Sunday, October 8, 2017



John Legend, who has been relatively quiet on the subject since UNDERGROUND was cancelled this May after its second season, has come out swinging. Legend exec-produced the series about runaway slaves and abolitionists, and by all reports it was a hit, the biggest ratings success WGN America has had with original programming.  But WGN America is owned by Tribune Media, which was acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group. They’re geared to less expensive reality programming, and the UNDERGROUND per-episode price tag is $4.5 million.  Legend also claims that Sinclair has a policy of acquiring TV stations and shifting their news policies to the far right.

The series, while it was aired by WGN America, is produced by SONY, and has been shopped to a number of other possible venues, including BET and OWN, without success. In attempt to stir up interest, Legend has taken to social media, saying the following:

John Legend as Frederick Douglas 

In the wake of the events in Charlottesville, America has had a conversation about history and memory, monuments and flags, slavery and freedom. We’ve had a debate about the Civil War and how we remember the Confederate leaders who provoked the War in order to perpetuate the evil institution of slavery. How do we tell the stories of this era? Who is celebrated? Who is ignored? Do we give hallowed public space to those who fought to tear the country apart so that millions would remain in shackles? Or do we celebrate those who risked their life in the pursuit of freedom and equality.

As storytellers, producers and creators of content for film and television, we have the power to take control of the narrative. As an executive producer of the critically-acclaimed television series Underground, we’ve been proud to celebrate those like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass who were true American heroes whose legacy we can be proud of. Their words and their actions helped make it possible for my ancestors to be free. I’m honored and humbled by the opportunity to make sure they are not forgotten. Along with the stories of historical luminaries, our series features fictionalized characters and plot lines directly inspired by the courageous real narratives of the first integrated civil rights movement in the United States, the movement to abolish slavery.

In its first two seasons, Underground was undeniably a hit series, setting ratings records for WGN America, receiving rave reviews and sparking conversation in the media. It was screened at the White House and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. It was acknowledged by the NAACP, NABJ, and many other highly respected institutions, and generated widespread engagement on social media as a trending topic during every new episode… yet here we are, still fighting for a future for the series.

How did we get here? WGN America was bought by media conglomerate Sinclair Communications. Sinclair has pursued a strategy of buying up local networks and moving their news coverage to fit their far-right agenda. In addition, they’ve bought Tribune Media, the parent company of WGN America and immediately turned away from high-quality original dramas such as Underground and Outsiders in favor of cheaper unscripted entertainment.

We know there is still an appetite for high-quality scripted dramas on network and cable tv and streaming services. We also know that, in this particular moment in history, there is an urgent need to tell the powerful story of the Underground Railroad. Even today – in the 21st century – we rely on a sort of underground network of individuals and organizations willing to put themselves at risk to help those who are not yet seen as equals in the eyes of the United States government. When our elected officials tell undocumented individuals who boost our economy, who strengthen our workforce, and who see the U.S. as the only home they have ever known, that they are at risk of deportation, those individuals are forced to live in the shadows. They may be sent to a land they can’t remember, that they fled in fear, or in some instances where they have never even set foot. Who will tell their stories when they are made to feel unsafe when they go to work, drop their kids off at school, seek medical help, or report a crime? Putting a spotlight on these types of stories creates an opportunity for recognition, understanding, discussion and learning, bringing a humanity and context that allows people to experience our past and present in a way that is not possible in other media.

For all of these reasons and more, the cast, producers and our studio Sony Pictures remain committed to a future for Underground because of a belief that this story is important and invaluable… and it remains our hope that not only is there a future for this show, but for many others like it.
Let’s #SaveUnderground so that we can continue to inspire and educate the American people about these true American heroes.


Casa Verdugo in 1910

No, this is not some clever plot by the Alcalde to force ‘the fox’ into the open. The home in Glendale, California where Zorro creator Johnston McCulley lived in the late 1930s and ‘40s, just closed escrow this week for $1.85 million. Built in 1907 in the Mission Revival style, the house on North Louise Street was recently designated historic by the City of Glendale, and Realtor Shannon Cistulli tells me there has been a proposal to declare the neighborhood an historic district, and name it after the home, which has long been known as Casa Verdugo.

Postcard of Casa Verdugo's Indian Room

The home was famous long before McCulley moved in, and was in fact named after a neighboring house. Legendary land speculators Huntington and Brand wanted to attract tract buyers to Glendale. They acquired a historic adobe mansion called Casa Verdugo, named after the original land-grant owners, and made it the end-of-the-line of their Redcar system. This was the time of an international literary obsession with Helen Hunt Jackson’s RAMONA, and visitors to Southern California were desperate for a taste of the early Spanish culture. A fine Mexican chef and restaurateur, Piedad Yorba de Sowl, was induced to give up her Los Angeles restaurant and turn Casa Verdugo into an elegant and very high-end eatery. It flourished.

Casa Verdugo today

Piedad and her husband acquired a neighboring tract of land and built their own home there. The restaurant was such a success that Brand and Huntington got greedy (I know, it’s hard to believe), refused to renew Sowl’s lease, and decided to run the restaurant themselves. Piedad turned her neighboring home into a restaurant and it became the new Casa Verdugo – she was foresighted enough to have registered the name, and successfully sued Brand and Huntington when they tried to reopen the adobe restaurant under that same name. In the first year of operation as a restaurant at the new location, it was a filming location for THE MANICURE LADY (1911), a one-reel comedy produced by D. W. Griffith’s BIOGRAPH company, directed by and starring Mack Sennett, with Vivian Prescott and Eddie Dillon.  (I haven’t seen it, but it’s been shown on TCM.)

Visiting the ZORRO TV set. L to R Guy Williams,
Johnston McCulley, Henry Calvin, ?

When Piedad relocated the restaurant yet again – it would have six different addresses over the years – the place became a home again, and eventually Johnston McCulley’s home. Best known as a novelist, McCulley’s works, especially related to Zorro, would be frequently filmed, first notably in 1920, with Douglas Fairbanks in THE MARK OF ZORRO, and in many versions, here and abroad thereafter. His only credited screenplay was for the 1941 Hopalong Cassidy film DOOMED CARAVANS, but his stories for the movies included 1937’s ROOTIN’ TOOTIN’ RYTHYM for Gene Autry, as well as films for Bob Steele and Johnny Mack Brown. His story for the Duncan Renaldo Cisco Kid film SOUTH OF THE RIO GRANDE (1945) led to a writing collaboration with Renaldo, DON RICARDO RETURNS (1946); McCulley wrote the story and, using a pseudonym, Renaldo both co-wrote the screenpay and co-produced. Interestingly, DON RICARDO was shot in part at the historic Leonis Adobe, which still stands and is open to the public.


Actor and stuntman Ben Bates, stunt double for James Arness in GUNSMOKE, has died. A former rodeo cowboy and one-time Marlboro man, Bates became best known within the industry when in 1972 he took over stunt-doubling duties for Arness, a job he would continue on Arness’ later series and movies, including HOW THE WEST WAS WON, THE ALAMO: 13 DAYS TO GLORY, RED RIVER and MCCLAIN’S LAW. He also played Ranger Post in 1982’s LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER, and Arcane Monster in THE SWAMP THING.  His viewing will from 10 a.m. until noon,  at the Miller Jones Mortuary, 26770 Murrieta Road, Sun City, CA 92586, 951 672-0777, followed by services at the church directly across the street at 1 p.m.  A second service will be held in Texas this Friday, but we don’t have details yet.  Close friend Julie Ann Ream adds, “Anyone wishing to contribute, no matter how small, to a 'Cowboy Wreath' which will be at the service in Texas, please contact me here or via e mail @ Your name will also be added to the card that will be going to his family. Val loved the idea that it will rest with Ben at his final resting place.”


The only digest-sized magazine people are familiar with today is Readers Digest – all the others have expanded, like TV Guide, or disappeared. But from 1936 until the mid-1970s, Coronet Magazine offered general interest stories in a pocket-sized magazine. In the ‘70s, publicist, screenwriter, playwright, and film director Michael B. Druxman wrote a monthly column for Coronet called Yesterday At The Movies, interviewing stars from the golden age of Hollywood.

Druxman has gathered the best of these interviews for HOLLYWOOD SNAPSHOTS, and they mostly are people who rarely spoke on the record. Druxman is a skilled and knowledgeable journalist, and all of the interviews reveal thoughtful insights into the subjects’ lives, and often character.  Among the stars discussing their careers are Jack Oakie, Claire Trevor, Paul Henried, Ann Miller, John Carradine, Howard Keel, Gale Sondergaard, several of the Our Gang kids, even the notoriously reticent Mary Pickford.  Also included are interviews that never saw the light of day, including one with David Jansen that never ran, and a talk with Yvonne DeCarlo for The Enquirer, which they killed because she didn’t talk enough about her diet.

Best of all, without the inflexible word count required by the magazine, Druxman provides each with an introduction, providing a context to when and how and where the interview took place – he talked with Gale Sondergaard at The Brown Derby!  Often there are moments that would have been unkind to include at the time, such as the actor’s wife who asked Druxman not to reveal how much her husband drank during their chat. And after each piece he includes quotes that there just wasn’t room for – often among the best stuff!

Druxman has written several non-fiction books about filmmaking, as well as one-man shows based on great stars, including Clara Bow, Orson Welles, Clark Gable, Al Jolson and Errol Flynn.  Culled from the research for these projects, the second half of the book includes an array of quotes from actors, producers, writers, and editors he interviewed. Among the directors alone are Herb Ross, Edward Dmytryk, George Sidney, Gordon Douglas, Raoul Walsh, and Howard Hawks. HOLLYWOOD SNAPSHOTS is published by BearManor Media, for $19.95 in paper and $29.95 in hardback.


Happy Trails,
All Original Contents Copyright October 2017 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

Sunday, September 24, 2017



Tough and elegant, set in Mississippi after the Civil War, and shot in a mix of eerie swamps and in many historical sites in that state, BLOOD COUNTRY is based on a real murder between brothers, and its spiraling aftermath for all those involved or in the vicinity. From the start, the filmmakers fill the screen with a quiet but troublingly intangible sense of menace. The troubles begin, incredibly, over the disputed possession of some cabbages, and soon a man is killed, a hearing is held, and a pair of black men who were unwilling witnesses find themselves in greater danger than the accused.

Written and directed by Ecuadorian-turned-Arizonan filmmaker Travis Mills, he and cinematographer Nicholas Fornwalt fill the screen with clever and often beautiful compositions and intriguing faces. Strong on mood, style and atmosphere, there are gaps in the story – why the cabbages? 

While the shots are beautifully composed, most scenes are shot in a single long set-up, meaning that the camera rarely gets close enough to the characters to sense what they’re thinking, and to identify with them. The only characters we are truly invested in are the two witnesses (Markeith Coleman and Aspen Kennedy Wilson), and a reluctant lawman (Cotton Yancey). Further, by having no cutaways to other angles, there is no way to pick up the pace within the scenes. There is a good deal of killing, but it is shown so obliquely that the hoped-for Western action doesn’t really start until an hour in. 
BLOOD COUNTRY, from Running Wild Films, will be in theatres October 7th.  Here’s the trailer.

You can learn more at the official BLOOD COUNTRY site HERE.


Mark Baugher, who’s been everything from a ferrier (horse-shoer) to a stock-broker, retired at 65 to pursue his life’s desire: move to Arizona, and write a Western novel. A college film student, Patrick Ball, liked what he read on his Kindle, and suggested they make a movie of it. After 38 days of shooting over eight months (when you’re not paying anyone, you’re at the mercy of everyone’s schedule), the movie C-BAR arrived in 2015. Baugher himself starred as Dockie, an old lawman who must go back to his outlaw roots to see justice done. (You can read my ROUND-UP review and interview with Baugher HERE. You can read my TRUE WEST B article on Indy Westerns including C-Bar HERE)

Mark and Patrick are back in action, continuing the saga, now as a web-series, and the first chapter of the new adventures is online.  Badman John Doe (Charlie LeSueur), either by bribe or muscle, has escaped en route to Yuma Prison, and Dockie and company must track him down.  Here’s the link to chapter one. 

Below is the trailer for the original C-BAR feature.

You can learn more and see more, and get Mark’s novels, at the official C-BAR site, HERE.


On Friday and Saturday, September 15th and 16th, cast, crew, and about 150 dedicated fans of THE HIGH CHAPARRAL, the beloved family Western series of the late 1960s and early ‘70s, gathered, perhaps for the last time, to honor the series, and the folks who made it. While in recent years, gatherings have celebrated anniversaries of BONANZA, THE VIRGINIAN and GUNSMOKE, the dedication of HIGH CHAPARRAL fans is unique – hundreds of them have been gathering annually for several years now in Arizona at Old Tucson, the Western movie town where the series was shot, and where the Cannon family home still stands.

Camille Mitchell, Henry Darrow, Cameron Mitchell Jr.

The hosts for the two days of fun and nostalgia and stories were the delightful couple, Kent McCray and Susan McCray. He was the production manager of the series – and for BONANZA before it – and as Michael Landon’s partner went on to produce LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE and HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN. She was the daughter of series composer Harry Sukman; she started on CHAPARRAL as a receptionist and worked her way up to casting not only the series, but HAWAII 5-0 and the Michael Landon shows.

Kent & Susan McCray at the banquet

The McCrays pulled out all the stops, not only providing the promised two elegant banquets, but hosting elaborate breakfasts and lunches as well. Among the series regulars who attended were Henry Darrow, who starred as Manolito; Don Collier who played top hand Sam Butler; and Rudy Ramos, who played Wind, the half-breed teen adopted by the Cannons in the final season. Linda Cristal had intended to come, but suffering from vision problems, sent her son Jordan Wexler. Representing deceased cast members were relatives of Frank Silvera, Rudolpho Acosta, Robert Hoy, Ruberto Contreras, and Jerry Summers. Cameron Mitchell was represented by his daughter and son, Camille Mitchell and Cameron Mitchell Jr.

Don Collier

Also present was frequent series guest Marie Gomez, who played Manolito’s girlfriend Pearlita; Bo Svenson, who guessed in the well-remembered episode TRAIL TO NEVERMORE; and representing Yaphett Koto, who couldn’t get there from Manila in time, was his lovely daughter Mirabai Kotto. Yaphett’s episode, BUFFALO SOLDIERS, is the favorite of many, including Kent McCray.

Rudy Ramos

This was not a ‘stars only’ event, with plenty of attention paid to folks whose identities are hidden, like attending stuntmen Neil Summers and David Cass, who both went on to be important stunt coordinators – Cass has directed several Western and non-Western films.  I was personally delighted to meet Jackie Hummer Fuller, who doubled for Linda Cristal, and Steve DeFrance. I hadn’t seen either of them since 1978, when they worked on the first film I wrote, SPEEDTRAP, where Jackie doubled for Tyne Daley and Steve double for Richard Jaekal. It’s a small world!

There were many fascinating panel discussions, and I had the chance to interview all of the principals – I’ll have much more soon in The Round-up, and in TRUE WEST MAGAZINE. 


The INSP channel, which is currently presenting the remarkable reality series THE COWBOY WAY: ALABAMA, is adding two very interesting and rarely seen series to their weekend Western line-up, BRANDED and MEN FROM SHILOH.  

Chuck Connors has his buttons torn off.

BRANDED (1965-1966) starred Chuck Connors in his follow-up to the legendary THE RIFLEMAN. He plays Jason McCord, the only survivor of the Civil War Battle of Bitter Creek. Branded (like the title) a coward, court-martialed and kicked out of the Army, he travels the West trying to escape his infamy, and to learn what really happened.  Created by Larry Cohen, it looked likely to crash and burn until producer A. J. Fenady, who had created THE REBEL with Nick Adams, was brought in to take over, and fashion some logic into the story.  Fenady remembers meeting the famously volatile Chuck Connors. "And I said, ‘Look Chuck, I just want to ask you one question.  We go into production, who’s the boss?’  He said, ‘You are.’  I said, ‘Okay, just remember one thing: you came to see me; I didn’t go to see you.’  And you know what?  Chuck was, in many ways, crazy.  But he was also intelligent.  You could sit down and talk to him.  And if he had a point of view, and you had a point of view, and you’re point of view was better, he would acknowledge that.  He’d say, ‘Alright, we’ll do it.’  I loved working with him, and I loved him." (You can read my whole interview with Fenady about BRANDED HERE.) It’s a very entertaining series, probably better for audiences right now, with their fascination with conspiracies, than it was in the 1960s.

THE VIRGINIAN, at eight seasons, had outlived most of its competition, but it couldn’t go on forever. As television Westerns had become less and less violent, in response to government pressure, the series were losing their audience to movies, especially the action-filled Spaghetti Westerns. The decision was made to reboot THE VIRGINIAN in the Sergio Leone mold. From the original show, only James Drury and Doug McClure were retained, and their wardrobe and whiskers changed considerably.  Lee Majors, fresh from THE BIG VALLEY, was added. The title was switched to THE MEN FROM SHILOH, and a new theme was composed by Euro-Western maestro Ennio Morricone.  And in the wise old man role that had started as Lee J. Cobb was movie star Stewart Granger as a retired British military officer. 

As he revealed at the VIRGINIAN 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, James Drury and others liked the changes at the time, but in hindsight, he didn’t. “They gave the show a new look, and everybody kind of signed on to it.  I got myself a new horse and a longer gun.  From a 5 ½ inch barrel to a 7 ½ inch barrel.  Longer sideburns.  Much bigger hat.  A sense of accomplishment or…a sense of entitlement – let’s put it that way.  I smoked cigars on the show.  And I just mowed down anybody with my firearms.  But the thing is, we all thought it was a good idea at the time; it was a terrible idea.  And the worst of the terrible ideas was putting Stewart Granger in the same position that Lee Cobb had occupied, that John McIntire had occupied, Charles Bickford had occupied; that John Dehner had occupied.  These were truly great western actors.  Stewart Granger came in and decided that he was going to be the big star of the show:  fired my crew, fired my Academy Award-winning cameraman, got all new people.  He pissed off everyone in the entire organization.  And he sunk the show.  So thank you, Stewart, wherever you are.”

Granger’s casting was in one way a savvy move – though they were rarely released in the U.S., Granger had become a big Western star in Europe, starring in a series of German Westerns based on the novels of Karl May. His presence undoubtedly made the show more saleable overseas. The series actually holds up quite well, and what probably did it in was the title change: fans simply didn’t know that THE MEN FROM SHILOH actually was THE VIRGINIAN. The new title is more suggestive, at that time, of a spy series, like THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.

If you’d like to know more, HERE is a link to my review of THE MEN FROM SHILOH from when it was brought out on home video.


Friday, September 29th, is the 110th anniversary of the great singing cowboy Gene Autry’s birth! Drop by the Autry Museum to celebrate, and if you’re among the first 110 visitors to enter, you’ll receive a free DVD of Gene is SIOUX CITY SUE.  Even if you’re 111 or after, you’ll get a slice of birthday cake!


Come to the Autry on Saturday, September 30th at 9:30 a.m., and enjoy a Q&A with one of the most knowledgeable people in the world of Western film & TV, and author of Western Clippings, Boyd Magers. Maxine Hansen, Executive Assistant to Mrs. Gene Autry, will be interviewing Boyd about his new book, A GATHERING OF GUNS: A HALF CENTURY OF TV WESTERNS (1949-2001). After, he’ll be signing the book at the Autry Museum Store.


Grapevine Video, my primary source for high quality silent Westerns, posted this very funny silent (with music and sound effects) one-reeler starring the great cross-eyed comic Ben Turpin as a lawman trying to rescue a kidnapped damsel. Back around 1980, I met a fellow who grew up in Hollywood, and drove a beautiful 1956 T-Bird he’d bought new – I wish I could remember his name, but it’s been too long. A boyhood friend of his was future movie star Frankie Darrow, and when they were kids, they’d hitchhike to and from Malibu to surf. One time, heading back, Ben Turpin gave them a lift, and when he saw that they were nervous about his crossed eyes, he took pleasure is weaving all over the road.


Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright 2017 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved 

Monday, July 31, 2017



Cody, Booger and Bubba

A new reality show premieres on the INSP Network with a replay of the pilot on Saturday, August 5th at 10 p.m. ET, followed by the first official episode on Thursday night, August 10th, at 8 p.m. If you’ve been reading the Round-up, you know that in its seven year existence I’ve never had anything good to say about reality TV. But I am hooked on this show, and I think you will be, too. THE COWBOY WAY – ALABAMA follows the lives and careers of three working cowboys and their families, and it’s informative, entertaining, sincere, and a lot of fun. It brings the 19th century world and the 21st century world together in a continually surprising but entirely believable way, as nothing on TV has done before.

Cody Harris and his wife, Misty, are much-awarded riders who met on the rodeo circuit, and run rodeos in addition to ranching and farming. Bubba Thompson is a skilled carpenter as well as a cowboy, and when we meet him in the pilot, he and his fiancĂ©, Kaley, are planning their wedding, and their move into a house Bubba has built from the ground up. Chris ‘Booger’ Brown is a well-respected animal trainer and cowman. The lone bachelor of the group – his previous lady couldn’t abide by the unpredictable life of a cowboy – he’s dedicated to his grandmother, who makes him breakfast every day.

Together, in addition to their own spreads, they own Faith Cattle Company, and their day-to-day challenges are as real as they are unexpected. Like having to come to a baseball field in the middle of the night to round up loose cattle – it’s not even their herd, but the police come to them for help. Or the fact that Bubba is marking more wedding things on Pinterest than Kaley is – later contrasted with his ability to build a crib overnight. Or when a loose bull gets among their cows, there’s not only the adventure of watching them drive the bull away, but Cody’s enlightening explanation of how disastrous having some cows impregnated at the wrong time of year could be.  As a city boy, I had no idea of the economic effect of having the births strung out instead of being around the same time.
And it all seems so natural. At one point Booger goes to the cemetery to talk with his grandfather. We’ve all seen those scenes in movies, and we know how contrived and awkward they usually seem.  But he was just absolutely real and sincere.  One of the best things about the show is that they are such hopeful cowboys. The sad truth is that historically most cowboys never saved any money, and worked themselves to death. But these are all men with a future. 

I strongly advise you to see the pilot first, as it really gives you a chance to get to know and appreciate the fellows. Episode one starts with the assumption that you already know who’s who, and takes off with a bang. INSP is so pleased with the show that they’ve already picked it up for a second season!  CLICK HERE to see a trailer for THE COWBOY WAY - ALABAMA.


Bubba Thompson

Last week I spoke with one of the show’s stars about his friends, the series, and how a dating show lead to THE COWBOY WAY.  Bubba’s roots in farming and ranching go back several generations. “Lot of my family came from south and central Florida. My grandfather, he was a farmer, we grew up in the nursery business as well as citrus groves, and cattle as well. One of my grandfather’s brothers had some of the first white Brahma bulls back down in South Florida. He did that for a long time, then he swapped over to Hereford cattle. So it’s been in my family for several generations.

“I always knew that I was going to work outside, work with my hands.  And considering I had my first pony when I was four or five years old, I knew that I was going to do something with horses and cattle my whole life.  I never saw myself sitting behind a desk.”

Oddly enough, THE COWBOY WAY had its genesis as a result of a dating show. “I did a show back in 2012 called SWEET HOME ALABAMA, as a single cowboy who had a ranch, looking for love. I went all the way to runner-up. At the end of the elimination, it was me and another fellah, and I knew that old gal wasn’t gonna pick me, so I just walked up to her, tipped my hat,  and told her I understood, told her she was making the best decision, and I left her standing there on the stage – I wasn’t gonna be eliminated on national television. The producer of the show and I became very close friends. He spent some time with me here in Alabama, and he decided that he would love to come down here and film a reality show about how we all work together – myself, Booger and Cody. That’s how it started.

“We all knew each other – Booger and I had been cowboys together for close to ten years. We would day-work for other men at their ranches. We would go catch wild cattle out on the pasture; once we needed to rope cattle right off the interstate, for a man whose cattle had gotten loose. And Cody and myself, we roped together (in rodeos). I used to rope calves, and Cody still does. We would practice together and be in competition together, and that’s how our relationship began.”

Kaley and Bubba

Bubba didn’t meet Kaley on the dating show, but as a result of it, a show Cody had also been a contestant on. “After that, Cody and I put on an event called BULLS ON THE BEACH, we had bull-riding on the beach, and I actually met my wife down there. She was with a big group of ladies, and they didn’t want to come talk to me because they were nervous. Kaley, she wasn’t nervous, so she just walked up to me and talked. I sell Faith Cattle Company hats and t-shirts, it’s just a real cool logo. I gave her a hat, and before she left, I said, ‘Make sure you take a picture and post it on Facebook and tag me in it,’ because I wanted to find out who she was. From that night on we became friends.  I couldn’t ask for a better woman.” 


David Gregory’s new Western radio drama, POWDER BURNS, about a recently blinded lawman, has just posted its 6th episode.  Entitled Psalms For a Broken Man, it guest-stars Ed Asner as an aging cowboy who is losing his memory.  This LINK will bring you to all of the episodes, but if you haven’t heard the earlier ones yet, I urge you to start at the beginning. If you’d like to learn more about the series, you can read my interview with David Gregory HERE.

Happy Trails,

All Original Contents Copyright July 2017 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 9, 2017



Joel and Ethan Coen’s Western series, THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS is rolling camera in Albuquerque this month, reportedly from mid-July through mid-September! The brothers’ first entry into the small-screen Western format follows their excellent and hugely successful 2010 remake of TRUE GRIT, which received five BAFTA awards and ten Oscar nominations. 

SCRUGGS will be an anthology series. It will consist of six episodes with six separate but interwoven story-lines. The first, SCRUGGS, will concern a singing cowboy, and in the title role is Tim Blake Nelson, who starred in one of the brothers’ earlier successes, 2000’s OH BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? No stranger to the genre, Nelson played a freighter in the excellent but grim THE HOMESMAN (2014), his performance was one of the few bright spots in the dreary KLONDIKE miniseries (2014), and he appeared in the LONESOME DOVE miniseries prequel DEAD MAN’S WALK (1996).  

NEAR ALGODONES, about a feckless would-be bank robber, will star James Franco, previously in WILD HORSES (2015) for Robert Duvall. Also starring are Stephen Root, who played a judge in the series JUSTIFIED (2012), and appeared in 2013’s SWEETWATER and THE LONE RANGER, and other Coen films; and Ralph Ineson, who plays Amycus Carrow in the HARRY POTTER films. 

No casts have been announced yet for MEAL TICKET or ALL GOLD CANYON.  Zoe Kazan, currently starring in THE BIG SICK and previously in the indie Western MEEK’S CUTOFF (2010), will play the title role in THE GAL WHO GOT RATTLED. And finally, THE MORTAL REMAINS, following five stagecoach passengers to a mysterious destination, will star Tyne Daly, whose career I take credit for, since I wrote her her first role as a policewoman in 1977’s SPEEDTRAP, which she followed with CAGNEY AND LACEY (1981-1988).  She previously appeared on episodes of THE VIRGINIAN (1968) and MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1999).  Updates are coming soon!


INSP, whose Saddle-Up Saturdays already featured THE VIRGINIAN, THE HIGH CHAPARRAL, THE BIG VALLEY, DANIEL BOONE and BONANZA has now added GUNSMOKE to the mix!  Starting Saturday, July 8th, they began running two episodes beginning at 10 a.m., Eastern time.  

Starting on Monday morning, they’ll be running one episode at 9 a.m., Eastern on weekdays. Best of all, these are the 176 hour-long black & white episodes made from 1961 until 1966, which are among the very best, and not being shown by anyone else. They’ll also be showing at least four of the five GUNSMOKE movies from the ‘80s and ‘90s – on Sunday, July 16th it will be 1987’s RETURN TO DODGE, at 2 p.m. Eastern.  On Saturday, July 22nd, INSP will run a six-episode marathon of justice-themed GUNSMOKE episodes, and the GUNSMOKE movie TO THE LAST MAN. On Sunday, July 23rd, it’s a double feature of GUNSMOKE: THE LONG RIDE and GUNSMOKE: ONE MAN’S JUSTICE.


The full and modest title of this tome is An Educational and Slightly Amusing Guide to the Old West, and I hope it’s author, Don Dunham, won’t take it the wrong way if I say that it’s the best bathroom reader I’ve had in years! I don’t mean that the book is scatological in any way, but rather, that its alphabetical short-entry format makes it ideal for skimming and random reading for a couple of minutes at a time.  While not encyclopedic in scope, the 100-page volume can quickly give you a smattering of information on a host of Western topics. Its first entry typically describes in a concise paragraph the 101 Ranch:

“Large (110,000 acres), cattle ranch on Oklahoma founded by Confederate Veteran Col. George W. Miller. It also had thousands of sheep and thousands of buffalo. Established in 1879, it lasted into the twentieth century and began to put on Wild West Shows starring such future noted cowboys as Tom Mix and Will Rogers.”

While appealing to anyone with an interest in American history, as historian Peter Sherayko points out in his foreword, it’s just the thing for writers, historians, reenactors and actors, “…to get their creative juices flowing.” And not all entries are as brief as the example given. When a topic is of major importance, it is given as much space as it needs.  The “cattle drive” entry is nearly three pages, and full of details about the different routes, who did the work, what they were paid, and how they dealt with Indians along the way.  The entry about Indians is nearly six pages long, and other in-depth articles look at the Presidents, firearms, and the proper wardrobe of the working cowboy. 

There are some confusing elements; a reference at the end of an article, such as “see film Wagonmaster 1949,” doesn’t refer to another entry in the book, but is rather a suggestion that you should see that movie (and you should, if you haven’t).  But overall, this large format – 8 1/2” X 11” – book is full of useful and amusing and enlightening information for adults and kids, with hundreds of ‘idea triggers’ when you don’t know which way to take your story.  It’s available from Amazon books for $19.95, HERE 



Handsome Rex Bell is one of those elusive B-western stars, rarely seen, and better known for his marriage to Clara Bow than for his movies. Alpha has unearthed a sparkling little 1930 Monogram programmer, DIAMOND TRAIL, in which Bell starts out not as a cowboy, but as big-city reporter Speed Morgan. When he saves gangster Flash Barrett (Lloyd Whitlock) from an ambush, pretending to be mobster Frisco Eddie, he becomes Flash’s best friend, and his plans to get the goods on Flash leads him to a western diamond-smuggling racket. 

Also included are a pair of shorts. The 1930 Pathe two-reeler RANCH HOUSE BLUES is a Western comedy concerning an attempt to trick a crabby old rancher into selling, without telling him there’s oil on his land. The crab is former Keystone Kop Nick Cogley, and the romantic interest is Charlie Chaplin’s first wife, Mildred Harris.   1933’s THE LAST DOGIE is an Educational Pictures one-reel bunk-house musical starring Metropolitan Opera tenor James Melton singing traditional Western songs very well.   You can order it HERE.


Here’s a fascinating collection of six talkie comedy shorts made before the 1934 Hays Code, or Motion Picture Production Code, put stringent limitations on what could be said or shown, in order to quiet would-be censors who found movies immoral.  The very best is Bert Lahr in NO MORE WEST, a particular delight to folks who only know Lahr as The Cowardly Lion in 1939’s THE WIZARD OF OZ.  Bert plays a Coney Island shooting-gallery operator who nabs a pair of bank robbers, which inspires him to move out west to a town where he’s immediately made the sheriff. It’s ridiculous fun throughout, with a few casting surprises: the lead bank robber is Harry Shannon, who would play Charles Foster Kane’s dad in CITIZEN KANE. The judge who appoints Lahr sheriff, Harry Davenport would soon be seen as Dr. Meade in GONE WITH THE WIND.

The rest of the shorts include another with Lahr, HIZZONER; a very early talkie directed by Mack Sennett, 1928’s THE LION’S ROAR; DOWN WITH HUSBANDS, featuring Bert Roach and Johnny Arthur (Spanky’s dad in the OUR GANG comedies) as husbands whose wives go on strike; HONEYMOON BEACH, where a greedy mom tries to force her daughter to marry wealthy Keystone Kop Billy Bevan; and the most bizarre of the bunch, TECHNO-CRAZY, involving a Bolshevik technology-run utopia, and plans to bomb the mansion of Mayor Billy Bevan.  The quality of prints varies greatly, but it’s an outrageous and often very funny collection.  You can order it HERE.


I recently spent an enjoyable afternoon being interviewed for a webcast, along with fellow blogger Patti Shene, about the TV Western. The interview was for Dan Schneider’s COSMOETICA series, which I understand is the longest-running webcast series on the arts.  If you enjoy it, take a look at the links to Dan’s other webcasts – he finds a lot of very interesting guests and topics.


Tonight, I got an email from a friend who noted that it had been over a month since I’d posted a new Round-up.  He wanted to know if I’m alright.  I am. But other priorities have kept me from the blog for some time.  I’m back, and my backlog of articles and interviews and film and book reviews which need to be written and posted is truly staggering!  I’ll catch up as quickly as I can!

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright July 2017 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved