Thursday, May 30, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Bitter Creek (1954)

"Wild" Bill Elliott stars in BITTER CREEK (1954), the kind of film which exemplifies what some of us like to refer to as a "darn good Western." I found it enjoyable start to finish.

Elliott plays Clay Tyndall, who arrives in the Western town of Bitter Creek searching for the man who killed his brother. Although it takes Clay a while to figure it out, the viewer knows early on that rancher Quentin Allen (Carleton Young) and his hired hands, headed by Vance Morgan (Claude Akins), are responsible.

Clay forges relationships with several locals, including Dr. Prentiss (Jim Hayward), A.Z. the stagecoach driver (John Harmon), and Allen's cook Harley (Forrest Taylor), as he searches for the man responsible, while the sheriff (Dabbs Greer) watches the goings-on with a wary eye.

Complicating matters is Clay's attraction to Allen's fiancee, Gail Bonner (Beverly Garland), who's just arrived in town from St. Louis -- and gradually comes to reciprocate his feelings.

This is a fast-paced 74-minute story with a good script by George Waggner. Director Thomas Carr keeps things moving along, yet the actors have the time to create unique characters who develop interesting relationships, with the interplay between Elliott and Hayward especially enjoyable.

Elliott is his usual taciturn self, but he makes clear he's got a heart under the stoic exterior which is beating for the charming Garland.

Garland does a very nice job breathing life into her character, a woman who was fascinated by the idea of living in the west but comes to realize she chose the wrong man. My only complaint is I wish there had been more of her in the movie; based on some stills I've found on the internet, seen here, it seems possible some of her part was left on the cutting room floor, unless they filmed some action publicity stills outdoors. That's possible as well, as I can't necessarily figure out how the scenes in the photographs would have fit into the story!

Garland was in a number of movies the year this was released; she also starred with Wayne Morris in the excellent Western THE DESPERADO (1954) -- in which Greer again played the sheriff -- and she also costarred in THE MIAMI STORY (1954), reviewed here earlier this week.

BITTER CREEK was filmed in black and white by Ernest Miller at Southern California locations including Iverson Ranch and Corriganville.

The supporting cast includes Veda Ann Borg, Dan Mummert, and John Pickard.

This movie is unfortunately not yet on DVD; I've been hoping that the Warner Archive will eventually release it, as they have put out Elliott's other Westerns for Allied Artists. I saw the film thanks to a past airing on Turner Classic Movies.

Fans of Elliott and '50s "B" Westerns should find this one quite enjoyable.


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Hi Laura! You already know I am a long-time fan of Bill Elliott. Republic Pictures had taken his popularity and success in their 'B'-western series films and made a series of bigger budget films (generally very fine) starring him as William Elliott.
By 1950 the writing was on the wall for Republic and, forced to scale back, let Elliott go. He was then signed up by the lesser Allied Artists (Monogram) for a series of good westerns (1951-4) of which "BITTER CREEK" was the penultimate. It was also one of the best. It is a real pity it has been left on the shelf by Warner Archive after they did such a good job with his other AA westerns and detective films.
Beverly Garland showed she was going to be a real force to come. A very appealing screen presence.
So glad you enjoyed the film too!

11:41 PM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Sounds like a dandy that has to get the check mark of "seen" next to it. I caught a few Bill Elliot pictures on YouTube recently and "darn fine western" fits nicely.

8:48 AM  
Blogger Lee R said...

Ever since seeing her on My 3 Sons, I've been a Beverly fan. If you liked Beverly in this in what is another GREAT Wild Bill Elliott movie, just look for her starring in "Gunslinger". She's a real old time western Girl Gone Wild, a rootin' tootin' sure shot shootin' kind of girl who can't wait to get the bad buys. Fantastic Beverly movie. Favorite Beverly spook movie is "Not of This Earth" a lot of fun there. And for TV Beverly at her action packed best you should see her in her own '50's series "Decoy". Goodies all. If you haven't seen them look for them, they're all a lot of fun to see.

P.S. A huge fan of Wild Bill too, but that's another tale.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Will be watching out for this one.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jerry, thank you so much for adding your comment on this terrific film. I've been wondering why this is the lone Allied Artists Elliott Western not released by the Warner Archive -- I'm assuming it's a problem with the elements. If I get a chance I will ask my contact there if he knows.

Caftan Woman, knowing how similar our tastes are I feel confident you will like this one! Glad you have been enjoying other Ellitot films.

Lee, thank you for sharing your liking of Beverly Garland. I picked up her DECOY series on sale a while back and look forward to checking it out! GUNSLINGER sounds good too; I have an "off air" copy here I need to check out.

Vienna, I'd love to know what you think when you catch it!

Best wishes,

7:01 PM  

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