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Archive for the ‘Making Movies’ Category

There’s a feature-length documentary in the works on producer/director Al Adamson. Adamson made a number of exploitation pictures in the 60s and 70s — Satan’s Sadists (1969), Five Bloody Graves (1969), Horror Of The Blood Monsters (1970), Dracula Vs. Frankenstein (1971) and many more. His father was Victor Adamson, who made a slew of B Westerns in the 20s and 30s as an actor and director (sometimes under aliases like Denver Dixon). Many of his films are considered lost.

That’s Al Adamson in the lower left.

As a boy, Al appeared in his dad’s Desert Mesa (1935), and they worked together on another no-budget Western, Half Way To Hell in 1961. They made cheap genre movies a family business.

Footage from these films is needed for this documentary on Al Adamson. If you have anything — from a film print to a bootleg VHS, please let me know, and I’ll put you in touch with the producers. Thanks a lot.

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With The Indian Fighter (1955) making its way to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber, this seemed like a good time to share some more of the photos my wife’s finding as she helps with the research for my commentary. (Photos don’t do too well in an audio commentary.) I’ve been really wallowing in this movie the last couple weeks.

Here, they’re shooting a scene with Hank Worden and Walter Matthau.

Elisha Cook rests between takes in Bend, Oregon, as Ira Eagleman (whose parents were working as extras) looks on. Cook, Worden, Matthau — what a cast!

A prop man fires flaming arrows at the fort.

Elsa Martinelli, an Italian fashion model, made her screen debut in The Indian Fighter. Douglas’ wife Anne saw her in Vogue and recommended her for the part.

Here, they’re shooting inside the stockade. I can’t find director Andre de Toth in this photo, but this seems to be a scene with Douglas and Walter Abel. The Indian Fighter was the first picture from Douglas’ Bryna Productions. It was also de Toth’s first time chance to work with CinemaScope. He does a couple of really cool 360-degree pans that really use the Scope frame (and show off the distortion in those early Scope lenses).

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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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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).

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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.

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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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