Tuesday, April 16, 2019

CMBA 2019 SPRING BLOGATHON, FEMME/HOMME FATALES OF FILM NOIR: Nightmare Alley (1947)


The Classic Movie Blog Association Spring Blogathon runs from April 16th to the 19th with a focus on the Femme/Homme Fatales of Film Noir. Click HERE for the fascinating articles.


Tyrone Power stars as Stanton Carlisle, con man extraordinaire whose biggest fall guy was himself.

Stan is a fellow whose confidence often crosses over the border into arrogance. Carlisle is handsome and has a surface charm that wins him many admirers, especially among women. If life hasn't always been easy, at least the immediate pleasures he desires have come his way.

Confidence is an important component of a "confidence man". Like others in that dubious trade, Stanton has the confidence that he is always smarter than his mark. The gullible, for their part, have complete confidence in him. It is a circle that feeds on itself.

Novelist William Lindsay Gresham's 1946 publication Nightmare Alley exposed the seedy world of the carnival and the "spook racket" basing the fiction on his real-life experiences as a carny. Jules Furthman, the prolific and versatile screenwriter of Shanghai Express and Bombshell wrote this 1947 film. Edmund Goulding directed the film, having worked previously with Tyrone Power on The Razor's Edge. Lee Garmes, the Oscar-winning cinematographer of Shanghai Express paints the sordid background of the film with a dream-like sheen.

Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell

Joan Blondell plays Zeena Krumbein, a carny mentalist who was once the Queen of the Big Time with her husband Pete played by Ian Keith. Blondell gives us a character who has seen it all yet despite her jaded exterior has a strong emotional core. Ian Keith is phenomenal as a totally broken man. Zeena's infidelities drove Pete to drink and ruined their prosperity. Guilt has driven Zeena to try to make things up to her husband, but that doesn't keep her from spending time with the attractive Stan. For his part, Stan has his eye on the "code" which made the Krumbein's mind-reading act the best in the business. Just think what he could do to the chumps once he got his hands on that code.

Ian Keith, Tyrone PowerZ

Stan, however, is shown to us to be just as susceptible to a well-turned con as any rube. Pressured into sharing the code, Zeena consults her Tarot cards before making a decision. The cards show success for Stan but danger for Pete. Zeena decides to keep the code as her safety net. Desperate to change her mind, Stan finagles Pete into a position where the poor man loses his life. Yet prior to his demise Pete works the magic of his spiel on Stan, touching on his vulnerabilities. After Pete's death, Stan is haunted by the Tarot reading. Can he bluff his way beyond these fears?

Coleen Gray, Tyrone Power

Coleen Gray plays Molly, a pretty young woman who works an act with the hulking Bruno played by Mike Mazurki. She's a friend to everyone, and sweet on Stan. She has been helping Zeena teach Stan the code after Pete's death. Stan has taken to the act as if born to it and he also proves an asset to the carnival when he bamboozles a local sheriff played by James Burke who had intended to shut them down. High on this successful proof of his brains and ability, Stan spends the evening with a willing Molly. When the rest of the troupe, especially Zeena and Bruno realize what has occurred, marriage is forced upon the couple. Stan realizes this can be turned to his advantage as Molly is comely and knows the code. When next we see the couple they are on top of the world performing in a top-flight Chicago night club. They are raking it in and they are stars, but it is not enough for Stan.

Helen Walker, Tyrone Power

Stan sees a way to make the suckers pay by using the spirituality that was beaten into him in an orphanage. He no longer does the phony mind-reading bit alone but has begun to receive messages from the beyond. His success catches the eye of a quasi-psychiatrist, Lillith Ritter played with a calculating precision by Helen Walker. She records the innermost thoughts of her well-heeled patients and with Stan's reputation as a seer, they begin soaking the saps. Stan even falls for Lillith's own brand of the racket by revealing too much of his inner life.

The biggest con of his life to this point is so close to fruition. Taylor Holmes as a millionaire seeking his lost love is willing to back a tabernacle to Stan, the conduit to the other world. All he requires is physical proof of Stan's abilities. Stan convinces Molly to portray the spirit of the dead woman despite her fears. Molly fears for Stan's soul in his use of spirituality and she is shaken by the faith of the rich, lonely man. Molly breaks down during her act and Stan's perfidy is revealed. He leaves town a broken wretch without even the money he was supposed to have split with Lillith. Yes, the great Stanton Carlisle had been played by an expert.

Tyrone Power, Roy Roberts

It is a quick downward spiral for Stan on his own among the hoboes and drunks who are now his kindred spirits. He can't get a job as a mentalist but one carnival owner offers him a position that ages ago would have repulsed Stanton Carlisle. Stan can be the carny geek. He'll be given a bottle a day to keep him going and a place to sleep it off at night. All he has to do is perform grotesque acts to draw the crowds. Stan accepts that this is now his lot in life, but like others before him breaks down hysterically under the shame and pressure.

Stan stole from Zeena the monetary value she had in the code and the piece of her heart and soul that belonged to Pete. Lillith stole from Stan his money, his success, and the part of him that was smarter than the chumps. The only thing Stan had that was worthwhile was Molly's love, and that he didn't steal; it was freely given.

The film attempts to leave the audience with hope. Molly has found Stan and is determined to help him. Tyrone Power's performance as Stanton Carlisle, a complicated mix of pride and helplessness, ambition and defeat leaves us with the disquieting thought that there is no return for this homme fatale of film noir.












Saturday, April 13, 2019

THE STEWART GRANGER BLOGATHON: The Last Hunt (1956)


Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is our hostess for The Stewart Granger Blogathon running April 13th and 14th. Click HERE for the eclectic articles on the British born star.


Milton Lott's Pulitzer nominated novel of 1955, The Last Hunt was the basis for Richard Brooks' screenplay which he directed for MGM. It was the first of three westerns in Brooks' career. The Last Hunt, The Professionals and Bite the Bullet all feature difficult physical surroundings to match the conflict of complex characters. In this case, the film location was Bad Lands National Park in South Dakota.


"I'm fed up on killing. Seems like that's all I've ever known since I was a kid; killing of one kind or another."

Stewart Granger plays our hero, Sandy McKenzie. McKenzie is not a hero in that he always does the right thing, but that despite his struggles, his first instinct is toward kindness. Sandy's work as a buffalo hunter for the government has wounded him psychologically. The slaughter, whether it be of man or beast, has marked his mind and soul, and he wants to leave that behind. The heart of his current troubles is with the buffalo. The stampeding animals wiped out his meager herd of cattle. Broke, and looking from the bottom up Sandy makes a dangerous alliance.


"Killing is like...like the only real proof you're alive."

Robert Taylor plays Charlie Gibson, a man to whom killing is synonymous with breathing. Whether it be man or beast, Charlie only feels alive when he has destroyed life. Charlie is a bitter and lonely man. He is aware of Sandy's reputation as a buffalo hunter and promotes a partnership as the bounty on the animals is currently high. For one more time, Sandy will raise his rifle against the buffalo; his last hunt.


Two skinners are hired for the hunt. Oldtimer "Woodfoot" played by Lloyd Nolan is a pal of Sandy's who doesn't let his hard-drinking ways interfere with the job. He is a jovial liar and a keen judge of men. Russ Tamblyn plays Jimmy O'Brien whose mixed heritage has driven him away from the reservation to see if his path lies in another world. In Sandy and Woodfoot, Jimmy finds friends, while in Charlie he finds the embodiment of bigotry.


Charlie alone of the group takes after natives who stole their stock, taking an uncalled for vengeance by killing all he sees, save one. Debra Paget plays the young woman who escaped with only a bullet graze and with a toddler under her protection. Charlie takes her as his rightful property. She may look like a girl, but this woman has strength and understanding that will carry her through the ordeal. She will overcome her enemy.

Exciting action sequences, heartbreaking scenes of violence and psychological terror highlight the story of these people on the hunt. It is a clash of personalities, of philosophies and of cultures with unavoidable destruction and the possibility of rebirth. 

Stewart Granger, with his patrician good looks, is a natural for the role of McKenzie and his struggles. Robert Taylor gives an outstanding portrayal of a thorough psychopath. Debra Paget avoids stereotype as we see her character use her situation and those around her to her advantage. Nolan and Tamblyn make a great double team of a mentor and a seeker.

The Last Hunt offered interesting and unique roles for its cast and should engross the viewer ready to delve into the world and minds of these characters.


Of note: Filming of government-sanctioned herd-thinning by marksmen was used in this production.


Connections:

Richard Brooks, Jean Simmons, Stewart Granger
Jean Simmons visits the set of The Last Hunt, 1956.

Jean and Stewart Granger were married from 1950 to 1960.

Jean and Richard Brooks were married from 1960 to 1977.















Tuesday, April 9, 2019

REGINALD DENNY AT THE TORONTO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL


Toronto film fans extend their congratulations and their thanks to co-founders Shirley Hughes and Mark Wonnacott, and all of the dedicated volunteers at the Toronto Silent Film Festival, 2019. Happy 10th Anniversary!

Festival-goers were thrilled with the world premiere of Ensemble Polaris' score for Shiraz: A Romance of India, the popular Saturday program 1000 Laffs accompanied by Jordan Klapman, and Garbo, The Temptress accompanied by Marilyn Lerner. Bill O'Meara provided the music for the delightful Douglas Fairbanks comedy When the Clouds Roll By on Sunday afternoon, and also on Monday evening's concluding feature, the dramatic G.W. Pabst film The Love of Jean Ney.

Let me share with you part of the charm of the Sunday afternoon program at the Royal Cinema.

Janet Hall, Caftan Mom

My heart skipped a beat as my daughter Janet and I approached the historic venue at 608 College Street. Festival photographer Maureen Nolan was quick to capture our happy reaction to Reginald Denny's name on the marquee announcing the screening of Skinner's Dress Suit.

Emily Evans, Paddy Nolan-Hall

The presentation of the 1926 film directed by versatile William Seiter (Sons of the Desert, Roberta, If You Could Only Cook) included accompaniment by audience favourite Tania Gill, along with some very special guests. Emily Evans joined us from Chicago. Emily is a Denny expert and devotee, as her followers on twitter at @laura_la_plante well know. Her informative notes on the film and its star, plus her heartfelt delivery was a perfect introduction to a joyful afternoon.

Jacqueline Hadden, Paddy Nolan-Hall, Jill Pucci

The wonders of the internet had brought Emily together with Jacqueline Hadden and Jill Pucci. These two lovely ladies joined us at the Festival to share memories of their grandfather, Reginald Denny. His accomplishments as an aviator, inventor, boxer, and actor were thrilling to hear. His happy marriage and love for children and animals made his presence felt. At one point, Jill remarked that she felt as comfortable as if she were sharing stories with friends in her living room. Truly, that perfectly described the afternoon as Reginald Denny came alive for the audience.

A charming introduction to Reginald Denny's legacy was presented as well. You are sure to be impressed with this video produced by another Denny granddaughter, Kim Pucci. 


Henry Irving Dodge had a way with a yarn, just like his great-uncle Washington Irving. His most popular stories concerned one William Manning Skinner, and that is the character Reginald Denny played in Skinner's Dress Suit in 1926.

This Skinner, as the intertitle tells us is "just another commuter", but in the eyes of his adoring wife Honey played by Laura LaPlante, Skinner is a Captain of Industry, a Man Among Men, and all he needs to do is demand a raise in salary and it shall be his. 

Following Skinner to his office, we see that bright lad though he may be, he's not exactly on the top of the pecking order. In fact, the office boy Tommy played by Arthur Lake even puts the odd joke over on our Skinner. Perhaps young Lake was taking hints from this gig that would find their way into his future portrayal of Dagwood in the Blondie series.

Skinner realizes a raise is out of the question, but to Honey, there is no question about it. Skinner goes along to get along and tells Honey a most innocent little white lie about the raise and its amount. There's nothing much wrong with building castles in the sky, but it is best not to spend real money on such flimsy real estate. Honey starts spending real money. Skinner must have a dress suit. A man as important as her husband is too good to be seen in his one shabby old suit. Besides, the society-setting Colbys are having a party and the Skinners must look their best to attend.

Reginald Denny, Laura LaPlante

The Skinners are the hit of the party, teaching all the stuffed shirts the latest dance craze. Honey is invited to join an exclusive bridge club. Mr. Colby offers to drive Skinner to the train station in the mornings. No more running and missing the 7:32! Things are looking up, with the exception of their bank account. Honey keeps spending and the prosperity of their furnishings and wardrobe have nothing to do with reality.

Everything happens at once! Skinner loses his job and keeps it from Honey while creditors want to repossess everything from the radio to his dress suit. The dress suit is necessary for one last party at The Ritz. It is at this soiree that Skinner runs into a manufacturer with a social-climbing wife and the opportunity for things to go either horribly wrong or amazingly right. I'll let you enjoy the shenanigans with no further spoilers.

Laura LaPlante and Reginald Denny are captivating as the Skinners. They are attractive and talented actors who throw themselves into comic situations with appropriate abandon and artistic control.

The many delights of this adorable domestic comedy were enhanced by the opportunity given us by our Festival hosts to get to know our star, Reginald Denny. There is no doubt that anyone new to the actor would become a fan after this screening, but on this memorable day, he also became our friend.



Sharing movies and making friends for ten years.












Saturday, April 6, 2019

THE FOURTH ANNUAL BETTE DAVIS BLOGATHON: Wagon Train, The Ella Lindstrom Story (1959)


Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood hosts her Fourth Annual Bette Davis Blogathon running April 5 - 7, 2019. Click HERE to join in the fun.


THE ELLA LINDSTROM STORY
Written and directed by Allen H. Miner
Guest starring Bette Davis
February 4, 1959 (Season 2, episode 18)

Major Seth Adams (Ward Bond): "To most of us ordinary human beings travel on a wagon train is sheer hard work. You eat equal parts of dust and sunlight and measure the miles with pounding headaches, spiced nicely with backaches. That's us ordinary human beings, but not the Lindstroms. They enjoyed every moment as though it was made only for them. They sucked in the dusty air and made music of it. And they shouted it out like the whole world was a stage for an Italian opera. Sometimes the Lindstrom kids made a brassy kind of a sound that reminded me of a thousand crows or the screech of a wagon wheel runnin' dry. That is, all except their oldest daughter who had found a man and if there was any sound at all, it was like the birds."


Bette Davis

Ella Lindstrom (Bette Davis) and her husband set west on the Adams Wagon Train with their seven children. Early in the trip, Mr. Lindstrom was stricken ill and passed away, yet the family put on a brave face and journeyed on. As the train neared Dodge City, the Major informed Mrs. Lindstrom that he would return her fare and that their friends on the train had taken up a collection to see them settled.

Bette Davis, Bobby Buntrock

Ella held a meeting with her children and it was decided that they would continue with the train. The children do not miss the city where people laughed at the youngest child, deaf and dumb Bo, and they want to see the ocean. Mrs. Lindstrom only requested of Major Adams that he take her into Dodge City to see a doctor, as she is expecting her eighth child.

Mrs. Lindstrom is concerned for the new baby after what happened with Bo following her bout of measles while pregnant. Dr. Monroe (Alex Gerry) told her half a lie and half a truth, that she need have no worries for her unborn child. Finding she had no near adult relative in whom to confide, the doctor advised Major Adams that Mrs. Lindstrom was not pregnant, but had only a few weeks left to live.

Bette Davis, Ward Bond

Ella's hurry to return to the train and her children left it to Major Adams to deliver the sad news in place of the doctor. It is a truly heartwrenching scene to see the Major struggle with what must be said, and Ella's breakdown at the thought of leaving her beloved children.

Bette Davis and Ward Bond had over 60 years of combined screen experience behind them at this point in their careers. The scenes between these old pros moved and impressed me with their skill and artistry.

It is the children on whom she and the Major focus. Ella is honest with them all as they decide what should be done. Oldest daughter Inga (Cindy Robbins) and teenager Stig (Harold Daye) are mature enough to be practical, and the other children follow suit. They know they are too many to stay together and decide to find suitable foster parents among the friends they have made on the wagon train.

Ella: "I think you should all look as far ahead, as far across the horizon as you can. If you look a big way, you'll be big people. If you look a little way, you'll be unhappy, little people."

The biggest worry for Ella is who will take her beloved Bo with his problems. This has been a worry for the Major as well, and he knows that even though his constant traveling would make him an unsuitable parent, he offers to be a guardian to the boy and find a suitable school. Ella appreciates that the Major's heart is in the right place, but money is not the issue. If Bo can't have love, she would rather he be dead.

Cindy Robbins, Robert Fuller

Inga, as the Major told us in the opening narration, has found first love with another traveler, Fitz played by Robert Fuller. The young man wanted to marry his girl yet was deterred by her secretive manner until set straight by Major Adams about the family's troubles. Fitz made his proposal to Inga with the condition that little Bo becomes a part of their family. Upon this bittersweet conclusion, the Major recites a verse from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's A Psalm of Life as a farewell to brave Ella Lindstrom.

"Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul."


Connections:


The Ella Lindstrom Story was written and directed by Allen H. Miner, who wrote all three of Bette's appearances on Wagon Train, an episode each of the anthology programs Telephone Time and Studio 57 for her, plus the Perry Mason episode The Case of Constant Doyle.


Robert Fuller's guest appearance as the smitten James Fitzpatrick was the first of two on this season of Wagon Train prior to beginning his years as Jess Harper on Laramie and then joining Wagon Train regularly as scout Cooper Smith in 1963.












Wednesday, April 3, 2019

THE THIRD DORIS DAY BLOGATHON: The Winning Team (1952)


Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood is presenting The Third Doris Day Blogathon running from April 3 - 5, 2019. Enjoy all the contributions HERE.


Warner Brothers generally kept their popular leading lady Doris Day busy in musicals, but in 1952 she was cast as the real-life Aimee Alexander, wife of Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander in The Winning Team.


Doris had recorded the Inez James and Buddy Pepper song Ol' St. Nicholas in 1949 and it was anachronistically placed it in this film in a Christmas scene set in 1911. Audiences used to having Doris sing in her movies at least would not be disappointed. Baseball fans might find the script a little sticky going, but should enjoy the historical aspects presented.

Grover Cleveland Alexander, mother, and wife

Grover Cleveland Alexander was a dominant pitcher of his era and the sole inductee in the Hall of Fame class of 1938. All you need to know are just a few of his stats including 373 wins, 90 shutouts, an era of 2.56 to understand his importance in the history of the game.

Above, Alexander is pictured in uniform as a Sergeant with the 342nd Field Artillery in France during WWI. There he suffered trauma from the noise and from the German unleashing of mustard gas. The PTSD and physical ill effects which brought on epilepsy, combined with using alcohol to relieve the pain and fear, created problems for "Old Pete", both on and off the field.


The Winning Team screenplay plays fast and loose with the timeline of Alexander's life and relies on the rose-coloured memories of Mrs. Alexander as a consultant. The couple was married twice, first in 1918-1929 and then from 1931-1941. Their bond appears to have been as deep as their troubles.

The Winning Team presents the couple marrying in 1911 and the film climaxes with Alexander's spectacular performance for the St. Louis Cardinals against the New York Yankees in the 1926 World Series. That World Series triumph is a natural conclusion for movies where happy endings can be manipulated.

Dorothy Adams, Doris Day, Ronald Reagan
Mother Alexander, Aimee, Grover

The film follows Alexander from his engagement to Aimee and his vow to buy a farm although his talent and his heart definitely belong to baseball. Eventually, Aimee comes to accept this in her husband and becomes his biggest supporter. The passage of years is presented in Aimee's scrapbooks on her husband's career, but it is just as much fun to follow time through her changing fashions. Doris' sunny screen persona is used to good advantage in the role of number one cheerleader until secrets about Grover's illness and his drinking habit force a separation.

Ronald Reagan as Grover Cleveland Alexander
Life turns down a dark alley.

Director Lewis Seiler (Guadalcanal Diary) doesn't let things drag once we hit the "bigs." Grover Cleveland Alexander, baseball great, hits the skids eventually winding up as a sideshow attraction in a cheap carnival. It is through the help of his determined wife, old friends Rogers Hornsby and battery mate Bill Killefer that he is given the chance to redeem himself.

Frank Lovejoy, Ronald Reagan
Rogers Hornsby, Grover Cleveland Alexander

Many real-life ballplayers are featured in the film and through archival footage used to recreate games. The excitement of the sharing of the World Series over the radio and electric signboards, plus the camaraderie of the crowd is expertly conveyed.

James Millican, Hugh Sanders, Ronald Reagan
Bill Killefer, Joe McCarthy, Grover Cleveland Alexander

None of the lead actors playing actual ballplayers are as young as they ought to be at the beginning of the film since "kid" is the most often used term of address. It is easy to accept that movie reality as the actors grow into their age. Reagan, in particular, looks quite comfortable in the role of an athlete and ably conveys Alexander's confusion and fear when things start to go wrong.

Ronald Reagan, Doris Day
Grover and Aimee

Portrayed as The Winning Team, it is a happy pairing of actors in Ronald Reagan and Doris Day, whose appearance in the previous year's Storm Warning did not have their characters interact. In real life, they had dated briefly, but Fate or Cupid had other plans. Nonetheless, on screen, they exhibit a sense of fun and belonging as the beleaguered pitcher and his wife.

Grover Cleveland Alexander
1887-1950

There's something to be said for being the fellow at the beginning of the alphabet. Check out this 1949 poem by Ogden Nash, Line-Up for Yesterday.


Trivia:


Apparently, in the world of movie baseball, there was only one home plate umpire. When a scene called for one in The Winning Team it was always Bill Klem, a posthumous Hall of Fame inductee known as The Old Arbitrator. At any rate, the casting of this role is a boon to those fans eager for Pat Flaherty sightings.


John Beradino pictured here as Cardinals' pitcher Bill Sherdel was a major league infielder for the St. Louis Browns, Cleveland Indians, and Pittsburgh Pirates until an injury ended his career. Turning to acting, you can spot Beradino in  Seven Men from Now, North by Northwest, Suddenly, Them!, etc. This is years before his three Daytime Emmy nominations as Dr. Steve Hardy on General Hospital, celebrating its 56th anniversary this week.












Monday, April 1, 2019

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR APRIL ON TCM


"That's Quirt Evans. He is quite a man with the gals. And it's said he's closed the eyes of many a man."
- Olin Howard as Bradley, the telegrapher

John Wayne

Quirt Evans is also a lucky man although it takes him a lot of time to understand his luck. Wounded and on the run, he has been found and helped by Worths, a family of Quaker farmers. The daughter of the family, Penny has set her cap for the "bad man", and therein lies Quirt Evans' luck.

After 20 years in Hollywood, actor John Wayne added producer to his credits with this 1947 western release from Republic Studios. Angel and the Badman was written and directed by James Edward Grant (Sands of Iwo Jima). This was the first time he would collaborate with John Wayne in an association that would eventually include 15 films. Some of their movies were produced by Wayne's company Batjac but not starring the actor. The cinematography was by future Oscar-winner for The Quiet Man Archie Stout, and the second unit director was famed stuntman Yakima Canutt (Ben-Hur). Their association with Wayne went back to their B westerns of the early 1930s and would continue.

Gail Russell

Gail Russell stars as Penelope "Penny" Worth and the following year would co-star opposite Wayne in Wake of the Red Witch. One of the finest of her final films was in the John Wayne Batjac production, 7 Men from Now in 1956.

The chemistry between our leads is captivating as they portray the suddenness of their love with a sincerity and a lightness that counterpoints the perilous situation in which they are bound.

The script allows for some amusingly thoughtful and quirky dialogue for the characters as their worlds collide. Quirt has been in the pursuit of vengeance which has made him cynical and tough. Penny is innocent in the ways of the world yet wise and confident in the guidance and strength she finds in a loving family and her faith.

John Wayne, Gail Russell, Irene Rich

Irene Rich (Fort Apache), on-screen since the teens, as well as a popular radio star, is delightful as Mrs. Worth who is a concerned and wise parent. Rounding out the family are John Halloran as Mr. Worth and Stephen Grant as kid brother Johnny.

Harry Carey

Harry Carey (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) plays a marshal with the whimsical name of Wistful McLintock. He has been keeping an eye on the rambunctious and dangerous Quirt and his even more dangerous adversary Laredo Stevens played by Bruce Cabot (King Kong). Harry Carey had been a favourite western star of John Wayne in his youth and the actors had worked together earlier in the decade in The Shepherd of the Hills, and The Spoilers.

 Gail Russell, Tom Powers

Other fine roles for character actors include Dr. Mangram played by Tom Powers (Double Indemnity), whose worldly disillusion is at odds with his fondness for his Quaker neighbours. Paul Hurst (The Ox-Bow Incident) plays a cantankerous rancher who has a sudden change of heart about his new neighbours after meeting Quirt Evans.

Angel and the Badman features action, romance, and humour, with the Arizona filming location adds an interesting touch to the outdoor scenes. In addition to what amounts to his own stock company of actors, the stuntmen on the film are familiar to many fans of Wayne's films: Ben Johnson, Chuck Roberson, and Fred Graham.

TCM is screening Angel and the Badman on Sunday afternoon, April 7th. A charming way to spend part of your weekend. Advice: have plenty of donuts on hand for your viewing. Trust me.



Note: For the fans who demand such a thing from their movies, there is a Pat Flaherty sighting.












Friday, March 22, 2019

THE 5TH ANNUAL FAVOURITE TV EPISODE BLOGATHON: Gunsmoke, The Guitar (1956)


Why are Bilko and the gang so happy? It's time for the 5th Annual Favourite TV Episode Blogathon hosted by Terence Towles Canote of A Shroud of Thoughts. Click here for the stroll down Memory Lane.


Norman Macdonnell and John Meston's Gunsmoke had a phenomenal television run from 1955 - 1975. In those early seasons, many episodes were adapted from their popular radio program which ran from 1952 - 1961.

The Guitar aired in June of 1956, the 35th episode of a 39 episode first season. The original radio broadcast of the script by John Meston and directed by Norman Macdonnell aired in December of 1953. Sam Peckinpah adapted the screenplay and the director was Harry Horner, a two-time Academy Award-winning set designer (The Heiress, The Hustler).

Charles Gray, Aaron Spelling, Jacques Aubuchon

Weed Pindle (Aaron Spelling) is a pathetic sight. Awkwardly thin, with pop eyes and a lack of social graces, Weed is as ragtag as the mule he rides. We learn through the script that trauma and torture have done much to shape his personality which leaves Weed Pindle an easy target for bullies. In Dodge City, Pindle runs into two prime bullies, Short (Jacques Aubuchon) and Tyler (Charles Gray). When learning their prey is from Texas, Short and Tyler strike up an insincere friendship and drag their new friend around to the different watering holes in Dodge in order to ply him with drinks and make fun of him.

However, upon learning that this Texan was a member of an Illinois regiment that was responsible for the downfall of their own southern looters, many of whom were hanged, their intentions turn deadly. Short and Tyler feign shock that Weed has never seen a hanging, and they guarantee that he will see one before the night is through.

Dennis Weaver, Aaron Spelling

Marshal Dillon (James Arness) has gone to Fort Dodge and will not return until dark leaving Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver) to keep an eye on things. Concerned townspeople have heard of Short and Tyler's veiled threats to Pindle and bring the news to Chester just as the rowdy trio arrives at the Longbranch Saloon.

Chester, Doc (Milburn Stone) and the others at the Longbranch see Weed as an inoffensive and kindly soul and try to calm things with the toughs. Short and Tyler will not be deterred as they set about their revenge for what they see as Civil War misdeeds. They get the upper hand of Doc and the concerned patrons, but Chester has come around through the back with a rifle on Short and one of the barmen, Pence (Joe Mell) subdues Tyler.

After the two with murder in their hearts are sent packing, Weed is convinced to play his guitar for the folks who have done him a kindness. The music is lovely and enjoyed by all. A hat is passed for a generous collection for their new friend.

Aaron Spelling

Leaving the Longbranch, Weed is again confronted by Short and Tyler who have "prettied up" his mule with paint and break his beloved guitar. They also promise him the hanging is still on, and are only stopped in their efforts by the return of Matt Dillon.

Weed had been invited to take a cot in the Longbranch for the night, but he opts to wash his old burro, take his broken belongings and follow his usual routine of riding "nowhere". Short and Tyler are observed following him out of town and, in turn, the men in the Longbranch follow them.

On a lonely and darkening road, Short and Tyler ambush Weed Pindle and place a rope around his neck. In the cold light of day Marshal Dillon and a number of townsfolk familiar to us from the Longbranch on the previous evening observe two bodies hanging in the spot where we had last seen Weed Pindle. The bodies are those of Short and Tyler.

Matt recognizes that little Pindle couldn't have inflicted such violence upon the two men, but the wanderer is not there to be questioned and his new friends provide alibis for him and for each other. Their responses to Matt are evasive and terse.

Matt's impassioned plea that the law must not be circumvented and that murderers, no matter whom, must be prosecuted falls on deaf ears. It is clear that these men intend to harbour a deadly secret. It is more than likely that Doc speaks for them in his exchange with Matt.

Milburn Stone, James Arness

Doc: "Well, I wonder if they had time to enjoy it?
Matt: "Enjoy what?"
Doc: "The hanging they wanted so all fired bad."

I find The Guitar to be an emotionally unexpected and chilling episode of Gunsmoke. It is certainly worth a rewatch for fans or the first-time viewing to those new to the series.




Listen to the radio episode HERE.












CMBA 2019 SPRING BLOGATHON, FEMME/HOMME FATALES OF FILM NOIR: Nightmare Alley (1947)

The Classic Movie Blog Association Spring Blogathon runs from April 16th to the 19th with a focus on the Femme/Homme Fatales of Film Noi...