Archive for the ‘William Wellman’ Category

Back in the early days of this blog, I solicited Want Lists from whoever was out there reading this thing — and the picture y’all wanted above all others was William Wellman’s Westward The Women (1951). It’d been quite a while since I’d seen it, so I tracked it down and it was soon at the top of my list, too.

Laura, a real evangelist for this picture, just passed along the fact that Warner Archive is releasing it tomorrow. Yep, tomorrow.

Researching it for my book (it’s a shoe-in for a chapter), I found out that a promotional short subject, “Challenge The Wilderness,” was done on how the shoot was as hard on the cast and crew as the fictional trek in the film. Well, it turns out Warner Archive’s serving that up along with a commentary by film historian Scott Eyman. Thanks to all concerned for giving this film the kind of treatment it deserves.

This is a great Western.

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Denise Darcel has passed away at 87. The French actress’s film career was a short one, but it included two important 50s Westerns.

Above, she’s seen with Gary Cooper in Vera Cruz (1954). This scene with Denise in a rain barrel does not appear in the film. (Do her shoulder straps look like photo retouching to you?)

She’d previously appeared in Westward The Women (1950, below) along with Robert Taylor and an incredible ensemble female cast. She’s great in this one, handling the demanding physical stuff with ease.

You’ll find obituaries for her here and here.

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Warner Archive has announced a handful of Clark Gable pictures as their newest DVD-R releases. Two of them are Westerns.

Across The Wide Missouri (1951) is an excellent film from William Wellman. The story goes that after a preview, MGM got a little scissor-happy with it, leaving us with a fast, tough, beautiful 78 minutes. Joining Gable in the top-notch cast are Ricardo Montalban, J. Carrol Naish, Jack Holt and Timothy Carey (uncredited in one of his first films).

Timothy Carey (from a Psychotronic interview): “I was just an extra in Across The Wide Missouri. Gable had a home up there they rented for him. I went up there and said I was working on the picture. They invited me in and gave me tea and crumpets and were very hospitable to me. I started working on the show three days later and he was a little embarrassed that he wined and dined an atmosphere player at his home. I worked on the show, I played a dead man in it; it was a great part! You could only see my back, I was lying in the water. I’ll never forget the director (William Wellman,) he was a great director, a tough director. I had two arrows in my back lying in the water. I couldn’t hold still, it was so cold and my teeth were chattering. The director said, ‘Keep that jerk still, he’s supposed to be dead.’ I had just come from dramatic school in New York. I thought I was a great actor; I’m the only one who did.”

Also on its way is Lone Star (1952) which puts Gable up against Broderick Crawford, with Ava Gardner in the female lead. Directed by Vincent Sherman, it’s not one of Borden Chase’s better scripts.

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Looks a lot like Track Of The Cat (1954) out there.

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Turns out The Big Country (1958) was a favorite of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had it shown at Camp David a few times.

One of those screenings seems to have been in September, 1959 when Nikita Khrushchev was visiting. During that visit, Khrushchev revealed that Stalin also liked cowboy pictures.

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Saw in a post at Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings that Westward The Women (1951) will appear on TCM on November 17th at 6pm. Last week saw a flurry of activity on here with folks talking up what a terrific picture it is. They were all dead on — this is a prime 50s Western.

It’s currently unavailable on DVD in the States, so this TCM appearance is not to be missed.

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Frank Capra, from Frank Capra: Interviews:

“I always wanted to make a Western. I finally wrote a Western that I thought would make a hell of a story. It was called Westward The Women, about the women coming into the West and what their effect was. But I worked at a studio that didn’t have any horses. So I sold the story to William Wellman. He made it at MGM. It’s been a regret to me that I’ve never been able to make a Western. A man riding a horse across a prairie is poetry in motion.”

Capra’s original story was called “Pioneer Women.” Westward The Women (1951) is easily one of the better Westerns from MGM, a studio that didn’t have much of a grasp on the genre.

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