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Archive for the ‘Marie Windsor’ Category

Directed by R. G. Springsteen
Written by Executive Producers Dorrell and Stuart McGowan
Director Of Photography: Jack Marta
Art Director: James Sullivan
Music by Dale Butts
Film Editor: Tony Martinelli
2nd Unit Director: Yakima Canutt
Special Effects: Howard and Theodore Lydecker

Cast: William Elliott (Zeb Smith), Marie Windsor (Doll Brown/Mary Carson), Forrest Tucker (Marshal Bucky McLean), Jim Davis (Gyp Stoner), H. B. Warner (Brother Joseph), Paul Fix (Dusty Stoner), Grant Withers (Sheriff Martin), Emory Parnell (Sheriff Duffy), Esther Howard (Birdie), Jody Gilbert (Full Moon), Louis Faust (Red Stoner), Harry Woods (Lew Stoner), Denver Pyle (Rex), Trevor Bardette (Wilson), Dewey Robinson (Bartender), Hank Worden

This is an entry in The Marie Windsor Blogathon, a celebration of the actress’s life and work.

I love  Hellfire (1949). I’ve seen it countless times, and it’s the main reason Marie Windsor is, and always has been, my favorite actress. Thought I should get all that out of the way before my extreme bias starts to show.

It goes like this. Zeb Smith, a card sharp (William Elliott), is caught cheating. He’s saved by Brother Joseph, a circuit preacher (H. B. Warner), who ends up catching a bullet for his good deed. Elliott tends to the dying old man, and learns that Joseph’s only regret is that he didn’t get the chance to build a church. Elliott promises to square things by building that church — even though he has to do it according to the Bible, not by simply racking up a wad of cash in a poker game.

Enter Doll Brown (Marie Windsor), a young woman with a price on her head for gunning down the abusive Lew Stoner (Harry Woods). Elliott figures her reward will cover Brother Joseph’s church, but when he finds her, things get complicated. You see, the rest of the Stoner boys want to give Doll a taste of frontier justice for gunning down their brother. Marshal Bucky McLean (Forrest Tucker), a friend of Zeb’s, is also on Doll’s trail. And Doll is really Mary Carson, and she’s looking for her long-lost sister Jane. Add to all that the fact that the recently, and reluctantly, converted Zeb has to do things according to the “rule book.”

“According to the rule book, I’m supposed to be
a peaceable man. Sometimes I kinda forget.”
— Zeb Smith (William Elliott)

While Hellfire looks like a typical minor-A Republic Western, with the distinctly weird Trucolor palette, and plays like most of Elliott’s “good badman” pictures, there are a number of things that set it apart.

First and foremost, there’s the spiritual angle, which takes the redemption theme found in so many Westerns to a new, more literal level. Hellfire goes far beyond the religious allegory we find in other Westerns. While Hellfire‘s theology sometimes seems at odds with the picture’s gunplay and violence, it’s heartfelt, it gives Elliott and Windsor nice character arcs to work with, and it’s quite moving toward the end (that’s Psalm 23, by the way). The pastel hues of Trucolor give the film a fable-like quality that perfectly complements the religious themes.

There’s a heavy dose of symbolism here, too. Fire is a common thread, from the titles to Elliott’s getaway after the card game (setting a stack of six-guns ablaze) to Elliott himself being burned along the way (one torture scene is hard to watch) to the name of the movie itself. Fire turns up in the Bible a lot, too, of course — both literally and conceptually. 

Another key differentiator is Marie Windsor. She’s perfect here, as Doll Brown, who’s riding the West looking for her sister. We easily believe she’d be capable of gunning a man down. Her softer side, Mary Carson, works, too. Windsor pulls it off beautifully, a part that could’ve been laughable in less capable hands.

William Elliott greets Marie Windsor on the first day of shooting.

The screenplay came from brothers Dorrell and Stuart McGowan. They’d written a handful of pictures for Republic — from Mountain Rhythm (1943) to Valley Of The Zombies (1946) to Don’t Fence Me In (1946). This time, they were listed as executive producers. Elliott was a producer as well; the film is credited as “An Elliott-McGowan Production.” One  of Republic’s ace house directors, R.G. Springsteen, was given the assignment.

Republic got a lot of press back in 1949 out of William Elliott’s attempts to get the name of his movie past the Johnson Office. “Hell” had not been in a movie title in 15 years.

Elliott also insisted on Marie Windsor. The studio wanted Adrian Booth, who they had under contract. Elliott had seen Windsor in a test and the recent Outpost In Morocco. When he heard she could ride, that sealed the deal. He worked with her on gun-twirling, and she did a lot of her own stunts.

Marie Windsor: “Republic was a cozier and smaller studio… I love Hellfire. I was so thrilled to get that well-written part of a female bandit, Doll Brown.” 

Republic sent a second unit to Sedona to shoot some riding scenes. The rest of it was shot at the Iverson Rancho and the Republic lot. The cast is made up of the usual Republic roster: Forrest Tucker, Jim Davis, Paul Fix, Grant Withers and Denver Pyle.

Marie Windsor: “Hellfire should have been a Western that would have changed my whole career. Studio owner Herbert Yates promised to spend a lot of money to sell the film. Mr. Yates suddenly got involved in trying to get the communists out of the industry. He made a film called The Red Menace (1949), which he spent a great deal of money to sell and did nothing for Hellfire.”

Yates’ lack of promotion for Hellfire prompted Elliott-McGowan Productions to sue the studio for not holding up its end of the bargain — and for not letting the producers look at the books.

Marie Windsor: “At his own expense, Bill set up an opening publicity tour in Salt Lake City for Hellfire.”

William Elliott made only one more film at Republic, again with the McGowans, Showdown (1950). Its religion them is subtler, and Trucolor is missing, but Marie Windsor is back. It’s certainly worth tracking down.

Believe it or not, Republic sometimes paired Hellfire with Brimstone, a Rod Cameron Western from the same year. One theater near Cincinnati got creative and had the Devil himself taking tickets. 

Elliott considered Hellfire his best film, and Marie Windsor always listed it as a personal favorite (along with The Narrow Margin and The Killing). 

Paramount currently owns the Republic Pictures library. They restored hundreds of these films, Hellfire included. And though the restoration played at the Museum Of Modern Art as part of a Republic retrospective, it hasn’t made its way to DVD or Blu-Ray. 

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Directed by Lesley Selander
Produced by Jack Jungmeyer
Screenplay by Maurice Geraghty
Story by Frank Gruber
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography: Jack Greenhalgh
Film Editor: Francis D. Lyon

Cast: George Montgomery (Tom Horn / Steve Garrett), Rod Cameron (Harve Logan / Kid Curry), Marie Windsor (Dakota Lil), John Emery (Vincent), Wallace Ford (Carter), Jack Lambert (Dummy), Larry Johns (Sheriff), Marion Martin (Blonde Singer), James Flavin (Secret Service Chief), Walter Sande (Butch Cassidy)

This is an entry in The Marie Windsor Blogathon, a celebration of the actress’s life and work. It comes from guest blogger Boyd Cathey.

Marie Windsor always evokes wonderful memories for me, and on this day, December 11, 2020, which would have been her 101st birthday, I think back to the films with her that left an imprint on me, and that since my childhood I’ve managed to see and in many cases finally acquire.

When I was young boy my dad and I would go from time to time to a movie house in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, usually on a Saturday, to see a Western double feature. Our favorite was Randolph Scott. My dad’s family is from Charlotte, and my grandparents were acquaintances with Randy Scott’s family, also in Charlotte, so we had a connection. One of the first films I recall featuring Marie Windsor was The Bounty Hunter (1954). I think it was a re-release at one of the lesser, second-run theaters that used to exist in the city, as the original release was in 1954, and I was too young to go to movies back then. I remember her role as the wife of a notorious bandit—she wasn’t the main star, but she seemed to give an extra spark to this Scott Western, which like most of his Warner oaters seemed less polished than the Columbia products.

Anyway, I was taken by her. Okay, I was maybe only about 10, but I was captivated—she was beautiful and perky, and along with Sophia Loren, she became my idolized female star. In the late 1950s until her retirement in 1991, she also frequently acted in television. She made appearances in Maverick, Rawhide, Perry Mason, even Murder, She Wrote with Angela Lansbury, one of the best American crime mystery series. And Windsor was always beautiful and captivating, she never seemed to age.

A few years later—probably the early 1960s or so—a local television station broadcast Dakota Lil (1950), one of those films that stations would broadcast usually late at night. I begged my parents to let me stay up—it was a school night, and my normal bedtime was 10 p.m. Somehow they agreed, maybe because dad wanted to see it also. Anyway, we both viewed it, and immediately Dakota Lil became a favorite.

The plot is fairly simple, although the development is more complicated. George Montgomery, Secret Service undercover agent Tom Horn (as Steve Garrett), is charged with breaking a major counterfeit outfit, the “Hole-in-the-Wall” gang in Wyoming. To do this he travels to Matamoros, Mexico, to enlist the aid of Windsor—Dakota Lil—noted for her ability to perfect an exact replication of official signatures. They both head to Wyoming, but she initially begins working with the chief culprit and the particularly nasty Rod Cameron (Harve Logan/Kid Curry)

The first thing you notice is the film score: it’s by the award-winning composer Dmitri Tiomkin, and it is gorgeous and memorable. In fact, its themes remained in my mind long after I first watched the DVD. Certainly, Fox by charging Tiomkin with the music of Dakota Lil intended it to be more than just another “super-B” Western.  Additionally, John Emery, who plays the role of Vincent, a former concert pianist and hanger-on to Windsor, offers up several short pieces by Frederic Chopin! Marie—Dakota Lil—sings various songs, with the singing voice of Anita Ellis. She executes excellent lip-syncing.

Although Dakota Lil showcases a youngish George Montgomery, Windsor steals the show and adds essential sparkle to the film. She invests the generally unremarkable dialogue with some real panache, indeed with just a face gesture or an inflection in her voice she can steal a scene. When she shows up at the Wind River, Wyoming, saloon (owned by Cameron) and comes upon the current diva, that chanteuse asks her: “What are you staring at?,” Windsor responds dryly: “A no talent performance.” Likewise, her dialogue with Cameron on how they plan to split the proceeds of the counterfeit government bonds shows comparable spunk and her mastery of crisp exchange, even humor. One can see how Marie Windsor fit so well into film noir, indeed, Dakota Lil shares certain characteristics of that genre. Consider, for example, Cameron’s preferred method of killing his enemies—by brutal strangling, almost matter-of-fact in its cruelty.

It was only in 2015 that I discovered that a DVD existed, in fact, two DVD releases. And I snatched up a copy as soon as I could. Both are in the PAL European video format, which means they will not play in American NTSC DVD players; but All Region DVD players are easily available and can be had inexpensively via Amazon.com and elsewhere. One copy was issued in Spain, which I have not seen. My copy is issued by Simply Media, a British company, which licensed their copy from Renown Films.

Although Dakota Lil was originally released by 20th Century-Fox in Cinecolor (February 1950), to my knowledge no color issue has emerged since its original release. Neither of the available DVDs is in color. Since Cinecolor was a less stable and reliable color process than Technicolor, one wonders if such a copy still exists somewhere in the Fox archives. Kino Lorber has done some wonderful restoration work with Scott’s The Cariboo Trail and Canadian Pacific, both Fox releases, so maybe we are allowed to hope?

Both the Simply Media copy and the Spanish release are available reasonably from the American firm, DaaVeeDee.com and also from Amazon.com. My copy is a good B & W issue, with a sharp picture and no sign of deterioration.

Directed by warhorse director Lesley Selander, Dakota Lil is surely one of his finer efforts. It deserves to be much better known. No, it’s not perhaps as good a vehicle for Windsor as, say, Hellfire (1949, with Wild Bill Elliott), but it merits attention…and perhaps a full digital restoration?

In any event, it should be seen for Marie Windsor’s fine performance which raises this film above the dozens similar to it released in 1950. Happy Birthday, Marie, and may your legacy on film continue to be enjoyed and appreciated!

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Marie Windsor
(December 11, 1919 – December 10, 2000)

My favorite actress, Marie Windsor, was born 101 years today. Seems like a good time for a blogathon celebrating her life and work. Through Monday the 14th, there will be posts about Ms. Windsor’s work in movies and TV from a number of film bloggers. This post will serve as a hub, or index, for those posts (see below).

Emily Marie Bertelsen was born in Utah and went to Brigham Young University. She headed for Hollywood in 1939 and studied acting at Maria Ouspenskaya’s school (around the time Ouspenskaya played the old gypsy woman in The Wolf Man). Around this time, she started using the name Marie Windsor.

Marie worked on radio, was a telephone operator and did lots of bit parts before getting a really good role in Force Of Evil (1948) with John Garfield.

A string of noirs and Westerns followed, so much good stuff: Hellfire (1949), The Fighting Kentuckian (1949), The Showdown (1950), The Sniper (1952), The Narrow Margin (1952), Trouble Along The Way (1953), The Bounty Hunter (1954), Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy (1955), The Killing (1956), Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971) and The Outfit (1973). That’s just a few.

She stayed busy in TV, too: Cheyenne, Maverick, Perry Mason, Rawhide, Batman, Adam-12 and many, many more.

She was often called The Queen Of The Bs, but I think that belittles both her talent and the many terrific little movies she made. No matter how cheap the movie might be (like 1957’s The Parson And The Outlaw, up top), or how small the part, she always, always gave it her best. 

The Marie Windsor Blogathon

Post #1: Double Deal (1950)
The Hannibal 8

Post #2: Dakota Lil (1950) by guest blogger Boyd Cathey
50 Westerns From The 50s

Post #3: Maverick – The Quick And The Dead (1957)
Caftan Woman

Post #4: Hellfire (1949)
Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings

Post #5: Force Of Evil (1948)
The Oak Drive-In

Post #6: Hellfire (1949)
50 Westerns From The 50s

Post #7: So This Is Love (1953)
Pure Entertainment Preservation Society

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The Marie Windsor Blogathon is getting closer, and I’m getting plenty excited about it.

If you’d like to participate, feel free. Here’s what you do —
• Pick a movie or TV show Marie Windsor appeared in
• Let me know you want to ride along (email fiftieswesterns@gmail.com), what you want to cover and when you plan to post it. Your posts can be in any form, of any length, and on any topic as long as it relates to Ms. Windsor, but I’d like to manage things a bit to make sure we don’t end up with 14 people writing about The Killing.
• Post your piece on anytime between December 11-14, using the Marie Windsor Blogathon banner and link (both will come shortly).
• Send me the link to your post so I can add it to the master list.

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A lot of people like all that streaming TV stuff. And when I see how much of my home is dedicated to storing my, my wife’s and my daughter’s favorite movies and TV shows, I wish I did.

But I learned a lesson about streaming. Several years ago, Hellfire (1949) — one of my all-time favorite movies — was available for streaming on Netflix. It was not on DVD or Blu-Ray. Streaming was it. I live in a fairly rural area, and the internet service at the time wasn’t up to snuff, so we never got a Netflix account. A few months later, I heard Hellfire wasn’t up there anymore. I’ve since learned it’s back.

When I feel like watching a favorite movie, I want to watch it — and if it’s sitting on a shelf in my home, I can. I’m not at the mercy of Netflix deciding what they will or won’t offer from one month to the next.

Today, I saw a news story that the Peanuts holiday specials won’t be on broadcast TV this year, something many families make a point of getting together for. The article, in the Los Angeles Times, said “The Peanuts gang and their annual holiday specials have left broadcast television for their new home, Apple TV+…  rather than on ABC and other networks this year.”

As much as I hate it for other folks, Apple TV+ can do what they want, Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest are waiting for my family on Blu-Ray. Another lesson learned about streaming vs. DVDs and Blu-Rays.

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Some of us have been going back and forth about this for over a year. Well, now’s the time to make it official. Marie Windsor, my all-time favorite actress, gets a blogathon. It kicks off on her birthday, December 11. 

If you’re interested in playing along, email me at fiftieswesterns@gmail.com with the Marie Windsor movie you want to cover. I’ll be keeping a list to try to avoid too much duplication. More info will come as the event gets closer.

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George Randolph Scott
(January 23, 1898 – March 2, 1987)

To mark Randolph Scott’s birthday, here’s an image by artist Tim Foley from his Western Screen Legends Coloring Book, published by Dover.

You’ll find some illustrations that didn’t make the book on his website, including a great one of Marie Windsor.

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A while back, I asked for Want Lists of the 50s Westerns still lost on the high-def trail. Here they are, presented in chronological order. The titles in bold are the ones that were brought up most frequently.

With the recent news about Fox/Disney’s lack of interest in their back catalogs appearing on shiny silver circles, getting this finished and posted seemed very timely. Many of these, mind you, haven’t even turned up on DVD yet.

The Virginian (1946)
Albuquerque (1948)
Coroner Creek (1948)
Whispering Smith (1948)
3 Godfathers (1949)
Colorado Territory (1949)

Hellfire (1949)
Streets Of Laredo (1949)
Ambush (1950)
Branded (1950)
Devil’s Doorway (1950)
The Nevadan (1950)
Saddle Tramp (1950)
Short Grass (1950)
Showdown (1950)

Trail Of Robin Hood (1950)
Across The Wide Missouri (1951)
Along The Great Divide (1951)
Apache Drums (1951)
Best Of The Badmen (1951)
The Great Missouri Raid (1951)
Inside Straight (1951)
Man In The Saddle (1951)
Red Mountain (1951)
The Redhead And The Cowboy (1951)
The Secret Of Convict Lake (1951)
The Texas Rangers (1951)
Westward The Women (1951)

Vengeance Valley (1951)
Warpath (1951)
The Big Sky (1952)
Bugles In The Afternoon (1952)

Hangman’s Knot (1952)
The Lawless Breed (1952)
The Lusty Men (1952)
The Naked Spur (1952)
Ride The Man Down (1952)
The Savage (1952)
The Story Of Will Rogers (1952)
Untamed Frontier (1952)
Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953)
Charge At Feather River (1953)
City Of Bad Men (1953)
Devil’s Canyon {1953)
Escape From Fort Bravo (1953)
The Great Sioux Uprising (1953)
Jack McCall, Desperado (1953)
Last Of The Comanches (1953)
The Last Posse (1953)
The Silver Whip (1953)
The Stranger Wore A Gun (1953)
Wings Of The Hawk (1953)

Tumbleweed (1953)
Apache (1954)
The Bounty Hunter (1954)
Cattle Queen Of Montana (1954)
The Command (1954)
Dawn At Socorro (1954)
The Law Vs. Billy The Kid (1954)
The Outcast (1954)
Ride Clear Of Diablo (1954)
Silver Lode (1954)
Wyoming Renegades (1954)
The Yellow Tomahawk (1954)
At Gunpoint (1955)
Chief Crazy Horse (1955)
The Last Frontier (1955)
The Man From Bitter Ridge (1955)
Shotgun (1955)
Smoke Signal (1955)
Tennessee’s Partner (1955)
The Violent Men (1955)
Wichita (1955)
Backlash (1956)

Dakota Incident (1956)
Fastest Gun Alive (1956)
Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956)
Great Day In The Morning (1956)
The Last Wagon (1956)
The Lone Ranger (1956)
The Maverick Queen (1956)
Reprisal! (1956)
Seven Men From Now (1956)
Stagecoach To Fury (1956)
Tribute To A Bad Man (1956)
Copper Sky (1957)
Domino Kid (1957)

Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957)
Hell Canyon Outlaws (1957)
From Hell To Texas (1958)
Frontier Gun (1958)
The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold (1958)
Face Of A Fugitive (1959)
Last Train From Gun Hill (1959)
No Name On The Bullet (1959)
Thunder In The Sun (1959)
Yellowstone Kelly (1959)
The Alamo (1960)
Hell Bent For Leather (1960)
Cheyenne Autumn (1964)
Firecreek (1968)
Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (1973)

As this was being compiled, a few titles actually made their way to Blu-Ray, one of them being the exquisite new Wagon Master (1950) from Warner Archive.

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Marie Windsor
(December 11, 1919 – December 10, 2000)

My favorite actress, Marie Windsor, was born 99 years ago today. She’s seen above in Dakota Lil (1950).

Emily Marie Bertelsen was born in Utah and went to Brigham Young University. She headed for Hollywood in 1939 and studied acting at Maria Ouspenskaya’s school (about the same time Ouspenskaya played the old gypsy women in The Wolf Man). Around this time, she started using the name Marie Windsor.

Marie worked on radio, was a telephone operator and did lots of bit parts before getting a really good role in Force Of Evil (1948) with John Garfield. A string of noirs and Westerns followed, so much good stuff: Hellfire (1949), The Fighting Kentuckian (1949), The Showdown (1950), The Sniper (1952), The Narrow Margin (1952), Trouble Along The Way (1953), The Bounty Hunter (1954), Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy (1955), The Killing (1956), Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971) and The Outfit (1973). That’s just a few. She was busy in TV, too: Cheyenne, Maverick, Perry Mason, Rawhide, Batman, Adam-12 and more.

Ms. Windsor passed away one day short of her 81st birthday.

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Directed by Dick Ross
Screenplay by Curtis Kenyon

Cast: William Talman (Matt/Mark Bonham), James Craig (Brick Justin), Kristine Miller (Kathryn Bonham), Darryl Hickman (Toby Bonham), Georgia Lee (Cora Nicklin), Alvy Moore (Willy Williams), Gregory Walcott (Jim Cleary), John Milford (Clint)

__________

With the passing of Reverend Billy Graham this week, I was reminded of The Persuader (1957), a Western from World Wide Pictures, part of Billy Graham’s ministry. It’s a picture I heard about very early in my plummet into the bottomless pit of 50s Westerns, and it wasn’t easy (or cheap) to track down an old VHS copy.

What turned up in my mailbox was an interesting, low-budget picture (distributed by Allied Artists) with a good cast. William Talman plays twin brothers, one a homesteader, the other a minister. When the farmer Talman’s gunned down by the usual evil cattle baron’s gang, the preacher Talman is left to make things right.

From the opening: “Into this violent land came one Mathew Bonham, a fighting preacher man. He walked tall with a bible in one hand, and the Law in the other. He was quick on the draw with the Good Book. And his word had more power than a Colt 45!”

It’s an earnest movie, and Talman’s really good in it. (Remember him in Ida Lupino’s The Hitch-Hiker?) And while it’s certainly a religious movie, The Persuader works as a Western, too. It’s no Hellfire (1949), of course, but what is?

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