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Archive for the ‘Republic Pictures’ Category

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

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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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Directed by Allan Dawn
Produced by Howard Welsch
Screen Play by Horace McCoy & Norman S. Hall
Story by M. Coates Webster & Howard Welsch
Director Of Photography: Jack Marta
Film Editor: Arthur Roberts
Special Effects: Howard & Theodore Lydecker
Music by Nathan Scott

Cast: Jane Russell (Belle Starr), George Brent (Tom Bradfield), Scott Brady (Bob Dalton), Forrest Tucker (Mac), Andy Devine (Pete Bivins), Jack Lambert (Ringo), John Litel (Matt Towner), Ray Teal (Emmett Dalton), Rory Mallinson (Grat Dalton), Mike Ragan (Ben Dalton), Roy Barcroft (Jim Clark), Glenn Strange, George Chesebro, Iron Eyes Cody

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That photo of Jane Russell’s gorgeous Mercedes prompted me to revisit Allan Dwan’s Montana Belle (1952), which I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while.

I really like Jane Russell. She made some really cool movies, including Son Of Paleface (1952), one of my all-time favorites. She didn’t take herself too seriously, didn’t take any crap from Howard Hughes (or anybody else, it seems) and wasn’t afraid to be who she was. Plus, she drove that car!

In late October and November, 1948 — the same year she appeared in The Paleface, Russell made Montana Belle. It was produced by Howard Welsch for his Fidelity Pictures. Welsch had an arrangement with Republic to use their facilities, standard crew (such as DP Jack Marta) and Trucolor. Allan Dwan, who was directed pictures for Republic at the time, signed on. Republic would handle distribution.

Detail from a Serbin Golfer ad, promoting Montana Belle as a Republic picture.

In April of ’49, Welsch sold the completed Montana Belle to RKO for $875,000 — he and Republic split about $225,000 in profits. Then, the picture fell victim to the typical RKO/Howard Hughes weirdness. It was released by RKO in November of 1952, a full four years after Dwan shot it.

The story has Belle Starr (Russell) involved with the Dalton gang, then forming her own outlaw band, and finally giving it all up for the love of a saloon owner (George Brent). Along the way, Jane impersonates a fella and dons a blonde wig to pass as a saloon singer and gambler.

Montana Belle is at its best when all the riding, robbing and shooting’s going on — well directed by Dwan and captured in Trucolor by Jack Marta (would love to see this get the restoration other Trucolor pictures have received lately).

Jane Russell isn’t as comfortable in front of the camera as she’d later become, with pictures like Macao and Son Of Paleface (both 1952), but she handles herself pretty well here. George Brent has an interesting part, or maybe he makes the part interesting. And the rest of the cast is made up of real veterans at this kind of stuff: Scott Brady, Forrest Tucker, Andy Devine, Jack Lambert, Ray Teal, Roy Barcroft and Iron Eyes Cody. Dwan and Brady would later do another overlooked little 50s Western, The Restless Breed (1957).

Montana Belle is available overseas in a PAL DVD that I’ll bet looks pretty crummy. Since it’s officially an RKO picture, it’s not part of the Republic stash over at Paramount. With Allan Dwan getting a much-deserved mini-reappraisal in recent years, it’d sure be great to see this one get a decent DVD, or better yet Blu-Ray, release. It’s no classic, but it’s easy to recommend it anyway.

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A while back, I asked for Want Lists of the 50s Westerns still lost on the high-def trail. Here they are, presented in chronological order. The titles in bold are the ones that were brought up most frequently.

With the recent news about Fox/Disney’s lack of interest in their back catalogs appearing on shiny silver circles, getting this finished and posted seemed very timely. Many of these, mind you, haven’t even turned up on DVD yet.

The Virginian (1946)
Albuquerque (1948)
Coroner Creek (1948)
Whispering Smith (1948)
3 Godfathers (1949)
Colorado Territory (1949)

Hellfire (1949)
Streets Of Laredo (1949)
Ambush (1950)
Branded (1950)
Devil’s Doorway (1950)
The Nevadan (1950)
Saddle Tramp (1950)
Short Grass (1950)
Showdown (1950)

Trail Of Robin Hood (1950)
Across The Wide Missouri (1951)
Along The Great Divide (1951)
Apache Drums (1951)
Best Of The Badmen (1951)
The Great Missouri Raid (1951)
Inside Straight (1951)
Man In The Saddle (1951)
Red Mountain (1951)
The Redhead And The Cowboy (1951)
The Secret Of Convict Lake (1951)
The Texas Rangers (1951)
Westward The Women (1951)

Vengeance Valley (1951)
Warpath (1951)
The Big Sky (1952)
Bugles In The Afternoon (1952)

Hangman’s Knot (1952)
The Lawless Breed (1952)
The Lusty Men (1952)
The Naked Spur (1952)
Ride The Man Down (1952)
The Savage (1952)
The Story Of Will Rogers (1952)
Untamed Frontier (1952)
Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953)
Charge At Feather River (1953)
City Of Bad Men (1953)
Devil’s Canyon {1953)
Escape From Fort Bravo (1953)
The Great Sioux Uprising (1953)
Jack McCall, Desperado (1953)
Last Of The Comanches (1953)
The Last Posse (1953)
The Silver Whip (1953)
The Stranger Wore A Gun (1953)
Wings Of The Hawk (1953)

Tumbleweed (1953)
Apache (1954)
The Bounty Hunter (1954)
Cattle Queen Of Montana (1954)
The Command (1954)
Dawn At Socorro (1954)
The Law Vs. Billy The Kid (1954)
The Outcast (1954)
Ride Clear Of Diablo (1954)
Silver Lode (1954)
Wyoming Renegades (1954)
The Yellow Tomahawk (1954)
At Gunpoint (1955)
Chief Crazy Horse (1955)
The Last Frontier (1955)
The Man From Bitter Ridge (1955)
Shotgun (1955)
Smoke Signal (1955)
Tennessee’s Partner (1955)
The Violent Men (1955)
Wichita (1955)
Backlash (1956)

Dakota Incident (1956)
Fastest Gun Alive (1956)
Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956)
Great Day In The Morning (1956)
The Last Wagon (1956)
The Lone Ranger (1956)
The Maverick Queen (1956)
Reprisal! (1956)
Seven Men From Now (1956)
Stagecoach To Fury (1956)
Tribute To A Bad Man (1956)
Copper Sky (1957)
Domino Kid (1957)

Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957)
Hell Canyon Outlaws (1957)
From Hell To Texas (1958)
Frontier Gun (1958)
The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold (1958)
Face Of A Fugitive (1959)
Last Train From Gun Hill (1959)
No Name On The Bullet (1959)
Thunder In The Sun (1959)
Yellowstone Kelly (1959)
The Alamo (1960)
Hell Bent For Leather (1960)
Cheyenne Autumn (1964)
Firecreek (1968)
Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (1973)

As this was being compiled, a few titles actually made their way to Blu-Ray, one of them being the exquisite new Wagon Master (1950) from Warner Archive.

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Peggy Stewart
(June 5, 1922 – May 29, 2019)

Heard this morning that Peggy Stewart — who’ll find in everything from Son Of Zorro (1947), a Republic serial, to pictures with Roger, Autry and Elliott to an episode of Seinfeld — has passed away at almost 97.

Peggy was great in all those Westerns (I’m particularly fond of the ones she did with William Elliott), and as anybody who ever spoke with her at a Western convention or something will tell you, she was a really nice lady.

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