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?



March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

I’ve never considered myself to be an expert on anything, and just as well, because I’m constantly being blindsided with new and (for the most part) interesting facts about subjects on which I thought I had a bit of knowledge. Just the other day a Western came on the Turner Classic Movies channel that was completely new to me. In fact, I was sure that the TCM programming crew had got this one completely wrong – Marlene Dietrich in a Western! Are you sure?

Yep they were. In fact I have since found out that Dietrich had been in a Western as far back as 1939 when she appeared in Destry Rides Again with James Steward. This movie, the one on TCM, was made some dozen or so years later in 1952 and called Rancho Notorious. It has the Berlin beauty, who was 50 by then but still looking good, in a lead role as Altar Keane, a past saloon singer and now owned a hideout horse-ranch near the Mexican border called Chuck-a-luck (which seems to be the name for a vertical roulette wheel). Odd name? You’re telling me, I thought they were saying choc-co-lart as in chocolate with a heavy European accent. But getting the name wrong was the least of my confusions.

This would have to be one of the most uneven movies I have ever seen in my life, and in saying that, one of the most interesting. Parts of it just jarred, like the music with its title song. This theme is no ‘Do not forsake me O my darlin’, yet the music is from the pen of Ken Darby of The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Emil Newman of Sun Valley Serenade (1941) fame.

The original story is by Silvia Richards who wrote the noir classic Ruby Gentry (1952) that was directed by King Vidor, who started out in the silent era. It starred Jennifer Jones, Charlton Heston and Karl Malden and while the significance of this connection may be slight, it was Heston who starred in one of my all time favorite Westerns, Will Penny (1968). A movie that seems to me to be greatly underrated. Maybe, because it came out in the same year as Planet of the Apes and was just overlooked.  

This particular Silvia Richards story, Rancho Notorious, was worked into a screenplay by Daniel Taradash, the Harvard law graduate turned playwright, who went to Hollywood to work on such great movies as From Here to Eternity (also 1952), Picnic (1955) and Bell, Book and Candle (1958). So how could all this talent end up in such an uneven movie? In fact, I was sure that the movie must have had a change of directors during its making. But no, it kept its director throughout, the one and only, Fritz Lang. Another master from the silent era who made the classic Metropolis (1927), which still gets theatre airings today, along with a completely reworked score.

Filmed in Technicolor, Rancho Notorious, was met with a poor critical response when in opened in theaters in May 1952. Dietrich got away with a positive review for her performance, but it was not enough to save the show. Yet, in amongst its inconsistences and problems, this movie is still worth a look. It is also crammed full of little tidbits, such as George Reeves of Superman fame, who unfortunately became so typecast that it ruined his career as a character actor. Audiences were known to catcall Superman slogans, such as ‘Is it a bird?’ when he appeared in From Here to Eternity. A debate still goes on to this day as to the impact that Superman had on his life, and if it led him to commit suicide.

The excellent website 50 Westerns From The 50s casts a bright spotlight on Rancho Notorious and the fractious relationship between Dietrich and Lang. Seems she detested him with a passion, while he was unimpressed with her. She was to go on and say that the film “was and remains a very mediocre work.”

In defence of Fritz Lang, the movie he turned into Howard Hughes’ RKO studios had 15 minutes cut out of it by one of the produces, Howard Welsch. When asked by screenwriter Dan Taradash what had been cut, Welsch replied, “I cut the mood’. Maybe the original director’s cut would have removed the unevenness of the final release. Unfortunately, we will never know. But if you are still interested to learn more about this most curious of Westerns, then please go to the 50 Westerns From The 50s website. However, if you do, let me warn you, you may not come out for some weeks – it is such a wonderful place to get lost in if you are a Western fan, and as for Toby Roan, the brains and the hard work behind the website, well, he is an expert.



Lee Clinton  

Copyright © 2011 Lee Clinton. All rights reserved
Terms of Use | Privacy Statement

Webdesign by Brigitte Pedraza