Friday, October 23, 2009

3 Godfathers

The music accompanying the opening credits was very familiar but I couldn't place it and it haunted me until later in 3 Godfathers when it was played again and the lyrics were included. Then I recognized it as the ballad Joan Hackett (Alice Banion in The Legacy of Charlie O'Rourke) sang but since she didn't sing the whole song, I never realized it was "The Streets of Laredo."

I searched the Internet hoping to find a clip of her singing the song but was not successful; however, I did find one of Johnny Cash singing all the verses and have included a link to it at the end of this entry. Burl Ives also sings the song but I couldn't find a video clip of him singing it online, though I did purchase it from iTunes. I quite like the song now!

As far as this 1948 movie (which is in color, by the way) goes, it's about three bank robbers--played by John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz, and Harry Carey, Jr.--who are chased by a posse through the desert. The youngest outlaw, known as the Abilene Kid and called Kid, has been shot. They have no water; encounter a sandstorm and try to find shelter; and when the storm abates, they discover that their horses have run off and they have to walk out of the desert. Of course, these scenes reminded me of Smiler with a Gun.

I was also reminded of Six Strangers at Apache Springs when the men reach a place called Apache Wells, where they thought they'd finally obtain water; unfortunately, circumstances prevented that and they had to resort to squeezing moisture out of barrel head cacti to survive. Which made me wonder why Heyes and Kid didn't do the same when they were in the desert. I won't relate any more of the plot except to say there is death in the desert in 3 Godfathers and that the symbolism of the story is pretty obvious.

Pedro Armendariz apparently was a very well-known Mexican actor of the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s and I wonder if Roy Huggins named Caesar Romero's character after him.

YouTube clip of Johnny Cash singing "Streets of Laredo":

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Since Stagecoach was filmed in 1939, I figured it wouldn't have any ASJ connections in it. The only reason I decided to watch it was because it's considered a classic Western. But as soon as I heard that raspy, twangy voice, I knew I'd been wrong. And right there, receiving third billing in the credits, just after Claire Trevor and John Wayne, was Andy Devine!

There's a reason this movie is considered a classic: the stock characters, the plot, the location--it's all there but elevated to a very level by the performances of the actors. Andy Devine plays a stagecoach driver who, although of course much younger than the character he played in ASJ (the sheriff in The Men That Corrupted Hadleyburg)--he is thinner and has dark hair, which is obvious even though the movie is in black and white--is still clearly recognizable.

The group of passengers he is carrying includes a crooked banker, a Southern gambler, a drunken doctor, a meek liquor salesman, a "tart with a heart" (as a writer friend of mine once said and which I, in the true spirit of ASJ, shamelessly recycle here), a lady too sophisticated to talk to the other woman, a marshal, and a pretty good bad guy. As the group travels to its destination, various encounters and adventures occur until, after they have finally arrived, there is a climactic scene in the middle of the town street with a bad guy named Plummer (another ASJ connection).

The accompanying audio commentary by Scott Eyman, a film historian who also assisted Robert Wagner with his autobiography (which I recently read, before I was aware of his work in the Western genre), is very useful in situating Stagecoach in the context of its time and among other Westerns. The background information he provides about how John Ford, the director, worked with John Wayne in the role that made him a star, is not to be skipped. At 100 minutes it's a long movie, for a Western, but one I highly recommend.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ten Wanted Men

The best thing about this 1955 movie is the cinematography. I have developed a great appreciation for movies shot in Technicolor, as Ten Wanted Men was; the scenery here looks gorgeous.

As for the rest of the movie, well, the title doesn't make sense; the dialog is mostly melodramatic; and there are noticeable bloopers. Like, in a climactic shootout between Randolph Scott the hero and Richard Boone the bad guy, there is the sound of a gunshot but it's clear the gun in the actor's hand was never fired. It's a silly film but at only 80 minutes, it's fun to see the plethora of movie Western cliches in it.

Although there aren't any real ASJ connections in Ten Wanted Men, as I watched it I was reminded of several scenes in various episodes of the TV show. First, the name of the bad guy wasn't clear to me--it sounded like "Weed" or even "Wheat" so of course I was reminded of the scene in The Biggest Game in the West when the sheriff questions Heyes about the outlaws after the poker game has been robbed. Turns out the character's name in the movie is "Wick" but no matter. The bad guy also wears a vest with a string that ties both sides together, which resembled one of Roger Davis' Heyes' costumes. It looked silly here, too. At one point, one of the female characters says something about a man making love to her. It was same comment Louise made in Everything Else You Can Steal and clearly indicated the same thing; that phrase must have had a different meaning back then.

Besides all the beautiful saguaro--it's obvious the movie was filmed on location in Arizona--it was interesting to see close-ups of period handcuffs and leg irons. One of the characters is arrested and the sheriff puts those manacles on him. As a fanfic writer, it was useful to see how a person looked and moved when shackled like that.

For information about and pictures of saguaro:
(From the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, on the outskirts of Tucson; speaking from personal experience, a great place to gain an appreciation of the desert), and
(Saguaro National Park, near Tucson)