Archive for November, 2012

Turner Classic Movies and Universal have come through with exactly the kind of set many of us have been waiting for. Western Horizons: Universal Westerns Of The 1950s brings together five excellent examples of why Universal was top gun in Hollywood in the 50s. The absolutely essential set, slated for release on February 18, 2013, will include:

Horizon’s West (1952) stars Robert Ryan and Rock Hudson as brothers on opposite sides of the law. Directed by Budd Boetticher, it costars Julie Adams.

Saskatchewan (1954) gives us Alan Ladd, Shelley Winters, J. Carrol Naish and Jay Silverheels in a Canadian mounties picture directed by Raoul Walsh.

Dawn At Socorro (1954) stars Rory Calhoun, Piper Laurie, Lee Van Cleef and Skip Homeier and was directed by George Sherman. (Love that Reynold Brown artwork, above.)

Backlash (1956) puts Richard Widmark, Donna Reed, William Campbell, and Edgar Buchanan in the capable hands of John Sturges.

Pillars Of The Sky (1956) from George Marshall is a CinemaScope cavalry picture with Jeff Chandler, Dorothy Malone, Ward Bond and Lee Marvin.

Universal made so many worthwhile cowboy movies in the 50s — and this is a good lineup. Let’s hope it’s the first of many.

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Maybe you missed an Allan Dwan picture last week. Or you just realized you’ve gone all these years without a copy of Stranger On Horseback (1955). Well, now’s the time to right these, and other, wrongs — the fine folks at VCI Entertainment have extended their Annual Holiday Sale. Here’s how they tell it —

Due to the high volume of traffic on our website, we are extending our Annual Holiday Sale through December 5th at 11:59 pm (CST). All DVDs and Blu-rays are 50% off our suggested retail price! Visit www.vcientertainment.com and enter coupon code CYBEREXT on the “Checkout” page to receive your discount. If you have any problems placing your order, please call 800-331-4077 during regular business hours (M-F 8:30 am – 5:30 pm CST) and we will honor the coupon over the phone.

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Coming next week (December 4) is a book that could very well be a must for folks who mosey through this blog: John Wayne: The Legend And The Man. Put together by John Wayne Enterprises, this estate-authorized book features photos and personal memorabilia from every part of Wayne’s incredible life and career. It also includes an essay by Patricia Bosworth, a foreword by Martin Scorsese, remembrances by Maureen O’Hara and Ronald Reagan and an interview with Ron Howard.

Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. You can get order one here.

IMAGES: From John Wayne: The Legend And The Man by John Wayne Enterprises, published by powerHouse Books.

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Jeffrey Hunter (Henry Herman “Hank” McKinnies)
(November 25, 1926 – May 27, 1969)

Today let’s remember Jeffrey Hunter, an actor whose career was cut way too short. He’s seen above, at right, as Frank James in Nicholas Ray’s The True Story Of Jesse James (1956). He’s excellent in this underrated film.

Western fans also know him for his strong performance in John Ford’s The Searchers (also 1956). Not many actors could threaten John Wayne and not get laughed off the screen.

He was in the first Star Trek pilot.

And he played Jesus in Ray’s King Of Kings (1961) — he’s parlayed the role in my mind’s eye ever since. Another Nick Ray movie that doesn’t get its due.

There’s also The Great Locomotive Chase (1956), The Longest Day (1962) and many others. A remarkable body of work for someone who passed away at just 42.

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There’s been some speculation on this one. Is it actually coming? Will it be widescreen? Has Fox dumped it MOD program? Movies Unlimited now has it listed for pre-order with a release date of December 16. And they say it’ll be widescreen — good news, since the CinemaScope picture is unwatchable pan-and-scan.

From Hell To Texas (1958, also known at The Hell Bent Kid and The Manhunt) is a very good late-50s Western from Henry Hathaway, one that has never received the attention it deserves. Don Murray is excellent as the young man on the run, and he’s backed by a terrific cast: Diane Varsi, Chill Wills, Dennis Hopper, R.G. Armstrong and Jay C. Flippen.

This is the film that lead to Dennis Hopper being blackballed in Hollywood for nearly 10 years.

Dennis Hopper: “[Hathaway]’d give you line readings. I was now trying to ‘live in the moment’ and doing things without preconceived ideas, and I walked off the picture three times on location. He’d beg me to come back… So the last day on the picture… He said ‘We’re gonna do this scene till you do it my way’… we started about eight o’clock in the morning. Around eleven at night, after 85 takes, I finally cracked, and said ‘Okay, tell me what you want to do.’ I did it, then I walked out. It wasn’t like somebody sent a black ball around after that, but word got around that I wasn’t somebody you wanted to work with. Soon after that, I was dropped from my contract at Warner Bros. I went back to New York and I studied with Strasberg for five years. I didn’t have another major role in a studio picture for nearly 10 years, until Hathaway hired me again for The Sons Of Katie Elder in ’65.”*

* From an interview that appeared in Venice magazine.

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Public Service Announcement.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Bob Hope (over a decade before Son Of Paleface) shows us how to carve a turkey. From an old issue of Hollywood magazine.

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Happy Thanksgiving.

Hope your Thanksgiving holiday is a good one, filled with turkey sandwiches and cowboy movies.

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Came across this book cover today: The Little Big Book The Lone Ranger Outwits Crazy Cougar. Written by George S. Elrick, who wrote a lot of these things, it was published by Whitman in 1968. I read this over and over as a kid — and I’m thinking it’s time to revisit it over Thanksgiving.

Anybody else ever read this?

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This time of year, it seems like everybody’s trying to make you spend your money. Pre-holiday this, Black Friday that, spend the night at Walmart to save five bucks on a ten-dollar toaster. It’s pretty disgusting.

That said, I really think you should take advantage of VCI’s annual Holiday Sale.

As an example, you can get Silver Lode (1954), one of my favorite 50s Westerns, for just $2.40. If you haven’t seen this film, please go get one.

VCI boasts a number of cool 50s cowboy pictures, along with more Allan Dwan stuff (Slightly Scarlet, etc.), their Forgotten Noir series and tons of cool British films (ever seen Genevieve?). Good stuff.

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The Carolina Theatre in Durham, NC will run Delmer Daves’ 3:10 To Yuma (1957) on June 7, 2013. Is seven months enough advance notice?

If you’re the type that passes through this blog, I don’t have to tell you this is one of the crown jewels of 50s Westerns. Glenn Ford and Van Heflin were never better — and you’ll never look at Ford quite the same way again.

Also running that night is Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter (1973), a film that seems to be getting a bit of a reappraisal of late. It deserves it. Though I’ve seen both of these films many, many times, this will be my first time in a theater. What a treat.

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