August 5th, 2003, 12:22 PM
Here's a place we can post media articles on other great western actors :rolleyes:
Here's a place we can post media articles on other great western actors :rolleyes:
View Full Version : Other Western Actors
August 5th, 2003, 12:22 PM
Here's a place we can post media articles on other great western actors :rolleyes:
August 5th, 2003, 12:27 PM
For you Sam Elliot fans :unsure:
The Actor Reflects on his Career,
the Value of Westerns,
and His Role in This Summer's
Blockbuster Movie: The Hulk
by Joe Leydon
The contemporary Western is alive and well thanks in large part to a handful of actors who have helped perpetuate the genre, chief among them Sam Elliott. But take a close look at Elliott's résumé of film and television work, and you'll note that he is not just an icon of Western films but an actor of wide range and many talents.
He has bounced rowdies out of roadhouses with Patrick Swayze; battled supernatural forces opposite Katharine Ross, his wife and favorite co-star, in The Legacy; and played cops and robbers on various occasions with the likes of Whoopi Goldberg, Jason Patric, and Peter Weller.
He was a world-weary shamus in Travis McGee, a made-for-television adventure based on John D. MacDonald's popular novels, and a performer of impossible missions in—hey, what else?—the original Mission: Impossible TV series. Elliott played a grizzled sergeant major on Vietnam duty in We Were Soldiers, a fiercely loyal chief of staff to an embattled United States President in The Contender, and, most recently, a flamboyant Army general on the trail of a big green comic-book monster in The Hulk.
And yet for all the range of his talent and the variety of his credits, Sam Elliott remains best known for one type of role. Indeed, even Elliott admits that he is, first and last, a cowboy—or, if you prefer, a Westerner—in the eyes of moviegoers, television viewers, and video renters.
Movies and miniseries such as The Sacketts, The Shadow Riders, The Quick and the Dead, and Conagher have elevated Elliott to the pop-culture pantheon of much-respected and ever-reliable character actors. Just as important, these and other Westerns have gone a long way toward establishing the 58-year-old actor as a full-fledged icon.
Mention his name to most people, even those who don't usually watch Westerns, and you'll conjure vividly precise images: A lean loner with a slow drawl and a quick gun. A man of honor who backs words with deeds, commitment with loyalty. For many, Elliott represents all that is right and best about the Western genre. And, by extension, about America itself.
Kathy L'Amour—widow of author Louis L'Amour, whose Western novels have inspired some of Elliott's best films—speaks for legions of the actor's fans and admirers: "Sam Elliott embodies all of the essential characteristics of the classic American hero," she says. "His ability to bring to life on the screen the characters he portrays has played an important part in the revitalization of our interest in American history and the American Dream."
Elliott's screen presence draws similar praise from Rod Lurie, writer/director of The Contender. "There isn't a movie or a television series that I am involved in that I'm not thinking about how I can work with Sam," says Lurie. "I believe Sam is capable of nuances that other actors aren't even aware of."
Lurie credits Elliott with a rare ability to simultaneously convey both folksy charisma and unquestionable authority. For that reason, says Lurie, "I begged him to play the President of the United States for a TV pilot last year, but he was already committed to The Hulk."
Mentioning this role that got away brings a chuckle to Elliott, primarily because he feels the current resident of the White House is a pretty fair Westerner himself. "George Bush commands an amazing amount of authority, and he does it in that old-fashioned
way that we associate with being a Westerner," says Elliott.
Which, in Elliott's view, counts for a lot. He was born in Sacramento, but most of his relatives hail from the Lone Star State. "All my family, for several generations," Elliott says. "I had a Texas Ranger for a great-great-grandfather. Someone else in the family, a doctor, died at the Battle of San Jacinto. So I guess being a Westerner, and making and watching Westerns, is something in my blood."
Whatever the reason, Westerns have always loomed large on Elliott's professional agenda. He began his acting career with guest spots on such series as Daniel Boone and Lancer. And he graduated to movies with a bit part in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. (To answer the obvious question: No, he didn't meet star-billed Katharine Ross, his eventual spouse, during the making of that 1969 seriocomic classic.)
Elliott scored his first major big-screen success as a sensitive slice of beefcake in Lifeguard (1976), a guilty pleasure that has thrived as a late-night TV staple. Do women continue to watch it because he's a hunk in swimming trunks? "I'd be afraid to venture a guess about that," the actor modestly replies.
Three years later, Elliott rode tall alongside Tom Selleck in The Sacketts, a well-received miniseries (based on a Louis L'Amour novel) that also showcased such Western legends as Ben Johnson, Glenn Ford, Jack Elam, and Slim Pickens. At that point, the image-making—and, yes, the typecasting—began in earnest.
Don't misunderstand: Elliott is not complaining about being so strongly associated with Westerns. "I have a great appreciation for what the genre means to me personally," he stresses, "and for what I believe it means to the country at large.
"It's the morality of that genre, I think, that's so appealing. It's the simplicity of it. It's the good guy/bad guy element. There isn't a lot of gray area in it like there is in everything else that's crammed down our throats today. It's important stuff, I think."
Trouble is, the blessings of a career rooted in Westerns are, at best, mixed. "When you play these parts, when you garner this reputation with moviegoers," Elliott says, "that's all great. And it's a wonderful thing to achieve. But at the same time that you're building that audience, you're also developing this incredible responsibility to this audience to deliver what it is that they've responded to in the past.
"And I'm not talking about being the same character. I want to bring some trace of that same morality, that same consistency, to everything I do. That's a hard thing to come up with. The characters who have what we're talking about here are few and far between. And as far as I'm concerned, they're fewer and farther between today than they've ever been.
"I suppose there's a downside to being typecast, if you want to call it that, or put in a box. In my case, even after they stopped making Westerns, for the most part, they still had this perception of me as this Western character. It's a hard thing in this business to change people's minds about what actors can do—or what they should be doing."
Fortunately for Elliott, he has managed—with a little help from audacious directors willing to look past the obvious—to keep working in different genres while continuing to play characters who adhere to what might be called a Westerner code. That is, characters who earn trust, value loyalty, sustain respect, and remain—now and forever—true to themselves and their word.
Specifically, characters like Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley, the real-life hero with an ironclad devotion to duty, honor, and country in Randall Wallace's We Were Soldiers, and Kermit Newman, the formidable chief of staff in Lurie's The Contender.
"Rod really stuck his neck out and fought for me," Elliott says, "to cast me as the chief of staff for the President of the United States. I mean, here I was, playing this politically savvy guy in these three-piece suits. And that changed a lot of people's perception of me. It opened up doors for me."
Certainly, it brought him to the attention of Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) just before the Taiwanese-born director cast what promises to rank
high among this summer's biggest blockbuster movies—The Hulk.
"I was up for another film," Elliott recalls, "and my agent had sent scenes from The Contender to Avy Kaufman, who was casting this other film in New York. That film fell apart, but Avy was also casting The Hulk, which had been totally cast except for Gen. Thunderbolt Ross. In the comics, Ross has this incredible shock of gray hair and a long mustache. So she took it upon herself to show these scenes from The Contender. And Ang said, 'That's the guy!'"
After storming through the extravagance of The Hulk, Elliott recently shifted gears to play a key role in Off the Map, an intimate independent drama that premiered to critical acclaim at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and the Taos Talking Picture Festival and greatly impressed international audiences at last May's Cannes Film Festival. He jumped at the opportunity to make the movie because it offered him a chance to work again with Contender co-star Joan Allen. Elliott says, "I love working with Joan, everybody does.They just don't come any better." But he was also intrigued by the challenge of a complex role.
In Off the Map, directed by actor-filmmaker Campbell Scott on location near Taos, New Mexico, Elliott plays Charley Groden, a normally stoic and self-sufficient Westerner whose descent into depression is all the more deeply affecting because the character seems—well, like a stoic and self-sufficient Westerner.
"Yeah," Elliott agrees, "I've seen strong men in distress in my life, and it's very distressing to see them that way. My dad was pretty hard-core, growing up in West Texas. He was a man's man. Worked for the federal government, controlling predators and rodents. Started out trapping gophers in Marfa, Texas, and ended up having half a dozen states under his jurisdiction by the time he passed away, at 54. My dad was very strong, and I rarely saw him taken down by anything—the only time that comes to mind is when his mom died."
After demonstrating such versatility in such diverse movies, what's next for Elliott? "I'm looking for another Western, another good one," he admits. "And when I say 'good,' I think it's critical that it be good. Because I think good ones are what people respond to. In the end, if the public responds to them, maybe someone in Hollywood will wake up and start making more Westerns."
All of which, naturally, raises the question: What put those folks to sleep in the first place? More to the point, what convinced the Hollywood dealers and dreamers that Westerns were passé?
"I can only speak from my perspective on it, my experience with it," Elliott says. "But I think the people in L.A. who make the decisions about what material gets made have always—and still tend to, maybe more today than ever—looked a little sideways, and down their noses, at rural America and the kind of material that rural America responds to. I truly believe there's a certain amount of arrogance on the part of the people who make those decisions in regard to the Western film."
Elliott's voice trails lazily off into a thoughtful silence, as though he's pondering the impression he may be giving with his words. You can sense that he's questioning himself, wondering whether he sounds too nostalgic. But then, abruptly, he fires up again, clearly warming to a subject that's dear to his heart.
"I truly believe that I've been very, very lucky to have played the characters I've played," he says. "And I think it's important to play those characters. Whether it's a Conagher or a Plumley—or a John Buford, the Union officer I played in Gettysburg. To my way of thinking, it's been a blessing that that kind of work has come my way. It's not like I've gone out and searched for it. I admit, I'm not aggressive in my pursuit of the business. But, you know, I've turned down a lot of stuff in my career because it wasn't the kind of work that I wanted to do."
If Elliott has any regrets, he keeps them to himself. Like a good ranch hand who rides for the brand he signed with, he dutifully plays by the rules of the game. "The movie business is a business," he acknowledges. "And when I say that, I don't necessarily mean anything that has to do with the artistry involved. It's more like, 'Let's get something to put between the commercials.' Know what I mean? Or, 'Let's make something that brings people in so that we can sell the popcorn.' That's certainly not the rule, but it's not the exception either—just look at what's out there for the audiences today."
But even when Westerns are weighed by that measure, Elliott believes they are seriously undervalued as surefire crowd-pleasers. "Look at what happened 10 years ago, when Clint Eastwood won the Academy Award for Unforgiven. That came right on the heels of Dances with Wolves, and it also came out right around the time that Conagher came out. When Conagher aired, it was the highest-rated show that TNT had ever produced. And it continually rates extremely high whenever they rerun it. But I thought 10 years ago that the success of those three films would be some kind of setup, some kind of indicator, for the people in town who watch those numbers. And it boggled my mind that even that wasn't enough to bring back Westerns.
"People who are fans of the genre ask me all the time, 'Why don't they make more of them?' And the only answer that I can come up with is that they just don't recognize how dear the genre is to audiences.
"It's not just an American audience, either. It's a worldwide audience. People all over the world are captivated by the myth of the American cowboy."
Cowboys & Indians Magazine
August 5th, 2003, 12:37 PM
The Singing Cowboys :P
Western Movie Singing Stars.
Simitar Entertainment, (800) 657-7118, www.simitar.com
The singing cowboys in B-Western movies of the 1930s and 1940s produced some great entertainment and some remarkable songs. Thanks to an innovative series from Simitar Entertainment, you can croon along with some of your favorite old-time singing cowpokes. This series offers a wonderful nostalgic ride down memory lane. Each CD in the series includes a dozen songs digitally restored from early recordings.
Jimmy Wakely (CD#55652) enjoyed great success as a talented singer and film star during the 1940s and 1950s. Wakely appeared in films with many other cinema cowboys before getting his own starring roles in Monogram oaters beginning in 1944. This collection includes a little of everything--some swing ("I'm Sorry I Met You," "Don't Lay the Blame on Me"), some blues (the humorous "Milk Cow Blues" and "Oklahoma City Blues"), and many fine, smooth ballads ("In the Hills of Wyoming," "Too Late," and "For the Sake of Days Gone By"). Wakely died in 1982.
Rex Allen (CD#55672) sings a great range of tunes, from old standards ("My Dear Old Arizona Home," "Old Buckaroo") to Gene Autry compositions ("There's an Empty Cot in the Bunkhouse," "Sing Me a Song of the Saddle") to some yodeling tunes ("Dreamy Montana Moon" and "Texas Plains.") Allen's baritone voice is as smooth and clear as a fresh mountain stream.
Equally melodic and easy on the ears are the Sons of the Pioneers-style harmonies of Foy Willing and The Riders of the Purple Sage (CD#55922). This collection blends traditional classics ("Home on the Range," "Red River Valley") and Bob Nolan classics ("Tumbling Tumbleweed," "Cool Water"). A heart attack claimed Willing in 1978 at age 63.
Eddie Dean (CD#55692) provides a wonderful range of tunes, from a haunting rendition of "Streets of Laredo" to several great Hank Williams songs ("Hey Good Lookin'," "Cold Cold Heart," and "There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight"). He also sings his own popular composition "One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)." Dean was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1993 at age 86.
The singing cowgirl is represented by Judy Canova (CD#55682). She made several films with Republic Pictures in the 1940s and enjoyed great success on radio. This sampler showcases Canova's talent with ballads ("Go to Sleep Little Baby," "Follow Me"), blues ("Wabash Blues") and jazz ("I Don't Know Why"). Cancer took her life at age 66 in 1983.
Bumbling sidekicks accompanied most of the cinema's singing cowboy heroes. Smiley Burnette (CD#55702) rode alongside two of the best: Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. He also made some 50 films with Charles "The Durango Kid" Starrett. The distinctive, low "froggy" voice of his comic "Frog Millhouse" character graced many films, but he could also carry a tune with the best of them. Burnette wrote most of the songs on this CD, a nice mix of novelty ("Deep Froggy Blues") and traditional sounding cowboy tunes ("Ramblin' Blood"). He died in 1967 at age 55.
--Richard W. Slatta
You need the Real Player to hear the audio clips.
Download it here
Riders in The Sky
A Great Big Western Howdy from Riders in The Sky;
Rounder 0430, (617) 354-0700; www.rounder.com
Listen to a sample in RealAudio format
Riders fans, this collection of a dozen diverse ditties is a "must add" to your Riders shelf. Not yet a Riders fan? This CD provides a great introduction to the zaniness and musical talents of Ranger Doug, Too Slim, and Woody Paul. Humor is the group hallmark, and you'll enjoy plenty of it. Too Slim plays his "face"-- Ranger Doug having called for "bass" and treats us to a funny "Sidekick Jig." "The Ballad of Palindrome" (grab your dictionary) is wonderful parody and word play.
But Riders are also consummate musicians and vocalists. Several fine ballads show off their strong voices, notably "Cherokee," "Autumn on the Trail,""The Arms of My Love," and "He Walks with the Wild and Lonely." We also get some Texas swing ("Wah-Hoo") and some Spanish flavor in "A Border Romance." Strong guitar, fiddle, and accordion play add to the merriment. This nonstop fun CD will set your toes to tapping and you face to grinning. by Richard W. Slatta
Cowboys & Indians
August 5th, 2003, 12:44 PM
Hello :rolleyes: And for Roy Rogers B)
He stood for everything that was good
By William Manns
Roy Rogers passed away July 6th at his home in Apple Valley, California. Roy, who was 86 years old, had been in frail health for the past several months. His son Dusty (Roy Rogers Jr.) said he didn't want folks to mourn his father's passing, but rather to take joy in the wonderful life he had lived.
During the 1950s, there were no more beloved heroes than Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. They were role models for millions of children throughout the world. He stood for everything that was good.
The first time my wife Judy and I went to his office in the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum, I was surprised when we were able to simply walk in and sit down with the King of the Cowboys. All of a sudden, I was no longer a middle-aged man, but was transported back to my childhood. I remembered wanting to join Roy on the adventures I saw on television in the 1950s. Though more than 40 years had passed, Roy still looked much as he had when I was a kid. He was just as down to earth and real.
Roy was born Leonard Slye in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1911 and grew up on a farm outside Portsmouth, Ohio. At 18, he went to California to visit his sister. After a series of odd jobs, he began appearing on amateur radio shows. He launched a musical career with a group called the Sons of the Pioneers.
While he was in a hat shop one day, he overheard that Republic Studios was holding auditions for a singing cowboy. He won the role in Under Western Stars (1938), but he needed a new name. He had met Will Rogers a few months before Will was killed and decided on Rogers. Republic thought "Leroy Rogers" sounded good--but Roy didn't think so. Roy it became.
Roy went on to star in 87 movies and from 1951 on, he and Dale made 101 television shows. The Roy Rogers Show ran until 1957 and for many more years in re-runs. About 20 million of us grew up dreaming of riding alongside Roy and Trigger. The closing song of the show, Happy Trails to You, was written by Dale and has entered into the high pantheon of musical Americana. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Roy had over 2,000 fan clubs in the United States and a chapter in London with 50,000 members. Most of his mail came from children 6 to 14 years old. In the mid-1950s, Roy and Dale had over 400 products on the market, such as lunch pails, cap guns and holster sets. These items are now very collectible.
At the end of our first interview, I asked Roy how he wanted to be remembered. He replied, "As a good father." There's no doubt that he was. Roy's first wife Arlene had died from a blood clot just days after their son Dusty was born. He met Dale on the set of The Cowboy and the Señorita in 1944. Roy and Dale raised nine children in all, including adopted and foster children. They endured plenty of hard trails, such as the death of their daughter Robin at age two from severe Downs Syndrome. More tragedy followed. An adopted daughter died at age 12 in a church bus accident. An adopted son, Sandy, died at age 18 in a military accident. Roy and Dale's Christian faith sustained them through their difficulties.
The Rogers family now includes 15 grandchildren and 33 great grandchildren. Roy and Dale were known for their acts of caring and philanthropy, especially to children.
In his last few years, Roy still made public appearances despite having had two heart attacks. He made an album with Country star Clint Black and other Nashville artists. He was still trim and fit. Until his health worsened, he still rode his horses and his Harley.
On Saturday, July 11th, about 2,500 family, friends, fans, celebrities, and media attended a public memorial service held for Roy at the Church of the Valley. It was requested that people not wear black. Members of the Sons of the Pioneers sang inspirational songs.
Later in the afternoon, family members and close friends accompanied Roy to Sunset Hills Memorial Park in Apple Valley. Roy was carried his last mile in a horse-drawn 1898 hearse. At the end of the service, Dale and the gathered company turned toward the West to see 50 white doves fly into the setting sun. Roy often recited this Cowboy Prayer:
Oh Lord, I reckon I am not much just by myself.
I failed to do a lot of things I ought to do.
But Lord, when trails are steep and passes high,
Help me to ride it straight the whole way through.
And when in the falling dusk I get the final call,
I do not care how many flowers they send--
Above all else the happiest trail would be
For you to say to me, "Let's ride, my friend."
Vaya con Díos, amigo! Happy trails to you...
Cowboys & Indians
August 5th, 2003, 12:47 PM
And for Clint Eastwood fans B)
In a career that has spanned five decades (and counting), Clint Eastwood, 68, has redefined and elevated the Western.
"Rawhide" premiered in 1959, perhaps the peak of the TV Western's popularity.
Clint Eastwood's upbringing and early acting attempts manifested few indications of such a stellar career. His childhood was shaped by the Depression and his father's search for work. His family finally settled in San Francisco, where he finished high school and signed on with the Army. After surviving the Korean War, he moved to Los Angeles where he married Maggie Johnson and worked many jobs while attending college. A friend suggested he apply to Universal, where he landed a contract spot. "It was $75 a week," recalls Eastwood, "which seemed like a lot of money at that time."
Eastwood appeared in a few forgettable Universal films, like Tarantula and Revenge of the Creature. By the mid-Fifties, he says, "the studio system was slowly coming to an end, and TV was starting to come on real strong." Eastwood eventually landed a major role in Ambush at Cimarron Pass (1958). Production problems resulted in a forgettable film, which disappointed him.
"Finally," he says, "I heard CBS was doing a Western series." Eastwood tested the next day and got one of the roles as Rowdy Yates on Rawhide, which premiered in 1959. Over 20 Western series enthralled American television audiences at that time, including Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and Maverick. "It was a great period," Eastwood remembers. "I was learning a lot, and I worked with a lot of people I grew up watching on the screen." But his character did not develop beyond the well-meaning, impetuous cowboy.
An opportunity came when his agent apologetically forwarded a script for a Western to be made by an Italian studio. Eastwood took the chance and went to Italy to make the movie under director Sergio Leone. The minimalist acting style Eastwood applied to his role in A Fistful of Dollars (1964) fit perfectly with Leone's vision of the West--stark, amoral, and violent. Eastwood's laconic, mysterious, lightning-fast gunfighter not only determined the style of the movie but shaped the "spaghetti Westerns" that followed.
Revolutionizing the Western was the last thing on Eastwood's mind. After A Fistful of Dollars previewed to enthusiastic audiences in Florence, Leone quickly signed Eastwood to a sequel, For a Few Dollars More (1965). It was Eastwood's last Italian Western, "I could have gone on doing them for another 10 years, but there's only so far to go."
The spaghetti Westerns opened in the U.S. in 1967 and 1968 and were universally panned. However, Eastwood's character (dubbed the Man With No Name) caught on with the younger audience, which was disillusioned by Vietnam and had no allegiance to the conventional tall-in-the-saddle, white hat-wearing good guy. Eastwood created the prototype for a bold Western anti-hero.
Eastwood then formed his own production company, Malpaso. His first American feature, Hang 'Em High (1967), "delved into the pros and cons of capital punishment." Eastwood also proved he could draw an audience as the star of a mainstream American film.
In his next movie, Coogan's Bluff (1968), Eastwood teamed up with director Don Siegel and began one of cinema's greatest collaborations. Siegel not only directed Eastwood in some of his best roles, but mentored the budding director. Their next efforts were Two Mules for Sister Sara and Beguiled (1971).
After directing himself in a popular thriller, Play Misty For Me (1971), Eastwood re-upped with Siegel for the phenomenal Dirty Harry (1971). The role rocketed Eastwood from movie star to cultural icon.
Following the routine Joe Kidd (1972), Eastwood directed himself in a Western that was anything but ordinary. High Plains Drifter (1972) is the taut tale of a mysterious stranger who wreaks vengeance not only on the outlaws who murdered the town sheriff but on the townspeople who condoned the crime. As a producer, director, and star, Eastwood was in total control, challenging the genre and bringing to it a rare mystical quality.
In 1976, Eastwood brought his unique point of view to a more traditional Western, The Outlaw Josey Wales. "I love the plot line, not only of a man searching for a life after devastating experiences, but also a person who believed that human beings could exist together without the necessity of eradicating each other," says Eastwood. "I'm always attracted to characters who are in search of family or in search of some kind of unity."
Eastwood seemed to be on the same kind of search after his divorce from Maggie in 1984, tackling an ever-wider variety of films. One of these was the Capraesque Bronco Billy (1980) about an ex-shoe salesman who stars in an anachronistic Wild West show and emulates the moral virtues of his movie cowboy heroes.
Pale Rider followed in 1985. Though a commercial success, the film was indicative of a professional plateau. It looked as if Eastwood and the Western had seen their best days. The Nineties proved otherwise.
Unforgiven (1992), the story of a rusty gunfighter lured out of retirement by one last job--the retribution killing of two men who disfigure a prostitute--offered complex characters and the inevitability of a Greek tragedy. It took the Western's most familiar element, violence, and exposed its corrosive influence with chilling effect. Eastwood says. "It demythologized the West."
Unforgiven earned Eastwood Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Actor.
Eastwood continues to fill theaters with an ever-expanding variety of films. He remarried in 1996 to television news journalist Dina Ruiz, and the couple has a new baby girl. "I feel a certain comfort about the things I've done," says Eastwood. "The main thing is to keep trying, keep shooting at it. It's not like trying to do all you can or trying to rush to the end, but just having an inner goal you try to live up to."
Cowboys & Indians
August 6th, 2003, 03:06 AM
More on Sam Elliot :rolleyes:
From bit player to leading man,
this Hollywood heavyweight has earned his spurs
By Eric O'Keefe
Sam Elliott out back behind the Spanish Colonial home he shares with his wife, Katharine Ross, and soon to be 15-year-old daughter, Cleo; photo by Kip Lott
Never mind what you've heard about judging a book, or in this case, a magazine, by outward appearance. Everyone loves to discuss our covers. With that we embarked on a grassroots survey to find which personalities our readers wanted to see next.
Sam Elliott by a landslide.
Two weeks later I was on a plane to California to meet the handsome six-footer, who proved to be an exceptionally easygoing interview, full of wit, guff, anecdotes, and who admits that the acting bug bit him early.
"I was single-minded on what I wanted to do since I was like nine or ten. I just went to see too many movies and I sat in too many dark matinees watching those old serials," he said.
Despite a strong start, Elliott's career began at the end of an era. The studio system was on its last legs. By the late 1960s large stables of contract players were more a hindrance than a help. In 1969, the decades-old system began to collapse, and Elliott ended up out on the street. He would spend almost a decade paying his dues, getting bit parts in movies and roles on television in programs like Mission Impossible, before he finally made some waves in Paramount Pictures' Lifeguard, a sort of proto Baywatch. Elliott began landing roles in made-for-television movies and many TV mini-series, yet it was as a chauffeur that his career took its next turn.
"We were shooting The Sacketts in Arizona, and it fell on me to go pick up Louis (L'Amour) at the Tucson airport. On the ride out to Patagonia, he asked me if I had ever read his book Conagher and I told him I hadn't. He said, 'Well, you ought to.'"
A constellation of screen stars: Chuck Connors, Sam Elliott, and Tom Selleck
Elliott did just that but at that time he couldn't purchase or option the book. Time went by, things changed financially, and he optioned the book three times in three successive years. When L'Amour passed away, he was in Indiana working on a film called Prancer when he got a call from a guy who was out trying to buy some Louis L'Amour books. With industry heavyweights like Imagine Entertainment and TNT vying to make Conagher, Elliott took a new step in his career. He co-scripted and co-starred the film with his wife, Katharine Ross.
"That film will always be a favorite of mine. I can't tell you how much working with Katharine on Louis' book meant to me," he said.
Conagher quickly became a favorite with fans, debuting as TNT's highest rated two-hour drama and still drawing good numbers almost 10 years later.
By this time, Elliott's star power was evident and much of what comes in front of him is either a Western or has strong ties to the West like this year's film The Hi-Lo Country. Many believe that his commitment to the genre may well be his most important legacy.
"Sam's contribution to the Western is under appreciated," said Tom Selleck. "His allegiance to this art form, which is as important a part of our American mythology as King Arthur is to England's, has not only resulted in films that continued this tradition but they have also maintained it in a time when a lot of people in Hollywood would rather see it disappear."
In addition to starring as Marshal Bill Tilghman, Elliott served as the executive producer of the TNT original film You Know My Name, which premieres August 22nd.
An important part of Elliott's appeal is his powerfully believable on-screen persona. R.L. Tolbert, a stunt coordinator and second unit director who has worked with him since the early 1970s, said that "Sam is the only cowboy we have left who can make a Western and make you believe it." Of course those who work with him seize upon this quality and accentuate it whenever possible, and it's clear that John Kent Harrisson played this up to the fullest in You Know My Name, which premieres on TNT August 22nd.
Harrisson admits, however, that scripting and directing such a powerful screen presence made aspects of You Know My Name enormously challenging. "Sam is the last of a great breed, and I include in those Gary Cooper and John Wayne. None were actors playing parts. They were all from the earth. They're from the land. And it's so much in his blood that you feel that it's not just Sam as an actor you're working with. It's everything he represents as a human being."
What's next for the Last Western Hero? Production has already begun on a political drama entitled The Contender set in Washington, D.C. with Elliott in the role of chief of staff to the president of the United States. "I think we are going to shock, surprise, and delight audiences everywhere when they see him in the White House wearing a three-piece suit, not cowboy boots, a man at the pinnacle of power, not a dreamer out riding the range," says Director Rod Lurie. "People are going to be amazed at what he can do."
Cowboys & Indians
August 6th, 2003, 03:14 AM
Countdown to Cowtown
Buckskins over Broadway
Cowgirls, Women of
the Wild West
Women of western movies :rolleyes:
20 Glorious Roles that Heated Up Hollywood
by David Hofstede
A good woman is hard to find-especially in a Western. A hundred years of Western moviemaking have produced countless compelling variations on the cowboy, the gunfighter, and the outlaw, but the women in Hollywood's Wild West were too often reduced to stock characters. Listed here are 20 glorious exceptions, ranked chronologically.
Marlene Dietrich as Frenchy
Destry Rides Again (1939)
Putting Marlene Dietrich in a Western sounds as ridiculous as putting Charo in the Royal Shakespeare Company. But in the beyond-classic Destry Rides Again, there's the Teutonic temptress playing a feisty saloon singer named Frenchy, albeit with a German accent (I guess they couldn't call her "Germany"). The offbeat casting was inspired-Dietrich trades quips with Jimmy Stewart, trades punches with Una Merkel in a ferocious catfight, and croons three songs in her inimitable husky moan. "See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have" was in her nightclub act for 30 years.
Jean Arthur as Phoebe Titus
Arizona is further proof that Jean Arthur could do anything. She spent the 1930s playing urban jungle roles like she was born in a business suit (Easy Living, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), and then she headed West and etched an indelible portrait of a frontier hellcat. Phoebe Titus, Tucson's first female citizen, builds a railroad, fends off Apache raids, battles corrupt forces, and wins the heart of wandering cowboy William Holden, all in less than 90 minutes.
Mae West as Flower Belle Lee
My Little Chickadee (1940)
Garbed in a form-fitting Gay '90s dress, twirling a parasol, and dropping double-entendres in a voice that sounded suggestive even when she ordered pizza, Mae West was a true original. Tickets to My Little Chickadee were sold on her pairing with W.C. Fields, with whom she wrote the script, but it's in their individual moments that the stars truly shine. Forget the plot, which is just Fields being Fields and West being West, and enjoy two of the silver screen's most unique characters at the top of their game.
Jane Russell as Rio
The Outlaw (1943)
This story of Billy the Kid was to be directed by Howard Hawks, until producer Howard Hughes took over and tortured the cast with endless retakes. One scene was shot 103 times, and the movie still stunk. Hughes did succeed, however, in crafting a memorable showcase for his 19-year-old discovery, Jane Russell. Russell plays a frontier trollop in her film debut but goes through more costume changes than Cher at Caesars Palace. Hughes also forced her to wear a special bra of his own design that was attached to a pulley system, so her breasts could be raised and lowered according to her character's fluctuating passion. Billboards promoting the film asked, "What are the two reasons for Jane Russell's stardom?"
Jennifer Jones as Pearl Chavez
Duel in the Sun (1946)
When a preacher first beholds Pearl Chavez, he pronounces her "built by the devil, to drive men crazy." Luscious Jennifer Jones plays Chavez, a passionate seductress torn between a gentleman (Joseph Cotten) and a rogue (Gregory Peck). David O. Selznick's down and dirty attempt to recreate Gone With the Wind as a Western shocked critics of the day, who renamed it "Lust in the Dust." Jones sweats so much in this overheated drama, it's amazing her mocha-colored makeup never runs. But for all its faults, Duel in the Sun is one of the best-looking films ever made; Jones' vivid costumes, the desert vistas, and the fiery sunsets are all captured in a gorgeous Technicolor palette.
Gail Russell as Penelope Worth
Angel and the Badman (1947)
Injured gunfighter Quirt Evans (John Wayne), who's "closed the eyes of many a man and opened the eyes of many a woman," is nursed back to health by Penelope Worth, the virtuous daughter of a Quaker family. A routine movie would have Quirt scheme to compromise his nurse's principles, but what makes Angel and the Badman so much fun is how Penelope, played by the enchanting Gail Russell, becomes the aggressor in their relationship.
"I didn't know religious people were so direct!" says an astonished Quirt.
Betty Hutton as Annie Oakley
Annie Get Your Gun (1950)
Now that Bernadette Peters has revived this Irving Berlin chestnut on Broadway, it's a good time to look at the movie again, which features Betty Hutton as a last-minute substitute for Judy Garland. As singing sharpshooter Annie Oakley, Hutton is vibrant, boisterous, and really, really loud, which helps viewers keep track of her in the gargantuan musical numbers. Howard Keel plays a dashing Frank Butler, and the score has more good songs than you remember.
Jeanne Crain as Reed Bowman
Man Without a Star (1955)
Jeanne Crain rose to prominence by playing girl-next-door types in wholesome movies like State Fair (1945). But in Man Without a Star, she plays an Old West version of Dynasty's Alexis Colby. Ruthless cattle baroness Reed Bowman inflames the passions of her ranch hands while plotting to run her neighbors out of the territory. Best scene--Bowman regains control over a team of rambunctious horses, just as her foreman, Dempsey Rae (Kirk Douglas), arrives to make the rescue.
"You're not bad with horses," says the impressed Dempsey. "I'm not bad with anything," she replies.
Rhonda Fleming as Laura Denbow
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)
Rhonda Fleming has to be included on any list of memorable Western women, but for which movie? The Redhead and the Cowboy (1950), Bullwhip (1958), and Alias Jesse James (1959) all have their virtues, but her supporting role in the classic Gunfight at the O.K. Corral cannot be omitted. The alluring Laura Denbow turns the head of Marshal Wyatt Earp (Burt Lancaster), even while he's throwing her in jail for gambling.
"She's a real lady," raves Doc Holliday (Kirk Douglas), and back then you couldn't get a higher compliment. Fleming only has a few scenes, but they're enough.
Angie Dickinson as Feathers
Rio Bravo (1959)
The women in Howard Hawks' movies are real guys' girls, and Angie Dickinson in Rio Bravo is no exception. In the tradition of Jean Arthur and Lauren Bacall, Angie is good-looking, a good card player, can hold her liquor, and can talk tough without losing her femininity. Not every girl can make John Wayne blush, but Dickinson, as the feisty ex-girlfriend of a no-account gambler, repeatedly turns the Duke's face red, and each time it's a small gem of a scene in a movie filled with special moments.
Audrey Hepburn as Rachel Zachary
The Unforgiven (1960)
Isn't it just wonderful to have Audrey Hepburn appearing in a Western? Not a great Western, I'll admit--John Huston's The Unforgiven never lives up to the potential of its exceptional cast (Hepburn, Burt Lancaster, Lillian Gish). But the divine Audrey remains the personification of class and elegance, even while perched on a fence post, dressed in fashions from the general store. As Rachel Zachary, an adopted rancher's daughter who may be a Kiowa Indian, Hepburn's gentle dignity holds the film together, even if she never quite wraps her melodious voice around a prairie accent.
Marilyn Monroe as Roslyn Taber
The Misfits (1961)
The Misfits mourns the end of the untamed West, a time when, as Thelma Ritter says in the film, "Cowboys are the last real men in the world." But when this proved to be the last film for Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, The Misfits also came to signify the passing of an era in Hollywood as well. Monroe's portrayal of a fragile divorcee searching for love seems disturbingly reminiscent of her life off-screen, which adds a poignancy to her performance that is heartbreaking. You can't take your eyes off her, and not just for the obvious reasons.
Jane Fonda as Catherine Ballou
Cat Ballou (1965)
Once upon a time, Jane Fonda was America's answer to Brigitte Bardot--a big-eyed babe who bounced through sex comedies in the 1960s. Cat Ballou still predates the mature phase of her career, but Fonda needed more than cleavage to play the title character. Catherine Ballou is a virginal young schoolteacher who sets out to avenge her father's murder and becomes intoxicated by the life of an outlaw. All good stuff, but Lee Marvin steals the film with his uproarious, Oscar-winning portrayal of drunken gunfighter Kid Shelleen.
Claudia Cardinale as Jill McBain
Once Upon a Time in the West (1969)
Spaghetti Westerns are even more male-dominated than their American counterparts. Female characters are rare in the Sergio Leone canon, and those that do turn up are usually incidental. The exception is Claudia Cardinale, whose Jill McBain in Once Upon a Time in the West is the genre's only memorable lady, though she would have stood out even if she hadn't had the field to herself. Moving West only to find her husband and family slain, she inherits his land and holds onto it despite the threats of gunfighters, thieves, and various sinister forces.
Shirley MacLaine as Sara
Two Mules for Sister Sara (1969)
There's something odd about the sweet smile of Sister Sara, who is saved from a gang of outlaws by a mercenary (Clint Eastwood), whose one act of Christian charity proves that no good deed goes unpunished. Shirley MacLaine's spunk plays well off the laconic Eastwood, who is attracted to Sara but not like a Sister. I won't spoil the surprise for anyone who hasn't seen the movie, but MacLaine actually gives two performances in Two Mules for Sister Sara, and they're both terrific.
Julie Christie as Mrs. Miller
McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)
Robert Altman's "revisionist" Western unfolds in a soft-focus, dreamlike atmosphere, though Altman's goal was to replace the romantic Western myth with a harsh, historically accurate reality. The result is not for all tastes, and I'm not even sure it's for mine. But I like Julie Christie as Mrs. Miller, a sharp-tongued madame with a keen business sense. She chops down the greedy McCabe (Warren Beatty) at their first meeting but succumbs to a lethal vice in the downbeat finale.
Madeline Kahn as Lili Von Shtupp
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Did I say Marlene Dietrich's husky moan was inimitable? Nobody told Madeline Kahn, who brilliantly sends up Dietrich in the best Western spoof ever made. Musical numbers are always the highlight of Mel Brooks movies, and Blazing Saddles is no exception; backed by dancing German soldiers, Kahn stops the show with a deadpan rendition of the bawdy ballad "I'm So Tired." The foghorn-like performance earned Kahn an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Linda Fiorentino as Sarah O'Rourke
The Desperate Trail (1994)
Why isn't Linda Fiorentino a much, much bigger star? As fugitive Sarah O'Rourke in The Desperate Trail she continues to set a new standard for the malicious femme fatale, just as she did in The Last Seduction (1994). In her Western brim and longcoat, she even pulls off the imposing Eastwood squint, which usually looks silly when other people try it. The slow-motion gunfights are hokey, and more scenes with Sarah's pursuer (Sam Elliott) would have been nice, but Fiorentino's always worth watching, especially when she's armed and dangerous.
Julia Ormond as Susannah
Legends of the Fall (1994)
This is the saga of three adventurous sons (Aidan Quinn, Brad Pitt, Henry Thomas), their austere father (Anthony Hopkins), and the woman who pits brother against brother on a remote Montana ranch in 1913. Melodramatic to be sure, but Legends of the Fall is as good as melodrama gets. Julia Ormond earned comparisons to Ingrid Bergman as the high-spirited Eastern beauty who becomes engaged to one brother, loves the second, and marries the third. In context, it's not nearly as lurid as it sounds.
Catherine Zeta-Jones as Elena Montero
The Mask of Zorro (1998)
With her captivating performance in The Mask of Zorro, Catherine Zeta-Jones instantly ascended from mere actress to movie goddess. The raven-haired Welsh star plays Elena Montero, the strong-willed daughter of the original Zorro (Anthony Hopkins). Though being rescued by the hero-in-training (Antonio Banderas) is an unavoidable part of the job, Elena is hardly a typical damsel in distress, as evidenced by her prowess with a sword. Jones' playful, sexy duel with Banderas was one of the best scenes in any 1998 movie and became the most memorable movie courtship dance since Fred Astaire met Ginger Rogers.
Cowboys & Indians
Agree on some :rolleyes: Disagree on others <_<
August 6th, 2003, 03:38 AM
Matt Damon &
Investing in Western & Native American Art
Great Western Weekend Getaways
Even Elvis :unsure:
Despite Making Just Five Westerns,
Elvis' Horse Operas run the Gamut from
the Good to the Bad to the Very Ugly
By David Hofstede
In Flaming Star, the setting is post-Civil War, on the plains of Texas, with tensions between ranchers and Indians running high. Elvis, in a role originally meant for Marlon Brando, is Pacer Burton, the son of a cowboy and a Kiowa Indian. Before the gunfire starts, he receives hostile visits from both sides of the battlefield and is forced to make a choice.
Flaming Star is a violent, racially charged drama that doesn't end like most Elvis movies, with a smile and a song. The only music is dispatched early*Elvis performs the title song over the opening credits and another number in a birthday party scene that opens the film. The party is the last happy moment in the story. Solid supporting work comes from Steve Forrest and Barbara Eden, and everyone gets a chance to build their characters through dialogue that doesn't have to be squeezed between song cues.
In Tickle Me (1965), the King is back in familiar film territory: girls, guitars, and breezy fun. Elvis plays Lonnie Beale, a rodeo rider who runs out of money between events and takes a job at an all-girl dude ranch. If that's not enough high concept, the script also tosses in a "buried treasure in the nearby ghost town" subplot. Writers Elwood Ullman and Edward Bernds worked on many of the Three Stooges episodes and kept intact their slapstick-heavy approach. As soon as Elvis walks by a swimming pool, start counting the seconds till someone accidentally falls in.
There's lots of music in Tickle Me, including a few minor hits among the usual RCA leftovers: "I'm Yours" topped the easy-listening charts and was one of Elvis' most tenderly delivered ballads, Leiber/Stoller's "Dirty, Dirty Feeling" rocks out; and "It's a Long, Lonely Highway" opens the movie on just the right carefree note. Playful hijinks with the shapely ranch guests fill out the story, though most of Lonnie's attention is understandably fixed on the entrancing Jocelyn Lane, a Brigitte Bardot look-alike whose peach-shaped posterior is featured enough to earn its own screen credit.
Tickle Me is a treat once the brain is shifted into autopilot. That was the goal for most Elvis movies, and it's amazing that with such low aspirations the films didn't succeed more often. Take Stay Away, Joe ... please. This 1968 stinker merits serious consideration as the worst Elvis Presley film of them all (and beating out Change of Habit and Harum Scarum is no small feat).
In Stay Away, Joe the King's character is half-Indian, as in Flaming Star, but the similarities end there. His Joe Lightcloud wanders through this nearly plotless movie mainly drinking and fighting and not singing very often. Presley earned a Golden Turkey Award nomination for "Most Ludicrous Racial Impersonation," but the Indian stereotypes are really too dumb to be offensive. Ads for the movie proclaimed, "He's playing Indian*but he doesn't say 'How'... he says 'When!'" Oh, my. About the only aspect of film that wasn't butchered in this absurd disaster was the wonderful Arizona scenery in and around Sedona.
Dignity is restored, mercifully, with Elvis' final Western, Charro! (1969). Writer-director Charles Marquis Warren brought an impressive Western pedigree to the project, having created TV's Gunsmoke, Rawhide, and The Virginian. Elvis, sporting a full beard for the only time as an actor, plays the part of Jess Wade, an outlaw trying to set his life straight but who ends up framed by his ex-partners in the mysterious theft of a priceless Mexican artifact.
Wade is a solemn, embittered desperado obsessed with gaining revenge on his former gang, and Elvis shows a no-nonsense, intimidating presence not often seen on camera. The problem with Charro! is that it wants to be an Outlaw Josey Wales-type while still serving the younger audiences that followed Elvis into movie after movie. One can exact only so much bloody vengeance in a G-rated film.
All of Elvis Presley's Westerns are available on video. DVD releases will be out soon, too. But no matter what the format, fry up a few peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches, avoid Stay Away, Joe, and don't expect The Searchers.
Cowboys & Indians
August 6th, 2003, 03:43 AM
Dale Evans :rolleyes:
1912 - 2001
by Eric O'Keefe
As a Texan, I believe it is a class C misdemeanor to attempt to alter, modify, or otherwise willfully tamper with the lyrics of a Willie Nelson song. I must therefore throw myself at the mercy of the court, Your Honor. My heroes have not always been cowboys. And as for my defense, I offer the life of Dale Evans.
"I think Republic Pictures suspended Mom's contract three different times." Cheryl Rogers-Barnett laughs as she recalls the turmoil that Dale's convictions created. "The first time was when she married Roy. Dad was so handsome, and he was widowed, too. He was a publicist's dream come true—until Mom took him off the market. Then she had the nerve to go and get pregnant, so they suspended her again and kept Roy making movies with Penny Edwards and Jane Frazee instead."
There is more laughter as Cheryl describes how Dale played havoc with the studio's no-nonsense production schedule. The late 1940s were the heyday of the studio system, and back then actors were strictly managed. Actresses, on the other hand, weren't managed; they were controlled to an extent unimaginable today. And maternity leave had no place on any studio exec's flow chart.
Her third suspension? "That was our Robin," Cheryl says.
It's hard to imagine a day and a place where a mother could be convinced to part with a newborn, but when Robin Rogers was born with Down syndrome, the powers that be wanted her existence extinguished. Immediately.
"When Republic Pictures insisted that Mom and Dad keep Robin hidden from the public, it was just the prevailing culture of the time," Cheryl says. For decades, eugenics-crazed professionals armed with pseudo-scientific notions kept countless families hiding in disgrace. Children with disabilities were from bad stock, they said. Even worse, some saw them as punishment for the sins of their parents. That was until the day Robin Rogers came home with her parents.
"I was ten at the time," Cheryl recalls, "and I can remember Mom and Dad calling us kids together. They told Linda Lou and Dusty and me that they were bringing Robin home, and from that day on I don't ever remember any of us expressing a second thought about it. It didn't matter that she needed a nurse, or we moved from Hollywood to Encino so she could have more room because Robin was the sweetest, happiest, most loving child."
Not only was this loving little girl made welcome by her family, but she even stepped into the spotlight herself, venturing out with her brother and sisters to attend the shows and rodeos where her parents were featured performers. "I guess it was about 1954 when I first started noticing other kids with Down syndrome at Mom and Dad's shows. Up till Robin, it was like they didn't exist," Cheryl remembers.
Despite the prevailing medical wisdom, all that Robin really needed was a hero. She got more than that with her mother, a heroine brave enough to risk her career in order that Robinóand countless other kids—could live happily ever after.
"Dale embodied the credo of the West as much off-screen as she did on-screen," Katharine Ross says. "From starring in all those movies to writing songs like "Happy Trails To You," she was completely undervalued as an actress and a musician because she worked so hard to put Roy's career first."
Maybe that's why Cowboys & Indians is dedicating this issue to the Queen of the West. Whether it was at home with her family or on the set making movies, Dale Evans put others first. "She was such a godly woman," says Naomi Judd. A godly woman who lived the Golden Rule—Dale Evans blazed a happy trail.
Cowboys & Indians
August 6th, 2003, 03:52 AM
Bad Westerns :angry:
Hundreds Vie for this Dubious Distinction,
But Just One Winner and Ten Also-Rans were Selected
to Prevent Long-Term exposure to such Bad Moviemaking
by David Hofstede
The Terror of Tiny Town (1938)
The Terror of Tiny Town is not merely the worst Western ever; the title is spoken with hushed reverence among bad-movie fanatics, who rank this all-midget Western in the Pantheon of the worst movies ever conceived, alongside Plan 9 From Outer Space, Robot Monster, and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. The story, a "searing saga of the sagebrush!" according to the narrator, opens with hero Buck Lawson (Billy Curtis) riding into Tiny Town, romancing a local beauty Nancy Preston (Yvonne Moray), and exposing the schemes of the villain Bat Haines (Little Billy), who tries to stir up a war between pint-sized ranchers. This plot has been used in a thousand other oaters. The gimmick here is not only that the entire cast is composed of midgets; it's that the story is played completely straight.
Curtis is a hero of the same ilk as Randolph Scott, except that he rides a Shetland pony, wears a four-gallon hat, and enters a saloon by walking under the swinging doors. This is funny, in a politically incorrect sort of way, the first couple of times. But the novelty quickly wears off. Happily, Billy Curtis went on to better, if not bigger things; he played the Mayor of Munchkinland in The Wizard of Oz, and returned to the Western genre as Clint Eastwood's sidekick in High Plains Drifter.
Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966)
Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966)
True believers almost always refer to these two epics as a single opus, the final magnum work of famed director William "One Shot" Beaudine (so named because of his penchant for never requiring a second take). The great Beaudine, whose cinematic triumphs include such gems as Get Off My Foot (1935), Mr. Cohen Takes a Walk (1936) and Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952), demonstrates his knack for genre cross-pollination with this imaginative pair of horror-Westerns that wound up just being horrors.
Of the two movies, Billy the Kid vs. Dracula fares better, despite a flying-bat special effect accomplished with crepe paper and string. Veteran actor John Carradine plays the vampire, who for some mysterious reason is never called Dracula in the film.
Another puzzling twist is that there apparently wasn't enough budget for a pair of fangs for Dracula, so Carradine actually attacks his victims with a wide-eyed stare while Beaudine shines a red light in his face. The vampire is eventually brought down by Billy the Kid, with help from Virginia Christine, who played Mrs. Olsen in the Folger's Coffee commercials. Best scene: A stagecoach passenger voices her fear of traveling at night as a ray of sunshine splashes across her face. "Print!" yelled Beaudine.
Amazingly, the movie contains several good performances in spite of itself. But with Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter, we're witness to cinematic cheese at its most robust, with over-the-top acting, non-cooperative props, and mistimed sound cues. The story has Dr. Maria Frankenstein, granddaughter of the original mad scientist, running afoul of Jesse James when she turns his friend into a monster. The final experiment, in which Maria and her victim don candy-striped army helmets for a brain-wave transference, is a riot.
The Little Covered Wagon (1933)
Westerns were big business in the 1930s, and for a while it seemed any film with a cowboy hero would sell tickets. Impresario Sig Neufeld decided to test that theory with The Little Covered Wagon, the first cowboy movie with an all-chimpanzee cast.
True to its title, the movie opens with a little covered wagon, driven by a pair of donkeys and with a family of chimps aboard. This idyllic opener ends in violence when the wagon is attacked by three "Indians" (more chimps). A baby survives the siege and is adopted by a frontier scout. Twenty years pass, and our hero, Handsome Dan, is now a grown man … uh, chimp, and out to avenge his parents' death.
Each character's voice is dubbed, making it easier to follow the action (though not necessarily any more enjoyable). Neufeld parades his cast through one traditional Western setup after another—the traditional poker game as well as the mandatory saloon shoot-out—and it must be acknowledged that the chimpanzees handle most of the props with ease (though in one instance, Dan almost eats his playing cards before sliding in his bet). If Neufeld's stars were really clever, though, they'd have found a way out of this monkey business.
The Fastest Guitar Alive (1967)
Elvis Presley passed on this story of the waning days of the Civil War. Imagine, the man who said yes to Clambake and Harum Scarum actually said no to a script. MGM needed another rocker to play suave ladies' man Johnny Banner, so naturally they called upon the charisma, the animal magnetism, the raw sexual energy of … Roy Orbison. It was like replacing Brad Pitt with Mr. Rogers.
The shy balladeer delivers his lines in a monotone, while his eyes dart in every direction, as if he were looking for a way out of this disaster. Orbison fans may enjoy his performance of six original songs, though there's not a "Pretty Woman" among them. Bad-movie lovers will treasure the moments when Johnny pulls the trigger on his guitar, which is equipped with a retractable gun barrel. "Don't move, fella," he warns. "I can kill you with this and play your funeral march at the same time."
This is the story of a blind man who works as a gun for hire. I'll pause while you let that sentence sink in. As the film opens, our sightless hero, a dirty, disheveled figure, walks directly behind his seeing-eye horse (which probably explains why he's dirty). The blind man-with-no-name is played by Tony Anthony, who also co-wrote and co-produced this unique spaghetti Western. Proving there's a job out there for everyone, the gunman is hired by a band of Texas miners to guard their delivery of 50 mail-order brides. They figure that since he can't see, he won't be tempted to sample the merchandise. But the women are stolen by Mexican bandits, among them a guy named Candy, who is played by Ringo Starr (yes, the Ringo Starr). The hired gun finds the brides and kills the men who took them, but the girls decide to remain in Mexico, so Blindman rides home alone, as soon as someone points him in the right direction.
Comin' At Ya! (1981)
Tony Anthony strikes again! In 1981, the maverick auteur who unleashed Blindman upon unsuspecting moviegoers tried to revive, simultaneously, the spaghetti Western and the 3-D movie with Comin' At Ya! Unfortunately, even two-dimensional acting and storytelling were beyond him, and the 3-D effects, impaired by cheap 3-D glasses and murky prints, gave audiences headaches. Many critics describe bad movies as a painful experience, but only Comin' At Ya! actually resulted in a need for aspirin.
Anthony stars as H.H. Hart, who rides the revenge trail after his wife Abilene (gorgeous Victoria Abril of Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! fame) is kidnapped on their wedding day. The novelty of the 3-D format appealed to audiences too young to remember its first go-round, and that gave Comin' At Ya! a strong-enough opening week to turn a modest profit. But parents who took their kids to see this one were shocked to find a gloomy, vicious film in which women are beaten and tortured, a desperado is blown up with dynamite, and one man is devoured by rats.
The badly dubbed movie grinds to a halt every few minutes for a 3-D effect—flying arrows, snakes, bats—in one scene, a character starts spinning a yo-yo, for no reason other than to make the audience flinch. Of course, I can think of a dozen things Victoria Abril could have done in 3-D that would have landed Comin' At Ya! ahead of The Searchers on our 100 Greatest Westerns list, but alas, it was not to be.
Texas to Bataan (1942)
Fans of Westerns know ventriloquist Max "Alibi" Terhune and his wooden dummy, Elmer, as members of the Range Busters. Their cornpone banter provided light comic relief between saloon fights, though the funniest aspect of the scenes was watching Terhune try unsuccessfully to not move his lips. When Elmer "talks," Max looks like he's chewing caramel.
Were it in a traditional Western, this lighthearted nonsense would go down smoothly and would not be on our prestigious list. But in 1943, as World War II raged and interest waned in the Range Busters series, Monogram Pictures tried to incorporate a dose of real-world patriotism into the team's adventures. After the success of Cowboy Commandos (1943), which featured the rousing anthem "I'm Gonna Get That Fuehrer Sure as Shootin."
In the story, Alibi and his partners expose the ranch houseboy as a Japanese spy in cahoots with a Nazi secret agent Herr Muller, who is plotting to blow up America's harbors (a scheme that he, naturally, hatches on the dusty plains of Texas). The villains escape, but the Range Busters are soon aiding the war effort again when the army needs a shipment of 400 horses delivered to the U.S. Cavalry in the Philippines. But who should they meet on arrival but Herr Muller, who walks into a South Seas saloon while the natives are singing "Home on the Range" in Tagalog. Just as the cowboys seem defeated, Alibi distracts the evildoers by throwing his voice into Elmer and turning the tide of battle. With the Nazi threat to Texas over, a grateful rancher's daughter exclaims, "This time, I hope they'll ride all the way to Tokyo!"
Petticoat Planet (1996)
This is one of those movies that pop up on Cinemax after midnight, and it has no connection to the TV series Petticoat Junction, so you won't finally get a better view of Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo, and Betty Jo bathing in the Hooterville water tank. Petticoat Planet begins with Commander Steve Rogers crash-landing on a strange planet populated only by women. He recuperates in a Wild West town with the not-too-subtle name of Puckerbush Gulch, and the rest of the plot is fairly easy to flesh out. Commander Steve is first seduced (in jail!) by Sheriff Sarah Parker (As the World Turns star Lesli Kay Sterling, who would love to have this film stricken from her resume). His next liaison is with Her Honor, Mayor Delia Westwood (Elizabeth Kaitan, fresh from her triumph in Assault of the Killer Bimbos). And while these two fight over Steve's charms, he makes time with the local barmaid. No alien ever had it this good.
High Noon II: The Return of Will Kane (1980)
Take another look at that title: High Noon II. Apparently, after Gary Cooper tossed his badge into the dust and left Hadleyville with Grace Kelly, somebody thought there should be more to the story. And so, almost 30 years later by our reckoning, that same buckboard comes bouncing back into town carrying Will Kane (Lee Majors) and his wife, Amy (Katherine Cannon). The marshal's abandonment has apparently been forgiven and forgotten, for Kane returns with no trace of anger or bitterness. And wouldn't you know, on that same day three more bad guys arrive by train. How's that for coincidence? One of them, a steely-eyed gunfighter by the name of Ben Irons (David Carradine) remembers Marshal Kane from an earlier run-in; they exchange threats but no bullets. But Kane later realizes these men may be innocent, and finds himself caught in the crossfire when they are hunted by Hadleyville's new lawman, played with scenery-chewing malice by Pernell Roberts.
Elmore Leonard wrote the script then disavowed it. This was a bad idea to begin with, and when a scribe of Leonard's ability can't make heads or tails out of a concept, it would have been smarter to just walk away. As Kane, Lee Majors is so laconic you want to poke him every so often to make sure he's awake. High Noon II makes the odd reference to its predecessor, but there was no real attempt to craft a Western even remotely comparable to the superlative production that placed seventh on Cowboys & Indians' list of 100 Best Westerns. High Noon II is not as poorly made as The Terror of Tiny Town, and had this been the story of, say, a retired sheriff named Bill Lane who returns to his former hometown to battle a corrupt lawman, the film could be dismissed as just another time-killing Western. But the hubris of linking a substandard, formula TV movie to an American classic is inexcusable.
Wild Wild West (1999)
The worst current motion picture trend is not the adaptation of classic television shows into feature films; it's the ignorance demonstrated by movie studios in understanding what made the shows classic in the first place. Barry Sonnen-feld's Wild, Wild West may not be the worst offender of the field, but it is near the bottom of the proverbial barrel, alongside The Avengers and Sgt. Bilko.
Think of any three elements that made the TV show great, then try to find any of them in the film. They almost got the train right, but what originally appeared as a slightly futuristic base of operations for Agents James West and Artemus Gordon was exaggerated into a silly Rube Goldberg-meets-Amtrak special effect.
Will Smith was a poor choice for James West. It's an issue that was tiptoed around, but his glib, streetwise style does not work for a character first played as a tough, no-nonsense hero by Robert Conrad. Conrad is a legit bad ass who once threatened to beat the crap out of Gabe Kaplan during Battle of the Network Stars. You believe he could dive into a saloon full of thugs and clean house, as he did in almost every episode of the TV show. The Fresh Prince just doesn't give off that vibe. Kevin Kline never had a chance with Artemus Gordon, a role he probably could have nailed with a good script, and Salma Hayek is wasted as a standard femme fatale. I'd look forward to any movie with Smith and Kline as government agents in the old West. But this is supposed to be Wild, Wild West. There's a legacy to observe, and if they weren't even going to try, then the title is just bait to lure baby boomers into a film that could care less about its alleged source material.
Cowboys & Indians
All Bad :angry:
August 6th, 2003, 03:57 AM
All the above articles came from Cowboy and Idian magazine :huh:
Just to give you some more media on othe western actors :rolleyes:
August 6th, 2003, 03:53 PM
More good stuff :rolleyes:
An offbeat Western in many aspects, 3:10 to Yuma is one of the best from a director who helped redefine the genre in the 1950s. Van Heflin plays a farmer struggling to hold on to his land and way of life during a severe drought. He sees a way out for himself and his family when he is offered a big chunk of money to take the captured leader of an outlaw gang (Glenn Ford) in secret to a nearby town and make sure he is placed on board a train that will carry him to trial in Yuma. The two men hole up in a hotel near the station where the smooth-talking criminal tries to mentally and emotionally manipulate his captor into letting him go. The film wrings a great deal of suspense from their battle of wills and from the increasing threat of the outlaw's gang who are on their way to Yuma.
In a career stretching from 1915 (he made his acting debut at 11 in a silent version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol) to 1965, Delmer Daves racked up credits as actor, writer, producer and director of every type of film Hollywood ever produced, but he did his best and most memorable work in Westerns. Along with a handful of films by other directors, notably High Noon (1952), to which this story bears resemblance, Daves ushered in a new era in the genre with Broken Arrow (1950), starring Jeff Chandler as Apache warrior Cochise, one of the few films to treat Indians with dignity and understanding. Daves' films brought modern psychological themes, a breakdown in romantic stereotypes, and moral ambiguities to a genre often characterized by good guy/bad guy gunplay. He is ably assisted in bringing out the movie's gray-shaded themes and rising tension by the performances of Heflin, casting his solid American plainness in a role similar to the actor's work in Shane (1953), and Glenn Ford, playing against type as a villain, although a charming one who displays a measure of decency at the end.
The film is as noteworthy for its technique as for its theme and characters. Daves shot 3:10 to Yuma in black and white in a time when color had become the standard for Westerns. One of the most significant departures from the genre is its setting, much of it takes place not in the great outdoors but within the confines of a single room. But the exterior sequences are also very striking; Daves used red filters to give a heightened, harsher sense of a land ravaged by drought. One of the other oddities in this project is its adaptation from a story by Elmore Leonard. Although he started his career with several interesting Western stories, particularly his novel Valdez Is Coming, made into a Burt Lancaster film in 1971, Leonard is best known today for complex, darkly funny modern crime stories. Two of his most popular books have been turned into critically and commercially successful films: Get Shorty (1995) and Out of Sight (1998). Interesting note: Leonard wrote the script for the television sequel High Noon Part II: The Return of Will Kane (1980).
This was Daves' second film with Glenn Ford, following the Othello-based Western Jubal (1956), which also starred Felicia Farr, who appears in 3:10 to Yuma and Daves' earlier film The Last Wagon (1956). Daves' next project after this was Cowboy (1958), which paired Ford with Farr's husband-to-be Jack Lemmon.
Director: Delmer Daves
Producer: David Heilweil
Screenplay: Halsted Welles , based on a story by Elmore Leonard
Cinematography: Charles Lawton, Jr.
Editing: Al Clark
Art Direction: Frank Hotaling
Music: George Duning, Ned Washington
Cast: Glenn Ford (Ben Wade), Van Heflin (Dan Evans), Felicia Farr (Emmy), Henry Jones (Alex Potter), Richard Jaeckel (Charlie Prince).
by Rob Nixon
August 6th, 2003, 04:01 PM
Some on Kirk Douglas :rolleyes:
THE INDIAN FIGHTER
Wednesday 10/01/2003 04:00 PM
The Indian Fighter (1955) was the first film to be produced by Kirk Douglas's production company, Bryna, and in many ways, it was a family production; Douglas took on the leading role, named the company after his mother and hired his ex-wife, Diana Douglas, to play one of his leading ladies. The advertising on the film poster proclaimed that The Indian Fighter possessed: "The vastness of Shane, the violence of Red River, the drama of High Noon, and the MIGHT of Kirk Douglas." And, surprisingly, the hype wasn't far from the truth for The Indian Fighter is a fast paced entertainment that also gives a sympathetic portrayal of the American Indian, showing them to be more than just faceless savages. As an exception to American movies of that era, we see the Indians as having a strict code of honor and a deep concern for their families.
Beautifully photographed by cinematographer Wilfrid M. Cline, the story follows Johnny Hawks (Douglas), an Army scout, as he guides a wagon train into Oregon. Along the way the train is detained by a group of Sioux Indians who are distrustful of whites after being cheated by them in the past. Hawks signs a treaty with the tribe's chief, Red Cloud (Eduard Franz), and falls in love with Onahti, a beautiful Indian woman (played by Italian model turned actress, Elsa Martinelli). Trouble erupts when two white renegades (played by Lon Chaney, Jr. and Walter Matthau) kill a tribal member, forcing Hawks to take extreme measures to restore peace in the area.
Douglas's wife, Anne, had seen Martinelli in a layout she had created for Vogue magazine, and even though the model had never acted before and was not at all familiar with Indian culture, the Douglases thought she would make a very appealing Indian maiden. But when Douglas phoned the model to offer her the part, she didn't believe that he was who he claimed to be. According to his autobiography, The Ragman's Son, Douglas recalled that Martinelli said, "No, no beeleeva you, no beeleeva you." She had just come back from seeing 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and thought somebody was playing a joke on her. I said, 'Really, I am Kirk Douglas, and I want you to come out and test for a part in a movie I'm making.' "No, no. You no Keerka Doogalas." I didn't know what the hell to do. Then she had an idea. "You Keerka Doogalas, you singa da song inna da movie." Over the telephone, I had to audition for Elsa Martinelli, three thousand miles away. I started to sing, 'Gotta whale of a tale to tell you, lads.' Elsa started to shriek. "Dio mio! Keerka Doogalas! Keerka Doogalas!" I arranged for her to come out to California to test. She was gorgeous and had a wonderful gamine quality that was perfect for the part." Martinelli gave what is probably her best American film performance in The Indian Fighter, including the then controversial scene of her bathing nude in a stream. Although she went on to star in other high profile films like Howard Hawks' Hatari (1962) and The V.I.P.s (1963), Martinelli eventually became disenchanted with the Hollywood system, and returned to Europe in the mid-sixties to continue her film career.
In his autobiography, Douglas wrote "I did most of my own riding in Indian Fighter, but occasionally, for long rides, or snatching something up from the ground, I used a stuntman. Bill Williams was an excellent rider [he was later killed doing a stunt for The Hallelujah Trail, 1965], and in silhouette looked a lot like me." Nevertheless, Douglas managed to break his nose in a horse fall during one stunt for the film but his physical injuries were minor in the scheme of things. His real interest in making The Indian Fighter was to raise awareness about the plight of Native Americans. It was a view shared by his director, Andre De Toth, who said in De Toth on De Toth (edited by Anthony Slide), "I wanted to make the audience feel the country, understand the Indians, see their pride, feel their code of ethics, without using speeches to do so. They were not Hollywood Indians, but real ones, with dignity and honor."
Considered a director's director by many of Hollywood's top filmmakers, De Toth is one of those artists who toiled for years in and out of the studio system, but never did enough internal politicking to establish himself as a major player in the movie industry. His best known film is probably House of Wax (1953), which is a remarkable achievement when you consider that it was shot in the 3-D process by a one-eyed director. Born in Hungary, De Toth directed several films there and elsewhere in Europe before emigrating to the United States in 1940. Before leaving, he witnessed, and filmed, the invasion of Poland by the Nazis. But capturing reality has always been the aim of De Toth and even though he clashed often with Douglas during the making of The Indian Fighter, both men realized they shared a common bond - a need to bring a sense of truth and reality to the screen.
In recalling his working relationship with Douglas in De Toth on De Toth, the director said, "He was, he is, a great pro." He also said that, "Douglas gave me one of the biggest compliments I ever had, trusting me with his money and his mother's name, in spite of which he wasn't very fond of me, and he still isn't¨Xbut it puzzles me why he treats The Indian Fighter as if it was never made. Never mentions it. Wise Ben Hecht [the screenwriter of The Indian Fighter] solved that puzzle too, years later, and after the fourth martini in his home in Oceanside, [said] "Hell, the picture wasn't done his way." Yet, De Toth is mistaken about Douglas's view of the film for the actor devotes several pages to it in his autobiography, noting its successes; Walter Matthau's supporting performance, the discovery of Elsa Martinelli, and the successful launch of the Bryna Company, Douglas's production outfit.
Producer: Kirk Douglas, William Schorr
Director: Andre De Toth
Screenplay: Frank Davis, Ben Hecht
Art Direction: Wiard Ihnen
Cinematography: Wilfrid M. Cline
Editing: Richard Cahoon
Music: Franz Waxman
Cast: Kirk Douglas (Johnny Hawks), Elsa Martinelli (Onahti), Walter Abel (Capt. Trask), Walter Matthau (Wes Todd), Diana Douglas (Susan Rogers), Lon Chaney, Jr. (Chivington), Eduard Franz (Red Cloud), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Briggs), Alan Hale, Jr. (Will Crabtree).
By Joseph D'Onofrio
August 6th, 2003, 04:04 PM
Randolph Scott :rolleyes:
RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY
Tuesday 09/23/2003 01:30 AM
An elegy for a vanishing West and a moving tribute to a genre which began to fade in popularity in the sixties, Ride the High Country (1962) deserves its reputation as a great Western. Not only did it establish Sam Peckinpah as a gifted director (It was his second feature film), it also provided a fitting farewell to Randolph Scott in his final film role. Scott is probably best remembered for his critically acclaimed Westerns (Seven Men From Now (1956), The Tall T, 1957) in collaboration with director Budd Boetticher.
Ride the High Country is the tale of Steve Judd (Joel McCrea) and Gil Westrum (Randolph Scott), two former lawmen who have fallen on hard times. Eager for an opportunity to make some money, they agree to escort a gold shipment from a mining camp high in the Sierras to the town below. The temptation to steal the shipment gets the better of Gil during their journey, resulting in a bitter riff between the two former friends.
Originally, McCrea was cast as Westrum and Scott had the part of Judd until the two actors realized the film would work better if their roles were reversed. After producer Richard Lyons approved the switch, he brought Sam Peckinpah on board as director. Peckinpah changed the ending of the original script which had Westrum dying in a gun battle and rewrote some of the screenplay including dialogue; the famous line "All I want is to enter my house justified" was attributed to the director's father. He also cast newcomer Mariette Hartley as Elsa Knudsen, the young woman who accompanies them on their journey to the mining town of Course Gold. According to author Marshall Fine in Bloody Sam, his biography of Peckinpah, the director personally supervised Hartley's wardrobe and hair style and even instructed the studio tailor to pad her chest more fully. Hartley commented, "Sam always liked breasts and he wanted me to be larger than I was. He kept padding until, in profile, I looked like a busty lady. By the time we finished the afternoon, I literally was walking at a tilt."
For the role of Billy Hammond, the backwoods redneck who proposes to Elsa, Robert Culp was the first choice but turned it down (The part went to James Drury). Culp later said, "I didn't want to do it because I was trying to create a career in features and I was fighting to be a leading man. If I'd done that, I would have wound up like Bruce Dern, playing crazies. In terms of mistakes in my life, that was one of mine. He never forgave me. And he never offered me another part. All the people who were part of his stock company were his friends and, as an actor, I was bitter at not being one of them that he called on. It was because I turned him down."
Ride the High Country began filming on location at Mammoth Lake, near Bishop, California but a freak snowstorm forced the production to close down and Peckinpah was ordered to move his cast and crew to the MGM backlot at Bronson Canyon in Hollywood to complete the film. Although the movie was completed in only 26 days, Peckinpah ran into problems when Joseph R. Vogel replaced Sol Siegel as MGM's chief executive. The mogul allegedly fell asleep while screening the film and later proclaimed it "the worst picture I ever saw," dooming its chances for a successful commercial run.
Despite the poor distribution, Ride the High Country managed to attract the praise of the country's leading critics. Newsweek wrote, "That Hollywood can't tell the gold from the dross has seldom been so plainly demonstrated. Ride the High Country, deemed unworthy of a first-class run, has been gradually leaked - like a secret - to various theatres around the country. When it reached New York last week, Ride, a modest, meaningful and faultlessly crafted film, was dumped carelessly as the bottom half of neighborhood double bills, playing in the abysmal company of The Tartars. In fact, everything about this picture has the ring of truth, from the unglamorized settings to the flavorful dialogue and the natural acting, Ride the High Country is pure gold."
While Peckinpah later became a much more controversial figure in Hollywood due to his drunken rages and ferocious battles with studio executives over creative control, he was on his best behavior for most of the filming of Ride the High Country. James Drury, in Fine's Peckinpah biography, said, "He was innovative, imaginative, always anxious to work with actors on their characters. He'd get involved in heavy-duty discussions but he didn't overdirect - he'd consult. He had a tremendous amount of respect for McCrea and Scott and they had a lot of respect for him. They were pleased to be working in the picture. At that point, he was a happy man. We knew him at his best and most likable."
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Producer: Richard E. Lyons
Screenplay: N.B. Stone Jr., Robert Williams (uncredited), Sam Peckinpah (uncredited)
Cinematography: Lucien Ballard
Music: George Bassman
Art Direction: Leroy Coleman, George W. Davis
Principle Cast: Joel McCrea (Steve Judd), Randolph Scott (Gil Westrum), Mariette Hartley (Elsa Knudsen), Ron Starr (Heck Longtree), Edgar Buchanan (Judge Tolliver), R.G. Armstrong (Joshua Knudsen), Jenie Jackson (Kate), James Drury (Billy Hammond)
By Jeff Stafford
August 6th, 2003, 05:49 PM
Sounds good :rolleyes:
Run of the Arrow
A revisionist Western that makes complex statements about the nature of race, identity, and loyalty, Run of the Arrow (1957) is a key film in the oeuvre of renegade director Samuel Fuller. Though Fuller was often criticized for lacking a social conscience - his taste for lurid pulp fiction usually excluded it - this picture paints as open-minded an image of the American Indian as you're likely to find in 1950s cinema. The main character, played by Rod Steiger, actually sides with the Indians for the better part of the film, a stance that runs decidedly counter to what John Wayne and his ilk had been doing for the previous 20 years.
Steiger plays Pvt. O'Meara, a Confederate soldier who fires what turns out to be the final shot of the Civil War. A Union lieutenant named Driscoll (Ralph Meeker) is on the receiving end of the bullet, but he recovers from his wound. Unwilling to accept the "death" of his beloved South once the peace treaty is signed at Appomattox, O'Meara heads West. There, after establishing his worthiness through an endurance test known as "the run of the arrow," he joins a Sioux Indian tribe. Eventually, he falls in love with a beautiful maiden named Yellow Moccasin, played by Sarita Montiel, whose voice was dubbed by RKO contract player Angie Dickinson!
Tension mounts when the U.S. Army, lead by Lt. Driscoll, builds Fort Abraham Lincoln just beyond the edge of a hallowed Sioux hunting ground. When a popular captain (Brian Keith) is killed by an enraged Sioux warrior (H.M. Wynant), Driscoll uses that as an excuse to attack the Indians. This leads to a failed peace-keeping attempt by O'Meara, and an exceptionally bloody battle in and around the fort. The ambiguous finale suggests that O'Meara is finally done with his personal Civil War, but remains torn between the Sioux and the world he left behind.
Steiger never met a piece of scenery he couldn't chew, but he's actually well-suited to Fuller's bulldozing method. Though he seldom enjoyed the luxury of a big budget, Fuller pushed the boundaries of what could be accomplished by commercial filmmakers, with a blunt primitivism that was championed by the French New Wave critics of the 1960s, and ultimately influenced such directors as Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. The often hysterical melodrama of Fuller's scripts can overshadow just how brilliantly he employs his camera. Run of the Arrow is as fluidly and economically shot as any of his films.
In Sam Fuller: Film is a Battleground by Lee Server, the director recalled the sequence toward the beginning of Run of the Arrow where Steiger says goodbye to his mother: "The Confederate in that scene who sang the song against the Constitution was played by a Southerner, whose hobby was collecting folklore and ballads. He loved it, being a Southerner and against the damn Yankees. My art director on the picture was a very virulent Yankee. I'm only telling you this because there's an evil streak in me that I like. I thought it would be wonderful to get them together in my office. I'll never forget it; it was the most wonderful moment of my life to introduce these two men who despised each other. They immediately got into a tremendous argument. I heard the whole Civil War fought all over again in my office." Fuller also commented on the famous "run of the arrow" sequence: "I shot that scene without my star. Steiger sprained his ankle right before we shot it, and he was taken off to the hospital. I used a young Indian in his place. Nobody noticed it. They thought I was being highly creative, highly artistic: "Imagine! Almost a boy wonder, a genius! Sensational! The way he shot it by just showing the feet!" Well, I would have shot about eighty per cent of the scene with just feet anyway, because that's the whole idea of the Run. But occasionally I would have liked to whip up with the camera and show Steiger's face."
Movie buffs will note the similarities between Run of the Arrow and Kevin Costner's Oscar-winning epic, Dances with Wolves (1990). Both films feature disheartened lead characters who journey West at the end of the Civil War, only to find new strength in the culture and teachings of the Sioux Indians. In due course, both men are forced to test their new-found beliefs when other war veterans arrive on Sioux land, guns at the ready. Fuller, however, is somewhat more inclined to let bullets and tomahawks do the talking than Costner is. After all, he was making B-pictures, not sensitivity training films.
Though supporting actor Tim McCoy was an Indian agent who started his film career as a technical advisor on silent Westerns, it seems unlikely that he did much advising on Run of the Arrow. The Sioux, for instance, would never kiss on the lips as shown in the movie. And, though Fuller suggests they're ready to skin a person alive at one point, they were never proponents of torture. There's certainly overstatement in the finished product, but Fuller refused to pull punches at a time when his much more honored peers were busy minding their manners. His white-hot passions permeate Run of the Arrow, making it one of the more fascinating entries in a truly American body of work.
Producer/Director: Samuel Fuller
Screenplay: Samuel Fuller
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino, Jack Okey
Cinematography: Joseph Biroc
Film Editing: Gene Fowler, Jr.
Original Music: Victor Young
Cast: Rod Steiger (O'Meara), Sarita Montiel (Yellow Moccasin), Brian Keith (Capt. Clark), Ralph Meeker (Lt. Driscoll), Jay C. Flippen (Walking Coyote), Charles Bronson (Blue Buffalo), Olive Carey (Mrs. O'Meara), H. M. Wynant (Crazy Wolf), Frank DeKova (Red Cloud).
By Paul Tatara
August 6th, 2003, 05:53 PM
Gary Cooper :rolleyes:
While President Abraham Lincoln is pledging to make the West safe for settlers, unscrupulous businessmen are plotting behind his back to sell repeating rifles to the Indians, enlisting the help of John Lattimer. Meanwhile Wild Bill Hickok, who has just returned from the Civil War, meets up with his old flame Calamity Jane, his pal Buffalo Bill Cody and Cody's new wife Louisa in Leavenworth, Missouri. Cody's plans to settle down with his wife are disrupted when Fort Piney is attacked by Indians and General Custer orders him to lead a party carrying fresh ammunition to the fort. Hickok offers to help by locating his old nemesis Yellow Hand and gathering intelligence. Calamity Jane and Louisa are besieged by Indians at Cody's cabin; thanks to Calamity Jane's quick thinking Louisa manages to escape, but she herself is captured. Hickok spots her on the trail with the band of Indians and tries to rescue her but ends up captured as well. The two are brought to Yellow Hand, who tortures Hickok in order to force Calamity Jane to reveal the route of Cody's party. Calamity Jane caves in, leaving Cody's men vulnerable to ambush. Hickok, once he is free and discovers the source of the repeating rifles that the Indians are using, vows to track down Lattimer. Eventually everyone meets up again in the South Dakota town of Deadwood City, and the rest is the stuff of legend.
With its grandly entertaining mix of patriotic sentiment, aw-shucks romance and rousing battle scenes, the Western epic, The Plainsman (1937), bears producer/director Cecil B. DeMille's signature as clearly as Rio Bravo (1959) belongs to Howard Hawks and The Searchers (1956) to John Ford. DeMille's association with the Western genre dates back to his debut feature, The Squaw Man (1914), which he remade in 1918 and 1931. Other DeMille Westerns include Rose of the Rancho (1914), A Romance of the Redwoods (1917), Union Pacific (1939), and North West Mounted Police (1940), set in Canada. While few would place DeMille in Hawks' and Ford's lofty company, during his career of some 50 years he displayed a consistent knack for turning a profit and made a number of very fine films along the way. The Cheat (1915), for instance, is considered a groundbreaking work in the development of film editing.
DeMille's impressive production for The Plainsman boasts, among other things, a three-acre set for Deadwood City and a recreation of the battle of Little Big Horn which was filmed on location in the Cheyenne Indian Reservation at Lame Deer, Montana, employing some two thousand Native Americans as extras. In order to maintain control over the second unit shoot, DeMille kept a model of the second unit location along with detailed plans for shot setups, which he conveyed to second unit director Art Rosson over the telephone.
One of the key assets of The Plainsman, however, is its cast. The reviewer in The Motion Picture Herald wrote that the film was "[p]layed with spirit and intelligent understanding by principals and entire supporting cast, with class individual performances sticking out all over [...]" Gary Cooper, who plays Wild Bill Hickok, became one of DeMille's favorite leading men, appearing subsequently in North West Mounted Police, The Story of Dr. Wassell (1944) and Unconquered (1947). Frank S. Nugent of the New York Times noted that Jean Arthur bears only a passing resemblance to the traditional image of Calamity Jane: "She doesn't chaw tobacco any more. She doesn't cuss. She doesn't run around with the boys. She just talks low and husky, is cute when she is being tomboyish, and she loves Wild Bill so much she almost faints when the Indians start torturing him to make him tell which way the ammunition convoy is heading." For her role Jean Arthur did, however, learn to use a bullwhip, which she handles impressively. Look for a young Anthony Quinn as the lone Cheyenne who tells Cody and Hickok of Custer's defeat at Little Bighorn. Quinn, incidentally, later married DeMille's daughter Katherine.
DeMille may have taken clear liberties with the story but the Paramount executives, he claims, wanted even more. DeMille recalls in his 1959 autobiography: "As every historian of the Old West knows, Jack McCall killed Wild Bill Hickok by shooting him in the back. It was worrisome enough to the Paramount executives that we were making a picture in which the hero, Gary Cooper at that, was to be killed in the last reel instead of riding off into the sunset with Jean Arthur in the happy ending which audiences are always expected to demand. First the executives asked me not to kill Wild Bill; I told them I could not remake history to that extent. 'Well then,' Adolf Zukor said finally, 'if he has to be killed, don't let him be killed by that little rat, McCall. At least let Charles Bickford kill him!'" Fortunately, DeMille stood firm. While accuracy was obviously never DeMille's strong point--just compare the episode of the golden calf in The Ten Commandments (1956) with the corresponding passage in the Old Testament--his storytelling instincts were formidable and the scene of Hickok's death remains effective to this day.
Producer and Director: Cecil B. DeMille.
Screenplay: Waldemar Young, Harold Lamb and Lynn Riggs, inspired by stories by Courtney Ryley Cooper and Frank J. Wilstach's book Wild Bill Hickok, the Prince of Pistoleers (1926).
Photography: Victor Milner and George Robinson.
Art Direction: Hans Dreier and Roland Anderson.
Editor: Anne Bauchens.
Music: George Antheil.
Principal cast: Gary Cooper (Wild Bill Hickok), Jean Arthur (Calamity Jane), James Ellison (Buffalo Bill Cody), Charles Bickford (John Lattimer), Helen Burgess (Louisa Cody), Porter Hall (Jack McCall), Paul Harvey (Yellow Hand), Victor Varconi (Painted Horse), John Miljan (General George A. Custer), Frank McGlynn, Sr. (Abraham Lincoln).
BW-113m. Closed captioning.
By James Steffen
August 7th, 2003, 02:56 AM
Mostly overlooked by historians, DeMille's "Plainsman" was the only A-western of the 30s before the Stagecoach came along. Interesting enough, JW was eager to play the Hickock-part that eventually went to Coop, and he had high hopes for it. That's why, when approached by DeMille to do Reap the Wild Wind - and a SUPPORTING part, as Ray Milland was the star when the film was released first (they changed the credits - putting JW first - when the film was re-released) Wayne first acted cool, said he didn't want it - and had DeMille asked if "he saw DARK COMMAND". Glad he worked for DeMille after all - what a great adventure film WILD WIND was!
August 7th, 2003, 03:08 AM
Kirk Douglas :rolleyes:
Lonely Are the Brave
A cowboy rides through a Western landscape and pauses to smile wryly as a jet zooms overhead. So begins Lonely Are The Brave (1962), Kirk Douglas' favorite of all his films.
In 1960, Douglas read a paperback copy of the source novel, The Brave Cowboy: An Old Tale In A New Time by author Edward Abbey (The Monkey Wrench Gang). He fell in love with the story and demanded that Universal allow him to make it into a film. He explained, "It happens to be a point of view I love. This is what attracted me to the story - the difficulty of being an individual today."
In the film, Jack Burns (Kirk Douglas) rides freely throughout modern New Mexico, even if it means cutting his way through barbed-wire fences. His friend and fellow iconoclast Michael Kane (Paul Bondi) has been imprisoned for helping Mexicans cross the U.S. border illegally (in the original novel he was a draft resister). Burns comes up with a scheme to get himself thrown into the same jail so he can help his friend break out. It leads to a chase across the desert by police cars and helicopters pursuing a cowboy on horseback.
The studio may have thought it would be getting just another Western, but Douglas recruited top talent such as Academy-Award winning writer Dalton Trumbo, who had written Spartacus (1960) two years before, and cinematographer Philip Lathrop (Point Blank, 1967) for a crisp documentary-style look. Walter Matthau, later famous for playing fast-talking big-city roles, is here cast against type as Sheriff Morry Johnson, a man charged with capturing Burns despite his growing respect for him. An actress better known for urban roles, Gena Rowlands, also makes a rare foray into Westerns as the wife of the jailed friend. Making their major film debuts are two actors later to become famous on television; Bill Bixby (The Incredible Hulk) as an airman in the helicopter and Carroll O'Connor (All In The Family) as a truck driver. Another newcomer, Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen, 1976) wrote the score. He credited friend Alfred Newman with getting him his first major studio assignment on Lonely Are The Brave.
The title was a major point of contention between Douglas and the studio. Douglas wanted to call it "The Last Cowboy" and release the film slowly in art-movie houses, allowing it to build through word-of-mouth. Universal overruled him, slapped on the title "Lonely Are The Brave" and dumped it in theaters as if it were another run-of-the-mill Western. Despite its rough handling, Lonely Are The Brave achieved cult status and is often listed as one of the best Westerns ever made.
Producer: Edward Lewis
Director: David Miller
Screenplay: Dalton Trumbo, based on the novel by Edward Abbey
Cinematography: Philip H. Lathrop
Film Editing: Leon Barsha, Edward Mann
Original Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Principal Cast: Kirk Douglas (Jack Burns), Gena Rowlands (Jerri Bondi), Walter Matthau (Sheriff Johnson), Michael Kane (Paul Bondi), Carroll O'Connor (Hinton), William Schallert (Harry), George Kennedy (Deputy Sheriff Gutierrez), Karl Swenson (Rev. Hoskins).
By Brian Cady
August 7th, 2003, 03:14 AM
Glenn Ford :rolleyes:
Once upon a time a film like The Rounders would have been classified by movie industry insiders as a "sleeper": in other words, a film that had no expectations attached to it but surprised everyone by being an unheralded little gem. Unfortunately, studios rarely knew how to market these films and as a result, they got stuck on the bottom of double bills with negligible companion features. The Rounders is a perfect example of this. It got stuck on a double feature with a mindless musical romance called Get Yourself a College Girl when first released. Nevertheless, it is now regarded as one of Henry Fonda's most popular films from the sixties and it even inspired a TV series with the same title starring Patrick Wayne in the Fonda role.
The premise is simple but slightly cockeyed. Two aging cowpokes hit on a scheme to get rich taming wild broncos and then retire to Tahiti with their savings. Never mind that they are hopeless at saving money, squander every penny on loose women and booze, and aren't even very good at picking champion horses. Henry Fonda and Glenn Ford play the none-too-bright cowhands in question and part of the film's pleasure comes in watching these two pros have fun with these bewildered characters as things go from bad to worse. For the record, a rounder is a wastrel or dissolute person but you won't see a more whimsical treatment anywhere of two complete losers.
The Rounders was filmed on location in the Coconino Forest in Arizona and was produced by Richard E. Lyons who also responsible for another excellent western in an entirely different vein a few years earlier - Ride the High Country, directed by Sam Peckinpah. That film also suffered the same fate as The Rounders. It was buried in double bills at drive-ins and second-run theatres because the studio brass at MGM didn't know what to do with it.
Offscreen, during the making of The Rounders, Henry Fonda and his son Peter were going through a turbulent time in their relationship, something acerbated by the counterculture movements of the sixties. In The Fondas: A Hollywood Dynasty (G. P. Putnam's Sons), author Peter Collier relates an incident that happened on the set of The Rounders: "When Peter went to the Arizona location of The Rounders to visit the son of Henry's co-star Glenn Ford....he discovered that the cast was planning a surprise birthday party for his father. When he was not invited, he sent Henry a nasty and illogical note of blame, and he would have left in a huff had the director, Burt Kennedy, not stopped him and pointed out the obvious: Since it was a surprise party, Henry could not have been the one who excluded him."
Director: Burt Kennedy
Producer: Richard E. Lyons
Screenplay: Burt Kennedy (based on the novel by Max Evans)
Cinematography: Paul C. Vogel
Music: Jeff Alexander
Cast: Henry Fonda (Howdy Lewis), Glenn Ford (Ben Jones), Chill Wills (Jim Ed Love), Sue Ann Langdon (Mary), Edgar Buchanan (Vince Moore).
By Jeff Stafford
August 7th, 2003, 03:17 AM
James Cagney :rolleyes:
TRIBUTE TO A BAD MAN
Set in the Colorado Territory in the 1870s, Tribute to a Bad Man (1956) follows the trek west of a young grocery clerk from Pennsylvania, Steve Miller (Don Dubbins). The easterner eventually finds work with Jeremy Rodock (James Cagney), a wealthy landowner who doesn't think twice about instant frontier justice - hanging - for any cattle rustlers he catches on his land.╩Rodock is involved with former saloon hostess Jocasta Constantine (Greek film star Irene Papas in her Hollywood debut) and their tempestuous relationship gradually escalates into a major standoff between the two with Rodock managing to alienate all of his friends and neighbors in the process. When he ends up shooting his former partner, L.A. Peterson (James Bell), the community turns against him and Rodock is forced to confront his own violent nature.
Tribute to a Bad Man marked James Cagney's final appearance in the Western genre but it is more infamous for the Hollywood legend it didn't star ╨ Spencer Tracy.╩ Originally titled Jeremy Rodock, the picture was first cast with Spencer Tracy and Grace Kelly in the leads. Reportedly, Tracy was looking forward to the production until he learned that Kelly didn't like the script and refused to accept the assignment. When her role was offered to Irene Papas, an actress Tracy didn't know, the actor lost all interest in the project. Besides, Tracy had no working knowledge of director Robert Wise and he secretly wanted to get out of his MGM contract so he could pick and choose his own movies like Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea (1958), a film adaptation he longed to do. Despite his true feelings about Tribute to a Bad Man, Tracy remained silent while Wise had a massive set constructed on location high in the Colorado Rockies. The actor then showed up for work six days late without offering an excuse and proceeded to behave in a thoroughly unprofessional manner, avoiding contact with his fellow cast and crew members and disappearing from the set when he was needed. The final straw was when he demanded that the current set be struck down and rebuilt at a lower altitude because his weak lungs couldn't take the thin mountain air. His demand resulted in MGM studio vice president Howard Strickling having to fly into Colorado to settle the matter. Between Strickling, Wise and MGM production chief Dore Schary, the decision was made to fire Tracy after four days of filming and on June 25, 1955, the Oscar-winning actor ended his relationship with MGM after having been a star at the studio for more than 20 years.
Other major stars were immediately sought as a replacement like Clark Gable but it was James Cagney who stepped in at the 11th hour. In his autobiography, Cagney by Cagney, he wrote, "Tribute to a Bad Man came in 1956 at a time when I was up on Martha's Vineyard. I had been working early in the summer, and I went up to take my ease there when Spence Tracy, then on location up a Colorado mountain, became ill. He couldn't go on with Tribute to a Bad Man, so Nick Schenck, the head of MGM, called and asked if I would jump in for him. There were some eighty people in Montrose, Colorado, waiting to get the job done. I was about as interested in working as I was in flying, which means a considerable level below zero, but after much gab, I agreed."
In Robert Wise on His Films, the director recounted what happened next: "I got a call from [executive producer Sam] Zimbalist saying that James Cagney had agreed to do it but wouldn't be available for a couple of months. There was nothing for us to do but fold everything up and return to Los Angeles. Then misfortune dogged us. During the layoff period, [actor] Bob Francis was killed in a plane crash. All the film I shot with him was now no good. We returned to the location and I shot around Cagney for about two weeks. Then Cagney came up and we went ahead with the film. He couldn't have been any more different in terms of his attitude than Tracy, but nothing was too rough for him. He took Don Dubbins, who was cast in the Bob Francis role, under his wing and was very helpful to Irene Papas. A complete reverse approach to the part, the picture, and the people he worked with."
Producer: Sam Zimbalist
Director: Robert Wise
Screenplay: Michael Blankfort
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Editing: Ralph Winters
Music: Miklos Rozsa
Cast: James Cagney (Jeremy Rodock), Don Dubbins (Steve Miller), Stephen McNally (McNulty), Irene Papas (Jocasta Constantine), Vic Morrow (Lars Peterson), Lee Van Cleef (Fat Jones), Royal Dano (Abe), Onslow Stevens (Hearn), Jeanette Nolan (Mrs. Peterson).
C-96m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
By Michael T. Toole
August 7th, 2003, 03:21 AM
Charlton Heston :rolleyes:
Because of a strategic error he made at the battle of Gettysburg, Major Amos Dundee is punished by being sent to command a Texas prison camp. When raiding Apache destroy a nearby ranch and flee to Mexico with two children as captives, Dundee follows in pursuit with a small force from his prison garrison, including condemned Confederate prisoner and boyhood friend of Dundee's, Capt. Benjamin Tyreen. The two clash with each other as often as their skirmishes with the Apaches, and their hostility comes to a head over a beautiful woman captured during a raid on a French garrison in Mexico. Eventually, the Apaches are hunted down and the children are rescued but Dundee's expedition encounters a new threat - French troops - who pursue them aggressively; it is only a suicidal sacrifice from an unexpected source that enables Dundee's unit to return safely across the border. Full of sweeping action scenes and periodic bursts of the kinetic violence for which director Sam Peckinpah would later become famous, Major Dundee (1965) is really the story of the title character's personal journey to hell and back which is juxtaposed with the Captain Bligh-Mr. Christian-like relationship that rages between Dundee and Tyreen.
According to star Charlton Heston, the script for Major Dundee was only partially finished and "badly needing work" when he signed on. Producers brought in former TV Western director Peckinpah to complete the script and direct, largely on the strength of Ride the High Country (1962), a modestly-budgeted Western he made with Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea in the twilight of their long careers (it turned out to be Scott's last movie). Although an excellent writer, Peckinpah had to contend with the pressure of prepping his first big-budget production while sharing an office with Heston, who continually offered unsolicited advice on casting and the script. Even this early in his career, Peckinpah was known as a maverick who didn't trust producers or studio executives and was a heavy drinker with a volatile temper to boot. At the same time, he didn't do much to endear himself to his colleagues on the set, either. According to Heston, Peckinpah tended to "quarrel with the actors and fire the technicians." And Heston himself had numerous run-ins with the director during the grueling location shoot in Mexico, nearly running Peckinpah down on a horse at one point. In his autobiography, In the Arena, Heston wrote "A lot of things went wrong with Dundee; Sam was responsible for most of them. A lot of things went right with it; Sam was responsible for most of those, too. He was...a difficult but very talented man."
The actor also addressed the film's troubled production and numerous on-set conflicts: "One of the most crucial, though none of us realized it at the time, was that Columbia, Sam and I all really had different pictures in mind. Columbia, reasonably enough, wanted a cavalry/Indians film as much like Jack Ford's best as possible. I wanted to be the first to make a film that really explored the Civil War. Sam, though he never said anything like this, really wanted to make The Wild Bunch. That's the movie that was steaming in his psyche." In fact, many people consider the later movie a reworking of Major Dundee, and a chance for Peckinpah to explore themes and find his own directorial style without studio meddling. In the end, the director asked to have his name taken off Major Dundee after the studio took the final cut away from him and, citing budget overruns, refused to allow him to shoot the additional scenes he requested.
Nevertheless, the major strengths of Major Dundee lie in its excellent ensemble cast. Several character actors from this film - Warren Oates, L.Q. Jones, Ben Johnson, and Dub Taylor - would go on to work on The Wild Bunch. Along with fellow Dundee cast members Slim Pickens and R.G. Armstrong, these actors formed an unofficial Peckinpah stock company, each appearing in four to five of the director's films.
For the role of the local girl with whom the company bugler falls in love, Peckinpah wanted a young actress involved at the time with director Budd Boetticher, who was shooting Arruza (1972) in Mexico. In A Portrait in Montage: Peckinpah by Garner Simmons, the director recalled, "So Budd came by and said, 'She's not going to work for you!' And I had to find another actress to play the part. So I was shown a picture of a young Mexican actress and flamenco dancer named Begonia Palacios. She was beautiful, and I ran a picture she made in Mexico, and....I cast her in the picture and later married her - not once, but three times;twice in civil court, once in a church;. So I always tell Budd when I see him, 'Man, you really know how to f*ck a guy up!"
Richard Harris was relatively new to American movies when he made Major Dundee, his first Western. Before signing to appear in Peckinpah's film, he played the lead in Lindsay Anderson's critically acclaimed drama, This Sporting Life (1963) and he had memorable roles in the ensemble casts of The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962). Harris was actually on location for Major Dundee when he learned he had received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for This Sporting Life, yelling, "I've struck a blow for the Irish rebellion!"
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Producer: Jerry Bresler
Screenplay: Harry Julian Fink, Oscar Saul, Sam Peckinpah
Cinematography: Sam Leavitt
Editing: William Lyon, Don Starling, Howard Kunin
Production Design: Alfred Ybarra
Original Music: Daniele Amfitheatrof
Cast: Charlton Heston (Major Dundee), Richard Harris (Capt. Tyreen), Jim Hutton (Lt. Graham), James Coburn (Samuel Potts), Senta Berger (Teresa Santiago), Warren Oates (O.W. Hadley), Michael Anderson, Jr. (Tim Ryan), Mario Adorf (Sergeant Gomez), Brock Peters (Aesop), Slim Pickens (Wiley), Ben Johnson (Sergeant Chillum), R.G. Armstrong (Reverend Dahlstrom), L.Q. Jones (Arthur Hadley), Dub Taylor (Benjamin Priam).
by Rob Nixon
August 7th, 2003, 03:23 AM
Gene Hackman :rolleyes:
Bite the Bullet
Bite the Bullet (1975) is a strong moralistic tale of an endurance race viewed through the eyes of a reluctant participant * Sam Clayton (Gene Hackman). Set at the turn of the century when automobiles were being introduced into the culture and the old West was vanishing, the plot follows Clayton as he enters a grueling, cross-country horserace across 600 miles involving several riders competing for a prize of $2,000. Adversaries at first, the contestants develop a grudging respect for each other as the race progresses and their interaction creates the dramatic tension in the film. For Sam Clayton, the race has a greater significance; it's a chance to renew his fading sense of dignity and pride in this time of change.
After appearing in such introspective and offbeat melodramas as The Conversation (1974) and Night Moves (1975), Gene Hackman was ready for a change of pace and Bite the Bullet with its physically demanding narrative and rugged outdoor setting provided a new challenge for the actor. Hackman later said it was 'the toughest film I ever worked on.' The sixty-eight day location shoot, which moved from Nevada to New Mexico to Colorado, was plagued by every kind of weather from snowstorms to pouring rain and scorching heat. The high attitudes, some above 11,000 feet, also affected some of the cast and crew. Still, Hackman enjoyed himself in his role as Sam Clayton and even had some time off to enjoy his private plane on weekends.
While Bite the Bullet can't really be considered one of the major high points in Gene Hackman's career, despite his solid performance, the film did mark a major turning point in the career of Candice Bergen, who had never taken herself seriously as an actress up to this point - and the critics didn't either. In her autobiography, Knock Wood, the actress recalled her preparation for her role, "I was confident about my riding skills. Not so about my acting skills. Here was a triumph of miscasting by any but athletic standards: I was to play a voluptuous, tough-talking, two-timing prostitute. But it was beginning to dawn on me that I might take some responsibility here - might at least try to remedy my insecurity about the role...On Bite the Bullet there was a moment of truth. I found...some of the responsibility I'd been grouping toward. One morning, heading for location in one of the fleet of station wagons...I fired a small salvo on the dialogue to the other actors in the car...'I can't say this stuff. It's like an anthology of cowboy cliches; Gene Autry had better lines, for God's sake, Roy Rogers...' Suddenly, Gene Hackman, who had been sitting silently beside the driver in the front seat, swiveled sharply and turned his fury on me full force. 'Shut up about the dialogue!...I don't need to hear any more of your wisecracks about how it can't be done. My job is to do it.'
'Gene was right, of course, in all he said...He didn't give a damn about what anyone thought of him, never wasted his time buddying up to the crew or getting chummy on the set. He funneled his energy fiercely into his work, and he did make bad material good, mediocre writing great. Made magic...he was the first person to give me a sense of respect for acting...that was the first time I began to see the complexity, the infinite challenge of my profession."
Directed and produced by Richard Brooks, Bite the Bullet certainly stands as one of the more interesting and entertaining westerns from the 1970's. Among its many assets, besides the presence of Hackman and Bergen, are some fine supporting performances, most notably Ben Johnson as the old cowboy who "just wants to amount to something" and former Andy Warhol groupie Sally Kirkland as a vivacious frontier woman. The evocative cinematography is by Harry Stradling, Jr., and the impressive music score, which received an Oscar nomination, is by Alex North (The film also was nominated in the Best Sound category). Filmed on location in the American Southwest, Bite the Bullet features scenes shot at the White Sands National Monument and footage of the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad which was immortalized in an Ansel Adams photograph and later used as a location in such films as Viva Zapata (1952) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).
Producer/Director/Screenplay: Richard Brooks
Production Design: Robert F. Boyle
Cinematography: Harry Stradling, Jr.
Costume Design: Rita Riggs
Film Editing: George Grenville
Original Music: Alex North
Principal Cast: Gene Hackman (Sam Clayton), Candice Bergen (Miss Jones), James Coburn (Luke Matthews), Ben Johnson ("Mister"), Ian Bannen (Norfolk), Jan-Michael Vincent (Carbo), Dabney Coleman (Jack Parker), Sally Kirkland (Honey).
by Michael T. Toole & Jeff Stafford
August 7th, 2003, 03:26 AM
Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster :D :lol:
One of the most critically acclaimed and financially successful Westerns of the sixties, The Professionals (1966) is a perfect example of a big budget Hollywood action adventure that delivers the goods while at the same time introducing a much more complex and unpredictable narrative than most films in this genre. Immediately we are plunged into the story. It's 1917 and a millionaire's wife (Claudia Cardinale) has been kidnapped for ransom in Mexico. Quickly, the millionaire recruits a group of specialists to rescue his wife Maria. There's the group leader (Lee Marvin), an explosives expert (Burt Lancaster), the horseman (Robert Ryan) and the tracker (Woody Strode). Their mission? To sneak into foreign territory and rescue Maria from the Mexican rebel Raza (Jack Palance). Simple? Of course not.
Shot on location in Death Valley, Lake Mead and the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, The Professionals was not a smooth film shoot by any stretch of the imagination; rain, snow, sleet, the blazing sun, intense desert heat and even a flash flood created complications for the film crew during the eighty day production schedule. Another wild card in the mix was actor Lee Marvin who was so drunk for a scene atop a giant rock that assistant producer Tom Shaw had to intervene for fear that Burt Lancaster would "take Lee Marvin by the ass and throw him off that mountain." On the positive side, The Professionals was a personal success for Lancaster who had just come off a huge box office failure, John Sturges' comedy Western, The Hallelujah Trail (1965). Lancaster's performance as the explosives expert in Brooks' epic is similar in some ways to his cynical mercenary in Vera Cruz (1954), another Western set amid the Mexican Revolution and one which keeps Lancaster's true intentions a secret until the final fadeout.
The Professionals was based on the novel A Mule for the Marquesa by Frank O'Rourke (which oddly enough is listed in the landmark Oxford English Dictionary as one source for the phrase "from soup to nuts"). The film snagged three Oscar nominations: Best Director (for Richard Brooks), Best Color Cinematography (for Conrad L. Hall) and Best Adapted Screenplay. Brooks, who also wrote the screenplay, could have played it safe and just delivered a damsel-in-distress scenario but instead he invested his characters with plenty of surprising quirks and secrets. For instance, the kidnapped wife has her own agenda, just as much as any of her rescuers or the bandit leader, creating an unusual tension. Brooks later said he was "surprised by the success of The Professionals" but perhaps he shouldn't have been. Plans were announced in 2000 for a remake (at one point involving James Bond scripter Bruce Feirstein and possibly director John Woo) but no further information has been provided to date.
Critic and historian Glenn Erickson (he discovered the lost original ending to Kiss Me Deadly, 1955) identifies The Professionals as one of what he's labeled "Mexican Adventure" films. He points out others like The Wild Bunch (1969), Vera Cruz and The Magnificent Seven (1960), noting that "The subgenre of Westerns about gun-toting Americans adventuring in Mexico can be seen as an ever-changing record of U.S. attitudes toward U.S. military intervention overseas, our real 'foreign policy', as it were." If Westerns have always been to some degree about the idea of a frontier then these Mexican Adventure films--and indeed most Westerns made during the 60s and 70s--are also about dealing with a frontier that was slowly closing and one reason these films are often set early in the 20th century instead of late in the 19th century.
Producer/Director: Richard Brooks
Screenplay: Richard Brooks
Art Direction: Edward S. Haworth
Cinematography: Conrad L. Hall
Editing: Peter Zinner
Music: Maurice Jarre
Cast: Burt Lancaster (Bill Dolworth), Lee Marvin (Henry 'Rico' Fardan), Robert Ryan (Hans Ehrengard), Jack Palance (Capt. Jesus Raza), Claudia Cardinale (Maria Grant), Woody Strode (Jake Sharp), Ralph Bellamy (Joe Grant), Joe De Santis (Ortega).
By Lang Thompson
August 7th, 2003, 03:28 AM
Steve MsQueen :rolleyes:
Saturday 08/16/2003 05:30 PM
A follow-up to The Carpetbaggers (1964), Nevada Smith (1966) finds McQueen in the Alan Ladd role, but traces his background in a manner that we'd today call a "prequel." Young Nevada finds his parents brutally slain by a gang of thugs (led by Martin Landau), then teams up with an aging gunfighter (Brian Keith) to learn the skills of gunplay and find the men who murdered his family. A fairly routine story is given life by McQueen's flinty screen presence, with Suzanne Pleshette cast improbably as a Cajun farm worker and character actors like Pat Hingle, Howard Da Silva, Gene Evans and Lyle Bettger rounding things out.
Hathaway was faced with staggering logistical problems, with the movie set amidst 42 locations (in the California mountain ranges of the Long Pine, Bishop and Mammoth mountains) and with 68 speaking parts to contend with. Cinematographer Lucien Ballard used the spectacular scenery to full advantage; Hathaway had used the mountains so many times before that Ballard's camera never catches the same place twice. Interestingly, McQueen's role is quite similar to his character on the then-popular TV series Wanted: Dead Or Alive, with the exception being that bounty hunter Josh Randall stalked men for money while Nevada Smith hunted them for vengeance. Still, it's intriguing to think of McQueen's volatile nature running up against Henry Hathaway's authoritarian direction in this film.
Producer/Director: Henry Hathaway
Screenplay: John Michael Hayes
Cinematography: Lucien Ballard
Editor: Frank Bracht
Art direction: Hal Pereira, Tambi Larsen, Al Roelofs
Music: Alfred Newman
Principal Cast: Steve McQueen (Nevada Smith/Max Sand), Karl Malden (Tom Fitch), Brian Keith (Jonas Cord), Arthur Kennedy (Bill Bowdre), Suzanne Pleshette (Pilar), Pat Hingle (Big Foot Work Camp Trustee), Raf Vallone (Father Zaccardi), Martin Landau (Jesse Coe), Howard De Silva (Warden of Work Camp), Paul Fix (Sheriff Bonnell), Gene Evans (Sam Sand).
C-131m. Closed captioning.
by Jerry Renshaw
August 7th, 2003, 03:31 AM
A Real Classic :rolleyes:
The Magnificent Seven
Saturday 08/16/2003 09:30 PM
Director John Sturges once theorized that it was possible to adapt any story into a Western and proved that hunch by transposing Akira Kurosawa's 1954 art-house hit, The Seven Samurai to a Western setting, replacing the swordsmen with gunfighters, and titling it The Magnificent Seven (1960). Although the basic plot survived the transfer intact - a poor village hires seven armed men to protect them from a marauding band of bandits - Sturges filmed his version in Panavision and color with on-location shooting in Cuernavaca, Mexico. The other main difference was purely cultural. Whereas Kurosawa's film explored samurai honor and social responsibility, Sturges turned The Magnificent Seven into an elegy for a vanishing West once ruled by gunfighters. In a way, The Magnificent Seven could be seen as a forerunner of such influential Westerns by Sam Peckinpah as Ride the High Country (1962) and The Wild Bunch (1969).
The road to production on The Magnificent Seven was a rocky one with conflicting reports of who initiated the project. By most accounts, it was Yul Brynner who first envisioned the Kurosawa film as a Western remake and encouraged movie mogul Walter Mirisch to purchase the rights from Japan's Toho Studios. Mirisch struck up a distribution deal with United Artists but then ran into trouble with Anthony Quinn, who filed a breach of contract suit against Brynner. Quinn claimed he had acquired rights to The Seven Samurai with Brynner and had collaborated with him on several ideas for the remake before they had a parting of the ways. But there was no signed contract and Quinn lost the claim.
There were other obstacles to overcome. The Mexican government censors, who had some major concerns about the depiction of their country as inhospitable, demanded some script changes before granting the film crew permission to shoot in their country. The casting was touch and go for awhile too as Steve McQueen was denied permission to participate by Four Star, the production company for his TV series, Wanted Dead or Alive. He outfoxed them by crashing a rental car and claiming whiplash, which released him from his TV commitments. Although Yul Brynner had final casting decision and had approved McQueen for the film, his relationship with the soon-to-be-famous star would become fiercely competitive on the set of The Magnificent Seven. Brynner, who studied the quick draw with world champion, Rodd Redwing, was no match for McQueen when it came to gunplay. The latter would practice firing for hours each day and learned to shoot two rounds into a one-square-foot target in just eleven hundredths of a second. McQueen also taught Brynner the scene-stealing trick of flicking the gun backward into the holster. However, McQueen remained unimpressed by Brynner's star status at the time and said to one interviewer, "When you work in a scene with Yul, you're supposed to stand perfectly still. I don't work that way."
Perhaps the tension on the set between the two actors improved the film because both Brynner and McQueen are excellent in their roles as Chris and Vin. In fact, Brynner is so closely identified with his character in The Magnificent Seven that he wore the exact same black gunfighter outfit years later as the cyborg killer in the sci-fi thriller, Westworld (1973). The rest of the cast members are equally impressive, particularly James Coburn, who barely has twenty words of dialogue and almost steals the film as the mysterious knife-thrower, Britt. Charles Bronson, who was just a few years away from superstardom in Europe, plays O'Reilly, the stoic woodcutter; Robert Vaughn, soon to be known as TV's The Man from U.N.C.L.E., is Lee, an outlaw wrestling with his fear of death; Brad Dexter co-stars as Harry Luck, the hardened cynic in the group; Horst Buchholz, in the role of the reckless Chino, maintains the same high level of manic energy that Toshiro Mifune brought to the same role in the original version. Last but not least, a mention must be made of Elmer Bernstein's rousing score which was nominated for an Oscar but lost to Ernest Gold's soundtrack for Exodus. If Bernstein's central theme sounds overly familiar, it's because United Artists sold the music to Marlboro cigarettes for use in their television commercials.
Director: John Sturges
Producer: John Sturges, Walter Mirisch, Lou Morheim
Screenplay: William Roberts
Cinematography: Charles Lang Jr.
Editor: Ferris Webster
Art Direction: Edward Fitzgerald
Music: Elmer Bernstein
Cast: Yul Brynner (Chris Adams), Eli Wallach (Calvera), Steve McQueen (Vin), Charles Bronson (Bernardo O'Reilly), Robert Vaughn (Lee).
C-128m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
By Jeff Stafford
August 7th, 2003, 03:34 AM
Richard Boone :rolleyes:
A THUNDER OF DRUMS
The story of a newly commissioned cavalry officer who clashes with his commanding officer at an isolated outpost, A Thunder of Drums (1961) was made during a time when the Western was no longer attracting younger audiences. That's one reason MGM decided to cast George Hamilton in the lead along with Richard Chamberlain (in his screen debut), Luana Patten and guitarist Duane Eddy in supporting roles. However, the real cast member to watch is Charles Bronson, playing a rowdy soldier with an overt fondness for booze and women. For years, Bronson had been typecast as villains or roughnecks but all that began to change after his performance as one of The Magnificent Seven, which was released the previous year. With his athletic build and tight-lipped intensity, Bronson carved out his own niche as an action hero in the coming years and A Thunder of Drums was an excellent early showcase for his burgeoning talents.
Aside from Bronson, A Thunder of Drums is also notable for the involvement of James Warner Bellah, a controversial author who made a name for himself by writing a series of pulp magazine stories about the U.S. Cavalry. Famed director John Ford took early notice of Bellah, adapting many of his cavalry stories printed in The Saturday Evening Post for his informal "Cavalry Trilogy," Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), Rio Grande (1950) and later Sergeant Rutledge (1960). Bellah, an unrepentant misanthrope once described by his own son as "a fascist, a racist, and a world-class bigot," saw Native Americans as the "red beast in the night." In most of his films adapted from Bellah stories, Ford countered this contemptuous viewpoint by granting Indians a sense of dignity and humanity. In Fort Apache, for example, the Indians are not the villainous, mysterious "Other," but the victims of government-sanctioned scoundrels. Despite their racial disagreements, Ford and Bellah agreed on one thing: the valor and pride of the military. The cavalry was basically honorable and uncomplicated by psychological neuroses or social bugaboos.
In A Thunder of Drums, Bellah's cavalry unit is still beset by a savage, invisible "Other," but this time the enemy is a war-making Apache tribe. Unlike Ford's pictures, with the exception of Sergeant Rutledge, where racial inequalities were indeed an obvious problem for the military, the cavalry in A Thunder of Drums is not as harmonious as the units in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon or Rio Grande; there is discord among the upper echelons of command as well as the lower ranks. Even more obvious is the low morale among the troops. While Ford's troops often depart or return to their outposts amidst a stirring anthem, the cavalry in A Thunder of Drums are more likely to return from their missions in a defeated manner. The film's unsentimental tone is underscored by the cavalry's hard-nosed leader (Richard Boone) when he claims the best soldiers are bachelors, since they have to mourn only their own deaths. Questions of the military's authority are also raised when George Hamilton's junior officer is seemingly unable to provide true leadership in crisis situations, prompting the central conflict between Hamilton and Boone. And in the very first scene, that of a house being invaded, both literally and sexually, by marauding Indians, we're given the sense that John Ford's cavalry is no longer able to protect everyone from harm on the vast frontier. The sanctity and security of the next generation is left in question as a little girl who witnesses the savage attack is left a traumatized mute.
In some ways, the questioning of military might contextualizes A Thunder of Drums as a pre-Vietnam Western, simmering with the social unrest of the 1960s. But that may be assigning too much importance to it. The real enjoyment here is seeing rising stars like Bronson interact with Western veterans like Richard Boone (star of TV's Have Gun, Will Travel) and Slim Pickens. And let's not forget the novelty of seeing rock 'n' roller Duane Eddy, who invented the 'twangy' guitar sound in instrumentals like "Rebel Rouser," as a horse soldier, crooning songs like "Water from a Bad Well" and "The Ballad of Camden Yates."
Producer: Robert Enders
Director: Joseph Newman
Screenplay: James Warner Bellah
Art Direction: George W. Davis, Gabriel Scognamillo
Cinematography: William W. Spencer
Editing: Ferris Webster
Music: Harry Sukman
Cast: Richard Boone (Capt. Stephen Maddocks), George Hamilton (Lt. Curtis McQuade), Luana Patten (Tracey Hamilton), Arthur O'Connell (Sgt. Rodermill), Charles Bronson (Trooper Hanna), Richard Chamberlain (Lt. Porter), James Douglas (Lt. Gresham), Duane Eddy (Trooper Eddy), Slim Pickens (Trooper Erschick). C-97m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Scott McGee
August 7th, 2003, 03:37 AM
Charles Bronson :rolleyes:
With its runaway train ride, Breakheart Pass (1975) provided a perfect vehicle for Yakima Canutt's final assignment as a stunt coordinator. The screen legend, who had started out starring in silent westerns and capped his career staging the chariot race in Ben-Hur (1959), took a final bow after more than 50 years in the business with this 1975 western adventure.
Like the classic Stagecoach (1939), Breakheart Pass features a band of desperate characters -- a state governor, an Army major, a minister, a doctor and a young innocent -- whose trip through the wild West is complicated by the presence of a fugitive from justice (Charles Bronson)...or is he? They come together on a train speeding to a disease-stricken frontier outpost with a precious cargo of medicine...or is it? As passengers start turning up dead, it quickly becomes clear that nothing on this twisted train ride is what it seems.
Charles Bronson was still riding high on the success of Death Wish (1974) when he returned to the Western, the genre that had made him an international star in Once Upon a Time in the West (1969). His director, Tom Gries, had already made one of the modern classics of the genre in Will Penny (1968), starring Charlton Heston and, like this film, beautifully shot by Lucien Ballard. As an added attraction, Alistair MacLean, whose best sellers had served as the basis for such action hits as The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Where Eagles Dare (1968), adapted his own novel for the screen; it was only the second time he had done so.
Along with the daredevil stunts, the film is greatly aided by a strong supporting cast, including Oscar®-winner Ben Johnson as the U.S. Marshal who thinks he's taking Bronson to justice, Richard Crenna as the governor, Charles Durning as a businessman, Ed Lauter as the Army Major on his way to take command at the fort and Bronson's wife and frequent co-star, Jill Ireland, as an innocent passenger aboard the train. Former light heavyweight champ Archie Moore dukes it out with Bronson in a classic fight scene aboard the train. Cast as a friendly lady of the evening is Sally Kirkland, once noted as the first actress to appear naked in a legitimate New York stage production (Sweet Eros by Terrence McNally in 1968) and now better known as the Oscar®-nominated star of the independent hit Anna (1987); she's also an ordained minister.
An entertaining hybrid that was part suspense thriller and part Western, Breakheart Pass proved to be one of Bronson's biggest hits. Along with such other favorites that year as Breakout, also directed by Gries and co-starring Ireland, and Hard Times, which co-starred Ireland and James Coburn, it helped Bronson rise to the number four spot on the year's list of top box-office stars.
Producer: Elliott Kastner, Jerry Gershwin
Director: Tom Gries
Screenplay: Alistair MacLean, based on his novel
Cinematography: Lucien Ballard
Score: Jerry Goldsmith
Art Direction: Johannes Larsen
Cast: Charles Bronson (John Deakin/John Murray), Ben Johnson (Deputy U.S. Marshal Nathan Pearce), Richard Crenna (Governor Richard Fairchild), Jill Ireland (Marcia Scoville), Charles Durning (Frank O'Brien), Ed Lauter (Major Claremont), David Huddleston (Dr. Molyneux), Archie Moore (Carlos the Chef), Sally Kirkland (Jane-Marie). C-95m.
by Frank Miller
August 7th, 2003, 05:13 AM
BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID
The tagline for the ad campaign for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) was "Not that it matters, but most of it is true." What does matter is that the film is a wonderfully entertaining western which at once debunks the myth of the Old West, and mourns its passing. What also matters is that it gave huge boosts to the careers of stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford, director George Roy Hill, and screenwriter William Goldman.
Butch and Sundance are a pair of amiable, not-too-bright robbers, members of the legendary Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. But they're finding it harder to practice their profession, since they're relentlessly pursued by a super-posse intent on wiping them out. They escape to Bolivia, and become legends all over again as the "Yanqui banditos," but once again the law closes in.
Writer William Goldman was fascinated with the saga of Robert Leroy Parker (AKA Butch Cassidy) and Harry Longbaugh (AKA the Sundance Kid), which, surprisingly, had never been made into a film before. Goldman researched their story on and off for eight years before writing the screenplay. During that period, he was writing novels (Harry Longbaugh was one of the many pseudonyms he used) and eventually, screenplays. Most of the story was, indeed, true. It's true that Butch never killed anyone until he got to Bolivia and he really did use too much dynamite to blow up a safe, destroying the money as well. A super-posse really was formed to hunt them down, and the boys really did run off to Bolivia because of it (although they left before the posse actually began pursuit). There really was an Etta Place, and she did go with them. The circumstances of the final shootout, if not the details, are also true.
Goldman wrote the screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with Jack Lemmon and Paul Newman in mind for the leads. 20th-Century-Fox, which bought the script, had other ideas. They thought Newman was fine, but wanted Steve McQueen as his co-star. McQueen was interested...until he found out that Newman would get top billing. Fox head of production Richard Zanuck tried and failed to get Marlon Brando, then offered the part to Warren Beatty. Newman was not happy about that, and was having other doubts, too. His past efforts at comedy had flopped, and he decided he couldn't play comedy. Director George Roy Hill had to convince him otherwise, eventually persuading the actor to support his own choice for Sundance - a rising young actor named Robert Redford.
Newman and Redford became fast friends, and all of the participants remember a production filled with raucous but friendly arguments, and many practical jokes. Even a problem in filming one sequence was turned into an asset. The New York montage had been written as a dialogue scene and Hill hoped to shoot these sequences on a huge New York set which had been built for Hello Dolly! (1969), then in production. But Hello Dolly! would not open until after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Fox executives didn't want to dilute the set's impact, so they refused Hill permission to use it. Possibly inspired by photographs of the real Butch, Sundance, and Etta in New York, Hill settled for shooting stills on the Dolly sets, and making the sequence a montage of the photos. It proved to be an excellent pacing device, and an effective marker between the two halves of the film.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid received mixed reviews from the critics, but the public cast the final vote. The film took in well over $30 million, and became the highest grossing western in history. Paul Newman became king of the box office that year, and Robert Redford became a bankable star. George Roy Hill and William Goldman also became major Hollywood players. The film won four Academy Awards; for the song, "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head," and for cinematography, screenplay, and original score. It was nominated for three more: Best Picture (Midnight Cowboy won), Best Direction, and Best Sound. Hill, Newman and Redford reunited for The Sting (1973), which was even bigger at the box office than Butch Cassidy, and won a Best Picture Oscar.
The affection both Newman and Redford felt for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and their characters is evidenced in the names they've given to their favorite personal projects: Redford's Sundance Institute, a center for training and supporting new filmmakers, and Newman's Hole-in-the-Wall camp for children with debilitating illnesses.
Director: George Roy Hill
Producer: Paul Monash, John Foreman
Screenplay: William Goldman
Editor: John C. Howard, Richard C. Meyer
Cinematography: Conrad Hall
Costume Design: Edith Head
Art Direction: Jack Martin Smith, Philip Jefferies
Music: Burt Bacharach
Cast: Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy), Robert Redford (Sundance Kid), Katharine Ross (Etta Place), Strother Martin (Percy Garris), Henry Jones (bike salesman), Jeff Corey (Sheriff Bledsoe), Cloris Leachman (Agnes), Ted Cassidy (Harvey Logan), Kenneth Mars (Marshal).
By Margarita Landazu
August 7th, 2003, 05:16 AM
Lee Van Cleef
"The man with gunsight eyes." That's the phrase the film posters used to describe Lee Van Cleef in Sabata (1970), an enormously entertaining spaghetti Western that spawned two sequels. It also helped Van Cleef achieve the kind of success in Europe that he was forever denied in Hollywood where he was mostly typecast as villains in B-movies like The Big Combo (1955) and China Gate (1957). After traveling to Italy to make For a Few Dollars More for Sergio Leone in 1966, Van Cleef remained there and became an international star, thanks to his indomitable presence in such influential "Spaghetti Westerns" as Death Rides a Horse (1968), The Big Gundown (1966), and of course, Sabata.
Directed by Gianfranco Parolini (his name was anglicized for American audiences as Frank Kramer), Sabata is the story of an uneasy partnership between two men, a steely-eyed bounty hunter (Van Cleef) and a street musician (William Berger) whose banjo doubles as a gun. Their plan? To blackmail a bank robber who is hiding behind a mask of respectability in his small town. By the end of the film, the duo have effectively decimated everyone who stands in their way of a $60,000 ransom and you know only one man will walk away with that.
Even though Sabata is set in Texas during the 19th century, this is not the American West you're used to seeing in the films of John Ford and Delmer Daves. Not only does it have a title character who travels with as many gadgets as James Bond or James West but it features a frontier town populated with Las Vegas-like showgirls, knife-welding drunks and cowboy acrobats (Director Parolini, who worked in circuses in his youth, would often pay homage to his former profession by featuring acrobats in his films). The carnival-like atmosphere is further enhanced by exaggerated sound effects, bizarre camera angles, and Marcello Giombini's playful score which would make a great CD release.
Producer: Alberto Grimaldi
Director: Gianfranco Parolini
Screenplay: Gianfranco Parolini
Production Design: Carlo Simi
Cinematography: Sandro Mancori
Costume Design: Carlo Simi
Film Editing: Edmond Lozzi
Original Music: Marcello Giombini
Principal Cast: Lee Van Cleef (Sabata), William Berger (Banjo), Ignazio Spalla (Carrincha), Nick Jordan (Indio), Linda Veras (Jane), Franco Ressel (Stengel).
By Jeff Stafford
August 7th, 2003, 05:21 AM
Support Your Local Sheriff
Saturday 08/23/2003 05:30 PM
Friday 10/17/2003 08:00 PM
Although he said he was sick of Westerns after his long run in the TV series Maverick (1957-1960) and several big screen horse operas, or perhaps because of that sentiment, James Garner was happy to produce this parody of the genre under the aegis of his Cherokee production company. The hilarious Western spoof proved to be such a hit, the star went on to do a sequel, Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971), and another period comedy about a couple of guys, one white and one black, who exploit slavery and American racial prejudice for financial gain, Skin Game (1971).
In Support Your Local Sheriff, Garner plays a man trying to make his way to Australia (a running gag throughout the story) who finds himself financially strapped in a small frontier town. He reluctantly accepts the job as sheriff and hires the town drunk as his deputy. Garner arrests a notorious outlaw and forces him to build a new jail, bringing down the wrath of the outlaw's grizzly old father. In a climactic shoot-out, a fractured version of the legendary Wyatt Earp's gunfight at the OK Corral, the sheriff defeats the gang with the help of an apparently empty cannon. There's a fun homage/spoof here of other serious depictions of Earp's famous fight, especially in Walter Brennan's self-parody of a very similar role he played as patriarch of the Clanton gang in John Ford's My Darling Clementine (1946).
The film knocks the stuffing out of some hoary old Western cliches but also displays affection for the genre, thanks to an amiable script and the direction of Burt Kennedy, who began his career writing screenplays for the small-scale, offbeat Westerns of director Budd Boetticher in the 1950s. Throughout the following decade, Kennedy distinguished himself directing more serious and bloody examples of the genre, including Welcome to Hard Times (1967) and The War Wagon (1967), as well as episodes of the TV series Lawman (1962) and The Virginian (1962).
For a film as lighthearted as Support Your Local Sheriff, the project began with its share of headaches and bad feelings. Paramount Pictures obtained a copy of the script before shooting began and quickly fired off a threatening letter to United Artists, the movie's distributor, noting that the opening sequence of the film in which the female lead, Joan Hackett, finds gold in an open grave closely paralleled the opening scenes of Paramount's musical Western Paint Your Wagon (1969). The studio warned the plot as written constituted a copyright infringement, leading United Artists to shoot a message to Garner and his Cherokee company holding them legally responsible for any problems. Garner's attorney immediately responded that there was no infringement because the disputed passages were taken from a previous printed work, Recollections of the California Mines. Production went forward and although some correspondence between the studios continued, the conflict eventually died quietly without any court battles.
Director: Burt Kennedy
Producer: William Bowers
Screenplay: William Bowers
Cinematography: Harry Stradling, Jr.
Editing: George W. Brooks
Art Design: Leroy Coleman
Music: Jeff Alexander
Cast: James Garner (Jason McCullough), Joan Hackett (Prudy Perkins), Walter Brennan (Pa Danby), Jack Elam (Jake), Bruce Dern (Joe Danby), Harry Morgan (Mayor Olly Perkins), Henry Jones (Henry Jackson), Gene Evans (Tom Danby), Kathleen Freeman (Mrs. Danvers), Willis Bouchey (Thomas Devery).
C-93m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Rob Nixon
August 7th, 2003, 05:29 AM
Duel at Diablo
Friday 10/10/2003 11:30 PM
By the mid-60s, James Garner was ready to move on from his TV series, Maverick, which first brought him to the attention of the public. Swearing he was through saddling up on screen, he nevertheless signed on as both star and co-producer of Duel at Diablo (1966). Garner was enticed into the role largely because of working with the respected director Ralph Nelson and a sterling cast made up of Oscar-winner Sidney Poitier, Swedish actress (and Ingmar Bergman mainstay) Bibi Andersson in her first American picture, and character actor Dennis Weaver, in a departure from his role as the stiff-legged, good-natured Deputy Chester Goode on the TV series Gunsmoke (1955-64). Garner's decision was well-justified by the resulting healthy box office (he was then a star with a reliable record for hits) and good reviews for the film, many of which focused on his fine portrayal as an ex-Scout bent on revenge after his Indian wife has been murdered and scalped by a white man.
Garner and Poitier, as an ex-soldier turned horse-breaker, join a cavalry group escorting a shipment of ammo to a remote fort, a simple-enough plot built around a fairly standard Indians-versus-cavalry formula, but Nelson keeps the action moving (the caravan is repeatedly attacked by Indians) and the drama intense with strong underlying racial themes. All this is helped by solid performances from all the actors, many of them cast against type.
The film's director had enough of a pedigree to have it identified in some releases as Ralph Nelson's Duel at Diablo. Not exactly a household name today, Nelson began his career with a major role in bringing innovative and quality productions to live dramatic programming in the early days of television. He won an Emmy for the hard-hitting drama Requiem for a Heavyweight (1956), and brought the story to the big screen in 1962. His work often focuses on issues of race, ethnicity, and prejudice: Lilies of the Field (1963), which earned Sidney Poitier an Academy Award, the first for an African-American actor in a lead role; the controversial pro-Indian Western and Vietnam allegory Soldier Blue (1970); and A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich (1978), with Cicely Tyson and Paul Winfield. In Duel at Diablo, however, Poitier's race is never an issue. The film is concerned instead with the plight of the American Indian.
Poitier had more on his mind than racial issues at the time of shooting. He had been carrying on a passionate but mostly secretive affair with actress-singer Diahann Carroll (they were both married at the time), who was pregnant at the start of production. Impatient with the uncertainty of their relationship, Carroll decided to have an abortion, spurring the usually cool-headed Poitier to a furious outburst and precipitating the end of their attachment.
Duel at Diablo features former stuntman and frequent Western supporting player Richard Farnsworth in a small un-credited role. Farnsworth was Oscar-nominated as Best Supporting Actor for Comes a Horseman (1978) and as Best Actor in David Lynch's The Straight Story (1999). He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in October 2000 after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Director: Ralph Nelson
Producer: Fred Engel, Ralph Nelson
Screenplay: Marvin H. Albert, Michael M. Grilikhes
Cinematography: Charles F. Wheeler
Editing: Fredric Steinkamp
Art Direction: Alfred Ybarra
Music: Neil Hefti
Cast: James Garner (Jess Remsberg), Sidney Poitier (Toller), Bibi Andersson (Ellen Grange), Dennis Weaver (Willard Grange), Bill Travers (Lt. McAllister), William Redfield (Sgt. Ferguson), John Hoyt (Chata), Eddie Little Sky (Alchise), John Crawford (Clay Dean), Kevin Coughlin (Norton), Richard Farnsworth (uncredited).
By Rob Nixon
August 7th, 2003, 05:32 AM
William Holden :rolleyes:
Sunday 08/31/2003 03:30 AM
The only thing they can stick to is each other.
Tag line for Wild Rovers
Blake Edwards returned to his roots for Wild Rovers (1971), a tale about two would-be bank robbers; one, an aging cowboy, the other, a naive tenderfoot. Edwards had started his acting career with a role in the 1942 Western Ten Gentlemen From West Point, then broke into writing and producing at Allied Artists in 1948 and 1949 with a pair of low-budget oaters, Panhandle and Stampede. In addition, Wild Rovers gave him the chance to work with William Holden, something he had wanted to do for years. The two had met in the '40s, when both were working at Columbia Pictures, but had not become friends until 1964, when they were briefly attached to The Americanization of Emily (both would drop out before filming).
Edwards was coming off the biggest failure of his career, the expensive musical flop Darling Lili (1970), when he went to MGM for this picture about dealing with age and changing times. He was so personally involved in the film that it marked the first time in his career that he wrote an original screenplay without a collaborator. Following the success of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969, buddy pictures and westerns were considered surefire box office. With Holden's recent success in The Wild Bunch (1969), the film seemed like a solid investment. But Edwards wasn't interested in directing a conventional western. His film focused more on the friendship between Holden's aging cowhand, Ross Bodine, and a young innocent, Frank Post, played by rising star Ryan O'Neal, who had just finished Love Story (1970). Feeling they've accomplished little with their lives, the two decide to rob a bank, then have to escape a posse relentlessly led by the sons (Tom Skerritt and Joe Don Baker) of their former boss (Karl Malden). Their voyage takes them through scenes of changing times in the West as they fall prey to a series of accidents that had critics calling the picture the first existentialist Western.
During production, the two stars forged a close relationship, particularly after they decided to drive together from Arizona to Utah during location shooting. O'Neal was fascinated with the older actor and begged for stories about his career, his working methods and his life. For his part, Holden took a liking to the young actor and, according to Edwards' wife, Julie Andrews, "held out his hand and gave the picture to Ryan." When O'Neal won an Oscar® nomination for Love Story during shooting, Holden even convinced him to attend the Academy Awards® as a show of respect for the actors who had voted for him.
Unfortunately, Edwards' thoughtful, slow-moving film wasn't quite what studio executives had expected. Although he considered it his best work ever, the studio cut 24 minutes out of the film before its release, a move that left him understandably bitter. And though Holden got strong notices, most of the reviewers complained that the film departed too much from genre formulas. As a result, Wild Rovers was one of the year's biggest box-office disappointments, contributing further to Edwards' career slump. He wouldn't bounce back until the mid-'70s, when he re-united with Peter Sellers for a series of sequels to their original The Pink Panther. Yet the very characteristics that alienated critics and audiences initially, led to the birth of a Wild Rovers cult. In more recent years, fans have come to treasure the film for its thoughtful pace and focus on the growing relationship between Holden and O'Neal, elements that were strengthened when Edwards produced a 136-minute directors cut years later (TCM will be showing this version). Surprisingly, the film also developed a core of gay fans who read a romantic subtext into the relationship and even used one of the film's strongest images -- O'Neal with his arms around Holden's waist as they share a horse -- on posters for gay rights rallies.
Producer: Blake Edwards, Ken Wales
Director: Blake Edwards
Screenplay: Blake Edwards
Cinematography: Philip Lathrop
Art Direction: George W. Davis, Addison Hehr
Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Principal Cast: William Holden (Ross Bodine), Ryan O'Neal (Frank Post), Karl Malden (Walter Buckman), Tom Skerritt (John Buckman), Joe Don Baker (Paul Buckman), James Olson (Joe Billings), Leora Dana (Nell Buckman), Moses Gunn (Ben), Victor French (Sheriff), Rachel Roberts (Maybell).
by Frank Miller
August 7th, 2003, 05:35 AM
Gary Cooper :rolleyes:
Gary Cooper cemented his reputation as an icon of the Western screen in William Wyler's 1940 film The Westerner. He stars as Cole Hardin, a wandering horseman who is brought before the kangaroo court of the colorful but deadly Judge Roy Bean (Walter Brennan). Playing upon Bean's obsession with musical actress Lily Langtry, Hardin talks his way out of the hangman's noose, and strikes up a friendship with the hard-drinking, short-tempered, self-proclaimed "judge." Hardin soon learns that the territory is involved in violent range wars (a dispute between cattlemen and farmers over land rights) and lends his support to the homesteaders -- becoming attracted to Jane-Ellen Mathews (Doris Davenport), the daughter of an aging corn farmer (Fred Stone). But when Bean violates his word and allows the farmers' crops to be burned, Hardin has himself deputized and prepares for a final confrontation with the west Texas dictator.
Cooper was not at first interested in the role of Cole Hardin because, in the early drafts of the script, the film revolved around the character of Bean. "I couldn't figure for the life of me why they needed me for this picture," Cooper said, "I had a very minor part. It didn't require any special effort." Screenwriters Niven Busch (Duel in the Sun, 1946) and Jo Swerling (It's a Wonderful Life, 1946) expanded the role (additional material was written by playwright Lillian Hellman) but it was still not to Cooper's satisfaction. Finally, when Goldwyn threatened to sue the actor for violation of his contract, Cooper agreed to play the lead, "with the express understanding that I am doing so under protest." Cooper underestimated the script, for it stands among the most highly regarded films of his career, though he was entirely accurate in predicting who would get the glory. For his performance as the ornery Judge Roy Bean, Walter Brennan won the Academy Award for supporting actor (his third Oscar in five years). Cooper was not nominated, though he would win the Oscar the following year for Sergeant York (1941).
Goldwyn handsomely budgeted the film at $1 million (a substantial amount for a "mere" Western), allowing four weeks of location shooting eight miles outside of Tucson, Arizona. He also funded the herding of 7,000 head of cattle, which was at that time the most that had ever been gathered for a motion picture sequence. While on location, the cast and crew would rise each day at six a.m., recalled Freda Rosenblatt, who traveled with the company, "There would be snow and ice on the ground. By ten the sun would come out and we'd bake. We'd shoot till sundown. Then we'd go back to the Santa Rita Hotel in Tucson and have dinner. At night we'd watch rushes from the day before. Lots of times Willy would want a rewrite for the next day. The crew, including Willy, didn't get much sleep. In the morning we'd start all over again."
Wyler planned to cast his wife, Margaret "Talli" Wyler in the role of Jane-Ellen, but Goldwyn was insistent that the part go to Davenport, who had only appeared in bit parts, and whom the producer believed had breakthrough potential. The Westerner failed to make a star of the actress, and she retired after making one other film, Behind the News (1940).
In the 1940s, the Western entered a new era, leaving behind some of the clear-cut divisions between good and evil that was a defining trait of the genre, but one that limited its thematic complexity. The Westerner was the first in a series of cowboy pictures that grayed the white hat/black hat distinctions of the formula Western. The friendship between Hardin and Judge Bean is the true focus of the film -- much more so than the Texas range wars or even Hardin's relationship with Jane-Ellen. Hardin and Bean enact a dark romance of trickery, back-slapping camaraderie and cold-blooded murder that one sees echoed again and again in the timeless Westerns of its decade -- between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday in My Darling Clementine (1946), Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid in The Outlaw (19 43), and Thomas Dunson and Matt Garth in Red River (1948).
Perhaps the shadow of World War II helped cultivate this more cynical approach to the once rigid codes of the Western, as if filmmakers were acknowledging that a chapter of American film -- like the West itself, the very source of so many cinematic myths and legends -- had come to a close. This sense of loss gives films such as The Westerner their elegiac tone, and allowed the genre to take on new emotional resonance.
Much of the film's haunting tone is due to the brilliant camerawork of Gregg Toland (Citizen Kane, 1941). The typically sunny West is, through Toland's lens, a place of looming clouds, dingy barrooms and heavy shadow. One scene in particular showcases Toland's work, that in which Hardin stands silhouetted at nightfall amid the farmer's burned-out crops, as Jane-Ellen reads over the grave of her father from a Bible, its pages charred by the fire that has destroyed her home. This scene -- with its skeletal stalks of scorched corn -- no doubt helped James Basevi score an Academy Award nomination for art direction. Basevi also designed an elaborate recreation of the Fort Davis Grand Opera House, where the film's climax is played out in an especially memorable sequence.
Wyler and Toland made seven films together, including Dead End (1937), Wuthering Heights (1939), and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). At first their working relationship was strained. "I was in the habit of saying, 'Put the camera here with a forty-millimeter lens, move it to this way, pan over here, do this.'" remembered Wyler, "Well, he was not used to that. Making Westerns at Universal, I directed the camera work. I considered it part of my job. You don't do that with a man like Gregg Toland... He was an artist."
For Wyler, The Westerner was a homecoming of sorts. He had gotten his start as director by proving the speed (and quality) at which he could churn out two-reel Westerns -- a total of 21 between 1925 and 1927. In 1930 he abandoned the genre after The Storm, but would return to the American West a final time in 1958 with The Big Country.
Director: William Wyler
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn
Screenplay: Jo Swerling and Niven Busch
Based on a story by Stuart N. Lake
Cinematography: Gregg Toland
Production Design: James Basevi
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin and Alfred Newman
Cast: Gary Cooper (Cole Hardin), Walter Brennan (Judge Roy Bean), Doris Davenport (Jane Ellen Mathews), Fred Stone (Caliphet Mathews), Chill Wills (Southeast), Lilian Bond (Lily Langtry).
BW-100m. Closed captioning.
By Bret Wood
August 7th, 2003, 05:37 AM
More Gary Cooper :rolleyes:
Marshall Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is looking forward to his honeymoon with his new bride Amy (Grace Kelly). But as he and his wife prepare to leave town, Kane is informed that Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), his former nemesis, is out of jail and on the way to Hadleyville for a showdown with him. Not one to back down from a confrontation, Kane decides to postpone his honeymoon and face the murderous outlaw and his gang. However, as the lone sheriff attempts to enlist some of the townspeople to help him, he quickly discovers that no one is willing to risk their life beside him. As the minutes tick away toward the final showdown, Kane prepares to meet his fate alone.
In his biography, A Life in the Movies, director Fred Zinnemann noted that High Noon "seems to mean different things to different people. (Some speculate that it is an allegory on the Korean War!) [Stanley] Kramer, who had worked closely with [Carl] Foreman on the script, said it was about 'a town that died because no one there had the guts to defend it.' Somehow this seemed to be an incomplete explanation. Foreman saw it as an allegory on his own experience of political pesecution in the McCarthy era. With due respect I felt this to be a narrow point of view. First of all I saw it simply as a great movie yarn, full of enormously interesting people. I vaguely sensed deeper meanings in it; but only later did it dawn on me that this was not a regular Western myth....To me it was the story of a man who must make a decision according to his conscience. His town - symbol of a democracy gone soft - faces a horrendous threat to its people's way of life....It is a story that still happens everywhere, every day....The entire action was designed by Foreman and Kramer to take place in the exact screening time of the film - less than ninety minutes."
High Noon proved to be a huge critical and popular success when released and garnered seven Oscar nominations including Best Picture prior to the 1953 Academy Awards ceremony that year (It won statues for Gary Cooper (Best Actor), Best Film Editing, Best Music Score and Best Song ("Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'"), which was performed in the film by Tex Ritter (It also became a hit for Western balladeer Frankie Laine). Kramer noted in his biography, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: A Life in Hollywood, "that High Noon's defeat in the Oscar race by Cecil B. DeMille's circus picture, The Greatest Show on Earth, had to be largely political, and I'm not referring to the unspoken old-boy politics of Hollywood's inner circle. I still believe High Noon was the best picture of 1952, but the political climate of the nation and the right-wing campaigns after High Noon had enough effect to relegate it to an also-ran status. Popular as it was, it could not overcome the climate in which it was released. Carl Foreman, who wrote it, had by then taken off for England under a cloud of accusations as a result of his political beliefs. Between the time he turned in the script and the time the Academy voted, we all learned that he had been a member of the Communist Party, but anyone who has seen the picture knows that he put no Communist propaganda into the story. If he had tried to do so, I would have taken it out."
Producer: Stanley Kramer, Carl Foreman
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Screenplay: Carl Foreman, based on the story "The Tin Star" by John W. Cunningham
Cinematography: Floyd Crosby
Editing: Elmo Williams
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Art Direction: Ben Hayne
Cast: Gary Cooper (Marshal Will Kane), Grace Kelly (Amy Kane), Thomas Mitchell (Jonas Henderson), Lloyd Bridges (Harvey Pell), Katy Jurado (Helen Ramirez), Otto Kruger (Judge Percy Mettrick), Lon Chaney, Jr. (Martin Howe), Harry Morgan (Sam Fuller), Ian MacDonald (Frank Miller), Lee Van Cleef (Jack Colby), Sheb Wooley (Ben Miller).
BW-85m. Closed captioning.
by Scott McGee & Jeff Stafford
August 7th, 2003, 05:40 AM
James Stewart :rolleyes:
Friday 09/26/2003 08:00 PM
Late in James Stewart's career, at a time when Hollywood was cutting back on its annual output, releasing either big-budget musicals (for which he was unsuited) or small, offbeat independent films like Pretty Poison (1968, which were equally out of his realm), James Stewart stuck with what worked best for him throughout the preceding decade - the Western. That genre, too, had changed somewhat over the years, and Firecreek (1968) reflected the changing times. For example, the movie╒s brutality - an attempted rape scene, Stewart's killing of an outlaw with a pitchfork through the chest, ugly dirty villains, and a moody score (by multiple Oscar-winner Alfred Newman) - was obviously influenced by the European-produced "Spaghetti Westerns" that made a star of Clint Eastwood.
The plot, however, is a throwback to one of the classics of the genre, High Noon (1952). In Firecreek, it's Stewart as the pacifist sheriff rather than Gary Cooper, and just like that earlier film, he finds he has to single handedly protect a town of cowards against a brutal outlaw band. And similar to the climax of High Noon, Stewart is saved from certain death by a gun-welding woman - but not his wife. Instead, it's the saloonkeeper's daughter, who has tried to coax the chief villain into renouncing his evil ways.
In an interesting twist, the villain of the piece is played by Stewart's old pal, Henry Fonda, in their first movie together since On Our Merry Way in 1948. (They were both in How the West Was Won, 1962, but did not have any scenes together.) Firecreek, though, wasn't entirely a positive experience for Fonda, who wasn't used to playing heavies. The man who had played presidents (most notably in Young Mr. Lincoln, 1939), Wyatt Earp (My Darling Clementine, 1946), and Steinbeck's Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940), was now delivering lines like: "I always say if a man's worth shootin', he's worth killin'." Years later in his autobiography, Fonda wrote, "I played a bad guy who tried to kill Jim Stewart. Now, any man who tries to kill Jim Stewart has to be marked as a man who's plain rotten. You can't get much worse than that." Actually, Fonda did get a whole lot worse. A year later he played one of the screen's most cold-blooded killers in Once Upon a Time in the West (1969), an epic Spaghetti Western directed by Sergio Leone, the man who practically invented that sub-genre.
The director of Firecreek, Vincent McEveety, and his two producers, Philip Leacock and John Mantley, came primarily from TV backgrounds, having spent some time laboring on the classic western series Gunsmoke. (McEveety also did a number of Star Trek episodes.) Fonda had praise for the director's skills with actors and even credited McEveety for not letting Stewart "get away with" his usual mannerisms, "things Jimmy Stewart has used to make a caricature of himself almost." Apparently, such sentiments did not affect their working relationship because a short time later, Fonda and Stewart teamed up again, this time for a bawdy, lighthearted Western comedy, The Cheyenne Social Club (1970). As for McEveety, he followed Firecreek with a handful of successful Disney Pictures, including The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979), but has mostly focused on his television career.
Director: Vincent McEveety
Producer: Philip Leacock, John Mantley
Screenplay: Calvin Clements
Cinematography: William H. Clothier
Editing: William Ziegler
Art Direction: Howard Hollander
Original Music: Alfred Newman
Cast: James Stewart (Johnny Cobb), Henry Fonda (Larkin), Inger Stevens (Evelyn), Gary Lockwood (Earl), Dean Jagger (Whittier), Ed Begley (Preacher Boyles), Jay C. Flippen (Mr. Pittman), Jack Elam (Earl Norman), James Best (Drew), Barbara Luna (Meli), Brooke Bundy (Leah).
August 7th, 2003, 11:45 AM
Burt Lancaster :rolleyes:
Along with Broken Arrow (1950), the story of Cochise, Apache (1954) was the beginning of a new approach to the representation of Native Americans on screen. The sympathetic view of the plight of the oppressed Apache nation and the portrayal of the main character, the warrior Massai, as a complex individual rather than a bloodthirsty savage, was the main factor in attracting Burt Lancaster, a lifelong liberal and social activist, to the project. A major box office star for nearly a decade thanks to his good looks and athletic abilities, Lancaster had already begun his strategy to escape typecasting and find projects that were meaningful and different. Early in his career he formed his own company to find and produce worthwhile projects, and in 1952, he and business partner Harold Hecht purchased Paul Wellman's 1936 novel Bronco Apache with an eye to producing it as a Lancaster vehicle.
Wellman's story told of Massai, derived from a historical figure who waged a last stand against the encroaching U.S. Army and white civilization in the late 1880s. Upon the surrender of Geronimo, Massai is captured after attempting to disrupt the peace negotiations between the Apaches and the U.S. government. Placed on a train transferring him to a Florida reservation, he escapes and makes the arduous trek back to his homeland to be reunited with his squaw, Nalinle, but her father betrays him and he's again captured and sent to Florida. This time his escape is marked by a thirst for vengeance not only against the white people but also against all Indians like Nalinle's father who collaborate with them. Fleeing with his pregnant woman into the hills, Massai prepares for a final showdown with the Army. But at the last moment, he hears the cries of his newborn child and decides to live in peaceful coexistence with his enemies.
To bring the story to the screen, Lancaster and Hecht chose writer James R. Webb and director Robert Aldrich, a Hollywood maverick and outspoken liberal himself, considered by Hecht to be unusually gifted at creating intense psychological drama and one who could make a project look more expensive than it actually cost. Thanks to Lancaster's consistent box office clout, United Artists gave the star the sweetest deal it had made with anyone since Charles Chaplin, taking a smaller distributor cut of the picture and giving Hecht-Lancaster $12 million to produce seven films, five of which would star the actor. The studio balked, however, when it became apparent the production team was going way over budget and was planning to take Massai's story to the most tragic possible end. The original finale was going to have the warrior, walking away from the soldiers to a life of peace with his family, shot in the back. Although that ending might have been truer to the fate of most of the Apache, especially those who were openly rebellious against white authority, UA feared audiences would not appreciate seeing one of their favorite stars die. They put considerable pressure on the production, and the ending was changed, much to Lancaster and Aldrich's everlasting regret.
Whether it can be credited to the "happy" ending or not, Apache proved to be a major hit, the top-grossing Western of the year and a confirmation not only of Lancaster's commercial appeal but his ability as a producer who could match himself to the right vehicle at the right time. The film opened a month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against segregation in Brown v. Board of Education, and its success vindicated Lancaster's assertion that it had been produced "to make a broader statement on the injustice of racism." And nobody seemed to mind that the warrior Apache had blue eyes. Lancaster, Hecht, Aldrich, and Webb immediately re-teamed for another Western, Vera Cruz (1954). This time no one interfered when Lancaster decided to play - with considerable relish - a bad guy who is gunned down in the end by top-billed co-star Gary Cooper.
Director: Robert Aldrich
Producer: Harold Hecht
Screenplay: James R. Webb, based on the novel by Paul Wellman
Cinematography: Ernest Laszlo
Editing: Alan Crosland Jr.
Production Design: Nicolai Remisoff
Original Music: David Raksin
Cast: Burt Lancaster (Massai), Jean Peters (Nalinle), John McIntire (Al Sieber), Charles Bronson (Hondo, as Charles Buchinsky), John Dehner (Weddle), Monte Blue (Geronimo)
C-88m. Closed captioning.
by Rob Nixon
August 7th, 2003, 11:49 AM
Paul Newman :rolleyes:
BUFFALO BILL AND THE INDIANS
Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976) is a subversive look at the mythology of the Wild West and a unique deconstruction of an American folk hero as envisioned by Robert Altman, a director well known for turning the typical genre film inside out (McCabe and Mrs. Miller, (1971), The Long Goodbye, 1973). With M*A*S*H (1970), his first popular success, Altman used the Korean War as a backdrop for a razor sharp black comedy about the insanity of war. In a similar fashion, he used a traveling Wild West show in Buffalo Bill and the Indians to comment on American history, the politics of show business and the exploitation of Native Americans by greedy entrepreneurs.
Buffalo Bill and the Indians was inspired by Arthur Kopit's play, Indians, which receives a screen credit even though scenarist Alan Rudolph only used a few lines from the original stage production. Where Kopit's play was a cynical political comedy about the numerous injustices visited on Native Americans, Rudolph's screenplay broadens the canvas considerably to address the whole issue of American mythmaking.
Fresh from the success of Nashville (1975), probably the best example of his multi-layered storytelling technique, Buffalo Bill and the Indians was filmed on location at Stoney Indian Reserve in Alberta, Canada and features a stunning array of talent: Paul Newman as the legendary Buffalo Bill, Joel Grey as his press agent, Burt Lancaster as Ned Buntline, the man responsible for inventing the legend of Buffalo Bill, Harvey Keitel as Ed, Buffalo Bill's nephew, Geraldine Chaplin as Annie Oakley, and Shelley Duvall as the wife of President Grover Cleveland. As portrayed by Newman, Buffalo Bill sees himself as a total entertainer and more than willing to exploit his famous name for fame and fortune. But during rehearsals for his show, he is dismayed to discover that his main attraction, Chief Sitting Bull (Frank Kaquitts), doesn't share his views. Not only does Sitting Bull refuse to participate in staged reenactments of famous historic events (because they are misrepresentations of the truth), but he continually challenges Bill's hero status in the show.
There is another similarity to Nashville in Buffalo Bill and the Indians and it's exemplified by the "story within a story" framework, which is obvious from the first scene in the film where audiences are informed by a narrator that this is "not a show, it is a review of the down-to-earth events that made the American frontier." As we watch an attack on a log cabin, the violence halts abruptly when Buffalo Bill's press agent yells, "Cease the action." The scene is revealed as a rehearsal, thus setting the stage for a movie that plays constantly with the notion of truth and entertainment.
Released amidst the bicentennial celebrations of 1976, Buffalo Bill and the Indians did not enjoy the critical success of Altman's more popular films. The revisionist history did not sit well with audiences and the fact that United Artists did not widely promote the release on television or in print certainly did not help it at the box office. Probably the most damaging blow to Altman came when his producer, Dino de Laurentiis, revealed his disappointment with the final product. De Laurentiis had been expecting a more traditional Western with broad commercial appeal, and Altman's dialogue-heavy, politically subversive product was not the film the producer wished to release. Altman and De Laurentiis' working relationship disintegrated when the producer submitted the film to the Berlin Film Festival, where it was awarded the coveted Grand Prix. Altman angrily turned down the award, stating that the version of Buffalo Bill and the Indians screened was one "that has been edited drastically, [and] does not represent my work." The frustrated director subsequently asked that "neither I nor my film be considered for any prize or honor on the basis that it perpetrated a fraud."
The very public rift between the two men would lead to additional problems for Altman, who already found himself on unsteady footing in Hollywood due to his outspoken nature. De Laurentiis had previously picked Altman to direct an adaptation of the E.L. Doctorow book, Ragtime, prior to filming Buffalo Bill and the Indians. Interestingly, Doctorow had initially turned down the job of writing the screenplay of his book, but reconsidered upon visiting the set of Buffalo Bill and the Indians, where he was encouraged by the "sense of creative participation with cast and crew." But it was Altman, and not De Laurentiis, who wanted to bring Doctorow on as a screenwriter; when the producer discovered that Altman was planning a six-hour adaptation of Ragtime, he fired him from the project. Nevertheless, the 1970s ultimately proved to be a period of great creativity and output for this truly original, American director and Robert Altman's Buffalo Bill and the Indians remains a fascinating, thematically rich entry in the Western genre.
Producer/Director: Robert Altman
Screenplay: Robert Altman, Alan Rudolph
Art Direction: Jack Maxsted
Cinematography: Paul Lohmann
Editing: Peter Appleton, Dennis M. Hill
Music: Richard Baskin
Cast: Paul Newman (William F. Cody), Burt Lancaster (Ned Buntline), Joel Grey (Nate Salibury), Kevin McCarthy (Maj. John Burke), Harvey Keitel (Ed Goodman), Geraldine Chaplin (Annie Oakley), Allan Nicholls (Prentiss Ingraham), Bert Remsen (Crutch), Frank Kaquitts (Sitting Bull), Will Sampson (William Halsey), John Considine (Frank Butler), Shelley Duvall (Mrs. Cleveland), Pat McCormick (Grover Cleveland), Denver Pyle (McLaughlin).
By Genevieve McGillicuddy
August 7th, 2003, 11:52 AM
Burt Reynolds :rolleyes:
Navajo Joe, the lone survivor of a massacre, promises payback for the outlaw gang that slaughtered his Indian tribe. He soon gets to avenge his people when the citizens of a small Western community appeal to him for protection from the same marauding gang. Joe quickly accepts their offer of one dollar for each outlaw scalp delivered and goes to work eliminating his enemies one by one, saving the outlaw leader until last.
After the surprise success of A Fistful of Dollars (1964), producer Dino De Laurentiis decided to produce his own spaghetti Western with an American actor who could rival Clint Eastwood in popularity. For the lead in Navajo Joe (1966), De Laurentiis needed someone who could pass as a Native American and Burt Reynolds was the ideal choice. Not only was the actor part Cherokee but he had also convincingly played other minorities on two popular TV series; in Gunsmoke, Reynolds played Quint Asper, a half-breed who worked as the town blacksmith, from 1962-1966 and in Hawk (1966-1976), he was cast as a full blooded Iroquois Indian working as a cop in New York City. Although Reynolds had his doubts about a Western in which he killed about a hundred men single handedly, De Laurentiis convinced him to sign on to his first and only spaghetti Western.
Although Navajo Joe is considered one of the better spaghetti Westerns by fans of the genre, it fared poorly in the U.S. where it was block-booked without fanfare as a second feature at drive-ins and less discriminating movie houses. Reynolds was particularly unkind about the film and often said it was the worse movie he ever made. In fact, the actor remarked that it was "so awful, it was shown only in prisons and airplanes because nobody could leave. I killed 10,000 guys, wore a Japanese slingshot and a fright wig." Obviously, Reynolds had no appreciation for this unique genre and ignored the obvious virtues of Navajo Joe: the rousing music score by Ennio Morricone (credited under the pseudonym Leo Nichols), Silvano Ippoliti's unconventional cinematography and Sergio Corbucci's tightly paced direction. Corbucci, who had helmed some of the most successful Italian sword and sandal epics like Duel of the Titans (1963) with Steve Reeves and Gordon Scott, would go on to direct two of the most influential and acclaimed entries in the spaghetti Western genre - Django (1966) and The Great Silence (1968).
Producer: Luigi Carpentieri, Ermanno Donati
Director: Sergio Corbucci
Screenplay: Fernando Di Leo, Ugo Pirro (story), Piero Regnoli
Cinematography: Silvano Ippoliti
Film Editing: Alberto Gallitti
Original Music: Ennio Morricone
Principal Cast: Burt Reynolds (Joe), Aldo Sambrell (Duncan), Nicoletta Machiavelli (Estella), Simon Arriaga (Monkey), Fernando Rey (Rattigan), Tanya Lopert (Maria), Cris Huerta (El Gordo), Franca Polesello (Barbara).
by Jeff Stafford