Sunday, June 12, 2011
The William Conrad story
Ed here: I was always a big fan of William Conrad. My first introduction to gritty westerns was his radio version of Gunsmoke back in the fifties. I have twenty of those episodes and have listened to all of them over the past two weeks. They were as grim as radio got and far grittier than the tv version, which he was too hefty to star in. And on Rocky and Bullwinkle he was as much fun in the narratation as the moose and squirrel were in the adventures. His series Cannon was a typically bland Quinn Martin production but his size if nothing else made it a bit different. TCM Movie Morlocks (great site) has a piece about his almost-ascent as a director of horror films. He'd directed a memorable western The Ride Back among other films and he proved to be good in this niche as well.
William Conrad: The Lost Master of Horror?
Posted by rhsmith on June 3, 2011
Short answer: no. But dig… in 1965, the hard-working Hollywood character actor (THE KILLERS, SORRY WRONG NUMBER, -30-), TV director-for hire (HAVE GUN – WILL TRAVEL, BAT MASTERSON, 77 SUNSET STRIP), producer (AN AMERICAN DREAM, THE COOL ONES, COUNTDOWN), radio voice of Marshal Matt Dillon before GUNSMOKE came to television, narrator of THE FUGITIVE (“Name: Richard Kimball, doctor of medicine. Destination: Death Row…”), commercial voiceover artist and indefatigable BULLWINKLE pitchman released three feature films, rat-a-tat-tat, between January and May. Well-remembered less by those who saw these first run than by the generation that caught up with them on TV, TWO ON A GUILLOTINE, MY BLOOD RUNS COLD and BRAINSTORM have been lauded by genre archivists and cult film aficionados for their individual merits but never, to my knowledge, have the three been considered as a body of work bearing the signature of a back lot auteur. All three have been brought to DVD under the aegis of the Warner Archive Collection, making a reappraisal not only long overdue but deucedly easy. And yet that’s not my goal today. Today I want to discuss how Warners seemed primed to push William Conrad to the world as a fright-maker nonpareil, putting him on par with William Castle, the “King of the Gimmick.” Press releases hawking BRAINSTORM said as much, putting wheels in motion to build for Conrad a new reputation. And then… nothing. He never directed another movie.
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Always enjoy him in a crime film. He inevitably steals the scene.
"The Ride Back" is an unrated Western. Quinn and Conrad's intimate play on one another is terrific. Two great performances. I really liked this movie.
I remember seeing him in the movie "The Killers." Talk about menacing... wow...
As you say, the radio version of Gunsmoke was significantly more gritty and adult than the television version. Conrad's Matt Dillon had a bit of a meanstreak. He was bothered on one show when he had killed four (or was it five?)members of a gang and the one survivor berated him for it.
Chester was slow-witted, generally incompetent, but he was completely loyal to Dillon and that is all that counted. Parley Baer was perfect in the role.
Although it is never stated outright, the impression is given that Miss Kitty and her girls would treat a fellow to more than a smile and a wink if the price was right.
Doc Adams liked his fees and sometimes ragged Dillon about going so long between shootings. Howard McNear was great in the role, so different from his Floyd the Barber on the Andy Griffith Show.
It was the best ensemble of actors on radio and they were all very active on other programs (such as Escape) during the same time period. Ed, there are many more than 20 programs available of Gunsmoke and you should check them out. The quality remains very high.
hi i seem to recall many years ago that william conrad appeared on a talk show and did a flip on stage.Does anyone remember this or am i just going senile?
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