I don’t really have nearly as much of a familiarity with the blues–at least their origins–as I do Brit Pop, and New Wave, and 60’s pop and a lot of other musical categories that would be nothing without Robert Johnson and the Reverend Gary Davis.
And, I am a serious TCM junkie, in addition to my dependencies on just about everything else in life, and I have been watching Westerns a lot lately, for what reason I do not know other than I like them. Westerns do seem to speak to a simpler time, though I am surely not suggesting we turn back the clock on much of anything.
But, the exploration and development of the West was indeed the romantic period of America’s bloodline like King Arthur is to England, Samurai are to Japan, and Star Wars is, for example, to space movies.
Well, the other day, as I was surfing through the channels and on the Western channel, the film The Walking Hills was on.
Unfortunately, it was about 40 minutes into the film, and what grabbed my attention was the motley group gathered around a fire ring in the desert, when suddenly Josh White broke into a great song, playing guitar and singing.
I did not know who Josh White was, and I had never heard of The Walking Hills, so I went to the IMDB and looked up the film, and discovered a boatload of good shit.
- Directed by John Sturges, in 1949. Sturges was the son of Preston Sturges, and also directed The Magnificent Seven (which is a riff on The Seven Samurai), Bad Day at Black Rock, and The Great Escape, among others.
- The Walking Hills is considered to be the only “noir western.”
- Preston Sturges was the king of the screwball comedies, having made Sullivan’s Travels, The Lady Eve, and Remember the Night, among others, and was among the first screenwriters to use his skill to move into direction, and then control of his films during the heyday of the Hollywood system.
- The Walking Hills featured a ton of folks who were great character actors during those golden Hollywood years, but that most of us grew to know via television. Among them:
- Edgar Buchanan: Uncle Joe in Petticoat Junction, Shane, and The Talk of the Town.
- John Ireland: Spartacus, Red River, and Day of the Nightmare.
- Arthur Kennedy: Was in a zillion movies, including Lawrence of Arabia, Elmer Gantry, High Sierra, and Emmanuel on Taboo Island (I guess even actors have to eat?).
- Randolf Scott: Big western star in the 40’s and 50’s, was in Sam Pekinpah’s Ride the High Country, Santa Fe, and My Favorite Wife.
- Ella Raines: OK, I had never heard of Ms. Raines, but man was she hot in this film. Swear.
- Josh White: A blues musician who recorded with Leadbelly, among others, and who made me search hither and yon in for the song White sang at the campfire, but I couldn’t. I had never heard of White either, and the beauty of the campfire scene is White really focused as much on playing guitar as singing. And, he could really play. Anyway, this is what I could find to share that gives you an idea: