Known as: "America's most prolific sound film director."
(Courtesy of Wheeler Winston Dixon)
(Courtesy of Wheeler Winston Dixon)
From left to right are Bert Sternbach (production manager), Sam Newfield (director), Sigmund Neufeld (producer) and Jack Greenhalgh (cinematographer) at Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC). A crop/blowup of Sam Newfield is shown at the top of this page.
The B film production company that ultimately became PRC began life in 1938 when Ben Judell (1891 - 1974) formed Progressive Pictures Corporation. Over the next couple of years, the enterprise went through some financial turmoil as well as a management shakeup, including the exit of Judell and the arrival of Sigmund Neufeld. There were several name changes also - there was Producers Pictures ... then Producers Distributing Corporation (PDC) ... followed by Sigmund Neufeld Productions ... and lastly, Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) which became a subsidiary of Pathe Industries, Inc.
Sigmund Neufeld (1896 - 1979) wound up as the PRC production boss overseeing most everything including their cowboy films. And quite often, those were directed by his brother, Sam Newfield (real name: Samuel Neufeld). Newfield had been involved in films and directing since the silent days, and had a reputation for doing quickies, cheapies, really low-budget flicks.
In the mid 1930s, Sam began specializing in B-westerns, and his directorial work included oaters starring Bob Steele, Johnny Mack Brown, Fred Scott, Kermit Maynard, Rex Bell, Ken Maynard, Tim McCoy, James Newill, Tex Fletcher, Lee Powell, Herb Jeffries, and others. Brother Sigmund was involved in the production on some of these. And yes! Newfield did direct the Jed Buell Midgets in the 1938 THE TERROR OF TINY TOWN.
It appears that the brothers had a close relationship and enjoyed working together. In 1940, Sigmund and Sam were on PRC's payroll. And Sam quickly became one of the more important and prolific of PRC's "house directors". Some speculation - when Sigmund became a power at the new PRC, nepotism occurred and he hired his brother. And more speculation - Sam was comfortable working for/with Sigmund and realized the benefits would be regular work and paychecks.
Over an approximate seven year period - from 1940 through late 1946 - the brothers were responsible for a Tim McCoy series, the half dozen Frontier Marshal trio westerns, the Lone Rider adventures with George Houston and Bob Livingston, Bob Steele portraying Billy the Kid, and the Buster Crabbe Billy the Kid/Billy Carson westerns. There were also some non-westerns.
Interestingly, Newfield worked under his own name as well as the pseudonyms of "Sherman Scott" and "Peter Stewart". Why his own name along with the Scott and Stewart aliases? There's a couple possibilities:
Newfield's busiest period at PRC occurred in 1942 and 1943 when he cranked out about three dozen films, mostly westerns.
OUTLAWS OF THE PLAINS was released in September, 1946 and was Buster Crabbe's finale at PRC. It was also Sam Newfield's last series western.
Newfield wasn't the only one doing sagebrush adventures at PRC. And PRC didn't completely abandon their cowboy films with the demise of the Crabbe series. During 1945 - 1946, they experimented with Cinecolor in Eddie Dean singing cowboy oaters which were produced and directed by Bob Tansey (and the early Deans featured Al LaRue before he became Lash). After five in Cinecolor, the Dean series reverted to the traditional - and cheaper - B&W. And due to positive fan response, PRC put LaRue in his own series in 1947 where he portrayed a lawman named "Cheyenne Davis". Ray Taylor directed the LaRues. And during that same 1945 - 1946 period, Bob Steele did his last four starring sagebrush adventures for director Harry L. Fraser and producer Art Alexander (who with his brother Max Alexander had earlier run the Beacon and Colony Pictures production companies). Prior to the Steele quartet, Alexander was in charge of PRC's long running Texas Rangers trio (with Dave O'Brien, James Newill, Guy Wilkerson, and later, Tex Ritter replacing Newill).
Circa 1947, the PRC name disappeared when the company was merged/absorbed into the Eagle-Lion film organization. A few years later, the B western era was over - and no one seemed to notice or care as they were too busy being mesmerized by the newfangled television.
In the updated version of the late Don Miller's book Hollywood Corral (by Packy Smith and Ed Hulse; Riverwood Press, 1993), there's a chapter on the costs and financing of the B-western - "The Bottom Line: Low Finance in the Reel West" was authored by Karl Thiede and he mentions a Buster Crabbe/Sam Newfield PRC western on page 417:
"... PRC's PRAIRIE RUSTLERS (1945) was budgeted at $22,500 and was shot in six days for $23,304.12. Star Buster Crabbe was paid $3,000; sidekick Fuzzy St. John got $1,000. Producer Sigmund Neufeld received $1,200; his brother, Sam Newfield, directed the film for $1,250. Scripter Fred Myton got $1,000 for his original screenplay."
That $23,304.12 also includes the salary figures for heroine Evelyn Finley; more than a dozen support/bit players including Karl Hackett, I. Stanford Jolley, Bud Osborne and Kermit Maynard; cameraman Jack Greenhalgh; music director Lee Zahler; various production crew members; et al.
Was $23,304.12 about the right price for a 1945 B-western? The answer is nope! PRC had to do them on the cheap in order to make a profit from their distribution and film rentals. And Newfield had to function within those limitations.
For comparison, the negative costs for the 1938 - 1940 George O'Brien RKO oaters were $75,000+ per film and Dick Foran's 1935 - 1937 Warners series were $50,000+ each (those figures are also from the Karl Thiede chapter in Hollywood Corral). Jack Mathis has negative costs for Republic westerns in his Republic Confidential, Volume 1, The Studio (Jack Mathis Advertising, 1999). A few examples from Jack's book: the costs for the eight 1935 - 1936 John Waynes ran between $16,346.00 to $24,198.00; the twenty seven Red Ryder adventures ranged from $42,640.00 to $62,591.00 per film; and costs of the fifty one Three Mesquiteers of 1936 - 1943 varied from $22,750.00 - $43,516.00 per film.
Sam's film output dropped significantly in 1947 and there's a film quantity by year listing at the bottom of this webpage. Why the slowdown? Tradepapers had the answer - Newfield was hired by producer Sam Katzman to direct THE SEA HOUND (Columbia, 1947) cliffhanger, but was seriously injured in a May, 1947 accident:
May 20, 1947 issue of Motion Picture Daily: "Director Sam Newfield is in critical condition in Cedars of Lebanon Hospital here following cranial surgery for injuries in a fall Friday."
May 31, 1947 issue of Showmen's Trade Review had details about the accident: "Sam Newfield ... was seriously hurt while directing a serial for Sam Katzman. The veteran director suffered a fractured skull, internal injuries and possible concussion when he fell down a hatch on a schooner in Catalina. It occurred while he was directing 'The Sea Hound.' Latest hospital reports had Newfield out of immediate danger."
(Mack V. Wright and Walter B. "Mike" Eason wound up co-directing THE SEA HOUND (Columbia, 1947) which starred Buster Crabbe.)
In later years, Sam continued to direct, but not in the quantities or hectic pace as he had done at PRC. Examples of his later work are THE LOST CONTINENT (Sigmund Neufeld Prod/Lippert, 1951) starring Cesar Romero, SKIPALONG ROSENBLOOM (Eagle-Lion, 1951) with former boxing champ Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom, and OUTLAW WOMEN (Ron Ormond/Lippert, 1952) with Marie Windsor. Newfield also did early television programs, directing many episodes of RAMAR OF THE JUNGLE with Jon Hall, CAPTAIN GALLANT OF THE FOREIGN LEGION with Buster Crabbe, and HAWKEYE (LAST OF THE MOHICANS) with John "Lone Ranger" Hart and Lon Chaney, Jr.
Was Sam Newfield a "bad" director? The answer is a qualified no! He was a director who survived (thrived) in the world of programmer features, and was able to churn out scores of films - some good and some bad - under extreme budgetary and time constraints.
Don't judge Sam Newfield and his entire career based on THE TERROR OF TINY TOWN or mediocrity like THE MAD MONSTER (PRC, 1942) which had Glenn Strange as the monster and WHITE PONGO (PRC, 1945) with Ray 'Crash' Corrigan in his gorilla costume. Instead, watch Bob Steele in ARIZONA GUNFIGHTER (A. W. Hackel/Republic, 1937) and RIDIN' THE LONE TRAIL (A. W. Hackel/Republic, 1937) along with Buster Crabbe and Fuzzy St. John in HIS BROTHER'S GHOST (PRC, 1945). Add some popcorn, turn the lights out, and get ready for a pleasant experience. Newfield did some pretty good westerns, and on a subsequent webpage, you'll find a listing with a couple dozen recommendations for your viewing pleasure.
Samuel Newfield (Samuel Neufeld) was born December 7, 1899 in New York City and passed away on November 10, 1964 in Los Angeles. His brother Sigmund Neufeld died on March 21, 1979.
The Family Search website (free), California Death Index, Social Security Death Index (SSDI), and other sources have information on Sam Newfield:
At the Senses of Cinema website, there's a great article titled "Fast Worker: The Films of Sam Newfield" by author and film historian Wheeler Winston Dixon which covers the personal life and career of director Sam Newfield as well as Sam's producer brother, Sigmund Neufeld: http://sensesofcinema.com/2007/feature-articles/sam-newfield/
The Astounding B Monster website includes an interview by Tom Weaver with comic actor Sid Melton. Melton includes some remembrances of Sam Newfield and the filming of LOST CONTINENT (Lippert, 1951): http://www.bmonster.com/profile38.html
Neil Roughley has updated his extensive commentary and listing of Sam Newfield's film and TV credits: http://dukefilmography.com/sam_newfield.html
If you have a high speed cable or DSL connection, you can download or stream quite a few of Newfield's films from the Internet Archive website:
Dennis Lewis, Jr.'s father took many World War II era photos in the Los Angeles area, including a photo of the front of PRC's studio (which I believe was located at 7324 Santa Monica Boulevard): http://home.sprynet.com/~dsl/landmark/prc.html
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on:
Director Sam Newfield (Sam Neufeld): http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0627864/
Producer Sigmund Neufeld: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0626892/
(Courtesy of Mark Heller)
Above is a cast and crew shot from the mountie adventure UNDERCOVER MEN (J. R. Booth/Dominion, 1935). This was filmed in Canada as part of the "British Quota System" and distributed in the U.S. by Columbia Pictures.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from left to right are Buster Crabbe, Al St. John, youngster Joel Newfield, Dave O'Brien and Choti Sherwood in a scene from BILLY THE KID WANTED (PRC, 1941). In his "Fast Worker: The Films of Sam Newfield" (link above), Wheeler Winston Dixon confirms that young Joel Newfield was Sam Newfield's son and he later became a graphic artist for the Los Angeles Times newspaper. Joel worked in three Crabbe PRCs: BILLY THE KID WANTED (PRC, 1941), BILLY THE KID'S SMOKING GUNS (PRC, 1942) and THE CONTENDER (PRC, 1944). All were directed by Joel's father. In addition to Joel, the Newfields had a daughter named Jacqueline (Jackie). And what ever happened to leading lady Choti Sherwood - seems this was her only film appearance.
Newfield Film Statistics by Year
|For this chart, we begin with year 1933. Film quantities include westerns and non-westerns.|
Note that Newfield did direct a few earlier (non-western) sound films. And none of his silent work is included.
Sam and his association with the B-western began in the mid 1930s when he helmed the made-in-Canada UNDERCOVER MEN (J. R. Booth / Dominion, 1935), a mountie adventure with Charles Starrett. That same year, Sam did mountie / Northwoods yarns starring Kermit Maynard, Johnny Mack Brown oaters for A. W. Hackel's Supreme Pictures, and Tim McCoy's western series for Puritan.
Newfield was very busy circa 1936-1946. During that eleven year period, he directed 162 films (which averages out to about 15 films per year).
It was 1942-1943 when Sam was at his workaholic peak, turning out three dozen films at PRC.
Note the significant drop in his film work beginning in 1947, which was the year when he was seriously injured during the filming of the Buster Crabbe serial, THE SEA HOUND.
Thanks to Les Adams for the above pressbook ad for UNDERCOVER MEN.