Archive for July, 2013

Picture 87

I’ve contributed a piece to the new and improved Classic Flix site. It’s a brief guide to 50s Westerns, a list of titles (focusing on those available on DVD) that would hopefully, sorta give someone an idea of what 50s Westerns are all about.

Not sure if I succeeded, but if nothing else, it’s a good place to start an argument over the choices I made.

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Rio Bravo (1959)

According to an article by Bob Thomas that appeared in the Anniston Star on July 7, 1958, Howard Hawks and John Wayne toyed with the idea of shooting Rio Bravo (1959) in the three-camera, 2.59:1 Cinemiracle process.

Hawks: “I think the time is ripe for putting a story on that big screen. Wayne and I have a story which I think would work — a kind of a Western… It won’t be easy. You’ve got to have a very special kind of story for the big screen; one that gives you a variety of backgrounds.”

I’m guessing the story of Rio Bravo changed a bit, since the finished film doesn’t boast a “variety of backgrounds” — just the sheriff’s office, a couple saloons, the hotel and a couple spots in Old Tucson.

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forgotten_filmcast_logoI’m excited to announce that a 50s Western will be featured in an upcoming edition of Forgotten Filmcast, Todd Liebenow’s podcast dedicated to films that deserve more attention than they get.

You’ll have to wait to find out what picture we’ll be remembering. A couple hints: 1) It’s from the 50s, 2) Dabbs Greer is in it. I’ll post a link when it’s up and ready to go.

The most recent episode was devoted to a film my best friend and I saw at a kiddie matinee when I was 12, Ishiro Honda’s The War Of The Gargantuas (1966), a Toho monster flick starring Russ Tamblyn.

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Ambush at CP still cropped

When the Charles Bronson Regalscope Western Showdown At Boot Hill (1958) showed up on Blu-ray, it seemed too good to be true. For decades, it’s been impossible to see these things in their proper black-and-white ‘Scope glory — unless you came across a 16mm print or a bootleg tape made from one. (An adapted ‘Scope print of Escape From Red Rock sits nearby.) Designed to show off their 2.35 format, the Regalscopes are absolutely unwatchable when they’re pan-and-scan.

Now we can thank Olive Films for Clint Eastwood in Ambush At Cimarron Pass (1958), set for a September 24 release. Clint has called it the worst Western ever made, though I certainly wouldn’t go that far. Scott Brady is the star, along with Margia Dean and Eastwood as a young hothead. All the Regalscope pictures are cheap — this one isn’t able to rise above its budget in the way Stagecoach To Fury (1956) and The Quiet Gun (1957) do. Of course, an early Eastwood role will be the appeal for most folks.

Picture 87

Also on the way is The Americano (1955), with Glenn Ford, Frank Lovejoy, Cesar Romero and Ursula Thiess. This troubled production was begun by Budd Boetticher in Brazil and finished some time later by William Castle (seen below with executive producer Sam Wiesenthal and Ursula Thiess).

Also on the way is John Wayne, Marie Windsor and Oliver Hardy in Republic’s The Fighting Kentuckian (1949) and Joseph H. Lewis’ The Big Combo (1955, not a Western, but terrific).


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Do you remember our Character Actor Of The DayJohn Dierkes, as Dr. Chapman in The Thing (1950)? He’s one of the scientists who realizes that despite all that science can learn from the Thing, it needs to die. Or maybe you know him as The Tall Soldier in The Red Badge Of Courage (1951, above, with Audie Murphy) or from Shane (1953) or The Alamo (1960) or One-Eyed Jacks (1961). Or even as one of the mutants in The Omega Man (1973).

Dierkes’ path to the movies was a strange one. An economist, he joined the Red Cross during World War II and met John Huston in England. The director urged him to give the movies a shot, but after the war Dierkes went to work for the U.S. Treasury. They sent him to Hollywood as an advisor on To The Ends Of The Earth (1948). Two years later, Huston brought him back to California for The Red Badge Of Courage (1951). He took a leave of absence from the Treasury Department, but never went back.


He brought a lot to so many pictures. His scene in The Left-Handed Gun (1958, he’s right behind Paul Newman), as he reads Corinthians 13 to Billy The Kid, never fails to give me goosebumps. It’s a moment of grace in a film that’s all over the place.

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Of the hundreds of photos that have appeared on this blog, this may be my favorite (there’s a color one from The Horse Soldiers, with John Wayne standing beneath trees filled with Spanish moss, that comes close).

Here you have Roy Rogers and Dale Evans visiting with some little league players with Chilly Willy on their uniforms. With baseball going into the All-Star break, this seemed like a good time to share it.

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Everybody’s talking about The Lone Ranger (2013). They don’t like it. They like it. What’s that stuff on Johnny Depp’s head?

A good friend of this blog, Bob Madison — we tend to email back and forth about our love of The Lone Ranger — called the new film a “glorious mess” and admitted he liked it. See his blog for more.

We all have a “glorious mess” or two on our list of favorites — One-Eyed Jacks (1961) is one of mine — part of what makes being a movie nut so much fun.

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Last Train ad Tucson Daily 9-18-59,jpg

This ad appeared in the Tucson Daily in September 1959 to promote the upcoming Last Train From Gun Hill, one of my favorite 50s Westerns.

My wife’s been helping out with some web research — she’s better at it than I am — and came across this one. Another thing she unearthed, thanks to Hedda Hopper: Ziva Rodann, who’s plays Kirk Douglas’ wife, was Miss Israel.

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john wayne 9

Paula has passed along some great news — Company Of Heroes: My Life As An Actor In The John Ford Stock Company by Harry Carey, Jr. will be back in print in December.

It’s one of the best books ever written on making movies, and it’s absolutely essential for fans of John Ford, John Wayne or 50s Westerns. Original hardback copies go for pretty big money, especially if you come across a signed one, so this paperback edition will certainly be welcome.

By the way, Carey’s chapter on filming The Searchers (1956) has been added to a recent paperback edition of Alan LeMay’s original novel. A very smart move on someone’s part.

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Lone Ranger opening Auston TX 1956

Kids line up outside an Austin theater to meet Clayton Moore. He was promoting The Lone Ranger (1956), the first of two features tied to the TV show.

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