Posts Tagged ‘Budd Boetticher’

1953’s The Man From the Alamo for The Favorite Code Film Blogathon

 

I recently watched a new-to-me film from the Western genre, 1953’s The Man From the Alamo.  I discovered another cable channel that I had largely been ignoring, INSP, and it almost exclusively shows tv westerns and films.  My kids have  asked why I enjoy a western tale so much and I think I like them for two reasons: the Western is truly an American form of entertainment, and I like the stark and simple tales of good vs evil, with good usually winning in the end. Maybe since I’m a firstborn, and I have been conditioned to follow the rules, see things in black and white-am I right, other firstborns out there?- I greatly enjoy a tale of good ultimately winning. 

INSP cable channel aired this movie 3 months ago; the channel  airs a lot of westerns and is currently airing John Wayne movies for the month of July.   The title of the film is what first drew me in to record it and watch it. The Man From the Alamo immediately tells the viewer that here was one man who didn’t die at The Alamo in San Antonio, TX in 1836.  I am vaguely aware of The Alamo’s history, of a mission in San Antonio, TX, where Davy Crockett, Lt. William Travis, Jim Bowie, and others fighting for Texas’s independence from Mexico were all wiped out in a battle with General Santa Ana and his army.  Since I saw the title, I immediately was saying to myself, “What?! A man came out of the Alamo and lived?  Was he a coward who snuck out as the battle began and avoided the 13 day siege? Was he a coward who found a really good hiding place in The Alamo and got away at the end of the siege? Was he a spy for Santa Ana and working against the territory of Texas?”  I decided I had to watch this film and find out the answers to my questions.

Glenn Ford is the film’s protagonist, John Stroud, a man who has grown up in  Texas so when the call goes out to help defend the land at The Alamo, Stroud knows that he will answer that call, come what may.  He willingly leaves behind his wife, son, ward Carlos(Mark Cavell), and his ranch.

We get to see a grim meeting at The Alamo with Lt. William Travis and the men there, that he has  asked for reinforcements but he doesn’t know if the reinforcements will arrive in time as General Santa Ana and his regiments will arrive sooner.  Travis makes an announcement that if any man feels the need to leave The Alamo now, to be back with his family and land/ranch/farm, that he would allow that man to leave with no ill will.  Travis then sends a Lt. Lamarr(Hugh O’Brien) to Franklin, TX to get to Sam Houston and the need for more men.  Stroud stands up and announces to Travis that he will be leaving The Alamo(my question got answered fast!) and he does so, with some of the men scowling at him.

Lt. Travis contemplating the announcement he’s going to make to the men inside The Alamo.

Stroud gets back to his ranch in Ox-Bow, TX to find his home, barns, everything has been burned.  He also finds Carlos, still alive, and learns from him that bad white men, dressed as Mexican soldiers, took to burning and looting area ranches and farms since the men were away to fight; these evil men also killed Stroud’s wife and son, and Carlos managed to dig them proper graves.  With revenge now front and center in Stroud’s mind, he takes Carlos to the nearest large town, Franklin,  with the aim of getting needed supplies and to then go in search of the men who destroyed all he owned and loved, and kill them.

Carlos and Stroud, arriving in Franklin.

Sounds simple, right? But once in Franklin, Lt. Lamarr  is there with new orders, to get the women, children, and the elderly away from Franklin and to safety.  Lt. Lamarr is in a good frame of mind to this task as it gives him days to spend with his wife, Kate(none other than Jeanne Cooper, aka Catherine Chancellor of The Young and The Restless! I watched TYATR all through my high school and college days-middle and late 1980s, and Catherine ruled the roost of Genoa City, WI on that soap opera so it was great to see her in this film, pre-TYATR days).  Then Lt. Lamarr sees Stroud and he bristles at seeing him, and lets the town leaders of Franklin know that Stroud is a coward and that he’s probably in town, up to no good!  Unfortunately for Stroud, the town leaders listen to Lt. Lamarr, and throw Stroud into jail where they are keeping all the suspicious guys in town until the women, children, and the elderly have gotten away.

Lt. Lamarr telling the folks of Franklin not to trust Stroud!

While in the jail, Stroud meets Dawes(Neville Brand), a drunk in the next jail cell.  Carlos is able to secretly talk to Stroud through a jail cell’s window, sees Dawes, and lets Stroud know that that drunk was one of the bad men who was a part of the gang that killed Stroud’s family.  Stroud decides to pretend he is on the side of the traitorous bandits and when the head of the gang, Jess Wade(Victor Jory) arrives to break Dawes out of jail, Stroud goes along and joins the gang in order to enact his plot of  revenge. In between the waiting of Wade’s arrival and his own arrest, Stroud is able to get one of the women leaving Franklin, Beth Anders(Julia Adams) to agree to take Carlos along with her.

Learning about Jess Wade and the gang from Dawes.

Joining up with Wade’s Gang.

As Stroud and the Wade Gang wait above a pass to attack, rob, and harm the wagon train of fleeing folks from Franklin, Stroud is able to fire a warning shot and the wagon train turns around and gets away safely.  This leaves Stroud open to a gun battle with Wade and his gang members and they shoot Stroud, thinking he’s dead and they leave him out in the open.  When the wagon train stops for a rest, Carlos leaves the wagon train to find Stroud and manages to get him back with help from some of the calvary traveling with the wagon train.  They take him to Beth Anders who is able to get Stroud back to reasonable health, all the while knowing he’s not a coward.

Beth caring for Stroud. Will love bloom here??

I’ll not say anymore about the film, as I want you to be able to find it and see how it ends for yourself.  In technicolor, well-directed by Budd Boetticher-he directed many fine westerns in the 1950s-it’s a fast film, that tells a good story. The story was created by Niven Busch and Oliver Crawford; screenplay by Steve Fisher and D.D. Beauchamp.  Look for character actor Chill Wills, as one of the leaders of Franklin who is against Stroud in the beginning and the  middle of the story.  Also, Guy Williams(Dr. John Robinson, the dad from the tv show Lost in Space) has a small military role in the movie.  Via TCM’s website, film critic Leonard Maltin called this film  a bit “offbeat, well-acted, and exciting.”  The film isn’t listed as being shown on TCM anytime soon. It aired on INSP channel back in April and it isn’t listed there to be re-shown anytime soon.  The film is available to purchase on dvd thru Amazon and TCM’s shop.  It used to be available to watch on Amazon streaming/renting but isn’t as of today.  However, Youtube has come through and the film is there for viewing!!!!

So watch a good western tale of good vs evil, of good being mistaken for evil, and good triumphing in the end.  Also, in researching a bit about the film’s beginning battle, there’s a cool website to see, thealamo.org

This blog post today is for The Favorite Code Film Blogathon, hosted by Peeps, or the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society.  Be sure to visit their site for more posts about good films made under the Breen Code.

Reel Infatuation Blogathon: Randolph Scott in The Tall T

This is my contribution for the Reel Infatuation Blogathon.  Be sure to visit classic movie bloggers Font and Frock and Silverscreenings, to read other wonderful pieces about classic movie “crushes”.

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My birthday is getting close and as I was musing over the fact that I’m firmly in middle age,  who were some of my reel infatuations from classic movies who kept on giving good acting performances when they reached middle age?  I zeroed in on Randolph Scott in The Tall T.  Scott was 59 when  he starred in this excellent western,  rescuing a damsel in distress, or rather, a spinster-suddenly widowed, a 46  year old Maureen O’Sullivan from a trio of dastardly villians, one barely out of his 30s, one in his early 30s and one in his 20s.  Let’s give out a cheer for the middle aged in this film!!!!     The Tall T movie poster

Randolph Scott began his acting career in 1927 at the age of 29(WWI, college for a while, then accounting were all stepping stones on his life’s path to Hollywood) and he began with bit parts in silents, then moved into “B” westerns, and doing stage plays which caught the attention of Paramount, who signed him to a contract.  From there it was loan outs, working at his craft, to finally landing leading roles in “A” pictures.  In 1946, Scott once again put on his cowboy gear, got up on his horse, and from there on out, made the last third of his acting career in Westerns.

In The Tall T, (the trailer states that the T stands for terror and we learn it is also the name of a ranch where the hero has gone to buy some stock) we get the tall Scott riding in on his horse over mountainous rock groupings, as he rides in to the stage coach station to visit a bit with Hank(Frank E. Sherman), who runs the station, and his young son, Jeff(Chris Olsen.)  Scott’s character, Pat, is an old bachelor cowhand, who finally has saved up enough money to buy his own ranch.  Hank teases Pat about never having found a wife, and warns Pat that if he ever begins talking to his cattle out of loneliness, all hope is lost for him!!  Both men have a good laugh over that remark, and Pat promises to bring back some candy for Jeff.  Pat  is about to ride on to the nearest town to buy some more stock for his ranch.  I noticed that Scott, even at 59, was still ramrod straight with his posture-no stooped shoulders, no seeming to have arthritic issues with moving around or climbing up onto or getting off of his horse.  He’s tanned, a bit more weathered in his face, but he still has that wide, charming grin and that bit of his natural NC twang that never did leave his speech pattern when he talks. He’s adorable!!  He’s a rugged, handsome man and a comforting presence to Hank and his young son.  I noticed at this early part of the movie, the music is jaunty and fun.  It makes the audience feel good, and makes one feel that one is in for a fun film.

Pat visiting with Hank and Jeff at the Station

Pat visiting with Hank and Jeff at the Station

This feel good aspect to the film is short.  When Pat returns to the station with the stagecoach(he lost his horse in a bet and has had to hitch a ride back to Hank and Jeff) the happy music turns quickly to an ominous tone and the trio of pure evil, younger men emerge: Frank Usher(excellently portrayed by Richard Boone), Chink(Henry Silva), and Billy Jack(Skip Homeier).  After ordering Pat, the stagecoach driver Rintoon(Arthur Hunnicutt), and the passengers to throw down their guns, the trio orders them out of and off of the stagecoach.  Rintoon is gunned down as he attempts to shoot the villains with his hidden rifle.  In another day or so, Doretta Mims(Maureen O’Sullivan)  will be widowed before her honeymoon ever began as her cowardly husband is shot in the back by Frank.

Usher telling Pat that Hank and Jeff are dead

Usher telling Pat that Hank and Jeff are dead

Doretta is a truly sympathetic character in this hot mess of a situation.  She is the only child of a copper mine magnate.  She’s been a spinster until she met Willard Mims(ew, the name Willard would have been enough to make me run in the other direction!) and she convinced herself that he was her last chance, agreeing to marry him even though she knew he was only interested in her for her money.   Pat can see that the trio of villains need to be outwitted and that only he and Doretta can do this.  He is a hero to be commended because he takes into consideration Doretta’s hurt emotions, her feeling of abandonment, her feeling of foolishness for ever marrying Willard, and yet Pat is able to calm her nerves, her fears, her bad feelings, and gets her to work with him in defeating Usher, Chink, and Billy Jack.  Pat could have swaggered a bit, and bossed Doretta around, or treated her with contempt as another bit of baggage in his way of outwitting and destroying the baddies, but he doesn’t.  He treats Doretta with respect, as an equal in asking for her help, and ultimately as a new love in this latter part of his life in the rugged West.

Pat and Doretta, working together for the Win!

Pat and Doretta, working together for the Win!

Scott”s portrayal of Pat shows a strong man, one who is warm, smart, who listens before he speaks, and acts wisely.  Pat is quick to notice the fault lines in the gang who has kidnapped he and Doretta.  Gang leader, Usher, is a loner.  A lonely loner who often calls out Pat to come and talk with him.  Pat is listening close to Usher, for information to ultimately use to help he and Doretta in outwitting the gang.  Pat also notices that Chink and Billy Jack have fears and weaknesses, and in remembering the old adage that there is no honor among thieves, Pat is able to conquer these 3 despicable characters.

Pat enduring one of Usher's talks

Pat enduring one of Usher’s talks

Chink and Billy Jack-these whippersnappers don't stand a chance against Pat

Chink and Billy Jack-these whippersnappers don’t stand a chance against Pat

 

TCM from time to time airs this film, so pay attention to their schedule as it may well air before 2016 is done.  I’ll close out with the trailer for The Tall T, courtesy of TCM’s website, and some more shots of the wonderful Randolph Scott!

Probably a publicity shot, Scott in his earlier acting days

Probably a publicity shot, Scott in his earlier acting days

Scott, probably early 1940s

Scott, probably early 1940s

The lines beginning to show on a middle-aged Scott, but still ruggedly handsome

The lines beginning to show on a middle-aged Scott, but still ruggedly handsome