Archive for the ‘MGM’ Category

Westward The Women OS

Directed by WIlliam A. Wellman
Screen Play by Charles Schnee
Story by Frank Capra
Starring Robert Taylor, Denise Darcel, Hope Emerson, John McIntire

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. This week’s second feature (Thursday the 20th) is a bit of a departure: William Wellman’s Westward The Women (1951). It’s one of the best Westerns of the 50s.

The other film is In Early Arizona (1938) starring Bill Elliott, Dorothy Gulliver, Harry Woods and Jack Ingram — and directed by Joseph Levering. (It’s a bit of a stretch, but I guess that makes this a Wild Bill Wednesday post.) The meetings get going at 6:45.

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Hired Gun TC

Directed by Ray Nazarro
Produced by Rory Calhoun and Victor M. Orsatti
Screen Play by David Lang and Buckley Angell
Based on a story by Buckley Angell
Director Of Photography: Harold J. Marzorati, ASC
Film Editor: Frank Santillo
Music by Albert Glasser

Cast: Rory Calhoun (Gil McCord), Anne Francis (Ellen Beldon), Vince Edwards (Kell Beldon), John Litel (Mace Beldon), Bill Williams, Chuck Connors (Judd Farrow), Robert Burton (Nathan Conroy), Salvadore Baques (Domingo Ortega), Guinn “Big Boy” Williams (Elby Kirby), Regis Parton (Cliff Beldon), Buelah Archuletta


Around the time I decided to write a book on 50s Westerns, and long before I’d thought about a blog to go with it, The Hired Gun (1957) was a movie sitting near the top of my Want List. Rory Calhoun. Anne Francis. Vince Edwards. Guinn “Big Boy” Williams. Black and white CinemaScope (an aesthetic I adore). Directed by Ray Nazarro at Lone Pine. How could this thing not be terrific? But what were my chances of ever seeing it widescreen as intended?

Dissolve to: six years later. An anamorphic widescreen DVD of The Hired Gun was released by Warner Archive a couple weeks ago. And now that I’ve had a chance to see it in all its monochromatic 2.35:1 glory, what’s the verdict?

To be honest, The Hired Gun seems like pretty standard stuff. Plot-wise, it’s nothing that couldn’t be covered in an hour-long TV show. But like so many of the lower-budgeted Westerns of the 50s, the people involved, and what they bring to these minor films, make all the difference.

The Hired Gun was produced by Rory Calhoun and his agent, Victor Orsatti. Their Rorvic Productions made a handful of films in the late 50s, along with Calhoun’s TV series The Texan; the three Westerns were directed by Ray Nazarro (his other two Rorvic pictures were The Domino Kid and Apache Territory).

With The Hired Gun set for MGM release, Anne Francis, who’d just appeared in MGM’s Forbidden Planet (1956) and was a rising star at the studio, was signed as Calhoun’s co-star.

Hired Gun still cropped

Francis is Ellen Beldon, who’s to be hung for the murder of her husband. She’s sprung from jail by Chuck Connors, who works on her uncle’s ranch. Very quickly, Mace Beldon (John Litel), the dead man’s father, hires gunslinger Gil McCord (Calhoun) to track her down. The jailbreak, and the chase that follows it, are really well staged — Ray Nazarro was so good with action. Here, he uses an under-cranked camera to boost the urgency and pacing. The rest of the picture, taken up by Calhoun capturing Francis and their journey together, covers more familiar territory. But it covers that territory well, thanks to the professionalism and craft of those who made it.


Calhoun is cool as a cucumber as the gunman, whether he’s posing as a ranch hand, beating the crap outta Chuck Connors or talking tough to Anne Francis. Since the film’s so short, just 64 minutes, there’s not a lot of time for real character development. We assume all along that he’ll change his mind about his prisoner before it’s all over with.

From Forbidden Planet to Honey West, I’ve always liked Anne Francis — and she’s quite good here. She was one of the only members of the cast and crew who hadn’t experienced the rigors of shooting a Western on location. Jock Mahoney, who worked with director Ray Nazarro on a lot of pictures, once said, “Ray didn’t particularly like women in the cast and he’d make them his whipping boy.”

So, everyone on the picture was fully expecting to see the young actress suffer while in Lone Pine. She was determined to deny them that satisfaction.


Anne Francis: “Rory and I were in the saddle from morning until night. I suspect he was tired, I know I was. But I wouldn’t have admitted it for all the gold in Fort Knox.”**

Oh, and if you look quick, you’ll see Buelah Archuletta, who played “Look” in The Searchers (1956).

Director of photography Harold J. Marzorati captures Lone Pine, with snow-covered mountaintops in the distance, in stunning black and white CinemaScope. Lone Pine always looks terrific in black and white — check out a Tim Holt picture or two for further proof — and the wide frame makes it all the more dramatic.


Marzorati’s gorgeous work was done a real service by the folks at Warner Archive. His ‘Scope compositions are perfectly presented and the contrast levels are just right. When was the last time someone saw this movie looking like this? There’s a “textless” trailer to round out the package.

Someone recently commented here that “we’re living in a Golden Age for classic movie lovers.” And when an anamorphic widescreen DVD of a cheap little Western like The Hired Gun can be yours for a little e-commerce, I have to agree.

Laura posted a review of The Hired Gun over at her place today, too.

*From The Adventures Of The Durango Kid, Starring Charles Starrett by Bob Carman and Dan Scapperotti; ** Newspaper article, 1957

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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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Sam and Bob PGBK

This book falls outside the usual scope of this blog, but I’m sure many of us will be interested in it. I know I am! Paul Seydor’s The Authentic Death and Contentious Afterlife Of Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid: The Untold Story of Peckinpah’s Last Western Film will be available in February. I’m not sure I can wait that long.

the-authentic-death-and-contentious-afterlife-of-pat-garrett-and-billy-the-kidPat Garrett And Billy The Kid (1973) could be Sam Peckinpah’s most mangled masterpiece — as you know, he had a lot of them. Slim Pickens’ final scene, featuring Katy Jurado and set to Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” gets my vote as the saddest, most moving scene in cinema history. (Quick, Toby, think of something else!)

From Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid‘s troubled shooting — plagued with everything from schedule-busting camera malfunctions to liver-wrecking substance abuse — to its mutilation by MGM and eventual restoration and reappraisal, Seydor’s got a helluva story to tell. As an editor, his insight into the film’s cutting and re-cutting should be worth the cover price alone. His previous book, Peckinpah: The Western Films—A Reconsideration, and documentary, The Wild Bunch: An Album In Montage (1996), show that he knows his way around this subject. Man, I can’t wait!


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Badlanders TC
Directed by Delmer Daves
Produced by Aaron Rosenberg
Screenplay by Richard Collins
From a novel by W.R. Burnett
Director Of Photography: John Seitz, ASC
Film Editors: William H. Webb and James Baiotto

CAST: Alan Ladd (Peter Van Hoek), Ernest Borgnine (John McBain), Katy Jurado (Anita), Claire Kelly (Ada Winton), Kent Smith (Cyril Lounsbery), Nehemiah Perdoff (Vincente), Robert Emhardt (Sample), Anthony Caruso (Comanche)


Today’s post marks the 101st birthday of Alan Ladd (September 3, 1913 – January 29, 1964).

Warner Archive’s recent Alan Ladd releases got me on a bit of a Ladd kick, so I was eager to see The Badlanders (1958). A Western remake of The Asphalt Jungle (1950), directed by Delmer Daves, it pairs Ladd with Ernest Borgnine.


The Dutchman (Ladd) and McBain (Borgnine) leave Yuma to settle a couple scores in Prescott: the Dutchman was framed for a gold robbery and McBain was cheated out of his gold-rich land. The Dutchman has a plan to retrieve a tremendous amount of gold ore from an abandoned mine, and he recruits McBain for the heist. The catch is, the marshall’s warned Ladd that he’d better be on the next stage outta town, which leaves the following evening. Things are further complicated by a crooked deputy, some really crooked businessmen and Katy Jurado and Claire Kelly. But, of course, as with The Asphalt Jungle, the heist itself is the centerpiece of the picture.

Delmer Daves made some of the finest Westerns of the 50s: Broken Arrow (1950), 3:10 To Yuma (1957) and The Hanging Tree (1959). The Badlanders doesn’t reach that level, but it’s a solid film that easily translates the heist picture to the Old West. Ladd and Borgnine are very good. Ladd’s cool as a cucumber throughout. Borgnine’s transformation from bitter inmate to loyal friend is played very well. Its failure could’ve sunk the film. Katy Jurado is beautiful—she and Borgnine became an item and were married a couple years later. (Borgnine spent some time watching her work on One-Eyed Jacks.) Oh, and Ladd and Borgnine remained friends till Ladd’s death.


Daves always makes great use of his locations, and The Badlanders is no exception. The Yuma Territorial Prison plays itself. Various mines around Kingman, Arizona, were supposedly used. And Old Tucson has never looked better. I always get a kick out of seeing that bridge (from Buchanan Rides Alone, Rio Bravo and many more). The previous Daves/Ladd film, 1954’s Drum Beat, made great use of the Sedona area.

There is no composer credit for The Badlanders. It’s scored entirely with stock music. I don’t know of another film of this stature (Daves, Ladd, MGM) that uses recycled music. I’d love to hear the story behind that decision. Sometimes it works fine, sometimes it seems to have been chosen at random.

A fairly early effort from Warner Archive, The Badlanders looks great. Nice and sharp, and the color is strong. A full-frame trailer is included. Recommended.

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Bill Hunt at The Digital Bits has a bit more news on the status of John Wayne’s The Alamo (1960):

“… I was up in L.A. checking out Robert Harris’ recent restoration tests of The Alamo with my own two eyes. Despite what MGM has claimed officially, let me assure you, having now seen the tests firsthand – which the studio has apparently not done yet for some strange reason (and how weird is that?) – this film is in serious need of restoration. The good news, however, is that I’ve also seen tests of how good the film could look like if given a restoration. The result would easily be worth theatrical presentation and a solid Blu-ray release. So keep spreading the word and keep the pressure on the studio. Fingers crossed.”

UPDATE: Robert Harris has clarified things with a post at Home Theater Forum:

“Sorry. A bit confusing. Nothing is occurring. Merely shared the tests which we did a month or so ago with a few people. And for the record, the roadshow version of the film is gone, as far as film or theatrical is concerned. Only the general release version has a chance of being decently preserved, but not at full quality. Too late.”

There’s nothing I can type here that will get across how sad and angry this makes me. Thanks to Paula for bringing this to my attention.

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UPDATE (6/3/2014): A Facebook community has been set up to spread the word and encourage MGM to get a restoration underway. Over 800 people have joined in two days. Please consider joining the ranks.

It’s hard to believe that John Wayne’s The Alamo (1960) is in danger of being lost. What’s doing it in? First, the natural breakdown of its original film elements. Second, MGM’s lack of interest in saving it, even if the public helped pitch in to pay for it. (If there was ever a reason for Kickstarter to exist, this is it.)

Read Robert Harris’ report on the elements and MGM’s crappy attitude here. And if a letter-writing or Facebook-flodding campaign gets going, hop on it.

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