Posts Tagged ‘Hugh O’Brien’

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.

My Classic Movie Pick: The Shootist

Today’s post is for the great James Stewart Blogathon.  Hosted by an excellent  blog that I enjoy reading, Classic Film and TV Cafe.  Be sure to click on the provided link to read other bloggers’ posts about Jimmy Stewart and his various  acting  roles.   T J Stewart Blogathon     When I saw that Classic Film and TV Cafe was going to host this blogathon, I thought for a while as to which  role of Stewart’s to write about.  I decided on  The Shootist, a  movie that came in the latter days of Stewart’s movie acting.   The Shootist, movie poster The Shootist, originally a novel written by Glendon Swarthout  and published in 1975, was sought out by Paramount Pictures and Dino De Laurentiis Company to be made into a movie.  The author’s son, Miles, and Scott Hale wrote the screenplay.  Don Siegel was tapped to direct.   The movie’s plot is about an aging gunfighter, John Bernard, J.B. Books, who learns he has  cancer.  He also learns that despite liking this new town of Carson City, Nevada to live in, he only has 2 months at the most before the cancer will kill him.  Word gets out that the famous Shootist, Books, is in Carson City and old foes and friends appear, all wanting to cash in on the fame that surrounds this dying gunman or to just get final revenge.  It is Books’ dilemma, how to die with dignity amidst the turmoil that is happening around him due to these malcontents and fortune-seekers who are looking for him in Carson City.

Who better to portray the aging gunslinger than John Wayne, the most famous of Western heroes in film?  In 1964, Wayne had surgery to remove a cancerous lung.  Now, in 1976, when The Shootist was made, it would become  an ironic fact that Wayne would act the part of the dying gunslinger,  and he himself  would also die of cancer in 1979. Wayne had to lobby for the role of J.B. Books since the producers originally wanted George C. Scott!  Wayne did get the part and then proceeded to request that former cast members of other films he had made be cast in this film.  He specifically requested James Stewart, Lauren Bacall, Richard Boone, and John Carradine.

James Stewart, by the 1960’s, was taking on more paternalistic roles.  He had played opposite Wayne  in another great Western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, released in 1962.  Although the two actors didn’t run around in the same circle of friends, they both admired each other’s abilities in conveying characters on screen and had a great respect for one another. Stewart, in The Shootist, plays Dr. Hostetler who J. B. Books makes an appointment with in order to get a second opinion about his back pains.  The clip of that scene can be viewed here.  It is a warm and friendly scene of two old aquaintances re-meeting one another again.  Then the cold, factual Medical Man emerges as Dr. Hostetler gives Books the bad news: the back pains are a symptom of cancer.  Then there is more bad news, that Books only has 2 more months to live.  The doctor tells Books that when it’s time, medicines can be given to him to help ease the pain.

Stewart’s voice is still strong in this film, not quavery as one might expect with an aged actor.  The hair is white, the movements of his body as he walks across a room or sits in a chair are slower than that of a younger man, but it doesn’t distract one iota from his role as Dr. Hostetler.

The Shootist is a great ensemble piece.  All of the cast brought their A-Game to this movie.  Lauren Bacall is Mrs. Bond Rogers, the widowed landlady who rents a room to Books.  She tells him that she doesn’t abide with guns, and yet there is a growing fondness between her and Books.   Ron Howard(former child actor, teen actor, and now movie director) plays Gillom Rogers, son of the landlady.  He looks up to Books because he is a famous gunslinger and Books becomes a mentor/father figure for Gillom.     Richard Boone is Mike Sweeney, out to kill Books in order to get revenge for a brother’s death.  Hugh O’Brien is Jack Pulford,  a gambler and keen shot who wouldn’t mind taking Books down in order to promote himself.   Sheree North is an old flame, Serepta, who shows up hoping to get Books to marry her so  later she can have a book written by a ghost writer about her life with Books and make money off of his notoriety and death.  John Carradine is Carson City’s undertaker Hezekiah Beckem and he pesters Books about having a headstone made.  Scatman Crothers is Moses Brown,  the livery worker who cares for Books’s horse.  Richard Lenz is Dan Dobkins the local newspaper reporter, wanting to write sensationalized versions of Books’s killings.  Harry Morgan is Marshall Thibido, who is anxious to have Books leave Carson City.

The Shootist is available via Amazon to either buy or view through Instant Rent.  It is also available through TCM’s Shop.  To close out my post, here are a few more shots of John Wayne and James Stewart, from The Shootist.

Giving Books the diagnosis.

Giving Books the diagnosis.

TS, arguing with Wayne

 

 

The Shootist, Wayne and Stewart