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Archive for the ‘Republic Pictures’ Category

THIS IS AN UPDATE OF A POST FROM JULY OF 2012. It continues to be a really popular post, and it seemed due for a refresh. This will be further updated as time goes on.

Henry Cabot Beck of True West Magazine and I were emailing back and forth about the color Roy Rogers pictures (Trucolor, to be precise), how wonderful they are, and how terribly they’re represented on DVD. It’s a matter that has been beaten to death on a number of newsgroups, which shows just how important this really is. With these pictures in mind, a hastily-constructed post seemed in order.

The official releases worth your time and money are (where appropriate, clicking on the art will take you to a seller):

DVD

Bells Of Coronado (1950) is the only Roy Rogers picture Lions Gate got around to putting out on DVD during their handling of the Republic Pictures catalog. Unfortunately, Olive Films’ time with the Republic titles didn’t result in a single Rogers disc.

Bells Of Coronado is a good one, with Dale Evans, Trigger, Grant Withers and Pat Brady adding their usual support. William Witney lends his masterful direction, the songs are great and the Trucolor looks good. I think this is out of print, but it’s still listed here.

VCI’s Roy Rogers Western Double Feature Volume 1 presents Under California Stars (1948) and The Bells of San Angelo (1947) — both uncut and both looking just fine. California features Jane Frazee and Andy Devine, while San Angelo has Dale Evans, Andy Devine and Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers. Witney directed both. It’s also a deal, available through their website for just four bucks! Trailers are even included. So mosey on over and pick one up.

 

Springtime In The Sierras (1947) came out from Film Chest (in 2016) and The Film Detective, transferred from a complete 16mm print. It might be a bit soft, but it’s a good one and it’s complete.

 

 

 

 

 

BLU-RAY

Kino Lorber took over from Olive Films and released some nice stuff, including a couple of color Rogers films, from restored materials. They’re available on both Blu-Ray and DVD, and both feature commentaries from some Bozo named Toby Roan. They’re absolutely beautiful.

Sunset In The West (1950) looks incredible. It’s got Penny Edwards instead of Dale Evans, and there’s terrific  support from Gordon Jones, Will Wright and Paul E. Burns. The climax, with Trigger chasing down a locomotive, has some really amazing stuntwork.

Trigger Jr. (1950) has Dale Evans, Pat Brady, Gordon Jones, Grant Withers and Foy Willing And The Riders Of The Purple Sage. It really focuses on Trigger, so there’s a lot of great horse stuff in it.

I wish this was a lot longer post, with the rest of the color Rogers pictures listed. But at this time, Paramount owns the rights and no one has licensed anything. Maybe someday.

Till then, “may the good Lord take a liking to you.”

 

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Marie Harmon
October 21, 1923 – January 25, 2021

Marie Harmon, who was under contract at Republic in the late 40s, has passed away at 97.

She was in pictures like Night Time In Nevada (1948) with Roy Rogers and The El Paso Kid (1946) with Sunset Carson.

Her daughter Cherie Currie was a member of the band The Runaways.

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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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Directed by John Ford
Starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Ben Johnson, Claude Jarman Jr. , Harry Carey Jr., Chill Wills, J. Carrol Naish, Victor McLaglen, Grant Withers, The Sons Of The Pioneers

Olive Films is adding Rio Grande (1950), the third of John Ford’s “Cavalry Trilogy,” to its Signature Edition series. (The first two were Fort Apache and She Wore A Yellow Ribbon.) The release date is listed as November 17.

John Ford did Rio Grande for Republic to get the opportunity to do The Quiet Man (1952), but such dealmaking does not take away from this brilliant movie. The cinematography from Bert Glennon alone is worth the upgrade to Blu-Ray. Essential.

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Directed by Harry Keller
Produced by Rudy Ralston
Written by M. Coates Webster
Music by Stanley Wilson
Cinematography: John MacBurnie
Film Editor: Harold Minter

Cast: Allan “Rocky” Lane (Marshal Rocky Lane), Eddy Waller (Sheriff Nugget Clark), Mona Knox (Alice Scott), Roy Barcroft (Ed Brill), Isabel Randolph (Deborah Cranston), Richard Crane (Deputy Dan Reed), William Henry (Bert Cranston), Edward Clark (Printer Tom), Pierre Watkin (Head Marshal), Stanley Andrews (Henry Scott), Boyd ‘Red’ Morgan, Fred Aldrich, Art Dillard, Roy Engel, Marshall Reed, Tex Terry, Dale Van Sickel, Black Jack

__________

I’m embarrassed to admit that this is the first Allan “Rocky” Lane picture to be featured on this blog. I’ve got to get around to Monte Hale, too!

Thundering Caravans (1952) was one of Lane’s later pictures for Republic. His last, El Paso Stampede (1953), was released a little over a year later. Republic would be done with the series Western entirely after 1954’s Phantom Stallion with Rex Allen.

Allan Lane grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and dropped out of Notre Dame to give acting a go. He was spotted and signed by Fox, but moved over to Warner Bros. That didn’t work out so well, and Lane gave up the movies for a while. He was back in supporting parts at Fox in the mid-30s, and after a few thing like RKO’s The Law West Of Tombstone (1938), he made his way over to Republic.

After serials like King Of The Royal Mounted (1940) and The Tiger Woman (1944) with Linda Stirling, Lane was launched as a Republic cowboy star. Next, in 1946, he took over the Red Ryder role after Wild Bill Elliott left the series. When that ran its course, he was back to playing Allan “Rocky” Lane through 1953. From there, he did mostly TV guest roles until providing the voice of Mr. Ed (1961-1966). 

Thundering Caravans has Lane a marshal coming to the aid of the sheriff of Edgewater, who’s trying to get to the bottom of a series of robberies. Wagons of ore are disappearing, and the local newspaper is badmouthing the sheriff as election days comes near. 

Eddy Waller is a hoot as Nugget, the sheriff. Waller was a constant in these Lane pictures, but he wasn’t a sidekick in the regular sense. While he’s always named Nugget Clark, he’s a different character from film to film. In Thundering Caravans, he and Lane don’t know each other at all.

Roy Barcroft doesn’t have a lot of screen time as Ed Brill, an escaped convict, but he gets to be plenty despicable before he’s through. Barcroft was a given in Republic pictures at this time, since he had an exclusive 10-year contract with the studio. They put him in everything they could.

The girl this time around is Mona Knox, an actress and pinup girl who appeared in a handful of films and some TV in the 50s and 60s. She appeared in Flying Leathernecks (1951), The Las Vegas Story (1952) and a couple of Bowery Boys pictures. She doesn’t have a whole lot to do in Thundering Caravans.

Harry Keller was an editor turned director, and he did a number of these later Lane Westerns, including the last one, El Paso Stampede. (He did the Rex Allen’s last, too.) Keller made the move to TV, with some Universal-International Westerns here and there — Quantez (1957), Day Of The Badman (1958) and Seven Ways From Sundown (1960). As with a lot of editors who climb into the director’s chair, you can count on Keller’s pictures to be well-paced, with some solid actions scenes.

Solid action was the order of the day at Republic as their series Westerns wound down. They’re short (usually under an hour), with plenty of riding and shooting (some of it stock footage), and the casts and sets are kept to a minimum. Thundering Caravans looks like it was shot at Iverson Ranch — some rear-projection footage is definitely Iverson.

It’s a shame Republics like Thundering Caravans aren’t around on DVD or Blu-Ray. They’re a lot of fun. 

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There’s something about this blog I’ve always been uncomfortable with. Through DVD/Blu-Ray new release information or reviews, by plugging a Kickstarter campaign to restore something, or by mentioning a book that’s on the way (including mine), I have a tiny influence on people’s buying decisions. I work in Marketing and Advertising and do this every day, so I ought to be OK with it, but it’s different at this more informal, semi-personal level. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know quite a few of you, and I make a point of not telling my friends how to spend their money.

Having said all that, now I want to tell you how to spend your money. Not really, but kinda.

Back in the 90s, before 50s Westerns took over my life, I used to watch a lot of old Poverty Row horror and 60s spy movies (especially those goofy European James Bond ripoffs). A great source for such things was a company in Oregon called Sinister Cinema. Maybe you’re familiar with them. A friend and I (how ya doing, DV?) ordered from them quite a bit (it was VHS back then) or would rent their stuff from a mail-order place called Video Vault. 

Nowadays, Sinister Cinema deals in DVDs, of course, and they’ve taken a real shine to B Westerns of the 30s and 40s. You’ll find some terrific pictures on their site, from Hoot Gibson to Bob Steele to Ken Maynard. And some titles I’d been looking for decent copies of — Riders Of The Whistling Skull (1937), Hell Canyon Outlaws (1957) and A Lust To Kill (1958).

The folks at Sinister Cinema are talking about shutting down. First, I’d hate to see that happen because old movie nuts aren’t supporting them like we should. So I encourage you to visit their site. Click on the logo above, and away you go! And I highly recommend Hell Canyon Outlaws. (Click the lobby card up top for that link.) It was directed by Paul Landres and has a great part for Dale Robertson. Sinister’s copy is from a well-worn 16mm print, but it’s very watchable. It’s full-frame, so if your TV will let you zoom a bit, you can approximate its 1.85 framing.

And since these titles are less than $10 each, I don’t feel so bad about trying to make you part with your dough. You might even thank me for it.

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From Shout Factory — America’s favorite singing cowboy Gene Autry heads to streaming for the first time ever with the launch of the Gene Autry film and television library on Shout! Factory TV May 1.

The streaming service will release its first collection from Gene Autry’s personal archive, with the streaming debut of fully restored feature films South Of The Border, Gaucho Serenade, Melody Ranch, The Strawberry Roan and Blue Canadian Rockies.

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TORH HS? cropped

One of my favorite things about Christmas is Trail Of Robin Hood (1950), one of the Trucolor Roy Rogers pictures directed by William Witney. It’s a wonderful thing. It features the song “Ev’ry Day Is Christmas In The West,” which seems worth sharing tonight.

“Ev’ry Day Is Christmas In The West”
Written by Jack Elliott
Performed by Roy Rogers and The Riders of the Purple Sage

They say that Christmas comes but once a year
But don’t you believe it’s so.
That’s only a story you may hear
From those who just don’t know that…
Ev’ry day is Christmas in the West!
Ev’ry day is Christmas in the West!

There’s always an evergreen tree nearby
And always stars like ornaments in the sky.
Nature makes a present of each day.
Skylarks softly carol on their way.
There you’ll find the true kind of love
The Lord above expressed
For ev’ry day is Christmas in the West!

A big thanks to Bob Madison.

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This morning, I saw Chubby Johnson in the “Gunpowder Joe” (1953) episode of The Lone Ranger. Seemed like time to make him Character Actor Of The Day.

He was born Charles Rutledge Johnson in 1903, in Terre Haute, Indiana. He worked as a journalist and radio announcer for years, and he was in his 40s when he did his first film, Abilene Town (1946) with Randolph Scott. He kept both careers going for a while. 

Around the time of the underrated Rocky Mountain (1950), Errol Flynn’s last Western, Chubby decided to concentrate on the movies. He’d go on to make more than 80 pictures.

L-R: Myron Healey, Claudia Barrett, Allan “Rocky” Lane and Chubby Johnson in Republic’s Night Riders Of Montana (1951).

Republic needed a replacement for sidekick Eddy Waller in the Rocky Lane series. Chubby rode alongside Allan Lane for most of 1951 and ’52.

L-R: James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Chubby Johnson and Stepin Fetchit in Anthony Mann’s Bend Of The River (1952).

Chubby’s in lots of great stuff. High Noon (1952), Anthony Mann’s Bend Of The River (1952) and The Far Country (1954), Calamity Jane (1953) with Doris Day, Gunsmoke (1953, with Audie Murphy), Law And Order (1953), Cattle Queen Of Montana (1954), The Fastest Gun Alive (1956) and on and on.

On TV, Chubby was a regular in Sky King the Rex Allen series Frontier Doctor, and he guested on shows like Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, Thriller, Death Valley Days, Sugarfoot, The Andy Griffith Show, Temple Houston, Dennis The Menace and Maverick. He stayed plenty busy.

His last pictures were Support Your Local Sheriff! and Sam Whiskey in 1969. He passed away in 1974.

With Howard Keell and Doris Day on the set of Calamity Jane (1953).

Chubby could make the most of a small part, and really shine when given something bigger, as in Bend Of The River and Calamity Jane. Another one of those guys who gives a picture a lift when he turns up.

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