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Archive for the ‘Dan Duryea’ Category

Pillars Of The Sky HS sized

New York’s 92nd Street Y is hosting a class on Westerns of the 50s. Hosted by Kurt Brokaw, Associate Teaching Professor at The New School and senior film critic of The Independent magazine, it’s got a really terrific roster of films. The classes are Tuesday nights, beginning April 14, with two films each night.

Man, I wish I could get to this.

Week 1
Broken Lance
(1954) Directed by Edward Dmytryk, starring Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner, Jean Peters, Richard Widmark, Katy Jurado
The Badlanders (1956) Directed by Delmer Daves, starring Alan Ladd, Ernest Borgnine, Katy Jurado

Week 2
Saddle The Wind
(1958) Directed by Robert Parrish, starring Robert Taylor, Julie London, John Cassavetes
Dawn At Socorro (1954) Directed by George Sherman, starring Rory Calhoun and Piper Laurie

Week 3
Pillars Of The Sky
(1956) Directed by George Marshall, starring Jeff Chandler, Dorothy Malone, Ward Bond, Lee Marvin
Backlash (1956) Directed by John Sturges, starring Richard Widmark, Donna Reed, William Campbell, John McIntire

Diablo TC

Week 4
Ride Clear Of Diablo
(1954) Directed by Jesse Hibbs, starring Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, Susan Cabot
The Outriders (1950) Directed by Roy Rowland, starring Joel McCrea, Arlene Dahl, James Whitmore, Barry Sullivan

Week 5
Back To God’s Country
(1953) Directed by Joseph Pevney, starring Rock Hudson, Marcia Henderson, Steve Cochran, Hugh O’Brien
Black Horse Canyon (1954) Directed by Jesse Hibbs, starring Joel McCrea and Mari Blanchard

Week 6
Seven Men From Now
(1956) Directed by Budd Boetticher, starring Randolph Scott, Gail Russell, Lee Marvin, Walter Reed
Gun Fury (1953) Directed by Raoul Walsh, starring Rock Hudson, Donna Reed, Philip Carey, Lee Marvin

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Directed by Allan Dwan
Screen Play by Steve Fisher
Photographed by Reggie Lanning
Film Editor: Fred Allen, ACE
Special Effects: Howard and Theodore Lydecker

CAST: John Lund (Lance Horton), Brian Donlevy (Charles Quantrill), Audrey Totter (Kate Quantrill/Kitty McCoy), Joan Leslie (Sally Maris), Ben Cooper (Jesse James), Nina Varela (Mayor Delilah Courtney), Jim Davis (Cole Younger), Reed Hadley (Bitterroot Bill Maris), Frank Ferguson.

Allan Dwan approached Woman They Almost Lynched (1953) as a parody. As he told Peter Bogdanovich, “If you treat that seriously, where would you be?”

Released a few months before Nick Ray’s Johnny Guitar (1954), and from the same studio, Republic, Dwan’s picture is just as personal. To me, it feels like he’s trying to see just how much he could get away with, really biting the hand that was feeding him. Maybe he was. His time at Republic was almost up, and he’d soon begin a terrific run with producer Benedict Bogeaus.

Olive Films has announced Woman They Almost Lynched for DVD and Blu-ray release in January. It’s good to see Olive come through with another key Republic title. As a huge fan of Dwan’s late-period work, I’d put this on the esential list. (At the same time, Robert Aldrich’s World For Ransom, released by Allied Artists in 1954 and starring Dan Duryea, will hit the streets.)

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Robert Wagner and Virginia Leith on location for White Feather (1955). For some reason, this Delmer Daves-scripted picture has been overlooked. Seek it out.

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Barbara Stanwyck and Allan Dwan chat between scenes on Cattle Queen Of Montana (1954). Dwan could do no wrong during this late phase of his incredible career.

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Dan Duryea and Audie Murphy hanging out while making Ride Clear Of Diablo (1954). Both were at the top of their game on this one.

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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.

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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.

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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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Rails Into Laramie TC

Thanks to everyone who entered the 50s Western Matte Painting Contest. Unfortunately, there was no winner.

The image (seen below) was from Rails Into Laramie (1954), a good Universal-International Western directed by Jesse Hibbs. As is typical of films from this period, there is no credit of any kind for the matte work.

If you get a chance to see Rails Into Laramie, I recommend it. James H. Griffith, one of my favorite character actors, has a good-sized part — and John Payne was on a real roll in the mid-50s.

Of all the entries I received, John Knight came closest. He was pretty sure it was a Universal-International picture.

Matte Painting

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Here’s something that’ll add another day or two to our current Anthony Mann/James Stewart/Dan Duryea fixation.

Anthony Mann’s Winchester ’73 (1950) is one of the first, and best, of the 50s Westerns. It’s one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen. And it’s playing in 35mm at Emory University in Atlanta.

Winchester ’73
White Hall, Emory University
Atlanta, GA

March 27, 1913
7:30 PM

Thanks for the tip, Paula.

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Night Passage premiere SLC

Directed by James Neilson
Produced by Aaron Rosenberg
Screenplay by Borden Chase
Based on a story by Norman A. Fox
Director Of Photography: William Daniels, ASC
Music composed and conducted by Dimitri Tiomkin
Film Editor: Sherman Todd, ACE

CAST: James Stewart (Grant McLaine), Audie Murphy (The Utica Kid), Dan Duryea (Whitey Harbin), Dianne Foster (Charlotte Drew), Elaine Stewart (Verna Kimball), Brandon de Wilde (Joey Adams), Jay C. Flippen (Ben Kimball), Herbert Anderson (Will Renner), Robert J. Wilke (Concho), Hugh Beaumont (Jeff Kurth), Jack Elam (Shotgun), Tommy Cook (Howdy Sladen), Paul Fix (Mr. Feeney), Olive Carey (Miss Vittles), James Flavin (Tim Riley), Donald Curtis (Jubilee), Ellen Corby (Mrs. Feeney), John Day (Latigo).

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Over the three-year life of this blog, few topics have generated the level of response as a recent post — nothing more than a few production photos, really — on Night Passage (1957). It’s a film with quite a history, and that history has affected its reputation to a large degree.

That history, in a nutshell. By the time Night Passage came around, James Stewart and Anthony Mann had collaborated on some of the greatest Westerns of all time (I’ll assume you know what those are). Stewart proposed Night Passage as their next film. And while there are numerous variations on how it came about (and which I will outline in my book if the film makes the cut), Mann did not end up directing the picture. That job went to James Neilson, a TV director and former still photographer making his feature debut on a very grand scale. (What a thankless task: there was no way this film wouldn’t be compared to the Mann-Stewart films.)

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Producer Aaron Rosenberg: “I think Jim had grown tired of playing the anti-hero — the man with hate in his heart and a rage that leads him to violence.”**

Grant McLaine (Stewart) is a former railroad trouble shooter reduced to playing the accordion for tips. He’s re-hired to escort the payroll to the track’s end — the workers are plenty tired of having their pay stolen by Whitey Harbin (Dan Duryea) and The Utica Kid (Audie Murphy). Along the way, Stewart comes into contact with a number of people from his past — including his brother, The Uttica Kid. To go much further might spoil some of the fun.

The story is pretty simple, but Borden Chase’s script feels a bit over-plotted. Every character seems to have some kind of history with the others, bringing up relationships that don’t really impact the story. Of course, throughout the picture, we’re awaiting the meeting between Stewart and Murphy — the advertising was built around it — and our patience is certainly rewarded. Their scenes together are terrific, with Stewart trying to save his little brother’s soul and Murphy torn between the two sides of his personality. It all concludes with a well-staged shootout at a deserted mine.

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The first film in Technirama — basically, VistaVision squeezed anamorphically to combine improved clarity and depth with the full Scope width — and shot around Durango, Colorado, Night Passage is a truly gorgeous thing to behold. William Daniels’ photography gives the picture a real epic feel, and avoids the tighter shots a TV director like Neilson tends to gravitate towards. It seems like the bulk of the film takes place outdoors, and the location work was grueling.

Dianne Foster: “That was a hard picture to do. We started in late autumn and were trying to get out by winter because snowfall would have changed the landscape, so we were on a tight schedule. We had trucks with oxygen masks and cots in them, set up like a mini-hospital… We would do a sequence and then get so winded and exhausted that we’d have to go lay down for a while, get some oxygen and then go back in and finish the scene… the schedule stretched from weeks into months, and in the end we still had to shoot some scenes with rear projection in the studio.”*

Night Passage Duryea Murphy

Along with its grand scale, action sequences and startling location work, the performances really stand out in Night Passage. Stewart is as good as ever, though his part isn’t as troubled, or flashy, as in the Mann films. He’s at his best in the touching, pivotal scene with Audie Murphy. This may be the best performance of Murphy’s career. From his enjoyment in taunting Duryea to his powerful scene with Stewart, everything he does rings true. It’s a complex part and he nails it.

The way Dan Duryea plays Whitey is rather odd. The character is a bit under-developed, which may have led Duryea to play it broadly, and loudly — he screams every line. But his scenes with Murphy, as the Utica Kid needles Whitey, are tense and funny. Elaine Stewart and Dianne Foster don’t have much to do, but do it well.

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The supporting cast is terrific: Jay C. Flippen, Brandon de Wilde, Hugh Beaumont, Jack Elam, Robert J. Wilke, Paul Fix, Olive Carey and Ellen Corby. And Dimitri Tiomkin’s score is as excellent as you’d expect.

Night Passage delivers on everything it promises, and it’s time for it to come out from the sizable shadow created by its older brothers, the Mann-Stewart films. Kinda like the Utica Kid.

To promote Night Passage, Murphy made an appearance in Salt Lake City before its premiere on July 18, 1957, touching on his PTSD in a newspaper interview. Stewart hit the road for the picture as well, and he never worked with Anthony Mann again.

Suggested reading: the comments from my previous Night Passage post, along with the excellent write-ups on it at Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings and Riding The High Country.

SOURCES:
* Last Of The Cowboy Heroes by Robert Nott; ** Jimmy Stewart: The Truth Behind The Legend by Michael Munn.

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