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Archive for the ‘1953’ Category

Hired Gun 3S

A while back I listed a batch of 50s Westerns on the way from Warner Archive. At that time, the actual release dates weren’t known — it was just April. Well, now we know it’s this coming Tuesday, April 21. Gonna be a busy week.

The Hired Gun (1957)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Rory Calhoun, Anne Francis, Vince Edwards, Chuck Connors

Black Patch (1957)
Directed by Allen H. Miner
Starring George Montgomery, Diane Brewster, Tom Pittman, Leo Gordon

Arrow In The Dust still CG

Arrow In The Dust (1954)
Directed by Lesley Selander
Starring Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray (above with the titular arrow and dust), Jimmy Wakely, Lee Van Cleef

The Marauders (1955)
Directed by Gerald Mayer
Starring Dan Duryea, Jeff Richards, Keenan Wynn

Son Of Belle Starr (1953)
Directed by Frank McDonald
Starring Keith Larsen, Dona Drake, Peggie Castle, Regis Toomey

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Pony Express foreign LC

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 10.33.41 AMGoogle is commemorating the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express with a nifty little snatch-the-mail-sacks-without-running-into-a-rock-or-a-cactus-or-an-outlaw video game and some links about the short-lived mail service. (Judging from this game, my daughter’d make a lot better Pony Express rider than I would.)

Nat Holt and Paramount beat Google to the punch by 62 years with Pony Express (1953), a cool Western with history re-written by Charles Marquis Warren. It stars Charlton Heston (as Buffalo Bill, who really rode for the Pony Express), Rhonda Fleming, Jan Sterling and Forrest Tucker (as Wild Bill Hickock). To get the mail through, Heston and Tucker have to contend with weather, Indians, outlaws and both Rhonda Fleming and Jan Sterling taking baths. The action scenes are really well done. Olive Films brought it out on DVD back in 2011.

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Lesley_SelanderNext Thursday, April 9, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will highlight director Lesley Selander by running nine of his films, three of them part of RKO’s excellent series of B Westerns starring Tim Holt (Gunplay is a very good one).

Arrow In The Dust (1954) stars Sterling Hayden and Coleen Gray. Tall Man Riding (1955) is a solid Randolph Scott picture. And The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold (1958) is the second TV spinoff feature to star Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels.

I’m a big fan of Lesley Selander. When it comes to action, he’s one of the best. It’s good to see him get this kind of attention. His films are short, smart, fast — and highly recommended.

Selander on TCM

The times listed are Eastern Standard Time. This is a “restoration” of a shorter post. Thanks to Blake for pointing out all I’d missed.

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Pillars Of The Sky HS sized

New York’s 92nd Street Y is hosting a class on Westerns of the 50s. Hosted by Kurt Brokaw, Associate Teaching Professor at The New School and senior film critic of The Independent magazine, it’s got a really terrific roster of films. The classes are Tuesday nights, beginning April 14, with two films each night.

Man, I wish I could get to this.

Week 1
Broken Lance
(1954) Directed by Edward Dmytryk, starring Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner, Jean Peters, Richard Widmark, Katy Jurado
The Badlanders (1956) Directed by Delmer Daves, starring Alan Ladd, Ernest Borgnine, Katy Jurado

Week 2
Saddle The Wind
(1958) Directed by Robert Parrish, starring Robert Taylor, Julie London, John Cassavetes
Dawn At Socorro (1954) Directed by George Sherman, starring Rory Calhoun and Piper Laurie

Week 3
Pillars Of The Sky
(1956) Directed by George Marshall, starring Jeff Chandler, Dorothy Malone, Ward Bond, Lee Marvin
Backlash (1956) Directed by John Sturges, starring Richard Widmark, Donna Reed, William Campbell, John McIntire

Diablo TC

Week 4
Ride Clear Of Diablo
(1954) Directed by Jesse Hibbs, starring Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, Susan Cabot
The Outriders (1950) Directed by Roy Rowland, starring Joel McCrea, Arlene Dahl, James Whitmore, Barry Sullivan

Week 5
Back To God’s Country
(1953) Directed by Joseph Pevney, starring Rock Hudson, Marcia Henderson, Steve Cochran, Hugh O’Brien
Black Horse Canyon (1954) Directed by Jesse Hibbs, starring Joel McCrea and Mari Blanchard

Week 6
Seven Men From Now
(1956) Directed by Budd Boetticher, starring Randolph Scott, Gail Russell, Lee Marvin, Walter Reed
Gun Fury (1953) Directed by Raoul Walsh, starring Rock Hudson, Donna Reed, Philip Carey, Lee Marvin

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Stranger Wore A Gun 3D poster

Directed by Andre De Toth
Produced by Harry Joe Brown
Associate Producer: Randolph Scott
Screen Play by Kenneth Gamet
Based Upon “Yankee Gold” by John M. Cunningham
Film Editors: Gene Havlick, ACE and James Sweeney, ACE
Musical Director: Mischa Bakaleinikoff

Cast: Randolph Scott (Jeff Travis), Claire Trevor (Josie Sullivan), Joan Weldon (Shelby Conroy), George Macready (Jules Mourret), Alfonso Bedoya (Degas), Lee Marvin (Dan Kurth), Ernest Borgnine (Bull Slager).

R Scott blogathon badgeThis is my contribution to The Blogathon For Randolph Scott, which has seen some excellent writing from a group of learned film fans.

It’s easy to see The Stranger Wore A Gun (1953) as just another Randolph Scott movie. Not as good as some, better than a few. Of the six Scott pictures directed by Andre de Toth, it might be the least. (To me, 1951’s Man In The Saddle is the best.)

But what makes The Stranger Wore A Gun stand out today isn’t its convoluted plotting, what a slimy bad guy George Macready is, or how great Joan Weldon looks. It’s the picture’s technical aspects, the stuff it boasted about on its one-sheet: 3-Dimensions, wide screen and stereophonic sound.

Ernest Borgnine: “The director was Andre de Toth, who wore an eye patch, having lost an eye as a kid. But here he was, directing a movie in 3D!”

A solid, resourceful filmmaker, Andre de Toth was chosen to test-drive and fine tune a few of Hollywood’s technical developments of the 50s. The second of the De Toth Scotts, Carson City (1952), was the first Warnercolor film. House Of Wax (1953) was filmed in the Natural Vision 3D format and Warnercolor, with the added bonus of stereophonic sound. The first major-studio 3D movie, it’s still considered the best use of the process during the early-50s craze.

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Randolph Scott (in the trailer): “I talked it over with my partner-producer Harry Joe Brown. Naturally, we didn’t want to be left at the post in this great new technical race in the picture industry, so we decided to go all out —3D, stereophonic sound and Technicolor. Now that’s a mouthful, and it was an armful to do, but exciting.”

Working titles were I Ride Alone and Yankee Gold.

Andre de Toth: “They asked me to do it in 3D. I had qualms about it, but the conceit that killed so many people won the battle. I knew I was better than the rest of the ordinary geniuses and I thought that, single-handedly, I’d be able to stop the exodus from 3D, revive third-dimensional pictures, and gain some more experience in 3D by doing a Western. But my conceit and hope didn’t resurrect 3D. It was dead and buried by the junk thrown at the public way before we started. Too bad.”

The film’s other distinction it that it was the first film composed and shot to be projected at 1.85. This aspect ratio is still the standard, in use in theaters and on video today. What’s a shame is that these technical amenities are completely absent on the 2D, full-frame, mono DVD. (The three-track stereo elements were lost years ago.)

Scott plays Jeff Travis, a Confederate spy attached to Quantrill’s raiders. Realizing that Quantrill and his men are little more than bandits and murderers, he flees and winds up in Prescott, Arizona, after the war is over. He becomes involved with an old flame, Josie Sullivan (Claire Trevor), and falls in with some stage robbers: the sophisticated ringleader Jules Mourret (George Macready) and a couple of his henchmen, Dan Kurth (Lee Marvin) and Bull Slager (Ernest Borgnine).

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Ernest Borgnine: “No sooner had I finished From Here To Eternity and gone home to New York than, bam, I was asked to come right back again to shoot a Western, The Stranger Wore A GunThe Stranger Wore A Gun was the picture where I met a lifelong friend, Lee Marvin.”

Back to the story. Scott befriends the Conroys, a father and daughter (Joan Weldon) who run the stag line and decides he wants out of the outlaw life. It all comes to a fiery climax in the saloon. And, of course, all sorts of things are thrown at the audience over the course of its 83 minutes.

Joan Weldon: “Warners had nothing scheduled for me so they decided to put me on suspension without pay. I ran into Randy somewhere, and he heard I was suspension and called my agent and said he had a part in a picture at Columbia and would I consider doing it… It was three weeks; work; six days a week. Then Warner Bros. said, ‘She’s under contract to us, we want the money from the loan-out.’ My agent said, ‘No way. You put her on suspension; she can do what she wants with the money,’ So I did get the money.”

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The Stranger Wore A Gun is a mess. The performances are fine, some of the action sequences are very well done, it moves along briskly, and it all looks great in Technicolor. But it’s hard to follow — and some of Scott’s actions don’t make sense. De Toth, as good a director as he is, could only do so much with the script he was given. Maybe they thought 3D would overcome whatever shortcomings the picture may have.

The last of the De Toth Scotts, Bounty Hunter (1954), was also shot in 3D (for Warner Bros.). But by the time it was ready for release, the boom was over. It only played flat.

Sources: De Toth On De Toth by Andre de Toth, The Films Of Randolph Scott by Robert Nott, Ernie by Ernest Borgnine, and the wonderful 3D Archive website.

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Apache Drums LC

Yesterday, I posted our favorite DVD releases of the year. Today’s list is made up of films we discovered during 2014. Titles that made the list were mentioned by at least three people. It’s a great lineup of fairly obscure, medium-budgeted 50s Westerns — and if you haven’t discovered them yourself, search them out.

Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953) Fred F. Sears was extremely prolific, and his 50s Westerns are worth seeking out. This is one of the better ones, available through Columbia’s on-demand DVD program.

Apache Drums (1951) A suspense picture dressed up in cowboy clothes, produced by Val Lewton and directed by Hugo Fregonese. With Stephen McNally, Coleen Gray, Willard Parker, Arthur Shields, James Griffith and Clarence Muse (who’s superb in a small part).

Border River (1954) With George Sherman directing Joel McCrea, Yvonne De Carlo and Pedro Armendáriz, how could it not be great? Shot around Moab, Utah.

Cow Country (1953) Coming across a new Lesley Selander picture is always a treat. This one features Edmond O’Brien, Helen Wescott, Bob Lowery, Barton MacLane, Peggie Castle, James Millican and Robert Wilke.

A Day Of Fury (1956) One of the most unusual, and overlooked, Westerns of the 50s. Harmon Jones directs Dale Robertson, Mara Corday and Jock Mahoney. I’m so glad this one’s being rediscovered.

Four Guns To The Border (1954) Rory Calhoun, Colleen Miller and Walter Brennan in an excellent Universal Western directed by Richard Carlson.

furyatgungightpass

Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956) Another good one from Fred F. Sears. Wish this one would see a real DVD release — black and white widescreen is so cool.

The Silver Whip (1953) Dale Robertson, Rory Calhoun, Robert Wagner, Kathleen Crowley and James Millican star in this taut, tight picture from editor-turned-director Harmon Jones. The staging of the climactic chase is masterful.

Stage To Tucson (1950) Rod Cameron and Wayne Morris. Lone Pine in Technicolor. Surely that’s worth an investment of 81 minutes.

Yellow Tomahawk LC

The Yellow Tomahawk (1954) Sadly, this color film is only available black and white. But it’s still a solid effort from the ever-dependable Lesley Selander — with a cast that includes Rory Calhoun, Peggie Castle, Noah Beery, Jr., Peter Graves, Lee Van Cleef and Rita Moreno.

Thanks to everyone who participated.

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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.

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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).

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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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