Angel and the Badman, Republic Pictures and John Wayne

Republic blogathon badgeThere’s something about the “old” Westerns. They were (or are) somehow…magical and despite the lack of the technology that makes said genre all-too-realistic these days, the old ones had this gritty, dusty, unique atmosphere that I feel is missing from current ones (well, when we are rewarded with the rare Western coming our way). I think “Western” I think “John Wayne” and in this am guilty of never giving much thought to the production and/or distribution companies that made them possible. Having come across the Republic Pictures Blogathon by chance, I took some notice…I should shouldn’t I – because without these companies we wouldn’t have entertainment? Let’s face it, we’re all just besotted with who’s in front of the camera and that’s about it. I’ll be the first to admit it. I’ve never considered directors, producers and all the other staff, crew and backing companies. Naturally, I did some digging around…I mean, if I’m going to write something about westerns, it can only be about John Wayne and I seriously doubt Republ….oh (raised eyebrows)…hmm…Rio Grande…ok (pause, impressed face), I didn’t know that. Oh, and Angel and the Badman….I think I have that somewhere in my collection – wait – I’ll be right back (rummaging through my DVDs)…ah…yes! thought so…(clutching DVD proudly in hand). I’d better watch this now (10 years after adding it to my collection together with the likewise unseen Stagecoach – so many movies so little time). Next step (I can’t really watch at work even though I’d like to) the web, obviously…let’s see what this Republic Pictures is about…and Angel…

Ah, so John Wayne apparently was almost given up on by Fox who even sold some of his best footage as a contract actor to Republic Pictures. I believe he was eventually doing lots of contract work for Republic (apologies if I’m wrong) in his younger days before they gave him the chance to debut as both a producer and uncredited co-director with Angel and the Badman. Amazing how one never thinks of a young, inexperienced John Wayne waiting for a means to start some sort of stable career that may just take him somewhere – we tend to think of John Wayne the big star (possibly because the works of his established career tend to be more easily obtainable) and to some extent his political involvement. On the whole, this film seems to have been criticised by various reviewers. Well, I’m intrigued now…let me go watch…

So…I’m back. My goodness the Duke is a youngster in this movie! I’ve never seen him so young (don’t cringe at this admission) but generally middle-aged, and once very old (McQ). Bruce Cabot is also in this one. Gosh, they’ve worked together a lot – Big Jake, The Comancheros, McLintock and War Wagon of the ones I’ve seen (and many more of those I haven’t).

I’d also been wondering as to which actress could suitably fill the role of the Angel as I always thought Maureen O’Hara was his perfect on-screen match. Well, I never…the first introduction to Gail Russell as Penelope, the Angel, put all my doubts aside…the way she cracks that whip when she is told to bring the wagon shows she will definitely hold her own!

Now, something I really didn’t quite see coming (and probably still need to get over) is John Wayne fainting. What??? Yes, if you haven’t seen the movie, it is true…who would have thought? Anyway, I’m not going to go into details and spoil the fun for everyone but just say that it is well worth watching. It was nice to watch movie-making of days gone by where the camera movement isn’t as fluid as these days, faster sequences seem a tad to quick, the sound isn’t as crisp, some of the dialogue seems a bit archaic, but all making for the wonderful experience that is Westerns as they were!

I’ve enjoyed Angel and the Badman and since writing this blog, the list of movies to watch  grows yet longer…Rio Grande (also Republic Pictures) definitely promoted upwards, together with all the current releases, old releases and all the ones to come….argh, is there ever an end? Well, hopefully not…who could live without movies?

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