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Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fifty.

I usually dodge questions about the 50 Westerns to be covered in 50 Westerns From The 50s. The reason I’ve avoided the issue is that the list changes so often. Or it used to change often. Lately, it’s settled down quite a bit.

I’ve been really excited about some of the recent progress on the thing (and some recent back-and-forth on Dragoon Well Massacre), so I felt like sharing the list, with the disclaimer that it could still fluctuate some.

1950
Wagon Master
The Gunfighter
Trail Of Robin Hood
Rocky Mountain

1951
Man In The Saddle
Apache Drums
Saddle Legion
Westward The Women

1952
Son Of Paleface
Bend Of The River
Rancho Notorious
Fargo
The Duel At Silver Creek
Lawless Breed

1953
Jack Slade
Last Of The Pony Riders
The Lone Hand

1954
Hondo
Masterson Of Kansas
Vera Cruz
Phantom Stallion
Johnny Guitar
Silver Lode

1955
A Lawless Street
Stranger On Horseback

1956
Reprisal!
Seven Men From Now
Red Sundown
Stagecoach To Fury
Gunslinger
A Day Of Fury
Fury At Gunsight Pass
The Fastest Gun Alive

1957
Hell Canyon Outlaws
Quantez
The True Story Of Jesse James
Fury At Showdown
Night Passage
Forty Guns

1958
Dragoon Wells Massacre
The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold
Frontier Gun
Fort Dobbs
Gunman’s Walk
The Left-Handed Gun

1959
Curse Of The Undead
Rio Bravo
Last Train From Gun Hill
Face Of A Fugitive
The Horse Soldiers

You might notice that things are skewed a bit toward smaller pictures — and that some “key” titles are missing, namely, High Noon, Shane and The Searchers. A few pre-1950 and post-’59 films will also be included (One-Eyed Jacks was gonna be one of those, but it ended up with its own book).

Hopefully, you’re as stoked about these films as I am. (Thanks to a few of you who’ve helped shape this list over the years.) Looking forward to hearing what you think — and to a winter spent wrapping this thing up.

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Active Ingredients.

Like the last post, which was a status report on the book, here’s another one dealing with something I’m often asked about — research and resources.

There’s a great big stack of books I’ve turned to quite a bit during the “making” of 50 Westerns From The 50s. You’re probably familiar with most, if not all, of them.

The B Directors: A Biographical Directory – Winston Wheeler Dixon
Close Up: The Contract Director
– Jon Tuska
Company Of Heroes: My Life As An Actor In The John Ford Stock Company – Harry Carey, Jr.
De Toth On De Toth – Andre De Toth & Anthony Slide
Escape Artist: The Life And Films Of John Sturges – Glenn Lovell
The Films Of Audie Murphy – Bob Larkins
The Films Of Budd Boetticher
– Robert Nott
The Films Of Randolph Scott – Robert Nott
Fritz Lang: The Nature Of The Beast – Patrick McGilligan
Highway To Hollywood, The Hard Way
– Maury Dexter
The Hollywood Posse – Diana Serra Cary
Hollywood Trail Boss – Burt Kennedy
I Was That Masked Man – Clayton Moore
John Ford – Peter Bogdanovich
John Wayne: The Life And Legend – Scott Eyman
Ladies Of The Western – Boyd Magers & Michael Fitzgerald
Last Of The Cowboy Heroes
 – Robert Nott
The Legendary Lydecker Brothers – Jan Allen Henderson
Lost In The Fifties: Rediscovering Phantom Hollywood
– Winston Wheeler Dixon
A Million Feet Of Film: The Making Of One-Eyed Jacks – Toby Roan (just kidding)
Paul Landres: A Director’s Stories – Francis Nevins
Print The Legend: The Life And Times Of John Ford
– Scott Eyman
The Ragman’s Son
– Kirk Douglas
Searching For John Ford: A Life – Joseph McBride
A Siegel Film: An Autobiography – Don Siegel
Talk’s Cheap, Action’s Expensive: The Films Of Robert L. Lippert
– Mark Thomas McGee
Three Bad Man: John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond
– Scott Allen Nollen
Universal International Westerns, 1929-46
– Gene Blottner
Universal International Westerns, 1947-63
– Gene Blottner
The Western – Phil Hardy
Westerns Women – Boyd Magers & Michael Fitzgerald
When In Disgrace
– Budd Boetticher
White Hats And Silver Spurs – Herb Fagan
Who The Devil Made It – Peter Bogdanovich
Who The Hell’s In It – Peter Bogdanovich
Wild Bill Elliott
 – Gene Blottner
The Years Of George Montgomery – George Montgomery

This is just a small fraction of the books I’ve turned to in my research, and the list grows every day. (Assembling a bibliography is a real drag, by the way.) I’ve noticed that, next to maybe The Beatles and Bob Dylan, I have more books on John Ford and John Wayne (often combined) than any other topic.

Then there’s magazine and newspapers articles. There are several binders around here filled with those, some on the films covered in the book and others covering lots and lots of other 50s Westerns. Newspapers.com has been a godsend.

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Where’s The Book?

The 50 Westerns From The 50s blog was launched over a decade ago — at the same time I began writing a book with the same name. While the blog’s chugged along quite nicely all these years, the book’s still MIA. I get asked about it fairly frequently.

Well, it’s getting there. Rough drafts are in place for 37 of the 50 chapters. Some are even complete. A few late 40s and early 60s Westerns are in there, too. Images have been selected for about half the book.

There’s one film I still have to track down on DVD or something. And I have to settle on a few contenders for Picture #50. 

Read through it all over the weekend, and I didn’t hate it. That’s a step in the right direction.

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I don’t read near as much fiction as I used to. Of late, my reading’s become largely focused on research for my own books. So when I was offered a copy of Robert Dwyer and Austin Wright’s The Sheriff, I was happy to have a reason to read a novel again.

Austin Wright proudly admitted to me that The Sheriff was influenced by a handful of key Western movies — one is Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962), pictures he’s loved since childhood. That alone got me interested.

The Sheriff is centered around Sheriff John Donovan, who founded the Texas panhandle town of Three Chop. He’s run the place for a good 20 years. But the times, they are a-changing, a sad fact that Donovan has to wrap his head around, fast. With a new century on the way, Sheriff Donovan’s community (along with the West as a whole) in a state of flux and his health failing him, some bad men make their way to Three Chop.

Over the years, the end of the Old West has proven rich for storytellers, both in print and on film. And as we’ve seen in many terrific Westerns (especially those from the 50s), you can use the Western as a framework for all sorts of commentary on all sorts of issues. (Quick example: the ton of McCarthy/HUAC allegory packed into 50s Westerns.) This end-of-the-West story has plenty to say — about everything from religion to mortality to progress to big business, and it does it without sacrificing action, pacing or authenticity. 

It’s so easy to recommend The Sheriff. It’s a big story about some big issues — leading to the big showdown. Click on the cover to buy one.

One more thing: being that Wright is an admitted John Wayne nut, does his sheriff’s name come from Wayne and Donovan’s Reef (1963)? 

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When researching and writing my first book A Million Feet Of Film: The Making Of One-Eyed Jacks, the Facebook page I created for it turned out to be a real godsend. Through that page, I secured several images used in the book and even lined up a couple interviews.

So with this blog’s namesake a priority these days, it seemed like time to create a similar page for it. You’ll find it at facebook.com/50WesternsFromThe50s

There’s not much there yet, but there will be.

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This blog, as some of you might remember, was begun (almost 10 years ago) when I started work on a book to be titled 50 Westerns From The 50s. The thought was to “chronicle the book’s progress and have a place to stick some of the cool images and quotes and stuff I’ve come across.” That idea hasn’t changed, though the book’s been put on the back burner more than a few times. Life, work and that One-Eyed Jacks book got in the way.

Over the last couple weeks, the 50s Westerns book has returned to the top of the to-do list. And after all this time, I’ve rethought things a bit. Mainly, the 50 films themselves.

Hell Canyon Outlaws HS

My preference has always leaned toward the more obscure, often smaller pictures. I’d rather extol the virtues of something like Hell Canyon Outlaws (1957) than be the 637th person to blather on about High Noon (1952). Nothing against High Noon, but how much can I actually add to anybody’s appreciation of that one? This idea has become the book’s un-official mission statement.

There’ll be more updates as this thing moves along. I’m not going to repeat the mistake I made on the last book by tossing out release dates only to miss them time and time again.

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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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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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Just found out about a book that sounds terrific. John Brooker has been conducting interviews and writing about B Westerns for years. In fact, he let me post his interview with Tim Holt on this blog.

I was really stoked to hear he’d written a new book on B Westerns, The Happiest Trail — which is available from Lulu (located right here in Raleigh, NC). Click on the cover for more info.

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