Joel McCrea Westerns And More Riding In

Filly Joel: Before World War II, Joel McCrea neatly fit Everyman roles in Hollywood, bringing a likable quality to a host of fine efforts dating back to the silent Era. Among his memorable films were King Vidor’s Bird of Paradise, Ernest Schoedsack’s The Most Dangerous Game, William Wyler’s These Three, George Stevens’ The More the Merrier, Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent and a trio of goodies helmed by Preston Sturges:  Sullivan’s Travels, The Palm Beach Story and The Great Moment.

After the war, McCrea became known primarily for his work in sagebrush sagas—and the western work continued well into the later stages of his career, when he appeared with Randolph Scott in Sam Peckinpah’s classic Ride the High Country in 1959 and opposite son Jody McCrea in Cry Blood Apache (aka Mean Guns) in 1970.

His horse sagas are well-represented in Joel McCrea Westerns Collection, a compendium of McCrea starrers from the mid-1940s on.

The set includes The Virginian (1946), actually the precursor to the ‘60s TV series and the fourth screen version of Owen Wister’s story. Here McCrea who finds himself going up against old friend Sonny Tufts, who is part of Brian Donlevy’s rustler band. Cattle Drive (1951) finds McCrea as a trail boss who takes a businessman’s spoiled son (Dean Stockwell) under his wing during a dangerous adventure. Border River (1954) finds McCrea and his raiders nabbing $2 million in gold bullion and heading to Mexico to buy guns and ammo for the South, only to battle a ruthless Mexican general. And McCrea’s final film, Mustang Country (1976), finds him cast as a former rodeo star helping a Native-American boy round up and tame a wild horse.

Married to actress Frances Dee for 57 years, the blue-eyed Pasadena, California-born actor was considered one of the best horseback riders in Hollywood.

Get Your Jollies: In the 1950s, even the Hollywood cartoon short powerhouses like Disney and Warner were taking their cues from United Productions of America (UPA), the Columbia-distributed studio whose animators gave us Mr. Magoo, Gerald McBoing-Boing and a slew of innovative works that garnered multiple awards and nominations from the folks at AMPAS over the years. Fans that have long been clamoring to see them surface on DVD are about to get their wish, as a substantive selection of 38 cartoons will soon be arriving in UPA: The Jolly Frolics Collection. Classic appearances for Magoo, Gerald and the Fox and the Crow, as well as acclaimed entries like Madeline, Rooty Toot Toot, The Unicorn in the Garden, and The Tell-Tale Heart, are just a few highlights contained in this must-have for animation buffs.

Designer Jeans: Response was so positive to last fall’s Jean Arthur Comedy Collection that the Columbia vaults swung back open to release more early-career rarities from Bonny Jean.  To acknowledge the petite, no-nonsense blonde’s versatility, the Jean Arthur Drama Collection will soon be gracing our shelves. The quartet of Arthurian legends contained within starts off with Whirlpool (1934) with Jean as a reporter covering a mob trial, whose investigations into nightclub owner/defense witness Jack Holt uncover more than she counted on. Jean reteamed with Holt for The Defense Rests (1934); he’s a high-powered lawyer who encourages his female clients to flirt with juries, she’s the incensed paralegal who’s ready to blow the whistle on his tactics. The Most Precious Thing in Life (1934) offers Jean as a college dorm charwoman who finds out why she has a rapport with a troubled freshman. Lastly, Party Wire (1935) finds Jean’s reputation in peril after her small town’s gossips run with misinformation overheard on the community’s party line.

  • tony

    I really enjoy Joel’s films however the box set of a few of his westerns is rather poor fayre. For me, his best two westerns were ‘Union Pacific’ with Barbara Stanwyk, a film with great sweep and action, and ‘Ride the High Country’ with Randolph Scott.

  • Juanita Curtis

    I am a fan of Joel McCreas dramas but haven’t really seen many of his westerns. I have seen Union Pacific as my favourite actress is Barbara Stanwyck – so will definitely take another look.

  • Tony D.

    I had the privilege of casting a vote in the polling which added Joel McCrea’s name to the top 10 western stars of the 20th Century in the Lone Pine (CA) Cowboy Hall of Fame several years ago. Lone Pine is the location where many Hollywood films and western TV series were made, among them, Gunga Din, High Sierra, Wagon Train, etc. Their annual western film festival draws thousands of visitors and film fans from around the world.

  • BRIAN

    Colorado Territory was great.remake of High Sierra.

  • bonnerace

    While I have never considered Joel McCrea one of my favorite actors, he IS in several of my all-time favorite movies—The Most Dangerous Game, Foreign Correspondent, Sullivan’s Travels and Ride The High Country. Great stuff and the man is way underestimated as an actor.