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Archive for the ‘Making Movies’ Category

white-rogers-witney

Producer Eddie White, Roy Rogers, Director William Witney.

While doing some research on Sunset In The West (1950), I came upon an intro to Under California Stars (1948) that aired on Roy Rogers’ Happy Trails Theater. William Witney was the guest, and he gave a bit of a rundown on how the Rogers pictures came together. Very interesting stuff, coming from a brilliant craftsman.

William Witney: “Our producer, the greatest guy, Eddie White… was from New York. He didn’t know which end of a horse was which, but he had good taste. And they brought me along and put me with him. I’d been a horseman all my life. I’m a jumping horse rider, and I love horses. So, we made a very excellent team, the two of us. We became the best of friends.

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They would give us a title from the front office, and I remember a couple of ’em. One was North Of The Great Divide. I said, ‘How in the world did they get North Of The Great Divide? There is no north of the great divide.’ But Bill Saal came up with that title… Now, that’s all they gave us, just the title. So we hired a writer. We had three of four stock writers that were excellent. Sloan Nibley comes to mind… Eddie and myself and Sloan would sit down and we would decide what we wanted the story to be about. Then Sloan would go back — now we might be working on three pictures at the same time, or maybe four… They’d go back and they’d kinda block it out, bring it back, and we’d say ‘No, you’re on the wrong track… Let’s do it this way or do it that way.’

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Now we come up with a finished script. Eddie and I would go through it, check the dialogue, check it out, and give it to the production department. Now Jack Lacey was our unit man for years. He’d lay it out on the board for a budget, and we would put the budget down, and if that was what the studio would okay, now we had to find the locations. We knew every location locally. I knew every location we could afford to go to. We’d pick the location — Big Bear, someplace like the Iverson… So now we’ve got the locations, we’ve got the departments — wardrobe department, makeup department… These crews that we had were held together with a tight hand. They were our friends.

Republic studios yellow

Republic was a small studio. I was under contract there for 28 years, and this studio, everybody used to say, was the hardest studio to work at in the world, but our crews were excellent. They had people in there that were just brilliant… Incidentally, the guy who swept the horse stuff off the street was called a sportsman — because he followed the horses. ‘Sportsman!’ We’ve got a casting office, and they read the script and they make suggestions. You also have a book of actors, and you know actors after all these years. You got through the book and you say, ‘See if you can get him, I wanna interview him.’ And you’d interview these people to look at them. You knew their ability, most of them, because you’d worked with them before. Once I said, ‘Oh, I know him. I just made a picture with him. Cast him.’ Well, he came in, and he’d just had all his teeth pulled out. It made it a little difficult.”

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s-l1600-18

Here’s a batch of behind-the scenes photos to help wrap up 2016.

Let’s start with Maria Elena Marques and John Derek on the set of Fred F. Sears’ Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953).

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Next is Edith Head, Jeff Chandler and Melvin Frank going over costumes for The Jayhawkers! (1959).

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Here’s Satchel Page and Robert Rossen at work on The Wonderful Country (1959).

Fort Dobbs BTS

Then there’s Virginia Mayo and Clint Walker shooting Fort Dobbs (1958).

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Whistling Hills LC

Stephen Lodge is a very nice man who, as a kid, got to visit some Western movie and TV sets. (His aunt worked for Monogram.) One of those visits was to the Iverson Ranch while Johnny Mack Brown was shooting Whistling Hills (1951).  I’ve “borrowed” the next few snapshots from his website, which I encourage you to check out.

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First, Stephen and his brother meet Johnny Mack Brown.

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Brown with his costar, Noel Neill.

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Brown at the saloon on Iverson’s Western street. There are plenty of other photos on Lodge’s site, along with a great writeup of his time on the Iverson Ranch.

Whistling Hills is available on Warner Archive’s Monogram Cowboy Collection Volume 7.

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Roughshod BTS comic panelI’ve been working on a review of the Roughshod (1949) DVD from Warner Archive, and my research turned up some pretty cool stuff. This panel from Prize Comics Western shows the cast and crew at work — the whole story is about making the film. Here, cinematographer Joseph Biroc and director Mark Robson prepare to shoot Gloria Grahame and Robert Sterling.

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Cast and crew on location.

s-l1600-5Here’s Myrna Dell and costume woman Christine Chute. According to the original photo caption, it was 101 degrees in the desert.

Roughshod Jarman Dell sizedClaude Jarman, Jr. and Myrna Dell play cards on location. If you haven’t seen this one, it’s terrific.

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1 Liberty Ford

My wife and I watched John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) on our honeymoon. So as our anniversary rolls around, it usually comes to mind. And this seems like a good excuse to highlight yet another Ford masterpiece.

Liberty Valance Wayne hat

Here’s Wayne’s hat from the film. In black and white, it seems so much lighter.

Liberty Valance Marvin vest

Lee Marvin’s vest. After his years doing M Squad on TV, Liberty Valance helped Marvin transition from heavy to leading roles as he returned to features.

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One of Edith Head’s sketches for Vera Miles’ costumes.

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John Ford and his terrific cast break for tea. Judging from who’s present and how they’re dressed, they must’ve been shooting the dinner scene where Marvin makes Stewart drop Wayne’s steak — and Strother Martin gets kicked in the face.

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Jimmy Stewart punches John Wayne — with Ford and crew very very close.

Liberty Valance Marvin Martin Van Cleef

Jennifer and I often celebrate our anniversary by going out for steaks. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

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Tim H Storm Over Wyoming

Here at 50 Westerns From The 50s, Tuesday belongs to Tim Holt. 

Noreen Nash, Tim Holt and Richard Martin on location for Storm Over Wyoming (1950, working title: Range War).

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Lunch while shooting Border Treasure (1950).

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Hellfire TC

So far, the great cinematographer Jack A. Marta has hardly been mentioned here. I’m ashamed and with today’s Wild Bill Wednesday, I’m taking care of it. So many outstanding movies. What Price Glory (1926). The Night Riders (1939). Dark Command (1940). Flying Tigers (1942). Hellfire (1949). Trigger, Jr. (1950). Spoilers Of The Plains (1951). The Last Command (1955). The Bonnie Parker Story (1958). Cat Ballou (1965). Duel (1971).

On that last one, Steven Spielberg’s breakthrough TV movie Duel, Marta’s experience shooting outdoors in the desert helped get the thing completed on its 10-day schedule.

Steven Spielberg (from the excellent book Steven Spielberg And Duel: The Making Of A Film Career): “Jack was a sweetheart. He was just a kind, gentle soul who you know had never worked that fast in his entire career; none of us had, and yet there was nothing he didn’t do or couldn’t do, and he really enjoyed himself.”

No offense to Mr. Spielberg, but I have a feeling Duel‘s 10-day shoot, though exhausting, was probably nothing new for Marta, who’d done beautiful work on Republic’s tight schedules, in both black and white and Trucolor, and worked on plenty of television shows like Route 66 and Batman.

When Elliott co-produced Hellfire (below) for Republic release, a film he saw as a very special project (and considered his best film), Jack Marta was the director of photography. Was he randomly assigned the job by Republic, or did Elliott request him after working together on The Gallant Legion (1948) and the Trucolor The Last Bandit (1949)? (I’m getting pretty good at finding new ways to sneak Hellfire into this blog.)

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