The Republic for Which They Stand

I wouldn’t base my case for the importance of George Sherman on the series of Three Mesquiteer westerns he directed for Republic early in his career, but it’s a big surprise and a tremendous pleasure to find four of them popping up in pristine Blu-ray transfers from Olive Films. Olive is being a bit less than generous in pricing these hour-long films at $24.99 each ($19.95 on DVD), butfor those of us accustomed to seeing Republic films in smeary, edited-for-television dupes, they do look remarkably good (and they seem to be intact). All four star John Wayne during his brief tenure as Stony Brooke, the chief Mesquiteer (he replaced Robert Livingston in the part, and Livingston would replace Wayne in turn when Wayne’s career took off thanks to “Stagecoach”) and co-star Ray Corrigan as the fallible friend Tuscson Smith and Max Terhune as the comic relief coot, Lullaby Johnson. (Terhune, a former vaudeville ventriloquist, breaks out his wooden sidekick Elmer at least once in every film; Elmer, I am happy to report, is now living in serene retirement in a display case at the Autry Center of the American West in Los Angeles, in case you’d like to visit him next time you’re in the neighborhood.)

Like the great majority of 1930s B Westerns, these four films are much more reflective of Depression America than they are of the Old West, with the Mesquiteers often functioning as federally appointed agents sent in to curb the excessive free-market zeal of various corrupt bankers, businessmen and politicians. Three of the films in this collection — “Overland Stage Raiders,” “Red River Range” and “Three Texas Steers” — take place in within the magical metaphysical zone of the B western, where elements of the past and present intermingle. But the only film set firmly in the past, the 1939 “The Night Riders,” is also the one that most directly addresses current events, with the Mesquiteers taking on a con man who, with the help of some phony land grant papers, has set himself up as the “dictator” of an entire state. Unfortunately — or actually, kind of fascinatingly — the film’s anti-fascist message suffers from some odd iconographical drift toward the right, when the boys put on Klan-like hooded robes to battle the dictator and his black-shirted private army. Further impressions here, in the New York Times.

89 comments to The Republic for Which They Stand

  • X raises an interesting point. Much of what interest exists today in Lew Landers centers on his horror films, such as “The Raven” and “The Mask of Dijon”. I’ve never seen these (I know nothing about horror as a genre). If it were better distributed, “Murder in Times Square” about a serial killer who seems to strike through a poisonous snake and curses, might also attract interest. This is a favorite of Bill Krohn’s. I like “Murder in Times Square” due to its mystery elements. This script is partly by great mystery writer Stuart Palmer, and shows his gift for Howdunit mysteries (plot in which the very manner in which the crimes are committed is a mystery).

    Similarly, much of the interest Joseph H. Lewis is attracting today seems to center on his rare horror outings: his B-movies INVISIBLE GHOST and THE MAD DOCTOR OF MARKET STREET, and his RIFLEMAN episodes WASTE, AND THE DEVIL MAKES FIVE and FLOWERS BY THE DOOR. I agree INVISIBLE GHOST is terrific. By the way, this Bela Lugosi film has no ghosts: it’s a tale of a serial killer. Once again, I tend to think of it as a “crime film”: a deep interest of mine!

    Dave Kehr talked in one of his video appearances recently about how the horror-fantasy fans are the center of the DVD market. This group is perhaps the strongest element of interest in pre-1970 films.

  • Literary reflections:
    UNDER THE TONTO RIM is a 1926 Western novel by Zane Grey. It has been filmed several time, including a 1933 Henry Hathaway version (Haven’t seen this).
    My favorite Zane film is THE VANISHING AMERICAN (George B. Seitz, 1925) a silent with Richard Dix. This novel looks at the Navajo and is a roman a clef about the great athlete Jim Thorpe. Didn’t like RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE (Frank Lloyd, 1925) with Tom Mix. Great titles all!

    Lew Landers’ TWELVE CROWDED HOURS has a script by the man who wrote his pulp magazine fiction as Paul Cain and his scripts as Peter Ruric. Paul Cain has been well-known and admired in the mystery community for decades: I read his FAST ONE in 1980. But he is just now being discovered and taken up by the literati, as their big New Thing. Talk about slow learners!

    I wept and wailed here some time ago, about my college lit prof who promoted Ezra Pound as the Great Poet of Our Times. The same guy relentless pushed Wallace Stevens. I found Ezra Pound’s politics offensive and his poetry ugly, thought Hart Crane’s verse was incomprehensible, and think Wallace Stevens is maybe the dullest writer in the Literary Canon. 50 years later, these writers are still canonical. Harold Bloom is pushing them all. And the free on-line course from Yale on Modern Poetry treats Pound & Co,. as great art. Nothing ever changes…

    IMHO, the most gifted poets in the Modernist style are Rimbaud, T.S. Eliot, WIlliam Carlos Williams, Melvin Tolson, and their later descendants Philip Lamantia and Allen Ginsberg.
    The recent film version of HOWL is terrific: one of the most inventive and technically unusual of recent films. Don’t miss!

  • dm494

    Frankly, Mike, I find your literary reflections infuriating and, to use one of your expressions, deeply anti-art. Imagine transposing your comments to film culture: I’m sure you would consider a person to be a total philistine and completely insensitive to visual style if he complained as follows: “Those film snobs keep promoting the same directors–My college film studies prof kept pushing Hitchcock and Ford as the Great Directors of Our Times…And look at those lists: Murnau, Ozu, Mizoguchi, Anthony Mann…Nothing ever changes…Why do they love those guys? I find Orson Welles’s films ugly, and Tarkovsky’s movies are incomprehensible, and I think that Dreyer/Rossellini/Antonioni/Costa/Naruse/Rivette/Tarr/Kiarostami/Barnet is maybe the dullest filmmaker in the Cinema Canon. IMHO the most gifted directors in the Classical style are W.S. Van Dyke, Daniel Mann, and Delmer Daves. When are the slow-learning snobs going to come round and recognize that George Lucas is a great director?”

    Personally, I don’t have the highest opinion of Pound’s poetry (I think Edmund Wilson’s assessment of The Cantos was more or less accurate), but he was capable of writing beautiful things, and he was valuable as an innovator and an example to other poets, as well as for his ideas about literature. And while Crane is, I agree, often incomprehensible, so is one of his models, the Greek poet Pindar. And Aeschylus, whom you cited with approval recently, happens to be just as incomprehenible in his choral passages as Pindar is.

    I didn’t know there was a film version of HOWL. Maybe Michael Bay should make a version of Stevens’s THE ROCK.

  • Vivian

    What thou lovest well remains, the rest is dross.

    Discuss.

  • Alex

    Hugh Selwyn Mauberly (Part I)

    IV.

    These fought, in any case,
    and some believing, pro domo, in any case ..

    Some quick to arm,
    some for adventure,
    some from fear of weakness,
    some from fear of censure,
    some for love of slaughter, in imagination,
    learning later …

    some in fear, learning love of slaughter;
    Died some pro patria, non dulce non et decor” ..

    walked eye-deep in hell
    believing in old men’s lies, then unbelieving
    came home, home to a lie,
    home to many deceits,
    home to old lies and new infamy;

    usury age-old and age-thick
    and liars in public places.

    Daring as never before, wastage as never before.
    Young blood and high blood,
    Fair cheeks, and fine bodies;

    fortitude as never before

    frankness as never before,
    disillusions as never told in the old days,
    hysterias, trench confessions,
    laughter out of dead bellies.

    V.

    There died a myriad,
    And of the best, among them,
    For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
    For a botched civilization.

    Charm, smiling at the good mouth,
    Quick eyes gone under earth’s lid,…

    Canto 81

    ….

    What thou lovest well remains,
    the rest is dross
    What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee
    What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage
    Whose world, or mine or theirs
    or is it of none?
    First came the seen, then thus the palpable
    Elysium, though it were in the halls of hell,
    What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage
    What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee

    The ant’s a centaur in his dragon world.
    Pull down thy vanity , it is not man
    Made courage, or made order, or made grace,
    Pull down thy vanity , I say pull down.
    Learn of the green world what can be thy place
    In scaled invention or true artistry ,
    Pull down thy vanity ,
    Paquin pull down!
    The green casque has outdone your elegance .
    ‘Master thyself, then others shall thee beare’
    Pull down thy vanity….

  • Yikes!
    What do Dreyer/Rossellini/Antonioni/Naruse/Rivette/Tarr/Kiarostami/Barnet have to do with the techniques or content of Modernist poetry? A far as I can see, absolutely nothing. They come out of what used to be called the “art film” tradition: not the best name, but t’will do. They have the cultural prestige of Rimbaud, Eliot et al – but absolutely nothing else. The only film by these auteurs that seems even a bit close is THE MIRROR (Tarkovsky), and that is hardly close.

    The filmmakers directly inspired by Modernist verse are the American experimentalists of the “poetic documentary” school: Stan Brakhage, Bruce Baillie, Ron Rice, Gregory Markopoulos, and maybe Jonas Mekas (Mekas is a wonderful filmmaker, but he seems a bit further from Modernist poetry than the others). I’ve been beating the drums for these gifted filmmakers for 40 years. You can see the visible imprint of Modernist poetry techniques in films like DOG STAR MAN (Brakhage) and QUICK BILLY (Baillie).

    As best I can tell, I am the only contributor here at davekehr.com who regularly comments on these filmmakers. (My apologies if I’m forgetting somebody!) They are rarely out of my thoughts, or my heart. I was upset recently when they were frozen out of the Top 50 in the Sight and Sound poll.

    Pound admittedly supported many gifted young writers, and many older poets. This is dm’s argument about why we should speak nice about Pound. But ultimately his poetry has to stand or fall on its own merits. I think it’s ugly.

    I am admittedly not the best person to comment on Hart Crane, because his verse seems incomprehensible to me. But it does to dm too, and to countless other baffled critics over the last 80 years.

    I love the Greek Choral Ode writers Pindar and Bacchylides. Admittedly, Pindar is hard to unpack, due to the countless references to Greek mythology. Annotations help! Aeschylus seems second only to Shakespeare among playwrights. I never felt Aeschylus was hard to understand. Unfortunately, I am poor at languages, speak no Greek, and know these great writers only from translation. I treasure them all.

    HOWL (Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, 2010) is a remarkable film. It should be seen by everyone.

  • I’ve misread dm: his argument is not that Pound “supported” other poets, but that Pound was an innovator and influenced them. This is a valid point. My apologies.

    I remember how offended I was by Pound’s description of European civilization as “an old bitch gone in the teeth”. And yes, this seems like a really ugly line!

  • Frankly, I didn’t like being called anti-art because I dislike three of the hundreds of writers in the Canon.
    If people can’t discuss the Canon freely, how will it ever be improved?

    The enormous emphasis in schools on what IMHO are second rate examples of Modernism (Pound, Stevens) seems to be a mistake.
    Instead of teaching Ezra Pound and Wallace Stevens, wouldn’t it be better to teach Philip Lamantia’s TOUCH OF THE MARVELOUS and Melvin Tolson’s LIBRETTO FOR THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA? These are still living art. These poems might not be in Bloom’s Canon, but they are genuinely beautiful literature that can actually fire up young minds.
    I mentioned both of these writers in my post, but didn’t get any credit for doing so…

  • Barry Putterman

    See, that’s the problem when we veer off into low brow stuff like poetry, it always turns into a food fight.

    Mike, we offer you this laurel and hearty handshake plus five hundred frequent flyer miles for mentioning Tolson and Lamantia. But you didn’t provide a list of their poems with star ratings, so how are we to know which ones to read?

    To take issue with what appears in THE CANON is a serious matter and must be dealt with harshly. I know that I have never read anything by a writer who did not at least receive a Good Housekeeping Seal in one of my college courses. As Duane Johnson said in his film WALLACE STEVENS regarding The Canon; “people come, people go, nothing ever changes.”

    But then what joy it is to bring up this site and see a post from Vivian after such a long silence. I was running out of whole cloth explanations for Casey the cat’s questions regarding where she was.

  • Alex

    Mike Grost,

    What does it mean, beyond pure proclamation of preference,” to say that Pound’s poetry is “ugly?”

    I suspect this is an almost impossible question to answer as it’s most easily answer with examples and few prolific poets are without poetic creatios many will not like — but maybe you have something to say.probably best to use example of acclained Pound like Hugh Selwyn Mauberly, Cantos 36 and 81 and In a Station of the Metro.

    If you mean POUND himself or the Mussolina broadcasts or the Salo Cantos are ugly those seem to me other matters than “Pound”s poetry is ugly.” (would you repudiate HUNGER because Knut Hamsun was a quissling 50 years after its publication?Pound’s an “an old bitch gone in the teeth” seems to me most effectively in line with his response to WWIin the heartbreaking and irreversibly cannonical HSM.

  • Alex,
    Briefly: a line like “First came the seen, then thus the palpable” seems awkward, graceless, with bad rhythm, hard to read, gawky, and stumbling over its four left feet.
    So much poetry is deeply beautiful, as word magic: beautiful use of meter, a flow that seems like music, rich, lovely images. Pound seems like the opposite. It seems deliberately coarse, brutal: “ugly”.

    I had no intention of triggering a long discussion on poetry. I put out a few sentences on a side topic other people were talking about. II’m sorry now – I know this is a film forum.

  • Alex

    Go, song, surely thou mayest
    Wither it please thee,
    For so art thou ornate that thy reasons
    Shall be praised from thy understanders.
    With others hast thou no will to make company.

  • Mike, “The Raven” is in the “weird menace” sub-genre with nothing supernatural occurring. Ditto for “The Mask of Dijon.” Both deal with abnormal psychology which seems to be something Landers returned to other movies.

    “IMHO, the most gifted poets in the Modernist style are Rimbaud, T.S. Eliot, WIlliam Carlos Williams, Melvin Tolson, and their later descendants Philip Lamantia and Allen Ginsberg…”

    They’re all great poets. I share your opinion of WALLACE Stevens but not of Pound who was also an insightful critic. Alex already separated the Poundian wheat from the Poundian chafe.

    “The recent film version of HOWL is terrific: one of the most inventive and technically unusual of recent films. Don’t miss!”

    As for “Howl” I share your enthusiasm. It’s an ingenious low budget independent movie, and the DVD was apparently not reviewed in the New York Times although an excellent editorial appeared there:

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/04/literary-criticism-comes-to-the-movies/

    Excerpt: “There are movies based on literary works (“Paradise Lost” is on the way, I am told), bio-pics about literary greats (“Bright Star,” “The Hours”), movies that feature a bit of literary criticism (“Animal House,” “Dead Poets Society,” “The History Boys”), even movies that are documentaries about literary critics (Zizek and Derrida, who are only literary critics occasionally), but no movies I know of about literary criticism as such. None, that is, until “Howl,” the new movie about Allen Ginsberg starring James Franco, which is not only about literary criticism but is the performance of literary criticism, an extended ‘explication de texte.'” [by Stanley Fish]

    My only caveat about “Howl” is the absence of Shigeyoshi Murao from the film. He was the clerk who was busted for selling the book to undercover cops and the only person who spent time in jail in connection with the case (Ferlinghetti turned himself in and was immediately released on his own recognizance.) Shig became co-owner of City Lights and Ginsberg used to stay at his apartment whenever he visited San Francisco from the 1970s until Shig’s death in 1996.

  • dm494

    Mike, although Antonioni (and Resnais and Godard) have been compared to Modernist artists, my analogy was not intended to argue that Ozu, say, or Boris Barnet are like Pound and Wallace Stevens. My point was that the poets whom you are attacking are major figures in the literary canon, just as Ozu and Mizoguchi and Rossellini etc are major figures in the (much younger) film canon.

    “If people can’t discuss the canon freely, how will it ever be improved?”

    I have no problem with your criticism of Stevens, Pound, Crane per se. What bothers me is the terms that you use to dismiss them–“dull”, “incomprehensible” etc. Those are words of the sort that are bandied about by many people when they casually dismiss the films of, say, Tarkovsky or Naruse, and cinephiles are justifiably annoyed by such blithely ignorant comments. I don’t think those words are any better when used to criticize the writers you complain about.

    Incidentally, Harold Bloom loathes Ezra Pound and has said that if history looks on him kindly he will be regarded centuries hence in the same way as Edmund Waller–much admired in the 18th century–is looked on now. And Bloom’s comparison isn’t random–Waller’s beautiful lyric “Go, lovely rose” is the point of departure for the Envoi to Hugh Selwyn Mauberley that Alex quoted above.

    Of the filmmakers you cite, Brakhage is, unfortunately, the only one whose films I have seen, and I can’t agree with you that they have any connection to literary modernism. Maybe Brakhage felt that he was influenced by Pound and Eliot, but to me he seems much more of a piece with the Beats and maybe also with the New York painters of the time. For whatever it’s worth, although I’m not generally a fan of Brakhage’s films, I do like his hand-painted movies, and would seriously consider putting “For Marilyn” on my own ten-best list if I were ever asked to construct such a thing.

    Alex quotes one of Pound’s renditions of the commiato to Cavalcanti’s Donna Me Prega. It’s nice, but the original is much more lovely:

    Tu puoi sicuramente gir, canzone,
    la’ ‘ve ti piace, ch’io t’ho si’ adornata
    ch’assai laudata sara’ tua ragione
    dalle persone c’hanno intendimento:
    di star con l’altre tu non hai talento.

  • “Of the filmmakers you cite, Brakhage is, unfortunately, the only one whose films I have seen, and I can’t agree with you that they have any connection to literary modernism. Maybe Brakhage felt that he was influenced by Pound and Eliot, but to me he seems much more of a piece with the Beats and maybe also with the New York painters of the time.”

    Brakhage was friends with Michael McClure who wrote about him often (and in the second part of Film Culture’s survey of American cinema that appeared in the issue that came after Sarris’s more famous first part.)

    Brakhage claimed Gertrude Stein as an influence, and I think this is true in respect to his editing. But I see his connection with Pound through Pound’s famous Imagist “rules” (as regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome, the natural object is always the adequate symbol, and make it new.)

    The actual Beat filmmakers are Christopher McClaine, Robert Frank and Ron Rice

  • mike schlesinger

    I’ve always been a champion of Landers’ THE BOOGIE MAN WILL GET YOU, which is not only a delightful spoof in its own right, but has a fascinating history: Karloff had one more picture on his Columbia contract, so as soon as he returned from his Broadway run of ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, they dusted off the mad-doctor template and turned it into a comedy, teaming him with Lorre in the process, thinking they could cash in on the film version of ARSENIC. Alas, the Broadway run was so popular that WB couldn’t release the film until 1944. Thus the knock-off opened some two years before the original!

    (BTW, I offered to do a BOOGIE MAN DVD commentary for free, but they decided they couldn’t afford it. Grrr.)

  • Gregg Rickman

    Mike, I love the idea of adding to a canon, thus including Tolson and Lamantia sounds good to me (am passingly familiar with the latter).

    If we can tie poetry into movies we’re not so far afield. John Unterecker’s Hart Crane bio “Voyager” has some interesting passages on Crane’s friendly relationship with Chaplin (and he authored a poem called “Chaplinesque”). No one’s mentioned Delmore Schwartz in this thread, but I recently read James Atlas’ biography of him, and he turned out to be quite the film fan (which he fed into at least one story, “Screeno”). He was also for a while the film critic for The New Republic (after Farber, before Kauffmann).

    Getting back to B-westerns, Ludwig Wittgenstein was a huge fan and could probably tell us a lot about George Sherman, Lew Landers and their colleagues.

  • Alex

    DM494,

    Yeah, I at least agree that Pound’s Canto XXXVI is not clear improvement on, and essentially a translation of, Donna Mi Prega. Because of this I did not quote from this Canto XXXVI as an example of great Pound.

    I quoted from it as a way of having Pound SPEAK MFOR HIMSELF in response to Mike Grost lapse into wildly hyperbolic (“stumbling over its four left feet”?).
    diatribe.

    “Loathe” seems to me an overstatement of Bloom’s view of Pound, though thos view, like the great Chrsitopher Rick’s view, is certainly deflationary, stressing,for example seeing great uneveneness even within short and medium length Pound and seeing incoherence as well as unevenness –indeed scarce, if sometimes soaring, peaks– across the Cantos as a whole.

    On Pound as translator, perhaps Pound’s merely our twentieth century William Tyndale or Myles Coverdale.

  • Blake Lucas

    I am genuinely sorry to be so late to this thread, though would not have wanted to miss the wondeful poetry discussion in any event. Pressures on my time in the past week just kept me from getting to this when I wanted to, but as an ardent admirer of George Sherman, I wanted to at least say a few things and hope anyone interested is here to read before it’s on to the thread for the new week.

    In any event, just to segue, I wouldn’t say George Sherman’s movies are poetry exactly–and certainly not in any literal sense–though the words “poetry” and “poetic” are thrown around all the time in relation to movies and plainly mean different things to different people, who will use these words in relation to very different films and filmmakers. So I may be tempted to use the word “poetry” in relation to cinema before I am through here today after all.

    But I will say Sherman, humbly beginning in the Republic series Westerns Dave talks about in his piece, is artful, and so, for you Mike G., I’ll say right off I don’t know that for me there really is a separate category of art film (especially after finally getting to rewatching THE NAKED AND THE DEAD last night), and certainly not a genre. If it’s artistic, any movie could be called an “art film.”

    I also won’t list the Sherman movies I’ve seen with ratings as Mike did (I’m the guy Gregg Rickman referred to earlier, and have seen 44 of the director’s movies to date), but just make some observations, stylistic and to what seem to be spheres of interest for him. That’s partly because some of these movies are presently accessible and some are not. But I’ve liked most of his films from all periods, though not all and don’t consider the ones I have liked all equal, so taking a chance if one comes along might be the best course.

    First, in Westerns, Sherman is for me one of the dozen best directors–if there are two tiers, he’d be in the second but that’s still tremendously high. But I hasten to add he has plenty of non-Westerns that show his talents as well, just like most other genre specialists. Also, he’s handicapped for some critics by this start at Republic, which plainly deserves a rereading–I haven’t seen as many of those as Dave Kehr has but I know that’s where Dave got on to Sherman in the first place–because of those greatest Western directors, most of the others were able to cut a serious profile in the genre right away, and none of the others started with these kinds of movies, the nature of which Dave has described so well, with one foot in the West and the other in the contemporary world. I haven’t seen as many of the Republics as Dave has but, for example, if I’m remembering THE TULSA KID right, this is one with Don “Red” Barry in which Barry has wanted to turn his back on a violent past and there is an early scene about this given great weight–the redemption/renewal themes running along these lines would come back in both non-Westerns (THE RAGING TIDE) and Westerns (DAWN AT SOCORRO, THE HARD MAN, THE LAST OF THE FAST GUNS) in later Sherman, when the Westerns of the 50s especially had made these themes a central motif but Sherman had plainly always been engaged with it. Also, Sherman was getting his non-Western opportunities before leaving Republic. I too liked THE LADY AND THE MONSTER (cinematography by John Alton, no less) which was already mentioned (sorry I forgot to note who mentioned this and I haven’t seen THE FLYING FONTAINES which didn’t fare as well with that person), and might mention the followup movie, his last Republic STORM OVER LISBORN, made because Republic (Yates?) presumably felt the world just had to have another one with the dynamic starring trio of Erich Von Stroheim, Vera Ralston and Richard Arlen (actually they’re all fine with me) and so came up with this, which Leonard Maltin said “What CASABLANCA would have been like if it had been made at Republic” or some such line. In truth, while he may not have meant that kindly, that idea is not so bad is it? Nor is the film–with a very unusual, visually imaginative setting and absorbingly told story.

    Contract years followed for Sherman and one can feel with movies like RENEGADES and RELENTLESS at Columbia (a studio Dave should probably have mentioned with the others he named not only for this brief late 40s period but also because of the films he made for Columbia later, especially in what I consider a key, most personal period 1955-1958 of relative independence) when he finding truly sympathetic projects as well as bringing directorial talent at what he was given.

    Where this really becomes interesting and want to stress this is at Universal-International (1948-1955) following, and might be stressed that Sherman by now was plainly regarded as talented; he was taken under contract and did his first string of films for producer Leonard Goldstein, who had great success at the studio, and produced the first post-merger Technicolor movie BLACK BART, which Jaime has written about, and entrusted Sherman with direction of this as his debut there. But more significantly, Dave’s passing comment about the Three Mesquiters Westerns–that they are not about Indians even though there is an “unfounded but widespread conviction among ideologically minded Academic critics that the Western genre is inherently a “genocidal fantasy” about the systematic murder of American Indians”–becomes retrospectively and ironically very important, because of all directors George Sherman is in my experience the one who has most consistently shown the opposite. It almost seems he had it in his contract to make one Indian Western a year as soon as the pro-Indian cycle broke with a vengeance in 1950–COMANCHE TERRITORY is light and a little tentative (though just out on DVD), as interested in displaying the charms of Maureen O’Hara’s singing as in its Indian story, but it’s fun to see the Indians riding to the rescue at the end. The more serious TOMAHAWK (also DVD available) which followed in 1951 really gets it out there though, with a Jim Bridger firmly on the Indian’s side though half in the white world, references to the Chivington massacre, tremendous dignity accorded to the Indian point of view while maintaining a balanced view of the cavalry and reserving the role of villain for Chivington lieutenant played by Alex Nicol. THE BATTLE AT APACHE PASS (1952) is a prequel to BROKEN ARROW but although there is again a central friendship with a white man (here an officer played by John Lund) Cochise, reprised by Jeff Chandler, comes over more as the principal hero. WAR ARROW (1953) weaves an interesting tale of displaced Seminoles being induced to fight Kiowas on the frontier, and the Kiowas are led by a renegade white man while the Seminoles get the most sympathy (in any event, the provocative premise is disturbing in relation to Indians and surely meant to be, whatever the movie’s programmer status). Finally, in CHIEF CRAZY HORSE (1955), one feels Sherman is making the one he most wanted to make–it is sympathetically about the title character and his history, and he is firmly treated as a tragic hero in a classical way; this was also Sherman’s first film in CinemaScope, which he readily commanded, as he already commanded color and the visual impression of locations, the beautiful pristine landscapes of TOMAHAWK and CHIEF CRAZY HORSE especially good in these films.

    After that contract ended, Sherman goes into what I consider his most personal period, in which he is clearly making a choice of projects in every case–in different ways the hero either ambivalent (Rory Calhoun in THE TREASURE OF PANCHO VILLA) or newly enlightened after the Civil War (Van Heflin COUNT THREE AND PRAY) appears immediately, and then there are two more Indian films in 1956–COMANCHE, not a great movie perhaps but remarkable for a scene in which the history of the Comanches, so fearsome in Westerns and a powerful presence, sympathetic even though only Scar’s personal motivation is directly stated, in THE SEARCHERS
    later in the year, is given an openly didactic scene in which it is all explained and so everything about this people is given context and understanding in a way I’ve never seen in any other film, and REPRISAL!, which displays the shift in the Indian film to less historical and more intimate stories of integration and prejudice, surely reflective of America’s present engagement with these things at the time though these movies stand on their own as powerful reflections on the Indian. Just to round out this period of the half dozen movies of this period, the last two THE HARD MAN and THE LAST OF THE FAST GUNS bring two different versions of the ambiguous hero and the redemption them, the first concentrated and mostly bound to a town, the other set in Mexico and wonderfully expansive. I don’t say these movies are in every case better than some of the earlier ones, though they are movies I hope someone who wanted to give Sherman a chance would be able to see.

    I’ve only seen five of Sherman’s last dozen films ending with BIG JAKE, and liked them more than not, but at this point (when THE FLYING FONTAINES was made), the sense of pervasive artistic purposefulness at Sherman’s level of programmer/B movie is generally starting to erode with the end of classicism and the studio system, even if Budd Boetticher certainly kept it at a zenith through his 1960 films and Samuel Fuller through THE NAKED KISS, and some others we might want to name too. Sherman does not seem to me to be someone who knew how to make the most of his artistic maturity at this point, so it’s not a great last period perhaps, though his professionalism and capability are always there (and that said the verdict is still kind of out for me until I actually see movies like THE FIERCEST HEART and FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE).

    Now for just a few things that Sherman does in his films, where he shows impressive stylistic creativity to go along with the motifs. First, there’s a visual interest in the drama of playing against a certain topography. In THE BATTLE AT APACHE PASS, THE TREASURE OF PANCHO VILLA and THE LAST OF THE FAST GUNS, the climactic action is in each case staged with a character or characters at the bottom of an an ascent/height/mountain while their adversaries are at the top of it and fighting/defending from there. It gives these scenes a particular feeling and tension that seems to be very deliberately sought by Sherman. His sense of relationships in height can also show in quieter, subtler but striking ways. For example, the first part of DAWN AT SOCORRO involves a fictionalized replay of the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral (the characters are all renamed and made fictitious) which follows interesting introduction of the main characters. One of these is a young woman (Piper Laurie) who is town waiting for the stage because her rancher father has scorned her for alleged sexual behavior, while another is the Doc Holliday character (Rory Calhoun), and the two first see each other while he is moving down the street to take position for the shootout. He looks up and Laurie, who has no interest in the gunfight and knows nothing about it, is pacing in front of her hotel window and looks out at him as he looks back–a fleeting moment with no dialogue, but so artfully done, and ready to quietly play into the relationship that will develop between them later.

    But Sherman can be as imaginative horizontally as vertically, and the opening shot of COMANCHE is amazing both visually and dramatically as a single slow tracking shot through a Mexican village begins with the peace and gaiety of fiesta and ends with terrifying violence as the Comanches appear and invade at its end.

    And if I may, I’ll make two observations about THE HARD MAN, because I believe it’s on YouTube and if so, you can have a look. A brilliantly realized opening scene finds lawman Guy Madison out after a wanted man, who turns out to be an old friend (the great Myron Healey, no less) with whom he had a complex history. And against his advice, Healey chooses to shoot it out and then dies in Madison’s arms, setting up the story. Already good, the scene is set in a hard falling rain–and here and with the next example, I’m afforded an opportunity to make an observation about auteurism. That rain, which seems to make the scene, may have been the screenwriter’s idea, or it may have been Sherman’s own. But does it matter? It’s Sherman’s precise realization–the grimness of mood in the images and playing which complements the mood set by the rain, the unexpected cut to closeup of Guy Madison that is a little quicker than one might expect, the relative quietude of drama at the moment of Healey’s insistence on pulling his gun when he knows how it will end–that make this so good. The next example is even stronger for Sherman’s mise en scene, because here it is definitely his staging that makes it memorable. Madison is facing down gunman Rudy Bond in a saloon, and they both know that Bond, a deadly killer, is actually the faster gun. But Madison knows how to play him psychologically and dismantle his confidence and the scene plays out visually in a fascinating way, as Madison, who has now turned things, mercilessly slaps Bond over and over in front of the bar. The scene is taken from behind the two men, so that Madison alone is facing us–it is his hard-bitten, emotionally icy character we are fully concerned with and the moment adds to his character while not encouraging any pleasure in the viewer of what is happening to Bond, even though Bond is playing one of those hateful characters who is thoroughly unsympathetic, without the least charm, and lives to kill. Neither scene makes THE HARD MAN a masterpiece, even if it is a movie that stays in the mind–the playing out of the plot and backstory which involved Myron Healey is not so interesting as it turns out though the character study involving Madison (who, not my idea of one of the greatest movie actors, thrives under Sherman’s direction as he did in REPRISAL!) is beautifully and intelligently done from beginning to end.

    I’ll make a few observations about Sherman’s villains, who can be as interesting as his heroes (even if it’s not the case with Rudy Bond in example given) in following post about THE SLEEPING CITY, because I’ll want to put it under SPOILERS for at least a few of the examples, but just a few things about the other non-Westerns. Barry mentioned the beautiful SWORD IN THE DESERT (1949)–it should be noted this is the only American film I know before EXODUS about the birth of Israel, and though less ambitious, it’s a serious and thoughtful movie that compares well. Producer/writer Robert Buckner was plainly the guiding force but he chose Sherman and the director seems very engaged by it as one would expect from his other movies, connecting with an ambivalent hero (Dana Andrews), with the struggle of a dispossessed people fighting for a country of their own, and he’s at his very best in an unexpected Christmas Eve sequence at a British detention camp. Sherman seems very comfortable in many genres, and though BACK AT THE FRONT was for me a witless comedy and perhaps the least of all his movies I’ve seen (an uninspired sequel to UP FRONT), he actually managed charm and elan with two Donald O’Connor movies in the 40s that are both lifted by very good musical numbers. And then there’s a movie like JOHNNY DARK–racing car drama that Dave mentioned favorably awhile back. I remember how much I enjoyed this when I saw it, even though on its face I guess it’s nothing special–maybe just seeing Tony Curtis and Piper Laurie in all their youthful adorability would have made it a pleasure in any event, but somehow I believe that Sherman’s skill with all the elements of narrative, staging, color, car races resourcefully filmed, combined to lift it in its class.

    Auteurists like company in their preferences and for years I felt very alone in my sense that this was an undiscovered gifted director deserving of some recognition. I remember how much it meant to me when Dave said something at a_film_by that favorably acknowledged him–this was about how he filmed the locations and a cathedral-like feeling he gave them but I don’t want to inaccurately quote it and it was a wonderful and true observation. One thing I don’t know is if others will have the chances I’ve had to experience some of the best Shermans on the big screen. The magisterial Mexican locations (which I’ve never seen in any other movie) and the mood he created with them in THE LAST OF THE FAST GUNS were just awesome to me when I saw them in a theatre (on first release and one time later but it’s been years) and while I know they can be appreciated in a good transfer on DVD, I can kind of understand if maybe it won’t make quite the same impression. But it does seem like students of mise en scene and those who love these kinds of movies will have a chance to appreciate him.

  • Blake Lucas

    Going over Mike’s list of Sherman ratings, I certainly agree about REPRISAL! and had no great problem with most of the others, but was surprised that THE SLEEPING CITY got his lowest rating, lower than Crime Doctor and Whistler programmers (actually I liked Sherman’s
    Whistler and like all Whistlers–they are all different movies with different characters except for the Whistler but only the first Crime Doctor, directed by Michael Gordon, seemed to have a compelling reason for being to me).

    THE SLEEPING CITY is perhaps my favorite of Sherman’s non-Westerns. It effortlessly combines the documentary style of de Rochemont/Hathaway 40s films in the Bellevue location work with the deeper mood of another kind of film noir. And I will now make a very strong claim for it. First, just to encourage people–somewhere around the center of the film, undercover investigator Richard Conte and nurse Coleen Gray, inevitably falling into a romantic relationship as we expect, are on the hospital roof and Sherman composes a very tight, intimate two shot of the two as Gray movingly articulates her extremely bleak and pessimistic view of the world. A magical moment in a memorable scene.

    SPOILERS

    Coleen Gray turns out to be the principal villain, a murderer, and at the end, Conte turns her over to the police. Sound familiar? In the famous “classic” THE MALTESE FALCON, the detective Sam Spade/Humphrey Bogart does the same thing with his love interest Mary Astor after explaining to her why. Then there is a shot of Mary Astor disappearing behing the prison bar like image of closing elevator as the police take her away while Bogart watches.
    That’s justice for the manipulative, at least arguably insincere Astor and all’s right with the world for Sam Spade.

    In THE SLEEPING CITY, there is no great dialogue, but there are looks between Conte and Gray and he especially seems regretful, even though, more than in FALCON, he had to do this. Visual emphasis is not on anything obvious but more on the physical distance that is separating the characters in their last look at each other, and an understated mood that the location partly carries along with Sherman’s staging and the playing by the always excellent Conte and tremendously underrated Gray. It’s all quickly over, and yet the scene gives the sense that in their feelings the relationship is not over. What is still felt is a mystery, and that seems appropriate. This is no “classic” but I really believe it shows that Sherman has a deeper sense of how to convey a situation cinematically than Huston, not needing to be overexplicit, and I won’t go so far as to say it’s a point in his favor, but one does not need to be a misogynist because a female character is a murderer, and maybe there is something deeper to be gained in the movie if they are not. Images, dialogue, and Humphrey Bogart condemn Mary Astor, but nothing in THE SLEEPING CITY does the same to Coleen Gray, and there is a way in which she retains sympathy, as does the shattered love affair of these two very different people.

    I was going to say something about Sherman villains in other films I like by him, but it would be along these lines. I’ll leave that for those looking at his movies to discover.

  • Blake Lucas

    Finally, re “the magical metaphysical zone of the B Western.”

    Great phrase. And I want to acknowledge that for years I had a real struggle with this. I just couldn’t adjust to these movies taking place in these two worlds, couldn’t understand why they were, was confused enough not to be entertained as intended.

    But I hope I’ve now matured. I feel very differently about it. And the more I live with cinema, and go back to Republic especially, the more I believe there is a genuine “Republic poetry.” (Yes, poetry–see, I said I might use that word). And more that that, this “Republic poetry” has something to tell us about what art–and specifically movies–are all about, and how they might best be appreciated.

    For in some sense that “metaphysical zone” is always there. The Italian neo-realist (yes I mean the Rossellini of ROME, OPEN CITY and PAISA) may be very passionate to represent something immediate and real in the times, but how real is black and white? It’s already artistic. Then bring in some melodramatic conventions, some from more typical movies that have existed before. It all begins to synthesize and the world of the movie, never the one we know–though it may express a deep truth about the one we know, emerges.

    Lowly Republic is surely on the upswing in artistic discussion. This has been a wonderful thread, because Republic and these series Westerns from that “metaphysical time zone” finally suggested actual poetry, and aesthetic arguments about it, within the same thread. Surely, this is not accidental. It had to be. In the same way, the most humble Republic movies over a twenty year period all had the purpose of moving toward the crystallization of a profound aesthetic point of view. That the best course is to wholeheartedly believe in the world that the work of art gives you. For that reason, and forgetting for just a second the directors everyone agrees are great, can there be enough praise for the exotic romance WAKE OF THE RED WITCH (1948), which, playing by all the Republic rules, is infinitely more worthy of being spoken of with admiration than the actual adaptation of WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Wyler/Goldwyn, a kind of Classics Illustrated version, full of prestige but not of the great beauty and feeling of Edward Ludwig’s wonderful masterpiece.

    I must admit this was on my mind already because I watched JOHNNY GUITAR again a few weeks ago, and felt this time that here truly was the acid test, far beyond Sarris’ line “Only those willing to risk the ridiculous have a shot at the sublime.” 20 years of Republic movies have everything to do with a great director like Nicholas Ray making a film in this way in this time, not necessarily greater than some of his others but the one movie that most says that you will be most rewarded if you take all of this completely seriously as it offered–the Trucolor images, the interplay of Sedona locations with stylized sets, the playing by mostly iconic actors and two unexpected women of characters a little off center of what is expected but just as believable, the narrative that takes in so much both directly in itself and in its allusiveness, romanticism, operatic level, even the variations of the title song through Victor Young orchestral scoring, guitar, piano, and Peggy Lee vocal. It seems in some way that cinema, like the actual discipline of poetry, should be free to go in this direction, and that it can thrive when it does.

  • Blake,

    Thank you for these long, fascinating posts!

    I have only seen THE SLEEPING CITY once, and nearly 20 years ago. It is one of the Sherman films whose ratings I felt most uneasy about. It is one that cries out for reviewing. All I remember about it was that it felt like a disappointing bummer of a film. Maybe because of the twists you describe…

    THE CRIME DOCTOR’S COURAGE has some of the best atmosphere, visual style and mise-en-scene in Sherman. It does not have especially interesting personal relationships or characters. It can really seem like magic to watch, though.

    THE TULSA KID can also be read as an admirable parable advocating Gandhi non-violence.

  • dm494

    x359594, the thing about Pound’s imagist rules is that they’re sufficiently broad that lots of things could satisfy them without bearing much of a similarity to Imagism, Vorticism or any other literary movement Pound was affiliated with. I understand what he means by composing to the rhythm of a musical phrase, but how could such a rule be applied in film editing? It makes sense in music, which has time signatures and therefore bar lines, and it’s also meaningful in poetry written in accentual-syllabic or quantitative meters, which introduce feet; no one, however, has ever to the best of my knowledge worked out a system of editing rhythm, and I don’t see how such a thing could be developed for movies. Brakhage admittedly varies his cutting speeds wildly, but that’s an effect of tempo, not precise rhythm–for him to be following Pound’s musical phrase rule, he would have to be working with a codified rhythmic pattern, felt by the viewer, which sets up expectations that are either satisfied or confounded by the actual cutting. Or if not that, there would have to be a tradition of such patterns that Brakhage, making the film equivalent of free verse, would be rebelling against. The topic of editing rhythm is, so far as I know, virtually unexplored. Jonathan Rosenbaum did an interview with Michel Gondry where he asked Gondry about his musical background and how this ties in with Gondry’s habit of cutting behind the beat. I can’t comment further on that since I haven’t seen any of Gondry’s films, but apart from the issue of debatable analogies between film “rhythm” and rhythm in poetry and music, I do think there is a specifically musical approach to film editing, but one which (and I don’t mean to deny that a rhythmic or time element is a factor in all cutting) I find in not too many filmmakers–Scorsese comes to mind, as do Fred Schepisi, Wong Kar-Wai, and Welles in some of his later films like F FOR FAKE.

    Alex, I’m pretty sure that Bloom detests Pound, perhaps more for his antisemitism than for whatever failings he may discern in Pound’s poetry. Mario Praz had a similarly negative verdict, although he regarded the Mauberley poems highly. It may well be, as you say, that Pound’s greatest achievement is as a translator; he was certainly very ambitious and “Englished” a good number of Cavalcanti’s sonnets, as well as (all?) the songs of Dante’s “miglior fabbro” himself, Arnaut Daniel. Still, I think it’s an enormous stretch to liken him to Coverdale and Tyndale, who laid the foundation for the King James Bible, especially since I don’t consider any of Pound’s translations as successful as Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s great translation of Dante’s “rime petrose” sestina–and Rosetti was a huge influence on Pound.

  • Blake,

    It is clear that my ranking of THE SLEEPING CITY is off.
    Otherwise, it is good to know that you think the Sherman rankings are generally fairly plausible.
    Rankings are unexpectedly hard to do. They are so unscientific, and make you dig deep into recollections!

    Stephen Bowie,
    Thank you so much for sharing your expert television recommendations for us on Sherman.
    I will try to track down these NAKED CITY and ROUTE 66 episodes.
    The location filming in both series is terrific.

  • Barry Putterman

    Hey, I told you that Blake would be along to raise the banner for Sherman. And while some may say that he turned up a bit late, if what he put up in the space of an hour isn’t more than a week’s worth of posting, I’ll eat my sombrero.

    Just a couple of quick reations on two of the Sherman films I have seen. First, on Colleen Gray in THE SLEEPING CITY. I suppose that you could draw the parallel with Mary Astor in THE MALTESE FALCON, particularly, as Blake well describes it, in the playing out of the denouncement. But for me, they are very different characters. Despite the positive reputation, I have never seen much in the Mary Astor character. It seems a very one dimensional thing to me. All she does is put on a steady smoke screen of deception to mask a completely ruthless self interest. The Colleen Gray character, on the other hand, has a complicated and actually rather sympathetic motivation for her behavior. And, while nobody could condone the actions that she takes to reach her objectives, it comes more out of that very pessimistic view that Blake mentioned rather than simple self-centered greed. In this regard, I don’t think that the ending of THE MALTESE FALCON has any hope to match the complexity of the one in THE SLEEPING CITY regardless of how the director handles it. Which, of course, is to take nothing away from Blake’s description of how it is in fact handled.

    Then, the Rudy Bond character in THE HARD MAN. Blake seems to find him of no interest, but he always resonated with me. He is hired by Lorne Greene and the other principle villains to take care of Madison, but as the situation develops, they evolve towards a more subtle approach to neutralizing Madison. At their strategy session, one of them says that he has a better way of dealing with Madison. And a very disappointed Bond petulantly asks; “What’s better than killing?” It is a moment I have always cherished.

    In any event, nobody can say that Blake didn’t give them their money’s worth about George Sherman this week. And so, once again, I urge you to go out there and do your own pillaging by taking in one or more of the George Sherman movies mentioned above and form your own conclusions.

  • Gregg Rickman

    Outstanding entries, Blake, thank you. As a sidenote, I appreciate your use in your work of studio history, not just Republic’s, but also the distinct quality you’ve written about elsewhere of the U-I era of Universal Studios history (late 40s to the Wasserman/MCA takeover).

    dm, all Michel Gondry films earn a **** rating from this viewer. The scale differs, however, with every film.

  • Blake Lucas

    Thanks Mike, Barry and Gregg.

    Barry, I hope I didn’t say the Rudy Bond character was of no interest at all, but not much interest in the scene I describe, which takes its interest from Madison and that striking way it is filmed by Sherman. But Sherman has more interesting villains that Bond, and not only Coleen Gray (watch spelling for her–she is not Colleen Miller, though I personally love them both), for example Alex Nicol in DAWN AT SOCORRO, who is drunk and sleeps through that gunfight at the O.K. Corral variant and then is motivated against Rory Calhoun partly out of his guilt for this, another complex character to go along with those of Calhoun and Laurie’s (the other villain David Brian is not so interesting, but three out of four strong main characters along with Sherman’s visual style at its most attractive and his confidence with an unusual narrative construction do make this one of his most outstanding ones).

    I won’t mention my favorite Sherman villain because I don’t want to write SPOILERS again, but I will say this character is revealed to be a villain late in the film after earning a fair share of sympathy and interest. There’s a great actor who appears in my two favorite Sherman movies, at his best in both of them, and I didn’t mention his name before–in one of these he is heroic, and in the other he is this complex villain. Well, no need to argue this if you haven’t seen the two movies (though I’ll plant a clue in this post).

    Barry, I agree with everything you said about THE MALTESE FALCON and THE SLEEPING CITY, those two female characters as well as the denouements of each movie. And especially agree that because Gray’s character is created in the way she is, you are exactly right that the ending of FALCON could not hope to match in complexity that of CITY. (By the way, if memory is serving me now Jo Eisinger wrote the screenplay for THE SLEEPING CITY, the same writer who also scripted Dassin’s memorable NIGHT AND THE CITY with another, to understate the case, memorably complex character at the center). But this was kind of the point I wanted to make, that the obscure movie is much finer than the alleged classic, and the less celebrated director has the more refined moral sense, more subtlety (not a word I ever associate with John Huston even in the relative few films of his I do like), and naturally brings out a complexity of mood in how something like this plays out both because of his sensibility and more genuine stylistic poise.

    So, speaking of canonical figures, I hope we are not through reevaluating filmmakers up and down, and that’s why I made a point about this.

    Actually, those posts took more than an hour to write (and I note I missed a few mistakes proofing even so), a lot more though I won’t say how slow I really am, but Barry, I especially appreciated the reference to your sombrero, very appropriate because some of Sherman’s best movies were made in Mexico and as a setting it’s key in his body of work.

    And Gregg, re the studio stuff, thanks for that acknowledgement. It doesn’t take anything away from any director’s work to observe how he or she works within a studio aesthetic when that is the case. I would like to take note that Gregg may have partly said this because of my piece “U-I Sci-Fi: Studio Aesthetics and 1950s Metaphysics” in THE SCIENCE-FICTION FILM READER, which he edited. I was very grateful to Gregg for the opportunity to write that piece and the freedom he gave me with it.

  • Peter Hogue

    Some marginal notes for the current thread:
    @ Another Republic auteur for further study is William Witney, a cause persuasively taken up by Quentin Tarantino at film festivals and in a NY Times interview around 10 years back.
    @ Wm. Colt MacDonald’s mesquiteers had turned up in two western movies prior to the Republic series: “Law of the .45s” (First Division, 1935) has Tucson Smith (Guinn “Big Boy” Williams) and Stoney Martin (Al St. John) and “Powdersmoke Range” (RKO, 1935) has Tucson Smith (Harry Carey), Stony Brooke (Hoot Gibson), and Lullaby Joslin (Guinn “Big Boy” Williams). The Guadalupe Kid, a fourth character from the latter novel, is played by B-west axiom (and future Mesquiteer) Bob Steele in the movie version.
    @ A B-western that is also a “Lola Montez movie” — “Young Blood” (Monogram, 1932), a Bob Steele vehicle, has a key character called Countess Lola Montaine (played by Naomi Judge); she’s the focal point of a murder mystery in a town called Grass Valley — which just happens to be the name of the California Gold Rush town in which the historical Lola Montez was an actual resident (1853-1855).

  • Pssst: Anybody want rankings for Michel Gondry (just joking!)

    Gondry’s music videos are as artistically important as his features. THE HARDEST BUTTON TO BUTTON is ****. It stars Detroit’s own THE WHITE STRIPES. Gondry’s gifts for musical editing are plainly linked to years of creating music videos.

    And just saw Gondry’s look at another created-in-Detroit character THE GREEN HORNET. It’s like, w-a-a-a-a-y too violent, but its inventive storytelling makes it ***.
    It is so nice to see a Frenchman who appreciates our Detroit culture!

  • Barry Putterman

    Peter, it is generally considered that William Witney and the aforementioned Joseph Kane are the Republic westerns directors along with George Sherman who most deserve additional attention. I know of no serious case being made for R.G. Springsteen, Lesley Selander and the others. Although, I would imagine that there is some interest in Witney’s sometimes partner in serials, John English. The fact that Witney, unlike Kane and Sherman, never went beyond B films, serials and episodic television made it all but inevitable that he would be the one Tarantino chose to champion.

    Blake, I’m usually concentrating so hard on saying Gray instead of Grey that I wind up stumbling over the Coleen. But really, if people can’t even spell their own names properly….In any event, she was a delight in her Q & A at Cinecon, and was at pains to point out how her character in THE SLEEPING CITY felt justified from her own viewpoint.

    I think it would be interesting to do a side by side comparison between the the Madison-Bond scene in THE HARD MAN and the climactic confrontation between Anthony Perkins and Neville Brand in THE TIN STAR, which came out in the same year of 1957. I just happened to take another look at THE TIN STAR a week or so ago, so it is fresh in my mind.

    By the way, the guy who starred in COLORADO TERRITORY was in some interesting Sherman films. And I can think of one called THE LONE HAND where the villainy was not altogether straightforward.

  • Blake Lucas

    THE LONE HAND is another Sherman I especially like and was kind of sorry not to have found some way to mention. Highly recommend that one.

  • Before this thread disappears, I would really like to thank X for his comments on poetry and film. His ideas on Brakhage, the Beats and HOWL are very informative.

  • Gregg advocates expanding canons.
    I agree.

    In Classical Music, the canon is called the Repertoire. The Repertoire is now 10 times bigger than it was in 1960. Vast numbers of musical scores that never used to be performed were unearthed in libraries, and given first rate recordings by top musicians.
    It is an astonishing expansion.

    This is a good model for us in Film Studies.

  • “the thing about Pound’s imagist rules is that they’re sufficiently broad that lots of things could satisfy them without bearing much of a similarity to Imagism, Vorticism or any other literary movement Pound was affiliated with. I understand what he means by composing to the rhythm of a musical phrase, but how could such a rule be applied in film editing? It makes sense in music, which has time signatures and therefore bar lines, and it’s also meaningful in poetry written in accentual-syllabic or quantitative meters, which introduce feet; no one, however, has ever to the best of my knowledge worked out a system of editing rhythm, and I don’t see how such a thing could be developed for movies.”

    I take your point dm, but I don’t claim that Brakhage’s films are the cinematic equivalent of Imagism. As for composition in the musical phrase translated into editing rhythm, there are the flicker films of Tony Conrad, Peter Kubelka’s “Arnulf Reiner,” “Unsere Afrikareise” and (yes) “Dichtung und Wahrheit.” And there are theories set out by Eisenstein in one of the essays in “The Film Form” likening his montage to music.

    Now, whether these filmmakers were “really” editing in the musical phrase is debatable, but the fact is they *thought* they were doing so.

    Returning Brakhage, he corresponded with many poets, including Charles Olson (“Projective Verse”) and Robert Duncan (“Composition by Field”) as well as Robert Creeley, and he and his poet interlocutors assumed that they were mining the same vein of melopoeia. Again, they may have misunderstood each other, but they thought they were working parallel to each other in different media.

  • “I would really like to thank X for his comments on poetry and film.”

    You’re most welcome Mike.

    Finally, in a nod to Blake, there’s a poem by Jack Kerouac called “Old Western Movies” that he recorded in 1959 with musical accompaniment by Al Cohn and Zoot Sims (thus tying together off topic jazz and poetry with on topic movies.)

  • Blake Lucas

    Can that poem be found online x, or short enough for you to type it in here?

    Somehow I didn’t expect this from Kerouac.

  • Kerouac loved movies and though he never wrote criticism he wrote appreciations of his favorites. His most widely reprinted is the program notes he wrote for a screening of “Nosferatu” at the New Yorker.

    Anyway, here’s “Old Western Movies”:

    A Jedge in the West comin’ from the South
    with ruby sideburns, boy –
    Always usin’ flowery language –
    The grim fightin’ hero’s troubles
    are always private –
    He wants to know where “I fit in”
    in range wars –

    Sometimes you see villains so ancient
    you saw them in infancy
    exaggerating in snow
    their mustaches looking older
    than yr father’s grave –

    “Thanks Marshall” – “I reckon”
    I guess I better run on back
    to Whiskey Row, Colorada,
    & marry an old Tim McCoy Gal
    or turn off the television, one –

    You gotta go a long way in the West
    to find a good man –
    So close the book,

    The Courier, run by Steve, is a paper
    wearing a sunbonnet.

    Drive the cattle thru that silver wall,
    help ladies to their buggy,
    mouth in the sun,

    That oughta do till Mexican Drygulcher
    finds Redwing in the Shack
    And Kwakiutls menstruate
    Old Horses’ necks by broken fences,
    guns gone rust
    I guess the gang got shot.

    Kid Dream
    Hid
    In the leaves.

  • Blake Lucas

    Thanks for taking the time, x. It’s an interesting poem, the subject refracted through an individualist poet’s sensibility, which is as it should be. It seems like he saw his share.

  • Best Film of 2013 (so far)
    A Kiss Before Dying (Gerd Oswald, 1956)

    Worst Film of 2013 (so far)
    Lover Come Back (Delbert Mann, 1961)