Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Tumbleweed (1953)

I've had the Audie Murphy Western TUMBLEWEED (1953) in my "watch" stack for quite some time now. I was inspired to get it out this week by my friend Kristina, who just saw it and was enthused. It delivered as promised, a nice solid Western.

Murphy plays Jim Harvey, who is guiding a wagon train for Seth (Ross Elliott) and Sarah (Madge Meredith) Blanden and Sarah's sister Laura (Lori Nelson), along with several men. When Indians attack the train, Jim tries to use the fact he'd saved the life of one of their tribesmen to negotiate, but he's held prisoner while most of the wagon train is massacred. Only the women survive by hiding among the rocks along with Sarah's baby.

Sarah doesn't believe Jim risked his life to try to help them, and her brother-in-law Lam (Russell Johnson) whips the townsfolk into a frenzy, inciting a lynch mob against Jim for dubious reasons. Only the calm sheriff (Chill Wills) is able to keep Jim alive.

Jim is later helped by the Indian (Eugene Iglesias) whose life he'd saved, along with a farm couple (Roy Roberts and K.T. Stevens) who also have faith in Jim. Meanwhile Laura must decide whether to fall into line with her sister and brother-in-law or trust in Jim, who must find a way to clear his name...

This is a compact 79-minute film which does a nice job telling its story in a brisk, entertaining fashion. The cast is quite enjoyable; in addition to the actors already named, the movie features Lee Van Cleef and I. Stanford Jolley as part of the sheriff's posse and Lyle Talbot as a townsman.

Part of the fun of a movie like this is enjoying the different spins on a familiar theme. I especially liked Roberts and Stevens (seen with Murphy above at left), who we learn have special reasons for wanting to help Jim. They provide him with a horse who's as smart as he is ugly, becoming an important ally for Jim.

The movie is as much a love story between man and horse as it is between Jim and Laura, who clearly love each other yet never manage to kiss before the final fadeout! Murphy is good, as always, as a somewhat tightly wound hero who must contend with a long line of life-threatening problems, and Nelson looks lovely in Technicolor.

The movie was directed by Nathan Juran and filmed by Russell Metty. The majority of the film was shot outdoors, with locations including Southern California's Vasquez Rocks and Red Rock Canyon, plus Death Valley further north.

Like too many Murphy Westerns, TUMBLEWEED has not been released on DVD in the United States. It's had a Region 2 release in Europe.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I caught this a few weeks ago on YouTube (reminder to self: always check YouTube) and found it everything I could wish. Liked the interesting characters in the script.

6:34 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it also! We really need a set of unreleased Audie Murphy films to come out on DVD...

Best wishes,

8:13 AM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

The year 1953 was kind of a high-water mark for Audie Murphy. He had established his star well by then and the films he made in this period are among the best he made in my humble opinion ("GUNSMOKE", "RIDE CLEAR OF DIABLO" etc).
Glad you got to watch it, Laura, and especially glad you clearly liked it.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Kristina said...

I had such a good time with this one: good story & characters and a cute, crafty horse! Works for me. I've been on an Audie completist mission as you know, and still a few to go, hope they're all as enjoyable as this one. Love Audie's face when he saw which horse he got, lol.

3:08 PM  
Blogger mel said...

"We really need a set of unreleased Audie Murphy films to come out on DVD..."

Amen to that, Laura.

Particularly Texas, Brooklyn And Heaven; Bad Boy; Joe Butterfly; The World In My Corner and The Quick Gun...

10:45 PM  
Blogger john k said...

The good news is that ALL of Audie's Universal Westerns have
been released on DVD or Blu Ray somewhere on the Planet.
The one missing title SHOWDOWN was recently released on Blu Ray
by Koch Media,Germany in a lovely widescreen (1.85) transfer.
SHOWDOWN is one of the very best of Audie's later Westerns a tough
little movie and the only one of Audie's Universal pictures to be
made in black & white.
Nice Lone Pine locations as well. Audie is VERY popular in Germany.
To add to Mel's statement the non Western BAD BOY was recently released
in a very nice looking transfer by Warner Archive.
I am trying to up-grade my Audie collection to Blu Ray and this is helped
by the release of high def German versions which appear from time to
time.I'm hoping my all time fave Audie Western HELL BENT FOR LEATHER
will appear on Blu Ray,again the film has lovely Lone Pine locations.
Audie and director George Sherman did not get on but HELL BENT FOR
LEATHER was one of the best Westerns from them both-this was the only
time they worked together despite the huge volume of work both of them
did for Universal.
Sadly the UniverslFrance DVD of THE WILD & THE INNOCENT is a 4x3 pan & scan
and it's rumored that the master elements were lost in the "Universal fire"
THE WILD & THE INNOCENT is very "Laura friendly" it starts off like a Disney
film but develops into something darker and more adult-a very underrated
I might add that THE QUICK GUN was released by Sony in their MOD series in a
lovely transfer. Of the later Audie Columbia titles ARIZONA RAIDERS is the best
again released in a stunning Sony MOD. ARIZONA RAIDERS is certainly the most
violent of all of Audie's Westerns-Michael Dante (he got on really well with Audie)
is just fine as the really nasty bad guy.
Michael had some amazing stories about working with Audie-especially with Buster
Crabbe waking them up going for his early morning dip splashing about in the
pool while making ARIZONA RAIDERS.

Thanks Laura,in you continued efforts to champion Audie's pictures.

6:48 AM  
Blogger john k said...

All this reminded me to imbb Michael Dante to see if there
were any more "Audie" quotes.
I have read articles and heard comments on DVD "extras" on how
highly Michael enjoyed working with Audie, in spite of Buster's antics
constantly waking them up at the crack of dawn.
Nothing regarding Audie on imdb but Michael obviously had a very high
regard for producer David Weisbart who he calls the "most wonderful human being"
I was very pleased to read this as Mr Weisbart produced several of my all time
favorite movies so it's great to hear he was a really good person.
Michael provides an insight into Mr Weisbart's untimely passing-which is very moving.
I am a huge Michael Dante fan-I feel he should have been a much bigger star but
having said that he worked for Sam Fuller,Budd Boetticher,Gordon Douglas
and William Witney..very impressive list of credits.
Sorry,Laura to go "off topic" but you know what I'm like.

8:08 AM  
Blogger John G. said...

As a Lori Nelson fan, TUMBLEWEED is on my to-see list. Thanks for the review, Laura.

Speaking of Lori (and apologies for the off-topic-ness), I recently got the CBS made-on-demand DVD-R set of the first season of HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (based on the movie) starring Lori, Merry Anders, and a pre-JEANNIE Barbara Eden.

I've watched the first 7 or 8 episodes, and it's not bad. Though I can see why it only lasted 52 episodes (Nelson was only in the first 39-episode season). Every episode revolves around a scheme to get one of three to lure a millionaire, and that's not really a recipe for a long-term series.

I'll be curious to see if Lori actually gets to let her hair down (literally) before the season ends. I don't know if they wanted her to match Eden & Anders' short hairstyles, but her longer hair has been glued to the back of her head to this point no matter the situation. Only I would notice something like that (haha)...

Anyway, if anyone's interested in this series, as far as I can tell it's only available at Amazon.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi everyone! It's great to see Audie (and Lori!) bringing out so many comments.

Jerry, that's a great comment on Audie's success in 1953. I liked GUNSMOKE and RIDE CLEAR OF DIABLO even better than TUMBLEWEED and since I enjoyed that one it was definitely a good year for him. :)

Great description of the movie, Kristina! I definitely want to see all of Audie's films as well...until "official" DVDs are release you have been a great help toward that cause, Mel!

John K., thank you so much for your extensive comments on Audie on DVD, much appreciated. I need to pick up BAD BOY from the Warner Archive. You make THE WILD AND THE INNOCENT sound very appealing! It's nice to see Stephen McNally is in HELL BENT FOR LEATHER as THE DUEL AT SILVER CREEK which he made with Audie is one of my top Audie Murphy favorites.

The Michael Dante and Lori Nelson info (from John G.) was all very appreciated, I love when a movie spurs discussion of the performers and other recommendations. Lori was sure "pretty as a picture" in TUMBLEWEED. I have several of her other films, including DESTRY with Audie Murphy, which I'll look forward to seeing. Interesting that HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE costarred Merry Anders who I first knew from guesting on the MAVERICK series. Didn't know about the MILLIONAIRE TV series.

Might have to watch another Audie Murphy film this weekend...John K. I would love it if others read about this or other Audie Murphy films here and check them out!! Hopefully the fact he has so many fans chiming in here will help convince potential viewers to give his Westerns a try. :)

Thanks to everyone for the great conversation!

Best wishes,

6:03 PM  
Blogger mel said...

@ john knight: Thank you so much for your interesting and useful input.

11:10 PM  

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