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Archive for October, 2013

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Dale Evans
(October 31, 1912 – February 7, 2001)

Let’s remember Dale Evans, Queen Of The West, on her birthday.

The story goes that she wrote the lyrics to “Happy Trails” on an envelope and taught it to Roy and the Sons Of The Pioneers just minutes before a 1950 radio broadcast. I sure hope that’s how it happened.

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timmyh

Since the beginning of this blog, I’ve wanted to find a way to single out Tim Holt. His films are so good, and he’s so underrated — how many can boast of being directed by Ford, Welles and Huston? — and I want to do my tiny part to fix it.

So welcome to Tim Holt Tuesday, a more-or-less weekly celebration of Holt’s work — especially the Westerns he made for RKO. Largely shot around Lone Pine, and directed by Lesley Selander, they’re as good as the series Western ever got.

Lesley Selander: “…he was a better actor than many would have you believe, and his pictures are among the finest I worked on.”*

So far, three volumes of the RKO Holts are available from Warner Archive. 16mm prints of these things (especially the post-War ones co-starring Richard Martin as Chito) were big collectors’ items back in the day, and they’re essential viewing for fans of 50s Westerns.

Tim and I will see you next week.

* From Close Up: The Contract Director by Jon Tuska, Scarecrow, 1976.

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Directed by Leslie Selander
Produced by Scott R. Dunlap
Associate Producer: Edward Morey, Jr.
Screenplay by Adele Buffington
Adaptation by Tom W. Blackburn, from Curtis Bishop’s novel Shadow Range
Photographed by Harry Neumann, ASC
Film Editor: John C. Fuller, ACE
Musical Score and Direction: Edward J. Kay

CAST: Edmond O’Brien (Ben Anthony), Helen Wescott (Linda Garnett), Bob Lowery (Harry Odell), Barton MacLane (Marvin Parker), Peggie Castle (Melba Sykes), James Millican, Robert Wilke, Raymond Hatton, Tom Tyler, Jack Ingram.

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When the series Westerns were put out to pasture in the early 50s, Monogram became Allied Artists and shifted from series Westerns like The Long Horn (1952) with William Elliott to Westerns like Cow Country (1953). These films have the feel of series cowboy movies executed on a larger scale — bigger casts, better sets, about 20 minutes longer. There’s still the slimy banker, the plot to snatch land from the smaller ranches, lots of riding and shooting and bad guys like Barton MacLane and Robert Wilke. You’ve seen it all a thousand times, and it’s just as welcome in this form as it was before.

So while there’s nothing particularly new about Cow Country, there’s nothing to dislike about it, either. The plot’s a little convoluted, but you’re familiar with it. The area cattle businesses is in a bad way, and Bob Lowery, Barton MacLane and Robert Wilke are trying to take their land away. Edmond O’Brien runs a freight business and ends up being the hero. There’s a love triangle between Lowery, Helen Westcott and Peggie Castle. And, boy, do a lot of people get shot.

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O’Brien looks cool in a Levi jacket with his hat slightly cocked to one side. He didn’t make many Westerns, and his Bronx accent seems a little out of place, but he’s such a great actor, it works like a charm. He didn’t make many Westerns; I recommend Silver City (1951) and Denver And Rio Grande (1952) — and he’s remarkable in The Wild Bunch (1969).

Peggie Castle is known to B movie fans for turning up in about every genre you can think of, and looking terrific in them all. Here, however, she gets a part that lets her show what she’s capable of, and she’s very good. Whatever it was that kept her in low-budget movies, it wasn’t her acting ability. Her big scene here, where she goes after Lowery with a bullwhip, is very satisfying.

Cow Country gives James Millican a good part as an immigrant farmer, and Robert Wilke gets more screen time than usual — he’s a real slimeball in this one.

Leslie Selander could direct a film like Cow Country in his sleep, with this one coming hot on the heels of those wonderful Tim Holt Westerns for RKO. It moves so quick, and plays so smooth, that you never have a chance to think that you’re watching a clever variation on something you’ve seen many, many times before.

Cow Country is not available on DVD, but Allied Artists pictures turn up from Warner Archive. Watch for it.

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Searchers_KissDemonstration

Sam Elliott (interviewed in the current issue of Cowboys & Indians): “One of the great perks of the movie business is that you get around and you get to be around some very interesting and talented people. One all sides of the camera. The first movie I starred in was a Western called Cactus (released in 1972 as Molly And Lawless John) with Vera Miles. We shot in Santa Fe; we did some interiors at Studio Center in the San Fernando Valley. One day John Ford showed up — he was there to visit Vera. John Ford! That stopped the show for a while. It might as well have been the pope.”

Photo: Ford demonstrates the kiss he wants Jeffrey Hunter to plant on Vera Miles for The Searchers (1956). Olive Carey looks on.

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50 Westerns From The 50s turned four years old on October 1. Digging around for something to post, this photo of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans seemed like the way to go. (That’s not me in the lower right.) This blog’s seen more than 700,000 hits over that four years, and I want to thank you all for each and every one of them.

On a only slightly related note, yesterday was Beverly Garland’s birthday — with Roy’s coming up in a few weeks.

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alamo-last command

It’s been mentioned on this blog a number of times that Olive Films have removed some key Republic titles from their list of future releases — The Last Command (1955, note the retitled card above) being one of them. Among the reasons for ditching these titles is that the Trucolor materials can be difficult, and costly, to prepare for release.

However, when Trucolor Republics like Hellfire (1949), The Outcast (1954) or A Man Alone (1955) show up on TV, they look fine. Not spiffy enough for Blu-ray, for sure, but good enough for a DVD release I’d be happy to have in my collection.

Richard W. commented the other day that we should reach out to a Mr. Lime on the Home Theater Forum about these titles, pointing out that we’d be standing at the ready, cash in hand, for these films.

At a time when so many of us are writing to our politicians about healthcare, national parks and pay for the military, why not squeeze in a quick note to the HTF about Hellfire?

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Today was my mom’s birthday. She was a Texan, and The Last Command (1955) is a film she loved. Here are a few stills from it.

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Of course, it’s Republic’s take on the story of the Alamo, directed by Frank Lloyd — made after John Wayne left the studio.

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Sterling Hayden is Jim Bowie, Richard Carlson is William Travis, Arthur Hunnicutt is Davy Crockett and J. Carroll Naish is Santa Ana. Ernest Borgnine, Jim Davis, John Russell and Slim Pickens are also in it.

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It doesn’t have the spectacle of Wayne’s The Alamo (1960), but I recommend it highly. So does my mom. Olive Films needs to give it a DVD and Blu-ray release.

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