Archive for the ‘1952’ Category

Maverick LC

After a stint at Republic Pictures that resulted in some terrific Westerns (including a personal favorite, 1949’s Hellfire), William Elliott made his way to Monogram. By the time the series was over, Monogram had become Allied Artists and 1.85 had become the standard aspect ratio for American cinema. And the B Western was dead. These 11 pictures made sure it went out on a high note.

Rebel City LC

Warner Archive has gathered eight of these films for a three-disc set — The Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection.

The Longhorn (1951)
Waco (1952)
Kansas Territory (1952)
The Maverick (1952)
Rebel City (1953)
Topeka (1953)
Vigilante Terror (1953)
The Forty-Niners (1954)

Following these rather adult B Westerns, Elliott would make a dynamite series of detective pictures (again for Allied Artists) then go into retirement. Cancer would take him in 1964.

For me, this is the DVD release of the year. It’s due October 15. Between this set and the double feature that’s already out, you’ll have everything but Bitter Creek (1954), which WA promises for a later release. Essential stuff.

Thanks to John Knight for the tip.

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Associate Producer – Director: Joe Kane
Screen Play by Mary McCall, Jr.
Based on a Saturday Evening Post story by Luke Short
Director Of Photography: Jack Marta
Music: Ned Freeman

Cast: Brian Donlevy (Bide Marriner), Rod Cameron (Will Ballard), Ella Raines (Celia Evarts), Forrest Tucker (Sam Danfelser), Barbara Britton (Lottie Priest), J. Carrol Naish (Sheriff Joe Kneen), Chill Wills (Ike Adams), Jim Davis (Red Courteen), Taylor Holmes (Lowell Priest), James Bell (John Evarts), Paul Fix (Ray Cavanaugh), Roydon Clark, Roy Barcroft, Al Caudebec, Douglas Kennedy, Jack La Rue, Claire Carleton


This is an entry in The Republic Pictures Blogathon, a celebration of the studio’s incredible talent roster, wonderful output and lasting legacy.

Republic blogathon badgeHerbert Yates devised a rather odd hierarchy for Republic’s releases. First, there were the “Jubilee” pictures, shot in a week for about $50,000 — this was their bread and butter. Then came the “Anniversary” films, with schedules stretching to 15 days and budgets up to $200,000. The “Deluxe” projects were a decidedly bigger product, with bigger starts and costing up to half a million. And last came the “Premiere” bracket, with top directors (John Ford, Fritz Lang, Nick Ray) and budgets of about a million.

Ride The Man Down (1952) was a Deluxe, with location shooting in Utah, a terrific cast and the otherwordly hues of Trucolor. For good measure, Republic assigned it to one of their ace house directors, Joe Kane, who also gets an associate producer credit.


When the owner of the renowned Hatchet Ranch freezes to death, his daughter inherits the whole spread, and it’s up to the dedicated, steadfast foreman, Will Ballard (Rod Cameron), to protect Hatchet from the surrounding ranchers. This range war plot is something we’re all familiar with, but Mary McCall, Jr.’s screenplay, adapted from a Luke Short story, is overly complicated (complete with a murder and a love triangle worked in), leaving the audience with a lot to sort out along the way.


The picture’s biggest strength is certainly its cast, made up of some of Republic’s best. Rod Cameron is very good as Will Ballard. It’s a part that really suits him — he’s good at talking tough and swing his fists. Brian Donlevy is terrific as a powerful, greedy rancher. Ella Raines is good as the Hatchet Ranch’s new owner, a part that could’ve been annoying. Forrest Tucker turns out to be a rather slimy bad guy. And J. Carrol Naish makes quite an impression as a crooked sheriff.


Ride The Man Down boasts the kind of fistfight we expect from a Republic picture. Cameron and Forrest Tucker duke it out in a cabin, practically destroying the place in the process. And there’s a cool scene where Cameron beans Jim Davis with a cue ball.

This is another Republic picture without a DVD or Blu-ray release. Marta and Kane give the film a big, lush look and it’d be nice to see Jack Marta’s cinematography closer to his original intent. Maybe one of these days.

I leave you with a final thought: Would you want to live in a town where the sheriff is J. Carrol Naish?

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Directed by Felix Feist
Starring Kirk Douglas, Eve Miller, Patrice Wymore, Edgar Buchanan, John Archer, Alan Hale, Jr., Ellen Corby

The Big Trees (1952) is a fun Kirk Douglas picture about loggers after the redwoods of northern California. Douglas did it for free to get out of his Warner Bros. contract. To me, the real stars of the film are Director Of Photography Bert Glennon and Patrice Wymore, who looks incredible thanks to Glennon’s masterful use of Technicolor.

It’s airing on INSP TV as part of their Saddle Up Weekends all through July — part of a solid lineup of classic films and TV.

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MJS bk_ray17p1.jpg

Directed by Nicholas Ray
Produced by Jerry Wald
Written for the screen by Horace McCoy and David Dortort
Suggested by a story by Claude Stanush
Director Of Photography: Lee Garmes, ASC
Music by Roy Webb
Film Editor: Ralph Dawson, ACE

Cast: Susan Hayward (Louise Merritt), Robert Mitchum (Jeff McCloud), Arthur Kennedy (Wes Merritt), Arthur Hunnicutt (Booker Davis), Frank Faylen (Al Dawson), Walter Coy (Buster Burgess), Carol Nugent (Rusty Davis), Burt Mustin (Jeremiah Watrus)

Whenever I see a Nicholas Ray picture, I usually want to see another one. Because after a favorite Ray film, about anything that comes after it’s gonna be a letdown. That’s especially true with The Lusty Men (1952), a brilliant movie at the top of a list of brilliant movies.


Jeff McCloud (Robert Mitchum), a banged-up, washed-up, tapped-out rodeo cowboy, agrees to mentor the up-and-coming Wes Merritt (Arthur Kennedy). They set out on the rodeo circuit, with Merritt’s wife Louise (Susan Hayward) in tow. Wes is soon on his way to the championship, but at what cost? To himself? To his wife and their plans for a little ranch of their own? And to Jeff, who’s stuck watching someone else reach the position he enjoyed a few years before?

Like most Nick Ray movies, it’s about so much more than it’s about. It touches on the corruptive nature of fame and money — and how we’ll risk our lives and relationships for a shot at them. It reminds us how futile it can be to attempt to recapture our past — whether it’s a childhood home or rodeo stardom. It serves as a modern-day riff on the classic Western theme of the gunfighter who wants to hang up his guns, but is trapped by his reputation (such as 1950’s The Gunfighter). And it gives us a good look at just how self-destructive we can be — a topic Ray would become an expert on.

Louise (Susan Hayward): Wes tells me you once made three thousand dollars in one day, rodeoin’.
Jeff (Robert Mitchum): That’s right.
Louise: And threw it all away.
Jeff: Oh, I didn’t throw it away. It just sorta… floated.
Louise: That’s pretty stupid, breakin’ all your bones, then lettin’ the money go.

Robert Mitchum often dismissed his work, but he always had nice things to say about The Lusty Men. Ray gets a terrific performance out of him, and he does the same with Susan Hayward and Arthur Kennedy. Mitchum and Kennedy both went beyond the insurance company’s limits and really attacked the rodeo scenes, doing many of their own stunts. (They say even Nick Ray gave cowboy-ing a try.) This really adds to the film’s documentary feel, which incorporates lots of great footage shot on the rodeo circuit.

Nicholas Ray: “Arthur Kennedy was a beautiful actor to work with. Where it might have taken me five minutes with Mitchum and 10 minutes with Susan Hayward between takes to get them into the right groove, when something went wrong in one of Kennedy’s scenes, by the time I’d cut, walk over and gotten my arm around him, he’d know everything I was going to say. And the next take would be perfect.”

Arthur Kennedy: “A strange guy. Had a most peculiar way of giving direction. I never could quite grasp his meaning. I’d agree to everything, then try to figure out what the hell he meant”

There are fine performances throughout, from Arthur Hunnicutt as a grizzled old cowboy, Walter Coy as a drunken, mangled saddle tramp, and Carol Nugent as a girl growing up on the rodeo circuit, to name just a few.


Burt Mustin is incredible as Jeremiah, owner of McCall’s ramshackle family home — which the Merritts want to buy. This was an early film role for Mustin, who we all know from his endless appearances on TV — everything from The Lone Ranger to Dragnet to Leave It To Beaver (as Gus the fireman) to The Andy Griffith Show to All In The Family, and his work here is a supreme example of the contribution a character actor can make. Across the board, this is one of the best-acted films I’ve ever seen. Every line, every frame rings true.

They say shooting began while the script was still being worked on, and that many scenes were worked out on the set. Hayward, who’d been brought to RKO from 20th Century-Fox at great expense, was not happy with the arrangement. However, it all came together and stands as one of Ray’s and Mitchum’s best films. By the way, its working title was Cowpoke; RKO owner Howard Hughes came up with The Lusty Men.

Lusty Men 3

My grandpa was a cowboy, a real one. He trained cutting horses and did a little rodeoing back before I came along (one of his trophies is among my most prized possessions — and it’d sit atop the TV if the damned things weren’t so skinny nowadays). Wish I’d had a chance to watch The Lusty Men with him. I’m certain he would’ve found its depiction of early-50s rodeo life accurate. But did he ever know a Jeff McCloud? Or a Wes Merritt? My guess is that he did. And when you think about it, all of us probably do — minus the cowboy hat.

Warner Archive has come through with a picture many of us have been wanting as long as DVDs have been around. (I’ve been holding onto the old laserdisc for decades.) And they’ve served it up looking like a million bucks. It’s sharp and the contrast levels are near-perfect. Even if the DVD was abysmal, I’d recommend it. But looking like it does, it’s absolutely essential.

You know, given our culture’s current fascination with celebrity and wealth, Ray’s picture is probably more timely now than it was back in ’52.

Sources: I Was Interrupted by Nicholas Ray, Nicholas Ray: The Glorious Failure Of An American Director by Patrick McGilligan

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The charge was this: send in your list of favorite 50s Westerns DVD releases for 2014, along with a few 50s Westerns that you discovered this year.

For today, here are your (and my) 10 favorite DVDs or Blu-rays released during the 2014 calendar year.

10. Panhandle (1948) This terrific Rod Cameron picture, directed by Lesley Selander, was released a few years ago as part of VCI’s Darn Good Western Volume 1. This year, it showed up on its on.

9. City Of Bad Men (1953) Dale Robertson leads a great cast: Jeanne Crain, Richard Boone, Lloyd Bridges, Hugh Sanders, Rodolfo Acosta, Don Haggerty, Leo Gordon, John Doucette, Frank Ferguson, James Best. Harmon Jones directs.

8. Fort Massacre (1958) Joel McCrea plays way against type. Forrest Tucker, Susan Cabot, John Russell and Denver Pyle co-star. You can get a nice regular DVD here in the States — and a stunning Blu-ray in Germany.


7. Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957) The guys who developed VistaVision look down from heaven, see this Blu-ray playing in our living rooms, and are very happy indeed.

6. The Lusty Men (1952) There was a time when Nicholas Ray was a machine that cranked out Great Movies. This study of modern-day rodeo cowboys — starring Robert Mitchum, Susan Haywood and Arthur Kennedy — comes from the heart of that period.

5. Drum Beat (1954) Alan Ladd shows us he’s got more than Shane up his sleeve, and Delmer Daves delivers yet another solid Western. This is a lot better movie than you’ve heard (or remember).


4. Gunsmoke In Tucson (1958) When an Allied Artists Western starring Mark Stevens makes a Top Ten list, I know I’m in the right place.

3. Tim Holt Western Classics Collection Volume 4 As good as the series Western ever got. For me, this fourth volume is the best — which makes it plenty great indeed.

2. Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957) It’s not a stupendous Randolph Scott movie, but it’s a Randolph Scott movie — and Warner Archive has it shining like a black and white, 1.85 diamond.

1. South Of St. Louis (1949) This terrific Joel McCrea picture, with its Technicolor appropriately saturated, is stunning on Blu-ray from Olive Films. Alexis Smith and Dorothy Malone should’ve paid cinematographer Karl Freund for making them look so beautiful.

Along with all these favorites, there was a common complaint: that Olive Films’ promised The Quiet Gun (1956) didn’t make it in 2014.

Thanks to everyone who sent in their lists.

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Cyber Monday

I’m not sure I get the whole Cyber Monday thing, but who cares when Warner Archive offers up an offer like this? Have at it, folks!

A recommendation, uh, let’s see — Randolph Scott in Carson City (1952).

There’s also a discount available at VCI. Go to vcientertainment.com. The coupon code VCIBF60 will get you 60% off. A recommendation: the absolutely essential Roy Rogers TruColor double feature of Under California Stars (1948) and Bells Of San Angelo (1947).

under cali stars

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What does Columbus have to do with 50s Westerns? Not much, unless you’re adding to your collection through Warner Archive’s Columbus Day sale — running through midnight tonight.

We’ve gone over all the great stuff you can get through the Archive, so I’ll shut up and let you get to it. But you couldn’t go wrong with Carson City (1952).

05_1952 Carson City LC

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