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Archive for the ‘Paul Fix’ 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 Henry Hathaway
Starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Martha Hyer, Michael Anderson Jr., Earl Holliman, George Kennedy, Paul Fix, James Gregory, Dennis Hopper, John Doucette, Strother Martin, Percy Helton

Paramount has announced a September Blu-Ray release of The Sons Of Katie Elder (1965). It’s a terrific movie, with an incredible cast and gorgeous cinematography from the great Lucien Ballard. Paramount’s Blu-Rays of pictures like this can be stunning, if they’re not overly processed like El Dorado (1966) was. Still, it comes highly recommended. 

With this announcement this week, and last week’s news of The Gunfighter (1950) from Criterion, things are looking pretty good.

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Pairing John Wayne and Randolph Scott in the same movie, well, that’s about as good as it gets. Add Marlene Dietrich in there, too, and you can’t miss. It worked well enough with The Spoilers that they did it again less than a year later with Pittsburgh (both 1942). They’re both making their way to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber. Both are highly recommended.

The Spoilers
Directed by Ray Enright
Starring Marlene Dietrich, Randolph Scott, John Wayne, Margaret Lindsay, Harry Carey

Rex Beach’s story of the Alaska Gold Rush had been filmed a number of times already when it was turned into a vehicle for Marlene Dietrich, who was a big deal thanks to Destry Rides Again (1939). This version not only has the Dietrich/Scott/Wayne star power going for it, but it boasts one of the greatest saloon brawls in Hollywood history. The story goes that some of Wayne and Scott’s punches are real.

The cinematography by Milton Krasner has always knocked me out on this one, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in high definition. I’m doing a commentary for it, which’ll give me a chance to ramble on about my hero, Randolph Scott.

Pittsburgh
Directed by Lewis Seiler
Starring Marlene Dietrich, Randolph Scott, John Wayne, Shemp Howard, Paul Fix, Nestor Paiva

This time, Wayne’s a coal miner who wants to make something or himself, no matter who he has to use and toss aside along the way. The cast in this one’s a real winner, with a few of my favorite character actors — Shemp, Paul Fix and Nestor Paiva!

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Margia Dean and Stagecoach To Fury (1956) came up on my other blog today, which reminded me of the Regalscope picture’s coverage in the August 1956 issue of American Cinematographer.

It’s one of my favorite of the Regalscope Westerns, with a great cast — Forrest Tucker, Marie Blanchard, Paul Fix, Wallace Ford, Margia Dead, Ellen Corby — and solid direction from William Claxton.

Here are Marie Blanchard and DP Walter Strenge, who shot the picture (and wrote the American Cinematographer article). This was the first CinemaScope movie shot using Eastman Plus-X negative film.

A good look at the relay station set. The location stuff was shot around Kanab, Utah, with more done closer to home at the Gene Autry ranch.

Wish this one would make its way to DVD and/or Blu-Ray in its proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio. It deserves to be seen the way Strenge shot it.

Here’s the article as a PDF: Stagecoach To Fury Amer Cin Aug 1956. Enjoy.

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Republic Trucolor logo

Martin Scorsese has curated a retrospective of Republic movies, for February and August at the Museum Of Modern Art, from the restored material at Paramount.

There’s some great stuff in February’s lineup, including Trigger, Jr. (1950), Stranger At My Door (1956) and one of my all-time favorite films, Hellfire (1949). Three of my favorite directors are represented: William Witney, George Sherman and Allan Dwan.

Working with the fine folks at Kino Lorber on commentaries for some of their Republic releases, the quality of the material coming out of Paramount is incredible. (I’m in the middle of Singing Guns right now.) So glad to see these films are being treated with the respect they deserve.

Thanks to Laura for the news!

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960

Back in 2014, gathering everybody’s favorite DVD and Blu-Ray picks for the year turned out to be a lot of fun. It’s since become an annual thing.

Thanks to everybody who sent in their picks for 2016. This was a great year for 50s Westerns on DVD and Blu-Ray (and 2017 is shaping up to be just as good, or maybe better). Here’s the Top 10, according to your votes.

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10. Desperado (1954, Warner Archive, DVD)
It was a tie between this Wayne Morris picture and his earlier Desert Pursuit (1952). They’re both solid, offbeat little Westerns — and it’s real treat to have them available in such stellar condition.

9. Yellow Sky (1948, Kino Lorber, Blu-Ray)
Thanks to William Wellman, we didn’t have to wait till the 50s for Hollywood to start making 50s Westerns. The town of Yellow Sky is populated by only an old prospector and his daughter — until some slimy outlaws come riding up.

8. Western Union (1941, Kino Lorber, Blu-Ray)
Randolph Scott in Fritz Lang’s second Technicolor movie. There’s so much cool stuff in this movie, and it looks wonderful.

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7. Black Horse Canyon (1954, Universal Vault, DVD)
For years, Joel McCrea’s Universal Westerns were missing on DVD. It’s great to have them so easy to track down. This is a good one.

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6. Comanche Station (1960, Explosive Media, Blu-Ray)
The last of the Scott-Boetticher Westerns turns out to be the first to make its way to Blu-Ray, and as I see it, the others can’t get here soon enough. This thing’s incredible.

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5. She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1948, Warner Archive, Blu-Ray)
John Ford’s She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1948, above) is one of the most beautiful color movies ever shot. The proof is pressed oh-so-magnificently into this Blu-Ray. It also features one of John Wayne’s finest performances.

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4. Roughshod (1949, Warner Archive, DVD)
This gets my vote as the best of the “noir Westerns.” I was real happy to see the response this picture got. It’s a shame it’s not better known.

3. Cariboo Trail (1950, Kino Lorber, DVD/Blu-Ray)
The transfer here is a minor miracle, demonstrating how good CineColor can look. They wisely didn’t go overboard with the cleanup, so it still retains its true film look. And, of course, this is a solid picture from Edwin Marin and Randolph Scott.

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2. Johnny Guitar (1954, Olive Films Signature Edition, DVD/Blu-Ray)
Olive’s new Signature edition is a marked improvement over their old release, which was terrific. The restored 1.66 framing makes a big difference, and the supplemental stuff is excellent.

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1. One-Eyed Jacks (1961, Criterion Collection, DVD/Blu-Ray)
Opinions of Marlon Brando’s Western are all over the place, so I was really surprised to see it land in the top spot. However, judging it simply in terms of its superb presentation, I don’t see how anything could beat it. It’s stunning, a big fat reward to all of us who’ve suffered through those awful tapes and discs over the years. I’m proud and honored to have been involved with Criterion’s work here. (Note: Having worked on the One-Eyed Jacks extras, I did not feel comfortable taking part in the vote this time around.)

In closing, the discs on this list highlight the impact the video presentation can have on our appreciation of these old movies. Many of these have been available, in some form, for years. One more thing: your reasons for not buying a Blu-Ray player are rapidly running out.

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Directed by Nicholas Ray
Produced by Herbert J. Yates
Screenplay by Philip Yordan
Cinematography: Harry Stradling, Sr.
Film Editor: Richard L. Van Enger
Original Music by Victor Young and Peggy Lee

Cast: Joan Crawford (Vienna), Sterling Hayden (Johnny Guitar), Mercedes McCambridge (Emma Small), Scott Brady (Dancin’ Kid), Ward Bond (John McIvers), Ben Cooper (Turkey Ralston), Ernest Borgnine (Bart Lonergan), John Carradine (Old Tom), Royal Dano (Corey), Paul Fix (Eddie)

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s-l1600-15Johnny Guitar (1954) has always been one of my favorite 50s Westerns.

Now, I could go on and on about how it’s a Feminist Western, a Psychological Western, an Existential Western, an HUAC allegory and lots of other things — or maybe it’s none of those. Depends on how you look at it.

I could rattle off a list of prominent filmmakers who’ve cited it as an influence or a favorite. I could cover its incredible cast, surely one of the best assembled for a 50s Western (and that’s saying something), or Victor Young’s terrific score — even that great instrumental version of the title song by The Spotnicks.

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I could even mention that at one point, there was talk of Jack Webb turning it into a TV series. Maybe it’s best to not get me started on Johnny Guitar at all.

But that’s not what this is about, not today anyway. It turns out Johnny Guitar is also one of the finest Blu-Rays I’ve ever seen.

Of course, Olive Films brought it out a few years ago, and it was marvelous. Some of us griped about it not reflecting Nick Ray’s original 1.66 cropping (I’m among the guilty), but the overall quality more than made up for it.

Well, Olive’s new Signature edition, it leaves the old release in the red, Sedona dust. This is a case where what a movie looks like on video can have a substantial impact on your appreciation of it. I saw details I’d never seen, and the restored 1.66 framing revealed little hints of Ray’s eye for color and composition (and his overall genius) that have escaped me for decades. In short, it made this great movie seem even greater.

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The extras — Martin Scorsese intro, commentary, documentaries, trailer, etc. — are outstanding, covering everything from the film and its many interpretations to Nicholas Ray to Republic pictures. Still haven’t made my way through them all. This is a movie that deserves, and stands up to, all the analysis that’s heaped on it, and this package does it justice.

I’m not here to tell you how to spend your money. So I’ll just say that if I won the lottery, I’d buy a few cases of these and send you all one. And if you hadn’t made the switch to Blu-Ray, well, I’d have to help you out with that, too. This one gets my highest recommendation.

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johnny-guitar-np-ad

I’m gonna make this quick because time’s running out. Olive Films’ Signature Edition of Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar (1954) comes our tomorrow. Today, the pre-order price at Amazon is only $16.99 (the list price is $39.95).

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Get the new Blu-Ray of Johnny Guitar, or Frank’ll let you have it.

Watched it over the weekend, and I really urge you to get it (a real review will be coming soon). Don’t have a Blu-ray player? Well, now’s the time. This thing’s incredible. As much as I love this movie, seeing it in hi-def and its proper 1.66 framing, I love it even more. Essential.

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Associate Producer – Director: Joe Kane
Screen Play by Mary McCall, Jr.
Based on a Saturday Evening Post story by Luke Short
Director Of Photography: Jack Marta
Music: Ned Freeman

Cast: Brian Donlevy (Bide Marriner), Rod Cameron (Will Ballard), Ella Raines (Celia Evarts), Forrest Tucker (Sam Danfelser), Barbara Britton (Lottie Priest), J. Carrol Naish (Sheriff Joe Kneen), Chill Wills (Ike Adams), Jim Davis (Red Courteen), Taylor Holmes (Lowell Priest), James Bell (John Evarts), Paul Fix (Ray Cavanaugh), Roydon Clark, Roy Barcroft, Al Caudebec, Douglas Kennedy, Jack La Rue, Claire Carleton

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This is an entry in The Republic Pictures Blogathon, a celebration of the studio’s incredible talent roster, wonderful output and lasting legacy.

Republic blogathon badgeHerbert Yates devised a rather odd hierarchy for Republic’s releases. First, there were the “Jubilee” pictures, shot in a week for about $50,000 — this was their bread and butter. Then came the “Anniversary” films, with schedules stretching to 15 days and budgets up to $200,000. The “Deluxe” projects were a decidedly bigger product, with bigger starts and costing up to half a million. And last came the “Premiere” bracket, with top directors (John Ford, Fritz Lang, Nick Ray) and budgets of about a million.

Ride The Man Down (1952) was a Deluxe, with location shooting in Utah, a terrific cast and the otherwordly hues of Trucolor. For good measure, Republic assigned it to one of their ace house directors, Joe Kane, who also gets an associate producer credit.

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When the owner of the renowned Hatchet Ranch freezes to death, his daughter inherits the whole spread, and it’s up to the dedicated, steadfast foreman, Will Ballard (Rod Cameron), to protect Hatchet from the surrounding ranchers. This range war plot is something we’re all familiar with, but Mary McCall, Jr.’s screenplay, adapted from a Luke Short story, is overly complicated (complete with a murder and a love triangle worked in), leaving the audience with a lot to sort out along the way.

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The picture’s biggest strength is certainly its cast, made up of some of Republic’s best. Rod Cameron is very good as Will Ballard. It’s a part that really suits him — he’s good at talking tough and swing his fists. Brian Donlevy is terrific as a powerful, greedy rancher. Ella Raines is good as the Hatchet Ranch’s new owner, a part that could’ve been annoying. Forrest Tucker turns out to be a rather slimy bad guy. And J. Carrol Naish makes quite an impression as a crooked sheriff.

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Ride The Man Down boasts the kind of fistfight we expect from a Republic picture. Cameron and Forrest Tucker duke it out in a cabin, practically destroying the place in the process. And there’s a cool scene where Cameron beans Jim Davis with a cue ball.

This is another Republic picture without a DVD or Blu-ray release. Marta and Kane give the film a big, lush look and it’d be nice to see Jack Marta’s cinematography closer to his original intent. Maybe one of these days.

I leave you with a final thought: Would you want to live in a town where the sheriff is J. Carrol Naish?

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HELLFIRE at BACOC poster
This is something I’ve been wanting to put together for a very, very long time. Hellfire (1949) will run at Brooks Avenue Church Of Christ here in Raleigh, NC on January 20, 2015.

First, I shopped around for a 16mm print, but what I found was either black & white or the color’d turned pink. Then I figured I’d wait for a DVD or Blu-ray from Olive Films. No luck there, as it dropped off their release schedule. So I finally decided to go with the best-looking material I could find.

Elliott considered Hellfire his best film (he was one of the producers), and Marie Windsor always listed it as a personal favorite (along with The Narrow Margin and The Killing). Who am I to argue? It’s one of my favorite Westerns, a movie that gets better every time I see it.

Believe it or not, Republic sometimes paired Hellfire with Brimstone (1949), a Rod Cameron Western.

Thanks to Jim Briggs for designing the flyer.

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