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Archive for the ‘Warner Bros.’ Category

Directed by Michael Curtiz
Starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Raymond Massey, Ronald Reagan, Alan Hale, Van Heflin, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams, Ward Bond

Warner Bros. had a real knack for stomping all over American history in the name of making a good movie. Santa Fe Trail (1940) is a prime example.

Historic figures like “Jeb” Stuart (Errol Flynn), John Brown (Raymond Massey), George Armstrong Custer (Ronald Reagan), Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis pop in and out of this thing, bumping into each other in very non-actual ways. But none of that matters, since the performances and direction are great, and the whole thing runs at about a mile a minute.

This was the seventh of Flynn’s pictures with Olivia de Havilland. They’d do only one more together Raoul Walsh’s They Died With Their Boots On (1941), with Flynn playing George Armstrong Custer, who Reagan plays in this one. Raymond Massey is terrific as John Brown — who cares about the realities of it.

It’ll be great to see Santa Fe Trail in high definition after its years in public domain VHS/DVD hell. Highly recommended.

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Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Starring Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, Hume Cronyn, Warren Oates, Burgess Meredith, John Randolph, Lee Grant, Arthur O’Connell, Barbara Rhoades, Alan Hale, Jr., Gene Evans

After their screenplay for Bonnie And Clyde (1967), David Newman and Robert Benton cooked up this comic, oddball Western, There Was A Crooked Man… (1970). Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz was more at home with heavy dramas, but he gives this one his all.

It’s getting a welcome Blu-Ray release from Warner Archive in June.

Kirk Douglas is his usual swaggering self, and Henry Fonda is the new warden at an Arizona prison, hoping to reform Douglas and the other assorted crooks. This came at a time when Fonda was playing around with his Western persona, appearing in pictures like Burt Kennedy’s Welcome To Hard Times (1967), Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West (1968), Firecreek (1968) and The Cheyenne Social Club (1970). So while this one might not be a total success, it’s certainly interesting — and that cast is terrific, a great gathering of 50s and 60s character actors. Recommended.

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The Strand in Hartford, Connecticut, May 1950.

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Joan Weldon
(August 5, 1930 – February 11, 2021)

Joan Weldon, a lovely actress who appeared in some terrific pictures in the 50s, has passed away at 90.

She appeared with Randolph Scott in two Westerns, The Stranger Wore A Gun (1953) and Riding Shotgun (1954), both directed by Andre de Toth, along with The Command (1954) with Guy Madison, Gunsight Ridge (1957) with Joel McCrea and Day Of The Badman (1958) with Fred MacMurray. But the big one, the one she’s known for, is Gordon Douglas’s great giant ant picture Them! (1954).

She was quote a singer and did a lot of musical theater, including appearing with Forrest Tucker in The Music Man.

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Directed by Edwin L. Marin
Starring Randolph Scott, David Brian, Phyllis Thaxter, Helena Carter, Dickie Jones, Ray Teal, Michael Tolan, Paul Picerni, Emerson Treacy, Bob Steele, Walter Sande, Chubby Johnson

Warner Archive has been righting a few wrongs lately, bringing some pictures back to DVD that’ve been missing for a while. One of the latest to be announced is Edwin Marin’s Fort Worth (1951). (Click the lobby card for the Warner Archive link.)

It’s a pretty good one, with a great cast and gorgeous Technicolor photography from Sid Hickox. It was the seventh Western Scott and Marin did together. It was also the last, with the director passing away a couple months before it opened. (Wish a Blu-Ray was also on the way.)

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Directed by John Ford
Starring John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, Natalie Wood, Harry Carey, Jr., Hank Worden

John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) might be the finest film ever made, it’s almost certainly the greatest Western ever made, and it’s easily John Wayne’s best performance. Of course, I’m probably preaching to the choir.

Here’s a rare change to see it on film, in a theater. Sorry for the short notice.

Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas Pacific Palisades
April 9 & 10, 7 PM
Click the lobby card for details.

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The music label Cherry Red out of the UK has released (or is about to release) a 3-CD set Music From The Westerns Of John Wayne And John Ford. Featuring music from Stagecoach (1939), Fort Apache (1948), Three Godfathers (1948), She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949), Rio Grande (1950), The Searchers (1956), Horse Soldiers (1959) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Of course, music is always a huge part of a John Ford picture, so there’s plenty of good stuff here.

Sometimes it’s the original soundtrack (Rio Grande, Horse Soldiers), sometimes it’s from other sources. You can see a track listing here. This promises to be a very cool set. Can’t wait.

Thanks to Mr. Richard Vincent for the tip.

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The word on the street is that Powerhouse/Indicator out of the UK is prepping some of the Budd Boetticher – Randolph Scott pictures, the five  Columbia ones, for Blu-Ray. Of course, those were put out by Sony in a terrific set several years ago, with plenty of extra stuff — but we’ve all been pining for all of these to make their way to Blu-Ray.

Michael Dante, Randolph Scott and Budd Boetticher on the Westbound set.

Powerhouse/Indicator will do a tremendous job with these. This would leave Seven Men From Now (1956) and Westbound (1959) orphaned in high-definition. Seven Men is handled by Paramount these days, and Westbound is in the care of the Warner Archive. More news as it turns up.

Thanks to John Knight for the tip.

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

Let’s mark the birthday of my all-time favorite movie star, Randolph Scott — one of the key players in 50s Westerns. The still above is from The Bounty Hunter (1954), the last of six Westerns Scott made with director Andre de Toth.

The picture also stars my favorite actress, Marie Windsor — and that pairing makes this seem like a better movie that it really is. Despite its faults, I like it a little more every time I see it.

It’s a huge shame The Bounty Hunter is still missing on DVD and Blu-Ray, though there’s an OK-looking DVD out in Spain. Wish Warner Archive would move it to the top of their to-do list. Since it was shot in 3-D, but never released that way, it made sense a few years ago to consider a 3-D Blu-Ray. But it doesn’t seem like the world’s all that in love with 3-D television, and I wish they’d scrap those plans if they’re what’s holding it up.

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Directed by Delmer Daves
Produced by Martin Jurow and Richard Shepherd
Screenplay by Wendell Mayes and Halsted Welles
From the novel by Dorothy M. Johnson
Director of photography: Ted McCord, ASC
Music by Max Steiner
Song: “The Hanging Tree” — Lyrics by Mack David, Music by Jerry Livingston,
Vocal by Marty Robbins
Film Editor: Owen Marks

CAST: Gary Cooper (Dr. Joseph Frail), Maria Schell (Elizabeth Mahler), Karl Malden (Frenchy), Ben Piazza (Rune), George C. Scott (Grubb), Karl Swenson (Mr. Flaunce), Virginia Gregg (Mrs. Flaunce), John Dierkes (Society Red)

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It was a big deal back in 2012 when Warner Archive brought Delmer Daves’ The Hanging Tree (1959) to DVD. (Hard to believe it’s been that long.) Their new Blu-Ray ought to be just as big an event, since hi-def can really add to your appreciation of the film.

Not a frame from the Blu-Ray, just a sample long shot from the film.

Cooper’s character, Doc Frail, lives in a cabin on a ridge about the mining town of Skull Creek. Throughout the picture, we’re look down on the village from Frail’s perspective. These deep-focus shots now have an almost stunning amount of detail, giving you an opportunity to really study what Daves had his cast of extras doing in the recesses of those long shots.

Gary Cooper and Maria Schell in a goofy publicity shot.

Another benefit of the new Blu-Ray is the color. Ted McCord shot The Hanging Tree in Technicolor, and Warner Archive has it looking like a million bucks. It has a slight brownish tone to it that suits all the wood we see throughout — from the trees to the makeshift buildings of Skull Creek. You also get a real feel of lamplight in the interiors, while most Technicolor films from the period seem extremely bright. The low lighting is necessary here, as Maria Schell is kept in darkness as she regains her sight.

Warner Archive frames the picture at 1.78:1, a slight variation on its theatrical 1.85. That’s becoming a bit of a norm with a lot of hi-def transfers, and it doesn’t bother me. The grain here is near perfect — it’s there, as it should be, but it’s never distracting.

The Hanging Tree is a great movie. And this is the way to see it. Highly, highly recommended.

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