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Archive for the ‘Wayne Morris’ Category

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Back in 2014, gathering everybody’s favorite DVD and Blu-Ray picks for the year turned out to be a lot of fun. It’s since become an annual thing.

Thanks to everybody who sent in their picks for 2016. This was a great year for 50s Westerns on DVD and Blu-Ray (and 2017 is shaping up to be just as good, or maybe better). Here’s the Top 10, according to your votes.

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10. Desperado (1954, Warner Archive, DVD)
It was a tie between this Wayne Morris picture and his earlier Desert Pursuit (1952). They’re both solid, offbeat little Westerns — and it’s real treat to have them available in such stellar condition.

9. Yellow Sky (1948, Kino Lorber, Blu-Ray)
Thanks to William Wellman, we didn’t have to wait till the 50s for Hollywood to start making 50s Westerns. The town of Yellow Sky is populated by only an old prospector and his daughter — until some slimy outlaws come riding up.

8. Western Union (1941, Kino Lorber, Blu-Ray)
Randolph Scott in Fritz Lang’s second Technicolor movie. There’s so much cool stuff in this movie, and it looks wonderful.

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7. Black Horse Canyon (1954, Universal Vault, DVD)
For years, Joel McCrea’s Universal Westerns were missing on DVD. It’s great to have them so easy to track down. This is a good one.

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6. Comanche Station (1960, Explosive Media, Blu-Ray)
The last of the Scott-Boetticher Westerns turns out to be the first to make its way to Blu-Ray, and as I see it, the others can’t get here soon enough. This thing’s incredible.

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5. She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1948, Warner Archive, Blu-Ray)
John Ford’s She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1948, above) is one of the most beautiful color movies ever shot. The proof is pressed oh-so-magnificently into this Blu-Ray. It also features one of John Wayne’s finest performances.

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4. Roughshod (1949, Warner Archive, DVD)
This gets my vote as the best of the “noir Westerns.” I was real happy to see the response this picture got. It’s a shame it’s not better known.

3. Cariboo Trail (1950, Kino Lorber, DVD/Blu-Ray)
The transfer here is a minor miracle, demonstrating how good CineColor can look. They wisely didn’t go overboard with the cleanup, so it still retains its true film look. And, of course, this is a solid picture from Edwin Marin and Randolph Scott.

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2. Johnny Guitar (1954, Olive Films Signature Edition, DVD/Blu-Ray)
Olive’s new Signature edition is a marked improvement over their old release, which was terrific. The restored 1.66 framing makes a big difference, and the supplemental stuff is excellent.

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1. One-Eyed Jacks (1961, Criterion Collection, DVD/Blu-Ray)
Opinions of Marlon Brando’s Western are all over the place, so I was really surprised to see it land in the top spot. However, judging it simply in terms of its superb presentation, I don’t see how anything could beat it. It’s stunning, a big fat reward to all of us who’ve suffered through those awful tapes and discs over the years. I’m proud and honored to have been involved with Criterion’s work here. (Note: Having worked on the One-Eyed Jacks extras, I did not feel comfortable taking part in the vote this time around.)

In closing, the discs on this list highlight the impact the video presentation can have on our appreciation of these old movies. Many of these have been available, in some form, for years. One more thing: your reasons for not buying a Blu-Ray player are rapidly running out.

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Desperado HS

Directed by Thomas Carr
Written by Geoffrey Homes
Based on the novel by Clifton Adams
Cinematography: Joseph M. Novak
Film Editor: Sam Fields

Wayne Morris (Sam Garrett), Jimmy Lydon (Tom Cameron), Beverly Garland (Laurie Bannerman), Rayford Barnes (Ray Novak), Dabbs Greer (Marshal Langley), Lee Van Cleef (The Crayton twins), Nestor Paiva (Captain Thornton), Roy Barcroft (Martin Novack), Florence Lake (Mrs. Cameron), John Dierkes

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Thanks to a steady string of releases from Warner Archive, Wayne Morris will be showing up on this blog right regular for a while.

Though he had quite a career going at Warner Bros. — he played the title role in Kid Galahad (1937), Wayne Morris was one of the first stars to leave Hollywood to fight in World War II. He eventually flew an F6F Hellcat off the USS Essex, shooting down seven Japanese planes and helping sink five enemy ships. (His wife, Olympic swimmer Patricia O’Rourke, was the sister of Republic star Peggy Stewart.)

Back from the war with a number of decorations, Morris wasn’t able to regain his career’s momentum, and he found himself in a string of B Westerns — as Monogram was becoming Allied Artists and the B Western was heading into the sunset. One of the better ones was The Desperado (1954) from Allied Artists and director Thomas Carr.

The novel by Clifton Adams, published in 1950 by Gold Medal, was adapted for the movie by Geoffrey Homes. It takes place after the Civil War, as carpetbaggers are running Texas. In a town called John’s City, Tom Cameron (Jimmy Lydon) ends up on the run after locking horns with crooked sheriff Nestor Paiva. He crosses paths with Sam Garrett (Wayne Morris), a notorious gunman with a price on his head. Garrett takes Tom under his wing, teaching him how to use a gun and live on the lamb. After learning his father’s been killed, Tom takes all he’s learned back to John’s City for revenge.

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Sam Garrett (Wayne Morris): “Some folks will tell you a good shot only needs one gun. That’s a lot of foolishness. Two of anything is better than one.”

The movie itself feels like an attempt to do something special, to take the B Western up a notch. Maybe they didn’t quite succeed, but it’s completely unpretentious, offers up all the action we’re used to, and deviates from convention whenever it can.

Nobody ever said Wayne Morris was a great actor. But he’s easy to like and he carries himself well. In The Desperado, he makes his gunfighter-with-principles character work. The scenes as he mentors Jimmy Lydon are very well done, and when he threatens to plug someone, you know he means it. By this time, Morris had put on weight, and he looks a bit weary — both boost his effectiveness here.

The Desperado provided an early role for Beverly Garland. She said of Morris: “He was no longer a star. This was not Warner Bros.! He was nice, but heavy. He had to have a box to get on his horse. I didn’t hang around with him so I didn’t know about his drinking — but from his being puffy, I certainly suspected it.”

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Beverly would also appear with Morris in Two Guns And A Badge (1954), which is often listed as the last B Western ever made. She was also to appear in The Marksman (1953), but was replaced by Virginia Grey.

The rest of the cast of The Desperado is a B-Movie Who’s Who: Dabbs Greer, Lee Van Cleef (who plays twins!), Nestor Paiva (the same year he appeared in Creature From The Black Lagoon), Roy Barcroft and John Dierkes. Thomas Carr’s direction is typically tight, Joseph M. Novak’s camerawork is top-notch, and you get to see plenty of the Iverson Ranch.

The Desperado is an under-seen picture, one of those B Westerns that really rises to the top. Warner Archive has done a great job with it, presenting it with its original 1.85 framing intact — which makes a huge difference in the look of the film. Recommended.

Source: Ladies Of The Western by Michael G. Fitzgerald and Boyd Magers

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Marksman LC

Wayne Morris
(February 17, 1914 – September 14, 1959)

You’ll be seeing a lot of Wayne Morris around here, thanks to a series of releases from Warner Archive. So on his birthday, lets not just remember his movies, but salute his tremendous service to his country during World War II — seven Japanese planes shot down, five ships sunk.

He’s seen here in The Marksman (1953), one of the Westerns Morris made for Allied Artists, which is part of Warner Archive’s Wayne Morris double feature. Any movie that gives Frank Ferguson third billing gets high marks from me.

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leevancleef_desperado

Directed by Thomas Carr
Starring Wayne Morris, Jimmy Lydon, Beverly Garland,Dabbs Greer, Lee Van Cleef, Nestor Paiva, Roy Barcroft, John Dierkes, Lyle Talbot

The B Western was heading for the last roundup when The Desperado (1954) came around. But it’s got a dream cast and Warner Archive is offering it with its original 1.85 framing. Can’t wait.

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Desert Pursuit HS

After a swell double feature a while back, many of us have been looking forward to Warner Archive getting around to some more Wayne Morris pictures. And I’m happy to report a couple are on the way.

The Younger Brothers (1949)
Directed by Edwin L. Marin
Starring Wayne Morris, Janis Paige, Bruce Bennett, Geraldine Brooks, Alan Hale, Robert Hotton, Fred Clark, James Brown, Tom Tyler, Monte Blue

Warner Bros. doesn’t worry about history, but they make sure we have Edwin L. Marin and Technicolor — and that’s good enough for me. Coming this month (next week, actually).

Desert Pursuit (1952)
Directed by George Blair
Starring Wayne Norris, Virginia Grey, George Tobias, Anthony Caruso, John Doucette, Emmett Lynn, Billy Wilkerson, Robert Bice, Gloria Talbott

An offbeat Western from Monogram. Arabs (Tobias, Caruso and Doucette) are after prospector Wayne Morris and Virginia Grey, pursuing them across Lone Pine (posing as Death Valley). Coming In February. At the same time comes Arctic Flight (1953), with Morris as a bush pilot in Alaska.

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The last of the B-Western cowboys. That’s not much of a distinction. But for Wayne Morris, that’s pretty much his place in Hollywood history.

His Two Guns And A Badge (1954, Allied Artists) is often held up as the absolute last true B Western. Republic’s last series Western, Rex Allen in The Phantom Stallion, was released earlier that year.

But there was another cowboy star who may have hung up his guns a bit later — Johnny Carpenter. His super-cheap self-produced pictures — such as The Lawless Rider (1954, directed by Yakima Canutt) and I Killed Wild Bill Hickok (1956) — carried the torch a while longer. Read up on Johnny sometime. He’s got quite a story.

Oh, but back to Wayne Morris. He was one of the first to leave Hollywood to fight in World War II, eventually flying an F6F Hellcat off the USS Essex (below).

After the war, he never could regain his career’s momentum — and found himself in Poverty Row cowboy movies. After his B-Western days were over, Morris continued acting in character roles. He’s got a sizable part in Riding Shotgun (1954) with Randolph Scott. And he’s excellent in Stanley Kubrick’s Paths Of Glory (1957). His wife, Olympic swimmer Patricia O’Rourke, was the sister of Republic star Peggy Stewart.

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