Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tim Holt

Since this seems to be nostalgia week, and since several bloggers are talking about some of their favorite tv shows and movies, I'll mention a name here that only a portion of you will be familiar with.

Tim Holt (from Turner Classic Movies)

"Began his career as a child actor in silent films starring his father, Jack Holt, and graduated to juvenile parts in B productions of the 1930s. Holt landed significant roles in Orson Welles' "The Magnificent Ambersons" (1942) and, opposite Humphrey Bogart, in John Huston's "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948)."

Quite a career, eh? Two of the finest films ever made. So why haven't you ever heard of this guy?

I'm not sure. Even though he had major roles in both films, even though his reviews were terrific, he went straight from these films into a series of B westerns for RKO. To be fair to the quote from TCM, their writer finds his westerns "routine."

I think they're better than that. Something like a quarter century ago I wrote a piece for a book on western film stars. My subject was Roy Rogers and Gene Autry-compare and contrast. I had so much of my early childhood invested in their films that I could hardly knock them. But I did point out that they were aimed primarily at kids. I also noted that the stolid Gene reminded me of the family insurance salesman and that Roy was the sort of goofy older brother you were sometimes embarrassed to claim. Plus there was their singing. They were both pretty good at it and a lot of the Dale Evans stage numbers in the Rogers pictures were very good. She was pretty, shapely and she could sing. And the dance routines were lavish for a B.

But...singing cowboys?

I remember channel surfing past a country music channel that claimed that tonight some "real cowboys" would be dancing the "tush push." Yes, you find frequent references to "tush pushing" in most histories of the American West.

That's why, as I got older, I preferred the Tim Holts. I watched a few of them recently and realized that they were aimed for the upper end of the young audience. Tim's intensity wasn't anything you ever saw in Roy or Gene. And even the comic relief, with an Irish actor playing a Mexican ass-bandit, was a mite racy for ten year olds. (Othe cowpokes joked about girls; you had the feeling that ole Chico might actually have done the deed once or twice.)

I'm not making the case that these were major westerns in any sense. But the scripts were often enjoyable mysteries, the acting was solid, and the RKO B factory could trick up a beleivable west in all respects.

And nobody sang a single note.


I. Michael Koontz said...

Well, Ed, I'VE heard of Tim Holt, but then again, AMBERSONS and TREASURE are two of my favorite films. Despite being in two different genres, Holt is fine in both; displays an innate sensitivity and vulnerability that was perfect for those roles.

I always wonder what those types of actors did between films, since you only noticed them in one about once every four years. Broadway? Off Broadway? Bussed tables? Worked for Earl Scheib?

James Reasoner said...

I was surprised when I saw some of the Tim Holt B-Westerns by how good they were. Some great shootouts and brutal fistfights between Holt and the villains, often played by Steve Brody, good location photography, and solid scripts. And Holt didn't always play a character named "Tim Holt" (not that I hold it against Roy and Gene; I actually find that part of the charm of their movies).

DGB said...

Several years ago I wrote a piece for OK City's alternative newspaper on Oklahoma's contributions to the B western and since Holt in his post-movie life lived on a ranch just a few miles east OK City, he got included. I, too, asked why and how he ended up in B westerns after the start he had and an old friend of his wrote me to say that Holt just preferred working outdoors and he hated the pressure that went with A-level Hollywood movies. He had all the money he needed so, like Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea, he just did what he enjoyed doing. I guess that in an age when so many people hate their jobs but have to stick with them for the benefits and paycheck it's hard to imagine being able to say "To hell with it" and kick back, so in that way Holt is even a bigger role model than Roy or Gene ever were.

Anonymous said...

Trivia: Tim's father was Jack Holt, a major star/actor in westerns dating back to the silent era...His sister, Jennifer, also appeared in westerns...

Anonymous said...

Tim Holt also appeared in "His Kind Of Woman" with Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell. His westerns were indeed a notch above in every respect. He made several prior to entering the service in 1943, in which he displayed a very boyish personna. When he resumed his career in 1947, he emerged a more mature and rugged hero. His father Jack Holt appeared with him only once (as his father) in the excellent "The Arizona Ranger".I would recommend "Brothers In The Saddle" (with Steve Brodie as Tim's brother gone bad) as one of the best b-westerns ever made. Hopefully TCM will air these and some of his others again soon.
FYI, his final film was the weak sci-fi thriller "The Monster Who Challenged The World" in 1957.

Anonymous said...

Re: cowpokes and tush-pushing...well, BLAZING SADDLES was instructive...and there was LONESOME COWBOYS, with a different sort of tush-pushing.