The Specialty of the House

No, I haven’t decided to transform this place into a restaurant review site. The “house” I’m referring to here is the Hollywood studio, and the question is which one, or ones, we are most partial to.

While all of the major studios, and most of the minor ones too, made movies in every conceivable genre in their heyday, they tended to have their own characteristic or in-house style, not to mention the films they either specialized in or seemed to do more successfully. Warner Brothers gave us the better gangster films of the 30s and retained that grit and social awareness even as time moved on and the range of output expanded. MGM was gloss, glitz and musical spectaculars. And although RKO had Astaire & Rogers, it also turned out some of the most memorable films noir. Of course different decades brought different directions and developments, and 20th Century Fox with its pioneering of the Scope format, took the production of the epic to a whole new level in the 50s.

For me though, my favorite of the classic era studios is possibly Universal; this is something I’ve lately settled on though, and I’m well aware that my preferences may shift again in the future. Anyway, for now at least, Universal is the one. Why? Well, there is the wonderful horror cycle running from the 30s through to the mid-40s, and then the Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies that borrowed those old sets and a touch of the macabre sensibility too. Then there were the budget-conscious noir and crime movies that were so common in the 40s and 50s, so many of which are now neglected and half-forgotten. And let’s not forget the Universal-International period, those marvelous years when some of the most visually attractive and thematically rich westerns seemed to be constantly on tap.

So there it is. Do you have a studio you’re happiest visiting? Is there one whose output appeals more, or does it vary from decade to decade?

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79 thoughts on “The Specialty of the House

  1. Warners for me, partly for sentimental reasons I admit as THE WARNER BROS. STORY by Clive Hirschhorn was my firat ever film book at age 11. Plus Curtiz remains my favourite studio era director (just finished Alan K Rode’s mammoth new biography of him).

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    • I have that Hirschhorn book too. In fact I have similar format histories for most of the major studios (not all by the same author though) although I don’t think I ever had one for Fox. I remember spending many happy, and envious, hours poring over the stills and synopses of all those movies back in that pre-Internet age.

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        • Back in the day, much of the attraction of these kinds of books was the fact they highlighted so many films that I’d never seen – or even heard of – and sometimes just a still was enough to capture my imagination and ensure that I looked out for certain elusive titles and scoured the TV listings for any rare screenings – all told, an oddly reassuring feeling of both nostalgia, optimism and frustration now.

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  2. Hi Colin, enjoyed your post. I’d have to say my favorite would be Warner Brothers. You could count on them for fast-moving, hard-hitting gritty dramas that not only kept your interest but left you thoroughly entertained. I would say, arguably of course, that Warner’s output during the Golden Era of Hollywood would still hold up today even for the moviegoer who prefers the current slate of movies made over the classic period. They were tightly constructed plots with great writing, great directing, and wonderful characters all in the Warner way. My second favorite would be Universal in the 50’s due to, not just the wonderful Westerns of that period produced by them which were second to none, but also the lush, beautiful melodramas in eye-popping Technicolor, with the outstanding work of Douglas Sirk being the prime example. In my opinion, two great examples of studios that allowed those within to hone their craft and turn out work that helped define the period to this day.

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    • Thanks. Yes, WB movies have, for the most part, weathered very well and that trademark grit, regardless of genre, retains a lot of its power.
      I’m glad you mentioned those Sirk films, important and beautifully shot works that indeed represent some of the very best the era had to offer.

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    • Warner Brothers of the 30’s and 40’s. What put them over the top for me was the musical scores of Max Steiner, Franz Waxman and Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

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          • Quite. Actually, I’m pleased you brought up these names as I think it’s easy to focus mainly on the actors, directors and writers – and perhaps the cinematographers too as filmmaking is such a visual medium – and unintentionally neglect others such as the composers. The collective or collaborative nature of the process of making movies is one the art form’s great strengths and it’s good to be reminded of this.

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    • Good points. I tend to think of Fox mainly in terms of its 50s output – those Scope productions are frequently breathtaking. But you’re quite right about the “B” unit and those superb second features and series.

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  3. Nice subject. Very interesting to me and I think most who love classical cinema have thought a lot about it.

    I mostly like all the studios, but different ones more at different times. It’s hard seeing RKO kind of run into the ground in the 50s after its great 30s and 40s, Howard Hughes pretty much responsible for this even if he was supportive of one great director in Nicholas Ray. Fox did have John Ford for a long time under non-exclusive contract and made many great films there–and had Henry King most of his career (most underrated of the great directors for me).
    I also would say Fox had the best Technicolor in the 40s (black and white was pervasively good at all the studios until it was finally displaced for good). Warner Bros. jumps out a lot in the way you say for the character of its films but more so earlier than later–but always a lot of great films from them.

    Republic was most underrated (nice they are getting the attention now). There really is a kind of “Republic poetry” born of prose and it’s very appealing in all kinds of movies. Most overrated was pre-war MGM–very little that is great there and I really dislike that over lit, airless feeling and something of an aura of pretension that can go along with it. But it got much better when Vincente Minnelli came in the 40s (meaning the art department improved with his influence) and then when Schary came in and Mayer left, there is a deeper range of films and it gets on par with the others.

    Colin, in the end I am with you on Universal but not for all periods. Their silent years and 30s and 40s are a rich history–and mostly non-prestigious films but with a lot of artistry–but it’s for the Universal-International period (1947-1963) that I really prize and cherish them. There is a rich studio style though those years to which everyone contributes–and not only are there so many great Westerns, and melodramas (not only of Sirk, but he took the studio to its peak for me), but other wonderful films, like the science-fiction cycle in the 50s (I wrote a long piece about this in THE SCIENCE-FICTION FILM READER that gave me a chance to share some of my love and appreciation of the studio). I grew up watching U-I double bills, that I still enjoy and I still love so many of those movies. I even liked the logo then (Universal changed logos many times–the U-I one had no set musical theme–or even set color when it was in color–and so the mood of the specific movie was carried by the music in the first few seconds–TOUCH OF EVIL is a great example of that). I just got back to what I have to say is my favorite 50s U-I movie THE TARNISHED ANGELS (Sirk) after Dorothy Malone’s death (she is just superb in it, as are the other leads) and was as as sublime as ever–this is black and white ‘Scope, which they made the most of for several years late 50s. Jack Arnold, one of their core directors said that “MGM was the Tiffany, we were the May Company.” I loved that and quoted it in my piece.

    I hasten to add that once MCA/Wasserman took over and it went back to “Universal” (logo changed late in 1963), the studio rapidly took a dive, put up that theme park, pretty much packed in its artfulness on most films for the remainder of the 60s and I don’t feel the same way about it from that point on. Of course, they’ve had good movies along the way since then but it’s not the same–it’s been a hard fall and that’s why I could never name it as my favorite studio overall. With the current logo and awful music (is it John Williams?), I tune out the music and just wait for it to pass and hate it that they attach it before the original U-I logo on DVD but just have to live with that.

    Anyway, I assume you were talking about classic studio years when the studios all had a style, so I guess I addressed this that way.

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    • Blake, it’s always a delight to hear from you, and your contributions invariably add more food for thought.

      Firstly, can I just say that yes, I was writing here with the classic era of the Hollywood studios specifically in mind. As such I fully agree on the sudden and unfortunate decline of Universal in the 60s and was thinking primarily of its golden years when I expressed my preference. I could and should have mentioned the Sci-Fi films produced at the studio when I was speaking of my fondness for it, but you’ve set that right here and thanks for doing so, and of course for bringing up the marvelous The Tarnished Angels and the recently deceased Dorothy Malone.

      I also agree with you on MGM and the way it grew much more interesting visually and richer on every artistic level as time went on, and particularly after Dore Schary took charge. I seem to remember someone arguing here that this was the beginning of that studio’s decline financially, but I don’t care much about that – the films of that era speak for themselves in terms of quality.

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  4. By the way, not to hit too much of a down note but Hirschhorn’s book on Universal is pretty relentlessly negative on the U-I period and dismissive of the movies so many of us love, with little affinity for melodrama or most Westerns. Since it has been the only overview for a long time, I believe that book has caused the studio to undervalue their library and put it all out more slowly, at least stateside.

    Really, I don’t know why he wrote the Universal book (except for money). He seemed to have some real affection for some of the other studios but to hold himself superior to this one. I believe people should write books on subjects they love. This will be done justice one day.

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    • You know, it’s been so long now since I looked through that book that I have no memory of how he reacted to the films critically. I do think that Universal, and particularly the U-I years, were generally undervalued for a long time by a number of commentators. I’d like to think that attitudes have shifted though and that there is a greater appreciation of its output now.

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  5. This is a great idea for a piece, Colin, and the resultant comments are really interesting.

    Warners had great style and panache and nobody did gangster films quite like them. But I am also very much in the Universal-International camp and echo many thoughts expressed above. Some great little ‘noirs’ and then throughout the 50s that wonderful body of work in the western genre.

    I would also though champion RKO in the 40s. Their ‘noirs’ were tops and their post-WW2 westerns with Tim Holt are special favourites of mine.

    As a fan of ‘the mighty Bs’, I have to also mention my huge fondness for Allied Artists and, especially, Republic Studios.

    By the way, Columbia is also a standout studio for me, going way back to their superior B westerns with Buck Jones and Tim McCoy right through the 40s and 50s with some fine underrated films.

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    • Jerry, I was wondering if anyone would champion Columbia. It often feels like one of those maligned studios and I’ll admit it’s harder to get a sense of individual identity for it, at least compared to some others. However, it gave us some fine Frank Capra films, a few really good and still somewhat elusive “B” mystery series (Crime Doctor, Boston Blackie, Lone Wolf), and plenty of Randolph Scott westerns including the Ranowns.

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  6. Colin, I know I am off subject a little. But for me it will always be Republic because of my all-time favorite…Wild Bill Elliott ( the peaceable man ). The Red Ryder’s and pairing with Tex Ritter also great. Big Randolph Scott fan also. Love your site and I am new member!

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    • Hello, Cliff, and welcome! You’re not the least bot off subject – I’m not sure that’s really possible in this place anyway – and there are plenty of other fans both of Republic studios and Wild Bill Elliott to be found popping in and out and contributing here.

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  7. Feeling rather Masochistic last night I decided to watch
    the Baftas,something I have not done for many a moon.
    I noted that when mentioning all those who passed away recently
    they failed to mention Dorothy Malone,quiet an oversight,I thought.
    Watching the whole thing it reminded me why i much prefer
    “The Golden Age” to what’s on offer today.
    To be fair Ms Lumley was an improvement over Stephen Fry
    but that’s the only positive I can add.
    As much as I love those classic Universal horrors like Blake
    I am a great admirer of Universal International in the fifties.
    I loved their roster of Western stars-Joel McCrea,Audie Murphy,
    Rory Calhoun,Jock Mahoney and Jeff Chandler.
    The excellent McCrea and Murphy Westerns normally clocked in
    at $750,000 so they were hardly B movies…programmers if you will.
    They normally ran about 80 minutes which made them ideal to
    program with similar fare. An example BLACK HORSE CANYON
    top billed over NAKED ALIBI again clocking in around 80 minutes
    a nicely contrasting program,I might add,.
    Similar 80 minute fare were the Budd Boetticher films,mostly
    Westerns but with a few diversions CITY UNDER THE SEA and
    RED BALL EXPRESS for example.
    Then there was Universal’s bigger budget films-the aforementioned
    Douglas Sirk pictures and those wonderful Anthony Mann Westerns.
    Universal had a fine roster of “house” directors..to name a few
    Joseph Pevney,Jesse Hibbs,Jack Arnold,Nathan Juran among others.
    Like Blake I also love the Universal Sci Fi Fifties films-the outstanding
    Jack Arnold contributions and key movies from people like Joseph Newman,
    John Sherwood and Virgil Vogel.
    Unlike programmer Westerns from say Allied Artists the Universal
    ones always played the major circuits-mainly because of Universal’s
    tie in with the Rank distribution network.
    Some examples…..WALK THE PROUD LAND supported
    THE UNGUARDED MOMENT…A DAY OF FURY supported
    WHO DONE IT? (Benny Hill big screen effort)
    RED SUNDOWN supported ALL FOR MARY
    and much later SHOWDOWN (Audie Murphy) supported
    THE LIST OF ADRIAN MESSENGER.
    Interestingly SHOWDOWN has just been given a stellar transfer
    from Koch Germany on Blu Ray and Adrian Messenger has just
    been announced on Blu Ray from Universal USA in what looks like a
    new line of classic titles in high-def.
    Like Jerry I have a fondness for the Allied Artists films of the Fifties
    lots of Westerns many in color & CinemaScope-WICHITA,THE FIRST
    TEXAN,CANYON RIVER,DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE,AT GUNPOINT
    LAST OF THE BADMEN among others.
    Most of these played the major circuits while others like CANYON RIVER
    were thrown away to the independents-fare like this provided smaller cinemas
    a life line,for a while at least.
    Unbelievably the classic INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS was turned
    down by the majors.
    Jerry also mentioned Columbia…how could I resist all those beloved
    Sam Katzman films.

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    • Just a little more on U-I double features that I so enjoyed in those years and that John Knight talks about.

      They were not the same everywhere. The one he and I have in common was THE LIST OF ADRIAN MESSENGER and SHOWDOWN–which I saw while in school in San Francisco (and of course I liked the punchy SHOWDOWN, paired as the unheralded co-feature, better than the top-billed gimmicky mystery). But later back in Los Angeles in summer, SHOWDOWN opened as second feature to A GATHERING OF EAGLES (this would have been the last U-I double bill of films with that logo there) and I didn’t go but feel that I would have enjoyed that more, having seen GATHERING years later (though still would like the Audie Murphy Western more).

      In the 50s, often the movies were more or less paired as equal–a great example was NAKED ALIBI and FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER; of course it’s well-known here that the second movie means a lot to me so this was a day of being really entranced, given that the noirish NAKED ALIBI was very absorbing too (and both shot by Russell Metty no less!). Maybe that’s when I began to really favor the studio (late 1954) and more and more tried to make a point to get to these double bills.

      Even if the second feature was treated that way–and the other as the main attraction–it could often be better (THE LAST OF THE FAST GUNS, though the comedy THE PERFECT FURLOUGH, directed by Blake Edwards, was enjoyable too and they contrasted well), or at least generally a worthy and effectively contrasting companion, as SHOWDOWN AT ABILENE was playing second billed to THE UNGUARDED MOMENT.

      Of course, here too we had the Rank main features (or more often the second features as TURN THE KEY SOFTLY with SASKATCHEWAN) but the pairing of the home-made Universal ones tended more to be the magical ones for me.

      So, for example, when ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS went wide after a brief exclusive as a single feature, they opened RED SUNDOWN as the co-feature. Anyone here who knows that exquisite Sirk melodrama and wonderful Arnold Western will know that to see this (early 1956) as I did was to be in a kind of cinematic Heaven.

      Meanwhile, yes, there are core directors (as well as producers), actors, cinematographers, art directors, costume designers, sound and music people and (to an extent) writers who thread through the decade and my response is generally positive to all those people and their contributions, even though some are special favorites and some of the directors (Sirk, Mann, Arnold, Sherman–just to start–especially brilliant in their movies while under U-I contract). It’s true of all the studios of course but I especially liked this group and what they created, more resourcefully from an economic perspective but it was all there on the screen in the artistry and lacked for nothing.

      Joseph Pevney directed the most 50s U-I (25 movies)–loaned out once for Martin and Lewis THREE RING CIRCUS at Paramount. I like Pevney over a range of films–THE MIDNIGHT STORY especially is a real beauty and still underrated–though somewhat less on fantasy subjects where someone like Rudolph Mate might thrive. Sirk is a close second with 21 movies–he was never loaned out–plainly they quickly came to appreciate what they had in him. All of Anthony Mann’s five movies were produced by Aaron Rosenberg who I’d name as the studio’s best producer until he left near the end of the decade (not only did Mann prize him but Budd Boetticher, who responded negatively to his other producers there, really liked Rosenberg and made a point of saying so). Ross Hunter of course made a strong career there too–though for me, it’s better overall before Sirk’s 1959 departure from the studio). Naturally, I’m mindful of Albert Zugsmith’s superb contribution as producer of some venturesome projects, a number of them favorites of mine.

      Well, I could go on and on but I guess a lot of us could. It still has a glow for me to think about all this now.

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      • It definitely creates a glow for me just reading about this stuff, possibly due to my not having experienced this – there is something rather wondrous about hearing how these pairings were seen, and thinking of all the talents involved. One great thing about discussing this nowadays is the ease with which a lot of the double bills can be replicated – it’s not the same thing of course but a touch of that original magic can still be felt nonetheless.

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        • Of course, mostly it was all just taken for granted then, one more movie or one more double bill, especially with so many movies relatively undervalued in relation to the way we think of them now. There was no prestige around so many of the movies we love (regardless of the studio, though U-I is certainly one of the ones that jumps out in that regard). But it does seem like, for so many of us, this was a truly special part of our whole experience. For me, it’s nice to know that is shared by others more than I ever knew at the time.

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          • Quite. I get a lot of pleasure myself from the fact we’re all able to share our appreciation and enjoyment of this material, bringing together all our varied and various perspectives that range from those who saw first-run theatrical screenings to others who caught later TV reruns and now more recent home video releases. The linking thread which runs through all of this is our collective enthusiasm.

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  8. Ha! Colin….
    I feel you have really started something here…
    While on the subject of Columbia I had to mention
    Warwick Films a great British brand distributed by Columbia.
    While the Carry On’s and Hammer have been more than catered
    for regarding releases lots of key Warwick’s remain on the missing list
    and that’s a shame.
    For what it’s worth (again) here are my “most wanted” Warwicks
    none of these thus far has even had a DVD release.

    A PRIZE OF GOLD………………………………..Richard Widmark
    THE MAN INSIDE…………………………………..Jack Palance
    HIGH FLIGHT………………………………………..Ray Milland
    KILLERS OF KILIMANJARO…………………….Robert Taylor
    NO TIME TO DIE……………………………………Victor Mature
    THE BANDIT OF ZHOBE…………………………Victor Mature.

    These titles on a Powerhouse/Indicator collection would indeed be
    wonderful.
    No B Movie nut can ignore Columbia who like Republic were still
    making serials way into the 1950’s
    As has been mentioned before there are, of course, all those 50’s
    Randolph Scott Westerns including the Ranowns.

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    • I don’t believe I’ve ever seen any of those Warwick productions you listed there, John. I’m guessing the films haven’t been shown much on TV either as I don’t think I’ve even heard of them before now – this kind of info is always very welcome and extremely interesting.

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  9. I lack sufficient insight into the different studios to really contribute — it never occured to me to notice than an RKO picture was any different in scope or tone to a Warner one — and so I’ve learned a huge amount from these comments. However, I would just like to add that I’ve always beena fan of the paranoid, Communist-threat allegory science fiction movies of the 1950s (The Thing from Another World, Body Snatchers, Teenagers from Outer Space, etc). These hold a particular fascination for me, though were doubtless put out by a range of studios…

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    • It’s one of those things that kind of jumps out at you once you start noticing it, JJ.
      On the Red Scare inspired Sci-Fi movies, they were indeed produced by a range of studios but, once again, Universal released some very high quality material in the genre – arguably leading the field in this respect.

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  10. I think most of those Warwick movies appeared on UK TV many years ago (I’m talking decades probably). I would dearly like to see “PRIZE OF GOLD”.

    Really nice to welcome Cliff to our enthusiasts club. Nice to have a fellow Wild Bill Elliott devotee on board.

    This has turned into an exceptionally interesting and insightful thread, Colin. As ever, so much to learn along the way…….

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    • If those films were on UK TV, then it must have been an awful long time ago – maybe the 70s?
      I quite agree, Jerry, that there’s been a lot of new information to absorb, and it’s nice when an entry here sparks that kind of thing.

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  11. Firstly,let me say that my comments yesterday were put together
    in a hurry and I made a serious omission by not mentioning
    George Sherman among my list of Universal “house” directors.

    As my previous comments on double bills have generated some
    positive feedback,from Blake especially, I thought I would expand
    further having done some research-the others came literally
    off the top of my head.

    Usually,in the UK the Universal films were paired together,
    as mentioned before they all gained major circuit releases
    and sometimes they were paired with films from different studios
    as the following list will indicate.

    These are how the films appeared in the UK and as Blake
    mentions in America the releases differed.

    CATTLE DRIVE/UP FRONT
    THE WORLD IN HIS ARMS/MA & PA KETTLE AT THE FAIR
    BECAUSE OF YOU/HORIZONS WEST
    THE DARK MAN/KANSAS RAIDERS
    A & C MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN/HOLLYWOOD STORY
    LOST/STAR IN THE DUST
    DAWN AT SOCORRO/FRANCIS IN THE WACS
    BORDER RIVER/THE RUNAWAY BUS
    THE BIGAMIST/TUMBLEWEED
    A & C MEET THE KEYSTONE COPS/FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER
    CONGO CROSSING/RAW EDGE
    ISTANBUL/FRANCIS IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE
    SMOKE SIGNAL/THE LOOTERS
    BENGAL RIFLES/DRUMS ACROSS THE RIVER
    BACKLASH/THE GELIGNITE GANG
    VALLEY OF FURY/LADY GODIVA
    THE RAWHIDE YEARS/TIMESLIP
    THE SPOILERS/THE KETTLES IN THE OZARKS
    ONE DESIRE/KISS OF FIRE
    FEMALE ON THE BEACH/THIS ISLAND EARTH
    NEVER STEAL ANYTHING SMALL/NO NAME ON THE BULLET
    IMITATION OF LIFE/MONEY WOMEN AND GUNS

    That is,of course only a small selection of Universal films released in the UK
    during the fifties. I might add that VALLEY OF FURY was the UK title for
    CHIEF CRAZY HORSE and BENGAL RIFLES the UK title for BENGAL BRIGADE.

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    • Some of those double bills sound quite intriguing, and I’m especially taken with the US/UK mash-ups such as Backlash/The Gelignite Gang and The Rawhide Years/Timeslip.

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    • That’s a fantastic list of great information John, and as I’ve said to you before, l really wish that l’d had the foresight to write a list of the hundreds of double bills l saw way back in the 1950s and onwards.

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  12. Regarding Allied Artists pictures they fared less well in
    gaining major circuit bookings though many minor films
    did appear as support features on the majors.

    As mentioned previously quiet a few Allied Artists films were turned
    down by the majors but these films provided a life-line for struggling
    independent cinemas.
    The following double bills appeared on the smaller circuits and
    independent cinemas…often “flea pits”

    ALADDIN AND HIS LAMP/FEUDIN’ FOOLS
    SABU AND THE MAGIC RING/SNOWFIRE
    NAKED IN THE SUN/SPOOK CHASERS
    CANYON RIVER/HOLD THAT HYPNOTIST
    INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS/THE INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN

    The hugely popular Bowery Boys pictures played both at the majors
    and were a huge boost to double bills that appeared at independent
    cinemas.
    I might add that NAKED IN THE SUN is not an early “nudie” picture
    but an independently made Western shot in Florida.

    The following are Allied Artists pictures that gained major
    circuit bookings.

    The following list is where Allied Artists pictures ran mainly as second features

    MURDER INCORPORATED/CAVALRY SCOUT
    I WAS MONTY’S DOUBLE/COLE YOUNGER GUNFIGHTER
    NO TREES IN THE STREET/DEATH IN SMALL DOSES
    THE MOONRAKER/OREGON PASSAGE
    THE SEA CHASE/THE FORTY NINERS
    GIRLS AT SEA/GUNSMOKE IN TUCSON
    THE MAN WHO UNDERSTOOD WOMEN/TWO GUNS AND A BADGE
    THE TALL STRANGER/THE GOLDEN DISC

    The following are where both films are Allied Artists pictures

    WICHITA/JAIL BUSTERS
    AL CAPONE/WOLF LARSEN/
    THE BIG CIRCUS/KING OF THE WILD STALLIONS
    PAY OR DIE/THE PLUNDERERS
    HELL TO ETERNITY/OPERATION EICHMANN

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  13. No one thus far I believe has mentioned Paramount and
    as I’ve often knocked them for failing to release many
    fine films from their library especially all the Republic titles
    they now own (which include many Allied Artists and RegalScope
    pictures)
    However my attitude to them has warmed somewhat especially
    as they are supplying 4K high def masters of many Republic titles
    and even minor fare like Allied Artists HIGHWAY DRAGNET.
    Whoever thought we would get films like HIGHWAY DRAGNET
    on Blu Ray. Most of Paramount’s restorations will be released by
    Kino Lorber although I’m sure other boutique imprints will pick
    some of them up as well.

    I might add that all of Paramount’s pre 1949 titles are now
    owned by Universal.

    Paramount were never considered a B Movie outfit,especiallty
    in the Fifties but they did make some wonderful B crime thrillers in
    the late 30’s early 40’s.

    The Paramount Crime B’s are some of the best ever made and
    most of them move like rockets.
    Sadly all the films I am going to mention are unavailable on disc and
    that’s a great shame.
    Blake is a huge admirer of Henry King and I’m a huge admirer
    of Henry’s lesser known brother Louis.
    As wonderful as these Paramount B crime thrillers are there are
    two that really stand out from the pack.
    Louis King’s PERSONS IN HIDING pre dates and pre figures
    both GUN CRAZY and BONNIE AND CLYDE.
    Patricia Morison is magnetic in the lead.
    PERSONS IN HIDING has been championed by our friend Laura
    and deserves to be far more well known. B Crime thrillers
    simply do not come any better.
    Robert Florey’s PAROLE FIXER is also a total knockout.
    There is a sensational scene where a woman in peril throws a
    pot of scalding hot coffee over sadistic monster Anthony Quinn.
    For the era this scene packs a real jolt.
    It pre figures not only THE BIG HEAT but also Mann’s RAW DEAL
    where Raymond Burr throws a bowl of flaming brandy over a woman
    who has upset him at a party.
    Mann shoots the scene from the point of view of the victim
    so thankfully we don’t see the results…nasty as it is.
    Florey’s KING OF ALCATRAZ is also excellent as are Louis King’s
    other Paramount B’s TIP OFF GIRLS,PRISON FARM,HUNTED MEN,
    UNDERCOVER DOCTOR,ILLEGAL TRAFFIC.
    Another sublime entry is Florey’s WOMEN WITHOUT MEN….
    these films really need to be released by Universal.
    I have never seen any of the 1940’s Paramount Pine Thomas B pictures
    normally starring the likes of Richard Alrlen and I’d really like to.
    I have seen quiet a few of Pine Thomas Paramount A pictures of the Fifties
    and it’s heartening that Kino Lorber plan to release several
    of these films.
    Paramount’s color always seemed to be ahead of the pack on their
    Fifties films and looked even better when they adopted the high def VistaVision
    process. I await with great anticipation the Pine Thomas films planned by Kino
    they should look sensational.

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    • Actually, I had Paramount in mind as I was putting this short post together – just in terms of a brief comment to make on the house style. And struggling to come up with something distinctive, I ended up skipping over the studio. Now you mention those often stunning VistaVision productions of the 50s, I think I may have been too hasty and also a little unfair.

      Like

  14. Tremendous amount of (to some, like me) essential information from John. You really are a fount of knowledge, John! Now, I did know this, but perhaps not the extent.

    I remember the double bill of “THE BIG CIRCUS” and “KING OF THE WILD STALLIONS” (my reason for going to the cinema that day). I also remember my Mum and Dad taking me to see “THE TALL STRANGER” (which I loved) but I don’t remember its pairing, “THE GOLDEN DISC”. Mind you, it WAS 60 years ago!!

    Some real variety in those double bill pairings. Some fit together better than others. For instance, I don’t know what I would have made of going to see “FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER” and then having to sit through the ‘A’ picture (Abbot & Costello) – well, I do know what I would have thought actually LOL.

    Like

  15. Gee,thanks Jerry…look who’s talking!! 🙂

    I have an obsession to find out what played with what
    during the 1950’s certain issues of Picture House Magazine
    have helped. The official journal of the Cinema Theatre Association.
    In researching old newspaper archives I have been able to trace
    back to what I saw at various “revival” cinemas,including possibly
    my favourite the Essoldo Caledonian Road which sadly closed in 1964.
    The Essoldo had a wonderful wide screen and showed some amazing
    double bills.
    In my continued efforts I am generally amazed to find that during the 1950’s
    certain small East End cinemas often showed the Bomba films as the
    MAIN feature often supported by a B Series. Western.
    Even with adverts trailers (and sometimes serial episodes)
    these sort of programmes clocked in at less than 3 hours which meant
    they could cram in possibly at least three sessions per day.
    As mentioned previously The Bowery Boys films were firm favourites
    for these smaller cinemas,and like the BOMBA films normally clocked
    in at just under 70 Minutes.
    Jerry,did you know Wayne Morris appeared in the last of the Bomba’s
    (LORD OF THE JUNGLE) he was really at a low point then and was soon
    off to the UK to appear in fare like THE GELIGNITE GANG.
    I think a drink problem was a cause of his career decline and in those
    British B’s he seems to be virtually chain smoking.
    No doubt a lot of this was due to his extensive combat role in WW2
    and contributed to his early passing.
    Though virtually forgotten Morris is fondly remembered by many fans
    for his Monogram and Allied Artists Westerns which really were the
    swan song for the B series Western.
    I am sure Jerry will correct me if I’m wrong but Morris’
    TWO GUNS AND A BADGE is often considered the last B Series
    Western. I was also amazed that it was rescued from obscurity and
    dusted down as the support feature to the rather later THE MAN WHO
    UNDERSTOOD WOMEN which had a major circuit release.
    So,in the UK at least the final B Series Western went out in a blaze
    of glory in getting a major circuit release-not relegated to the “flea pits”
    as was often the case for this type of fare.
    Remember this was years before the multiplexes-I’d love to see what
    TWO GUNS AND A BADGE would look like on a massive single screen.
    As a correction to some of my previous posts the double bill of MURDER
    INCORPORATED/CAVALRY SCOUT I would like to point out that the former
    was the UK title for THE ENFORCER…what a contrasting program though
    I’m sure Rod Cameron’s younger Western fans were dismayed by
    THE ENFORCER’s “X” certificate…(over 16’s only)
    It’s such fun recalling those great double bills and thanks to Colin
    for indulging the “geek” in some of us at least.
    I like Colin’s term “mash up” when one considers those odd UK/USA
    pairings at UK cinemas in the 1950’s.
    I remember my Father a DIY fanatic had sent myself and my Mother to
    Camden Town to a leading hardware store there.
    We decided to pay a visit to the Plaza cinema showing the double bill
    THE ROAD TO DENVER with THEY CAN’T HANG ME.
    I totally enjoyed both films which was not often the case with such double
    bills….a.” mash up” to be sure but a perfectly contrasting one I might add.

    Like

    • Wayne Morris, now that’s a B-Westerner that l like a lot. I can’t ever remember seeing a Wayne Morris western in my younger years, l’m sure my first viewing was on NTSC tapes that l bought from America. Picture quality was not that good, but l did finally get to see Two Guns and a Badge, which was much better than l was led to believe from reading western film books. Thanks to Warner Archive, his films are now in top quality.
      I think Monogram films were released by British Lion in UK.

      Like

  16. Colin regarding our previous comments on VistaVision
    I would like to add that only four of the Pine Thomas films
    were made in VistaVision and it’s good to know that you
    also are a fan of the process.
    The 4 P.T films are as follows
    THE FAR HORIZONS,LUCY GALLANT,HELL’S ISLAND
    and RUN FOR COVER.

    HELL’S ISLAND is one of my “most wanted” titles on Blu Ray;
    Phil Karlson’s cult status seems to go up and down..I really
    don’t know how he rates at the moment apart from folks like
    Blake and Toby. He’s always rated very high with me at least.
    I may be wrong but I don’t feel generally he rates as highly as say
    Boetticher,Fuller or Siegel..
    GUNMAN’S WALK never ceases to amaze me-it seems to improve
    with each viewing if that’s possible.

    I wrongly thought Kino Lorber had licensed RUBY GALLANT
    for release but it is in fact RUBY GENTRY (also with Charlton Heston)
    They have announced P.T’s wonderfully cheesy SANGAREE
    not in VistaVision but a real treat nonetheless.
    If you can get hold of them I can (again) highly endorse those
    wonderful Louis King,Riobert Florey Paramount B Movies,
    hopefully, someday, some brave boutique imprint will address
    that situation…it’s way overdue.

    Like

  17. Whoops! I’ve got my Lucy’s and Ruby’s mixed up.

    LUCY GALLANT is the Pine Thomas film directed by Robert Parrish,
    and RUBY GENTRY is the King Vidor film,both starring Charlton Heston.
    I must admit that Iv’e seen neither film.

    Like

  18. Ha! this thread has generated so much heat perhaps you
    should consider re-naming RTHC as McGuigan’s Diner…
    well it sounds better than “Colin’s Cafe” 🙂

    Seriously though In thought I would put a word in for
    Eagle Lion Pictures-they were not around for long but
    they released several key Anthony Mann/John Alton pictures
    that make them more than worthy of mention.

    Classicflix have recently released several of these films-
    the aforementioned RAW DEAL,T-MEN and HE WALKED BY NIGHT
    partly directed by Mann.
    Hopefully Classicflix will release other fine Eagle Lion films
    like CANON CITY and REPEAT PERFORMANCE.
    The Classicflix releases are not cheap but their transfers are
    sensational and the extras are impressive,as are their booklets.
    Believe it or not I have never seen RAW DEAL before and it was a revelation
    to see it in such pristine restored condition.
    At any rate the Mann/Alton films alone make Eagle Lion worth a comment.

    Like

    • I like when a thread, and particularly a pretty simple one like this, takes off and draws people in – the amount of info being generated is superb.
      The Eagle Lion mention is certainly worthwhile as those Mann/Alton films are excellent. I’ve not seen the Classicflix releases (pricing and region coding to blame there) but I have seen some screen captures and the films look far better than any version I’ve seen up to now – well deserved of course.

      Like

  19. Great subject that is producing some very interesting posts.
    I think I will refer to favourite studios from my youth, and at that time l would have known nothing about film noir, which is now one of my favourite genres. RKO to me at that time meant Tim Holt westerns, and of course Walt Disney films, not film noir.
    The two picture houses in my town were both second run, so we had very entertaining double bills that probably had no relationship to most of the bills on John K’s lists.
    My three favourite studios at that time would have been Universal International and Warner Brothers, both for their westerns. Also Disney for Davy Crockett, Old Yeller, Robin Hood, Rob Roy etc.

    Like

  20. This thread just keeps getting better……..

    John mentioned a terrific double bill of “THE ROAD TO DENVER” with “THEY CAN’T HANG ME”. The latter starred Terence Morgan, an actor I increasingly seek out. He was generally very good in British noir films like this one, “TREAD SOFTLY STRANGER” and “TURN THE KEY SOFTLY” (which Blake mentioned).

    I am also on a real Stanley Baker roll right now – can’t seem to get enough of the many good films he made. “HELL DRIVERS” is just one of them of course.

    Like

  21. Yes,Jerry Morgan was very good and underrated
    equally good as a hero or villain.
    TURN THE KEY SOFTLY is superb.
    STREET CORNER is also worth seeking out-
    Peggy Cummins totally convincing as an 18 year old unwed mother
    who falls in with crooks;Morgan and Michael Medwin.
    A superb Brit crime thriller with a strong Feminist vibe and with
    a good social comment subtext which does not get in the way
    of the action.Nifty location work as well.
    Speaking of Baker I just name dropped him over at Mike’s
    WHERE’S JACK is one of my “most wanted” titles on Blu Ray.
    A Baker pet project that sadly failed to find an audience.
    Baker gave top billing to Tommy Steele (who is very good)
    and plays a support role as the heavy (equally superb)
    Wonderful “Hogarthian” production design in this class A movie.
    We all have gone “round the houses” on this most entertaining
    thread.
    I’m on a real Anthony Mann roll at the moment (more than usual)
    with the superb Classicflix releases.
    What I love about the Mann Classicflix series apart from the stunning
    transfers are the extras I like to see the commentators actually sitting in
    cinemas (or screening rooms) discussing the films. It’s great to
    finally see the engaging Julie Kirgo who I have always admired
    for her involving Twilight Time liner notes.
    I hope eventually we will get to see Toby on camera-after all
    he’s such a handsome fellow-my fantasy is to see Toby and Blake
    chewing the fat over some “lost masterpiece”
    I actually watched MAN OF THE WEST twice last night-the Eureka Blu Ray.
    I realized there was a commentary on the disc which I have never heard
    so I sat through the film again. As Colin knows I have serious “issues” with
    the film but you cannot deny the amazing craft involved. It’s quiet some
    time since I’ve seen the film so I felt it’s time for another viewing.
    Slowly but surely all the Mann classics are appearing on Blu Ray.
    Regarding Classicflix prices,this year I have decided to go for
    quality over quantity especially as some of the labels I love are on the
    expensive side. I am passing over more and more “non essential” titles
    to concentrate on essential titles from the likes of Classicflix and Kino Lorber.
    Already this year my buying is way down from this time last year.

    Like

    • Me? On camera? It’ll take a lot of convincing (and perhaps a bottle of Maker’s Mark) to get that to happen.

      Colin, this is a terrific idea for a post and it’s turned out to be great bait for movie nuts. I’ve always found the idea of each studio having a Thing fascinating. I’m in training for a deep dive into the Bowery Boys, partly because I’m in love with Monogram/Allied Artists right now. Their haphazard bounce from polish to slapdash — sometimes from one shot to the next — has a charm to it that I just adore. Plus, they have William Elliott.

      Like

      • Ah..my beloved Maker’s Mark..I remember when it hit London
        some 20 years or so back…we all got hooked.
        Gone are the days when I could afford such things now,
        thanks to Warner Archive,Kino Lorber and Classicflix
        Whoever thought that Warner Brothers would be the guardians
        of my health.

        Like

        • Wrote a friend’s website and received Maker’s Mark as a thank-you.

          It’s really incredible how much great stuff is making its way to video these days — and in such tip-top condition. Wait till y’all see Trigger Jr. and A Strange Adventure. Beautiful!

          Like

      • Thanks, Toby. This has generated a bigger response than I’d expected, but a really interesting, informative and fun one.
        I do love these budget series of various kinds myself – highly addictive.

        Like

    • John, I know you aren’t what one could term a fan of Man of the West but I like it. To be honest, that wasn’t always the case and it took me a while to warm to it. I do think it’s both a great western and a great film now, and will get round to writing something about it at some point.

      Like

  22. Oh dear…………………!
    Speaking of expense,it gets worse,I’ll never die solvent let alone rich!
    Still I always say..you can’t take it with you.

    Just been over to BluRay.com and they have just announced
    WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS and BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT
    on Blu Ray. Colin,can you believe I’ve NEVER seen BEYOND A REASONABLE
    DOUBT.
    I was underwhelmed by the UK DVD of the former,I hated the 4×3 ratio
    and the bullshit about the “directors vision”..I want to see the film
    as audiences experienced it at the time-2.0 ratio the norm for
    SuperScope I believe.
    Warner Archive has also announced THE BLACK SCORPION
    on Blu Ray and sadly for me that’s essential too as I collect key
    Fifties creature features on Blu Ray.
    Where will it all end.
    The next item is BEYOND essential Criterion have announced
    RED RIVER…two cuts no less.
    I was totally underwhelmed by the Blu Ray of RED RIVER of
    a few years back…will this be a 4K master ? Anyway knowing
    Criterion this will be the version to have…stay tuned.
    I would very much appreciate Colin (or Nick Beal’s) opinion
    on BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT.

    Like

    • I love those two Lang films, and have written about While the City Sleeps in the past, so that’s wonderful news from my perspective. I guess I like Beyond a Reasonable Doubt a bit less but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it. It’s very minimalist but really rather absorbing – another that will no doubt be featured here sooner or later.

      Like

  23. Doing some research I did not realize Criterion have already released
    RED RIVER a few years back…is this new version an upgrade or
    a straight re-issue.
    My comments were really directed about the Eureka version of a few years back.
    The releases are coming so thick and fast it’s hard to keep up with it all.
    Still I’m still pretty excited about WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS and
    THE BLACK SCORPION.

    Like

  24. Personally, I like “BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT” a great deal, John. The storyline is well-handled and Dana Andrews is an actor I always enjoy. His character is decidedly shaded grey in this film. Dana handles it well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I agree. Andrews was one of those actors whose performance came very much from the inside out, and there was always the sense that what we saw on the outside was only a taster.
      Ambiguity is an interesting quality, it’s not something that can actually be cultivated but rather it has to already exist and can then be explored. Andrews had this characteristic – it can be seen in much of his work regardless of genre, but the nature of film noir meant it was probably employed and exploited to best effect there.

      Like

  25. Always one to flog a dead horse…not in real life- before the PETA folks get
    on my case..I thought I’d give those double bills another airing.
    As WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS and BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT
    were both 1956 I thought firstly I would feature what was released the
    same week as those two and then do a mini review of ’56 in general.
    The following are all UK releases.

    WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS was pared with
    GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING…both RKO SuperScope films
    Other main circuit double bills that same week were:
    TRIBUTE TO A BAD MAN/THE SCARLET COAT
    COMANCHE/THE KILLER IS LOOSE

    BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT was paired with
    A TOUCH OF THE SUN…Frankie Howard comedy.
    Other main circuit double bills that same week were
    THE BURNING HILLS/PLEASE MURDER ME
    THE MOUNTAIN/A STRANGE ADVENTURE
    The latter soon to be released by Kino Lorber with a Toby commentary

    Other interesting 1956 major circuit double bills:
    THE INDIAN FIGHTER/TIMETABLE
    REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE/PORT OF HELL
    The latter title a nifty Allied Artists B with Dane Clark and Wayne Morris
    THE COURT JESTER/SUDDEN DANGER
    The latter one of Bill Elliott’s “swan song” detective thrillers
    1984/CRY VENGEANCE
    SLIGHTLY SCARLET/MOHAWK
    FORBIDDEN PLANET/DIG THAT URANIUM
    The latter a Bowery Boys picture still getting a main circuit release
    RAMSBOTTOM RIDES AGAIN/BOBBY WARE IS MISSING
    The former a British comedy Western with Arthur Askey and Sid James
    the support a nifty little Allied Artists B
    RUN FOR THE SUN/REBEL IN TOWN
    FASTEST GUN ALIVE/THESE WILDER YEARS
    THE BOSS/7TH CAVALRY
    SOLDIER OF FORTUNE/TEXAS BAD MAN
    The latter yet another Wayne Morris Allied Artists B Western getting a major circuit release

    An Allied Artists picture relegated to the independents
    was their engaging WORLD WITHOUT END supported by the Bowery Boys
    SPY CHASERS

    1956 also saw an increasing number of “exploitation” double bills aimed at thrill
    seeking teenagers another life-line for struggling independent cinemas.
    THE WEREWOLF/CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN
    IT CONQUERED THE WORLD/THE SHE CREATURE
    GIRLS IN PRISON/HOT ROD GIRL
    DAY THE WORLD ENDED/PHANTOM FROM 10.000 LEAGUES
    FIRE MAIDENS FROM OUTER SPACE/SUPERMAN FLIES AGAIN
    The latter title cobbled together from 50’s TV series with George Reeves.

    American-International was really starting to go great guns supplying a
    whole host of low brow double bills through to 1960 when Mr Corman and Mr Price
    raised AIP’s game with their classic Poe series

    Like

  26. Really fascinating, John! More please!

    Incidentally, you mention “TEXAS BAD MAN” starring Wayne Morris. This remains the only film of that Allied Artists series starring Morris that is still unavailable to us. At one point it sounded as though Boyd Magers had some news on its release but sadly it didn’t happen. Hope it is not a ‘lost’ film.

    Like

  27. John, the information you have given about UK double bills makes great reading.
    Regarding the first American International bills, l can remember an actor called Wally Compo being in many of the support films we saw at our old Regal cinema. But the big problem was, we never figured out which actor was Wally Compo!

    Like

  28. Jerry I think there are three Wayne Morris Allied Artists Westerns
    still unreleased TEXAS BAD MAN,STAR OF TEXAS and TWO GUNS
    AND A BADGE.
    There is still one Wild Bill Elliott Western as yet unreleased
    BITTER CREEK which I understand will be widescreen.
    I may be wrong but I don’t think TEXAS BAD MAN is still
    on the missing list.
    There are still all sorts of Monogram/Allied Artists stuff in the pipeline
    including real rarities like YOUNG DANIEL BOONE in Cinecolor.
    With all due respects,I think I will give the 50’s releases a rest now
    for Colin’s sake-I don’t want his blog to turn into a vintage listings
    site.
    Having said that it would be truly wonderful there was a blog totally
    devoted to this sort of thing.

    Like

  29. My point was though that “STAR OF TEXAS” & “TWO GUNS AND A BADGE” can be found at least, John, whereas my understanding as at this moment is that “TEXAS BAD MAN” cannot. If there is newer info now out there to the contrary I would be delighted.

    Like

  30. Hmmm? Difficult decision, but I lean to Paramount, Warner Bros., RKO, Universal and Republic. See… that wasn’t hard🤓😇 Max of Dimitrios

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

    • I know, Max, pinning it down to one is tough, and also something that may well shift according to mood and so on.
      Without scrolling back through all the comments at the moment, I don’t think that I have heard anyone come out in favor of MGM – Blake did acknowledge, and I feel he was right to do so too, the greater depth and range of movies produced there after Mayer’s time. But I don’t think there has been any vocal support for its earlier incarnation.

      Like

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