Big Iron / 2020 Colter Wall written by Marty Robbins
“You sit in your tepee and dream and then you go to wherever the dream may take you. It might come true. You wait for real life to catch up.”
IMDB (Internet Movie Database) says that Burt Lancaster made 16 Westerns. That’s wrong. Desert Fury (1947) ain’t no Western.
Just because a movie is made in Sedona AZ
or somebody is wearing a Cowboy hat
doesn’t make it a Western.
So … let’s say about 15 Burt Lancaster Westerns.
Did you know that?! (I didn’t.) But I regard 5 of them to be Western Classics.
Here’s my list:
The Gunfight at the OK Corral / 1957 Definitely one of the most
influential Westerns of all time
Vera Cruz / 1954 Lancaster and Cooper
Wa do ya want?
The Professionals / 1966
One of the Top Ten Westerns every made.
The Unforgiven / 1960
One of the most controversial Westerns ever made.
And some said that Hepburn doesn’t look very native.
But it’s Hepburn – so all is Forgiven.
The Rainmaker / 1956
Some say this isn’t a Western.
But it’s got Hepburn.
So let it rain.
“I spend 70 per cent of my time praying for it to rain … and 30 per cent praying for it to stop.” – Oldtimer living in the desert
I’m sure many of you have been (eagerly) anticipating The End of my Vera Cruz celebration. I’m wrapping it up some trivia and a few pics. I hope you enjoyed it. I did.
Trivia From: Internet Movie Database (IMDB): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047647/trivia:
One of the first major Hollywood films to be made on location in Mexico.
Film-making legislation in Mexico meant that a local director had to be involved in the production in some capacity, though he wasn’t actually used. (MFW: This guy actually gets Billing in the credits. How do you get a job like that anyway?)
One of Robert Aldrich’s personal favorites of his films, he particularly enjoyed the fact that it had a hero and an anti-hero. (MFW: This was an innovative concept – especially with Gary Cooper!)
Clark Gable warned Gary Cooper not to work with Burt Lancaster, saying, “That young guy will blow you off the screen.” Ironically, Gable himself later worked with Lancaster in Run Silent Run Deep. (MFW: Coop, of course, more than holds his own. And when both of them are in the same frame, it’s dynamite.)
Burt Lancaster was quite happy to cede top billing to Gary Cooper, knowing that the older actor had more box office pull than he did. (MFW: on the posters the Billing and images are usually equal – but can change from country to country – and sometimes from year to year.)
Lancaster recalled that Gary Cooper would object to anything in the script that implied his character was anything other than good, and demand it be changed. (MFW: Good for you Coop. Nowadays most actors would probably insist on the opposite.)
Produced by Burt Lancaster’s own production company for $1.7 million, the film went on to become a sizable hit, grossing over $11 million. (MFW: These days that wouldn’t even pay for Johnny Depp’s shoelaces. The 2 recent Hobbit films cost over 500 million dollars to make – and there’s another one coming. The 3 Lord of the Rings movies made over 3 billion dollars.)
This film is sometimes called the “first spaghetti western,” due to its reputed influence on the Italian directors such as Sergio Leone who popularized the genre.
Gary Cooper was taking medication during much of the filming. (MFW: Cooper was also ill (with a stomach ulcer) during the filming of High Noon. And it’s said that his pained expression in much of High Noon was not from acting.)
Cooper was badly hurt when he was struck by fragments from a bridge that had been blown up and the special-effects team had used too much explosives. (MFW: this probably didn’t help much either.)
Trivia from Turner Classic Movies TCM: http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/17830/Vera-Cruz/articles.html
Vera Cruz was not actually filmed in Vera Cruz, due to the unpredictable weather conditions. Production was set up instead in Cuernavaca, not exactly an ideal substitute as many of the crew promptly came down with sunstroke in the sizzling Mexican desert. (MFW: Ever had sunstroke? It can kill you.)
A caravan of a 100-member cast and crew and 50 horses were joined by 200 extras hired in Mexico. (MFW: One set location in The Hobbit had over 600 people.)
The equipment included a dangerous 25,000 rounds of live ammunition because blanks were in short supply. (MFW: Don’t do this at home folks.)
Although no one was shot, there was one false arrest: actor Charles Horvath, who plays one of the baddies. Mistaken for a real-life bandit named Jaramillo, who was active in the area during filming, Horvath was apprehended by Mexican authorities in full costume while trying to buy cigarettes on a break. (MFW: Some trivia sources claim it was Bronson and Borgnine who were arrested. Don’t believe everything (anything?) you read on the internet folks – except for this blog.)
“A director is a ringmaster, a psychiatrist and a referee.”
Director / Writer / Producer
“The power is for the director to do what he wants to do. To achieve that he needs his own cutter, he needs his cameraman, he needs his own assistant and a strong voice in his choice of writer; a very, very strong voice on who’s the actor. He needs the power not to be interfered with and the power to make the movie as he sees it.”
The Flight of the Phoenix / The Choirboys / The Frisco Kid / Too Late the Hero / Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte / What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? / Twilight’s Last Gleaming / Emperor of the North / The Angry Hills / The Dirty Dozen /Ulzana’s Raid / The Longest Yard / Apache/ The Big Knife / Ten Seconds to Hell / 4 for Texas / The Killing of Sister George / Hustle
Aldrich Directed 5 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Victor Buono, Bette Davis, Agnes Moorehead, Ian Bannen and John Cassavetes.
Aldrich Directed 3 Westerns starring Burt Lancaster: Ulzana’s Raid, Apache, and Vera Cruz.
President of the Directors Guild of America (DGA). [1975-1979]
Head of jury at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1959
Berlin International Film Festival
1956 Won Silver Berlin Bear – Best Director for: Autumn Leaves (1956).
Cannes Film Festival
1963 Nominated Palme d’Or for: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).
Directors Guild of America, USA
Nominated DGA Award Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures for: The Dirty Dozen (1967).
1963 Nominated DGA Award Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures for: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).
Hochi Film Awards
1982 Won Hochi Film Award Best Foreign Language Film for: …All the Marbles (1981).
1970 Nominated Golden Laurel Producer-Director 10th place.
1968 Nominated Golden Laurel Producer-Director 4th place.
1967 Nominated Golden Laurel Producer-Director 6th place.
1965 Nominated Golden Laurel Producer-Director 6th place.
Venice Film Festival
1956 Won Pasinetti Award for: Attack (1956)
Nominated Golden Lion for: Attack (1956).
1955 Won Silver Lion for: The Big Knife (1955).
Nominated Golden Lion for: The Big Knife (1955).
“The struggle for self-determination, the struggle for what a character wants his life to be . . . I look for characters who feel strongly enough about something not to be concerned with the prevailing odds, but to struggle against those odds.” – Robert Aldrich
It’s often the case that movies have a message that has gotten foggy over time. Vera Cruz was such a movie – with plenty to say about the politics in 1954.
A director with a message –
Reviewed by Glenn Erickson / DVD Savant
Vera Cruz shows Robert Aldrich at his subversive best. It played right in the Eisenhower years of CIA ‘adventurism’ in Central America, and the director has a field day showing interloping imperialist Maximillian as a slightly depraved schemer in contrast to his deification in William Dieterle’s Juarez. One can’t help thinking that the director was expressing his own radical outrage when he has moral icon Cooper participate in such unsavory deeds as holding innocent children as hostages. Outgunned by Colonel Fielding’s, I mean, General Ramirez’ troops, Lancaster acknowledges that his gang can’t fight its way out, “But they can stop an awful lot of little kids from growin’ up, amigo.” Ramirez backs down because it’s clear that Lancaster’s action is no bluff; In one fell swoop Aldrich shows his American ‘adventurers’ behaving with a ruthlessness usually reserved for depictions of Nazis. Since the French are presented as greedy murderous parasites, Roland Kibbee and James R. Webb’s script points audience sympathy to the conventionally virtuous Juaristas. “Wars are not won by killing children,” Ankrum intones nobly, but we are already expected to know better.
Vera Cruz’s tension (and thrills) indulge our delight at seeing how cynically outrageous things can get. The moral center weakly returns to Cooper’s Ben Trane when he eventually sides with the Juaristas against the doublecrossing Lancaster, but this development smacks of insincerity. Trane keeps claiming his intentions are just as mercenary as Lancaster’s, but it is Jo Erin who does all of the backstabbing, murdering several of his own gang. Lancaster’s most loyal follower Ballard, a black ex-soldier still in Union uniform, is his most sympathetic victim. The shaky triumph of Gary Cooper’s iconic ‘goodness’ defeats what seems to be Aldrich’s aim: To totally sully audience expectations of American Heroism and conclude with a cynical apocalypse. In reality, the cynicism appalled sensitive critics like Bosley Crowther while thrilling Western fans, who undoubtedly saw nothing ironic or troubling about the picture!
“All my life I go up, down, up, down, I am indestructible.”
Celebrating Denise Darcel:
I admit it. I was stuck.
I couldn’t figure out whether Denise should be viewed as yet another fallen Star who passed through the Hollywood mills before falling to earth and facing the reality that the rest of us peons know on a day to day basis. This perception is probably exaggerated by the sizable cast of very successful Stars who appear in Vera Cruz: Lancaster, Cooper, Montiel, Romero, Bronson, Borgnine … most of who had enjoyed long and illustrious film careers.
And although Denise played the conniving and unsympathetic Countess Marie Duvarre in Vera Cruz, I ultimately found her to be the most accessible and REAL person in the film: a charming lady of great humor and resiliency who cared dearly for her two sons – and did what she needed to do – a survivor.
Born in Paris, Sept. 8, 1925
Passed: Dec. 23, 2011, Los Angeles County, California
Best known for her sensual parts, she will be remembered as Countess Marie Duvarre in the film “Vera Cruz” (1954), which starred Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster. Born Denise Billecard, she attended the University of Dijon and launched her career in entertainment, initially as a cabaret singer and became a featured vocalist at Paris’ La Comedie Francaise. This popularity along with her radiant looks earned her the distinctions as “The Most Beautiful Girl in Paris” and “The Most Photographed Girl in France”. After marrying an American serviceman, she moved to Hollywood where she marked her motion picture debut with a small role in the picture “To the Victor” (1948). She found more substantial parts with “Battleground” (1949), “Tarzan and the Slave Girl” (1950, opposite Lex Barker), “Westward the Women” (1951, co-starred with Robert Taylor) and “Dangerous When Wet” (1953), while simultaneously appearing on Broadway and TV in the play “Pardon Our French” (1950 to 1951) and the programs “Naked City” and “Combat!”. She retired from acting during the early 1960s to raise her family.
Bio: “Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0201005/bio:
“She never took herself or her image too seriously during her prime and was known and admired for her fine sense of humor …
“Hollywood folklore has it that Ms. Darcel gave the cold shoulder to the heated romantic advances of both Columbia mogul Harry Cohn and producer playboy Howard Hughes, and thereby sealed her own fate. While waiting out the snub, she left Hollywood and made live appearances on stage, in dinner theaters and around the nightclub circuit …”
Excerpt from Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0600060/bio
“It is quite impossible to cover here all the awards Sara Montiel has won in her long successful career but we must mention the “Premio del Sindicato” (at that time Spain’s equivalent of the Oscar) for best actress, won two years in a row for her performances in “El Último Cuplé” and “La Violetera”. In 1972 she was proclaimed an honorary citizen of Los Angeles by Mayor Sam Yorty and was given the gold key to the city. Similarly she has been awarded the gold keys of New York, Miami and Chicago. In 1981 she received Israel’s most prestigious honor, the Ben Guiron Award and in 1983 she was awarded France’s Legion of Honor medal, after a retrospective of her career ran at the Autumn Film Festival in Paris. In 1986 “Nosotros”, a Hollywood-based Hispanic actors advocacy organization founded by Ricardo Montalban, gave her its Golden Eagle Award for life achievement. The trophy was presented to Sarita by her “Vera Cruz” costar-producer Burt Lancaster in an emotional reunion that triggered a standing ovation from all their Hollywood peers witnessing the event. In 1997 she was awarded the “Gold Medal“, also a life achievement recognition, given–rarely–by Spain’s Academy of Arts and Sciences. The two-hour ceremony was beamed live by national television. In 2008 Sara returned to her hometown to unveil a sculpture with her image at the new Sara Montiel Park. A nearby avenue was also named after her and there was at the same time a dedication ceremony of her newly renovated museum, located inside a 16th-century windmill. In addition, the government placed a commemorative plaque on the house where she was born.”
I’m posting updates to my Vera Cruz page – slowly – as able. Right now I’m working on the wonderful Cast. Bios for Lancaster and Cooper are in MFW Cowboy Hall of Fame … and everybody else’s too. Below is the wonderful Cesar Romero … Onward !
Romero’s acting credits are so extensive I have refrained from listing them here. However, I’ll investigate his list of Westerns and post those later. Romero could indeed act, but unfortunately found himself ‘typecast’ – usually played the debonair mustachioed Spanish / Mexican / Latino even though he was an American by birth. Playing as the Joker in the TV Batman series must surely have been a ‘breathe of fresh air’ for him and he surely tackled that role with joyful enthusiasm and his usual consummate professionalism. His screen charisma is undeniable and his famous grin (“old crocodile teeth” as Lancaster referred to him) is equal to Lancaster’s. Hail Cesar !
Wikipedia: an American film and television actor who was active in film, radio, and television for almost sixty years. His wide range of screen roles included Latin lovers, historical figures in costume dramas, characters in light domestic comedies, and as the Joker in the Batman TV series.
In October 1942, he voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and served in the Pacific Theater. He reported aboard the Coast Guard-manned assault transport USS Cavalier in November, 1943. According to a press release from the period he saw action during the invasions of Tinian and Saipan. The same article mentioned that he preferred to be a regular part of the crew and was eventually promoted to the rate of Chief Boatswain’s Mate.
‘Projection’ they call it. Some actors have it. Most never will. It’s the ability to take a simple line of dialogue and make it sing; have impact; the knack of making a whisper into a shout. All the great Shakespearean actors have it: Olivier, Burton, Dench, Jacobi, O’Toole …
YET … out of the unwashed West emerged several notable thespians who entered the stage via a different door: Hollywood.