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Gordon Douglas: An Underrated Director!


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#1 of 19 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted September 01 2013 - 03:00 AM

After watching the blu-rays of Only the Valiant and Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, it occur to me that the director of those two fine films was Gordon Douglas.  A thought came to me that I remember seeing Douglas as director of several films I've enjoyed over the years.  What I didn't realize is the shear number of those films until I looked up his filmography.  Many of his directed films have been personal favorites of mine, but I didn't noticed how many of them until now.

 

There have been several directors I thought were underrated such as Richard Brooks, Vincent Sherman, Lewis Milestone, Robert Aldrich, John Frankenheimer, Clarence Brown and even Michael Curtiz to a certain extent.  IMO, those directors haven't been given enough credit for their directed films.  Douglas wasn't on the same level as some of those directors.  Most of Douglas films weren't AA caliber films, but for the most part his films were very entertaining.  Many of them, viewed for the first time in my youth helped shape my love for film.

 

I just wanted to give a shout out to a departed and a forgotten director whose many films are a vital part of my film memories with several of them now part of my film library. 

 

Here's to you, Gordon Douglas:

 

 

 


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#2 of 19 OFFLINE   Walter Kittel

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Posted September 01 2013 - 04:07 AM

I've mostly seen his films from the '50s through the end of his career.  The majority of those films probably weren't great art but they were well executed and were entertaining.  His longevity and the experience he acquired over that long career provided him with a certain assuredness.

 

The fact that he directed Them! which in my estimation is one of the four best SF films of the '50s is enough to recommend his work.  (The other three being The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers,  and Forbidden Planet.)

 

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#3 of 19 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted September 01 2013 - 06:31 AM

My ten favorite Douglas films are the following:

 

  • Them
  • Mr. Soft Touch
  • The Charge at Feather River
  • The McConnell Story
  • Tony Rome
  • The Detective
  • The Only Valiant
  • Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
  • The Doolins of Oklahoma
  • Robin and the 7 Hoods

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#4 of 19 OFFLINE   Johnny Angell

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Posted September 01 2013 - 06:56 AM

I've mostly seen his films from the '50s through the end of his career.  The majority of those films probably weren't great art but they were well executed and were entertaining.  His longevity and the experience he acquired over that long career provided him with a certain assuredness.

 

The fact that he directed Them! which in my estimation is one of the four best SF films of the '50s is enough to recommend his work.  (The other three being The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers,  and Forbidden Planet.)

 

- Walter.

Holy crap!  I hadn't realized that Douglas had directed 4 of my favorite films.  


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#5 of 19 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted September 01 2013 - 07:09 AM

Holy crap!  I hadn't realized that Douglas had directed 4 of my favorite films.  

What four favorite films?


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#6 of 19 OFFLINE   Timothy E

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Posted September 01 2013 - 07:16 AM

I saw The Charge At Feather River on its most recent airing on TCM.  I would love to see Warner Brothers release a 3D BD.  It has never been released on DVD.



#7 of 19 OFFLINE   John Hermes

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Posted September 01 2013 - 08:09 AM

My profile picture!  Yellowstone Kelly - Big Clint Walker!  Gordon Douglas directed each of Clint's vintage Warner Brothers' Westerns:  Fort Dobbs, Yellowstone Kelly, and Gold of The Seven Saints.  Plus, lots of other favorites of mine including Tony Rome, Elvis in Follow That Dream, 1966 Stagecoach, etc.  Three cheers for Gordon!



#8 of 19 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted September 01 2013 - 09:08 AM

He directed mainly "B" films, but even most of them were very entertaining.


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#9 of 19 OFFLINE   Professor Echo

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Posted September 01 2013 - 09:14 AM

Toward the end of his life the LA Times did a fantastic retrospective story on THEM! and included interviews with surviving cast and crew, including Douglas, who was in a senior home and in poor health at the time. If I remember right, as it's been about 25 years since the article ran, Douglas wasn't always coherent due to his age and illnesses, but the interviewer managed to get some great stuff from him about the making of the film. It reminds me how great the LA Times used to be.

 

Never as critically heralded as Richard Fleischer, whose career Douglas' most resembles in terms of variety and longevity, he was still a master at turning out great entertainment and working across many spectrums of film art and history.



#10 of 19 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted September 01 2013 - 09:19 AM

Toward the end of his life the LA Times did a fantastic retrospective story on THEM! and included interviews with surviving cast and crew, including Douglas, who was in a senior home and in poor health at the time. If I remember right, as it's been about 25 years since the article ran, Douglas wasn't always coherent due to his age and illnesses, but the interviewer managed to get some great stuff from him about the making of the film. It reminds me how great the LA Times used to be.

 

Never as critically heralded as Richard Fleischer, whose career Douglas' most resembles in terms of variety and longevity, he was still a master at turning out great entertainment and working across many spectrums of film art and history.

To me, the big difference between the two of them was Fleischer was given several big budget films compared to Douglas. 


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#11 of 19 OFFLINE   Professor Echo

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Posted September 01 2013 - 09:28 AM

Douglas was entrusted to "A" pictures, such as those starring his friend Frank Sinatra, but he balanced those with lesser budgeted projects. Like Fleischer, he was very much in demand as someone who could get the job done with minimal fuss and bother. I've been a big fan of his for decades and often thought he was unsung, but I tend to gravitate toward journeyman filmmakers and study their work just as much as the lauded auteurs. 



#12 of 19 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted September 01 2013 - 10:19 AM

I've gained a whole new appreciation for Gordon Douglas the last couple of years, now that more of his films have recently become available through Olive Films, Warner Archives and other MOD's. He could craft a genre film with consummate skill. I'm catching up with his 1950s crime films now. I particularly like RIO CONCHOS (1964) and his remake of STAGECOACH (1966) which I now see as two of the best studio westerns of the 1960s. More violent and bloody than most until Peckinpah outdid him in 1969. I turned a blind eye to the remake of STAGECOACH because it wasn't John Ford by any means, but now I see the value in Douglas' approach, thanks to the Twilight Time DVD.

 

It would be nice to see SKULLDUGGERY (1970) again, which has never been on home video. It was quite a hoot, actually. I've seen THE CHARGE AT FEATHER RIVER (1953) projected in authentic double-interlock twice, at the World 3-D Film Expos in 2003 and 2006. Good prints survive, and it's a real crowd-pleaser, not to mention an excellent film and a possible antecedent to THE SEARCHERS (1956). It's never been on DVD, either.  There is no indication from Warner Home Video that it will ever be released, not in 3-D or flat, although it's one of their strongest titles for entertainment value. 3-D collectors would put it into profits real quick.



#13 of 19 OFFLINE   JohnMor

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Posted September 01 2013 - 10:45 AM

I love his direction of Young at Heart.  He keeps it very realistic and low key, even in the melodramatic (and musical) moments, and keeps the great cast reigned in.  It makes all the difference.


Edited by JohnMor, September 01 2013 - 10:45 AM.


#14 of 19 OFFLINE   Bob Cashill

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Posted September 01 2013 - 01:00 PM

I'm not sure that Fleischer or Douglas were ever "critically heralded," except for the occasional film, in their lifetimes. Fleischer "won" the Golden Turkey Award for Worst Director in the Medveds' book as I recall. Times, tastes change. 

 

Anyway, Douglas feted by Dave Kehr in the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.c...?pagewanted=all



#15 of 19 OFFLINE   Professor Echo

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Posted September 01 2013 - 01:42 PM

Bob, Fleischer lived long enough to hear the accolades. He was always on hand in Los Angeles for screenings of his films at local venues, including the Art Museum and UCLA. A well attended and received tribute to him by the American Cinematheque brought him lots of critical acclaim.

#16 of 19 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted September 01 2013 - 02:05 PM

I've always thought MARA MARU (1952) with Errol Flynn was under-rated. Good location work by Gordon Douglas throughout on an obviously miniscule budget.  But then I'm a sucker for south-American treasure hunts.



#17 of 19 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted September 01 2013 - 04:28 PM

I'm not sure that Fleischer or Douglas were ever "critically heralded," except for the occasional film, in their lifetimes. Fleischer "won" the Golden Turkey Award for Worst Director in the Medveds' book as I recall. Times, tastes change. 

 

Anyway, Douglas feted by Dave Kehr in the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.c...?pagewanted=all

Bob,

 

Thank you for that link as it was interesting reading, not so much for what was written, but the timing of that article.  Very ironic, that I would watch both of those Olive BDs this weekend and that Kehr writes about them in the Times.  The article kind of supports my opinion that Douglas was very underrated as a director and could've been recognize as a great director if given more film projects with larger budgets and more timing to plan them out.


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#18 of 19 OFFLINE   Johnny Angell

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Posted September 01 2013 - 05:04 PM

What four favorite films?


Them, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Day the Earth Stood Still, and Forbidden Planet. I was responding to Walter's post which I misread. The only film of he 4 that he directed was Them.
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#19 of 19 OFFLINE   Bob Cashill

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Posted September 01 2013 - 05:25 PM

Thanks to Olive and the Warner Archive a lot of his films have seen the light of my DVD player, and I haven't regretted any. Bravo to both labels. 

 

Prof, not trying to heckle Fleischer, whose autobiography is an amusing read. I wasn't aware that the tide had turned until his death, when a number of fond obituaries (including Kehr's) were written.






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