A Movie A Day: Quint remembers THE ALAMO (1960)
Indisposed? By God if you mean drunk, you say drunk, sir!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we continue our John Wayne kick, started by yesterday’s THE COWBOYS.
I moved to Texas when I was 12 years old, leaving my Bay Area home. In my mind I pictured Texas to be nothing but cowboys, deserts, vultures and cacti as far as the eye can see. Of course, central Texas, specifically the Austin area, is green, hilly and lush. In many ways Austin was also more liberal than the small California town I grew up in.
But Austin is a proud part of Texas and when I entered the Texas school system I was a little surprised how much time we spent on Texas history, specifically the legend of The Alamo. I don’t remember if it was a full 6 weeks, but it was definitely a month or more spent studying the Alamo.
It’s a fascinating story, a true piece of American legend.
I don’t know if I put off seeing this movie from start to finish (I mean, who hasn’t seen this movie in pieces, clips and snippets?) because I was already familiar with the story or if it was just one of those things that was always going to happen “later.” But I had my first sit-down with the flick.
THE ALAMO is not a perfect film. The production was notoriously troubled (I’ll share a story I heard from someone who worked on the film at the end), but it was a passion project for John Wayne. He had been working on the film for nearly a decade and even left Republic Pictures over this film.
This was Wayne’s first (credited) time directing and from what I understand he sunk a lot of his own money to finish the film and it took him nearly a decade to recoup his investment.
You can tell this film meant a lot to Wayne. You can see it in his performance as Davy Crocket, you can feel it in the respect he has for all the characters within the walls of The Alamo, almost to a fault.
It could be the troubles Wayne underwent during the production or his green directing, I couldn’t tell you which, if either, but the flick is a little clunky, a bit miscast and there are some incredibly bad line deliveries, but even with all that the film wears its heart on its sleeve, which gives it not only a charm, but commands a little respect.
Seeing Laurence Harvey as William Travis took me a bit, but when all was said and done I think he did the best job out of the entire cast, playing the character easiest to dislike yet still making him sympathetic. What Harvey brought to Travis was nobility.
Wayne as Davy Crockett isn’t the best casting, but Wayne plays it for all it’s worth.
I thought Chill Wills was godawful in this movie, though. He's everything people tell me they hate about Walter Brennan in RIO BRAVO (goofy, out of place, etc), except without Brennan's comic timing and likability... at least in this movie.
The best thing I can say about the group is that when the finale comes, I was sad to see them go.
Even if the film itself has some flaws, one aspect is completely outstanding and that is Dimitri Tiomkin’s score. It’s as big as Texas and really drives the films, making the battle scenes that much more intense and giving the quiet moments character. Genuinely awesome score.
The version of the film I watched was not the director’s cut, making the already 2 hour and 45 minute long movie well over 3 hours. That version is not available on DVD as far as I know, but I believe this was the US Theatrical cut. I’m sure the director’s cut probably smoothes over some of the bumpy editing choices a bit more, but I can’t say.
Now, the story I heard from a friend who worked on THE ALAMO… Bob Burns is known to creature feature fans as the guy who cares for many awesome props… I’ve visited his basement a couple of times and seen the David Werewolf, the original Gizmo, the life-size Alien Queen, the actual Time Machine, etc.
But Bob’s collection is only half the reason I visited. Bob himself and his wife, Kathy, are two wonderful people who have spent the better part of recent film history in and out of productions.
Bob told me a story about how he was in the Army when Wayne was filming the Alamo and was granted leave in order to help him on the pyrotechnics (meaning cannonball explosions in the ground, etc) and was on the set when a young woman was murdered by her boyfriend.
That part is known, but I had never read anything about how hard that hit Wayne. Apparently, Wayne picked this girl, LeJean Eldridge, out of the extras to have some lines in the film. He was smitten with this girl and that was well known around the set. The way I heard it, another extra was infatuated with her. IMDb and other trivia sources say this guy was her boyfriend, but as Bob told it he was just another extra who was jealous of Wayne’s feelings towards this girl and the attention she was getting. Wayne was certain she would be a huge star.
So, when this guy flew off the handle and murdered her in a jealous rage, the production shut down and Wayne took it incredibly hard.
I don’t know any other specifics… like who she was to have played in the film or how long Wayne knew her, but it was a big deal.
Final thoughts: While I say this movie is a little on the clunky side, with some iffy performances, it is still, by far, the most entertaining and involving movie about the Alamo I’ve seen (yes, this includes the incredibly dull IMAX movies).
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Monday, July 7th: SANDS OF IWO JIMA (1950)
Tuesday, July 8th: WAKE OF THE RED WITCH (1949)
Wednesday, July 9th: D.O.A. (1950)
Thursday, July 10th: SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943)
Friday, July 11th: THE MATCHMAKER (1958)
Saturday, July 12th: THE BLACK HOLE (1979)
Sunday, July 13th: VENGEANCE IS MINE (1974)
While we have at least 20 John Wayne movies on the master list I’m doing my best to break them up so we don’t wear out their welcome… also trying to avoid them all blending together in my memory when I think back to them. But we have two more Wayne flicks to go before we finish with this run. Tomorrow we break out of the old West and see Wayne in the WW2 flick SANDS OF IWO JIMA (1949). See you folks then.
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
+ Expand All
July 6, 2008, 11:38 p.m. CST
by Sledge Hammer
"Yeah I do, it was shit"<p>Sorry, couldn't resist. Still, hardly one of Wayne's better efforts.
July 7, 2008, 12:06 a.m. CST
Don't care for the fiddler on the Alamo roof?<p>Quint, my little bastard, did you partake in any sort of physically beneficial exercise today? The butt squeezes you performed while seated on your La-Z-boy during the film do not count.
July 7, 2008, 12:07 a.m. CST
July 7, 2008, 12:09 a.m. CST
by Stevie Grant
The Alamo was meant to slow the Mexican army's advance, and spare civilian casualties (Santa Anna had a "kill all gringos" policy, which allowed a lot of Chicano volunteers to return to the militia to kill more of his troops...); after Mexico populating Texas (North of the Naco.) with gringos and demanding those evil Northern Euro Immigrants/poor US Immigrant gringo Protestants learn Spanish, convert to Roman Catholicism, and 16th century Spanish (conquistador) government methods, and obey everything Mexico City says... that is, give all the money asked, while the only Mexican presence besides the tax collector, was the occasional Mexican military barracks backing said tax collector... But, ol' Santa was damn good at killing farmers and ordering the deaths of their families. He proved that everywhere in the Mexican provinces. Luckily, Santa Anna got so arrogant, Texas won San Jacinto. And the real irony is... Mexico never (economically) recovered from Santa Anna's insane economic rape and pillaging.
July 7, 2008, 12:19 a.m. CST
by Napoleon Park
I remember a lot of classic moments - drawing a line in the sand, packing the cannon to explode, and of course the final moments of Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett. Didn't some teen idol type actor sing a song or something too? I remember doing a lot of doodles in grade school though all I got was the general fortress shape with the rounded arch over the doorway.<p>Still to have grown up with Code Approved comics that actually had "the good guys always win" written out as a rule, the Alamo really opened my mind to storytelling possibilties.<p>The state of education can't be so bad that it's considered a spoiler to mention that the fort is overrun and everyone is slaughtered in the end, right? I mean, that's like saying "You know in Titanic? the boat sinks." The Duke's "Death of Davy Crockett" was so over the top that even as a kid I was wondering "is that even physically possible?" Still, having grown up with Disneyland and the Fess Parker Crockett with the Tennessee Ernie Ford theme song, then - still as a kid, mind you - to be hit with "Hey, you know Davy Crockett? He dies." Well, that was pretty awesome.<p>Wow, I must have been about 8 if this was in a first run theater. That's some age to find out that some times good guys lose and heroes die.<p>I'm pretty sure I saw it once more some time in the '80s on HBO or Starz or something. One testament to this flicks power to grab you and shake you is that both times I saw it, I never realize how long it was. Two-forty-five? Really? It was big and epic and covered a lot of ground, but it just flew by.
July 7, 2008, 12:45 a.m. CST
by Stevie Grant
to be honest, the worst example of Texas misrepresentation I've seen was in the X-Files movie. Anyone (let alont the 20+ million who are Texans) whose ever flown in to or out of DFW International (ie, hundreds of millions) knows that Dallas is not a desert. That was a insulting level of bullshit. Hell, they might have well depicted Las Vegas as being in the middle of a forest.
July 7, 2008, 12:49 a.m. CST
I saw it once in London, on Leicester Square.
July 7, 2008, 12:56 a.m. CST
by Chicken Thunder
July 7, 2008, 1:21 a.m. CST
Great kinetic (for the time, at least) war movie.
July 7, 2008, 1:38 a.m. CST
That's THE KLANSMAN, right? First movie on Quint's list I don't think I've seen. Yay for Marvin vs Borgnine machismo overload! Any EMPEROR OF THE NORTH fans in today?
July 7, 2008, 2:09 a.m. CST
we get it... you enjoy Monster Squad. Your username sums it up quite nicely. Your comment is, just simply, redundant. Oh, wait, I'm still waiting for a "wolfman has nards!" reference.
July 7, 2008, 2:20 a.m. CST
CALLER: <P> MR. ALUCARD <P>(SCHOOL?) <P> MESSAGE: <P>INTERESTED IN <P> VAN HALEN DIARY <P> POSSIBLE $$$ <P> <P> (PS: GIVE ME THE AMULET, YOU BITCH!!!!)
July 7, 2008, 2:30 a.m. CST
however I find it amazing that you haven't seen the Black Hole?? That film is a quilty pleasure, complete Star Wars/Star Trek rip off but for some reason I still enjoy it. I think you might too Quint....
July 7, 2008, 3 a.m. CST
Now that's cool news!
July 7, 2008, 6:35 a.m. CST
In my 7th grade Texas history class. Of course, we were all in the throes of the "rappin' John Wayne" novelty song, so it made the movie a bit enjoyable. // P.S. I thought for a minute you were seeing the good (Imamura-directed) Vengeance is Mine; no such luck.
July 7, 2008, 6:47 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
need a break, but you gotta keep this up, and do at least a weekly review of something you've never seen.
July 7, 2008, 6:47 a.m. CST
Guys, don't even try. You are not the next DamnyouMichealBay. Drac, we get it....you like the Monster Squad. PigHart, your just fucked.
July 7, 2008, 7:18 a.m. CST
by Sledge Hammer
...you might want to at least learn how to spell it correctly, otherwise you just look like, well, a bit of a retard really. But in answer to your question, yes, yes they are.
July 7, 2008, 7:19 a.m. CST
Did your parents have you locked in a box? It's not the greatest movie, but, good Lord, between the theater, cable (or, at the time, the local Microwave Movie Channel--had to have a special attena for it, fun technology that went nowhere) I must have seen The Back Hole 30 or 40 times. It was just on. Not the best movie. But some great parts, and some great effects. I was never a big fan of the end.
July 7, 2008, 8 a.m. CST
by Gungan Slayer
Causing further problems to this film, John Ford kept showing up during the production, trying to give Wayne advice. Wayne, who didn't really want to offend his friend and mentor, would often send Ford to go shoot random second unit stuff---stuff that was never actually used in the film. There's like three seconds of battlefield stuff in the film that was shot by Ford, the rest of his second unit stuff axed (wayne never was going to use it to begin with). This film does have it problems, but it's a good one to watch. I would like to see it in its restored, expanded roadshow version. perhaps some day...
July 7, 2008, 9:35 a.m. CST
This is hands down one of the best features this site has seen in a long time, but I have to second what Gammaton said - don't burn yourself out. I have to admit that I'm seriously envious of your visits to the Burns Basement. What a wealth of stories that man must have, and you must know a few others with stories to tell. Maybe, when you're ready to give AMAD a break, you'll have some long talks and share some of those stories with us. I think AS(tory)AD might be a nice companion piece to AMAD. Something to think about, at least.
July 7, 2008, 10:34 a.m. CST
by Crimson Dynamo
Maybe it's just Fess Parker messin' with my mind
July 7, 2008, 10:37 a.m. CST
Word has it that Bob is in possession of the 'ahem' "undergarments" worn by Sigourney Weaver at the end of the first Alien. Anyone else heard this? Let's just hope they're under glass and not at the bottom of his sock drawer.
July 7, 2008, 10:48 a.m. CST
looks like we accidentally got a shipment of new tards that were supposed to be delivered to 4chan.<p> anyway<p> This one is only interesting because of the murder drama. Somebody should write a screenplay about that - sort of an "LA Confidential" that peeks behind the lights and backdrops of Hollywood to solve a murder. If you let him drink a shot of dry gravel, I bet Gary Sinease (wow is that bad or what) could do a passable John Wayne - as long as it was just for a quick cameo.
July 7, 2008, 10:55 a.m. CST
I thought it was okay. I agree with Quint that it is clunky but you do feel bad what happens. Honestly I knew little about history and had no idea they all died at the end!
July 7, 2008, 11:14 a.m. CST
Watch Gremlins 2.
July 7, 2008, 11:16 a.m. CST
by Beard of Zeus
The one where Travis is an unapologetic racist rebel rouser, Bowie is a drunkard murderer at the end of the line and Crockett as the disgraced politian looking to rebuild his image? I guess sometimes you can't seperate the legend from the history.
July 7, 2008, 12:51 p.m. CST
about halfway through. I found the pacing to be a problem. The movie could have done without Crocket's love interest. That scene by the river really ground the movie to a halt for me. But it did pick up in the last hour.<p>I was impressed with some scenes where it seems Wayne just planted the camera and they would do a 3-4 minute scene in one wide-shot. I get so tired of seeing "close-up 1, close-up 2, two-shot, wide shot, close-up 2, close-up 1, two-shot..."; it's nice now and again to see a one-take scene run all the way through.
July 7, 2008, 1:52 p.m. CST
As far as the "Roadshow version" is concerned, I believe that this is the version that was released on VHS back in the early '90s. I say I believe this because my dad owns that version and I bought this on DVD a few years back, and I know of a few scenes that are missing. The only two that I can remember specifically are a scene between Bowie and Travis at the beginning of the film, after Houston has departed, where Travis informs Bowie that Houston promoted him and essentially embarasses Bowie in front of some of the other officers. The other scene I remember missing wrapped up the ridiculously unnecessary subplot of the guy who was with the girl Crockett liked and then sent away. In the DVD version, Crockett, Bowie and some of Crockett's men discover this guy's arms cache which he intends to sell to Santa Ana, I believe. The DVD cuts at that point, but the scene continued where this guy and his goons confronted Crockett & co. just to get killed easily. That was always one of my major problems with this film. It was way too long, and that whole subplot in addition to everything between Crockett and the woman was completely unnecessary and should have never been filmed. That was definitely the sign of Wayne being a novice director. The film should never be taken for any kind of historical accuracy either. The biggest problem is where Bonham rides back in and says that Fannin and his men were slaughtered, which did not happen until after The Alamo fell. Fannin mounted a very poor attempt to relieve The Alamo, but quickly turned back when his wagons broke down, if I remember correctly. That being said, the movie isn't horrible by any means. The final battle is still pretty dramatic. Most of the performances are good. I always liked Harvey and Widmark in their roles. Wayne played John Wayne, not Davy Crockett. Most of the supporting cast was good. Funny that Quint should mention that he found Chill Wills awful, considering the legendary and notorious campaign he mounted once he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. For those not in the know, he took out an ad saying that the movie's cast were praying harder for "Cousin Chill" to win then the actual defenders had prayed for their own lives. That was followed by Groucho Marx's classic reply that he was proud to have Chill Wills as a cousin, but was still voting for Sal Mineo. Anyway, it's not bad, but not great. It's certainly a John Wayne lovefest on several levels, and your own taste for him will dictate how you like this movie. If you want a more accurate depiction of the events, however, you should definitely watch The Alamo from 2004 with Dennis Quaid and Billy Bob Thornton. That movie is certainly not beyond faults, but it is better than Wayne's version.
July 7, 2008, 2 p.m. CST
I actually thought the best parts of the 2004 version were the Houston parts. The Travis Bowie stuff was good, but if you really want to watch a movie about the Alamo you want to see the legend more than the actual history. The trick is getting legend and history to overlap a little, something no Alamo movie has ever really done very well. When you get right down to it though, John Wayne kicks Billy Bob Thorton's ass as Davy Crockett.
July 7, 2008, 2:24 p.m. CST
Quite agree! He brought nobility to that role (true to life... who knows). If you like Harvey, Quint, check him out in the original 'Manchurian Candidate', and also 'Room at the Top' which he did before the US called and he was still doing small scale Brit movies. Excellent film.
July 7, 2008, 4:34 p.m. CST
Really? That's interesting. He should have just handed the whole production over to Ford. Oh, vanity...
July 7, 2008, 5:14 p.m. CST
Did you hear the one about the crashing plane?
July 7, 2008, 5:19 p.m. CST
July 7, 2008, 5:42 p.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
Maximillian Schell, Robert Forster, Ernest Borgnine, Anthony Perkins, Slim Pickens. THIS is an all-star cast
July 7, 2008, 5:49 p.m. CST
Is an amazing movie... I still haven't seen the Denzel Washington remake, though, despite people really seeming to like it. I just don't know how it could be any better than the original...<BR><BR>And kudos to the American Werewolf nods. I would have put those in the article if I had thunk it up like. heh
July 7, 2008, 5:55 p.m. CST
I actually just watched the remake for the first time very recently, found it really cheap on HD-DVD, and it IS really good.<br> Still haven't had a chance to see the original though so I don't know how it compares, but standalone it works great.
July 7, 2008, 7:29 p.m. CST
Show us the Amulet!!!!
July 7, 2008, 9:16 p.m. CST
Obiously the original is better, but the remake is a very good updated retelling of it. It's too bad the whole McCarthy-ism angle was lost though.
July 8, 2008, 10:13 a.m. CST
He's the one director who makes it work. It certainly did the job in The Manchurian Candidate. It was a bit jarring in The Truth About Charlie, but I actually found it quite funny in that movie. Don't know if that was the point, though. But you're right, octagonproplex, Frankenheimer is underrated.