Friday, March 22, 2019


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.

Friday, March 15, 2019

REMAKE AVENUE: The Arizonian (1935) and The Marshal of Mesa City (1939)

This trip to Remake Avenue finds us among hitching rails, horse troughs and copious saloons (leave your guns at the door).

The Arizonian begins with an outstanding story and screenplay by Dudley Nichols (The Informer, Stagecoach, The Long Voyage Home). The director Charles Vidor (Ladies in Retirement, Gilda, Love Me or Leave Me) was described by James Cagney as a "nice Michael Curtiz." The cinematographer is Harold Wenstrom (The Big House, The Lost Patrol, Annie Oakley). These three collaborators created a memorable western release for RKO in 1935. 

The Arizonian is permeated with a moody sense of melancholy against its violent backdrop. Richard Dix stars as Clay Tallant, a lawman mostly modeled on Wyatt Earp. Clay accepts the job of marshal in Silver City after the murder of the current marshal. The situation in Silver City is not conducive to success for the law. It is rife with crooked politics and criminals. The corruption stems from Sheriff Mannen played by Louis Calhern.

Preston Foster, Richard Dix, Louis Calhern

Clay's philosophy is that the west and the times are changing and there will be a day with no guns. Nonetheless, Clay understands how he must deal with these times and understands he may not live to see the change he envisions.

Clay has personal reasons for seeing the job through. His brother Orin played by James Bush is here, and involved with saloon singer Kitty played by the marvelous Margot Grahame. Clay will also find a friend in Tex Randolph played by Preston Foster. Tex came to town on the wrong side of the law but finds redemption in joining the fight against Mannen. Impressive in supporting roles are Etta McDaniel as Sarah, Kitty's maid, and Willie Best as Pompey. These are characters who will leave a lasting impression with the viewer.

Clay enforces gun control and impresses the townsfolk with his ability to fight back against Mannen. However, the powerful crooks will not go down without a fight. Blatant and brutal murder, and an exciting final showdown played out amongst a dusty and smoke-filled street is a powerful scene with a heartbreaking and righteous ending.

The Arizonian is a "little" movie at 1 hour and 15 minutes, yet every one of those minutes is filled with excitement and emotion. 

RKO revisited The Arizonian as The Marshal of Mesa City starring George O'Brien in 1939. The movie was directed by David Howard, who directed 27 pictures with George during this decade. The majority of their movies are entertaining and due to Dudley Nichols original story, The Marshal of Mesa City is an outstanding collaboration. The screenplay was adapted by Jack Lait Jr. who contributed a half dozen westerns to the studio at this time.

Leon Ames, Henry Brandon, George O'Brien

The Marshal of Mesa City has a shorter running time than The Arizonian, clocking in at just over the hour mark. George plays Cliff Mason who becomes the new marshal of Mesa City. The graft in town is represented by Leon Ames as Sheriff Cronin. The character of Cliff's brother is eliminated while the romantic interest of the singer is switched up to a schoolteacher played by George's frequent leading lady, Virginia Vale.

Henry Brandon has an outstanding showcase as the reformed outlaw Duke Allison. Duke joining forces with Cliff provides much of the emotional depth of this telling of the story. Brandon gives an appealing characterization opposite George's vitality.

Many of the incidents from the earlier film are transferred here including an opening attack on a stagecoach, and the marshal enforcing his own brand of gun control. The drama in the concluding shootout is recreated in the dusty street, creating its own emotional denouement true to this version of the tale.

The Arizonian is rarely shown although I have caught it on TCM in the past. The Marshal of Mesa City is more likely to make an appearance on the network although neither seems poised to put in an appearance in the near future. Keep your eyes peeled!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

THE RICHARD MATHESON BLOGATHON: The Twilight Zone, Nick of Time (1960)

Wide Screen World and Moon in Gemini are our hosts for The Richard Matheson Blogathon running on March 9th and 10th. Thank you, Rich and Debbie.  Day 1   Day 2  Wrap-Up

Richard Matheson

Along with the acclaim and admiration of countless fans, Richard Matheson was the recipient of Lifetime Achievement Award for his writing from the Academy of Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.

Television offered a fine outlet for Matheson's sly and thought-provoking works. A Writers Guild of America nomination came his way in 1987 for The Doll, an episode of Amazing Stories, and an Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Television Feature or Mini-Series for The Night Stalker in 1972.

Among his many television scripts are 14 original episodes of The Twilight Zone and 2 from the first season based on his short stories and adapted by Rod Serling. Matheson's scripts for the series featured interesting and eerie stories which gave the actors and directors scope for creativity, and audiences something to remember.

Nick of Time debuted in the second season on November 18, 1960 and was directed by Richard L. Bare, a prolific director of television, and short films with George O'Hanlon often featured on TCM. The cinematographer, George T. Clemens was nominated for a Primetime Emmy three times for The Twilight Zone, winning in 1961.

Rod Serling

"The hand belongs to Mr. Don S. Carter, male member of a honeymoon team en route across the Ohio countryside to New York City. In one moment, they will be subjected to a gift most humans never receive in a lifetime. For one penny, they will be able to look into the future. The time is now, the place is a little diner in Ridgeview, Ohio, and what this young couple doesn't realize is that this town happens to lie on the outskirts of the Twilight Zone."

Patricia Breslin, William Shatner

Don and Pat Carter are delayed on their honeymoon trip to NYC by car trouble. The mechanic (Stafford Repp) allows as how it will take three or four hours to get the necessary parts. Ridgeview is a small town and with nothing much to do, the couple heads over to a diner. They order sandwiches against the advice of the waiter (Guy Wilkerson) and indulge in a little superstition and consumerism.

A mechanical mystic seer at their booth, like the mechanical mystic seer on the counter, will answer a yes or no question upon the insertion of a penny. Don is pleased when the seer correctly predicts that he will get the work promotion he has been fixated on during the trip. From that moment, Don places complete faith in the factory created Nostrodamus.

Don does have a rabbit's foot and a four leaf clover on his key chain, but many of us will do likewise without giving more than a passing thought to the habit. When Don determines that the seer advises they remain until 3 o'clock to avoid disaster he dawdles over their stale sandwiches and ice cream. Pat is dismayed to see this illogical behavior and tries to leave before the allotted time. Close to the top of the hour, the couple steps outside and are almost in a car accident. Coincidence, Pat says. Don is not so certain and wants to consult the mystic seer.

Once again, to Don's mind, the machine predicts good fortune confirmed by the mechanic that their car is ready ahead of time. Don is becoming obsessed with the idea that his future is being foretold. Pat asks her own questions in order to expose the randomness of the machine but the answers only seem to confirm Don's faith.

Patricia Breslin, William Shatner

Pat: "You're just a stupid piece of junk, aren't  you?"
Seer: "It all depends on your point of view."

In the space of a couple of hours in a smalltown diner, the Carters are taken on a journey to the future and a journey into their future. A penny diversion in a diner tests the strength of their relationship as it becomes Don's obsession and Pat feels she must fight for reality.

Pat: "It doesn't matter whether it can foretell the future. What matters is whether you believe more in luck and in fortune than you do in yourself. You can decide your own life. You have a mind, a wonderful mind. Don't destroy it trying to justify that cheap penny fortune machine to yourself. We can have a wonderful life together ... if we make it wonderful ourselves. I don't want to know what's going to happen. I want us to make it happen together!"

The magnitude of the battle for Don's mind becomes clear to us in the epilogue.

Dee Carroll, Walter Reed

Rod Serling: "Counterbalance in the little town of Ridgeview, Ohio. Two people permanently enslaved by the tyranny of fear and superstition, facing the future with a kind of helpless dread."

Patricia Breslin, William Shatner

"Two others facing the future with confidence --- having escaped one of the darker places of the Twilight Zone."

Richard Matheson took a mundane setting and combined it with a foolish mechanical moneymaker to create suspense and anxiety for relatable characters, as well as some fresh food-for-thought for his audience in a classic episode of The Twilight Zone.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

FAY WRAY AND ROBERT RISKIN, THE BLOGATHON: Black Moon and Broadway Bill, a busy 1934

Classic Movie Hub and Once Upon a Screen observe the release of Victoria Riskin's book about her famous parents and their 1942-1955 marriage with a blogathon running on March 2nd, here and 3rd, here.

Hollywood in 1934 was grappling with the prospect of truly enforcing the Production Code, which will take them a while. Thousands of films were created for public consumption. Comedy series, shorts, animated shorts, westerns, dramas, musicals ... something for everyone was being turned out and those employed in the industry were kept very busy, Fay Wray and Robert Riskin included. 

Fay Wray

Actress Fay Wray, whose career in the California suburb began in a decade earlier, unexpectedly found herself revered for a horror-fantasy picture called King Kong. Married to talented yet troubled John Monk Saunders and the mother of a young daughter, the busy actress would see 11 movies released that season. Talk about a full plate!

Robert Riskin

A theatre-mad kid from New York Robert Riskin became a producer at a young age thanks to his employers in the garment industry. After serving in WWI he became a playwright and when Hollywood was impressed with his work, a screenwriter at Columbia Studios. Robert Riskin's many screenplays at Columbia during the 1930s, particularly in films directed by Frank Capra, have stood the test of time as truly memorable classics. 1934 would see the release of his only Oscar-winning screenplay out of five nominations, It Happened One Night. Consider the relevance and emotion to be found in American Madness, Platinum Blonde, Meet John Doe, You Can't Take It With You, Lost Horizon, and more.

"When you believe in things that you don't understand then you suffer"
- Stevie Wonder, Superstition

Among Fay's 1934 out of melodramas, comedies, and adventures, we find this nifty horror film from Columbia directed by Roy William Neill and produced by Robert Riskin's brother Everett. The director of tidy thrillers, noirs and the bulk of the Universal Sherlock Holmes series with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, Neill had a unique filmic touch which you will find on display in Black Moon.

Dorothy Burgess

Fay Wray plays Gail Hamilton, a secretary whose love for her married boss Stephen Lane played by Jack Holt causes her to decide to leave her position. For her last assignment, she is to accompany Mrs. Lane, Juanita played by Dorothy Burgess on a trip to the Caribbean island St. Christopher, where she spent her youth. Also on the trip will be Lane's daughter Nancy played by Cora Sue Collins and her nurse Anna played by Eleanor Wesselhoeft.

Juanita's uncle, Raymond Perez played by Arnold Koff, is the last of a long line of plantation owners on the island and he strenuously objects to his niece's visit. There are many signs, including a murder that should have prevented the trip, but since when does anyone in a horror movie heed warnings.

Madame Sul-Te-Wan

Juanita's childhood nurse Ruva played by Madame Sul-Te-Wan raised the girl in the mysteries of her VooDoo cult which include blood sacrifice. Juanita feels compelled to return to her rightful home in order to feel whole. Her sense of belonging to the natives supersedes any loyalty to her family which has oppressed the Islanders. Gail senses that trouble is coming and sends for Mr. Lane. Lane and American ex-pat "Lunch" McClaren played by Clarence Muse, must ferret out the secrets and avoid the dangers lurking under the full moon.

Fay Wray, Jack Holt

Neill keeps the appropriate oppressive atmosphere at the boiling point and ground-breaking cinematographer Joseph August paints the setting with lush darkness that is almost hypnotic. Dorothy Burgess has the meatier role and she is terrific. Fay Wray has to play "normal", and she is a  welcome comfort in the role. Note: Although in almost a constant state of panic, Fay and Dorothy are dressed in the most gorgeous day and nighttime gowns by Hall of Fame costumer Robert Kalloch. If you tend to veer away from politically incorrect pre-code horror, you may find Black Moon worth it for the fashion show.

It Happened One Night was not Mr. Riskin's only "road" picture on the screen in 1934. Broadway Bill combines issues of class, happiness and horse racing, and comes up with a picture that so charmed its director Frank Capra, that he made it twice.

Myrna Loy, Helen Vinson, Helen Flint
Warner Baxter, Walter Conolly, George Meeker, Jason Robards Sr.

Dan Brooks played by Warner Baxter is like many of us. Dan toils at an uninspiring day job while devoting his leisure time to the thing that he loves. The thing that Dan loves is his racehorse, Broadway Bill. Dan is champing at the bit, so to say, to head out to the track with stable hand Whitey played by Clarence Muse and show the world what Bill can do.

Dan's wife Margaret played by Helen Vinson and boss/father-in-law J.L. Higgens played by Walter Connolly at a loss to understand Dan's attitude toward business. Dan's young sister-in-law Alice played by Myrna Loy gets it. She gets Dan. She loves Dan. Obviously, Dan has married the wrong Higgins.

Higgins employee: "Higgins! That's not a family; it's a disease!"

J.L. Higgins runs Higginsville and its various industrial enterprises with an iron fist. He runs his family of four daughters and three sons-in-law the same way. J.L. expects and receives compliance from all in his orbit.

Dan Brooks (on the Higgins residence): "Doesn't anything ever change in this mausoleum?"

Alice: "Yes. Bedspreads and underwear."

Dan Brooks' Declaration of Independence

"Wait a minute, Mr. Higgins. I have no intention of selling my horse. As a matter of fact, I'm leaving Higginsville in the morning. Everything you say is true. I have neglected the business. The reason is simple; I've hated it, I've always hated it. Not that it isn't a good business, mind you. It's alright for you or Mr. Winslow or Mr. Early. I don't blame them for wanting it, they're suited to it, I'm not. Oh, I know I sound crazy to you - maybe I am, but somehow you strike me the same way. Everything here seems lopsided to me. Higginsville, the Higgins family, the Higgins enterprises. Oh, don't get offended. It is just we don't speak the same language that's all. You are interested in only one thing; accumulating money, expanding the Higgins enterprises, gobbling up all the little fellows. Look, you have just snatched the Acme Lumber Company away from some poor people that spent their lives building it up. I hope it made you happy. Look at you; you haven't taken a vacation in 40 years. You're just rotting away in your own little kingdom. Well, if that's your idea of how to live, you can have it. It isn't mine. And I'm sure it isn't Margaret's. And another thing, I wouldn't get rid of that horse for you or anybody else. Someday you're going to take off your hat to Broadway Bill. It's true I was broke when I came here but Margaret and I are leaving the same way. We don't want a thing out of Higginsville. If it's just the same to you, you can accept my resignation. I'll wait for you in the car, Margaret."

Margaret: "If you're going to wait for me, you needn't bother."

J.L. Higgins: "The meeting is adjourned."

Myrna Loy, Warner Baxter

Breaking with conventionality, Dan and Whitey take Broadway Bill on the track circuit accompanied by Alice where they will face triumph and tragedy. There will be trouble with crooked bookies and jockeys. Reputations and fortunes will be lost, but in the end, lives will be changed for Dan and Alice, and one unexpected Higgins.

Frankie Darro, Warner Baxter, Clarence Muse, Douglas Dumbrille

Robert Riskin's quick wit,  self-deprecating humour, and keen character insight are on full display in the screenplay for Broadway Bill.

Frank Capra's 1950 remake of Broadway Bill retained much of Robert Riskin's dialogue. After all, if it isn't broke, why fix it? The breezy and still touching story benefited from the addition of songs by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke, and Bing Crosby's easy-going persona as opposed to Warner Baxter's intensity. The laid-back attitude added a kindred touch to the relationship with Whitey, again played by Clarence Muse, and with the racehorse Broadway Bill. Riding High also features a delightful cameo by Oliver Hardy and a charming final role for Harry Davenport as the Higgins' family butler.

Clarence Muse, Bing Crosby, Coleen Gray

Along with the script, archival footage, and Clarence Muse, Capra also used the following actors from the 1934 film:  Irving Bacon,Ward Bond, Frankie Darro, Douglas Dumbrille, Margaret Hamilton, Paul Harvey, Charles Lane, and Raymond Walburn.

Ms. Riskin's joint biography of her parents is available as of February 26th.
Follow on twitter @vriskin.

Friday, March 1, 2019


Steve at the his newly-minted site MovieMovieBlogBlog The Sequel is hosting The Laurel and Hardy Blogathon running from March 1 - 3. Click HERE for all the fun because life isn't short enough.

A leisurely afternoon awaits the head of the household of a tidy little bungalow after the clearing of the luncheon dishes. Mr. Hardy has an appointment with his friend Stan. Now, if only he could find his hat!

Oliver Hardy, Fay Holderness

Mr. Hardy: "That's the trouble with you wives. You're always hiding things so we husbands can't find them!"

Dorothy Granger

Mr. Hardy is coming dangerously close to losing his natural dignity. Tillie the maid could tell him where to find his hat if she could stop giggling.

Fay Holderness

Mrs. Hardy is a no-nonsense sort of wife. She is also a very patient wife. The radio has been on the fritz for three months and today is the day that Mr. Hardy will affix the aerial to the roof or she will know the reason why!

Stan Laurel

Mr. Hardy's friend Stan shows up. Stan appears to be a little on the dimwitted side of humanity, yet thus far, unlike his friend, has been able to avoid the trap of matrimony. Mr. Hardy explains the situation vis-a-vis the aerial and is offered cordial assistance.

Stan: "Do you mind if I help you?"

Mr. Hardy: "I don't mind. That is if you'll help me."

Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel

Mr. Hardy seems to have implied that his pal Stan is one of those whose good intentions often go awry. Yet they soldier on, scaling the heights with the goal of helping Mrs. Hardy hear Japan on the radio. 

Oliver Hardy

Apparently, Stan has lost his footing.

Stan Laurel

Apparently, Mr. Hardy has lost his footing.

Fay Holderness

A rather enigmatic smile from Mrs. Hardy. Is she pleased that Mr. Hardy is doing her bidding? Is she happily anticipating a functioning radio? Is she imagining the satisfying prospect of using her skill at bringing Mr. Hardy's head in contact with a frying pan? Hers is not a flashy style with the pan, yet most effective.

Oliver Hardy

Mr. Hardy in water is a common state of affairs. Is this the second or third time he has landed thusly?

Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy

Mr. Hardy, Stan, and the chimney are now in the pond.

Oliver Hardy

When Mr. Hardy falls through the chimney Mrs. Hardy considers giving up on the entire endeavour. 

Mr. Hardy: "I should say not! I'll get that thing working if it's the last thing I do."

Mr. Hardy felt the same way about what came to be known in family lore as "the hat incident".

Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy

A ladder in a car to reach the roof. What could possibly go wrong? Did I mention that Stan was at the wheel? The only way "Mr. Hardy's Wild Ride", as the adventure came to be known could possibly end is with the assistance of gravity.

Oliver Hardy, Fay Holderness

The averted tragedy brings Mrs. Hardy miraculously to her husband's side with the very real tragedy of the radio having been repossessed. 

Oliver Hardy, Fay Holderness, Stan Laurel

Automobile or accordion? After such a leisurely day of puttering around the house and enjoying the sights, what could be more pleasant than an unhurried drive in a vehicle recently in close contact with two streetcars?

This pleasant sketch of domestic life was brought to you by Hal Roach Studios through the courtesy of writers H.M. Walker and Leo McCarey, director James Parrott and photographer George Stevens. Hog Wild was released in May of 1930 and provides chuckles to this day.


Terence Towles Canote at A Shroud of Thoughts is hosting The 8th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon . The popular blogathon is runn...