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NOTES ON “FORTY GUNS” (1957)

The plot of FORTY GUNS is set in motion when Federal officer  ‘Griff Bonell’ (BARRY SULLIVAN) with his two brothers ‘Wes’(GENE BARRY)  and ‘Chico’ (ROBERT DIX) comes to the  town of   Tombstone with a warrant for one of ‘Jessica Drummond’s (BARBARA STANWYCK) men for robbing the mails.

Jessica has a huge empire and runs it ruthlessly. She has a brother ‘Brockie’ (JOHN ERICSON) who uses her power to do whatever he likes. He’s a loose cannon who is going to bring her down.

 

That fantastic opening scene before the credits, as ‘Jessica’ on her white stallion leads her 40 riders . Where they are heading isnt clear but it doesn’t matter, it’s just so impressive.

Especially since there  is no music, just the deafening sound of the horses’ hooves.

Robert Dix, Barry Sullivan, Gene Barry.

The three brothers, in a buckboard , are  heading for town, and are overtaken on the prairie by the galloping riders who pass them and  leave them in a cloud of dust.

 

Gene Barry, Barry Sullivan, Robert Dix after the dust storm.

Then the credits and the music soundtrack begin. One of the best openings I’ve seen of any film.

 

Does the rest of the  film live up to this thundering start? I’d argue,no.

It’s  a film of impressive moments which doesn’t quite add up to a satisfactory whole. Great  beginning, poor finish. And all the work of SAMUEL FULLER who wrote, produced and directed the film.

 

Dean Jagger, John Ericson, Barry Sullivan, Gene Barry, Robert Dix.

Another  great scene which ,in just a couple of minutes, shows us that Jessica is the law in Cochise county, with  the sheriff and the judge in her pocket. Griff and his brothers look on in quiet bemusement as Jessica’s brother Brockie (who has shot the half blind sheriff (HANK WORDEN) is released from jail.

 

 

Gene Barry, Eve Brent.

Gene Barry as ‘Wes’, is the easygoing brother who’s always there as backup (the second gun) for Griff. When he falls (instantly!)for ‘Louvenia’ (Eve Brent), he  decides to stay in Tombstone, but fate has other plans.

Eve Brent

 

Eve Brent

That shot, justly famous, where Gene Barry as ‘Wes’ looks down the barrel of a rifle at Eve Brent who plays the gun shop owner’s daughter .

Eve Brent was active , mostly on TV , till her death in 2011. Not sure why she didn’t get more film roles, though she felt typecast after playing ‘Jane’ twice In  Tarzan films.

Eve Brent in later life

 

Hank Worden has a couple of good scenes as the marshal with failing eyesight who is shot by a drunken Brockie.

 

Hank Worden

 

Dean Jagger

Dean Jagger does his best with a character ,’Ned Logan’, whose sole purpose in life is to follow Jessica’ s orders while secretly being in love with her. He tries to kill Griff and when he fails, he finally tells Jessica of his feelings. She tries to buy him off with a cheque and he goes into the next room and hangs himself!

Jessica and Griff hear a noise next door – it’s the sound of Logan’s boots against a wall. Wow!

 

Barry Sullivan, Dean Jagger, Barbara Stanwyck.

 

Dean Jagger and Barbara Stanwyck.

 

Brockie has murdered Wes , just after Wes’s wedding to Louvenia. He’s found guilty but can’t  believe Jessica when she tells him she can’t do anything for him.

Brockie breaks out of the jail and takes his sister as a hostage. But he has to face Griff. And that leads  to another great scene in the movie.

 

Griff is a crack shot and he shoots Jessica, initially making us think she is dead as she drops to the ground.

 

 

Brockie can’t quite believe it. He aims at Griff but is outgunned. Griff keeps pumping him with lead and we hear Brockie saying, ”I’m dead, Mr Bonell!”

Quite a change for John Ericson who usually played quieter roles. Born in 1926, he was active mainly in television. In 1955, he played Anne Francis’ s brother in BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK. He would later costar with Anne in her tv series HONEY WEST.

 

 

Griff walks past Jessica and Brockie  and utters the iconic line,

“Get a doctor. She’ll live!”  (He has shot her in the leg.)

Of that amazing scene, Fuller said, “My original script had Griff killing both Jessica and her brother, stepping over their corpses in a daze, throwing his gun down – this time for good – and walking up the dusty street without a pause. Nothing and no one exists for Griff anymore.”

(Incidentally, Stanwyck and Sullivan had costarred the  year before  in “The Maverick Queen” , and Barbara died at the end of that one !)

The tacked on happy ending has Jessica running after Griff as he leaves town.

The CinemaScope film would have looked even more sensational in colour.

 

There’s a  silly , though dramatic scene  of the evening meal at Jessica’s ranch, with her forty ranch hands  seated at an extremely long table, all dressed in their Sunday best as though they had just been to church!

 

And there’s a ballad from JIDGE CARROLL, ‘High Ridin’ Woman’ which he sings in the film.

Jidge Carroll

 

Another great scene has Jessica and Griff caught in a  colossal tornado. Jessica falls off her horse and is dragged along  as her foot is trapped in the stirrup.

 

The dialogue is a bit ripe at times. When Jessica offers Griff a job, she says, “I need a strong man to carry out my orders.”

 He replies,  “And a weak man to take them.”

 

.

Barbara got to show off her horse riding skills. Could this have been her own horse?

My blu ray disc was the 2015 release by Eureka in their ‘Masters of Cinema’ series. The Criterion release of 2018 has more extras which are tempting, including a documentary on Sam Fuller by his daughter, a 30 page booklet and a chapter from Fuller’s  2002 autobiography.

Definitely  a film worth seeing, but, for me, not one I’d add to my list of favourite westerns.

 

It isn’t a great part for Barbara Stanwyck. I much preferred her role in TROOPER HOOK, made the same year.

 

 

 

 

FORTY KILLERS

 

HIRSCHFELD IN HOLLYWOOD

Great Al HIRSCHFELD  drawing. How many can you identify? I got about 27 on a first look.

Albert HIRSCHFELD (1903-2003) was an American caricaturist who was called  “the  Fred Astaire of pen and ink” and “The Line King”. He illustrated Broadway shows in the New York Times for decades.

When his daughter Nina was born in 1945,  he started to insert the name ‘Nina’ in his drawings and it became a national pastime for the Times readers on a Sunday to spot the Nina.

Hirschfeld was married for over 50 years to the German actress, Dolly Haas.

 

Who’s this?

 

 

Spot the Nina!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hirschfeld stamps

 

And TV Guide covers.

 

 

Al HIRSCHFELD.

 

 

GEORGE CUKOR INTERVIEWS

Picked up this interesting book in a charity shop: GEORGE CUKOR INTERVIEWS edited by Robert Emmet Long. 2001. University Press of Mississippi.

It’s always fascinating to read comments from the greats of Hollywood. George Cukor was active for  40 years and his films include DINNER AT EIGHT, LITTLE WOMEN, CAMILLE, THE WOMEN, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, GASLIGHT, BORN YESTERDAY, A STAR IS BORN, MY FAIR LADY.

 

Garbo, Robert Taylor. CAMILLE.

“Thalberg offered me a  choice  of pictures , one of them ,MARIE WALEWSKA, and I chose to do THE LADY OF THE  CAMELLIAS. When it came out, however, neither Garbo nor I was nominated for an Oscar, and I remember that in the trade papers, the film received rather a bad notice.”

 

Constance Bennett,  Melvyn Douglas, Garbo.

”People often  say glibly that the failure of TWO FACED WOMAN finished Garbo’s career. That’s a grotesque over-simplification. If only life were tied up in such neat packages! It certainly threw her, but I think what really happened was that she just gave up; she didn’t want to go on.”

 

Judy Garland, James Mason.

”Certainly the film (A Star is Born) was too long in its original  form, but Moss Hart (the  scriptwriter) and I could have cut it in such a way that the cuts wouldn’t have been perceptible……was it Mary Tudor who said, ‘calais Is written on my heart’? Perhaps the cutting of A Star is  Born is the only thing that has really upset me.”

”James Mason’s performance as Norman Maine was terribly good, very moving, but I don’t think it was the equal of Garland’s. I thought she was absolutely staggering.”

 

 

”Joan Crawford was a great movie personality. You can photograph her from any angle. From any side, anywhere, under any conditions…she always looks good. But her real talent is the way she moves. All she has to do is walk across a room, from one side to the other, and you notice that something very special is happening…..the way she carries herself, the way her arms move…..the position of the head….”

 

 

With Katharine Hepburn, Frances Dee, Joan Bennett, Jean Parker..LITTLE WOMEN.

On the question of whether he regarded himself  as a woman’s director:

”oh, that’s such a cliche. Among other things, I did  direct a picture called THE WOMEN, with nothing but women in the cast. But I must point out that I’ve directed some men too, among them, Jack Barrymore,Spencer Tracy,Ronald Colman, Jack Lemmon.

I became associated with ladies like Katharine Hepburn and Garbo and I suppose the label has stuck ever since.”

 

With Katharine Hepburn on the set of SYLVIA SCARLETT

 

Paul Douglas.

Paul Douglas had starred in BORN YESTERDAY on Broadway and CUKOR was asked why he didn’t use Douglas in the film version;

”Because he was very foolish. He turned it down. He knew the play very well, and when the script was sent to him, it had been changed a lot and he didn’t want to do it…..he would have been wonderful because he and Judy  Holliday were so funny together.”

 

 


George Cukor, Katharine Hepburn, Lew Ayres, Henry Kolker, Doris Nolan, Cary Grant
Holiday – 1938
Love this rare shot of the cast of HOLIDAY all feigning boredom as CUKOR talks to them!

 

With Angela Lansbury. GASLIGHT.

 

With Garbo. TWO FACED WOMAN.

 

James Mason ,Judy Garland, George CUKOR.

 

Rare photo on the set of A Star Is Born. I can see George CUKOR, Jack Warner, Judy Garland, James Mason and Sid  Luft.

 

 

IDA LUPINO COLLECTION

Start saving now. Kino Lorber are doing us a big favour on  September 24th by releasing on  blu-Ray four of the films that IDA LUPINO directed from 1949 to 1953. (Region A only at the moment.)

NOT WANTED.

NEVER FEAR

THE HITCHHIKER

THE BIGAMIST.

A pity they couldn’t have made it six, with  OUTRAGE  and HARD FAST AND BEAUTIFUL to complete the set.

All have audio commentaries , and accompanying the set is an 80 page booklet about Ida as auteuress ( a word new to me, what’s wrong with auteur?)

 

When Ida Lupino started The Filmakers with her then husband Collier Young , was she brave or foolhardy, choosing issues such as unwed mothers, polio, rape and bigamy for her first films as a director.

I’d like to think Lupino and Collier decided that if they were going to make their own films, the subject matter would be what they wanted to investigate. It’s obvious the big studios of the early 1950s would never have considered such films.

In 1950, she was 32 and became officially the only working female director in Hollywood. No mean feat.

 

Made on a shoestring, Ida ‘s films gave strong roles to new young performers such as Mala Powers, Sally Forrest, Hugh O’Brian, Keefe Brasselle .

 

The Hitch-Hiker, an gripping story which should have guaranteed Ida more work as a director,  was Filmakers’ s most commercially successful film. But a distribution contract with RKO didn’t work out.

 

 

While writing and directing these films, Ida was also still acting as well in films like Beware My Lovely, Lust For Gold, Woman in Hiding, Jennifer – and the classic ON DANGEROUS GROUND.

 

Sally Forrest, Ida Lupino

 

Ida learned about directing from the best. She said,”Raoul Walsh used to let me watch him in the cutting room. I wouldn’t bother him, but I’d ask him certain things.”

 

Ida directs Mala Powers and Robert Clarke in Outrage.

 

 

Sitting at the back of the projection room is Ida, with Collier Young on her left and actor Robert Clarke two along from her . So I presume the film is Outrage. Everyone is concentrating!

 

A photo I love, as Ida, Edmund O’Brien and William Talman discuss a scene for The Hitch Hiker. Ida in sneakers, slacks and a ball cap.

Wish we’d had a chance to speak to the actors about being directed by Ida.

 

A plea for independent productions outside of the studio system.

 

We do indeed remember the 70 minutes of The Hitch-Hiker!

 

Ida directing a 1961 episode of The Rifleman, with Chuck Conners.

Television welcomed  Ida as a director in the 50s and 60s, but not one Hollywood studio gave her work – which speaks for itself. ( her last film as a director was The Trouble With Angels.)

In the entire 156 episode run of The Twilight Zone, Ida was the only female director.

Ida was the first woman ever to direct herself (The Bigamist), and only the second female member of the Screen Directors Guild. (Dorothy Arzner was the first). True or not, it was said that at meetings of the Guild which she attended, the address was “Gentlemen and Miss Lupino.”

 

I expect this box set will be expensive. But for Lupino fans, it’s irresistible!

 

ON THE SET 43

Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn. WOMAN OF THE YEAR.

 

Relaxing in the jungle. Lauren Bacall, John Huston, Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn. THE AFRICAN QUEEN.

 

 

Nigel Bruce, Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Fontaine. SUSPICION.

 

Olivia De Havilland, George Brent. GOLD IS WHERE YOU  FIND IT (1938)?

 

Joseph Mankiewicz, Linda Darnell. A LETTER TO THREE WIVES.

 

Monty Woolley, Bette Davis.THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER.

Bette without a cigarette in her hand, very unusual.

 

Fred Zinnemann, Grace Kelly. HIGH NOON.

 

Ronald Colman, David Niven, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. THE PRISONER  OF ZENDA.

 

Robert Taylor, Audrey Totter. 1947 THE HIGH WALL.

 

Robert Taylor, Cyd Charisse.  PARTY GIRL 1958

DARK CITY ON BLU RAY

To be released on blu-ray in the UK on 2nd September, 2019 is DARK CITY. Extras include an Alan K.Rode commentary and a booklet (on the first pressing only).

“Dark City “ (1950) had the Hollywood debut of 26 year old Charlton Heston and costars include Lizabeth Scott, Jack Webb and Harry Morgan.

I like this new art work for the cover.

My pre-order is already done on Amazon.

DON MCGUIRE

Don McGuire

He’s in one of my favourite films, ARMORED CAR ROBBERY and he stands up well alongside the screen grabbing Charles McGraw.

Every time I watch “Armored Car Robbery”, Don McGuire (1919-1999) impresses me. He is just so likeable , with a self deprecating style which contrasts nicely with the always deadly serious McGraw who plays ‘Lt. Jim Cordell.’

As ‘Danny Ryan’, Don is a rookie detective assigned to work with   Cordell (McGraw), who has just seen his longtime partner, ‘Phillips ‘ (played by James Flavin) gunned down  during a robbery. Typical of a McGraw character, Cordell expresses little emotion as he greets the young and eager Ryan:

“You’re replacing Phillips. That’s just dandy.”

Later in the film, when they find the robbers’ abandoned car, Ryan says, “Someone lost a lot of blood.”

Cordell’s reply, “Not enough for me”.

 

Don McGuire, Charles McGraw 

In another scene where Ryan has suggested going undercover , Cordell says, “Go Ahead, what have we got to lose.”

Ryan replies,laconically, “Only me.”

And Don, as Ryan, gets my favourite quote in the film: when he sees burlesque queen ‘Yvonne LeDoux’ at work – “Imagine a dish like this married to a mug like Benny McBride – the naked and the dead.”

Adele Jergens

Two screen grabs, just to show that McGraw could smile! At the end of the film,McGuire’s character was injured and he gets a small mention in the newspaper.

 

 

Don McGuire’s acting career never really took off. He had a Warners contract from 1945. If you blinked, you’d miss him in HUMORESQUE, THE MAN I LOVE, POSSESSED.

But by 1951, he had started screen writing ( having a background in journalism.) He has a small role, again with  Charles McGraw, in THE THREAT, but ”Armored Car Robbery “ was probably his most substantial role .

 

Don (plus moustache)played the lead role in the 15 part serial CONGO BILL, a 1948 cliffhanger from Columbia. Cleo Moore costarred.

 

Turning to writing and directing by 1951 when he was in his early 30s, McGuire wrote the story and screenplay for Frank Sinatra’s  MEET DANNY WILSON and subsequently wrote  and directed Sinatra in JOHNNY CONCHO.

When Don married Goldwyn girl Karen Gaylord In 1948, the wedding was held at Frank Sinatra’s Toluca Lake home , and Frank and his wife Nancy were best man and matron of honour.

 

He co-scripted two Martin and Lewis films, ARTISTS AND MODELS and THREE RING CIRCUS, and then wrote/directed the Jerry  Lewis film, THE DELICATE DELINQUENT.

 

Darren McGavin, Martha Hyer.

 

I vaguely remember enjoying the third  film he directed , HEAR ME GOOD, starring Hal March.

 

In 1959, McGuire created a TV series, HENNESSEY, starring Jackie Cooper. It ran for three seasons.

He also adapted for the screen the short story ,”Bad Time at Honda” that became  BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK. The final script was by Dalton Trumbo under the pseudonym  of Howard Kaufman ( as Trumbo was blacklisted.)

Spencer Tracy. BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK.

And in the 1970s, he came up with the story of an unemployed actor who disguises himself as a woman to get a job in a soap opera. That story became TOOTSIE.

Not a bad career behind the camera, but every time  I watch him in “Armored Car Robbery”, I wish he had been luckier in his acting roles.

A shame no one  thought to try and get an interview with him  in his later years.

 

A few more shots from “Armored Car Robbery”.

William Talman as ‘Dave Purves’, Douglas Fowley as ‘Benny McBride’.

The start of the well planned robbery that all went wrong!

 

Cordell and Ryan corner Steve Brodie.

 

Is Ryan out of his depth? He’s dealing with Miss. LeDoux (Adele Jergens).

 

He is out of his depth. William Talman has a gun on him.

 

The man who plans everything to the Nth degree. He takes labels of his shirts ,”I don’t like labels. No loose ends.”

 

Made for each other. ‘Dave Purves’ and ‘Yvonne LeDoux’.