Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Warner Bros.’ Category

lf

Produced and Directed by Allen H. Miner
Written by Leo Gordon
Director of Photography: Edward Colman, ASC
Film Editors: Jerry Young and John H. Post
Music by Jerry Goldsmith

Cast: George Montgomery (Marshal Clay Morgan), Diane Brewster (Helen Danner), Tom Pittman (Flytrap), Leo Gordon (Hank Danner), House Peters Jr. (Holman), George Trevino (Pedoline), Lynn Cartwright (Kitty), Strother Martin (Petey Walker), Sebastian Cabot (Frenchy), Dan Blocker, John Mitchum, Hope Summers

__________

Black Patch (1957) is an odd little George Montgomery picture from his own Montgomery Productions, Inc., written by Leo Gordon. While it dishes up plenty of the elements we know and love in these films, it’s so offbeat that opinions about it are all over the place — even among diehard Montgomery fans.

Over the course of his career, character actor Leo Gordon made a name for himself as a writer, scripting everything from horror pictures like Attack Of The Giant Leeches (1959) to the war movie Tobruk (1967) to episodes of Adam-12. His first script was this one.

Leo Gordon: “When Charles Marquis Warren was directing the pilot for Gunsmoke, I told him I had an idea for an episode. ‘Don’t tell me, write it,’ he answered. I went home and the next thing I knew, I had 110 pages. I showed it to my agent. Next thing I know, George Montgomery wanted to buy it. That was Black Patch.”* a_way335

Clay Morgan (Montgomery) is the marshal of Santa Rita, New Mexico. Having lost an eye in the Civil War, he’s known as “Black Patch.” (GM looks so cool in that big black hat and eyepatch!) An old friend, Hank Danner (Gordon), arrives in town with his wife, Helen (Diane Brewster). Helen and Morgan had been deeply in love (still are), but when he never returned from the war, she married Hank. Then, as fate would have it, Morgan has to arrest Hank for bank robbery.

tumblr_m67v85sCIn1qh0yodo1_500

From there, things go downhill. Not just for our characters, but with the movie itself. As Hank sits in jail, Black Patch becomes more and more concerned with unappealing minor characters (Tom Pittman and Sebastian Cabot, to name just two) and Montgomery disappears for a substantial amount of screen time. There are some interesting scenes in there, for sure, but the shift in tone is quick and jarring. It’s almost like the first half of one movie was spliced onto the second half of another. What makes this so frustrating is that the first half is so good. Montgomery and Gordon are at the top of their game, and the scenes between Montgomery and Diane Brewster are really well done. Things manage to get back on track towards the end, but it’s a bit too late.

33_1341834445

But there’s still plenty to like about Black Patch. Director of photography Edward Colman, from Jack Webb’s Dragnet team, was brought in. (The first Dragnet series had just wrapped up its run.) During production, Montgomery told Erskine Johnson, “Films owe TV an Oscar for getting us off our self-satisfied — er, uh, couches — and into speedy, bang-up production.” Regardless of how many setups he was getting in each day, Colman’s camerawork is inventive and appropriately moody, with the same flair he displayed on the 1954 Dragnet feature. Colman would spend the latter part of his career shooting Disney movies such as The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), Mary Poppins (1964) and The Love Bug (1968, his last credit).

Producer/director Allen H. Miner had a long career in television. This was an early feature for him. He directed another Western the same year, The Ride Back (1957) — a cool little movie starring Anthony Quinn and William Conrad. Miner’s direction is solid in Black Patch, for the most part, but I wish he’d kept the story from drifting off course.

Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch (the Monogram Ranch renamed after Autry bought it) is used to good effect. Pretty much the entire picture takes place in town, and Colman shoots it very well. Just five years after this film, the ranch would be largely destroyed by fire. While I complained about the shift in focus away from Montgomery, Gordon and Brewster, there are some great character actors to be found here. Sebastian Cabot is really slimy as Frenchie, Strother Martin’s a deputy who witnessed the bank robbery, and Leo Gordon’s wife Lynn Cartwright is Kitty, a saloon girl. What’s more, Dan Blocker (a couple years away from Bonanza), John Mitchum (Robert’s brother) and Hope Summers (Clara Edwards from The Andy Griffith Show) turn up without credit, though they all have speaking parts.

$_57-24

Along with this being Leo Gordon’s first script, Black Patch was the first film scored by the great Jerry Goldsmith. The music’s excellent and immediately recognizable as his work — he really hit the ground running. Verna Fields, the masterful film editor of What’s Up, Doc (1972), Jaws (1975, her Oscar-winning work may have saved the movie) and other key films of the 70s, gets an early credit here, as sound editor.

While Black Patch tends to divide people, the DVD from Warner Archive certainly won’t. Not only is a movie that’s been almost impossible to track down now just a click away, it’s beautiful — clean and sharp, with the proper framing and excellent contrast. There are lots of night scenes here, and never does it seem murky or dark. A perfect transfer that does Edward Colman proud. I was also happy to see that Warner Archive made good use of the original artwork. I’ve always loved that poster.

Why not read Laura’s take on Black Patch?

* from an interview with Boyd Magers.

Read Full Post »

4366054563_17532273d4

Lesley_SelanderNext Thursday, April 9, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will highlight director Lesley Selander by running nine of his films, three of them part of RKO’s excellent series of B Westerns starring Tim Holt (Gunplay is a very good one).

Arrow In The Dust (1954) stars Sterling Hayden and Coleen Gray. Tall Man Riding (1955) is a solid Randolph Scott picture. And The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold (1958) is the second TV spinoff feature to star Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels.

I’m a big fan of Lesley Selander. When it comes to action, he’s one of the best. It’s good to see him get this kind of attention. His films are short, smart, fast — and highly recommended.

Selander on TCM

The times listed are Eastern Standard Time. This is a “restoration” of a shorter post. Thanks to Blake for pointing out all I’d missed.

Read Full Post »

calamity-jane-1954-00m-dkd

Directed by David Butler
Written by James O’Hanlan
Director Of Photography: Wilfrid M. Cline

Starring Doris Day, Howard Keel, Allyn McLerie, Philip Carey, Chubby Johnson

Some might wonder why I’d bother with a post on Calamity Jane (1953) coming to Blu-ray in March. It’s not a Western in the usual sense. But it’s a wonderful movie, one of my favorite musicals, and it should make for a knockout Blu-ray. Plus, it’s got Chubby Johnson in it.

0063541.jpg

Read Full Post »

Shootout medicine bend HS sized

Directed by Richard L. Bare
Produced by Richard Whorf
Written by John Tucker Battle and D.D. Beauchamp
Director Of Photography: Carl Guthrie, ASC
Art Director: Stanley Fleischer
Music by Roy Webb
Film Editior: Clarence Kolster, ACE

CAST: Randolph Scott (Capt. Buck Devlin), James Craig (Ep Clark), Angie Dickinson (Priscilla King), Dani Crayne (Nell Garrison), James Garner (Sgt. John Maitland), Gordon Jones (Pvt. Wilbur “Will” Clegg), Trevor Bardette (Sheriff Bob Massey), Don Beddoe (Mayor Sam Pelley), Myron Healey (Rafe Sanders), John Alderson (Clyde Walters), Harry Harvey, Sr. (Elam King), Robert Warwick (Brother Abraham).

__________

Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957) sticks out like a sore thumb in Randolph Scott’s filmography. It sits right in the middle of the Ranown cycle (coming between The Tall T and Decision At Sundown) — a cheap little black-and-white contract killer shot on the backlot in 19 days by a crew (and sometimes cast) more accustomed to TV than features. It’s known more today for the early work it gave Angie Dickinson and James Garner than for Scott’s participation.

Shootout Medicine Bend 36

James Garner: “The movie couldn’t decide if it was a comedy or a drama, maybe because [director Richard L.] Bare had gotten his start directing the ‘Joe McDoakes’ comedy shorts in the 1940s.”

Bare made a name for himself in shorts like the McDoakes pictures, directed a few features, then really found his place in early TV. He directed episodes of both Cheyenne and Maverick (he discovered James Garner in a bar on Sunset), and would go on to direct everything from The Twilight Zone to Green Acres (over 150 episodes of that one).

Richard L. Bare: “I was glad to see that my few years in TV had not knocked me out of the box for feature assignments. It was a story of three ex-soldiers who dressed up like preachers to avenge the death of Scott’s brother.”

78263926zz3 sized

The soldiers are Scott, a pre-Maverick James Garner and Gordon Jones, and their journey takes to them to the rather lawless prairie town of Medicine Bend. Ep Clark (James Craig) runs the town and quickly winds up in Randy’s sites.

Richard L. Bare: “We were shooting a scene that called for the three of them [Scott, Garner, Gordon Jones] to swim in a lake [on the WB backlot] and come to shore. Scott said to me, ‘I’m not going in that water.’ I said, ‘Randy, the other guys are going to do it.’ He said, ‘Not me, not in that filth.’ So what I did was put Scott’s double in the water, and in the foreground I put Scott out of view behind a huge log, and when I called action, a prop man dumped fresh water on Scott, and Garner, Jones and Scott’s double swam to shore and ran to the log, and Scott’s double disappeared behind the log and Scott, all wet, popped up. And it worked just fine.”

a_duk149 sized

It’s a bit convoluted and goofy, and often played for humor. The action scenes are well done, and the film has the look and feel of a longer-than-usual Warner Bros. TV Western, which works just fine. Garner’s inexperience shows (“…my acting still wasn’t very good”). He lacks that supreme cool that came later. Angie Dickinson was two years away from Rio Bravo (1959), and comparing the two films, it’s amazing how much she developed as an actress during that time. (How much of that was Hawks’ doing?) Randolph Scott is, of course, Randolph Scott, and he handles the lighter, humorous stuff with ease. As he masquerades as a Quaker, his delivery makes the most of each line of dialogue. It’s fun to be in on his ruse.

Dickinson, Scott, Crayne - Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend

Warner Archive has given Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend a level of respect it’s probably never received before. It looks great, framed to the proper 1.85, with the contrast dialed-in just right. The audio’s got plenty of punch, letting Roy Webb’s score really shine. You might come to this one with high curiosity and low expectations. My advice: enjoy it for what it is. Recommended.

SOURCES: The Garner Files: A Memoir by James Garner and Jon Winokur; Confessions Of A Hollywood Director by Richard L. Bare; Last Of The Cowboy Heroes by Robert Nott

med bend ad2

Read Full Post »

Shootout Medicine Bend 36

Directed by Richard L. Bare
CAST: Randolph Scott, James Craig, Angie Dickinson, Dani Crayne, James Garner, Gordon Jones

This is one we’ve all been waiting for and it’s on its way from Warner Archive: Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957), a fairly obscure Randolph Scott movie that gave early roles to Angie Dickinson and James Garner. There’s a big connection between this film and Warner Bros.’ Cheyenne and Maverick TV series. Director Richard L. Bare directed episodes of each, Garner and Dickinson appeared in both (Garner, or course, was a lead on Maverick), and DP Carl Guthrie shot some of each show. In fact, being in black and white, Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend has the feel of a Warner Bros. TV Western. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

TCM ran this recently as part of their tribute to James Garner (it was his first Western feature), and it’s a pretty solid Western with an oddball touch here and there. Warner Bros. must not have seen much promise in it; a Scott Western hadn’t been shot in black and white since 1949. But it looks good, thanks to Carl Guthrie, who shot a number of excellent late-50s Westerns. His color work on Quantez (also 1957) is terrific.

Shootout Medicine Bend 4

Read Full Post »

Raton Pass HS

Directed by Edwin L. Marin
Starring Dennis Morgan, Patricia Neal, Steve Cochran, Scott Forbes, Dorothy Hart

The last seven films Edwin L. Marin directed were Westerns. All but one starred Randolph Scott. That non-Scott film is Raton Pass (1951), and he died shortly after its release.

It’s a fairly heavily-plotted story of a fight over a ranch, starring Dennis Morgan and Steve Cochran, with strong women’s roles for Patricia Neal and Dorothy Hart. What’s interesting here is that it’s the rancher’s wife trying to take things over.

Raton Pass is coming from Warner Archive in September. It’s interesting to note that Patricia Neal was put on suspension by WB for refusing to appear in one of the Marin/Scott pictures I mentioned previously, Sugarfoot (1951).

Read Full Post »

$(KGrHqVHJEgFD25UL!+VBQ-oDyp7eg~~60_57

Produced and Directed by Mervyn LeRoy
Screenplay by Frank Butler
Cinematography by Harold Rosson
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin

CAST: Greer Garson (Dr. Julia Winslow Garth), Dana Andrews (Dr. Rourke O’Brien), Cameron Mitchell (Lt. David Garth), Lois Smith (Spurs O’Brien), Walter Hampden (Father Gabriel Mendoza), Pedro Gonzales Gonzales (Trooper Martinez Martinez), Robert J. Wilke (Karg)

__________

Strange Lady In Town (1955) is, well, a strange lady in town. An odd mixture of melodrama, romance, feminism and all the usual Western riding and shooting stuff, I didn’t know what to make of it at first. Watched it a second time a couple days later and decided I really did like it. Somehow it all seems to come together.

Strange Lady LC

While the picture itself is certainly interesting, and we’ll get to that in a bit, the story of its production has even more melodrama. Greer Garson had left MGM for Warner Bros. At a WB dinner party she told writer Frank Butler about her love of the Santa Fe area, and Butler put together a story of 1880 Santa Fe perfectly tailored for Garson.

Warner Bros. started construction of 34 new sets around Old Tucson and got to work on casting the picture. Dana Andrews was signed, along with Cameron Mitchell and Lois Smith (in a part Natalie Wood had tried out for). Smith had just appeared in East Of Eden (1954). Shooting began in August of 1954 in Old Tucson, with snakes having to be evicted from the sets each morning and temperatures climbing into the hundreds every afternoon. Then there were some health issues.

garson-leroy-pipe_opt

Mervyn LeRoy (seen above with Greer Garson): “In those days, Andrews had a drinking problem… that made my life difficult… Possibly more serious was Greer Garson’s health. She isn’t the complaining sort, so when she said she felt poorly, I knew she must have felt rotten. We called the company doctor, and he got [four] doctors from the Tucson clinic for consultation. It was unanimous; she had appendicitis. The doctors agreed she really should have the appendectomy immediately. ‘No,’ Greer said, with her red-headed stubbornness. ‘I can’t do it now. There is an entire company depending on me. They’d have to shut down for a few weeks. It wouldn’t be fair to them.’ That’s what they used to call a trouper. Every night, they piled bags of ice on her abdomen. Every day, they fed her pills and the nurse was there, sticking a thermometer in her mouth between every scene.”

Back in Hollywood, Jack Warner was having a fit, as the picture went behind schedule and over budget. Finishing their Tucson work, the cast and crew headed back to California. In October, Greer Garson was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. Production was shut down for 27 days. During that time LeRoy filled in for an ailing/bingeing John Ford on Mister Roberts (1955).

Harry Carey, Jr.: “I don’t think he had an inkling of what Mister Roberts was, but he took over. In fact, he shares directorial credit with Ford.”

When Strange Lady In Town resumed production on Stage Two at Warner Bros., LeRoy was under pressure to get it done. Scenes taking place in Boston were struck to save time and money. The picture finally wrapped, and was previewed in February 1955. It premiered in Austin, Texas, on April 12. Greer Garson hit the road for the film, something she’d never done before. It seems to have worked. Strange Lady In Town earned back its $3 million cost and turned a healthy profit.

Strange Lady Andrews

Garson plays a doctor from Boston who, tired of being looked down on for being a woman, heads to Santa Fe in 1880 to be near her brother (Cameron Mitchell), a lieutenant in the cavalry. She quickly butts heads with the local doctor (Dana Andrews) over how to practice medicine—and about everything else. The picture packs in everything from glaucoma to bank robbery to domestic violence to Billy The Kid (Nick Adams)—and somehow it all works.

Dana Andrews, drunk or sober, is very good here. His extended fistfight with Robert J. Wilke is one of the best scenes in the film. This may be Wilke’s slimiest villain of them all, which is really saying something. Lois Smith is excellent; so is Cameron Mitchell (he never got his due). Nick Adams doesn’t have enough screen time to make much of an impression. He’d be a lot better in The Last Wagon (1956) and wonderful in Fury At Showdown (1957). Of course, this is Greer Garson’s movie, and she carries it with ease.

anjvrm

Warner Archive has done it again, giving us an early CinemaScope picture exactly the way it ought to be seen: widescreen with its stereo intact. Old Tucson looks terrific (even in WarnerColor) and Dimitri Tiomkin’s score is full and rich. Strange Lady In Town is an offbeat Western, for sure. Maybe it’s not for all tastes. And though it took me a while to wrap my head around it, I came away really liking it.

__________

Sources: A Rose For Mrs. Miniver: The Life Of Greer Garson by Michael Troyan; Take One by Mervyn LeRoy; Company Of Heroes: My Life As An Actor In The John Ford Stock Company by Harry Carey, Jr.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 220 other followers