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Archive for the ‘Anthony Mann’ Category



Directed by Anthony Mann
Written by Sam Rolfe & Harold Jack Bloom
Director Of Photography: William Mellor
Film Editor: George White
Music by Bronisław Kaper

Cast: James Stewart (Howard Kemp, Janet Leigh (Lina Patch), Robert Ryan (Ben Vandergroat), Ralph Meeker (Roy Anderson), Millard Mitchell (Jesse Tate)

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As great as The Naked Spur (1953) is, and even with Warner Archive’s incredible track record, I didn’t have high hopes for this Blu-Ray. Boy, was I wrong.

Anthony Mann’s The Naked Spur is certainly one of the finest Westerns ever made, but it’s been one of the most consistently terrible-looking great movies on home video. From VHS to laserdisc to DVD, the Technicolor palette was muted and the picture itself way too soft. What was supposed to be sharp and vibrant looked like a pastel — in other words, it never stopped looking like VHS. Pair all that with the sad economics of home video these days — that the demand for older films hardly justifies the expense of a major restoration, and you can see why I wasn’t expecting the gorgeous presentation we can thank Warner Archive for today. 

But enough on that (for now).

The Naked Spur was the third of the Anthony Mann-James Stewart Westerns, coming after Winchester ’73 (1950) and Bend Of The River (1952). The Far Country (1954) and Man From Laramie (1955) would follow. This was a cinematic hot streak that will probably never be equaled.

The entire cast of The Naked Spur: (L-R) Millard Mitchell, Robert Ryan, Janet Leigh, Ralph Meeker, James Stewart.

Howard Kemp (Stewart) is bringing in Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan) to stand trial for murder. Vandergroat is accompanied by his girl, Lina Patch (Janet Leigh). Along for the ride are a prospector (Millard Mitchell) and a dishonorably discharged Cavalryman (Ralph Meeker). At first, folks think Stewart’s a lawman — with the knowledge that he’s a bounty hunter and there’s $5,000 at the end of the trail, things change. Mitchell and Meeker want a share of the reward — and they know how to make that piece of the pie a bit bigger. Vandergroat sees all this, and he starts working at everyone to create a chance to get away.

I’m not going any further than that. Don’t want to spoil anything.

Anthony Mann and Janet Leigh on location.

Stewart’s his usual torn, tormented, edgy Mann-picture cowboy in this one — he needs the reward to buy back his ranch. Ryan is at his best as the manipulative, slimy-but-somehow-charming Vandergroat. Ralph Meeker has maybe the best scumbag role of his career — he plays almost the entire picture with a sneer. Millard Mitchell would only make one more movie; he died of lung cancer not too long after this. And Janet Leigh is just perfect. She’s totally believable as an easy target for Ryan who slowly sees him for the murderous sociopath he really is. Much of the picture’s considerable tension comes from these characters.

The Naked Spur seems like a prototype for the Scott-Boetticher Westerns that would come a few years later: the small cast, the tightness, the tone, the incredible use of the landscape, the male lead who’s trying to right a wrong or live something down, the charismatic or even likable villain, etc. I’m not suggesting, not for a second, that Burt Kennedy and Budd Boetticher were ripping Mann off. It’s just a particular type of Western that really worked well in the 50s. Some of my all-time favorite movies fit this pattern.

Now back to the Blu-Ray. Many of y’all out there had an understandable wait-and-see approach to this one. I’m happy to report you can proceed with complete confidence — this is one of the most significant upgrades I’ve seen from DVD to Blu-Ray. The care that went into this is obvious in every frame.

It’s a near perfect transfer of three-strip Technicolor — the color and sharpness are impeccable. It’s clean without signs of noise reduction. The sound has a nice range to it and the extras from the old DVD  — a Pete Smith Specialty, Tex Avery’s Little Johnny Jet (1953) and the trailer — have been brought over.

The Naked Spur is certainly one of the best classic films to hit Blu-Ray this year. It’s so nice to see it get the attention it so richly deserves — especially William Mellor’s incredible outdoor Technicolor work. Absolutely essential.

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Directed by Anthony Mann
Starring James Stewart, Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan, Ralph Meeker, Millard Mitchell

Mann and Stewart’s third Western, coming after Winchester ’73 (1950) and Bend Of The River (1952), has been screaming for some restoration work for quite some time. Warner Archive has announced a Blu-Ray release for September. Can’t wait to see what they’ve done with it.

These Mann-Stewart pictures are certainly among the best Westerns ever made. Beyond that, it comes down to your personal preference.

I’ll post the technical details as they become available. This one’s as essential as they get.

Love that poster art by Gustav Rehberger.

Thanks to Paula for the tip.

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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 Anthony Mann (and Charles Walters)
Starring Glenn Ford, Maria Schell, Anne Baxter, Arthur O’Connell, Russ Tamblyn, Mercedes McCambridge, Vic Morrow, Robert Keith, Charles McGraw, Aline MacMahon, Harry Morgan, Edgar Buchanan

Warner Archive is bringing MGM’s sprawling 1960 version of Edna Ferber’s Cimarron to Blu-Ray. Anthony Mann directed about half of it, leaving after a series of disagreements with the producer, Edmund Grainger. The big Land Rush sequence is incredible and makes this Blu-Ray something to spring for.

While you could certainly argue that Mann was better suited to smaller films like Raw Deal (1948) or Bend Of The River (1952), Cimarron would see him head in an epic direction — his next pictures being El Cid and The Fall of the Roman Empire.

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This morning, I saw Chubby Johnson in the “Gunpowder Joe” (1953) episode of The Lone Ranger. Seemed like time to make him Character Actor Of The Day.

He was born Charles Rutledge Johnson in 1903, in Terre Haute, Indiana. He worked as a journalist and radio announcer for years, and he was in his 40s when he did his first film, Abilene Town (1946) with Randolph Scott. He kept both careers going for a while. 

Around the time of the underrated Rocky Mountain (1950), Errol Flynn’s last Western, Chubby decided to concentrate on the movies. He’d go on to make more than 80 pictures.

L-R: Myron Healey, Claudia Barrett, Allan “Rocky” Lane and Chubby Johnson in Republic’s Night Riders Of Montana (1951).

Republic needed a replacement for sidekick Eddy Waller in the Rocky Lane series. Chubby rode alongside Allan Lane for most of 1951 and ’52.

L-R: James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Chubby Johnson and Stepin Fetchit in Anthony Mann’s Bend Of The River (1952).

Chubby’s in lots of great stuff. High Noon (1952), Anthony Mann’s Bend Of The River (1952) and The Far Country (1954), Calamity Jane (1953) with Doris Day, Gunsmoke (1953, with Audie Murphy), Law And Order (1953), Cattle Queen Of Montana (1954), The Fastest Gun Alive (1956) and on and on.

On TV, Chubby was a regular in Sky King the Rex Allen series Frontier Doctor, and he guested on shows like Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, Thriller, Death Valley Days, Sugarfoot, The Andy Griffith Show, Temple Houston, Dennis The Menace and Maverick. He stayed plenty busy.

His last pictures were Support Your Local Sheriff! and Sam Whiskey in 1969. He passed away in 1974.

With Howard Keell and Doris Day on the set of Calamity Jane (1953).

Chubby could make the most of a small part, and really shine when given something bigger, as in Bend Of The River and Calamity Jane. Another one of those guys who gives a picture a lift when he turns up.

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Doing some research on Night Passage (1957), I came across an article from The LA Times, reporting that the ongoing editing of Men In War (1957) was forcing Anthony Mann to back out of Night Passage. It also pointed out that this would free up the director to do The Tin Star (1957) for Paramount.

There are lots of stories about why Anthony Mann left what would’ve been his sixth Jimmy Stewart Western. This was a new one for me.

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A while back, I asked for Want Lists of the 50s Westerns still lost on the high-def trail. Here they are, presented in chronological order. The titles in bold are the ones that were brought up most frequently.

With the recent news about Fox/Disney’s lack of interest in their back catalogs appearing on shiny silver circles, getting this finished and posted seemed very timely. Many of these, mind you, haven’t even turned up on DVD yet.

The Virginian (1946)
Albuquerque (1948)
Coroner Creek (1948)
Whispering Smith (1948)
3 Godfathers (1949)
Colorado Territory (1949)

Hellfire (1949)
Streets Of Laredo (1949)
Ambush (1950)
Branded (1950)
Devil’s Doorway (1950)
The Nevadan (1950)
Saddle Tramp (1950)
Short Grass (1950)
Showdown (1950)

Trail Of Robin Hood (1950)
Across The Wide Missouri (1951)
Along The Great Divide (1951)
Apache Drums (1951)
Best Of The Badmen (1951)
The Great Missouri Raid (1951)
Inside Straight (1951)
Man In The Saddle (1951)
Red Mountain (1951)
The Redhead And The Cowboy (1951)
The Secret Of Convict Lake (1951)
The Texas Rangers (1951)
Westward The Women (1951)

Vengeance Valley (1951)
Warpath (1951)
The Big Sky (1952)
Bugles In The Afternoon (1952)

Hangman’s Knot (1952)
The Lawless Breed (1952)
The Lusty Men (1952)
The Naked Spur (1952)
Ride The Man Down (1952)
The Savage (1952)
The Story Of Will Rogers (1952)
Untamed Frontier (1952)
Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953)
Charge At Feather River (1953)
City Of Bad Men (1953)
Devil’s Canyon {1953)
Escape From Fort Bravo (1953)
The Great Sioux Uprising (1953)
Jack McCall, Desperado (1953)
Last Of The Comanches (1953)
The Last Posse (1953)
The Silver Whip (1953)
The Stranger Wore A Gun (1953)
Wings Of The Hawk (1953)

Tumbleweed (1953)
Apache (1954)
The Bounty Hunter (1954)
Cattle Queen Of Montana (1954)
The Command (1954)
Dawn At Socorro (1954)
The Law Vs. Billy The Kid (1954)
The Outcast (1954)
Ride Clear Of Diablo (1954)
Silver Lode (1954)
Wyoming Renegades (1954)
The Yellow Tomahawk (1954)
At Gunpoint (1955)
Chief Crazy Horse (1955)
The Last Frontier (1955)
The Man From Bitter Ridge (1955)
Shotgun (1955)
Smoke Signal (1955)
Tennessee’s Partner (1955)
The Violent Men (1955)
Wichita (1955)
Backlash (1956)

Dakota Incident (1956)
Fastest Gun Alive (1956)
Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956)
Great Day In The Morning (1956)
The Last Wagon (1956)
The Lone Ranger (1956)
The Maverick Queen (1956)
Reprisal! (1956)
Seven Men From Now (1956)
Stagecoach To Fury (1956)
Tribute To A Bad Man (1956)
Copper Sky (1957)
Domino Kid (1957)

Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957)
Hell Canyon Outlaws (1957)
From Hell To Texas (1958)
Frontier Gun (1958)
The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold (1958)
Face Of A Fugitive (1959)
Last Train From Gun Hill (1959)
No Name On The Bullet (1959)
Thunder In The Sun (1959)
Yellowstone Kelly (1959)
The Alamo (1960)
Hell Bent For Leather (1960)
Cheyenne Autumn (1964)
Firecreek (1968)
Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (1973)

As this was being compiled, a few titles actually made their way to Blu-Ray, one of them being the exquisite new Wagon Master (1950) from Warner Archive.

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Directed by Anthony Mann
Starring James Stewart, Ruth Roman, Corinne Calvet, Walter Brennan, John McIntire, Jay C. Flippen, Henry Morgan, Steve Brodie

It’s always a good day when another James Stewart/Anthony Mann movie makes its way to Blu-Ray. Arrow Academy has announced The Far Country (1954) for release this November.

The Far Country was Mann and Stewart’s fourth Western together, and it’s a good one. The cast and crew were well-acquainted and the movie feels like a well-oiled machine. Set in Alaska, though shot in Canada, the picture lets Mann and DP William H. Daniels make the most of the locale in widescreen. Speaking of widescreen, Arrow has promised to give us the movie two ways, in both 1.85 and 2.0 aspect ratios. Universal-International at this time was often using 2.0 — Man Without A Star (1955), Mole People (1956), etc.

Like the other Mann/Stewart Westerns, this one’s essential, folks.

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Directed by Anthony Mann
Starring James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Julie Adams, Rock Hudson, Lori Nelson, Jay C. Flippen, Harry Morgan, Royal Dano, Stepin Fetchit, Chubby Johnson

Kino Lorber has given a solid release date for their Blu-Ray of Bend Of The River (1952) — April 16, 2019.

This is the second of the Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart Westerns, and a very gorgeous thing in Technicolor. Which of the Mann-Stewart Westerns is best is a matter of personal taste, and probably a good way to get an argument going among fans of this stuff. But it’s easy to say that they’re all among the finest Westerns ever made — and absolutely essential.

Providing a commentary for this release was indeed an honor, though in retrospect, wish I’d spent more time on Julie Adams. And while I have the chance, I want to thank Glenn Erickson of cinesavant.com for his help on this one. We got a back-and-forth email thing going about Bend Of The River that really helped me pull stuff together. Thanks, Glenn.

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Directed by Anthony Mann
Starring James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Julie Adams, Rock Hudson, Lori Nelson, Jay C. Flippen, Harry Morgan, Royal Dano, Stepin Fetchit, Chubby Johnson

The second of the Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart Westerns, and a very gorgeous thing in Technicolor, Bend Of The River (1952) is coming to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber. I’ll be putting together a commentary for it, and I can’t tell you what an honor that is.

Which of the Mann-Stewart Westerns is best is a matter of personal taste, and probably a good way to get an argument going among fans of this stuff. But it’s easy to say that they’re all among the finest Westerns ever made — and absolutely essential.

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