Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '56 - Laura G ""

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Underrated '56 - Laura G

If you weren't already aware, Laura runs the wonderful blog Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, which is a must for any classic film fans:
She can be found on Twitter here:

STRANGER AT MY DOOR (William Witney, 1956)
I just saw this Western for the first time at the Lone Pine Film Festival, and it made quite an impression. It's the story of Clay (Skip Homeier), a bank robber on the run who finds himself hiding out at a farm owned by a minister (Macdonald Carey). The minister quickly deduces Clay's identity and hopes he can break through to the younger man with Christian kindness. As time passes, Clay forms an attachment to the minister's son (Stephen Wootton); meanwhile the minister's young second wife (Patricia Medina) is simultaneously thrilled, terrified, and guilty about the attraction she feels toward Clay, despite a loving relationship with her husband. This bare bones description really doesn't do the film justice; its centerpiece is an unforgettable, nightmarish sequence when a wild horse tears up the farm. My only complaint is that I was left wanting a longer movie, as it was so interesting and I was left with unanswered questions about the characters and their relationships. It's a thought-provoking film with a moving ending.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray from Olive Films.
Amazon Button (via

FULL OF LIFE (Richard Quine, 1956)
FULL OF LIFE is a warm, funny, and touching film about a happily married couple about to have their first child. Nick (Richard Conte) and Emily (Judy Holliday) have a highly functional marriage which is delightful to watch. Over the course of this gentle movie, Nick repairs his relationship with his father (Salvatore Baccaloni) and finds his way back to church, which he realizes he'd stopped attending as an act of rebellion against his father. Holliday plays a sunny-natured, intelligent woman who is well matched with her introspective writer husband; those who know Conte from his tough guy roles will enjoy seeing him in a very different role as the supportive husband. The depiction of pregnancy is refreshingly realistic (mostly) for entertainment of the era.

Available on DVD from Sony.
Amazon Button (via

SHOWDOWN AT ABILENE (Charles Haas, 1956)
I'm echoing my pal Jerry Entract in recommending this movie, which I described at my blog as a "darn good Western." Jock Mahoney plays Jim Trask, a Civil War veteran who returns home to discover his sweetheart (Martha Hyer), believing him dead, is now engaged to his friend Dave (Lyle Bettger). Jim takes his old job as sheriff, despite being unable to fire a gun due to a "friendly fire" incident in the war. It's a well-written film with strong acting by the leads; Bettger brings a bit of heartbreak to the villain, and there's also a nice part for David Janssen as Jim's deputy, whose loyalties are initially ambiguous. Mahoney's longtime experience as a stuntman is very much apparent as he takes flying leaps on a couple of occasions!

Not available on DVD in the U.S.

NIGHTFALL (Jacques Tourneur, 1956)
One of my favorite discoveries of 2013, I'm slipping this into the list thanks to its 1956 release in the UK; the U.S. release followed in January 1957. Like Tourneur's OUT OF THE PAST (1947), NIGHTFALL was filmed in my favorite little town in the Sierras, Bridgeport, California. (In fact, the murder early in NIGHTFALL was filmed just steps from where Robert Mitchum is fishing at the start of OUT OF THE PAST.) Aldo Ray plays a man caught in a nightmare, as some very bad guys (headed by Brian Keith) believe he has a missing bag containing $350,000. He ends up on the run with Anne Bancroft, with a mysterious man (James Gregory) following along. Besides the terrific Sierra scenes, there are also some interesting Los Angeles locations. There's an excellent screenplay by Sterling Silliphant which slides easily back and forth in time, juxtaposing romance and humor with brutal violence. A very underrated and enjoyable film.

Available on DVD from Sony.
Amazon Button (via

THE LAST WAGON (Delmer Daves, 1956)
Richard Widmark is terrific starring as Comanche Todd, who has lived with Indians most of his life. After being unjustly arrested for murder, the wagon train escorting him to trial is raided and he finds himself using his unusual know-how to save the lives of a half-dozen teenage survivors of the attack. Many of the younger people are wary or insulting to Comanche due to his Indian connection and his status as a prisoner, yet as they travel to safety all learn important life lessons, and the oldest survivor, Jenny (Felicia Farr), falls in love with Comanche. The film has gorgeous scenic vistas filmed in Sedona, Arizona, and a lovely score by Lionel Newman.

Available on DVD from 20th Century-Fox.
Amazon Button (via


Anonymous said...

Solid choices there, Laura, some of which I'm more familiar with than others. I'm delighted to see Th Last Wagon in the mix as I feel Daves needs to be celebrated more.
I also approve wholeheartedly of Nightfall, a super little movie.


Jerry Entract said...

Terrific choices here, Laura, just as expected from you!

Great minds etc....Fun that we both chose "SHOWDOWN AT ABILENE" which I think says a lot about the enjoyment of this movie.

I only discovered "STRANGER AT MY DOOR" myself in recent months and found the movie quite affecting. Witney's handling of the horse outbreak is thpically well-handled and Homeier has a stand-out role here.

Not aware of the Conte-Holliday film but it sounds a delight. And if I have seen "NIGHTFALL" it is so long ago I remember nothing. I must get this!!

I wish I had thought to include one film from the great Delmer Daves. Congrats for selecting "THE LAST WAGON". A terrific wsstern.

Hal said...

All great choices. I'm also partial to Judy Holliday's SOLID GOLD CADILLAC from the same year.

Laura said...

Thanks, Colin! I agree with both you and Jerry, Daves did a lot of great work, I'm glad I could highlight one of his movies. Glad to know you are a NIGHTFALL fan also, Colin -- Jerry, I'm sure you'll love it! So much great stuff in it.

I agree about SHOWDOWN AT ABILENE, Jerry, it's just good old-fashioned entertainment. I really need to see more Jock Mahoney! Glad to know you also enjoyed THE LAST WAGON.

Affecting is a good word to describe STRANGER AT MY DOOR. A memorable film. I think you would enjoy FULL OF LIFE -- if you get a chance to see it, please let me know what you think.

Best wishes,

Kristina said...

Seen and love those last 2, and love the variety of titles you have. SHOWDOWN AT ABILENE showing up here so highly praised, I'll watch asap, and your raves about STRANGER AT MY DOOR has me very curious!! These Underrated series should be called "as the watch list grows...."

Laura said...

Thanks, Hal! I haven't seen SOLID GOLD CADILLAC yet but have it in a set, thanks for the recommendation!

I agree, Kristina, I actually wrote down titles from you and others as a reminder to watch some of them soon! Hope you'll enjoy the ones you haven't seen yet, I'll look forward to your opinions -- and great to know you love a couple of them also. :)

Best wishes,

john k said...

Great choices from a very choice year!
I too am delighted that you have picked THE LAST WAGON.
I agree with Colin that Daves needs more attention but with
such great films as THE LAST WAGON,COWBOY and 3.10 TO YUMA on
Blu Ray it's wonderful to see more and more of his films being
released in high definition.
Toby has announced that the lovely BROKEN ARROW will be released on
Blu Ray in 2017 so that's great.
Now if only,dear Laura, you can persuade your pals at Warner Archive to
release the scenically splendid DRUM BEAT on Blu Ray-that would be wonderful.

Laura said...

Thanks, John! Glad to hear from another LAST WAGON fan! Daves really had an excellent career. I'm still waiting for Warner Archive to release my favorite Daves film, THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944) with Dennis Morgan, Eleanor Parker, and Dane Clark.

It's interesting to see which films the Archive picks for Blu-ray release -- would sure love to see more Westerns in the mix! SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON was one of their greatest releases ever.

Best wishes,

Silver Screenings said...

Some terrific titles here, all of which are new to me. *hangs head in shame*

I think I need to see "The Last Wagon" ASAP, judging by the enthusiastic comments. :)