Archive for February, 2012

Just learned that a friend, Abbie Kiefer, and her husband Ben will be packing up and heading to New Hampshire soon.

Abbie was a huge help in the early days of 50 Westerns From The 50s, as I went from “Think I’ll write a book” to “How the hell do you write a book?” So it seems appropriate to thank her here.

Happy trails, Abbie. Here’s hoping our paths cross again.

By the way, Abbie has a cool food blog, Please Pass The Pie.

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With Phantom Stallion (1954), Republic Pictures got out of the series Western business, an industry they’d come to dominate with a stable of cowboy stars second to none. Lucky for us, they go out on a positive note.

This time around, Rex Allen and Slim Pickens uncover a group of horse thieves who use a wild stallion and his herd to cover their crimes. Before the Republic eagle pops up at the end, there’s a pretty good fistfight, a young Mexican boy with a philly, a murder and a lot of riding. (Rex and Slim on horseback are a great thing to see.) This picture seems a bit heavier than your typical series Western, with the violence turned up a notch, no love interest (it’s established right up front that Carla Balenda is one of the bad guys) and no songs.

Writer Gerald Geraghty’s long Hollywood career took him from writing titles for silent pictures to scripts for Rex Allen’s Frontier Doctor TV show. He received a story credit for the delirious Gene Autry serial The Phantom Empire (1936) and wrote Trail Of Robin Hood (1950). Phantom Stallion was directed by Harry Keller, who started out as an editor with dozens of Republic cowboy pictures on his resumé. By 1950, he was directing for Republic, and continued at the studio till this picture closed out their Western series in 1954. Keller was soon under contract at Universal-International, which put him in place to direct one of their best 50s Westerns, Quantez (1957).

The signs of cost-cutting, a common complaint with later series Westerns, aren’t too obvious in Phantom Stallion — though some of the wild horse scenes look like they’re lifted from other pictures, and there are a lot of riding scenes in this 54 minutes. The fight scenes don’t quite have the snap of the Republics William Witney directed, such as Colorado Sundown (1952), another Rex Allen picture (and a very good one). And it seems like it’s missing an extra fight in there somewhere — the ending feels a bit too abrupt.

You can’t help but think that if Rex Allen had signed on at Republic a few years earlier, the Arizona Cowboy would’ve been an even bigger star. By the time he and Koko rode onscreen, the sun was setting on the series Western. But his Republics are certainly worthwhile, a respectable way for Republic to bring an era to its end.

Below: Rex and crew on location for Phantom Stallion.

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Happy Birthday, Johnny Cash.

Johnny Cash

February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003

The Man In Black never appeared in a 50s Western, though he’s in A Gunfight (1970) and several Western TV movies. His LPs Ride The Train (1960) and Sings The Ballads Of The True West (1965) show Cash to be a real student of the Old West. These are great albums.

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Yesterday, this blog saw its 250,000th hit. Wow. Thanks to all of you for passing through.

The subject line’s a reference to the LP 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong (1959). The image is from Joe Dante’s Matinee (1993).

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Quantez (1957) is an excellent Universal Western, one we’ve spent considerable time discussing on this blog. Came across this still and thought it was worth a quick post.

Here are Dorothy Malone and Fred MacMurray relaxing between takes. I assume this was on a Universal soundstage and not in the town built near Victorville. In the picture, the town of Quantez has only been abandoned a few days, so a real ghost town wouldn’t do. Heat during those exterior shoots hovered around 110 degrees, so I doubt there’d be a lot of singing going on there.

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Back in November, The Jayhawkers (1959) was announced as part of a batch of standard DVD releases coming from Olive Films. That news is a bit sweeter today — Olive has now decided to give the picture an April Blu-ray release as well.

Being that Paramount treated this film to VistaVision and Technicolor, this hi-def release is good news indeed.

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John Severin, 1921 – 2012.

Just saw that comic artist John Severin has passed away at 90.

Among his fine body of work was Marvel’s Kid Colt Outlaw, which I read religiously.

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Here’s something else we’ve all been waiting for. The first season of Maverick. With James Garner and Jack Kelly, it’s a terrific show, one of the best Western shows ever on television. This first season has the extra benefit of having three of its 27 episodes, including the pilot, directed by Budd Boetticher.

I try to stay focused on features and leave TV to those more qualified (like Stephen Bowie at The Classic TV History Blog), but I’ll make an exception in this case.

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With this on the way, this is a wonderful country indeed. Coming February 28. Details here.

I know that a lot of you, like me, have been hoping and praying for this one.

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I find it hard to believe that The Last Hunt (1956) was adapted for Dell’s Four-Color series. One of the harshest Westerns of the 1950s — you could make a strong case that it’s one of the best, it’s an odd choice for a comic book.

Watch for a post on this picture soon. (Some of you came through with some great comments when it was first announced.) In the meantime, you’d be wise to pick up a copy for yourself.

By the way, it seems a lot of people were visiting this blog last night. At over 1,500 hits, it’s the busiest day 50 Westerns From The 50s has ever seen. Thanks for stopping by.

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