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Archive for the ‘Sam Peckinpah’ Category

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The character Joel McCrea played in so many of his Westerns was a confident, moral man — absolutely true to his word (even when he was an outlaw). Many say that character is a perfect match for McCrea himself. Here in the States, with our contentious, divisive 2016 election coming to an end just a few days after McCrea’s birthday, there’s an irony there that’s hard to miss. There’s also a realization that we could sure use someone like McCrea today.

I could go on and on about Joel McCrea’s incredible career, working with some of Hollywood’s greatest directors on some of their finest films (many of which will be covered over the course of this blogathon), but there’s a quote from a 1978 interview that pretty much says it all —

“I liked doing comedies, but as I got older, I was better suited to do Westerns. Because I think it becomes unattractive for an older fellow trying to look young, falling in love with attractive girls in those kinds of situations… Anyway, I always felt so much more comfortable in the Western. The minute I got a horse and a hat and a pair of boots on, I felt easier. I didn’t feel like I was an actor anymore. I felt like I was the guy out there doing it.”

Below you’ll find links for a series of posts from a very fine roster of bloggers, writers, fans, etc. Keep checking back.

Day 3

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South Of St. Louis (1949)
50 Westerns Of The 50s

Day 2

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These Three (1936)
The Jade Sphinx

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The Outriders (1950)
50 Westerns From The 50s, by Blake Lucas

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Gunsight Ridge (1957)
Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings

Day 1

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Ride The High Country (1962, by Jerry Entract)
50 Westerns From The 50s

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The Virginian (1946)
Caftan Woman

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Wichita (1955)
The Round Place In The Middle

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Four Faces West (1948)
Speakeasy

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The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
The Hannibal 8 (by Jerry Entract)

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Stranger On Horseback (1955)
50 Westerns From The 50s by Allen Smithee

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Directed by Sam Peckinpah
Produced by Richard E. Lyons
Screenplay by N.B. Stone, Jr.
Cinematography: Lucien Ballard
Film Editor: Frank Santillo
Music by George Bassman

Cast: Joel McCrea (Steve Judd), Randolph Scott (Gil Westrum), Mariette Hartley (Elsa Knudsen), Ron Starr (Heck Longtree), James Drury (Billy Hammond), Edgar Buchanan (Judge Tolliver), R.G. Armstrong (Joshua Knudsen), Jenie Jackson (Kate)

joel-mccrea-blogathon-badgeI am delighted to be able to take part in the Joel McCrea Blogathon and would like to thank our host, Toby, for making it possible.

Due to a combination of factors in my early childhood movie-watching, Joel McCrea was probably my earliest Western favorite (among the bigger fish, anyway), even before the Duke perhaps. Firstly, an early favorite showing on UK TV at the time was Four Faces West (19XX) which I loved straight off. Plus, one of the earlier films I was taken to see at the cinema was The Tall Stranger (19XX) possibly the first film I saw in that great big CinemaScope!

I’ve gone on record on this blog as stating that my all-time favorite movie is Ride The High Country (1962), a fact I was reminded of by my friend Blake Lucas, who suggested this should be my contribution. I’ll try to get across just why it is my favorite.

I’ll be brief on the story as probably everybody reading this already knows it well. The screenplay was written by N.B. Stone jr. though I believe it was extensively re-written by Peckinpah. Also, screenwriter Burt Kennedy had an involvement in that he brought the script to the attention of Randolph Scott.

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Two aging former lawmen, down on their luck, are given a routine job to collect gold from a remote mining community in the ‘high country’ and transport it back through difficult territory. Times in the West are a-changin’ and the two old guys see the opportunity in different ways. Steve Judd sees an opportunity for a final task that he can bring off with integrity and dignity. His old friend Gil Westrum is bitter and sees the gold as his payoff for a career that didn’t! This brings about a clash between the two until they have to face a bunch of low-lifes from the mines who want to kill them for the gold.

I was so taken with this film on first view in 1962 that I went to see it again three days later. I was only 14 but found the film and the two central performances utterly moving. We all know, of course, that originally McCrea was offered the part of Westrum but felt it wrong for his personal image. And so… a brilliant switch was made. Scott was more than happy to play the more shaded personality for once. The result was perfection. Both men had pretty well already retired by 1962 and this was the final film for Scott and, effectively, for McCrea also. What a film with which to go out on!!

There are many wonderful subtle moments throughout the film. Right near the start we see Steve Judd going to sign up for the job – he is embarrassed by his frayed shirt cuffs and by his need for eye-glasses. A proud man then and like Westrum men past their best and out of their time.

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Many will no doubt disagree with me, but for me this was Sam Peckinpah’s true masterpiece. I was never so happy with his subsequent movies.

In 1962, Joel McCrea was a bigger favorite of mine than Randolph Scott, but time and many subsequent viewings of both their films put them almost side-by-side for me today, but with Scott ahead and at the very top because of his large and fairly consistent body of work in the Western genre.

Beautifully shot by the great Lucien Ballard in some terrific California Sierras locations – Mammoth Lakes, Inyo National Forest and that familiar landmark to all Western fans, Bronson Canyon.

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Ride The High Country was a watershed Western – in style it was of the newer, coming Western but its heart , accentuated by the pairing of McCrea and Scott, was traditional.

I believe it would have been a fine Western with other stars taking the two leads. With McCrea and Scott, it was simply splendid!

No trouble of course getting this one on DVD. My own copy was put out by Warner Video in 2006, the year I picked it up on a trip to New York. It is still awaiting a Blu-Ray release.

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Jerry Entract does not run his own blog or have any involvement in the film industry but is an English lifelong movie fan and amateur student of classic cinema (American and British). Main passions are the Western and detective/mystery/film noir. Enjoys seeking out lesser-known (even downright obscure) old movies.

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Turner Classic Movies is dedicating Monday, August 24 to the great Warren Oates. Beginning with Yellowstone Kelly (1959), they’re running 13 of his films, including Ride The High Country (1962) and The Wild Bunch (1969). The still above is from Welcome To Hard Times (1967). Times shown here are Eastern Standard Time.

For my money, Oates is one of the greatest screen actors to ever get in front of a camera — ever see Two Lane Blacktop (1971) or The Brinks Job (1978)? — and this attention is well deserved.

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Thanks to Dick Vincent for the tip.

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Sam Peckinpah
February 21, 1925 – December 28, 1984

Here’s to Sam Peckinpah, one of the Western’s greatest directors on what would’ve been his 90th birthday. His Ride The High Country (1962) and The Wild Bunch (1969) are among the best Westerns ever made. He had a feel for the West that really set him apart.

I’m currently reading Paul Seydor’s The Authentic Death and Contentious Afterlife Of Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid: The Untold Story of Peckinpah’s Last Western Film — and it’s fascinating.

He’s seen above talking with Edmond O’Brien on location for The Wild Bunch.

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George Randolph Scott
(January 23, 1898 – March 2, 1987)

This post kicks off The Blogathon For Randolph Scott, January 23-25.

Randolph Scott is my favorite actor, hands down — an opinion that seems to be shared by many who read this blog on an ongoing basis.

R Scott blogathon badgeAs a group, Scott’s Westerns were probably the biggest influence on my decision to take on this blog and book on 50s Westerns — they were certainly my “gateway drug” (beginning with 1958’s Buchanan Rides Alone).

And though he was just an actor playing fictitious characters in a number of medium-budget, 60-year-old cowboy movies, he became a model for the kind of man I want to be.

Scott started out as a somewhat stiff leading man. But he got better and better, and by the 50s, he’d aged into the ideal Western star. Tall, handsome, weathered, commanding, easygoing — and with a Southern drawl that really set him apart. (He made this Georgia kid feel a lot better about his own accent.)

Randolph Scott (from a 1949 newspaper interview): “I make Westerns because I like them. Westerns have been the mainstay of the movie industry ever since its beginning. And they have been good to me.”

Teaming with producers Nat Holt and Harry Joe Brown (separately) — and recruiting directors like Gordon Douglas, Edwin Marin, Andre de Toth and Budd Boetticher, Scott made modest, unpretentious films whose merits become more obvious with each passing year. The best of them are among the finest the genre’s ever seen. The lesser ones are worthwhile if only because Scott’s in them.

Retiring in 1960 after Comanche Station, Scott was persuaded to climb back into the saddle — to appear alongside Joel McCrea in Sam Peckinpah’s Ride The High Country (1962). And that was it. He passed away at 89, an extremely wealthy man thanks to shrewd investing of his movie money.

There are many stories of Scott sitting on Lone Pine locations reading The Wall Street Journal between takes. He saw the “pitcher bidniss” as just that, a business — and found a great deal of success in it. But the quality of the scripts — along with the many talented people he hired, encouraged and re-hired — proves he was paying attention to much more than just budgets and grosses. Movies this good, especially made on tight budgets and schedules, don’t just happen.

And speaking of all those movies, many of them will be covered throughout the weekend. Saddle up and read on.

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This book falls outside the usual scope of this blog, but I’m sure many of us will be interested in it. I know I am! Paul Seydor’s The Authentic Death and Contentious Afterlife Of Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid: The Untold Story of Peckinpah’s Last Western Film will be available in February. I’m not sure I can wait that long.

the-authentic-death-and-contentious-afterlife-of-pat-garrett-and-billy-the-kidPat Garrett And Billy The Kid (1973) could be Sam Peckinpah’s most mangled masterpiece — as you know, he had a lot of them. Slim Pickens’ final scene, featuring Katy Jurado and set to Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” gets my vote as the saddest, most moving scene in cinema history. (Quick, Toby, think of something else!)

From Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid‘s troubled shooting — plagued with everything from schedule-busting camera malfunctions to liver-wrecking substance abuse — to its mutilation by MGM and eventual restoration and reappraisal, Seydor’s got a helluva story to tell. As an editor, his insight into the film’s cutting and re-cutting should be worth the cover price alone. His previous book, Peckinpah: The Western Films—A Reconsideration, and documentary, The Wild Bunch: An Album In Montage (1996), show that he knows his way around this subject. Man, I can’t wait!

 

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William Holden
(April 17, 1918 – November 12, 1981)

Last night, my daughter mentioned that today is William Holden’s birthday. Don’t tell me she’s not getting a well-rounded education!

Probably one of Hollywood’s greatest stars, Holden made a number of good Westerns. John Sturges’ Escape From Fort Bravo (1953) is one of the best. The last couple reels are really outstanding.

Of course, Western fans these days know him for Pike Bishop in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969), a performance right up there with Stewart in The Man From Laramie (1955) and Wayne in The Searchers (1956).

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