Abilene Town Blu-ray - Restoration of a Classic Western
Monday, 1 March 2021 | Admin
Many years ago I purchased from the United States a VHS video starring my favourite Western actor Randolph Scott. The title was Abilene Town, made in 1946, but sadly the picture quality was very poor, scratched, dark and worn, probably from a 16 mm library print, but the performances of Scott and his co-star, another childhood favourite Rhonda Fleming in her first Western, were brilliant.
Having had enough of this poor copy, I kept searching, but the many releases on 'public domain' labels seem to have come from the same poor quality print.
After some research I discovered that the producing company, Jules Levey had closed down in the late 1940s. More research uncovered the original camera negatives and I had a high definition transfer produced from a 35 mm fine grain print made from these negatives.
Almost everything was in place for a Blu-ray release, and I then contacted Rhonda Fleming, who had kindly written notes for Panamint Cinema's Blu-ray release of 'Inferno', in which she starred with Robert Ryan, to ask if she had any special memories of making the film, which I could add to the accompanying booklet. Here is what Rhonda wrote:
‘Abilene Town’ was my first film after my debut in 1945 in ‘Spellbound’ which starred Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck and was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It was my very first Western and a very different role for me than that of ‘Mary Carmichael’ in ‘Spellbound.’
I recall that prior to filming ‘Abilene Town,’ my mother and I drove to a ranch in Agoura Hills, California, which is north of Los Angeles – we’d planned to spend the night in a small trailer up in the mountains so that I could wake up early and prepare for filming the next morning … my mother wanted me to be in the larger bedroom and she stayed in the smaller one and during the night I discovered my bed was on a huge bee nest … I was badly bitten on the face and my mother had to take me to a skin specialist.
I was sure I would not be able to work, but amazingly the doctor gave me a prescription medicine to take one hour before filming and the swelling would disappear … what a miracle – thank the Lord.
Thankfully, everything turned out well and I was able to start filming the next day and on schedule.
It was always a treat to film on location and I enjoyed working in the outdoors - making ‘Abilene Town’ somewhat prepared me for the other Western films I went on to make throughout my career.
Although I was a big fan of Randolph Scott, I did not have much interaction with him during filming – likewise, Ann Dvorak was a lovely actress, however, I did not know her well and because she moved to Britain early in her career, our paths never crossed again. Most of my scenes in ‘Abilene Town’ were filmed with Lloyd Bridges, who became a very dear friend. Ironically, many years later, my late husband, Ted Mann, was hospitalized in Los Angeles and while visiting him, I discovered that Lloyd was hospitalized on the same floor – so I was able to visit with him briefly prior to his death.
The booklet also includes an essay by writer Robert Nott, and biographies of the principal actors, including Ann Dvorak and Edgar Buchanan, the hapless sheriff.