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Archive for the ‘John Wayne’ Category

I tend to think of things in terms of movies. Several times a day, real life suggests something in some film I’ve seen at some point.

Temperatures have been through the roof here in Raleigh the last few days. Walking across a parking lot today, I was reminded of John Wayne carrying little Robert William Pedro Hightower to safety in Three Godfathers (1948). Ford and Winton Hoch do a masterful job of conveying the oppressive heat and desolation of the desert. In a Christmas movie!

Now, on to something else, because even thinking about Three Godfathers will choke me up!

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I’ve been meaning to resurrect this series for ages, and I finally got around to it. Our Character Actor Of The Day is Leo Gordon.

Leo Gordon stands tall as one of the screen’s greatest heavies. At six foot two, with a deep voice and icy stare, he’s one of the few guys around who could really come up against someone like John Wayne (Hondo, McLintock!) or Clint Walker (Cheyenne, Night Of The Grizzly) and not look silly.

Don Siegel, who directed Gordon in Riot In Cell Block 11 (1954, above), called Gordon “the scariest man I have ever met.”

Leo Vincent Gordon, Jr. was born December 2, 1922, in Brooklyn, New York. His family lived in poverty and he left school in the eighth grade to work in construction and demolition. Next came the Civilian Conservation Corps. After that, in 1941, Leo enlisted in the Army and served two years.

After the war, Gordon was arrested for armed robbery in southern California. During the ordeal, he pulled a gun and was shot in the stomach. Leo served five years in San Quentin, where he furthered his education by reading nearly every book in the prison library. (The mugshot was for a fight later, not the robbery arrest.)

Gordon attended the American Academy Of Dramatic Arts on the G.I. Bill — and married one of his classmates, Lynn Cartwright in 1950. They’d work together a number of times (such as Black Patch and some episodes of Adam 12 — often written by Leo) and their marriage would last until his death in 2000.

Gordon was soon cast in the London and Canadian companies of Mister Roberts. After a few years of stage work, Hollywood came calling. Lots and lots of crime pictures and Westerns.

His first Western was City Of Bad Men (1953). Then there’s Gun Fury (1953), Hondo (1954), Ten Wanted Men (1955), Tennessee’s Partner (1955), Yellow Mountain (1954, up top), The Tall Stranger (1957), Quantrill’s Raiders (1958, he’s Quantrill), McLintock! (1963), Night Of The Grizzly (1966), Hostile Guns (1967, below, one of those A.C. Lyles things) and My Name Is Nobody (1973, produced by Sergio Leone). There are lots, lots more.

Gordon turned up in crime pictures like Baby Face Nelson (1957, as John Dillinger), The Big Operator (1959) and The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967). You’ll also find him in Tobruk (1967) and The Haunted Palace (1963). He was versatile and he stayed plenty busy.

On TV, Leo Gordon had recurring role on Maverick (below) as Big Mike McComb, and James Garner would later recruit him for several episodes of The Rockford Files. He’s terrific on The Andy Griffith Show as a guy who’s released from prison — and comes looking for Sheriff Taylor. On Cheyenne, he and Clint Walker are great in some real knock down drag out fights.

All in all, he’d go on to appear in more than 170 movies and TV shows from the early 1950s to the mid-1990s. His last feature was Maverick (1994), and his tiny part is the only reason to sit through that thing.

Gordon was a screenwriter, too. He wrote for shows such as Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Maverick, Cheyenne and Adam 12 (right). And he penned features like Black Patch (1957), Hot Car Girl (1958), Escort West (1959), The Wasp Woman (1959), Attack Of The Giant Leeches (1959), Bounty Killer (1965) and Tobruk. There were several novels, too, including the historical Western Powderkeg.

Though often the heavy, Leo Gordon had a way of not just making his presence known, but turning in a real performance. (He’s really terrific in The Intruder.) There’s an odd sympathetic angle to a lot of his villains. He was one of the best.

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SearchersLove

Ward Bond
April 9, 1903 – November 5, 1960

Here’s Ward Bond, John Wayne and Dorothy Jordan in John Ford’s The Searchers (1956), a great way to mark Bond’s birthday. This is one of the best written, directed and acted scenes you’ll ever see.

Not sure what I’ll watch in tribute to Bond tonight. There are so many great things.

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This is the last shot in Bedazzled (1967), the very funny Peter Cook/Dudley Moore film. Presley and I watched it recently, and I noticed the theater marquee on the right. John Wayne’s The Alamo (1960) is playing.

I reached out to some of our UK division, and as you’d expect, John Knight came through: “The cinema in question was The London Pavilion. It mainly served as a West End showcase for United Artists releases. They showed lots of United Artists horror double bills like The Monster That Challenged The World and The Vampire (both 1957). My first solo visit to a West End cinema was to the London Pavilion to see Phantom Of The Opera with Captain Clegg (both 1962).”

After hearing from John, I can’t decide what I’m the most excited about — the thought of Wayne’s epic or The Monster That Challenged The World on the Pavilion’s huge screen.

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Came across this the other day: John Ford’s screen credit from The Searchers (1956) emblazoned across the front of a t-shirt.

This is a very, very cool thing. If this blog had a uniform, this might be it.

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For years, I’ve had a feeling this was coming. And now that it’s here — the Alamo Village is being liquidated in January, I’m reminded of the sad state of John Wayne’s pet project. The original negative’s rotting away, and nothing’s being done to preserve it. And the DVD of the film that’s available is tolerable at best. It’s shameful.

I’ve never visited Alamo Village in Brackettville. Always wanted to. And if I could make it out for this sale, I would — and I’d buy something. Anything. That way, I’d know there was one tiny piece of the whole thing being protected.

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Vera June Miles
(Born August 23, 1929)

In a film filled with one incredible image after another, this is one of my favorites. So when I realized this was Vera Miles’ birthday, there was nothing else that would do. Of course that’s a frame from John Ford’s The Searchers (1956). Ford can somehow say more in a single frame than others can get in an entire feature.

Vera Miles appears in a few of the finest films ever made: The Searchers, Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) and Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Not a bad run, huh? (Wichita ain’t too shabby, either.)

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