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Archive for May, 2014

alamo03_70mmprinttest

UPDATE (6/3/2014): A Facebook community has been set up to spread the word and encourage MGM to get a restoration underway. Over 800 people have joined in two days. Please consider joining the ranks.

It’s hard to believe that John Wayne’s The Alamo (1960) is in danger of being lost. What’s doing it in? First, the natural breakdown of its original film elements. Second, MGM’s lack of interest in saving it, even if the public helped pitch in to pay for it. (If there was ever a reason for Kickstarter to exist, this is it.)

Read Robert Harris’ report on the elements and MGM’s crappy attitude here. And if a letter-writing or Facebook-flodding campaign gets going, hop on it.

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Lippert

A few weeks ago, I broke my glasses and began relying on an old (pre-trifocals) pair while I scrambled for an eye exam and new frames. Reading became very, very difficult. Not the best time to receive a book you’re really excited about. But that’s exactly when Mark Thomas McGee’s Talk’s Cheap, Action’s Expensive: The Films Of Robert L. Lippert, from BearManor Media, turned up in my mailbox.

Lippert Pictures (and related companies) cranked out cheap little Westerns like 1952’s Outlaw Women, along with gems such as Sam Fuller’s I Shot Jesse James (1949) and The Quiet Gun (1957). (They covered the other genres, too.) I’m a big fan of these films and was determined to make my way through the book with or without spectacles, holding it so close I risked paper cuts on my nose.

McGee set the book up very well. The first 80 pages or so read as a biography and history of Lippert and his career, from the theater business to film production. I had a working knowledge of the Lippert story going in, but was always coming upon something I didn’t know. There’s a filmography, arranged by company, that makes up the bulk of the book. And finally, there’s a listing of the Lippert theaters (the closest to me was in Chattanooga, TN).

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What’s not to like about a book like this? It’s packed with information on movies I grew up with, movies I love. Rocketship X-M (1950). The Steel Helmet (1951). Superman And The Mole Men (1951). Forty Guns (1957). Showdown At Boot Hill (1958). The Fly (1958). The Alligator People (1959). House Of The Damned (1963). They’re all in here, and you’ll come away with a better understanding of what went into getting them made. Where I think McGee really excelled was in making sure the book, as informative as it is, stayed as fun as the films it’s about. (The same goes for his previous books on Roger Corman and AIP.)

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If there’s a downside to this book, it’s that the filmography points out film after film that you’d love to track down and see. You’ll find a lot of them available from Kit Parker Films and VCI, and others scattered here and there. Some of the Fullers were even given the Criterion treatment. As for the rest, well, happy hunting.

It’s very easy to recommend Mark Thomas McGee’s Talk’s Cheap, Action’s Expensive: The Films Of Robert L. Lippert. Now that my new glasses are in, I’m reading it a second time.

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John Wayne
(born 
Marion Robert Morrison; May 26, 1907 – June 11, 1979)

Here’s a great shot of John Wayne, John Ford and the rest of the cast and crew shooting The Searchers (1956) near the Three Sisters in Monument Valley.

Maybe not the ideal picture for celebrating Wayne’s birth, but I figured you’d all wanna see it.

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Mervyn LeRoy’s Strange Lady In Town (1955) is coming from Warner Archive. This big-budget CinemaScope Western warranted its own 100-acre set near Tucson, and was shut down for almost a month due to Greer Garson’s appendix. Dana Andrews’ drinking didn’t help much. During the downtime, LeRoy subbed for John Ford on Mister Roberts (1955).

Garson and Andrews are backed by a great supporting cast: Cameron Mitchell, Lois Smith, Robert Wilke, Russell Johnson, Douglas Kennedy and Nick Adams (as Billy The Kid).

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Wish I knew more about this photo. Where, and when, it was taken. What the story is behind it. (Also wish I had a higher-resolution version of it.)

It’s widely known that Bill Elliott patterned much of his “peaceable man” persona after his idol, the great silent cowboy star William S. Hart. Hart passed away in 1946, which is the only way I know to date this. To meet him must’ve been a real thrill for Wild Bill. If anybody knows more about this, please let me know. (I’ll put my wife and 50s Westerns staff researcher Jennifer on the case. If she digs something up, we’ll revisit this.)

It takes someone like Hart to make a sweater vest look cool.

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The sixth installment in Timeless Media’s Gene Autry series offers up four titles from Gene’s later years on the big screen.

The Strawberry Roan (1948)
Longer than usual and in Cinecolor, this is one of Autry’s best films. It plays a bit like Roy Rogers’ My Pal Trigger (1946), giving Champion a real chance to shine. Gloria Henry, Jack Holt and Pat Buttram co-star.

Rim Of The Canyon (1949)
Gene plays himself and his dad! Much of the film takes place in a ghost town and really pours on the atmospherics.

Barbed Wire (1952)
Gene and Pat Buttram find themselves caught between feuding ranchers and homesteaders.

Winning Of The West (1953)
One of Autry’s last co-stars Gail Davis and Smiley Burnette, as they battle crooks masquerading as Indians. (The photo up top is from this film.)

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Desi Arnaz, John Wayne, Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance (L-R) working on the “Lucy And John Wayne” episode of I Love Lucy.

Posted for Jennifer and Presley, a couple of real Lucy nuts. And because it makes me happy to look at it. Even in 60-year-old photographs, Wayne’s smile is contagious.

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