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Archive for April, 2014

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Tim Holt Tuesdays have been a lot of fun, and people seem to like ’em, so I’m adding Wild Bill Wednesdays to the week. Like the Holt day, it’s a not-quite-weekly way to call attention to William “Wild Bill” Elliott, a cowboy star who doesn’t get his due. (I realize I’m preaching to the choir here.) His later Westerns, the ones that followed the Red Ryder series, are particularly strong, and they’re what I’ll focus on (approximately 1946-54). Elliott’s career was a long one. He was a working character actor for years (often uncredited) before becoming a top-billed cowboy star, so I’ll be dealing with a tiny sliver of his filmography.

Of course, like most Republic pictures, Elliott’s are absent on DVD or Blu-ray. (Dear Olive Films: if you only knew how badly I want a Blu-ray of Hellfire.) The old VHS copies are decent-looking if you want to search ’em out, and some of them turn up on The Westerns Channel or Netflix from time to time. (1954’s Bitter Creek is scheduled for TCM in June.)

But if you look beyond the Republics, the outlook’s brighter. Warner Archive’s given us a couple of the Monogram/Allied Artists Westerns (Fargo and The Homesteaders), and VCI put out the first of that series, The Longhorn (1951). Then there’s that cool detective series.

We’ll have a real post on Elliott next Wednesday.

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the-searchersJohn Ford’s The Searchers (1956) might be the finest film ever made, it’s almost certainly the greatest Western ever made, and it’s easily John Wayne’s best performance. All of which make it a great reason to head to Durham’s Carolina Theater this Friday, May 2.

At 7PM is John Boorman’s Deliverance (1972); The Searchers will start around 9:30. If you think you might make it out, let me know. It’d be fun to say hello.

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Three excellent little 50s Westerns, previously part of multi-disc sets, are now available as stand-alone discs from VCI and Kit Parker Films. All three are highly recommended.

Hellgate (1952)
Directed by Charles Marquis Warren
Starring Sterling Hayden, Joan Leslie, Ward Bond, James Arness and Peter Coe

Shotgun (1955)
Directed by Leslie Selander
Starring Sterling Hayden, Yvonne De Carlo, Zachary Scott, Guy Prescott and Robert J. Wilke

Four Fast Funs (1960)
Directed by William J. Hole, Jr.
Starring James Craig, Martha Vickers. Edgar Buchanan, Brett Halsey and Paul Richards

4 fast guns

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Wayne On Westerns.

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From an article that appeared in the Tucson Daily Citizen on May 10, 1958, here’s John Wayne talking about the Western genre from the set of Rio Bravo (1959).

John Wayne: “I see no reason for running down Westerns or masking them under such phony subtitles as ‘adult,’ ‘psychological’ or ‘different.’ Westerns are our folklore, and they became folklore in less than a hundred years. Folklore is important in every country’s history and background… I don’t condone Westerns that are just an excuse for gunplay and gore. They’ve got to have a good human story, and as long as they have a real story, Westerns will always make for top entertainment.”

Thanks to my wife Jennifer for digging this up. She’s found a lot of the really cool stuff I get to put up here.

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Directed by Lesley Selander
Produced by Herman Schlom
Screen Play by Adele Buffington
Story by Carroll Young
Director Of Photography: J. Roy Hunt, ASC
Music by Paul Sawtell
Film Editor: Samuel E. Beetley, ACE

CAST: Tim Holt (Tim Holt), Richard Martin (Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty), Gail Davis (Terry Muldoon), Hugh Beaumont (Brad Roberts), Mari Blanchard (Stella), George Nader (Paul Manning) Robert J. Wilke (Bellew), Cliff Clark (Terence Muldoon), Russell Hicks (Colonel Marvin), Robert Bray (Steve), Fred Graham (Joe).

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This time around, Tim Holt and Chito get involved with the transcontinental telegraph. Terry Muldoon (Gail Davis) and her father are running the wire westward, and its completion will close down a number of military outposts. This will destroy Paul Manning’s supply business and keep him from paying off his loans to Brad Roberts (Hugh Beaumont). Roberts and his bunch (which naturally includes Robert J. Wilke) take matters into their own hands —a “Gang-Stooge Terror Plot,” according to the ads — and eventually run afoul of Tim and Chito.

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Overland Telegraph (1951) is one of my favorite Holt pictures. It’s a lot of fun to watch Hugh Beaumont as a bad guy. Mari Blanchard doesn’t have much to do but look pretty as Nader’s saloon-girl fiancé. But having Gail Davis on hand is a real asset, displaying a bit of the riding and shooting skills that would make her such a great Annie Oakley on TV. The Iverson Ranch is featured quite a bit, too.

b70-5266Gail Davis: “It was a good part for the girl, not just one of those smile into the sunset pictures. Tim was really cute, he had a friendly personality but was a bit of a kidder. So was Dick Martin, but both were very conscientious about their pictures.”*

Of course, director Lesley Selander and editor Samuel Beetley deserve a lot of the credit. They keep things moving at such a clip that the hour’s over before you know it. If you’ve ever seen a lousy B Western, you know that in the wrong hands, an hour can last forever. Selander is such a pro and has such a flair for these things that his films stand apart from the rest. He should’ve written a textbook on film pacing.

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Overland Telegraph is part of Warner Archive’s fourth volume of the Tim Holt Western Classics Collection. It has several of the earlier entries and the last few, providing a great overview of the series. B Westerns didn’t come any better than these. As with the previous sets, the transfers are exquisite — a real tribute to the care and craftsmanship that went into these films. Highly, highly recommended (as if you hadn’t figured that out already).

SOURCE: * Westerns Women by Boyd Magers and Michael G. Fitzgerald.

 

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Happy Easter.

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To mark Easter, here’s John Wayne getting ready for his appearance on Laugh-In.

You know, we can all learn a lesson from Duke: being able to laugh at yourself is a great thing.

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