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Archive for the ‘Fred F. Sears’ Category

Directed by Fred F. Sears
Produced by Colbert Clark
Written by Howard J. Green
Director Of Photography: Fayte M. Browne
Film Editor: Paul Borofsky

Cast: Charles Starrett (Steve Martin/The Durango Kid), Smiley Burnette (Smiley), Jack Mahoney (Jack Mahoney), Clayton Moore (The Hawk), Eddie Parker (Skeeter), Jim Diehl (Al Travis), Lane Chandler (George), Syd Saylor (Yank-Em-Out Kennedy), John Cason (Duke), LeRoy Johnson (Smoky), Jack Carry (Pete), Sam Flint (Clark Mahoney)


Have been concentrating on the book, which has kept me kinda absent on here. My recent research has been on the unsung director Fred F. Sears.

Charles Starrett starred in The Durango Kid, in 1940. Columbia didn’t get around to The Return Of The Durango Kid till 1945. By the time the series was shut down in 1952, Columbia had cranked out 65 Durango Kid movies — at which point Starrett retired from movies.

One of the last of the series, The Hawk Of Wild River (1952) has a terrific cast, adding Jock Mahoney and Clayton Moore to the usual Durango roster. Of course, Mahoney had been part of the series for quite a while, doubling for Charles Starrett.

After being replaced by John Hart for the third season of The Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore went back to work as one of the best, and busiest, bad guys in Hollywood. First up was the Republic serial Radar Men From The Moon (1952). In The Hawk Of Wild River, he’s The Hawk, a half-breed bandit who’s as proficient with a bow and arrow as he is with a six-gun.

This time around, US Marshal Steve Martin (Charles Starrett) is sent to the town of Wild River to stop a run of stagecoach robberies by The Hawk and his gang. The Hawk has been killing off Wild River’s sheriffs as fast as they can pin a badge on ’em. When Steve hits town, the acting sheriff is Jack Mahoney (Jock Mahoney). The Durango Kid captures The Hawk and once he’s in jail, Martin gets himself arrested and thrown into The Hawk’s cell, never revealing that he’s a Federal man. They escape and Martin joins The Hawk’s gang — and with the help of his alter ego, The Durango Kid, eventually bring the outlaws to justice.

Along the way, Smiley Burnette is hypnotized and convinced he’s a “heap big” Indian chief. And as always happens with these things, he comes close to screwing up Martin’s plans.

Running just 53 minutes, The Hawk Of Wild River is a pretty typical Durango Kid movie, clearly aimed at kids. The usual things are in place: Smiley doing his silly stuff, Starrett donning his Durango outfit (and riding Raider) and lots of riding and fighting and shooting. Director Fred F. Sears keeps it moving at a quick pace, and director of photography Fayte Browne makes it all look like a million bucks. The Iverson Ranch is really used well in this one.

Fred F. Sears started out working as a character actor and dialogue director on the Durango Kid pictures and eventually climbed into the director’s chair. From there, he became a fixture in Sam Katzman’s unit at Columbia until he died in his office on the lot in 1957 (with eight films still awaiting release). It’s a real shame he never got a bigger budget or longer schedule.

Stuntman and actor Eddie Parker plays Skeeter. The next year, he’d play Mr. Hyde in Abbott & Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1953) and the Mummy in Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy (1955). The guy’s in about anything you can think of.

The Hawk Of Wild River is one of the 10 movies in Mill Creek’s budget-friendly two-disc setThe Durango Kid Collection. The transfer looks wonderful — with this one and the other nine films. It’s a nice little set, and it comes highly recommended. (Wish they’d get around to a volume two!)

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Fred F. Sears
(July 7, 1913 – November 30, 1957)

Director Fred F. Sears was born 108 years ago today. He also worked as a character actor, and he’s the officer on the left in this lobby card from Fort Savage Raiders (1951). While this picture was directed by Ray Nazarro, Sears directed quite a few of the later Durango Kid pictures.

When that series shut down, Sears signed on with Sam Katzman’s unit (today’s his birthday, too) and made quite a few films before his untimely death in 1957.

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A while back, I asked for Want Lists of the 50s Westerns still lost on the high-def trail. Here they are, presented in chronological order. The titles in bold are the ones that were brought up most frequently.

With the recent news about Fox/Disney’s lack of interest in their back catalogs appearing on shiny silver circles, getting this finished and posted seemed very timely. Many of these, mind you, haven’t even turned up on DVD yet.

The Virginian (1946)
Albuquerque (1948)
Coroner Creek (1948)
Whispering Smith (1948)
3 Godfathers (1949)
Colorado Territory (1949)

Hellfire (1949)
Streets Of Laredo (1949)
Ambush (1950)
Branded (1950)
Devil’s Doorway (1950)
The Nevadan (1950)
Saddle Tramp (1950)
Short Grass (1950)
Showdown (1950)

Trail Of Robin Hood (1950)
Across The Wide Missouri (1951)
Along The Great Divide (1951)
Apache Drums (1951)
Best Of The Badmen (1951)
The Great Missouri Raid (1951)
Inside Straight (1951)
Man In The Saddle (1951)
Red Mountain (1951)
The Redhead And The Cowboy (1951)
The Secret Of Convict Lake (1951)
The Texas Rangers (1951)
Westward The Women (1951)

Vengeance Valley (1951)
Warpath (1951)
The Big Sky (1952)
Bugles In The Afternoon (1952)

Hangman’s Knot (1952)
The Lawless Breed (1952)
The Lusty Men (1952)
The Naked Spur (1952)
Ride The Man Down (1952)
The Savage (1952)
The Story Of Will Rogers (1952)
Untamed Frontier (1952)
Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953)
Charge At Feather River (1953)
City Of Bad Men (1953)
Devil’s Canyon {1953)
Escape From Fort Bravo (1953)
The Great Sioux Uprising (1953)
Jack McCall, Desperado (1953)
Last Of The Comanches (1953)
The Last Posse (1953)
The Silver Whip (1953)
The Stranger Wore A Gun (1953)
Wings Of The Hawk (1953)

Tumbleweed (1953)
Apache (1954)
The Bounty Hunter (1954)
Cattle Queen Of Montana (1954)
The Command (1954)
Dawn At Socorro (1954)
The Law Vs. Billy The Kid (1954)
The Outcast (1954)
Ride Clear Of Diablo (1954)
Silver Lode (1954)
Wyoming Renegades (1954)
The Yellow Tomahawk (1954)
At Gunpoint (1955)
Chief Crazy Horse (1955)
The Last Frontier (1955)
The Man From Bitter Ridge (1955)
Shotgun (1955)
Smoke Signal (1955)
Tennessee’s Partner (1955)
The Violent Men (1955)
Wichita (1955)
Backlash (1956)

Dakota Incident (1956)
Fastest Gun Alive (1956)
Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956)
Great Day In The Morning (1956)
The Last Wagon (1956)
The Lone Ranger (1956)
The Maverick Queen (1956)
Reprisal! (1956)
Seven Men From Now (1956)
Stagecoach To Fury (1956)
Tribute To A Bad Man (1956)
Copper Sky (1957)
Domino Kid (1957)

Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957)
Hell Canyon Outlaws (1957)
From Hell To Texas (1958)
Frontier Gun (1958)
The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold (1958)
Face Of A Fugitive (1959)
Last Train From Gun Hill (1959)
No Name On The Bullet (1959)
Thunder In The Sun (1959)
Yellowstone Kelly (1959)
The Alamo (1960)
Hell Bent For Leather (1960)
Cheyenne Autumn (1964)
Firecreek (1968)
Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (1973)

As this was being compiled, a few titles actually made their way to Blu-Ray, one of them being the exquisite new Wagon Master (1950) from Warner Archive.

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Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Rory Calhoun, Susan Cummings, Angela Stevens, Max Baer, Ray Teal

Sidonis out of France has announced the upcoming DVD (only) release of Utah Blaine (1957), a picture that brings together Rory Calhoun, producer Sam Katzman and director Fred F. Sears to bring a Louis L’Amour novel to the screen. By the way, Angela Stevens was in a number of Katzman pictures, including Creature With The Atom Brain and the Jungle Jim movie Devil Goddess (both 1955).

Calhoun made a number of pictures for Columbia, often having a hand in the production himself. This was his only time working with Jungle Sam’s unit — cats like Fred Sears and DP Benjamin Kline who take the finished picture far beyond what Katzman had in his budget. Of late, Sidonis has stayed clear of the forced (as in you can’t get rid of ’em) subtitles that plagued some of their earlier DVDs. This should be 1.85, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again. Coming in September.

UPDATE: Word is, the subtitles can be removed.

Thanks to John Knight for the reminder.

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When I started doing DVD and Blu-Ray commentaries, it no longer felt appropriate to survey the best 50s Westerns DVD and Blu-Ray releases for the year. So, as a substitute (maybe a poor one), here’s a reminder of a few things we were treated to this year — and we’ll let all the praise, complaints or ranking come from you in the comments. Part 2 can be found next door at The Hannibal 8.

2018 didn’t see a lot of 50s Westerns turn up on DVD, but what turned up was certainly worthwhile.

The Durango Kid Collection
Mill Creek has come through with some terrific multi-picture sets over the last few years. They’re often Columbia pictures, and many have been available already as MOD releases, but they look great, the prices can’t be beat, and they’re big space savers as we watch our collections gobble up our square footage. The Durango Kid movies are fun, and this set gave me an excuse to really wallow in them for a while.

The Fastest Guns Of The West: The William Castle Western Collection
Another Mill Creek set, this offers up eight William Castle Westerns, most of them done for Sam Katzman. This was very eagerly awaited around here, and many of us are hoping for a second volume.

The True Story Of Jesse James (1957)
Twilight Time gave The True Story Of Jesse James a Blu-Ray release, giving us all a great opportunity to re-assess this Nicholas Ray picture — which was mangled by 20th Century-Fox. CinemaScope really benefits from 1080 presentation, and Ray is known for his great use of ‘Scope.

Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher & Randolph Scott At Columbia
It was about time somebody got around to the Ranown cycle in true high definition. So, where’s Seven Men From Now (1956)?

A Man Alone (1955)
This under-appreciated Ray Milland Western got a thorough restoration from Paramount — and a nice DVD and Blu-Ray release from Kino Lorber. It even played at the Museum Of Modern Art.

So there’s a few to get us going. What Western DVD and Blu-Ray releases stood out to you this year?

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Director Fred F. Sears with the cast of Apache Ambush (1955).

Fred F. Sears
(July 7, 1913 – November 30, 1957)

Can’t remember the first time I noticed the name Fred F. Sears. Growing up a monster kid, I’m gonna guess it was a local-TV airing of either Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers or The Werewolf (both 1956).

Years later, when I began my deep dive into 50 Westerns, it quickly became obvious that Sears could lift his Westerns out of the budgetary basement to create something special. Like the terrific Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956).

Frederick Francis Sears was born 105 years ago today in Boston. After years in regional theater and teaching drama at Southwestern University in Memphis, he headed to Hollywood — and wound up at Columbia as a bit actor and dialogue director. While working on some of Durango Kid pictures (usually as a bad guy), he got to know Charles Starrett. He directed one of the Durango Kids, Desert Vigilante (1949), and eventually pretty much took over the series.

Fred F. Sears and Joan Taylor working on Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1957).

Sears became a preferred director for Sam Katzman, whose quickie unit at Columbia cranked out serials and genre pictures at a frantic pace. He spent the rest of his career at Columbia (except for one freelance gig, 1958’s Badman’s Country). From crime pictures to horror movies to Westerns, Sears’ ability to get ’em done on time and on budget served him well. Quality wasn’t much of a concern wit Katzman, but Sears always managed to provide some anyway. Today he’s known for Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956), a picture that benefits from remarkable stop-motion animation from Ray Harryhausen, and The Giant Claw (1957), a film completely scuttled by some of the worst special effects in Hollywood history. But Fury At Gunsight Pass and The Werewolf (1956) are near-perfect examples of how good low-budget genre filmmaking can be.

Fred F. Sears died in his office at Columbia on November 30, 1957, with eight pictures waiting for release. He was 44.

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Directed by Fred F. Sears
Screenplay by David Lang and Martin Berkeley
Story by David Lang
Director Of Photography: Henry Freulich
Film Editors: Al Clark and James Sweeney

Cast: Philip Carey (Wade Harper), Roberta Haynes (Paris), Wallace Ford (McBride), Richard Webb (Ace Eliot), Lee Van Cleef (Reno), Maurice Jara (Wingfoot), Regis Toomey (Col. Markham), Jay Silverheels (Spotted Bear), Pat Hogan (Yellow Knife), Frank Fenton, Dennis Weaver

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Figured it was time for another Fred F. Sears movie. A few years ago, I assigned myself the task of doing a post on each of Sears’ Westerns (I’m not counting the Durango Kids he directed). When those are done, the plan is to focus on his non-Western movies on my other blog.

Columbia was cranking out 3-D movies like crazy in the height of the ’53-54 stereoscopic craze. One of the bigger ones was Raoul Walsh’s Gun Fury (1953) starring Rock Hudson, Donna Reed and a terrific supporting cast.

Phil Carey and Roberta Haynes were part of that cast, and as soon as they finished the Walsh picture, they were put to work on The Nebraskan (1953).

Carey’s a cavalry scout who gets caught up in a standoff with the Sioux when he won’t turn over Wingfoot (Maurice Jara), who’s been accused of murdering chief Thundercloud. With them are a gambler Ace (Richard Webb) and saloon girl Paris (Roberta Haynes) — Carey used to have a thing going with Paris — and the murderous Reno (Lee Van Cleef), who’s escaped from the brig.

They take refuge in Wallace Ford’s way station, fighting off wave after wave of Indians — along with Reno’s repeated attempts to get loose and Ace turning out to be a sniveling coward.

The small-group-under-siege-in-a-small-space part hints at Hangman’s Knot (1952), and the Indian attacks remind me of Apache Drums (1951). This approach keeps the limited budget from being too much of a hindrance.

Wallace Ford is terrific, as always, as the grumpy ex-cavalryman. Lee Van Cleef is a real bad dude in this one. The scene where he strangles the guard at the brig is pretty tough stuff. Phil Carey’s OK and Roberta Haynes gets to look pretty and load guns. Speaking of that, it was good to see the loading of weapons treated somewhat realistically.

I came across a news article on the film that said Maurice Jara also owned a restaurant in Pamona, Casa Ramirez.

What I liked about The Nebraskan is pretty much the same thing I’ve said about all the other Fred Sears pictures — the high level of craftsmanship and efficiency he brings to these things. You can tell the cast and crew were professionals, committed to making the best they could of the material, budget and schedule. That goes a long, long way with these things.

The Nebraskan was shot in Technicolor and 3-D by Henry Freulich — some of it at the Corrigan Ranch. It was intended to be cropped to 1.85. The picture got a DVD-R release from Columbia’s Choice Collection. It looked great but was presented full-frame. It’d make a swell candidate for one of those Mill Creek sets.

TheNebraskan isn’t as good as the two pictures I compared it to, Hangman’s Knot and Apache Drums. But that doesn’t stop me from recommending it, or any of Fred F. Sears’ work.

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Was looking for images for a couple posts I was working on and found an ad where they played as a double feature (in Long Beach in December of 1953).

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Mill Creek has announced a 10-movie set of Durango Kid movies. Some, if not all, of these have been available before, but who cares?

Charles Starrett starred in The Durango Kid, in 1940. Columbia didn’t get around to The Return Of The Durango Kid till 1945. Making up for lost time, Columbia cranked out 62 more Durango Kid pictures before shutting down the series in 1952 — at which point Starrett retired from movies.

The Fighting Frontiersman (1946)
Directed by Derwin Abrahams
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Helen Mowery

Blazing Across The Pecos (1948)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Charles Wilson

Laramie (1949)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Fred F. Sears

Trail Of The Rustlers (1950)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Gail Davis, Tommy Ivo

Streets Of Ghost Town (1950)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Mary Ellen Kay, George Chesebro

Lightning Guns (1950)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Gloria Henry, Jock Mahoney

Snake River Desperadoes (1951)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Don Reynolds, Tommy Ivo

Bonanza Town (1951)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Fred F. Sears, Myron Healey, Robert J. Wilke

The Hawk Of Wild River (1952)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Jock Mahoney, Clayton Moore

The Kid From Broken Gun (1952)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Jock Mahoney
Charles Starrett’s final appearance as The Durango Kid. Actually, his last movie, period.

This is a great collection at an incredible price, just $14.98. Remember, Sony’s Columbia Classics Collection, or whatever it’s called, was pricing these things at $20 apiece! Highly recommended.

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Here’s a batch of behind-the scenes photos to help wrap up 2016.

Let’s start with Maria Elena Marques and John Derek on the set of Fred F. Sears’ Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953).

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Next is Edith Head, Jeff Chandler and Melvin Frank going over costumes for The Jayhawkers! (1959).

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Here’s Satchel Page and Robert Rossen at work on The Wonderful Country (1959).

Fort Dobbs BTS

Then there’s Virginia Mayo and Clint Walker shooting Fort Dobbs (1958).

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