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Archive for the ‘Monogram/Allied Artists’ Category

Directed by Leslie Goodwins
Screenplay by Edgar B. Anderson Jr. & Cliff Lancaster
From a story by John Calvert
Music by Johnny Richards
Directors Of Photography: Glen Gano & Clark Ramsey
Film Editor: John F. Link

John Calvert (John Bonar), Ralph Morgan (Nugget Jack), Ann Cornell (Rusty), Gene Roth (Bill Johnson), Tom Kennedy (Big Tom), Judd Holdren (Jud Jerson), Danny Rense (Ward Henry), Robert Graham (Cougar), George Morrell (Recorder Of Claims)
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Gold Fever is a really cheap, pretty obscure Monogram Western from 1952 with incredible poster art (above). That was about all I knew about it, until our friends at Warner Archive cleaned it up and stuck it on a DVD.

John Calvert is better known as a magician — he was still at it when he died at 102 — than as a movie star. But he had a pretty impressive list of credits, stuff like Bombardier (1943), Mark Of The Whistler (1944), The Return Of The Durango Kid (1945) and a few Poverty Row Falcon pictures.

Gold Fever was written by, produced by, and starring Calvert. The female lead, Ann Cornell, was his wife. Director Leslie Goodwins did tons of TV after years doing shorts and stuff like Mexican Spitfire (1940) and The Mummy’s Curse (1944).

Calvert plays John Bonar, who teams up with Nugget Jack (Ralph Morgan) to help set up his mining claim. That turns out to be more trouble than anybody bargained for, since Bill Johnson (Gene Roth) is out to snag Nugget Jack’s mine. Added to the mix is a pretty, pistol-packing gal named Rusty (Ann Cornell).

The dialogue is stilted, the acting is pretty terrible across the board, and even at 62 minutes, it drags a bit in the middle. But there’s something about this one that really grabbed me. It was Ralph Morgan. He’s a real hoot as Nugget Jack, in what turned out to be his last movie. He overplays it, but it somehow works. And given the rest of the performances, he’s a source of energy the picture really needs. Morgan did a ton of pictures like the serial Dick Tracy Vs. Crime Inc. (1941), Hitler’s Madman (1943), The Monster Maker (1944) and Song Of The Thin Man (1947).
Gold Fever boasts not one, but two, cinematographers, Glen Gano and Clark Ramsey. Gano shot The Return Of The Durango Kid (1945), a few Three Stooges shorts, Untamed Women (1952) and The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (1971). Clark Ramsey was DP on I Killed Geronimo (1950), Superman And The Mole Men (1951), Hidden Guns (1956) and The Parson And The Outlaw (1957). I was surprised to see that Ramsey was from Palo Pinto County in central Texas (the tiny town of Brad, with just a couple dozen people). My grandparents lived in nearby (and quite tiny) Strawn. I love that area.
Gold Fever

The editor, John F. Link, cut everything from Bowery Champs (1944) to Anthony Mann’s The Great Flamarion (1945) to the Regalscope Western Escape From Red Rock (1957). He was nominated for an Oscar for For Whom The Bell Tolls (1943), and his last film was Russ Meyer’s The Immortal Mr. Teas (1959). That’s quite a variety.

Gold Fever is not the kind of movie you’re gonna put on to show off your new UHD TV, but that doesn’t keep Warner Archive from giving it a little TLC. It looks as good as you’d expect it to look, actually a little better.

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Directed by Leslie Goodwins
Starring John Calvert, Ralph Morgan, Ann Cornell

John Calvert is better known as a magician, still at it when he died at 102, than as a movie star. But anybody with Mark Of The Whistler (1944) in their list of credits is OK by me.

Gold Fever (1952) is a cheap little Monogram Western — which for many of us, is all the recommendation we need. It was written by, produced by, and starring Calvert. The female lead, Ann Cornell, was his wife. Ralph Morgan is, well, Ralph Morgan — a character actor who did a ton of pictures like Hitler’s Madman (1943) and The Monster Maker (1944). Director Leslie Goodwins did tons of TV after years doing shorts and stuff like The Mummy Curse (1944). And it’s coming soon from Warner Archive.

And dig that poster art!

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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)

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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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Directed by Lewis Collins
Written by Joseph Poland
Director Of Photography: Ernest Miller
Music by Raoul Kraushaar

Cast: Johnny Mack Brown (Himself), Lee Roberts (Sheriff Bob Conway), Phyllis Coates (Marian Gaylord), Hugh Prosser (George Millarde), Dennis Moore (Henry Lockwood), Marshall Reed (Macklin)

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The last of Johnny Mack Brown’s B Westerns for Monogram, Canyon Ambush (1952) is pretty much exactly what you’re picturing in your head — a pretty solid little picture shot at Iverson Ranch. In it, Brown’s a government agent who rides into Border City to help bring a masked rider to justice. There’s plenty of ridin’ and shootin’ all over the hallowed grounds of the Iverson Ranch, and Phyllis Coates is on hand to give the picture an extra boost — and plenty of curb appeal.

The screenplay’s by Joseph Poland, who wrote a ton of B Westerns (Autry, Wayne, Elliott) and serials (Dick Tracy Vs. Crime Inc.Batman And Robin and Atom Man Vs. Superman).

At the time Canyon Ambush was in production, Monogram was in the process of becoming Allied Artists. William Elliott stayed and made a few more pictures with the typical Monogram team (Lewis Collins, Thomas Carr, Ernest Miller, etc.); Johnny Mack Brown retired.

Canyon Ambush is available on DVD from Warner Archive’s Monogram Cowboy Collection Volume 5. The three-disc set also includes Brown and Raymond Hatton in The Texas Kid (1943), Partners Of The Trail (1944), Law Men(1944), Ghost Guns (1944), Gun Smoke (1945), Frontier Feud (1945), Border Bandits (1946) and Raiders Of The South (1947). Canyon Ambush looks terrific, stunning at times. The contrast levels are beautiful, giving us a chance to really take in the wonders of the Iverson Ranch. (One more thing: Johnny Mack Brown has a really cool hat in this one.)

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Warner Archive has a couple early 50s pictures on the way, both of them worth your time and hard-earned dough. Look at the casts on these things!

The Lion And The Horse (1952)
Directed by Louis King
Starrting Steve Cochran, Wildfire, Ray Teal, Bob Steele, Harry Antrim, George O’Hanlon

The Lion And The Horse was an early exercise in Warnercolor, but don’t hold that against it. I’ve never seen this one, but with Ray Teal and Bob Steele that far up on the cast list, I’m dying to. Steve Cochran played a bad guy more often that not, and this gives him a chance to be likable. Shot in Utah’s Mount Zion National Park, the animals had trouble with the high altitudes and were placed in an oxygen tent from time to time. Director Louis King’s previous picture was Frenchie (1950) with Joel McCrea, and he’d follow it with Powder River (1953).

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Cow Country (1953)
Directed by Lesley Selander
Starring Edmond O’Brien, Helen Wescott, Bob Lowery, Barton MacLane, Peggie Castle, James Millican, Robert Wilke, Raymond Hatton, Tom Tyler, Jack Ingram

Cow Country plays like a series Western on a larger scale — and that’s a good thing. Of course, what would you expect from Lesley Selander? James Millican has a great part here, and Robert Wilke is badder than usual. And Peggie Castle alone is worth the price of admission. Recommended.

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Warner Archive has kicked of their Christmas In July Sale — which lets you get four titles for just $44 with free shipping. This is a great, great thing — and it includes Blu-Rays!

Lesley Selander’s Short Grass (1950) with Rod Cameron and Johnny Mack Brown is one to consider. Click the banner to start shopping.

 

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Directed by Thomas Carr
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Written by Milton R. Raison
Director Of Photography: Ernest Miller

Cast: Wild Bill Elliott (Marshal Sam Nelson), Phyllis Coates (Marian Harrison), Rick Vallin (Ray Hammond), Fuzzy Knight (Pop Harrison), John James (Marv Ronsom), Denver Pyle (Jonas Bailey), Dick Crockett (Will Peters), Harry Lauter (Mack Wilson)

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It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a Wild Bill Wednesday, a serious oversight on my part. Well, I really felt like watching a Bill Elliott picture the other night, so let’s take a look at Topeka (1953).

The notorious bank robber Jim Levering (Elliott) and his gang wind up in Topeka, Kansas, where Mack Wilson (Harry Lauter) and his thugs are pressuring the local businesses for “protection money.” Elliott winds up as sheriff, seeing the opportunity to gain the citizens’ trust, run Wilson and his henchmen out of town and take over things for himself.

But Levering’s conscience, the lovely Marian Harrison (Phyllis Coates), and his closest friend among the gang, Ray (Rick Vallin), convince him that maybe it’s time to go straight. But, of course, we’ve seen enough of these things to know that’s easier said than done.

I’m a big fan of the common theme of redemption in 50s Westerns. Director Thomas Carr and writer Milton R. Raison do a good job with it in Topeka, leveraging Elliott’s typical good-badman persona. What’s interesting here is that we don’t see Elliott’s good side right away, and even he seems surprised by his turnaround. His transformation is totally believable.

The B Western was heading into the sunset when Elliott made his series of pictures for Monogram (later Allied Artists), and while the budgets hold things back a bit, I’m always impressed by the effort and imagination that went into them. The subject matter’s a bit more adult, Elliott’s a more complex hero than what the matinee crowds were probably used to, and the camerawork is inventive at times (though a little rushed and wobbly at others). For Topeka, it looks like cinematographer Ernest Miller brought a crane out to Iverson and Corriganville. This, for my money, is one of the best of the series.

And one more thing. I really liked Fuzzy Knight in this. He was also good in the offbeat B Western Rimfire (1949).

Topeka is part of Warner Archive’s terrific The Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection — which I hope you already own. The set gives these cheap little movies the red-carpet treatment, which they (and William Elliott himself) certainly deserve.

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