Friday, May 10, 2013

Three Years and Comanche Creek

First, a word from our sponsor... To the right is a link that will take you to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation page for donations. My 5 year old grandson, Cayden, suffers from this disease. On May 18 there will be a fundraising walk-a-thon for CF. Please consider making even a small donation. Large ones are better, of course.

Cayden has lived with CF all his life. He is a real trooper, and a very happy child. Thanks to his wonderful parents, he is able to play baseball and do many other activities, until he gets sick. Then he is off to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for a few days to have IV antibiotics. He never complains. His big sister also helps take care of him, and they are best friends.

Cayden and my family do not receive anything directly from your donations. It all goes to find a cure for CF. Many advances in the battle have been made in the past few years, and some strains of the disease now have drugs that actually work. Not Cayden's...yet...but they are getting there. If you can spare $5 or more, please make a donation. The web site makes it easy to do. That wasn't too bad, for my annual appeal. Thanks.

Today is the third anniversary of The Bit Actors Blog. I have had fun writing it, and I have learned a lot during my research. It causes you to think in new terms as you watch an old movie, even one you've seen before. And I hope I have inspired you to look at the small parts, the Bit Actors, who make movies great.

I have also met quite a few like-minded people, especially in the Classic Movie Blog Association. Please visit the CMBA site and you will be directed to many well written movie blogs with loads more info about some great movies. But this blog is the only one dedicated to Bit Actors!

Writing has also made me recall memories of some of the wonderful people I have met, famous or otherwise. Margaret Hamilton was a delight, and Henry Brandon was always ready to make you smile. There are few who know who little Jimmy Murphy was. I spent some quality time with him in Blackpool, England, not far from where Stan Laurel was born. Jimmy was Stan's valet for many years. He wasn't famous, but his stories were classic, and my memory of him is cherished.

The last year has been a busy time in my life, and I have not been able to write as frequently as I would have liked. I apologize for that, and will try to get to the blog as often as possible. Enough of that...let's talk about Gunfight at Comanche Creek (1963).
Mt. Soledad, by Allen Hefner

My wife and I visited San Diego last year for a short vacation and to visit our son. It is a beautiful city, filled with history. Well, not as much history as Philadelphia, but it is on the left coast and it took us (Americans) a while to get there.

The monument on the hill above La Jolla, Mount Soledad, stands high and can be seen from all around. We were driving along the coast and we just had to go up there. The view along the California coast was great, but I noticed, all around the base of the Easter Cross, memorial plaques to California men and women who served our country in the armed forces. Among them was the most decorated hero of World War II, Audie Murphy (1925 - 1971). Murphy became an actor, but that career pales in comparison to his actions in the war. From the plaque on Mt. Soledad, "The most decorated combat soldier of World War II. Audie has been credited with killing over 240 of the enemy while wounding and capturing many others. Scores of American lives were saved."

That brings me to the movie, that I just watched last week. Murphy made 47 movies and did some TV work in about 20 years. Gunfight at Comanche Creek was toward the end of his career, and I enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed recognizing all the Bit Actors in the film.

Gunfight is presented like a documentary about the National Detective Agency and how they work. The was no National Detective Agency, but it bears quiet a resemblance to Pinkerton. Murphy plays a detective who goes undercover to foil a plot.

The film is narrated by Reed Hadley (1911 - 1974) of "Racket Squad" and "The Public Defender" fame on television in the early 1950s. Hadley has 129 titles listed on IMDb. Look for him in the W.C. Fields classic The Bank Dick (1940) as Francois, the tall actor. His deep voice is right up there with other great voices like Basil Rathbone and Andy Devine and was perfect for narration.

Being a "Star Trek" kinda guy, I was a bit put off by DeForest Kelley (1920 - 1999) playing a bad guy...and the main bad guy at that! I guess he had second thoughts and went back to school to become a Star Fleet doctor. Kelley started acting on film in 1945 and on the small screen shortly after that. His list of work is very long, but I would have to classify him as a Bit Actor, if not for "Star Trek" making him a star. He is the kind of actor who plays Morgan Earp, while Burt Lancaster plays Wyatt. Westerns made him feel most comfortable, and "Star Trek" was just a western set in space.

Eddie Quillan (1907 - 1990) had a very small part as the hotel clerk. I think he is only seen for a minute or two. Eddie was in The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and played Connie, one of the displaced farm workers. He has well over 200 roles in movies and TV over a six decade career. Eddie did a series of comedy shorts in the late 1940s and early 50s with Wally Vernon. I hope TCM will add some of them to their Extras.

And then there was Thomas Browne Henry (1907 - 1980) who played the head of the detective agency. Henry has almost 200 roles listed, and you will recognize his face instantly if you ever watch an old Sci-Fi movie or anything on television. Look for him in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), The Thing that Couldn't Die (1958) and Space Master X-7 (1958). He usually plays a military officer in charge.

Well, three years of blogging and some wonderful movies to talk about. See Gunfight at Comanche Creek, or Audie's next film The Quick Gun (1964) if you want a treat for Mother's Day. Both are very good westerns. And I'll see you soon. Please let me know what you think.