Monday, March 23, 2020
UPDATED 3-24-2020! ‘TRAVELS WITH DARLEY’ HOST DARLEY NEWMAN, DVD REVIEWS, ‘THE PATHFINDER’ AND ‘THE SONG OF HIAWATHA’, PLUS TCM ANNOUNCES FEST HOME EDITION!
HENRY’S WESTERN ROUND-UP RETURNS TO WEEKLY SCHEDULE!
Greetings from Quarantine, Rounders!
As I commence – or actually continue – the second decade of The Round-up, I have decided to return to posting every Sunday. As those of you who have been with The Round-up since the beginning will remember, The Round-up was a regular Sunday-night event – actually more like a Monday at 3 a.m. event. It gradually changed to a monthly-ish deal because of the success The Round-up brought me: I was honored to be hired as the Western Film and TV Editor of True West Magazine. I began reading True West when I was ten years old. The magazine was a rare sight in my Brooklyn neighborhood, but whenever my family would travel West for vacations – my parents loved long-drive vacations – I would snap up copies wherever I could find them.
Of course, my monthly duties for True West, in addition to teaching full-time, took a toll on the time I could spend on The Round-up. Well, with all of the bad news we are currently sharing, one surprise consequence for me is that, at least for the rest of the school year, I am not currently a full-time teacher. I plan to use some of that extra time to finish a book, and a screenplay that should have taken me three months, but has taken over a year. Maybe two years. And at least for the time being, I’m going to post The Round-up every Sunday night. It’s going to be a bit shorter than it has been of late, because as we all know, at the moment there is no scripted film or TV production going on. But there are completed shows and films in the pipeline, and there are filmmakers who, like all of us, are sitting around at home, that I can talk to. I will feature at least one review of a new or recent home video release every week: we all need new things to watch. I also hope to make book reviews a more regular event.
I’m starting this new Round-up with an interview with Darley Newman, host of Travels with Darley, a fascinating world travel series found on many PBS stations, here in L.A. on KCET, and on Amazon as well. I know none of us are going anywhere right now, but we will soon, and Darley has some wonderful ideas for places to visit. Things will get better!
TRAVELS WITH DARLEY – A Chat with TV Travel Host Darley Newman
Darley Newman has been traveling the United States, and the world, since 2016, creating and hosting her show, Travels with Darley. In each 30-minute episode – half of them in the United States and half around the world – she tracks down locals to advise her. “The idea for this show is to travel with locals as your guides. Actually, Travel Like a Local was the original name.” Athletic and adventurous, Darley’s show focuses on local history and food and drink, but also hiking, biking, horseback riding, bungee jumping, swimming with sharks, and the occasional need to put distance between Darley and an enraged elephant. It’s not an idea that came to Darley overnight. “I wanted to do this since high school. I said, I'm going to host a travel show one day and didn't know how to exactly do that, but I'm pretty creative. So I came up with a way. And I love doing it for Public Television because nobody dictates the content. I love that because you can still tell really good stories, and you can get in depth, which is harder to find in the media nowadays.”
We had a chance to meet and talk recently, when she came to Los Angeles, to celebrate the arrival of Travels with Darley at KCET. It’s currently seen on 96% of PBS stations, and available on Amazon. She first became interested in travel due to a sad circumstance.
DARLEY: I grew up in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The first big trip I took was when I was five or six, and I came out to California. My grandfather passed away, he got cremated, and we came out to spread his ashes in different areas that he felt strongly about. We did one in the San Francisco area. We went to Chinatown one night, over by the Golden Gate Bridge. I remember falling asleep in a restaurant in Chinatown, under the table, because I was so tired. But it was neat. I mean, I've got this love to travel. I love the adventure of it; I look at every day as an adventure.
HENRY: Tell me about your first travel series.
DARLEY: I started doing this show called Equitrekking many years ago. The idea was to go horseback riding around the world with locals as your guides, which sounds bizarre, but it's been really successful. Because you get into a lot of natural areas, and see things that people don't normally get to experience or film. I did everything; going to Botswana, Africa and doing a safari on horseback, where I got charged by an elephant.
HENRY: What exotic places have you visited on Travels with Darley?
DARLEY: I've ridden with the Bedouin in Jordan. I've snowmobiled across glaciers in Iceland, I just jumped off the Macau Tower in Macau, China and filmed it in 360 and survived.
HENRY: Anything unusual a little closer to home?
Darley at Theodore Roosevelt Park in North Dakota
DARLEY: I just did North Dakota this past year, which I thought was fascinating. And I didn't know anyone else who's filmed there. I looked up travel content and couldn't find anything done on the areas where we ended up going. We discovered such interesting things; you can hike to ice caves in the summer and cool off in the grasslands, which is kind of interesting. There's really fascinating Native American culture there, and tribes that I'd never heard of, which we all should learn about.
HENRY: North Dakota is perfect for my readership, because their main interest is the American West. Any other episodes that would be of particular interest to them?
DARLEY: Oh, tons. I just did this new season. We did Tahoe and Reno – Reno I thought was really interesting and underrated, really awesome art scene. There’re just murals all over town, I love when there's street art and murals. I think it makes something different for people to just enjoy things out in the public, public art. Then there's railroad history. I did a segment on the Transcontinental Railroad that's in the show. In Wyoming I did a whole thing on the history of ranches. Went to a hundred-year-old-ranch in Wyoming. I love going to ranches because again, there's not as many. There are dude ranches out there, but there's not as many that are getting preserved there. We're losing some still. The people that run ranches, they've chosen this lifestyle; they're fascinating to talk with or hang out with. And that goes for like so many businesses. Because if you choose to do what you love, wow, what freedom there is with that.
HENRY: Are you doing any riding in the current series?
DARLEY: It's funny, when I first started Travels with Darley, I was like, I'm not going to do any riding, because I'm going to try to differentiate the series. But I'm in the first season, in Maryland, eastern shore. I went to Assateague Island, and they've got wild horses there so I have to cover it, right? I ended up doing a fair number with horses. I just filmed in Qatar. We're going to release this winter (note: it’s a available now) and I actually got to saddle up there, and ride at a lot of those stables, and they’ve got a lot of the prize race horses there. But then you could also go and take a riding lesson. It was really hot.
HENRY: How hot?
DARLEY: Like 110.
HENRY: That's hot.
DARLEY: And humid. I was surprised.
HENRY: What is the first thing you do when you're visiting a new place?
DARLEY: I always walk around. It's nice to explore somewhere on foot, just kind of weaving through a place, not necessarily having a set agenda, to see what you can stumble upon, as long as you're safe about it. I love it in Seville, Spain, one of my favorite places, because you can just wind through their public streets forever, and just get lost, and see so much as you do so.
HENRY: How is Travels with Darley different from other travel shows?
DARLEY: Everything that I have done in all of these episodes, they're all things that anybody can go and do. I didn't get exclusive access; they're open to the public. So you can either just watch it, and feel like you've traveled, or you can really actually do it, which is nice. We're trying to cover a lot of U.S. places, because there aren't as many shows that are doing that, and there's just so much that we have in the U.S. to experience; things people don't know about.
HENRY: How big an operation are you?
DARLEY: When we're filming, there's four of us in total. That includes me. We're a small team. I hear about other shows, and they're like half a dozen, dozen people on them. and I'm like, what do they all do? I edited every single episode up to this last season. You don't need a huge team now with all the modern technology. And since I started doing it, things have just gotten easier, year upon year, and I think it's really exciting.
‘THE PATHFINDER’ & ‘THE SONG OF HIAWATHA’ – SPLIT DECISION
A DVD REVIEW
The tremendous success of 1992’s LAST OF THE MOHICANS, with which Director Michael Mann made an international star of Daniel Day Lewis, led to a rise in Indian-centered Westerns, and a revived interest in the writings of MOHICANS author James Fenimore Cooper. The two films presented in this double-feature from Mill Creek Entertainment, 1996’s THE PATHFINDER, based on Cooper’s 1840 novel, continuing the MOHICANS story, and 1997’s THE SONG OF HIAWATHA, from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 epic poem, were a direct result. Produced back to back for Hallmark Entertainment, they are clearly of the same world, yet are remarkably different.
Both films were shot in the beautiful green wilds of Ontario, Canada, and both feature MOHICANS star Russell Means, and fine fellow Native actor Graham Greene. PATHFINDER is shot competently, if without inspiration, with good costuming. There are some splendid sailing ships, and the most exciting sequence is a well-done storm at sea that threatens to destroy the ship. But while there are some good performances – Charles Edward Powell as a traitorous English officer, female lead and later THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN series star Laurie Holden, many performances are weak, and Kevin Dillon has the thankless job of following Daniel Day Lewis in a terribly underwritten role, coming off as the great stone face. Even Jaimz Woolvett, who was so memorable as The Schofield Kid in UNFORGIVEN, is woefully miscast here as a ship’s captain. Stacy Keach has a nice cameo as a French politician. I was recently interviewing him about his Westerns. When I asked him about PATHFINDER, he said, “Oh my, yes. I went up (to Canada) for a day to shoot that thing.” When I confessed that, at the time, I hadn’t seen it, he laughed, “Nor have I.”
THE SONG OF HIAWATHA, on the other hand, is awfully good, and largely unknown. In addition to Means and Greene – who do far better work here – the excellent Indigenous cast includes Gordon Tootoosis, Adam Beach, beautiful Irene Bedard as Minnehaha, and as Hiawatha, Litefoot, who played the title character in THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD, and has the distinction of being the first successful Native American rapper. Among the talented non-Native cast members are Michael Rooker and David Stratairn.
Screenwriter Earl W. Wallace had a long career in television, including GUNSMOKE episodes and movies, and shared on Oscar for WITNESS. Remarkably, director Jeffrey Shore has no other directing credits. The double feature is available from Mill Creek Entertainment, for $9.98, HERE.
UPDATE 3-24-2020 – TCM ANNOUNCES CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL HOME EDITION!
It was no surprise, but a big disappointment, when TCM cancelled it’s TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL: after all, everything is cancelled until further notice. But those clever characters at TCM have decided that the original dates for the event, April 16th through the 19th, will be the first ever HOME EDITION version of the classic event, featuring movies that have been presented at the Fest in the past, and ones that would have been presented this year. Also, interviews and events that were filmed at previous TCM Fests will be featured, including Luise Rainer (2011), Eva Marie Saint (2014), Kim Novak (2013), Faye Dunaway (2017), Norman Lloyd (2016), and Peter O’Toole (2012). The announcement adds, this special edition of the Fest begins April 16 at 8pm (ET), continuing until April 19 on TCM and will include TCM hosts, special guests and events to follow on-air and online.
AND THAT’S A WRAP!
And I’ll be back next Sunday with more! In the meantime, please check out the April True West Magazine, on newsstands now, featuring my article on the 40th anniversary of the release of THE LONG RIDERS. In writing the article I had the pleasure of interviewing stars and producers and brothers James Keach (Jesse James) and Stacy Keach (Frank James), Robert Carradine (Bob Younger), Pamela Reed (Belle Starr) and director Walter Hill!
All Original Contents Copyright March, 2020 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved
Monday, February 24, 2020
‘CALL OF THE WILD’, ‘BEN HALL’ KICKSTARTER, ‘TCM FEST’, ‘WESTERN PORTRAITS’ SIGNING & INTERVIEW – AND IT’S THE ROUND-UP’S 10TH ANNI!
UPDATED TCM FEST INFO!
‘CALL OF THE WILD’ Reviewed
Over the years, Jack London’s brilliant, ground-breaking novel about a dog kidnapped and forced to pull sleds during the Yukon Gold Rush has been filmed many times. The chief human role of John Thornton has been portrayed by a remarkably fine collection of actors, starting in 1923 with silent star Jack Mulhall, followed by Rutger Hauer, Charlton Heston, Nick Mancuso, and my personal favorite, Clark Gable, in William Wellman’s 1935 version, co-starring Buck, the St. Bernard offspring of Buster Keaton’s remarkable pooch.
The problem has always been that while the book is about the dog, the films have always been about the humans, the filmmakers never figuring out how to direct a dog through a performance that would carry the story. Ironically, director Chris Sanders has scaled that mountain in the same way Willis O’Brien humanized an ape in 1933’s King Kong: with animation. The difference here, of course, is that instead of stop-motion, the magic is done through CGI.
Harrison Ford meets Buck
Sanders has succeeded remarkably. While a first-time director of live action, as a writer he scripted Mulan, and created Lilo & Stitch, How to Train Your Dragon, and The Croods. He directed the last three, and was thrice Oscar-nominated for Best Animated Feature. Screenwriter Michael Green (Murder on the Orient Express, Blade Runner 2049) has preserved and polished the most important elements of the story, made a few PC changes, and softened elements for a younger audience, but maintained the integrity and purpose of the tale. There are few if any deaths of me or dogs onscreen, but you’ll notice who doesn’t return. And they’ve preserved included Buck’s gradual drawing away from humans and their civilization.
Buck -- not bad for a CGI pooch!
Harrison Ford has the confidence and presence to play John Thornton without the human interaction his predecessors in the role had, perfectly involving when alone, or with the dog as his only companion. Of special note is Terry Notary, who played the role of Buck, although his image is, of course, entirely removed, and the glorious cinematography by two-time Oscar winner for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, Janusz Kaminski. There are literally so many hundreds of people involved in animating Buck that I don’t know where to start giving credit. Call of the Wild is that rarity, a fine family film, with nothing patronizing meant by that label.
COMING ATTRACTIONS -- EVENTS THIS WEEK OR SOON AFTER!
‘THE HISTORY OF PARAMOUNT RANCH’ THIS THURSDAY!
Paramount Ranch in Wyatt Earp's Revenge
On Thursday, February 27th, 7 p.m. at the New Life Church, 10650 Reseda Boulevard, Porter Ranch 91326, The San Fernando Valley Historical Society presents Mike Malone. Mike spent the last 16 years of his Park Ranger career at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Center, home of the Paramount Ranch. He’s spent years researching the extensive film history of the area, and will give a PowerPoint presentation incorporating his extensive photo collection.
The event is free, but contributions are welcome.
The ranch, once one of the busiest filming locales in California, celebrated it’s 90th anniversary in 2017, and tragically burned to the ground in 2018, a victim of the Woolsey Fire. It is set to begin rebuilding this year. The Ranch’s history is as convoluted as it is long, and should make a fascinating presentation. Just to give you a teaser, after the original Paramount Ranch fell into ill repair and disuse, the Hertz family from back east bought a large section of RKO’s Western Town in the San Fernando Valley and hauled it to the Paramount Ranch location. And when that one wore out, it was rebuilt by the producers of DR. QUINN, MEDICINE WOMAN.
‘TRAFFIC IN SOULS’ FRIDAY AT THE EGYPTIAN!
On Friday, February 28th, at 7:30 pm, Retroformat presents the biggest hit of 1913, the first feature released by Universal Pictures, TRAFFIC IN SOULS – OR WHILE NEW YORK SLEEPS, a dramatic exposé of the white slave trade, presented with a live accompaniment by Retroformat Musical Director Cliff Retallick. Also on the two hour program, two Mack Swain comedies, Ambrose’s First Falsehood (1914) and Willful Ambrose (1915). Tickets: https://fandan.co/2um98Iu.
ARCHAEOLOGY WEEKEND FEB. 29 – MAR. 1 AT BORREGO SPRINGS
Colorado Desert Archaeology Society and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park present pottery-making demonstrations, Native American crafts displays, tours of the Archaeology Lab, and field trips. Learn more at www.anzaborregoarcheao.org
‘WESTERN PORTRAITS’ SIGNING MARCH 6 AT BOOK SOUP
On Friday, March 6th, at 7 p.m., at Book Soup in West Hollywood, Steve Carver and C. Courtney Joyner will be joined by several of their book’s subjects, including Bo Svenson (“Kill Bill”), Jeff Kober (“The Walking Dead”) and L. Q. Jones (“The Wild Bunch”), for a panel discussion, moderated by Film historian Stephen B. Armstrong. Copies of “Western Portraits: The Unsung Heroes & Villains of the Silver Screen” will be available for purchase and signing. Book Soup is located at 8818 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, 90069. My interview with Courtney is later in this column.
KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN FOR ‘LEGEND OF BEN HALL’ DIRECTOR’S CUT
If you’ve been reading The Round-up, or my articles in True West, for a while, you’re probably familiar with Australian filmmaker Matthew Holmes, and his film The Legend of Ben Hall, the true story of the legendary bushranger – highwayman to us Yanks -- which True West named Best Foreign Western Movie for 2016. (If you’d like to refresh your memory, you can read my first Round-up piece HERE, and my True West article HERE.)
Last week I spoke to Matthew about his new Kickstarter campaign to produce a Director’s Cut of Ben Hall, which would add more than an hour of scenes that he was required to cut for the theatrical release. As of this writing, 132 backers have contributed over $26,000 Australian of the $90,000 Australian (about $59,482 U.S.) goal. You can check on their progress – or better still, become a backer – by clicking this LINK.
Q: The released version of Legend of Ben Hall runs a little over two hours. How much longer will it be with the added material?
A: The Director’s Cut will boast an additional 60 minutes at least. We anticipate the running time will fall between 180 – 200 minutes. It’s going to be quite a different experience for the audience compared to the Theatrical Cut, not just in length, but in tone as well. It’s a darker version of the story. I’m planning the Director’s Cut to be a more sensory film experience.
Q: Will the added footage be additional scenes, or will it be making the existing scenes longer?
A: Both. For the Theatrical Cut we had to reduce scenes down substantially or remove them entirely to bring the running time down. It was a painful process for me because there were so many wonderful moments and important scenes that had to be sacrificed for that reason. We have 30 new scenes to be added and at least 45 scenes that will be expanded upon.
Q: We’ve all heard stories about movies being taken away from their creators and being badly chopped. Is that the case here?
A: Not really. At no point was the film taken away from me, but there was a lot of debate between me and my editor and producers as to what should stay and what should go. But I was told I had to bring the film closer to two hours and ultimately, I had to be the one to make the hard choices. We delivered a version that was closer to 2 hours, but after watching it I truly felt we had broken the movie by removing too much. Fortunately, my producer Russell Cunningham allowed to me reinstate about 15 minutes, which was great. But even at 139 minutes, the Theatrical Cut feels rushed and limited to me. That’s because I know there’s just so many more layers to the story and characters.
Q: Which will you be adding more of, acting, or action?
A: It’s probably about 20% more action and 80% more drama. There’s a whole action sequence that had to be lifted entirely, and most of the existing action scenes will be expanded upon. The majority of the deleted material is character-based drama, and expands the world they live in and the emotional journeys they are on. The new additions will also include a lot more historical references and nuances.
Q: Any new characters?
A: Yes. There are at least four new characters and several of the minor characters will be given more to do. It was heart-breaking to have to tell those actors that their scenes had to be dropped. One of those actors was my brother Darren who played a policeman that gets taken captive by the gang. Darren took the bad news well, knowing that’s how these things go sometimes. But we’ll both be so thrilled to have it reinstated. He did a marvelous job.
Q: As I recall, Ben Hall began with a Kickstarter campaign. Was that how you financed the original movie?
A: In 2014 I launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund an ambitious short film about Ben Hall, which was essentially the last reel of the feature. We managed to raise $40,000 above our target goal, which allowed us to get even more ambitious. The footage we created enabled us to raise some private investment to expand it into a full-length feature. ‘The Legend of Ben Hall’ would not exist if it weren’t for our generous Kickstarter pledgers back in 2014. Now 6 years later, I just hope they are willing to go on one last ride with me.
Jack Martin as Ben Hall, left. Director Holmes with backwards cap.
Q: There are a lot of choices of benefits to claim, depending on the level of pledge. If you were contributing, which option would you select?
A: I always try to make Kickstarter rewards as generous as possible because ultimately, I’m not asking for charity. Pledgers are essentially pre-buying this Director’s Cut, which in turn allows me to go make it for them. So it’s an absolute win-win for everyone and we all get want we want. That’s the beauty of crowd-funding, when it’s done correctly. I would probably pick the $250 pledge for the Blu-Ray and Book - because I’m a struggling filmmaker I couldn’t afford a higher pledge than that!
Q: I notice one of the options is to be a featured extra. Does that mean that you’re going back to camera? What did you miss the first time?
A: Yes, we are absolutely doing some more filming. For the Theatrical Cut, we used some deleted scenes footage to create a montage because we ran out of time and money to film the dedicated shots we planned for that montage. So when we restore those deleted scenes back into the movie, that will create some gaps that need filling. So it means we can offer people the experience of being on a film set, meeting the actors and they get to feature within this Director’s Cut.
What’s even more exciting: if we over-finance the Kickstarter by $10,000 or more – that will afford us the chance to shoot some bonus scenes that were in the original screenplay but were removed before filming began. In short, we can make this Director’s Cut even better if we get enough people pledging toward it. It really is up to the fans as to how epic this Director’s Cut will be.
Q: If you don’t reach your goal of $90,000 Australian, what happens to the money?
A: When someone makes a pledge on Kickstarter, no money is removed from their account unless we reach the target amount. It’s all or nothing. So people can safely make a pledge at anytime knowing that their money is not withdrawn until the end of the campaign - and only withdrawn if the campaign is successful. If we don’t reach our minimum target by March 29th, then no money ever comes out… but the Director’s Cut will never happen. That would be such a tragedy because all this amazing footage is sitting on my hard drives waiting to see the light of day.
Cinematic glimpses into Australia’s Wild West are so rare, so for audiences to miss out on the wealth of material we shot would be very unfortunate. We really want to make this extended edition not only for the fans, but the rest of the world, because it’s going to be a much richer movie experience.
‘The Legend of Ben Hall’ has been a big seller in the home entertainment market the United States, even more-so than in Australia. So I would urge our American fans to make a pledge toward this Director’s Cut so they can discover the story the way we originally set out to tell it.
Personally, I won’t ever at feel at rest until this version of the film is completed. The Ben Hall story has been burning in me since 2007, and that passion for this story is not easily extinguished. So I live in hope that the fans will support me in completing this journey I started 13 years ago. In return, I promise to deliver the most epic Ben Hall movie I can manage!
Jamie Coffa takes aim.
Q: What about your next project. Do you have anything going?
A: Aside from this Ben Hall Director’s Cut campaign, I have a low budget horror film called ‘BlackJack’ that I’m chasing finance for. Horror is a new genre for me, but its one I’m looking forward to working in.
I also have a script entitled ‘The Legend of Frank Gardiner’ that is a prequel to ‘The Legend of Ben Hall’. It’s slowly gathering some interest in the USA. The film chronicles the rise and fall of Ben Hall’s friend and criminal mentor Frank Gardiner and will feature the true account of largest gold robbery in the British Empire at that time. Many actors from the first film will be reprising their roles such as Jack Martin (Ben Hall) and Jamie Coffa (John Gilbert). It will be very exciting if that happens, because the US will finally discover just how wild Australia’s ‘wild west’ period really was!
TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL – APRIL 16-19!
The Hollywood American Legion Post
is TCM's newest venue
For the eleventh year in a row, for four days in April, Turner Classic Movies will once again take over Hollywood! This is my one can’t-miss film festival, an unbelievable embarrassment of cinema riches, with so many wonderful films shown on big screens in wonderful venues. The films are always introduced by someone knowledgeable, often by someone involved in its making – stars, directors, writers, special effects people.
This year’s theme is Grand Illusions: Fantastic Worlds On Film. Among the venues you’ll be dashing between are two of Sid Grauman’s classic palaces, The Chinese Theatre – now an IMAX – and The Egyptian Theatre, as well as The Chinese 6 Multiplex, poolside at The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, and the newest addition, the beautifully restored Legion Theatre at Post 43, in Hollywood’s American Legion Post.
The list of films to be featured is still growing, and at the moment there are no Westerns on it, but they have never ignored our genre before, and I’d be shocked if they did so now. The festival will open at The Chinese with a 35th anniversary screening of Back To The Future, to be attended by stars Michael J. Fox. Other events include presenting the 3rd Annual Robert Osborne Award to film critic and historian Leonard Maltin. And the delightful Lilly Tomlin will be immortalizing her hand- and foot-prints in cement at the Chinese Theatre. Among the guests attending the festival – with more to be added – are Bruce Dern, Piper Laurie, and animator Floyd Norman.
Last year’s Festival featured a varied line-up, the high points including a double-feature of rarely seen Tom Mix Westerns, THE GREAT K&A TRAIN ROBBERY, and OUTLAWS OF RED RIVER. As New York Museum of Modern Art Film Curator Anne Morra explained, these films were ‘lost’ in the United States, until copies were given to MoMA in the 1970s from the Czech Film Archive in Prague. They were presented with a live musical score by famed Silent Film Organist Ben Model. At the premiere of the restoration of WINCHESTER 73, author Jeremy Arnold revealed that director Anthony Mann, who would go on to his greatest fame in collaboration with James Stewart, was a last-minute replacement for Fritz Lang, and that Stewart only agreed to do the film so that the studio would also make HARVEY. Paramount now owns the Republic library, and Paramount Pictures Archivist Andrea Kalas presented a very entertaining programs of cliffhanger chapters called WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE ABOUT REPUBLIC SERIALS? Other screenings included BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID introduced by its Oscar-winning composer Burt Bacharach, Shirley Temple in THE LITTLE COLONEL, SERGEANT YORK introduced two of the real Sgt. York’s sons, and GONE WITH THE WIND on closing night. I particularly enjoyed seeing CITY SLICKERS star Billy Crystal get his prints in cement in the Chinese Theatre ceremony.
Billy Crystal at his footprint ceremony
While this years’ Festival doesn’t list any Westerns yet, only 28 films have been announced thus far, and I’ll be checking daily, and updating the information in The Round-up. Among the non-Westerns of note on the list are COMING HOME, with star Bruce Dern; DINNER AT EIGHT; HARVEY; THE HUSTLER, with star Piper Laurie; JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS; LOST HORIZON; SOMEWHERE IN TIME; and THE TIME MACHINE.
The first Western has been added to the schedule, the 1954 Musical Western '7 BRIDES FOR 7 BROTHERS', directed by Stanley Donen. Stars Russ Tamblyn and Ruta Lee will attend!
The first Western has been added to the schedule, the 1954 Musical Western '7 BRIDES FOR 7 BROTHERS', directed by Stanley Donen. Stars Russ Tamblyn and Ruta Lee will attend!
Festival passes run the gamut from $349 to $2449, but happily there are individual movie tickets available for $20 apiece for remaining seats, although the most popular movies do fill up. Make sure you arrive at least a half-hour early. You can learn more at the official TCM Festival website HERE.
‘WESTERN PORTRAITS’ – A TALK WITH ESSAYIST C. COURTNEY JOYNER
C. Courtney Joyner, photographed by Steve Carver
When novelist, screenwriter and film director C. Courtney Joyner agreed to write an essay for each portrait in Steve Carver’s Western Portraits – The Unsung Heroes & Villains of the Silver Screen, it’s safe to say he didn’t know what he was getting into: there would be more than eighty articles. But the author of Nemo Rising and the Shotgun Western series was more than up to the task. And the book, a big Christmas-time seller, quickly sold out its 1st printing. (You can read my interview with Steve Carver HERE)
I spoke with Courtney about Unsung Heroes a few months ago, so some of the future events he mentions towards the end have already come to pass.
HENRY: How did you first get involved with Western Portraits: The Unsung Heroes and Villains of the Silver Screen?
COURTNEY: Well, I've known Steve Carver since the 80s, and L.Q. Jones is the one that introduced us. I wrote a screenplay Steve was going to direct, Cynthia Rothrock was going to star in it with David Carradine, Christopher Lee was going to be in it, and then the financing didn't come through. Later I was asked to come in on a picture Steve was doing at Cannon, to do some revisions on things. So, we’d had a long-standing relationship. And years ago when Steve had a studio in Venice, he showed me portraits he'd taken of Brian Keith and a few others, and they were wonderful. But the project really didn't have any form yet. And then a couple of years ago, out of the blue, he called me because he'd been talking to (director) Mark L. Lester (Commando, Class of 1999). Mark sends me a little note that Steve Carver is going to call you about this book about Westerns that he wants to do. We got together, we went over to House of Pies, and Steve was there with Indiana, his beautiful Australian Shepherd. And he told me and how many people he'd photographed, and that he really wanted to turn this into a book, but with accompanying essays. So that was really the start of it. But he was pretty far along with the photography and honestly Henry, I think one of the reasons that he wanted to push forward on the book project was that a number of the people he photographed had died, and these would be their last images. And they were beautiful. He showed me that portrait of Denver Pyle and, you know, it still haunts me. I mean, it's absolutely incredible. I think it was taken 10 days before he died.
HENRY : How long have you been involved with Steve on this project ?
COURTNEY: Three and a half years.
HENRY: What appeals to you about the project? What's special about the photography?
COURTNEY: Well, he got very interested in photography from the Old West, particularly Edward Curtis, who used to do the portraits of all the tribal chiefs. Steve decided to approach this the way those photographers approached their work, with the same technical limitations. That was what was so interesting about this. Even when it was digital photography, it was going to be printed in the old way. And the exposure was going to be, you know, between 15 and 18 seconds; all these things that were the truth in 1885. Obviously, technology and photography is much different now. But that was his approach and it comes through, because here you have people in period costume, and the process of taking the photograph itself was also appropriate for the time period, as if your portrait of Bo Hopkins was literally taken on the trail in the 1880s.
HENRY: And because the exposures were so long you've just got a tremendous amount of detail that you don't get now.
COURTNEY: Yes. But it also was a strain, because in older photographs you'll notice if it's not like a candid, and sometimes there's blurring. That's because the person's moving while the shutter is still open. Especially some of our older people, like (87 year old) Edward Faulkner, staying in those lights, keeping your eyes open for that length of time, wow, that was difficult.
HENRY: You can't smile.
COURTNEY: There are absolutely no smiles.
HENRY: What were your duties on this project besides the writing?
COURTNEY: Steve asked me who among the actors I knew might be interested in participating. We wanted people who had some sort of a pedigree with westerns obviously. So I called Clu Gulager, I called Tim Thomerson, folks that we knew and were friends with, and they came on board and they're all represented very well in the book. And when people were enthusiastic and wanted to do it, like Robert Forster for example was an old friend of Steve's. Rob Word brought in some folks like Bruce Boxleitner, and that was so great. I was not there for every photography session; I was there probably for 10 or 15 of them. But there are 85 subjects in the book. Steve wanted more women represented, and we got some terrific ones: Jacqueline Scott, Rosemary Forsyth, Stephanie Powers. That was really cool. Jackie Scott, she's just a pistol. When I did my sit-down with her, she was so funny. She started talking about the fact that she did all these westerns, and she cannot ride a horse. Every time they put her in a Western, she said for God's sake don't put me on a horse!
HENRY: In your essays you talked to many of your subjects about favorite directors.
COURTNEY: We have actors who are associated with one particular director, like Bruce Davison talks all about his experience with Robert Aldrich. Bo Hopkins, L.Q. (Jones) of course they talk about Sam Peckinpah. L.Q. also talks about Raul Walsh. Jackie Scott talks about Don Siegel, and Johnny Crawford talks about Howard Hawks. So, all these iconic filmmakers are in there, and there are a couple of really big behind-the-scene boys are included too, including Robert Evans.
HENRY: Ah, The Fiend Who Walked the West.
COURTNEY: (Producer) Gray Frederickson is an old friend of Steve Carver's. I was not there when they did his session, but I had to do the interview with him. And I told him, look, I am going to burst into tears in the middle of this interview. And he's like, why? I said, because you are responsible for three of the greatest films in the history of American cinema: The Godfather, The Godfather 2, and Apocalypse Now. Of course, he was the original producer of Unforgiven (1992) and he was the unit manager on The Good, The Bad, The Ugly. He talked all about that. Mark Richmond was discovered by William Wyler, so he talks about that.
HENRY: How many interviews did you conduct?
COURTNEY: Eighty, eighty-three. When I started, a lot of the subjects were some were already deceased, but many people have unfortunately passed away since we did the sessions. Like Dick Miller, for example; Bob Forster. But I had already sat down with them, and I knew Bob, and Dick. That was great. We got Dick really towards the end, and he had had the autobiography come out the movie, and a very nice book about him, but he was terrific. No one had talked to him about doing Gunsmoke and all that stuff in probably 50 years because they all want to talk about Little Shop of Horrors. All the Roger Corman films. And that was really great because he goes, “God, I’ve got to think; wait a minute.” And then he just would reel off these terrific anecdotes and these stories. And it was like finding this vein of gold when you were talking to him, because again, this had been shuttled away in memory and nobody had touched it for so long.
HENRY: It was not a rehearsed story.
COURTNEY: Exactly. And that was also something that was consistent, even with folks who weren't necessarily associated with Westerns. Like Fred Dryer for example doesn't really have an association with Western movies, because he hadn't done anything along those lines. But we got one of the best essays about Fred, because what he wanted to talk about, and it was wonderful, was growing up in the era of Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Growing up in California, having access to horses. And it was the impact of these Western heroes/Cowboys on his growing up. He attributes his wanting to excel in athletics because of his interest in Jay Silverheels, and things like that. So that was where our conversation took us. It was a different slant.
HENRY: It's a link that you would never have guessed was there.
HENRY: Which were your favorite interviews?
COURTNEY: George Hamilton was probably my favorite interview. He was great, and just so interesting. He loved doing westerns, and he was so entranced with the equestrian lifestyle and being out on location. But he talked very frankly about why he is not in How the West Was Won when he was under contract MGM, when that movie was being made. So you'll have to buy the book to read that story. But, but he also talked about being a young contract player at MGM, who at the time was engaged to the daughter of the President of the United States (he was engaged to LBJ’s daughter, Lynda Bird Johnson).
HENRY: Pretty cool.
COURTNEY: And he was considered just this fan magazine boy by a lot of these old veterans. So guys like Richard Boone gave him a hard time and he always felt like he had to prove themselves over and over again, and it bugged him. But George said when he was just starting out, he was so glad he did one of his very first movies with Robert Mitchum. Who was fantastic, and said, “Kid, look, let me tell you how to handle this.”
HENRY: If I remember right, you really enjoyed interviewing Monte Markham.
COURTNEY: Oh, Monte Markham is just the greatest guy. He was terrific. First of all, his memory is clear as a bell. There was no prompting. And because he went from being an actor to being a very successful documentary producer, and branched out into all of these other areas, he’s just a fascinating guy and also a very, very nice man, too. And Ed Faulkner; who's nicer than Ed Faulkner? (Note: Ed Faulkner has been in six movies with John Wayne) He's an old friend, so I was so glad to have him involved. Oh my God, the portrait of R.G. Armstrong is just, just incredible. And of course we did Morgan Woodward before Morgan passed. (Note: Morgan Woodward was Gunsmoke’s most frequent guest star, almost always as a villain). And he loved that picture. Fortunately he got to see it and he just thought it was sensational.
HENRY: How do you write 83 articles about older character-actors and not have them seem too similar?
COURTNEY: By taking a different tack; like with Bill Smith (Laredo), and I’ve known Bill and Joanne for years. But what I wanted to do was to build the essay around Bill's poetry. So I did that, because I wanted just for my own creative mojo, to be breaking patterns. I didn't want every single essay to read like the ones immediately before. And fortunately, everybody's story is really different. We have people who are strictly character actors. Some who were movie stars. And a movie star perspective is going to be completely different than the perspective of the producer.
HENRY: What was your interview with Clu Gulager?
COURTNEY: Oh, Clu was terrific, of course. And what he did, because he discussed the technique that Steve was going to use to take the photographs and the costuming, and really adopt a character. So Clu really went to the floor. He came in and John, his son, did this great makeup on Clu, and he became this mule skinner. I mean, he approached this like he would have a role in a movie. One thing too, one of the true unsung heroes of this thing is Rob Word. Rob stepped up so many times to help, getting folks involved with the book. He was terrific, and his suggestions were always great. For example, Rosemary Forsyth was a one of his suggestions. She was wonderful.
HENRY: Of the portraits, which are your favorites?
COURTNEY: Again, I think the Denver Pyle is just amazing. L. Q.’s is iconic. I love the R.G. Armstrong. I really liked what we did with Bruce Davison because it is his character from Ulzana's Raid brought forward to his current age. And that was just a neat visual. Stephanie Powers, she's very much a cowgirl, very equestrian. I think she looks just tremendous; she looks beautiful in her portrait. So there are a few. You know, on Facebook a lot of the production shots had been posted a lot. Most of them, all of them. Steve's been posting have been in color. And they're terrific, but they are nothing compared to the black and white and sepia ones. They just knock your socks off.
HENRY: The cover with David Carradine is wonderful.
COURTNEY : And that's the thing, when you just see this stuff, and it's just like, my God, in some cases this image sums up that entire career, certainly an entire screen image, which is what Steve wanted to do. That was his intention and I think he sure achieved it.
HENRY: What are your next projects?
COURTNEY: The next things that are coming out are more Blu-ray commentaries. The Far Country comes out in the middle of November from Arrow. And we did a really nice documentary about Anthony Mann's career at Universal. And we've got a lot of upcoming commentaries for Mill Creek, on the Lon Chaney Jr. Inner Sanctum series from Universal. And this is fun. Steve Carver, L.Q. Jones, Robert Beltran, Yoren Ben-Ami and I did a commentary on the Blu-ray release of Lone Wolf McQuade. And that should be out in December.
HENRY: Is there anything else I should have asked?
COURTNEY: I would say the one thing is that Steve built a great crew of people around him, and they did just such a terrific job. And everybody came in to help with costumes and makeup. As you said, it was really a labor of love. Everyone really wanted to turn this project into something, and at the end of the day, you have to say, well, they did.
JUST ONE MORE THING!
With today’s post, Henry’s Western Round-up begins its 11th year of publication! I know quite a few of you have been reading it since 2010, and I thank you, and all of my readers, for your continued interest and support. And please post comments – that’s how I know what’s working and what is not.
…AND THAT’S A WRAP!
In the next Round-up I’ll be reviewing INSP’s new Western, THE WARRANT, talking with TRAVELS WITH DARLEY host Darley Newman, and filling you in on what I know about Martin Scorcese’s new Western, KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON. And by the way, did I mention that THE CW is planning a reboot of KUNG FU, but a female version? And please check out the February/March True West, with my article, 33 American Indian Movies That Get History Right!
All Original Contents Copyright February 2020 By Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved