Author Archives: Vienna

JOHN BOLES

John Boles

I’ve become quite attached to John Boles after seeing him in Craig’s Wife (1936), which is really Rosalind  Russell’s picture, but John is fine in support.

Tall,dark and attractive ,  John Boles (1895-1969) had a fine singing voice too.

Wounded twice in World War One, John dropped his medical studies and studied music in New York . Universal signed him and he initially appeared in musicals like the first sound version of The Desert Song, King of Jazz  and Rio Rita.
His singing style was very much of the period, with a clipped pronunciation. But his speaking voice was very natural, soft and with a slight southern drawl. ( He was Texan.)

 

With Bebe Daniels. RIO RITA

 

King of Jazz

I love King Of Jazz and in particular John’s numbers, ‘It Happened in Monterey’ and ‘Song of the Dawn.’

 

He was kept busy in the  30s in films like Back Street, Music in the Air, A Message to Garcia , Stella Dallas, Craig’s Wife.

I counted 9 films alone in 1934, yet by the end of the 1930s John had deserted Hollywood . In 1943 he was on Broadway, costarring with Mary Martin in the musical, One Touch  Of Venus.

He  eventually returned to Texas and founded a very successful oil service company. He had been married to his college sweetheart since 1917.

In 1961 John helped  promote the third version of Back Street with John Gavin.The two Johns were in a way similar types, both quiet spoken and never overshadowing their female costars.

John Boles, John Gavin.

I found myself seeking out John’s films and in the process, seeing films (thanks to You Tube) I might not have watched otherwise.

 

John’s role in Six Hours  To Live (1932) is minor. The star is Warner Baxter as the government representative of a European country attending an international trade conference and is the only hold-out on a treaty.

As a result his life is threatened and he is murdered before a final vote is due to be taken on the treaty. A scientist revives him with a special ray but doesn’t know how long Baxter will live.

John Boles plays Baxter’s lawyer and English actress Miriam Jordan made her Hollywood debut as the baroness in love with Baxter.

Baxter finds that he has clairvoyant powers and the film develops nicely as he confronts his murderer!

And if you’re wondering how long Mr. Baxter survives, the clue’s in the title!

 

 

Child of Manhattan (1933) starred Nancy Carroll as Nancy McGonigle ,a dance hall girl who meets John Boles as  Paul Vanderkill,whose excuse for visiting the dance hall is because his family company owns the property .
Buck Jones was very likeable  as a westerner who wants to marry Nancy but she only has eyes for John who plays a widower with a daughter we never see.

Nancy’s mother is played by Jane Darwell with an Irish accent. Betty Grable has a tiny part as Nancy’s sister.

It’s a typical pre-code melodrama. Nancy and John marry secretly (in view of his position in society and his never seen daughter!);she has a baby that dies and she leaves for a quickie divorce in Mexico accompanied by Jessie Ralph (her first film at the age of 68.) But there is a happy ending!

The print on  You Tube is poor.

 

Sinners in Paradise(1938) was a 65 minute programmer made on a small budget with no location shooting. Rather sad to see it was directed by James Whale who couldn’t do much with the story of a seaplane crash In which the small group of passengers survive (with not a scratch on them) while the plane’s crew , other than the steward, are killed.

The crash is conveniently near  a desert island whose only inhabitants are John Boles and his servant.

The survivors include Bruce Cabot as  a gangster on the run ; Don Barry as the crew member; Gene Lockhart as a pompous  politician; heiress Charlotte Wynters;  Madge Evans as a nurse running away from a loveless marriage;  Milburn Stone and Morgan Conway as two arms dealers; and best of all ,Marion Martin as a brassy gal who hooks up with Cabot.
How they will all get off the island and the mystery of why Boles is there is the substance of the plot and it just isn’t as well done as, for example, Five Came Back. 

And whatever happened to  James Whale’s career.

 

John Boles, Bruce  Cabot. SINNERS IN PARADISE.

 

Marion Martin, Bruce Cabot.

 

Despite it’s title, Bottoms Up was an enjoyable Fox movie mainly because Spencer Tracy, Herbert Mundin and Sid Silvers make up a funny and likeable trio of con men.
Led by Tracy, a fast talking promoter, they take Hollywood by storm and make young ingenue, Pat Paterson a star. To get in the door, Tracy passes Pat and Herbert off as a wealthy English  nobleman and his daughter.

John  Boles plays a screen idol who is fed up with the roles he is getting, especially the ones opposite Thelma Todd (think Lina Lamont).

 

U

This was English actress and singer Pat Paterson’s first Hollywood film. She sings ‘I’m Throwing my Love Away’ well, while John  Boles gets possibly one of the poorest production numbers I’ve ever seen, ‘Waiting at the gate for Katy.’

 

John Boles, Thelma Todd.

More Thelma Todd would have been welcome. She brightens up all the scenes she is in.

I wish this film was on dvd .

 

 

Pat Paterson, Charles Boyer.

Pat Paterson (1910-1978) married  Charles Boyer and retired from the screen.

 

Only Yesterday is worth seeing for Margaret Sullavan’s first screen appearance. John Boles is absent for much of the film!
The plot can be summed up quickly. Margaret is a young girl  who has a one night stand with a soldier  John Boles who  is about to leave for duty in the First World War In 1917.
When the war ends a year later, the girl has had a baby and eagerly awaits his return, except that he doesn’t recognise her!
She doesn’t tell him and he goes on to marry (Benita Hume).

Margaret’s parents send her to stay with an aunt in New York. The aunt is Billie Burke, getting away from her usual fluttery roles and playing an independent business woman who is pursued  by Reginald Denny.

There are some lovely scenes between Burke and Denny as he visits her apartment and often plays her piano, with Billie joining him in singing ‘Shine On Harvest Moon’.

The film fast forwards to 1929, Billie and Reginald are married and blissfully happy. Poor Margaret is running a shop and devoting herself to her young son ( played very well by Jimmy Butler).

Margaret and John  meet up again but don’t look for a happy ending.

The script is based on the novel which Letter From An Unknown Woman’ also used.  (“Only Yesterday “ opens in 1929 and the Wall Street  Crash – John  Boles’ character has been wiped out and is contemplating suicide when a letter is delivered to him . This starts the flash back to 1917.)

Director John Stahl  had four hits in a row, starting with Back Street in 1932, then Only Yesterday, Imitation of Life in 1934 and Magnificent Obsession in 1935. (With quite a change in 1945 when he made Leave Her to Heaven.)

 

Billie Burke.

 

Reginald Denny

 

Margaret Sullivan, Jimmy Butler.

 

Some of John’s films I’d like to see: Some are on You Tube.

 

 

 

A MESSAGE TO GARCIA, with Barbara Stanwyck.

 

 

Most impressive so far of John Boles’s films has been CRAIG’S WIFE which I hope to review once I’ve watched it again. It was interesting to hear a radio version with Orson Welles and Ann Harding .

 

 

 

 

 

INTOLERANCE: BABYLON COURT

The three and a half hour 1916 epic, INTOLERANCE had some incredible sets including the above scene.

This film, by D.W. Griffith really was amazing in its concept – four story lines separated in time by several centuries.

The above set was for the story of the fall of the Babylonian Empire at the court of King Belshazzar.

I have read that D.W.Griffith financed most of the film which was seen  as an answer to the criticism he had received for Birth of a Nation. INTOLERANCE showed religious and political persecution  through the ages.

Stars of the film included Bessie Love, Lillian Gish, Constance Talmadge, Mae Marsh, Eugene Pallette, Donald Crisp, Douglas Fairbanks.

Amazing too to see all the future directors who were assistant directors on the film – Allan Dwan, Victor Fleming, Tod Browning, Jack Conway .

I’ve only seen clips from the film and it does look very impressive. Surely one of the very first big budget epics. To think that a set from over 100  years ago still remains one of the cinematic wonders.

 

The Babylon set was built near the intersection of Sunset and Hollywood Boulevard and stood for several years until it was finally dismantled in 1919.
(One can only imagine that this area was very much different from today  in 1916 ie plenty of space!)

 

Just recently a friend sent me an article related to this famous set and it was interesting to read that in 2001, the Hollywood and Highland shopping centre opened with the courtyard  of the centre being a scale replica of the archway and the elephant topped columns from the long lost movie.

 

Called Babylon Court, there was a plaque with information about the 1916 film.
I love how the arch frames the Hollywood sign.

But time marches on and the Intolerance replica arch and elephants are to be removed in a redevelopment of the shopping centre.

 

 

The advertising in 1916 described the movie as “the world’s mightiest spectacle!” and “D.W. Griffith’s masterpiece.“

 

 

 

Construction of the arch.

 

Amazing shot of Griffith in a balloon to oversee the scene!

 

You can see the colossal set size next to the man standing in the middle .

 

I guess it’s time to dip into a little more of this historical film.

 

Hollywood advertising, right  from the beginnings – “67,000 Actors!”

PHOTO TIME

Adele Jergens. ARMORED CAR ROBBERY.

 

Marie Windsor. THE NARROW MARGIN.

One of my favourite bloggers, Nitrate diva (http://nitratediva.wordpress.com) spotted that Marie Windsor and Adele Jergens wore the same dress in their films, The Narrow  Margin (1952) and Armored Car Robbery (1950).

Both films were RKO features so I guess both dresses came from the studio wardrobe dept.

 

In response to Nitrate Diva’s Twitter post, Norman Charles pointed out four newspaper headlines which featured the same headline (“Meteorite falls Near Baby” ) in each of the following  films – Over 21, The Bamboo Blonde, Black Angel, Framed.

The four films are from different studios, Columbia, RKO and Universal and were made in 1945, 1946 and 1947.

I cant explain this odd coincidence but well spotted by Mr. Charles.

I hope the baby was ok!

OVER 21.

 

Frances Langford. Bamboo Blonde.

 

BLACK ANGEL.

 

Edgar Buchanan. FRAMED.

 

Amazingly, I found another reference to the meteorite/baby reference.

According to the source I read, this photo comes from the animator’s desk at the Disney attraction, One Man’s Dream.

 

 

 

Another mystery, more easily identified I’m sure.  Who’s holding the cup in which film? And what’s  the significance of the cup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHOTO MIX 38

 

Ann Sheridan signs a poster of herself  during a USO tour.

 

Lauren Bacall, Kenneth More. NORTH WEST FRONTIER.

Always thought Lauren Bacall was unusual casting in this very good film.

 

John Ericson, Barbara Stanwyck.40 GUNS

To Barry Sullivan: “You shot my sister. I don’t believe it!”

 

 

Johnny Rocco and his gang.

Harry Lewis, Dan Seymour, Edward G.Robinson, William Haade, Thomas Gomez. KEY LARGO.

Be afraid, Bogie, be very afraid!

 

Walter Brennan. TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT.

”They are all around, waiting to sting you.!”

 

Alan Ladd in APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER. (His character’s name is ‘Goddard’). Ladd plays a postal inspector.

 

Grace Kelly, Lloyd Bridges.HIGH NOON

He won’t be a deputy for long.

 

 

Glenn Ford. COWBOY.

I thought this pic was from 3.10 to Yuma but good friend to the blog ,Walter confirmed it’s a still from “Cowboy.“

 

The entire cast of THE NAKED SPUR.

Ralph Meeker, Millard Mitchell, James Stewart, Robert Ryan, Janet Leigh. Trying to figure out what’s what and who’s who.

 

 

Michael Curtiz, Ingrid Bergman, Hal Wallis. CASABLANCA

The director , star and producer of the classic.

 

 

Richard Conte, Hope Emerson;.CRY OF THE CITY.

Take it easy, Hope. It’s only a movie!”

 

Fredric March, New York. 1944.
“Hurry up, son. the weather’s no improvin’ .”

 

 

 

STRAWBERRY BLONDE (1941)

 

You cant go wrong with Raoul Walsh directing,the Epstein brothers scripting   and a cast of James Cagney, Olivia De Havilland and Rita Hayworth. 

The plot ( from a play by James Hogan) was so popular that it was used three times in Hollywood- in 1932 ( with Gary Cooper) and later in the 40s as One Sunday Afternoon (1948, still with Raoul Walsh in the director’s  chair).

Set in New York in the 1890’s, the film was a nice change of pace for both Walsh and Cagney, with Cagney playing Biff Grimes, a pugnacious, quick tempered man who “don’t take nothing from nobody” because “that’s the kind of hairpin I am!”

 

All the men gather outside the barber shop as Virginia Brush (Rita Hayworth) saunters by. Biff’s pal Hugo Barnstead (Jack Carson) is in the group.

I had forgotten that this film is not all comedic in tone, though played with a light touch. Much of the film is in flashback as we learn how Biff ended up doing a five year prison stretch . And how his father (Alan Hale) is killed on a building site run by Biff’s friend ,Hugo.

Rita Hayworth, Olivia De Havilland, James Cagney, Jack Carson.

Hugo manages to arrange a double date with Virginia and her friend Amy who is a nurse with progressive ideas !

 

Biff is besotted with Virginia who goes off with Hugo.
The scenes with Biff and Amy have some great dialogue.

Amy is a woman with women’s rights on her mind and her ideas shock Biff as he says to her, “Wouldn’t you like a nice young man to marry you some day?”

Her reply,  “Not particularly!”

 

She asks for a cigarette and again surprises him, “…..I’ve been around, they can say an  awful lot of things about Biff Grimes,but not that he ever gave a girl a cigarette.”

He really  cant understand Amy:”Well, your mother’s a bloomer girl, you’re a nicotine fiend, are there any more at home like you?”

Amy: “I have an aunt who’s an actress!”

 

 

Olivia is a delight as the forward thinking Amy whom Biff comes to realise is the girl he loves and marries and sticks by him when he goes to prison after trusting Hugo who has been using substandard material in his building  work . (He had persuaded Biff to work for him and got Biff to sign contracts which made him liable when things went wrong).

 

George Tobias is Biff’s loyal friend, the barber Nick. 

 

Alan Hale is Biff’s father who can’t hold down a job and is always having trouble with his teeth – which is convenient for Biff as he is taking a correspondence course in dentistry.

 

 

Although Hugo has become a successful business man, his marriage to Virginia is not doing well.
And by coincidence, he need a dentist at short notice. Guess who he is referred to. Yes, it’s Biff who has continued his dental course in prison.

When Hugo and Virginia come to him, Biff is understandably still sore  at the time he spent in prison and pulls Hugo’s tooth.

Hugo:”What’s the idea. I wanted gas.”

Biff: “I haven’t got anything against you  any more, Hugo, but I wouldn’t be quite human  if I didn’t take a little revenge!”

 

It’s a pleasure to hear the good old songs featured in the film,  In The Good Old Summertime, Wait still The Sun Shines, Nellie , When You Were Sweet Sixteen and The Band Played  On. And of course there is a barber shop quartet.

The film’s end credits has sing-a-along lyrics on the screen to And The Band Played On. Sending everybody home with a smile on their faces I’m sure.

The film cried out for color. According to the A.F.I Ann Sheridan was set to play Virginia Brush but was in a salary dispute with Warner Brothers. I thought Rita Hayworth was just fine and conveyed how the older Virginia was not at all happy though having wealth and position in society.

In the 1933 stage play, Lloyd Nolan played Biff. And in the 1948 musical version, Dennis Morgan took on the Cagney role.
I haven’t seen either of the other film versions, so can’t compare them, but everything worked in the ‘41 version.

 

 

 

And a final piece of Epstein dialogue:

Amy: “I just can’t get over that electric light. Isnt it dangerous?”

Hugo: “Not if you pay the bills.”

 

 

VARIETY: JULY 8th, 1936

I wonder how many American  filmgoers in 1936 purchased the trade paper Variety,  or did they stick to the various fan movie magazines they could purchase every week.
The front page of Variety on July 8th,1936 had lots of interesting news:

 

Bette Davis in London.

……….”BETTE DAVIS SALARY TIFF WITH WARNER BROTHERS”

She’s left town and Jack Warner is standing pat on his suspension edict. He said there’s a principle whether or not a player can snap her fingers at a moral and legal obligation to the studio which employs her.
Miss Davis walked out of the picture,’God’s Country and the Woman’, demanding her salary of $1250 be doubled, or else.
Warner said her demands were exorbitant and she would remain on suspension.

(Bette went to London but had to return eventually. Warner Brothers did give her a bigger salary and better contract.

The picture, “God’s Country and the Woman” (That’s a title and a half!) was made with Beverly Roberts and George Brent. Must admit I don’t know Ms. Roberts. She was at Warner Brothers from 1936 to 1939 and then returned to singing and acting on the stage.)

Beverly Roberts

 

 

Ann Dvorak

……..Ann Dvorak who tiffed in the courts with Warner Brothers was reinstated after an 8 month suspension and reported back for work.

(Sadly Ann, whom I think would have been one of Warners’ biggest stars, did not get the roles she deserved after her quarrel with the studio.)

 

Lily Pons

………Theme songs from pictures are much in demand when Grace Moore, Lily Pons and Lawrence Tibbett tour the country – ‘One Night of Love’ – ‘I Dream Too Much’  – and Tibbett is still singing ‘The Rogue Song’.

(Imagine going to a concert with any of these singers!)

Grace Moore, Lawrence Tibbett.NEW MOON.

 

……….Overcoming Breen objections To “Valiant is the Word  for Carrie”, Paramount self-censored in a scene with Gladys George who raised her eyebrows  and gave rise to a questionable implication in the line.

(Gosh, I wonder what the line was! Has anybody seen this film?

And what a thrill for Salt Lake City fans, to have Gladys George there in person.)

 

 

Adele Astaire

………Lady Charles Cavendish (Adele Astaire) is leaving  for Hollywood in a one a year deal with David Selznick  for four years.

(Well, that definitely didn’t happen. It would have been wonderful to have Adele Astaire recorded on film. )

 

………At the Pan-American Auditorium 14,000 spectators witnessed the spectacular Actors  Fund Benefit On July 1st.
Gable, Colbert and Capra did the hitch hiking scene. Bette Davis, Robert Montgomery, Nelson Eddy, Eddie Cantor and others also performed.

Busby Berkeley and LeRoy Prinz contributed to the staging.

(Wow. What a concert that must have been. Wonder what Bette Davis did, and who were the ‘others’.)

Frank Capra,Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable.

 

Love these foreign posters for It Happened One Night.

 

 

 

……….Sigmund Romberg is composing new tunes for “Maytime”, with Gus Kahn doing lyrics.

ARIZONA’S HOLLYWOOD IN THE DESERT

M

Director Wesley Ruggles (1889-1972), younger brother of Charlie Ruggles, was active In films from 1917 and yet after the big budget Arizona in 1940, he only directed 5 more films. Reasons unknown.

Ruggles, for this western, scouted locations 12 miles from Tucson, and leased a 320 acre site which had a photographically perfect mountain, Golden Gate Peak, for a backdrop.He created 1860s Old Tucson  with the film’s budget of $2.3 million to work with.
There’s an unpublished paper, “Old Tucson and the filming of Arizona “ by Mary Huntington Abbott in 1968 which is held at the University of Arizona’s Western History.  Such a shame we can’t see it.

When the lease to the area  ran out in 1944, Columbia donated the entire site to Pima  County. There was no filming there after Arizona and the 50 buildings which were built for the film fell into disrepair. One report in the Tucson Daily Citizen said that “Phoebe Titus’s pie shop Is almost in shambles.”

Then in the late 40s  filming began again and many westerns were filmed there including  Winchester 73 , Rio Bravo , El Dorado , Buchanan Rides Alone and 3.10 To Yuma. It was a favorite location for John Wayne.

In 1959,  an entrepreneur Robert E. Shelton leased and restored the sets and by 1960, Old Tucson was open to the public and was heavily used for movie and TV.

In 1966 many props from John  Wayne’s The Alamo – cannons, saddles, wagons were given to Old Tucson.  And in 1970 , 100’s of pieces of wardrobe from the MGM auction were also purchased.

There was a big fire in 1995 and many buildings and sets, costumes were destroyed, but the local community rebuilt the movie set town and it is still open today.

So it’s unlikely any of the original Arizona buildings survive, though the Main Street is still there .

 

 

 

Howard Hawks, John Wayne. RIO BRAVO.

 

A shot from Rio Bravo. If you  know the film well, you’ll recognise the scene, with the sleeping Mexican.

 

The cast of McLintock, including John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Chill Wills, Edgar Buchanan, Patrick Wayne.

 

I love how this tribute to the tribal members who helped with the construction of old Tucson in 1939 for Arizona has a picture of John Wayne! Where’s Jean Arthur or William Holden.

 

 

Greer Garson, Dana Andrews. STRANGE LADY IN TOWN.

 

Alan Ladd in Old Tucson for The Badlanders.

 

The Badlanders  under another title ,ARIZONA FEDERAL PRISON.

 

 

Continue reading

MARY C. MCCALL, Behind the Scenes

Enjoying  the western, Ride The Man Down (1952, Rod Cameron, Ella Raines), I was interested to see the script was by Mary C. McCall (1904-1986) who was new to me.
In 1932, this writer had her first novel, “The Goldfish Bowl” purchased by Warner Brothers. She was hired on a 10 week contract to write Street of Women(Kay Francis).

(‘The Goldfish Bowl’ was filmed as It’s Tough  to Be Famous, with Douglas Fairbanks Jr.,though Mary didn’t get to do the script.)

By 1934 she had a long term contract with Warners and she became active in the Screen Writers Guild, helping secure the Guild’s first contract with the studios and a wage minimum increase from $40 to $125 per week for writers in 1942.

She was the first female president of the Screen Writers Guild ,1942-44. In the 1930s  and 40s, MGM had nearly 50 full time writers, and 25% were women.

 

Also know as Mary McCall Jr. her  most famous  scripts , which resulted in a long running series , happened when she adapted a novel, ‘Dark Dame’ into  Maisie in 1939.

 

Prior to Maisie at MGM,  she also wrote at Columbia for three years. When she scripted Craig’s Wife , director Dorothy Arzner  had Mary on the set for consultation. Having the writer on set was unheard of and Mary said it was a great experience.
The photo below is rare , showing 4 of the women involved in the film:

Viola Lawrence (editor), Rosalind Russell, Mary McCall, Dorothy Arzner.

(Viola Lawrence (1894-1973) was active from 1917 and worked at Columbia from 1931 to 1960, becoming their head editor. She edited Only Angels Have Wings, Cover Girl, In a Lonely Place.)

 

(Later remade as Harriet Craig with Joan Crawford.)

There’s a good print of Craig’s Wife on You  Tube and I watched it for the first time – and was very impressed. Much preferred it to the Joan Crawford remake. Rosalind Russell proving what a fine actress she was as the cold, manipulative wife of John Boles who adores her though all she cares about is her status in society and her house. And finally that’s all Harriet Craig has – the house . Everybody leaves her. Nice to see Alma Kruger in a sympathetic role as Craig’s aunt who finally tells him what she really thinks of his wife.
Jane Darwell  also very good as the housekeeper  and Billie Burke as a kindly neighbour. Thomas Mitchell has a small but crucial role at the beginning of the film.

Interesting too to see Raymond Walburn , as a friend of Craig’s, not his usual bumbling,comic character.
And Bess Flowers too!
By the way, I thought John Boles played the husband very well though his realisation that his wife doesn’t love him came rather suddenly.

John Boles, Rosalind Russell

 

Rosalind Russell, Jane Darwell

 

 

On the set with director Dorothy Arzner, Billie Burke, Rosalind Russell.

 

In addition to 8 Maisie screenplays, Mary scripted Dr. Socrates, A Slight  Case of Murder , Panama Hattie, Keep Your Powder Dry, The Fighting Sullivans.

For The Fighting Sullivans in 1944, Mary got $15,000 and 5% of the producers’ profits. Her salary by 1945 was $3,000 per week, putting her in the top tier of screenwriters.

 

 

 

Mary was very active in the Screen Writers Guild and in politics generally. According to J.E. Smyth, author of “Nobody’s Girl Friday” (2018), Mary was fired  by Warner Brothers in 1936 for union activities.
Mar’s first husband, Dwight Franklin was a costume designer and her second husband David Bramson was also a writer. She had four children and in 2017, her two daughters Mary- David and Sheila discussed their mother’s career after a screening of Craig’s Wife at the Screen Writers Guild  Foundation .

Although exonerated by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1954, her name was listed in the publication, Red Stars in Hollywood and work dried up.
She worked briefly on television on shows like Sea Hunt, I Dream Of Jeannie.

I’m still reading J.E.Smyth’s book, Nobody’s Girl Friday ( which is subtitled ‘The Women Who Ran Hollywood‘,)  and look forward to finding out more about the few women behind the scenes during the studio system.
They didn’t run Hollywood but when given the chance, their contribution added a lot to the classic films we love. People like Mary C.McCall deserve more than a footnote in Hollywood history.

On the book’s cover is Barbara McLean(1903-1996) who was chief editor at Twentieth Century Fox. She edited The Rains Came, All About Eve, The Robe and won an Oscar for Wilson (1944).

Half of her editing output was for director Henry King’s films including one  of my favourites , Twelve O’ Clock High.

MAN IN THE SADDLE (1951)

Reading Colin’s review of Coroner Creek (http://livius1.wordpress.comgot me started re-watching some of my favourite Randolph Scott westerns.


Man In The Saddle 
is a rather nondescript title for this Randolph Scott western which has a lot going for it. – range wars, jealousy, obsession, stampedes, storms and a love triangle! All you can hope for in a good western.

The film opens in the middle of the story. We learn quickly that big landowner Will Isham (Alexander Knox) is about to marry Laurie Bidwell (Joan Leslie) who has previously been involved with rancher  Owen Merritt (Randolph Scott).

It also becomes clear that Isham wants to buy up all the small ranches around him and that includes Merritt, Bourke Prine (Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams) and  Pay Lankershim (Clem Bevans).

 

Merritt isn’t too happy that Laurie is marrying  Isham.

 

Ellen Drew, Randolph Scott.

Ellen Drew  is Nan Melotte whose small holding is next to Owen’s ranch. She and Owen and Bourke Prine are about to start their drive to market to sell their cattle.

 

Alexander Knox is suitably cold and menacing as Isham .  He becomes convinced  his new wife still has feelings for Merritt.

 

Richard Rober, always good in villainous roles. Sadly he died in a car accident shortly after Man In The Saddle was completed.

He plays the Isham’s hired gun who stampedes Owen’s cattle and brings death and destruction to the peaceful ranchers.

 

John Russell’s character, Hugh Clagg is a surprising addition to the film’s plot. He plays a loner whom nobody really likes, but he is obsessed with Ellen Drew’s Nan who is kind to him.

 

 

Richard Crane and Cameron Mitchell as the Vird  brothers who work for Owen.

 

Clem Bevans

Always a pleasure to see Clem Bevans as Pay Lankershim  (love that name!). Unfortunately Clem is only in the film briefly. Pay reluctantly accepts Isham’s generous offer to buy him out.

 

Guinn Williams, Ellen Drew, Randolph Scott.

One of the few lighter scenes where anyone smiles in the film. The light moments come from Alphonso Bedoyo as Owen’s ranch cook.

 

 

Man In The Saddle was a Scott/Brown production, written by Kenneth Gamet from Ernest Haycox’s novel.

Producer Harry Joe Brown and Randolph Scott had known each other since 1941’s Western Union and The Desperadoes and continued their association from 1947 through the 1950s. No doubt a lucrative partnership for the two men who could turn out good westerns at not too great a cost.

Man in the Saddle has great locations in the Alabama Hills in California . And fortunately it was in color. Though there were too many night scenes which weren’t well lit – where was the ‘moonlight’.

It was the first of six films Andre De Toth made with Randolph Scott. The others are Carson City, The Stranger Wore A Gun, Thunder Over The Plains, Riding Shotgun, The Bounty Hunter.
Deserving of a box set release. I particularly like Carson City and The Bounty Hunter.

The screenwriter was Kenneth Gamet  whom I discovered did the scripts for 8 of Randolph Scott’s westerns.  He also co-founded the Screen Writers Guild.Like Scott’s producing partnership with Harry Joe Brown, it makes sense that this writer would become familiar with the Scott formula.

It’s interesting that in many of Scott’s westerns there was a group of actors common to many of them – Lee Marvin, Frank Faylen, Michael Pate, Dorothy Malone, Clem Bevans, Ray Teal.

Clem Bevans had a much bigger role in Scott’s Hangman’s Knot the following year, whereas Guinn Williams , a solid friend of Owen in Man in the Saddle, returns to his more usual type of role as a blustering bad guy in the latter film.

Question. Owen’s trail herd seems to be forgotten as the film progresses, or is it being tended by Tennessee Ernie Ford who plays a ranch hand and sings the title song round their campfire !

Tennessee Ernie Ford, Alfonso Bedoya.

 

Publicity shots:

Joan Leslie, Randolph Scott, Ellen Drew.

 

Randolph Scott, Ellen Drew.

 

Love this rare picture on the set, with director Andre de Toth on left, Randolph Scott, Ellen Drew, Guinn Williams.

 

On her wedding night, Laurie gets a visit from Owen . She makes it clear she will marry Isham. Owen says, “You always figured you could make your  mind pull your heart along. I hope you can.“

I liked Joan Leslie as Laurie who has plans to better herself by marrying the rich Isham. She can be ruthless – when her father (Don Beddoe) drinks and talks too much at her wedding reception, she simply tells him to leave the area and she’ll send him money.

Her marriage to Isham is strictly  a bargain, in name only. “I’ll play the part you  want me to play.”

But Isham doesn’t share anything, be it land or a woman – his philosophy is “Whatever I have is mine and mine alone. I’ll share with no one.”

Later he warns Owen, “Stay away from everything that belongs to me.”

So that’s the set up for this 87 minute film which is well paced and full of action.

 

HELL LAND.