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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Old-Fashioned Westerns On Last Round-Up


Hathaway All-Outdoors For Nevada Smith (1966)

L.A. Saturation Run
Probably a biggest western Henry Hathaway directed during the 60's, outside of How The West Was Won (and not forgetting True Grit), this is strangely ignored in surveys of both his output and outdoor shows of the time. Location stuff looks stringent. Did actors realize what they were letting selves in for? Arthur Kennedy, then in 50's, had to wade through swamp water, then sink face-up below muck. Others, in fact all others, suffer as much. I don't know when I've seen so many name players put to such physical discomfort. Hathaway was a known martinet, would not abide sissies or fraidy cats, so imagine him cussing a cast reluctant to go head first in mud. This may have been the last Truly Hard Man directing movies. That he wouldn't stand misbehavior from any star stood Hathaway in unique stead. He would literally fight an actor rather than give in to him. I might have assumed Hathaway would clash with Steve McQueen, but Marshall Terrill's McQueen bio says they got along, but only after HH read the "riot act" to his star. Nevada Smith would come at breakout point for McQueen as a truly giant star. From here, he'd be offered every worthwhile part for a lead man, virtually all others a second or less choice.


Nevada Smith is long, episodic, studded with character faces in and out as McQueen seeks revenge on a trio that killed his parents. Parts not shot in swamps were done at Lone Pine, by far a lion's share of the film set outdoors. Hathaway was one veteran who'd speed up rather than slow down with age. I doubt there was any elder helmsman that so consistently chose tough way of shooting, for which Nevada Smith, whatever its narrative burps, profits nicely. Story was prequel to The Carpetbaggers, being back story of Alan Ladd's character from the 1964 hit, also produced by Joseph E. Levine for Paramount release. This time with less emphasis on sex, Nevada Smith came among last of establishment westerns done in the face of Italo-game changers, men like Hathaway and Hal Wallis (frequent partners) standing tall for cowboys as traditional-known by US filmmakers. It took Sam Peckinpah and The Wild Bunch to truly break  stateside mold.

16 Comments:

Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Years ago I saw a triple bill of FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY and HANG 'EM HIGH. After the true grit of the Italian films the super clean buildings and mountains of Max Factor make-up proclaimed the epic falseness of every note of HANG 'EM HIGH. Too bad the Americans did not learn from the Italians. Now I will have to watch this.

7:52 AM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

Back in 1972, when I was exhibiting a combo of NEVADA SMITH and THE CARPETBAGGERS at my drive-in, some, no doubt, teens had some sadistic sport with my marquee, and my double feature became NEVADA SHIT and THE CARPETBAGGERS.

10:02 AM  
Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

Mike Cline, if only I had the chance to deface your marquee in 1972. But propriety prevents me from saying what I could have done with "THE CARPETBAGGERS"!

I need to see this one again.

12:53 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

"It's good taste not bad taste which is the enemy," said Dali and Picasso. I am with them. Please don't let propriety stand in the way Stinky.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

Reg Hartt, Dali and Picasso? That is one comedy team with which I am not familiar, but I respectfully disagree. And if my mom caught me talkin' like that, she'd tan my hide!

One of my favorite Dean Martin performances is Smiley Burnette's "Hominy Grits". Love it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sODb1Fr5K8E

6:41 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Henri Langlois said the same thing about good taste. Our moms tanning our hides is what it's all about. Means we grew up.

"An art form requires genius. People of genius are always troublemakers, meaning they start from scratch, demolish accepted norms and rebuild a new world. The problem with cinema today is the dearth of troublemakers. There's not a rabble-rouser in sight. There was still one, but he went beyond troublemaker to court jester. He clobbered the status quo. That's Godard. We're fresh out of "bad students." You'll find students masquerading as bad ones, but you won't find the real article, because a genuine bad student upends everything."--Henri Langlois.

My father spared not the rod. I wanted to end it without hitting him back as I knew I'd become what I hated if I did that. At 13 I discovered the power of laughter. I engineered the biggest spare not the rod session my poor father ever gave me. Just before the rod struck I started to laugh. It struck and struck and struck until finally, exhausted, it could strike no more. I had felt no pain. I had not a mark on my body. More importantly, my father never did that again. I had whipped him completely and thoroughly without becoming what I hated. Been using the power of laughter ever since.

Here's Smiley Burnette's singing "Hominy Grits."

6:56 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dali and Picasso replaced Mitchell and Petrillo at the Parnassus Bowl-a-Rama in March 1953. Reviews were not positive - but the weather was bad that month and that could have affected reviews.
Interestingly, during the Mitchell and Petrillo engagement Jerry Lewis, disguised as Julius Kelp, attended a 2am show with an undercover recording device. He was collecting evidence for his lawsuit. I hear he didn't use the recording for his lawsuit but instead used the material in his act for the next 50 years. I heard Sammy was furious.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Smiley Burnette "Hominy Grits" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISOWBCxVw4E

9:16 AM  
Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

Thank you, M. Langlois. The genius of Stinky Fitzwizzle has finally been recognized. About time!

Watched NEVADA SMITH on the Netflix last night. A little too long, but better than I remembered. Funny how I had forgotten the prison and swamp scenes, since they take up a pretty good chunk of the movie.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Petrillo could and did copy Lewis and he did that effectively as some of the Chaplin imitators did. Chaplin and Lewis, however, were and are originals able to surprise us with tremendous creative leaps. Copies can't do that. Stinky, I guess I'm going to have to figure out what you could have done with THE CARPETBAGGERS as you don't want to upset your mother.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

Reg Hartt, luckily my mom does not read my blog, so check out the comment section in my latest post. https://stinkworld.blogspot.com/

2:33 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Just now watched NEVADA SMITH. Hathaway knew his stuff. A1 all the way. The stuff in the swamp is not long at all. Love the weathered look to the buildings inside and out. Real air of authenticity.Would not have looked at it if you had not written about. Thanks. ran it on the big screen. Got the full epic feel of it.

4:29 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I guess that comment got deleted. Fun blog.

6:02 AM  
Blogger MikeD said...

After you watch 'Nevada Smith', watch 'True Grit' and 'North to Alaska' and see if you notice anything familiar.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

Loved Brian Keith in this movie, and the biggest compliment I can pay him is, in a role that would have been perfect for John Wayne, Keith is just as good.

Reg, the comment is still there, below the pic of Kay Starr.

11:17 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Craig Reardon remembers "Nevada Smith" from a 1966 theatrical viewing:


Hi John,

Really enjoyed your recent posts (listen, I always enjoy your posts, all of them...) on "Nevada Smith" and "Kiss of Death". "Nevada Smith" came out during the lowering curve of the days of drive-in, and that's where my family (what sociologists call the 'nuclear' family, i.e., my dad, mom, and brother and I, in my case) saw this. It taxes the viewer a bit with its length, and it was a bellwether of more sadism creeping in amongst and among the expected violence, formerly more restricted to fist fights and gun battles, in Westerns and in films in general. I remember being very creeped out by the three guys who torture and kill the title character's Indian mother at the beginning of the film. Nevada's track down and application of Hammurabi's Code of justice administered to one of them, a brilliantly repulsive performance by Martin Landau, carving out his guts with a kind of Bowie knife, was pretty unforgettable, and not in a pretty way. The film was, nevertheless, an "old fashioned Western" as you say via its old-fashioned but perfectly admirable bona fides of the old Paramount mountain at the beginning (and, I think before it was sullied by the subtitle 'A Gulf+Western Company', aptly parodied as 'Engulf and Devour' in Mel Brooks's "Silent Movie"), and it had a terrific score by the hugely accomplished Alfred Newman, which was equally adept at evoking the Western mythologies we all paid a kind of tribute to in going to see films like this, plus sensitively supporting episodes of rare tenderness and compassion in the movie, which if anything was Newman's greatest gift (e.g., the relationship between McQueen's character and Suzanne Pleshette's. I LOVED Pleshette and always wished I could meet her, but that never came close to happening.) A bit off topic, but, my wife and I giggled when we were on a tour bus during our vacation around the Mediterranean rim, and saw a drive-in movie theater, apparently abandoned, in a small town in Greece! I'd always imagined the phenomenon was limited to the U.S., but this was proof otherwise. I wish I'd been alert enough to grab a photo out the window.

12:53 PM  

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