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Archive for the ‘Joel McCrea’ Category

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New York’s 92nd Street Y is hosting a class on Westerns of the 50s. Hosted by Kurt Brokaw, Associate Teaching Professor at The New School and senior film critic of The Independent magazine, it’s got a really terrific roster of films. The classes are Tuesday nights, beginning April 14, with two films each night.

Man, I wish I could get to this.

Week 1
Broken Lance
(1954) Directed by Edward Dmytryk, starring Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner, Jean Peters, Richard Widmark, Katy Jurado
The Badlanders (1956) Directed by Delmer Daves, starring Alan Ladd, Ernest Borgnine, Katy Jurado

Week 2
Saddle The Wind
(1958) Directed by Robert Parrish, starring Robert Taylor, Julie London, John Cassavetes
Dawn At Socorro (1954) Directed by George Sherman, starring Rory Calhoun and Piper Laurie

Week 3
Pillars Of The Sky
(1956) Directed by George Marshall, starring Jeff Chandler, Dorothy Malone, Ward Bond, Lee Marvin
Backlash (1956) Directed by John Sturges, starring Richard Widmark, Donna Reed, William Campbell, John McIntire

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Week 4
Ride Clear Of Diablo
(1954) Directed by Jesse Hibbs, starring Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, Susan Cabot
The Outriders (1950) Directed by Roy Rowland, starring Joel McCrea, Arlene Dahl, James Whitmore, Barry Sullivan

Week 5
Back To God’s Country
(1953) Directed by Joseph Pevney, starring Rock Hudson, Marcia Henderson, Steve Cochran, Hugh O’Brien
Black Horse Canyon (1954) Directed by Jesse Hibbs, starring Joel McCrea and Mari Blanchard

Week 6
Seven Men From Now
(1956) Directed by Budd Boetticher, starring Randolph Scott, Gail Russell, Lee Marvin, Walter Reed
Gun Fury (1953) Directed by Raoul Walsh, starring Rock Hudson, Donna Reed, Philip Carey, Lee Marvin

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George Randolph Scott
(January 23, 1898 – March 2, 1987)

This post kicks off The Blogathon For Randolph Scott, January 23-25.

Randolph Scott is my favorite actor, hands down — an opinion that seems to be shared by many who read this blog on an ongoing basis.

R Scott blogathon badgeAs a group, Scott’s Westerns were probably the biggest influence on my decision to take on this blog and book on 50s Westerns — they were certainly my “gateway drug” (beginning with 1958’s Buchanan Rides Alone).

And though he was just an actor playing fictitious characters in a number of medium-budget, 60-year-old cowboy movies, he became a model for the kind of man I want to be.

Scott started out as a somewhat stiff leading man. But he got better and better, and by the 50s, he’d aged into the ideal Western star. Tall, handsome, weathered, commanding, easygoing — and with a Southern drawl that really set him apart. (He made this Georgia kid feel a lot better about his own accent.)

Randolph Scott (from a 1949 newspaper interview): “I make Westerns because I like them. Westerns have been the mainstay of the movie industry ever since its beginning. And they have been good to me.”

Teaming with producers Nat Holt and Harry Joe Brown (separately) — and recruiting directors like Gordon Douglas, Edwin Marin, Andre de Toth and Budd Boetticher, Scott made modest, unpretentious films whose merits become more obvious with each passing year. The best of them are among the finest the genre’s ever seen. The lesser ones are worthwhile if only because Scott’s in them.

Retiring in 1960 after Comanche Station, Scott was persuaded to climb back into the saddle — to appear alongside Joel McCrea in Sam Peckinpah’s Ride The High Country (1962). And that was it. He passed away at 89, an extremely wealthy man thanks to shrewd investing of his movie money.

There are many stories of Scott sitting on Lone Pine locations reading The Wall Street Journal between takes. He saw the “pitcher bidniss” as just that, a business — and found a great deal of success in it. But the quality of the scripts — along with the many talented people he hired, encouraged and re-hired — proves he was paying attention to much more than just budgets and grosses. Movies this good, especially made on tight budgets and schedules, don’t just happen.

And speaking of all those movies, many of them will be covered throughout the weekend. Saddle up and read on.

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Yesterday, I posted our favorite DVD releases of the year. Today’s list is made up of films we discovered during 2014. Titles that made the list were mentioned by at least three people. It’s a great lineup of fairly obscure, medium-budgeted 50s Westerns — and if you haven’t discovered them yourself, search them out.

Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953) Fred F. Sears was extremely prolific, and his 50s Westerns are worth seeking out. This is one of the better ones, available through Columbia’s on-demand DVD program.

Apache Drums (1951) A suspense picture dressed up in cowboy clothes, produced by Val Lewton and directed by Hugo Fregonese. With Stephen McNally, Coleen Gray, Willard Parker, Arthur Shields, James Griffith and Clarence Muse (who’s superb in a small part).

Border River (1954) With George Sherman directing Joel McCrea, Yvonne De Carlo and Pedro Armendáriz, how could it not be great? Shot around Moab, Utah.

Cow Country (1953) Coming across a new Lesley Selander picture is always a treat. This one features Edmond O’Brien, Helen Wescott, Bob Lowery, Barton MacLane, Peggie Castle, James Millican and Robert Wilke.

A Day Of Fury (1956) One of the most unusual, and overlooked, Westerns of the 50s. Harmon Jones directs Dale Robertson, Mara Corday and Jock Mahoney. I’m so glad this one’s being rediscovered.

Four Guns To The Border (1954) Rory Calhoun, Colleen Miller and Walter Brennan in an excellent Universal Western directed by Richard Carlson.

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Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956) Another good one from Fred F. Sears. Wish this one would see a real DVD release — black and white widescreen is so cool.

The Silver Whip (1953) Dale Robertson, Rory Calhoun, Robert Wagner, Kathleen Crowley and James Millican star in this taut, tight picture from editor-turned-director Harmon Jones. The staging of the climactic chase is masterful.

Stage To Tucson (1950) Rod Cameron and Wayne Morris. Lone Pine in Technicolor. Surely that’s worth an investment of 81 minutes.

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The Yellow Tomahawk (1954) Sadly, this color film is only available black and white. But it’s still a solid effort from the ever-dependable Lesley Selander — with a cast that includes Rory Calhoun, Peggie Castle, Noah Beery, Jr., Peter Graves, Lee Van Cleef and Rita Moreno.

Thanks to everyone who participated.

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The charge was this: send in your list of favorite 50s Westerns DVD releases for 2014, along with a few 50s Westerns that you discovered this year.

For today, here are your (and my) 10 favorite DVDs or Blu-rays released during the 2014 calendar year.

10. Panhandle (1948) This terrific Rod Cameron picture, directed by Lesley Selander, was released a few years ago as part of VCI’s Darn Good Western Volume 1. This year, it showed up on its on.

9. City Of Bad Men (1953) Dale Robertson leads a great cast: Jeanne Crain, Richard Boone, Lloyd Bridges, Hugh Sanders, Rodolfo Acosta, Don Haggerty, Leo Gordon, John Doucette, Frank Ferguson, James Best. Harmon Jones directs.

8. Fort Massacre (1958) Joel McCrea plays way against type. Forrest Tucker, Susan Cabot, John Russell and Denver Pyle co-star. You can get a nice regular DVD here in the States — and a stunning Blu-ray in Germany.

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7. Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957) The guys who developed VistaVision look down from heaven, see this Blu-ray playing in our living rooms, and are very happy indeed.

6. The Lusty Men (1952) There was a time when Nicholas Ray was a machine that cranked out Great Movies. This study of modern-day rodeo cowboys — starring Robert Mitchum, Susan Haywood and Arthur Kennedy — comes from the heart of that period.

5. Drum Beat (1954) Alan Ladd shows us he’s got more than Shane up his sleeve, and Delmer Daves delivers yet another solid Western. This is a lot better movie than you’ve heard (or remember).

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4. Gunsmoke In Tucson (1958) When an Allied Artists Western starring Mark Stevens makes a Top Ten list, I know I’m in the right place.

3. Tim Holt Western Classics Collection Volume 4 As good as the series Western ever got. For me, this fourth volume is the best — which makes it plenty great indeed.

2. Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957) It’s not a stupendous Randolph Scott movie, but it’s a Randolph Scott movie — and Warner Archive has it shining like a black and white, 1.85 diamond.

1. South Of St. Louis (1949) This terrific Joel McCrea picture, with its Technicolor appropriately saturated, is stunning on Blu-ray from Olive Films. Alexis Smith and Dorothy Malone should’ve paid cinematographer Karl Freund for making them look so beautiful.

Along with all these favorites, there was a common complaint: that Olive Films’ promised The Quiet Gun (1956) didn’t make it in 2014.

Thanks to everyone who sent in their lists.

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Let’s remember two of the best on their birthdays. Every year, I look forward to this post.

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Joel McCrea
November 5, 1905 – October 20, 1990

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Roy Rogers
November 5, 1911 –  July 6, 1998

You know how we have President’s Day to jointly commemorate Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays? We should make today Cowboy’s Day.

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This one’s cool, folks. A 35mm print of Colorado Territory (1949) will run at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center For The Arts on Sunday, July 27 as part of their Invasion Of The Cinemaniacs series.

I don’t know about you, but Raoul Walsh’s Colorado Territory is one of my favorite Westerns. It’s the movie that made me go nuts over Joel McCrea. And Virginia Mayo is absolutely wonderful in it.

Jonathan Knapp, who looks at this blog on occasion, is the cinemaniac who picked it. Boy, do I wish I could get to this one.

And another thing: I’ve been waiting months to use that artwork (above)!

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Directed by Ray Enright
Starring Joel McCrea, Alexis Smith, Zachary Scott, Dorothy Malone, Douglas Kennedy, Alan Hale, Victor Jory, Bob Steele, Art Smith, Monte Blue.

South Of St. Louis (1949), a rock-solid Joe McCrea picture, is due September 23rd from Olive Films on both DVD and Blu-ray. With gorgeous Technicolor from the great Karl Freund and a terrific score by Max Steiner, this remake of the James Cagney gangster picture The Roaring Twenties (1939) is a winner all the way. Released the same year as McCrea’s Colorado Territory, and just before Saddle Tramp and Stars In My Crown (both 1950), this is Joel McCrea at the top of his game.

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The climactic scene, with the bells on the three partners’ spurs jingling as they blast away, has to be one of the most satisfying wrap-ups in all of Westerns. Ray Enright made plenty of good Westerns in the 40s and 50s. Don’t want to start a big debate (or maybe I do), but I’d hold this one up as his best. Can’t wait for September!

Thanks for the tip, Laura!

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