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Archive for the ‘Gail Davis’ Category

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Directed by John English
Screen Play by Gerald Geraghty
Story by Alan James
Director Of Photography: William Bradford
Film Editor: James Sweeney

Cast: Gene Autry (Himself), Gail Davis (Dell Middler), Jim Davis (Wade McQuarrie), Bob Steele (Walt Middler), Pat Buttram (Pat “Cougar” Claggett), Terry Frost (Wyatt), Edgar Dearing (Colonel Middler), Paul Frees (Narrator)

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Silver Canyon (1951) is an interesting late-period Gene Autry movie. It’s a Civil War picture, with Jim Davis playing Wade McQuarrie, a Quantrill-like Confederate guerilla. McQuarrie’s wreaking havoc on the Union’s supply lines and Army scout Autry is sent to sort it all out.

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These later Autry’s give up a song or two to make room for more action, a trend with most Singing Cowboy pictures from this period. This one even tosses in a lynch mob for good measure.

You get the usual Autry cast from this period — Gail Davis and Pat Buttram — with the added benefit of Jim Davis as the stylish, ruthless guerrilla leader — and Bob Steele as a Confederate sympathizer who gets mixed up with the raiders. As we’ve all said around here a million times, it’s often the roster of character actors who take these things up a notch, and that’s the case here. Factor in the great Paul Frees as narrator, and this one stands out among Gene’s later pictures.

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Gene Autry always surrounded himself with real pros, usually folks he’d worked with time and time again. From John English to Gerald Geraghty to William Bradford, and from the Iverson Ranch to Pioneertown, this would’ve been a very familiar undertaking for all concerned — including those of us watching it.

Silver Canyon is another example of the care that’s gone into preserving Autry’s movies. The Image DVD is terrific, with the usual lineup of extras. It has not been re-issued as part of the four-picture sets from Timeless Media Group.

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Directed by John English
Written by Norman S. Hall
Director Of Photography: William Bradford
Film Editor: James Sweeney

Cast: Gene Autry (Himself), Gail Davis (Melody Colton), Kirby Grant (Lt. Randolph Mason), James H. Griffith (The Apache Kid), Philip Van Zandt (Curt Reidler), Pat Buttram (Shadrach Jones), Champion

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This might put me in the minority, but I prefer Gene Autry’s later pictures. Could be for any number of reasons. His acting’s better. There’s a greater emphasis on action. Gail Davis is often around. And some actually take place in the Old West.

Indian Territory capture 1Case in point: 1950’s Indian Territory. Autry’s a Confederate veteran serving with the U.S. cavalry now that the war’s over. He’s been sent to get to the bottom of Indian attacks on settlers — and ends up tangling with The Apache Kid (James H. Griffith) and an Austrian gunrunner (Philip Van Zandt). With the help of sidekick Shadrach Jones (Pat Buttram) and the daughter of a local rancher (Gail Davis), Gene restores order to Apache Springs.

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The supporting cast can really make a movie like this, and this one is certainly no exception. James H. Griffith wouldn’t be my top-of-mind pick to portray an Apache renegade, but he’s so good, you have no trouble looking past that. Gail Davis displays some of the spunk that made her Annie Oakley series (produced by Gene’s company) such a treat. And Pat Buttram’s sidekick role doesn’t feel nailed onto the story as is so often the case.

Indian Territory was filmed around Pioneertown, the live-in movie set not far from Joshua Tree and Palm Springs — developed by Russell Hayden, Dick Curtis and Roy Rogers.

Pat Buttram (from the Melody Ranch Theater introduction included on the DVD): “They thought it’d be a great location and they built this Western street… they built it to turn a stagecoach around in. That made it so wide, when you had a crowd scene, you had to send seven busloads of people up there to even be seen on those streets. We’d have to use a little corner here and a little corner there.”

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Indian Territory is available in Volume 2 of The Gene Autry Collection — put together by Image Entertainment and later Timeless. There was a stand-alone release (from Image) prior to that. With either one, you get a gorgeous transfer and plenty of extras, from the Melody Ranch Theater stuff featuring Gene and Pat to a radio show and still gallery. Gene’s films have been treated with great care, as Indian Territory proves. Recommended.

UPDATE: Came across this signed still of James Griffith. Judging from the costume, it’s from Indian Territory.

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Happy Thanksgiving.

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To mark Thanksgiving this year, here’s the sleeve to Gene Autry’s 1950 holiday record (a 78), “Little Johnny Pilgrim,” backed by “Guffy The Goofy Gobbler,” a retread of “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

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The photo’s Gene with Gail Davis in Cow Town (1950). Here’s wishing everyone a good, safe holiday filled with family, friends and plenty of goofy gobbler.

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The Collins English Dictionary defines evangelism as “the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others with the intention of conversion.” I think that sorta fits the overall purpose of this blog, to convince someone out there to give a particular film or TV show or whatever a shot. If you’ve read much of this thing — and God knows there’s a lot of it by now, you’ve been preached to about everything from the power of Fred MacMurray as a cowboy star to the aesthetic riches of black and white CinemaScope.

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Gail Davis and George Archainbaud

The topic of today’s sermon is Gail Davis and her Annie Oakley TV show. And I’ll be referring to the VCI DVD set Annie Oakley: The Complete Series.

Annie Oakley works a lot like The Gene Autry Show, both from Gene’s Flying A Productions. They have the feel of a theatrical B Western — just shorter and cheaper, and clearly geared towards kids. Gene brought along some of the directors who made his features so successful: guys like George Archainbaud, Ray Nazarro, Earl Bellamy and John English.

Some great character actors made their way to Annie Oakley, too: Slim Pickins, Helene Marshall, James Best, John Doucette, James H. Griffith, Lee Van Cleef, Alan Hale Jr., Dickie Jones, Fess Parker, Clayton Moore, Denver Pile, LQ Jones, Glenn Strange and more. From the writers to the actors to the cameramen — these crews were a well-oiled machine, perfectly suited to the quick schedules of TV production. They rode the same ranches, climbed the same Lone Pine rocks and punched the same bad guys. It’s like hour-long features were put in the dryer, left in there too long, and shrunk down to 27 minutes. All guided by the shrewd business acumen of Gene Autry.

But what makes Annie Oakley so special is Annie herself, Gail Davis. And that’s not to take anything away from Brad Johnson as Lofty Craig and Jimmy Hawkins as Annie’s brother Tagg. Or from her horse Target, for that matter.

24q4dmoGail’s up to all the fancy riding and trick-shooting the part requires, perfectly so. She’s a real sparkplug, with enough charisma to propel each episode all by herself. It’s a role she was born to play, you hear that a lot. And it’s true, even she agreed. But it’s so much more than that. I can’t think of an actress who’s more immediately likeable than Gail Davis.

It’s easy to like the 11-disc, 81-episode set from VCI Entertainment, too. You get the entire series, looking just great, saddled with extras: photo galleries, commercials, the original pilot, a documentary and more. Gail’s daughter Terrie was along for the ride on this project, and her contribution makes a huge difference. Her mother hung onto a lot of stuff, and she shares it with us.

Like any TV show, some episodes are better than others. I’m still making my way through them, but I’ve developed an affinity for the episodes directed by the underappreciated Ray Nazarro. He’s a master at the kind of action this show served up every week.

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VCI has given this set a lot of TLC. It’s obvious from the minute you open it up. The quality and consistency never wavers. The extras are classy and comprehensive. And Gail Davis is as cool as cool could be.

My daughter’s a big fan of both Annie Oakley and Gail Davis, and her enthusiasm convinced me to look into it. She was the real evangelist here, and she was right. Highly, highly recommended.

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Annie Oakley Safety Songs cov

Stop! You’ve ordered your Annie Oakley set, haven’t you? Today’s the day.

Man, I can’t wait to get ahold of this thing.

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Gail Davis is just wonderful as Annie Oakley, a part she was probably born to play. This upcoming set from VCI (due October 21) gives you all 81 Annie Oakley episodes, restored, with all sorts of extras: a documentary, the pilot, commercials, photo galleries and more.

Some terrific character actors rode through this series: Slim Pickins, Helene Marshall, James Best, John Doucette, James H. Griffith, Lee Van Cleef, Alan Hale Jr., Dickie Jones, Fess Parker, Clayton Moore, Denver Pile, LQ Jones, Glenn Strange and more. (Even Shelly Fabares!) And in the director’s chair from week to week, you might find the likes of George Archainbaud, Ray Nazarro, Earl Bellamy or John English. Produced by Gene Autry’s Flying A Productions, many of these folks were veterans of Gene’s movies and series. Then there’s Lone Pine locations and those beautiful double-action Colts.

We’re gonna get a lotta mileage out of this thing at my house. My daughter Presley really loves this show.

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Gail Davis signed photo

All of us in the 50s Westerns From The 50s bunkhouse are really excited about this latest project from VCI: The Annie Oakley TV Collection. My daughter Presley really really digs this show.

Working with Gail Davis’ daughter Terrie, VCI promises plenty of photos and other memorabilia, and there’s a documentary is in the works.

The show ran from 1954-57 in syndication, produced by Gene Autry’s Flying ‘A’ Productions. If Gail Davis isn’t cool enough for ya, episodes featured folks like Slim Pickens, Lee Van Cleef, L.Q. Jones, Denver Pyle and James H. Griffith. And one of our favorites, Ray Nazarro, directed about a dozen of the 81 episodes.

Release-wise, Annie and Target should come riding into your living room this fall.

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