Archive for the ‘Books’ Category


In a way, this is more a thank you note than a review.

Company Of Heroes: My Life As An Actor In The John Ford Stock Company by Harry Carey, Jr. is one of the best of the many books written about John Ford. I’ll even go so far as naming it one of the best books on making movies, period. To have it back in print, from Taylor Trade Publishing, is something to celebrate.

What makes it so good? Harry Carey, Jr. (or Ol’ Dobe, as he was called) was there. When he tells the John Ford stories we’ve heard before — the torture, the bullying, the hidden soft side, etc. — it’s with a depth that’s missing from all the other books (unless they quote from this one). His descriptions of Ford, from his dangling shirt sleeves to his body language, will ultimately add to your appreciation of his work.

Carey covers all the Ford films he appeared in, from 3 Godfathers (1948, shown below) to Cheyenne Autumn (1964), serving in Ford’s Navy film unit, and their personal relationship that spanned from Carey’s birth — Ford and Carey Sr. got drunk while Olive Carey was in labor — to Ford’s death in 1973. He pulls no punches, especially the ones aimed at himself, and relates everything in an easygoing style that feels like he’s telling you these things face-to-face. It’s very funny, often touching, a quick read — and I wish it was twice as long.

The new paperback edition has an prologue from Carey’s children. They seem as happy to have it back in print as I am. If you don’t have the 1992 Scarecrow edition, by all means get this one. Absolutely essential.

Screen shot 2014-01-02 at 5.07.26 PM

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john wayne 9

Paula has passed along some great news — Company Of Heroes: My Life As An Actor In The John Ford Stock Company by Harry Carey, Jr. will be back in print in December.

It’s one of the best books ever written on making movies, and it’s absolutely essential for fans of John Ford, John Wayne or 50s Westerns. Original hardback copies go for pretty big money, especially if you come across a signed one, so this paperback edition will certainly be welcome.

By the way, Carey’s chapter on filming The Searchers (1956) has been added to a recent paperback edition of Alan LeMay’s original novel. A very smart move on someone’s part.

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Allan Dwan sketch cropped

Director Allan Dwan’s career was as old as the Movies themselves, and many of the early technical developments were his doing. Going into the mid-50s, he was still making innovative, unique, personal films — usually for smaller studios that would leave him alone and let him do what he did best.

I went Wig City over Allan Dwan’s films of 50s, thanks to DVDs of his work from VCI, and that helped spawn this blog. So I was really stoked to hear about The Museum of Modern Art’s Dwan series — which will include several of those Westerns.

From the MoMA web site: The Museum of Modern Art presented a major retrospective of Dwan’s films in 1971, with Dwan in attendance, and while another exhibition was certainly due after 42 years, this series was prompted by the publication of Frederic Lombardi’s definitive study of Dwan’s work, Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the of the Hollywood Studios (McFarland, 2013).

If you can make it to any of these, by all means do so. The Westerns are:

June 14-15, 18
Frontier Marshal (1939)
With Randolph Scott, Nancy Kelly, Cesar Romero, John Carradine, Ward Bond.
This was once almost impossible to see (the bootleg tape I had of it was impossible to see). Another take on the O.K. Corral story. I prefer Randolph Scott with more age on him, but this is a really cool film.


June 24-25
Woman They Almost Lynched (1953)
With Audrey Totter, Joan Leslie, John Lund, Brian Donlevy, Ben Cooper.
Dwan made a string of films for Republic that are worth seeking out (Olive Films, you reading this?), with Sands Of Iwo Jima (1949) being the best known. Dwan approaches this as a spoof — evidently, he didn’t see any other way — and the results are terrific.

June 29-30
The Restless Breed (1957)
With Scott Brady, Anne Bancroft, Jim Davis, Scott Marlowe, Evelyn Rudie.
Dwan’s last Western. A revenge tale gets a light comic touch.

Picture 45

July 3,5
Tennessee’s Partner (1955)
With John Payne, Rhonda Fleming, Ronald Reagan, Coleen Gray.
John Alton’s Superscope cinematography almost steals the show, making the Iverson Ranch look like the most beautiful place on earth.

July 3, 6
Silver Lode (1954)
With John Payne, Dan Duryea, Lizabeth Scott, Harry Carey, Jr.
A key 5os Western, and the damnedest McCarthy comment you’ve ever seen. Again, Alton and his cameras roam the ranches of Hollywood to amazing results.

Be sure to look at the complete listing. I highly recommend Slightly Scarlet (1956), an incredible Technicolor, Superscope film noir shot by John Alton.

Thanks to Stephen Bowie.

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John Ford didn’t have much interest in discussing his creative process. Anybody who’s read a book or two on him knows he downplayed his incredible artistry (and sentimentality) at every turn, preferring to fall back on his reputation (deserved) as a mean old man who happened to make great movies.

Ford’s greatest collaborator, John Wayne, worked very hard to look like he wasn’t working at all. The fact that so many today think of Wayne as more a personality than an actor shows how well he succeeded.

Ward Bond was a natural, plain and simple. Over 200 films and a TV series, Wagon Train, certainly benefited from his style (or lack of style).

942276_10152879710740495_1097840882_nThe politics of these three men were as varied as their approach to their craft, but they formed a fast friendship that lasted for decades — from Wayne and Bond playing football at USC in the late 20s to Bond’s death in 1960 and on to Ford’s passing in 1973. It’s a sort of father-sons relationship that just happens to include some of the finest films ever made.

If you’re a frequenter of this blog, you’ve probably got shelves loaded with books on Ford and Wayne. Some are indispensable, some are good, some aren’t so hot but maybe contain a still you can’t live without. I’d put Three Bad Men in the indispensable stack.

What Scott Allen Nollen does that sets Three Bad Men apart is use Bond’s biography (which has never been tackled before, to my knowledge) as the backbone on which the rest of the book hangs. Nollen covers the films they made together, along with the pictures that came between them. The book really benefits from this larger context, from the ups and downs of their individual careers (Wayne’s picture before The Searchers was The Conqueror; Bond went from My Darling Clementine straight to It’s A Wonderful Life) to the irony of Ford’s later years, when Wayne’s superstardom and Bond’s TV success made it harder for Pappy to line up his cast — when he could get a project off the ground.

ward-bond-jfAs with most books about these men, tales of drinking and mischief fly fast and furious, along with valuable insight into their working relationship. Nollen strikes an almost perfect balance between the meticulously researched and the engagingly told. I found this a fun, fast, enlightening read — up there with the Bogdanovich book. (Some sections have already seen a second pass.) My only complaint: I would’ve liked another 20-30 pages on They Were Expendable (1945). Inspired by this book, I’m planning a Ford/Wayne/Bond binge, beginning with the Blu-ray of The Sun Shines Bright (1953).

Three Bad Men: John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond by Scott Allen Nollen, foreword by Michael A Hoey

398 pages Published 2013 by McFarland & Company, Inc  – ISBN 978-0-7864-5854-7

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Lee Marvin
(February 19, 1924 – August 29, 1987)

Finally seeing Budd Boetticher’s Seven Men From Now (1956) set me off down the trail that would lead to this blog and its book-in-progress namesake. It’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, Western or otherwise.

A huge part of the film’s success is our birthday boy, Lee Marvin. With scenes like the one above, there was no way he was going to remain a character actor. And as we all know, and as films like The Professionals (1966) and Point Blank (1967) prove, he wouldn’t stay one for long.

This’d be a good day (especially since it’s raining here in Raleigh) to curl up on the sofa with that new Marvin biography.




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Searchers book

Here’s a book I’m looking forward to, The Searchers: Making Of An American Legend by Glenn Frankel. It covers the connection between an actual abduction case (Cynthia Ann Parker was taken by the Comanches when she was nine), Alan LeMay’s novel and, of course, what it often held up as the greatest Western ever made, John Ford’s The Searchers (1956).

Glenn Frankel is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and his former employer, The Washington Post, likes his book. Their review is here. An earlier piece on The Searchers can be found on his website.

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Here’s one I’m really looking forward to — Lee Marvin: Point Blank by Dwayne Epstein.

His later career as a leading man certainly overshadowed his work in 50s Westerns, but he left a huge mark on whatever 50s cowboy picture he was in — Hangman’s Knot (1952), Gun Fury (1953), The Raid (1954), Pillars Of The Sky (1956), Seven Men From Now (1956). So many good ones.

There have been books on Marvin in the past, but none have impressed me much. And working on this blog (and the related book), I’ve certainly looked. This one from Schaffner Press looks promising.

The author, Dwayne Epstein, is out on the road with the book these days, a tour that includes an appearance at Savannah College Of Art And Design on January 31, where his talk will be followed by a screening of John Boorman’s incredible Point Blank (1967), one of my favorites.

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Spending some quality time with my One-Eyed Jacks book this morning, thanks to my understanding, encouraging family and a fabulous crew of commenters (you know who you are) who help keep this blog chugging along, even when I ignore it for a day or two. Thanks to you all.

Hope you all have a nice, fun, safe New Year’s Eve. You can bet that when I start resolution-ing tonight, many of them will involve writing about cowboy movies.

* A reference to the tell-all book of the same name by Anna Brando (Marlon’s wife/ex-wife during the production of One-Eyed Jacks). It’s value as a source for my book is pretty questionable.

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Coming next week (December 4) is a book that could very well be a must for folks who mosey through this blog: John Wayne: The Legend And The Man. Put together by John Wayne Enterprises, this estate-authorized book features photos and personal memorabilia from every part of Wayne’s incredible life and career. It also includes an essay by Patricia Bosworth, a foreword by Martin Scorsese, remembrances by Maureen O’Hara and Ronald Reagan and an interview with Ron Howard.

Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. You can get order one here.

IMAGES: From John Wayne: The Legend And The Man by John Wayne Enterprises, published by powerHouse Books.

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Came across this book cover today: The Little Big Book The Lone Ranger Outwits Crazy Cougar. Written by George S. Elrick, who wrote a lot of these things, it was published by Whitman in 1968. I read this over and over as a kid — and I’m thinking it’s time to revisit it over Thanksgiving.

Anybody else ever read this?

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