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Archive for the ‘Ray Nazarro’ Category

Hired Gun TC

Directed by Ray Nazarro
Produced by Rory Calhoun and Victor M. Orsatti
Screen Play by David Lang and Buckley Angell
Based on a story by Buckley Angell
Director Of Photography: Harold J. Marzorati, ASC
Film Editor: Frank Santillo
Music by Albert Glasser

Cast: Rory Calhoun (Gil McCord), Anne Francis (Ellen Beldon), Vince Edwards (Kell Beldon), John Litel (Mace Beldon), Bill Williams, Chuck Connors (Judd Farrow), Robert Burton (Nathan Conroy), Salvadore Baques (Domingo Ortega), Guinn “Big Boy” Williams (Elby Kirby), Regis Parton (Cliff Beldon), Buelah Archuletta

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Around the time I decided to write a book on 50s Westerns, and long before I’d thought about a blog to go with it, The Hired Gun (1957) was a movie sitting near the top of my Want List. Rory Calhoun. Anne Francis. Vince Edwards. Guinn “Big Boy” Williams. Black and white CinemaScope (an aesthetic I adore). Directed by Ray Nazarro at Lone Pine. How could this thing not be terrific? But what were my chances of ever seeing it widescreen as intended?

Dissolve to: six years later. An anamorphic widescreen DVD of The Hired Gun was released by Warner Archive a couple weeks ago. And now that I’ve had a chance to see it in all its monochromatic 2.35:1 glory, what’s the verdict?

To be honest, The Hired Gun seems like pretty standard stuff. Plot-wise, it’s nothing that couldn’t be covered in an hour-long TV show. But like so many of the lower-budgeted Westerns of the 50s, the people involved, and what they bring to these minor films, make all the difference.

The Hired Gun was produced by Rory Calhoun and his agent, Victor Orsatti. Their Rorvic Productions made a handful of films in the late 50s, along with Calhoun’s TV series The Texan; the three Westerns were directed by Ray Nazarro (his other two Rorvic pictures were The Domino Kid and Apache Territory).

With The Hired Gun set for MGM release, Anne Francis, who’d just appeared in MGM’s Forbidden Planet (1956) and was a rising star at the studio, was signed as Calhoun’s co-star.

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Francis is Ellen Beldon, who’s to be hung for the murder of her husband. She’s sprung from jail by Chuck Connors, who works on her uncle’s ranch. Very quickly, Mace Beldon (John Litel), the dead man’s father, hires gunslinger Gil McCord (Calhoun) to track her down. The jailbreak, and the chase that follows it, are really well staged — Ray Nazarro was so good with action. Here, he uses an under-cranked camera to boost the urgency and pacing. The rest of the picture, taken up by Calhoun capturing Francis and their journey together, covers more familiar territory. But it covers that territory well, thanks to the professionalism and craft of those who made it.

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Calhoun is cool as a cucumber as the gunman, whether he’s posing as a ranch hand, beating the crap outta Chuck Connors or talking tough to Anne Francis. Since the film’s so short, just 64 minutes, there’s not a lot of time for real character development. We assume all along that he’ll change his mind about his prisoner before it’s all over with.

From Forbidden Planet to Honey West, I’ve always liked Anne Francis — and she’s quite good here. She was one of the only members of the cast and crew who hadn’t experienced the rigors of shooting a Western on location. Jock Mahoney, who worked with director Ray Nazarro on a lot of pictures, once said, “Ray didn’t particularly like women in the cast and he’d make them his whipping boy.”

So, everyone on the picture was fully expecting to see the young actress suffer while in Lone Pine. She was determined to deny them that satisfaction.

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Anne Francis: “Rory and I were in the saddle from morning until night. I suspect he was tired, I know I was. But I wouldn’t have admitted it for all the gold in Fort Knox.”**

Oh, and if you look quick, you’ll see Buelah Archuletta, who played “Look” in The Searchers (1956).

Director of photography Harold J. Marzorati captures Lone Pine, with snow-covered mountaintops in the distance, in stunning black and white CinemaScope. Lone Pine always looks terrific in black and white — check out a Tim Holt picture or two for further proof — and the wide frame makes it all the more dramatic.

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Marzorati’s gorgeous work was done a real service by the folks at Warner Archive. His ‘Scope compositions are perfectly presented and the contrast levels are just right. When was the last time someone saw this movie looking like this? There’s a “textless” trailer to round out the package.

Someone recently commented here that “we’re living in a Golden Age for classic movie lovers.” And when an anamorphic widescreen DVD of a cheap little Western like The Hired Gun can be yours for a little e-commerce, I have to agree.

Laura posted a review of The Hired Gun over at her place today, too.

*From The Adventures Of The Durango Kid, Starring Charles Starrett by Bob Carman and Dan Scapperotti; ** Newspaper article, 1957

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Hired_Gun_3

Warner Archive has some great stuff promised for April.

The Hired Gun (1957)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Rory Calhoun, Anne Francis, Vince Edwards, Chuck Connors
This is one I’ve been wanting for a long time. Black and white Scope with Rory Calhoun and Anne Francis, directed by Ray Nazarro. What’s not to like?

Black Patch (1957)
Directed by Allen H. Miner
Starring George Montgomery, Diane Brewster, Tom Pittman, Leo Gordon, Lynn Cartwright
A solid Montgomery Western written by character actor Leo Gordon.

Arrow In The Dust HS

Arrow In The Dust (1954)
Directed by Lesley Selander
Starring Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Jimmy Wakely, Lee Van Cleef
Hayden and Gray appear together a couple years before The Killing (1956), directed by the great Lesley Selander.

The Marauders (1955)
Directed by Gerald Mayer
Starring Dan Duryea, Jeff Richards, Keenan Wynn
Duryea as the bad guy gets first billing. Enough said.

Son Of Belle Starr (1953)
Directed by Frank McDonald
Starring Keith Larsen, Dona Drake, Peggie Castle, Regis Toomey
Peggie Castle and Regis Toomey in 70 minutes of Cinecolor from Allied Artists.

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RIP, Rod Taylor.

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Rodney Sturt “Rod” Taylor
(11 January 1930 – 7 January 2015)

I always liked Rod Taylor and hated to see that he passed away a few days ago.

Taylor made some terrific movies: The Time Machine (1960), The Birds (1963, below), The Glass-Bottom Boat (1966), Dark Of The Sun (1968) and on and on. He had an early role in Top Gun (1955), a Sterling Hayden picture directed by Ray Nazarro.

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The Collins English Dictionary defines evangelism as “the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others with the intention of conversion.” I think that sorta fits the overall purpose of this blog, to convince someone out there to give a particular film or TV show or whatever a shot. If you’ve read much of this thing — and God knows there’s a lot of it by now, you’ve been preached to about everything from the power of Fred MacMurray as a cowboy star to the aesthetic riches of black and white CinemaScope.

Gail D and George A

Gail Davis and George Archainbaud

The topic of today’s sermon is Gail Davis and her Annie Oakley TV show. And I’ll be referring to the VCI DVD set Annie Oakley: The Complete Series.

Annie Oakley works a lot like The Gene Autry Show, both from Gene’s Flying A Productions. They have the feel of a theatrical B Western — just shorter and cheaper, and clearly geared towards kids. Gene brought along some of the directors who made his features so successful: guys like George Archainbaud, Ray Nazarro, Earl Bellamy and John English.

Some great character actors made their way to Annie Oakley, too: Slim Pickins, Helene Marshall, James Best, John Doucette, James H. Griffith, Lee Van Cleef, Alan Hale Jr., Dickie Jones, Fess Parker, Clayton Moore, Denver Pile, LQ Jones, Glenn Strange and more. From the writers to the actors to the cameramen — these crews were a well-oiled machine, perfectly suited to the quick schedules of TV production. They rode the same ranches, climbed the same Lone Pine rocks and punched the same bad guys. It’s like hour-long features were put in the dryer, left in there too long, and shrunk down to 27 minutes. All guided by the shrewd business acumen of Gene Autry.

But what makes Annie Oakley so special is Annie herself, Gail Davis. And that’s not to take anything away from Brad Johnson as Lofty Craig and Jimmy Hawkins as Annie’s brother Tagg. Or from her horse Target, for that matter.

24q4dmoGail’s up to all the fancy riding and trick-shooting the part requires, perfectly so. She’s a real sparkplug, with enough charisma to propel each episode all by herself. It’s a role she was born to play, you hear that a lot. And it’s true, even she agreed. But it’s so much more than that. I can’t think of an actress who’s more immediately likeable than Gail Davis.

It’s easy to like the 11-disc, 81-episode set from VCI Entertainment, too. You get the entire series, looking just great, saddled with extras: photo galleries, commercials, the original pilot, a documentary and more. Gail’s daughter Terrie was along for the ride on this project, and her contribution makes a huge difference. Her mother hung onto a lot of stuff, and she shares it with us.

Like any TV show, some episodes are better than others. I’m still making my way through them, but I’ve developed an affinity for the episodes directed by the underappreciated Ray Nazarro. He’s a master at the kind of action this show served up every week.

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VCI has given this set a lot of TLC. It’s obvious from the minute you open it up. The quality and consistency never wavers. The extras are classy and comprehensive. And Gail Davis is as cool as cool could be.

My daughter’s a big fan of both Annie Oakley and Gail Davis, and her enthusiasm convinced me to look into it. She was the real evangelist here, and she was right. Highly, highly recommended.

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montana territory OS

Directed by Ray Nazarro

Starring Lon McCallister, Wanda Hendrix, Preston Foster, Jack Elam, Clayton Moore.

Saturday, October 11
7:40 pm ET
GetTV

Filmed at the Iverson Ranch, in Technicolor, directed by Ray Nazarro, with Clayton Moore as a badguy, and only running 64 minutes, Montana Territory (1952) is one I’ve been wanting to track down. It sure has plenty going for it.

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$_57 (1)

Next month, the digital broadcast station GetTV offers up some Durango Kid pictures starring Charles Starrett, of course, and Smiley Burnette.

They’re presented Saturday matinee style, as they were intended. (And in chronological order, which is a nice touch.)

Saturday, October 11
12 p.m. – Both Barrels Blazing(1945)
1:20 p.m. – The Fighting Frontiersman (1946)

Saturday, October 18
12 p.m. – The Blazing Trail (1949)
1:15 p.m. – Bandits Of El Dorado (1949)

Saturday, October 25
12 p.m. – Trail Of The Rustlers (1950)
1:15 p.m. – The Kid From Broken Gun (1952)

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AnnieOakley_Complete_f

Gail Davis is just wonderful as Annie Oakley, a part she was probably born to play. This upcoming set from VCI (due October 21) gives you all 81 Annie Oakley episodes, restored, with all sorts of extras: a documentary, the pilot, commercials, photo galleries and more.

Some terrific character actors rode through this series: Slim Pickins, Helene Marshall, James Best, John Doucette, James H. Griffith, Lee Van Cleef, Alan Hale Jr., Dickie Jones, Fess Parker, Clayton Moore, Denver Pile, LQ Jones, Glenn Strange and more. (Even Shelly Fabares!) And in the director’s chair from week to week, you might find the likes of George Archainbaud, Ray Nazarro, Earl Bellamy or John English. Produced by Gene Autry’s Flying A Productions, many of these folks were veterans of Gene’s movies and series. Then there’s Lone Pine locations and those beautiful double-action Colts.

We’re gonna get a lotta mileage out of this thing at my house. My daughter Presley really loves this show.

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