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Archive for the ‘William Holden’ Category

Directed by John Sturges
Written by Michael Pate
Phillip Rock
Frank Fenton
Music by Jeff Alexander
Cinematography: Robert L. Surtees
Film Editor: George Boemler

Cast: William Holden (Captain Roper), Eleanor Parker (Carla Forester), John Forsythe (Captain John Marsh), William Demarest (Campbell), William Campbell (Cabot Young), Polly Bergen (Alice Owens), Richard Anderson (Lieutenant Beecher), Carl Benton Reid (Colonel Owens), John Lupton (Bailey), Forrest Lewis, Howard McNear, Glenn Strange

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Director John Sturges made lots of really good movies, but he had a real thing for Westerns. One of his earliest was Escape From Fort Bravo (1953). It’s now available on Blu-Ray from Warner Archive.

It’s the Civil War. William Holden is a captain at Fort Bravo, a Union prison camp filled with Confederate soldiers (John Forsythe, William Demarest, William Campbell). There are Mescalero Apaches outside the walls of the fort and Confederate spies (Eleanor Parker, Howard McNear) inside. The spies help Forsythe mount an escape, and Holden heads out after them.

It all comes to a head when Holden, Parker and the recaptured prisoners are pinned down in a dry creek bed by who-knows-how-many Apaches.

To tell you much more might get in the way of Sturges’ finely-crafted suspense. The last reel of this thing is as good as anything Sturges ever did. It’s terrific.

Quite a few 50s Westerns made good use of the climactic pinned-down-by-Indians thing. A few that come to mind are Apache Drums (1951), Dakota Incident (1956) and Dragoon Wells Massacre (1958).

Holden is really good as the hard-nosed captain. He was an avid outdoorsman, and it looks like he’s in his element here. Eleanor Parker makes a good spy, and she’s beautiful in both an evening gown and leather jacket. William Demarest and William Campbell have some good, well-written scenes together. And it’s great to see Howard McNear, Floyd from The Andy Griffith Show, as a Confederate spy. Where things get a little wonky is in the middle — the romantic scenes between Holden and Parker seem like a studio-dictated addition. They slow the movie down as it makes its way to its tight conclusion. (Sturges was never all that adept with the mushy stuff.) Of course, the thrilling final attack makes up for it.

Escape From Fort Bravo was one of the first pictures shot in the Ansco Color process. It’s no Technicolor, or even Eastmancolor, but it gets the job done. It was John Sturges’ first color film, period. It was shot in Death Valley, Gallop, New Mexico, Corriganville and the MGM backlot in April and May of 1953. The great Robert Surtees was the cinematographer. There was talk at one time of the picture being shot in 3-D. It was not, with MGM making it an early widescreen release instead. In some places, it played in three-track stereophonic sound.

Warner Archive’s Blu-Ray is a marked improvement over the DVD. Here, we get the original widescreen (1.75) and a surprisingly vivid look at Ansco Color’s pastel shades. Like so many stereo movies from the early 50s, the original directional tracks are probably long gone. The mono sound, however, is clean and clear.

Escape From Fort Bravo has everything going for it. A great cast. Meticulous direction. Incredible location photography, in color. And now it has a Blu-Ray that really does all that justice. Highly, highly recommended.

Of course, John Sturges would make another POW escape film, The Great Escape, in 1963. By the way, he was trying to get that one off the ground while Escape From Fort Bravo was being put together. It took him 10 years to get The Great Escape to the screen.

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Directed by John Sturges
Starring William Holden, Eleanor Parker, John Forsythe, William Demarest, William Campbell, Polly Bergen, Howard McNear, Glenn Strange

Warner Archive is working their Blu-Ray magic on John Sturges’ Escape From Fort Bravo (1953), a taut, suspenseful picture starring William Holden and Eleanor Parker.

Shot in Anscocolor, I’m looking forward to what WAC can do with it. Escape From Fort Bravo was originally shown in 1.66, just as the widescreen era was cranking up. But don’t let this make the movie sound like just a technical curio — it’s a damn good 50s Western. Highly recommended.

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Warner Archive has announced Blu-Ray releases for a couple of pictures we’ve all been pining for — Robert Wise’s Blood On The Moon and Norman Foster’s Rachel And The Stranger (both 1948).

From its cast (Robert Mitchum, Charles McGraw) to its brooding tone to its cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca, Blood On The Moon is one of the best examples of film noir creeping into the Western — and a big indicator of what the 1950s had in store for the genre. It’s terrific, and I can’t wait to see it in high definition.

Rachel And The Stranger is about as far from Blood On The Moon as you can get, a lighter, sweeter film with an unbeatable cast: Loretta Young, Robert Mitchum and William Holden. It was helped along at the box office by, of all things, Robert Mitchum’s marijuana arrest. Warner Archive is promising an uncut version — Howard Hughes cut over 10 minutes out of it — with Waldo Salt’s writing credit restored. This is a big, big deal.

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Written and directed by Blake Edwards
Starring William Holden, Ryan O’Neal, Karl Malden, Lynn Carlin, Tom Skerritt, Joe Don Baker, James Olson, Leora Dana, Moses Gunn, Victor French, Rachel Roberts, Sam Gilman

Warner Archive is bringing Blake Edwards’ wonderful The Wild Rovers (1971) to Blu-Ray. Philip Lathrop’s photography deserves nothing less.

This is another one of those movies mangled by its studio — MGM cut about half an hour out of it without Edwards’ knowledge. This Blu-Ray (like the previous DVD) will be Edwards’ longer cut, which rights MGM’s wrongs.

William Holden is so good in this. And it makes an interesting companion piece to his work in Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969) — these are two of the best films ever done about the changing West.

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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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Mill Creek Entertainment has announced another set of films — the 7 Western Showdown Collection. Many of us may have these on separate discs, but it’s got some excellent 40s and 50s Westerns (along with the 1971 rodeo picture J.W. Coop).

The Black Dakotas (1954)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Gary Merrill, Wanda Hendrix, John Bromfield, Noah Beery, Jr.

This is the highlight for me, a Ray Nazarro Technicolor picture I’ve never seen. It was put out a few years ago as part of Sony’s MOD program, and I believe it was widescreen.

The set also includes:

Texas (1941)
Directed by George Marshall
Starring William Holden, Glenn Ford

Blazing Across The Pecos  (1948)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Charles Wilson

They Came To Cordura (1959)
Directed by Robert Rossen
Starring Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, Van Heflin, Tab Hunter

The Man From Colorado (1948)
Directed by Henry Levin
Starring William Holden, Glenn Ford, Ellen Drew, Edgar Buchanan

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Gun Fury (1953)
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Starring Rock Hudson, Donna Reed, Philip Carey, Lee Marvin, Leo Gordon

The old DVD of Gun Fury was full-frame (and 2-D) instead of its intended 1.85. Not sure if Columbia will provide Mill Creek with new material or not, but a widescreen version would be reason alone to pick up this set.

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William Holden
(April 17, 1918 – November 12, 1981)

Last night, my daughter mentioned that today is William Holden’s birthday. Don’t tell me she’s not getting a well-rounded education!

Probably one of Hollywood’s greatest stars, Holden made a number of good Westerns. John Sturges’ Escape From Fort Bravo (1953) is one of the best. The last couple reels are really outstanding.

Of course, Western fans these days know him for Pike Bishop in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969), a performance right up there with Stewart in The Man From Laramie (1955) and Wayne in The Searchers (1956).

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