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Archive for the ‘Sam Peckinpah’ Category

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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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Written and Directed by Daniel B. Ullman
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Director of Photography: Ellsworth Fredricks, ASC
Music by Marlin Skiles
Jazz Sequences by Shorty Rogers And His Giants
Supervising Film Editor: Lester A. Sansom
Film Editor: William Austin, ACE
Dialogue Supervisor: Sam Peckinpah

CAST: Bill Elliott (Lt. Andy Flynn), Keith Larsen (Ralph Wyatt), Helene Stanley (Connie Wyatt), Paul Picerni (Norman Roper), Jack Kruschen (Lloyd Lavalle), Elaine Riley (Gloria), Robert Bice (Sgt. Colombo), Rick Vallin (Deputy Clark), George Eldredge (Major), Regina Gleason (Mrs. Roper), Rankin Mansfield (Doctor), Mort Mills (Photographer).

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The Warner Archive two-disc set Bill Elliot Detective Mysteries created a good deal of excitement around here when it was announced a few weeks ago. Now that it’s arrived, I’m even more stoked about it.

Briefly, the story behind these films goes like this: cowboy star “Wild Bill” Elliott traded his Colt .45s for a snub-nosed .38, making five tough little detective pictures for Allied Artists to end his Hollywood career. Dial Red O (1955) is the first.

Keith Larsen (Ralph Wyatt), a troubled veteran, escapes a VA hospital to visit his wife on the day their divorce becomes final. Elliott sets out to find him, and when the new ex-wife (Helene Stanley) turns up dead, Larsen is quickly tagged as the top suspect. That’s as much of Dial Red O as you’ll get out of me. I don’t want to spoil what is a cool little crime picture, running a lean, mean 64 minutes.

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Elliott is cool as a cucumber as Lt. Andy Flynn of the LA Sheriff’s Department, methodically going about his police work smoking his pipe. The brim of his fedora seems a little large, a subtle reminder of his cowboy persona. (His name would become Andy Doyle for the rest of the series, since there was a real Andy Flynn working in LA law enforcement.) Ralph Wyatt is good as the veteran and Jack Kruschen is fun as the ex-wife’s somewhat beatnik neighbor. Sam Peckinpah, who was working as dialogue supervisor, appears as a short-order cook.

urlThis cheap little cop movie looks like a million bucks, thanks to the folks at Warner Archive (and to the craftsmanship of DP Ellsworth Fredricks and his crew). It’s even given the proper 1.85 widescreen framing. The other four films in the set look just as good.

It’s a real shame these films are largely seen as a curio — “Hey look, Wild Bill’s a policeman!” — when they’re tough little movies with plenty to recommend them. And I recommend them highly indeed.

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This is a big one, folks. After making his B Western, The Forty-Niners (1954), for Allied Artists, William Elliott ended his Hollywood career with five tough little crime pictures for the same studio, released 1955-57. After playing Detective Lieutenant Andy Flynn of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in the first one, Dial Red “O” (1955), he became Andy Doyle in the other four.

The Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries from Warner Archive presents all five films in 16×9 widescreen. Most run about an hour — and have been on the Want Lists of “Wild Bill” Elliott fans for ages. They’ll be on the Warner Archive lineup on Tuesday.

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Dial Red “O” (1955) An unhinged vet triggers a citywide manhunt when his soon-to-be-ex-wife gets bumped off. With Paul Picerni and Sam Peckinpah (uncredited as a cook).

Sudden Danger (1955) Elliott investigates a suspicious suicide — and the prime suspect turns out to be a blind man. With Beverly Garland and Lyle Talbot.

Calling Homicide (1956) Elliott connects the dots between a cop-killing and a model’s murder.  With Don Haggerty (who’d appear in the rest of the series), Lyle Talbot and James Best.

Chain of Evidence (1957) A reform school grad is accused of murder. With Haggerty, Timothy Carey and Dabbs Greer.

Footsteps In The Night (1957) A high-stakes poker game ends in murder. Directed by Jean Yarbrough.

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Daniel B. and Elwood Ullman, who wrote several of Elliott’s Monogram Westerns, are on hand for these films, and they make the transition from the Old West to the City Of Angels with ease.

You might be interested in these as a curio more than anything else, but they’re cool little movies and Elliott is as terrific as ever. Highly recommended.

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The great character actor R. G. Armstrong passed away on Friday. He was 95.

Mr. Armstrong appeared in a couple 50s Westerns, From Hell To Texas (1958, below) and No Name On The Bullet (1959), but really made his mark in the 60s and 70s. Sam Peckinpah used him a number of times, beginning with an episode of The Westerner, with terrific results. Philip Kaufman’s The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid (1972) is an overlooked gem with a great part for Armstrong. As a kid, he scared me in Race With The Devil (1974).

Originally from Alabama, he got a Masters in English from the University Of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, just down the street. I doubt anybody on campus today knows who he is.

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