Archive for the ‘Joel McCrea’ Category


The Joel McCrea Blogathon
November 4 – 6, 2016

Joel McCrea stands tall as a true icon of Hollywood’s West. Before becoming so associated with cowboy pictures, he appeared in classics like Most Dangerous Game (1932), Foreign Correspondent (1940) and Sullivan’s Travels (1941). Let’s mark what would’ve been his 111th birthday, November 5, with a celebration of his work.

Here’s what you do:
• Pick a McCrea picture. Any one will do.
• Let me know you want to participate (email fiftieswesterns@gmail.com), what you want to cover and when you plan to post it — Friday November 4th through Sunday the 6th. Your posts can be in any form, of any length, and on any topic as long as it relates to McCrea, but I’d like to manage things a bit to make sure we don’t end up with 14 people writing about the same thing.
• Post your piece on the scheduled day, using the official blogathon banner and link (to come).
• Send me the link so I can post it on the master list.

This should be a lot of fun.

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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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