Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Out west with Clint - no, not that one, the other one ...

Before Eastwood there was another Clint - Clint Walker, star of CHEYENNE tv series. We did not see those tv westerns in Ireland at the time, but luckily Clint has been preserved in a few late '50s westerns: FORT DOBBS, YELLOWSTONE KELLY and GOLD OF THE 7 SAINTS ... let's have a look at them (and I have just ordered his 1966 NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY with Martha Hyer).
First though some context: that late '50s period was that great time for westerns - not only on tv, but at the movies: 1956 - THE SEARCHERS; 1957 - 3.10 TO YUMA, GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL, NIGHT PASSAGE; 1958 - MAN OF THE WEST, THE BIG COUNTRY, COWBOY, THE LAW AND JAKE WADE; 1959 - RIO BRAVO, THE HANGING TREE, WARLOCK, THESE THOUSAND HILLS; 1960 - THE UNFORGIVEN, NORTH TO ALASKA, 1961 - Brando's ONE EYED JACKS; 1962 - HOW THE WEST WAS WON, etc. after of course those great early '50s westerns like HIGH NOON, SHANE, JOHNNY GUITAR (the first movie I saw, aged 8 - as per other reports here), DRUMBEAT, WHITE FEATHER etc, and of course Ford with Wayne, James Stewart with Anthony Mann, Randolph Scott and Budd Boetticher - see Western label for more on these. Now lets mix in Clint, who while no Wayne or Cooper has an agreeable Western presence, like Randolph Scott, or Dale Robertson or Guy Madison, and whose films while programmers are not without interest:

FORT DOBBS, 1958 – A pleasing, tense if minor western from that great era for oaters. I remember this as a kid, but didn’t get to see it then. Directed by the ever reliable Gordon Douglas (studio hack supreme) it casts man of few words Clint Walker as a wanted man on the run who stops to assist lone Virginia Mayo and cute kid Richard Eyer, as the Commanches attack their homestead. She thinks he killed her husband so tensions mount as they cross Indian territory – then Brian Keith and his guns turn up! The surprise here is that this is in black and white, when even routine westerns were in colour, but the monochrome is surprisingly effective. Walker removes his shirt to display that impressive physique, Eyer is as good as he was in FRIENDLY PERSUASION, but Mayo impresses the most – shorn of her usual glamour she delivers a compelling portrayal, particularly when she wakes and realises she is naked under her blanket and her wet clothes are drying (there's more than a few nods to RIVER OF NO RETURN here). The Indians of course are just faceless savages … its nicely worked out, there is no overt romance as such between the leads, its one western that delivers. I liked it almost as much as SEVEN MEN FROM NOW!

YELLOWSTONE KELLY - a discovery from 1959. I would have loved this as a kid - but its terrific now too. Like FORT DOBBS its also scripted by Burt Kennedy and captures the wide open spaces, and men in the wilderness, in vivid colour. The blurb says:
"Big man, big land, big adventure. Western fans get all three in YELLOWSTONE KELLY, a strife-torn saga of American soldiers and Sioux warriors in the days after Little Big Horn. Clint stars as a trapper and US military scout drawn into the conflict when he saves the life of a beautiful Arapaho girl (Andra Martin) held captive by the Sioux. She runs off, Kelly gives her shelter and all hell-for-leather breaks loose on the plains. Rich Technicolor photography provides the stunning backdrop for brawling, hoof-pounding frontier action delivered by two genre greats: director Gordon Douglas and screenwriter Burt Kennedy."
That ignores the other sub-plot featuring Ed Byrnes as the young guy who latches on to mainly silent Walker on the riverboat (its almost a pick-up scene), where he has been selling his pelts, and turning down an army request to join their side. Kelly declines to take Ed along with him, but the kid proves useful in a fight. Kelly survives on his mountain territory by keeping peace with the Indians but this will be no longer possible. Ed complete with his "Kookie" quiff joins Yellowstone at his mountain cabin out in the wildneress (but can neither cook nor make coffee) where the boys bunk down at night .... then the wounded Indian maiden joins them - she wants to rejoin her own people so works on Ed to get him to let her go .... Then the Indians, led by wicked Ray Danton attack - while the U.S, Cavalry are also heading into a trap. This is all nicely worked out in 90 minutes and is a terrific treat now.   Another IMDB comment says:
"Arguably the movie's most interesting feature is the way the relationship between Kelly (Walker) and Anse (Byrnes) is handled. Now, if the masterly muscular Kelly is added, on one hand, to the submissive pretty-boy Anse, on the other, the sum is two iconic stereotypes of the gay community. Of course, production could have plunked a hat on Byrnes like everyone else and lessened his looks. But that would have outraged fans of the teen idol whose trademark had become a comb. So, the visual earmarks remain. At the same time, the screenplay puts this suggestive two-some into a wilderness cabin for the winter, where the big-hair half does womanly duties like cooking and cleaning, while the macho trapper brings home the bacon. So, together you've got an unmistakable situation for perceptive 50's audiences that putting a woman into the mix doesn't erase. Plus, these visual hints are compounded with the homoerotic bed scene. My point is that toying with this taboo could not have been lost on the filmmakers, causing me, at least, to wonder what their reasoning was. After all, the Western is about the most macho of all movie genres".
(For UK viewers, YELLOWSTONE KELLY is screened by BBC2 on Saturday 21 September, 8.40 am.)

GOLD OF THE SEVEN SAINTS is the most amusing of the three - another black and white 'Warnerscope' western, but its almost a comedy. Clint's sidekick here is a young Roger Moore with a grating Irish accent which quickly becomes tiresome. The boys have struck gold and after Moore foolishly giving a nugget for a horse in town, they are followed by several types after the gold, as they hole up out in the desert, and at Mexican Robert Middleton's hacienda ..... here Leticia Roman (the only female in the cast) gets to scrub Client in those large tubs, while Roger looks on longingly - though whether at Clint or Leticia remains open to question. Neat ending too with our two guys heading off together, they have lost the gold, but they can get some more, and they seem happy together. Clint refers to Roger as his partner, and admits to Chill Wills that after 3 years together they get on very well ....

Poseidon-3 (of that terrific blog POSEIDON'S UNDERWORD) says of it, over at IMDB:
Rog & Clint scrub up 
while Letitia holds the soap
"the movie is rife with homoerotic images and subtext ...The pair have a sort of Batman and Robin dynamic ... The one major drawback to the film is its lack of color. The striking scenery and Walker's polar blue eyes deserved to be shot in vivid Technicolor. This was director Douglas' third time at bat with Walker, so he knew the value of Walker's treasure chest. Did Walker realize his own appeal and understand the way he was being presented? His gentle, "aw shucks" personality in interviews would suggest not. Thank God, however, that he exists on celluloid for later generations to appreciate."

Clint was 6' 6" with that massive 48" chest, which he regularly displayed. His man of few words persona is a western icon akin to that other Clint's. He also had a fun role in Rock & Doris's SEND ME NO FLOWERS, and other dramatic roles in movies like Sinatra's NONE BUT THE BRAVE and THE DIRTY DOZEN. He was also a captain in DeMille's THE 10 COMMANDMENTS - we will have to look for him next time we see it! In his mid-80s now, more on Clint at 

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