Monday, July 30, 2012

Snowfire (1958).

Snowfire (1958). Directed by Dorrell McGowan, Stuart E. McGowan. Cast: Don Megowan, Molly McGowan, Claire Kelly, John L. Cason.

Rancher, widower Mike McGowan, is hot on the heels of a beautiful white, wild horse named "Snowfire". The horse is chased to the edge of a cliff and he jumps into a creek below and swims away. Mike, is waiting for Snowfire and lassoes the horse when it emerges from the creek. It takes some doing but, Mike manages to tie Snowfire to a tree after been dragged behind him for a short distance.

Neighboring rancher Carol Hampton, rides up with three of her ranchhands and claims that the horse belongs to her. When the three men, challenge Mike in a fight, she calls off her men, but refuses to shake Mike's hand and hits him instead. After Carol leaves, the men attack Mike, but are scared off when Mike's ranchhand, Poco, rides up and shoots at them.

Later.. at the ranch, while trying to brand Snowfire, Molly, the younger of Mike's two daughters, becomes very upset and tries to burn herself with a branding iron. Mike, decides to brand the horse later, while she is not there.

On the morning when Mike decides to brand Snowfire, he discovers him missing from the corral. Mike rides to Carol's ranch and accuses her of taking the horse.  Just as Carol orders Mike to leave her ranch, Molly rides up and confesses to her father that she turned Snowfire loose. Molly, then tells her father that Snowfire, is her friend and that he talks to her, which Mike does not believe.

Carol and her men go looking for Snowfire with Molly, following close behind them. Mike and Poco are also  looking for Snowfire, but find only Molly, who tells them that Snowfire told her that he wanted to go back to his family. Concerned about Molly, Mike arranges for her to be examined by Dr. Stewart, a psychiatrist. Stewart, is convinced that Molly can be brought back to reality in two minutes.  Molly bets Stewart, his car that she can prove that she can talk to Snowfire. The doctor worried about losing his fancy car gives up and heads back to the city.

Later, while Molly is visiting Snowfire, his mare and foal, Snowfire suddenly becomes restless when Carol and her men are nearby. Molly warns Snowfire, then falls from a rock and is knocked unconscious. Snowfire, whinnies to attract Carol and her men and runs off. Carol takes Molly back to Mike's ranch, where a doctor tells him that Molly has suffered a severe concussion and cannot be moved. Mike now believes that Snowfire is to blame.

When Molly wakes up she tells her father that she can hear Snowfire galloping toward the ranch and they hear Snowfire, whinny. Mike then tells Poco, to go and shoot the horse. Molly then tells her father that she saw her mother in heaven and the truth how she fell off the rock. Now knowing that Snowfire is not to blame, Mike rushes to stop Paco, but a shot rings out.  Paco, misses and Snowfire has returned to the wild.

Later, Carol's men locate Snowfire in a canyon and plan to set a fire to smoke him out. Carol, now friends with the McGowan family, drives to Mike's ranch to warn Molly and Melodie. While Melodie goes to look for their father, Molly rides to the canyon and warns Snowfire. Mike rides up and smothers the fire set by Carol's men, who knock Mike unconscious..

As they reignite the fuse, Snowfire rushes past them and they chase after him. Molly finds her father and tells him that Snowfire had decided to lead the men away from his family. At the ranch, Carol tends to Mike's wounds and they kiss. Molly tells Mike that Snowfire has agreed to be their horse as long as he is not branded and can leave at night to see his family.

If you have always had a love for Horses, this movie is for you. Great actors awesome scenery and a beautiful horse!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ian's Top Ten Westerns.

Marjorie Beebe and  Andy Clyde.

Ian, a fan of Joel McCrea and Western Movies: "Before I do my own Top Ten for you (can’t resist those lists) I’m attaching my contribution to a chick flick Western. She’s having a high old time teasing her old buzzard of a father, a staple in Westerns for years to come- think of glorious old Edgar Buchanan who lighted up every scene he was in with his slightly malign chicanery. She’s actually PreCode, before puritanical old Will Hays got stuck into scripts with his blue pencil and his notions of what was seemly, and how young women should disport themselves". Ian's Top Ten Favorites:

1 South of St Louis. Obscure oater from 1949 no-one else would ever choose. It’s star is McCrea and it’s about friendship unravelling in adversity. It’s set in the Civil War of which McCrea wants no part. His conduct is almost entirely pragmatic, and his moral choices often highly questionable. Yet we understand this man and McCrea digs deep to show us his motivation and his humanity. A far cry from the antics of Wayne or Eastwood, and as I grow older all the better for it.

2 The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Maybe cheating since it’s set in the modern day but in all other respects it’s a Western. It’s directed by and stars the one man IMO still capable of making a great traditional Western. Tommy Lee Jones, like McCrea with whom he has much in common, can convincingly play the Everyman with hard moral choices to make.

3 Ride with the Devil. The often told tale of Quantrill’s guerrillas and to me the best yet. It shows them as they were, not middle-aged gunmen, but wild kids like the hoodies of the modern era. Tobey Maguire, on screen throughout, is absolutely superb.

4 The Wild Bunch. Have a feeling I might say Peckinpah is the best director of a Western- Ford’s manifest destiny doesn’t greatly sing to me. His masterpiece.

5 Seven Men From Now. Budd Boetticher might rival him. His films with Randolph Scott were exquisite and this is maybe the best. It’s given added punch by the great Lee Marvin.

6 Once Upon A Time in the West. The setting, the music, the grandeur and Jason Robards all set this apart from Leone’s earlier Westerns.

7 Track of the Cat Strange. snow-bound Western starring one of the greatest of them all, Robert Mitchum.

8 Man of the West. Late Gary Cooper, and very strong stuff. Quite an eye-opener.

9 The Outlaw Josey Wales. Not a great Eastwood fan (oh heresy) but this is his best.

10 Rio Bravo. Not a great Wayne fan either (oh heresy squared) but this is a charmer of a movie. How could it not be with Dean Martin co-starring?

Very best. Ian

Monday, March 5, 2012

Joel McCrea

Joel McCrea (November 5, 1905 – October 20, 1990). Had a paper route and delivered the Los Angeles Times to, Cecil B. DeMille. Who gave him the opportunity to watch the filming of the film, Intolerance.

While still in high school, he worked as a stunt double and held horses for cowboy stars: William S. Hart and Tom Mix. He was working as an extra, when he signed a contract with MGM. He was cast in, The Jazz Age (1929) and landed his first leading role in, The Silver Horde.

In the 1930s, McCrea starred in the film, Bird of Paradise (1932), directed by King Vidor, causing controversy for his nude scenes with Dolores del Río.

Please click here to learn more about the film Bird of Paradise(1932)

The Most Dangerous Game(1932). Pre-Code plot is about a big game hunter on an island who chooses to hunt humans for sport. The film stars Joel McCrea, Leslie Banks and King Kong leads Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong.

Bed of Roses (1933). Pre-Code/comedy, about a couple of happy- go-lucky prostitutes, who get their male pursuers drunk before robbing them, which eventually lands them in jail. Joel McCrea, plays the skipper of a small cotton boat who saves Bennett's character from drowning, after she's dived off a ship to escape capture.

In 1934, he made his first performances with actress: Miriam Hopkins, who he made five films with and Barbara Stanwyck, in which they made six films together. Later, he was the first actor to play "Dr. Kildare", in the film, Interns Can't Take Money (1937).

He starred in the westerns, Wells Fargo (1937) with his wife Francis Dee, in a film about how the US Post Office meet the demands for communication in a fast growing country of the 1840s. Joel McCrea, plays one of the early riders, who loses his family, because of his dedication.

Cecil B. DeMille's, Union Pacific (1939). The story is based on the novel Trouble Shooter, written by Western fiction author, Ernest Haycox.

The 1862 Pacific Railroad Act signed by President Lincoln authorizes building the Union Pacific Railroad toward California, but Asa Barrows, hopes to profit from obstructing it. Jeff Butler, comes up against Barrows' agent, gambler Sid Campeau and his partner Dick Allen, who is Jeff's war buddy and rival suitor for Molly Monahan.

McCrea, was in the peak of his career when he performed in the films:

Foreign Correspondent (1940).
Please click to learn more about the film Foreign Correspondent(1940).

The More the Merrier(1943),

Pleas click here to learn more abot The More the Merrier(1943)

Sullivan's Travels (1941). A comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges. It is about a movie director, played by Joel McCrea, who wants to direct a drama, but learns that comedies are better suited for him. The film features one of Veronica Lake's first leading roles.

The Palm Beach Story (1942).
Please click here to learn more about the film,foreign-correspondent(1940)

McCrea, also starred in the westerns:

The Great Man's Lady (1942). A western film about a pioneer woman over the course of her long life and the two men who love her. It was based on the short story "The Human Side" by Viña Delmar.

Buffalo Bill(1944), with Edgar Buchanan and Maureen O'Hara. The story oflegendary William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, from his days as an army scout to owner of a Wild West show.

Please click here to learn more about the film Colorado Territory(1949)

After the success of, The Virginian(1946), a story based on the Owen Wister novel, with Joel McCrea as the Virginian and Brian Donlevy as Trampas. The film was directed by Stuart Gilmore and remains widely regarded a remake of the 1929 movie with Gary Cooper and Walter Huston. There have been several versions of the story, beginning with a 1914 film directed by Cecil B. DeMille and including a lavish 1960s television series. McCrea continued to make westerns for the rest of his career.

In 1959, Joel McCrea and his son Jody McCrea starred in the NBC-TV series Wichita Town, which lasted only one season.

A few years later, McCrea along with, Randolph Scott in, Ride the High Country (1962), which was to be his last feature film for four years, when he made The Young Rounders (1966). Four more years were to pass before his next release, but 1970 saw the release of two films: Cry Blood, Apache, again with his son Jody, and Sioux Nation McCrea made his last film, Mustang Country.

Katharine Hepburn, was a friend of McCrea's and McCrea's wife Frances Dee. Hepburn, felt that McCrea was one of the best actors she had ever worked with and was always disappointed that his career wasn't more successful.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

HELL ON WHEELS is a great new Western series

The new western series, Hell on Wheels, which premiered on AMC back in November of last year is winding down for the season with one more new episode left for this Sunday night. Set in the 1860's it centers on former confederate soldier Cullen Bohannan, whose quest for vengeance has led him to the Union Pacific Railroad's westward construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad. Newcomer Anson Mount is great as Cullen. And he is supported by a great cast. Including Colm Meaney as railroad baron Durant. Common as Elam, Cullen's right hand man. Tom Noonan as the local reverend. Dominique McElligott as the headstrong Lily Bell, a woman whose husband worked for Durant and was killed by Indians. And Christopher Heyerdahl as The Swede, who runs the railroad camp with a strong hand.

Anson Mount as Cullen

Colm Meaney as Durant

Common as Elam
Dominique McElligott as Lily

Cullen is looking for the men who killed his wife and as he finds them, he kills them one by one. Along the way he works as the boss of the railroad and makes friend with Elam. Which riles the other men since Elam is a Negro and is seen as nothing but a slave. And he buts head with The Swede on a daily basis. And plus there is conflict with the local Indians as the railroad is forging ahead through the land where they live.

All in all, there is so much going on here, that it is a joy to watch each and every week. If you love westerns, then this is a very entertaining series. It is quite graphic and the language is raw but not as strong as Deadwood was. Catch this great series, now airing on AMC. Oh and if you're wondering, Hell on Wheels is the name of the town where it is set. And it has this awesome theme music that grabs you right away.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Montana Belle (1952).

Montana Belle (1952). Western directed by Allan Dwan. Cast: Jane Russell. The story is a fictionalised biography of Montana outlaw Belle Starr.

Russell plays notorious outlaw sharp shooter Belle Starr, who after being saved by the Dalton Gang from the hangman's noose, falls in love with Bob Dalton. This doesn't stop Belle and Dalton from trying to stab one another in the back. Things take a turn for the better,(for a short time) after Belle Starr meets gambler Tom Bradfield who finally offers Belle a new start in life.

Supporting players George Brent and Forrest Tucker, who take turns getting out of Jane's way. Russell, makes a perfect Belle, you will enjoy seeing her in the saloon singing, "The Gilded Lily".

Jane Russell (June 21, 1921 – February 28, 2011). Was one of Hollywood's leading sex symbols in the 1940s and 1950s.

Russell moved from the Midwest to California, where she had her first film role in 1943 with The Outlaw. She starred in over 20 films throughout her career.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Western Woman.

There are many wonderful stories of courageous women who helped to settle the West, told through dramas, musicals and comedy. Here is a list of some of the better known.. Western Woman Classic films:

Belle Starr (1941). Director: Irving Cummings. Based on the life of outlaw Belle Starr. Cast: Gene Tierney, Randolph Scott and Dana Andrews.

After her family's mansion is burned down by Yankee soldiers for hiding Captain Sam Starr, Belle Shirley promises to take revenge. Breaking Starr out of prison, she joins his group who make plans to attack banks and railroads and enemy troops. Belle and Sam are married and trouble begins when Sam lets a couple of ruthless rebels into the gang.

I remember seeing this film many years ago and fell in love with it. I have always liked civil war films. Gene Tierney is beautiful as always, but..did not care much for her southern accent throughout the film. Randolph Scott is wonderful as captain Sam Starr. I do not want to give the ending away.. Good performances at end.

FUN FACT: Originally, Alice Faye was to play the title role.

Annie Oakley (1935). D: George Stevens. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Preston Foster, Melvyn Douglas, Pert Kelton, Andy Clyde. Biography of female sharpshooter Stanwyck and her on-again off-again romance with fellow performer Foster. Moroni Olsen, plays Buffalo Bill. I have not seen this one yet.

Annie Get Your Gun (1950). Musical biography of sharpshooter Annie Oakley. Cast: Betty Hutton, Howard Keel, Edward Arnold. Dir: George Sidney. Fun Facts: Judy Garland and Frank Morgan, who appeared together in The Wizard of Oz (1939), were scheduled to reappear together in this film. Garland was fired because of health problems, and Frank Morgan died shortly after filming began. As a result of this, Betty Hutton took over Judy Garland's role as Annie Oakley, and Louis Calhern succeeded Frank Morgan as Buffalo Bill. Howard Keel broke his leg during filming when a horse fell on it. I thought Betty Hutton was wonderful in this film. She may not have been the singer that Garland was, but she did a excellent job with her performance, as Annie with her amazing personality and humor.

Show Boat(1951). A beautiful musical of riverboat lives and loves. Cast: Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner and Howard Keel.

Westward the Women (1951) Director: William A. Wellman. Cast: Robert Taylor, Denise Darcel and John McIntire.

In 1851, Roy Whitman decides to take a group of women west to join his lonely men, hoping they will put down roots and settle down in his California valley.

Roy has the women pick their prospective husbands from pictures he has posted to a board. Two saloon girls, Fifi Danon and Laurie Smith, change their clothes when others like them are rejected. Roy is not fooled, but believes they are sincere in trying to change their ways and decides to let them join the other ladies. Roy hires a hardened trail boss, Buck Wyatt, to lead the wagon train.

On the trail, Buck shoots one of his men for raping Laurie. All but two of the trail hands leave in the middle of the night, taking eight of the women with them. This leaves only the Japanese cook, and Jim Stacey, who has fallen in love with an already-pregnant Rose Meyers to lead the train. Buck, decides the group must turn back. The women refuse to accept his decision. Roy believes that the women can learn to do "a man's job". The women go through one hardship after another. Will Fifi's bravery and determination change Buck's opinion of women?

This movie is very entertaining! It's funny, It's touching, It's violent. It's everything you'd expect from a film called Westward the Woman.

Mail Order Bride (1964). An aging cowhand tries to help a young rancher settle down by buying him a wife. Cast: Buddy Ebsen, Keir Dullea, Lois Nettleton. I have not seen this one yet.

Montana Belle (1952). The Daltons force Belle Starr to help them on a dangerous raid. Cast: Jane Russell,
George Brent and Scott Brady. I do not remember if I have seen this one or not.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Red River(1948).

Red River(1948). Directed by Howard Hawks. Cast:John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Joanne Dru, Walter Brennan, Coleen Gray, Harry Carey, John Ireland, Hank Worden, Noah Beery Jr. and Harry Carey, Jr.

Thomas Dunson, is a man who has big dreams of running a successful cattle ranch in Texas. As he begins his journey to Texas with his trail hand and best friend, Nadine Groot, Dunson learns that the woman he loves was killed in an Indian attack. Heartbroken, Dunson and Groot ride on, only to come upon a orphaned boy named Matthew Garth, who Dunson takes under his wing.

With only a cow and a bull, Dunson and the boy cross the Red River and Dunson, quickly stakes his claim. Two Mexican men appear on horseback and tells Dunson that the land belongs to their boss. Dunson, kills one of the men and tells the other man to inform his boss that Dunson, now owns the land. Dunson, names his new ranch the Red River D and promises to add M to the brand, after Matt has earned it.

Fourteen years have passed and Dunson, now has over ten thousand cattle. After the Civil War, the price of cattle in Texas has dropped. Dunson, decides to drive his herd hundreds of miles north to Missouri, where he believes they will find a better price.

After, hiring some extra men to help out with the drive, including professional gunman Cherry Valance, they set off on their cattle drive. Along the way, a stampede started by one of the men making noise while trying to steal sugar from the chuck wagon.

The real trouble begins, when Dunson's temper affects the rest of the men. When Dunson, attempts to lynch two of the men who tried to desert the drive, Matt stands up to Dunson. With the help of the other men, Matt takes over of the drive and heads for Abilene, Kansas. Dunson, now vows to track down Matt and kill him.

On the way to Abilene, Matt and his men save a wagon train from Indians. One of the people they save is Tess Millay, who falls in love with Matt.

He leaves one night in the middle of a rain storm. Later, Tess meets up with Dunson, who is hot on Matt's trail, and tries to change his mind.

Matt reaches Abilene, and accepts a good offer for the cattle. The next morning, Dunson arrives in Abilene, with a group of men to kill Matt. The two men begin a fight for their lives, will Dunson be successful in his promise.

The film Red River, ranks as one of the great epic westerns. Montgomery Clift and John Wayne, give some of their best performances.

Fun Facts:

Texas Longhorn cattle had been nearly extinct as a breed for about 50 years when this film was made. Only a few dozen animals were available. In the herd scenes most of the cattle are Hereford crosses with the precious Longhorns prominently placed in crucial scenes.

The theme song, "Settle Down" was later used under the title "My Rifle, My Pony and Me" in Rio Bravo, another John Wayne western.

Five dams were built to bring the San Pedro River in Arizona, where the crossings were shot, to flood stage.

In a 1974 interview, Howard Hawks said that he originally offered the role of Thomas Dunson to Gary Cooper but he had declined it because he didn't believe the ruthless nature of Dunson's character would have suited his screen image.
Cary Grant (who had worked with Howard Hawks on Bringing Up Baby and Only Angels Have Wings) turned down the role of gunslinger Cherry Valance, a part that was subsequently minimized in the final film.

During production, many members of the cast and crew caught illnesses and injuries. Howard Hawks was hospitalized for several days after being stung by a centipede. John Wayne caught a severe cold. Joanne Dru suffered from influenza.

The only film that father, Harry Carey, and son, Harry Carey Jr. appeared together in.

Joanne Dru (January 31, 1922 – September 10, 1996). After moving to Hollywood, she found work in the theater. Dru was spotted by a talent scout and made her first film performance in, Irish Rose (1946).

She was cast often in western films such as Howard Hawks's, Red River (1948), and John Ford's, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), and Wagon Master (1950).

She gave a well-received performance in the dramatic film, All the King's Men (1949) and co-starred with Dan Dailey in, The Pride of St. Louis (1952).

She performed in, Thunder Bay (1953) and then a Martin and Lewis comedy, 3 Ring Circus (1954). Her film career faded by the end of the 1950s, but she continued working  in television, as "Babs Wooten" on the 1960-61 sitcom, Guestward, Ho!. She performed for the rest of the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s, with one feature film performance, in Sylvia (1965).