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June 02, 2009

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Stephen Bowie

Glenn, did you also happen to check out any of the other westerns that came out in that batch from Optimum (BULLET FOR A BADMAN, BACKLASH, BILLY TWO HATS, BARQUERO)? Haven't seen reviews of any of those yet, and GUNFIGHT AT DODGE CITY was about the only one that was already available in Region 1.

Paul Johnson

I saw this five or six years ago, when it aired on TCM. I don't have strong memories about it one way or another, but I seem to recall it's the kind of movie that works better if you don't follow the plot, and let it just inhabit the viewing space with you. The kind of movie that made an agreeable Saturday afternoon time waster when TV channels used to fill up Saturday afternoon schedules with forgotten Westerns. The degree of pleasure involved in this kind of film viewing depends on your degree of attachment to the star, and for me, Joel McCrea is one of those actors with whom it's always pleasurable to keep company, even when the film that surrounds him is entirely mediocre.

Co-screenwriter Daniel Ullman was a very prolific writer of Westerns in the 50s, having knocked out about fifty scripts between 1949 and 1959, when GUNFIGHT AT DODGE CITY was released. Looking over this list of them, only WICHITA has any kind of classic status, and that thanks to the reputation of director Jacques Tourneur (I haven't seen WITCHITA myself, but I have seen three or four other Westerns Ullman had a hand in writing, and GUNFIGHT AT DODGE CITY was actually the most memorable of them).

Glenn Kenny

@Stephen—I did not check out the other Optimum Western releases. It may be a while.

@Paul—Excellent point. Normally with a film like this the kind of environment-engaged viewing you describe works like a charm. Since I was going to write about the thing, though, I didn't feel that was an option, and let the plot pulls work me like a burr in my side.

Just got the Warner Archive disc of "Wichita," hope to look at it soon. Tourneur's Westerna are always special.

Stephen Bowie

Might be a while before I check out any more westerns from the UK either, with the pound going stratospheric.

Ullman wrote a zillion TV westerns, too. He was a hack. I hate to say that, because I knew someone who knew his son, and apparently Ullman was a very nice hack.

Apropos of nothing, here's a funny (but mildly ageist) anecdote. When I was in college, I invited Joseph M. Newman out for lunch, at a steakhouse way out in Woodland Hills or someplace, near his house. My friend and I get there early and we're waiting in the lobby, and there's a Wile E. Coyote-style screech of tires in the parking lot, followed by a loud bang. I turn to my friend and deadpan, "That's him." (Newman was about 86 or 87, so this was my elderly driver joke.) And it was -- Newman walks in a minute later, swapping insurance info with a young couple.

Also a nice guy, though. Picked up the check. Can't remember what the hell we talked about, though (mostly his TV stuff). Gotta transcribe that sucker someday.

Nicolas Saada

Glenn, these late Joel Mc Crea's westerns are extremely depressing, and are able to turn the most courageous "cinephile" into a blockbuster fan. The only good late Mc CRea "vehicle" is Tourneur's WICHITA which you can now get on the warnerarchive store. Used to read your prose in PREMIERE and loved it !

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