Between 1950 and 1952, actor Edmund O’Brien and director Byron Haskin teamed up for three Westerns.  Two of them, Silver City and Denver & Rio Grand are now available on Blu-ray in decent if not spectacular transfers from Olive Films.

O’Brien was a reliable character actor but sits a horse uneasily as the star of a Western.  He has a modern, urban sort of persona and lacks the physical grace of a typical Western hero.  Haskin was a special effects man who got into directing, most notably The War Of the Worlds in 1954.  He seems an unlikely fit for Westerns as well.


The two films are, nevertheless, good solid contributions to the genre.  Haskin has a decent feel for landscape, and in Silver City there’s a really fine action scene filmed on a moving train hauling giant logs.  It’s one of the best train sequences in any Western, done live with excellent stunt work and no recourse to process shots.


In the same film, Yvonne De Carlo is a vexing presence as the female lead — she helps the film’s running time pass most agreeably..

Both films are probably for fans of the genre only, but as such they don’t disappoint.

JACKIE GAUGHN (1920-2014)


Jackie Gaughn was the last of the legendary Las Vegas casino moguls, and the least legendary of them all.  He had no notorious mob ties, never killed anybody, never sought celebrity.  He invested mostly in the downtown area and didn’t move south to The Strip when its mega-resort casino boom started in the 1970s, though he was a mentor to Steve Wynn, a major mover and shaker in the mega-resort era.

Gaughn owned a lot of casinos downtown over the years, sold most of them in his old age but retained an interest and a penthouse suite in the El Cortez, where he lived out his last years.  He spent a lot of time at the low-stakes poker tables there, throwing around one-dollar chips like he owned the place.


I played with him several times — even managed to push him off a hand once with a grand six-dollar bet on the river.  He showed me his cards after I took the pot, so I showed him mine.  I had him beat.  “Thanks for pulling my sleeve on that one,” he said.  He seemed delighted that he hadn’t lost an additional six dollars.

He was thought of affectionately by his patrons at the El Cortez.  At the roulette tables, if a number hit that nobody had chips on, someone would usually say, fondly, “That was Jackie’s number.”

I’ve always loved the El.  I sat down to my first game of live poker there, and lived for three weeks on the second floor of the old adobe section of the casino, in a 47-dollar-a-night room, while I was looking for an apartment here.  I remember the time happily, the simple but clean room, the 24-hour clanging of the slot machines downstairs — was sorry to leave Jackie’s place and am sorry that Jackie has left it, too..