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LawrenceA

Recently Watched Westerns

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The Virginian (1929) - Iconic western from the early days of sound, based on the book by Owen Wister. Gary Cooper stars as the unnamed Virginian, a ranch hand and cowpoke who meets up with old friend Steve (Richard Arlen) after a cattle drive. The two are soon rivals for the same girl, recently arrived schoolteacher Molly Stark Wood (Mary Brian). Things get even more contentious when Steve falls in with cattle rustler Trampas (Walter Huston). Also featuring Eugene Pallette, Chester Conklin, E.H. Calvert, Helen Ware, Victor Potel, Ernie Adams, Ed Brady, George Chandler, and Jack Pennick.

 

Director Victor Fleming helps write the cinematic language of the sound western here, along with creating the screen persona of Gary Cooper, making his talkie debut. His laconic man of few words and strong action is indelibly drawn, and the cowboy-as-hero was reborn for the sound era. Arlen and Brian are adequate, while Huston is almost too good as the stereotypical "Black Bart" style villain. This was adapted for the stage back in 1904, and had been filmed previously in 1916 and 1923. It would return to screens in 1946, again in 1962 for the long-running TV series, another TV movie in 2000, and once again in 2014. This version remains a great piece of history, for film in general as well as for the western genre, although its sparse soundscape and minimalist plot may have aged poorly. From Paramount.   7/10

 

Source: Encore Westerns.

 

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Cimarron (1931) - Award-winning western epic based on the book by Edna Ferber, from RKO and director Wesley Ruggles. Yancey Cravat (Richard Dix) is a newspaper publisher who participates in the Oklahoma land rush of 1893. Even though he gets cheated out of his hoped-for claim by prostitute Dixie Lee (Estelle Taylor), Yancey decides to bring his wife Sabra (Irene Dunne), young son Cimarron (Junior Johnston), and stowaway young black boy Isaiah (Eugene Jackson) out to the new boom-town of Osage, where he sets up a newspaper office. The story follows Yancey and Sabra through the decades and their various confrontations with outlaws, injustice, and bigotry. Also featuring Edna May Oliver, Roscoe Ates, William Collier Jr., Stanley Fields, Nance O'Neil, George E. Stone, Robert McWade, Judith Barrett, Edith Fellows, Otto Hoffman, Dennis O'Keefe, Helen Parrish, and Robert Mckenzie.

 

The western was one of the foundation genres of American cinema, although after the 1910's, it was often considered a B-level type of film. 1929's The Virginian proved to be a big hit, and it was thought that the western was primed for a major resurgence. But by the time Cimarron was released in early 1931, the genre was back out of fashion, and this proved to be a financial disappointment. That was bad news for RKO, which had made this their most expensive feature to date, and coupled with the Great Depression now blanketing the nation, they needed a hit. They had to settle for critical acclaim, instead, and the film garnered that in droves, although now the film's appeal seems to escape most critics and viewers, and this frequently ranks near the bottom of critical lists of Best Picture Oscar winners.

 

Watching movies in year proximity to one another helps one to appreciate how something that seems corny or cliched was regarded differently in comparison to others of its time, and that's true for me here. I've seen this two or three times before, but this time, in the midst of a lot of films from 1930/31, I see the film's qualities more clearly. Dix is still prone to some silent-film pantomime over exaggeration, but he cuts a striking figure for the most part, with his slightly-maniacal eyes, deep voice, and white hat. Dunne is more subtle, and she's good, showing real growth as a character over the 40+ years covered in the story. And there are a number of terrific character performers doing what they do best, including Edna May Oliver, Roscoe Ates, George E. Stone, and Stanley Fields. The sets, including an entire frontier town built from scratch, are terrific, and the land rush sequence is rightly applauded.

 

One aspect that turns off a lot of modern viewers is the racial stereotyping. But that's a little more complicated than usual here. While the Isaiah character is certainly saddled with a lot of cringe-worthy details, from his outfit, to the "Yas, Massah" speech, to watermelon jokes, his character is also considered part of the family, and his fate affects them as if he were a son. Some people also object to the lack of sympathy for the natives whose land is being given away left and right, but the Yancey character argues for native rights late in the film. 

 

This was nominated for Oscars for Best Actor (Dix), Best Actress (Dunne), Best Director (Ruggles) and Best Cinematography (Edward Cronjager), and it won for Best Art Direction (Max Ree), Best Writing, Adaptation (Howard Estabrook), and Best Picture.    7/10

 

Source: Warners DVD, with a comedic short and an animated short included as extras. 

 

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Fighting Caravans (1931) - Would-be epic Western from Paramount Pictures and directors Otto Brower and David Burton, very loosely based on a Zane Grey novel. Gary Cooper stars as scout Clint Belmet, a hard-drinking troublemaker who nonetheless gets hired to escort a large wagon train west to California. Along with his crusty pals Bill (Ernest Torrence) and Jim (Tully Marshall), he finds the safest path through the hills, and away from "wild Injuns". He also makes time with solo pioneer woman Felice (Lili Damita). Also featuring Fred Kohler, Eugene Pallette, Roy Stewart, May Boley, Eve Southern, Frank Campeau, Jane Darwell, E. Alyn Warren, Chief John Big Tree, Iron Eyes Cody, and Charles Winninger.

 

Paramount hoped to make this a real epic, but it gets bogged down in cliches, pointless character digressions, and some miscasting. Damita has trouble with her English, while Cooper looks too clean and neat to be hanging around with the sloppy likes of Torrence and Marshall: where does he keep getting his clothes laundered, and why aren't his pals using the same service? There's a big barroom brawl scene played for laughs, and the inevitable Indian attack, but the outcome of this is obvious from the opening credits. Speaking of which, one of the few stylistic touches I liked was having Native Americans in costume walking toward the camera during the credits, obscuring words and even blacking out the screen.   6/10

 

Source: Amazon Prime, but this fell into the public domain, and is easily available from multiple sources.

 

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A Holy Terror (1931) - Silly pseudo-Western from Fox and director Irving Cummings. George O'Brien stars as Tony Woodbury, a rich-kid aviator and polo star who is understandably upset when his father is murdered. He learns that his dad had been paying for surveillance of a rancher out in Wyoming for over 20 years, so Tony decides to fly out and investigate whether there's a connection with his father's death. He meets lovely Jerry (Sally Eilers) as well as shady ranch foreman Steve (Humphrey Bogart) and his thuggish sidekick Butch (Stanley Fields). Also featuring Rita La Roy, James Kirkwood, Richard Tucker, Earl Pingree, Wong Chung, Oscar Smith, and Robert Warwick.

 

This less-than-50-minute programmer has some really ridiculous moments, including one of the most absurd "meet-cute" moments I've ever seen, when Tony crashes his plane into a building where Jerry is taking a shower. Tony staggers out of his wrecked plane as Jerry, wrapped only in a shower curtain, screams at him to leave. Although set in contemporary times, the film resembles a Western once the action moves to Wyoming, with horseback chases and six-shooters worn on their belts. My favorite line was delivered by Bogart to Fields, instructing him to kill O'Brien - "Go in there and cook him a gooseberry pie."   4/10

 

Source: YouTube.

 

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Ride in the Whirlwind (1966), first viewing, can't believe I'd never caught this before, I did see Hellman's The Shooting which I didn't think much of it so I probably shied away from seeking this out. It's way better with some decent cinematography. 7/10

 


An Acid Western sub genre. Lump it in with The Shooting (1966), El Topo (1971), McCabe & Mrs Miller (1971), The Hired Hand (1971), Kid Blue (1973) Rancho Deluxe (1975), all the way to China 9, Liberty 37 (1978) and you could call Jim Jarmusch's 1996's film Dead Man a modern outlier along with Renegade (Blueberry) (2004).

 

There may be a few more.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Thunder Of Drums (1961) Finally was able to catch up with this film today, enjoyed it. I bought the cast, a mix of new and up and coming new talent and some old Western Genre hands. I like Richard Boone a lot, but there's not a whole lot of his Western films that I can point to and admire. The Tall T, his small bit part in The Alamo, Rio Conchos, and his menace oozing Cicero Grimes in Hombre, and now this one. I'll go a 7/10, some great Western landscapes also.

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The Range Feud (1931) - Instantly forgettable B-Western from Columbia Pictures and director D. Ross Lederman. Buck Jones stars as Sheriff Buck Gordon, who's trying to keep the peace during a brewing feud between rival ranchers. When one of the ranchers is murdered, the suspicion falls on Clint (John Wayne), the son of the other rancher. Clint has secretly been seeing their rival's daughter Judy (Susan Fleming), and when her father found out and forbade the union, Clint had a motive to see the old man dead. But Sheriff Buck thinks the culprit isn't so easily found and sets out to find the real killer. Also featuring Edward LeSaint, Will Walling, Wallace MacDonald, Harry Woods, Frank Austin, and Glenn Strange as Slim.

 

Buck Jones was one of the biggest Western stars of the late silent era, but he saw his fortunes wax and wane over the following decade. He's said to have been a genuine horseman, and the young Wayne looked up to him. He makes for a suitable, if now cliched, white-hat hero. Wayne was already showing some screen charisma here, and he was just getting on the B-Western assembly-line treadmill that he would trudge for the next several years. The film itself is standard stuff: sped-up horse chases and bar fights, some shooting without really hitting anything, obvious bad guys, and big hats. I mean really big hats. I don't recall seeing so many out-sized cowboy hats in one movie before.   5/10

 

Source: YouTube.

 

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The Squaw Man (1931) - Director Cecil B. DeMille goes to this well for the third time, courtesy of MGM. Warner Baxter stars as English gentleman Jim Wingate. He's in love with Lady Diana Kerhill (Eleanor Boardman), only Diana is the wife of Jim's cousin Henry (Paul Cavanaugh). When Henry steals some pensioner funds, and the theft is discovered, Jim gets the blame. Instead of clearing his name, he heads to the US, where he changes his name and becomes a cattle rancher out West. His problems are just beginning though, as fiendish rival rancher Cash Hawkins (Charles Bickford) wants Jim's land, and local native girl Naturich (Lupe Velez) falls in love with Jim. Will Jim return her affection and risk being called a "squaw man" by the other townsfolk? Also featuring Roland Young, J. Farrell MacDonald, Raymond Hatton, Julia Faye, DeWitt Jennings, Mitchell Lewis, Victor Potel, Lilian Bond, and little Dickie Moore.

 

I'm not sure why DeMille was so enamored of this story, but the audiences of the day apparently weren't, as this proved to be a costly failure at the box office. Baxter, with his pencil mustache and greasy hair, doesn't sound or act British, nor does he seem to fit in the Western setting. Velez, as pretty as ever, and getting a titillating scene where she undresses before an embarrassed Baxter, also has professional-grade movie makeup in most scenes, which is not quite the look of a poor native woman. Most of the film isn't actively awful, really, just unexceptional.   6/10

 

Source: TCM.

 

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The Big Stampede (1932) - Silly B Western from Warner Brothers and director Tenny Wright. John Wayne stars as Marshall John Steele, a newly assigned lawman over the New Mexico territory. His job is to find out who is chasing away homesteaders and stealing their cattle. It soon becomes apparent that local ranch boss Sam Crew (Noah Beery Sr.) is behind it, and Steele must bring him to justice as well as protect local newcomers from Crew's cutthroat killer Arizona (Paul Hurst). Also featuring Mae Madison, Luis Alberni, Berton Churchill, Sherwood Bailey, Lafe McKee, Joseph Girard, Iron Eyes Cody, Glenn Strange, and Duke the horse.

 

With the juvenile script, meager plot, and cardboard cut-out characterizations, this must have been intended for young audiences. Wayne is still a bit green but showing more screen presence than in earlier efforts, and I liked the goofy character trait of Steele leaving little star symbols around to scare the bad guys. Otherwise, this is strictly routine.   5/10

 

Source: TCM.

 

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Haunted Gold (1932) - Stupid B-movie programmer from Warner Brothers/Four Stars and director Mack V. Wright. A motley assortment of characters show up in a ghost town when it appears that the local abandoned gold mine may still hold some treasure. Among them are white-hat John Mason (John Wayne) and his sidekick Clarence (Blue Washington); lovely damsel Janet Carter (Sheila Terry); and black-hat scoundrel Joe Ryan (Harry Woods). They all have to deal with the "Phantom", a ghostly figure that is said to haunt the town. Also featuring Erville Alderson, Otto Hoffman, Martha Mattox, Slim Whitaker, and Duke the horse.

 

Dumb even by 30's B-Western standards, this plays like a bad episode of Scooby-Doo. The racist caricature that Washington plays is also unfortunate (one character describes him as having a "watermelon accent"). Washington had been a Negro Leagues baseball player back in the teens. Leading lady Terry had a 5~ year career before the roles dried up. She died broke and of an apparent suicide 25 years after this film's release. This was a remake of a silent Ken Maynard Western, and even reused some footage.   3/10

 

Source: TCM.

 

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Somewhere in Sonora (1933) - Dopey B-western from Warner Brothers and director Mack V. Wright. John Wayne stars as John Bishop, the most accomplished ranch hand working for kindly old Bob Leadly (Henry B. Walthall). After Bishop is wrongfully accused of tampering with an opponent's wagon wheel in a rodeo stagecoach race (!), Leadly and his other men break Bishop out of jail. In return, Bishop heads south of the border to look for Bob's missing son Bart (Paul Fix), who is said to have fallen in with bandits led by the notorious Monte Black (J.P. McGowan). Also featuring Shirley Palmer, Ann Fay, Ralph Lewis, Frank Rice, Billy Franey, Glenn Strange, and Duke the horse.

This was the fifth western teaming Wayne with Duke the wonder horse, although Duke has less to do here. This entry also differs by being set in contemporary times: Palmer and Fay's characters arrive in town in a car, but by the time the story moves to Sonora there's nothing to differentiate this from any other western. I can't say that I've seen too many movies where Paul Fix is referred to as "boy", but here's one. Rice and Franey are obnoxious and annoying as comic relief characters. The awkward, clunky screenplay, coupled with a lack of any truly memorable action set-pieces, relegate this to the cinematic dustbin. This movie marked my 90th John Wayne film seen, though.  (4/10)

Source: TCM.

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You're a bit tough on the Duke's B westerns of the 30s, Larry! 

I didn't realise Paul Fix was making films way back then.

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33 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

You're a bit tough on the Duke's B westerns of the 30s, Larry! 

I didn't realise Paul Fix was making films way back then.

 I think these westerns were mainly for kids or people who didn't have a very high sense of taste in cinema. Since there was no television back then,  you could put anything on and people would show up. They certainly had double and triple features in those days.

The first time I remember seeing Paul Fix in the movies was in After the Thin Man, 1936. It certainly was a meaty role for him at that stage of his career, but everybody in that cast was good, particularly Jimmy Stewart.

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15 hours ago, TopBilled said:

You're a bit tough on the Duke's B westerns of the 30s, Larry! 

I didn't realise Paul Fix was making films way back then.

 

14 hours ago, Princess of Tap said:

 I think these westerns were mainly for kids or people who didn't have a very high sense of taste in cinema. Since there was no television back then,  you could put anything on and people would show up. They certainly had double and triple features in those days.

The first time I remember seeing Paul Fix in the movies was in After the Thin Man, 1936. It certainly was a meaty role for him at that stage of his career, but everybody in that cast was good, particularly Jimmy Stewart.

I have to agree with Princess, in that most of these 30's westerns were B pictures or kid matinee features made for less discerning tastes. I've seen several more and enjoyed a few, but none of them were great. Most of the enjoyment comes from the sidekicks and other actors and actresses getting their start (or on their way down, like several silent stars who show up). There are some quality westerns from the 1930's, but it wasn't until the 40's and 50's that they found their artistic peak, starting after 1939 with StagecoachDestry Rides Again, and Jesse James.

I looked up Paul Fix after watching that last movie, and discovered that he had been appearing movies since 1925! He was 32 when he appeared in Somewhere in Sonora.

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23 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

 

I have to agree with Princess, in that most of these 30's westerns were B pictures or kid matinee features made for less discerning tastes. I've seen several more and enjoyed a few, but none of them were great. Most of the enjoyment comes from the sidekicks and other actors and actresses getting their start (or on their way down, like several silent stars who show up). There are some quality westerns from the 1930's, but it wasn't until the 40's and 50's that they found their artistic peak, starting after 1939 with StagecoachDestry Rides Again, and Jesse James.

I looked up Paul Fix after watching that last movie, and discovered that he had been appearing movies since 1925! He was 32 when he appeared in Somewhere in Sonora.

I saw Paul Fix in an episode of Quincy from the early 80s (it was a small part where he played a murder victim) and I think it was one of his very last screen roles. He had a lengthy Hollywood career. Probably he's most remembered as lawman Micah Torrance on The Rifleman. He was at his best in the western genre.

As for westerns hitting their artistic peak-- I'd say that several tried before STAGECOACH. There was the 1931 version of CIMARRON which earned a Best Picture Oscar. And a year earlier Fox turned out the epic western THE BIG TRAIL which was filmed in 70 mm 'grandeur' widescreen. 

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Yeah, there were attempts, but they were the rare exception. Many of them, like The Big Trail, were expensive flops. I've noticed during this period that the public tastes changed quickly. The Broadway Melody won best picture in 1929 but musicals were considered box office poison by the end of 1930. Cimarron was a big hit and won awards, but there still wasn't a big push in quality westerns afterward. 

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21 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

Yeah, there were attempts, but they were the rare exception. Many of them, like The Big Trail, were expensive flops. I've noticed during this period that the public tastes changed quickly. The Broadway Melody won best picture in 1929 but musicals were considered box office poison by the end of 1930. Cimarron was a big hit and won awards, but there still wasn't a big push in quality westerns afterward. 

Though they had an awareness of different genres in the silent and talkie eras, my guess (and I could be wrong) is that everything fell under the umbrella term 'drama.' So THE BROADWAY MELODY was a musical drama and CIMARRON was a western drama and the next year the Oscar went to a different kind of drama, so there was on-going variety. But as the studio era progressed genres began to be marketed more specifically, and western dramas because they could be filmed mostly outdoors and filmed quickly fell into the B-film category. A lot of film noir fell into the B-film category too since many scenes could be shot quickly at night without costly studio set ups. So the economic side (the production model) determined how artistically they were made.

I do think STAGECOACH is over-referenced by critics because it has the John Ford auteur thing working in its favor. These same critics tend to ignore the fact westerns had been in vogue for a long time before 1939, conveniently forgetting to mention something that makes STAGECOACH exhilarating is how it uses elaborate stunt work-- the same kind of "artistry" that made westerns popular in the silent film days with stars like Tom Mix and William S. Hart. 

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9 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

I do think STAGECOACH is over-referenced by critics because it has the John Ford auteur thing working in its favor. These same critics tend to ignore the fact westerns had been in vogue for a long time before 1939, conveniently forgetting to mention something that makes STAGECOACH exhilarating is how it uses elaborate stunt work-- the same kind of "artistry" that made westerns popular in the silent film days with stars like Tom Mix and William S. Hart. 

I can't agree with some of this, but part of it is correct: there was nothing "new" in Stagecoach. But that was kind of the point. It was the distillation of all of Hollywood's western filmmaking past into archetypal form, from the characters to the settings to the stunts. Stagecoach is important because it helped legitimize westerns as something worth looking at again while at the same time respectfully acknowledging the past. And it established the western as a genre where a respected director like John Ford could express himself without appearing to be "slumming". It also helps to compare it and include it with those other two I mentioned: Destry Rides Again showed that westerns didn't have to stick to the usual B-movie formula that was repeated so often, and that comedy and musical elements could shine within the genre confines, while Jesse James ( and Warners' Dodge City) illustrated that westerns could succeed as glossy, full-color entertainments (both films ending up in the top ten box office for the year). So 1939 didn't start westerns, it just saw their rebirth.

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24 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

I can't agree with some of this, but part of it is correct: there was nothing "new" in Stagecoach. But that was kind of the point. It was the distillation of all of Hollywood's western filmmaking past into archetypal form, from the characters to the settings to the stunts. Stagecoach is important because it helped legitimize westerns as something worth looking at again while at the same time respectfully acknowledging the past. And it established the western as a genre where a respected director like John Ford could express himself without appearing to be "slumming". It also helps to compare it and include it with those other two I mentioned: Destry Rides Again showed that westerns didn't have to stick to the usual B-movie formula that was repeated so often, and that comedy and musical elements could shine within the genre confines, while Jesse James ( and Warners' Dodge City) illustrated that westerns could succeed as glossy, full-color entertainments (both films ending up in the top ten box office for the year). So 1939 didn't start westerns, it just saw their rebirth.

I'm glad you mentioned the Flynn and Power films. They sort of help "defuse" the position that STAGECOACH is a seminal work (to my way of thinking). We can step back and see these pictures as part of an overall industry trend during a particular year in Hollywood cinema. Personally, I think DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK is a much better film that Ford made during the same time period. Like JESSE JAMES, it was another glossy Technicolor drama from Fox that relied on historical elements to great effect.

Yet STAGECOACH has become so over-glorified in academia that you can't escape it. When I was in film school, I became very turned off to it. Unfair, I know. But it had been (and still is) a darling of the auteur theorists. I never bought into that whole approach to film, so it's "importance" is something I started to resent. And to prop it up even more, these same scholars posit that Wayne was not a star until this film appeared-- no, he'd already been a star with the matinee crowds.

I've never understood why one film has to rate above others when discussing a turning point within this genre. The truth is there were several very good westerns made/released in 1939. And my educated guess is there were probably western-ish films made at the end of the silent era (lost or else having fallen into obscurity) that distilled the elements of the genre in a way that STAGECOACH did. But they don't fit in with the Ford-loving auteur theorists who do not want to burn any midnight oil coming up with ways to champion or even mention them.

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25 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

I've never understood why one film has to rate above others when discussing a turning point within this genre. The truth is there were several very good westerns made/released in 1939. And my educated guess is there were probably western-ish films made at the end of the silent era (lost or else having fallen into obscurity) that distilled the elements of the genre in a way that STAGECOACH did. But they don't fit in with the Ford-loving auteur theorists who do not want to burn any midnight oil coming up with ways to champion or even mention them.

At least you admit that your antipathy is colored by your personal bias. There are a few "championed" movies that I also don't view favorably, but I realize that I'm in the minority, and I don't dismiss others' praise of them. If someone enjoys something, that's the hoped for result, and I try not to begrudge anyone their artistic pleasures.

And you make a good point about there being other, earlier milestones, but I don't think anyone said that there weren't (I know I didn't at least). I can point to 1929's The Virginian with Gary Cooper as an example, and its success helped prompt the making of The Big Trail and Cimarron in the following years.

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29 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

At least you admit that your antipathy is colored by your personal bias. There are a few "championed" movies that I also don't view favorably, but I realize that I'm in the minority, and I don't dismiss others' praise of them. If someone enjoys something, that's the hoped for result, and I try not to begrudge anyone their artistic pleasures.

And you make a good point about there being other, earlier milestones, but I don't think anyone said that there weren't (I know I didn't at least). I can point to 1929's The Virginian with Gary Cooper as an example, and it's success helped prompt the making of The Big Trail and Cimarron in the following years.

I don't begrudge anyone their artistic pleasures. But I do begrudge critics who act like there is only one pleasure, or an ultimate pleasure, neglecting almost everything else.

It's kind of like TCM's over promoting of certain household names. Of course I'm glad the channel is bringing certain stars, directors and films into people's lives. But there's more than this narrowly defined list of 'essential' classic films. That's why in the Essentials thread I created, 80% of the films I review are ones that will probably never air on TCM on Saturday nights. It's deliberate and conscious on my part, because the whole point is that there are other seminal works that co-exist alongside what has already been hyped and exploited a million times.

In fact it bothers me when I go to TCM's homepage and in the news section they keep pushing things about the same select group of Hollywood names. Their whole approach eschews diversity and gives a slanted view of Hollywood history, just like the auteur theorists.

You mentioned 1929's THE VIRGINIAN and I am glad you did. However, that film is probably used as an example by people because it has a household name in it (Gary Cooper). It either gets bumped up in status because of its director or its star. Instead of looking at it in a more historical sense. So while I have my biases, they might be reactionary, when I see the ongoing biases of film studies and film understanding as perpetuated by TCM or other such venues. We really have to "break away" from everything false in a star system with star films to see what is actually going on with the genres. If we break away from how we've been conditioned to see Hollywood cinema, we can arrive at a more-encompassing more truthful perspective about what is occurring on screen.

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7 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

You mentioned 1929's THE VIRGINIAN and I am glad you did. However, that film is probably used as an example by people because it has a household name in it (Gary Cooper). It either gets bumped up in status because of its director or its star. Instead of looking at it in a more historical sense.

It made Cooper a star, but that's not why I mentioned it. It was a big hit, and money talks in the movie business, as you know. And it was the first hit western that was also a talkie. 

And while this is getting far afield from the thread's topic, I agree with you about TCM's over reliance on the same stars. But as Jamesjazzguitar and others have pragmatically pointed out, TCM is a business, and they lean on what they feel are consistent draws to the general viewing public. It seems all media outlets have succumbed to being taste-panderers rather than taste-makers.

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7 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

It made Cooper a star, but that's not why I mentioned it. It was a big hit, and money talks in the movie business, as you know. And it was the first hit western that was also a talkie. 

And while this is getting far afield from the thread's topic, I agree with you about TCM's over reliance on the same stars. But as Jamesjazzguitar and others have pragmatically pointed out, TCM is a business, and they lean on what they feel are consistent draws to the general viewing public. It seems all media outlets have succumbed to being taste-panderers rather than taste-makers.

I'm glad you've been doing these more comprehensive surveys of classic film across genres. Your reviews will help others who stumble on to the site later. Especially those eager to find material that is deserving of their attention besides what TCM may be showing. 

So with this in mind I look forward to the next ones on your list, even if they are B films John Wayne made in 1930-whenever!

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The Man from Monterey (1933) - Short B-western from Warner Brothers and director Mack V. Wright. In 1848, Spanish land owners are losing their lands when the US government refuses to acknowledge the land grants given years before to the citizens. Some unscrupulous types are also using the upheaval as an opportunity to swindle others. Cavalry officer John Holmes (John Wayne) is sent to make sure that the land owners know that they have a chance to register their lands with the government, which upsets scheming bad guys Don Luis (Donald Reed) and Don Pablo (Francis Ford). Holmes tries to outwit them while also wooing local beauty Dolores (Ruth Hall). Featuring Luis Alberni, Nina Quartero, Lafe McKee, Lillian Leighton, Slim Whitaker, and Duke the horse.

This is a little better than many of the other Wayne/Duke movies, with an emphasis on character, and better costumes and sets. It's still pretty bad, though, with stilted acting and an uninspired script. Alberni gets a scene in drag.  (5/10)

Source: TCM.

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The Telegraph Trail (1933) - B-western from Warner Brothers/Four Star and director Tenny Wright. John Wayne stars as US Cavalry scout John Trent. When the last stretch of the new telegraph lines keep getting sabotaged by Indian attacks, Trent, along with comic relief buddy Corporal Tippy (Frank McHugh), is sent to put an end to it. He soon learns that the natives, led by fierce war chief High Wolf (Yakima Canutt), are in cahoots with the villainous Gus Lynch (Albert J. Smith) who is exploiting the "random" Indian attacks to become the sole transporter of goods to and from town. Trent also finds time to woo shopkeeper's niece Alice (Marceline Day). Also featuring Otis Harlan, Lafe McKee, Chief John Big Tree, Slim Whitaker, and Duke the Horse.

This was the last of the six John Wayne/Duke the Horse team-ups that I hadn't seen. I enjoyed this one more than many of the others, as it has a sharper script and better characters. I get a kick out of McHugh, and Canutt has one of his bigger roles as the tough native warrior. Some of the stunt work looks painful for the men and the horses.  (6/10)

Source: TCM.

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