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Archive for the ‘1954’ Category

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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Directed by Sidney Salkow
Starring Dale Robertson, Mary Murphy, J. Carrol Naish, John Litel, Iron Eyes Cody, John Hamilton, Douglas Kennedy

Shot in Mexico to save money, Sitting Bull (1954) was the first independent production shot in CinemaScope. As history, it’s hogwash, but as a cowboy movie, it’s pretty good — especially with that cast and with a sympathetic look at the Indians.

This picture seems to have falling into the public domain, which means we’ve been looking at terrible, pan-and-scan transfers for years. Spirit Media, from Germany, have announced a Blu-Ray release. Let’s hope it presents it the way it ought to be seen, with its CinemaScope intact and it’s Eastmancolor looking, well, as good as Eastmancolor can look. (Boy, it’s good to see somebody announcing a 50s Western on DVD or Blu-Ray.)

Thanks to John Knight for the news.

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Julie Adams (Betty May Adams)
October 17, 1926 – February 3, 2019

Just heard the sad news that Julie Adams has passed away at 92. One of my favorites actresses, she made some great Westerns for Universal-International in the 50s — and she was always so beautiful in Technicolor.

She was born Betty May Adams in 1926 in Waterloo, Iowa. In 1946, at 19, she was crowned “Miss Little Rock.” From there, it was off to Hollywood. Betty May worked as a secretary and appeared in a few B Westerns. She used her real name until 1949, when she signed with Universal-International. She then became “Julia” — and eventually “Julie”.

Universal kept her plenty busy. She appeared opposite James Stewart in Anthony Mann’s Bend Of The River (1952), Van Heflin in Budd Boetticher’s Wings Of The Hawk (1953, up top) Tyrone Power in The Mississippi Gambler (1953), Rock Hudson in Raoul Walsh’s The Lawless Breed (1953, above), Glenn Ford in The Man from the Alamo (1953) and Rory Calhoun in The Looters (1955), to name just a few. Away from Universal, she was in The Gunfight At Dodge City (1959) with Joe McCrea and Tickle Me (1965) with Elvis Presley.

She had a leading man of a different sort when she starred in 1954’s Creature From The Black Lagoon. The Creature would become the last of Universal’s roster of movie monsters, a real icon. Julie in her custom-built one-piece bathing suit became pretty iconic as well.

Julie did lots of TV, too. She was a county nurse on The Andy Griffith Show. She was on Perry Mason four times, including the only episode where Mason lost a case. You’ll also find her on The Rifleman, 77 Sunset Strip, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Maverick, McMillan & Wife, Police Woman, The Streets Of San Francisco and more.

Westerns are often criticized for not having strong roles for women. Julie Adams was so good, that never seemed like a problem for her. She always impressed.

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Directed by George Sherman
Starring Joel McCrea, Yvonne De Carlo, Pedro Armendáriz, Howard Petrie

There’s a company in France called ESC Editions, and they’ve started announcing some upcoming Universal Westerns on Blu-Ray. One of those is George Sherman’s Border River (1954), one of the six terrific Westerns Joel McCrea made for Universal. The comments around here have been buzzing about this thing, and for good reason — to have these coming to high-definition is a big deal.

I’ll post more information — aspect ratio, region, etc. — as it’s verified.

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Happy Thanksgiving.

Here’s Ben Cooper as Turkey in Johnny Guitar (1954), with Royal Dano and Scott Brady. As this demonstrates, it’s hard to find Thanksgiving references in 50s Westerns.

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Directed by William Castle
Produced by Sam Katzman
Story and Screen Play by Douglas Heyes
Cinematography: Henry Freulich
Film Editor: Charles Nelson

Cast: George Montgomery (Major Frank Archer), Richard Denning (Stacey Wyatt), Martha Hyer (Brett McClain), John Crawford (Captain Richard Hillman), Emory Parnell (Sergeant McClain), Michael Granger (Chief Mike)

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Battle Of Rouge River (1954) is another William Castle Western produced by Sam Katzman for Columbia. It’s part of Mill Creek’s terrific eight-movie DVD set The Fastest Guns Of The West: The William Castle Western Collection. Also included are Klondike Kate (1943), Conquest Of Cochise (1953), Jesse James Vs. The Daltons (1953), Masterson Of Kansas (1954), The Gun That Won The West (1955), Duel On The Mississippi (1955) and Uranium Boom (1956). All eight for less than $15.

At an outpost in the Oregon Territory, the stiff, serious Major Archer (George Montgomery) replaces Major Wallach (Willis Bouchey), who hasn’t been able to defeat Chief Mike (Michael Granger). Archer meets with the chief and they agree to a 30-day truce that keeps them on either side of the Rogue River. Of course, there’s a woman — Brett McClain (Martha Hyer), the daughter of one of the solders at the fort.

But one of the Irregulars aiding the soldiers (Richard Denning) is working to keep the Indians stirred up — to hold off Oregon’s statehood, which would spoil a good thing some of the area businesses have going. Denning tricks Montgomery into breaking the truce and attacking the Indians.

George Montgomery was on a roll at this time, making one solid little Western after another, often with William Castle as director. For me, Masterson Of Kansas (1954, directed by Castle) and Robber’s Roost (1955) stand out. Martha Hyer’s career was also taking off at this time, and she’d be nominated for an Oscar for Some Came Running (1958).

Richard Denning was in the excellent Hangman’s Knot (1952), playing pretty much the same creep he is in this one. The first thing I remember seeing Denning in was Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954), along with all those sci-fi pictures like The Black Scorpion (1957). Later, I’d come to know him as the governor of Hawaii on Hawaii Five-O. Denning was married to the beautiful Universal horror star Evelyn Ankers.

Battle Of Rouge River has the hallmarks of a Sam Katzman picture — a running time of about 70 minutes and lots of stock footage.

“All six winners of the National Indian Beauty Contest”

It also boasts a pretty tacky gimmick. Willam Castle always gave Sam Katzman credit for teaching him the true value of showmanship. Battle Of Rogue River seems to be an example of one of those lessons. According to the ads, you’ll find “all six winners of the National Indian Beauty Contest” in its cast. The contest did not exist until this movie came along — and you have to look really hard to find these lovely ladies in the film.

Battle At Rogue River isn’t among Castle or Montgomery’s finest work. But it’s got a cast and crew of seasoned professionals who I’m always happy to spend time with. Cinematographer Henry Freulich always had these cheap things looking great, and that’s easy to see in the transfer offered up by Mill Creek. I can’t recommend this set enough.

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Directed by Stanley Donen
Starring Jane Powell, Howard Keel, Jeff Richards, Russ Tamblyn, Julie Newmar

I’ve been wondering when this one would show up on Blu-Ray. Well, it’s coming later this year from Warner Archive. I’m not a huge fan of movie musicals, but the ones I like, I really like. This is as good as they get, folks.

It was an early CinemaScope picture, in Ansco color (which MGM also used for Escape From Fort Bravo). A flat version was also shot, but according to some, never played theaters (even though it’s been available on video). I’m really looking forward to seeing how this looks on Blu-Ray.

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