John Ford’s Up the River

If someone used the expression “up the river” in the early part of the 20th century, they usually weren’t referring to a location or direction; they meant prison time for some fool. Although there is nothing funny about going to jail, director John Ford decided to take a lighthearted approach to the topic in Up the River (1930), one of his earliest sound features.    Continue reading

Carole Lombard: Shady Lady

Prior to her breakout role opposite John Barrymore in the screwball comedy Twentieth Century (1934), Carole Lombard was a struggling young contract player at Paramount Pictures where her talent was often squandered in mediocre projects and B-pictures like It Pays to Advertise (1931), No One Man (1932) and Supernatural (1933). There were exceptions, of course, and one of the better examples is Virtue (1932), which confirms Lombard’s promise as an actress in her pre-stardom years.   Continue reading

Nicholas Ray’s Gender Bender Western

In the fifties, the Western genre experienced a revitalization that saw new approaches to the form – everything from a film noir interpretation like The Furies (1950) to a psychological thriller like High Noon (1952) to a promotional gimmick like the 3-D Western, Hondo (1953). However, it’s safe to say that Johnny Guitar (1954), Nicholas Ray’s bold experiment with color, role reversal, stylized sets, and operatic emotions is a one of a kind masterpiece that will never be repeated.   Continue reading

A Western Greek Tragedy

By the 1950s, the popularity of the Western genre was in decline and Hollywood studios tried to revitalize the once box office proof formula by trying everything from Technicolor and Cinemascope visual enhancements to hybrid novelties such as 1954’s Red Garters (a musical with stylized sets) and 1959’s Curse of the Undead (featuring a vampire gunslinger) to topical approaches that reflected a growing interest in psychology such as The Furies [1950] and High Noon [1952]. Into the latter category falls The Halliday Brand [1957], one of the more intense but least well known of the adult Westerns being produced in that era.  Continue reading