Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fox Movie Channel in September: Highlights

The Fox Movie Channel schedule for September continues to largely recycle the same titles shown in recent months. I'm glad the channel continues to program movies from the classic film era, at least for part of the day, but I certainly wish the channel would make the effort to incorporate some fresh titles!

Many of the movies scheduled this month were also shown in June, July, and August, so visiting those posts may be useful in order to glean additional ideas for possible Fox viewing in September. Simply input any title discussed in these posts into the search box on the upper right of the FMC schedule in order to see if a given title is scheduled in the next few weeks.

Below I've tried to focus on listing films scheduled this month which haven't already been highlighted here this summer:

...September 3rd there's a great cast in TO THE SHORES OF TRIPOLI (1942): Randolph Scott, Maureen O'Hara, and John Payne. It was filmed in beautiful Technicolor.

...Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison star in the beautiful fantasy THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (1947) on September 4th. Natalie Wood and George Sanders costar. The memorable score was by Bernard Herrmann. This is a beautiful -- and sometimes very funny -- film which I highly recommend.

...THE LONGEST DAY (1962) airs on September 5th. The all-star cast of this film on D-Day includes John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Robert Ryan, Edmond O'Brien, and many, many more.

...FANTASTIC VOYAGE (1966) will be shown on September 9th. The cast of this fantasy includes Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O'Brien, and Arthur Kennedy.

...Maggie Smith stars in THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE (1969) on September 11th.

...James Mason plays the lead in Nicholas Ray's BIGGER THAN LIFE (1956) on September 15th. Barbara Rush and Walter Matthau costar.

...John Wayne stars in John Huston's THE BARBARIAN AND THE GEISHA (1958) on September 18th.

...HEAVEN KNOWS, MR. ALLISON (1957) stars Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr, another film directed by John Huston, on September 19th. This is a very interesting two-person drama, worth catching.

...DAY-TIME WIFE (1939) is an entertaining piece of fluff with a wonderful cast: Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Warren William, and Wendy Barrie. The plot may be lightweight, but it's gorgeous fun. It airs September 22nd.

...Also on the 22nd: a great cast including Dana Andrews, Jeanne Crain, and Eleanor Parker star in MADISON AVENUE (1962).

...Brian Keith and Rita Gam star in the Western SIERRA BARON (1958) on September 23rd. I caught a bit of this film recently; it's kind of a strange movie, yet quite watchable.

...A ROYAL SCANDAL (1945) stars Tallulah Bankhead, Charles Coburn, Vincent Price, and Anne Baxter. Ernst Lubitsch and Otto Preminger were the directors. It airs on September 29th.

...The month wraps up with Elvis in LOVE ME TENDER (1956) on September 30th. Debra Paget and Richard Egan also star.

For more classic films airing this month, please visit TCM in September: Highlights.

Enjoy Fox Movie Channel in September!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

TCM in September: Highlights

It's hard to believe, but Labor Day weekend is just about here, and it's time to look ahead to the September schedule on Turner Classic Movies.

Lauren Bacall will be the Star of the Month beginning on Wednesday, September 5th. I'll post more on some of those movies next week. (Update: TCM Star of the Month: Lauren Bacall.)

Here's an overview of some of the interesting titles airing on TCM this coming month:

...Dick Powell stars as Philip Marlowe in the classic MURDER, MY SWEET (1944) on September 4th. It's a great opportunity for anyone who's not yet caught the film which launched Powell into a whole new line of movie roles.

...HIGH WALL, airing September 5th, is an excellent film noir starring Robert Taylor and Audrey Totter. Taylor is absolutely terrific as an amnesiac who may have murdered his wife. Totter is a psychiatrist trying to unlock Taylor's repressed memories and solve the mystery.

...My favorite day on the September schedule may be September 10th, a six-film birthday tribute to Edmond O'Brien featuring a bunch of movies I've never seen. The titles include PARACHUTE BATTALION (1942) costarring an actress who was his real-life wife at the time, Nancy Kelly; COW COUNTRY (1953) with Helen Westcott; MAN IN THE DARK (1953) with Audrey Totter; and THE WORLD WAS HIS JURY (1958) with Mona Freeman and Karin Booth.

...Later on the 10th there's a "B" movie directed by Robert Wise and starring Tom Conway and Martha O'Driscoll, CRIMINAL COURT (1946). I loved the Wise "B" movie MYSTERY IN MEXICO (1948), and I'm a fan of Conway in Anthony Mann's TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE (1945) as well as the FALCON movie series, so CRIMINAL COURT should be a fun watch.

...September 11th I'll be recording an early Joan Fontaine "B" movie, the 65-minute film MAID'S NIGHT OUT (1938). Incidentally, there's lots more Joan Fontaine planned for her 95th birthday on October 22nd.

...There's another interesting "B" title on the 12th, YOUTH RUNS WILD (1944) starring Bonita Granville and Jean Brooks, directed by Mark Robson (ROUGHSHOD, I WANT YOU).

...Later on the 12th, Budd Boetticher directs Roddy McDowall in KILLER SHARK (1950).

...CREST OF THE WAVE (1954) is one of a handful of Gene Kelly films I've never seen. It airs September 14th.

...I really liked THE LAST OF MRS. CHEYNEY (1937) with three great stars: William Powell, Robert Montgomery, and Joan Crawford. It's shown on September 16th.

...THE WINDOW (1949) really wowed me at last spring's Noir City Festival, with its gritty setting and excellent performances by Bobby Driscoll, Barbara Hale, and Arthur Kennedy. Ruth Roman is also effective as one of the villains. Don't miss it on September 17th.

...Later on the 17th, YOUNG WINSTON (1972) airs. Star Simon Ward passed away last month, as noted in the obituary section at the end of this link roundup.

...Another movie I enjoyed at the Noir City Film Festival this year was NOBODY LIVES FOREVER (1946), starring John Garfield and Geraldine Fitzgerald. It's part of a day of Garfield films on September 19th.

...Early on Saturday, September 22nd, TCM is showing FIFTH AVENUE GIRL (1939). I enjoyed this film with Ginger Rogers helping an unhappy family to improve their lives. Walter Connolly, Verree Teasdale, Tim Holt, and James Ellison costar. (A bit of trivia: If one actually goes by the title shown in the film, technically the movie is FIFTH AVE GIRL. Now you know!)

...Jacqueline of Another Old Movie Blog shares my appreciation for Alexis Smith, who is in ANY NUMBER CAN PLAY (1949) on September 22nd. You can read Jacqueline's interesting review of this film, which costars Clark Gable, here. This one is still on my "to see" list!

...JOHNNY O'CLOCK (1947) is one of my favorite Dick Powell films, which I also enjoyed on the big screen at this year's Noir City fest. He costars with Evelyn Keyes, Lee J. Cobb, Ellen Drew, Thomas Gomez, and Nina Foch; look for Jeff Chandler in a small role. It's also on September 22nd.

...This month I enjoyed my first "B" Western starring George O'Brien, GUN LAW (1938). So I'll definitely be recording him in THE MARSHAL OF MESA CITY (1939) on September 24th!

...A title which sounds interesting, airing later on the 24th, is THE LUSTY MEN (1952) with Robert Mitchum, Susan Hayward, and Arthur Kennedy, directed by Nicholas Ray.

...An evening of films set in Brooklyn includes the 20th Century-Fox classic A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (1945) and the black and white MGM musical IT HAPPENED IN BROOKLYN (1947). Peggy Ann Garner plays Francie Nolan in TREE, costarring Dorothy McGuire, James Dunn, Joan Blondell, and Lloyd Nolan. IT HAPPENED IN BROOKLYN stars Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, and Jimmy Durante. Brooklyn Night is September 25th.

...On September 26th, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Margaret Lockwood star with Laura LaPlante in MAN OF THE MOMENT (1935). Fairbanks and Lockwood were later teamed in RULERS OF THE SEA (1939).

...THE SECRET FURY (1950) has been on my "need to watch" list for some time now. It stars Claudette Colbert and Robert Ryan, plus the wonderful character actress Jane Cowl. The airdate is September 27th.

...September 28th is a fantastic day! The schedule includes a number of MGM musicals, including lesser-known titles like SUMMER HOLIDAY (1948) and THE BELLE OF NEW YORK (1952). The musicals are followed by my favorite James Garner comedy, SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF! (1969), and an early Western satire, the amusing ALONG CAME JONES (1945) with Gary Cooper and Loretta Young.

...Susan Peters, whose film THE SIGN OF THE RAM (1948) is coming to TCM in October, received an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Acress for the MGM classic RANDOM HARVEST (1942), starring Ronald Colman and Greer Garson. It will be shown September 29th. Incidentally, I also recommend the James Hilton novel.

For more information please visit the complete schedule at the Turner Classic Movies website.

Happy September movie viewing!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the Internet...

...I was traveling last week and unable to post a detailed tribute on the centennial of Gene Kelly's birth, but I'd like to at least briefly express my great appreciation not simply for his work, but for his role in helping to launch me on a lifelong love affair with the movies. I believe the first classic film I saw on a big screen was SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952), which our family saw at the Mayfair Theatre when I was 9 or 10. A double bill of ON THE TOWN (1949) and SUMMER STOCK (1950) was another very early big screen experience; the movies made such an impact on me that it scarcely mattered they were shown on little more than a sheet, with the machine guns of a James Cagney film next door bleeding through the thin walls. Love for Kelly and his films was passed on to the next generation; my oldest daughter wrote a report on his life and films back in elementary school.

...IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER (1955) was another Kelly film I saw on a big screen at an early age, so I especially enjoyed reading Jacqueline's take on it at Another Old Movie Blog.

...There are lots more terrific Kelly posts which were part of the Gene Kelly Centennial Blogathon, and at the NY Post Lou Lumenick discusses Kelly's early years at MGM. Over at Out of the Past, Raquelle describes her experience seeing SINGIN' IN THE RAIN on a big screen last week.

...Here's an interesting new book for musical theater fans: LOVERLY: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MY FAIR LADY by Dominic McHugh. It's described as "a completely new, behind-the-scenes look at the five-year creation of the show" which continues the show's history up to the present day.

...There are always interesting things going on over at 50 Westerns from the 50s: Toby's been chatting with former child actor Jimmy Hunt about his work with Joel McCrea and also hosting a discussion of relatively obscure Westerns we'd like to see on DVD.

...At Journeys in Classic Film Kristen discusses PINOCCHIO (1940). I've always had trouble warming up to this early Disney film, as it's exceptionally dark, but it does have its wonderful aspects including, of course, "When You Wish Upon a Star."

...Glenn Erickson has reviewed Warner Archive's Forbidden Hollywood Volume 4 collection at DVD Savant.

...I really enjoyed seeing SLAUGHTER ON TENTH AVENUE (1957) at the Noir City Festival in Hollywood last spring. I was glad to hear this film has also just been shown at Noir City Chicago, where it was reviewed by Marilyn Ferdinand at Ferdy on Films.

...Yesterday was Tyrone Power Day in TCM's Summer Under the Stars festival. Power's 1940 gangster film JOHNNY APOLLO (1940) received detailed reviews from both Cliff at Immortal Ephemera and Kristina at Speakeasy.

...Kay pays tribute to another of TCM's Summer Under the Stars honorees, Irene Dunne, at Movie Star Makeover. She's got lots of great photos!

...As we head toward Labor Day weekend and prepare to say farewell to summer, here are some great photos of movie stars enjoying summer fun, posted by Page earlier this month at My Love of Old Hollywood.

...Here's another fun round of brief reviews by John at Greenbriar Picture Shows.

...Coming October 15th from the TCM Vault Collection: Directed by Billy Wilder, featuring the double bill of FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO (1943) with Franchot Tone and Anne Baxter paired with A FOREIGN AFFAIR (1948) starring Jean Arthur, John Lund, and Marlene Dietrich. The box art is not yet finalized. (Update: The cover at the right is now the final version.)

...Great news for Dodgers fans: Vin Scully will return to the broadcast booth next year!

...Notable Passings: Muppeteer Jerry Nelson, otherwise known as Count Von Count, has passed on at the age of 78...Charles Huggins, the longtime head of See's Candy, has passed on at the age of 87. Years ago I wrote to protest when my favorite candy, Dark Patties, was discontinued, and -- similar to an anecdote in this obituary -- Huggins later wrote me back with the good news the candy was coming back and included a gift certificate...Somehow it was a shock to hear that Neil Armstrong, one of the heroes of my childhood, had died at the age of 82. I was touched by his family's statement and also the words of his colleague, Buzz Aldrin.

Have a great week!

Today at Disneyland: Crowning Achievements

It was on August 26th, a whole lotta years ago, that my husband and I had our very first date, at Disneyland, where we had met while working summer jobs. So it was fitting that we spent this sunny Sunday afternoon at...Disneyland!

The summer flowers at the Hub in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle looked beautiful:


One of the attractions we enjoyed today was a new Disney Gallery exhibit, Crowning Achievements: Creating Castles for Magical Kingdoms.


The exhibit included paintings and sketches of the castles at Disney parks around the world, as well as "Blue Sky" drawings for castles that, at least to this point, have never been built.


I loved seeing this 1953 Herb Ryman sketch of Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle:


He also sketched Disney World's Cinderella Castle:


Eyvind Earle, the production designer of the film SLEEPING BEAUTY (1959), also created some of the artwork which inspired the dioramas for the Sleeping Beauty Castle's walk-through attraction:


This drawing of the magical Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant at Disneyland Paris was by Frank Armitage, who had once been Eyvind Earle's assistant, working on painting the backgrounds of SLEEPING BEAUTY:


The centerpiece of the exhibit is a model of the amazing castle at Disneyland Paris:


A closeup showing the entrance to the dragon's underground lair, to the left of the drawbridge:


The back of the castle, with its stained glass windows visible:


There's much more information on this stunning castle in my 2009 photo post "Disneyland Paris: The Best Castle Ever."

More photos from the Disney Gallery exhibit can be seen at Theme Park Talk and MousePlanet.

It was a wonderful afternoon which also included taking our lunch into Aladdin's Oasis, which has been opened up as an overflow area for eating and relaxing; it was known as the Tahitian Terrace during the years we worked at the park. We also got soaked on Splash Mountain!

We've been fortunate to revisit the park on August 26th many times, including a memorable dinner at Club 33, and hopefully there will be many more such visits in the years to come!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Tonight's Movie: The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (1953)

I really enjoyed revisiting MY SISTER EILEEN (1955) the other evening for the first time in a number of years, so tonight I pulled another Bob Fosse movie off the shelf, THE AFFAIRS OF DOBIE GILLIS.

Bobby Van plays the title role, with Fosse costarring as his roommate, Charlie Trask. Dobie and Charlie attend Grainbelt University, where they try to avoid studying as much as possible, preferring to spend their time having fun while courting Pansy (Debbie Reynolds) and Lorna (Barbara Ruick).

The quartet of young people get into all manner of scrapes, including blowing up the chemistry lab on multiple occasions, before dancing off into the sunshine 73 minutes later.

When I first saw this film on VHS the better part of a decade ago, I frankly found it on the disappointing side. Although I'm a huge fan of MGM musicals, the story was too disjointed, and the goofy characters and their laziness and lack of ethics annoyed me.

Nonetheless, when the Warner Archive put the movie out on a remastered DVD-R, I decided it was time to give this movie a fresh look, and I'm glad I did. True, I still find the movie goofier than I'd wish -- I'd prefer less silly humor and a lot more dancing! -- but I found more to appreciate in the film this time around. The young actors have only grown more appealing with the passage of time, and there are some pretty amusing moments, my favorite being when Pansy tries to sneak into her house not wearing a dress.

The musical moments are the best scenes in the movie, particularly the wonderful "You Can't Do Wrong Doin' Right" danced by Fosse and sung by Ruick, later joined by Reynolds and Van. Fosse is simply dynamite, and even here in his first film he was doing dances involving hats! (Alex Romero received credit for the choreography.) For a dance fan, the movie is worth seeing for this scene alone.

As a side note, that same year Fosse and Van joined Fosse's MY SISTER EILEEN costar, Tommy Rall, to dance the spectacular "From This Moment On" number in KISS ME KATE.  Fosse had a third 1953 release, courting Debbie Reynolds in GIVE A GIRL A BREAK.

In DOBIE GILLIS Bobby Van has a good dance to "I'm Thru With Love."  He also duets with Debbie on "All I Do Is Dream of You," which was a rather curious choice for the movie since it was prominently featured in Reynolds' SINGIN' IN THE RAIN the previous year.

Of the four lead actors, only the ever-youthful Debbie Reynolds is still with us; it's hard to believe that Fosse, Van, and Ruick, who are all so energetic in DOBIE GILLIS, all passed on in their 40s and early 50s.

A fun bit of trivia is that Barbara Ruick's mother, Lurene Tuttle, plays Debbie Reynolds' mother in DOBIE GILLIS! She's quite funny, too, reacting to her hysterical husband (Hanley Stafford) with dry comments.

Barbara Ruick married not-yet-famous composer John Williams in 1956, and they were married until her sudden death in 1974. (Williams' second wife, Samantha, helped my husband obtain a STAR WARS score to use for our wedding recessional, but that's another story...)  Lurene Tuttle outlived her daughter by a dozen years.  Barbara's father was actor Melville Ruick.

There are a number of familiar character actors featured throughout the film. Charles Lane seems to have had a subspecialty playing tough chemistry professors, as he had played a very similar role in APARTMENT FOR PEGGY (1948) five years earlier.

Hans Conreid is the supercilious English professor, with Charles Halton as the college dean and Percy Helton as the owner of the college textbook store. Don't blink and Alvy Moore can be spotted as a student at class registration; the following year he had a much more prominent role in Reynolds' SUSAN SLEPT HERE (1954).

This movie was directed by Don Weis. The screenplay by Max Shulman was based on his own stories. William Mellor shot the film in black and white. MGM fans will appreciate that several areas of the MGM backlot, familiar from other movies, are visible in the film.

THE AFFAIRS OF DOBIE GILLIS can be seen on Turner Classic Movies as well as on the Warner Archive DVD and VHS edition. The trailer is available at the TCM website.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tonight's Movie: My Sister Eileen (1955)

I had time for some good movie viewing during our whirlwind trip to Flagstaff this week!

Yesterday afternoon I enjoyed streaming MAN OR GUN (1958) on my Kindle Fire, and last evening I was able to watch MY SISTER EILEEN (1955) for the first time in several years, thanks to Turner Classic Movies.

I'm quite a fan of the original 1942 comedy MY SISTER EILEEN, which provided Rosalind Russell with one of her best roles, but I'm also fond of the 1955 musical remake. I particularly like the cast of this Columbia film, which -- as Robert Osborne also mentioned on TCM -- is curiously filled with longtime MGM contract players: Betty Garrett, Janet Leigh, Bob Fosse, Tommy Rall, and Kurt Kasznar.

The movie tells the familiar tale of "plain Jane" Ruth Sherwood (Garrett) and her adorable younger sister Eileen (Leigh), who arrive in the Big Apple from Ohio looking for success as a writer and actress, respectively.

They rent a rickety basement apartment from Papa Appopolous (Kasznar), which comes with an upstairs neighbor, a former football player who does housework (Dick York in an early role). Eileen meets a helpful soda fountain manager (Fosse) and a newspaper writer (Rall), while Ruth tries to sell a story to a magazine publisher (Jack Lemmon).

That's about all there is to the story, but it has many bright moments with its engaging cast. The Jule Styne-Leo Robin score admittedly isn't particularly memorable, but the Fosse-choreographed dances, on the other hand, are pure dynamite.

My favorite scene in the film is a knockout dance teaming Fosse and Rall, two of cinema's all-time greatest dancers. It's utterly fantastic. Rall, the film's last surviving principal cast member, is now 82. I once read that Gene Kelly -- whose centennial is coincidentally being celebrated today -- considered Rall the greatest all-around dancer he'd ever known.

There's also a very good dance in a gazebo featuring Fosse, Rall, Leigh, and Garrett; the two ladies acquit themselves well opposite their more experienced dance partners.

There's a thread of music in the climactic conga routine that I could swear is also heard in the "Hernando's Hideaway" number Fosse choreographed in PAJAMA GAME, which had opened on Broadway the previous year. There are other aspects of that number which were vaguely reminiscent of "Hernando," but then Fosse's style is nothing if not distinctive!

I really enjoy Fosse's film persona, in films such as THE AFFAIRS OF DOBIE GILLIS (1953), KISS ME KATE (1953), and GIVE A GIRL A BREAK (1953); his boyish, sweet charm is an interesting contrast to his sizzling dance moves! I wish he'd done more musicals in front of the camera.

Jack Lemmon doesn't have a lot to do in the film, but he's genial in the role, and Dick York is a scene stealer as the innocent, helpful "Wreck," who takes turns platonically sharing an apartment with his girlfriend; he sleeps while she works nights, and he does housework while she sleeps. Garrett and Leigh are perfectly cast; my only quibble is I don't care for the bedtime scene where Garrett, an old favorite of mine, must make herself up to look awful.

This 108-minute movie was directed by Richard Quine, from a screenplay by Quine and Blake Edwards. Quine, as a matter of fact, played Fosse's role in the original stage production and also in the 1942 film, so he was well acquainted with the material.

MY SISTER EILEEN is available on DVD. It also had a release on VHS. It can currently be rented for streaming from Amazon Instant Video.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Man or Gun (1958)

We're on a quick visit to Flagstaff, Arizona, to drop our son off for his sophomore year at Northern Arizona University.

When we arrived at our hotel, I was pleased to discover the wi-fi had been greatly improved since our last visit in May. I settled in to relax with a movie on my Kindle Fire after our long drive.

The movie I chose from Netflix Instant was MAN OR GUN. I wasn't expecting a great deal from this Republic Western, but I like the cast -- Macdonald Carey, Audrey Totter, and James Craig -- so thought I'd give it a try.

MAN OR GUN turned out to be a real find, a well-executed, original film which surmounted its low budget with interesting characters, well-placed humor, a touch of mysticism, and a pair of creatively staged gunfights to end the film. Within the conventions of the Western, it also managed to avoid some cliches, resulting in a surprising and very satisfying ending.

A gunslinger (Carey) staggers into Dusty Flats, New Mexico. Having lost his horse in the desert, all he's got to his name is a fancy gun he found along the way.

Dusty Flats is a nasty little town overrun by the Corley family, and the gunslinger instantly finds himself drawn into a shootout in the saloon run by Fran Dare (Totter).  When he guns down two men, including a Corley (Ken Lynch), without even blinking, there are whispers he may be the famous gunfighter Scott Yancey, but Fran dubs him "Maybe" Smith.

Thanks to the shootout, Maybe comes into some reward money and decides to buy a local farm and settle down...but people just won't stop challenging him and his gun. Maybe never loses a gunfight, which gets to be a running joke with the complacent old sheriff (James Gleason), who appreciates the fact that Maybe is cleaning up the town.

Some town folks start to wonder -- is Maybe's success due to his skill, or is there something special about his gun? Mike Ferris (Warren Stevens), who wants to run the town himself, offers Pinch Corley (Craig) a reward if he'll go gunning for Maybe -- and also get him the gun.

There are a few creaky moments and bits of awkward dialogue, mostly surrounding Pinch's Indian wife, played by Donna Reed lookalike Jill Jarmyn. (Jarmyn married her movie husband, James Craig, the following year.) For the most part, though, this is quite an interesting and well-done film. There are some great bits of dialogue; a lackadaisical exchange between Maybe and the sheriff about the only witness to a gunfight being a horse had me sputtering with laughter.

Carey had previously come close to stealing the Ray Milland Western COPPER CANYON (1950) with a charismatic performance as the film's chief villain. He's not an actor who's the subject of much discussion in classic film circles today, but I find I always enjoy him, whether he's playing the earnest young detective in Hitchcock's SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943), chasing after Paulette Goddard in HAZARD (1948), or playing Nick in THE GREAT GATSBY (1949). Here he's believable as a man who's getting older and would really like to trade in his guns for a good woman and a ranch, if only men would stop seeking him out to prove they're faster on the draw. He has some great wry line deliveries.

Totter's character is initially somewhat ambiguous, but she's always interesting, and I liked how her part of the storyline concluded. Stevens likewise can always be counted on, especially when playing a villain.

I always enjoyed James Craig in his MGM films of the '40s, where he was particularly good acting opposite children in films such as LOST ANGEL (1945), OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES (1945), and BOYS' RANCH (1946). He's older and beefier here, minus the Gable-style mustache of his MGM years, but he's still got a certain charm, and Pinch's sincere love for his devoted wife immediately pegs him as an atypical villain. His character grows more interesting from there.

I was quite impressed with the staging of the back-to-back gun battles which end the film. There are some nice unexpected moments, particularly concerning James Craig's character. I was watching the movie with earphones, and my son commented he could tell I was really enjoying it from my reactions!

Albert C. Gannaway directed this 79-minute film from an original screenplay by Vance Skarstedt and James J. Cassity. It was filmed in Naturama by Jack A. Marta.

This is a film I'd really like to see come out on DVD. In the meantime, as mentioned above, it can be seen via Netflix streaming.

2013 Update: MAN OR GUN is not currently on Netflix Instant, but it can now be streamed on Amazon Prime.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Raw Edge (1956)

RAW EDGE is a somewhat peculiar Universal Western set in 1840s Oregon Territory, made enjoyable by the teaming of Rory Calhoun and Yvonne DeCarlo.

Powerful land owner Gerald Montgomery (Herbert Rudley) rules an area of Oregon Territory. Montgomery has some strange laws, such as that the first man to claim a widow can have her for his wife, whether she wants to or not.

When Montgomery's wife Hannah (DeCarlo) is molested, Montgomery erroneously convicts and hangs Dan Kirby (John Gilmore, better known as John Gavin). Dan's Indian wife Paca (Mara Corday) is immediately claimed by Montgomery's top man, Doty (Robert J. Wilke), after he fights off challengers.

Into this mess rides Dan's brother Tex (Calhoun), who's determined to have justice for his brother's murder. Anticipating Montgomery's death, the vultures begin circling around Hannah, in the form of slimy Pop Penny (Emile Meyer) and his son Tarp (Neville Brand), along with the cultured gambler John Randolph (Rex Reason). Each of the three men is determined to have Hannah for his own once Tex takes care of Montgomery.

Fortunately Rory Calhoun's Tex is a stalwart Western hero who shows up just in time to protect Hannah from the nasty townsmen who are after her. Hannah can't help being intrigued by handsome Tex, as he treats her with gallantry and she has long since fallen out of love with her husband. And conveniently for Tex, Dan's widow Paca has her own plan to avenge his brother's death.

The film certainly has an original storyline, though it's quite odd; one could think of it as a somewhat distasteful flip side of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954), which was also set in Oregon Territory. I'm hard-pressed to think of another Western where the men fight it out repeatedly for "ownership" of the few women in the area.

DeCarlo and Calhoun are fun to watch, and they look terrific in this film, which was shot in lovely Technicolor.  The movie could have had more substantial development of the lead characters and their relationship, but on the positive side this fast-paced 76-minute film races to a finish before it wears out its welcome. The final scene with its accompanying ballad is nicely done.

Offscreen, Calhoun and DeCarlo were good friends. He wrote the screenplay for her 1955 film SHOTGUN and that same year gave her away at her wedding to stuntman Bob Morgan. At 50 Westerns From the 50s, Toby recently paid tribute to Calhoun on what would have been his 90th birthday. And close to one year ago I posted a birthday tribute to DeCarlo, who would have been 90 this September 1st.

RAW EDGE was directed by John Sherwood. It was filmed by Maury Gertsman.  Much of the movie was filmed outdoors, including in the San Bernardino Mountains.

RAW EDGE is shown from time to time on the Encore Westerns Channel.

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