Archive for the ‘Rhonda Fleming’ Category


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)


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.


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.


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.


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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Directed by Roy (Ward) Baker
Produced by William Bloom
Written by Francis M. Cockrell
Director Of Photography: Lucian Ballard
Music by Paul Sawtell

Cast:Robert Ryan (Donald Whitley Carson III), Rhonda Fleming (Geraldine Carson), William Lundigan (Joseph Duncan), Henry Hull (Sam Elby), Larry Keating (Dave Emory), Carl Betz (Lt. Mike Platt), Robert Burton (Sheriff), Barbara Pepper


Inferno (1953) isn’t a Western. But it’s got enough of our usual stuff in it — cast, crew, locations, etc. — to seem like a pretty good fit. Truthfully, I just wanted to write about it, celebrate director Roy Ward Baker and lift up Panamint Cinema’s fine work in bringing it to DVD and Blu-ray.

3-D never saved a crappy movie, and how much it enhances a film comes down to personal taste (to me, if it’s not perfectly presented, it’s a huge distraction). None of that is an issue with Inferno, because it’s a terrific “desert noir” picture — and director Roy Baker and cinematographer Lucian Ballard use the 3-D very, very well. (Have you noticed that watching a 3-D movie flat tends to show off how gimmick-y it is? Fort Ti, for instance.)

Inferno WC

Robert Ryan is a tough, drunken business tycoon no one seems all that fond of. When he breaks his leg horseback riding in the Mojave, his wife (Rhonda Fleming) and her new lover (William Lundigan) decide to leave him there to die — they’re not killing him, they’re just not saving him. Sounds like a perfect plan. Only they didn’t figure Ryan would sober up, patch up his leg and start making his way back to civilization.

The picture goes back and forth between Ryan’s trek through the desert and Fleming and Lundigan’s attempts to fake their way through the rescue efforts. Ryan plays his part largely without dialogue — we hear his thoughts as narration — and he’s very, very good. (As if I had to tell you that.)

Roy Baker: “I had always had an ambition to make a picture in which the leading character spends long periods alone on the screen, where the interest would be in what he does, rather than what he says.”*

Inferno LC 2

Fleming and Lundigan are good, too. As the movie progresses, their paranoia and stress levels escalate. You just know it’s going to fall apart. It’s to the credit of everyone involved that our sympathy shifts from scene to scene — and in how satisfying it is when Fate takes over in the last reel.

Director Roy (Ward) Baker was a master, and today, nobody seems to know who he is. He enjoyed a widely-varied career, bouncing from features to TV, from genre to genre, and from the US to the UK with ease. He got a great performance out of Marilyn Monroe in Don’t Bother To Knock (1952), directed some great episodes of The Avengers, made one of the best Hammer films, Five Million Miles To Earth (1968, known in the UK as Quatermass And The Pit), and gave us one of the most impossibly-great, damned-near perfect movies I’ve ever seen, A Night To Remember (1958).

His use of depth in Inferno is subtle but very effective, and he was proud of his work on the picture. A falling rock or two, a chair thrown toward the camera — that’s about it as far as the showy stuff goes. The rocks and cactus provide plenty of opportunities to play around with depth in a more natural way. He and Lucian Ballard work wonders with light and color to create the intensity of the desert. The movie looks really hot — though it was shot in the winter. (Budd Boetticher and Sam Peckinpah also lured Ballard and his cameras into the desert for pictures like Buchanan Rides Alone and The Wild Bunch.)

Inferno LC 6

The supporting cast is a good one. Henry Hull is great as the old prospector who comes to Ryan’s aid. Larry Keating, who’s wonderful on The George Burns And Gracie Allen Show, is Ryan’s business associate, and he doesn’t seem all that upset, or surprised, that his partner’s gone missing. And Barbarba Pepper, Mrs. Ziffel on Green Acres, turns up as a waitress.

They say that back in the 90s, a British retrospective on Baker was reduced to running a 16mm TV print of Inferno. Luckily, Bob Furmanek of The 3-D Film Archive tracked down 35mm Technicolor prints of both the left and right sides — which this incredible region-free Blu-ray comes from (transferred by Dan Symmes). The picture is stunning at times, sharp as a tack with vivid color and just the right amount of grain. It looks exactly like what it is — a nice 35mm dye-transfer Technicolor print. This was an early stereo picture, but there’s only mono here. Bet the stereo masters are long gone. I wasn’t able to watch the 3-D version, which would have to be impressive since it comes from the same material. There’s a healthy batch of extras, from trailers to an interview with the great Rhonda Fleming.

Inferno comes highly, highly recommended — both the movie and this beautiful Blu-ray. And I’d like to thank Bob Furmanek of The 3-D Film Archive and Russell Cowe of Panamint Cinema for getting it out there.

Sources: *Director’s Cut: A Memoir of 60 Years in Film by Roy Ward Baker; Blu-ray liner notes

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Abilene Town HS

Directed by Edwin L. Marin
Starring Randolph Scott, Ann Dvorak, Edge Buchanan, Rhonda Fleming, Lloyd Bridges, Helen Boyce

Don’t think I’ve ever seen Edwin Marin’s Abilene Town (1946) looking anything but terrible. Well, that’s about to change. Panamint in the UK has announced an all-region Blu-ray of Abilene Town — from 35mm fine grain material. It should be available in a couple weeks. I can’t wait!

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Pony Express foreign LC

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 10.33.41 AMGoogle is commemorating the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express with a nifty little snatch-the-mail-sacks-without-running-into-a-rock-or-a-cactus-or-an-outlaw video game and some links about the short-lived mail service. (Judging from this game, my daughter’d make a lot better Pony Express rider than I would.)

Nat Holt and Paramount beat Google to the punch by 62 years with Pony Express (1953), a cool Western with history re-written by Charles Marquis Warren. It stars Charlton Heston (as Buffalo Bill, who really rode for the Pony Express), Rhonda Fleming, Jan Sterling and Forrest Tucker (as Wild Bill Hickock). To get the mail through, Heston and Tucker have to contend with weather, Indians, outlaws and both Rhonda Fleming and Jan Sterling taking baths. The action scenes are really well done. Olive Films brought it out on DVD back in 2011.

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Griffith in Bullwhip

James H. Griffith
(February 13, 1916 – September 17, 1993)

Here’s to one of my favorite character actors on his birthday. James Griffith is seen here with Guy Madison in Bullwhip (1958), which also starred Rhonda Fleming.

I knocked out a profile on Griffith a few years ago. You can find it here. Whether it’s a 50 Western, Dragnet or even an episode of B.J. And The Bear, he’s always worth watching.

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TennesseesPartner title cropped

I really love Allan Dwan’s Tennessee’s Partner (1955).


I’ve always enjoyed Dennis’s blog dedicated to the Iverson Movie Ranch. It’s a frequent stop for me. Earlier this month, he posted some stuff on Tennessee’s Partner (1955) and its extensive use of the Iverson Ranch. Cinematographer John Alton did a masterful job on this one, and I doubt the ranch ever looked better than it did here.

If you’re new to this blog, be prepared to lose an hour or two or three.

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Gunfight at the OK Corral RLC

VistaVision is a wonderful thing on Blu-ray, and here’s one I’ve been waiting for — Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957).

It’s coming from Warners and Paramount on March 11, 2014. Also on the way are a couple John Wayne – Howard Hawks pictures, Hatari! (1962) and El Dorado (1967).

Thanks for the tip, Paula.

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