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Archive for the ‘Warner Bros.’ Category

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Was looking through some old issues of Variety (while working on my One-Eyed Jacks book) and came across something interesting: there was a time when Yellowstone Kelly (1959) was to star Charlton Heston and Ricky Nelson! Of course, those parts went to Clint Walker and Ed Byrnes (seen here).

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My favorite Western, Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959), is coming to The Historic Texas Theater in Dallas — and Angie Dickinson’s coming along with it.

It’s part of TCM’s Road To Hollywood — a series of free screenings leading up to the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood.

Rio Bravo (1959)
Hosted by Ben Mankiewicz, with special guest Angie Dickinson
The Historic Texas Theater, Dallas, TX
Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 7:30 (CT), Tickets available Feb. 8.

If my wonderful grandparents from Strawn, TX, Zelma and Flint McCullough, were still with us, it’d be time to pay them a visit!

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Don’t know if you’ve been naughty or nice, but one thing is certain: you people sure know your cowboy movies. Going through your responses for this year’s Want List, I was reminded of several films I’d forgotten. Thanks to everyone who played along.

The titles have been grouped by studio, according to their original release — independent productions such as The Hired Gun (1957) are with their distributor (MGM in this case). I’ve indicated the widescreen films (off the top of my head, not researched — sorry, it was really late).

20th Century-Fox
Canadian Pacific (1949)
Caribou Trail (1950)
The Gambler From Natchez (1954)
Pony Soldier (1952)
Sierra Baron (1958, Scope)
The Silver Whip (1953)

Allied Artists/Monogram
Arrow In The Dust (1954)
At Gunpoint (1955, Scope)
Bitter Creek (1954)
Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957, Scope)
Fargo (1952)
Jack Slade (1953)
Kansas Territory (1952)
Oregon Passage (1957, Scope)
The Rawhide Trail (1958)
The Tall Stranger (1957, Scope)
Wild Stallion (1952)

American International
Gunslinger (1956)

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Columbia
Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953)
Cripple Creek (1952)
Domino Kid (1957)
The Doolins Of Oklahoma (1949)
Face Of A Fugitive (1959)
Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956)
The Gunfighters (1947)
Gunman’s Walk (1958, Scope)
The Hard Man (1958)
Jack McCall, Desperado (1953)
Jesse James Vs. The Daltons (1954)
The Pathfinder (1953)
Reprisal! (1956)
Stage To Tucson (1950)
The Texas Rangers (1951)
The Walking Hills (1949)

MGM
Heaven With A Gun (1969)
The Hired Gun (1957, Scope)

Paramount
The Eagle And The Hawk (1950)
Flaming Feather
(1952)
Red Mountain (1951)

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Regal (all RegalScope)
Ambush At Cimarron Pass (1958)
Apache Warrior (1957)
Badlands Of Montana (1957)
Copper Sky (1957)
Frontier Gun (1958)
The Quiet Gun (1956)
Ride A Violent Mile (1957)
Showdown At Boot Hill (1958)

Republic
Brimstone (1949)
California Passage (1950)
Dakota Incident (1956)
Hellfire (1949)
Last Stagecoach West (1957, Naturama)
A Man Alone (1955)
Man Or Gun (1958, Naturama)
Ride The Man Down (1953)
The Road To Denver (1955)
Rock Island Trail (1950)
The Savage Horde (1950)
The Showdown (1950)
Stranger At My Door (1956)
Timberjack (1955)
Trail Of Robin Hood (uncut, 1950)
Woman They Almost Lynched (1953)

RKO
The Big Sky (1952)
Blood On The Moon (1948)
Great Day In The Morning (1956, SuperScope)
The Lusty Men (1952)
Run Of The Arrow (1957)
Treasure Of Poncho Villa (1955, SuperScope)

United Artists
Abilene Town (1946)
Beast Of Hollow Mountain (1956, Scope)
Gun Belt (1953)
Ride Out For Revenge (1957)

Destry

Universal (-International)
Apache Drums (1951)
Black Horse Canyon (1954)
Bronco Buster (1952)
A Day Of Fury (1956)
Day Of The Bad Man (1958, Scope)
Destry (1954)
Four Guns To The Border (1954)
Incident At Phantom Hill (1966, Scope)
Last Of The Fast Guns (1958, Scope)
The Lone Hand (1953)
The Man From Bitter Ridge (1955)
Man Without A Star (1955)
Money, Women And Guns (1958, Scope)
Rails Into Laramie (1954)
Raw Edge (1956)
Saddle Tramp (1950)
The Saga Of Hemp Brown (1959, Scope)
Showdown At Abilene (1956)
Slim Carter (1957)
The Spoilers (1956)
Stagecoach To Dancer’s Rock (1962)
Star In The Dust (1956)
Walk The Proud Land (1956, Scope)
The Yellow Mountain (1954)

Warner Bros.
The Big Land (1957, Scope)
The Bounty Hunter (1954)
Charge At Feather River (1953)
Drum Beat (1954, Scope)
Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1958)
South Of St. Louis (1949)
Sugarfoot (1951)

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Warner Archive has announced that it will soon be offering Blu-rays. These will not be MOD discs, and will be pressed in limited quantities.

In other words, if something you like comes out, get it — who knows how long inventory will last. (This was the key to collecting laserdiscs back in the day.)

No idea how they’ll decide which titles get the HD treatment — the ones listed are not previous Warner Archive releases. The Command (1954), the first CinemaScope Western, is a nice-looking Warner Archive title — and it’d be a swell Blu-ray.

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Here’s a production photo of Randolph Scott and Patrice Wymore from Felix Feist’s The Man Behind The Gun (1953). Ms. Wymore was Mrs. Errol Flynn, by the way.

My guess is that the hand and light meter belong to director of photography Bert Glennon.

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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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All through college (1982-87), I worked in video stores. One of the films we were constantly asked for was The Hanging Tree (1959). When it finally showed up on VHS, everyone agreed that it was ratty-looking — but we were so excited to see it we didn’t care. As time went on and VHS passed the torch to DVD, The Hanging Tree started showing up on Want Lists all over again. You’d hear there were rights problems, and the material was in bad shape — along with the promise that sorting it out was a priority.

It took a while, but Warner Archive has come through with a nice-looking widescreen transfer that does justice to this worthy film (even if it’s more a sprucing-up than a true restoration). The Technicolor camerawork is well represented in both the interior and exterior scenes, with occasional variances in contrast the only complaint. Grain and a blemish here and there are welcome reminders that this is a film.

From its setting in the Montana gold camp of Skull Creek to its troubled, injured or downright degenerate cast of characters, there’s no other Western like The Hanging Tree. And that makes it a real treat waiting to be discovered or revisited.

By the late 50s, Gary Cooper had matured, much like Randolph Scott, to become the perfect Western lead. His Doc Frail is one of his most complex roles, a physician as handy with a pistol as he is with a scalpel who rides into Skull Creek hoping to escape a troubled past.

Maria Cooper, Gary’s daughter (in a New York Post interview): “He was very interested in this particular character because he was able to portray many facets. He was horrible, controlling and brutish yet he had this tremendously kind, mothering sense of caring for people. It’s not your simple black-and-white hero and it’s not your typical Western.”

Frail becomes involved with a young sluice-robber Rune (Ben Piazza) and an injured immigrant Elizabeth (Maria Schell), and rumors start to spread around the camp about his dark past and relationships with his houseguests. Frail’s secret, a “glory hole” gold strike and mob hysteria all come together for a fiery, violent climax.

Delmer Daves made some outstanding Westerns in the Fifties, with 3:10 To Yuma (1957) and The Hanging Tree maybe the best (bet that’s gonna launch a thread). Both use terrific performances from their leads to create a real sense of unease. In Yuma, we’re somehow charmed by Glenn Ford’s slimy villain, while here we don’t know what to make of Cooper’s compassion for his patients and his conflicting violent side.

Karl Malden as the dirtbag prospector Frenchy and Ben Piazza as Rune are excellent. (Incidentally, Malden directed some scenes when Daves became ill.) George C. Scott makes his debut as Grubb, a drunken fire-and-brimestone preacher. Maria Schell is wonderful and completely believable as the beautiful, hard-working Elizabeth. Though this is Cooper’s film from its fade-in to fade-out, Schell deserves credit for much of its success — and it’s no wonder this is a Western women seem to really respond to. (Those video store requests I mentioned often came from women.)

Daves and Cooper on location.

Ted McCord was a master at outdoor cinematography (The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre), and he works wonders with the Washington locations (doubling as Montana). Daves is often criticized for his fondness for crane shots, but they work well here — sometimes going from sweeping mountains vistas to tighter shots of the scruffy tent city without a cut. The early scenes, with Cooper looking down on the makeshift town, are really effective. Max Steiner provides a score that complements the more melodramatic scenes without pushing them over the top. And Marty Robbins’ title song provides the perfect punctuation in the final scene (the song has been added to the CD of his classic album Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs).

The Hanging Tree is a key Western of the 50s, one that’s been out of circulation far too long. This DVD, which adds a trailer as a bonus feature, is further proof of the real value of the Warner Archive (and similar programs) to collectors like us.

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Released today by Warner Archive — The Hanging Tree (1959) from Delmer Daves. It was George C. Scott’s first film and Daves’ last Western, after a career filled with good ones: 3:10 To Yuma (1957), Jubal (1958) and more.

Karl Malden (from The Actor Within: Intimate Conversations With Great Actors by Rose Eichenbaum): “During the last two weeks of the picture, the director [Delmer Daves] got sick and went to the hospital. So I got a call on a Saturday to come over to Coop’s house. I get there, and he says they might have to close down production. ‘That’s too bad,’ I say. So he says, ‘Why don’t you finish directing the picture?’ ‘Me?’ ‘You can do it. You directed Widmark in Counter Attack. You can do it.’ So I said okay, but if I find that I’m lost and I don’t know how to do it, and we have to sit there and figure it out, don’t scream at me.’ ‘Kid,’ he said. He always called me kid even though I was almost as old as he was. ‘Kid, I’ve never spoken angrily to anyone in my life, and I’m not going to start now.’ So I accepted and directed the picture for two and a half weeks. When it was finished, Gary Cooper went over to Warner’s and said to them, ‘Star billing.’ That’s the first picture in which I got star billing. That’s the kind of man Gary Cooper was.”

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