Monday, November 28, 2016

GIANT (1956)

(Post 10 of 10)

I've always thought this was to the 50's  what Gone With the Wind was to the 30's. A truly epic American tale of Texas, oil, ranchers and featuring the star trio of Elizabeth Taylor (Leslie Benedict), Rock Hudson (Bick Benedict) and James Dean (Jett Rink). My favorite part of the film (I'm sure this is covered in Edna Ferber's book as well) is the evolution of rich cattle rancher Bick Benedict from clearly being a racist at the beginning of the film to becoming by the film's final scene a staunch defender of his Mexican grandchild...I can hear The Yellow Rose of Texas playing in the background now.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..Chill Wills

Chill Wills as Uncle Bawley in Giant
In Giant, Chill plays Uncle Bawley, the sort of patriarch of the Benedict family, who seems to spend a lot of time keeping the others out of trouble. He does have one of the best lines in the movie, observing the newfound wealth of Jett Rink, "Bick, you should have shot that fella a long time ago. Now he's too rich to kill."

The long career of Chill Wills as a supporting actor was usually in supporting roles in Westerns, often with his friend John Wayne. He received an Academy Award nomination for his supporting role in The Alamo. The first movies I remember him from were his voice-overs in The Francis the Talking Mule movie series, the forerunner of Mr. Ed.  Chill's signing skills were put to good use in a few films and he made some records as well. If you are so inclined, go to Youtube and take a look at Chill doing the song Mama, possibly the most depressing ditty I've ever heard.

Chill about to warble Mama

Friday, November 25, 2016

THE BIG SKY (1952)

(Post 9 of 10) 

The Big Sky is a pretty good Howard Hawks film about a group of fur traders (featuring Kirk Douglas as a scalawag, roustabout, tag along to the group) attempting to deal with Indians and other ruthless business competitors. It's a nice adventure scene with some beautiful black and white photography, though I'm not sure I would have included this one on the list. One question I have is why is this film so hard to find? I had to get an old VHS copy from inter library-loan because it wasn't available (that I could see) on DVD or Blu-Ray or on any online service that I had access to. Just wondering.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..Arthur Hunnicutt
Arthur Hunnicutt had one that special something that a lot of character actors of the Hollywood Golden Age with long careers seemed to have going for them: Look like a old man even when you're fairly young. It's odd that the grizzled old trapper/narrator from The Big Sky was only in his early 40's when this movie was made. This persona served Hunnicutt well as he played it in many Westerns beginning in the 40's and going through the 60's. The part I will always best remember Hunnicutt is as a recently deceased hunter who goes to tries to find his way to heaven with his trusty hound dog in an episode from The Twilight Zone. which features one of my all-time favorite lines, "A man, well, he'll walk right into hell with both eyes open. But even the Devil can't fool a dog!" The funny thing is, before I looked it up, I remembered Hunnicutt as saying this line, which is incorrect. He has it said to him. Damn.  

Dewey Martin, Arhur Hunnicutt and Kirk Doglas in The Big Sky

Additional note: It's interesting sometimes to look up who the particular reviewers were that chose certain movies for the 1001 book. This one was chosen by Edward Buscombe, a critic who has written articles about genre in films and books on Western films. Clearly he is partial to add films from his favorite genre! He also contributed the blurbs for the 1001 book on Stagecoach and The Searchers, which are certainly no-brainers for inclusion...but clearly went outside the box in the addition of The Big Sky. If I were adding another Kirk Douglas Western, I would have put in Lonely Are the Brave...But that’s me. I do like that the list doesn't always stick to just the obvious choices all the time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


(Post 8 of 10) 

The middle one of the three major versions of A Star is Born. I'm a little surprised that this one was chosen over the 1937 original, but A Star is Born '54 does have a lot more flashy dance numbers than the original and is certainly a must for Judy Garland fans. One problem for me is that it doesn't seem like Judy and co-star James Mason have very much chemistry. I almost feel like Mason accidentally wandered over to the A Star is Born set from a different movie. But I still like the film overall and it's certainly better than the later Streisand/'Kristofferson version.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..Jack Carson

This is Jack Carson
This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, with a whimper

Jack Carson's hulking, tough guy persona seemed tailor made to play a press agent like he does in A Star is Born. He did occasionally did have some leading roles in the 40's, though his best ones seemed to be supporting ones like in Mildred Pierce or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Jack is not to be confused with Don Defore, who was best known as playing the father in Hazel during the 60's. I bring this up, because I use to get them mixed up...silly me.

This is not Jack Carson.
It's Don Defore

Saturday, November 19, 2016


(Post 7 of 10) 

Rock Hudson and Lauren Bacall will almost certainly
find each other by the end of Written on the Wind. Won't they?
It's interesting how some of The Fifties Hollywood dramas that prominent critics may have previously dismissed as "women's pictures" began to be taken seriously in later years by filmmakers as diverse as Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Todd Haynes. I've grown to like the few of these types of films from the 1950's (All That Heaven Allows is another one). Maybe they weren't necessarily an accurate picture of life of the era-but they sure seem to represent a certain time nonetheless. Not everything from the fifties could be noir or musicals or horror or biblical spectacles! These dramas at least had fairly real stories...or fairly least involving...or maybe my tastes are just changing as I get older..Not that I feel like watching a Jeff Chandler marathon or anything...but there you have it.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..William Schallert

William Schallert gives Rock Hudson a plot point he needs
and goes out the door to his next film
William Schallert is one of those actors I've seen in so many things over the years (primarily on television) that I think he's seeped into my subconscious as just about the ultimate TV background player. In Written on the Wind, his only scene is the one above where his only purpose is to (as a reporter) let Rock Hudson know that Lauren Bacall has gotten married. Pure exposition and then he walks off the stage and probably to another set to film another scene in another movie or show. Schallert is probably primarily remembered as the dad in The Patty Duke Show. But if you look at his long trail of credits, it basically includes every show I've ever seen in reruns: The Andy Griffith Show, Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, Leave It to Beaver, Get Smart, The Waltons, The Partridge Family...and way too many more to list. Schallert died in 2016 at the age of 93, leaving behind him a legacy of 379 IMDB credits.