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Archive for the ‘Monogram/Allied Artists’ Category

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Produced and Directed by Albert C. Gannaway
Written by Thomas G. Hubbard, Associate Producer
Director of Photography: Charles Straumer, ASC
Music Composed and Played by Ramez Idriss (on Fender guitars)
Supervising Film Editor: Asa Clark, ACE

Cast: Jim Davis (“Brennan”), Carl Smith (Sheriff Carl Smith), Arleen Whelan (Murdock), Lee Van Cleef (Shad Donaphin), Louis Jean Heydt (Col. Donaphin), Harry Lauter (Doc Hale), Marty Robbins (Felipe), Douglas Fowley (Marshal Matt Brennan)

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I’ve been meaning to dive into Jim Davis’ pictures from the 50s — the ones where he has the lead — for quite some time. It took someone asking about such a thing to make me finally take it on, so let’s kick things off with The Badge Of Marshal Brennan (1957).

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Davis is an outlaw on the run who happens upon the dying Marshal Brennan (Douglas Fowley). He takes the man’s badge and rides on to the next town. There, mistaken for the marshal, Davis helps take on a powerful rancher whose diseased cattle have created an epidemic that threatens to kill off the town.

wayne_80The story’s nothing new, the sets are cheap, the music — a guitars-only score by Ramez Idriss — is kinda thin (and odd), and some of the camera set-ups seemed rushed. But there’s still something about The Badge Of Marshal Brennan I liked. It might be the cast. Davis is fine, of course. Arleen Whelan is good in one of her last roles. Lee Van Cleef, Louis Jean Heydt and Harry Lauter are as dependable as ever. And a couple country music stars from the period, Carl Smith and Marty Robbins, are thrown in for good measure.

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The Badge Of Marshal Brennan was followed by Raiders Of Old California (1957), again from director Albert C. Gannaway and much of the same cast. They were both shot outside Kanab, Utah, and at Cascade Studios in Hollywood by Charles Straumer. Badge was released by Allied Artists; Republic handled Raiders.

You can find both of these on Amazon or even YouTube. While they’re not gonna knock you out, it’s a shame they’re not available on DVD.

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Desperado HS

Directed by Thomas Carr
Written by Geoffrey Homes
Based on the novel by Clifton Adams
Cinematography: Joseph M. Novak
Film Editor: Sam Fields

Wayne Morris (Sam Garrett), Jimmy Lydon (Tom Cameron), Beverly Garland (Laurie Bannerman), Rayford Barnes (Ray Novak), Dabbs Greer (Marshal Langley), Lee Van Cleef (The Crayton twins), Nestor Paiva (Captain Thornton), Roy Barcroft (Martin Novack), Florence Lake (Mrs. Cameron), John Dierkes

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Thanks to a steady string of releases from Warner Archive, Wayne Morris will be showing up on this blog right regular for a while.

Though he had quite a career going at Warner Bros. — he played the title role in Kid Galahad (1937), Wayne Morris was one of the first stars to leave Hollywood to fight in World War II. He eventually flew an F6F Hellcat off the USS Essex, shooting down seven Japanese planes and helping sink five enemy ships. (His wife, Olympic swimmer Patricia O’Rourke, was the sister of Republic star Peggy Stewart.)

Back from the war with a number of decorations, Morris wasn’t able to regain his career’s momentum, and he found himself in a string of B Westerns — as Monogram was becoming Allied Artists and the B Western was heading into the sunset. One of the better ones was The Desperado (1954) from Allied Artists and director Thomas Carr.

The novel by Clifton Adams, published in 1950 by Gold Medal, was adapted for the movie by Geoffrey Homes. It takes place after the Civil War, as carpetbaggers are running Texas. In a town called John’s City, Tom Cameron (Jimmy Lydon) ends up on the run after locking horns with crooked sheriff Nestor Paiva. He crosses paths with Sam Garrett (Wayne Morris), a notorious gunman with a price on his head. Garrett takes Tom under his wing, teaching him how to use a gun and live on the lamb. After learning his father’s been killed, Tom takes all he’s learned back to John’s City for revenge.

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Sam Garrett (Wayne Morris): “Some folks will tell you a good shot only needs one gun. That’s a lot of foolishness. Two of anything is better than one.”

The movie itself feels like an attempt to do something special, to take the B Western up a notch. Maybe they didn’t quite succeed, but it’s completely unpretentious, offers up all the action we’re used to, and deviates from convention whenever it can.

Nobody ever said Wayne Morris was a great actor. But he’s easy to like and he carries himself well. In The Desperado, he makes his gunfighter-with-principles character work. The scenes as he mentors Jimmy Lydon are very well done, and when he threatens to plug someone, you know he means it. By this time, Morris had put on weight, and he looks a bit weary — both boost his effectiveness here.

The Desperado provided an early role for Beverly Garland. She said of Morris: “He was no longer a star. This was not Warner Bros.! He was nice, but heavy. He had to have a box to get on his horse. I didn’t hang around with him so I didn’t know about his drinking — but from his being puffy, I certainly suspected it.”

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Beverly would also appear with Morris in Two Guns And A Badge (1954), which is often listed as the last B Western ever made. She was also to appear in The Marksman (1953), but was replaced by Virginia Grey.

The rest of the cast of The Desperado is a B-Movie Who’s Who: Dabbs Greer, Lee Van Cleef (who plays twins!), Nestor Paiva (the same year he appeared in Creature From The Black Lagoon), Roy Barcroft and John Dierkes. Thomas Carr’s direction is typically tight, Joseph M. Novak’s camerawork is top-notch, and you get to see plenty of the Iverson Ranch.

The Desperado is an under-seen picture, one of those B Westerns that really rises to the top. Warner Archive has done a great job with it, presenting it with its original 1.85 framing intact — which makes a huge difference in the look of the film. Recommended.

Source: Ladies Of The Western by Michael G. Fitzgerald and Boyd Magers

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Marksman LC

Wayne Morris
(February 17, 1914 – September 14, 1959)

You’ll be seeing a lot of Wayne Morris around here, thanks to a series of releases from Warner Archive. So on his birthday, lets not just remember his movies, but salute his tremendous service to his country during World War II — seven Japanese planes shot down, five ships sunk.

He’s seen here in The Marksman (1953), one of the Westerns Morris made for Allied Artists, which is part of Warner Archive’s Wayne Morris double feature. Any movie that gives Frank Ferguson third billing gets high marks from me.

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Directed by Thomas Carr
Starring Wayne Morris, Jimmy Lydon, Beverly Garland,Dabbs Greer, Lee Van Cleef, Nestor Paiva, Roy Barcroft, John Dierkes, Lyle Talbot

The B Western was heading for the last roundup when The Desperado (1954) came around. But it’s got a dream cast and Warner Archive is offering it with its original 1.85 framing. Can’t wait.

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Dragoon Wells Massacre HS

Directed by Harold Schuster
Produced by Lindsley Parsons
Screenplay by Warren Douglas
From a story by Oliver Drake
Director Of Photography: William Clothier

Cast: Barry Sullivan (Link Ferris), Dennis OKeefe (Capt. Matt Riordan), Mona Freeman (Ann Bradley), Katy Jurado (Mara Fay), Sebastian Cabot (Jonah), Casey Adams (Phillip Scott), Jack Elam (Tioga), Trevor Bardette (Marshal Bill Haney), Jon Shepodd (Tom), Hank Worden (Hopi Charlie), Warren Douglas (Jud), Judy Strangis (Susan), Alma Beltran (Station agent’s wife), John War Eagle (Yellow Claw)

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This is an entry in The Allied Artists Blogathon, a celebration of the studio’s rich and varied output.

The team of writer/actor Warren Douglas, producer Lindsley Parsons and director Harold D. Schuster turned out five excellent B-plus pictures for Allied Artists in the 50s. They were the tight, grim Western Jack Slade (1953); a terrific noir, Loophole (1954); a solid sequel, The Return Of Jack Slade (1955); Finger Man (1955), a dope picture with Forrest Tucker, Peggie Castle and Timothy Carey; and finally, the dark, tense CinemaScope Western Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957).

Producer Lindsley Parsons had been in the picture business since the 30s, starting out writing B Westerns like those Lone Star John Wayne movies. Warren Douglas was a B Movie actor who made the transition to screenwriter, often playing a part in the pictures he wrote; he’d later write for a number of TV Westerns. He based his Dragoon Wells Massacre screenplay on a story by the prolific writer/producer/director of scores of B Westerns, Oliver Drake.

Director Harold Schuster started as an actor, making the transition to editor before the Talkies came in. Though he never set the world on fire as a director, he made a few fine films before settling into TV.

Dragoon Wells Massacre LCDragoon Wells Massacre begins with a prison wagon carrying two bad men, Link Ferris (Barry Sullivan) and Tioga (Jack Elam), to trial. Before long, they come across an Indian trader, Jonah McAdam (Sebastian Cabot), and a cavalry patrol that’s been slaughtered by the Apaches, with Capt. Matt Riordan (Dennis O’Keefe) its only survivor. Soon, the drivers and passengers of a stagecoach are added to those making the desperate journey to Fort Dragoon Wells with the Apaches never far behind. This is a fairly common setup — a diverse group making their way from Point A to Point B, battling an enemy, the elements and each other along the way — that’s certainly not limited to Westerns. Douglas comes up with some solid characters, makes sure we like the good ones and hate the bad ones, then puts them all through absolute hell — and us through a tense 88 minutes — before the final fade.

Dragoon Wells Massacre Cabot SullivanWhile the basic premise may be conventional — and I’m keeping the synopsis lean on purpose, what Douglas does with it is certainly not. (I’d love to know how many of the finer points were found in Drake’s original story.) What’s more, Schuster keeps things chugging along, almost relentlessly, from one set piece to the next. The picture really benefits from all of his years at the Moviola, and he gets top-notch performances from his terrific cast — which steadily shrinks with each brush with the Apaches.

Dragoon Wells ElamSullivan and Elam are likable badguys, and we’re soon hoping these outsiders will get their chances for redemption. This could be Elam’s best performance, as a man damned by his appearance — and by the shallowness of others. Dennis O’Keefe is fine as the tough cavalryman. Sebastian Cabot is utterly despicable as the gunrunner — the movie’s real villain. Before he became Mr. French, Cabot was a terrific 50s Westerns sleazeball.

Dragoon Wells Massacre Sullivan Freeman 2Mona Freeman does a great job as a snooty, self-centered, judgmental stage passenger (and former flame of O’Keefe). Her transformation is not only satisfying, but believable. Katy Jurado is good, as always, as a saloon girl hoping to turn her life around. My one complaint is that Hank Worden doesn’t have enough to do — but that’s something you could say about almost everything he appeared in, from The Searchers (1956) to One-Eyed Jacks (1961).

William Clothier shot Dragoon Wells Massacre around Kanab, Utah, in CinemaScope and color by DeLuxe. One of the finest Western shooters ever, Clothier’s work here is tremendous. The entire picture takes place outdoors, and you really feel the heat and dryness of the desert. Just as important, you never think that you’re watching a low-budget movie.

Dragoon Wells stillDragoon Wells Massacre is unavailable on DVD or Blu-ray in the U.S. There’s a German DVD that presents the picture at a TV-friendly 1.78 instead of Scope’s 2.35. It’s a real shame the picture’s so hard to track down and that Clothier’s work is compromised. This is one of those 50s Westerns that gets everything right, and it now sits at the top of my Blu-ray Want List.

Someone who frequents this blog, when I once mentioned that I was watching an old Phil Karlson picture, pointed out that now matter how old it is, a movie’s new if you haven’t seen it. So, following that logic, and considering that I just saw this a few months ago, Dragoon Wells Massacre gets my vote for Best Picture of 2015.

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Allied Artists stock

Welcome to The Allied Artists Blogathon, a celebration of the studio’s rich and varied output. The studio came about as a way for Poverty Row’s Monogram Studios to make their way toward bigger pictures — TV was killing the B Movie market. Some outstanding bloggers and writers, our own little team of allied artists, have signed on for this, so check back.

Day Three

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The Cyclops (1957)
The Oak Drive-In

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House On Haunted Hill (1959)
The Jade Sphinx

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Dial Red “O” by Jerry Entract
The Hannibal 8

Dragoon Wells Massacre UK LC
Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957)
50 Westerns From The 50s

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The Oklahoman (1957)
Riding The High Country

 

Day Two

HTE 4
Hell To Eternity (1960) by Blake Lucas
The Hannibal 8

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War Of The Satellites (1958)
Speakeasy

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Loophole (1954)
Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings

 

Day One

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Quantrill’s Raiders (1958)
Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings


Short Grass (1950) by Jerry Entract
50 Westerns From The 50s 

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Cry Vengeance (1954) by John Knight
The Hannibal 8

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Face Of Fire (1959)
Speakeasy

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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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