STRANGER ON HORSEBACK. United Artists, 1955. Joel McCrea, Miroslava, Kevin McCarthy, John McIntire, John Carradine, Nancy Gates, Emile Meyer. Based on a story written for the film by Louis L’Amour. Director: Jacques Tourneur.
Stranger on Horseback is perhaps one of director Jacques Tourneur’s least known films, one that was commercially unavailable for decades. Filmed on location in Arizona with a budget under $400,000, the film stars Western icon Joel McCrea as a federal circuit judge tasked with bringing an accused murderer to trial.
Although the movie benefits from punchy dialogue and has some very fun, downright quirky moments (look for the cat in the sheriff’s office!), it is altogether a somewhat disappointing entry in the large corpus of slightly gritty postwar Westerns.
The film’s plot, based on Louis L’Amour story, follows Judge Richard Thorne (McCrea) as he enters a small Western town, which he soon learns is basically run from top-to-bottom by land baron Josiah Bannerman (John McIntire). It also comes to his attention that Bannerman’s son, Tom (Kevin McCarthy), may have murdered a man.
Despite entreaties from a charmingly serpentine federal lawyer (John Carradine), Thorne decides he is going to see that justice is done. He even convinces the local feline loving sheriff (Emile Meyer in a standout role) to join forces with him. Along the way, the upright judge gets into a little push and pull with the Bannerman’s ferociously exotic niece, Amy (portrayed by Czechoslovakian-born Mexican actress Miroslava). It’s one of the stranger romances I’ve yet seen depicted in a McCrea Western.
Unfortunately, the film just doesn’t gel. In some ways, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why this is the case. There seem to be a lot of minor flaws that add up to weaken what could have otherwise been a quite strong picture. These include the fact that Stranger on Horseback was filmed in Ansco Color and that it ends way too abruptly, to put it mildly.
Also, the final action scene is filmed in such a manner that it’s difficult to tell who is shooting at whom. It’s a much weaker film than Tourneur’s superbly crafted Wichita, also starring McCrea, which I reviewed here. Still, if you’re a McCrea fan, you might appreciate viewing this relatively short Western where, despite the film’s numerous flaws, he has a comparatively strong presence.
Robert E. McGinnis began his career in 1947 as a cartoonist, and produced his first cover illustrations for 1956 issues of the magazines True Detective and Master Detective. Then in 1958, he painted his first paperback book cover, and from that day forward his work was in demand.
The emergence of the “McGinnis Woman”, long-legged, intelligent, alluring, and enigmatic, established him as the go-to artist for detective novels. His work appeared on Mike Shayne titles and the Perry Mason series, and he produced 100 paintings for the Carter Brown Mystery Series. Yet McGinnis became famous for his work in other genres as well: espionage, romance, historicals, gothics, and Westerns.
McGinnis’s first major magazine assignments were for The Saturday Evening Post, and his work has graced the pages of Cosmopolitan, National Geographic, Good Housekeeping, Guideposts, and others. McGinnis women frequently cropped up in the men’s magazines of the ’60s and ’70s.
His first movie poster was for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, with an iconic rendering of Audrey Hepburn. Almost instantly, his poster artwork could be seen everywhere, in theaters, on billboards, in newspapers, and even on soundtrack albums. His work for Hollywood became a who’s-who, with posters for James Bond, The Odd Couple, Woody Allen, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, and many more.
Some of his most ambitious works have been his gallery paintings, often depicting stunning American landscapes, vast Western vistas, and of course, beautiful women. The Art of Robert E. McGinnis collection reveals the full scope and beauty of the work of a true American master—one whose legacy continues today.
Robert McGinnis (1926- )
November , 2014
My review of BIRDMAN at Crimespree Magazine
by Erin Mitchell
My trip to Bouchercon was shorter than I had planned because of a death in the family, but despite missing the first couple of days, it included more than a few memorable moments. I’m going to limit myself here to talking about just two favorites.
On Saturday morning, I was honored to be part of the Bloody Murder: Voices from the Margin event. I’m calling it an “event” rather than a “panel” because it included 46 authors (plus me and Terri Bischoff) in a format that, to the best of my knowledge, was entirely new to Bouchercon.
I’m going to bypass a discussion of how this event came to happen (for the moment), and focus instead on what it was—and can be in future years.
While many of us attend Bouchercon for professional reasons, it is, always and above all else, a fan convention. A gathering of readers. A celebration of stories. It gives us the opportunity to discover new and new-to-us books and authors in the most dynamic ways possible. And it is exactly this that Bloody Murder: Voices from the Margin celebrated.
Each participant was asked to share an author whose work is less well-known than it could (should!) be or we might have forgotten. In this way, it touted the diversity and inclusion that is core to the crime fiction community we all love so much.
To say the room was electric does not adequately capture the excitement and enthusiasm present. Charlaine Harris and Sara Paretsky embraced their role as Fearless Leaders (click here to read Sara’s opening remarks) with gusto. There were cheers. There were laughs.
It was surely special.
I’m going to include the list of participants and recommendations at the end of this post, and I encourage you to check them out. I’ve already started doing exactly that. We could all do worse than to use this list for our holiday shopping.
I sincerely hope that this becomes an annual mainstay at Bouchercon. It would be a fantastic way to open the event, as the format and content would give attendees a quick introduction to a large group of authors, which would help them target their panel attendance. More importantly, though, it would set a tone for Bouchercon, reminding us that we, as readers, owe a great deal to an amazingly diverse group of storytellers, some of whom we have yet to discover.
Orchestrating the Bloody Murder: Voices from the Margin was an awesome feat that saw an ad-hoc team pull together in days what I would have easily expected to take weeks. In addition to Charlaine and Sara, here’s who you have to thank: Terri Bischoff, Lori Rader-Day, Catriona McPherson, Margery Flax, Dana Cameron, Clare O’Donohue, Jess Lourey, Jessie Chandler, and Jamie Freveletti.
Here’s a super photo of the event, by Kristopher Zgorski:
Saturday evening at the Anthony Awards, Judy Bobalik received the David Thompson Special Service Award, which “recognizes extraordinary efforts to develop and promote the mystery and crime fiction field.” I knew Judy was in the running (because the award is voted on by the Bcon board, of which I’m a member), but her winning was a surprise, and I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving. Judy has been involved with Bouchercon for years, and her support of authors, readers, and the community as a whole is unmatched.
Here’s Judy giving the World’s Shortest Acceptance Speech (she was really surprised!):
We’ve wrapped up Bouchercon for another year, and I’m hearing lots of folks making plans for Raleigh next year. So I’ll leave you with this: If you want to be considered for a panel, the registration deadline for Raleigh is May 1, 2015.
Kristi Belcamino: Sara Gran
Mark Billingham: Steve Mosby
Terri Bischoff: Barbara Neely
Allison Brennan: Deborah Coonts
Carla Buckley: Dennis Tafoya
Dana Cameron: Margaret Lawrence
Joelle Charbonneau: Tracy Kiely
Jessie Chandler: Amanda Kyle Williams
Hilary Davidson: Todd Robinson
Jamie Freveletti: Charlotte Carter
Jim Fusilli: Penelope Fitzgerald
Alison Gaylin: Lauren Sanders
Joel Goldman: Barbara Neely
Heather Graham: Harley Jane Kozak
Andrew Grant: Charles McCarry
Daniel Hale: Harry Hunsicker
Rachel Howzell Hall: Paula L Woods
Greg Herren: Sandra Scoppettone
Ted Hertel: Terrance Faherty
Naomi Hirahara: Hisaye Yamamoto
Linda Joffe Hull: John Galligan
Harley Jane Kozak: Georgette Heyer
Katia Lief: Sarah Weinman
Elizabeth Little: Steph Cha
Alex Marwood: Sarah Hilary
Clare O’Donohue: Wendy Lyn Watson aka Annie Knox
Karen E Olson: Mary-Ann Tirone Smith
Lynne Raimondo: Joseph Hansen
Hank Phillippi Ryan: Shannon Kirk
Daniel Stashower: Jan Marete Weiss
Wendy Corsi Staub: Tom Savage
Elaine Viets: Craig Rice, Jeffery Marks
Martyn Waites: Bill Loehfelm
Sarah Weinman: Jen Sacks
Jeri Westerson: Dorothy B Hughes
James Ziskin: Lynne Raimondo