Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Gordon Douglas: The Little Rascals (Our Gang) - Giant Ants - and Francis Albert Sinatra

When asked to name a "Classic Film Director", depending upon how much you're into motion pictures, what's your favorite genre, or your age. The answers given might include Steven Spielberg, Orson Welles, Howard Hawks, John Ford, Fritz Lang, Mario Bava, Roger Corman, Ida Lupino, or even Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

One of the definitions to the word "Classic", given by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is:  

Serving as a standard of excellence: of recognized value

So, Question:

What do you get, if you mix four and a half years old Darla Hood, Laurel and Hardy, Bela Lugosi, James Cagney, Ward Bond, James Arness, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Carroll Baker, and Ann-Margaret together? 

The correct answer is director Gordon Douglas. --- WHO?

This is not a biography of New York City born, Gordon Douglas Brickner, but a look at 14 of the 99-films in different genres that he directed between 1935 and 1966. The purpose of this article is to introduce the director to my readers, who probably didn't know he existed, but may have seen one, or two of his pictures.




"THE LITTLE RASCALS (OUR GANG)"

The group started back with the aborted, Hal Roach short, released on December 4, 1921, "The Pickaninny", starring Ernie "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison. He is seen on the left of the following still. Theater owners did not want to run anything with a "Black" leading actor, even a boy, as the operated word was "Racism", leading to a possible boycotted movie theater and not just in the Southern United States. 

Everyone in the below still with Ernie Morrison, became part of the original silent "Little Rascals". 


















It would be the following year that producer Hal Roach got it right, and the first of what became known as "The Little Rascals" series began. Among those children who didn't pass Roach's auditions were two interesting names. The first was Joseph Yule, Jr., who would became the character of "Mickey McGuire", in a series of 78 competing shorts, starting in 1927. For that series Yule, Jr. was billed under his new stage name of Mickey Rooney. The other child that didn't get hired, was a little girl named Shirley Jane Temple.

Moving forward to "Small Talk", May 18, 1929, the "Little Rascals (aka: Our Gang)" comedies now had sound. Released on, September 9, 1929, Jackie Cooper made his appearance as a supporting character, in "Boxing Gloves".  When Harry Spear left the series as the "Gang's" leader, Jackie was moved into that position.

While the above was going on, a teenager named Gordon Douglas Brickner was able to get a job at "The Hal Roach Studio", 8822 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, a suburb of Los Angeles. Gordon started working in the office, but was used for walk-ons and uncredited minor roles in 30-shorts, starting with comedian Charley Chase's, "Fast Work", on June 28, 1930, through the "Our Gang" comedy, "The Little Ranger", August 6, 1938, which he would also direct.

On August 6, 1934, production began on Laurel and Hardy's, version of the Victor Herbert operetta, "Babe's in Toyland" aka: "The March of the Wooden Soldiers". The crew listing for that motion picture shows Gordon Douglas, as the "Uncredited - First Assistant Director". The teenager had moved up at the "Hal Roach Studio's", and was one-year away from having his first "Credited-directing assignment", with the Eddie Foy, Jr. comedy short, "Lucky Beginners", released on August 3, 1935.

By the time Gordon Douglas was promoted to a full-time director. Hal Roach had cut the running time of the "Little Rascals" shorts from 20-minutes to 10-minutes, because Louis B. Mayer, his "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer" distributor, demanded it. As a result, the first "Our Gang" production as a ten-minute, one-reel, short, "Bored of Education", was assigned to new director Douglas.





Jackie Cooper had been replaced by George "Spanky" McFarland. Who had started at the age of three, in 1931. "Spanky" was now the apparent default leader of not the "Little Rascals", but what was now called, "Our Gang". Although both names are interchangeable and have been used as such throughout the entire run of the series.

However, on the official cast listing for "Bored of Education". Darla Jean Hood, below far right, is shown in first position and listed as being part of "Our Gang". "Spanky", below center, is listed in third position, and shown as being part of "Our Gang". While, Eugene "Porky" Lee, between the two, is shown as in second position, and listed as part of "Our Gang"

Also listed as being part of "Our Gang", in fourth position, is Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, far left, and in fifth position, Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas. Not shown in the still was "Pete the Dog", with sixth-billing, but also listed as part of "Our Gang", one the official cast listing for the short.

"Pete" is listed above adult actress Rosina Lawrence, as "Miss Lawrence". Who is in the final position of the "Credited Cast". https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0027385/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm





































Hal Roach, may, or may not have had faith in his newest director, Gordon Douglas. When he assigned him to that "Our Gang" short, but he would bring the producer his only "Academy Award", under the new category of "One-Reel Shorts".

At the time of this writing, the following link takes my reader to "Bored of Education".

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7v7lef

Twenty-one more "Our Gang" shorts followed, along with a financial disaster for Hal Roach. When he attempted to move the "Our Gang" kids into feature films. Gordon Douglas was one of two directors assigned to 1936's, "General Spanky", that just didn't work with both the theater owners and the audiences.



















SAPS AT SEA premiered in New York City on April 29, 1940




Hal Roach had separated Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy over a contract dispute with Stan for 1939's, "Zenobia", also directed by Gordon Douglas, and replaced him with silent screen comedian Harry Langdon. That teaming really didn't work with either the audience, or the movie critics. However, looking back 85-years, the feature is now recognized as a minor comedy classic.

Next, directed by Douglas, Hal Roach reunited Stan with Ollie for "Saps at Sea", their last for the producer, because the comedy duo had enough of Roach and his contract manipulations

The story revolves around the two working in a horn manufacturing company. Where Ollie has developed "Hornophobia" and goes wild at the sounds of horns. Of course, Stan plays a trombone.


























Stan comes up with a plan for the two to take a leisurely boat trip, but nothing goes as "Stanley" has planned. Which includes the boat being taken over by escaped convict "Nick Granger", portrayed by Richard Cramer. Stan uses his trombone to get Ollie mad and he takes down "Granger". However, that doesn't go as planned, the two are arrested for causing a disturbance with Stan's trombone, and are placed in the same holding cell as the escaped convict at the picture's ending.

The motion picture isn't considered one of the duo's best work, but it turns out to be a favorite of British Premier Winston Churchill, and had it played for American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. While they cruised on HMS Prince of Wales, on a voyage to Newfoundland, to establish the "Atlantic Charter", on August 14, 1941.










Some reviews state that "Saps at Seas" is  referenced by science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, in his story, "Night Call, Collect". However there is no specific Laurel and Hardy motion picture referenced in the story.

"Last night," said Barton, aged twenty-one, "I sat alone in a movie theater in an empty town. I played an old Laurel and Hardy. God, how I laughed."

 

Five-years later found Gordon Douglas directing a certain Hungarian actor.

ZOMBIES OVER BROADWAY premiered in New York City on April 26, 1945




Five-years earlier the comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello made their first on-screen appearance in popular singer Allen Jones and Nancy Kelly's, 1940, "One Night in the Tropics". Now "RKO Pictures", wanted in on the money that comic duo was making. The studio's answer was combining actor and comedian Wally Edgar Brown, with actor and comedian Alan Carney. Their first appearance was in 1943's, "The Adventures of a Rookie".

This motion picture was directed by Gordon Douglas. He had just directed Tom Conway and Barbara Hale in the series film-noir, 1944's, "The Falcon in Hollywood", and followed this feature film with the Second World War spy film, 1945's, "First Yank in Tokyo", starring Tom Neal and Barbara Hale.

The story the screenplay was based upon was by Robert Faber, his first of four through 1977, and Charles Newman, this was his only story, but he was a lyricist for sixty-four motion picture soundtracks. 

Their story was set as a sequel, of sorts, to producer Val Lewton's 1943 classic, "I Walk with a Zombie'. Which had been written by Curt Siodmak, 1941's, "The Wolfman", and 1943's, "Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman", 

Robert E. Kent, 1942's, "The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe", 1956's, "The Werewolf", and 1963's,"Diary of a Madman", took the story and adapted it for a screenplay.  

The actual screenplay was by Lawrence Kimball, a "B" screenplay writer, who in 1953, became a "B" television writer.

Wally Brown portrayed "Jerry Miles", and, Alan Carney portrayed "Mike Strager". The duo had just co-starred with singer Francis Langford in 1944's, "Girl Rush". The trio would follow this motion picture with the musical "Radio Stars on Parade".


















Bela Lugosi portrayed "Professor Paul Renault". Bela had just appeared in the 1945, Val Lewton produced, Robert Wise directed, version of Scottish author Robert Lewis Stevenson's, "The Body Snatcher", starring Boris Karloff. He would follow this feature film with the Wally Brown and Alan Carney comedy, 1946, "Genius at Work".

















Above, Bela Lugosi with Darby Jones, as "Kalaga - the Zombie". Jones was Carrefore - the Zombie", in 1943's, "I Walked with a Zombie".

Anne Jeffreys portrayed "Jean La Danse". Jeffreys had just co-starred in 1945's, "Dillinger", and followed this motion picture with 1945's, "Those Endearing Young Charms". From 1953 through 1955, the actress portrayed the fun loving ghost,"Marion Kerby", along with husband "George Kerby", portrayed by Jeffreys actual husband at the time, Robert Sterling, haunting Leo G. Carroll as televisions, "Topper".



















Sheldon Leonard portrayed "Ace Miller". Leonard portrayed tough-guys in films like 1944's, "To Have and Have Not", starring Humphrey Bogart, and at that time, his future wife Lauren Bacall. However, Sheldon Leonard, became a major television producer, with programs such as "The Danny Thomas Show", 1953 - 1964, "The Andy Griffith Show", 1960 - 1968, and "The Dick Van Dyke Show", 1961 - 1966.





















The Basic Scream play:

Gangster "Ace Miller's" new Broadway nightclub, the "Zombie Hut", is scheduled to open the following month on Friday the 13th. He's hired press agents, "Jerry Miles" and "Mike Strager" to find him a zombie. The boys plan to get a boxer and dress him up as a zombie, but "Ace Miller's" nemesis "Douglas Walker", portrayed by Louis Jean Heydt, in a parody at the time, of syndicated radio and newspaper gossip columnist Walter Winchell, plans to publicly humiliate the gangster, if a real zombie isn't at the night club on opening night.
 
The boys are given a lead at the New York Museum about a mysterious "Professor Renault". Their plan is to find a zombie on the Caribbean Island of San Sebastian, see "I Walked with a Zombie".

Glenn C. Pullen, of the "Cleveland Plain Dealer", published this review on May 24, 1945, and seemed to enjoy Gordon Douglas's direction up to the climax at Bela Lugosi's castle;




As I mentioned, Wally Brown and Alan Carney are considered a bargain-basement Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Of course their picture, "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein", wasn't released until 1948, three-years after "Zombies on Broadway", but some of what Glenn C. Pullen objected to from director Gordon Douglas. Could be applied to director Charles Barton, especially for the castle's "game of tag" in the cellar sequence between Lou and Glenn Strange's "Frankenstein Monster".








































































Five-years and eleven motion pictures later, Gordon Douglas was approached by brothers James and William Cagney to be the director of a crime film James wanted to star in.


KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE premiered in New York City on August 4, 1950




The Cagney's purchased the rights to Horace McCoy's hard hitting 1948 novel of the film's title. Back in 1935, McCoy had written "The Shoot Horses, Don't They?". 

The screenplay was written by Harry Brown, 1945's, "A Walk in the Sun", 1948's, "Wake of the Red Witch", and 1949's, "The Sands of Iwo Jima".

James Cagney portrayed "Ralph Cotter". Cagney had just portrayed "Cody Jarrett" in 1949's, "White Heat". The actor followed this feature film with the musical, 1950's, "The West Point Story", co-starring with Virginia Mayo, Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, and Gene Nelson.

Barbara Payton portrayed "Holiday Carlton". Payton just co-starred with Lloyd Bridges and John Hoyt, in the film-noir, 1949's, "Trapped". She followed this feature film with the 1950 western, "Dallas", starring Gary Cooper, and Ruth Roman. In 1953, Barber Payton co-starred in British studio, "Hammer Films", science fiction classic, "Four-sided Triangle", from director Terence Fisher.























Helena Carter portrayed "Margret Dobson". Carter was just in the 1950 adventure with actor, MacDonald Carey, "South Sea Sinner", and followed this picture with Donald O'Connor's, 1951 pirate adventure, "Double Crossbones". However, it was her final and 13th motion picture that Helena Carter is known for by science fiction fans, director William Cameron Menzies, classic 1953, "Invaders from Mars".



























Ward Bond portrayed "Inspector Charles Weber". Bond was a member of what was known as "The John Ford Stock Company" and co-starred with other "Stock Company" members, Ben Johnson, Joanne Dru, and Harry Carey, Jr., in director Ford's, 1950's, "Wagon Master". Ward Bond followed this feature film with 1951's, "Operation Pacific", starring fellow "Stock Company" member, John Wayne.
































"Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" is a brutal story containing characters without redemption, or morality. A trademark of Horace McCoy's written work, and why it took until 1969 for somebody to decide to make his excellent, but depressing, "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?". 

This picture, as directed by Gordon Douglas, is a true gangster story and not a film-noir. Although some reviewers still used that term for this feature, because it had become the norm for crime movies by 1950. As written, directed, and portrayed by James Cagney, "Ralph Cotter", isn't even close to a film-noir character. My reader can compare him to any of the characters from the same year's, classic film-noir, "Asphalt Jungle", co-written and directed by John Huston. 

However, James Cagney's, "Ralph Cotter", wouldn't have felt out of place with James Cagney's,
"Tom Powers", in 1931's, "Public Enemy", or Jason Robards's, "Al Capone", in director Roger Corman's, 1967, "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre".

























Researching James Cagney's performance as "Ralph Cotter", a majority of film critics couldn't stop comparing "Cotter" to "Cody Jarrett". Which is a shame, because those who read and believed the film critics, tended to avoid this picture. So, I am not going to tell my reader anymore about the actual storyline and give you the following link. That as of this writing, will take you to "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye". Where you can decide for yourself:


Director Gordon Douglas has fallen victim to those critics and I give my reader two reviews to consider. First, a negative one, by critic Fred Camper, from the alternative newspaper, "The Chicago Reader", date unknown. He used to work at "The Reader", but I couldn't find this specific article.
Gordon Douglas's direction is almost incoherent compared to Raoul Walsh's iWhite Heat (1949), which features Cagney in a similar role; the compositions and camera movements, while momentarily effective, have little relationship to each other, and the film reads a bit like an orchestra playing without a conductor.
Next, a positive review, from critic Dennis Schwartz:


"Brutal and cynical."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This is an energetic straightforward crime drama based on the book by Horace McCoy ("They Shoot Horses, Don't They") and the screen play, which hardly makes sense and is the root of the film's problems, is by Harry Brown. Gordon M. Douglas ("Come Fill the Cup"/"Only the Valiant") helms it by keeping it fast-paced, brutal and cynical, and lets star James Cagney pick up where he left off in the year earlier White Heat as an unsympathetic mad dog killer. This was an even tougher film, but the crowds didn't respond to it as favorably as they did to White Heat (which seems odd, since it's basically the same type of B-movie).

Ralph Cotter (James Cagney) stages a daring daylight escape from a prison work farm in Ohio that was arranged by a fellow inmate (Neville Brand), only to shoot him in the head so he doesn’t slow Ralphie boy down. Jinx Raynor (Steve Brodie), a petty criminal and owner of a radio shop, drives the getaway car and the dead inmate's sister Holiday Carleton (Barbara Payton) is also in the car. Ralph claims the guards killed him, which upsets sis who acts as if she's repelled by Ralph. But back in town a snarling Ralph slaps her around and threatens to expose her as accomplice in the escape and before you know it they're shacking up and she's involved up to her elbows in his bloody heist schemes along with a frightened Jinx. These schemes escalate when Ralph and Jinx hold up Hartford's supermarket and in the robbery Ralph kills the owner. Two crooked cops, Inspector Charlie Weber (Ward Bond) and Lt. Reece (Barton MacLane), are tipped off of the robbery by crooked garage owner Vic Mason (Rhys Williams), the crippled unctuous slob who arranged the prison escape and is owed $1,000 by Holiday. It seems Vic and Ralph didn't hit it off, and Vic wanted to get even with him for acting crazy with him. 




Movie critics aside, both William and James Cagney, liked the work on the motion picture from director Gordon Douglas, and signed him to a private contract that led to one with "Warner Brothers".


Hollywood and history don't always mix and a director must deal with the material and actors given him, or her. In this particular case, it was another version of the James and Younger gangs after the American civil war.


THE GREAT MISSOURI RAID released on February 15, 1951





The motion picture was directed by Gordon Douglas. He had just directed Mark Stevens, Edmond O'Brien, and Gale Storm in the 1950, film-noir, "Between Midnight and Dawn". Douglas followed this western with another western, 1951's, "Only the Valiant", starring Gregory Peck, Barbara Payton, and Ward Bond.

The screenplay was written by western novelist Frank Gruber, based upon one of his novels. I could not locate the specific title.

The cast is very solid for a "B" western and includes:

Wendell Corey portraying "Frank James". Corey was just seen in 1950's, "Harriet Craig", co-starring with Joan Crawford. He followed this feature by co-starring with Jane Powell and Fernando Lamas, in the musical-comedy, 1951's, "Rich, Young and Pretty".

MacDonald Carey portrayed "Jesse James". Carey had just co-starred with Marta Toren and Robert Douglas, in the crime-adventure, 1950's, "The Mystery Submarine". He followed this movie by co-starring with Red Skelton, and Sally Forest, in the 1951, musical-comedy, "Excuse My Dust".

Anne Revere portrayed "Mrs. Samuels". Revere had won the "Best Supporting Actress Academy Award" for portraying Elizabeth Taylor's mother, in 1944's, "National Velvet". She  had just co-starred with Dan Dailey and Anne Baxter, in the 1949, musical-comedy, "You're My Everything", and followed this picture with the Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, and Shelley Winters, 1951, "A Place in the Sun". 

 Bruce Bennett portrayed "Cole Younger". Bennett had just co-starred with Ella Raines in 1950's, "The Second Face". The actor followed this western with another one, co-starring with Ronald Reagan, and Rhonda Fleming, in 1951's, "The Last Outpost".

Bill Williams portrayed "Jim Younger". Williams had just starred in the 1951 drama, "Blue Blood", and followed this picture with 1951's, "The Last Outpost". From 1951 - 1955, Bill Williams starred in televisions "The Adventure of Kit Carson".
































Above left to right, Wendell Corey, MacDonald Carey, Anne Revere, Bruce Bennett, and Bill Williams

Ward Bond portrayed "Major Marshall Trowbridge". Bond was just in the John Wayne and Patricia Neal, 1951, "Operation Pacific". He would follow this movie with previously mentioned western, 1951's, "Only the Valiant".






















Ellen Drew portrayed "Bee Moore", in this screenplay the wife of "Jesse James". In reality his wife was  Zerelda "Zee" Mimms. In 1945, Drew was in producer Val Lewton's classic piece of horror, starring Boris Karloff, "Isle of the Dead". In 1950, she co-starred with Vincent Price, as she portrayed the real-life, "Sofia de Peralta Reaves", in director Samuel Fuller's true story, "The Baron of Arizona". Ellen Drew had just co-starred with Broderick Crawford, and John Ireland, in 1950's, "Cargo to Capetown", and followed this western with another, co-starring with Randolph Scott, 1951's, "Man in the Saddle".





















Forget actual history, but just go with the story. 

According to the review in the "New York Times", April 9, 1951:
Frank Gruber's story and screen play give the outlaws decent lines to speak and loads of opportunities for hard riding, fast shooting, and a modicum of romance for the Jameses.As a matter of fact, the script wastes little time on phraseology but sets up the James family as "bushwackers" right off. And, because Jesse and Frank dispose of that Union Army sergeant—a younger brother of Major Trowbridge—as he is torturing their parents, the Major concocts a scheme to liquidate the James crowd, who are about to seek Federal parole.Thereafter, it is the outlaw life, with the noted band sticking up the banks and railroads "protected" by Trowbridge. That is, up until the moment when Frank, sick of hiding, decides to leave for Europe and a peaceful life, and "that dirty little coward" eliminates "Mr. Howard" (Jesse) with a well-aimed bullet.


















































Speaking of that "dirty little coward", Robert "Bob" Ford, was portrayed by 23rd-billed, Whit Bissell. Who had 289 more character roles to portray in a career lasting through 1984.













Above, Whit Bissell with 10th-billed, Louis Jean Heydt, portraying brother "Charles Ford".

The firm directing hand of Gordon Douglas was assigned to a science fiction motion picture planned to be shot in "Warner Color" and the "Third Dimension". Douglas had previously worked in the         3-D process for the 1953 western, "The Charge at Feather River". That experience in the "Third Dimension" and general action pictures, made his choice to direct an easy decision for Jack L. Warner, more later.

THEM! The movie opened for a limited engagement on April 26, 1954



The following is a revision of a section from my article:

"THEM!", "TARANTULA", "THE MONSTER FROM GREEN HELL", "THE DEADLY MANTIS", "THE BEGINNING OF THE END", "THE BLACK SCORPION" and "THE EARTH VS THE SPIDER": As the 1950's Insects that BUGGED America", get you cans of "Raid" out at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2017/03/them-tarantula-monster-from-green-hell.html

Question:

How many times has my reader stepped on an ant? Now, imagine the reverse? How would the average American react to the idea of ant's that could step on them?

The above question was answered in the first of the giant insect motion pictures and definitely one of the finest Science Fiction films ever made.

Image result for movie them

The original story was by George Worthing Yates. Who would be the story and screenplay writer for several classic 1950's Science Fiction pictures including George Pal's, 1955, "The Conquest of Space" and Ray Harryhausen's, 1955, "It Came from Beneath the Sea" and 1956's, "Earth vs the Flying Saucers". Additionally he wrote the screenplays for 1957's, "
The Amazing Colossal Man",and its 1958 sequel "The War of the Colossal Beast". Along with the English language version of Toho Studio's, 1962,"King Kong vs Godzilla", originally written by Stop Motion Animator Willis O'Brien. My article is "George Worthing Yates:  Screenplays from 1927's LIGHTNING LARIATS to 1962's KING KONG VS GODZILLA" found at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2021/01/george-worthing-yates-screenplays-from.html


What makes this George Worthing Yates's story so frightening and successful, was the real probability of how the giant ants came into existence and the overall intelligence of the screenplay by Ted Sherdeman and Russell Hughes. 

Normally a watcher of 1950's science fiction motion pictures had to suspend reality to accept the film. Otherwise you could not watch and accept, a good husband and father being turned into 1
956's, "The Werewolf". By two scientists attempting to figure out how to save the human race after the population of the world exceeds the production of food needed to feed it, or finding a Foreign Country were a scientist is attempting to turn young people into geniuses by exposure to Gamma radiation, in 1956's, "The Gamma People".

However, Yates's story starts out logically enough. The audience sees a plane being used as a spotter in conjunction with a two man New Mexico police car searching the desert on a report of a little girl walking through it. Finding the girl, who is in shock, leads to a camping trailer that appears to have been attacked, and the girl's parents are missing. Everything points to a robbery gone wrong, except that one side of the trailer appears to have been pulled out and not the expected cave inwards of a forced break in. Also found are some ant's in a pile of sugar and a strange print in the sand.

The girl is taken away by an ambulance, but not before the audience hears a high pitched sound, and the girl lying on a gurney, sits up, staring, as if in a trance until the sound ends. The sound is passed off as the freakish wind in the New Mexico desert. 

The two police officers go to another location, a store, and find the owner dead. His shotgun has been bent out of shape, ants are in the sugar, and the walls of the store have been pulled out, not pushed in. 















One of the officers remains and the audience hears the sound again. This causes the police officer to walk outside. We see him pull out his gun, start to fire at something, then there is his scream.

The discovery that the girl's father was with the FBI, brings in the local FBI agent. The coroner has found that the dead store owner had enough formic acid in his body to kill 20 men. With the approval of the Chief of Police, a plaster copy of the strange print is sent to the FBI Crime Lab in Washington, D.C. As a result, a father and daughter team of scientists from the Department of Agriculture arrives.

"THEM!" revolves around four well written characters, acted by four perfect actors for the roles.

Top billing went to actor James Whitmore portraying "New Mexico Police Officer, Sgt. Ben Peterson". Among Whitmore's previous work was the story of the siege of Bastogne, in 1949's  "Battleground", John Huston's 1950 picture about a bank robbery that falls apart, "The Asphalt Jungle". Followed, in the same year, opposite the future Mrs. Ronald Reagan, Nancy Davis, in "The Next Voice You Hear". The George Summer Albee story of a typical American family that suddenly hears the voice of God coming over their radio and speaking to them.

Image result for movie them


Second billing was character actor Edmund Gwenn portraying "Dr. Harold Medford". Gwenn is still known today for portraying "Kris Kringle", attempting to prove to 9 year old Natalie Wood that he is the real Santa Claus, in 1947's, "Miracle on 34th Street". The actor had been in Alfred Hitchcock's, 1940, "Foreign Correspondent" and would be in Hitch's, 1955 "The Trouble With Harry". He was also in the 1952 film version of Victor Hugo's, "Les Miserables", starring Michael Rennie and Robert Newton.






Third billing went to Opera Singer turned actress Joan Weldon portraying Gwenn's character's daughter, "Dr. Pat Medford". Weldon would appear in several Westerns including 1954's "The Command" with Whitmore. Also in 1954 ,as a direct opposite to the Science Fiction of "THEM!". Joan Weldon appeared as herself, and actually sang opera, in the 1954, MGM Musical biography of Sigmund Romberg "Deep in My Heart".






The final lead went to actor James Arness portraying "FBI Agent Robert Graham". Arness was known to Science Fiction fans for playing the title role in the 1951, Howard Hawks produced, "The Thing from Another World". Although that was the actor's second Science Fiction film. His first was the forgotten 1951, "Two Lost Worlds", using the name James Aurness.


Image result for movie them



When the four leads first meet at an Army Air Force base. The father - daughter scientists request to see the little girl after they stop at a drug store. When formic acid is passed under the still in shock little girl's nose. She starts to scream out one word, "THEM!" This 
has become one of the most classic scenes in Science Fiction movies and still makes the audience jump a little.





The two scientists, next, ask to be taken to all the scenes of the previous attacks. However, the two will not give a direct answer to any inquiries made by either "Peterson" or "Graham". Finally, "Pat's" father reveals that he is not "being coy" with either law enforcement officer, but that the mounting evidence appears to be supporting a fantastic theory he has been developing. At this point, "Pat" wanders off as the freaky wind comes up, fiercely blowing the desert sands. Suddenly, the audience hears that sound once more, and above "Pat", the first view of a giant ant is seen.

 Image result for movie them





After the one giant ant is killed and the four leads return to police headquarters. "Dr. Harold Medford" asks where was the very first Atomic Bomb test located? "FBI Agent Graham" shows him on a map indicating White Sands. "Dr. Medford" informs the two police officers and the audience that that was nine years previous to the movie's story, back in 1945. Which makes it genetically possible, because of the way ants reproduce, to create the giant mutations. Here we have well defined scientific theory to support the giant ants, that appears to make sense to the viewer.

Image result for images of joan weldon in them


As in Howard Hawks's, "The Thing from Another World". "THEM!" went against the 1950's stereo-typed-image of a woman, with Joan Weldon's, "Dr. Pat Medford". In Eisenhower's America, a woman's place was in the home raising the children, and making sure everything was just right for her man. In both of those motion pictures, the audience has a woman, who not only is highly educated, but can keep her own with the male characters. In "Dr. Pat Medford", that change in image is exceeded in the sequences related to entering and within the ant's nest, as she issues the orders to both "Sgt. Peterson" and "FBI Agent Graham", that they must follow.





As I first said, originally the picture was to be filmed in Warner Color, but the purple blue color of the ant's looked terrible, and the decision to shoot in black and white was made. Color footage can be found in the extras on the original DVD and Blu-ray releases of the movie.

The motion picture was shot in 3-D, but Jack L. Warner decided that the format was losing audiences in 1954, and it was released in 2-D. Look at the film with the knowledge of the 3-D shoot, and it is very easy to realize how almost every shot was set up by director Gordon Douglas with a definite foreground, middle ground and background for maximum 3-D effect.

In the still, just above, the ant hill is in the far background, and actors Weldon, Arness and Gwenn are arranged, so that in 3-D, the three come off the screen with depth of field. Looking at the office scene grouping still, farther above, and the 3-D set up by Douglas is also visible. The desk that Joan Weldon and Edmund Gwenn are sitting at is at an angle permitting the right corner to project itself over the audience. The placement of the two actors are offset slightly to each other to give them a depth of field. While James Arness is further back to the left and James Whitmore is even farther back than the other three actors.

Returning to the plot.


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After determining that two queen ants have left the nest. A nationwide search begins, that brings "Pat Medford" and "Robert Graham", along with "Army Major Kibbee", portrayed by Sean McClory, to a hospital. A pilot reported seeing two flying saucers shaped like ants that forced his landing on a city street.

Another side: Jack L. Warner invited his friend and science fiction fan Walt Disney to a private screening of "THEM!". According to the story, Walt asked that the scene in the hospital be repeated for him several times, and then told Warner, that he had found his "Davy Crockett" in actor Fess Parker.






After the hospital scene, "Pat's" father is told that one of the queen ants found an open cargo hold on a merchant ship to make her nest in and it hatched. The ship was sunk at sea by a Navy destroyer, which will stay at sea, indefinitely, until the other queen is found.

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Behind and next to the Warner Brother Studio's back lot is the Los Angeles river. Although it is seen by residents most of the year as a pretty dry concrete structure. It was here that the thrilling climax of the motion picture takes place in a search for a woman's two boys.

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The story moves into the tunnels, as the army searches through the maze that exists in the Los Angeles city sewer system. The boys are located by "Sgt. Peterson", who saves them, but before help can reach him, "Peterson" is killed by one of the giant ants.

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The new nest with two queens is located and destroyed and this excellent Science Fiction film ends with a warning from "Dr. Harold Medford":

When Man entered the Atomic Age, he opened the door to a new world. What we may eventually find in that new world, nobody can predict.

 

FRANCIS ALBERT SINATRA

Gordon Douglas would direct five motion pictures for Sinatra, four at his personal request as James Cagney at done with "Kiss Tomorrow, Goodbye".

YOUNG AT HEART released in December 1954



The picture was a remake of 1938's, "Four Daughter's", based upon a the 1937 story, "Sister Act", by Fannie Hurst. Who wrote, 1919's, "Humoresque", 1931's, "Back Street", and 1933's, "Imitation of Life", all turned into multiple feature films.

Doris Day portrayed "Laurie Tuttle". In 1953, she co-starred with Howard Keel as "Wild Bill Hickok", in the musical "Calamity Jane". Which contained the hit song, "Secret Love". This picture was followed by 1955's, "Love Me or Leave Me", co-starring James Cagney, in the "Hollywood" version of singer "Ruth Etting's" career.

Frank Sinatra portrayed "Barney Sloan". Sinatra had just been seen in 1954's, "Suddenly", as the leader of a group of men who plan to assassinate the "President of the United States". He followed this feature with director Stanley Kramer's, 1955, "Not as a Stranger".






Gig Young portrayed "Alex Burke". Young had not been seen, but his voice heard as "Jeff's editor", in director Alfred Hitchcock's, 1955, "Rear Window". He followed this feature with director William Wyler's, 1955, "The Desperate Hours", starring Humphrey Bogart and Fredric March. It should be noted that Gig Young was in the 1969, film version of, "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"






Ethel Barrymore portrayed "Aunt Jessie Tuttle". She had just been seen in an episode of the television anthology series, "Climax". The actress followed this feature film with a television musical-comedy-movie, 1955's, "Svengali and the Blonde", starring Carol Channing. Her brother, John Barrymore had portrayed "Svengali", in the 1931 motion picture based upon the actual George L. DuMaurier, horror novel, 1894's, "Trilby".
















The Basic Screenplay:

Leonore J. Coffee had adapted "Sister Act" for "Four Daughters", now she readapted the story minus one daughter. Julius J. Epstein had written the first screenplay and now wrote this one with Liam O'Brien.

The "Tuttle Family" are a musical family and when "Alex Burke", a composer, enters their lives, all three girls fall for him, but he seems to be a perfect match for "Laurie". However, when "Alex's" friend and arranger, "Barney Sloan" comes to the "Tuttle" home to do some musical arrangements, things begin to change, because of "Barney's" bleak outlook on life. 
















Both "Alex" and "Laurie" decide to change "Barney's" outlook. While, sister, "Fran", portrayed by Dorothy Malone, becomes engaged to "Bob Nearly", portrayed by Alan Hale, Jr, and sister, "Amy", portrayed by Elisabeth Fraser, has feelings for "Alex". Which only "Aunt Jessie" seems to be aware of.

















Next, "Alex" proposes to "Laurie" and she accepts, but "Barney" is falling in love with her. When "Laurie" goes to ask "Barney" to attend her wedding, he confesses his love for her. "Laurie" doesn't believe "Barney", but when she goes home and finds "Amy" crying. What "Barney" has said, starts to sink in. At the altar, "Laurie" suddenly walks away, and elopes with the music arranger and cuts off her family.

However, "Laurie" and "Barney" come home for Christmas, and she tells "Amy" how much she loves him and that she hasn't told "Barney" that's she pregnant. Another change has happened, "Amy" has fallen in love with "Ernie Nichols", portrayed by Lonny Chapman.
















"Alex", who has found great success as a composer, is also at the "Tuttle" home for Christmas. "Barney", still unaware he is about to become a father, feels that a black cloud of lost hope for "Laurie" and himself still exists over the two of them. Later that night, he drives "Alex" to the train station. After dropping "Alex" off, the depressed, "Barney Sloan", decides to kill himself to free "Laurie", believing she would go back to "Alex", who is a better provider for her.

The film's climax occurs, as "Barney" leaves the train station in the falling snow. He keeps the windshield wipers turned off and drives head long into on coming traffic. 

However, it's Christmas, and "Barney" somehow survives, but with a change in his life's thinking. He writes the song he always wanted to write, and is now able to provide for his wife and child.

Fairytales can come true, it can happen to you, If you're Young at Heart

 

ROBIN AND THE 7 HOODS, OR WHO MAID MARIAN released on June 24, 1964




Take the "Robin Hood" legend and turn it into the story of a 1920's Chicago gangster with a heart. The legend becomes a good musical produced by Sinatra, directed by Gordon Douglas, and featuring members of "Sinatra's Rat Pack".

Frank Sinatra portrayed "Robbo". Sinatra had just been seen in director Robert Aldrich's, 1963, comedy-western, "4 For Texas". He followed this motion picture by starring and directing the Second World War motion picture, 1965's, "None But the Brave". 












Dean Martin portrayed "Little John". He had just portrayed one of Shirley MacLaine's multiple husbands in the all-star comedy, 1964's, "What a Way to Go!" Martin followed this film with an appearance in an episode of televisions "Rawhide".
















Sammy Davis, Jr. portrayed "Will Scarlet". He had just been in an episode of televisions "Burke's Law", and followed this motion picture with an episode of televisions "The Patty Duke Show".
















Bing Crosby portrayed "Alan (Allen) A. Dale". At this time, Crosby was appearing on his television program, "The Bing Crosby Show", 1964 - 1965.
















Peter Falk portrayed "Guy Gisborne". Falk had been one of the many comedians in director Stanley Kramer's, 1963, "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World", and followed this musical with a 1964 made-for-television-movie entitled, "Ambassador at Large". 


















Barbara Rush portrayed "Marian Stevens". The co-star of the classic science fiction, 1953, "It Came from Outer Space", had just appeared in an episode of the television series, "The Outer Limits", and followed this picture by continuing to appear on different television programs as a guest-star.
















The Basic Screenplay:

This is definitely not the Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland's, 1939, "The Adventures of Robin Hood", but it's pure entertainment.

Instead of "King Richard" being a prisoner during the Crusades, "Big Jim Stevens", Chicago's number one criminal boss is murdered by "Guy Gisborne" (Falk not Basil Rathbone), and "Gisborne" takes over. That news doesn't go over with "Jim's" friend, "Robbo" (Sinatra not Errol Flynn).


















"Robbo" recruits a group of outcast gangsters to fight "Gisborne". Problem is "Sheriff Octvais Glick", portrayed by Robert Faulk, is on "Gisborne's" payroll. Both groups, decide to destroy the other's gambling joint on the same night and a musical-comical-gang-war begins.

Raised in the best European schools, "Marian Stevens" returns for her father's funeral and wants "Robbo" to murder the Sheriff, whom she believes is behind his murder. 











"Robbo" refuses, but "Gisborne" takes care of the Sheriff and "Marian" assumes "Robbo" had a change of mind. She brings him a large amount of money for having taken care of "Sheriff Glick". 

















Next, she attempts to seduce him, as "Marian" wants to take control of all of Chicago. She picked the wrong gangster and goes to "Gisborne", who she wraps around her finger. While "Robbo" donates the money to a boys orphanage, resulting in "Alan A. Dale", who runs it, alerting the news papers and "Robbo" has a new image. He is now a gangster who takes from the rich and gives to the poor. 













"Robbo's" joint is the spot to go, while, Gisborne's" joint remains empty. "Guy" gets a new sheriff, by promoting "Deputy Sherif Alvin Potts", portrayed by Victor Buono, and they immediately go to arrest "Robbo" for the murder of "Sheriff Glick". Alerted that they're coming, a few switches are pulled and when "Gisborne" and the new "Sheriff" arrive. They're looking at the "Reverend Alan A. Dale" giving a sermon in a church full of parishioners. 

"Robbo" is arrested and put on trial, but is acquitted. He tells the crowds of people that:

CHICAGO IS MY KIND OF TOWN
 Retuning to his gambling joint, "Robbo" finds it is now a front for a counterfeiting ring run by "Marian" and "Little John". He goes to "Marian's" mansion and finds "Little John" with her. She offers to keep "Robbo" on as a front for her counterfeiting ring, but he shows his contempt and walks out with "Little John" following.

"Marian" finds a willing partner in "Guy Gisborne", but she under estimates "Robbo". "Gisborne " is killed and "Robbo" tells "Marian" to get out of town. However, he in turn has under estimated her and "Marian" gets revenge by informing "The Women's League for Better Government" and this women's reform group put "Robbo" out of business.

The movie ends with "Robbo", "Little John", and "Will" as Christmas Santa's raising money for charity on street corners. About to pass the three, are "Marian" and her new business partner, "Alan A. Dale".



































TONY ROME released on November 10, 1967



A little back ground is in order for this Gordon Douglas directed film. I mentioned Douglas directing James Cagney in what film critics consider a film-noir entry, 1950's, "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye". Well now he was directing Frank Sinatra and what was consider neo-noir, or the late 1960's, updating of the traditional hard-boiled detective thrillers of the 1940's, film-noir.

The screenplay was based upon the 1960 novel, "Miami Mayhem", by Marvin Albert, writing as Anthony Rome. Albert also wrote westerns. His 1956,, "The Law and Jake Wade", became a 1958 movie of the same title, starring Robert Taylor and Richard Widmark. Albert's, 1957, "Apache Rising", became 1966's, "Duel at Diablo", starring James Gardner and Sidney Poitier. While, 1958's, "Renegade Posse", became 1964's, "Bullet for a Bad Man", starring Audie Murphy and Darren McGavin. 

Returning to Frank Sinatra's friend and "Rat Pack" member, Dean Martin. He co-starred with George Peppard and Jean Simmons, in the 1967 western movie, "Rough Night in Jericho", written by Marvin Albert as Al Conroy, in 1965, under the title, "The Man in Black".


Frank Sinatra portrayed Miami, Florida private detective, "Tony Rome". 
















Jill St. John portrayed "Ann Archer". St. John had just co-starred with Doug McClure and Guy Stockwell, in the 1967 swashbuckler, "The King's Pirate". She followed this movie co-starring with Robert Horton and Sebastian Cabot, in 1969's, "The Spy Killer".











Trivia: In the above background is the "Fontainebleau Miami Beach". During the day Frank Sinatra filmed scenes for "Tony Rome". During the night, he was appearing at the hotel.


Richard Conte portrayed "Miami Police Lieutenant Dave Santini". Conte had just been in writer, Arthur Hailey's, 1967, "Hotel". He followed this film with the spaghetti western, 1968's, "Death Sentence".













Gena Rowlands portrayed "Rita Kosterman". Rowlands was guest starring on television at the time. Just prior to this movie, she was in an episode of "The Girl from U.N.C.L.E." and followed this picture with an episode of the prime time soap opera, "Peyton Place".












Simon Oakland portrayed "Rudolph Kosterman". Oakland was also making the television rounds and had just been seen in two-episodes of televisions "Tarzan". He followed this feature film with an appearance on the television western, "Cimarron Strip".











Sue Lyon portrayed "Diana Pines". Lyon is probably best remembered for portraying the title role in director Stanley Kubrick's, 1962's, "Lolita", opposite James Mason and Shelley Winters. Just before this movie, the actress had appeared in the crime-comedy, 1967's, "The Flim-Flam Man". Sue Lyon next appeared in a 1969, television production of the play, "Arsenic and Old Lace".


















The Basic Fast and Furious Screenplay Directed by Gordon Douglas:

"Tony Rome" is an ex-cop who lives on his boat in Miami and is now a private detective. His boat is named "Straight Pass", a reference to the fact that "Rome" is addicted to gambling. (The way Frank Sinatra portrays the character is considered, by many film critics, as an obvious homage to his close friend Humphrey Bogart. Who, with his wife, Lauren Bacall, formed the original "Rat Pack" of "A-List" entertainers, in the late 1940's and early 1950's. The "Rat Pack" met at their home in Holmby Hills.). 

"Tony" has developed a friendship with a local beach tramp named "Ann Archer", and she has connections that will help him as the story develops.













"Rome" is approached by his ex-partner, "Ralph Turpin", portrayed by Robert J. Wilke, to take a young woman that was found unconscious in a hotel room to her home. She is "Diana Pines", the daughter of wealthy construction magnate, "Ralph Kosterman". Still unconscious, "Rome"delivers "Diana" to her father. Who hires him to find out why she has been acting so strangely.

Before "Rome" can leave the house, "Diana" has regained consciousness and realizes a valuable diamond pin she was wearing his missing. "Tony Rome" gets his second hiring from "Diana's" stepmother, "Rita Kosterman", to find the pin.

Almost immediately, "Tony Rome" is chloroformed by somebody, he wakes up in his office to find "Ralph Turpin" murdered. "Tony" calls his friend "Lieutenant Santini", who comes to investigate the murder. 

Next, there's an attempt on the life of "Ralph Kosterman", and a jeweler is founded murdered. With "Ann's" help, "Tony" discovers that "Diana" has been selling her stepmother's jewels and giving the money to her biological mother, "Lorna Boyd", portrayed by Jeanne Cooper. Mail arrives at "Rome's" boat and in a package from "Ralph Turpin". "Tony" finds the missing pin, which "Ralph" tried to fence, but had discovered it was fake. "Tony" goes to find a man with a gimpy leg, called "Catleg", portrayed by stand-up comedian, Shecky Greene. "Catleg" gets the information for "Rome", that "Diana's" stepmother had sold all her real jewelry, to pay off her now dead, ex-husband's, blackmail demands on her.

"Tony" and "Ann" continue to see where the trail will finally lead them too. In this case, it is "Diana's" stepfather, an abortionist named "Adam Boyd", portrayed by Jeffrey Lynn, who has lost his license to practice medicine. He found documents that showed that "Rita's" current marriage is void, ordered "Ralph Kosterman" killed, believing that "Diana" would inherit "Kosterman's" entire estate and would be very generous to "Lorna" and by her to him. "Lieutenant Santini" arrests "Boyd" and the case is closed.

Anti-climatic, "Tony" asks "Ann" to go with him on a romantic getaway on his boat. However, "Ann" informs him that she's decided to go back to her husband.


THE DETECTIVE released May 28, 1968




This was the third film in sequence that Gordon Douglas directed for Frank Sinatra, and I will mention the last one next.

I direct my reader to the tag line on the above poster that simply reads:

An Adult Look at a Police Detective

The screenplay based on the novel by Roderick Thorp, was by Thorp and "Academy Award Winning Writer", Abby Mann, 1961's, "Judgement at Nuremberg".

This was one of the first "mainstream motion pictures" to tackle the subject of homosexuality. Breaking that taboo, shocked Frank Sinatra's fans and gave the critics fodder for pro and cons for even mentioning the subject.

Frank Sinatra portrayed "Detective Joe Leland".

Lee Remick portrayed his wife, "Karen Leland". Remick had just co-starred with Rod Steiger and George Segal, in 1968's, "No Way to Treat a Lady". She would follow this motion picture by co-starring with James Coburn in 1969's, "Hard Contact".












Jacqueline Bisset portrayed "Norma McIver". Bissett had just been seen in 1967's, "The Cape Town  Affair", co-starring with James Brolin and Claire Trevor.















Trivia: Frank Sinatra wanted his then wife, Mia Farrow, to play the role of "Norma". However, she was filming 1968's, "Rosemary's Baby", and the picture was running over its scheduled filming ending time. That was the last straw in their less than two-years of marriage and Frank had the divorce papers delivered to Mia on the set in front of the cast and crew.


A Basic Overview of the Screenplay:

It opens with "Detective Joe Leland" being called to the home of a murder victim and the audience is thrown right into the taboo of the period. The murder victim has had his penis cut off, and there appears to be no clues as to what transpired, except, that the victims housemate is missing.

The other police officers are shown to either be making fun of the obvious sexuality of the murder victim, or disinterested in the case because of the victims sexuality. The exception is the no nonsense "Leland", who looks at this as just another murder case that must be solved and the perpetrator brought to justice. However, "Joe" is also dealing with a marriage that is following apart.













After the solid detective work, the murderer is identified as "Felix Tesla", portrayed by Tony Musante. Under interrogation, "Joe" makes the psychologically disturbed "Tesla" break down and confess. This leads to a lot of publicity on the case, a promotion for "Joe", but leaves him convinced that "Felix" is insane and should not get the electric chair that the judge has pronounced for him.

Working on his marriage, "Joe" remembers taking "Karen" to a "New York Giants" vs the "Green Bay Packards" football game, and their marriage proposal during it.


















Returning to the reality of detective work, comes a report of a man jumping off the roof top of the "Garden State Park Racetrack", grandstand, to his death. There is nothing to this case and it goes almost unnoticed. Until the much younger wife of the man, "Norma Maclver", walks into "Joe Leland's" office, believing there is more to his death than an apparent suicide of "Colin Maclver", portrayed by William Windom.

Along with his partner, "Detective Dave Schoenstein", portrayed by Jack Klugman, "Joe Leland", begins an investigation that leads to psychiatrist "Dr. Wendell Roberts", portrayed by Lloyd Bochner. It is obvious that he knows more about "Colin Maclver" than he's telling the detectives. However, making matters are little more touchy for "Joe", is he's "Karen Leland's" psychiatrist. It is her infidelity that is putting pressure on her marriage with "Joe".

"Joe Leland" learns that "Colin Maclver" was at the center of a scheme to inflate the value of certain pieces of real estate and that certain powerful people want "Joe" to forget the case. The problem for them, is that "Detective Joe Leland" is an honest cop and even putting his life in danger, "Joe" presses on with his investigation.

"Leland" now discovers that "Colin Maclver" was connected to the murder that "Felix Tesla" was convicted of doing. In fact, "Maclver" was a homosexual himself, and was the real murderer. The victim was set to reveal "Maclver's" homosexuality, after seeing him frequently at homosexual night clubs.

Returning to "Dr. Roberts", "Detective Joe Leland" discovers that "Colin Maclver" made  a taped confession for the psychiatrist. Who wants "Leland" not to reveal it, because of those powerful people that don't want that knowledge revealed. Adding, revealing the tape confession would hurt "Joe Leland's" reputation, but "Joe" does reveal it and feels somewhat unburdened by forcing a false confession out of the weak, "Felix Tesla", that led to his execution.

After a very tense and well made detective thriller, director Gordon Douglas and Frank Sinatra finished their work together by returning to a familiar character from writer Marvin Albert. 

LADY IN CEMENT premiered in New York City on November 20, 1968


Frank Sinatra returned as "Tony Rome". Sinatra followed this picture with director Burt Kennedy's, comedy-western, 1970, "Dirty Dingus Magee".

Raquel Welch portrayed "Kit Forrest". Welch had just co-starred with James Stewart, Dean Martin, and George Kennedy, in director Andrew V. McLaglen's, 1968, western, "Bandolero!". She followed this picture co-starring with Jim Brown and Burt Reynolds, in 1969's, "100 Rifles", set in 1912 Mexico.






Don Blocker portrayed "Waldo Gronsky". Blocker was borrowed from the television series, "Bonanza", and in one scene, the movie audience sees a television set and hears the "Bonanza" theme song coming off it. Nice product placement and plug for borrowing him.
















Richard Conte returned as "Miami Police Lieutenant Dave Santini". He followed this movie by co-starring and directing, the Second World War story, 1968's, "Operation Cross Eagles", filmed in Yugoslavia.



















The Tame Screenplay:

"Tony Rome" is diving off the coast of Miami, looking for one of the fabled eleven sunken Spanish treasure galleons. Instead, he finds the body of a woman in cement, and reports the find to "Lieutenant Santini". "Tony" puts the find out of his mind, until "Waldo Gronsky" comes looking for the missing "Sandra Lomax". He has no money, but allows "Rome" to pawn his watch as his fee. "Gronsky" admits to "Tony" that he just got out of prison and it was "Sandra" who identified him as the person behind the crime, but she is also the person that can prove his innocence.



"Rome" starts looking for "Lomax" and this leads him to "Kit Forrest", whose party "Sandra Lomax" was supposed to have attended, before she disappeared. 





The problem for "Tony" is "Kit" is apparently being protected by ex-racketeer, "Al Mungar", portrayed by Martin Gabel. Who, with some goons, warns "Rome" off the case.














"Rome" is able to identify "Sandra Lomax" as the "Lady in Cement", finds out that "Al Mungar" is just being used by his son, "Paul Munger", portrayed by Steve Peck,  as a figurehead for his crimes. 













"Paul" reveals he killed "Sandra" and will kill anyone else who gets in his way and is about to kill "Kit". However, "Gronsky" overpowers "Paul" and they call "Lt. Santini". The story ends with "Tony" and "Kit" on his boat in a very weak sequel.



Frank Sinatra was known as "The Voice" by teenage girls like my mother. For me, and the girls of my generation, the star of the next feature film was known as "Elvis, The Pelvis!".

FOLLOW THAT DREAM released on April 11, 1962



I pull director Gordon Douglas out of the timeline of the above five Frank Sinatra motion pictures. His directing of, "Follow That Dream", came between directing Diane McBaine, Arthur Kennedy, and Will Hutchens, in the 1961 version, of author Erskine Caldwell's, "Claudelle Inglish", and the Bob Hope and Anita Ekberg, 1963 comedy, "Call Me Bwana".

The motion picture was based upon the 1959 satirical novel, "Pioneer, Go Home!, by Richard P. Powell. The novel was first turned into a stage play by Herman Raucher, but his play is not motioned this picture's credit. 

The actual screenplay was written by Charles Lederer, 1940's, "His Girl Friday (The Front Page)", 1951's, "The Thing from Another World", 1957's, "The Spirit of St. Louis", and 1960's, original "Rat Pack" film, "Ocean's Eleven".

Elvis Presley portrayed "Toby Kwimper". Elvis had just been seen on-screen in 1961's, "Blue Hawaii", and would follow this picture with a 1962 remake,with songs, of the 1937, Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, and Wayne Morris, boxing drama, "Kid Galahad".







Arthur O'Connell portrayed "Pop Kwimper". O'Connell had just co-starred in 1961's, "Pocketful of Miracles", with co-stars Glenn Ford, Bette Davis, and Hope Lange. This Damon Runyon story, directed by Frank Capra, introduced Ann-Margaret to the motion picture screen. She had appeared a couple of times of televisions "The Ed Sullivan Show". O'Connell appeared on different television programs after this motion until, 1964's, "Kissin' Cousins", starring Elvis Presley.





























Anne Helm portrayed "Holly Jones". Helm was a television actress starting with one-episode of
1956's, "The Phil Silvers Show"aka: "You'll Never Get Rich". Her only motion picture appearance prior to this film, was in Bert I. Gordon's version of "St. George and the Dragon", 1962, "The Magic Sword", portraying "Princess Helene".























The Very Basic Screenplay Plus Five-Songs from Elvis:

The motion picture was filmed under the title, "Pioneer, Go Home!", but after hearing the song, "Follow That Dream", sung by Elvis, the picture was retitled to the song's title. 

The story follows a "family" of non-legally adopted twin boys, by "Pop Kwimper", their 19-years-old babysitter, and "Pop's" son, "Toby".

This makeshift family is traveling on a new highway along the Florida coast with nothing close to it for miles upon miles. Their car runs out gas, and of course, there are no gas stations. "Pop Kwimper" decides they'll just make camp until some government vehicle comes along to help them out. 

The first person to come by is the Highway Commissioner, "H. Arthur King", portrayed by Alan Hewitt. Who wants the transient "Kwimper's" removed before the highway's dedication ceremony the next day with the "Governor", portrayed by Harry Holcombe. The local police arrive and "King" starts to instruct them to remove the "Kwimper's". However, the governor shows up a day ahead of the ceremony, and speaks to "Pop Kwimper". "Pop" invokes the states homesteading laws, and to "King's" disgust, the governor admires "Kwimper's" pioneering spirit, and tells the police to respect the family's  private property.

Next, the family meets a fisherman named "Endicott", portrayed by Herbert Rudley. He gives "Holly" an idea. She goes to the local bank and gets a $2,000 loan, and the family sets up a thriving business catering to sport fishermen. However, trouble follows, as "H. Arthur King" gets the family removed from social assistance.




























Next, two gamblers, "Carmine", portrayed by Jack Kruschen, and "Nick", portrayed by Simon Oakland, set up a casino in a trailer next to the "Kwimper's" property.

"Toby" is a problem for "Holly", because he thinks of her as a child, rather than a grown woman. She's fallen in love with him, but competition in the form of "Alicia Claypoole", portrayed by Joanna Moore, a social worker and ally of "King" shows up. "Alicia" makes a couple of not so subtle passes at "Toby", but he's not interested.




























"Alicia" seeks revenge on "Toby" for not accepting her advances. She starts the legal action to have the children taken from "Pop" and made wards of the state. Meanwhile, "Toby" becomes the sheriff of the new community that is being created around the "Kwimper's" property. 

As sheriff, "Toby" is attempting to quell the noise of the gambling trailer for the small community that is starting to be built. His appearance at the trailer keeps making the customers flee. 
 
The gamblers bring in hitman from Detroit, to do away with "Toby", and bomb the "Kwimper's" house. Somehow, "Toby" is able to deal with the hired, armed, thugs. Next, "Holly" finds a bag left under "Pop Kwimper's" front porch and innocently returns it to their neighbors, the bomb that's inside, blows up the trailer and the gamblers finally leave.

The climax comes, after the boys have been taken from "Pop" by "Joanna's" actions supported by "H. Arthur King". The "Kwimper's appear in court to fight the order making the boys wards of the state.






































In the end, the "Judge", portrayed by Roland Winters,  not only has the children returned to, and legally adopted by "Pop Kwimper", but praises his pioneering spirit. As for "Holly", she finally gets "Toby" to realize she's a grown woman.

The critics panned the movie and the box office and the popularity of Elvis's song, said otherwise.


Next for Gordon Douglas, was the filming of a biography about actress Jean Harlow. Which became part of a battle between "Paramount Pictures" and an independent film company to be the first to get their biography into movie theaters.


HARLOW released June 23, 1965




Actually the other "Harlow" won the race into movie theaters, on May 14, 1965.  That "Harlow", starring Carol Lynley was filmed in a black and white television video process called "Electronovision".

My article looking at the film career of Jean Harlow, and both feature films, is entitled "JEAN HARLOW: The 1965 Biographical Motion Picture Race" found at:


This version of the life of "Jean Harlow", portrayed by Carroll Baker, was based upon novelist and screenplay writer, Irving Shulman's, 1964, sex-sational biography, "Harlow: An Intimate Biography"Among his work are the novelizations of 1955's, "Rebel without a Cause", and 1961's, "West Side Story".

The screenplay was written by John Michael Hayes. For director Alfred Hitchcock, Hayes wrote
1954's, "Rear Window", 1955's, "To Catch a Thief", 1955's, "The Trouble with Harry", and the 1956 version of "The Man Who Knew Too Much".

However, of interest to this motion picture, was that John Michael Hayes wrote the screenplay for American author Harold Robbins's, "The Carpetbaggers". Which was released in 1964, co-starring Caroll Baker as "Rina Marlowe", the very obvious Jean Harlow.

As I indicated above, Gordon Douglas directed this "Harlow". He had just filmed Carroll Baker, George Maharis, and Joanne Dru, in the 1965 mystery, "Sylvia". He would follow this feature film with the first of two remakes of a classic John Ford feature film.

Four Selected Characters:

Carroll Baker portrayed "Jean Harlow". She had just co-starred with Robert Mitchum in 1965's, "Mister Moses", and followed this motion picture with an Italian language feature, 1967's, "L'harem (The Harem)".





























Red Buttons portrayed "Arthur M. Landau". Landau actually contributed to both Shulman's book and this screenplay. Which seemed to influenced how he is shown in the feature film. Buttons had just replayed his role from Darryl F. Zanuck's, epic story of D-Day, 1962's, "The Longest Day", in 1965's, "Up from the Beach", a terrible film to play off the others popularity. He would follow this feature film with the John Ford remake.



















Angela Lansbury portrayed "Mama Jean Bello". Lansbury had just been seen in the period piece, 1965's, "The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders", starring Kim Novak as English writer, Daniel Defore's, "The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe", heroine. The actress followed this motion picture with an episode of televisions "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.".
































Peter Lawford portrayed "Paul Bern". Lawford had just been seen in director Gordon Douglas's, 1965, "Sylvia". He followed this film with some television appearances.






The film claims to tell the true story of Jean Harlow, but many of the names are false to protect the actual person, for example: Howard Hughes become's Leslie Nielsen's, "Richard Manley", and fictional people are added. The following two paragraphs comes from a February 5, 2014 article, from the on-line newspaper, "The Star", by Jessica Pickens:


I was also really confused about who people were supposed to be.  Peter Lawford’s character Paul Bern was a real person, but many of the other names were not.

Mike Connor’s character Jack Harrison wasn’t real and I couldn’t figure out who he was supposed to be the whole movie.  The only conclusion I drew was maybe Clark Gable, but Harlow and Gable were good friends, I’m not sure if they were lovers. I’m pretty sure that Martin Balsam as the studio head was supposed to be Louis B. Mayer, but I’m also not positive.



 




















The two-hour-and-five-minute screenplay is very thin and even the "Paul Bern" story is scrubbed clean, probably because of the still 1934, "Motion Picture Production Code",  for 1965 audiences. After his suicide in this picture, it is lightly hinted, read between the lines, that "Bern" was impotent and possibly bi-sexual. He is used as a convenient rationale for the stress, alcoholism, and multiple partners that Jean Harlow had following his death. Which in the screenplay lead to "Jean Harlow's" death from pneumonia, and not kidney failure.

Paul Bern's death, as I mention in my article, is much more convoluted. Another question, where are Jean Harlow's first and her third husbands? Just asking, and not to forget her partner, film star William Powell? Who is nowhere to be found.




























After the great publicity this picture received during the race to the box office, see my article, the movie apparently had a final budget of 2.5 million dollars, but only cleared 900,000 dollars at the box office and was a major failure for "Paramount Pictures".


STAGECOACH premiered in WEST GERMANY on April 22, 1966




By the numbers, FIRST, my reader is asking themselves why would an American made western movie premiere in West Germany? That answer is partly found in the following three-quotes from my January 16, 2015 article, "American Western's European Style", read at:

Ask a European, who Louie L’Amour and Zane Grey are? Outside of someone possibly associating L’Amour with John Wayne’s, 1953, film “Hondo”, you may just get a blank stare. On the other hand, ask the same European who is the best writer of American Western fiction? You will more than likely hear them reply Karl May.
German film makers started making American westerns in 1917, and haven't stopped. The spaghetti western didn't appear until the end of the 1950's. The most known writer, in Europe, about the American Wild West, and the major source for German western motion pictures, is Karl May, with 80-novels.
Born February 25, 1842 and entering "The Happy Hunting Grounds" of his Western Fiction on March 30, 1912 at 70 years of age. Karl Friedrich May has gained immortality as the most prolific European Novelist of the American West. 

----------------- 

From 1962 through 1968, eleven motion pictures were made in Germany/Croatia. Although not released in the United States without a minimal two years delay. These very good “B” movies bring to life May’s Noble Apache Chief “Winnetou”.
So, the idea of releasing an American made western first in West Germany is to recognize a country that strongly loves the American Wild West, if only written by a man who never saw it.


SECOND, it was American writer, Ernest Haycox, who in 1937, saw his short story, "Stage to Lordsburg", published in "Collier's" magazine.

The following about Ernest Haycox's short story, is from my article, "Comparing John Ford's 1939 'Stagecoach" to the 1966 and 1986 remakes", at:

The basis of the screenplay for "Stagecoach" can be seen in Haycox's story. Although some of the events and characters are slightly different. Also there are only a few names given and they are different from the picture. You will not find a "Ringo Kid" getting on the stagecoach in the middle of its run, but you will find a blonde young man out for revenge in Lordsburg named "Malpais Bill". You won't find a saloon girl named "Dallas", but there is "Henriette" and the coach driver isn't named "Buck". He's "Happy Stuart". Yet, it is very easy to substitute one for the other.

THIRD, while the character names from the original 1939 feature remain, screenplay writer Joseph Landon, in the last of his nineteen screenplays changed the entire location of the ride to "Lordsburg". Probably, but I could not confirm, by producer Martin Rackin's direction to separate it somewhat from the 1939 feature. From my article:
In Ernest Haycox's "Stage to Lordsburg" and the John Ford's 1939 motion picture. The stagecoach journeys from Arizona to Lordsburg, New Mexico. Therefore Geronimo and his Apache warriors fit. Moving the final destination in the 1966 remake to Cheyenne, Wyoming causes a few minor changes. The Indian tribe has to be changed from Apache to Sioux and Geronimo is replaced with Crazy Horse. Making the journey toward Cheyenne also changes the backgrounds of the film. One cannot reuse Monument Valley, Utah for example. 

FOURTH, according to the "Los Angeles Times" reviewer, Philip K. Sheuer, in his September 5, 1965, article about the "in production" remake of "Stagecoach". Sheuer states that producer Rackin had worked with Gordon Douglas, ten times previously, and he quotes Martin Rackin as saying that Douglas is:
the most underrated director in Hollywood - he even made Harlow look interesting - a workhouse who keeps helping out when a studio is in trouble and just hasn't had the right material.
The cast for the picture was listed alphabetically to avoid conflicts over billing by the actors. The descriptions of their roles comes from the actual screenplay.

Ann-Margaret portrayed "Dallas, the Dancehall Hostess". She had just co-starred with Louis Jourdan and Richard Crenna in the 1966, comedy-romance, "Made in Paris". She would follow this feature film with 1966's, "The Swinger", co-starring Anthony Franciosa.



















Red Buttons portrayed "Mr. Peacock, the Whiskey Salesman". As I already mentioned he was in 1965's, "Harlow", and followed this motion picture by starring in a forgotten, only 17-episodes were shown, television program, "The Double Life of Henry Phyfe".

































Michael Connors portrayed "Hatfield, the Card Shark". The future "Mike Connors" and one time "Touch" Connors, had just co-starred with Sir Alec Guinness, and Robert Redford, in the 1965 comedy, "Situation Hopeless -- But Not Serious". He followed this motion picture with the Italian, 1966, "James Bond" rip-off, "Se tutte le donne del mondo (If all the women in the world)" aka: "Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die".







Alex Cord portrayed "The Ringo Kid". Cord was a television actor, his first motion picture was immediately before this feature, 1965, "Synanon". He followed this picture by returning to television.






























Bing Crosby portrayed "Josiah Boone, Alcoholic Doctor". He had just completed the 28th-episode and final program of his 1964 - 1965 television show. He next appeared in 1967, in an episode of "The Danny Thomas Show".



















Robert Cummings portrayed "Henry Gatewood, The Embezzler". He had just co-starred with Warren Beatty and Leslie Caron, in the 1966 comedy, "Promise Her Anything". Cummings had next appeared with Christopher Lee, Brian Donlevy, Dan Duryea, George Raft, and Klaus Kinski, in the 1967 mystery, "Five Golden Dragons".



















Van Heflin portrayed "Curley Wilcox, The Marshall". Van Heflin had just co-starred with French actor, Alain Delon and Ann-Margaret, in the 1965, crime-thriller, "Once a Thief". He followed this feature film with the British crime-drama, 1967's, "The Man Outside".





























Slim Pickens portrayed "Buck, the Stage Driver". Pickens was just in the calvary movie, 1965's, "The Glory Guys". He followed this motion picture with the 1966, western, "An Eye for an Eye", co-starring with Robert Lansing and Patrick Wayne.



















Stefanie Powers portrayed "Mrs. Lucy Mallory, the Expectant Mother". Power's was just in the horror-thriller, 1965's, "Die! Die! My Darling!", and followed this feature film appearing in the David Janssen and Keenan Wynn's, 1966, mystery-thrilling, "Warning Shot".



















Keenan Wynn portrayed "Luke Plummer, The Killer". Wynn was just in the Clint Walker western, 1966's,"The Night of the Grizzly", and followed this motion picture with producer Ivan Tors, 1966, "Around the World Under the Sea".





















The motion picture screenplay is the same, but different at the same time, from the John Ford original. Remembering that this film changes who the Native American's are and the locations even from the original short story.

The motion picture opens with a bloody attack by "Crazy Horse" and the Sioux on a troop of United States cavalry.

The following comes from my article and speaks to the changes between 1939 and 1966.

After the Sioux attack, the film cuts to the"Dancehall", that looks like any Saloon in any Western ever made. In the scene, we see "Dancehall Hostess Dallas" dancing with a cowboy. While, "Alcoholic Doctor Josiah Boone" sleeps in a chair, and "Hatfield, the Card Shark" is in a game of poker. Michael Connors is wearing his immaculate white suit, that even on a ride over the countryside in a stagecoach, does not seem to get dirty.

The Dancehall sequence contains a confrontation between "Captain Jim Mallory", portrayed by John Gabriel, and "Dallas". There had been a fight between two Calvary men that ends with both dead. "Captain Mallory" does not believe the version of the fight told by "Dallas", and believes another "Dancehall Hostess" that she caused the fight between the two soldiers. "Mallory", then, tells "Dallas" to be out of town by the following morning. This change in plot from 1939, adds to the character of the relationship between "Dallas" and "Lucy Mallory".

Image result for 1966 stagecoach

Image result for 1966 stagecoach


The audience next sees "Buck" speaking to "Marshall Curley Wilcox" in his room. From "Buck's" comments, the audience learns that he drives the stage, back and forth, from Deadwood to Cheyenne. "Buck" planed to leave in the morning, but because of the Sioux raid, he now doesn't have a shotgun guard.

As with Dudley Nichols original 1939 screenplay. It is at this point that "Curley" learns from "Buck's" comments, that he saw the "Plummer's" in Cheyenne. "Curly" now realizes that after his recent escape from prison, "The Ringo Kid", would be heading to Cheyenne after "Luke Plummer". "Curley" makes the logical decision, the he will ride as shotgun for "Buck". 

"Buck's" dialogue has given another change to the story, as instead of "Luke Plummer" and his two brothers having killed the "Kid's" father and brother. This screenplay is dealing with "The Plummer Family" and Keenan Wynn's, "Luke Plummer" is not a brother, but the ,father of a criminal family. In fact, one might substitute Walter Brennan's "Newman Haynes Clanton" the head of the "Clanton Clan", in John Ford's, 1946's, "My Darling Clementine", for "Luke Plummer" in the 1966, "Stagecoach".

Again, as in the 1939 screenplay, the following morning "Josiah Boone" leaves Deadwood, but this time over the previous nights deaths by "Mallory's" order and not for owing rent on a room and a doctor's office. We meet the whiskey drummer "Peacock", but here,  Red Buttons' costume looks more like a a traveling reverend than did Donald Meek's. In a change to the original picture, "Lucy Mallory" sees her husband leave with his troops, before she boards the stagecoach. She is going to meet him later. At this point we do not know she is pregnant, as Stephanie Powers's clothing is loose fitting and typical for the period. Later in the picture will her condition be revealed.

Another switch in story comes with banker, "Henry Gatewood". In the 1939 original, "Gatewood's" wife drives him crazy, he steals a large expected deposit, before it goes into a safe. As the stagecoach leaves, he flags it down at the edge of town, claiming he had just received a message by telegraph and must go to Lordsburg. Which is odd, as Geronimo had the telegraph lines cut.

However, in the 1966 version,"Gatewood" is not the Banker, but his son-in-law. "Gatewood" has decided to get out of his current life, and steals $10,000. Which is the payroll for the Silver miners working a local Deadwood mine. Additionally, he boards the stagecoach with the other passengers, stating he is on an errand for the bank. The missing money will be discovered, and news of it will reach Cheyenne before "Gatewood". 

The stage leaves Deadwood with a Calvary escort. Now comes the entrance of "The Ringo Kid", and in this version it is not as dramatic as Ford's. The stage and its passengers find Alex Cord sitting serenely on the roadside awaiting its arrival. There is a waterfall in the background with greenery surrounding Cord. The scene seems very peaceful for a hunted prison escapee out for revenge. This imagery contrasts with what the audience is used to seeing with a Western Outlaw. Is this, then, the real man behind the reputation? However, the scene also gives a sense of strength to Ringo. The idea of reputation versus reality is handled in an excellent piece of dialogue in the second remake which I will address later in this article.

The stagecoach then proceeds on toward its first stop and the fact that the passengers have to decide on going it alone to Cheyenne. At this point, the audience sees the passengers for the first time as they really are and in relation to each other. This is the turning point in both the 1939 and 1966 screenplays.

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Image result for images of 1966 movie stagecoach



What stands out from the original is the difference in development of the character's relationships with each other. However, this is not to put down the 1939 screenplay by Dudley Nichols. Which worked for the year John Ford's masterpiece was shot. Audience expectations had changed in 27 years and Joseph Landon had to work to those.

Bing Crosby and Red Buttons start out with the same con by the doctor, as between Thomas Mitchell and Donald Meeks, in 1939, over the whiskey samples, but as this story progresses. The audience sees a relationship, not shown in 1939,  between "Doc Boone" and "Mr. Peacock" that develops into a real friendship.
 
"Buck", the stagecoach driver, is still the least drawn character, but Slim Pickens's "Buck" is a tougher person than Andy Devine's. The reason isn't really the way the character is written, as it is the images that the two actors have created from their roles in other motion pictures. Pickens played many roles, Western and otherwise, that are tough no nonsense characters. While Andy Devine, even in 1939, was being associated with comic, or lighthearted roles. In both films "Buck" is needed to drive the stagecoach, but is required to do little else in relation to the other characters except "Curley".

Then there was "Marshall Curley Wilcox". The casting of Van Heflin was inspired, as the actor had played many Western and Calvary roles over his career. His "Wilcox" is a troubled, tired man, knowing there is no future left for him beyond being the Town Marshall of Deadwood. He is also torn between liking "The Ringo Kid" and the reward for his capture. Of those on the stagecoach, he is the most experienced with fighting the Sioux. In that role, and with the authority of his position as Marshall, makes him the group's leader. A position he might not really want to be in.

Stephanie Powers's "Lucy Mallory" is another thing and perhaps the weakest link in the film.  It is not really the way the character is written, but her performance. It isn't bad, but it somehow doesn't fit the character. Blame Gordon Douglas, perhaps? This "Mrs Mallory" is a more intricate character than in 1939. We have met her husband the night prior to the stagecoach living Deadwood. He is no longer the unseen heroic Calvary officer of the 1939 motion picture and that plays on Powers's "Lucy Mallory". The audience already knows there was conflict between her husband and "Dallas". Now both women, with different views of "Captain Jim Mallory" are in the same tight confinement of the stagecoach on its journey to Cheyenne. Emotions between the two are high, but this comes to a resolution after the birth of "Lucy's baby.", at least for the reminder of the journey.

The character of "Hatfield" is also a more rounded character. His background and relationship to "Lucy's" father is brought out in a little more detail. In both versions it is "Hatfield's" silver drinking cup with the "Ashburn" family crest that starts 'Lucy' thinking there is more to the gambler than is being shown. In 1939, you never really know why he's left his home for the West, but Joseph Landon's screenplay answers a little of what was missing in Nichol's screenplay. We learn that the gambler left his family to avoid embarrassing them with what he had become. "Hatfield" is a fallen man of Southern honor and holds those traditions still dear to him. His actions throughout the journey reflect a descent man caught in circumstances that he caused, and hurt the ones he loved

Like Stephanie Powers, Michael Connors may be a little out of place as "Hatfield". Especially when compared to John Carradine's performance, but he gives his best at this point in his career.

Robert Cummings playing "Henry Gatewood" is playing against current type. He may have the most difficult characterization of all the cast. As this role has been entirely rewritten by Joseph Landon from the 1939 "Gatewood". For the last 16 years Cummings had been a lovable and comedic television actor. His last two movies were romantic comedies and he had just appeared in a television series, "My Living Doll". That was about an Air Force doctor who invented a female robot everybody else thinks is a real  woman. Here, he had to be accepted as a man who steals from hard working miners and, as is implied in some scenes, may have had a long time sexual relationship with "Dallas". The character is well written and Cummings does get us to hate him. Especially after that relationship with "Dallas", who is now in love with "Ringo", is revealed.

Alex Cord is not John Wayne, and Gordon Douglas had the pressure of attempting to change "The Ringo Kid" into not being a carbon copy. Of course, the chosen outfit for Cord didn't help. Below, Wayne and Cord as "The Ringo Kid", with their respective "Dallas".

Image result for 1939 stagecoach




However, Alex Cord and director Gordon Douglas probably were on the same wavelength and played "The Ringo Kid" low keyed and this compares well with the other actors performances. Another aspect in "Ringo's" character that Joseph Landon added is self doubt. Cord's "Ringo" is not as confident in himself going up against "Luke Plummer" and his family. While, Wayne's "Ringo" might have been too self assured in himself. Of course Landon also changed the character of "Luke Plummer", as I already mentioned. In short, in 1966, "The Ringo Kid", might be described as being more human with his faults than in 1939. 

Gordon Douglas also made a decision with the 1966 version of "Stagecoach", not to center on "The Ringo Kid", as John Ford did in 1939. It had nothing to do with Alex Cord not being John Wayne. It should be noted that appearing in "Stagecoach" came as a break for Wayne in his eight, "The Three
Mesquiteers" series films as "Stoney Brooke". My article is "An Overview of 'THE THREE MESQUITEERS': A Classic 'B' Western Series" riding the "B" range at:


"Ringo" only has three purposes in 1939 and in 1966, one, the reason the stagecoach can actually leave town, two, a love interest for "Dallas", and three, the climatic gunfight with the "Plummer's". 

With director Gordon Douglas everything revolves around "Dallas".




We first see "Dallas" actually dancing with a cowboy through the opening of the saloon sequence. Her dancing is used to show us both "Hatfield", at a table, and "Josiah Boone", asleep on a chair, as the couple dances at a frantic pace around the entire set. Claire Trevor's "Dallas" could not have done this scene and especially at the pace of this dance as Gordon Douglas sets it up, but of course Ann-Margaret could and the cowboy is obvious a professional dancer. It is an interesting normal counter point of town and cavalry post life as opposed to the cavalry massacre the audience had just witnessed.

Gordon Douglas uses that scene and its follow-up with "Captain Mallory", for his audience to notice a tougher side to this "Dallas" than in 1939. While on the stagecoach, she holds her own with the male passengers. This "Dallas" has a bone to pick with "Lucy Mallory's" husband and the friction between the two women is felt in the coach, but once more Stephanie Powers's wife seems a weaker character. The way Joseph Landon wrote "Lucy", she may not be the equal of "Dallas", but she should have been stronger than we see. Especially, when the audience sees "Dallas's" mean streak come out and implies to "Lucy" that her husband was a customer of hers. There is doubt that she is telling the truth here, but you wouldn't have seen Claire Trevor tell Louise Platt those lines. 

Once Alex Cord is on the stagecoach, the dynamics between the two characters is more complex than in 1939. Like "Ringo", Ann-Margaret's "Dallas" feels in a lot of ways a loser in life and this has made her a hard woman under a soft exterior. The hard woman persona disappears with the birth of "Lucy's" baby and the two women come together, but "Dallas" still is in charge.







When we get to showdown between "Ringo" and the "Plummer" family. "Dallas" tells him:
Forget about Luke Plummer. Make me more important.
Lines like that fill Joseph Landon's screenplay between these two young lovers. Making them real as compared to the John Ford's original, with what is described by some reviewers as a "Mythic West". This is not to say the original film is flawed, but once more Landon is reflecting what the 1966 audience expects over the 1939.

Using the scenery of Colorado, Gordon Douglas creates a very suspenseful sequence of the stagecoach having to cross a mountain pass, not in original. The trail is so small that we have a cliff on one side and a deadly drop on the other side of the coach. In the sequence the stagecoach seems to touch the cliff and just clear the drop.

When we come to the Sioux attack on the stagecoach, in this version the passengers are on their own. There will be no Calvary coming to the rescue. In the sequence, as in the 1939 original, "Hatfield" is killed and "Lucy Mallory" promises to tell his family what happened to their son.

The stagecoach finally arrives in Cheyenne and once more we have a different sequence of events. There is no law in the town, with the arrival of the "Plummer's", the local law went fishing. With the arrival of the stagecoach, the Marshall is now the town's law. "Curley" handcuffs "Ringo" to a wheel of the stagecoach to prevent him from going after the "Plummer" family. It is his job to bring them to justice. "Curley" is also still thinking about the reward money for the "Ringo", which would set him up nicely for the rest of his life. However, "Curley" is informed of the theft of the $10,000 by "Henry Gatewood" and hears he has gone to the saloon. Wrong choice for "Gatewood'.

When Robert Cummings' "Henry Gatewood" enters the saloon he is confronted by Keenan Wynn's "Luke Plummer" and his two boys. "Curley" enters to arrest "Gatewood" and is shot by "Luke Plummer". Who proceeds to kill "Gatewood" for the $10,000. "Curley" is able to get out of the saloon and returns to the coach where he reluctantly releases "The Ringo Kid" to go after the "Plummer's". 

In the original short story, Ernest Haycock has "Henriette" watch "Malpais Bill" walk down a dark alley to meet "Plummer" Four shots ring out in the dark and the young blonde "Bill" reemerges unharmed. In Dudley Nichols' screen play a reworking of that scene occurs. Joseph Landon changes it all.

The shoot out between Alex Cord's "Ringo Kid" and Keenan Wynn's "Luke Plummer" takes place in the saloon. During the sequence a fire breaks out and from it "Curley" see's "Ringo" reappear having killed the "Plummer" family. At this point once again Joseph Landon's screenplay somewhat follows Dudley Nichols again. "Curley" forgoes the reward and lets "Ringo" escape with "Dallas" during the confusion being caused by the fire.

In a cameo role at the poker table with "Hatfield" was painter Norman Rockwell as "Busted Flush, the Poker Player". For the end credits Rockwell had painted each of the main stars.

Image result for 1966 stagecoachImage result for 1966 stagecoach

Image result for 1966 stagecoachImage result for 1966 stagecoach

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Image result for 1966 stagecoachImage result for 1966 stagecoach

Image result for 1966 stagecoachImage result for norma rockwell painting of 1966 stagecoach cast




As I first said, the purpose of this article is to introduce Gordon Douglas to my readers. I believe I have accomplished that goal.

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