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Archive for the ‘Lesley Selander’ Category

Short Grass LC RC and JMBDirected by Lesley Selander
Starring Rod Cameron, Cathy Downs, Johnny Mack Brown, Raymond Walburn, Alan Hale, Morris Ankrum, Jack Ingram, Myron Healey

I am delighted to be able to take part in The Allied Artists Pictures Blogathon and would like to thank our host, Toby, for making it possible.

Having come together around 1932, Monogram Pictures was a main player on Poverty Row in Hollywood and was known by fans for providing thrills and excitement although their product never matched their rivals over at Republic for slickness and overall quality. They sure tried though! As WW2 ended they formed Allied Artists Pictures with the intent of producing bigger-budgeted pictures alongside their ‘bread-and-butter’ product. As the industry changed Monogram was phased out finally in 1953 and everything went out under AA.

Scott R. Dunlap had worked at Monogram for a number of years and had been a producer and close friend to cowboy star Buck Jones and had nearly died with Jones in 1942 in the Coconut Grove fire. His heart was in westerns and by the end of the decade he was involved in some with a higher budget and aspirations. In 1950, he produced a classy range Western called Short Grass.

SHORTGRASS51As a Western fan of long-standing and diehard nature, some of my all-time favorite Westerns came from either the Republic banner or Allied Artists. An actor who made his name in Westerns was Rod Cameron. Over a period of nearly a decade, Rod alternated between the two studios in some mighty fine Westerns. Three or four of those are in my list of all-time favorites — Brimstone (1949) and Ride The Man Down (1952) for Republic and Stampede (1949) and Short Grass (1950) for AA come most to mind.

Short Grass comes with some impressive western credentials. Apart from Cameron, it was directed by the unsung (though not here) Lesley Selander from a screenplay by Tom W. Blackburn, adapted from his own novel. Starring alongside Rod was cowboy star Johnny Mack Brown whose own starring series was still filming at Monogram. The cast was a ‘deep’ Western one — Harry Woods, Jack Ingram, Myron Healey and many more. Of particular note in the cast was Cathy Downs as the female lead. Her character was feminine, flesh-and-blood and believable.

054202041Blackburn’s story is set at a time when the west was on the cusp of becoming more civilised and people were moving west to seek a new life but wanting schools, churches, newspapers and, of course, law and order. From the start when Steve Llewellyn (Cameron) drifts into the middle of a saloon robbery and gets shot, then is found and nursed back to health by Sharon (Downs), a rancher’s daughter, he finds himself slap-dab in the middle of a land grab. Sharon is horrified by the brutality of the West and abhors the use of guns. Unable to avoid gunplay with the landgrabbers, Steve rides away, knowing that he cannot be with Sharon though they are in love. Five years later, he returns to New Mexico and finds a town starting to embrace civilisation but unable to free itself from the land grabbers who more or less control things. In the meantime, Sharon had married a newspaperman who unfortunately is weak and unable to control his need for booze. To cut the story short, Rod eventually is forced to strap his guns back on, this time with Sharon’s support and that of Marshal Mack Brown to face down the gang. At the end he removes his guns “for good” — you know the way will now be clear for the kind of civilization that has been hovering.

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Short Grass is happily readily available on DVD in a beautiful print thanks to our friends at Warner Archive. The lovely cinematography of Harry Neumann stands out with some beautiful cloud formations above stunning New Mexico locations near Albuquerque. As Rod Cameron muses early in the film, the attraction to him of the wildness of the country is its space and beauty — and Neumann’s lens work makes sure the point is made!

Jerry Entract does not run his own blog or have any involvement in the film industry but is an English lifelong movie fan and amateur student of classic cinema (American and British). Main passions are the western and detective/mystery/film noir. Enjoys seeking out lesser-known (even downright obscure) old movies.

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Abile Town signed still

First, thanks to everyone who sent in their picks — we had a larger turnout this year. Your responses were very thorough, and they made it clear to me what a good year this was for 50s Westerns on DVD and Blu-ray — you brought up tons of em. Here are the Top 10, ordered by the number of votes they received.

Abilene Town (1946, Blu-ray, Panamint Cinema)
This one topped the list in a big way. I was so stoked to see this fairly obscure Randolph Scott picture rescued from the PD purgatory where it’s been rotting for years — a lot of you seemed to feel the same. Mastered from 35mm fine-grain material, it’s stunning.

Shane (1953, Blu-ray, Eureka)
The Blu-ray release from Paramount made last year’s list, and this UK release was a strong contender this time around. Eureka gives us the opportunity to see what Paramount’s controversial 1.66 cropping looked like.

The Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection (1951-54, DVD set, Warner Archive)
I’m pretty biased when it comes to this one, and I was happy to learn that others were as pleased with it as I was. One of the greatest Western stars goes out on a high note, even if it is a low-budget one.

The Quiet Gun (1956, Blu-ray, Olive Films)
It’s hard to believe this was a 2015 release, since it was on Olive Films’ coming-soon list for such a long time. These Regalscope movies look great in their original aspect ratio, and for my money, this is the best of the bunch.

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Woman They Almost Lynched (1953, Blu-ray, Olive Films)
It makes me feel good to see Allan Dwan get some attention, and stellar presentations of his work, like this one, should continue to fuel his (re-)discovery.

Man With The Gun (1955, Blu-ray, Kino Lorber)
A solid Robert Mitchum Western, with the added punch of a terrific 1.85 hi-def transfer. This is a lot better movie than you probably remember it being.

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Run Of The Arrow (1957, DVD, Warner Archive)
This really knocked me out — I’d somehow missed out on what a great movie this is. It took me a while to get used to Rod Steiger and his affected accent, but this is prime Sam Fuller.

The Hired Gun (1957, DVD, Warner Archive)
Black and white CinemaScope is a big attraction for me, so I’d been waiting for this one for years. It was worth the wait.

Stranger At My Door (1954, Blu-ray, Olive Films)
A really cool little movie from Republic and William Witney. It was Witney’s favorite of his own pictures, and it’s pretty easy to see why he’d be partial to it. His work here is masterful.

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Star In The Dust (1956, Blu-ray, Koch)
Koch out of Germany is treating us (or those of us with a Region B player) to some great Universal 50s Westerns on Blu-ray. This one was released in Universal’s 2.0 ratio of the period. Some found it a bit tight, but it’s a gorgeous presentation of a movie not enough people have seen.

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Republic studios yellow

Welcome to The Republic Pictures Blogathon. Over the weekend, we’ll be celebrating the studio’s incredible talent roster, wonderful output and lasting legacy. This page will serve as its hub, and you’ll be able to reach all the posts here. Keep checking back.

One of my earliest movie memories, maybe the earliest, is of a 16mm print of John Ford’s Rio Grande (1950). So Republic has always been a huge part of my movie world.

It was formed by combining a number of the Poverty Row studios, and the goal of its head, Herbert J. Yates, was always commerce over art. So in a way, it’s surprising their films displayed the level of craftsmanship that they did. That craft may be what, in the end, sets them apart. After all, there were lots and lots of B Westerns and serials out there. But there’s a polish to a Republic picture — from the camerawork to the editing to those wonderful special effects to the performances to the stunts, that’s very special. It’s easy to see why their films are still so popular. If only they were readily available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Over the next few days, we have plenty to celebrate. The cowboy movies. The serials. The crime pictures. And on and on. Some great movie bloggers have saddled up or strapped on their rocket suit to be a part of this whole deal — and I really appreciate their efforts. This should be fun, folks!

Click on the images below to be linked to the appropriate blog.

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Day Three.

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Angel And The Badman (1947) – The Round Place In The Middle

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Ride The Man Down (1952) – 50 Westerns From The 50s

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City That Never Sleeps (1953) – Speakeasy

 

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Radar Men From The Moon (1952) – The Hannibal 8

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Day Two.

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The Fabulous Texan (1947) – Blake Lucas at 50 Westerns From The 50s

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Hoodlum Empire (1952) – Jerry Entract at The Hannibal 8

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Jubilee Trail (1954) – Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings

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Rock Island Trail (1950) and California Passage (1950) – The Horn Section

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Day One.

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The Outcast (1954) – Jerry Entract at 50 Westerns From The 50s

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Blackmail (1947) – John Knight at The Hannibal 8

Angel And The Badman (1947) – Thoughts All Sorts

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The Red Pony (1949) – Caftan Woman

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Dakota Incident (1956) – Riding The High Country

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Arrow In The Dust HS

Directed by Lesley Selander
Produced by Hayes Goetz
Screenplay by Don Martin
Cinematography: Ellis W. Carter
Film Editor: William Austin

Cast: Sterling Hayden (Bart Laish), Coleen Gray (Christella Burke), Keith Larsen (Lt. Steve King), Tom Tully (Crowshaw), Jimmy Wakely (Pvt. Carqueville), Tudor Owen (Tillotson), Lee Van Cleef, Iron Eyes Cody

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With Arrow In The Dust (1954), Allied Artists seems to have splurged a little. With both Sterling Hayden and Coleen Gray in the cast, there’s a bit more star power than usual — and we’re treated to the vivid hues of Technicolor on the then-new wide screen. But this was made not long after Poverty Row’s Monogram Pictures made the transition to Allied Artists, so some of their typical B Movie trappings are very much in evidence. And that’s not a bad thing.

Sterling Hayden’s Bart Laish, a cavalry deserter who poses as an officer to lead a wagon train through Indian territory. And boy, do they need his help — the Indians attack the settlers and soldiers again and again (for reasons that become clear in the last reel).

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Along the way, Hayden is revealed as a solid leader and undergoes a real transformation (though we’re never given his reasons for deserting in the first place). Along with his redemption, he develops a relationship with Christella Burke (Coleen Gray), a woman heading west with the wagon train.

Arrow In The Dust still CG

Working with a crack team of stuntmen and a sizable amount of stock footage, Lesley Selander really piles on the action. And when it comes to action, Selander’s the guy you want in the director’s chair. While you may feel there’s little character development here, it seems to me that there’s quite a bit of it, given how much screen time is devoted to action. Hayden and Gray are as reliable as ever, rounding out their characters very well. Tom Tully, as an old scout, is also very good. Incidentally, Hayden and Gray (and Vince Edwards) would appear in Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing (1956). Think Kubrick and his team screened Arrow In The Dust during casting?

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Arrow In The Dust is no epic. No one’s ever gonna mistake it for one. But it’s a revelation to see its 1.85 framing (presented as a more TV-friendly 1.78) reinstated. And while the DVD from Warner Archive is the best I’ve seen the movie look, there are some problems — and I fear they come from the original material, not the transfer. The stock footage doesn’t match the rest of the film, which is a small gripe. The day-for-night scenes are painfully obvious, and I suspect the print material doesn’t reflect the lab work that went into first-run prints. And you’ll see some dust and scratches here and there.

Sterling Hayden’s performance really boosts Arrow In The Dust, and Lesley Selander’s command of action and pacing keep things moving toward a very satisfying conclusion (I’m a sucker for a redemption story and would watch a movie of Hayden brushing his teeth). This is a solid, if slightly cheap, mid-budget Western that’s certainly worth another look — especially given the improved picture quality and original framing. Recommended.

Laura’s already reviewed this one.

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Lesley_SelanderNext Thursday, April 9, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will highlight director Lesley Selander by running nine of his films, three of them part of RKO’s excellent series of B Westerns starring Tim Holt (Gunplay is a very good one).

Arrow In The Dust (1954) stars Sterling Hayden and Coleen Gray. Tall Man Riding (1955) is a solid Randolph Scott picture. And The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold (1958) is the second TV spinoff feature to star Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels.

I’m a big fan of Lesley Selander. When it comes to action, he’s one of the best. It’s good to see him get this kind of attention. His films are short, smart, fast — and highly recommended.

Selander on TCM

The times listed are Eastern Standard Time. This is a “restoration” of a shorter post. Thanks to Blake for pointing out all I’d missed.

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Hired_Gun_3

Warner Archive has some great stuff promised for April.

The Hired Gun (1957)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Rory Calhoun, Anne Francis, Vince Edwards, Chuck Connors
This is one I’ve been wanting for a long time. Black and white Scope with Rory Calhoun and Anne Francis, directed by Ray Nazarro. What’s not to like?

Black Patch (1957)
Directed by Allen H. Miner
Starring George Montgomery, Diane Brewster, Tom Pittman, Leo Gordon, Lynn Cartwright
A solid Montgomery Western written by character actor Leo Gordon.

Arrow In The Dust HS

Arrow In The Dust (1954)
Directed by Lesley Selander
Starring Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Jimmy Wakely, Lee Van Cleef
Hayden and Gray appear together a couple years before The Killing (1956), directed by the great Lesley Selander.

The Marauders (1955)
Directed by Gerald Mayer
Starring Dan Duryea, Jeff Richards, Keenan Wynn
Duryea as the bad guy gets first billing. Enough said.

Son Of Belle Starr (1953)
Directed by Frank McDonald
Starring Keith Larsen, Dona Drake, Peggie Castle, Regis Toomey
Peggie Castle and Regis Toomey in 70 minutes of Cinecolor from Allied Artists.

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riograndepatrol1950

Directed by LesleySelander
Starring Tim Holt, Richard Martin, Jane Nigh, Douglas Fowley

On the third Thursday of most months, The Western Film Preservation Society has been running B Westerns at NC State’s McKimmon Center, here in Raleigh, since 1981. One of this week’s features is Rio Grande Patrol (1950), starring Tim Holt and Richard Martin (as Chito, of course). It was directed by the great Lesley Selander. The meetings get going at 6:45.

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