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Archive for February, 2020

VCI Entertainment has announced the upcoming Blu-Ray release of two terrific Buck Jones serials from Universal — Gordon Of Ghost City (1933) and The Phantom Rider (1936). Gordon was the first of six serials Buck Jones would do for Universal.

Both come from director Ray Taylor, who did a number of serials, including The Green Hornet and Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe (both 1940). Early in his long, prolific career, he was an assistant director for John Ford.

Both are sourced from original 35mm fine grain material — and both will feature first-chapter commentaries from yours truly.

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Directed by John Ford
Starring Harry Carey, Molly Malone, Duke R. Lee, Hoot Gibson

Kino Lorber has announced a Blu-Ray release of the recent 4K restoration of John Ford’s Straight Shooting (1917) starring Harry Carey. Carey plays Cheyenne Harry, caught up in a fight between farmers and ranchers.

I’m really anxious to see how this restoration looks. It’s certainly a cool movie.

 

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James H. Griffith
(February 13, 1916 – September 17, 1993)

Here’s to one of my favorite character actors on his birthday. James Griffith is seen here with George Montgomery in William Castle’s Masterson Of Kansas (1954). Griffith is Doc Holliday.

Griffith is in a ton of stuff, and he’s always terrific. One of my favorites of his many parts is his yellow witness in the Dragnet feature (1954).

Thanks for the reminder, Paula!

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Mill Creek has announced a twin-bill Blu-Ray of The Man From The Alamo (1953) and They Came To Cordura (1959).

The Man From The Alamo (1953)
Directed by Budd Boetticher
Starring Glenn Ford, Julie Adams, Chill Wills, Victor Jory, Hugh O’Brien, Neville Brand

Glenn Ford leaves The Alamo before the siege to notify families of what’s to come, and he’s branded a coward for it.This is a beautiful Technicolor Universal-International Western. Ford’s good, Julie Adams is gorgeous and Victor Jory is despicable. Just what you want in a 50s Western.

They Came To Cordura (1959)
Directed by Robert Rossen
Starring Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, Van Heflin, Tab Hunter, Dick York

This one’s in Eastmancolor and CinemaScope, with Gary Cooper and his men after Pancho Villa. Dick York was injured making this, and it plagued him for years. It’s why he had to leave the role of Darrin Stephens on Bewitched.

Let’s hope this is the beginning of a trend with Mill Creek. Their two-fer Blu-Rays of Hammer and William Castle horror films are terrific.

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Directed by John Ford
Starring John Wayne, Joanne Dru, John Agar, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Victor McLaglen, Mildred Natwick, George O’Brien, Arthur Shields, Michael Dugan, Tom Tyler, Francis Ford

The Graham Cinema is running John Ford’s She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949) next week. Seeing John Wayne and Winton Hoch’s Oscar-winning Technicolor cinematography on the big screen is something not to be missed.

Monday & Tuesday, February 24 & 25
7:00 & 9:00 pm.

The Graham Cinema
119 N Main Street, Graham, NC

The Graham Cinema is a great old movie house. If you’re anywhere nearby, be sure to check it out.

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RIP, Kirk Douglas.

Kirk Douglas
(born Issur Danielovitch Demsky)
December 9, 1916 – February 5, 2020

50 Westerns From The 50s, and the chump who runs it, owe a tremendous debt to Mr. Kirk Douglas — who has passed away at the age of 103.

His Last Train From Gun Hill (1959) was one of the 50s westerns that got me seriously hooked on these things, eventually leading to this blog. Doing commentaries for his pictures The Indian Fighter and Man Without A Star (both 1955) were huge opportunities, and it freaked me out to think he could actually end up hearing one of them. And as I researched those movies, Kirk’s ambition, determination, energy and dedication to his craft became a real inspiration.

He was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, born Issur Danielovitch Demsky in Amsterdam, New York. He grew up poor, but was a fine student and gifted athlete — he wrestled at St. Lawrence University. An acting scholarship got him into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and he appeared in a few minor Broadway roles before joining the Navy in 1941.

After the war, he worked in the theater and on radio. Lauren Bacall, a classmate from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, who was now a star thanks to To Have And Have Not, convinced producer Hal Wallis to give Douglas a screen test. This got him a lead role in the 1946 picture The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers. His reviews were excellent and he was off and running. Jacques Tourneur’s Out Of The Past, a terrific film noir with Douglas, Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer, came in 1947.

1948’s I Walk Alone paired Douglas with Burt Lancaster — they’d become friends and make a total of seven films together. The Champion from 1949 earned Douglas his first Oscar nomination. There’d be others for The Bad And The Beautiful in 1952 and for his portrayal of painter Vincent van Gogh in 1956’s Lust For Life. I’m skipping as many great movies as I’m listing. Douglas’ body of work is really something else.

In the 1950s, as television took hold of popular culture and the curtain began to close on the Hollywood studio system, movie stars began developing their own films, which would be backed by the studios. With the formation of Bryna Productions, Kirk Douglas was one of the first to set up shop. (Bryna was his mother’s first name.)

Backed by United Artists, Douglas opened a small Bryna office in Beverly Hills in 1955, with The Indian Fighter the company’s first release.

Over the course of his career, Kirk Douglas made some fine Westerns. Howard Hawks’ The Big Sky in 1952. Man Without A Star in 1955. John Sturges’ Gunfight At The O.K. Corral from 1957, with Burt Lancaster as Wyatt Earp and Douglas as Doc Holliday — and its sister film, Last Train From Gun Hill. He appeared with Rock Hudson in The Last Sunset, directed by Robert Aldrich, in 1962. Lonely Are The Brave, a modern-day Western from 1962, is always named as Kirk’s favorite of his own movies. They kept coming, with 1967’s The War Wagon with John Wayne and 1982’s The Man From Snowy River being highlights. Good God, he left us with some great movies. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954). The Vikings (1957). Spartacus (1960). Seven Days In May (1964).

Over the 10 years of this blog, Kirk Douglas has always seemed like its unofficial godfather. Now, I guess he’s more like a guardian angel. One thing’s for sure: it’s a pretty safe bet we won’t see another Kirk Douglas any time soon.

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Happy Birthday, Tim Holt.

Tim Holt
(February 5, 1919 – February 15, 1973)

Happy birthday to one of my favorite cowboy stars, Mr. Tim Holt. His series of Westerns for RKO, some of the last B Westerns made, are a complete joy.

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