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Archive for the ‘Wallace Ford’ Category

Directed by Lesley Selander
Produced by Jack Jungmeyer
Screenplay by Maurice Geraghty
Story by Frank Gruber
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography: Jack Greenhalgh
Film Editor: Francis D. Lyon

Cast: George Montgomery (Tom Horn / Steve Garrett), Rod Cameron (Harve Logan / Kid Curry), Marie Windsor (Dakota Lil), John Emery (Vincent), Wallace Ford (Carter), Jack Lambert (Dummy), Larry Johns (Sheriff), Marion Martin (Blonde Singer), James Flavin (Secret Service Chief), Walter Sande (Butch Cassidy)

This is an entry in The Marie Windsor Blogathon, a celebration of the actress’s life and work. It comes from guest blogger Boyd Cathey.

Marie Windsor always evokes wonderful memories for me, and on this day, December 11, 2020, which would have been her 101st birthday, I think back to the films with her that left an imprint on me, and that since my childhood I’ve managed to see and in many cases finally acquire.

When I was young boy my dad and I would go from time to time to a movie house in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, usually on a Saturday, to see a Western double feature. Our favorite was Randolph Scott. My dad’s family is from Charlotte, and my grandparents were acquaintances with Randy Scott’s family, also in Charlotte, so we had a connection. One of the first films I recall featuring Marie Windsor was The Bounty Hunter (1954). I think it was a re-release at one of the lesser, second-run theaters that used to exist in the city, as the original release was in 1954, and I was too young to go to movies back then. I remember her role as the wife of a notorious bandit—she wasn’t the main star, but she seemed to give an extra spark to this Scott Western, which like most of his Warner oaters seemed less polished than the Columbia products.

Anyway, I was taken by her. Okay, I was maybe only about 10, but I was captivated—she was beautiful and perky, and along with Sophia Loren, she became my idolized female star. In the late 1950s until her retirement in 1991, she also frequently acted in television. She made appearances in Maverick, Rawhide, Perry Mason, even Murder, She Wrote with Angela Lansbury, one of the best American crime mystery series. And Windsor was always beautiful and captivating, she never seemed to age.

A few years later—probably the early 1960s or so—a local television station broadcast Dakota Lil (1950), one of those films that stations would broadcast usually late at night. I begged my parents to let me stay up—it was a school night, and my normal bedtime was 10 p.m. Somehow they agreed, maybe because dad wanted to see it also. Anyway, we both viewed it, and immediately Dakota Lil became a favorite.

The plot is fairly simple, although the development is more complicated. George Montgomery, Secret Service undercover agent Tom Horn (as Steve Garrett), is charged with breaking a major counterfeit outfit, the “Hole-in-the-Wall” gang in Wyoming. To do this he travels to Matamoros, Mexico, to enlist the aid of Windsor—Dakota Lil—noted for her ability to perfect an exact replication of official signatures. They both head to Wyoming, but she initially begins working with the chief culprit and the particularly nasty Rod Cameron (Harve Logan/Kid Curry)

The first thing you notice is the film score: it’s by the award-winning composer Dmitri Tiomkin, and it is gorgeous and memorable. In fact, its themes remained in my mind long after I first watched the DVD. Certainly, Fox by charging Tiomkin with the music of Dakota Lil intended it to be more than just another “super-B” Western.  Additionally, John Emery, who plays the role of Vincent, a former concert pianist and hanger-on to Windsor, offers up several short pieces by Frederic Chopin! Marie—Dakota Lil—sings various songs, with the singing voice of Anita Ellis. She executes excellent lip-syncing.

Although Dakota Lil showcases a youngish George Montgomery, Windsor steals the show and adds essential sparkle to the film. She invests the generally unremarkable dialogue with some real panache, indeed with just a face gesture or an inflection in her voice she can steal a scene. When she shows up at the Wind River, Wyoming, saloon (owned by Cameron) and comes upon the current diva, that chanteuse asks her: “What are you staring at?,” Windsor responds dryly: “A no talent performance.” Likewise, her dialogue with Cameron on how they plan to split the proceeds of the counterfeit government bonds shows comparable spunk and her mastery of crisp exchange, even humor. One can see how Marie Windsor fit so well into film noir, indeed, Dakota Lil shares certain characteristics of that genre. Consider, for example, Cameron’s preferred method of killing his enemies—by brutal strangling, almost matter-of-fact in its cruelty.

It was only in 2015 that I discovered that a DVD existed, in fact, two DVD releases. And I snatched up a copy as soon as I could. Both are in the PAL European video format, which means they will not play in American NTSC DVD players; but All Region DVD players are easily available and can be had inexpensively via Amazon.com and elsewhere. One copy was issued in Spain, which I have not seen. My copy is issued by Simply Media, a British company, which licensed their copy from Renown Films.

Although Dakota Lil was originally released by 20th Century-Fox in Cinecolor (February 1950), to my knowledge no color issue has emerged since its original release. Neither of the available DVDs is in color. Since Cinecolor was a less stable and reliable color process than Technicolor, one wonders if such a copy still exists somewhere in the Fox archives. Kino Lorber has done some wonderful restoration work with Scott’s The Cariboo Trail and Canadian Pacific, both Fox releases, so maybe we are allowed to hope?

Both the Simply Media copy and the Spanish release are available reasonably from the American firm, DaaVeeDee.com and also from Amazon.com. My copy is a good B & W issue, with a sharp picture and no sign of deterioration.

Directed by warhorse director Lesley Selander, Dakota Lil is surely one of his finer efforts. It deserves to be much better known. No, it’s not perhaps as good a vehicle for Windsor as, say, Hellfire (1949, with Wild Bill Elliott), but it merits attention…and perhaps a full digital restoration?

In any event, it should be seen for Marie Windsor’s fine performance which raises this film above the dozens similar to it released in 1950. Happy Birthday, Marie, and may your legacy on film continue to be enjoyed and appreciated!

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While I was off in the mountains over Thanksgiving, with no Internet, John, Graham and an assorted cast of characters kept the lights on with a steady stream of comments. Y’all are sure something for me to be thankful for!

Anyway, one of the new released that was name-dropped was The Randolph Scott Collection from Via Vision out of Australia. It’s a pretty eclectic set, leaning towards the Harry Joe Brown pictures.

The Texans (1938)
Directed by James P. Hogan
Starring Randolph Scott, Joan Bennett, Walter Brennan
A post Civil War picture from Paramount.

When The Daltons Rode (1940)
Directed by George Marshall
Starring Randolph Scott, Kay Francis, Brian Donlevy, Broderick Crawford, Andy Devine, George Bancroft, Edgar Buchanan
About 80 minutes of nonstop action as the Daltons blast their way from one robbery to the next, with Scott a lawyer friend who tries to help out.

Corvette K-225 (1943)
Directed by Richard Rosson
Starring Randolph Scott, James Brown, Ella Raines, Barry Fitzgerald, Robert Mitchum
Howard Hawks produced this World War II picture, with Scott going after the U-boat that sank his ship and machine-gunned his crew.

Gunfighters (1947)
Directed by George Waggner
Starring Randolph Scott, Barbara Britton, Bruce Cabot, Forrest Tucker
A cool Cinecolor picture produced by Harry Joe Brown.

Coroner Creek (1948)
Directed by Ray Enright
Starring Randolph Scott, Marguerite Chapman, George Macready, Edgar Buchanan, Wallace Ford , Forrest Tucker, Joe Sawyer
Ray Enright directs that spectacular cast in Cinecolor. It doesn’t get much better than that.

The Doolins Of Oklahoma (1949)
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Starring Randolph Scott, George Macready, Louise Allbritton, John Ireland , Charles Kemper, Noah Beery Jr.
This is just a terrific movie that gets everything right.

The Walking Hills (1949)
Directed by John Sturges
Starring Randolph Scott, Ella Raines, Edgar Buchanan, Arthur Kennedy, John Ireland, Josh White
A group of men head to together in search of a lost wagon train loaded down with gold. Sturges’ does a great job, and the Alabama Hills and Death Valley locations are put to good use.

Santa Fe (1951)
Directed by Irving Pichel
Starring Randolph Scott, Janis Carter
Scott’s trying to help build a railroad, with even his own brothers trying to stop him.

Most of these pictures can be found elsewhere — some even on Blu-Ray, so there’s likely some duplication with something you already have. But there’s plenty of good stuff to recommend it. Sure wish there was a Blu-Ray version available, too (especially of Doolins).

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Margia Dean and Stagecoach To Fury (1956) came up on my other blog today, which reminded me of the Regalscope picture’s coverage in the August 1956 issue of American Cinematographer.

It’s one of my favorite of the Regalscope Westerns, with a great cast — Forrest Tucker, Marie Blanchard, Paul Fix, Wallace Ford, Margia Dead, Ellen Corby — and solid direction from William Claxton.

Here are Marie Blanchard and DP Walter Strenge, who shot the picture (and wrote the American Cinematographer article). This was the first CinemaScope movie shot using Eastman Plus-X negative film.

A good look at the relay station set. The location stuff was shot around Kanab, Utah, with more done closer to home at the Gene Autry ranch.

Wish this one would make its way to DVD and/or Blu-Ray in its proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio. It deserves to be seen the way Strenge shot it.

Here’s the article as a PDF: Stagecoach To Fury Amer Cin Aug 1956. Enjoy.

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Directed by Reginald Le Borg
Starring Willard Parker, Barbara Payton, Tom Neal, Wallace Ford

Came across a heartbreaking story about Barbara Payton today. It reminded me of The Great Jesse James Raid (1953), her next-to-last picture — and the one time she was paired with Tom Neal. Her relationship with Neal, while engaged to Franchot Tone, helped bring about her tragic downfall.

The Great Jesse James Raid is a cheap little Lippert picture, directed by Reginald Le Borg, “filmed in new Ansco Color” — and available from on DVD from Kit Parker and VCI. There’s something about it I always liked — and I’ll watch anything with Wallace Ford.

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Directed by Fred F. Sears
Screenplay by David Lang and Martin Berkeley
Story by David Lang
Director Of Photography: Henry Freulich
Film Editors: Al Clark and James Sweeney

Cast: Philip Carey (Wade Harper), Roberta Haynes (Paris), Wallace Ford (McBride), Richard Webb (Ace Eliot), Lee Van Cleef (Reno), Maurice Jara (Wingfoot), Regis Toomey (Col. Markham), Jay Silverheels (Spotted Bear), Pat Hogan (Yellow Knife), Frank Fenton, Dennis Weaver

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Figured it was time for another Fred F. Sears movie. A few years ago, I assigned myself the task of doing a post on each of Sears’ Westerns (I’m not counting the Durango Kids he directed). When those are done, the plan is to focus on his non-Western movies on my other blog.

Columbia was cranking out 3-D movies like crazy in the height of the ’53-54 stereoscopic craze. One of the bigger ones was Raoul Walsh’s Gun Fury (1953) starring Rock Hudson, Donna Reed and a terrific supporting cast.

Phil Carey and Roberta Haynes were part of that cast, and as soon as they finished the Walsh picture, they were put to work on The Nebraskan (1953).

Carey’s a cavalry scout who gets caught up in a standoff with the Sioux when he won’t turn over Wingfoot (Maurice Jara), who’s been accused of murdering chief Thundercloud. With them are a gambler Ace (Richard Webb) and saloon girl Paris (Roberta Haynes) — Carey used to have a thing going with Paris — and the murderous Reno (Lee Van Cleef), who’s escaped from the brig.

They take refuge in Wallace Ford’s way station, fighting off wave after wave of Indians — along with Reno’s repeated attempts to get loose and Ace turning out to be a sniveling coward.

The small-group-under-siege-in-a-small-space part hints at Hangman’s Knot (1952), and the Indian attacks remind me of Apache Drums (1951). This approach keeps the limited budget from being too much of a hindrance.

Wallace Ford is terrific, as always, as the grumpy ex-cavalryman. Lee Van Cleef is a real bad dude in this one. The scene where he strangles the guard at the brig is pretty tough stuff. Phil Carey’s OK and Roberta Haynes gets to look pretty and load guns. Speaking of that, it was good to see the loading of weapons treated somewhat realistically.

I came across a news article on the film that said Maurice Jara also owned a restaurant in Pamona, Casa Ramirez.

What I liked about The Nebraskan is pretty much the same thing I’ve said about all the other Fred Sears pictures — the high level of craftsmanship and efficiency he brings to these things. You can tell the cast and crew were professionals, committed to making the best they could of the material, budget and schedule. That goes a long, long way with these things.

The Nebraskan was shot in Technicolor and 3-D by Henry Freulich — some of it at the Corrigan Ranch. It was intended to be cropped to 1.85. The picture got a DVD-R release from Columbia’s Choice Collection. It looked great but was presented full-frame. It’d make a swell candidate for one of those Mill Creek sets.

TheNebraskan isn’t as good as the two pictures I compared it to, Hangman’s Knot and Apache Drums. But that doesn’t stop me from recommending it, or any of Fred F. Sears’ work.

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Was looking for images for a couple posts I was working on and found an ad where they played as a double feature (in Long Beach in December of 1953).

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