Archive for June, 2024

Conquest of Cochise 1953

Another Technicolor Western with great locations

This film was made a few years after Jeff Chandler played Cochise in Broken Arrow (1950), this time the Apache chief is played by John Hodiak. In Tucson, ranchers are being raided by the Apache and Comanches.

Major Tom Burke (Robert Stack) is sent to stop the violence and establish peace with Cochise.

While he’s there, Burke becomes romantically very interested in Consuelo de Cordova (Joy Page).

ABOVE – Towards the end of the film when I would imagine the location work had been done, this studio set and pretty poor painted backdrop was not really very good.

Cochise also wants peace, but the Comanches do not, which leads to trouble. Joy Page;s character is captured by the Apaches and held hostage, with Robert Stack working to free her as she and Kodiak fall in love.

It’s a short picture, running just 70 minutes, with more talk than action — and Castle’s direction seems uncharacteristically stiff.

The picture’s greatest asset is certainly its cast. John Hodiak is quite good as Cochise, making the usual stilted Indian-speaking-white-man’s-tongue dialogue work. It’s his film really. Robert Stack is a stoic hero here, a bit like his Elliott Ness on The Untouchables. Joy Page is lovely. She and Robert Stack had been paired earlier in  Bullfighter And The Lady (1951). 

The cast and crew spent a lot of time at Vasquez Rocks, about an hour from the Columbia lot

They also shot some scenes at the Corrigan Ranch. Director Of Photography Henry Freulich captures it all in gorgeous Technicolor.

Katzman’s cost-cutting is painfully obvious, the history is questionable, the ending is too abrupt and Castle doesn’t seem to have found much inspiration in the script he was handed. However it is a film that, all in all, I really like.

The film really comes to life the final reel in which Cochise is sentenced to suffer three tortures – scalded by hot steam, then sliced with knife blades, and finally burned by fire.

Robert Stack makes takes the role as the hero and plays it well

The Colour photography just has to be good and it is in Technicolorjust about as good as it gets !!

The year before this, I well remember ‘Battle at Apache Pass’ with Jeff Chandler again as Cochise as he was in ‘Broken Arrow’

That was a good film.

Both of these were in Technicolor and Widescreen

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Young at Heart 1954 – Doris Day

Doris Day stars in this film and injects her usual happy and lively personality into it. For me she virtually carries the film even though she is surrounded by first rate, well known actors such as Ethel Barrymore and the excellent Gig Young

Of course, Frank Sinatra also starred but to me gave a particularly down-beat performance – maybe that was the character he was playing but it made the romance with him implausible to my way of thinking

Just look ABOVE Doris Day so bright and appealing – Frank Sinatra dour

Doris Day with her family ABOVE

ABOVE – Doris Day with Gig Young – he seemed much more lively

Doris Day and her family

ABOVE – Frank Sinatra lights yet another cigarette – he did way too much of that I thought

ABOVE – Ethel Barrymore keeps a watchful eye on her three girls including Doris Day as she shows of her engagement ring from Gig Young – that didn’t last long !!

Doris Day with Frank in the seedy little flat they rented

Doris Day – Christmas at home with the family

Doris Day( ABOVE with Frank Sinatra) made quite a few films with Gig Young in the fifties including ‘Tunnel of Love’ , ‘Teachers Pet’ and this one ‘Young at Heart’.

I remember Gig Young coming over to England much later – in fact in 1967 – making a great horror film we probably all remember ‘The Shuttered Room’ Excellent and very scary

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Western Stars and Directors

I can’t say that I know much about this actress who had a long life although she does seem to have been around a great deal in the Forties and Fifties particularly in Westerns

Barbra Fuller
(July 31, 1921 – May 15, 2024)

Actress Barbra Fuller has died recently at the great age of 102.

Republic put her under contract in 1949 and put her in pictures like The Savage Horde (above, with Bob Steele), Rock Island Trail (1950) and Lonely Heart Bandits (all 1950). The Savage Horde, starring William Elliott, is excellent.

She was on the radio soap opera One Man’s Family from 1945 till 1959 and spent the late 50s working in TV quite a bit (Perry MasonMy Three Sons, etc.). She was in a 1953 episode of Adventures Of Superman.

Hers was one of the best known voices on the airwaves. By the age of 18, Barbra Deane Fuller had been featured in 25 radio serials and had by her own count portrayed more than 1000 different characters. Though having earlier aspired to become a maths teacher, she went into show biz instead and made her first radio broadcast at 11 years of age. Two years later, she was playing more ingénues in Chicago soap operas than any other teenager. Barbra was a regular performer on The Theater of Famous Radio Players, described by an authority on the subject as “a repertory company of radio’s best professional actors.” Her most popular roles included Claudia in One Man’s Family (a role she went on to play for 14 years) and Barbara Calkins in Scattergood Baines for the Mutual Broadcasting System. In 1942, she moved to New York, where she set up base for two and a half years.

Barbra’s father died when she was three. Raised by her mother, she went to school in Chicago and was said to have had a passion for reading non-fiction and travel books. Early in her career as a radio actress she would earn $12.50 per broadcast.

As her popularity grew, she changed the spelling of her first name from ‘Barbara’ to ‘Barbra’ “as an attention-getter”.

Barbra Fuller was married to Lash La Rue for a very short time – Lash was non too successful where marriage was concerned – I think he married 7 times but I have seen reports of ‘at least ten marriages’

They married in Yuma, Arizona on 23 February 1951 and divorced on 2 June 1952

William Whitney

William Witney
(May 15, 1915 – March 17, 2002)

William Witney was a genius, and his contribution the cinema has been and is greatly under-appreciated.

William Witney directed about 27 of the Roy Rogers films and lived close by him in the San Fernando Valley

William Witney belonged to a Hollywood which has long since disappeared. During the 1930s and 40s, he turned out dozens of B westerns and cliff-hanger serials.

In the 1950s and 60s, he was active in directing TV series, most of them westerns.

From 1935 to 1956, Witney’s workplace was Republic Pictures, where he practised the philosophy of “make ’em fast and make ’em cheap”. Witney directed more than 60 features, impossible for even the most prolific of directors today. In his autobiography, In A Door, Into A Fight, Out A Door, Into A Chase (1996), he said he was never satisfied with the stilted way movie fights were shot, and he is credited as the first director to choreograph screen fights.

ABOVE: Producer Eddie White, Roy Rogers, Director William Witney.

This is what William Witney had to say when discussing the Roy Rogers films he made :-

“Our producer, the greatest guy, Eddie White… was from New York. He didn’t know which end of a horse was which, but he had good taste. And they brought me along and put me with him. I’d been a horseman all my life. I’m a jumping horse rider, and I love horses. So, we made a very excellent team, the two of us. We became the best of friends.

ABOVE – Bells Of Coronado, 1950

Director William Witney (L) wearing hat, walks backwards as he directs Dale Evans and Roy Rogers during filming of Republic’s 1950s production of BELLS OF CORONADO.

William Witney’s Autobiography ABOVE

The Roy Rogers films that were directed by William Witney were of a much higher quality than the previous ones

Shooting location scenes ABOVE and BELOW

ABOVE Roy Rogers chatting in the Film Studio ABOVE

Republic studios yellow

Willian Witney adds :- Republic was a small studio. I was under contract there for 28 years, and this studio, everybody used to say, was the hardest studio to work at in the world, but our crews were excellent. They had people in there that were just brilliant…

We’ve got a casting office, and they read the script and they make suggestions. You also have a book of actors, and you know actors after all these years. You got through the book and you say, ‘See if you can get him, I wanna interview him.’ And you’d interview these people to look at them. You knew their ability, most of them, because you’d worked with them before.

William Witney actually made his acting debut in 1933 ‘Fighting with Kit Carson’ in an uncredited role – or roles more accurately as he played a settler an Indian and a Trooper. In his Autobiography he said that working on this film – which was a serial when on BBC TV in the early fifties – that the actors and crew worked from dawn to dusk in demanding conditions. Much of the filming was at the Iverson Ranch which he said was awash with Rattlesnakes – I had never heard that before.

In England on the BBC in 1952, I am pretty sure it was called ‘Kit Carson and the Mystery Riders’

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A Cinema with a difference

Just got back from a lovely weekend in Woodhall Spa that beautiful village in rural Lincolnshire with it’s strong links to the RAF and 617 Squadron The Dam Busters.

It does have a unique and very appealing cinema. The Kinema In The Woods.

The choice of films here is also very cleverly managed – we have of course all the New Releases but also special one-off showings

Inside the foyer we are treated to memorabilia from the film world

One-off showings as mentioned such as ‘Jaws’ folowed by a midnight swim in the Open Air pool close by – obviously a summer attraction.

Then of all things they showed a 1925 Buster Keaton silent film with piano

The Dam Busters is shown at least once every year plus films like ‘The Titfield Thunderbolt’

The cinema is based in the Lincolnshire town of Woodhall Spa, sitting between Lincoln and Boston, being about a 30/35 minute drive from both

The Kinema has three screens, and each of them is quite different

Rounding off the screen is one of the famous organs, located right at the front of the screen.

Considering that Kinema is just a three-screen cinema, they do actually show a wide variety of films.

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