Many of the titles listed above deal with soldiers or police types in the middle of seemingly insurmountable odds. Infiltrating a racist town to uncover a hidden murder, trying to stop a prison escape while defending the innocent, 7 men taking on 40; there isn't a meat grinder Sturges didn't throw his characters into. This is where he excels as a story teller; creating a deft balance between character and action. His films always excite as much as they illuminate the trials, tribulations and thoughts of our heroes.
Perhaps his most seminal work, The Great Escape, is celebrating it's 50th anniversary. Around Los Angeles, a new, 4K restoration digital print premiered at the Turner Classic Movie Festival in April and is playing at the historical Aero Theatre this weekend. Since Sturges' work is never far from my television, I've declared it Sturges week with nightly viewings to prime the pump for the momentous occasion.
Another staple of Sturges work is his notion of "minding the gut" of a cast. He felt stars would take care of their own but the middle roles are just as important. Viewers will spot Rhonda Fleming, John Ireland (Spartacus), Earl Holliman (Sons of Katie Elder), a young Dennis Hopper, DeForest Kelly (Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy) and Lee Van Cleef in a small role among many others.
The film recently played at UCLA's tribute to Burt Lancaster with Kirk Douglas on hand to introduce the film. Unfortunately an out of town wedding put the kibosh on seeing Corral on the big screen with a living legend. Ah well, I was a couple feet away from him at a Spartacus anniversary.
Check out this clip where Earp and Holliday confront 20 cowboys: