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Archive for the ‘William Elliott’ Category

Peggy Stewart
(June 5, 1922 – May 29, 2019)

Heard this morning that Peggy Stewart — who’ll find in everything from Son Of Zorro (1947), a Republic serial, to pictures with Roger, Autry and Elliott to an episode of Seinfeld — has passed away at almost 97.

Peggy was great in all those Westerns (I’m particularly fond of the ones she did with William Elliott), and as anybody who ever spoke with her at a Western convention or something will tell you, she was a really nice lady.

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Directed by Budd Boetticher
Written by Burt Kennedy
Starring Randolph Scott, Gail Russell, Lee Marvin, Walter Reed, John Larch

Here in Raleigh, NC, we have something called The Western Film Preservation Society. They get together once a month for a couple of Western films and a chapter of a serial. Tomorrow (Thursday), it’s Budd Boetticher’s Seven Men From Now (1956). I don’t need to tell you what a cool thing that is.

Thursday, May 17, 6:45 PM
The McKimmon Center, NCSU Campus

The second feature is Phantom Of The Plains (1945) Starring Bill Elliott, Bobby Blake, Alice Fleming and Ian Keith. It was directed by the great Lesley Selander.

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Directed by Dick Ross
Screenplay by Curtis Kenyon

Cast: William Talman (Matt/Mark Bonham), James Craig (Brick Justin), Kristine Miller (Kathryn Bonham), Darryl Hickman (Toby Bonham), Georgia Lee (Cora Nicklin), Alvy Moore (Willy Williams), Gregory Walcott (Jim Cleary), John Milford (Clint)

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With the passing of Reverend Billy Graham this week, I was reminded of The Persuader (1957), a Western from World Wide Pictures, part of Billy Graham’s ministry. It’s a picture I heard about very early in my plummet into the bottomless pit of 50s Westerns, and it wasn’t easy (or cheap) to track down an old VHS copy.

What turned up in my mailbox was an interesting, low-budget picture (distributed by Allied Artists) with a good cast. William Talman plays twin brothers, one a homesteader, the other a minister. When the farmer Talman’s gunned down by the usual evil cattle baron’s gang, the preacher Talman is left to make things right.

From the opening: “Into this violent land came one Mathew Bonham, a fighting preacher man. He walked tall with a bible in one hand, and the Law in the other. He was quick on the draw with the Good Book. And his word had more power than a Colt 45!”

It’s an earnest movie, and Talman’s really good in it. (Remember him in Ida Lupino’s The Hitch-Hiker?) And while it’s certainly a religious movie, The Persuader works as a Western, too. It’s no Hellfire (1949), of course, but what is?

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Here are, left to right, Foy Willing, Roy Rogers, Penny Edwards and Gordon Jones getting ready for some turkey in William Witney’s Trail Of Robin Hood (1950). I know it’s a Christmas movie, but I went for the turkey thing.

Anyway, here’s wishing you all a safe, happy, food-filled Thanksgiving. And I hope you can get away from the parades, dog shows, football, traffic and sales long enough to watch something like, say, Waco (1952) with Bill Elliott, one I’ve been meaning to revisit.

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Directed by Thomas Carr
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Written by Milton R. Raison
Director Of Photography: Ernest Miller

Cast: Wild Bill Elliott (Marshal Sam Nelson), Phyllis Coates (Marian Harrison), Rick Vallin (Ray Hammond), Fuzzy Knight (Pop Harrison), John James (Marv Ronsom), Denver Pyle (Jonas Bailey), Dick Crockett (Will Peters), Harry Lauter (Mack Wilson)

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It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a Wild Bill Wednesday, a serious oversight on my part. Well, I really felt like watching a Bill Elliott picture the other night, so let’s take a look at Topeka (1953).

The notorious bank robber Jim Levering (Elliott) and his gang wind up in Topeka, Kansas, where Mack Wilson (Harry Lauter) and his thugs are pressuring the local businesses for “protection money.” Elliott winds up as sheriff, seeing the opportunity to gain the citizens’ trust, run Wilson and his henchmen out of town and take over things for himself.

But Levering’s conscience, the lovely Marian Harrison (Phyllis Coates), and his closest friend among the gang, Ray (Rick Vallin), convince him that maybe it’s time to go straight. But, of course, we’ve seen enough of these things to know that’s easier said than done.

I’m a big fan of the common theme of redemption in 50s Westerns. Director Thomas Carr and writer Milton R. Raison do a good job with it in Topeka, leveraging Elliott’s typical good-badman persona. What’s interesting here is that we don’t see Elliott’s good side right away, and even he seems surprised by his turnaround. His transformation is totally believable.

The B Western was heading into the sunset when Elliott made his series of pictures for Monogram (later Allied Artists), and while the budgets hold things back a bit, I’m always impressed by the effort and imagination that went into them. The subject matter’s a bit more adult, Elliott’s a more complex hero than what the matinee crowds were probably used to, and the camerawork is inventive at times (though a little rushed and wobbly at others). For Topeka, it looks like cinematographer Ernest Miller brought a crane out to Iverson and Corriganville. This, for my money, is one of the best of the series.

And one more thing. I really liked Fuzzy Knight in this. He was also good in the offbeat B Western Rimfire (1949).

Topeka is part of Warner Archive’s terrific The Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection — which I hope you already own. The set gives these cheap little movies the red-carpet treatment, which they (and William Elliott himself) certainly deserve.

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Abile Town signed still

First, thanks to everyone who sent in their picks — we had a larger turnout this year. Your responses were very thorough, and they made it clear to me what a good year this was for 50s Westerns on DVD and Blu-ray — you brought up tons of em. Here are the Top 10, ordered by the number of votes they received.

Abilene Town (1946, Blu-ray, Panamint Cinema)
This one topped the list in a big way. I was so stoked to see this fairly obscure Randolph Scott picture rescued from the PD purgatory where it’s been rotting for years — a lot of you seemed to feel the same. Mastered from 35mm fine-grain material, it’s stunning.

Shane (1953, Blu-ray, Eureka)
The Blu-ray release from Paramount made last year’s list, and this UK release was a strong contender this time around. Eureka gives us the opportunity to see what Paramount’s controversial 1.66 cropping looked like.

The Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection (1951-54, DVD set, Warner Archive)
I’m pretty biased when it comes to this one, and I was happy to learn that others were as pleased with it as I was. One of the greatest Western stars goes out on a high note, even if it is a low-budget one.

The Quiet Gun (1956, Blu-ray, Olive Films)
It’s hard to believe this was a 2015 release, since it was on Olive Films’ coming-soon list for such a long time. These Regalscope movies look great in their original aspect ratio, and for my money, this is the best of the bunch.

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Woman They Almost Lynched (1953, Blu-ray, Olive Films)
It makes me feel good to see Allan Dwan get some attention, and stellar presentations of his work, like this one, should continue to fuel his (re-)discovery.

Man With The Gun (1955, Blu-ray, Kino Lorber)
A solid Robert Mitchum Western, with the added punch of a terrific 1.85 hi-def transfer. This is a lot better movie than you probably remember it being.

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Run Of The Arrow (1957, DVD, Warner Archive)
This really knocked me out — I’d somehow missed out on what a great movie this is. It took me a while to get used to Rod Steiger and his affected accent, but this is prime Sam Fuller.

The Hired Gun (1957, DVD, Warner Archive)
Black and white CinemaScope is a big attraction for me, so I’d been waiting for this one for years. It was worth the wait.

Stranger At My Door (1954, Blu-ray, Olive Films)
A really cool little movie from Republic and William Witney. It was Witney’s favorite of his own pictures, and it’s pretty easy to see why he’d be partial to it. His work here is masterful.

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Star In The Dust (1956, Blu-ray, Koch)
Koch out of Germany is treating us (or those of us with a Region B player) to some great Universal 50s Westerns on Blu-ray. This one was released in Universal’s 2.0 ratio of the period. Some found it a bit tight, but it’s a gorgeous presentation of a movie not enough people have seen.

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ALLIED ARTISTS LOGO sized

The Allied Artists Blogathon is coming, January 29-31, 2016.

Some terrific DVD releases, typically from Warner Archive, have (re-)introduced us to many of the studio’s pictures lately. From Bill Elliott’s last films to some cool crime pictures, we’ve been coming across some good stuff, and this seems like a good excuse to write about some of ’em.

Here’s what you do:
• Pick an Allied Artists-related topic: the possibilities are almost endless. (Later-period Monogram stuff is OK, as is the later stuff like The Wild Geese.)
• Let me know you want to ride along (email fiftieswesterns@gmail.com), what subject you want to cover and when you plan to post it. Your posts can be in any form, of any length, and on any topic as long as it relates to Allied Artists, but I’d like to manage things a bit to make sure we don’t end up with 14 people writing about the same thing.
• Post your piece on the scheduled day, using the official blogathon banner and link (to come).
• Send me the link so I can post it on the master list.

Thanks to Jerry Entract for planting the seed for this thing. And to the fine folks at Warner Archive for bringing is these movies in such stunning condition.

This should be a lot of fun.

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