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Archive for the ‘Bob Steele’ Category

Warner Archive has a couple early 50s pictures on the way, both of them worth your time and hard-earned dough. Look at the casts on these things!

The Lion And The Horse (1952)
Directed by Louis King
Starrting Steve Cochran, Wildfire, Ray Teal, Bob Steele, Harry Antrim, George O’Hanlon

The Lion And The Horse was an early exercise in Warnercolor, but don’t hold that against it. I’ve never seen this one, but with Ray Teal and Bob Steele that far up on the cast list, I’m dying to. Steve Cochran played a bad guy more often that not, and this gives him a chance to be likable. Shot in Utah’s Mount Zion National Park, the animals had trouble with the high altitudes and were placed in an oxygen tent from time to time. Director Louis King’s previous picture was Frenchie (1950) with Joel McCrea, and he’d follow it with Powder River (1953).

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Cow Country (1953)
Directed by Lesley Selander
Starring Edmond O’Brien, Helen Wescott, Bob Lowery, Barton MacLane, Peggie Castle, James Millican, Robert Wilke, Raymond Hatton, Tom Tyler, Jack Ingram

Cow Country plays like a series Western on a larger scale — and that’s a good thing. Of course, what would you expect from Lesley Selander? James Millican has a great part here, and Robert Wilke is badder than usual. And Peggie Castle alone is worth the price of admission. Recommended.

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Directed by Ray Enright
Written by Zachary Gold and James R. Webb
Director Of Photography: Karl Freund, ASC
Film Editor: Clarence Kolster
Music by Max Steiner
Wardrobe by Milo Anderson

Cast: Joel McCrea (Kip Davis), Alexis Smith (Rouge de Lisle), Zachary Scott (Charlie Burns), Dorothy Malone (Deborah Miller), Douglas Kennedy (Lee Price), Alan Hale (Jake Evarts), Victor Jory (Luke Cottrell), Bob Steele (Slim Hansen), Art Smith (Bronco), Monte Blue (Captain Jeffery), Nacho Galindo (Manuel), Paul Maxey (Papa Brugnon)

joel-mccrea-blogathon-badgeThis look at South Of St. Louis (1949) is an entry in the Joel McCrea Blogathon, a three-day celebration to commemorate what would’ve been his 111th birthday.

It’s the Civil War. Kip Davis (Joel McCrea), Charlie Burns (Zachary Scott) and Lee Price (Douglas Kennedy) are partners in Three Bell Ranch (the three ranchers have little bells on their spurs). When their spread is plundered and burned by the Union guerrilla raider Luke Cottrell (Victor Jory), the partners head to Brownsville, Texas, to look for Cottrell and start raising a stake to rebuild their ranch.

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Lee decides to join the Confederate Army. Kip and Charlie are soon up to their ears in trouble, smuggling guns up from Mexico for the Confederates. It’s dangerous work, but there’s the promise of the money they need to rebuild the Three Bell.

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Kip becomes so focused on revenge and rebuilding his ranch, he loses his fiancee (Dorothy Malone) to Lee. But he soon catches the eye of Rouge (Alexis Smith), the saloon singer who’s in on the smuggling operation. All the while, Charlie is becoming more and more transfixed by the money — and less and less interested in ranching.

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It all comes down to a final shootout, with friend pitted against friend — and the jingling of those three bells reminding the men of what they once meant to each other. It’d be hard to find a movie with a more satisfying last reel. All in all, it’s a moving story of the power of friendship, the pitfalls of revenge and the glory of redemption — with plenty of gunplay.

Produced by United States Pictures, and released by Warner Bros., South Of St. Louis is a remake of Warner’s own gangster picture The Roaring Twenties (1939), which starred Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney.

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Dorothy Malone and Ray Enright

Director Ray Enright began his career as an assistant editor and gag man for Mack Sennett. After serving in the First World War, he made his way to Warner Bros. — where he was eventually made a director. Naturally, given his tutelage at the Sennett studio, Enright had a real flair for both comedy and action, and his films always scoot along at a steady pace. The fight scene between John Wayne and Randolph Scott in his The Spoilers (1942) remains one of the Movies’ best — the legend goes that some of the blood you see is real. Enright worked with Hollywood’s greatest Western stars: Wayne, Scott (Trail Street, Coroner Creek, etc.), Audie Murphy (1950’s Kansas Raiders), Sterling Hayden (Flaming Feather in 1952) and, of course, this one time with McCrea.

Enright was given a splendid cast to work with on this one, and he got solid performances from them all. McCrea’s grace and naturalism are in full force here, helping guide us through some odd choices his character makes along the way. Alexis Smith is fine in a role that would’ve been perfect for Claire Trevor. One of McCrea and Smith’s later scenes together — he’s drowning his sorrow in tequila down in Matamoros, Mexico, and she’s tired of watching him “eating [his] heart out with hate” — is very well done, setting up the ending just perfectly.

Zachary Scott is terrific — we can really watch Charlie lose his soul to money. Douglas Kennedy and Dorothy Malone don’t have all that much to do, though they do it well. Alan Hale does what he always does as the saloon keeper, be the delightful Alan Hale, and Bob Steele is at his best as a bad guy. I love it when Steele gets a good amount of screen time. Victor Jory sneers his way through the picture as the evil Luke Cottrell. He turns in one of my favorites of his many wonderful performances.

Karl Freund and Joel McCrea

Thanks to the gorgeous Blu-Ray available from Olive Films, we can see that one of the picture’s greatest assets is the stunning Technicolor work of Karl Freund. Freund (his nickname was “Papa”) came to the U.S. from Germany in 1929, and was soon behind the camera at Universal on stuff like Dracula (1931). He directed The Mummy (1932), one of the most visually stunning of the Universal monster movies. He won an Academy Award for his cinematography for The Good Earth (1937), and eventually helped develop (with Desi Arnaz) the three-camera system for lighting and shooting I Love Lucy in front of a live audience. This technique is still in use today.

Freund has every frame of South Of St. Louis looking like something you’d hang over your mantel. With her red hair, rouge and Milo Anderson costumes, Alexis Smith looks like she’d glow in the dark. And with its Technicolor red, the Confederate flag never looked so majestic. (Be sure to note the curtains in Alan Hale’s Brownsville Drovers’ Rest Saloon. The red practically leaps out of your TV.)

South Of St. Louis had its premiere in Brownsville, Texas (in two theaters), with McCrea and Smith making the rounds to promote the picture. When it opened in New York at the Strand Theatre, Desi Arnaz and his orchestra performed. The picture was a big hit, and Jack Warner soon had McCrea in Colorado Territory (1949), a remake of the Bogart picture High Sierra (1941) — both films directed by the mighty Raoul Walsh. Then for McCrea, it was Stars In My Crown (1950) at MGM and a near-perfect string of medium-budget Westerns for Universal-International. He was really on a roll.

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Directed by John English
Screen Play by Gerald Geraghty
Story by Alan James
Director Of Photography: William Bradford
Film Editor: James Sweeney

Cast: Gene Autry (Himself), Gail Davis (Dell Middler), Jim Davis (Wade McQuarrie), Bob Steele (Walt Middler), Pat Buttram (Pat “Cougar” Claggett), Terry Frost (Wyatt), Edgar Dearing (Colonel Middler), Paul Frees (Narrator)

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Silver Canyon (1951) is an interesting late-period Gene Autry movie. It’s a Civil War picture, with Jim Davis playing Wade McQuarrie, a Quantrill-like Confederate guerilla. McQuarrie’s wreaking havoc on the Union’s supply lines and Army scout Autry is sent to sort it all out.

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These later Autry’s give up a song or two to make room for more action, a trend with most Singing Cowboy pictures from this period. This one even tosses in a lynch mob for good measure.

You get the usual Autry cast from this period — Gail Davis and Pat Buttram — with the added benefit of Jim Davis as the stylish, ruthless guerrilla leader — and Bob Steele as a Confederate sympathizer who gets mixed up with the raiders. As we’ve all said around here a million times, it’s often the roster of character actors who take these things up a notch, and that’s the case here. Factor in the great Paul Frees as narrator, and this one stands out among Gene’s later pictures.

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Gene Autry always surrounded himself with real pros, usually folks he’d worked with time and time again. From John English to Gerald Geraghty to William Bradford, and from the Iverson Ranch to Pioneertown, this would’ve been a very familiar undertaking for all concerned — including those of us watching it.

Silver Canyon is another example of the care that’s gone into preserving Autry’s movies. The Image DVD is terrific, with the usual lineup of extras. It has not been re-issued as part of the four-picture sets from Timeless Media Group.

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Directed by William Witney
Screen Play by John K. Butler & Richard Wormster
Based upon an Esquire magazine story by Todhunter Ballard
Music: R. Dale Butts

Cast: John Derek (Jeff Cosgrave), Joan Evans (Judy Polsen), Jim Davis (Major Linton Cosgrave), Catherine McLeod (Alice Austin), Ben Cooper (The Kid), Slim Pickens (Boone Polsen), Bob Steele (Dude Rankin), Harry Carey, Jr. (Bert), Frank Ferguson (Chad Polsen), James Millican (Cal Prince)

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Republic blogathon badgeI am delighted to be able to take part in a The Republic Pictures Blogathon and would like to thank our host, Toby, for making it possible.

Having been formed from a merger of several small film companies in 1935, Republic Pictures hit the ground running, immediately scoring huge success with their Gene Autry Western series. They followed this success with The Three Mesquiteers the next year and into the 40s with popular series heroes Don Barry, Wild Bill Elliott, Rocky Lane and, especially, Roy Rogers.

Right from the start, Republic was making a cross-section of film types even though their specialty was the Western. I often feel that Republic was at its very best with their B-Western series – their ‘comfort zone’, if you like. Some of their later, bigger-budgeted Westerns seem a little ’overblown’ by comparison with the smaller, tighter-budgeted action fests. Jubilee Trail comes to mind. This was certainly not always the case, however, and one film that I certainly feel has the spirit and the energy of their smaller fry is 1954’s The Outcast.

The fact that the film was directed by action-ace Wild Bill Witney would have had a lot to do with it certainly. The action is captured beautifully in Republic’s Trucolor hues by expert cinematographer Reggie Lanning. The screenplay was co-written by John K. Butler and Richard Wormser from an Esquire Magazine story by Todhunter Ballard. The story concerns the return to Colorado of Jet Cosgrave (John Derek) after years away with the strong intent of reclaiming his rightful heritage, the vast Circle C Ranch, from his uncle Major Cosgrave (Jim Davis) who had forged Jet’s father’s will to gain control.

Into this main thread we find the arrival of the Major’s new intended (played by Catherine McLeod) whose affections gradually turn away from the Major when she sees how vicious and crooked he really is, towards Jet. There is another woman on the scene though who has set her sights firmly on Jet! Essentially this is a ‘range war’ western (I like those) and whilst you can always say ‘this plot is familiar’ where westerns are concerned, it is really all about how that plot plays out and how well it is dealt with.

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For me, this is a Western I am always happy to re-watch every few years as it just ‘ticks all the boxes’ for me. The storyline and the attendant action are not contrived but natural and the action which is plentiful is expertly-handled by Witney. The supporting cast reads like a “Who’s Who” of the western – Bob Steele, Harry Carey jr, James Millican, Ben Cooper, Frank Ferguson, Hank Worden… I am again struck by how good John Derek is in the leading role. He made a number of good Westerns for different studios and it struck me that he would have been a terrific Western lead for one studio, along the lines of Audie Murphy (and just as good). Good actor and he handles the gunplay and horseback stuff like a real seasoned westerner.

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The Outcast is sadly one of those many fine Republic films that are not available on DVD in the US market. The only option is an Italian release that is on sale on Amazon UK for around $200! Thankfully, the BBC transmitted the movie some years ago in the UK and I recorded it. The print is fine and the Trucolor comes across OK. This is one of those films we need to see released by someone who cares.

If a solid, well-made western made by folks who knew how to do it is your thing then this one is worth seeking out (if you can).

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Jerry Entract does not run his own blog or have any involvement in the film industry, but is an English lifelong movie fan and amateur student of classic cinema (American and British). Main passions are the western and detective/mystery/film noir. Enjoys seeking out lesser-known (even downright obscure) old movies.

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Over the years, a great many movies have suffered from how they’re seen on TV — incomplete, beat-up, pan-and-scan prints (sometimes not even in color as they once were). That mistreatment eventually impacts the film’s overall reputation, as TV became how entire generations experienced older movies. (Right now, I’m thinking of how awful the Regalscope pictures have looked since they left theaters. Thank goodness for DVD and Blu-ray.)

I think TV shows have suffered a similar fate over the years, with faded prints hacked to bits to make room for more commercials. The Rebel (1959-61), now that we have the new set from Timeless Media Group, illustrates my point.

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The Rebel follows Johnny Yuma (Nick Adams), a restless young Confederate veteran after the Civil War. With nothing to return to (we learn in the first episode that his lawman father’s dead), he “wanders the West” for 76 episodes — getting pulled into various situations as he rides from town to town in search of peace.

0e9f250b7cbb6dac92241b95bebf97beNick Adams is very good as Yuma, bringing the right mix of intensity and sensitivity to the part. He’s believable as a young man who’d beat the crap out of a guy, then write about it in his journal. It could’ve come off terribly. Like so many of these 5os Western TV shows, the supporting cast each week is incredible. The first episode alone features Strother Martin, Dan Blocker and John Carradine. And over the run of the show, you’ll also find Claude Akins, Robert Blake, Elisha Cook, Jr., Royal Dano, John Dehner, Jack Elam, Virginia Gregg, L.Q. Jones, George Macready, Patricia Medina, Agnes Moorehead, Leonard Nimoy, Warren Oates, Paul Picerni, Tex Ritter, Soupy Sales, Bob Steele, Peggy Stewart, Robert Vaughn, Yvette Vickers and Marie Windsor. Adams’ wife Carole Nugent is terrific in an early episode. Johnny Cash is in one, too.

Producer Andrew J. Fenady (from a good interview here): “We would shoot one day on location. Vasquez Rocks, and a lot in Thousand Oaks. And the second day we would shoot on the lot — the (western) street at Paramount. The third day we would do the interiors, whether it was someone’s house, or a shack, or a hotel or a jail. A sheriff’s office. So that was really the formula: first day out, second day on the street, and the third day interiors.”

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About half the episodes were directed by Irvin Kirshner. He does a good job, to be sure, but there’s nothing in this to indicate that this is the guy who’d eventually direct The Empire Strikes Back (1980), maybe the last truly epic film I can remember. The size of the screen was obviously not an issue for him. Bernard L. Kowalski, Bernard McEveety, Robbert Ellis Miller and Frank Baur handled the rest.
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Some episodes were transferred from slightly worn 16mm prints with changeover cues punched in them here and there; others look like a million bucks. What’s important is that The Rebel, The Complete Series gives us all 76 episodes, complete. Johnny Cash’s vocals have been restored to the titles (the theme was replaced for syndication, which is how we’ve been seeing and hearing it for years). While the quality varies from episode to episode, and 16mm can be a little soft, to have them all looking this good is a revelation. There are plenty of extras, from interviews to stills to commercials — even the pilot for the proposed companion series The Yank. This is a good set, and a good show, ready to be rediscovered. Highly recommended.

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Associate Producer and Director: Joseph Kane
Screen Play by Kenneth Gamet
Story by Thames Williamson and Gerald Geraghty
Director of Photography: Reggie Lanning
Film Editor: Arthur Roberts
Music: Dale Butts

CAST: William Elliott (John Baker/Ringo), Adrian Booth (Livvy Weston), Grant Withers (Wade Proctor), Barbra Fuller (Louise Cole), Noah Beery Jr. (Glenn Larrabee), Jim Davis (Lt. Mike Baker), Bob Steele (Dancer), Douglass Dumbrille (Col. Price), Will Wright (Judge Cole), Roy Barcroft (Fergus), Earle Hodgins (Buck Yallop), Stuart Hamblen (Stuart), Hal Taliaferro (Sgt. Gowdy), Lloyd Ingraham, Marshall Reed, Craig Whitley, Charles Stevens and James Flavin, George Chesebro, Kermit Maynard

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It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen a Wild Bill Wednesday. This time around, let’s look at The Savage Horde (1950), Elliott’s next-to-last picture for Republic (coming between Hellfire and The Showdown.)

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Elliott is Ringo, a gunslinger wanted for killing a cavalry officer (in self defense, as it turns out). Pursued by the army, he ends up shooting his brother (Jim Davis) — which prompts him to put down his guns and try to begin again under a new name. He winds up in the town of Gunlock, where he becomes involved in a range war (siding with the small ranchers against Grant Withers), reconnects with an old flame (Adrian Booth) and finally faces the charges against him.

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The story, cooked up by Thames Williamson and Gerald Geraghty, is impressive in how it’s so seamlessly and solidly built around Elliott’s strengths. His peaceable man/good-badman persona is right at home here — you can easily see this as a William S. Hart picture.

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The supporting cast is outstanding: Noah Beery, Jr. as one of the smalltime ranchers; Adrian Booth and Barbra Fuller; Withers as the big, bad cattleman; Will Wright as the local judge tired of being under Withers’ thumb; Bob Steele as Dancer, a sadistic hired gun; and Stuart Hamblyn as a singing ranch hand. Something that really sets The Savage Horde apart is that the bad guys are really bad. Wade Procter (Withers) comes off as a really ruthless cattle baron, willing to do (or have someone else do) whatever is takes to make sure he gets what he wants — sole use of unclaimed rangeland. His cohorts — Bob Steele, Roy Barcroft and Marshall Reed — might be even worse. There’s plenty of menace here, and we all know what a good bad guy can add to a picture like this.

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Director and associate producer Joe Kane makes sure we see every cent of Republic’s budget, fairly large by their standards. The action scenes are bigger, the street scenes have more extras — it’s just bigger. Shooting around Sedona and Red Rock Canyon and a 90-minute running time certainly help. This was not only the last picture Elliott would make with Kane, but it was also his last A-scale movie. The Showdown, though excellent, was done for a fraction of The Savage Horde‘s budget. And the Monogram and Allied Artists pictures that Elliott closed out his career with, they were done on the cheap.

Barbra Fuller: “Bill Elliott was wonderful to work with… I don’t think he was much of an actor. He just trained himself and it came off beautifully… He had a calm masculinity, the same as he had in this picture.”

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The Savage Horde is one of William Elliott’s best pictures. And like so much of the Republic library, who knows when, or if, it’ll turn up on DVD. If you watch for it, it turns up on the Westerns Channel or on one those streaming things every so often (it’s currently on Amazon Instant).

Source: Wild Bill Elliott: A Complete Filmography by Gene Blottner

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M&L Pardners record

Directed by Norman Taurog
Starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Agnes Moorehead, Lori Nelson, Jeff Morrow, Lon Chaney, Jr., Jack Elam, Lee Van Cleef, Bob Steele

Went to a screening of Rio Bravo (1959) over the weekend, and with Dean Martin on my mind, was thinking that it’s about time to revisit him and Jerry Lewis in Pardners (1956).

Soon got to wondering where I’d find a copy, since the old Martin & Lewis DVD sets are out of print and bringing collector-type prices. Well, I didn’t need to worry. Our friends at Warner Archive have released (today, in fact), the Best of Martin & Lewis Volumes 1 and 2. Pardners is in the second batch.

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Pardners would be the next-to-last picture Martin and Jerry Lewis made together. This photo seems to sum up their relationship at the time. (The battered record sleeve seems appropriate, too.)

It’s hard to really recommend these films, since people’s opinions of them fluctuate so much, especially where Lewis is concerned. Me, I like them and grew up catching them on TV whenever I could. (Artists And Models, which is in this same volume, might be my favorite of all their pictures.) Pardners‘ VistaVision photography should look terrific on our spiffy HDTVs.

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