Archive for November, 2013


Here’s a cool AP photo from 1951, chronicling Jane Russell’s tub scene in Son Of Paleface (1952). Click it and it gets bigger.

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Picture 15

Why go to Walmart and get punched in the face over a cheap toaster when you can sit at home and buy cowboy movies? Click the image above and have at it.

And if you haven’t done it yet, do yourself a favor and get Westward The Women (1951). If nothing else, it’ll give you something to be thankful for next Thanksgiving.

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Happy Thanksgiving.


Here’s wishing you all a terrific Thanksgiving. Hope you can squeeze a Western in among all the parades and dog shows and football games and shopping trips.

Don’t forget to stop for a second to think of all you’re thankful for. And when you do, I hope your list is a long one.

What kind of sandwich goes best with Rory Calhoun — leftover turkey or leftover ham?

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Timeless Media Group has corralled all five seasons of The Gene Autry Show (1950-1955) into a single set for release on December 10.

GeneAutryShow_CompleteCEThis blog is not about TV. Other people know a lot more about it than I do and do a much better job covering it than I ever could. But when you’re familiar with the features, seeing how Gene transitioned from theaters to living rooms is fascinating — and in keeping with what happened to Gene’s career, and the Western itself, over the course of the decade.

When Autry stopped making features — the TV series began in 1950, the movies lasted into 1953 — he brought a lot of actors and crew over to the show. George Archainbaud, for instance, directed Gene’s last feature, Last Of The Pony Riders (1953), and TV shows throughout its run. William Bradford, who shot a number of the later features, did all but a handful of the TV shows. (How’d they pull all this off?) Many of the TV writers had also written for the Autry features at some point, including a single episode by brothers Dorrell and Stewart E. McGowan, who’d scripted one of Gene’s best, South Of The Border (1939). (They also wrote one of my favorite films, 1949’s Hellfire).

The shows really have the feel of an Autry feature. Shorter and cheaper, of course, with a plot that’s even more bare-bones than the movies — and usually limited to a single song. Each episode exists as its own entity, too. From one show to the other, Gene is everything from a rancher to a U.S. Marshall, it’s the Old West one week and the Fabulous Fifties the next, and sometimes Gene doesn’t even know his sidekick Pat Buttram. Gene was a great businessman, and he was smart enough to stick with a sure thing — whether it’s a cameraman or a formula.

Making my way through the series, what really struck me was the incredible stream of actors and actresses that turn up from week to week: Denver Pyle, Alan Hale, Jr. (who’s a sidekick for a while), James H. Griffith, Kermit Maynard, John Doucette, Fuzzy Knight, Lyle Talbot, Robert J. Wilke, Tom Tyler, Jack Ingram, Clayton Moore, Chill Wills, Glenn Strange, James Best, Francis Ford, Lee Van Cleef. Gloria Talbott, Nestor Paiva, Peggy Stewart, “Curly” Joe Besser, Tommy Ivo and a million more. (That has to be the longest sentence I’ve ever written.) Autry’s acting leaves a lot to be desired — though he’d come a long way since The Phantom Empire (1936), but he surrounded himself with some real pros, and they do wonders for these shows.

gene autry show

You can’t help being knocked for a loop by the color episodes. Two first-season shows were done in color as an experiment and the fifth season is color all the way. The type of color isn’t identified — my guess would be Eastmancolor — and it looks pretty weird, a little blown out in spots. But that’s the fault of the original material, not something we can complain to Timeless Media Group about. It’s terrific to see Gene and Roy and Champion in color. These were transfered from Gene’s personal material and are spotless, with supplements like radio shows, photo galleries and commercials — along with an extra DVD that gives you episodes of other shows from Autry’s Flying ‘A’ Productions. Recommended.Gene Autry - GA rehearsing

Gene Autry at work on his TV show. Photo lifted from Steven Lodge’s blog.

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A Man Alone Charlotte drive-in

My research associate here at 50 Westerns From The 50s (also known as my wife Jennifer) came across this photo of the Albemarle Road Drive-In Theatre in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A Man Alone (1955) is a very good, very overlooked Republic picture directed by and starring Ray Milland. Mary Murphy and Ward Bond co-star. It was on Olive Films’ release list at one point, but it’s been removed. That’s a real shame. The film wasn’t alone at the Albemarle Road Drive-In — it was paired with John Wayne in The Fighting Kentuckian (1949).

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Directed by George Archainbaud
Produced by Herman Schlom
Written by Norman Houston
Director Of Photography: J. Roy Hunt
Music by Paul Sawtell
Film Editor: Desmond Marquette

CAST: Tim Holt (Ross Taylor), Richard Martin (Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty), Jane Nigh (Stella), John Doucette (Bat), House Peters, Jr. (Rod), Inez Cooper (Anita Castro), Julien Rivero (Philipe), Ken MacDonald (Sheriff Carrigan), Vince Barnett (Pokey), Robert Peyton (Del), David Leonard (Padre), Tom Monroe (Dimmick).


Here at 50 Westerns From The 50s, Tuesday belongs to Tim Holt. 

When an earthquake hits Mexico, Senorita Anita Castro (Inez Cooper) organizes a relief effort in Arizona. Loading a mule train with donations of all sorts — including gold, silver and jewels — she heads toward the border. A gang of thieves, headed by John Doucette and House Peters, Jr. and assisted by Jean Nigh, get wind of Anita’s plan and plot to steal the treasure. Tim (called Ross Taylor this time) and Chito (Richard Martin) end up involved, of course — and lots of riding and shooting ensue.

Border Treasure (1950) is one of the later RKO Holts, and I’ve always considered it one of the stronger entries in the series. First, the bad guys are terrific — and Nigh has a good role as Stella, the saloon girl who falls in with John Doucette and House Peters, Jr. There’s a great, extended saloon fight between Holt and Doucette. And Richard Martin adds a nice touch as he shows compassion for Mexico and its people following the earthquake. (This one has Tim and Chito doing some real ranch work, mending fence, which I always find a cool addition. Come to think of it, Tim does the work — Chito conveniently disappears.)


This time, George Archainbaud directs. He got his first director credit in 1917, and spent much of his career at RKO. His The Lost Squadron (1932) is excellent. Archainbaud got heavily into TV in the 50s, with much of his work coming from Gene Autry’s Flying A Productions. For a while, he was alternating between Gene’s TV show and later features (including 1953’s Last Of The Pony Riders, which turned out to be Gene’s Autry’s final film).

Director of Photography J. Roy Hunt spent a number of years at RKO, where he shot Val Lewton’s I Walked With A Zombie (1943),  The Devil Thumbs A Ride (1947) and Mighty Joe Young (1949) — in between many of these Holt films. Hunt retired not longer after the Holt series came to an end, never making the transition to television that kept so many of his contemporaries employed well into the 1960s.

These RKO Holts make great use of Lone Pine’s Alabama Hills, perhaps rivaled only by Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott’s Ranown Cycle. Some work for Border Treasure was also done at the area’s Anchor Ranch. The RKO Ranch in Encino and the beautiful San Fernando Mission of L.A.’s Mission Hills district are also featured. (Boy, I gotta get out to California — my Points Of Interest list is getting longer and longer.)


Border Treasure is one of 10 Holt pictures in Warner Archive’s Tim Holt Classic Western Collection Volume 3 — and it’s a beautiful thing from logo to logo. The Lone Pine scenes are sharp and bright, with a real feeling of depth. I’d love to take a frame from one of the Lone Pine scenes and hang it on my wall (over the sofa would be nice) — and this transfer seems sharp enough to let me do it.

In the early days of this blog, the Holt RKOs were high on our want lists. To have them presented like this is more than I expected. To say I highly recommend this — the DVD-R set or the movie itself — would be ridiculously redundant at this point.

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Directed by Harmon Jones
Produced by Robert Arthur
Screenplay by James Edmiston and Oscar Brodney
Story by James Edmiston
Director Of Photography: Ellis W. Carter, ASC
Film Editor: Sherman Todd, ACE
Music Supervision by Joseph Gershenson

CAST: Dale Robertson (Jagade), Mara Corday (Sharman Fulton), Jock Mahoney (Marshal Allan Burnett), Carl Benton Reid (Judge John J. McLean), Jan Merlin (Billy Brand), John Dehner (Preacher Jason), Dee Carroll (Miss Timmons), Sheila Bromley (Marie), James Bell (Doc Logan). Dani Crayne (Claire), Howard Wendell (Vanryzin), Charles Cane (Duggen), Phil Chambers (Burson), Sydney Mason (Beemans), Helen Kleeb (Mrs. McLean).


Not too long ago, I wrote about Harmon Jones’ The Silver Whip (1954), a film I found better than its reputation, and with much more going for it than just its pairing of Dale Robertson and Rory Calhoun. That lit a fire under me to track down a copy of A Day Of Fury (1956), which brought Jones and Robertson together again — this time at Universal-International. It’d been years since I’d seen Fury, and I was really knocked for a loop by how good it is.

There’s been speculation that A Day Of Fury was an influence on Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter (1973), an honor that actually goes to the spaghetti western Django The Bastard (1969, which is available from VCI as The Stranger’s Gundown). That said, Eastwood’s picture certainly has a few things in common with A Day Of Fury. In both, a mysterious stranger comes to town, and his very presence turns that town inside out. (No Name On The Bullet works somewhat the same way.) This time, the gunfighter is Jagade (Dale Robertson). The town marshall (Jock Mahoney) owes Jagade his life, which complicates matters quite a bit. What’s more, Jagade and the marshall’s fiancé (Mara Corday) were once an item. But there’s so much more to it than that.

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 12.20.12 PM

Dale Robertson: “It was an interesting story. After I finished it, I read it again. I figured this guy (Jagade) was the Devil. He, himself, never did anything wrong. He merely set things up to show the weakness of other people. (Producer) Bob Arthur rewrote the story… and he took away a lot of the little subtle things that were so wonderful in the original script.”#

Watching the picture with Robertson’s Devil idea in mind is very interesting, and I’d love to see that original screenplay. Robertson seems to be enjoying himself in a part that lets him stretch out a bit, while Jock Mahoney is stuck in a goodguy role that is maybe a little too good.

Dale Robertson: “They were trying to push Jock Mahoney… He was the most agile, one of the most fluid actors in the whole business. He was really wonderful, he was athletic, had great moves.”#

Mahoney proves Robertson’s point in the first scene in the movie, when he does a horse fall. It’s not often that you see one of the leads do such a stunt on his own.

Mara Corday: “The director, Harmon Jones, was a nice man, had been an editor. He told you line readings — in other words, how to say the lines. He’d put emphasis on certain words that I wouldn’t have. It made everyone stilted.”*

Jan Merlin committed the age-old actor’s trick of saying he could ride a horse when called about the part, then getting to the set and proving he could not. This was his first Western. “Harmon was marvelous… He was kind to me. Anybody else would have lost their temper after all I’d done.”#

A Day Of Fury is unavailable on DVD in the States, though it’s received a Blu-ray release in Europe. It’s an excellent film, well outside the normal Universal Western. Highly recommended.

Day Of Fury newspaper ad

SOURCES: * Westerns Women by Boyd Magers; # Universal-International Westerns, 1947-1963 by Gene Blottner (McFarland);

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Picture 15

So many good things to be had here. How about Rod Cameron in The Short Grass (1950)? Or Robert Taylor in The Last Hunt (1956)? Or Joel McCrea in Wichita (1955)? Or Glenn Ford in The Fastest Gun Alive (1956)? Or…

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This week’s Tim Holt Tuesday is a real treat, an interview conducted by John Brooker in 1970. John sent this as a comment to a previous Holt post, but it screamed for a better showcase than that. It appeared in Western Clippings about five years ago. I’m really stoked to be able to feature it here. Thanks so much, John.

The Tim Holt Westerns that were released in the UK had a high profile with us Front Row Kids because, more often than not, they were shown in tandem with the latest Disney feature. But they were shown in haphazard order so while some of the later ones never made it across the Atlantic the occasional pre-War title such as Bandit Trail didn’t get a UK release until the early 50s.

The first time I met Tim Holt was in October 1967 at the KLPR Radio and TV Station in Oklahoma where he was sales manager, but my recording equipment had quit on me so I had to be content with a chat, a look around the station and a couple of pictures.

I decided if I returned to the US I would call on Tim again, and I did just that three years later. I found him very much like his on-screen Western character — matter of fact and unassuming — and a little dismissive of his movie career. I waited for Tim to light his pipe and then turned on the recorder…

John Brooker: Tim, how did you get into Westerns at RKO?

Tim Holt: The first time was with George O’Brien in The Renegade Ranger with Rita Hayworth who was just getting started. I believe George O’Brien quit over money so RKO needed another Western star and I was put forward.

JB: How many Westerns were there in your RKO series?

TH: Too many I think (laughs). All in all I think I made 141 (Tim gave this figure in other interviews around this time, but he actually appeared in just over 70 movies, 47 of them starring B Westerns at RKO – JB)

JB: Did you have your own screen horse in either series?

TH: Oh yes…. before the war I had a horse called Duke which was, strangely enough, American standard bred and after that I had a horse that was half thoroughbred and half quarter horse… called Lightning.

14_Tim Holt -- Lightning sized

JB: Are they still alive?

TH: No, they’ve both passed away… and I probably should have (laughs)

JB: Can you remember the budgets on your series?

TH: They were very, very low — anywhere between 65 and 75 thousand.

JB: Was that pre-War or after?

TH: That was the early ones….the later ones ran 90… that’s when the producer would tear his hair out.

JB: That was a high budget for a B Western.

TH: Oh yes… and they would still net half a million apiece.

JB: Did you do your own stunts and fights?

TH: Most of them, yes. Strange thing, John… they’d leave all the dangerous stuff where you might get hurt or cut up or something like that until the last day of the picture. That way, if you got hurt you wouldn’t delay production…they were very considerate that way.

JB: Davey Sharpe doubled you in a couple…

TH: Davey was in the early ones…. I did most of it in the later ones. (In Dynamite Pass, for example, Tim does a fast horse to wagon transfer – JB)

JB: What sort of stunts would you not have been allowed to do… because of insurance?

TH: I don’t think there were any… of course in those days we didn’t have what they call a falling horse like they have now… we used a running W… that would automatically fold up the horse’s front legs… but you knew exactly when it was going to happen… you either put your foot in the stirrup or you used a set of steps on the side of the stirrups… and then as the horse would fall out from under you you would just hit the ground and tumble…

JB: Did you get hurt?

TH: I had my share of knocks… broke a few bones…

JB: Could you give brief details of your working day.. what time you got to the studio…

TH: In those days it was a long day… for the simple reason that we would have to travel an average of.. I would say.. about 80 miles to locations.

JB: Where were they?

TH: Oh, they were all over… Victorville.. the Garner Ranch… Agoura… Lone Pine. Now at Lone Pine, we would have to travel and stay there. We went to work when the sun came up and it was light enough to shoot… and we kept shooting til the sun went down… bit like KLPR… a daylight to dusk operation…. we did most of the interiors on the RKO lot.

JB: How long was each film in production?

TH: You mean the actual filming… average about eight days… but then it had to be scored… the music had to be put into it… it had to be edited… it would take about three months to get a picture out in general release.

JB: Why did the series come to an end?

TH: Howard Hughes decided he didn’t want to make any more B pictures. TV was hitting the theatres hard. It wasn’t economically viable to make our pictures any more.

JB: Is that when you left Hollywood?

TH: Yes. I came to Oklahoma in 1947 with a rodeo and that’s where I met my wife. When the series finished I headed back here for good. I never did like Hollywood that much… there was nothing magical about it for me.

JB: What’s happened generally since then, since your series ended?

TH: Well, I went up to Iowa to get a degree in animal nutrition. Then I went into the home building business until 1962… then in ’62 I came here with KLPR.

JB: How about film-wise?

TH: I’ve done about six or seven.

JB: The Monster That Challenged The World (1957).

TH: It wasn’t bad for a science fiction… wasn’t too bad a picture at all.

monster 2

JB: The last time we met you mentioned making a Western with Nick Adams but since then he passed away.

TH: Yes, we were going to do a sequel to Treasure Of The Sierra Madre. It was his idea… and it was a great idea but unfortunately he passed away a couple of years back.. Treasure Of The Sierra Madre was one of my favourite films… that and The Magnificent Ambersons. They gave me a change from the Westerns. I just finished a film that was a satire on hillbillies ….the story about a Reverend who’s a moonshiner. I don’t think they’ve decided on a title yet (This Stuff’ll Kill Ya – JB).

JB: Do you know the name of the production company?

TH: Yes. Ultima… out of Chicago.

JB: Is it a full length feature? What sort of running time?

TH: Feature length… it will be shown in theatres. I have also just done an episode of The Virginian (Season 8’s “The Woman Of Stone”— TR). And I thought we worked fast at RKO!

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JB: Do you keep in touch with any of your Hollywood contemporaries?

TH: Not really. Richard Martin’s still a good friend… we keep in touch. We had such fun together on the series.

JB: Don Barry’s talking about launching a new series of B westerns in colour. Do you think they could ever come back?

TH: I think so…. the time could be right….we need family entertainment… in the old days children identified with their cowboy heroes and stars like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry set them a good example…. nowadays the sex and violence is overdone…. I think the pendulum could swing the other way.

The interview was finished but Tim took me around the station and loaded me up with a dozen or so country music albums. In the movie library there was just about every Three Stooges two-reeler on the racks. They were being shown over and over again on a daily basis. But there wasn’t a Tim Holt Western in sight.

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Gunfight at the OK Corral RLC

VistaVision is a wonderful thing on Blu-ray, and here’s one I’ve been waiting for — Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957).

It’s coming from Warners and Paramount on March 11, 2014. Also on the way are a couple John Wayne – Howard Hawks pictures, Hatari! (1962) and El Dorado (1967).

Thanks for the tip, Paula.

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