'ANNIE OAKLEY' (1935) and 'BLOOD OF THE MOON'
I’ve always had a soft spot for RKO (Radio-Keith-Orpheum), the studio
that made some of the most famous films in motion picture history yet
which is often overlooked. One reason for the undervaluing of the
studio is that its output did not continue with a recognised logo (the
MGM lion or the Universal globe, for example, have proved more
immediately recognisable to the public at large than the (equally
iconic) radio tower with its radio waves pulsating- the symbol of RKO
for many a year. In the great rush (which swiftly became a stampede) to
diversify, RKO found itself effectively consigned to the scrapheap, a
travesty considering its proud heritage. But, as the phoenix rises from
the ashes, so RKO lives again- both in a range of modern film
productions (sadly none as grand as its illustrious past) and in a
series of fine re-releases from Odeon Entertainment.
- A review by Richard Harrison (2011)
For a production company so heavily steeped in the genre tradition
which was essential to the Hollywood Studio System, it seems apt to
organise the releases of RKO titles by such a defining nomenclature.
Thus, two recent releases fall under the heading of ‘Western’- Annie
Oakley (1935) and Blood on the Moon (1948). Both titles
are relatively unfamiliar- certainly not ones that appear on television
with monotonous regularity, and Annie Oakley in particular is a
real obscurity- one of a long line of highly romanticised (albeit
highly enjoyable) biopics to emerge from Hollywood’s golden age. Both
films are also getting their first UK DVD release, and Odeon
Entertainment are to be praised for resisting the temptation to simply
re-issue material that has been freely available before.
Annie Oakley features Barbara Stanwyck as the legendary female
sharpshooter, and is a fine reminder of the result when you pair a
young actress who is gaining confidence with a director of similar
ambition and stature. The director in question here is George Stevens,
who does a first rate job of keeping the narrative moving, although it
is Miss Stanwyck who provides the main attraction. 1930s films are
rarely shown on television, so this release represents a good chance to
view this title.
Blood on the Moon (not to be confused with the earlier Blood
Sun starring James Cagney) is another great star film- in
this case Robert Mitchum, who is ably supported by Barbara Bel Geddes,
Robert Preston and Western movie mainstay Walter Brennan. Another
reliable director (Robert Wise) handles the material skilfully, the
film’s brevity contributing in no small part to its overall impact.
In releasing such genre specific titles I hope that Odeon Entertainment
access two markets- those that are fans of that particular genre and
wish to see more, and those who, like me, are fascinated by the allure
of an RKO film. With luck, one market will morph into the other, and
RKO will soon re-gain its reputation as one of the foremost Hollywood
studios in the Classical era.
Both 'Annie Oakley' and 'Blood on the Moon' are available on DVD from
Odeon Entertainment website