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Archive for the ‘1954’ Category

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Directed by Nicholas Ray
Starring Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Scott Brady, Mercedes McCambridge, Ben Cooper, Ernest Borgnine, Ward Bond, John Carradine, Royal Dano, Frank Ferguson, Paul Fix, Denver Pyle

Olive Films has launched their new Signature series with a couple titles we’ll all be interested in: High Noon (1952) and Johnny Guitar (1954).

With Blu-rays from new 4K scans and a slew of extras, these should be terrific. For Nick Ray’s weird and wonderful Johnny Guitar, the best extra has to be the correct 1.66:1 framing. Ray was an absolute master at composition — and maybe the King Of CinemaScope — and I’m sure this proper aspect ratio will make all the difference. Watch for them in September.

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“Adult coloring” is a bit of a fad these days — at least here in the States. Some say it helps them relax, unwind, focus and all kinds of therapeutic stuff.

Here’s a coloring contest page that was offered up in the pressbook for The Lone Gun (1954). If I was gonna sit down and color, George Montgomery punching some guy would be therapeutic enough for me.

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Desperado HS

Directed by Thomas Carr
Written by Geoffrey Homes
Based on the novel by Clifton Adams
Cinematography: Joseph M. Novak
Film Editor: Sam Fields

Wayne Morris (Sam Garrett), Jimmy Lydon (Tom Cameron), Beverly Garland (Laurie Bannerman), Rayford Barnes (Ray Novak), Dabbs Greer (Marshal Langley), Lee Van Cleef (The Crayton twins), Nestor Paiva (Captain Thornton), Roy Barcroft (Martin Novack), Florence Lake (Mrs. Cameron), John Dierkes

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Thanks to a steady string of releases from Warner Archive, Wayne Morris will be showing up on this blog right regular for a while.

Though he had quite a career going at Warner Bros. — he played the title role in Kid Galahad (1937), Wayne Morris was one of the first stars to leave Hollywood to fight in World War II. He eventually flew an F6F Hellcat off the USS Essex, shooting down seven Japanese planes and helping sink five enemy ships. (His wife, Olympic swimmer Patricia O’Rourke, was the sister of Republic star Peggy Stewart.)

Back from the war with a number of decorations, Morris wasn’t able to regain his career’s momentum, and he found himself in a string of B Westerns — as Monogram was becoming Allied Artists and the B Western was heading into the sunset. One of the better ones was The Desperado (1954) from Allied Artists and director Thomas Carr.

The novel by Clifton Adams, published in 1950 by Gold Medal, was adapted for the movie by Geoffrey Homes. It takes place after the Civil War, as carpetbaggers are running Texas. In a town called John’s City, Tom Cameron (Jimmy Lydon) ends up on the run after locking horns with crooked sheriff Nestor Paiva. He crosses paths with Sam Garrett (Wayne Morris), a notorious gunman with a price on his head. Garrett takes Tom under his wing, teaching him how to use a gun and live on the lamb. After learning his father’s been killed, Tom takes all he’s learned back to John’s City for revenge.

Desperado still 1

Sam Garrett (Wayne Morris): “Some folks will tell you a good shot only needs one gun. That’s a lot of foolishness. Two of anything is better than one.”

The movie itself feels like an attempt to do something special, to take the B Western up a notch. Maybe they didn’t quite succeed, but it’s completely unpretentious, offers up all the action we’re used to, and deviates from convention whenever it can.

Nobody ever said Wayne Morris was a great actor. But he’s easy to like and he carries himself well. In The Desperado, he makes his gunfighter-with-principles character work. The scenes as he mentors Jimmy Lydon are very well done, and when he threatens to plug someone, you know he means it. By this time, Morris had put on weight, and he looks a bit weary — both boost his effectiveness here.

The Desperado provided an early role for Beverly Garland. She said of Morris: “He was no longer a star. This was not Warner Bros.! He was nice, but heavy. He had to have a box to get on his horse. I didn’t hang around with him so I didn’t know about his drinking — but from his being puffy, I certainly suspected it.”

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Beverly would also appear with Morris in Two Guns And A Badge (1954), which is often listed as the last B Western ever made. She was also to appear in The Marksman (1953), but was replaced by Virginia Grey.

The rest of the cast of The Desperado is a B-Movie Who’s Who: Dabbs Greer, Lee Van Cleef (who plays twins!), Nestor Paiva (the same year he appeared in Creature From The Black Lagoon), Roy Barcroft and John Dierkes. Thomas Carr’s direction is typically tight, Joseph M. Novak’s camerawork is top-notch, and you get to see plenty of the Iverson Ranch.

The Desperado is an under-seen picture, one of those B Westerns that really rises to the top. Warner Archive has done a great job with it, presenting it with its original 1.85 framing intact — which makes a huge difference in the look of the film. Recommended.

Source: Ladies Of The Western by Michael G. Fitzgerald and Boyd Magers

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Directed by Thomas Carr
Starring Wayne Morris, Jimmy Lydon, Beverly Garland,Dabbs Greer, Lee Van Cleef, Nestor Paiva, Roy Barcroft, John Dierkes, Lyle Talbot

The B Western was heading for the last roundup when The Desperado (1954) came around. But it’s got a dream cast and Warner Archive is offering it with its original 1.85 framing. Can’t wait.

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Tim in Hillsville
My wife is from Hillsville and Galax, Virginia. The Galax Gazette recently put its archive online. Jennifer’s been researching her family history, and I’ve been looking up what was playing at the local theaters.

Turns out, Tim Holt made a couple personal appearances at the Hillsville Theatre on July 27, 1954. (The theater was converted to apartments years ago. My brother-in-law lives in one.)

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Here’s Julie Adams, circa 1954, helping to wish you all big things in 2016.

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Directed by Thomas Carr
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Written by Dan Ullman
Director Of Photography: Ernest Miller

Cast: Wild Bill Elliott (Marshal Sam Nelson), Virginia Grey (Stella Walker), Henry Morgan (Alf Billings), John Doucette (Ernie Walker), Lane Bradford (William Norris), Stanford Jolley (Everett)

Forty Niners LC1

Released in May 1954, The Forty-Niners (1954) was William Elliott’s last Western. He’d finish out his career with a cool series of detective films (which many of us around here like a lot), but cowboy-wise, this was the end of the trail. It’s the last picture in the Warner Archive set The Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection.

Elliott is Marshall Sam Nelson, tracking down the murderers of a marshall in gold-crazy California. He strikes up an alliance with Alf Billings (Harry Morgan), a card sharp who may know the names of the killers. They wind up in Cold Water, where they run afoul of Sheriff Lane Bradford and saloon owner John Doucette. Nelson develops a bit of respect for Billings, who he suspects isn’t all bad. I’m oversimplifying things to avoid spoilers.

Dan Ullman’s script offers up twists and turns that we don’t see coming, even though we’ve seen a million of these things. It gives Henry Morgan a good part (he’d already appeared with Elliott in Republic’s The Showdown in 1950), which of course he’s excellent in. Morgan might have more screen time than Elliott does. Virginia Grey plays Morgan’s old flame who’s now married to Doucette. And to top it all off, Elliott narrates the picture Dragnet-style.

Forty Niners LC3

By the time The Forty-Niners began shooting at the Iverson Ranch and Corriganville, Monogram was called Allied Artists and the industry standard for projection was 1.85. So, thanks to the folks at Warner Archive, we’re treated to a widescreen William Elliott picture. The previous entry in the series, Bitter Creek (1954), was also 1.85 — it’s not included in this set. These films were done very cheaply, and no transfer can ever make up for that. But it was shot by a real pro, Ernest Miller, and the widescreen framing gives it a fresh look.

I can’t say enough about these films, or about how excited I am that they’ve made their way to DVD in such supreme condition. Highly recommended.

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