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Archive for the ‘1955’ Category

Rhonda Fleming
(August 10, 1923 – October 14, 2020)

Rhonda Fleming, “The Queen Of Technicolor,” has passed away at 97. Here she is in Allan Dwan’s Tennessee’s Partner (1955).

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Directed by William Castle
Starring Lex Barker, Patricia Medina, Warren Stevens, Craig Stevens, John Dehner, Mel Welles

Around here, it’s a big deal when a William Castle or Sam Katzman picture turns up on Blu-Ray.

Duel On The Mississippi (1955) isn’t a Western, but it’s pretty close. It’s one of those Louisiana riverboat things, with plenty of ridin’ and shooting’, and river pirates instead of outlaws or Indians. Lex Barker’s fine, Patricia Medina is beautiful, and John Dehner’s always terrific.

Henry Freulich’s Technicolor cinematography’s gonna be stunning on Blu-Ray, I’m sure. It’s coming in December from Germany’s Explosive Media. Can’t wait. You may have it on DVD in the Mill Creek William Castle Western set.

Thanks to John Knight for the news.

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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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John Ericson
(September 25, 1926 – May 3, 2020)

John Ericson didn’t make a lot of movies (there’s tons of TV), but he’s in some really good ones, especially when it comes to 50s Westerns — John Sturges’ Bad Day At Black Rock (1955), The Return Of Jack Slade (1955), Sam Fuller’s Forty Guns (1957, above), Day Of The Badman (1958) and Paul Landres’ Oregon Passage (1958). He has passed away at 93.

Ericson’s probably best known by folks today for TV’s Honey West (1965) with Ann Francis. Worth looking for is Pretty Boy Floyd (1960), a cheap entry in the late-50s, early-60s run of gangster bios. It’s no Baby Face Nelson (1957), but it’s well worth your time.

Thanks to Walter for the tip.

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Directed by George Sherman
Starring Van Heflin, Joanne Woodward, Phil Carey, Raymond Burr, Allison Hayes, Myron Healey, Nancy Kulp, James H. Griffith

Van Heflin comes home from the Civil War an ordained minister. It doesn’t go over too well since he was known in his hometown as a real hell raiser. George Sherman directed, Burnett Guffey shot it in ‘Scope and Technicolor, and it’s got a great supporting cast: Phil Carey, Raymond Burr, Allison Hayes, Myron Healey, Nancy Kulp, James H. Griffith. But it’s known today for being Joanne Woodward’s first film. It goes without saying that Heflin is terrific.

Sony has announced its September Blu-Ray release.

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Richard Allen Boone
(June 18, 1917 – January 10, 1981)

Was working on my commentary notes for Man Without A Star (1955) tonight when I realized this was Richard Boone’s birthday.

He was a terrific in a number of 50s Westerns before being cast in Have Gun – Will Travel. From City Of Bad Men (1953) to Ten Wanted Men (1955) to Star In The Dust (1956) to The Tall T (1957), he was good no matter how big or small the part. He’s also in Jack Webb’s Dragnet feature from 1954, one of my all-time favorite films.

Boone’s one of those actors you can always count on. If he’s in it, it’s probably worth watching.

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william-castle-sam-wiesenthal-ursula-thiess

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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