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).

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Along The Great Divide(1951).

Along the Great Divide(1951).Directed by Raoul Walsh. Cast: Kirk Douglas, Virginia Mayo, John Agar, and Walter Brennan.

The story begins when, Federal marshal Len Merrick and his two deputies save cattle rustler and murder suspect Tim "Pop" Keith, from a lynch mob headed by rancher Ned Roden, whose son was killed. Roden, sends his other son, Dan James Anderson, to round up his men. After Roden leaves, Merrick finds a pocket watch.

Keith suggests that they spend the night at his home and Merrick begins to regret his offer when Keith's daughter Ann, starts shooting at them.  Merrick, is able to get her gun from her. When they leave, Ann decides to go with them. Thinking he won't be followed Merrick, decides to take an the long hot desert route. Unfortunately, he is overtaken by Roden and his men. In the gunfight, Merrick's best friend and deputy, Billy Shear, is wounded and dies.

Merrick and Ann start falling in love. The marshal tells her why he takes his job so seriously, is because the one time he didn't, it cost his father his life. He was a deputy to his marshal father, and refused to help escort two prisoners. All three were lynched. Ann, warns him that her first loyalty is to her father.

Dan convinces the deputy, Lou Gray, to help him escape by promising him a ranch. When the group reaches a waterhole, they find the water undrinkable. Everyone, except Merrick want to head south. Knowing the river is on the Mexican border, Merrick insists on continuing on to Santa Loma. Gray draws his gun, but Merrick shoots it out of his hand.

Later exhausted,  Merrick falls from his horse. Keith grabs his gun, but can not bring himself to shoot. When Gray goes for his rifle, Keith kills him, then hands the gun back to Merrick.

At the trial in Santa Loma, Merrick tells the jury that Keith is not a killer, but all the evidence is against him, and  he is found guilty.  Will Merrick save Keith from being hanged?

This Western , has everything you need : Gunfights, fistfights and the scenery is beautiful. Most of the film was shot in the Alabama Hills, just west of Lone Pine, California. Over 300 movies have been filmed at the base of Mt. Whitney. 

Ray Teal (January 12, 1902 – April 2, 1976), performed in more than 250 movies and some 90 television shows in his 37-year career. His longest running role was as Sheriff Roy Coffee in the western, Bonanza (1960–1972). He also played a sheriff in the film, Ace in the Hole.

Teal had a recurring role as a police officer in the 1953-1955 Where's Raymond?, renamed The Ray Bolger Show. Ray Bolger played Raymond Wallace.

In 1955, Teal played a ruthless cattle baron in the episode "Julesburg" Cheyenne, starring Clint Walker, the first hour-long western series.

Teal, a saxophone player, worked his way through UCLA as a bandleader before becoming an actor. He was a bit part player in western movies for several years before landing a role in, Northwest Passage (1940). Another of his roles was as Little John in, The Bandit of Sherwood Forest (1946). In his most memorable movie role he played one of the judges in, Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) with Spencer Tracy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Roy Rogers: "King of the Cowboys".

Roy Rogers, (November 5, 1911 – July 6, 1998), was a singing cowboy actor. He and his wife Dale Evans, his golden palomino, Trigger, and his German Shepherd dog, Bullet, were featured in more than 100 movies and The Roy Rogers Show. His shows usually featured a sidekick: Pat Brady, (who drove a Jeep called "Nellybelle"), Andy Devine, or George "Gabby" Hayes.

Roy Rogers, moved to California to become a singer and formed the Sons of the Pioneers, in 1934. The group's most popular songs include: "Cool Water" and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds".

Rogers, played a supporting role in the John Wayne film, Dark Command (1940).

Most of his films were in Trucolor during an time when B-movies were filmed in black-and-white. Some of his movies his horse Trigger, would go off on his own for a while, with the camera following him.

There were Roy Rogers action figures, cowboy adventure novels, as well as a comic strip, Roy Rogers Comics, written by Gaylord Du Bois. Roy Rogers was second only to Walt Disney in the amount of items featuring his name.

Rogers and Evans were also well known as advocates for adoption and as founders and operators of children's charities. They adopted several children In Apple Valley, California, where they made their home, numerous streets and highways as well as civic buildings have been named after them in recognition of their work.

Rogers and Evans's famous theme song, "Happy Trails", was written by Evans; they sang it as a duet to sign off their television show. In the fall of 1962, the couple co-hosted a comedy-western-variety program, The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show. He also made numerous cameo or guest appearances on other popular television shows, starring as himself or other cowboy-type characters, such as in an episode of Wonder Woman called "The Bushwackers". Rogers also owned a Hollywood production company which handled his series.

Rogers owned a Thoroughbred racehorse named Triggairo, who won 13 career races including the 1975 El Encino Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

Friday, May 27, 2011

John Wayne.

John Wayne(May 26, 1907 – June 11, 1979) was a film actor, director and producer. He is famous for his distinctive voice, walk and height.

His last film was The Shootist (1976), whose main character, J. B. Books, was dying of cancer—the illness to which Wayne himself succumbed 3 years later. It was based on the 1975 novel of the same name by Glendon Swarthout Scott Hale and Miles Hood Swarthout (son of the author) wrote the screenplay. Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard and James Stewart co-starred and Don Siegel directed.

The movie begins with a clip montage of some of John Wayne's earlier western movies, showing the life of the "shootist" John Bernard (J. B.) Books.

Books arrives in Carson City, Nevada on January 22, 1901, looking for the medical opinion E. W. "Doc" Hostetler. Hostetler confirms a Colorado doctor's prognosis of cancer, so Books rents a room from the widow Bond Rogers and her son Gillom.

Marshal Walter Thibido, hot on his heels, visits the house to tell him to leave town. Books tells him about his cancer. The Marshal then tells him, "Don't take too long to die."

Old enemies and glory seekers come looking for him. Mike Sweeney wants to avenge a brother's death. A newspaperman wants the story of his life. Books is forced to shoot two strangers who try to ambush him in his sleep. Gillom is impressed, but his mother does not want him in her home.

Serepta, a girlfriend from his past also shows up to ask Books to marry her. He is not to happy when he learns that she wants to use his name to make money.

Books and Bond, begin to become friends and she seems to be truly upset when he tells her that he has little time left. Gillom, sells Books horse to give back to his mother the money she lost.

Later, Book asks Gillom to tell three bad men, Mike Sweeney, Jack Pulford and Jay Cobb, that they can find him in the morning at the Metropole saloon. In the shootout, will Books kill all of his opponents before he dies himself?

Fun Facts:

To add a sense of realism to John Wayne's character, archive footage from several of his westerns was used to introduce J.B. Books after the beginning credits. Included was footage from Red River (1948), Hondo (1953), Rio Bravo (1959) and El Dorado (1966).

When J.B. Books (John Wayne) arrives at Dr. E.W. Hostetler's (James Stewart) office, Hostetler mentions that it has been 15 years since they last saw each other. The inside joke is that Wayne and Stewart last worked together on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), 15 years before.

John Wayne liked working with Lauren Bacall in their first film, Blood Alley (1955) so much that he hand-picked her as his leading lady for this film.

Please click here to learn more about John Wayne.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Two Mules For Sister Sara (1970) is a good western thanks to Shirley MacLaine and a little help from Clint Eastwood

two mules for sister sara
two mules for sister sara
two mules for sister sara
That post title might sound strange considering this film co-stars Clint Eastwood, who was coming off the famous A Man With No Name trilogy and Hang Em High. He is good here as the gunfighter Hogan, who crosses path with Sister Sara (MacLaine) a nun who is attacked by three desperadoes. Hogan saves her and the two become joined at the hip. Hogan is recruited by a Mexican colonel to help prevent the French Army from overtaking that country. Sister Sara lends a hand in her own special way. Two Mules is not your typical western and definitely not your typical western for Clint. He gets a lot more dialogue than usual and his character is actually fleshed out more than it was when he played The Man with no Name in those three Leone westerns. But he is still one mean hombre when things hit the fan. But it's MacLaine who makes the movie for me. As her Sister Sara speaks her mind and takes charge when she has to. She drinks and curses a little on occasion. She and Clint have good chemistry too. I enjoyed this film with it's easy going vibe and two solid performances that mixed humor with suspense and a little action. Plus it has one cool music score by Ennio Morriconne.
two mules for sister sara

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Frank, Dean, Anita and Ursula are 4 For Texas (1963)

This 1963 western paired up friends and Rat packers Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in a breezy western about two sharpshooters who meet up on a stagecoach that is attacked by robbers. The duo managed to fight them off but Dean (as Joe Jarrett) makes off with the $100,000 Frank (as Zack Thomas) was guarding. The two will meet up again in Galveston as Dean arrives and decides to open up a casino with the help of lovely Max (played by Ursula Andress). Zack has to deal with his unscrupulous partner played by Victor Buono, who hires killer Matson (Charles Bronson) to take out Zack. And throw in the exotic beauty Elya Carlson (played by Anita Ekberg) who runs a barber shop, who is Zack's lady love. Lots of gunplay and humor are prevalent in this easy going western. It opens with an exciting 10 minute sequence involving the stagecoach robbery. And ends with a wild melee involving over a hudred guys and a surprisingly violent shoot-out between Sinatra and Bronson. A good western that will please both guys and girls. The men have the Ekberg and Andress to look at while the ladies can watch Dino and Ol Bue Eyes do their thing. Oh and there's a cameo by the Three Stooges.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

VIVA MARIA! is part musical, part western and it is wonderful...

I don't even know how to describe this movie. It's part musical, part western, part comedy, part adventure. And somehow mix all that together and it works. Set in Middle America in 1907, the fiery Maria 2 (played by Brigitte Bardot) meets up with a traveling circus after her terrorist father is killed. She ends up blowing up the bridge that the soldiers are on who have killed her father and is now on the run. The circus she hooks up with has veteran singer Maria 1 (played by Jeanne Moreau). As luck would have it, the circus has just recently lost a singer, Maria 1's sister and Maria 2 jumps at the chance. During her first appearance she accidentally invents the strip-tease and the circus becomes hugely successful. Things are going great until the pair meet up with a socialist revolutionary and finding themselves leading this revolution against the dictator, the capitalists and the church.
Like I said this mix of music, action, and comedy somehow all works. I think this may be Brigitte Bardot's best film performance. She is headstrong and doesn't back down from anyone. Moreau gives a good performance as well, more understanding and sympathetic. And plus they both look stunning. For the ladies they have George Hamilton to ogle over as a local hero who falls for Moreau. I liked this movie. Be warned it is subtitled but I didn't mind one bit at all.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Santa Fe Trail (1940).

Santa Fe Trail(1940). Western directed by Michael Curtiz. Cast: Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. The film was the seventh of eight films that Flynn-de Havilland made together. The outdoor scenes were filmed at the Lasky Movie Ranch, on the Lasky Mesa area of the Simi Hills in the western San Fernando Valley.

The story begins when Cadet Carl Rader, is dishonorably discharged from West Point Academy for conspiracy. His friends Jeb Stuart and George Custer, graduate and are assigned to duty at the most dangerous post in the army. While traveling, Custer and Stuart meet Cyrus Halliday, the man responsible for building the railroad and his daughter, Kit Carson. After arriving at the fort, they find Brown's army, has been terrorizing the countryside with their raids.

During a raid on a wagon, Stuart and Custer capture Brown's injured son Jason and before dying, Jason tells them where his father's hideout is. In disguise, Stuart rides into the hide out and is recognized by Rader, who takes him at gunpoint to Brown. Stuart, finds himself trapped in a burning barn but is saved by Custer and his troops. Brown does not go down without a fight.

Olivia De Havilland, plays a Calamity Jane type character, who gave Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan as George A. Custer, a run for their money.

Errol Flynn(20 June 1909 – 14 October 1959), was best known for his romantic swashbuckler roles and his flamboyant lifestyle.

Flynn co-starred with Olivia de Havilland in eight films, Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Four's a Crowd (1938), Dodge City (1939), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Santa Fe Trail (1940), and They Died with Their Boots On (1941.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

High stakes for Dean Martin and Robert Mitchum in Five Card Stud (1968)

Dean Martin  ...  Van Morgan
More of a mystery than a western but it does take place in the Old west times. When a card cheat is caught in a high stakes poker game, he is hanged by a lynch mob of the other card players. Dean Martin is the one player who tries to stop it but to no avail. Weeks past by when those same men are mysteriously killed one by one and Dean has to try and solve who's the killer before it's too late. Robert Mitchum comes in as a wandering preacher hoping to save the lost souls of this small town. Him and Dean have great chemistry together. Roddy McDowall is perfect as a weasel and card player who hates Dean for trying to date his sister. McDowall, even with that stiff British accent is quite good in a western. He plays a low down sniveling weasel pretty good. Inger Stevens is on hand as owner of a barber shop. Said barber shop also gives more than shaves and haircuts, if you know what I mean. I liked Five Card Stud, since it was more than just a western. Dean is super cool as usual as the gambler with a conscience. And also Yaphet Kotto in one of his first roles as a bartender and friend to Dean. Look out for a good performance by Katherine Justice as McDowall's love lorn sister.
Robert Mitchum  ...  The Rev. Jonathan Rudd
Robert Mitchum as The Reverend Jonathan Rudd

Inger Stevens  ...  Lily Langford
Dean Martin as gambler Van Morgan and Inger Stevens as Lily Langford

Yaphet Kotto
Yaphet Kotto as Little George and Dean Martin

Katherine Justice ... Nora Evers
Katherine Justice as Nora Evers and Dean Martin

Robert Mitchum  ...  The Rev. Jonathan Rudd
Robert Mitchum

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy Birthday Claire Trevor (1910-2000)

Happy Birthday to the wonderful Claire Trevor, who made her mark in several entertaining westerns. Most notably Stagecoach (1939), Dark Command (1940), Texas (1941), Man Without A Star (1955) and The Stranger Wore A Gun (1953) to name a few. She also appeared in non-western films such as Murder My Sweet (1944), Key Largo (1948) and The Babe Ruth Story (1948). Happy Birthday Claire.

The Desperadoes (1943).

The Desperadoes (1943). Cast: Randolph Scott and Glenn Ford. It was the first Columbia Pictures production to be released in Technicolor.

When the bank is robbed in the small town of Red Valley, Utah, banker Stanley Clanton offers to repay fifty percent of his depositors' losses. Unknown to the town, Clanton has masterminded the bank robbery with Uncle Willie McLeod, the town postmaster and stable owner. Uncle Willie, is furious with Clanton for hiring Jack Lester, who killed three men during the robbery.

While looking for the bank robbers, sheriff Steve Upton, stops to water his horse. A man approaches from behind him and demands his horse at gunpoint. The man is Cheyenne Rogers, the gunslinger hired by Uncle Willie to rob the bank. Cheyenne, rides into town and at the stable meets Uncle Willie's daughter, Allison McLeod. Allison, is charmed by cowboy, who now calls himself, Bill Smith.

Cheyenne, heads for the saloon , where he meets "The Countess," his childhood friend. The Countess, does not believe that he will ever be able to "go straight".

Soon they hear explosion, then Nitro Rankin, Cheyenne's partner walks in with a injured his leg from the blast and Cheyenne refuses to leave town until his partners leg has healed. Later that night, when Cheyenne returns to the stables to see Allison, Steve is waiting to arrest him. When Steve recognizes the horse thief as his old friend Cheyenne, he invites him for a drink. As they walk toward the saloon, Uncle Willie recognizes Cheyenne as the man he hired to rob the bank advises him to leave town.

When the bank is robbed again, Cheyenne becomes, the prime suspect and his friend seems to be the only one who believes in his innocence.

One of my favorite scenes is, during the cow stampede started by a blast of nitro, used as a distraction while Cheyenne, rushes to help the wrongly imprisoned sheriff. Wonderful performances from a cast including: Edgar Buchanan, Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, Raymond Walburn and Irving Bacon as a bartender whose saloon keeps getting destroyed during fights.

Randolph Scott(January 23, 1898 – March 2, 1987) career spanned from 1928 to 1962. Scott performed in many types of genres, including: dramas, crime dramas, comedies, musicals, adventure tales, war films, horror and fantasy films. He is best known for his image as the Western hero. Out of his more than 100 film performances more than 60 were in Westerns.

Texas (1941).

Texas (1941). Cast: Glenn Ford and William Holden. Directed by George Marshall.

The story begins when, Dan Thomas and Tod Ramsey, two cow pokes who served in the Confederacy together, meet railroad promoter Windy Miller, when he pays their trespassing fine. To pay off their debt, Tod agrees to fight professional boxer Dutch Henry, who breaks his leg while jumping into the ring.

Soon after, while riding on the trail to Texas, they witness a gang of outlaws holding up a stage. The two cow pokes ambush the robbers and take the money, which Tod wants to return but Dan wants to keep. While Dan rides off to find dinner, the sheriff rides up with his posse and finds Tod with the stolen money. Just as the posse is about to lynch Tod, Dan rides in, saying that they are being attacked by Indians. Dan and Tod are able to escape, then decide to go their separate ways . The two friends do not see each other again for a long time. When they do meet up again, they find themselves on different sides of the law, where they may find themselves in a stand off.

I thought the film Texas, was a wonderful western, with two young superstars, William Holden and Glenn Ford. Two young cowpokes competing for the same girl, played by Claire Trevor. Also enjoyed seeing veterans George Bancroft and Edgar Buchanan. The film, blends humor and drama which makes for a good western.

Claire Trevor (March 8, 1910 – April 8, 2000) was nicknamed the "Queen of Film Noir", because of her many performances as a "bad girl”. She performed in over 60 films.

Her first credited film role was in the film, Life in the Raw(1933), with her feature film debut coming that same year in Jimmy and Sally (1933).

In 1937, she starred with Humphrey Bogart in the film, Dead End, which would lead to her being nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

Some of her most memorable performances were opposite John Wayne, including the film, Stagecoach(1939), which was Wayne's breakthrough role. She also starred opposite Wayne in the film, Allegheny Uprising that same year, and again in the film, Dark Command (1940). Over a decade later, she would again costar with Wayne, gaining her final Oscar nomination for the film, The High and the Mighty.

Two of Trevor's memorable roles were starring opposite Dick Powell in the film, Murder, My Sweet and Born to Kill. She performed in the film, Key Largo, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Trevor moved into supporting roles in the 1950s, with her performances becoming increasingly rare after the mid-1960s. She played Sally Field's mother in the film, Kiss Me Goodbye (1982). She made a special appearance at the 70th annual Academy Awards in 1998.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Mark of Zorro (1920).

The Mark of Zorro (1920). Silent film. Cast: Douglas Fairbanks and Noah Beery. This swashbuckler adventure was the first movie version of The Mark of Zorro. Based on the 1919 story "The Curse of Capistrano" by Johnston McCulley, which introduced the masked hero, Zorro, the screenplay was adapted by Fairbanks as "Elton Thomas" and Eugene Miller.

The film has been remade twice, once in 1940, starring Tyrone Power and again in 1974, starring Frank Langella.

The Mark of Zorro, is story of Don Diego Vega, the very awkward son of a wealthy ranchero Don Alejandro, in the old Spanish California. Seeing the mistreatment of the poor people by the colonial government, Don Diego, takes on the identity of the masked Zorro, who appears out of nowhere to protect them. Armed only with his sword and his sense of humor, Zorro scars the faces of the bad guys with his mark, "Z."

When not in the disguise of Zorro, Don Diego tries to court Lolita Pulido, but.. she cannot stand him. Lolita, is also courted by Captain Ramon and by the dashing Zorro, who she is in love with.

When Lolita's family is jailed, Don Diego without his mask, whips out his sword. Will he be able to force Governor Alvarado, to give in and win the hand of Lolita?

Fun Facts:

Film debut of Noah Beery Jr..

The Zorro costume of black clothes, black mask, and round black hat that audiences know today was introduced in this film. Also, Fairbanks had a huge influence on actor, Burt Lancaster.

The Mark of Zorro, inspired comic book artist Bob Kane when he and Bill Finger created the Batman character in 1939. This inspiration has been worked into the comics themselves, establishing that The Mark of Zorro (either this version or the 1940 remake starring Tyrone Power) was the film which the young Bruce Wayne watched with his parents at the cinema the night he witnessed their murders. Zorro, was Bruce's childhood hero.

I thought this was a very entertaining silent film, which provides Douglas Fairbanks a nice showcase. While other versions of the Zorro legends maybe more familiar, this one is one of my favorites... along with the 1940 version with Tyrone Power.

Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (May 23, 1883 – December 12, 1939) was an actor, screenwriter, director and producer. He was best known for his swashbuckling roles in silent films such as: The Thief of Bagdad, Robin Hood, and The Mark of Zorro.

Fairbanks, signed a contract with Triangle Pictures in 1915 and began working under the supervision of D.W. Griffith. His first film was, The Lamb. He soon the caught the attention of Anita Loos and John Emerson, who directed many of his early romantic comedies. In 1916, Fairbanks established his own company, the Douglas Fairbanks Film Corporation and worked for Paramount. By 1918, Fairbanks was Hollywood's most popular actor.

Fairbanks met actress Mary Pickford, at a party in 1916 and they fell in love. In 1917, the couple joined Fairbanks' friend Charlie Chaplin selling war bonds by train across the U.S.

To avoid being controlled by the studios, Fairbanks, Pickford, Chaplin, and D. W. Griffith formed United Artists in 1919, which created their own distributorships and gave them complete artistic control over their films.

Fairbanks and Pickford married on March 28, 1920, divorced 1936. They were greeted by large crowds in London and Paris during their European honeymoon, becoming Hollywood's first celebrity couple.

By 1920, Fairbanks had completed twenty-nine films, which showcased his athletic ability. By 1920, he had the inspiration of a new type of adventure-costume film, The Mark of Zorro. For the remainder of his career in silent films, he continued to perform in the costume films: The Three Musketeers (1921), Robin Hood (1922), The Thief of Bagdad (1924), The Black Pirate (1926, the first full-length Technicolor film), and The Gaucho (1927).

Fairbanks and Pickford placed their hand and foot prints in wet cement at the newly opened Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on April 30, 1927. Fairbanks was elected first President of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences that same year, and he presented the first Academy Awards at the Roosevelt Hotel.

His last silent film was, The Iron Mask (1929). His athletic abilities and general health began to decline. He and Pickford chose to make their first talkie as a joint venture, playing Petruchio and Kate in Shakespeare's, The Taming of the Shrew (1929). The last film he acted in was the, The Private Life of Don Juan (1934).

Marguerite De La Motte (June 22, 1902 – March 10, 1950), began her entertainment career studying ballet under Anna Pavlova. In 1919 she became the dance star of Sid Grauman's theater. In 1918, at the age of 16, she made her screen debut in the Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. film, Arizona. That same year she lost both of her parents in an automobile accident and film producer J.L. Frothingham assumed guardianship of her and her younger sister.

De La Motte spent the 1920s performing in films, often cast by Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. to play opposite him in the adventure films, The Mark of Zorro(1920) and The Three Musketeers. She developed a close friendship with Fairbanks and his wife, actress Mary Pickford.

De La Motte's career as an actress slowed dramatically at the end of the silent film era of the 1920s. She did continue acting in bit parts through the sound era and made her final performance in the film, Overland Mail(1942).

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Dallas(1950). Cast: Gary Cooper, Barbara Payton and Raymond Massey.

Gary Cooper, pretends to be a U.S. Marshal dressed in a fancy coat and hat to track down the bad guys who burned down his Georgia plantation and killed his wife and son. Turning him into a  man with a price on his head.

The film begins with the Marlow boys rustling cattle from rancher Don Felipe. Marlow doesn't understand how stealing cattle will help his older brother, get the money back that he has loaned Don Felipe. "I don't buy mortgages to get paid back. I buy them to foreclose." Will Marlow tells his brothers, Bryant and Cullen.

Don Felipe, accuses Will and his brothers of rustling his cattle. Will, is shocked by Don Felipe's, accusations.  Luis sees through Will's double-talk. Bryant and Cullen hide out close by and Cullen shoots Luis in the thigh against Will's orders. Don Felipe, warns Will that his lawless day are numbered because a U.S. Marshal is on his way.

Martin Weatherby,  the new marshal, is hopelessly out of place in the West, dressed as a dandy. Weatherby finds himself caught in the middle of a shoot-out between Blayde Holliste and the famous Wild Bill Hickox that leaves Blayde in the dust. As we find out later, Blayde and Wild Bill staged the duel so that Blayde doesn't have to worry about bounty hunters. Blayde accompanies Weatherby to Dallas, but he swaps clothes with him so he can pretend to be him. No sooner than he rides into Dallas, Blayde blows holes in Cullen and takes up with, Tonia Robles, who doesn't quite understand what is going on.

Martin receives a pardon, but he slow to give it to Blayde since he is stealing his girl away from him. Blayde's real identity slips out when a former member of his Georgia regiment comes to Dallas. Marlow take off on horseback to Forth Worth and Blayde is not far behind. Marlow reaches Forth Worth first and convinces the authorities to arrest Blayde. Blayde starts fire to get out of jail and chase Marlow. Will Blayde ever get his revenge on Will Marlow ?

Cooper seems to be having fun impersonating Martin Weatherby and making a fool out of the Marlows. One of my favorite scene is when Copper uses the bad guys horse to lead him to their secret hideout.

Raymond Massey (August 30, 1896 – July 29, 1983). His first movie role was in, High Treason(1927).  He played Sherlock Holmes in, The Speckled Band(1931), the first sound film version of the story. He went on to perform in the film, The Scarlet Pimpernel(1934) and, he also starred in, Things to Come(1936). Despite being Canadian, Massey became famous for his American roles such as John Brown in, Santa Fe Trail(1940) and again as John Brown in the film, Seven Angry Men.(1955).

He received great reviews on Broadway in Robert E. Sherwood's play, Abe Lincoln in Illinois, and repeated his role in the 1940 film version (for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor). Massey again portrayed Lincoln in the 1956 production of, The Day Lincoln Was Shot on Ford Star Jubilee and in the film, How the West Was Won (1962).

 Massey starred in, The Doctor's Dilemma(1941), opposite Katharine Cornell, opening just one week before Pearl Harbor. During the war, he teamed up with Cornell and other leading actors in a revival of Shaw's Candida to benefit the Army Emergency Fund and the Navy Relief Society.

Massey portrayed the character of "Jonathan Brewster" in the film version of, Arsenic and Old Lace. The character had originally been played by Boris Karloff for the stage version and the character was written to resemble Karloff (an ongoing joke in the play and film). Massey and Karloff, performed together in the suspense film, The Old Dark House(1932).

He rejoined the Canadian Army for World War II, though he would eventually be released from service and return to acting work.

Following the war, he became an American citizen. His most memorable film roles include: Possessed(1947) and The Fountainhead(1949), opposite Gary Cooper.

Massey became well-known on television in the 1950s and 1960s, especially as Doctor Gillespie in the popular series Dr. Kildare. He and his son, Daniel, were cast as father and son in, The Queen's Guards(1961). Massey played a Canadian on screen only once in, 49th Parallel (1941).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Springfield Rifle(1952)

Springfield Rifle(1952). Directed by Andre de Toth. The film is set during the American Civil War. Cast: Gary Cooper, Phyllis Thaxter and Lon Chaney Jr..

The Union army needs horses and a small group of men from Fort Hedley try and bring in herds, led by Lt. Col. Hudson, but.. raiders sympathetic to the Confederacy manage to steal them right out from under the nose. Col. Sharpe suspects a southern spy is tipping them. Later, another band of Union soldiers led by Major Kearney, along with a herd of horses try and cross a mountain pass once again, only to be headed off by the raiders. Rather than risk the lives of his men, Kearney lets the raiders have the horses and heads back to the fort. Kearney reports to Hudson, they are interrupted by Capt. Tennick, who demands that Kearney be court-marshaled for being a coward. Kearney, even with the support of his men, is found guilty and is dishonorably discharged from the army, has actually volunteered to go undercover to try to prevent raids against shipments of horses to continue. Falling in with the raiders and Confederate soldiers, he gradually gains their trust and soon discovers who has been giving them secret information.

I really enjoyed this movie full of twist and turns and for those of us who like their westerns action filled this film is for you..

Phyllis Thaxter, November 20, 1921, Portland, Maine), was the daughter of Maine Supreme Court Justice Sidney Thaxter, and his wife, a former actress. Her movie debut was opposite Van Johnson in the war-time film, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.

At MGM, she usually played the wife to a number of leading men. She played a cattle owner's daughter alongside Barbara Bel Geddes in, Blood on the Moon (1948).

In(1952)Thaxter performed mostly in character parts in television: Wagon Train(1959) and the The Twilight Zone episode 'Young Man's Fancy'(1962). Thaxter was cast along with Glenn Ford as Ma and Pa Kent in the film, Superman(1978).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Lion and the Horse(1952).

The Lion and the Horse(1952). Cast: Steve Cochran, Ray Teal, Bob Steele, Harry Antrim, George O'Hanlon and Sherry Jackson.

While working with a group of wild horse hunters, Ben Kirby comes across a beautiful, black stallion. Wanting the horse for himself, Ben captures it, but before he can raise the money, Matt sells the stallion to a rodeo showman. Ben searches for the horse by working the rodeo circuit, he eventually finds the owner, Dave Tracy and the horse. Tracy refuses to sell Ben the horse, as he is making a good living at rodeos and fairs. Believing that the rough treatment will soon destroy the stallion, Ben leaves Tracy $600, the amount Tracy paid for the stallion and sets the horse free. With Ben following close behind. The stallion heads for the back country, where Ben then recaptures him. Looking for a place to stay he comes across the ranch of Cas Bagley, Ben soon is working as a ranch hand in exchange for board and a place to train his stallion.

Overtime, Ben tames and trains Wildfire and the horse later safes his life when he pulls Ben out of quicksand. When a circus lion escapes from a traveling show, he stalks Jenny and causes a stampede of wild horses, but Ben, saves Jenny in time. Later that same day, Tracy has been searching for Wildfire shows up at the ranch threatening to have Ben arrested for horse theft. Tracy tries to steal the horse during the night, Wildfire fights back and kills him. Bagley warns Ben that the law requires the destruction of any animal causing a man's death and gives him a head start to the state line before calling the sheriff. Ben and Wildfire travel to Wyoming through back country. While Ben is asleep, the lion attacks Wildfire, but after a very tense struggle, (you can see that sometimes the lion is not real, but.. still very well done)Wildfire stomps the lion to death. The next morning, the sheriff, with Bagley and Jenny, catch up with them, Ben sets Wildfire free and is ready to put up fight rather than see his horse destroyed. Will the sheriff see their side of the story? Filmed on location in Wyoming, a good film for adults and children. What caught my interest in this film was the title.

Steve Cochran (May 25, 1917 - June 15, 1965). From 1949 to 1952, he worked for Warner Brothers (mostly supporting roles, often playing boxers and gangsters). He performed in films: The Chase (1946), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Copacabana (1947), A Song Is Born (1948), Highway 301 (1950), The Damned Don't Cry! (1950), and Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison (1951), which inspired Johnny Cash to write his song "Folsom Prison Blues".

One of his most memorable roles was as, Big Ed Somers, in the film, White Heat (1949). In 1953, Cochran formed his own production company, Robert Alexander Productions a couple of his movies were: Come Next Spring (1956), and Michelangelo Antonioni’s Il Grido (1957).

Cochran starred in a string of B-movies including, Carnival Story (1954). He also frequently appeared in episodes of the most popular television series of the era, including guest spots on Bonanza, The Untouchables, Route 66, Bus Stop, and The Twilight Zone.

Cochran was the grandfather of film and television producer Alex Johns, who co-executive produced more than seventy episodes of the animated television series, Futurama.