B-Western Trivia

October 29, 2009

Bobby Copeland has a new B-Western Trivia site!

He features interesting information in sections like “On This Date” and “Headlines From The Past.”  He also presents a daily trivia question like this one from October 27th:

Which horse (Trigger or Champion) appeared in the most movies?

Want to know the answer?  Check out Bobby’s site here.

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Charles with Raider

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Acting.

“Along Came Love”

October 6, 2009

At last!  A “new” Charles Starrett film!  (Thank you, Alpha Home Entertainment.)

It’s a pretty interesting one, at least from the perspective of Charles’ career.   “Along Came Love” was released by Paramount in 1936.   I suspect it was made the year before.  Charles began making cowboy pictures for Columbia in 1935, and was under contract with that studio for the rest of his career.  If I am correct, “Along Came Love” may be the last film Charles made before signing with Columbia.  And the last film where he doesn’t appear in a saddle.

Fittingly, his role is a mash-up of a number of types that Charles had been playing during the previous five years and 30-odd films.   He’s the educated nerd of “Make A Million.”  He’s also the young romantic from “Lady and Gent.”  There’s a dash of the well-dressed suitor of “Desirable.”  Even some of the refined fella in “Royal Family Of Broadway.”   And plenty of the fit hunk of “Fast And Loose” and “Jungle Bride.”

The film is helmed by Bert Lytell, an actor who played another long-time Columbia staple, The Lone Wolf.  This would be his sole directorial venture.  It is based upon a play by Austin Strong, whose “Seventh Heaven” was the basis for Frank Borzage’s classic 1927 film.

Irene Hervey plays Emmy Grant, a shop-girl and a dreamer.  This gal is fun.   She really charmed my wife.  Charles had worked with her a few years before, in “Three On A Honeymoon.”  She’s also Jack Jones’ mother, the singer of “Love Boat Theme” and, my favorite, “Indestructible.”

Emmy visits a planetarium and falls in love with the sketch of a Greek warrior they superimpose over the constellation Orion.  The next day, she slips and falls on a rain-wet street and looks up to see…

Along came love 2

It’s the spitting image of the sketch.  It’s the doorman at the Palace Theater.  It’s Charles Starrett.

Along came love 4

His name is even Orion.  Well, it’s actually John O’Ryan.  And he’s actually a pediatrician working his way through med school.  He’s far too serious, lectures strangers about baby care, and keeps a regimented schedule for everything he does.  He’s a real nerd, albeit an athletic one — he jumps rope and jogs stiffly, changes from a muscle-T to a V-neck sweater.  But then he falls for the gal.  “Gee, it’s good to laugh, it’s like opening windows and letting in the fresh air.”

More of this — Emmy: “Are you happy, darling?”  John: “Does a fella sit in the dark corner of a park with a girl lisping lily talk because he’s sad?”

Despite his love-struck nerdiness, he looks great in a tuxedo, and swaps cocktail chatter like a pro.

50 of the 63 minute running time is spent on this happy romance.  Conflict only appears in the final act, which seems like it’s missing a reel, or that significant scenes were cut for time.  In short order, Emmy’s mom gets arrested in a raid on a burlesque house, Emmy fears the scandal will ruin John’s career, it seems like the romance is finished, but they figure things out real quick.

Reconciliation!  Marriage! A Kaleidoscopic shot of the couple on an escalator!  Fade out!  The end!

An interesting post-script — Irene Franklin, who plays Emmy’s mother Goldie, sings a song at the burlesque house before her arrest.  The title?  “I’m The Gal The Lonesome Cowboy Left Behind.”

The rumor that “Law of the Northwest” would be playing on TCM this month has turned out to be false.   Alas.  In place of a review of that “lost” Durango Kid film, I present another mind-bending (time-wasting?) chapter in the saga of my attempt to discover what the other B-Western stars were doing in 1935, the year that Charles Starrett began his cowboy star career.

Tom Tyler was chasing the “Phantom of the Range” in this Victory Pictures production.

Courtesy of the Lone Pine Museum

The titular character wears a white slicker and pretends to be a ghost, riding around at night to keep snooping eyes from discovering what the bad guys are up to at old Hiram Moore’s place.  They are looking for the dead coot’s buried treasure.  Moore’s pretty daughter catches Tom’s eye, so he buys the estate and they join the search for the loot.  The plot features an auction, a map in an old painting, some fights and some riding.  Tom has his own sidekick, a thin gay British Smiley, if you can picture that.

I enjoyed this film, but, boy is it a cheapo.  I’ve written before about poverty row, but this is so cheap.  A lot of the dialogue is ADR and some scenes are shot in weird panning close-ups, in the style of primitive sit-coms.   On the plus-side, it features some great locations in Lone Pine, and the like-able characters are actually very like-able.

I had a realization watching this film that is a testament to how little I knew about the B-Western genre when I began this project.  It’s amazing that it has taken this long for me to recognize that Charles, at least stacked up against his contemporaries, was a real cutey pie.

I mean, no one is going to mistake Hoot Gibson or Wild Bill Eliot for eye-candy.  Gene Autry has a goofy boy next door sort of look.  Tim McCoy and William S. Hart are odd.  Tom Mix has a good head of hair, as does Ken Maynard, but you wouldn’t call either of them matinee idols.

In fact, I can’t think of any other cowboy star of Charles’ day who started their career playing pretty boys (“Desirable” and “Royal Family of Broadway“) or hunks (“Fast and Loose” and “Jungle Bride“).  Can you imagine any of the others shirtless and being whipped by Myrna Loy as Charles was in “Mask of Fu Manchu“?  Johnny Mack Brown?  C’mon!

And then there’s Tom Tyler.

tom-tyler

Tom Tyler is an adequate cowboy hero in this picture, and he should be.  He had been playing variations on this role since 1926.  He’s thin and wears a broad black hat.  A handsome guy, but surprisingly ethnic for a cowboy star (Tom’s birth-name was Vincent Markowski and he was of Lithuanian descent.)  With his jet black, slicked back hair and long face, he seems more suited to playing thugs in organized crime movies.

He reminds me of Henry Silva.

henry-silva