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Archive for the ‘Pre-1950’ Category

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Directed by Edwin L. Marin
Produced by Jules Levey
Screen play by Harold Shumate
From the novel “Trail Town” by Ernest Haycox
Director Of Photography: Archie J. Stout, ASC
Film Editor: Richard Heermance

Cast: Randolph Scott (Marshal Dan Mitchell), Ann Dvorak (Rita), Edgar Buchanan (Bravo Trimble), Rhonda Fleming (Sherry Balder), Lloyd Bridges (Henry Dreiser), Helen Boice (Big Annie), Howard Freeman (Ed Balder), Richard Hale (Charlie Fair), Jack Lambert (Jet Younger), Dick Curtis (Ryker), Earl Schenck (Hazelhurst), Eddie Waller (Hannaberry), Hank Patterson (Doug Neil)

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After World War II, Randolph Scott would create a persona that would carry him through the rest of his career (he played his last non-Western role in 1947) and make him one of the Western’s true icons. He wore his age very, very well, and it gave him the kind of authority you find in Wayne or Cooper or Stewart.

At the same time Scott was maturing, so was the Western itself — and that maturity marks the 50s Westerns we’re so enamored of around here. Abilene Town (1946) shows both of these shifts, Scott’s and the Western’s, toward something more complex and a little darker.

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Just a few years after the Civil War, Abilene, Kansas, is a town divided, literally. On one side of the street are the merchants and homesteaders, and on the other side, the saloonkeepers, gamblers and dance hall girls. In the middle stands Marshal Dan Mitchell (Randolph Scott). There’s a range war brewing, with the homesteaders laying down stakes to build a real community and the ranchers wanting to keep the range, and the saloons, open.

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Of course, the rancher-settler conflict forms the backbone of many, many Westerns. This time around, there’s a lot of human nature woven into that familiar plot-line — the townspeople are reluctant to actually do anything about their situation, in a way that would become more common in the 50s. It’s certainly lighter here than what would come later, which provides a good role for Edgar Buchanan as an ineffective sheriff. Ann Dvorak gets plenty of screen time, and a number of songs, as Scott’s saloon-singer girlfriend. Lloyd Bridges and Rhonda Fleming get early roles. And Jack Lambert is at his creepy best.

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Edwin L. Marin’s direction is very assured, and the action scenes are very well done.

Abilene Town is in the public domain, and when it turns up on TV or on DVD at the dollar store, it invariably looks terrible. Soft, washed-out, spliced-up — just plain lousy. For that reason, I’d never seen it all the way through. The new region-free Blu-ray from Panamint Cinema, mastered from a 35mm fine grain print courtesy of the BFI National Archive, is a revelation. There’s a sound glitch or two, and changeover cues are visible, but those are welcome reminders that you’re watching a movie. I miss such things. Archie Stout’s cinematography is just incredible — it’s hard to believe this is the same movie I’ve given up on so many times over the years. We all owe a big thanks to Russell Cowe at Panamint Cinema for seeing this one through — a movie that has been almost unwatchable for decades now shines like a diamond. Abilene Town is ripe for reappraisal and this Blu-ray should make it happen. Essential.

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bad men of tombstone

Directed by Kurt Neumann
Starring Barry Sullivan, Marjorie Reynolds, Broderick Crawford, Fortunio Bonanova, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams

We’ve know about this one for a while, but I’ve been meaning to give it a post all its own. Bad Men Of Tombstone (1949) will make its way to DVD from Warner Archive on April 7.

Kurt Neumann is probably best know for a handful of the Weissmuller Tarzan pictures and The Fly (1958, which he produced and directed). I’ve always found him a solid director, able to put every dollar of his limited budgets on the screen, and that certainly applies to his work on Bad Men Of Tombstone. Plus, I like Barry Sullivan in Westerns.

Coming at the same time from Warner Archive is Seven Angry Men (1955) and Black Midnight (1949).

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Trail Street TC

Directed by Ray Enright
Produced by Nat Holt
Screenplay: Norman Houston, Gene Lewis
Based on the novel Golden Horizon by William Corcoran
Director Of Photography: J. Roy Hunt
Film Editor: Lyle Boyer

Cast: Randolph Scott (Bat Masterson), Robert Ryan (Allan Harper), George “Gabby” Hayes (Billy Burns), Anne Jeffreys (Ruby Stone), Madge Meredith (Susan Pritchett).

I am delighted to be able to take part in The Randolph Scott Blogathon and would like to thank our host, Toby, for making it possible.

R Scott blogathon badgeWhen Randolph Scott films are talked about it is more often than not his Ranown films released in the main through Columbia Pictures that are quite rightly in the frame. I don’t think I would quibble with the notion of describing each of those films a “Western classic.”

Scott, however, had of course been a major Western star long before his association with Budd Boetticher and Burt Kennedy.  We talk regularly here about those earlier pictures directed by Andre De Toth for just one example. Most of Scott’s films after 1950 were made or released by either Warners or Columbia (alternating sometimes). But his earliest western successes were probably those produced by Nat Holt and often released by RKO, directed by Ray Enright and others.

I was first introduced to Scott in my childhood through these Nat Holt productions and they quickly became favorites. One that fails to warrant mention very often, it seems, is Trail Street from 1947.

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The story is a range war drama with the matter of law and order interwoven as farmers and ranchers are at loggerheads. The farmers cannot get their wheat to grow due partly to climate but mainly due to the free roaming of the ranchers’ cattle. This is exacerbated by the lack of local law and order. Into this situation rides Bat Masterson (Scott) who is enlisted as town marshal to bring a degree of order. He has a crusty old deputy played by George Hayes in one of the best parts in his career. “Gabby” is always a plus in anything for me.

Scott also deputizes Robert Ryan whose character discovers a form of wheat that will withstand the drought conditions, so making a brighter prospect for the farmers and therefore the community.

There is of course plenty of slam-bang shoot-’em-up action as one would expect and the different strands of the storyline are woven together well.

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As if the presence of Scott and Hayes wasn’t enough, we have the beauty of Anne Jeffries in support and the strong role played by the always-excellent Ryan too.

Randolph Scott had been in films for quite a few years in 1947 yet had only recently decided to concentrate exclusively on westerns and as a result his star was on the rise (within a year or two he was in the Top Ten most popular male stars at the box office – ANY genre) and Ryan was also on his way building a name in both westerns and especially film noir as one of Hollywood’s finest actors.

Trail Street was one of a sizable handful of westerns Scott made for Nat Holt but the three best, I think, were Badman’s Territory, Return Of The Badmen and this film.

Later films are better known these days but I like to watch and enjoy any, or certainly most, of Scott’s westerns from 1946 on. For anyone unfamiliar I would heartily recommend this film and for those that are familiar I would heartily recommend a re-watch – soon!

It is available from Warner Archive.

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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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I was happy to learn that Grit is now available here in the Raleigh area. And it’s good to see some Randolph Scott pictures in their January schedule.

One that I like a lot, and that is often overlooked, is Ray Enright’s Coroner Creek (1948). It’s playing Monday at 9AM. Any picture that offers up Scott along with Edgar Buchanan, Wallace Ford and Forrest Tucker (not to mention an uncredited Curly-Joe DeRita) is certainly worthwhile.

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The charge was this: send in your list of favorite 50s Westerns DVD releases for 2014, along with a few 50s Westerns that you discovered this year.

For today, here are your (and my) 10 favorite DVDs or Blu-rays released during the 2014 calendar year.

10. Panhandle (1948) This terrific Rod Cameron picture, directed by Lesley Selander, was released a few years ago as part of VCI’s Darn Good Western Volume 1. This year, it showed up on its on.

9. City Of Bad Men (1953) Dale Robertson leads a great cast: Jeanne Crain, Richard Boone, Lloyd Bridges, Hugh Sanders, Rodolfo Acosta, Don Haggerty, Leo Gordon, John Doucette, Frank Ferguson, James Best. Harmon Jones directs.

8. Fort Massacre (1958) Joel McCrea plays way against type. Forrest Tucker, Susan Cabot, John Russell and Denver Pyle co-star. You can get a nice regular DVD here in the States — and a stunning Blu-ray in Germany.

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7. Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957) The guys who developed VistaVision look down from heaven, see this Blu-ray playing in our living rooms, and are very happy indeed.

6. The Lusty Men (1952) There was a time when Nicholas Ray was a machine that cranked out Great Movies. This study of modern-day rodeo cowboys — starring Robert Mitchum, Susan Haywood and Arthur Kennedy — comes from the heart of that period.

5. Drum Beat (1954) Alan Ladd shows us he’s got more than Shane up his sleeve, and Delmer Daves delivers yet another solid Western. This is a lot better movie than you’ve heard (or remember).

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4. Gunsmoke In Tucson (1958) When an Allied Artists Western starring Mark Stevens makes a Top Ten list, I know I’m in the right place.

3. Tim Holt Western Classics Collection Volume 4 As good as the series Western ever got. For me, this fourth volume is the best — which makes it plenty great indeed.

2. Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957) It’s not a stupendous Randolph Scott movie, but it’s a Randolph Scott movie — and Warner Archive has it shining like a black and white, 1.85 diamond.

1. South Of St. Louis (1949) This terrific Joel McCrea picture, with its Technicolor appropriately saturated, is stunning on Blu-ray from Olive Films. Alexis Smith and Dorothy Malone should’ve paid cinematographer Karl Freund for making them look so beautiful.

Along with all these favorites, there was a common complaint: that Olive Films’ promised The Quiet Gun (1956) didn’t make it in 2014.

Thanks to everyone who sent in their lists.

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Two Gene Autry pictures, Sunset In Wyoming (1941) and The Cowboy And The Indians (1949), will be screened at The Autry in Griffith Park on December 27 at noon. What makes this a big deal is that The Cowboy And The Indians features Gene singing his song “Here Comes Santa Claus.” It’s a real solid Autry movie all around.

I’m working on an article on the film for ClassicFlix.com, and have really enjoyed digging into in the last week or so.

Now if someone would run Trail Of Robin Hood (1950)!

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Directed by John English
Screen Play by Gerald Geraghty
Director Of Photography: William Bradford

CAST: Gene Autry, Gloria Henry (Anne Lawson), Pat Buttram (Chuckwalla), Mary Beth Hughes (Julie Stewart), Robert Livingston (Rock McCleary), Steve Darrell (Ralph Lawson), Alan Hale, Jr. (Marshal Riggs), Tom London (Old Man Roberts), Hank Patterson (Luke).

South Of The Border (1939), The Strawberry Roan (1948) and a few others are really terrific, but as I see it, Riders In The Sky (1949) is Gene Autry’s best film. It’s a bit darker than the typical Autry entry, even though the plot’s pretty standard (Gene’s friend has been framed for murder by one of those sinister gambler/saloon owner types). But it makes inspired use of Stan Jones’ hit song “Ghost Riders In The Sky” for a moving scene where a dying man sees the ghost riders coming for him.

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I’m not going to name any names — don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen it. Just know that this is territory very few B Westerns rode into, and you won’t forget it. The writers of these later Autry pictures seemed to be going for something a little different, even if they started with a basic plot. Some say this one was retooled a bit (and retitled) to work in the song. If so, it was done brilliantly. It’s seamless and it makes the movie.

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The cast is tops in this one, too. This was Pat Buttram’s first outing as Gene’s sidekick, though he had appeared in The Strawberry Roan. Gloria Henry is spunky as the daughter of the framed man. Bob Livingston makes a great bad guy. Mary Beth Hughes does all she can with the usual saloon girl role. Hank Patterson’s fun as a stage driver. Of course, he and Buttram would appear together on Green Acres over 15 years later. But the acting honors go to Tom London as a grizzled old prospector. He rarely got meaty parts like this one, and he’s marvelous.

Riders In The Sky looks heavenly on DVD, one of the four films in Gene Autry Collection #8, benefitting from that large-scale Autry restoration project. The others in the set look just as good. Timeless Media Group gives us plenty of extras, including the Nashville Channel intros from Gene and Pat Buttram, at a terrific price. Highly, highly recommended.

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