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Archive for the ‘1955’ Category

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William Castle
(April 24, 1914 – May 31, 1977)

I’m always on the lookout for a photo of William Castle working on one of his Westerns. This one, from the set of The Americano (1955), is the only one I’ve come across. (He became a lot more visible when he started producing his own horror movies.) He’s seen here with executive producer Sam Wiesenthal and Ursula Thiess. The Americano — with Glenn Ford, Frank Lovejoy, Cesar Romero and Miss Thiess, was a troubled production begun by Budd Boetticher in Brazil and finished some time later by Castle.

William Castle might be my favorite filmmaker. From the Whistler series to gimmicky stuff like House On Haunted Hill (1958), he sure made the movies fun. The low-budget Westerns he did at Columbia for Sam Katzman — pictures like Masterson Or Kansas and The Law Vs. Billy The Kid (both 1954) are among my favorites.

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Directed by King Vidor
Starring Kirk Douglas, Jeanne Crain, Claire Trevor, William Campbell, Richard Boone, Mara Corday, Jay C. Flippen, Eddy Waller, Sheb Wooley, George Wallace, Roy Barcroft, Paul Birch, Jack Elam, Myron Healey, Jack Ingram

Kino Lorber has announced the upcoming Blu-Ray release of Man Without A Star (1955). That makes two U-I 50s Westerns announced within a week of each other. I’d sure like to see that trend continue.

Kirk Douglas put the movie together through his new production company, and it made him a lot of money. The picture’s got a great cast — look at all those character actors! It was shot by Russell Metty in Technicolor to be cropped to 2.00 to 1, a short-lived standard at Universal (This Island Earth and The Mole People were also 2:1). Highly recommended.

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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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Let’s mark Valentine’s Day this year with this ad from the Independent Film Journal from 1955. Ads for Ten Wanted Men (1955) drive me nuts — Scott’s head has clearly been pasted into another body.

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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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Director Fred F. Sears with the cast of Apache Ambush (1955).

Fred F. Sears
(July 7, 1913 – November 30, 1957)

Can’t remember the first time I noticed the name Fred F. Sears. Growing up a monster kid, I’m gonna guess it was a local-TV airing of either Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers or The Werewolf (both 1956).

Years later, when I began my deep dive into 50 Westerns, it quickly became obvious that Sears could lift his Westerns out of the budgetary basement to create something special. Like the terrific Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956).

Frederick Francis Sears was born 105 years ago today in Boston. After years in regional theater and teaching drama at Southwestern University in Memphis, he headed to Hollywood — and wound up at Columbia as a bit actor and dialogue director. While working on some of Durango Kid pictures (usually as a bad guy), he got to know Charles Starrett. He directed one of the Durango Kids, Desert Vigilante (1949), and eventually pretty much took over the series.

Fred F. Sears and Joan Taylor working on Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1957).

Sears became a preferred director for Sam Katzman, whose quickie unit at Columbia cranked out serials and genre pictures at a frantic pace. He spent the rest of his career at Columbia (except for one freelance gig, 1958’s Badman’s Country). From crime pictures to horror movies to Westerns, Sears’ ability to get ’em done on time and on budget served him well. Quality wasn’t much of a concern wit Katzman, but Sears always managed to provide some anyway. Today he’s known for Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956), a picture that benefits from remarkable stop-motion animation from Ray Harryhausen, and The Giant Claw (1957), a film completely scuttled by some of the worst special effects in Hollywood history. But Fury At Gunsight Pass and The Werewolf (1956) are near-perfect examples of how good low-budget genre filmmaking can be.

Fred F. Sears died in his office at Columbia on November 30, 1957, with eight pictures waiting for release. He was 44.

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Ben Cooper, Joan Crawford and Scott Brady in Johnny Crawford (1954).

Was doing some research on The Last Command (1955) and A Strange Adventure (1956), two Republics starring Ben Cooper that are on the way from Kino Lorber.

I don’t like what I found. Turns out, Ben’s in a memory care facility in Memphis, Tennessee. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with his expenses.

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