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Archive for the ‘Jimmy Stewart’ Category

Directed by John Ford
Starring John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien, Andy Devine

Just saw that John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) is coming to 4K in April — the first Ford or Wayne picture to do so.

It’s hard to imagine this looking any better than the Blu-Ray, but who’s to complain? It’s one of the finest Westerns ever made.

Image swiped from John Wayne.

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Directed by Anthony Mann
Written by Sam Rolfe & Harold Jack Bloom
Director Of Photography: William Mellor
Film Editor: George White
Music by Bronisław Kaper

Cast: James Stewart (Howard Kemp, Janet Leigh (Lina Patch), Robert Ryan (Ben Vandergroat), Ralph Meeker (Roy Anderson), Millard Mitchell (Jesse Tate)

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As great as The Naked Spur (1953) is, and even with Warner Archive’s incredible track record, I didn’t have high hopes for this Blu-Ray. Boy, was I wrong.

Anthony Mann’s The Naked Spur is certainly one of the finest Westerns ever made, but it’s been one of the most consistently terrible-looking great movies on home video. From VHS to laserdisc to DVD, the Technicolor palette was muted and the picture itself way too soft. What was supposed to be sharp and vibrant looked like a pastel — in other words, it never stopped looking like VHS. Pair all that with the sad economics of home video these days — that the demand for older films hardly justifies the expense of a major restoration, and you can see why I wasn’t expecting the gorgeous presentation we can thank Warner Archive for today. 

But enough on that (for now).

The Naked Spur was the third of the Anthony Mann-James Stewart Westerns, coming after Winchester ’73 (1950) and Bend Of The River (1952). The Far Country (1954) and Man From Laramie (1955) would follow. This was a cinematic hot streak that will probably never be equaled.

The entire cast of The Naked Spur: (L-R) Millard Mitchell, Robert Ryan, Janet Leigh, Ralph Meeker, James Stewart.

Howard Kemp (Stewart) is bringing in Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan) to stand trial for murder. Vandergroat is accompanied by his girl, Lina Patch (Janet Leigh). Along for the ride are a prospector (Millard Mitchell) and a dishonorably discharged Cavalryman (Ralph Meeker). At first, folks think Stewart’s a lawman — with the knowledge that he’s a bounty hunter and there’s $5,000 at the end of the trail, things change. Mitchell and Meeker want a share of the reward — and they know how to make that piece of the pie a bit bigger. Vandergroat sees all this, and he starts working at everyone to create a chance to get away.

I’m not going any further than that. Don’t want to spoil anything.

Anthony Mann and Janet Leigh on location.

Stewart’s his usual torn, tormented, edgy Mann-picture cowboy in this one — he needs the reward to buy back his ranch. Ryan is at his best as the manipulative, slimy-but-somehow-charming Vandergroat. Ralph Meeker has maybe the best scumbag role of his career — he plays almost the entire picture with a sneer. Millard Mitchell would only make one more movie; he died of lung cancer not too long after this. And Janet Leigh is just perfect. She’s totally believable as an easy target for Ryan who slowly sees him for the murderous sociopath he really is. Much of the picture’s considerable tension comes from these characters.

The Naked Spur seems like a prototype for the Scott-Boetticher Westerns that would come a few years later: the small cast, the tightness, the tone, the incredible use of the landscape, the male lead who’s trying to right a wrong or live something down, the charismatic or even likable villain, etc. I’m not suggesting, not for a second, that Burt Kennedy and Budd Boetticher were ripping Mann off. It’s just a particular type of Western that really worked well in the 50s. Some of my all-time favorite movies fit this pattern.

Now back to the Blu-Ray. Many of y’all out there had an understandable wait-and-see approach to this one. I’m happy to report you can proceed with complete confidence — this is one of the most significant upgrades I’ve seen from DVD to Blu-Ray. The care that went into this is obvious in every frame.

It’s a near perfect transfer of three-strip Technicolor — the color and sharpness are impeccable. It’s clean without signs of noise reduction. The sound has a nice range to it and the extras from the old DVD  — a Pete Smith Specialty, Tex Avery’s Little Johnny Jet (1953) and the trailer — have been brought over.

The Naked Spur is certainly one of the best classic films to hit Blu-Ray this year. It’s so nice to see it get the attention it so richly deserves — especially William Mellor’s incredible outdoor Technicolor work. Absolutely essential.

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Directed by Anthony Mann
Starring James Stewart, Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan, Ralph Meeker, Millard Mitchell

Mann and Stewart’s third Western, coming after Winchester ’73 (1950) and Bend Of The River (1952), has been screaming for some restoration work for quite some time. Warner Archive has announced a Blu-Ray release for September. Can’t wait to see what they’ve done with it.

These Mann-Stewart pictures are certainly among the best Westerns ever made. Beyond that, it comes down to your personal preference.

I’ll post the technical details as they become available. This one’s as essential as they get.

Love that poster art by Gustav Rehberger.

Thanks to Paula for the tip.

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Lori Nelson
(August 15, 1933 – August 23, 2020)

Lori Nelson, has passed away at 87. She was born Dixie Kay Nelson. Her family moved to Hollywood when she was four. Soon after, she was crowned Little Miss America.

In 1950, Ms. Nelson signed a seven-year contract with Universal-International. Her first film was Bend Of The River, followed by Ma And Pa Kettle At The Fair and Francis Goes To West Point (all 1952). In 1953, U-I put her in Douglas Sirk’s All I Desire. She appeared in two Audie Murphy pictures, Tumbleweed (1953) and Destry (1954).

In 1955, she did Ma And Pa Kettle At Waikiki, Revenge of the Creature, Roger Corman’s Day The World Ended and I Died A Thousand Times, a remake of High Sierra (1941) — which has already been remake as Colorado Territory (1949). Underwater! was released in 1955, though it’d been shot some time earlier. She was loaned to Howard Hughes and RKO for that one. She’s also in Pardners (1956), one of the last Martin and Lewis pictures, Hot Rod Girl (1956) co-starring Chuck Connors and Howard W. Koch’s Untamed Youth (1957) with  Mamie Van Doren. What a great batch of 1950s cinema.

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Directed by George Marshall
Starring Marlene Dietrich, James Stewart, Brian Donlevy, Una Merkel

Criterion has announced they they’re bringing George Marshall’s Destry Rides Again (1939) to DVD and Blu-Ray in April. (We’ve sure seen a lot of James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich making its way to Blu-Ray lately.)

It comes with a slew of terrific extras, of course, but the draw for me is a new 4K restoration done with the Film Foundation. Can’t wait to see how this thing will shine! Absolutely essential.

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Kino Lorber is serving up four terrific Universal Westerns in March, an announcement that gets. 2020 off to a great start.

Canyon Passage (1946)
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Starring Dana Andrews, Brian Donlevy, Susan Hayward, Patricia Roc, Ward Bond, Hoagy Carmichael, Andy Devine, Lloyd Bridges

Canyon Passage was Jacques Tourneur’s first Western and first film in color. It’s got a great cast (Ward Bond is terrific — and very scary) and incredible Technicolor photography from Edward Cronjager, who also shot Lang’s Western Union (1941). This is a very overlooked, underrated film.

Night Passage (1957)
Directed by James Neilson
Starring James Stewart, Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, Dianne Foster, Elaine Stewart, Brandon de Wilde, Jay C. Flippen, Robert J. Wilke, Hugh Beaumont

Shot in Technirama, a high-fidelity combination of VistaVision and anamorphic widescreen, Night Passage is as sharp as movies could get in the late 50s. And with loads of incredible location work in Durango, Colorado, it’s stunning — and a perfect candidate for Blu-Ray. The movie itself, while it’s no masterpiece, has been unjustly maligned. You’ll find the story behind all that in an old post.

Man In The Shadow (1957)
Directed by Jack Arnold
Starring Jeff Chandler, Orson Welles, Colleen Miller, Barbara Lawrence, John Larch, Royal Dano, James Gleason

There are a thousand reasons to be excited about this modern-day (well, 1957) Western — Jeff Chandler, Orson Welles, B&W CinemaScope and Jack Arnold, for starters. Welles and producer Albert Zugsmith got to talking here, which led to Touch Of Evil (1958).

The Rare Breed (1966)
Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen
Starring James Stewart, Maureen O’Hara, Brian Keith, Juliet Mills, Ben Johnson, Jack Elam, Harry Carey, Jr.

The best thing The Rare Breed has going for it is its incredible cast — how could it go wrong? Not to mention the Technicolor/Panavision cinematography of William H. Clothier.

All four films will feature a commentary (I’m doing both Passage films) and an original trailer. It’s no easy to recommend these things!

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Directed by Don Siegel
Starring John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, James Stewart, Richard Boone, Hugh O’Brian, Harry Morgan, John Carradine, Sheree North, Scatman Crothers

Two of my biggest movie heroes, John Wayne and Don Siegel, only worked together once, on The Shootist (1976). It turned out to be Duke’s last film, and it gave him the perfect way to go out — which he was obviously aware of.

Clint Eastwood visits Wayne and Siegel on the set of The Shootist.

The Shootist is screening at The Autry Museum Of The American West as part of their What Is A Western? film series.

The Autry: Wells Fargo Theater
Saturday, December 14, 2019, 1:30 p.m.
234 Museum Drive, Los Angeles, CA

I encourage you to go if you can get there. It’s a wonderful movie, and seeing it on the big screen would be quite a treat in this day and age.

And in this era of stupid-looking facial hair, doesn’t Wayne look cool?

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This morning, I saw Chubby Johnson in the “Gunpowder Joe” (1953) episode of The Lone Ranger. Seemed like time to make him Character Actor Of The Day.

He was born Charles Rutledge Johnson in 1903, in Terre Haute, Indiana. He worked as a journalist and radio announcer for years, and he was in his 40s when he did his first film, Abilene Town (1946) with Randolph Scott. He kept both careers going for a while. 

Around the time of the underrated Rocky Mountain (1950), Errol Flynn’s last Western, Chubby decided to concentrate on the movies. He’d go on to make more than 80 pictures.

L-R: Myron Healey, Claudia Barrett, Allan “Rocky” Lane and Chubby Johnson in Republic’s Night Riders Of Montana (1951).

Republic needed a replacement for sidekick Eddy Waller in the Rocky Lane series. Chubby rode alongside Allan Lane for most of 1951 and ’52.

L-R: James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Chubby Johnson and Stepin Fetchit in Anthony Mann’s Bend Of The River (1952).

Chubby’s in lots of great stuff. High Noon (1952), Anthony Mann’s Bend Of The River (1952) and The Far Country (1954), Calamity Jane (1953) with Doris Day, Gunsmoke (1953, with Audie Murphy), Law And Order (1953), Cattle Queen Of Montana (1954), The Fastest Gun Alive (1956) and on and on.

On TV, Chubby was a regular in Sky King the Rex Allen series Frontier Doctor, and he guested on shows like Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, Thriller, Death Valley Days, Sugarfoot, The Andy Griffith Show, Temple Houston, Dennis The Menace and Maverick. He stayed plenty busy.

His last pictures were Support Your Local Sheriff! and Sam Whiskey in 1969. He passed away in 1974.

With Howard Keell and Doris Day on the set of Calamity Jane (1953).

Chubby could make the most of a small part, and really shine when given something bigger, as in Bend Of The River and Calamity Jane. Another one of those guys who gives a picture a lift when he turns up.

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Doing some research on Night Passage (1957), I came across an article from The LA Times, reporting that the ongoing editing of Men In War (1957) was forcing Anthony Mann to back out of Night Passage. It also pointed out that this would free up the director to do The Tin Star (1957) for Paramount.

There are lots of stories about why Anthony Mann left what would’ve been his sixth Jimmy Stewart Western. This was a new one for me.

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Directed by Anthony Mann
Starring James Stewart, Ruth Roman, Corinne Calvet, Walter Brennan, John McIntire, Jay C. Flippen, Henry Morgan, Steve Brodie

It’s always a good day when another James Stewart/Anthony Mann movie makes its way to Blu-Ray. Arrow Academy has announced The Far Country (1954) for release this November.

The Far Country was Mann and Stewart’s fourth Western together, and it’s a good one. The cast and crew were well-acquainted and the movie feels like a well-oiled machine. Set in Alaska, though shot in Canada, the picture lets Mann and DP William H. Daniels make the most of the locale in widescreen. Speaking of widescreen, Arrow has promised to give us the movie two ways, in both 1.85 and 2.0 aspect ratios. Universal-International at this time was often using 2.0 — Man Without A Star (1955), Mole People (1956), etc.

Like the other Mann/Stewart Westerns, this one’s essential, folks.

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