What is the Corral about?

Well, simply, it is a place to round-up ideas, thoughts, comments and anything else you may like to hear about. My original intention was to have a forum but the time to manage such a gathering is really beyond me at this stage. But via email I can gather up your input and get it into the Corral.

So, would you like to make comment?

What is your favorite western story, either as a book or a movie?

Want to tell us why?

What are you currently reading, watching or listening to (regardless if it is a Western or not)?

What do you want to see in future Western stories (grit or romance, maybe both, gunplay or justice, grim reality or happy endings)?

Anything you would like to see in one of my stories?



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I recently had a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a star, who I adore, perform on stage to a packed theater, and I was in a second row centre stalls seat. The star was the great Angela Lansbury in the production of Driving Miss Daisy, with James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines. The substance of the play and the artistry of the actors resulted in a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience, who represented a wide range of ages.

Angela, who is now 87 and still on top of her acting chops, is from the same cohort of stars as Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe, and while she is mostly remembered for her successful television performances, especially Murder, She Wrote, her film career is just as impressive. Her first movie was Gaslight in 1944, when a stunningly beautiful nineteen year old.

Of all her movies, the one that rusted me on as a lifelong fan was the original of The Manchurian Candidate (1962). It comes from the 1959 satirical novel by Richard Condon. The adapted screenplay by George Axelrod follows the book closely, even using some of the dialogue straight from the pages of the novel. I have always admired satirical writing but it is so hard to find, I guess because it is so hard to write. Richard Condon is a master of the art and The Manchurian Candidate shows him at his sharpest best. The film mirrors this in both style and substance and is a wonderful accompaniment to the book.

In that movie, Angela plays the role of Mrs Iselin the mother of Raymond Shaw who is the brainwashed Manchurian candidate. It is a superb performance as she is cunningly despicable and ruthless. The handsome Lawrence Harvey plays Raymond and he is also superb, and the interesting thing is that there was only a three-year difference in age between Harvey and Lansbury. He was 34 and she was 37. So to play someone 20 to 30 years older requires the art and craft of a good actor. Unfortunately, Harvey was dead just 11 years later at 45, while Lansbury has continued on to the present.

But what has any of this got to do with things Western? Well Angela Lansbury actually starred in a Western movie with Randolph Scott, called A Lawless Street (1955). This movie has been somewhat cast aside by the critics as a B-grade potboiler, but I believe it deserves a second look and the opportunity to do so is available on YouTube.

The director was Joseph H. Lewis who was known for making low-budget movies and many of these were Westerns dating back to Courage of the West (1937) starring Bob Baker who actually won a Universal Studio screen test over Roy Rogers to become the studio’s singing cowboy. But don’t dismiss Lewis’ as a second rate director as he made Gun Crazy (1949), which is a must see classic for the serious movie buff.

The producer of A Lawless Street was Harry Joe Brown, who was the man behind director Budd Boetticher and of course actor Randolph Scott. Together they were an exceptional team that produced some memorable and classic Western that are of excellent quality – The Tall T (1957); Decision at Sundown (also ’57); and Buchanan Rides Alone (1958). Brown started his career back in 1924 with The Mask of Lopez, a silent movie, and was to finish 43 years later with A Time for Killing (1967), a movie with Glenn Ford, Inger Stevens and a 24-year-old Harrison Ford. His greatest production, however, would have to be Captain Blood (1935) that was nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award and made Errol Flynn a star.

A criticism of A Lawless Street is the mundane end, which is put forward as the reason why the movie failed to receive the merit it deserves, yet it is also cited as one of Randolph Scott’s best movies to come from the 1950s, which is a big call. The movie historian Hal Erickson declares that Angela Lansbury, who plays the ex-wife to Scott’s Marshal Calem Ware, to be quite a dish in her revealing stage wardrobe. While Lansbury is quoted in Robert Nott’s book The Films Of Randolph Scott as saying it was a low point in her career.  

According to Wiki the movie also went under the title of The Marshal of Medicine Bend in the US, which is a bit of a mouthful and may have done no more to the marketing of the film than add confusion. When another movie, Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend, was released two years later in 1957 it becomes even more befuddling to the Western movie buff. And as for that ending that is so criticized? A bit righteous? Pretentious, even? Maybe, but a good man is hard to find and often underappreciated, so why not give a little credit where credit is due, even if the conclusion seems to take place with a rush.


Lee Clinton
August 2013 


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