Archive for October, 2016

The Cabin in The Clearing – BBC TV 1954

For some reason I remember this as a child from long ago and remember it having good studio sets with trees and the Cabin and a lot of foliage but this was obviously studio bound. In those days it was not possible to transmit from outside the studios and any such action had to be filmed and slotted into the ‘live’ programme.  It seems that Ewen Solon played Mul keep mo which is a name that I have remembered and even used from time to time over the years – although it is difficult to think of such a name being slotted into a conversation I must say. Anyway I came across this summary of the actual play and storyline as follows :-

The Cabin in the Clearing’ (1954)

Besieged in their log cabin by Shawnee Indians, Silas Sutherland, his wife Polly, and his daughter Alice, are cut off from all help. Their negro servant Scipio is captured, whilst out looking for an escaped cow, by the Indians who had already found and eaten the cow, and held prisoner in the forest outside, though lurking nearby are Mul-keep-mo, a friendly Miami Indian and young Brayton Ripley, a white scout. Scipio escapes by clubbing his guard with the cow’s skull and then joins Brayton Ripley. But the Indians have kindled a fire under the wall of the cabin . . .

There was a love interest between Brayton and Alice Sutherland. Brayton was “blood brother” to Mul-keep-mo, each saving the other’s life.  There were tomahawk fights between the Indians. The Sutherland women attempted to escape by waggon but were themselves captured, but saved by the men.

A television play in 5 episodes. Adapted by Felix Felton and Susan Ashman from the novel by E.S. Ellis. Produced by Rex Tucker and directed by Patrick Dowling.

Cast: Silas Sutherland – Shaun Sutton; Polly his wife – Peggy Mount; Alice, his daughter – Ann Hanslip; Scipio – Charles Swain; Brayton Ripley – Derek Aylward; Mul-keep-mo – Ewen Solon; Haw-bu-da – Carl Duering; The Owl – Shaw Taylor; Shawnee Indians – Saul David, John Hoskin.

Settings by Richard Henry.

The incidental music was Dvorak’s New World Symphony

1—’Friends and Foes’
‘The Redskins had dug up the hatchet-the Miami and Shawnee tribes were attacking the white settlers, and we in our lonely cabin were in deadly peril….’

2—’Besieged’
Besieged n their log cabin in the Ohio wilderness, with Chief Haw-hu-da and his Shawnee Indians on the warpath outside, Silas Sutherland and his wife and daughter have no choice but to fight on in the hope that help will come from the blockhouse fifty miles away. But outside in the forest, unknown to the Indians, are Brayton Ripley-a young woodsman friend of the family-and Mul-keep-mo, a Miami Indian, whose life Ripley had saved.

3—’Ordeal by Fire’
Besieged in their log cabin by Shawnee Indians Silas Sutherland, his wife Polly, and his daughter Alice, are cut off from all help. Their servant Scipio is held prisoner in the forest outside, though lurking nearby are Mul-keep-mo, a friendly Miami Indian, and young Brayton Ripley, a white scout. But the Indians have kindled a fire under the wall of the cabin…..

4—’A Desperate Plan’

5—’The Break-Out’

The BBC screened another production of the play in 1958.

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Showboat 1951

What a colourful film this one was. I have been over in Australia and whilst there purchased  the DVD of Showboat in Cairns and watched it at my daughters home. Beautiful colour and those close ups of Ava Gardner in technicolor are just terrific.

The songs which we all know are unforgettable and some of the high notes hit by Kathryn Grayson are simply superb. She plays the part of Magnolia very well and Howard Keel is Gaylord Ravenal -  the no good gambler, and he too is good.

William Warfield delivers the song ‘Old Man River’  and to be fair does it well although for me he sings it too slowly but it is a thankless task really to sing a powerful song made famous – and almost belonging to – the legendary Paul Robson who had been in the successful stage versions both on Broadway and in the West End of London.

Cotton Blossom - Showboat 1951Above is the actual Showboat or The Cotton Blossom as it is on the MGM backlot.Showboat 1951 film

I have seen the 1936 Black and White version which I really liked and preferred in many ways.  Paul Robson was of course in this film and needless to say he was superb.

The film was a great success at the Box Office grossing worldwide some 7.61 million dollars and presumably the later TV release, then the video and DVD arrival would have further boosted these figures many years later.

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The Tall T – 1957 with Randolph Scott

The Tall T (1957)

 

This film was on Television in England today 16 September 2016 – very colourful with location filming that certainly  impressed on a large TV screen – would have been great at the Cinema though

Image result for the tall t

 

Directed by Budd Boetticher
The Story – A trio of stagecoach robbers discover the stage they intend to rob is carrying the daughter of a wealthy copper mine owner; they decide to go for a ransom demand instead. Above anything else, however, a central theme of the film is isolation and indeed loneliness. The central character Pat Brennan (Randolph Scott) lives a solitary existence. He has a small spread, but at this time cannot afford any hired help. He lives alone in a remote place.

I liked Randolph Scott and  all of the Ranown cycle of westerns. A resolute good man stands up against engaging bad men and wins. 90 minutes of satisfying story in an inspiring  landscape.  Scott was always affable and at times humorous if not exactly funny.

Visiting his friends at a stagecoach relay station father (Fred Sherman) and son (Chris Olsen) are also isolated. The wife/mother has passed on. The young boy has never visited a town — he is full of wonder about what such a place is like. In a very touching moment, the boy gives Scott the few pennies he has saved so Scott can bring him back some cherry stripe candy. Scott takes the boy’s money, not out of meanness but because he knows this is a big deal for the child — he’s actually able to buy something from town. Ironically, this is a town that he will never live to visit one day.

 

After a leisurely 20 minutes or so with a more smiley than usual Scott, things take a darker turn. Mrs. Mimms (Maureen O’Sullivan), we discover, only married her weakling (and we later find out, cowardly) husband out of loneliness.

Boetticher and Burt Kennedy knew that the films they were making were generally classed as B Movies. They also knew that they could get a lot more past the censor because of this.

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When the bad guy trio (Richard Boone, Henry Silva, Skip Homeier) things get really dark. After gunning down Scott’s pal (Arthur Hunnicutt), we learn that they have murdered the father and the child. Their bodies have been dumped down a well, before Scott’s return to the way station. They’ve committed that most heinous of crimes – child murder! The audience then realises that as this is a Randolph Scott picture; there is no way this trio will be alive at the end of the film. Furthermore, as this is a Boetticher picture, the trio’s deaths will be presented with as much graphic violence as the censor at that time will allow.

Boone’s Frank Usher, we discover, is quite intelligent, he would like to have become what Scott actually is. He could have become what Scott is had he not chosen a life of crime. He actually likes Scott, he at last has found someone he can hold a conversation with. Boone, too, is isolated, saddled with two cohorts that he has nothing in common with whatsoever.

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Silva, we learn, killed his first man at age 12: his own father, who was beating his mother with a tequila bottle. He goes by the derogatory nickname “Chink,” obviously a reference to Silva’s Oriental facial features. (Interestingly, Silva was cast as Mr. Moto when Lippert tried to revive the series in the mid-Sixties.) Homeier’s Billy Jack is a rather dumb, child-like character. Note the way he grabs the child’s candy from Scott, to Boone’s obvious annoyance. Silva likes to brag of his many encounters with women to the far more naive Homier. Amusingly, he details how his amorous encounters were curtailed one time because he pulled a leg muscle. Burt Kennedy used this situation again in his later Return Of The Seven (1966). All of Silva’s bragging leaves Boone totally cold and disinterested.

Despite the grim subject matter Boetticher and Kennedy mine the material for dark humour. This is best shown in the scene where Silva waits for the command to kill O’Sullivan’s weak husband (Hubbard). Silva’s facial expressions and body language convey a great sense of frustration and anticipation. Finally, as Hubbard is almost out of shot, Boone utters the command, “Bust him Chink,” a great line from a great scene.

There are tender moments too, especially when Boone takes coffee into a still-sleeping O’Sullivan. He gently covers her with a blanket, it’s a scene of a longing for a domestic existence that Boone has never had, and now never will.

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In the prelude to the graphically brutal climax, Boone with his back to Scott, attempts to ride away. He knows Scott will not be able to shoot him in the back.

“Don’t do it, Frank,” pleads Scott; the fact he uses his first name (the only time in the film) emphasises the bond that has developed between the two men.

The four Boetticher-Kennedy-Scott Westerns are among the finest ever made — and now rightly considered true classics. Furthermore, I would state that the Boetticher-Kennedy partnership is the greatest writer/director partnership in the history of the Western.

Boetticher wanted Richard Boone to play Frank Usher from the word go. “I announced to the studio I’d like to cast Richard Boone. It surprised me when Harry Joe and others didn’t exactly agree with me.”

 

 

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