Arthur Lubin | Subjects | Visual Style | Collaborators | Rankings

Films: Buck Privates | Impact | South Sea Woman | The First Traveling Saleslady

Maverick: Royal Four Flush | The Cats of Paradise | The Goose-Drownder

Cheyenne: Outcast of Cripple Creek

Bronco: Game at the Beacon Club

Classic Film and Television Home Page (with many articles on directors) | Television Western Articles

Arthur Lubin

Arthur Lubin is an American film and television director.

Martin Scorsese picked Phantom of the Opera as one of his "Ten Best English language films exemplifying the use of light and color".

Don Miller's B Movies (1973) praises such Lubin crime films as The House of a Thousand Candles (1936), Yellowstone (1936), Risky Business (1939), Gangs of Chicago (1940), Who Killed Aunt Maggie? (1940) and San Francisco Docks (1940).

Arthur Lubin: Subjects

Characters: Transformations: Villains and Dictators: Animal humor and imagery: Subjects: Water: Imagery: Military:

Arthur Lubin: Visual Style

Camera Angles: Mirrors: Camera movement: Costumes and Appearance:

Arthur Lubin: Collaborators

Favorite performers:

Rankings

Here are ratings for various films directed by Arthur Lubin. Everything at least **1/2 is recommended.

Feature films:

Maverick: Cheyenne: Bronco:

Buck Privates

Buck Privates (1941) is a comedy with music, about raw recruits in the US Army as it prepares for the soon-to-arrive World War II. It some ways, the plot is a loose framework for a vaudeville show, featuring the then new comedy team of Abbott and Costello, and the musical group the Andrews Sisters.

Militaristic Fantasies

Buck Privates contains some militaristic fantasies or day dreams, both comic and oddly wish fulfilling: Similar tongue-in-cheek comic fantasies open The Incredible Mr. Limpet, which shows Naval officers in full dress uniform marching towards a top secret area, guarded by equally spiffy Marines.

Recruiting scenes will return in Arthur Lubin's The First Traveling Saleslady and The Incredible Mr. Limpet.

Servants Become Equal

The chauffeur assumes a new position of equality when he enters the Army. He is now on the same level as his former upper class employer. Similarly, the heroine of Footsteps in the Fog goes from maid to in charge of the mansion.

The chauffeur reminisces angrily about carrying the drunken playboy and putting him to bed. In The Goose-Drownder, the hero will have to provide similar aid to the injured villain.

Working Class Films

Both Buck Privates and The Goose-Drownder have kitchen scenes of men cooking. These are institutions: an Army kitchen in Buck Privates, a stagecoach way station in The Goose-Drownder.

The honest, respectable men in both films are clearly at the bottom of social hierarchies, the lowest of the low on the social scale. Considerable sympathy is extended to these honest men by the films. The films have a pro-proletarian viewpoint, of sympathy for those at the bottom.

Gay Sub-Text

The two romantic leads are both personal rivals, and pursuing the same woman. One rescues the other man, saving his life. It is on a cliff. The one man climbs up the other's body, to safety. Inevitably, while the one man is climbing over the other, the two men look as if they are grappling sexually.

The two men start out as bitter rivals, but this scene and related events show them learning to respect each other. Their progress from dislike to friendship can also be read as as kind of love story.

Camera Movement

Some camera movements highlight key scenes with the troops: "The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" has a long take in the middle, as the Andrew Sisters first move down some steps, then move into the audience, then retreat back up the steps. The camera also moves to the left and then to the right, to follow the lead singer's encounters with individual soldiers.

Impact

Impact (1949) is a crime thriller. It is from the film noir era, and is often considered an example of film noir.

Impact has a structure found in several Lubin films: bad guys try to commit a crime; good guys, and a bit of luck, prevent them.

Impact opens with business executive reporting to a board meeting of his company. The scene anticipates the military court opening of South Sea Woman. Both show a macho man hero, tough and uncompromising, appearing before a group of tough, powerful older men, who put his actions on trial. What starts out in both cases as an investigation of the hero, eventually turns into a public celebration and endorsement of his deeds.


South Sea Woman

South Sea Woman (1953) is one of several film comedies Arthur Lubin made with a service background, here the US Marines. This film is deliberately silly, and sometimes very funny.

The courtroom sequences which frame the story, are some of the best parts of South Sea Woman. They show Lubin's fondness for spit-and-polish militarist imagery. Several different kinds of uniforms are on display.

Gays

It is remarkably easy to see a gay subtext in South Sea Woman. Sergeant Jim O'Hearn (Burt Lancaster) picked out Private Davey White (Chuck Connors) as a raw recruit, and developed him to be both a top soldier and his best buddy. Now the Sergeant is trying to break up Davey's proposed marriage to Ginger (Virginia Mayo). This comes very close to "a gay man trying to prevent to man he loves, from getting married to a woman and leaving him". It is hardly a "subtext": it comes close to being the overt plot-line of the film.

Later costumes the men wear keep up the gay imagery. These include a South Seas headdress that must be one of the most phallic costumes in screen history. The clothes ironing scene is also flamboyant and funny.

Architecture

The saloon is a seaside building, with outdoor staircase and a sort of balcony or platform at top. It looks a bit like the pier in The Incredible Mr. Limpet.

Camera Movement

There is a long camera movement around the court, showing the expressions of the main people present, one after another.

Mirror

Chuck Connors makes his entrance in the film, seen in a mirror in the night club. He is seen by the heroine. This perhaps suggests there is something unreal about Connors' character. He is perhaps a figure of romantic fantasy, both of the heroine and the Sergeant (Lancaster).

The Sergeant has created and shaped Connors' character to be a duplicate of his own, as a macho male and ideal Marine. The dialogue says the Sergeant has made Connors a "carbon copy" of himself. Like the mirror, this suggests a created image, rather than reality.

Connors is one of the few characters, who does not appear in the courtroom scenes. There are plot reasons for this. But it also suggests something about his character. The courtroom scenes in South Sea Woman represent "reality". They frame the picture. The other events in the film are flashbacks, history recounted by the characters on the witness stand in the courtroom. These stories can seem like tall tales, wildly exaggerated events. Connors only appears within these tales and flashbacks. It is if he is a made-up character within these wild flashback tales, not a figure with an independent, objective reality.

Cast

Burt Lancaster and Chuck Connors are somewhat startling to see together: they are two of the biggest hunks in movie history. This seems to be the only time either man worked with Lubin. Chuck Connors' character is none-too-bright: quite a difference from the highly intelligent men Connors often played in his later career. One suspects that South Sea Woman is trying to excuse some of his character's bad behavior.

Paul Burke is a leading man type, who gets a good comic role as an Ensign at the court martial. He offers some witty interrogations. Burke would go on to TV fame with The Naked City. Burke is very spit-and-polish in his naval uniform; in The Naked City he would always be well-dressed in good suits. Burke also plays articulate, intelligent characters in both South Sea Woman and The Naked City. He represents a sort of ideal potential, what one type of man can become: intelligent, polished, energetic.

Anthony Radecki had most of his brief film career working with Lubin. He had roles in eight Lubin films. In South Sea Woman, he is the MP in the courtroom.


The First Traveling Saleslady

The First Traveling Saleslady (1956) is a comedy Western starring Ginger Rogers.

Feminism

The heroine is feminist. She takes salesman jobs previously restricted to men, gives feminist speeches, and worries about what sort of world she will be leaving for her daughters. The First Traveling Saleslady is notable in that the heroine and the film do not wimp out at the end. The heroine keeps her convictions at the end. She gets married, but the film shows that her husband, initially skeptical about woman's lib, has come to endorse it as an activity and attitude for his wife and children. This all makes a refreshing take on feminism.

The First Traveling Saleslady was an early example of a number of feminist or woman's suffrage tales. The Woman (Arnold Laven, 1959), an episode of The Rifleman, is a politically impressive look at the campaign for giving women the right to vote. That same year, the Western TV series Bat Masterson also had an excellent episode on woman's suffrage, The Inner Circle, so something was in the zeitgeist. The 1959 comedy The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker (Henry Levin) also contains sympathetic allusions to woman's suffrage.

Recruiting

A subplot shows sympathetic Clint Eastwood, recruiting for Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders. His recruiting table in a hotel anticipates another Lubin historical comedy, The Incredible Mr. Limpet, and its World War II recruiters on tables right on city sidewalks. Buck Privates opened with a giant recruiting and induction center, occupying a movie theater.

Maverick: Royal Four Flush

Lubin Subjects

Royal Four Flush (1959) is another Arthur Lubin film about a poor woman opportunistically trying to cheat her way into the life of a rich man. Unlike Footsteps in the Fog, this heroine a good deal more sympathetic, and the story is played for comedy, rather than mystery and tragedy as in Footsteps in the Fog. And she is viewed vastly more positively than the vicious male fortune-hunter in Duel at Sundown.

Like some other Lubin heroines such as The First Traveling Saleslady, this woman really wants to run a business. And her lying to the rich man aside, she seems to be relatively honest in her business dealings.

The rich man is also not an exemplar of the upper classes, unlike Stewart Granger in Footsteps in the Fog. Instead, he is a conspicuously working class man in his origins, mannerisms and feelings. The upper classes at their obnoxious worst are represented instead in Royal Four Flush by a crooked but upper-crust-acting gambler.

As in The Goose-Drownder to come, hero Bart Maverick recognizes the woman's real identity from a past meeting. Unlike The Goose-Drownder, the heroine's past is scrupulously honest, however plebeian and sordid.

The children's investigation into the heroine's past is perhaps a version of the concern over moralists in other Lubin. Condemning other people's morals and pasts is seen negatively by Lubin.

Animal Humor

There are many references to animals, in the comedy dialogue.

The countess also has a pet dog.

Camera Movement

The poker game has a long camera movement, that moves one by one to various poker players, pauses, then moves on to the next. It also moves to the pot and pauses, before going back to the hero.

The camera follows the daughter across the room, to the door.

Overhead Views

The poker game in the show's midpoint, opens with a straight-down overhead view.

Top Hats

The villain is often gesturing with his huge top hat. The sympathetic rich man keeps calling for his top hat near the end, as he is about to go out and propose. A later shot shows the hat. Both tops hats are huge, and likely phallic symbols.

The huge hammer wielded earlier by the rich man is also a phallic symbol.


Maverick: The Cats of Paradise

The Cats of Paradise (1959) is a black comedy. Although funny, it contains some of the darkest material in Lubin, and is among the most sinister episodes of the light-hearted Maverick TV show.

Society

Paradise is a town. It is run by some of the most vicious and anti-democratic leaders in Lubin. It recalls the island under control of Vichy French dictators in South Sea Woman. Lubin clearly despises such regimes. They come in for some effective satire in his work.

The episode with the seamen, recalls that Lubin made a rowdy sea adventure in South Sea Woman.

Animal Humor

The cats are more of Arthur Lubin's animals that perform a social function or role.

The dialogue is filled with animal imagery and jokes of all kinds: a Lubin tradition.

Lance Fuller

Lance Fuller often played pleasantly perverse characters in TV Westerns. He often suggests men who adopt strange personas that they find gratifying. In The Cats of Paradise, he plays a professional hit-man all duded up in a black desperado's outfit.

Maverick: The Goose-Drownder

The Goose-Drownder (1959) is probably the best episode of Maverick, after the pilots directed by Budd Boetticher.

The title includes the animal imagery that runs through Arthur Lubin.

Water Imagery

It is highly atmospheric, with the rain constantly pouring down. This recalls the opening of Footsteps in the Fog. Both films show men in long rain slickers: the police in Footsteps in the Fog, the hero in The Goose-Drownder. Both films also show coats being hung up on pegs, making for a visually vivid gesture. The closed carriage in Footsteps in the Fog resembles the stagecoach in The Goose-Drownder. although this might be coincidence.

Both The Goose-Drownder and the later The Incredible Mr. Limpet show water proceeding from ceilings to indoor containers:

Both films also have bodies in the water: in The Incredible Mr. Limpet, this is the living hero falling off the pier; in The Goose-Drownder, it is the discovery of the murder victim.

Detection

In both Footsteps in the Fog and The Goose-Drownder, a character makes an important discovery after unexpectedly finding blood on their hands. In Footsteps in the Fog, this occurs when the heroine hangs up the hero's coat; in The Goose-Drownder the hero helps carry a sick man who allegedly suffers from "lung trouble".

There are plot elements in common between Lubin's mystery Who Killed Aunt Maggie? and The Goose-Drownder:

Feminism

Like The First Traveling Saleslady, The Goose-Drownder has a heroine who gives the hero a long discussion of feminist themes. While the New Woman heroine of The First Traveling Saleslady concentrates on a positive vision of a feminist future, including women in "men's jobs" and getting the vote, The Goose-Drownder looks at how men victimize women: This sort of detailed look at male exploitation and mistreatment of women became much better known in the Woman's Lib 1970's. It is very interesting to see it in a 1959 television show.

Leonard Praskins

Leonard Praskins was the veteran screenwriter of The Goose-Drownder. I'm not trying to minimize his contribution to this fine work. A decade later, Praskins co-wrote an episode The Hell Wind (1968) of The Virginian, which has plot features in common with The Goose-Drownder (SPOILERS): The Hell Wind is an absorbing show. Despite its plot links, it is by no means a remake of The Goose-Drownder. Instead it throughly reworks the material in new directions.

The Virginian later reworked this material into still another show, The Wind of Outrage (1968). In that, a snowstorm traps characters in an isolated inn. The hero once again recognizes a woman there who victimized him years ago. Leonard Praskins had nothing to do with this version.


Cheyenne: Outcast of Cripple Creek

Outcast of Cripple Creek (1960) is the only Cheyenne episode directed by Arthur Lubin.

Genre

Outcast of Cripple Creek is a combination "marshal tries to clean up the town" Western, with the "civics lesson" Western:

Lubin Subjects

Arthur Lubin has a recurring interest in moralists. Outcast of Cripple Creek shows the town's seemingly respectable, "moral" people as secret owners of the town's vice spots.

The way the Mayor keeps signing up people to be city Marshal, perhaps echoes the military recruiting found in other Arthur Lubin films.

The injured marshals are treated in beds set up in a hotel lobby (at the film's end). This echoes the scenes in other Lubin, where travelers camp out in lobbies of otherwise full hotels. The hotel is fancy and formal, like other Lubin hotels.

The Arthur Lubin subject of "lifestyle changes after a death" returns. New Marshal Cheyenne is assigned as a perk of his job, the house occupied by the old, dead Marshal. But Cheyenne is reluctant to through out the former Marshal's daughter from the house.

Lubin humor about rear ends returns, when Marshal Cheyenne paddles a recalcitrant cowboy, rather than shooting him. A somewhat similar scene occurred in an earlier Cheyenne episode not directed by Lubin, The Spanish Grant (1957).

The suspense finale has "cattle herded through town", one of Arthur Lubin's persistent animal images. This recalls the comedy trial finale of The First Traveling Saleslady, where the cattle are more harmless.


Bronco: Game at the Beacon Club

Game at the Beacon Club (1959) is the only Bronco episode directed by Arthur Lubin.

Change of Pace: Bronco gets to play Maverick

Game at the Beacon Club is designed as a change of pace episode of Bronco. It is clearly intended to put its hero Bronco in the kind of comedy-adventure featured on Maverick: By this time Arthur Lubin had already been directing Maverick for over half a season, often in comic episodes. So he was a natural choice for this "Bronco gets to play a Maverick role" tale.

A Transformed Hero

This was the first episode of the second season of Bronco. Warner Brothers TV Westerns had previously had a big success with another change of pace show: The Conspirators (Leslie H. Martinson, 1957), the second episode of the third season of Cheyenne. The Conspirators gets its tough cowboy hero Cheyenne all dressed up white tie and tails, doing sophisticated comedy among the polished-but-menacing. Game at the Beacon Club does the same thing for its cowboy hero Bronco. Both episodes expand their characters' "range". Both show their tough cowboy hero being transformed into a sophisticate.

Unfortunately, I don't think Game at the Beacon Club is as good as The Conspirators or the better episodes of Maverick:

Transformed heroes are also a personal subject for Arthur Lubin. In South Sea Woman, Sergeant Burt Lancaster has trained recruit Chuck Connors to be both the ideal Marine, and his buddy. This has happened before the film opens. In Game at the Beacon Club the millionaire transforms working class cowboy hero Bronco, by buying him fancy upper class clothes. This transformation takes place during the main story, making it more prominent in the plot of Game at the Beacon Club than in the earlier South Sea Woman.

Both Bronco and Chuck Connors in South Sea Woman are seen in mirrors, in scenes with the heroine. This perhaps suggests they are figures of romantic fantasy.

Cast

Lubin regular Barry Kelley is featured.

And this is the first of four shows Arthur Lubin did with Gage Clarke.