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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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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Sam and Bob PGBK

This book falls outside the usual scope of this blog, but I’m sure many of us will be interested in it. I know I am! Paul Seydor’s The Authentic Death and Contentious Afterlife Of Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid: The Untold Story of Peckinpah’s Last Western Film will be available in February. I’m not sure I can wait that long.

the-authentic-death-and-contentious-afterlife-of-pat-garrett-and-billy-the-kidPat Garrett And Billy The Kid (1973) could be Sam Peckinpah’s most mangled masterpiece — as you know, he had a lot of them. Slim Pickens’ final scene, featuring Katy Jurado and set to Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” gets my vote as the saddest, most moving scene in cinema history. (Quick, Toby, think of something else!)

From Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid‘s troubled shooting — plagued with everything from schedule-busting camera malfunctions to liver-wrecking substance abuse — to its mutilation by MGM and eventual restoration and reappraisal, Seydor’s got a helluva story to tell. As an editor, his insight into the film’s cutting and re-cutting should be worth the cover price alone. His previous book, Peckinpah: The Western Films—A Reconsideration, and documentary, The Wild Bunch: An Album In Montage (1996), show that he knows his way around this subject. Man, I can’t wait!

 

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If you’ve spent much time on this blog, you’ve probably wondered “Why’s this guy so hung up on those Regalscope pictures?” Not so sure myself.

I recently wrote a short piece on them for The Old Corrall at classicflix.com. Click on Charles Bronson, from 1958’s Showdown At Boot Hill, to read it.

And let’s not forget Mark Thomas McGee’s Talk’s Cheap, Action’s Expensive: The Films Of Robert L. Lippert, an excellent book that covers the Regalscope films.

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Lippert

A few weeks ago, I broke my glasses and began relying on an old (pre-trifocals) pair while I scrambled for an eye exam and new frames. Reading became very, very difficult. Not the best time to receive a book you’re really excited about. But that’s exactly when Mark Thomas McGee’s Talk’s Cheap, Action’s Expensive: The Films Of Robert L. Lippert, from BearManor Media, turned up in my mailbox.

Lippert Pictures (and related companies) cranked out cheap little Westerns like 1952’s Outlaw Women, along with gems such as Sam Fuller’s I Shot Jesse James (1949) and The Quiet Gun (1957). (They covered the other genres, too.) I’m a big fan of these films and was determined to make my way through the book with or without spectacles, holding it so close I risked paper cuts on my nose.

McGee set the book up very well. The first 80 pages or so read as a biography and history of Lippert and his career, from the theater business to film production. I had a working knowledge of the Lippert story going in, but was always coming upon something I didn’t know. There’s a filmography, arranged by company, that makes up the bulk of the book. And finally, there’s a listing of the Lippert theaters (the closest to me was in Chattanooga, TN).

red desert HS

What’s not to like about a book like this? It’s packed with information on movies I grew up with, movies I love. Rocketship X-M (1950). The Steel Helmet (1951). Superman And The Mole Men (1951). Forty Guns (1957). Showdown At Boot Hill (1958). The Fly (1958). The Alligator People (1959). House Of The Damned (1963). They’re all in here, and you’ll come away with a better understanding of what went into getting them made. Where I think McGee really excelled was in making sure the book, as informative as it is, stayed as fun as the films it’s about. (The same goes for his previous books on Roger Corman and AIP.)

copper sky

If there’s a downside to this book, it’s that the filmography points out film after film that you’d love to track down and see. You’ll find a lot of them available from Kit Parker Films and VCI, and others scattered here and there. Some of the Fullers were even given the Criterion treatment. As for the rest, well, happy hunting.

It’s very easy to recommend Mark Thomas McGee’s Talk’s Cheap, Action’s Expensive: The Films Of Robert L. Lippert. Now that my new glasses are in, I’m reading it a second time.

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johndoucette-goldtownghost

Directed by George Archainbaud
Produced by Armand Schaefer
Story and Screen Play by Gerald Geraghty
Director of Photography: William Bradford, ASC
Film Editor: James Sweeney, ACE

CAST: Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Gail Davis (Cathy Wheeler), Kirk Riley (Ed Wheeler), Carleton Young (Jim Granby), Denver Pyle, John Doucette.

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Goldtown Ghost Riders is a pretty solid Gene Autry movie, one of six released in 1953, his last year in theaters. Along for the ride are Champion, Smiley Burnette and Gail Davis, still a year or so away from playing Annie Oakley. Support comes from Kirk Riley, Carleton Young, Denver Pyle and John Doucette.

Gene’s a circuit judge looking into fake gold strikes, blackmail and murder in Goldtown — and trying to solve the mystery of the Ghost Riders. (Why didn’t he sing “Ghost Riders In The Sky” in this one?) There’s a bit of a Scooby Doo feel to the whole thing, and it’s quite clever. The bulk of the film is done in flashback, a fairly unusual structure for a B Western. It works pretty well, and if things get a little confusing, there’s plenty of riding, shooting and singing to keep things moving along. What’s interesting is that Gail Davis isn’t involved in all that riding and shooting, playing a pretty typical B Western female lead. As we all know, she was capable of so much more.

home-goldtown-ghost-riders-2-lrg

I really enjoy these later Autry films. Like the Roy Rogers films from the same period, they’re more stripped down and a bit more adult. The fancy outfits have been replaced by more practical stuff. The songs may not be as good, but Gene seems a bit more relaxed in front of the camera. (He should be; he’d made almost 90 movies by this time.) Some of the plots strive for something a little different, and the writers certainly deserve credit for that. (Gerald Geraghty, who wrote this one, cooked up the story for Gene’s first film, the whacked-out and wonderful 1936 serial The Phantom Empire.)

About a decade ago, a large-scale restoration project, working from Autry’s own 16mm and 35mm uncut material, made sure these films would look and sound terrific. So these four-film, two-DVD sets from Timeless Media Group are an easy recommendation. Each film comes with a batch of extras, making them one of the best DVD bargains around. But be warned: they’re a bit like potato chips, you can’t stop at just one!

The 50s Westerns spotlight on Gail Davis will continue. Next up: Overland Telegraph (1951).

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On a somewhat related note: Researching this film, I discovered that the Lewis B. Patten book Gene Autry And The Ghost Riders (1955) was reprinted by Wildside Press. It’s a good young adult Western novel, from the guy who wrote the story Red Sundown (1956) came from.

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