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Archive for the ‘Audie Murphy’ Category

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 Saxon
(August 5, 1936 – July 25, 2020)

John Saxon has passed away at 83. He was a very good actor who never got the recognition he was due. He’s terrific in The Appaloosa (1966), where he easily outdid Marlon Brando. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for that one.

He also did the Westerns The Unforgiven (1960), Death Of A Gunfighter (1969) and Joe Kidd (1972), Mario Bava’s The Evil Eye (1963) and the Bruce Lee picture Enter The Dragon (1973). He stayed busy on TV, too.

Posse From Hell (1960) was one of the U-I Audie Murphy pictures produced by Gordon Kay. It’s worth a second look. Saxon’s really good in it.

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Kino Lorber’s three-Blu-Ray Audie Murphy Collection is gonna be a good one. I’m not sure what I’m more excited about, that I get to do commentaries for two of ’em, or that these films are coming out, period.

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray of Night Passage (1957) is one of the best-looking Blu-Rays of a 50s Western I’ve seen, and these should look terrific, too. Universal International’s Westerns from this period were beautifully shot — and they’ve taken pretty good care of them.

The Duel At Silver Creek (1952)
Directed by Don Siegel
Starring Audie Murphy, Faith Domergue, Stephen McNally

Don Siegel’s first Western, and first film in color, is a fun, fast-paced little picture with gorgeous camerawork from Irving Glassberg. It’s also got a terrific supporting cast — Hal Mohr, Walter Sande, Frank Wilcox, Harry Harvey, Lee Marvin (his first Western), etc. It has fun with the conventions it tosses into the mix.

The story goes that Siegel’s cut of the picture was barely an hour long. The prologue tacked onto the picture to pad out its running time works perfectly. Siegel and Murphy would work again on The Gun Runners (1958).

Ride A Crooked Trail (1958)
Directed by Jesse Hibbs
Starring Audie Murphy, Gia Scala, Walter Matthau, Henry Silva, Joanna Moore

Audie’s an outlaw reformed more or less by circumstance. Walter Matthau is a lot of fun as a judge Murphy gets mixed up with. Gia Scala and Joanna Moore look terrific.

Jesse Hibbs was a good director for Murphy; they’d already had great success with To Hell And Back (1955). This was Hibbs’ last feature before embarking on a busy run (about a decade) as a TV director. Harold Lipstein shot it in CinemaScope and Eastmancolor.

No Name On The Bullet (1959)
Directed by Jack Arnold
Starring Audie Murphy, Charles Drake, Joan Evans, Warren Stevens, R.G. Armstrong, Whit Bissell

Over the years, U-I got pretty smart with their Audie Murphy movies. They learned to give him a strong supporting cast, and they built movies around his strengths as an actor. (I don’t think he was anywhere near as limited as some say he was.) No Name On The Bullet (1959) might be the best example fo the latter approach. It’s well-written by Gene L. Coon, later of Star Trek fame, and he gave Murphy some terrific lines. Jack Arnold’s no-frills style is a perfect match for the material.

There’s nothing better than a little low-budget movie where everything clicks to create something much bigger than it should’ve been. This is one of those movies. (On a personal note, this is one of the pictures that launched my obsession with 50s Westerns.)

The set gives you the three movies on separate discs, contained in a slipcover. Trailers and commentaries are included (I’m doing the first two.) Highly recommended. Now, when will someone get around to Tumbleweed (1953) and Seven Ways From Sundown (1960)?

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No specifics yet, but Kino Lorber is preparing quite a few Universal Westerns for DVD and/or Blu-Ray.

They come from the 1940s through the 70s, and they feature folks like Audie Murphy, Jeff Chandler, Rock Hudson, Randolph Scott, Fred MacMurray, Alan Ladd and Clint Eastwood. More news as it turns up.

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Kino Lorber is serving up four terrific Universal Westerns in March, an announcement that gets. 2020 off to a great start.

Canyon Passage (1946)
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Starring Dana Andrews, Brian Donlevy, Susan Hayward, Patricia Roc, Ward Bond, Hoagy Carmichael, Andy Devine, Lloyd Bridges

Canyon Passage was Jacques Tourneur’s first Western and first film in color. It’s got a great cast (Ward Bond is terrific — and very scary) and incredible Technicolor photography from Edward Cronjager, who also shot Lang’s Western Union (1941). This is a very overlooked, underrated film.

Night Passage (1957)
Directed by James Neilson
Starring James Stewart, Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, Dianne Foster, Elaine Stewart, Brandon de Wilde, Jay C. Flippen, Robert J. Wilke, Hugh Beaumont

Shot in Technirama, a high-fidelity combination of VistaVision and anamorphic widescreen, Night Passage is as sharp as movies could get in the late 50s. And with loads of incredible location work in Durango, Colorado, it’s stunning — and a perfect candidate for Blu-Ray. The movie itself, while it’s no masterpiece, has been unjustly maligned. You’ll find the story behind all that in an old post.

Man In The Shadow (1957)
Directed by Jack Arnold
Starring Jeff Chandler, Orson Welles, Colleen Miller, Barbara Lawrence, John Larch, Royal Dano, James Gleason

There are a thousand reasons to be excited about this modern-day (well, 1957) Western — Jeff Chandler, Orson Welles, B&W CinemaScope and Jack Arnold, for starters. Welles and producer Albert Zugsmith got to talking here, which led to Touch Of Evil (1958).

The Rare Breed (1966)
Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen
Starring James Stewart, Maureen O’Hara, Brian Keith, Juliet Mills, Ben Johnson, Jack Elam, Harry Carey, Jr.

The best thing The Rare Breed has going for it is its incredible cast — how could it go wrong? Not to mention the Technicolor/Panavision cinematography of William H. Clothier.

All four films will feature a commentary (I’m doing both Passage films) and an original trailer. It’s no easy to recommend these things!

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Came upon this the other day and thought it was worth sharing.

The Morningside Theatre in New York City has quite a lineup on Saturday, April 16, 1959. First, there was Tim Holt in The Monster That Challenged The World (1957), then Audie Murphy in Jack Arnold’s No Name On The Bullet (1959) and finally Running Target from 1956, starring Doris Dowling, Arthur Franz and Myron Healey. Tossed into the mix were a few cartoons and Marshall Reed in a chapter of the Columbia serial Riding With Buffalo Bill (1954), produced by Sam Katzman.

Of course, the stuff coming up after it — William Castle’s The Tingler (1959), The Warrior And The Slave Girl (1958) and Whip Wilson, Fuzzy Knight and Phyllis Coates in Monogram’s Canyon Riders (1951) — sounds pretty good, too.

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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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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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Audie Leon Murphy
(June 20, 1925 – May 28, 1971)

Audie Murphy — the most-decorated American soldier of World War II and later a major star of 50s Westerns, was born on this day in 1925. He’s seen here with Dan Duryea in Ride Clear Of Diablo (1954). it’s one of his best.

We all owe Audie a real debt. Two debts, actually. One for his service — and it certainly took its toll on him, and another for all those terrific movies.

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Directed by Nathan Juran
Screenplay by John Meredyth Lucas
From a novel by Kenneth Perkins
Director Of Photography: Russell Metty
Film Editor: Virgil W. Vogel

Cast: Audie Murphy (Jim Harvey), Lori Nelson (Laura Saunders), Chill Wills (Sheriff Murchoree), Roy Roberts (Nick Buckley), Russell Johnson (Lam Blanden), K.T. Stevens (Louella Buckley), Madge Meredith (Sarah Blanden), Lee Van Cleef (Marv), I. Stanford Jolley (Ted), Ross Elliott (Seth Blandon), Ralph Moody (Aguila), Eugene Iglesias (Tigre), Phil Chambers (Trapper Ross), Lyle Talbot (Weber), King Donovan (Wrangler), Harry Harvey (Prospector)

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Tumbleweed (1953) is one of my favorite Audie Murphy movies.

Once they got him figured out, Universal-International did a great job of developing pictures that played to Audie Murphy’s strengths. As his confidence grew, the movies just got better and better, leading to really good performances in things like Night Passage (1957) and No Name On The Bullet (1959).

In this one, Audie’s a trail guide leading a small wagon train through Indian territory. When the Indians attack and almost everyone is killed (Lori Nelson and K.T. Stevens survive), Murphy’s branded a deserter and jailed. He’s sprung by Tigre (Eugene Iglesias), an Indian he befriends right after the credits, and pursued into the desert by a posse lead by Chill Wills.

Along the way, he’s given a scraggly horse by a sympathetic rancher (Roy Roberts). This is Tumbleweed, and Murphy’s relationship with the horse — Tumbleweed saves Murphy again and again — is one of the best things about the movie. In a way, you could say the horse saves the movie, too, since his place in the story helps it deviate from convention in some really terrific ways. And, as we all know, that really sets these movies apart, when they zig instead of zag like all the rest.

Nathan Juran, the director of Tumbleweed, started out as an art director. He made the transition to director with The Black Castle (1952).

Nathan Juran: “I was just a technician who could transfer the script from the page to the stage and could get it shot on schedule and on budget. I never became caught up in the ‘romance’ of the movies.”

Russell Metty shot the film at Vasquez Rocks, Red Rock Canyon and Death Valley, and it looks great. Metty also shot Touch Of Evil (1958), Spartacus (1960) and Madigan (1968). He doesn’t get his due, if you ask me.

The cast is made up of some great character actors, many from U-I’s own roster. The lovely Lori Nelson had a good run at U-I — two Ma and Pa Kettle pictures, Bend Of The River (1952), a Francis movie, Revenge Of The Creature (1955) and more — before working at AIP on stuff like Day The World Ended and Hot Rod Girl (both 1956). She’d work extensively on TV, with a guest spot in Audie Murphy’s series Whispering Smith.

Lee Van Cleef is appropriately nasty as Marv. Roy Roberts is good as the rancher who comes to Murphy’s aide. And Russell Johnson has a terrific fight with Murphy in the last reel, running all over Vasquez Rocks. My only complaint would be Chill Wills, who I’ve never cared for. Of course, the strongest member of the supporting cast is Tumbleweed himself. He’s really something.

You can really see Audie Murphy coming into his own in Tumbleweed. It’s a good 50s Western from Universal. And that’s about as good as it gets.

Source: Nathan Juran interview from Starlog

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