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Archive for the ‘1954’ Category

Lee Aker
(September 25, 1943 – April 1, 2021)

Lee Aker, who most will remember from the Rin Tin Tin TV show, has passed away at 77. He also appeared in Hondo (1953, above) with John Wayne, High Noon (1952), Ride Clear Of Diablo (1954) and Destry (1954).

Aker suffered a stroke and died April 1 near Mesa, Arizona. Sadly, his body was unclaimed.

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Directed by Robert Aldrich
Starring Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster, Denise Darcel, Sara Montiel, Cesar Romero, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jack Elam

Vera Cruz (1954) was put together by Burt Lancaster’s production company, Lancaster-Hecht. Burt was going to play the hero, Benjamin Trane, but it was decided to have Lancaster to play the bad guy — and a more traditional hero type play Trane. Cray Grant turned it down, and it was offered to Gary Cooper.

The picture’s a lot of fun with Cooper and Lancaster as a couple of shifty Americans down in Mexico who join forces to steal a stash of gold coins. With its macho one-upmanship, crosses and double-crosses, flawed characters — even the good guys are bad, Robert Aldrich’s Vera Cruz is one of the 50s Westerns that served as an obvious influence on the spaghetti westerns that would come in the early 60s.

Kino Lorber is working on a Blu-Ray release, which should do justice to the picture’s SuperScope 2:1 presentation (applied to the picture after the fact). Can’t wait to see it looking the way it should. Highly recommended.

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Burton Stephen “Burt” Lancaster
(November 2, 1913 – October 20, 1994)

This would’ve been the 107th birthday of one of my favorite movie stars, Mr. Burt Lancaster.

Here his is with Gary Cooper in Vera Cruz (1954), which his production company produced. It’s terrific, it was a huge hit and its ultimate influence on the spaghetti western can’t be overstated.

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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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Directed by Robert Aldrich
Starring Burt Lancaster, Jean Peters, John McIntire, Charles Buchinsky, John Dehner, Paul Guilfoyle, Ian MacDonald, Walter Sande, Morris Ankrum, Monte Blue

Kino Lorber has announced that a Blu-Ray of Robert Aldrich’s Apache (1954) will be available later this year.

It’s a solid little picture with a great cast. The downbeat ending was changed to something United Artists felt audiences would like. Apache was a big hit, so maybe UA was right. But Lancaster and Aldrich were not. The success of this one landed Aldrich the chance to director Lancaster and Gary Cooper in Vera Cruz (1954), a much bigger picture.

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There’s a lot going on these days, which is probably a huge understatement. At the same time, within the confines of each of our homes, there’s not much going on at all. I hope everyone is safe, healthy and watching a lot of movies. Thought I’d bring up a few things.

Apache Drums (1951) is coming to Blu-Ray from Sidonis out of France. This is very good news. It’s a terrific picture.

RIP, James Drury.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been asked for quite a few movie recommendations, and it’s been a blast to suggest Westerns and crime/noir movies to my homebound friends. It makes me feel good to know that yet another person has come to appreciate Man In The Saddle (1951) or Armored Car Robbery (1950).

Saw Day Of Triumph (1954), a low-budget, heartfelt, but talky story of Christ. It had a great cast — Lee J. Cobb, James H. Griffith (as Judas!), Joanne Dru (as a lovely Mary Magdalene), Burt Mustin, Robert Cornthwaite, Barbara Billingsley, Mike “Touch” Connors and Ralph Moody. The minimal sets are pretty effective, but Burbank is a long way from the Holy Land, in about every possible way.

Completed the commentary for Kino Lorber’s When The Daltons Rode (1940) last week. Due to coronavirus closings and stuff, we recorded it at the engineer’s home. We had to take a break when a train came through town — the tracks run behind his house. Ironically, it was the train robbery sequence.

Hang in there, folks!

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I recently had the extreme pleasure of being a guest on Todd Liebenow’s terrific podcast Forgotten Filmcast. Our subject was William Castle’s Jesse James Vs. The Daltons (1954). It’s up now — just click the ad above. It’s a good way to spend an hour of your “stay at home” time.

It’s a picture I’ve written about before, and it’s available in Mill Creek’s terrific set The Fastest Guns Of The West: The William Castle Western Collection

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Ben Cooper
(September 30, 1933 – February 24, 2020)

Got word this morning that Ben Cooper has passed away at 86.

He did a lot of pictures for Republic, from Woman They Almost Lynched (1953) to Johnny Guitar (1954, above, on the right) to A Strange Adventure (1956) — and he kept at it in movies and TV (mostly Westerns) into the 1990s.

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James H. Griffith
(February 13, 1916 – September 17, 1993)

Here’s to one of my favorite character actors on his birthday. James Griffith is seen here with George Montgomery in William Castle’s Masterson Of Kansas (1954). Griffith is Doc Holliday.

Griffith is in a ton of stuff, and he’s always terrific. One of my favorites of his many parts is his yellow witness in the Dragnet feature (1954).

Thanks for the reminder, Paula!

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Here’s Julie Adams ringing in 1954. Well, if it was good enough then, it’s good enough 66 years later. This would’ve been around the time she’d done Wings Of The Hawk (1953) and Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954).

Hope you’re having a great time ushering in a new decade.

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