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Archive for the ‘Randolph Scott: Movie God’ Category

Ride Lonesome

26 Oct

Ride Lonesome – directed by Budd Boetticher. Western. 73 minutes Color 1959.

★★★★★

The Story: A bounty hunter must bring in a murderer and encounters mortal danger inside and outside his posse.

~

Randolph Scott was for decades one of the most popular stars in Hollywood, and towards the end of his long career he made seven excellent films with Boetticher, of which this is the next to last and one of the best.

Scott came from a well-to-do Virginia and North Carolina family, and made a great fortune from films. He exuded the demeanor of a Southern gentleman too well bred to surrender to the admissions of the actor, but in time he loosened up internally and became an object of riveting registration. He is 61 when he makes this picture; his face has become marbleized; he is a national monument; he is stalwart, shrewd, and physically flexible when on horse; watch his body move. He is careful about what he laughs at, but contains a droll humor. When he is on screen all attention goes his way because he works the moral drift. Probity leads him. And that leads everyone else. Unlike Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, he is never hollow; he is without bombast. Burt Kennedy wrote this script, as he did for other of Scott’s best pictures, and knew Scott’s instrument and wrote fine music for it.

This is a trek movie. Like Stagecoach and many another it involves a long, tense, journey.

Accompanying Scott is the weak-minded young prisoner Scott has captured. But two other men go too, both interested in killing Scott so they can bring in the prisoner themselves and collect their own reward. They are interesting, because their reward would be amnesty from their past crimes and because they are played by James Coburn in his film debut, as a young lunkhead who idolizes the other one, played by the redoubtable Pernell Roberts. Roberts was the best Petruchio I have seen; he did it at The Phoenix in New York on Second Avenue back when. He had the kind of masculinity and big theater presence and great voice you found in Robert Preston. The fifth wheel in this posse is played by Karen Steele (Boetticher’s mistress at the time), an actress in whom our interest is stifled by her pyramid titties, immaculate beauty parlor appearance, and stiffness. Lee Van Cleef is, of course, the arch villain tracking them down.

The precision of the film gives us the story in all its timeless conventions and necessary taciturnity, and the director has given it to us in the spectacle of the taciturnity of the rocks amid which it is shot. It is sensational to look at. It would be wonderful to see this picture on the big screen, it must have been marvelous to witness it there at the time of its release. It’s still good to see it now.

 

Seven Men From Now

27 Mar

Seven Men From Now — directed by Budd Boettecher. Western. A widower on a mission of retaliation. 78 minutes Black and White 1956.

★★★★★

A really extraordinary piece, beautifully directed and filmed in the Alabama Hills of California with their astounding rock formations and bosky river and desert and stupendous views of the Sierras, all of which adds the frame of indifferent nature to the stark story. Randolph Scott, a vision of rectitude and reticence almost psychopathic, meets up with a couple on their way to California. Both parties have their mission, but neither know what it is. The secret is revealed as the journey progresses through a landscape which no one registers and which influences everything. Lee Marvin is brilliant as the antagonist who meets up with these three. His confidence as an actor is amazing, and watch for the bit of business he executes after he shoots his last man down. The heart of the picture lies with Gail Russell, a wonderful actor of great beauty, so soft and endearing; no actress of her day had a more natural appeal. The simplicity of the material and the economical handling of the story and the wit of the writing and the consistently imaginative narration of the photographer and the great skill of the performers make it one of the best Westerns ever made. Be prepared for a pleasant surprise as you watch it. Suitable for the whole family, as films were in those days. (The additional material is excellent. too.)

 

Starlift

26 Dec

Starlift. A smorgasbord of numbers to boost morale produced at Warners 1 hours 43 minutes.Black and White 1951.

* * *

The Travis Airforce Base stars in this pot pouri of musical and comedy numbers, designed to imitate Hollywood Canteen and This Is The Army. It is a scrapbook musical set this time not in WWII but in the Korean War, a War whose name, however, is never mentioned once during the entire film. Various superstars saunter through, among them James Cagney who is the best, and Gary Cooper who has a droll moment as a Dudley Doright cowboy in the skit narrated by the ever-bland Phil Harris. Doris Day sings whenever a bandaid appears on the arm of a returning vet. Gordon Macrae sings several numbers under his pompadour, and Virginia Mayo does a sweaty and effortful Polynesian dance in a blond wig, or perhaps the blond wig does the dance on top of Virginia Mayo. Everyone does their darndest anyhow. Jane Wyman sings, which is natural, as she actually began her career in musicals. Ruth Roman is the mother superior of  a mission to entertain the returning troops, airlifted in to Travis, (although I was in that war and we all went out by troopship from Camp Stoneman). Anyhow, the film is a actually about the movie star played by Janice Rule who is 19 when this was made. Here she is a dancer, as skilled as Gene Nelson who partners her, and she becomes involved with a forged romance, foisted off on the public by Louella Parsons who also appears. Janice Rule was to become one of the most accomplished and beautiful actresses ever to appear in film, and it is a loss that her career hadn’t more shape. She was powerful and mysterious with a beautiful speaking voice; she’s a later-day Howard Hawks sort of female, forward and humorous in her sexuality. The sides of her mouth curl up exquisitely, just as they did with that other dark-haired beauty, Cyd Charisse. What’s also fascinating is to see Doris Day in full force. Of course there never was a time when Doris Day was not in full force. She is always giving her all and it is always at the limit of her technique. Her application to the task and her daring make her look good. But she wasn’t about to play games; she was a single mother with a son to support; still, her work would appear more intelligent, were she not so eager to please. DoDo acts out of the power of a sure and certain instinct, and if you want to see instinctual acting, this is it. If you want to see instinctual acting with no discriminatory power attached, this is also it. She hits her mark every time; what is at question is the mark itself. The movie is lame, and slightly dishonest which the WWII anthology movies were not. What makes it lame is the faux naiveté of its sexuality combined with the obligatory leer of its males, wolf whistles being the shortest of all shorthands to romance.

 

 

 

Seven Men From Now

15 Jun

Seven Men From Now  Directed by Budd Boetticher. Western. A former sherif stalks the men who shot down his wife. 78 minutes Color 1956.

* * * * *

A really extraordinary piece, beautifully directed and filmed in the Alabama Hills of California with their astounding rock formations and bosky river and desert and stupendous views of the Sierras, all of which adds the frame of indifferent nature to the stark story. Randolph Scott, a vision of rectitude and reticence almost psychopathic, meets up with a couple on their way to California. Both parties have their mission, but neither know what it is. The secret is revealed as the journey progresses through a landscape which no one registers and which influences everything. Lee Marvin is brilliant as the antagonist who meets up with these three. His confidence as an actor is amazing, and watch for the bit of business he executes after he shoots his last man down. The heart of the picture lies with Gail Russell, a wonderful actor of great beauty, so soft and endearing; no actress of her day had a more natural appeal. The simplicity of the material and the economical handling of the story and the wit of the writing and the consistently imaginative narration of the photographer and the great skill of the performers make it one of the best Westerns ever made. Be prepared for a pleasant surprise as you watch it. Suitable for the whole family, as films were in those days. (The additional material is excellent. too.)

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When The Daltons Rode

30 Mar

When The Daltons Rode – Directed by George Marshall. Comedy Western. Will our hero remain faithful to his friends, the wronged Dalton boys, or will he not?  81 minutes Black and White 1940

* * * * *

And rode and rode and rode.  This is one of George Marshall’s comedy/romance/westerns, a genre at which he was a master. Destry Rides Again and Texas are two notable examples of his craft and sense of fun. Here the fun is supplied by the jalopy-voiced Edgar Buchanan once again and the heaviness once again by George Bancroft. The inestimable castrati-voiced Andy Devine gives us a wonderful town silly to whom all the females in the movie are drawn. He himself is stretched between his love of food, his love of the Dalton boys, and his love of these giggling females. Marshall’s style is in full play here: during a daring escape from a lunch counter, Brian Donlevy steals a pie, and during the ensuing daring stage-coach chase, he gives it to Andy Devine, the driver, to eat, but after one bite, it is shaken from Devine’s hand, and he nearly goes overboard after it. Marshall had a genius for comic set-ups; it is one of his most endearing gifts. But watch how brilliantly he stages crowds in violent motion, and groups in mayhem. The stars are bashed around like mad. The gunfights and chases are remarkable for their conviction. Also take in, if you like, the range of stunts performed here. The gang actually does jump from a cliff onto the top of a moving train. No joke, that. Randolph Scott is the lead as a man caught up in the bandit gang, as he also is in The Stranger Wore A Gun. He exhibits a fine sense of humor, just right for Marshall’s shenanigans and set in perfect balance by the script, which, as is usual in Marshall films, is better than you might expect. It gives forceful and realistic love scenes for him to play with the elegant Kay Francis, who herself is a game gal in a dustup. Mary Gordon does the minute Irish mom of the Dalton boys to a T. The picture has brilliant passages of horses in motion, and color does not interfere here with the beautiful spectacle of black and white photography. Marshall’s cast is deep on talent: Broderick Crawford is super as Kay Francis’s love interest and pal of Scott. This is a film the whole family can watch together with pleasure.

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Follow The Fleet

22 Mar

Follow The Fleet – directed by Mark Sandrich – musical comedy about a lower class gob who wants to pick up where he left off with his former romance. 110 minutes black and white 1936.

* * * * *

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire were often cast as sophisticates, but here, not so. Here he chews gum and is decidedly lower class, she’s just a goil in tap shoes. I liked that about this piece. Ginger Rogers won a Charleston contest at 14, and toured the country as a featured performer before ending up starring on Broadway before she was 19. She was a very experienced, hardworking, graceful, and talented musical performer. She had made 19 movies before, at 23, she made her first one with Astaire; he had made three. As an actress she had ease, wryness, and bite; as an actor he was shamefaced, but he was the favorite singer of all the songwriters he sang for, and she and he were in perfect agreement on the dance floor — so much so that in this picture they even do a parody of bad-dancing. Irving Berlin wrote the score and words here, so the standard is high. Randolph Scott and Harriet Hilliard (of Ozzie and Harriet fame) provide the glass in which this ice-cream sundae is served. Betty Grable is somewhere in the mix. And as everyone has said before me and as everyone will say after me, its finale, Let’s Face The Music And Dance — which has nothing to do with chewing gum and a goil — is one of the most beautiful dance sequences ever laid down on film.

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Desperadoes

01 Mar

Desperadoes – directed by Charles Vidor – Western. A former gunman tries to go straight. 86 minutes color 1943.

* * * * *

Desperadoes is a curious name for this un-desperate story. We have the always-dubious presence of the inestimable Edgar Buchanan with his sly eyes and crumbly voice. Which centralizes the picture as a musical comedy, especially in view of the gaudy women’s costumes, worn elegantly by Claire Trevor and Evelyn Keyes. However, young Glenn Ford plays a hell-bent gunman. His sidekick is called Nitro because he is always blowing up places unexpectedly, and this comic personage takes the edge off how seriously we should take Glenn Ford’s plight. Randolph Scott gives us another of his easy gentlemanly sheriffs, but his role is submerged by the attention afforded Ford. Scott is never out of humor, and even stranded in the desert, he meets with his rescuer with blithe nonchalance. Charles Vidor directed this pleasant mishmash, and the Technicolor is beautiful; Technicolor was notorious difficult to use; this was the first Technicolor film Columbia released. There is a splendid wild horse stampede and some sensational chases through what is supposed to be Utah and may indeed be so. There is a funny dustup in a saloon — twice — and a comic bartender. Let’s see. What else? If Cyd Charisse had played the Claire Trevor part, and if Jane Powell had played the Evelyn Keyes parts and if Ford and Scott could sing, and if Edgar Buchanan could dance — nothing else would be needed to bring this do-dad into the classic western musical category, if such a category actually exists.

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