
I don’t remember who I was or where I was bound
All I remember about it was it starred Gregory Peck, he wore a gun
and he was shot in the back
Seems like a long time ago, long before the stars were torn down

Brownsville girl with your Brownsville curls
Teeth like pearls shining like the moon above
Brownsville girl, show me all around the world
Brownsville girl, you’re my honey love

Copyright © 1986 by Special Rider Music

Been meaning to post this for a while.

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Yesterday was William Elliott’s birthday, so it seems about time to finish up a piece I started a while back on The Longhorn (1951), the first of 11 films “Wild Bill” made for Monogram Pictures (later known as Allied Artists). It’s available on DVD from VCI, packaged with Charles Starrett’s first Western, Stampede (1936), as Cowboy Heroes Volume 1.

Elliott’s a cattle rancher planning to cross-breed his Longhorn cattle with Herefords. Before its 70 minutes are up, The Longhorn treats us to a cattle drive, a double cross, rustlers and Phyllis Coates. Not to mention plenty of gunplay. The plot has a few twists, so I’m keeping this spoiler-free.

For a cheap cowboy picture aimed at the Saturday matinee crowd, The Longhorn has plenty going for it. For starters, it boasts a tight, surprisingly adult script by Dan Ullman. Ullman wrote a slew of 50s Westerns, from programmers like Kansas Pacific (1953) with Sterling Hayden to the excellent Face Of A Fugitive (1959), a favorite of many who frequent this blog. The Longhorn was directed by Lewis D. Collins, who started with silent shorts and passed away a few years after this one. (By the way, Monogram paired Ullman and Collins on the cool Hot Rod in 1950.) Then there’s the cinematography by Ernest Miller, another veteran of the silents, who shot hundreds of B pictures and TV shows before his death in 1957. One of his standout credits is Sam Fuller’s The Steel Helmet (1951).

With so much talent on either side of the camera, how could The Longhorn miss? These six Monogram/Allied Artists pictures were Elliott’s last Westerns, and he went out on a high note — even if it’s a low-budget one.

This series was released in sepia tone, which gave the pictures an extra bit of class. William Elliott always supplied quite a bit of class, too. The VCI DVD of The Longhorn, unfortunately, isn’t presented that way, opting for standard black and white. Can’t say I blame them — sepia tends to monkey with the contrast, but it’d be nice to see how these films looked in theaters. The transfer here is fine, probably from 16mm — clean and complete, if a bit soft. My only real complaint is that VCI didn’t follow this up with the other Monogram Elliotts. (Are these things PD?) Bitter Creek (1954), which co-stars Beverly Garland, has been on my Want List for ages.

In summary, The Longhorn is a good example from the last days of the series Western, showing real toughness and maturity. VCI has given us a nice DVD. And most important, you can never go wrong with Bill Elliott. Recommended.

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Wild Bill Elliott

October 16, 1904 – November 26, 1965

Lesley Selander: “Bill Elliott was a real gentleman. He was always on time, knew his lines, and in every sense of the word was a professional. He learned to ride damned well, considering that when I first saw him at MGM in the early 30s, he didn’t know one end of the horse from another.”

Photo: Hellfire (1949), one of my favorite Westerns.


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