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Archive for the ‘John Ford’ Category

Let’s Go, Dodgers!

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As the Dodgers continue their incredible season — their best winning percentage since moving to L.A., it seemed like time for another photo of John Ford in his Dodgers cap.

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Directed by John Ford
Starring Ben Johnson, Joanne Dru, Harry Carey, Jr., Ward Bond, Charles Kemper, Russell Simpson, Hank Worden, James Arness, Francis Ford

John Ford’s Wagon Master (1950) is not just one of my favorite movies, but I consider it one of the best Westerns ever made. There’s a gentleness and an authenticity to it that no other Western can match. It’s easy to see why Ford named it his personal favorite of his own films. For me, putting this thing on is like inviting some old friends to stop by for a spell.

The performances are perfect, from Ben Johnson and Harry Carey, Jr. as the young cowboys who hire on to lead the Mormon wagon train west to Ward Bond as an elder in the group of settlers to Joanne Dru as part of a medicine show that tags along. And Russell Simpson as, what else, a grumpy old man.

Then there are the Cleggs. It seems odd to say a gentle movie has some of the vilest bad guys you’ll ever see, but it does. If you know the movie, you know what I mean. And if you haven’t seen it, well, I feel truly sorry for you.

I could go on and on. But I’ll leave it at this: Wagon Master is coming to Blu-Ray from Warner Archive. If you haven’t made the leap to high-definition yet, this should be all the reason you need. Essential.

Thanks for the tip, Paula.

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Working on the commentary for Kino Lorber’s upcoming The Spoilers (1942) Blu-Ray, I was reminded of just how great Russell Simpson is. He’s a hoot in that one. Simpson’s seen above, second from left, in The Gal Who Took The West (1949) starring Yvonne De Carlo.

Russell Simpson was born in San Francisco in June of 1880. He prospected for gold in Alaska at just 18. He eventually decided to become an actor, was in a number of touring companies, played on Broadway and eventually made his film debut in the 1914 version of The Virginian.

Second from left again, as a stern Mormon in Wagon Master (1950).

In the late 30s, Simpson became part of John Ford’s stock company — appearing in Drums Along The Mohawk (1939), The Grapes Of Wrath (1940, as Pa Joad), Tobacco Road (1941), They Were Expendable (1945), My Darling Clementine (1946), Wagon Master (1950) and The Sun Shines Bright (1953). His last picture was Ford’s The Horse Soldiers in 1959.

He’s one of those actors that makes everything he’s in at least a little bit better — even a John Hart episode of The Lone Ranger.

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1 Liberty Ford

James Maitland Stewart
(May 20, 1908 – July 2, 1997)

Jimmy Stewart, one of the greatest movie stars of them all, was born 111 years ago today. Here he is with a couple more “greatest of them alls,” John Ford and John Wayne, on the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962). One of my favorite movies, and this is one of my favorite photos.

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Directed by John Ford
Starring John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, Natalie Wood, Harry Carey, Jr., Hank Worden

John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) might be the finest film ever made, it’s almost certainly the greatest Western ever made, and it’s easily John Wayne’s best performance. Of course, I’m probably preaching to the choir.

Here’s a rare change to see it on film, in a theater. Sorry for the short notice.

Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas Pacific Palisades
April 9 & 10, 7 PM
Click the lobby card for details.

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Play Ball!

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It’s become a tradition here at 50 Westerns Of The 50s to commemorate baseball’s return with this glorious shot of John Ford in Monument Valley, sporting a Dodgers cap.

Don’t know about you, but I’m always glad to see baseball season come back around.

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A trip to Raleigh’s flea market yesterday turned up a couple of arcade cards I was really stoked to find. You see these things all the time, but it’s usually the same stars over and over again. This time, the selection was a little more varied.

First, a Yakima Canutt card from Exhibit. Dates from the 30s, I’d guess.

Canutt went from rodeo champion to cowboy star to the absolute master of movie stunts — going from doubling John Wayne in Stagecoach (1939) to doing second unit direction on my favorite movie, Where Eagles Dare (1969).

Next was a more common card, from the 40s, featuring Tim Holt. Of course, Holt’s Western series for RKO is hard to beat.

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