Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘William Witney’ Category

George Vincent “Skip” Homeier
(October 5, 1930 – June 25, 2017)

Skip Homeier, who passed away on June 25th, is one of those actors who made every picture he was in better — no matter how good, or bad, it would’ve been without him. And from The Gunfighter (1950, above) and The Tall T (1957, below) to Cry Vengeance (1954) and The Ghost In Mr. Chicken (1966), he’s in a whole bunch of my favorite movies.

You’ll find him in about every genre there is, but the vast majority of his feature work was in Westerns — and his list of cowboy credits is remarkable. In The Gunfighter, he pretty much invented the punk-kid-looking-to-make-a-name-for-himself character as we know it — everybody who came after him seemed to be doing a Skip Homeier impersonation. William Witney’s Stranger At My Door (1956) also stands out. As a kid, I knew him as “the guy who gets his face blown off in The Tall T.”

His TV work was more varied, and he was always good — The Rifleman, Death Valley Days, Climax!, The Addams Family and many, many more. But like so many actors that appeared on Star Trek, that’s what most people know him for these days (he’s in two).

In the old days, it was often the character actors who made movies truly special (particularly Westerns). Skip Homeier was one of the absolute best.

Read Full Post »

white-rogers-witney

Producer Eddie White, Roy Rogers, Director William Witney.

While doing some research on Sunset In The West (1950), I came upon an intro to Under California Stars (1948) that aired on Roy Rogers’ Happy Trails Theater. William Witney was the guest, and he gave a bit of a rundown on how the Rogers pictures came together. Very interesting stuff, coming from a brilliant craftsman.

William Witney: “Our producer, the greatest guy, Eddie White… was from New York. He didn’t know which end of a horse was which, but he had good taste. And they brought me along and put me with him. I’d been a horseman all my life. I’m a jumping horse rider, and I love horses. So, we made a very excellent team, the two of us. We became the best of friends.

witney-happy-trails

They would give us a title from the front office, and I remember a couple of ’em. One was North Of The Great Divide. I said, ‘How in the world did they get North Of The Great Divide? There is no north of the great divide.’ But Bill Saal came up with that title… Now, that’s all they gave us, just the title. So we hired a writer. We had three of four stock writers that were excellent. Sloan Nibley comes to mind… Eddie and myself and Sloan would sit down and we would decide what we wanted the story to be about. Then Sloan would go back — now we might be working on three pictures at the same time, or maybe four… They’d go back and they’d kinda block it out, bring it back, and we’d say ‘No, you’re on the wrong track… Let’s do it this way or do it that way.’

dale-roy-script

Now we come up with a finished script. Eddie and I would go through it, check the dialogue, check it out, and give it to the production department. Now Jack Lacey was our unit man for years. He’d lay it out on the board for a budget, and we would put the budget down, and if that was what the studio would okay, now we had to find the locations. We knew every location locally. I knew every location we could afford to go to. We’d pick the location — Big Bear, someplace like the Iverson… So now we’ve got the locations, we’ve got the departments — wardrobe department, makeup department… These crews that we had were held together with a tight hand. They were our friends.

Republic studios yellow

Republic was a small studio. I was under contract there for 28 years, and this studio, everybody used to say, was the hardest studio to work at in the world, but our crews were excellent. They had people in there that were just brilliant… Incidentally, the guy who swept the horse stuff off the street was called a sportsman — because he followed the horses. ‘Sportsman!’ We’ve got a casting office, and they read the script and they make suggestions. You also have a book of actors, and you know actors after all these years. You got through the book and you say, ‘See if you can get him, I wanna interview him.’ And you’d interview these people to look at them. You knew their ability, most of them, because you’d worked with them before. Once I said, ‘Oh, I know him. I just made a picture with him. Cast him.’ Well, he came in, and he’d just had all his teeth pulled out. It made it a little difficult.”

Read Full Post »

witney

Came across something I wanna share. During World War II, some directors were standing around at Republic, talking. The only one of them of draft age was William Witney (above) — who eventually joined the Marines and served in their combat photography unit.

During this conversation, George Sherman said, “Anyone who quits Republic and joins the Army is a coward.”

If Sherman’s quip isn’t terrific enough, the very idea of these guys standing around jawbonin’ really knocks me out. I shook Mr. Witney’s hand at a Western film festival many years ago, and was too young, stupid and intimidated to really say anything. What a missed opportunity that was. Of course, he was as nice as he could be.

Read Full Post »

sunset-in-the-west-capture-3

Directed by William Witney
Starring Roy Rogers, Eselita Rodriguez, Penny Edwards, Gordon Jones, Will Wright

I have the extreme honor of preparing a commentary for Kino Lorber’s upcoming Sunset In The West (1950). The work copy they sent was so gorgeous, I had to share it (and they were kind enough to say OK).

They also say there’s a little work left to do on it. Judging from this, it’s gonna be quite a thing.

Read Full Post »

roy-rogers-ca-1950-everett

Roy Rogers
November 5, 1911 –  July 6, 1998

The Joel McCrea Blogathon is gonna make Roy Rogers’ birthday, November 5, kinda crowded. Roy deserves his own time in the spotlight, so I’m going to bring him up in a couple days early.

There’s something about Roy Rogers that just makes me feel good. As I see it, the cinema hasn’t come up with anything to top the entertainment that can be derived from those later Roy pictures directed by William Witney. That’s as good as it gets.

Read Full Post »

sunset-in-the-west-hsDirected by William Witney
Starring Roy Rogers, Estelita Rodriguez, Penny Edwards, Gordon Jones, Will Wright, Foy Willing And The Riders Of The Purple Sage

One of the hottest topics on this blog has always been the availability, or absence, of the Roy Rogers Trucolor films of late 40s and early 50s. The arrival of one of these pictures in color and uncut is always worth celebrating — and we get this next one, Sunset In The West (1950), on DVD and Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber.

More info as it comes in — and a huge thanks to Bob Furmanek for the tip! And if they want a commentary, I’d love to do it.

Read Full Post »

s-l1600

The Sable Ranch in Santa Clarita, California, has been destroyed by the latest wildfire. One of the films shot there was the Roy Rogers picture Bells Of Coronado (1950). Directed by William Witney and shot in Trucolor, it’s terrific — and it’s the only Trucolor Rogers to get an official release on DVD.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »