Monday, February 15, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Nevada (1944)

NEVADA is a fun Western programmer "Introducing Bob Mitchum." The movie was largely filmed in the great outdoors of the Alabama Hills in Lone Pine, California, which makes it particularly enjoyable for anyone who has visited the area. My photos of our 2007 visit are here.

Bob plays Jim Lacey, aka "Nevada," an amiable cowpoke who is unjustly accused of murder. Jim eventually figures out that the evil town banker (Craig Reynolds) was responsible. Along the way Jim is helped out by a saloon singer (Anne Jeffreys), the murder victim's daughter (Nancy Gates), and his friends Chito (Richard Martin) and Dusty (Guinn "Big Boy" Williams).

The movie -- based on a Zane Grey story -- is a trifle melodramatic at times, but it does a nice job for an hour-long B Western. The location shooting adds a lot of atmosphere, and the plot also works in the discovery of silver in the Sierra Nevadas. There are a few touches of humor, a song by Jeffreys, and lots of action sequences filmed around the "Movie Rocks" of the Alabama Hills. The confident Mitchum demonstrates why he would become a big star just a couple years later.

Lovely Anne Jeffreys just turned 87. She was married to actor Robert Sterling from 1951 until his passing in 2006, and they costarred in the TOPPER TV series in the 1950s. I'm not sure I'd ever had the chance to see her sing in a film before watching this.

Nancy Gates is three years younger than Jeffreys. Her best-known work was probably in Westerns, including MASTERSON OF KANSAS (1954) with George Montgomery; STRANGER ON HORSEBACK (1955) and GUNFIGHT AT DODGE CITY (1958) with Joel McCrea; and the Randolph Scott Western COMANCHE STATION (1960), directed by Budd Boetticher. She did a great deal of TV work, including a couple episodes of MAVERICK in the late '50s.

A fun bit of trivia: Richard Martin played the same character, Chito Jose Gonzales Bustamante Rafferty, in an endless string of different RKO Westerns throughout the '40s. The casts and characters varied -- many starred Tim Holt -- but Martin turned up time and again as a character with this unusual name. According to an Amazon DVD reviewer, the first time Martin played the role was actually in a World War II movie, BOMBARDIER (1943).

Sadly, Craig Reynolds passed away a few years after playing the villainous banker.

Alan Ward plays the by-the-book sheriff, with Edmund Glover as an assayer. Harry McKim plays Nancy Gates' little brother; he was one of a family of child actors which also included Sammy McKim, who became a Disney Imagineering legend.

IMDb says Ben Johnson is a saloon patron. I'll have to slip the DVD in again and see if I can spot him in the crowd.

NEVADA was directed by Edward Killy. It runs 62 minutes. It was filmed by Harry J. Wild, who seems to have shot both "A" and "B" type pictures; the same year he filmed NEVADA, Wild shot MURDER, MY SWEET.

NEVADA is available on DVD. The picture quality is fuzzy but acceptable; based on the opening title card, it's apparently a print which was used for airing on TV.

NEVADA is by no means a great movie, but it's fun entertainment and a nice little slice of movie history, capturing both the young Mitchum and the beautiful Alabama Hills on film.

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