Joe Dakota

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Last time I looked at a remake. The film in question today isn’t a direct remake, at least not a credited one, but instead it’s what we might term an alternative take on a similar theme. Anyone who has seen Bad Day at Black Rock will easily spot the parallels in Joe Dakota (1957), although this later production doesn’t attain the same level of driving intensity as Sturges’ film. I think it’s fair to say this movie doesn’t have the same ambition, not as far as social commentary is concerned anyway, but it’s still interesting enough and definitely a worthwhile 50s western.

Arborville is a tiny settlement, barely able to justify the label of a town. As an unnamed stranger (Jock Mahoney) rides out of the desert onto its solitary street there’s an almost unnatural calm. At first it seems as though Arborville has been abandoned, like a western version of the Marie Celeste on dry land. The mystery provides only a temporary puzzle though as a lone girl, Jody (Luana Patten), sulkily informs the stranger that the whole population is outside of town at work. The work turns out to be an oil drilling operation, and the locals aren’t exactly thrilled to see an outsider poking his nose in. The main spokesman, Cal (Charles McGraw), initially appears happy enough to allow the visitor to observe the drilling but grows suspicious when this unnamed man decides to explore further, particularly when he exhibits an interest in the old shack that stands next to the derrick. The tone of this opening section of the movie is a little uneven, mixing the suspenseful elements up with some broad knockabout comedy. However, as the story progresses the emphasis on the mystery consistently holds center stage. Everything revolves around the question of identity – the identity of the apparently affable stranger with questions to ask, and that of the old Indian, now disappeared, who once occupied the shack. So there are issues to be resolved in Arborville but no-one seems keen to offer any answers. Even the locals are reluctant to discuss the matter among themselves. What is clear is that the town is nursing a secret, and the stranger is determined to haul that hidden past, kicking and screaming if necessary, out into the open.

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Those familiar with Bad Day at Black Rock will know where the story is heading, and I’m not going to spoil things here for anyone who hasn’t seen either film. While the structure of both films is essentially the same the approach is a little different. Joe Dakota has the early lightness I already referred to and, even though the levels of suspense are ramped up as it goes along, the kind of searing examination of race relations that characterized John Sturges’ film is not present. Also, the insularity of the isolated frontier community isn’t probed in the same depth. Everything in Bad Day at Black Rock revolved around notions of hate, fear and neglect – Joe Dakota trades on fear too, but greed lies at the root of it all.

The script was by William Talman, best known as Hamilton Burger on the Perry Mason show, and Norman Jolley. This pair also worked together on another Jock Mahoney vehicle, I’ve Lived Before, which I’d like to see one day. The core story is a good one and works well in a western setting, relying on the isolation to act as both a cloak for the town’s guilty secret and a catalyst for the paranoia that accompanies it. The plot recounts a journey towards the truth and, like most 50s westerns, represents a simultaneous quest for redemption or absolution. By the close the collective guilt of all concerned is literally burnt away and cleansed as the mistakes of the past are consumed by flames.

Jock Mahoney was well cast in Joe Dakota, his laid back charm easily wins the viewer over to his side right from the beginning and there was an air of tough resolve about him too which makes him believable as the dogged seeker after the truth. He made a handful of films with director Richard Bartlett – of those, I’ve only seen the enjoyable Money, Women and Guns – who appears to have recognized his strengths and used them to good effect. Charles McGraw had the rough edges and raspy voice to play a variety of movie villains and he always a pleasure to watch. Joe Dakota was an opportunity for him to demonstrate his more devious side, as opposed to a physical threat, and he acts as a good foil for the athletic Mahoney. Barbara Lawrence and Luana Patten took on the two principal female roles, with the latter getting the juicier and more rewarding part. The supporting cast is pretty strong too, with Claude Akins and Lee Van Cleef indulging in some comic antics early on to soften the harder image we frequently associate with both men. It’s nice too to see the prolific Anthony Caruso – one of those faces you’ll immediately recognize – in a fairly prominent role.

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Joe Dakota was a Universal picture and can be tracked down on DVD easily enough. I have the Spanish release, which is fair but nothing special. A 1957 production would certainly have been shot widescreen but the DVD is clearly open matte – there’s lots of extraneous head room in the frame. Aside from that, the image is reasonable if a little soft. The Eastman color process could be problematic and was apt to fade over time but I can’t say it looks too bad in this case. The disc just offers the film and there are no extra features whatsoever. Generally, this is a good, solid western which presents a different riff on a similar scenario to Bad Day at Black Rock. It’s interesting to look at the contrasting approaches of these two films but I think it would be unfair to compare them directly. Joe Dakota stands up just fine on its own merits and is both entertaining and thoughtful.

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73 thoughts on “Joe Dakota

    • Yes, the cast is excellent and well suited to a western. I think Mahoney’s natural athleticism meant he was always going to do well in any form of action film, and he was still in impressive shape in the 1960s.

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  1. Not seen this one Colin – and fascinating to learn that Talman was also a screenwriter. I like Mahoney’s laconic persona and thought he was a good Tarzan too – does seem a bit cheeky to have moulded a film so closely on BLACK ROCK so soon after the event, but that is what usually happens after a hit, let’s face it!

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  2. I pretty much agree with everything that you have said in your very fair-minded review Colin, and thanks for drawing attention to a somewhat little known Western. At least,in Europe all of Jock Mahoney’s Universal Westerns are available on DVD. The only missing one is SLIM CARTER in which Mahoney plays a current day Cowboy Star. In that film Mahoney plays a Western character although I don’t think that it can really qualify as a Western. Very interesting cast too – Julia Adams and guest appearances from the likes of Barbara Hale and Ben Johnson.
    JOE DAKOTA was not a CinemaScope Western like MONEY WOMEN AND GUNS and LAST OF THE FAST GUNS and I am sure in Europe at least it would have played as 4×3.
    I caught up with another Mahoney Universal Western SHOWDOWN AT ABILENE recently which has been released in France and Spain. I was surprised how creative Charles Haas’s direction was.There is a scene where Mahoney and Martha Hyer are left and right of the frame respectively.The central image is Lyle Bettger’s
    reflection in a mirror. Hyer, now engaged to Bettger, was once Mahoney’s sweetheart and as they meet again after several years we just watch Bettger’s face freeze in the mirror…great stuff!

    BTW, off topic; in your last review there was a reference to the recent Panamint Blu-ray of INFERNO. A friend phoned the other night to say that the p.q. is sensational. He was so impressed that he e-mailed Panamint to see if they have any other classic films in the works and they replied saying that they have more titles in preparation at the moment. I think previously that they were more of a documentary type imprint.The more companies doing quality releases of
    classic films,the better as far as I am concerned.

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    • Thanks, John. This film certainly wasn’t composed for scope, as you say, but it would have been designed principally to be screened wide – up to 1.85:1 anyway. The DVD has a lot of dead space at the top of the image and the disc zooms just fine so it looks like a standard open matte transfer to me.

      I have Showdown at Abilene on disc myself and hope to watch it soon – thanks for the reminder.

      Also, that’s very good news about the positive feedback on the Blu-ray of Inferno, and the possibility of more to come.

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    • Hi John and Colin, Thanks for the recommendation on Inferno. I visited the Panamint page when Colin mentioned it last month but hesitated because I couldn’t work out the best pay method. Went back after I read your enthusiastic comment and muddled through. For anyone also wary, Pay Pal is much the same as ordering with your card on Amazon.
      Also while on blu-rays, my Twilight Time Man From Laramie finally arrived and it’s jaw-dropping. To give you an idea, in the opening with James Stewart riding shotgun on a stagecoach, on my DVD his face is nothing more than a black blob in long shots. The blu-ray, his face is easily recognisable even tucked in shadow under his hat. But the real surprise is the aspect ratio is corrected, opened out noticeably more on both sides (DVD aspect 2.35:1/Blu 2.55:1).
      Best Chis B

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      • Thanks for the feedback on The Man from Laramie, Chris – seems like a winner. I see the Beaver has reviewed Inferno and put up some screen grabs here. It sounds, and looks, like a very nice release.

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        • Oh, that’s whet my appetite, hahah. Robert Ryan classes up anything he’s in (He’s become a favourite the last couple of years) and who can resist Rhonda Fleming in colour – and 3D! Boy, Lucien Ballard behind the lens too. Thanks mate.

          PS As a fellow Lang Lubber, I must recommend the blu-ray of Man Hunt, crisp and gorgeous. Also pre-ordered Hangmen Also Die from Cohen (It’s a gamble, their discs are usually region free). I have the Aussie DVD and have always suspected it was the most complete version in existence. Hoping against hope the new blu may have a few precious extra minutes. Will let you know.

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  3. Hamilton Burger wrote a western? Fascinating stuff, Colin! By all accounts, Talman seemed like quite a good guy…it’s a real shame he passed relatively young, leaving behind a new wife and many children. His anti-smoking PSA, recorded shortly before his death, is a sobering watch.

    I’ve always liked Jock Mahoney. I’ve just started going through his late 50s TV western YANCY DERRINGER, and am impressed with his easy Southern charm, affable yet steely performance there. A western take on the modern almost western BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK sounds mighty tasty. Pity the DVD release is just OK.

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    • Talman was first class and scary in The Hitch Hiker – a talented guy.

      I’ve been eying that DVD set of Yancy Derringer for a while now myself, Jeff. I’d be interested to read your thoughts on it if you get round to it.

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  4. Well, first off…pretty well anything with Jock Mahoney is a “must watch” for me, Colin. The similarity to “Bad Day…” is of course undeniable but, as you say, the treatment is very different and works well for me. The way the plot begins in “Joe Dakota” and progresses is a “slow burn” which I find very effective. From its laid-back start to its (almost) powerful conclusion is well-paced.

    Colin, I did not realise you had not yet seen “Showdown At Abilene”. May I suggest you drop everything this evening and sit down with a good beer and watch. I very much doubt that disappointment will surface!

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    • Hello, Jerry. I agree the pacing is fine and the tension builds nicely.

      I’ll be watching Showdown at Abilene sooner rather than later now in light of the recommendations.

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  5. I watched an old episode of Wagon Train on you tube recently titled “Alias Bill Hawks”. Norman Jolley gets the writing credit. As I watched, something seemed familiar and yep…..the “Bad Day..” elements were the basis of the story. Amazing how often the storyline shows up. Enjoyed your review Colin and all the comments too.

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    • Thanks, Elise. I haven’t seen that much of Wagon Train so I’m not familiar with the episode – I’ll look out for it though. It sounds like Jolley was a fan of the plot then.

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  6. I love “Joe Dakota”–it is near the top of my seen Westerns for 1957 and as you’ll agree I know that is a very strong list. It is probably my favorite of Richard Bartlett–a very talented director in my book though his filmography for theatrical features is pretty small and I’ve seen all his 1950s movies (and all his “Wagon Train” episodes, on which he did manage to inflect his own sensibility to an impressive extent). So, anyway, since I do like it so well, a couple of things, some already touched on in your review and followup comments.

    Yes, this movie owes a lot to “Bad Day at Black Rock” for the subject but as I believe you acknowledge, and as Jerry touches on pretty eloquently (8/18 at 4:03), the feeling of these two movies is very different so I don’t think they are in any kind of competition. Many movies owe to ones that came before, but if we are looking at them as works of art what makes them individual is much more important. So, Colin, consider just for one thing, the openings of the two films–in “Bad Day at Black Rock” the train rushes through the landscape with Andre Previn’s taut, dramatic score playing; immediately it is suggested the movie will be taut, tense, urgent and it doesn’t disappoint. By contrast, in “Joe Dakota” Mahoney’s hero rides quietly through the landscape with this movie’s lovely, sweet main theme (actually composed by Henry Mancini, though he’s not individually credited) playing as he approaches the town. And the opening with the town deserted except for Patten’s mysterious girl is really wonderful, has a special mood sealed by the low key, appealing interaction of Mahoney and Patten. I believe Bartlett beautifully sustains this ambiance throughout, and it provides counterpoint to the darkness within the mystery, the collective guilt of people who are (by contrast with those Black Rock people) actually very decent but were deceived into what has happened. “Joe Dakota” is not an unduly violent movie (not a shot is fired) by contrast with “Black Rock.” I’m not setting one of these movies against each other–“Joe Dakota” is just much quieter, and this is consistent with all of Bartlett’s work as a director and with his sensibility too (he is basically a pacifist and has a genuine Christian underpinning to his work that for him is becoming); it is not the usual way but i like it, and it could be said that some of the greatest directors, for Westerns too, court subtlety. I’m thinking of Jacques Tourneur most of all here.

    I hasten to add that my defense is not meant to take down “Bad Day at Black Rock” which I also admire and have seen many times beginning in 1954. It too has a strong cast (at first glance, even stronger probably) and Sturges’ ‘Scope compositions in those early days of ‘Scope are indeed uncommonly impressive as he groups the characters in the little town in bleak exteriors and prosaic interior scenes. But the tautness and tension I referred to, qualities already present in the script for the film and which Sturges greatly enhances in his direction, are those very things that can most be said to be his strengths (think of “Last Train from Gun Hill” or the climactic reels of “Escape from Fort Bravo” as well as this film, while the exceptionally exciting last hour of “The Great Escape” finds him crosscutting among the various escapees with a kind of rhythmic beauty). These are great qualities for a director too, and certainly are for Sturges, but he may be considered an opposite kind of director from Bartlett. So, again, I just don’t think these two movies step on each other’s toes, and even don’t think they come to the same point dramatically–Bartlett wants redemption for the town, and Mahoney’s character is more of a touchstone for values (Patten’s character even more perhaps), while “Bad Day at Black Rock” is more dispassionate at the end, less invested in the town despite Walter Brennan’s good will than it is in validation of Tracy’s courage and moral fibre.

    If I say that I actually like “Joe Dakota” even more than “Bad Day at Black Rock” I hope no one will take that the wrong way. It’s more to defend the lesser known film. Also, one other thing that separates them has already been touched on–the Sturges film, though by a Western specialist, is not really a Western, more what I’d call a “marginal Western”–meaning it has a place in helping us understand and appreciate the genre without being one–because of its contemporary setting, while “Joe Dakota” stakes its claim simply as a Western.

    A few more things–visually, the movie was very beautiful, with attractive, non-garish color to support its all important mood–possibly this isn’t fully captured in present transfers (I haven’t seen a DVD yet but that’s my impression from the frame captures here). Bartlett’s collaborators, Norman Jolley and William Talman, go back a ways with him to other projects (Talman appears in a leading role in “Two Gun Lady” with Peggie Castle), and Jolley is involved in most of the scripts for the “Wagon Train” episodes (many co-written with Bartlett). Bartlett is interesting in that he forged these relationships from the beginning–another partner earlier was Earle Lyon and anyone who likes B Westerns should see “The Silver Star” if they can, a movie in which Lyon plays the hero and Bartlett himself plays a bad guy. After the early movies, Bartlett got a Universal-International contract and wound up making five movies there–and Jock Mahoney is in four of these so plainly there was a great rapport. I love Jock Mahoney and have probably written before here that I think he was the last male lead in this programmer level of Western to really find a niche there–much as Dale Robertson, Rory Calhoun, George Montgomery and other had done, and, most successfully at this studio, Audie Murphy, the only one to really sustain his place in the 60s. And that’s the sad thing about Mahoney–he had been around for years as a stuntman (will probably always be most famous for this) and had been an actor too but really came into his own, as Bartlett did, in these few years in the late 50s, but then with this kind of movie going by the wayside, it was quickly over. That’s why Bartlett, like so many others, wound up in television, and Mahoney (who also had TV series “Yancy Derringer”) found his career suddenly winding down just when he had really found the place he deserved.

    Still, those few years saw Mahoney in “The Last of the Fast Guns” (Sherman), one of my favorite Westerns, and in such movies prized here (and at 50 Westerns from the 50s too) as “Showndown at Abilene” (Charles Haas) and “A Day of Fury” (Harmon Jones). Mahoney even found his way into two films by Douglas Sirk, “Battle Hymn” and “A Time to Love and a Time to Die”–they are supporting roles, but in the second, a masterpiece, Mahoney has a great role, does a lot to set the tone in the opening reels, and makes a superb impression. As for Bartlett, Mahoney’s naturally calm demeanor and easy masculine confidence made him an ideal hero for the director–“Joe Dakota” is my favorite but I like “Money, Women and Guns” almost as well (it’s just about as wonderful a movie as its title, and so rich and inventive) while “Slim Carter” is indeed a charming modern story in which Mahoney plays a cowboy star who doesn’t do his own stunts (!)–the story is about his humanization by a young boy (Tim Hovey) and the woman he finally appreciates (Julie Adams); when I met and talked to her, Julie Adams was very pleased of my warm memory of this movie, which she also liked.
    Consistent with who Bartlett is, the other Mahoney movie “I’ve Lived Before” is about exactly what the title implies–a daring movie, seriously and effectively done.

    Guess if I’ve gone on this long, I’ve just got to say how underrated I think lovely Luana Patten, who had been a child actress with Disney, is–she’s wonderful in “Joe Dakota” and really hits all the right notes as an unusual heroine and without any showiness. Her adult career was brief (and includes Bartlett’s other U-I movie, the surprisingly good “Rock, Pretty Baby”) and after this role, she went on to at least one more that was memorable–in Minnelli’s “Home from the Hill”–and she is just great in that exceptional movie, one of the greatest melodramas ever made.

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    • A marvelous response, Blake; thanks for contributing so much there. I do want to get back to you on a few points raised but am a little pressed for time just now – more later.

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    • Re the openings: I quite agree that the tone of what is to follow is telegraphed right from the outset in both this film and Bad Day at Black Rock. Both movies take entirely different approaches to a similar basic premise, and tell their stories in their own distinctive ways. It’s that similarity of premise that encourages comparison but I think your point about the different aim and focus of both the scripts and the directors is well made – the temptation to compare is strong yet perhaps misplaced.

      I think too that in cases like this – where a more obscure film is likened to an acknowledged classic – a movie can be undervalued and it’s refreshing to see someone speak up for its strengths so eloquently and persuasively.

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  7. Thanks. And I know I like to speak up for a movie I consider undervalued–I think many of us do. These days I’m far more interesting to talk about the good things in the movies I like rather than to write negatively about the ones I don’t.

    That’s why I made a point that I didn’t want to tear down “Bad Day at Black Rock” in this. I actually sat through that classic twice in a row on the first Saturday it was around (early in 1955-sorry I misdated), not even knowing it would go on to such a great reputation. It was a single feature so it was easy to do (that’s one similarity between these two movies, which I guess are within four minutes of each other–there’s no flab).

    Reading what I wrote, I came close to mentioning all nine of Bartlett’s 50s films–the others are his first movie, very low-budget war movie “Silent Raiders”–in which he also plays the lead–and another Western “The Lonesome Trail.” Any of his I’ve seen are worth seeking out.

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    • It’s said that there is an audience for negative reviews (I’ve also heard people claim they’re easier to write) but I find it’s not really my thing either. I too find it more rewarding to look for and share the the positive aspects of movies.

      On Bartlett, I’ve seen only a little of his work but I hope to catch up with more in due course.

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  8. Jerry Entract e-mailed me regarding Blake’s epic piece, saying that he wished that he could write with such eloquence. That’s sort of spooky because I was just about to e-mail him saying exactly the same thing!
    We don’t hear from Blake as often as we’d like but when we do it’s well worth the wait!

    I liked Blake’s grouping Mahoney with Rory Calhoun, Dale Robertson and George Montgomery who I guess for most people will be regarded as “second string” Western stars but having said that they all made some really fine Westerns.
    I always thought it rather odd that Mahoney unlike the others was never enticed to do one of those A.C.Lyles Westerns. I would certainly have preferred him to Howard Keel, who I never liked in Westerns. There again as most of the Lyles films were average at best perhaps it’s just as well.

    After the great run of Universal Westerns Mahoney made, and not counting TV, that was pretty much it as far as Mahoney Westerns went. The later CALIFORNIA is dreadful, borderline unwatchable despite interesting co-stars like Faith Domergue and Michael Pate.

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    • John, I know you like those Lyles westerns a bit more than I do – although I’ve only seen a handful of them – and I can’t say I’m all that bothered Mahoney never did any. They could be entertaining in places but the tired air of them disappoints me and I prefer to think of Mahoney in the more vigorous westerns of the 50s.

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      • Colin, what I was trying to point out was that Lyles seemed to corral most of the Fifties programmer Western stars still working and Mahoney just seemed an obvious candidate, perhaps he was asked and turned Lyles down. At any rate even the worst of Lyles Westerns is better than CALIFORNIA.
        “Like” is maybe to strong a word for the Lyles product but I do have a certain nostalgic hankering to see some of them again. I did see them all on large screens at the time, and often they provided more entertainment value than the main feature that they were supporting. When all is said and done some of them at least should be available on DVD, then we can cast our own judgements – will time be kind to them…I doubt it.
        Interestingly, Lyles was very friendly with Joel McCrea and i am sure that he must have approachednJoel to be in one of them………needless to say I am VERY glad that he declined.

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        • Definitely agree that it’s a pity the Lyles films aren’t more readily available. I’m a great believer in making up one’s own mind when it comes to cinema and it would be at least interesting to see how people coming at those westerns now would regard them.

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  9. Just as a follow on from the above, it’s also interesting that Mahoney was never tempted to do Euro/Spaghetti Westerns. Lex Barker and Guy Madison, whose careers sort of paralleled Mahoney’s made loads of Westerns in Europe. They would have been ideal candidates for Lyles westerns but were far to busy in Europe doing not only Westerns but costume adventure films as well. I always liked Barker and Madison in Westerns, and Madison’s two films with George Sherman
    REPRISAL! and THE HARD MAN are top notch. I really like Barker’s two Universal Westerns THE YELLOW MOUNTAIN and THE MAN FROM BITTER RIDGE both available from Koch in Germany. Both Barker and Madison teamed up for one of the best Euro Westerns APACHE’S LAST BATTLE (UK title) which had the added attraction of being directed by Hugo Fregonese. That film is on my “must track down” list and it’s certainly available in Germany.

    It’s amazing how many American stars did these Euro/Spaghetti/Bratwurst Westerns (Bratwurstens!?). Without mentioning the obvious here are just a few of those enticed over to Europe:
    Audie Murphy, Rod Cameron, Rory Calhoun, Jeffrey Hunter, Arthur Kennedy, Robert Ryan, Woody Strode, Gilbert Roland, Van Heflin, Russ Tamblyn, Van Johnson, Robert Taylor, Joseph Cotten and many others. Even musclemen stars like Steve Reeves and Gordon Scott tried their hand at Westerns.
    There again there are American actors like Richard Harrison and Robert Woods who made whole careers doing Euro Westerns;but that’s another story.

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    • Yes, it’s easy to forget quite how many western stars shot movies in Europe – Dan Duryea did at least one as well, I think – with varying results. Thanks for reminding me about The Yellow Mountain; it had slipped my mind and I’ve been meaning to pick it up.

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  10. Yep! You are right Colin, Dan Duryea was in THE HILLS RUN RED which also starred Henry Silva. Never seen it but I note that it’s available somewhere on Blu-ray.

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  11. I’ve seen most Lyles Westerns. And I’d like to see the few I haven’t seen. But that’s the best that I can say about them. Trying to hold on to old style Westerns with no inspiration during those years is pretty sad. And seeing actors I love in those circumstances is no great pleasure for me. The directors too, like Selander and Springsteen, had seen better days.

    So I too am glad Jock Mahoney did not show up there. Rory Calhoun is in a couple–I wish that he had bowed out with THE GUN HAWK. And I’m really Joel McCrea did not appear in them. It’s not important really but in terms of how great he is, I wish McCrea had not been tempted back into anything and had left RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY as his last movie as his co-star Scott did.

    No regrets you know. Cinema goes the way it goes and the good days do end. All I wanted to say about Mahoney, very simply, is that he came late to that niche of those great programmer Westerns but in those few years showed he did belong there. But since that ended, I’m glad to not see him in lesser things. I didn’t see his Tarzan movies, but I did see TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT (1960), a few years after MONEY, WOMEN AND GUNS. Gordon Scott played Tarzan and Jock Mahoney played the villain and I thought he was excellent. That was a good Tarzan movie.

    I appreciate that John Knight mentioned Guy Madison. I knew I was trying to think of someone else among those people (Calhoun, Robertson, Montgomery) and it was probably him on account of those two excellent George Sherman movies especially, in which Madison is first-rate.

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    • Sometimes I also wish an actor or director had called it a day earlier than was the case – although it’s much easier to recognize these things in retrospect.

      Seeing as Madison has come up, I have a copy of The Command sitting here unwatched and I’ve got an urge to see it now.

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  12. Colin, THE COMMAND certainly made a big impact in the UK as it was the first widescreen Western. I remember my parents taking me to see it as a kid, and telling me that I am going to see a “letterbox” film; I had no idea what they were talking about. The previous year they took me to see HONDO in 3D and I didn’t think anything could top that. The fifties were an exciting time for a movie mad kid to grow up in. Actually when there’s no action THE COMMAND is pretty flabby and really, in retrospect the film cried out for Raoul Walsh.

    I would be very interested, Colin to get your opinion of THE HILLS RUN RED, I don’t know if you would ever consider reviewing a “Euro Western” on this blog.
    Some of those films on the Wild East website look interesting but i have not purchased any as yet. If these films have a decent American actor on board they, to me, are somewhat appealing. I saw loads of those things in the Sixties some were OK and many were terrible but this whole “Spaghetti Western Cult” intrigues me somewhat. One I really did enjoy at the time was SON OF A GUNFIGHTER directed by Paul Landres and it’s coming out on Warner Archive at some point. Perhaps like the Lyles films it would be best left as a memory. I was also very impressed by VENDETTA (UK title) aka MURIETA directed by George Sherman (his only Spaghetti) and starring Jeffrey Hunter and Arthur Kennedy; two actors that I really admire.
    I know a lot of fans of traditional Westerns really hate the Euro versions but myself, I find some of them an interesting diversion.

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    • John, I’m not a huge fan of spaghetti westerns. I’ve tried lots over the years and few really satisfied me as the mood and focus and even the morality (perhaps ethos might be a better word) behind them differs radically from the classic version.
      Having said all that I have looked at some on this site before, most recently Leone’s A Fistful of Dynamite/Giù la Testa. I also wrote a short piece on Red Sun some years ago. So it’s not out of the question for The Hills Run Red to show up at some point.

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  13. Another actor not a Western “star” but who made some darn good ones is Barry Sullivan. Also Sullivan turned up in a couple of the Lyles Westerns and his involvement alone makes them worth watching. Sullivan was in two very interesting Forties Westerns WOMAN OF THE TOWN (George Archainbaud) and BADMEN OF TOMBSTONE (Kurt Neumann) The latter would have been a minor classic had Joel McCrea or Randolph Scott played Bat Masterson instead of Albert Dekker. This “warts and all” portrait of Masterson probably would not have appealed to McCrea at the time. At any rate the film is an early example of the so-called “revisionist” Western and as far as I know nothing like it appeared until Harold Schuster’s sombre and bleak JACK SLADE. In Schuster’s film Mark Steven’s Slade does not even give the bad guys the time to put their hands up; he just guns them down in cold blood! Dekker notwithstanding, WOMAN OF THE TOWN is an important enough Western to warrant a proper restoration. Sullivan shines here in one of his earliest performances. BADMEN OF TOMBSTONE is very highly regarded and quiet rightly so. I do hope the promised Warner archive release appears sooner rather than later. Throughout the Fifties Sullivan made some fine Westerns:THE OUTRIDERS,THE MAVERICK QUEEN, FORTY GUNS and DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE. He is simply wonderful in one of Audie Murphy’s better later films the engaging SEVEN WAYS FROM SUNDOWN.
    Like many of the people we have been discussing here (Mahoney, Madison, Robertson, Calhoun, Murphy, Montgomery) Sullivan also had a shot at a TV Western series, the very interesting THE TALL MAN where he played Pat Garrett. I have only seen a couple of these and perhaps Jerry can enlighten us more as he’s an expert on these sort of things. As you may have gathered I like Barry Sullivan a whole heap, he even raises the game of programmer fare like THE PURPLE GANG and WOLF LARSEN with his totally commanding performances.
    I must say Colin,this is a most enjoyable thread and it’s simply great to discuss guys that generally tend to get overlooked.

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    • John, I’ve also liked Barry Sullivan in most everything I’ve seen him in, westerns and other genre pictures. And there you go reminding me about stuff again! I bought the complete series of The Tall Man some time back and never got round to watching any of it – I actually forgot all about it!

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  14. I must say Colin,your “to be viewed section” intrigues me the more I hear about it. A movie fan pal told me that it’s quiet normal for film freaks to have at least 50 titles in their to be viewed heap.Me, I get paranoid if I have more than a dozen titles yet to view.
    BTW many thanks for the edits, I am on a laptop without spellcheck so there are some howlers going through, especially over at Toby’s. Also I have had a very busy day and am beginning to wilt!

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    • My “to view” pile could charitably be referred to as formidable. I really need to do something about it and do try. Time can be limited when I’m working though and any inroads I make soon seem to vanish! Still, there are worse things to have to complain about.

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  15. I’ve been out of reach of my computer for a few days so I just wanted to say, if belatedly, that Blake’s narrative of a few days ago is what makes me want to take part in these blogs. Thanks, Blake, for expressing so well what is in my mind and heart so often.

    Those A.C. Lyle westerns were pretty pedestrian really BUT they were trying to keep alive the classic western formula and, for that, they have value for me. I have seen enough “spaghetti” westerns to know that it would not bother me if I never watched one again! I know this has been touched on before but, with some very notable exceptions, the classic era of the western was all over by the mid-1960s. It coincided with the fact that many associated with the genre were now retired or close. Also, the end of the studio system played its significant part, I feel. The western, for me and probably most of us, reached a height in the 1950s that it had nowhere to go but down.

    John, thanks for mentioning Barry Sullivan – a great favourite of mine. Colin, I would recommend giving a watch to “The Tall Man” TV set you purchased. Although I am not convinced by Clu Gulager’s Billy (too modern), Barry Sullivan is what makes it worth watching. He is very good in it.

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    • Jerry, I reckon most of the regulars here are reading off the same page when it comes to views on how the western developed. I do like seeing the support for the 50s as the high point in the genre, partly because it jibes with my own thoughts and partly because I feel the era hasn’t always been afforded the critical reputation it deserves.

      I will have to at least make a start on The Tall Man now.

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  16. I understand that a couple of episodes were directed by Blake’s Richard Bartlett.
    That to me would be a pretty good place to start.
    Some interesting directors worked on the show including seasoned vets like Selander,
    Witney and Springsteen and futrue A listers like Sidney Pollack and Richard Donner.

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  17. So many directors who were veterans of theatrical Westerns, and of other excellent movies, too, went and to TV as their level of movie radically diminished in production, almost not there at all in the 60s. These are directors we all love here, and ones we talk about for their theatrical Westerns as well as their crime dramas and other genre movies. There is a fair argument to be made–and it usually is–that the nature of television series does not allow the same degree of personal inflection. I don’t think that’s always true. Working mostly with Norman Jolley on his WAGON TRAIN episodes (and forgot to mention he got Jock Mahoney into one of these as the guest star and Luana Patten in another one), Richard Bartlett imposed himself pretty strongly on his episodes, perhaps more in the stories than in style though I wouldn’t say his stylistic choices are not there, even if the show had a monolithic style of its own (which becomes pretty thoroughly “Fordian” in John Ford’s great episode
    “The Colter Craven Story”).

    I very highly recommend to anyone who has never seen it the episode “The Burning Sky” from the first season of MAVERICK. Gordon Douglas directed this–his one and only TV credit if I’m not mistaken, and I’m guessing that show would have loved to have had him again as would the other Warner Bros. Westerns, but fortunately for him he was keeping up the pace so well with theatrical features there (it was his home studio for a long time) that he probably resisted pretty comfortably. But in any event, if you see it, you’ll see he took the job seriously, brought all his stylistic panache to bear, made all the characters and relationships click and have real dimension, kept the action taut and the mood strong I thought it was very distinctly his and certainly fit in well with so many things that were already good about that wonderful show.

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    • One of the elements that makes 50s, 60s and, to some extent, 70s television fascinating and, for me anyway, great was the presence of directors, writers performers and crew who had all cut their teeth with the big movie studios. These people brought a depth of experience and professionalism to the table which elevates the shows.

      I’ve only ever seen odds and ends of Maverick and must remedy it some time.

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  18. Thanks for the positive recommendation, Blake, for that episode of “MAVERICK”. I am slowly working my way through Season One and “The Burning Sky” is still ahead so I will look forward to it all the more armed with this.

    I have seen very little mention on these blogs (could have missed it in the past though) of the “LARAMIE” TV series. I always felt this was one of the best. It was a particular favourite of mine when it first appeared and it still is. I like the fact that it is a “traditional” action-based western with two lead actors that seemed to be able to carry out most/many of their own stunts and fight scenes. Referring back to comments above re directors working in TV, “LARAMIE” was blessed with many, many episodes directed either by Joe Kane or Les Selander. Explains why it appeals to me probably.

    The other backward link is that “Laramie” star John Smith was married at the time to Luana Patten!

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    • I’ve toyed with the idea of picking up some of Laramie but I’ve never seen any of it. I’ve been watching more archive TV than was usual for me in the last year or so and I’m always grateful for any recommendations in that direction.

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  19. I think you might enjoy this TV series, Colin. Comes with my recommendation certainly. Timeless have put all four seasons out individually. The first two seasons are monochrome, the second two in colour. All are good but I like the first two seasons in particular.

    Gosh, you do have a lot to catch up on if you are only now starting to look at TV series. There are many to recommend but certain series stand out, I think. Be glad to e-mail my personal recommendations if you would be interested. I know, I know – where do you find enough hours??

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    • Not enough hours is always a problem! To give an idea of what western series I do have: I own a few seasons of Have Gun – Will Travel, Wanted: Dead or Alive, the first season of The Virginian, The Tall Man, The Deputy. Feel free to recommend anything else here or by email – you have my email address, I think?

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  20. An excellent discussion above (as always, Colin!)…and you know that I will continue to recommend AMC’s Hell on Wheels as a Western TV series to watch. 😉 It is now into its fourth season (in North America) and lately has dealt with the growth of Mormon religious communities in the West and the arrival of “carpetbaggers” seeking to profit personally from the development of the region. Of course, Irish actor Colm Meaney is a big part of the cast! 😉

    Cheers,
    Chad
    http://westernsreboot.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Always good to hear about an Irishman adding to the western experience, Chad.
      It’s heartening too to know that the western continues to have legs on the small screen.

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  21. Hi Colin,
    Follow up to our earlier conversation. Regrettably this Lang-lubber must inform you that the new Cohen blu-ray of Hangmen Also Die is region locked after all (I have their edition of Fairbanks’ Thief so was sure there’d be no problem).
    Disappointing, however I noticed the other day that Eureka are releasing Thief of Bagdad in the UK so maybe they’ll do Hangmen too eventually.

    Also, did you see Paramint’s Inferno 3D blu is now listed on Amazon, despite them saying it wouldn’t be? Might be an option for some readers more comfortable dealing with them.
    I’m not overwhelmed with the PQ, it’s certainly had no restoration done on it, colors are a bit yellowy, neither has it been overworked to the point where it no longer resembles film. Nice grain structure and depth (Only talking about the 2D version!)
    Best as always mate
    Chris B

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  22. As a Charles McGraw fan, I would suggest looking up an episode of FOLLOW THE SUN series, 61-62 called “Night Song” from 1961.

    It features our man McGraw, Lawrence Tierney and the sultry Julie London. An excellent bit of television noir directed by another noir regular, Felix (THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE) Feist Jack Bloom THE NAKED SPUR supplied the story.

    I have it on a disc here but it might be up on you tube. Review at the usual place. Well worth seeing if you can find it.

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  23. Pingback: Money, Women and Guns | Riding the High Country

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