Archive for the ‘Joel McCrea’ Category


Joel Albert McCrea
(November 5, 1905 – October 20, 1990)

Here’s the great Joel McCrea in the excellent Fort Massacre (1958), which is on its way to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. Let’s remember him on what would’ve been his 110th birthday.

McCrea’s a real icon of the Cinema West, and his pictures from the 50s are well worth revisiting, especially with the new widescreen transfers we’re seeing today.

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Turner Classic Movies is dedicating Monday, August 24 to the great Warren Oates. Beginning with Yellowstone Kelly (1959), they’re running 13 of his films, including Ride The High Country (1962) and The Wild Bunch (1969). The still above is from Welcome To Hard Times (1967). Times shown here are Eastern Standard Time.

For my money, Oates is one of the greatest screen actors to ever get in front of a camera — ever see Two Lane Blacktop (1971) or The Brinks Job (1978)? — and this attention is well deserved.

Warren Oates 8-24 TCM

Thanks to Dick Vincent for the tip.

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Tall Stranger ad

Directed by Tomas Carr
Produced by Walter Mirisch
Screenplay by Christopher Knopf
From a story by Louis L’Amour
Director Of Photography: Wilfred M. Cline, ASC
Music by Hans J. Salter
Film Editor: William Austin, ACE

Cast: Joel McCrea (Ned Bannon), Virginia Mayo (Ellen), Barry Kelley (Hardy Bishop), Michael Ansara (Zarata), Whit Bissell (Judson), James Dobson (Dud), George Neise (Mort Harper), Adam Kennedy (Red), Michael Pate (Charley), Leo Gordon (Stark), Ray Teal (Cap), Philip Phillips (Will), Robert Foulk (Pagones), Jennifer Lea (Mary)


In many ways, The Tall Stranger (1957) is just another late-50s CinemaScope Western from Allied Artists — a straightforward, low-budget picture boosted by a cast full of familiar faces. But this one’s got more going for it than that. It offers up a re-teaming of Joel McCrea and Virginia Mayo from Raoul Walsh’s terrific Colorado Territory (1949). And while The Tall Stranger won’t knock the Walsh movie off your list of favorites, it has plenty to recommend it.

Tall Stranger LC5

The relationships between brothers, often strained or on opposite sides of the law, was a popular theme with Western screenwriters of the 50s, forming the basis for some of the decade’s finest cowboy pictures — often with some redemption worked in. (I’ll let you come up with your own list of examples.) Working from a short story by Louis L’Amour, The Tall Stranger is part of that sub-genre. Ned Bannon (Joel McCrea) and Hardy Bishop (Barry Kelley) are half-brothers who found themselves enemies in the Civil War. Now that the war has ended, Bishop (Conderate) sees Bannon (Union) as the reason his son was executed as one of Quantrill’s Raiders, and he’s vowed to see him dead. Bannon, on the other hand, has come to reconcile.


Bannon’s traveling toward Bishop’s Valley with a wagon train, and along the way he’s grown fond of a widow (Mayo) and suspicious of the guides. It all comes together into a tangled-up mess — the settlers, McCrea’s brother’s cattle land, the scheming trail guides, etc. — and McCrea gets to sort it all out — and, of course, shoot people — as it makes its way to a satisfying conclusion.

Mayo Tall Stragner

Virginia Mayo: “I love Joel, but I didn’t want to be in the film. I thought the script was terrible.”

The script is a bit run-of-the-mill, and little is done to elevate it. Thomas Carr’s direction is missing the visual flair he and DP William Witley brought to Gunsmoke In Tucson (1958). The action scenes are passable, but there’s little momentum or tension in the scenes that tie them together. So what you’re left with, largely, is the appeal and chemistry of its two leads — which is still more than enough to make The Tall Stranger worth your time.

McCrea Tall Stranger

The Tall Stranger is not available on DVD or Blu-ray in the States. There is a transfer floating around that crops the 2.35 Scope image to fit our 16:9 TVs. It’s watchable, but crowded at times. While this isn’t McCrea or Mayo at their best, this picture deserves to be seen — the way it’s supposed to be seen.

Source: The Westerners by C. Courtney Joyner

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Now this was a great way to celebrate our nation’s independence, with a double feature of High School Confidential! and Fort Massacre (both 1958) at the Palace in Marion, Ohio, in 1958. Remember, Fort Massacre is coming on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

Here’s hoping you all have a fun, safe Fourth.


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Directed by Joseph H. Newman
Written by Martin M. Goldsmith
Director Of Photography: Carl Guthrie
Starring Joel McCrea, Forrest Tucker, Susan Cabot, John Russell, George N. Neise, Anthony Caruso, Denver Pyle

Every so often, someone will complain about how light Joel McCrea’s 50s Westerns were, but that’s something Fort Massacre (1958) will never be accused of being. It’s a really good picture with a tough, dark turn from McCrea — one of his best performances, I’d say. And Kino Lorber will bring it to Blu-ray before the year’s up.

McCrea is Sgt. Vinson, a bitter cavalryman driven by a hatred of the Apaches, who massacred his family. When the commanding officer is killed in an ambush, McCrea takes the opportunity to lead the troops through Apache territory — for what the men begin to suspect are personal reasons.

It was written by Martin M. Goldsmith, known for a couple of top-notch noirs — Detour (1945) and The Narrow Margin (1952). He brought a lot of Detour‘s fatalism to Fort Massacre (1958). Joseph. Newman’s direction is tight and assured, making the most of a small budget, and Carl Guthrie makes sure it all looks terrific. Highly, highly recommended. No, make that essential.

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Gunfight Dodge Coty HS

Directed by Joseph H. Newman
Screenplay by Daniel B. Ullman and Martin M. Goldsmith
Starring Joel McCrea, Julie Adams, John McIntire, Nancy Gates, Don Haggerty, Timothy Carey

The Gunfight At Dodge City (1959) is a solid Joel McCrea picture, with a great cast and terrific CinemaScope photography from Carl Guthrie (whose late-50s Westerns are a thing of beauty). This is another fine example of what a middle-budget Western could be, and it’s coming to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

Bat Masterson (McCrea) winds up in Dodge City, pinning on the sheriff’s badge to clean up the town and avenge the death of his brother. Along the way, he has to choose between Julie Adams and Nancy Gates — if only real life was like this!

McCrea went into The Gunfight At Dodge City (1959) with retirement in mind — this was to be his last picture. But Sam Peckinpah (and Randolph Scott) lured him back in the saddle with Ride The High Country (1962).

Thanks to John Knight.

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While doing some research on George Sherman’s The Treasure Of Pancho Villa (1955), I came across The Odessa American from October 9, 1955. What was playing around town was incredible.

Ector: The Treasure Of Pancho Villa
Scott Theater: Night Of The Hunter 
Rio Theater (next door to the Scott): The Big Combo
Twin Terrace Drive-In: Wichita and New Orleans Uncensored
Twin Cactus Drive-In: The Seven Little Foys and Coroner Creek
Broncho Drive-In: Las Vegas Shakedown and The End Of The Affair
Twin-Vue Drive-In: The Seven Little Foys and The Denver And Rio Grande

You could spend your night with Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Robert Mitchum or Rory Calhoun. If all that wasn’t enough, you could head to the Odessa High School field house on the 11th for The Western Revue Of 1955 with Lash LaRue and “Fuzzy” St. John in person — or wait a couple more days for Elvis Presley (“with Scotty and Bill”), Johnny Cash, Wanda Jackson and Porter Wagoner.


By the way, the Ector Theater was restored in 2001 and runs classic movies from time to time. I love Texas.

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