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Posts Tagged ‘Lippert Pictures

OK, finally got enough requests to convince VCI release these two on DVD!

untitled

During the 1940’s – early 1950s before television killed “B” movies, army comedies, musicals (MGM or Monogram…didn’t matter,) themes about Tinsel town, and of course westerns, were guaranteed hits in small town and rural America.

 

Producer/distributor/exhibitor, Robert L. Lippert, decided to combine the genres for sure-fire hits.  He did, and they were.

 

“G.I. JANE”, is a musical-comedy taking place at an army camp starring Jean Porter (sorry, not Demi Moore,) Tom Neal (Hollywood’s real-life bad-boy), Iris Adrian, Jimmie Dodd (“Jimmie” from the “Mickey Mouse Club,) and Jeanne Mahoney, with direction by B-movie stalwart Reginald LeBorg.

 

At a remote Army training camp in the desert, our boys in uniform want to do more than wave at the WAC’s, and a new recruit bets them $500 he can make this happen. A stern female lieutenant makes things tough but eventually it’s Mission Accomplished, the barracks filled with beauties and ballads.

 

“I Love Girls,” “Line-up and Sign-up in the Army Corps,” and “Nervous in the Service,” are a sampling of the musical numbers.

 

“GRAND CANYON,” a comedy with two songs (“Love Time in Grand Canyon” and “Serenade to a Mule”!) about Hollywood producers filming a western, staring Richard Arlen, Mary Beth Hughes, Reed Hadley, James Millican, Olin Howlin, Grady Sutton, and Joyce Compton, with Paul Landres in the director’s seat.

 

There’s grand fun, grand feudin’ and grand fightin’ in this spoof on low-budget Hollywood moviemaking. Assigned by Robert L. Lippert (who appears as himself in a pre-title sequence) to make a Western on indoor sets, Reed Hadley farcically tries and fails, and finally convinces the front office to allow him to shoot on “location.”  Rural audiences howled when an Arizona cowboy showed them Hollywood types a thing or two about acting, and ends up with the starring role!

 

Here’s where the filmflimflam comes in:

 

The advertising claims the movie was filmed at the Grand Canyon, and a prologue to the movie even thanks the Department of the Interior for its cooperation.   Sure, the exteriors are, but the scenes with actors, most of the movie, are filmed on sets, against process shots, or in a familiar location spot near L.A.…but who’d go see a movie called “Bronson Canyon?”   There are a couple of scenes with “actors” filmed on location, but are in reality stand-ins, shot in such a way that the audience couldn’t tell.

 

The fight scene featured in “Mike’s” dream was taken from “The Return of Wildfire,” another Arlen/Lippert film. Arlen’s opponent in the fight is Reed Hadley, his “director” in “Grand Canyon.”*

 

Viewed today, these movies are fun to watch, but remember they were made for the Princess Theatre in Meredosia, Illinois, not the Radio City Music Hall.

 

*Thank you Bob Dickson for this tidbit.

 

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Al Parker #101152015

 

“I was born to ride…”

In 1953 Robert L. Lippert commissioned a feature film to be directed by noted film editor, Elmo Williams (Academy Award winner for “High Noon”), who is still alive at 102.  It was to star Lloyd Bridges, Lee J. Cobb, Marie Windsor and Luther Adler.  Lippert, always interested in getting talent to work cheap, got three of the stars at a bargain rate because they were HUAC-tainted, and needed work.

Production commenced in Deming, New Mexico, and local real-deal cowboys were retained as wranglers.  Among them, L.B. “Beau” Johnson, Robert Johnson, Ross May and Darrell Hawkins.

Both Williams and his wife, Lorraine, were fascinated by the cowboys who worked on the picture, and she envisioned a full-length documentary about cowboy life featuring the same cowboys who worked in “The Tall Texan.”  The estimated budget was around $50,000 (under $500,000 in 2014 dollars), low because there was no need to pay for stars, sets or sync sound.  The meager budget, even by Lippert standards, may account for why the penurious producer sprung for filming in color.

Both movies turned out very well, and made money.  “The Cowboy” was particularly successful in the Southwest.  Later, when it was released in 16mm, it became a perennial favorite at Indian reservations.

In 2004 I purchased the Lippert film library, and envisioned a DVD release of “The Cowboy” with the usual special features VCI Entertainment and I specialize in.  But, what special features could I come up with?

Later on I got a phone call from Bridget Kelly who worked with filmmakers in New Mexico, asking if the movie could be shown to an audience in Deming.  Of course I said yes, and inquired if she knew what became of the cowboys.  She replied that four of them were coming to the screening!

A commentary track featuring the actual cowboys looking at the movie a half-century later…yessss!

It was arranged to get them together for a recording session.  My wife, Donna, and I went to Deming and awaited the cowboys.  The first one, Beau Johnson, arrived with his wife in an old car that didn’t look as if it had been through a car wash in 15 years; papers all over the dash, license plate hanging on for dear life. There he was, complete with faded Wrangler’s, old boots, sweat-stained hat, and a big silver buckle, speaking authentic “cowboy,” of course.  Was he ever a warm and wonderful character.  His passion was race horses, and he owned them…why bother with a new car when you own championship horses?  Next came Beau’s brother, Robert, Ross May and finally Darrell Hawkins, great guys all.  Hawkins even gave me a lesson on trick roping.

I had prepared for the recording session with lots of notes and questions to toss out to keep the guys talking throughout, hoping they’d make comments about what was occurring on the screen without much prompting from me.  We rolled tape and Ross May, who had retired as a school teacher, took the lead as moderator…he was a natural…knew just how to keep everyone going as if he’d done it a thousand times.  Tossed my notes in the garbage…didn’t need ‘em.

The result was great…a group of engaging old-timers reminiscing, often humorously, and with cowboy jargon, about an era that has, for all intents and purposes, long since passed.

 

Donna and I recently got a call out of the blue from Beau Johnson.  Hadn’t spoken with him for many years although I had thought about him.  He had been in the hospital, and I guess had survived a couple of brushes with death.  His brother, Robert, is fine, but Ross and Hawkins are gone.  Beau, still his jovial self, told us how much our friendship meant to him, which was totally unexpected, and touched us very much.   He said he even kept a ribbon from a bottle of wine Donna gave him.   Beau had another reason to call…a favor…asked if we’d call Elmo Williams and wish him a happy 103rd birthday.  (It isn’t until next year, but we’ll be sure to call).

When we signed off, Beau told me he was born to ride a horse, and I told him “The Cowboy” commentary was the most fun I’ve ever had producing a special feature.

 

COWBOY, THE

 

Additional DVD bonus features:

“The Making of The Cowboy” by Elmo Williams

Video booklet

“Ghost Towns of the Old West – the Deserts” narrated by Rip Torn

 

Photos:

Top: Beau and Robert Johnson from “The Cowboy”

DVD cover:  Beau Johnson

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Sins

The following movies were eventually released on good quality DVD’s:

 

APACHE RIFLES (Admiral-Fox/1964)

Picture and sound track were a jumbled mess. Technician at VCI eventually matched everything up.  (I still owe someone a steak dinner!)

 

THE COWBOY (Lippert/1954)

35mm color negative ruined by mold. Used 16mm color “EK” (print from the original color negative) for the DVD.  Black and white duplicate negative and color “separation negatives” survive.  BTW, I had a blast producing the commentary track with the authentic old cowboys who were the stars of the film.

 

THE GLASS TOMB (Hammer-Lippert/1955)

Original 35mm material missing. Used 35mm release print borrowed from the British Film Archive

 

THE GREAT JESSE JAMES RAID (Lippert/1954)

35mm color material missing. Used a 16mm color “EK.” 35mm black and white negative survives.

 

LIKE IT IS (Psychedelic Fever) (Lima/1968)

Missing sound track. Used audio from a bootleg VHS bought on eBay.  Sometimes pirates serve a useful purpose!

 

MAN BEAST (API/1956)

Master 35mm material was cut for release in the UK and the excised scenes scrapped. Used missing footage found in a 35mm US release print.  Scenes that were deleted prior to its US theatrical release were found in a Spanish dubbed print and are included as a Special Feature on the DVD.

 

MASSACRE (Lippert-Fox/1956)

Color camera negative survived – without titles. Used titles off a like-new 1956 16mm color print I bought from a collector on eBay.  Not the first time a film collector has saved the day.

 

MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR (Palo Alto-Lippert/1954)

35mm sound track decomposed. Used track from 16mm Armed Forces negative, which was longer than the theatrical release version. Extra scenes are part of the DVD special features.

 

MR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY (Republic/1941)

Nitrate picture and track negative decomposed. Used a “fine grain” master print borrowed from the British Film Institute

 

OUTLAW WOMEN (Howco/1952)

Original 35mm Cinecolor material decomposed. Used mint 35mm Cinecolor print

 

SEA DEVILS (Coronado-RKO/1953)

Combined 3-strip Technicolor negatives located at Technicolour in London and restored by Canal+, owner of Eastern Hemisphere distribution rights.

 

SHOTGUN (Champion-Allied Artists/1955)

Badly faded camera negative was all that survived. VCI technician was able to bring the color back to life in a tedious process of correcting the color scene by scene. (Another steak dinner, this one due Doug at Film and Video Transfers)

 

SINS OF JEZEBEL (Lippert/1954)

Original 35mm color negative missing. Used mint 35mm AnscoColor print labeled “Roadshow Version”.  Could find no difference between the Roadshow and Regular release; not surprising given its penurious producer, Robert L. Lippert.   Note:  Fortunately AnscoColor, unlike widely used Eastman Color, does not tend to fade.

 

STRANGER ON HORSEBACK (Goldstein-UA/1955)

No color film elements known to exist. Used 35mm AnscoColor release print borrowed from the British Film Institute.  16mm black and white negative survives.

 

THUNDER IN CAROLINA (Howco/1962)

As with “Apache Rifles,” picture and sound track were a jumbled mess. Technician at VCI eventually matched everything up.  (Guess I owe three steak dinners.)

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By Margia Dean, guest blogger

 

Loan-Shark-kpf-636-cover

 

George Raft was a friend of mine, and I worked with him in the film, “Loan Shark” (Lippert/1952).

 

On December 30, 1959 my date and I flew to Havana and gambled at Capri Casino in Havana where George was a part-owner.  (I still have a $1.00 chip from there.) I mentioned to George that we heard there was unrest and trouble in Cuba. He pooh-poohed it and said that it was the tourist people in Florida spreading that rumor to discourage anyone from going to Cuba.  George said he would be the first to know if anything was going on.

 

The next night my date and I travelled to the Isle of Pines to attend a New Year’s Eve party at the invitation of the Cuban dictator, President Fulgéncio Batista.  It was a lavish affair, with many prominent people there, including the dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo, his associate (and ultimate playboy) Porfírio Rubirosa, plus the owners of Saks Fifth Ave., and many wealthy sugar plantation owners, with their ladies, lavished in diamonds.

 

All of a sudden young men from Fidel and Raúl Castro’s revolutionary forces appeared with machine guns. Chaos ensued, and all the workers fled.

 

We were there for about three days.  Others weren’t so fortunate and stayed for a few weeks.  Food ran short, and the men fished for food.  Many of us were outside and soon covered by mosquito bites because no one knew how to operate the DDT machines. The prisoners were freed from the prison, and we were afraid they would come after us, but I guess they just wanted to escape from confinement.  The daughter of the commandant came hysterically to us and said they murdered her father.

 

I heard that Batista fled to the Dominican Republic during the night on Trujillo’s yacht.

 

George Skagel (father of Ethel Kennedy) had a private plane and offered us a ride along with Aileen Mehle, who wrote society columns, most notably in the New York Daily News as “Suzy.” We headed down to the beach and flew off. It was a daring escape, we could have been shot down as there were young men with guns all around us.

 

We were the first ones to leave. I heard that everyone else was trapped there for many days. The Cuban guests, who wanted to get home, were trapped on rat infested freighters for weeks in the bay outside of Havana.

 

Louella Parsons called and asked me not to speak with any other news reporters, and to give her an exclusive about the adventure. She didn’t want me to talk to any other news reporters, and I agreed.

 

What really annoys me is that many years later Aileen Mehle told a different, and untrue, story to Vanity Fair, and didn’t even mention me. Why?  I don’t know.  (Maybe she didn’t want anyone to know she was Batista’s guest.)  She said Skagel flew her to Miami from the airport, which was impossible, because it was totally sandbagged…no one could fly from there.

 

I never saw George Raft again after that December night when he was so happy because my date, and others lost a lot of money on his tables! He was forced to leave Havana, penniless.

 

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© 2014 Kit Parker Films

 

…producer-exhibitor Robert L. Lippert’s mantra and, appropriately, the title Mark Thomas McGee’s biography/filmography of the man and his films as published by BearManor Media.   I’m a B-movie aficionado, and this book is a real page-turner.

 

“I’m not in this for personal glory, I’m giving the public and the exhibitors the films they want for purely commercial reasons.”  – Robert L. Lippert

 

Robert L. Lippert, produced close to 250 feature films, including “The Steel Helmet” (1951), and “The Fly” (1958), and distributed scores more on behalf of other producers.  He launched the careers of Samuel Fuller, James Clavell, and others; and owned a theatre circuit of well over 100 theatres.  But, he flew under the radar to the degree that only hard-core movie buffs even know him.  My company owns all rights to over 100 Lippert productions, and I tried to shed at least some light on Lippert and his films in my blogs and DVD special features, but Mark does the job right.

 

Mark McGee wasn’t given an easy task:  Lippert shied away from giving interviews, and only two people who worked with Lippert are still living, actress Margia Dean, and production head/producer/director Maury Dexter.  Mark really did a lot of digging and I believe has revealed almost  everything about Lippert that isn’t lost to time.

 

Lippert’s biography is intertwined with Mark’s observations about the films as separated into four main chapters dealing with Lippert’s four production companies: Screen Guild Productions and Lippert Pictures (produced and distributed in-house), Regal Films, Inc., and Associated Producers (produced for release through Fox).  I think this was the appropriate method because in real life it was truly hard to separate Lippert the man from his movies (and his theatre circuit.)

 

Lippert seldom had artistic pretentions.  Many of his productions are at best less than notable — certainly by and large ignored by the critics.  Mark lists every, and describes most, Lippert film.  I really enjoyed the comments of exhibitors who actually played the films.  This was back in the day when every small-town theatre manager stood in the lobby and said goodnight to patrons as they exited.  Sometimes the managers hid, but most times the audiences for whom Lippert produced his films were more than satisfied.  Less sophisticated audiences during the 1940s and early 1950s often preferred Lippert productions over those from the major studios.  Don’t believe me?  Read the book!   I read every one of those critiques in one sitting.  Better than a box of See’s Candies.

 

Lippert productions and co-productions available on DVD from VCI Entertainment:

 www.vcient.com

Key: Theatrical distributors: LP = Lippert Pictures; SG = Screen Guild Productions; Hammer = Lippert/Hammer Films Co-production

APACHE CHIEF (1950) LP

ARSON, INC. (1950) LP

AS YOU WERE (1951) LP

BAD BLONDE (1953) UK: Flanagan Boy, Hammer, LP

BANDIT QUEEN, THE (1950) LP

BIG CHASE, THE (1954) LP

BLACK GLOVE, THE (1954) UK: Face the Music, Hammer, LP

BLACK PIRATES, THE (El pirata negro) (1954) US-Mexico, LP

BLACKOUT (1954) UK: Murder by Proxy, Hammer, LP

BORDER RANGERS (1950) LP

CASE OF THE BABY SITTER (1947) Featurette, SG

COLORADO RANGER – TV: Guns of Justice (1950) LP

COWBOY, THE (1954) LP

CROOKED RIVER – TV: The Last Bullet (1950) LP

DALTON GANG, THE (1949) LP

DANGER ZONE (1951) LP

DEADLY GAME, THE (1954) UK, Third Party Risk, Hammer, LP

DEPUTY MARSHAL (1949) LP

EVERYBODY’S DANCIN’ (1950) LP

FANGS OF THE WILD aka Follow the Hunter (1954) LP

FAST ON THE DRAW – TV: Sudden Death (1950) LP

FBI GIRL (1951) LP

FINGERPRINTS DON’T LIE (1951) LP

GAMBLER AND THE LADY (1952) UK, Hammer, LP

GLASS TOMB, THE (1955) UK: The Glass Cage, Hammer, LP

GREAT JESSE JAMES RAID, THE (1953) LP

GUNFIRE (1950) LP

HAT BOX MYSTERY, THE (1947) Featurette, SG

HEAT WAVE (1954) UK, House Across the Lake, Hammer, LP

HELLGATE (1952) LP-D

HIGHWAY 13 (1948) SG

HI-JACKED (1950) LP

HOLIDAY RHYTHM (1950) LP

HOLLYWOOD VARIETIES (1950) LP

HOSTILE COUNTRY – TV: Outlaw Fury (1950) LP

I SHOT BILLY THE KID (1950) LP

I’LL GET YOU (1953) UK: Escape Route, LP

JUNGLE GODDESS (1948) SG

JUNGLE, THE (1952) LP

KENTUCKY JUBILEE (1951) LP

KING DINOSAUR (1955) LP

LEAVE IT TO THE MARINES (1951) LP

LITTLE BIG HORN (1951) LP

LOAN SHARK (1952) LP

LONESOME TRAIL, THE (1955) LP

MAN BAIT (1952) UK: The Last Page, Hammer, LP

MAN FROM CAIRO, THE (1953) Italy-UK-USA, LP

MARSHAL OF HELDORADO – TV: Blazing Guns (1950) LP

MASK OF THE DRAGON (1951) LP

MASSACRE (1956) Fox

MOTOR PATROL (1950) LP

MR. WALKIE TALKIE (1952)

OPERATION HAYLIFT (1950) LP

OUTLAW COUNTRY (1949) SG

PAID TO KILL (1954) UK, Five Days, Hammer, LP-D

PIER 23 (1951) LP

QUEEN OF THE AMAZONS (1947) SG

RACE FOR LIFE (1954) UK: Mask of Dust, Hammer, LP

RADAR SECRET SERVICE (1950) LP

RENEGADE GIRL (1947) SG

RETURN OF JESSE JAMES, THE (1950) LP

RIMFIRE (1948) LP

RINGSIDE (1949) LP

ROARING CITY (1951) LP

SAVAGE DRUMS (1951) LP

SCOTLAND YARD INSPECTOR (1952) UK: Lady in the Fog, Hammer, LP

SHADOW MAN, THE (1953) UK: Street of Shadows, Hammer, LP

SILVER STAR (1955) LP

SINS OF JEZEBEL (1953) LP

SKY HIGH (1951) LP

SKY LINER (1949) LP

SQUARE DANCE JUBILEE (1949) LP

STOLEN FACE (1952) UK, Hammer, LP

STOP THAT CAB (1951) LP

THEY WERE SO YOUNG (1954) W. Germany-USA, LP

THREE DESPERATE MEN (1951) LP

THUNDER IN THE PINES (1948) SG

TRAIN TO TOMBSTONE (1950) LP

TREASURE OF MONTE CRISTO (1949) LP

UNHOLY FOUR, THE (1954) UK: The Stranger Came Home, Hammer, LP

VARIETIES ON PARADE (1951) LP

WEST OF THE BRAZOS (1950) LP

WESTERN PACIFIC AGENT (1950) LP

WILDFIRE (1945) SG

WINGS OF DANGER (1952) UK; Dead on Course, Hammer, LP

YES SIR, MR. BONES! (1951) LP

Lippert productions directed by Samuel Fuller arevailable on DVD from the Criterion Collection

BARON OF ARIZONA, THE (1950) LP

I SHOT JESSE JAMES (1949) LP

STEEL HELMET, THE (1951) LP

 

To order DVD’s, visit our site –

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When I think of movies like “Hellgate” (Lippert/1952), directed by Charles Marquis Warren, and “The Tall Texan” (Lippert/1953), directed by Elmo Williams (Oscar-winning film editor on “High Noon”), I marvel at how  directors like that were able to produce really entertaining films on a minimal budget (and an even more minimal shooting schedule.)

David Schecter does the same, only he thinks of the composers, in this case, Paul Dunlap and Bert Schefter.

“Monstrous Movie Music” is the name of David’s company.  He specializes in producing CD’s with music scores from lower-tier science fiction films, but there are a few “A” features as well. These movies were helped immeasurably by the gifted composers, who like their director and producer counterparts, relegated to the demands of low budgets and extremely tight production schedules.

Some bring back fond memories of my going to the movies as a kid at the State and Rio Theatres in Monterey, CA:  “The Blob” (Paramount/1958) composed by Ralph Carmichael; “The Last Man on Earth” (AIP/1964), composed by Paul Sawtell and Bert Schefter; “The Brain From the Planet Arous” (Howco/1957), composed by Walter Greene.  I remember as the end title on “Arous” came on the screen and thinking I’d just wasted $.50.  My disappointment was forgotten after watching the co-feature, “The Alligator People” (API-Fox/1959), composed by Irving Gertz, exemplifying there is no accounting for the taste of an 11-year-old.

David Schecter is a champion of composers, especially the lesser-known ones, many of whom he knew personally, and dedicates himself to making their scores available.  He and his staff have gone to the trouble of re-recording the scores utilizing renowned symphony orchestras in Poland and Slovakia when they aren’t releasing original soundtracks.  He write superb liner notes as well.

Monstrous Movie Music:

http://www.mmmrecordings.com/index.htmlb

The movies themselves are available on DVD from VCI Entertainment:

http://kitparker.com/buy.php

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“Hellgate,” starring Sterling Hayden, Joan Leslie, Ward Bond, and James Arness (one of my favorites), directed by Charles Marquis Warren, is part of the two-disc DVD collection titled, “Darn Good Westerns”  Volume 1, featuring five additional titles, “Panhandle” (Allied Artists/1948) with Rod Cameron, in “glowing Sepiatone,” and four from Lippert Pictures, “Fangs of the Wild” (1954),  with Charles Chaplin, Jr., and underrated actress Margia Dean in one of her best roles, “The Train to Tombstone” (1950) which is a Don “Red” Barry western, “Operation Haylift” (1950) with Bill Williams and Ann Rutherford, and “Wildfire – The Story of a Horse” (1945) starring Bob Steele, in Cinecolor, which was the first production from legendary exhibitor turned producer, Robert L. Lippert.

“The Tall Texan,” is a solid western starring Lloyd Bridges and Lee J. Cobb, with cool special features, including “The Making of ‘The Tall Texan’” by Elmo Williams (still alive at age 100!); audio reminiscences by Ross May, a wrangler for the movie; the original theatrical trailer, and Chapter 1 from “Secret Agent X-9” (1945).

On the subject of Elmo Williams, I highly recommend “The Cowboy” (Lippert/1954), a feature length documentary filmed in color.  Both “The Tall Texan” and “The Cowboy” were made in Deming NM where in 2005 my wife Donna and I went to produce the commentary featuring reminiscences of four of the original cowboys who starred in the film.  Listening to these authentic cowboys fifty years later is a hoot…worthy of a blog of its own.

*Usually credited as a Lippert production, it was actually an independent film from producer by John C.  Champion (brother of Gower), under his Commander Films banner.  Champion also produced “Panhandle.”

http://fiftieswesterns.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/50s-western-scores-by-paul-dunlap-and-bert-shefter/

Visit our website to order DVDs –

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“Today we are engaged in a great Civil ‘Wah’”

— Maury Dexter, from the 3 Stooges short, “Uncivil Warriors” (1946)

Maury Dexter(1)(2) is one of the most interesting individuals I’ve ever seen in the motion picture industry, and he’s put his amazing rags to riches life into words in a well-written, page-turning, autobiography, “Road to Hollywoodthe hard way.”   

Maury was born into dirt-poor poverty during the Depression in Paris, Arkansas.   Early on, he developed a love of acting, which he parlayed into a successful career as an actor, producer, director of feature films and television programs and, of particular interest to me, head of production for Robert L. Lippert’s Associated Producers, Inc.    

Without the thought of having it published, Maury Dexter wrote his life story to fulfill a personal goal of putting his life story on paper.  Tom Weaver, who interviewed Maury in his book, “I Talked With a Zombie” (McFarland, 2008)(3), couldn’t persuade the usual movie book publishers to take it because they felt their readers might find fault with the first part of the book which covers Maury’s life before becoming involved in the motion picture business.  I suggested to Maury that he release it as an ebook, and after explaining what “email,” “Internet,” and “downloads” meant (He’s just fine with knowing absolutely nothing about computers), he agreed, but didn’t want to make money on it. 

Hat’s off to one of my favorite movie bloggers, Toby Roan, who produced the ebook, and Jim Briggs for designing it.  Here’s the link to Toby’s terrific blog, which includes the link to Maury’s autobiography. 

http://fiftieswesterns.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/maury-dexter-hollywood-the-hard-way/

P.S.  As I write this I’m laughing to myself about Maury’s challenges of producing movies on the meager budgets demanded by his penurious boss, Robert L. Lippert…and especially about how he once achieved the goal of producing two low budget westerns for the price of one.  Then there’s the story about how Samuel Fuller who shot the windows out of….

(1)    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0223317/

(2)    http://billcappello.blogspot.com/2010/11/maury-dexter.html

(3)    http://www.amazon.com/Talked-Zombie-Interviews-Veterans-Television/dp/0786441186/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336102379&sr=1-1

Visit our website to order DVDs –

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Before Roger Corman there was Robert L. Lippert

Producer/Exhibitor Robert L. Lippert’s low-budget productions are sometimes called Grade “C.”  Personally, I’ve never seen one below “B-,” and in fairness, he did put out some “B+,” “nervous A,” and who can call “The Fly” (1957) anything but an “A”?

Lippert felt there was an unmet demand for “B” product for his circuit of theatres, so in 1945 he and John L. Jones formed a production company, Action Pictures, and distribution company, Screen Guild Productions.   The first and sole release for 1945 was “Wildfire – The Story of a Horse,” in Cinecolor, starring Bob Steele.  Regular releases followed, and in 1949 Screen Guild became “Lippert Pictures,” and in the final count, cranked out over 125 low budget movies, and released many more acquisitions and reissues.  He produced many more films for release by 20th Century-Fox…more about the Fox deal later…

 

The early Lippert productions were unremarkable B movies (okay, there may have been some C’s), with a few notable exceptions.  Things changed in 1949 when he rolled the dice and took a chance on a feisty independent newspaper reporter by the name of Samuel Fuller. Lippert gave Fuller, who had no movie experience, virtual free-reign, and his name above the title, to create a film about Jesse James’ assassin, Bob Ford.   It was released as “I Shot Jesse James” (1949), and became a critical and box office success, and today it is considered a classic, notable, among other things, for its extensive use of close ups.  Soon after, Fuller directed his second film, “The Baron of Arizona” (1950), a true story about a swindler who seized much of Arizona by forging Spanish land grants.  Vincent Price played the “Baron,” and many years later claimed it was one of his very favorite roles.  Truly, the Lippert/Fuller magna opus was the classic Korean War drama, “The Steel Helmet” (1951), which garnered first-run dates at prestigious theatres.  The three Fuller films are out on DVD from the Criterion Collection.

Lippert’s cause célèbre was to produce films as cheaply as possible, and still offer at least some entertainment value, particularly for the more unsophisticated movie patrons. No Lippert movies were allowed to go over budget.  Not negotiable…even for Fuller.  Despite the puny budgets, minor classics resulted, including “Little Big Horn” (1951) and “The Tall Texan” (1953), both starring Lloyd Bridges. 

 

Robert L. Lippert, Jr. told me a story about filming of the climactic ending of “The Steel Helmet,” where a Korean temple is to be destroyed, and it almost didn’t come to be…  Fuller had shot all but the ending, and production was about to go into overtime. Lippert came on the set and literally pulled the power switch to shut down production.  Fortunately, after he left the set, Fuller turned the power on and filmed the finale. 

 

In 1950, Lippert gave himself a challenge…produce a series of six Jimmy “Shamrock” Ellison-Russell “Lucky” Hayden westerns, all at the same time, using the same casts, sets, crew, and so on.  In one movie an actor may play a bad guy and a bartender in another.  A camera was be set up in the saloon, for example, and the saloon scenes for each movie would be shot sequentially, with actors rushing about changing costumes between each roll of the camera.  It must have been a nightmare for the script girl!  Robert L. Lippert, Jr. told me it was his father’s proudest achievement!  VCI released this series as a set under the “Big Iron Collection” banner.   

 

There was also a distinctive film noir series filmed in Great Britain starting in 1953 when Lippert formed a production alliance with his British distributor, Exclusive Films, soon known as Hammer Film Productions.  Under the arrangement, Lippert would provide an American “star,” on the way down, but who still had some name value, plus cash to pay for part of the production.  Exclusive/Hammer and Lippert divided up the distribution territories.  The result was a series of good thrillers, supported by solid English casts, and many directed by Terence Fisher, in his pre-horror film days.  The Lippert-Hammers are all available as part of the “Hammer Noir” collections released by VCI Entertainment.

 

Lippert, like Roger Corman after him, was able to gather together producers, directors, screenwriters, composers, and, of course, actors, willing to work on tight schedules for minimal pay.  There were stars who had lost their major studio contracts (Paulette Goddard, George Raft) or who had problems with the House on Un-American Activities (Lloyd Bridges, Lee J. Cobb).   Even Clint Eastwood and Jack Nicolson had roles in later Lippert productions.

Lippert was a master marketer.  When producer George Pal set out to mount a big budget Technicolor production of “Destination Moon” (1950), based on the science-fiction book by Robert A. Heinlein, Lippert saw an opportunity.  He capitalized on Pal’s media campaign by throwing together his own low (of course) budget “moon” picture, “Rocketship X-M” (1950).  It beat Pal’s movie into the theatres, stealing a good deal of the Technicolor epic’s thunder.   I’m told Mr. Pal was not amused.

 

Trouble, and opportunities, lay ahead for Lippert.  To be continued…

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Please bear with me while I get over my passion for compiling lists!

I’ve spent weeks putting together a filmography pictures produced by various companies controlled by Robert L. Lippert.  So far there are over 300 (!) productions spanning a 20 year period commencing in 1945. It’s been interesting, fun, and definitely time-consuming!  My goal is to make this information definitive…not an easy task given many of the movies were made anonymously.   Look for it soon.  In the meantime I offer you the lists below.

Lippert Pictures: Unrealized Or Retitled Projects

During 1947-49, Lippert Pictures, and its predecessor, Screen Guild Productions, announced titles to trade publications become available in the “next season,” implying they were in production, or close to it, or “in preparation,” which was another way of saying little, if anything had been prepared other than the main title.

During my interviews with producers Maury Dexter and Robert L. Lippert, Jr., I was told by both that Lippert, Sr., almost always came up with a title before commissioning the screenplay, but did occasionally change his mind, ending up releasing the picture under another title.  For example, the announced title, “The Ghost of Jesse James,” could have been changed to “The Return of Jesse James,” which actually was released.  At this point we’ll never know which titles were abandoned, or actually released under other titles.

I’ve always wondering what a Lippert production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, much less directed by Samuel Fuller, in CineColor, or a Wizard of Oz sequel would have looked like had Lippert Pictures actually produced them!

Titles announced as being available “next season”

20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA – Project sold to Walt Disney

ABILENE KID, THE

ALGIER’S AMBUSH – George Raft

ALOHA

BLACK TULIP

COME OUT FIGHTING

CORNY RHYTHM

CROSS-CURRENTS

DEAD END CANYON

DEAD RINGER

DESERT QUEEN

FOR DISHONOR

FORT DEFIANCE

GHOST OF JESSE JAMES

GREAT JEWEL ROBBERY, THE

ISLE OF ZORDA

KING OF THE SAFECRACKERS

MADAM SHERIFF

MONTANABADLANDS

MUSTANG FURY

PARK ROW *

PILLAR MOUNTAIN

SON OF SHEP

STRATOCRUISER

WOMAN WITH A GUN – Paulette Goddard

* Samuel Fuller eventually produced in 1951 for U.A. release

Titles announced as being “In Preparation”

CABOOSE

FIREBUG AGENT

HIGHWAY WESTWARD

REDSKIN RENEGADES

STREAMLINER LIMITED

Titles unrealized

BANDOLEER

CALIBRE .45

DALTON’S LAST RAID, THE

DAREDEVILS OF THE HIGHWAY

I WAS KING OF THE SAFECRACKERS

OUTLAW HIDEOUT

RADIO PATROL

STRANGER IN THE HOUSE

SUNSET RIM

TALES OF CAPT. KIDD

ABILENE KID, THE

WESTERN BARN DANCE

WESTERN FURY

WIZARD OF OZ, THE – Series

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“’The Black Pirates’ (1954) was shit, and ‘Massacre’ was no good either.”  — Producer, Robert L. Lippert, Jr.

By 1959 the Lippert/Fox/Regal Films contract was finished.  However, Fox still needed B movies, and Lippert was always the man for that job.  A new 7-year deal was struck.

The new production entity became known as “Associated Producers, Inc.” (API).  Bill Magginetti continued running the company and, of course, Bob Lippert called the shots.  When the API deal ended, “Lippert Pictures” was reactivated and produced another 10 films for Fox release.

Producer/director Maury Dexter was a pivotal figure during the Lippert-Fox years.  Dexter told me he was born into poverty during Depression-era Arkansas.  He became interested in acting, came to Los Angeles, and had a few bit parts in films, including the 3 Stooges short “Uncivil War Birds (1946), and became involved in TV and stage.  He served in Korea, and soon after was hired by Regal Films head of production, Bill Magginetti, as his assistant.   When Lippert fired Magginetti, Dexter took over.  It was a good decision as Dexter was a natural organizer, could do many things at the same time, quickly and under pressure…the prerequisites for success at Lippert!  In addition to overseeing the company, he personally produced and directed 16 feature films!

After almost two decades in production, Robert L. Lippert returned to Alameda where he died of a heart attack at the age of 67 on November 16, 1976 in Alameda, California.

Lippert Trivia:

Samuel Fuller was set to write and direct a Lippert production of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” in CineColor as announced in exhibitor publications in 1949.   Walt Disney bought the project from Lippert Pictures, either because it inspired him to make his own version, which he eventually did 5 years later, or he had planned making it all along and didn’t want another version to compete against.

Robert L. Lippert entered into negotiations with the Estate of author L. Frank Baum for rights to produce a series of “Wizard of Oz” movies.  The reason he abandoned the project is lost to history.

The shortest shooting schedule of any Lippert production was one day, “Hollywood Varieties” (1950).

The runner up at 58 hours is “Highway 13” (1948).  Coincidentally, it was a 58 minute movie, so it literally took only one hour to produce one minute of screen time!

Lippert productions had a minimum of 50 daily camera set-ups.

Just to prove he could do it, producer Robert L. Lippert decided to direct a movie, “The Last of the Wild Horses” (1948.)  When production fell behind he fired himself and Paul Landres completed the film.  After that Lippert stuck to producing.   BTW, Lippert accorded himself something he never allowed other directors…an extravagant (for a Lippert production) running time of 84 minutes.

After a day of filming “Massacre” (1956) in Guatemala Producer Robert L. Lippert, Jr. was relaxing in his hotel room and heard gun shots in the room next to him.  Recalling that a General was staying there, he immediately calculated it was an assassination (it was.)  Lippert didn’t want to be shot as an eye witness, so he jumped out the window and ran on foot all the way to Mexico, and the cast and crew, who were staying in another hotel, departed by plane.

Again during the filming of “Massacre,” Lippert, Jr. said he was on location in a rural town where he found the electrical power was at best unreliable. Of course power was essential.  To proceed with filming he went to the local airport, such as it was, which was powered by a generator.  He paid off government officials to obtain the airport generator during the daytime hours.  Daytime air operations ceased, and each night the generator was returned to the airport thus enabling planes to once again take off and land.

There wasn’t enough money in the production budget to afford a pirate ship in “The Black Pirates” (1954), so the movie begins with the “pirates” arriving on shore in a row boat.  They never leave land for the entire movie.

Beloved character actor, Sid Melton, made 20 appearances in the early Lippert productions before becoming a TV mainstay.  I asked him why he was in so many, and he replied, “Mr. Lippert had faith in me.”  The fact Melton was willing to work for $140 a week may have helped. (2)

Between 1955 and 1965, Lippert co-financed and/or co-produced  four European productions not released by Fox: “The Quartermass Xperiment” U.S. title, “The Creeping Unknown” (U.K./1955), a Hammer Films production released through United Artists; “The Last Man on Earth” (Italy/1964), filmed in Rome and released by American International Pictures; “Walk a Tightrope” (U.K./1965), released through Paramount; and “The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die” (U.K./1965),  released through Warner Bros.

Margia Dean, Actress and Producer

Several years ago I met Margia Dean, still charming and beautiful, who appeared in 39 Lippert productions.

She revealed a story about Clint Eastwood who appeared with her in “Ambush at Cimarron Pass” (1958).  Years later at a Hollywood function, she ran into the by-then renowned actor-director and couldn’t resist chiding him, “Just remember, I got top billing over you!”

Here are some more fun bits she told me on June 17, 2011: “I was executive producer of ‘The Long Rope’ [1961] starring Hugh Marlowe. That was the only one for Fox. I was associate producer on a couple of others. It came in on time and made money.  I remember that I had difficulty getting respect because I was a woman [producer] and that was very rare in those days.”

“There was a scene in a little Mexican town and it was too bare, so I suggested that they have a few chickens and a stray dog for some atmosphere. Someone said “the producer wants chickens” and when I came on the set it was swarming with chickens!   The writer [Robert Hamner] told me I was the best producer he ever worked for and he worked for several big producers. I remember one was Aaron Spelling.”

I remember that the star wanted some aspirin so I asked the driver to go to the drug store and get some and he replied that according to the union he couldn’t go, he could only drive, so I went along, and got the aspirin. Then, in a cantina scene I asked the prop man to put some serapes on the wall and he said he couldn’t, I would have to hire a drapery man, so I hung them! I hired the director [for “The Long Rope”, William Witney] whom I worked for in another film (Secret of the Purple Reef) [1960] and I sensed he didn’t like taking any suggestions from me!”

* Mr. Lippert did produce, direct and or edit some good films!

The Robert L. Lippert Foundation.  Good overview with biography and filmography, the latter of which I am in the process of revising.

http://robertllippertfoundation.com

Maury Dexter interviewed by Tom Weaver in “I Talked With a Zombie”

http://www.mcfarlandpub.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-4118-1

Sid Melton:

http://www.bmonster.com/profile38.html

Sources:  Conversations between Kit Parker and Robert L. Lippert, Jr., Maury Dexter, Margia Dean and Sid Melton; issues of Motion Picture Herald and Film Daily Yearbook; the Kit Parker-Lippert Collection at the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; interviews with Maury Dexter and Sid Melton by Tom Weaver in “I Talked With a Zombie” (BearManor Media, 2011).

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