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Archive for the ‘Ben Johnson’ Category

At long last, my book A Million Feet Of Film: The Making Of One-Eyed Jacks is actually available. All told, it took Brando five years to make the movie — and me almost 10 to write about it.

What Happens When “The World’s Greatest Actor”
Directs A Cowboy Movie?

We expected the unexpected, and that’s what we got.” — Martin Scorsese
More than three years from contracts to premiere. Six months of shooting. A thousand takes. Almost 200 miles of negative exposed. A revolving door of personnel, including Rod Serling, Sam Peckinpah and Stanley Kubrick — all of them gone before the first frame was shot. A budget that ballooned from $1.8 million to $6 million. And the eventual takeover of the film by Paramount.

If we’d made it the way Marlon wanted it made… it could have been a breakthrough Western.” — Karl Malden

A Million Feet Of Film is the story of One-Eyed Jacks (1961), Marlon Brando’s first, and only, time as director and a picture that may be better known for its troubled production than its merits as a film. 
It was an ass-breaker.” — Marlon Brando


A Million Feet Of Film
is now available from Amazon. Click the sign to get yours today.
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A Million Feet Of Film: The Making Of One-Eyed Jacks is the story of Marlon Brando’s One-Eyed Jacks, his first, and only, time as director and a picture that may be better known for its troubled production than its merits as a film. 

More than three years from contracts to premiere. Six months of shooting. Almost 200 miles of negative exposed. A revolving door of personnel, including Rod Serling, Sam Peckinpah and Stanley Kubrick — all gone before the first frame was shot. A budget that ballooned from $1.8 million to $6 million. And the eventual takeover of the film by Paramount. Click the cover to order.

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Directed by John Ford
Starring Ben Johnson, Joanne Dru, Harry Carey, Jr., Ward Bond, Charles Kemper, Russell Simpson, Hank Worden, James Arness, Francis Ford

John Ford’s Wagon Master (1950) is not just one of my favorite movies, but I consider it one of the best Westerns ever made. There’s a gentleness and an authenticity to it that no other Western can match. It’s easy to see why Ford named it his personal favorite of his own films. For me, putting this thing on is like inviting some old friends to stop by for a spell.

The performances are perfect, from Ben Johnson and Harry Carey, Jr. as the young cowboys who hire on to lead the Mormon wagon train west to Ward Bond as an elder in the group of settlers to Joanne Dru as part of a medicine show that tags along. And Russell Simpson as, what else, a grumpy old man.

Then there are the Cleggs. It seems odd to say a gentle movie has some of the vilest bad guys you’ll ever see, but it does. If you know the movie, you know what I mean. And if you haven’t seen it, well, I feel truly sorry for you.

I could go on and on. But I’ll leave it at this: Wagon Master is coming to Blu-Ray from Warner Archive. If you haven’t made the leap to high-definition yet, this should be all the reason you need. Essential.

Thanks for the tip, Paula.

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It’s down to the bibliography, endnotes and index (and dealing with some trouble with a few stubborn photos). Once I slog my way through that stuff — why’d I include so many endnotes? — A Million Feet Of Film: The Making Of One-Eyed Jacks will be ready to go. I’ve got a proof in my hot little hands right now.

To those of you waiting for this thing, I appreciate your interest and patience. To those who’ve helped out along the way, I owe you my endless thanks. This has been quite a process, and I’m looking forward to getting it out there. More news on that soon.

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On December 2, 1958, under the watchful eye of DP Charles Lang, the big VistaVision cameras rolled for Marlon Brando’s One-Eyed Jacks (1961). It would be six full months — June 2, 1959, to be exact — before they stopped. A number of inserts and reshoots came later.

My book on the film isn’t taking quite that long. Not quite, anyway.

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The music label Cherry Red out of the UK has released (or is about to release) a 3-CD set Music From The Westerns Of John Wayne And John Ford. Featuring music from Stagecoach (1939), Fort Apache (1948), Three Godfathers (1948), She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949), Rio Grande (1950), The Searchers (1956), Horse Soldiers (1959) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Of course, music is always a huge part of a John Ford picture, so there’s plenty of good stuff here.

Sometimes it’s the original soundtrack (Rio Grande, Horse Soldiers), sometimes it’s from other sources. You can see a track listing here. This promises to be a very cool set. Can’t wait.

Thanks to Mr. Richard Vincent for the tip.

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I tend to think of things in terms of movies. Several times a day, real life suggests something in some film I’ve seen at some point.

Temperatures have been through the roof here in Raleigh the last few days. Walking across a parking lot today, I was reminded of John Wayne carrying little Robert William Pedro Hightower to safety in Three Godfathers (1948). Ford and Winton Hoch do a masterful job of conveying the oppressive heat and desolation of the desert. In a Christmas movie!

Now, on to something else, because even thinking about Three Godfathers will choke me up!

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