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Archive for the ‘1950’ Category

Directed by Henry King
Starring Gregory Peck, Helen Wescott, Millard Mitchell, Jean Parker, Skip Homeier, Karl Malden

One of the key 50s Westerns, Henry King’s The Gunfighter (1950, is making its way to Blu-Ray from Germany’s Explosive Media. Pictures like this, Winchester ’73 and Devil’s Doorway (all 1950) were a pretty good indicator that something was happening to the Hollywood Western.

This one is absolutely essential. Can’t wait to see Arthur C. Miller’s B&W cinematography in high definition.

Thanks to John Knight for the news.

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Mill Creek’s new four-disc set, The Roy Rogers Happy Trails Collection, gathers up 20 Rogers pictures spanning his entire career, and presents most of them in the same unfortunate condition we’ve seen before. However, the set does have its advantages.

Here are the Rogers movies you get:
Young Bill Hickok (1940)
Sons Of The Pioneers
(1941)
Cowboy And The Senorita (1944)
Sunset In El Dorado
(1945)
Don’t Fence Me In (1945)
Man From Oklahoma
(1945)
Along the Navajo Trail
(1945)
Rainbow Over Texas
(1946)
Down Dakota Way
(1949)
The Golden Stallion
(1949)
Susanna Pass
(1949)
North Of The Great Divide
(1950)
Trigger, Jr
. (1950)
Trail Of Robin Hood (1950)
Bells Of Coronado
(1950)
Twilight In The Sierras
(1950)
Spoilers Of The Plains
(1951)
South Of Caliente
(1951)
In Old Amarillo
(1951)
Pals Of The Golden West
(1951)

Many of these are from the later period, when William Witney was packing these things with action — and shooting some in Trucolor. They also had longer running times, which is where we run into trouble. Trail Of Robin Hood (1950), for instance, runs 67 minutes. In this set, it runs just 63 minutes and that includes the Happy Trails Theatre introduction. So it’s fair to say that up to 10 minutes of the film is gone. This pattern continues throughout, with the damage depending on how long or short each movie was originally. Young Bill Hickok runs under an hour, so it might not have too much missing. Cowboy And The Senorita (1944), Roy and Dale’s first film together is the odd man out. It does not have an introduction, and it runs its full 77 minutes. Looks pretty good, too.

There are a few supplemental videos, some of them from the Roy Rogers Museum, which are nice to have — especially since the museum is no more, and it’s about as close to a tour as we’re gonna get anymore.

Some of these films are available elsewhere uncut. (Trigger, Jr. from Kino Lorber is incredible.) Wouldn’t it be great to have them complete with the introductions included as an extra, the way the Gene Autry pictures are done? I’m dying for a full-length Spoilers Of The Plains.

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Directed by Fred C. Brannon
Starring Tom Keene (as Richard Powers), Judy Clark, Roy Barcroft, I. Standford Jolley, Lee Phelps, Tom Steele

Serial Squadron has announced that they’re preparing a DVD release of the 1950 Republic serial Desperadoes Of The West. Though Republic would keep making serials through 1955, this was the last straight Western — others would would feature a masked rider and lift heavily from the Zorro stuff. Desperadoes works in its stock footage pretty well, pulling more from Republic features and less from their serials.

Tom Keene, working here as Richard Powers, is almost always worth a look, but he seems a bit old for this kinda stuff (he was in his mid-50s). Keen’s career was beginning to wind down at this point. He’d work pretty steadily throughout the 50s in features and TV, with his last picture being Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959). Not a great swan song, especially after appearing in so much cool stuff over the years.

Republic’s serial budgets were extremely tight in the 50s — this one cost about $150,000. Each chapter’s short running time (chapters 2-12 run just 13 minutes) really keeps things moving, which is a big benefit if you watch them back to back. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this one and I’m looking forward to a chance to revisit it.

Thanks to Texican for the news.

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Since wrapping up a commentary for El Paso (1949), the Pine-Thomas Western starring John Payne, Gail Russell and Sterling Hayden, I’ve been thinking about Gabby Hayes.

George Francis “Gabby” Hayes was born in his father’s hotel, the Hayes Hotel, in Stannards, New York. He played semiprofessional baseball in high school — and ran away from home at 17. He toured with a stock company, joined a circus, and became a successful vaudevillian.

Hayes married Olive E. Ireland in 1914, and she joined him in vaudeville. Hayes was so successful that by 1928, at just 43, he retired to Long Island. But he lost everything in the 1929 stock-market crash, and Olive persuaded George to try his luck in the movies. They moved to Los Angeles.

In his early days in Hollywood, Hayes played all kinds of roles — sometimes two parts in a single film. He did well in Westerns, though he didn’t know how to ride a horse until he was in his 40s and had to learn for a movie. In fact, he didn’t care much for Westerns.

From 1935 to 39, Hayes played Windy Halliday, the sidekick to Hopalong Cassidy (played by William Boyd). In 1939, Hayes left Paramount in a salary dispute and moved over to Republic. Paramount owned the name Windy Halliday, so he became Gabby.

As Gabby Whitaker, he appeared in more than 40 pictures between 1939 and 1946, usually with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry or Wild Bill Elliott — and often working with director Joseph Kane.

Hayes, Wayne and Rogers would all appear in Raoul Walsh’s The Dark Command (1940). Its dream cast also includes Claire Trevor, Walter Pigeon, Marjorie Main and Joe Sawyer. Its success would spur Yates to put more money into their John Wayne movies, and it hints at the bigger pictures Republic would do heading into the 50s. It’s a good one.

George “Gabby” Hayes’ last feature was The Cariboo Trail (1950) with Randolph Scott. He then headed to TV and hosted The Gabby Hayes Show from 1950 to 1954 on NBC and on ABC in 1956. When the series ended, Hayes retired from show business for a second time. He passed away in February 1969.

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The music label Cherry Red out of the UK has released (or is about to release) a 3-CD set Music From The Westerns Of John Wayne And John Ford. Featuring music from Stagecoach (1939), Fort Apache (1948), Three Godfathers (1948), She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949), Rio Grande (1950), The Searchers (1956), Horse Soldiers (1959) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Of course, music is always a huge part of a John Ford picture, so there’s plenty of good stuff here.

Sometimes it’s the original soundtrack (Rio Grande, Horse Soldiers), sometimes it’s from other sources. You can see a track listing here. This promises to be a very cool set. Can’t wait.

Thanks to Mr. Richard Vincent for the tip.

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Republic Trucolor logo

Martin Scorsese has curated a retrospective of Republic movies, for February and August at the Museum Of Modern Art, from the restored material at Paramount.

There’s some great stuff in February’s lineup, including Trigger, Jr. (1950), Stranger At My Door (1956) and one of my all-time favorite films, Hellfire (1949). Three of my favorite directors are represented: William Witney, George Sherman and Allan Dwan.

Working with the fine folks at Kino Lorber on commentaries for some of their Republic releases, the quality of the material coming out of Paramount is incredible. (I’m in the middle of Singing Guns right now.) So glad to see these films are being treated with the respect they deserve.

Thanks to Laura for the news!

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Directed by Ray Nazarro
Written by Barry Shipman
Cinematography: Fayte Browne

Cast: Charles Starrett (Steve Woods/The Durango Kid), Smiley Burnette (Himself), Mary Ellen Kay (Doris Donner), George Chesebro (Bill Donner), Frank Fenton (Bart Selby)

__________

Mill Creek has done us a big favor by scooping up 10 of the 60-plus Durango Kid movies and putting them in one extremely budget-friendly two-disc set, The Durango Kid Collection. One of the 10 is Ray Nazarro’s Streets Of Ghost Town (1950).

In this outing, Steve and Smiley help ​the ​sheriff of Dusty Creek ​(Stanley Andrews) look for a fortune in stolen money supposedly hidden in a​n old​ ghost town — boarded up, littered wth tumbleweeds and creeking and moaning just enough to keep Smiley scared. A good chunk of the picture uses flashbacks to fill us in on how the treasure was stolen by Bart Selby (Frank Fenton, wearing a hat that seems too small for his head) and his gang, then ​taken by ​the double-crossing Bill Donner (George Chesebro). Back in the “present,” Selby and his gaggle of crooks are looking for the loot, and it’s believed Bill Donner is dead. Then Donner’s niece (Mary Ellen Kay) and nephew turn up to complicate matters.

This is no Riders Of The Whistling Skull (1937), but it handles its mystery elements pretty well. The Devil’s Cave, where the money’s hidden, is pretty cool, especially when Donner locks a couple of his cohorts in there with the treasure to die a slow death. And Smiley working a Ouija board is a pretty odd sight. The cinematography by Fayte Browne looks terrific, with lots of deep shadows to crank up the spookiness.

Ray Nazarro directed over half the Durango Kids (he did half of this set), and he keeps Streets Of Ghost Town running like a well-oiled machine. Charles Starrett is as likable as always and looks cool, and Smiley Burnette is, well, Smiley Burnette, which certainly works for me. George Chesebro is wonderful as the crazed, double-crossing crook.

What bothers me about The Durango Kid pictures is the Kid himself — he often seems nailed to the action like an obligation. But he sure looks terrific tearing through the ghost town on Raider.

The same Durango Kid titles that make up this set have been available from Columbia on DVD in the past, sometimes at up to 20 bucks a piece. So the economics of this set are pretty solid — and it’ll sure save you some shelf space. You can count on Columbia for terrific transfers of these older titles, and these don’t disappoint. (I love the fact that there’s some dust and dirt to remind us what film used to look like.) Recommended.

So with 10 of the series pulled together for this nifty set, when can we count on volumes two through seven?

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