Friday, September 30, 2016

The Return of the Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™!

Thanks to loyal member of the Thrilling Days of Yesteryear faithful Barry, who was gracious enough to alert me to DISH Network’s new Flex Channel package, Tee Cee Em has made a triumphant return to The House of Yesteryear.  There are not enough words to adequately express my joy at this turn of events.

The way the Flex package works, you start with a basic tier of fifty channels—one of which is my beloved Turner Classic Movies.  You can then add additional packages according to your whims…or the whims of your family, as the case may be.  (If it were solely my decision, I’d be Encore Channeling and Movie Plexing all up in this bitch.)  “This is the closest thing to à la carte so far,” Barry explained in a follow-up comment.  “I could cut my bill by more than half: just add the News Pack (FBN and Bloomberg for wife), Encore (westerns for me), and dump the locals (I have an antenna and Windows Media Center).  I only wish AMC were in an extra package so I could have the satisfaction of dumping them too!”  The way this deal worked out for Rancho Yesteryear almost makes me regret the terrible things I’ve said about DISH in the past.  (Almost, that is.)

I had to add the Locals package to ensure we’d still receive our local channel lineup (my father has somehow convinced himself that if he watches WSB-TV’s newscasts at noon, four, and six o’clock there will be a tremendous change in the content), and the News package (also for Dear Old Dad) because he needs the newsreaders at MSDNC—or to use the longer nomenclature, the Hillary Clinton Pantsuit Politburo—to continually convince him HRC is not a terrible candidate.  Finally, as a nod toward mi madre, I added the Regional Action Network package—which carries both the SEC and Fox Sports South channels—so that she never goes hungry again (as God as her witness) missing out on her beloved Braves, Hawks, and Georgia Bulldog games.  (When I presented this proposal to Mumsy, she picked up her cellphone and threw it at me—yelling “Call them!  Now!” A day after we initially whittled down the package, Mom had more regrets than a Brexit voter.)

The package isn’t perfect.  I’m still out GetTV, and I lost RT America, the channel that carries my favorite satirical political comedy show, Redacted Tonight.  (This last one is no biggie; I can watch the episodes online via YouTube.)  When I sat down in Count Comfy von Chair to explain the new setup to the Laird and Master, my Mom started waving me off like I was trying to steal home.  I waited until Father had to answer the call of nature, and then I asked her: “Why don’t you want me to tell him about this?”

“He’ll figure it out sooner or later,” she replied.  I then pointed out that he’ll certainly notice it when we get the cable-internet bill but she was way ahead of me: “He’s not going to see it,” she assured me as she tented her fingers while a white cat leapt into her lap.  Twisted and evil!

Will the return of TCM affect the new direction of the blog?  I’m determined that it will not.  Thanks again to Barry for having my back, and I hope all you cartooners have a wonderful weekend.

Forgotten Noir Fridays: The Man from Cairo (1953)

During World War II, the French government apparently shipped a ginormous amount of gold out of the country before those pesky Nazis got their bratwurst-and-sauerkraut-stained fingers on it.  The gold was shipped to various locales throughout Northern Africa…but one consignment valued at $100 million was “liberated” by a contingent of soldiers and, since it has not turned up after all these years, is very much in demand by French Intelligence.  Things have become so dire that an American detective named Charles Stark (Richard McNamara) has been persuaded to do a little digging into the matter…beginning with locating and interrogating one of the only surviving members of that gang of thieves, a man named Emile Touchard (Guido Celano).

I don’t know how Stark got to be a detective…but I suspect it has something to do with the phrase “mail order correspondence.”  You see, Stark proves to be completely useless in The Singular Affair of the Going, Going, Gone Gold.  It’s a friend of Charlie’s, tourist Mike Canelli (George Raft), who will provide the solution to this case—because the Algerian gendarmes mistake him for Stark.  Canelli finds himself up to his neck in intrigue and double crosses during his stay in Algiers, getting involved with femme fatale Lorraine Beloyan (Gianna Maria Canale) and her saloon proprietor boyfriend Basil Constantine (Massimo Serato), not to mention a mysterious professor (Alfredo Varelli) and a transport tycoon.  The local police captain, Akhim Bey (Leon Lenoir), doesn’t seem to be on the up-and-up either.

This is about as much of The Man from Cairo (1953) that I remember; I nodded off a few times as I was watching the DVD so I can’t completely vouch for my ability for total recall where the plot is concerned.  All I could think about while the movie was in progress was “Why the heck is this thing called The Man from Cairo when it takes place in Algiers?”  (It kind of reminded me of 1953’s Abbott & Costello Go to Mars; Bud and Lou actually land on Venus in that film…though one critic was unable to resist ad-libbing in his review: “…and not a moment too soon.”)

When I grabbed The Man from Cairo from the “VCI Forgotten Noir” pile, I became a little excited because…well, this is going to take explanation.  Old-time radio fans will remember a series entitled Rocky Jordan, a program that aired over CBS Radio between 1948 and 1950 and starring Jack Moyles as the proprietor of the Café Tambourine in Cairo—a slightly shady dive that attracted a most disreputable criminal element.  Moyles’ Jordan played amateur sleuth and matched wits with black marketers, murderers, desert raiders, con artists, ex-Nazis, etc. while trying to stay one step ahead of the local constabulary, represented by Captain Sam Sabaaya (Jay Novello), the prefect of police.

Unless you lived in the West Coast listening area, chances are you didn’t hear Rocky Jordan until June of 1951, when the Tiffany network resurrected the show on both coasts as a summer replacement for Mr. Chameleon.  That incarnation, which ended August 22, 1951, replaced Moyles with the man currently being discussed in this blog post: George Raft hisself.  So I was kinda sorta hoping The Man from Cairo would be adapted from the Jordan series…but I guess into everyone’s life a little rain must fall.

My Rocky Jordan hopes dashed to the ground, I sought solace in the suggestion that Cairo might be good for a few chuckles, beginning with its Theremin-laced theme that runs over the opening credits.  (“They’re trying to hypnotize me into watching this thing!” I thought to myself.)  There’s also some unintentional hilarity in an establishing scene where you see the Eiffel Tower, and then “Paris” is superimposed over it.  But you see “Paris” for maybe two seconds, as if someone in the editing room realized “Hell, they know where they are…”  (It’s Kings Island, Lurlene!)  Admittedly, I did laugh out loud when Raft’s Canelli suggests to the Algiers police—after they keep rifling through the suitcases/trunks in his hotel room—that he’ll keep his luggage in the lobby from now on, to save them having to walk upstairs.

Most of time during Cairo, however, I snored out loud.  I’ve stated previously in this space (when I reviewed I’ll Get You [1952]—which looks a heck of a lot better in retrospect compared to this fromage) that Raft was a rather limited actor; he was very good as a bad guy in vehicles like Scarface (1932) and Each Dawn I Die (1940) …but in many of the good movies he appeared in, the heavy lifting was done by others in the cast.  (Sure, They Drive by Night [1940] is a great movie…but if Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino weren’t in it no one would remember the darn thing.)  Raft does not—as he did in the superior Loan Shark (1952)—receive any help from Cairo’s supporting cast; the only bright spot is an appearance from Irene Papas (to whom I pledged my devotion ever since I saw her in Tribute to a Bad Man [1956]), and she doesn’t even make it to the end of the film.  George’s co-star, Gianna Maria Canale, enjoyed a prosperous career as an Italian film star (she’s in Lust of the Vampire and Hercules) but she not only has a significant height advantage over her leading man…I worried she might step on him.

The Man from Cairo spots a dominant Italian cast (whose voices are very badly dubbed); the Italian version of the film (Dramma nella Kasbah/Avventura ad Algeri) was directed by Edoardo Anton (he also co-wrote the script) while the U.S. edition was the directorial swan song of Ray Enright—a former Mack Sennett gag writer who rode herd on a number of Warner Brothers features including Alibi Ike (1935), Hard to Get (1938), and The Wagons Roll at Night (1941).  Enright handles things fairly competently—it’s the dull script that really does Cairo in (from Eugene Ling and Philip & Janet Stevenson); I’m starting to understand why Mark Thomas McGee’s book on Robert L. Lippert (available from BearManor Media) is titled Talk’s Cheap, Action’s Expensive.  Andrew “Grover” Leal and I were discussing on Facebook the other day how some motion picture celebrities often take toxic gigs for a free vacation.  I hope George’s Algerian holiday was a pleasant one.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Grey Market Cinema: Nevada (1927)

Gunslinger Jim “Nevada” Lacy (Gary Cooper) successfully springs his sidekick Cash Burridge (Ernie Adams) from the Lineville hoosegow, and the two men decide to emulate the heroes of TV’s Alias Smith and Jones by taking the straight-and-narrow for a change.  They find their salvation in the tiny hamlet of Winthrop, “a quiet, calm, peaceful place”—but no sooner have they dismounted when they must step in to help Ben Ide (Philip Strange), an English rancher who’s being tormented by a local bully named Cawthorne (Ivan Christy).

Grateful for the assist, Ide hires Nevada and Cash to work his ranch…and he needs all the support he can get, because a gang of cattle rustlers has been terrorizing not only his spread but all of the other ranches in the immediate area.  While Ben and the sheriff (Christian J. Frank) round up every available man to trail the gang, Ide asks Nevada to keep an eye on his sister Hettie (Thelma Todd), newly arrived from across the pond.  Nevada’s assignment does not set well with Clan Dillon (William Powell), a wealthy cattle baron who is kind of sweet on Miss Hettie…but the more time she spends with Nevada, the fonder of him she becomes.  Nevada’s romance with Het is threatened by the Long Arm of the Law: Lineville’s sheriff (Guy Oliver) has trailed him to Winthrop, determined to take Nevada back to face the music.

I apologize for the blog entries being a little heavy on the sagebrush action this week; Wednesdays are generally reserved for those movies, of course, but I promised to tackle Frontier Gal (1945) once I pried it loose from the black hole that is my bedroom (and it just seemed right for Overlooked Films on Tuesdays) …and I picked Nevada (1927) as TDOY’s silent feature simply through the luck of the draw.  (If it’s any consolation, tomorrow’s Forgotten Noir Fridays has no Western content whatsoever.)

Nevada, directed by John Waters (no, not the Baltimore guy) and scripted by Gordon Rigby, John Stone, and John W. “Jack” Conway, was based on the Zane Grey novel of the same name (a sequel to a 1927 literary effort from the author, Forlorn River).  I sort of did a double take when I researched the film because the publication date on Zane’s Nevada was 1928—which is a little tricky when your movie was produced by Paramount/Famous Players-Lasky the year before.  (A little more searching revealed that Nevada was originally serialized in The American Magazine in 1926-27.  Forlorn River was serialized in The Ladies Home Journal in 1926, which is how it was able to reach movie screens that same year in another Paramount release, starring Jack Holt and Raymond Hatton.)

Nevada spotlights an early starring role for future Oscar winner Gary Cooper, who had been appearing mostly in bit roles in films in the mid-1920s until his breakthrough turn in The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926).  The following year found Coop gracing a number of Clara Bow features (It, Wings), one of which—Children of Divorce (1927)—is scheduled to make its DVD/Blu-ray debut this December from Flicker Alley.  (It’s available for pre-order at a 25% discount…and I have made plans to add it to the dusty Thrilling Days of Yesteryear archives.)  I’m certain I’m not the first person to say this…but Gary Cooper was one of the most curious of motion picture stars.  He wasn’t a particular great actor (I’ve listened to Coop on a number of old-time radio broadcasts in the past, and was amazed at how wooden he came across) but he had an undefinable charisma that just seemed to light up a movie screen.  His silent picture work attests to this, and in fact he may have been even more effective as a performer in the era before talkies.

Gary’s co-star—and I’ll come clean, the reason I took a flutter in buying a copy of the film—is the lovely Thelma Todd…but I’ll also be honest and admit she didn’t really impress me a great deal in this one (this might be because the part is kind of underwritten).  Classic movie aficionados will get a chuckle out of the fact that the actor who would later define cinematic urbanity, William Powell, plays Nevada’s bad guy…and before the shrieks of “Thanks for the spoiler warning!” start, let me point out it’s not too hard to determine Powell’s no-goodity through simple Socratic reasoning:

1) William Powell often played bad guys in silent films.
2) William Powell is in this silent film.
3) Therefore, William Powell is the bad guy.

You're busted, Mr. Powell.
Even though he’s a genuine rotter, Powell exudes that suavity for which he would be fondly remembered later in his career in vehicles like The Thin Man series.  Captured by the law and revealed to be the mastermind of the gang, Powell reaches for something in his pocket…and pulls out a cigar, which he bites the tip off of and places in his mouth, lighting it in a "well-whaddya-gonna-do?" fashion.  (His character of Clan Dillon plugs Cawthorne, his second-in-command, to make sure no one knows he’s the Big Cheese…but when Cawthorne is revealed to be alive, well, and spilling his guts to the gendarmes, Dillon drily remarks that his eyesight is getting bad—he usually hits his mark successfully on the first try.)

Paramount would remake Nevada in 1935 with Larry (Buster) Crabbe in the Cooper role, and then R-K-O had a go with the material in 1944 with Robert Mitchum as star (this one even works in Tim Holt sidekick Richard Martin as “Chito Rafferty”!).  My overall assessment of the Gary Cooper-Thelma Todd version is that while it’s not particularly remarkable it is an entertaining watch, giving classic movie fans a chance to see these stars on the cusp of their impressive film careers.  (Did I mention Bill Powell plays the bad guy?)

The Wikipedia entry for Nevada reads thusly: “Nevada still survives in a complete copy, but the film's appearance is not the best, due probably to poor preservation.  It is possible to make out scenes, but not as well as other highly restored silent films.”  This is a major understatement.  I purchased this from Finders Keepers, and there’s severe nitrate decomposition in both the first six minutes of the film and the last reel (about 11 minutes).  To add insult to injury, it’s a very dark print; I couldn’t read half of the title cards.  (That’s why I didn’t even bother with screen captures; the photos in this essay are stills from the film.)  There’s a “The End” credit that reveals this was at one time a Grapevine Video release from 1996 (I refrained from calling it “On the Grapevine” because I didn’t want to give folks the impression it’s still in their catalog).  It’s not unwatchable, but it stands as a clear example as to the importance of film preservation and restoration (nitrate won’t wait).

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

B-Western Wednesdays: Trailin’ West (1936)

It is 1864.  The Civil War is taking its toll, pitting brother against brother.  (And in some cases, sister against sister.  Truth be told, a lot of sibling rivalry went on.)  This is quite evident in the weary demeanor of The Great Emancipator himself, President Abraham Lincoln (Robert Barrat), who has been briefed by Union Army officers that the situation in Kent City is quite serious if not hopeless.  All attempts to send in an undercover man have been thwarted, so Lincoln gambles on one last roll of the dice.  Hearing Lt. Red Colton (Dick Foran) entertaining White House guests in an adjoining room with a song, Honest Abe likes the cut of Colton’s jib; he assigns Red the task of ferreting out the enemy activity in Kent City before it erupts into guerilla warfare.

Arriving in Kent City, Colton—masquerading as a gambler named “John Madison”—is a babe in the woods; on his journey there, he was waylaid by a pair of goons in his hotel room…who absconded with his credentials and handed them off to Jefferson Duane (Bill Elliott), the scoundrel behind all of the Kent City subterfuge.  Duane is also working in tandem with the sebaceous Curley Thorne (Addison Richards), the owner of Kent City’s center of night life in The Little Nugget, a saloon/casino.  To bring the evildoers to justice, Colton will have to depend on a newly-acquired sidekick in Happy Simpson (Eddie Schubert) and “dance hall girl” Lucy Blake (Paula Stone)—the Union must survive…at any cost!

Back when TDOY was involved in the Mayberry Mondays project, I made special note of how actor Dick Foran received a “Special Guest Star” credit on an episode entitled “Palm Springs Cowboy”—highly unusual in that there were only two other actors on Mayberry R.F.D. to receive this accolade, Andy Griffith and Don Knotts, which makes sense because they were both Andy Griffith Show alumni.  I reasoned at the time that since “Cowboy” was Foran’s show business swan song that might have been the reason he was singled out for this honor.

Dick was Warner Brothers’ reigning cowboy star during the 1930s—and not just a cowboy star: “the singing cowboy,” as he was frequently billed in the credits of his starring series of B-Westerns.  The studio’s production supervisor, Bryan Foy, made the decision to get back in the oater game in 1935 and according to western film historian Boyd Magers, Foy had originally asked Lyle Talbot to saddle up (Talbot had a fine singing voice though he didn’t get the opportunity to use it much) but Talbot’s attitude was “Find yourself another guy” because he did not like horses.  So Foran and his pipes got the tap.  “Although the Foran westerns have solid production values and the benefit of strong casts,” writes Magers, “what Warner Bros. never got right was what historian Les Adams called ‘that self-taught, down-home, Mama-and-all-them brand of Americana so easily and naturally projected by Gene Autry, Tex Ritter and Roy Rogers among the singers, and John Wayne, Buck Jones, Bill Elliott and Johnny Mack Brown among the straight action performers.’”

I think Brother Boyd speaks the truth on this: the Foran westerns are pleasant enough (and barely run over an hour, so it’s not like you make a costly time investment by sitting down with one) and while I have a tendency to joke about Dick’s sagebrush career, Foran was actually an underrated actor.  I caught him in a Warner’s B a while back called Gentleman Are Born (1934—he was still being billed as “Nick Foran”) in which he sympathetically played a college graduate having difficulty landing a job (sounds kind of relevant today).  Foran wasn’t just limited to oaters while he was at Warner’s: he turns up in films like The Petrified Forest (1936—where he loses Bette Davis to Leslie Howard, fercrissake), Black Legion (1937), and Four Daughters (1938).  But leave us not make any bones about it—there’s a reason Dick was known as “the matinee idol of B pictures.”

Magers gives Trailin’ West (1936) four stars at Western Clippings.  I don’t think it’s a terrible Western, but I don’t think it’s anything to miss Dancing with the Stars about, either.  (Note: I have not and will not ever watch Dancing with the Stars…I reference it only to seem hipper than I actually am.)  West does have a pretty good supporting cast: the presence of future Saturday afternoon cowboy Bill Elliott (billed here as Gordon Elliott) as a bad guy might generate a few chuckles amongst western fans, and co-bad guy Addison Richards is always welcome company.  (Richards’ character is named “Curley,” which is kind of a tip-off he’s up to no good; unless a movie character named “Curley” has “Nyuk nyuk nyuk” and “I’m a victim of coicumstance!” in his vocabulary, bet on him being a villain.)  Eddie Schubert plays it straight as Dick’s buddy, and I was quite taken with Paula Stone as the woman who becomes Mrs. Red Colton at West’s conclusion (she’s a bit too demure to be a “dance hall girl” but there’s a reason for that, as you might guess).  Other familiar faces include the ubiquitous Joseph Crehan, Carlyle Moore, Jr., and Jim Thorpe (All American); you might also spot stuntman Yakima Canutt and Gunsmoke bartender Glenn Strange as well.

Trailin’ West is well-directed by B-picture veteran Noel M. Smith (he also co-helmed 1942’s Gang Busters, one of my favorite serials) and scripted by Anthony Coldeway; one of the highlights of the picture is a spirited donnybrook between Foran and Richards’ characters (well, their stuntmen if you want to be picky).  But the film’s lasting contribution is a sequence that’s technically not in the film: one of the outtakes appears in the short Breakdowns of 1937, in which Foran tries to mount his faithful steed “Smoke” …and fails miserably in the attempt (“I can't raise my ass off the ground!”).  (This hilarious blooper would become a “Breakdowns” tradition.)  Trailin’ West makes the rounds on The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ from time to time (that’s where I caught it), but you can also check it out on the Warner Archive’s Dick Foran Western Collection.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Buried Treasures: Frontier Gal (1945)

Johnny Hart (Rod Cameron) comes a-ridin’ into the town of Red Gulch after successfully eluding a posse…and no sooner has he entered the town saloon when he’s engaged in a barroom brawl.  (It will not take us too long to suss out that Monsieur Hart has anger management issues.)  His attentions are quickly drawn toward the “Boss Turkey”—Lorena Dumont (Yvonne De Carlo), the saloon’s owner—which does not sit well with “Blackie” Shoulders (Sheldon Leonard), a disreputable gent who has designs on Lorena hisself.  Despite his rough and rowdy ways, Lorena is quite taken with Johnny…and quickly makes plans to become Mrs. Jonathan Hart.

Here’s a pro tip: if you’re scheduling nuptials, it’s always a good idea to let the groom in on the game plan—Johnny is a little surprised that his becoming betrothed came on all of a sudden (particularly since he was counting on settling down with the more demure, non-saloon-owning Sheila Winthrop [Jan Wiley]) and though he has initial reservations they are dissipated at the point of Lorena’s gun.  (More of a pistola wedding than shotgun.)  No sooner have the couple exchanged “I do’s” when Johnny is placed under arrest by Judge Prescott (Andrew Tombes), who presided over the ceremony.  (It’s more convenient that way.)

Lorena learns from Blackie that Johnny is wanted for manslaughter; Johnny allegedly killed his partner, but you get three guesses as to who the real culprit is and the first two do not count.  (Hint: it rhymes with “lackey.”)  Johnny is able to once again escape the men who would cart him off to the hoosegow, long enough to enjoy a honeymoon night with his new bride.  But you can’t outrun The Long Arm of the Law: Johnny is eventually captured, and does a six-year-stretch before returning to Red Gulch to reunite with Lorena…and the five-year-old daughter (Beverly Simmons) that resulted from that honeymoon canoodling.

Yes, I was hoping that kid would fall.  (I can’t ever catch a break.)

Frontier Gal (1945) is a real oddity: it’s a hybrid of comedy, musical, and Western—and in fact, I was considering it as a candidate for TDOY’s B-Western Wednesdays before disqualifying it because…well, it doesn’t really fit my definition of a programmer, even if it was produced at Universal.   It was lavishly filmed in Technicolor and its budget, according to Time magazine, was $1,400,000—definitely not the seed money for your run-of-the-mill oater.  Stars Rod Cameron and Yvonne De Carlo were reteamed after their success in Salome When She Danced (1945) (Gal was even promoted with the tagline “It’s That ‘Salome’ Gal Again...Lovin' Like A Desperado!”), and would work together a third and final time in River Lady (1948) …though Dan Duryea was Yvonne’s leading man in that one.  Gal was originally going to be a vehicle for the Universal team of Maria Montez and Jon Hall but Maria nixed it because she didn’t like the script.  (Maria had a bit more Moxie on the ball than I gave her previous credit.)

Any movie can’t be all bad if it makes time for Claire Carleton (playing a dance hall gal named “Gracie,” and she’s amazing).

Frontier Gal isn’t a terrible film, but its elements don’t really gel (there’s also a lot of soap opera in what should be a Western—the blame for this should go to scribes-producers Michael Fessier and Ernest Pagano, because they insisted on shoehorning a cute little moppet in the form of Beverly Simmons into the proceedings…and you know my revulsion for kid actors outside anyone in Our Gang) and the relationship between Cameron’s Johnny and De Carlo’s Lorena is a consistently sour one.  (Cameron, who I enjoyed in the serials G-Men vs. the Black Dragon [1943] and Secret Service in Darkest Africa [1943] despite his thespic limitations, kind of comes across as a macho schmuck in Gal.)  Rod, Yvonne, and the kid go into a huggy huddle by the time Gal calls it a wrap…but all I was thinking by that point was “There’s a marriage counselor out there who just made plans to add a swimming pool.”

Cameron does figure in a scene in the film that brought about much amusement—mostly because he and Andrew Tombes play it deadpan-straight (Tombes never looks up from his book):

JOHNNY: Hey, what supports this town?
JUDGE: Odd jobs...
JOHNNY: Such as the occasional stagecoach holdup?
JUDGE: So far...nothing's been proven...
JOHNNY: Why don't you do something about it?
JUDGE: I hope to...but I'm the judicial arm...not the executive...
JOHNNY: What's the matter with the sheriff?
JUDGE: Oh...he's indisposed...
JUDGE: Socially, the funeral was considered quite a success...

I used to have a mug similar to the one Andy Devine is quaffing.  I say “used to” because it's apparently disappeared in the same manner as the Frontier Gal DVD.

The strengths of Frontier Gal reside in its great supporting cast: Fuzzy Knight (shout-out to a WV boy!) and Andy Devine make swell comic relief sidekicks (Devine’s “Big Ben” eventually winds up as Red Gulch’s sheriff, explaining that he took the job in “a moment of weakness”) while Clara Blandick—best-remembered as The Wizard of Oz’s “Auntie Em”—has a nice out-of-character turn as “Aunt Abigail,” the disapproving relation of Johnny’s fiancée.  Frank Lackteen generates a few chuckles as Cameron’s Native American sidekick (asked by Johnny what he should do about the care and upkeep of his newly-acquired daughter, “Cherokee” deadpans “Get a squaw”), and there’s solid contributions from favorites like Tombes, Jack Overman, and the usual Western suspects.  The only real disappointment in this is Sheldon Leonard, who’s a bit ineffective as the villainous Blackie (his odd motivation for kidnapping young Simmons seems to be that it’s getting close to the movie’s conclusion) …and I say this as someone who enjoys Shel in everything he’s in.

You can take the boy out of New York…but you can’t take the Noo Yawk out of the boy.  Despite keeping his unmistakable accent, Sheldon Leonard isn’t nearly as menacing as this screen cap makes him appear.

You want music?  Frontier Gal has music: De Carlo does two numbers (Set ‘Em Up, Joe and What is Love?—not the Vern Gosdin and Haddaway hits, obviously) and Knight has a lot of fun with Johnny’s Coming Home—all three songs courtesy of tunesmiths Jack Brooks and Edgar Fairchild.  The decision to make Gal a Technicolor film was a sound one: Yvonne and her fellow dance hall gals sport some dazzlingly beautiful outfits, and this movie also serves as a reminder that De Carlo was quite a fabulous babe back in the 1940s (it’s kind of hard to erase all those episodes of The Munsters from my memory banks).

Frontier Gal was directed by Charles Lamont, the Universal journeyman who rode herd on a number of Abbott & Costello’s later fifties films (Abbott & Costello Meet the Invisible Man [1951], etc.) but his career stretched back to the silent era, directing one- and two-reel comedies for Mack Sennett and Al Christie (he also helmed quite a few Educational shorts starring Buster Keaton).  It’s available on DVD through Universal’s MOD “Vault” series (you can also purchase River Lady on the same label); I acquired my copy through friend of the blog Richard M. Roberts, in a swap for a pair of Warren William Lone Wolf movies he did not own.  (RMR’s Gal was recorded from Encore Westerns, in case you were thinking about pointing fingers and shouting “Bootlegger!”)  I literally had to pick up my bedroom and shake it to find this movie, because the DVD decided to play a bizarre game of hide-and-seek (you wouldn’t think it would be possible to lose a disc…which speaks volumes about my organization skills, I guess).