Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Kansas Territory (1952) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

KANSAS TERRITORY (1952) is a strong entry in the eight-film Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection, available from the Warner Archive.

Elliott plays Joe Daniels, who's simultaneously confronted with the news that his brother is dead and that the brother was a bad man. Joe refuses to believe his brother could have been a crook and will brawl with anyone who says so.

Joe's brother was killed in Kansas, where Joe is wanted on a wrongful charge stemming from his having fought for the Confederacy. He returns to Kansas anyway to solve his brother's death. Thanks to the advocacy of a marshal (John Hart) Joe receives a pardon, but while that aspect of his life is cleared up, Joe also comes to the sad realization that his brother deserved killing.

It's a good part for Elliott; he doesn't have much acting range so playing a character who is grimly stoic and determined works well for him. The lively Peggy Stewart makes a good foil for Elliott, as an energetic young lady who doesn't hesitate to pick up a rifle and chase off a passel of bad guys when needed.

Fans will be glad to hear I was told just today that Stewart, who is in her 90s, enjoys good health and is still a vivacious and enthusiastic lady!

KANSAS TERRITORY has a good cast; it's deep enough that Lyle Talbot, who has several scenes as Stewart's wheelchair-bound father, didn't even make the top 14 names in the credits! There are lots of familiar Western faces including Lane Bradford, House Peters Jr., I. Stanford Jolley, Marshall Reed, Fuzzy Knight, William Fawcett, and Stanley Andrews.

Daniel B. Ullman, whose name turns up time and again in my recent viewing, wrote the script of this 65-minute film. The movie was directed by Lewis D. Collins and filmed by Ernest Miller.

Monogram Pictures originally distributed KANSAS TERRITORY in sepia tone, but the DVD is a nice crisp black and white print. There are no extras.

I previously reviewed another film in the set, THE FORTY-NINERS (1954); watch for more Elliott Western reviews in the future. Based on watching two of the films to date, I'd say this set is a must for Elliott fans, who will really enjoy watching nice prints.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger Maricatrin said...

A reflective rambling: Gordon Nance left Missouri as a young man to pursue work in Hollywood as "a cowboy extra," in hopes of one day becoming a western star like his idol William S. Hart. However, not only did stardom elude him for more than a decade, but he was stuck in a long succession of roles which were not even remotely western... society gents, reporters, nightclub patrons, playboys, etc. His filmography repeats itself over and over again until 1938, when he finally got his breakthrough role in a Columbia serial entitled THE ADVENTURES OF WILD BILL HICKOK. And so "Wild Bill" Elliott was born. It's a character so unlike almost any he had played previously, it really was an impressive 180 degree turn. The persona is subtle, but strong, and it's a character Nance/Elliott chose to play.

Nice to hear that about Peggy Stewart! I saw her the other day as a villainess in an episode of Yancy Derringer (an excellent series, by the way.) She worked with Elliott often at Republic, and she's named him as one of her two favorite leading men (as would Marie Windsor.) There's a story she's fond of telling of how when she was leaving Republic, they told her she had been overpaid, and owed the studio 148 dollars. She went to Elliott (who kept careful records of his own time) for help, and he discovered that not only did she owe the studio nothing, they actually owed her money! She got paid.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you, Maricatrin! I've been gradually catching up on comments over the weekend and wanted you to know how much I enjoyed your thoughts.

For a long time I didn't recognize "Gordon Elliott" by sight, though his name is listed for so many bit roles -- now that I'm watching his Westerns it's going to be easier to spot his early work! It's interesting to me that some people toiled a very long time in bit roles but did eventually make good. Dennis O'Keefe is another who comes quickly to mind.

What fun you just saw Peggy in YANCY DERRINGER! That's a fabulous anecdote about her and Elliott. LOVE! Thank you so much. Stories like that can't help making me appreciate him more.

Best wishes,

3:27 PM  
Blogger Maricatrin said...

Hi Laura, I forgot to check the "email responses" box, I just now stumbled back here.

Good observation about O'Keefe. It's funny, after recently finishing a piece on Elliott, my brother Dan asked me if I could think of another lead actor who spent as long in bit parts. I immediately came up with... Dennis O'Keefe!

Glad you enjoyed the story! Pierce Lyden tells another good one (don't know which film it was on... besides KANSAS TERRITORY, Lyden was also in WACO, and some of Elliott's Columbia B's):

"Although I worked in motion pictures with a great many stars, there were only a few I ever got to know well. One cowboy star who became my friend was Wild Bill Elliott, a man respected by everyone who knew him. Bill was polite and sociable, but soft-spoken... Once, during a chase, my horse stumbled, and we hit the ground. Bill stopped the chase, and was the first one back to check on me. I was hurt, but on a low-budget picture an injury to a supporting actor didn't always mean much. Elliott stuck his neck out for me. 'We'll do the scene later,' he said. When I was well, we did a retake, but I don't think he got paid for it. People were more important than money to Wild Bill."

4:55 PM  

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