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Archive for the ‘1952’ Category

Meet Rosie!

Presley recently rescued a kitten from a shed in our neighbors’ back yard. She was very successful in finding it a home, ours, and we’ve named her Rosie — after Julie Adams in The Lawless Breed (1952). We considered names from Marie Windsor movies, too, but this one seemed perfect.

So far, the connection to The Lawless Breed has proved very appropriate.

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Quantez (1957)
Directed by Harry Keller
Starring Fred MacMurray, Dorothy Malone, James Barton, Sydney Chaplin, John Gavin, John Larch, Michael Ansara

Just finished recording a commentary for Harry Keller’s Quantez (1957), a film I appreciate more every time I see it. It feels awkward to plug these things when I work on ’em, but this one is something special. The movie is ripe for rediscovery — and I think it’s the best commentary I’ve done.

It’s also a picture with superb art direction and cinematography, so high-definition will be a big plus.

Horizons West (1952)
Directed by Budd Boetticher
Starring Robert Ryan, Julia Adams, Rock Hudson, John McIntire, Raymond Burr, James Arness, Dennis Weaver

Horizons West (1952) has the great cast of contract players — Adams, Hudson, McIntire, Dennis Weaver — and gorgeous Technicolor we expect from Universal International Westerns of the early 50s. It’s a post-Civi War story of Ryan’s ambitions getting the best of him. Budd Boetticher keeps it short on running time and long on action. 

The color will make this one really pop on Blu-Ray. I’ll be recording a commentary for it next week. Both pictures are expected in May from Kino Lorber. 

There haven’t been many 50s Westerns riding up on DVD or Blu-Ray lately. These will help make up for it.

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Happy New Year!

You’re looking at Roy Rogers with the saddle he (and Trigger) used in the Rose Bowl Parade on New Year’s Day, 1952. He was the Grand Marshal.

At this point, Roy had left Republic and features for TV, though Paramount’s Son Of Paleface would arrive later in ’52.

Here’s wishing everybody out there a great 2021. And as Roy used to say, “May the good Lord take a likin’ to ya!”

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Directed by Harry Keller
Produced by Rudy Ralston
Written by M. Coates Webster
Music by Stanley Wilson
Cinematography: John MacBurnie
Film Editor: Harold Minter

Cast: Allan “Rocky” Lane (Marshal Rocky Lane), Eddy Waller (Sheriff Nugget Clark), Mona Knox (Alice Scott), Roy Barcroft (Ed Brill), Isabel Randolph (Deborah Cranston), Richard Crane (Deputy Dan Reed), William Henry (Bert Cranston), Edward Clark (Printer Tom), Pierre Watkin (Head Marshal), Stanley Andrews (Henry Scott), Boyd ‘Red’ Morgan, Fred Aldrich, Art Dillard, Roy Engel, Marshall Reed, Tex Terry, Dale Van Sickel, Black Jack

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I’m embarrassed to admit that this is the first Allan “Rocky” Lane picture to be featured on this blog. I’ve got to get around to Monte Hale, too!

Thundering Caravans (1952) was one of Lane’s later pictures for Republic. His last, El Paso Stampede (1953), was released a little over a year later. Republic would be done with the series Western entirely after 1954’s Phantom Stallion with Rex Allen.

Allan Lane grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and dropped out of Notre Dame to give acting a go. He was spotted and signed by Fox, but moved over to Warner Bros. That didn’t work out so well, and Lane gave up the movies for a while. He was back in supporting parts at Fox in the mid-30s, and after a few thing like RKO’s The Law West Of Tombstone (1938), he made his way over to Republic.

After serials like King Of The Royal Mounted (1940) and The Tiger Woman (1944) with Linda Stirling, Lane was launched as a Republic cowboy star. Next, in 1946, he took over the Red Ryder role after Wild Bill Elliott left the series. When that ran its course, he was back to playing Allan “Rocky” Lane through 1953. From there, he did mostly TV guest roles until providing the voice of Mr. Ed (1961-1966). 

Thundering Caravans has Lane a marshal coming to the aid of the sheriff of Edgewater, who’s trying to get to the bottom of a series of robberies. Wagons of ore are disappearing, and the local newspaper is badmouthing the sheriff as election days comes near. 

Eddy Waller is a hoot as Nugget, the sheriff. Waller was a constant in these Lane pictures, but he wasn’t a sidekick in the regular sense. While he’s always named Nugget Clark, he’s a different character from film to film. In Thundering Caravans, he and Lane don’t know each other at all.

Roy Barcroft doesn’t have a lot of screen time as Ed Brill, an escaped convict, but he gets to be plenty despicable before he’s through. Barcroft was a given in Republic pictures at this time, since he had an exclusive 10-year contract with the studio. They put him in everything they could.

The girl this time around is Mona Knox, an actress and pinup girl who appeared in a handful of films and some TV in the 50s and 60s. She appeared in Flying Leathernecks (1951), The Las Vegas Story (1952) and a couple of Bowery Boys pictures. She doesn’t have a whole lot to do in Thundering Caravans.

Harry Keller was an editor turned director, and he did a number of these later Lane Westerns, including the last one, El Paso Stampede. (He did the Rex Allen’s last, too.) Keller made the move to TV, with some Universal-International Westerns here and there — Quantez (1957), Day Of The Badman (1958) and Seven Ways From Sundown (1960). As with a lot of editors who climb into the director’s chair, you can count on Keller’s pictures to be well-paced, with some solid actions scenes.

Solid action was the order of the day at Republic as their series Westerns wound down. They’re short (usually under an hour), with plenty of riding and shooting (some of it stock footage), and the casts and sets are kept to a minimum. Thundering Caravans looks like it was shot at Iverson Ranch — some rear-projection footage is definitely Iverson.

It’s a shame Republics like Thundering Caravans aren’t around on DVD or Blu-Ray. They’re a lot of fun. 

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Lori Nelson
(August 15, 1933 – August 23, 2020)

Lori Nelson, has passed away at 87. She was born Dixie Kay Nelson. Her family moved to Hollywood when she was four. Soon after, she was crowned Little Miss America.

In 1950, Ms. Nelson signed a seven-year contract with Universal-International. Her first film was Bend Of The River, followed by Ma And Pa Kettle At The Fair and Francis Goes To West Point (all 1952). In 1953, U-I put her in Douglas Sirk’s All I Desire. She appeared in two Audie Murphy pictures, Tumbleweed (1953) and Destry (1954).

In 1955, she did Ma And Pa Kettle At Waikiki, Revenge of the Creature, Roger Corman’s Day The World Ended and I Died A Thousand Times, a remake of High Sierra (1941) — which has already been remake as Colorado Territory (1949). Underwater! was released in 1955, though it’d been shot some time earlier. She was loaned to Howard Hughes and RKO for that one. She’s also in Pardners (1956), one of the last Martin and Lewis pictures, Hot Rod Girl (1956) co-starring Chuck Connors and Howard W. Koch’s Untamed Youth (1957) with  Mamie Van Doren. What a great batch of 1950s cinema.

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Kino Lorber’s three-Blu-Ray Audie Murphy Collection is gonna be a good one. I’m not sure what I’m more excited about, that I get to do commentaries for two of ’em, or that these films are coming out, period.

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray of Night Passage (1957) is one of the best-looking Blu-Rays of a 50s Western I’ve seen, and these should look terrific, too. Universal International’s Westerns from this period were beautifully shot — and they’ve taken pretty good care of them.

The Duel At Silver Creek (1952)
Directed by Don Siegel
Starring Audie Murphy, Faith Domergue, Stephen McNally

Don Siegel’s first Western, and first film in color, is a fun, fast-paced little picture with gorgeous camerawork from Irving Glassberg. It’s also got a terrific supporting cast — Hal Mohr, Walter Sande, Frank Wilcox, Harry Harvey, Lee Marvin (his first Western), etc. It has fun with the conventions it tosses into the mix.

The story goes that Siegel’s cut of the picture was barely an hour long. The prologue tacked onto the picture to pad out its running time works perfectly. Siegel and Murphy would work again on The Gun Runners (1958).

Ride A Crooked Trail (1958)
Directed by Jesse Hibbs
Starring Audie Murphy, Gia Scala, Walter Matthau, Henry Silva, Joanna Moore

Audie’s an outlaw reformed more or less by circumstance. Walter Matthau is a lot of fun as a judge Murphy gets mixed up with. Gia Scala and Joanna Moore look terrific.

Jesse Hibbs was a good director for Murphy; they’d already had great success with To Hell And Back (1955). This was Hibbs’ last feature before embarking on a busy run (about a decade) as a TV director. Harold Lipstein shot it in CinemaScope and Eastmancolor.

No Name On The Bullet (1959)
Directed by Jack Arnold
Starring Audie Murphy, Charles Drake, Joan Evans, Warren Stevens, R.G. Armstrong, Whit Bissell

Over the years, U-I got pretty smart with their Audie Murphy movies. They learned to give him a strong supporting cast, and they built movies around his strengths as an actor. (I don’t think he was anywhere near as limited as some say he was.) No Name On The Bullet (1959) might be the best example fo the latter approach. It’s well-written by Gene L. Coon, later of Star Trek fame, and he gave Murphy some terrific lines. Jack Arnold’s no-frills style is a perfect match for the material.

There’s nothing better than a little low-budget movie where everything clicks to create something much bigger than it should’ve been. This is one of those movies. (On a personal note, this is one of the pictures that launched my obsession with 50s Westerns.)

The set gives you the three movies on separate discs, contained in a slipcover. Trailers and commentaries are included (I’m doing the first two.) Highly recommended. Now, when will someone get around to Tumbleweed (1953) and Seven Ways From Sundown (1960)?

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Directed by Allan Dawn
Produced by Howard Welsch
Screen Play by Horace McCoy & Norman S. Hall
Story by M. Coates Webster & Howard Welsch
Director Of Photography: Jack Marta
Film Editor: Arthur Roberts
Special Effects: Howard & Theodore Lydecker
Music by Nathan Scott

Cast: Jane Russell (Belle Starr), George Brent (Tom Bradfield), Scott Brady (Bob Dalton), Forrest Tucker (Mac), Andy Devine (Pete Bivins), Jack Lambert (Ringo), John Litel (Matt Towner), Ray Teal (Emmett Dalton), Rory Mallinson (Grat Dalton), Mike Ragan (Ben Dalton), Roy Barcroft (Jim Clark), Glenn Strange, George Chesebro, Iron Eyes Cody

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That photo of Jane Russell’s gorgeous Mercedes prompted me to revisit Allan Dwan’s Montana Belle (1952), which I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while.

I really like Jane Russell. She made some really cool movies, including Son Of Paleface (1952), one of my all-time favorites. She didn’t take herself too seriously, didn’t take any crap from Howard Hughes (or anybody else, it seems) and wasn’t afraid to be who she was. Plus, she drove that car!

In late October and November, 1948 — the same year she appeared in The Paleface, Russell made Montana Belle. It was produced by Howard Welsch for his Fidelity Pictures. Welsch had an arrangement with Republic to use their facilities, standard crew (such as DP Jack Marta) and Trucolor. Allan Dwan, who was directed pictures for Republic at the time, signed on. Republic would handle distribution.

Detail from a Serbin Golfer ad, promoting Montana Belle as a Republic picture.

In April of ’49, Welsch sold the completed Montana Belle to RKO for $875,000 — he and Republic split about $225,000 in profits. Then, the picture fell victim to the typical RKO/Howard Hughes weirdness. It was released by RKO in November of 1952, a full four years after Dwan shot it.

The story has Belle Starr (Russell) involved with the Dalton gang, then forming her own outlaw band, and finally giving it all up for the love of a saloon owner (George Brent). Along the way, Jane impersonates a fella and dons a blonde wig to pass as a saloon singer and gambler.

Montana Belle is at its best when all the riding, robbing and shooting’s going on — well directed by Dwan and captured in Trucolor by Jack Marta (would love to see this get the restoration other Trucolor pictures have received lately).

Jane Russell isn’t as comfortable in front of the camera as she’d later become, with pictures like Macao and Son Of Paleface (both 1952), but she handles herself pretty well here. George Brent has an interesting part, or maybe he makes the part interesting. And the rest of the cast is made up of real veterans at this kind of stuff: Scott Brady, Forrest Tucker, Andy Devine, Jack Lambert, Ray Teal, Roy Barcroft and Iron Eyes Cody. Dwan and Brady would later do another overlooked little 50s Western, The Restless Breed (1957).

Montana Belle is available overseas in a PAL DVD that I’ll bet looks pretty crummy. Since it’s officially an RKO picture, it’s not part of the Republic stash over at Paramount. With Allan Dwan getting a much-deserved mini-reappraisal in recent years, it’d sure be great to see this one get a decent DVD, or better yet Blu-Ray, release. It’s no classic, but it’s easy to recommend it anyway.

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This is a bit of a stretch for this blog, but I couldn’t NOT share this.

This 1969 Mercedes Benz 280SL, one of the prettiest cars I’ve ever seen, belonged to Jane Russell of Montana Belle and Son Of Paleface (both 1952).

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Directed by Lewis D. Collins
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Written by Daniel B. Ullman
Director Of Photography: Ernest Miller
Music by Raoul Kraushaar
Film Editor: Sam Fields

Cast: Wild Bill Elliott (Matt Boone), I. Stanford Jolley (Curly Ivers), Pamela Blake (Kathy Clark), Paul Fierro (Lou Garcia), Rand Brooks (Al), Richard Avonde (Pedro), Pierce Lyden (Farley), Lane Bradford (Wallace), Terry Frost (Will Richards), Stanley Price (Sheriff), Stanley Andrews (Judge), Michael Whalen (Barnes), Ray Bennett (Bull Clark), House Peters Jr. (Doctor)

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Seems like it’s time for a Wild Bill Wednesday. So let’s go to Waco (1952).

A little backstory. William Elliott and Republic Pictures parted ways in 1950. It wasn’t long before Elliott started making low-budget Westerns at Monogram. By the time the series was over, Monogram had become Allied Artists, 1.85 had become the standard aspect ratio for American cinema, and the B Western was dead. These 11 pictures — Waco was the second — made sure the B Western went out on a high note.

Matt Boone (Elliott) leaves Waco, Texas in a hurry after killing the crooked gambler Bull Clark (Ray Bennett) in self defense — he knows he won’t get a fair trial. Boone falls in with a gang of outlaws and is shot and captured when a bank job in Pecos goes wrong. Two of Waco’s prominent citizens bring Elliott back to Waco. They believe in his innocence (they saw Clark draw first) and need him to clean up their town. He’s elected sheriff. Only trouble is, his old gang (led by I. Stanford Jolley) and the gambler’s daughter (Pamela Blake) aren’t too keen on the idea.

These Monogram and Allied Artists pictures are a bit darker, more “adult,” than your typical B Western. The budget limitations are certainly obvious, but William Elliott’s as reliable as ever — and in this one, he gets to play the “good badman” type of role he liked so much, patterned after William S. Hart.

I’m a peaceable man and I’m not lookin’ for trouble. I’m not runnin’ from it neither.”

Waco comes from a pretty tight script by Dan Ullman. Ullman wrote plenty of 50s Westerns, from programmers like Kansas Pacific (1953) with Sterling Hayden to the excellent Face Of A Fugitive (1959), starring Fred MacMurray. It was directed by Lewis D. Collins, who started with silent shorts, made a boatload of pictures and passed away a few years after this one.

Pamela Blake’s part here doesn’t give her a whole lot to do. She stayed plenty busy — everything from This Gun For Hire (1942) to the serial Ghost Of Zorro (1949) at Republic to Live Wires (1946), the first Bowery Boys movie, to The Sea Hound (1947), a Sam Katzman serial at Columbia. Waco was her last feature — she worked on TV for a while, then retired to raise a family. I. Stanford Jolley, who’s got a great part here as a not-as-bad-as-you-thought outlaw, appeared in hundreds of Westerns, including a number of these Elliott pictures. It’s always a plus when he turns up in the credits (or in the back of a crowd working without credit).

Waco is part of Warner Archive’s terrific The Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection. Shot at Corriganville and the Iverson Ranch by ace cinematographer Ernest Miller, it looks terrific on DVD. Monogram struck prints of these pictures in “glorious sepia tone,” and while I’m a stickler for preserving the original presentation, I’m glad Warner Archive stuck with black and white. Sepia doesn’t always come off well on TV. The set treats these cheap little movies with the kind of respect they (and William Elliott himself) certainly deserve. It’s great to see them looking so clean and sharp. Highly recommended.

Dan Ullman would write, produce and direct a remake of Waco — the Regalscope picture Badlands Of Montana (1957) starring Rex Reason and Beverly Garland.

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Nancy Gates
(February 1, 1926 – March 24, 2019)

Nancy Gates has passed away at 93. She was from Dallas, signed with RKO at just 15, and made some really good movies before retiring in 1969 to concentrate on her family.

She was particularly strong in Westerns such as Masterson Of Kansas (1954), Stranger On Horseback (1955), The Brass Legend (1956), The Rawhide Trail (1958), The Gunfight At Dodge City (1959) and Comanche Station (1960). Her other pictures include Hitler’s Children (1943), At Sword’s Point (1952), Suddenly (1954), World Without End (1956) and Some Came Running (1958). She was busy on TV, too, with everything from Maverick and Wagon Train to Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Perry Mason.

Around here, we’ll probably always remember her as Mrs. Lowe in Comanche Station. She’s really terrific in that one.

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