Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '45 - Jerry Entract ""

Monday, November 16, 2015

Underrated '45 - Jerry Entract

Jerry Entract does not run his own blog or have any involvement in the film industry but is an English lifelongmovie fan and amateur student of classic cinema (American and British). Main passions are the western and detective/mystery/film noir. Enjoys seeking out lesser-known (even downright obscure) old movies.

1) “TWO O’CLOCK COURAGE” (1945) directed by Anthony Mann
STARS: Tom Conway, Ann Rutherford.
Some years before making his indelible mark with a series of classic westerns in the 1950s, Anthony Mann first made his name with some very fine films noir, made all the better by his use of cinematographer John Alton.
This was a film I had seen on TV years ago and really liked. Now available as a beautiful print courtesy Warner Archive it is a gem waiting to be discovered by those not already familiar.
Suave Tom Conway nearly gets hit by a cab driven by Ann Rutherford in the moody start. Turns out he is suffering from amnesia (a plot point used quite a bit at the time, though none better than by Mann). As he tries, with her at first reluctant help, to piece things together it becomes apparent he is a suspect in a murder.
Not really a ‘noir’ at all, this is a crime mystery drama with a light yet atmospheric touch. The cinematographer this time is Jack Mackenzie though Alton would not have been ashamed of it!
Really nice little (66mins) movie and recommended.

Readily available on DVD, as stated earlier, from Warner Archive via Amazon etc.

2) “WEST OF THE PECOS” (1945) directed by Edward Killy
STARS: Robert Mitchum, Barbara Hale, Richard Martin.
A remake of Zane Grey’s story as part of RKO’s series of Zane Grey westerns in the middle 40s. This was the second of the series and the second to star RobertMitchum who had just graduated from character roles in Hoppy westerns. It was because of his strong playing here that his career took off shortly after. As in several of the Grey series the sidekick was Chito Rafferty played by Richard Martin. Luckily for us he continued in the role right through the length of Tim Holt’s post-WW2 series.
The story hinges on Pecos and Chito’s meeting with an Eastern couple – father and daughter who initially passes herself off as a boy but is amusingly uncovered (well almost) by a boisterous and macho Mitchum. They become entangled in his troubles with vigilantes (led by Harry Woods) who are after him for killing Woods’ brother.
The screenplay was written by Norman Houston and the movie directed by Edward Killy, both regulars in the Holt series. Lovely location shooting by another regular, Harry J. Wild, in the Alabama Hills of Lone Pine CA.
Just a ‘B’ western really but, as always with those made by RKO, made carefully and with good production values. And apart from Mitchum and Martin we get Barbara Hale (never lovelier), Bill Williams (he and Hale met on set and were married) and the great Harry Woods.

Readily available on DVD as part of the Zane Grey series put out by Lions Gate. Very nice quality print.

3) “LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN” (1945) directed byJohn M. Stahl
STARS: Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde & Jeanne Crain.
This film is definitely a ‘film noir’ but instead of theb&w rainswept city streets the setting is the New Mexico desert and the Maine woods all shot in the glossy Technicolor of the time. The story is dark though against this sunny setting because the central character (Gene Tierney) is nutty as a fruitcake!
Tierney’s character was fixated on her late father and then meets Cornel Wilde who reminds her of daddy. She is so jealous of anything or anyone who might even hint at coming between them she is prepared to watch impassively as Wilde’s crippled brother drowns, purposely causes the abortion of her own baby, and even plots suicide which will be blamed on her own sister (Jeanne Crain) because she obviously loves Wilde too.
Screenplay was by Jo Swerling from a novel and the film directed by John M. Stahl, with the beautiful cinematography by Leon Shamroy.

Readily available as a DVD or BluRay via Fox Studio Classics.

Not to be missed!

4) “MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS” (1945) directed byJoseph H. Lewis
STARS: Nina Foch, Dame May Whitty, George Macready.
A top-quality ‘B’ movie from Columbia, this film is a ‘must’ for fans of classy ‘noir’ done in an interesting style by a director whose strengths included keeping to budget yet enhancing his films with unusual camera angles, thus giving them a more expensive look.
Joseph H. Lewis came up through the ranks directing some of the better films in series starring Bill Elliott and Johnny Mack Brown, again utilising unusual camera angles and crane shots even then. He is a director worthy of research and re-evaluation IMHO.
The story centres on Julia Ross (Nina Foch) who has been engaged as a private secretary by a rich old lady (Dame May Whitty). The old bird plans to drive her crazy so that she can be used to cover up a murder actually committed by her psychotic son (George Macready) .
Burnett Guffey comes up with some tasty shadowy shooting with his camera and Lewis directs with elan.

Sadly this minor classic is not available on DVD in the U.S. but only on a Spanish release that will not play on a standard US player.

5) “THE CHEROKEE FLASH” (1945) directed byThomas Carr
STARS: Sunset Carson, Linda Stirling, Tom London & Roy Barcroft.
I wonder how many readers out there today are familiar with Sunset Carson? He was speedily groomed by the great Republic Studios in 1944 to star in a new western series and they must have had high hopes for him as plenty of effort and talent was put into his initial films especially.
And he made a real splash, even beating King Of TheCowboys Roy Rogers for a while with the amount of fan mail received!
His reign was brief however and after 15 good films it was all over in 1946. Fondness for the sauce was probably the cause resulting in some indiscreet comments in public. He was out! Sunset would never have made an actor, it’s true, but as an action star he was tops, both in fist fights and on horseback, and boy! were his films action-packed.
The plot is unimportant in a sense though this one is particularly notable (and nice) in that Republic’s chief baddie Roy Barcroft here had a lead role as Sunset’s dad (and a good guy). A nice irony actually as Barcroft was known as one of the nicest guys on the lot.
Action-packed direction by Thomas Carr, who knew his business.

Unfortunately this film is not available on DVD commercially anywhere. Another example of the Republic mother lode that should be ‘out there’ but isn’t!


Anonymous said...

Very cool selection, Jerry. Two O'Clock Courage has a feel almost like what we would have got if Mann had directed a Falcon feature - it's fun.

And you've reminded me I really ought to track down West of the Pecos, one of those movies I've been meaning to see for years.


Laura said...

Jerry, I love this list! I've seen four out of five movies on the list and like them all -- TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE was almost on the list I submitted, and I only omitted it because I've written about it often. Really like that movie! Hope readers will check out the titles you've recommended.

The only title on your list I haven't seen was THE CHEROKEE FLASH. I've never seen a Sunset Carson film and was very interested in the info you shared here.

Best wishes,

john k said...

Jerry and only Jerry could choose a
Sunset Carson flick!
Very well done I might add.
Just think if Warner Archive owned the
Republic library (well a guy can dream
can't he) we would be treated with a
"Sunset Carson Western Collection"
in pristine quality.

Jerry E said...

Thanks, Colin, very grateful for your insight as always. I think you would find much to enjoy in the Mitchum flick, as well as the first one he did, "NEVADA". Superior B-westerns.

Many thanks for you great comments as always, Laura! I really like the fact that we were travelling along similar lines re our choices. I think the Sunset Carson film is the only one you are not familiar with. They are fun action westerns for when that sort of thing is just what you are seeking.

I knew you would like the Sunset Carson selection, John! Thanks for your comments also.