Monday, October 12, 2015

Tonight's Movie: In Old Colorado (1941) at the Lone Pine Film Festival

My experience at last weekend's Lone Pine Film Festival included seeing eight films!

Two of the movies were Hopalong Cassidy films. My husband's a big Hoppy fan, but somehow I'd never caught a film from the long-running series starring William Boyd.

IN OLD COLORADO was cowritten by Russell Hayden, who plays Hoppy's young sidekick Lucky. Hoppy, Lucky, and California (Andy Clyde), employees of the Bar 20 Ranch, are on their way to purchase cattle from Ma Woods (Sarah Padden) when they're robbed of the $20,000 they're carrying for the cattle buy.

Ma needs that money desperately in order to pay off a loan; meanwhile evil Joe Weiler (Morris Ankrum) is blocking Ma's cattle from getting to water and stirring up trouble between Ma and her neighbor George (Stanley Andrews).

Will Hoppy and his pals find the missing money and settle all Ma's problems? What do you think?!

IN OLD COLORADO has quality production values, including a good cast and very nice black and white location photography by Russell Harlan, a six-time Oscar nominee.

My initial impressions, based on the first two Hopalong Cassidy films I've seen: I would definitely watch more, as the films were well made, and the two I saw made excellent use of the Lone Pine setting.

That said, I'm not sure I completely "get" Hoppy, at least at this point. I think part of my issue is that, like Gene Autry, Hoppy isn't in any way a romantic leading man. I prefer my Westerns with a dash of romance! Or at least a lead actor with a lighter personality, like the congenial Johnny Mack Brown; Hoppy is such a straight arrow I'm not sure it allows for much else to show through in Boyd's performance. Of course, I may be revising this opinion as I get to know the series better!

This 66-minute movie was directed by Howard Bretherton. The supporting cast includes Margaret Hayes, Cliff Nazarro, James Seay, Morgan Wallace, and Eddy Waller.

IN OLD COLORADO is available on DVD in the five-film Hopalong Cassidy: Volume 3 collection.

As soon as the 7:30 a.m. screening was over we left the auditorium and hopped on a tour bus, which took us to the Alabama Hills, just a few minutes' drive outside of Lone Pine.

Our tour guide, Don Kelsen, was also the guide on last year's locations tour for the Tim Holt film DYNAMITE PASS (1950).

Don is a Los Angeles Times photographer and videographer who's been associated with the festival for a quarter-century. Armed with nothing but pages of screen caps, Don combs the Alabama Hills putting together the "puzzle pieces" of various movie locations; he was also our guide for the next day's tour of locations for THE HIRED GUN (1957).

Among the many challenges for this kind of movie detective work: Thanks to "movie magic," a character may be filmed against a background which is miles away from what the character is shown to be looking at!

When we arrived at various sites used in the film we'd flip to our packet of screen shots from the film and match it up with what was in front of us:

Also along for the tour was John Gilliland, who has painstakingly put together a replica Hopalong Cassidy costume, right down to the spurs!

There were also members of a Hopalong Cassidy Fan Club on our tour. It's heartwarming that the Hopalong Cassidy films continue to have such a devoted and knowledgeable following.

My "Hoppy education" this weekend also included a current display on Hopalong Cassidy at the Museum of Western Film History, including posters, dishware, and other ephemera:

As a postcript, it seems fitting that earlier this year we were able to pay our respects at the Glendale mausoleum where William Boyd and his wife Grace were laid to rest.

Coming soon: Another Hoppy film, HEART OF ARIZONA (1938), including a personal appearance by Billy King, who as a boy costarred in four Hopalong Cassidy films released in 1937-38. (Update: Here's the link for my post on HEART OF ARIZONA.)


Blogger Jerry E said...

Great review, Laura! Obviously I kinda hope you do 'get' Hoppy after a while. 'HEART OF ARIZONA' will be another good one to review as it features my favourite Hoppy 'trio' of Boyd, Hayden and George Hayes. Hayden of course is the romantic lead while Boyd is the wise foreman who keeps him on the level.
BTW, for any of your readers who can't get enough there is a fantastic DVD set of all 66 feature films available from Amazon for under $50!! I have it and the quality is terrific.

11:40 PM  
Blogger Maricatrin said...

Looking forward to reading even more about the festival! Great photos:-)

My favorite B-Western star is probably Tim Holt, but I've enjoyed the films of many other cowboy stars. The Hoppy series, like Holt's, benefits from generally above-average production values, but the series ran for so many films it's hard to know where to start. My brother has seen almost all the the Hoppy films, and I've just asked him where someone such as yourself might want to start. He said the early Hoppy films are much more character driven (a few even have Hoppy romantically involved) and suggested such titles as: THE FRONTIERSMEN, TRAIL DRIVE, PARTNERS OF THE PLAINS, THE SHOWDOWN, THE BAR 20 RIDES AGAIN, HOPALONG CASSIDY RETURNS, THE EAGLES BROOD, BORDERLAND, IN OLD MEXICO (though he warns that the last four listed are rather grim.) His favorite "team" is the Boyd/Hayden/Hayes line-up.

6:49 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I'm afraid Hoppy isn't going to give you that dash of romance we get from some of the other fellows. However, every once in a while Boyd gets to flex his acting muscles when Hoppy goes under cover to ferret out bad guys. "The Eagle's Brood" from 1935 is unusually dramatic and a bit outside the usual for the series. I think you'll like it.

6:58 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Maricatrin (and Laura), I would especially recommend "TRAIL DUST" (1936) as a fine example of the series.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Maricatrin said...

Oops, thank Jerry, I should have said TRAIL DUST, rather than TRAIL DRIVE. Don't want to send anyone on a wild goose chase!

10:35 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I love having all this info from "Hoppy" experts! Great stuff. Thanks for the tips on his top films and also to Jerry for the DVD set. I'll make a list of these titles so I can be looking out for them.

Hope to have my HEART OF ARIZONA post up later today!

Maricatrin, I'd say my favorite "B" Westerns are the six George O'Brien-Virginia Vale films (plus the three he did with Laraine Day) -- then I would definitely pick the postwar Holts (because of Chito) though I've liked earlier ones too.

Reviews coming soon, along with more Dick Foran reviews, of my first Wild Bill Elliott Westerns!

Thanks to you all!

Best wishes,

3:42 PM  
Blogger Kristina said...

Loved reading this and the comments too, I've collected most of the Hoppy movies (but might want to upgrade to the dvd set Jerry mentioned) and very interested to see them, but always put off starting since I'm a completist and will want to plow through them all at once :)

5:56 AM  
Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

Thank you for the armchair experience!

12:18 PM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Actually, Kristina, that sounds like a very pleasurable thing to do!

3:26 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Kristina, I agree with Jerry, that sounds like a great project and it would certainly be educational watching them all in order and seeing how the series evolved, etc. So glad you enjoyed this post, great Hoppy info in the comments!

Raquel, it's my great pleasure, thank you for reading!!

Best wishes,

7:27 PM  

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