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Archive for the ‘R.G. Springsteen’ 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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A lot of people like all that streaming TV stuff. And when I see how much of my home is dedicated to storing my, my wife’s and my daughter’s favorite movies and TV shows, I wish I did.

But I learned a lesson about streaming. Several years ago, Hellfire (1949) — one of my all-time favorite movies — was available for streaming on Netflix. It was not on DVD or Blu-Ray. Streaming was it. I live in a fairly rural area, and the internet service at the time wasn’t up to snuff, so we never got a Netflix account. A few months later, I heard Hellfire wasn’t up there anymore. I’ve since learned it’s back.

When I feel like watching a favorite movie, I want to watch it — and if it’s sitting on a shelf in my home, I can. I’m not at the mercy of Netflix deciding what they will or won’t offer from one month to the next.

Today, I saw a news story that the Peanuts holiday specials won’t be on broadcast TV this year, something many families make a point of getting together for. The article, in the Los Angeles Times, said “The Peanuts gang and their annual holiday specials have left broadcast television for their new home, Apple TV+…  rather than on ABC and other networks this year.”

As much as I hate it for other folks, Apple TV+ can do what they want, Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest are waiting for my family on Blu-Ray. Another lesson learned about streaming vs. DVDs and Blu-Rays.

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Robert G. Springsteen 
(September 8, 1904 – December 9, 1989)

R.G. “Bud” Springsteen was born 114 years ago today.

Springsteen broke into the movie business as an assistant director at Universal in the 30s — and later performed similar duties at Fox and Republic.

Of course, at Republic, he went on to become one of their key directors. Springsteen did quite a few Wild Bill Elliott pictures, from some of the Red Ryder films to Hellfire (1949), along with a few Rex Allen and Allan “Rocky” Lane movies. When Republic came to an end, Springsteen made the move to Allied Artists for a handful of films, where he mixed Westerns like Cole Younger, Gunfighter with stuff like Revolt In The Big House (both 1958).

In the Sixties came a few Westerns for Universal, including a couple with Audie Murphy, then a few of those Westerns A.C. Lyles produced for Paramount. Pictures like Apache Uprising, Johnny Reno and Waco. There were tons of TV shows, too, from Rawhide to Daniel Boone.

Springsteen’s 50s Westerns may not have the snap to them that William Witney or Lesley Selander always provided. But some of them are really, really good.

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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)

__________

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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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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Directed by R. G. Springsteen
Starring Vaughn Monroe, Ella Raines, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond, Jeff Corey, Barry Kelley

Kino Lorber is working on a DVD and Blu-Ray release for Singing Guns (1950), the first of two Westerns singer Vaughn Monroe made for Republic. The picture was slightly modified mid-stream to incorporate the song “Mule Train,” which became a massive hit for a slew of singers. It’s a pretty solid Republic Western — with great parts for Walter Brennan and Ward Bond.

The 4k material from Paramount for this picture is incredible — easily as good as Kino Lorber’s release of Sunset In The West (1950). Not sure what the release date is — I’m working on a commentary for it now.

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Directed by Sam Peckinpah
Starring Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Mariette Hartley, Ron Starr, James Drury, Edgar Buchanan, R.G. Armstrong

Here’s one so many of us have been waiting for. Warner Archive has announced an upcoming Blu-Ray release for Sam Peckinpah’s Ride The High Country (1962).

Surely one of the finest Westerns ever made. Absolutely essential.

Thanks to Dick Vincent for the great news.

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showdown-wc

Madman Entertainment out of Australia has announced a terrific DVD set of seven Audie Murphy pictures that cover his time at Universal, from his first film for the studio, The Kid From Texas (1950), to the last, Gunpoint (1966).

The Madman website lists the aspect ratio as 4:3, which is fine for the 1950 titles. Let’s hope the later stuff turns out to be anamorphic.

Sierra (1950)
Directed by R.G. Springsteen
Starring Wanda Hendrix, Audie Murphy, Burl Ives

446032-westerns-the-kid-from-texas-lobby-card

The Kid From Texas (1950)
Directed by Kurt Neumann
Starring Audie Murphy, Gale Storm, Albert Dekker

Kansas Raiders (1950)
Directed by Ray Enright
Starring Audie Murphy, Brian Donlevy, Marguerite Chapman, Scott Brady

The Wild And The Innocent (1959)
Directed by Jack Sher
Starring Audie Murphy, Joanne Dru, Gilbert Roland, Jim Backus

6-black-horses-bts

Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea and Joan O’Brien on the Six Black Horses set.

Six Black Horses (1962)
Directed by Harry Keller
Written by Burt Kennedy
Starring Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, Joan O’Brien

Showdown (1963)
Directed by R.G. Springsteen
Starring Audie Murphy, Kathless Crowley, Charles Drake, Harold J. Stone, Skip Homeier

Gunpoint (1966)
Directed by Earl Bellamy
Starring Audie Murphy, Joan Staley, Warren Stevens

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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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Hellfire TC

So far, the great cinematographer Jack A. Marta has hardly been mentioned here. I’m ashamed and with today’s Wild Bill Wednesday, I’m taking care of it. So many outstanding movies. What Price Glory (1926). The Night Riders (1939). Dark Command (1940). Flying Tigers (1942). Hellfire (1949). Trigger, Jr. (1950). Spoilers Of The Plains (1951). The Last Command (1955). The Bonnie Parker Story (1958). Cat Ballou (1965). Duel (1971).

On that last one, Steven Spielberg’s breakthrough TV movie Duel, Marta’s experience shooting outdoors in the desert helped get the thing completed on its 10-day schedule.

Steven Spielberg (from the excellent book Steven Spielberg And Duel: The Making Of A Film Career): “Jack was a sweetheart. He was just a kind, gentle soul who you know had never worked that fast in his entire career; none of us had, and yet there was nothing he didn’t do or couldn’t do, and he really enjoyed himself.”

No offense to Mr. Spielberg, but I have a feeling Duel‘s 10-day shoot, though exhausting, was probably nothing new for Marta, who’d done beautiful work on Republic’s tight schedules, in both black and white and Trucolor, and worked on plenty of television shows like Route 66 and Batman.

When Elliott co-produced Hellfire (below) for Republic release, a film he saw as a very special project (and considered his best film), Jack Marta was the director of photography. Was he randomly assigned the job by Republic, or did Elliott request him after working together on The Gallant Legion (1948) and the Trucolor The Last Bandit (1949)? (I’m getting pretty good at finding new ways to sneak Hellfire into this blog.)

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