Monday, May 25, 2015

‘TEXAS RISING’ REVIEWED, PLUS WORD ON WAYNE, LEE POWELL TRIBUTE


Updated 5-25-2015 -- See Ft. Tejon Civil War Reenactment

DEDICATED TO LEE POWELL



This Memorial Day edition of the Round-up is dedicated to all of our fighting men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.  And in particular to actor Lee Powell, who in 1938 became the screen’s very first Lone Ranger, starring in the Republic serial.  He appeared in several more films, including FLASH GORDON CONQUORS THE UNIVERSE, starring in six ‘Frontier Marshals’ films for PRC, before enlisting in the Marines in 1942.  Sgt. Powell saw action on Tarawa, Saipan, and Tinian, in the Marianas Islands, where he died on July 30, 1944, at the age of 36.  He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal with two stars, and the Victory Medal World War II. 


Chief Thundercloud, Lee Powell



‘TEXAS RISING’ A Miniseries Review


Henry, Deaf and Anderson


The same production team who brought you the five Emmy-winning HATFIELDS & MCCOYS miniseries is back with the story of Texas statehood, and the formation of the Texas Rangers, TEXAS RISING, beginning Memorial Day night on History.  It’s directed by Roland Joffe, twice Oscar-nominated for THE KILLING FIELD (1984) and THE MISSION (1986). It written by Darrell Fetty and Leslie Greif -- Greif created WALKER, TEXAS RANGER,  Bill Paxton is back, now as Sam Houston, and this time he just might win the Best Actor award he lost to HATFIELDS co-star Kevin Costner.  With so many characters stirring about, he is the heart of the story, just as Olivier Martinez, as General Santa Ana, is the anti-heart, a handsome, swaggering, arrogant swine. 


Sam Huston


I am not very knowledgeable when it comes to the history of Texas, and I must admit that a character that I thought was so ‘convenient’, post-DJANGO UNCHAINED, that I assumed she was a contrivance, turned out to be not only real, but the basis of the song, ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas’, and is played by Cynthia Addai-Robinson. 


Santa Ana and Emily


The story opens with the Alamo in ashes, the last few surviving defenders being butchered before the eyes of a handful of their women.  Travis, Crockett, Bowie and all the rest are gone, but Travis’ call for help is still travelling, and many, not knowing it is too late, are still hurrying to answer the call.  Texians, furious at the slaughter at the Alamo, are eager for Sam Houston to attack, but he issues orders to wait, retreating until they can draw Santa Ana into a position where the Texians will have the advantage.  There are accusations of cowardice, and whispers of mutiny.    



The focus moves frequently, from Houston and his men, to a young pair of would-be Texas Rangers trying to prove themselves worthy, to a friendly if mis-matched redneck and aristocrat, to a low-life extorting money to help people flee, to Santa Ana and his ‘take-no-prisoners’ advance.  There are military battles, Indian attacks, seduction, humor, the occasional throat-cutting and eye shooting.  The story doesn’t always move in a straight line, but it moves, with plenty of action. 



The cast is packed with talent, including Brendan Fraser as Billy Anderson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Deaf Smith, Thomas Jane as James Wykoff.  JUSTIFIED fans will be happy to see Jeff Fahey as Thomas Rusk and weasely Jeremy Davies and Knowles.  I got a kick out of seeing Darby Hinton, Dan’l’s son Israel from the DANIEL BOONE series, as Texas President Burnet.

Having seen only the first four of ten hours, I can’t review the show as a whole, but I found the first two nights of the show very entertaining, and I’m eager to see the rest.  Not that I am entirely without criticisms.  Occasionally the script strains to be vulgar – there is excessive talk about soiling or wetting ones clothes, things to be shoved up orifices, and Bill Paxton must have it in his contract that he gets to urinate on-camera at least once per episode.  Ray Liotta, an actor I very much admire, plays an ‘angel of death’ character who has escaped from the Alamo, and is on a private killing spree.  He looks great, but when he speaks, his voice is so contemporary that the ghostly characterization evaporates.  They had Kris Kristofferson there to play President Andrew Jackson – they should have had him dub Liotta. 



Finally, if you have seen the teaser spot where various men and woman are reading Lt. Col. Travis’ ‘Victory or Death’ letter, you know how beautiful Texas looks (even if it’s really Durango, Mexico).  It doesn’t look like that in TEXAS RISING at all!  Arthur Reinhart’s composition of shots is beautiful, but for some reason, in post-production, some genius decided the entire movie should be in sepia.  So all of the color has been drained from the image, and a yellowish overlay added.  This sort of ‘make it look like old news photos’ idea works fine in a title sequence, but at least on my screener, the entire movie is like this.  I love black and white films, but when you shoot black and white, you use contrast to make up for the lack of color.  There’s almost no contrast here – there are no solid blacks, just murky greys at the darkest, and there’s so much haze at times that it hurts the eyes to watch.  I’m enjoying TEXAS RISING, and I’ll definitely watch the rest; but I may wear shades.      



FT. TEJON CIVIL WAR REENACTMENT MAY 30-31



This Saturday and Sunday, travel to Ft. Tejon State Historic Park to enjoy battle reenactments, a replay of the Lincoln/Douglas debates, as well as vendors, food and cooking demonstrations.  To learn more, go HERE .




‘WORD ON WESTERNS’ RIDES AGAIN IN JOHN WAYNE TRIBUTE LAST WEDNESDAY!


Rob Word with Johnny Crawford


Rob Word’s ‘Word on Westerns’ luncheon and film discussion programs, such a hit last year at The Autry, are back, starting with this past Wednesday’s tribute to John Wayne, whose birthday is May 26th.  Among those attending and sharing anecdotes were Johnny Crawford of THE RIFLEMAN, who costarred with the Duke in EL DORADO, and Edward Faulkner, a member of the Wayne stock company, who appeared in MCCLINTOCK!, RIO LOBO, THE GREEN BERTS, CHISUM, THE UNDEFEATED and HELLFIGHTERS.  Also there to remember were actor Frank Pesce, and music was provided by The Suguaro Sisters, accompanied by Will Ryan.  The next event will be in July, and I’ll fill you in as soon as I have the details.


THAT’S A WRAP!



Have a great Memorial Day!  On Tuesday, you can buy your own Blu-Ray copy of MAN, PRIDE & VENGEANCE from the good folks at BLUE UNDERGROUND.  Next week I’ll have details about a new HBO miniseries about lawman Bass Reeves.  And soon I'll have my review of John Farkis' book about the making of THE ALAMO!

Happy Trails,

Henry

All Original Contents Copyright May 2015 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved


Sunday, May 17, 2015

CARRADINE’S ‘SHANE’ SERIES, PLUS INTERVIEW W/SHANE STORY ED. WM. BLINN!


SHANE TV REVIEW



Many of David Carradine’s fans might be surprised to learn that the tremendously popular KUNG-FU (1972-1975) was not his first Western series.  In 1966 he starred in the short-lived but entertaining and commendable SHANE. 

Based on the much-loved film SHANE (1953), which was itself based on the much-loved novel SHANE (1949) by Jack Schaeffer, it only lasted for seventeen episodes, but in today’s terms that would be nearly two full seasons.  TIMELESS MEDIA GROUP has released the series in a three DVD set, and it is well worth watching.   

The movie SHANE is a classic among American films of any genre.  The story of a mysterious drifter who allies himself with a family of sodbusters trying to stand up to a wealthy, violent and unscrupulous cattleman, it appeals to the very core of American belief, that one person with courage and skill can make a difference.  Director George Stevens, screenwriter A.B. Guthrie Jr., and actors Jack Palance and Brandon DeWilde were all nominated for Oscars, and cinematographer Loyal Griggs won for Best Color Cinematography.  SHANE was also nominated for Best Picture.  

So the folks who made SHANE into a TV series had some mighty big boots to fill.  The movie starred Alan Ladd as Shane, Jean Arthur and Van Heflin as the sodbusters, the Starretts, and Brandon DeWilde as their young son who idolizes the gunman Shane.  Wisely, the series cast newcomers David Carradine as Shane and Jill Ireland as Marion Starrett, who were much closer to the vision in Schaeffer’s book.  While there is no fault to be found in the film’s actors, Ladd was 43 and Jean Arthur was 53, noticeably older than their characters, while Carradine and Ireland were both 30.  The TV writers wisely killed off the Van Heflin character, making an honorable romance between Shane and Marion possible; in the feature, Shane and Marion were clearly thinking about it, but too decent to act on it.  Filling in for Van Heflin was Tom Tully, Oscar-nominated for THE CAINE MUTINY (1954) as Ireland’s father-in-law, with 8-year-old Christopher Shea in the Brandon DeWilde role of Joey Starrett.  As Ryker, the villainous cattleman, the movie featured one of the coarsest and most intimidating of screen bad-men, Emile Meyer.  The TV producers did surprisingly well with the menacing Bert Freed in the Ryker role.


Bert Freed (l) as Ryker


One of the strengths of the series, continued from the feature, is an ever-present sense of danger.  With most Western series, there’s a sense that once you get to the Ponderosa or the Barkley Ranch, you’re safe.  But the Starretts are no Cartwrights – they’re very small-time farmers trying to carve out an existence.  Ryker despises the Starretts and all of the other ‘nesters’, doesn’t recognize their rights to their land, and will stop at nothing to run them off.  Though it’s never addressed directly, we suspect he’s the reason Marion is a widow.   In the opening episode, a teacher played by Diane Ladd arrives to start a school for the local children.  When Ryker learns that classes will be taught in a barn, he has no qualms about burning them out.

Another unusual element is the growing, mature, largely unspoken romance.  Marion isn’t the sort of fantasy girl a Cartwright will date for one episode, until he learns she’s a con-woman.  She’s very real, with responsibilities, and baggage.  The acting ensemble, not just the family, but Shane and Ryker, and Sam Gilman as Sam Grafton, who runs the saloon and store, are a cut above many of the TV actors of their time.  While Ladd played Shane with a wistful toughness, Carradine has a burning rage just below the surface, and you sense the shame he feels for his life, and for loving a woman whom he feels he has nothing to offer.  As with the movie, you sense the his hope for salvation lives at least as much in the love of the boy as it does in the love for his mother.

The plotting and the guest casting is often very strong.  In one episode, Warren Oates and his brood come to town to kill Shane for killing a family member – it looks like they’ve got the wrong man, but no one wants to listen.  In another, a young Robert Duvall plays a family man and farmer whose failures are gradually driving him insane.  In one of my favorites, the marvelous character actor John Qualen plays nearly a ghost of a man seeking out Shane, who killed his son. 



After the series’ brief run, the stars went their separate ways, the leads to great success.  Carradine was a popular and respected actor until his death in 2009.  Jill Ireland went on to a long film career here and in Europe, frequently co-starring with husband Charles Bronson.  She joked that, “I’m in so many Charles Bronson films because no other actress will work with him.”  Sadly, she died at the age of 54 of breast cancer.  Tom Tully would continue to work in character roles, frequently for his friend Don Siegel, but had serious medical problems.  While traveling with Bob Hope, entertaining troops in Vietnam, he contracted a worm parasite, which would eventually lead to the loss of hearing, and the amputation of a leg.  He died in 1982, at the age of 73.   Christopher Shea’s face may not be that familiar, but his voice is, and no wonder: he provides the voice of Linus is all of the classic PEANUTS perennials.  He also died young, at 52, in 2010.

SHANE is available on DVD from TIMELESS MEDIA GROUP, and can be purchased from Amazon HERE.   

AN INTERVIEW WITH ‘SHANE’ STORY EDITOR WILLIAM BLINN



William Blinn at a book signing


William Blinn has had a career that any screenwriter would envy.  Among the series he created were THE INTERNS, THE ROOKIES, EIGHT IS ENOUGH, PENSACOLA: WINGS OF GOLD and STARSKY AND HUTCH.  He won EMMYS for writing BRIAN’S SONG and co-writing ROOTS.  Of late he’s been writing Western novels.  He wrote A COLD PLACE IN HELL, and when I tracked him down, he was working on the sequel.  When I asked him about an interview on SHANE, he said, “I’ll be happy to, but I can’t do it now.  I’m in the middle of a scene, and I can’t get my characters to do what I want them to.”  A couple of days later, he’d whipped those characters into shape, and had time to talk.  

HENRY: You’ve had, and continue to have, a very impressive career; you won Emmys, you created STARSKY AND HUTCH, you wrote the Prince movie PURPLE RAIN.  But you began your career in Westerns, and after writing a RAWHIDE, a LARAMIE, and four BONANZAS, it was still very early in your career – 1966 – when you did SHANE.  How did you get involved with SHANE?

BLINN:  I did two BONANZAS, and during the third one I said, “I’ll do the rewrite from New York,” and they said, “No, you’ll do the rewrite from out here.”  Which was there way of getting me out here, to see if I wanted to be on staff.  I came out; they offered me the staff job, which was just about the best thing that could ever happen to a young writer, in terms of education and experience.  The guy who was the story editor was Denne Bart Petitclerc.  Denne had been a reporter in San Francisco, on The Examiner, and we were about the same age.  I started out to be an actor, and had worked as a stage manager, and so I had more of an awareness of the nuts and bolts of how you put a show together.  He did not know actors; he did not know the nomenclature.  We were like a jigsaw puzzle:  we fit together very well.  I brought something to the table that he didn’t, he brought something to the table that I didn’t.  He was a wonderful writer, wrote a terrific Western novel called RAGE OF HONOUR, and did the screenplay for ISLANDS IN THE STREAM.  Terrific guy.  He and I hit it off wonderfully because we didn’t know what we didn’t know.  We were trying stuff that BONANZA hadn’t done before.  It was the first season without Pernell Roberts.  The other three actors didn’t like Pernell; they didn’t know how (his leaving) would affect the show.  They tended probably to trust us more than they should have.  And Denne and I were complimentary parts of a jigsaw puzzle.  Got along very well, with our wives we saw each other socially.  And he was just a more experienced writer in terms of knowing the literature of the craft.  He was a good friend, a little bit of a protégé of Ernest Hemingway.

HENRY:  No wonder he wrote ISLANDS IN THE STREAM.



BLINN:  And he’s got a picture – well he’s gone, we lost him about a year and a half ago.  But there’s a picture coming out in about a year called PAPA that Denne wrote.  I read the screenplay and I think it was brilliant.  And it dealt with Hemingway’s days in Cuba after Castro came to power.  Denne and I were young rebels, but we probably didn’t deserve the term.  After that season was over, Denne was offered the job of producing SHANE.  He offered me the job of story editor.  As I said, BONANZA was a lot of inexperience in the office.  The same was true of SHANE.  Denne had never produced a show; I had never been a story editor.  The executive producer, a dear and talented man named David Shaw, had been the head writer on THE DEFENDERS.  And Ernie Kinoy, who I would go on to share an Emmy with on ROOTS, Ernie and David were probably the writing mavens on that show.  But David had never written a Western in his life.  And there are things you do in a Western that you don’t do in other shows.  Maybe that’s a kind of limited focus, but stuff that works in a contemporary, kind of casual cop show becomes more tightly focused in a Western.  There’s a reason why Westerns were called horse operas; because the passions were larger, the motivations were larger.  The feuds went back for decades and decades, which would seem silly for the twenties and thirties, forties and fifties.  But back in the 1860s and 50s, no, not at all; that’s how we rolled.  So there were times when David would write a good script, and it just wasn’t a Western.  Ernie had the most offbeat and wonderful ideas in the world, and I just used to almost sit at his feet when he came in the office.  Because hearing him talk about dramaturgy, and the nature of conflict, and what a character could or could not do or should or should not do – not that he lived by rules, but he had wonderful, insightful instincts.  I was 26, 27, 28, and hearing him talk about what could and could not work, and the stories that he came up with – it was a great education, and I got it for free, and probably got to buy a lunch or two.  Denne and I, as we were on BONANZA, we wrote some really, really interesting scripts, and the actors were game.  We got along well with David and Jill, and Tom Tully and Bert Freed, who was the resident heavy, Ryker.  And they were all game – let’s try this, let’s try that.  And David was…David’s always been out there, on a limb of his own construction.  But he was always professional.  And there were just some times when you just had to say, I’m not quite sure what he just said, but I think we’re going to trust him and see how it works, and usually it worked.  He was just heading into some pretty heavy chemical abuse, and there are times when it did get in the way.  Good guy, I liked him.  I must say that the mode of his death did not totally surprise me.  It was a very pleasant experience in terms of SHANE. 

We got along well with the directors, Bob Butler and a bunch of really good people.  The only problem we had was being caught between the Production Company, TITUS, and (ABC).  Herb Brodkin was the owner and the executive producer (of TITUS).  One of his rules was that you made the show for exactly what the network would pay you, and not a penny more.  So when it came to going into deficit, the network would say we need some more action.  And the budget people would say, that will cost a little more money.  We’re going to be a little short this week because we’re going to have this big gunfight they want.  Brodkin wouldn’t pay for it.  Absolutely not; we’ll do it for the money ABC pays us.  (Note: In television, deficit spending has long been a given.  The idea is that the network would pay a licensing fee to show the program in first run.  That fee would often not cover the whole cost of making the show, but the producer would own the show, and make his profit in syndication.) He did have rules.  He didn’t like the title of the show.  That didn’t make any sense, since we were coming off of this big mega-movie hit.   His thing was, if you title the show the name of the lead character, you can’t fire him. (laughs)

HENRY:  Plot-wise, what would you have if you fired him?


Jill Ireland as Marion


BLINN:  He didn’t care.  He was a dollar and cents guy, very nice man, but that was his bottom line.   We think Paramount said, well, you’re going to call it SHANE because that’s all we’ve got to sell.  Nobody knows who David is, and Jill’s very pretty, but nobody knows who she is, either. 

HENRY: Looking back, do you have favorite, and least favorite episodes?

BLINN:  There was one show, it embarrasses me to think of it.  It was a script both Denne and I disliked intensely; we got kind of backed into it by budget problems.  We thought we’ll have this terrible script, but the director will come in and say, I can’t shoot this, and then we can make the director the heavy, and rewrite the script.  Well, the director was a very nice man named John Brahm, who was German, born in Hamburg.  A good director, directed a wonderful picture called THE LODGER (1944) and HANGOVER SQUARE (1945), both wonderful suspense pictures.  But again, not a bit of experience or insight into Westerns.  He directed the show, and after the first cut, the editor said, are you aware of the fact that we are five minutes short?  So we extended scenes endlessly.  And there’s one point where Shane, David Carradine, says, “I’m going to ride go into town and talk to Ryker.”  Well, I mean to tell you, it was the longest ride probably ever put on television.  We covered every mile of the route between the cabin and the town.  God, it was an awful show.  We did some very good shows.  There’s one I remember I liked a lot called THE HIGH ROAD TO VIATOR (SPOILER ALERT!) David and Jill end up in an abandoned saloon, making believe they are at a dance. 

Denne and I, it was a great school to go to.  The dollar and cents producer was a very gifted man named Buzz Burger.  And Buzz had to make some very difficult decisions.   I can recall watching him, at one point we had to fire a set designer, and somebody said you ought to pick up the phone and call him.  And I remember him saying no, that’s not how you a fire a person.  You go to him and look him in the eye, and tell him, this is why we’re letting you go.  I remember at the time thinking, so that’s what a producer does.  That’s the difference between a so-so guy, and someone who has all his ducks in a row and both oars in the water. 

HENRY: Did you consider the series an adaptation of the novel, the movie, or both?

BLINN: Almost totally the movie.  At one point they were in the process of hiring composers to do the pilot.  And for reasons that to this day I do not comprehend, I was the only person in the office who could remember the theme song.  So I’d be rewriting a scene, and I’d be called down to David Shaw’s office, and there would be Lalo Schifrin or Jerry Fielding, and Bill would say, tell him the theme.  And I would go, “Dad-da-DA!  Dad-da-DA-da….”  We didn’t have enough cassettes around.


Tom Tully, left



HENRY: When the movie SHANE was made, Alan Ladd was 43, Jean Arthur was 53; in the TV version, David Carradine and Jill Ireland were both 30.  How did having actors so much closer to the characters’ intended ages effect the show?

BLINN:  I think it helped the mother-son relationship.  Jill had a pretty nice acting relationship with Chris Shea, the boy.  And obviously it helped the romantic charisma between Jill and David.  And of course at that time she was Charlie Bronson’s girl.

HENRY:  I was wondering if she was still married to David McCallum.

BLINN:  No, she’d just come off of being David McCallum’s lady and was now Charlie Bronson’s.  And if you wanted to watch thirty guys just disappear, occasionally Bronson would stop down on the set to see her.  And people would just look at him and say, oh I see, that’s a man, and I’m just a little piece of fluff over here.  But he was very nice.

HENRY:  One of the big differences going from the feature to the series is that Tom Starrett, the Van Heflin character, was gone, replaced by her father-in-law, Tom Tully.  She’s a widow, but it’s never quite said.  Did Ryker kill her husband?



BLINN:  That was something that was never quite said.  We wanted to get into it, had we got more episodes.  We thought it would be interesting to open up half-way, for David to find out that Ryker possibly was the guy, but there was no absolute proof.  And as long as it was left open, he would still have to find ways to compromise with Ryker even though this dark shadow was hanging off in the wings.  We never got there.  We hinted at it a little bit, and Denne and I wanted to go there, but we wanted the network to sign off on it first, and the network was gone by the time the question was there to be asked.    

HENRY: When SHANE came on-air in 1966, it was in the midst of some long-running hits and hot newcomers – GUNSMOKE, BONANZA, THE BIG VALLEY, HIGH CHAPARREL – all of which you eventually wrote for.  How did SHANE distinguish itself from the pack?

BLINN:  Well, it didn’t.  Our ratings were always frail.  We had a very small cult following, people 
who said, well, that’s a pretty good show.  Largely based on David, who was developing a following.  He’d just come off a Broadway show that was highly thought of, ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN.  He got great reviews, and he was a wonderful actor.  I think it was a shame that he opted to stick totally to film after that.  Because he could be a big actor; he had the intensity to go big.  He loved acting.  At one point we had written a thing that I thought his father would be very good for this.  I went to him and I said, how do you and your dad get along?  Would there be a problem if we wanted to hire him?  He said, I’d be the happiest guy in the world.  I love my old man – he’s a great guy.  And we tried to, and his father was not available.  But it was kind of nice to hear that there wasn’t some dark undercurrent we had to deal with, especially from David.  There were intimations of trouble in that guy’s soul. 

HENRY:  Unfortunately you didn’t get John Carradine, but you did get some very interesting people, old Hollywood people like John Qualen –

BLINN: Yes, in an Ernie Kinoy script that was one of the most imaginative and offbeat kind of things I ever read in my life.

HENRY: I loved that one, and I loved the Robert Duvall episode.  Who was your favorite guest star?

BLINN: Probably John Qualen.  He was sweet as he could be.  And the fact that I was sitting, talking 
with someone who was one of the minor leads of the John Ford stock company, I just couldn’t believe my good luck.  And Bert Freed; we’d have to talk him into things, but once you talked him into it, he gave you full measure. 

HENRY:  One of the things that I think is so unusual about SHANE as a series, and due to Bert Freed and the writing, is that there is a tangible sense of menace at all times.  There was never a sense that you were safe at any time with SHANE.

BLINN:  I would agree, and Denne and I worked hard to accomplish that, and to try and get the reality of the west, not the fictional legend, but the reality, that Bert could kill Shane and probably get away with it.  And the only thing that stopped him from killing him from time to time was the fact that he knew he wasn’t physically capable of it.  And they were both very good with that.  Bert and David certainly did not compete off-camera, but they enjoyed the competition on-camera.   

HENRY:  Tom Tully was Oscar-nominated for THE CAINE MUTINY.  What was he like to work with?

BLINN:  Very sweet; probably too sweet.  By that I mean, if you wanted him to say, “You sonovabitch, I’ll kill you!”  He’d say it, but coming out of him, the words just didn’t click.  A very dear man, very pleasant to work with.  When Herb Brodkin saw the first day’s dailies, and he saw Tom wearing a pair of half-glasses, he immediately sent a telegram saying, take off those half-glasses – he’ll be looking over those glasses, being cute, for the next forty years.  And he was right. 

HENRY:  Joey Starrett, the Brandon DeWilde character, was played by Chris Shea, and I believe that was the start of that kid’s career.  What was he like?

BLINN:  He was brand new, out of the box; it’s hard to know what to think of him other than he did what we wanted him to do.  He was a happy kid.  When I saw that he was signed on to do the voice in the Charlie Brown films, I said that was probably a real good thing for a child actor.  Because you’re not on camera, but you’re never-the-less the center of attention, and you have a chance to learn without exploding in front of everyone in the world.  When I was doing FAME, we had a chubby girl in the running cast, very sweet, and she went on to be Bart Simpson, and she can now buy and sell half of Calabasas and all of the San Fernando Valley, Nancy Cartwright.  A very nice young woman.

HENRY:  The town, which is really little more than Grafton’s store and saloon, is a close match for the movie.  Was it shot in the same place?

BLINN:  No, didn’t get to Jackson Hole, which is where the Grafton’s and the town were shot.  So we never got the majesty of the Grand Tetons.  But the saloon exterior and interior were damn near to what they were in the feature.  

HENRY:  Where were they shot?

BLINN: Exteriors were in the San Fernando Valley; we had a road out in front of Grafton’s that was on a soundstage, very well done and, I think, hard to tell. 

HENRY:  It was a much more convincing green set than most of the ones you see.

BLINN:  Well, that and GUNSMOKE I think were the best ones of the era.  It saves you a fortune to be able to stay in the soundstage, but it does something to the morale of the crew, I think.  But that’s the best we could do with Brodkin saying no, ‘too expensive, too expensive, too expensive.’

HENRY:  When you say it does something to the morale of the crew, do you mean in a positive or a negative way?

BLINN:  Well, they like to get out.  At that time there were no women on the crew; it was a rough and tumble teamster attitude group of guys.  You’d say, we’re going out to Lake Sherwood, and they’d say, great!  I’ll bring my fishing rod!  But that wasn’t available on SHANE. 

HENRY:  How did your experience on SHANE compare with other later Western shows, such as HERE COME THE BRIDES?  And Robert Brown, who played Jason Bolt on BRIDES, was a romantic lead in an episode SHANE.

BLINN:  Yes, absolutely.  Robert’s a good guy – I saw him four or five years ago at a reunion dinner for HERE COME THE BRIDES.  It was very interesting, because the guys who were doing HERE COME THE BRIDES, the producers and executive producer, had been sitcom guys.  Very Pleasant, very intelligent, very funny – all good things.  But because I did some westerns, there were times when the executive producer would say, ‘And then Jason will say I’m going to do so and so, and we cut to the saloon.’  And I would say no, Jason says I’m going to do so-and-so, and he slams out of the office, and he stomps down the stairs, and he stomps across the street.  You do it just like a John Wayne picture, like ‘here comes trouble!’  And they’d be oh, yeah, we can do it that way.  Because on a sitcom it was like I DREAM OF JEANNIE – dissolve to kitchen.  But they were fine with it. 

HENRY: In the last episode, Shane and Marion finally kiss.  Where was the relationship going if you got to a second season?

BLINN:  I don’t think we knew.  It was just, we can’t just keep teasing, teasing, teasing – at some point this has to pay off.  Now, the accepted wisdom for that kind of thing was, the two sweethearts should not kiss, could certainly never sleep together.  Because if you did that, all of the tension of the relationship would go away.  And I think that’s accurate.  So I don’t think we took it that far.  We just said we’ve gone this far, we’ve got to have them kiss.  I know Jill was very pleased about it, not because she liked David – she liked David, but not because of some romantic interest, but because this is what the very sexy womanly woman I am playing needs.

HENRY:   It’s interesting comparing David Carradine’s and Alan Ladd’s performances.  Alan Ladd’s character was wistful.  Carradine’s Shane seemed much more bitter.

BLINN:  He absolutely had an edge.

HENRY: Was a lot of that the fact that Ladd had the advantage in a way that his love would have to be unrequited because Jean Arthur was married to Van Heflin?

BLINN:  I think that’s true.  I also think – I’m mindreading now, because I wasn’t on the set of the motion picture.  But when George Stevens did the picture, his first choice for Shane was Montgomery Clift.  Now wouldn’t that have been interesting? 

HENRY: Oh yeah; a lot more like David Carradine.

BLINN:  Absolutely.  And Clift in RED RIVER was wonderful; just brilliant.  And also in THE MISFITS, which I think is a horribly underrated picture.  But they didn’t have Montgomery Clift.  Alan Ladd had a presence and a sound and a look.  He was not the most facile actor to ever come down the pike.  He had a safe place he could go to, and it was very effective.  But David was looking to stretch, always.

HENRY:  In the novel and the film, Shane’s background was mysterious.  Did you invent a whole backstory for Shane?


"I love you, Shane!"


BLINN: The only time we went there, there was an episode where one of the bad guys, in the first act, said, you and I met before.  And Shane says no, I never saw you before.  And in the second act the guy says, no we did.  Was it in Houston?  No, I’ve never been to Houston.  And finally, at the very end of the show, when there’s been a gunfight, and people dying left and right, Shane walks by him and says, Galveston.  And that’s all there is to it.  And the Ernie Kinoy script with John Qualen where Shane had killed someone, and forgot it.

HENRY:  I found that one of the truly remarkable stories, because it made so much sense, and yet I’d never seen it done.

BLINN:  Nor have I, up till then, and not since then.  And he was so spiritually appalled by the fact, not that he killed someone – he knew who he was and what he had done.  But that apparently he had killed with such regularity that he had actually forgotten one death.  And the horror that that brought to him was really wonderfully done.

HENRY:  You wrote many Western episodes for different shows, and when we first met five you were writing western novels.  What keeps you coming back to the genre?  And are you still writing Western novels?

BLINN:  I’m waiting to hear about an extension of the first Western novel I did, which is called A COLD PLACE IN HELL.  No one is committed to it, but I hope to hear from people in the next three months.   I write Westerns just because I like to write Westerns.  Again, the story-telling is bigger than life.  It’s realistic in a way, and in a way not realistic.  It’s large and more muscular emotionally, and it makes sense because my favorite fiction author is John O’Hara, who writes so close to the vest.  Almost nothing but dialogue and no description.  I don’t think he ever wrote a Western.  It just talks to me, and I can’t tell you why.

HENRY: Who are your favorite Western authors?

BLINN:  E. L. Doctorow wrote one called WELCOME TO HARD TIMES, which was an interesting, offbeat, dark picture.  My friend Denne Petitclerc wrote RANGE OF HONOUR, which is to this day one of my favorite novels.  Then I go back to the Zane Grey people.

HENRY:  Any last thoughts on the series?

BLINN:  SHANE was a very pleasant experience with some very good people. 



‘MAN, PRIDE, & VENGEANCE’ REVIEWED IN DVD-TALK – I’M THRILLED!



On May 26, Blue Underground releases their beautiful Blu-Ray version of MAN, PRIDE & VENGEANCE.  I’m frankly overwhelmed by Adam Tyner’s review of Courtney Joyner’s and my commentary.  “Audio Commentary: The commentary track for Man, Pride, and Vengeance is easily overlooked as it's not listed alongside the rest of the extras, but it's worth the additional couple of button presses over to the 'Setup' menu. Spaghetti western scholars C. Courtney Joyner and Henry C. Parke -- who'd previously provided commentary for Compañeros, The Grand Duel, and The Big Gundown -- contribute a tremendous discussion here. Joyner and Parke have forgotten more about Eurowesterns than I'll ever know, and although their familiarity with the genre and this film in particular is beyond encyclopedic, their commentary never once comes across as dry or dull. Their expertise is matched only by their enthusiasm, and Joyner and Parke excitedly tackle most everything you'd hope to hear: the film's clean and almost episodic structure, its editing, the Bazzoni brothers' direction and cinematography, the uncredited score, the course the lead actors' careers took both before and after this film, and what sets Man, Pride, and Vengeance so far apart from the traditional Spaghetti western. A staggering amount of insight and analysis are offered here, and from Django Zhivago to tales of opium being smuggled into Italy inside little Buddha figurines, it's a hell of a lot of fun too.”

Here’s the link to the whole review: http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/67619/man-pride-and-vengeance/

If you'd like to buy MAN, PRIDE AND VENGEANCE from Blue Underground , go HERE.



‘WORD ON WESTERNS’ RETURNS TO THE AUTRY WEDNESDAY, MAY 20TH!

As noted here a couple of weeks ago, Rob Word’s fun and fact-filled A WORD ON WESTERNS luncheon programs will be returning to the Autry starting on Wednesday, May 20th, with  A Salute to Duke.  They’re going to be every other month, so the next one will be in July.  No word from Word on guests yet, but I’m posting the clip below as a teaser, with Rob interviewing Mariette Hartley about RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY.



‘TEXAS RISING’ PREMIERES MEMORIAL DAY ON HISTORY

A tremendous cast is featured in this ten hour telling of the Texas Revolution and the creation of the Texas Rangers.  From the folks who brought you the HATFIELDS & MCCOYS mini-series, it’s directed by Roland Joffe, director of THE MISSION and THE KILLING FIELDS, here is a glimpse of what’s coming.  Hold onto your hats!


THAT’S A WRAP!

I’ve just finished my first movie column for True West, which will be in the July issue, and am deep into August.  Have a great week!

Happy Trails,

Henry

All Original Contents Copyright May 2015 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved





Sunday, May 3, 2015

‘WESTERN RELIGION’ PREMIERES AT CANNES – BUT THE ROUND-UP GOT IT FIRST! OUR REVIEW AND INTERVIEW WITH DIR. JAMES O’BRIEN!


WESTERN RELIGION – A Film Review  



In 1879, a man (James Anthony Cotton) with a vision of turning his frontier tent city into a metropolis decides to sponsor a high-stakes poker tournament, with an unlikely prize: a cross of gold (and no, William Jennings Bryant does not present it).  Disreputable but well-heeled types from all over the world are drawn to the mythical (mystical?) town of Religion, Arizona to try their luck.  This is the premise of writer-director James O’Brien’s sometimes existential, sometimes humorous, sometimes grim and gritty film, WESTERN RELIGION. 





This is not your standard Western in any sense.  Once the characters are drawn to the town, it takes place all in that one locale, with a large ensemble cast, and no one character to be called the ‘lead’.  The ‘players’ include Chinaman Dan (Peter Shinkoda), an on-the-lam bank robber; Waylin Smith (Miles Szanto), a white raised by Indians, who has a mystical connection with his adoptive father (Sam Bearpaw); Zain Mohammed (Merik Tadros), an Arab Prince touring America, who cannot resist the challenge; Anton Stice (Claude Duhamel), a mysterious gunfighter; Saint John (Gary Kohn), a train-robber-turned-preacher; Raven McCabe (William Moore), a magician and professional card manipulator; Bootstrap Bess (Holiday Hadley), a saloon-girl hoping to win enough money to build her own ‘hotel’;  Bobby Shea (Sean Joyce), a handsome town carpenter, hoping to win enough to rescue his girl from the life she’s leading;  and Salt Peter (Louis Sabatasso) the Viennese, delightfully decadent dilettante, adept with cards, needles and knives.  There is also an impressive contingent of what Strother Martin called ‘prairie scum,’ and townspeople like bartender Southern Bill (Peter Sherayko).  Oh, did I mention that one of the card-players might just be the devil



The card-play takes place over several days, as various players are eliminated by the luck of the draw – sometimes cards, sometimes guns.  Relationships are built and broken, back-stories are told, lots of folks are shot, until just a handful of players are left, some playing for gold, some playing for their very souls.  The success of such a film must, to a great degree, succeed or fail by the quality of the performances, and while no face in the lead cast is familiar, they are uniformly talented and convincing.  In fact, a plus of having a cast of non-stars is that you have no idea who will die, and who will survive to the end.


Sean Joyce & Holiday Hadley


As a screenwriter, O’Brien deftly intertwines the lives and personalities of his blurring array of characters, avoiding clichés, taking them in unexpected but convincing directions.  Some may appear as caricatures at first, but as you learn about them they take on weight, and you care about them.  As a director, O’Brien not only stages the frequent and violent action well, he takes what often is tedious in films, watching a series of poker games, and keeps it interesting.  He wisely chose five card stud, a game that has four cards face up and one down, so players aren’t endlessly staring at a hand we can’t see.  And he never bores you with the play of an entire hand – it’s the key moments, whether that means who wins, who folds, or who gets a knife in their intestines.


Peter Shinkoda as Chinaman Dan


I tend to be less than a fan of Westerns with supernatural or sci-fi elements – they usually seem tossed in arbitrarily.  But in a way, WESTERN RELIGION is, like poker, about belief, whether in luck or in something higher, and it never gets heavy-handed, or bogged down with distracting special effects that are the antithesis of the western.   I enjoyed spending a day on the set of WESTERN RELIGION, and enjoyed the finished film much more. 


Gary Kohn as Saint John

Shot quickly on a lean budget, the visuals by cinematographer Morgan Schmidt never cut corners.  Without being self-conscious, composition is well thought-out, and the number of set-ups in even minor sequences belies the limitations of shooting fast.  Filming at Caravan West Ranch in Santa Clarita, in a tent-city built for the production, the photography, taking full advantage of the wild, mountain and desert terrain, is often striking, and frequently beautiful.    


Peter Sherayko as Southern Bill


The effective music score is by Ram Khatabakhsh; the songs heard in saloon scenes are sung by Kevin McNiven, an accomplished cowboy singer who just happens to also be the head wrangler on the film.  The unusually varied and correct costuming is by Nikki Pelley. 


Louis Sabatasso as Salt Peter


In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I have a small ‘bit’ in the film.  If, in the first five and a half minutes, during a poker game, you notice a hand on the right side of frame, with a red and white checkered sleeve, picking up cards and putting down coins – that’s me! 


INTERVIEW WITH JAMES O'BRIEN, WRITER/DIRECTOR OF 'WESTERN RELIGION'


Dir. James O'Brien atop stagecoach


WESTERN RELIGION will have its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, and May 16th.  As far as I’ve been able to learn, it is the only Western scheduled to play this year at Cannes.
A week ago, I met up with WESTERN RELIGION writer/director James O’Brien, to get an advance copy of the film to review.  We met at a coffee shop called DuParr’s, in Studio City.  It seemed a fortuitous choice – Studio City, in the San Fernando Valley, was named after Republic Studios, birthplace of so many westerns, and the entrance to the old Republic lot, now CBS, is directly across the street from the coffee shop.  It had been about a year and a half since I’d visited the set (you can read that article HERE ), and a lot has happened since then. 

HENRY: When we first talked, on-set in November of 2013, you were a week into shooting.  You were already thinking of a possible sequel.  How about now?


Merik Tadros and Claude Duhamel


JAMES: It’s interesting; I've recently been in touch with a buyer for Showtime and HBO that wanted to discuss the possibility of turning it into a cable series, like DEADWOOD, but with a supernatural element. Working on something can change your thoughts on it. Many of the characters in the film suggest alternate stories, or following them further. It's certainly something I would entertain, though my thoughts on my next screenplay are elsewhere.

HENRY: How long a shoot was it?

JAMES:  It was a nineteen-day shoot, and we used every minute of it; though we did have a day afterwards for insert photography for the poker stuff, and one additional day for a pick-up shoot in Topanga Canyon, for the hanged man opening with Saint John, played by Gary Douglas Kohn.  


Claude Duhamel as Anton Stice


HENRY: You described WESTERN RELIGION as ‘an Altman western’, because there were so many characters.  Is there a lead character, or is the poker tournament itself the main character?

JAMES:  The poker tournament is a MacGuffin in a sense.  (Note: a MacGuffin was Hitchcock’s term for the object that motivates the plot – the stolen plans, the letters of transit, or the Lost Ark.)  In that it’s what draws everyone together.  I don’t think that I’d term it as a character per se.  I think the town of Religion is more of a character in the film.  But there is one villain, so to speak, that is the umbrella under which all these other characters gather to do battle.  That would be Anton Stice, Claude Duhamel, a fantastic Canadian actor that we were very fortunate to get less than a week before the production.  He was the last to come aboard, and I had the phone in my hand to call another actor, and something told me to wait just another day. A few hours later one of the other actors, Peter Shinkoda, who plays Chinaman Dan, told me to look out for an audition from a friend of his. That night I got an audition on-line from Claude, and the rest is western movie history.

HENRY: What surprised you in the process of making your first western? 



JAMES:  Well, I knew going in that the production would be on a much grander scale than my previous work.  So I was psychologically prepared for that.  But of course, the day to day reality of doing it, staging all of those action sequences, I knew it would be a challenge, and it did wind up being the biggest challenge, in terms of all the coverage you have to get to make that happen.  You know, I’ve been doing these run-and-gun independent films where you could just grab the camera, and jump out of the van, and do it on the fly, and often that would lend itself to the flavor of the finished product.  But this one, because of all the action, I had to do it more Hollywood-style, plan the sequences to the degree I could, then cover extensively. 

HENRY:  Did you story-board the film?

JAMES: Myself and the DP, Morgan Schmidt, made shot-lists for the action sequences; we wrote out the shots we planned on doing.  Sometimes we stuck to it, sometimes we improvised.  My first assistant director, a very good friend of mine, Ken August, wouldn't let me on set for the actions scenes if I didn’t deliver the shot lists with Morgan.  My fellow producer Louie Sabatasso agreed that it would be needed to make our days.  I feel very comfortable improvising on-set, but they asked for it, we delivered it, and that’s partly why we got the shoot done in nineteen days.

HENRY:  Morgan Schmidt’s photography is just beautiful.  Has he done any period pictures before?


DP Schmidt, 1st AD August, Dir. O'Brien



JAMES:  I knew that he had done at least one other Western film. He's shot a number of features across many genres, but was also known for doing high end commercial photography.  I met him at a party, and within a few minutes of talking to him, I said I’m doing this Western about gunfighters with different philosophies, and you’re going to shoot it. He said, ‘Deal,’ and it came together in ensuing months. 

HENRY:  Speaking of shooting, I remember you were shooting some 8mm TRI-X on the set.  Did any of that find its way into the movie?

JAMES: Indeed it did.  We experimented with using it throughout the movie, but it became a little too much like NATURAL BORN KILLERS, which I love as a film, but for our movie it took you out of the flow.  But I did wind up using it in the rather extensive end credit sequence, where we take you through the characters with the Super-8 footage, so it did what I wanted it to do; we show you the movie, and the last shot of the movie is black & white, Super-8, and then it goes into the end credits, giving you the sense that all of this actually happened. 


Miles Szanto


HENRY:  What were the best and worst parts of making WESTERN RELIGION?

JAMES: Well, the best part was gathering this incredible group of talented people out there in Agua Dulce at our caravan of trailers, where everyone got to take part in a feeling of time travel, by leaving Los Angeles and journeying back in time to our sets.  You mentioned that you couldn’t see any examples of the modern world when you were out there.  We never could have done that at the Paramount Ranch; we had very tight restrictions of hours, and the amount of people who could be there.  Being able to get that location, and gather the group that we did was the most thrilling aspect of it. It was kind of our indie Camelot. And I would say the most difficult part would be the pressure of having to raise money as we were shooting it – it’s not something I’d recommend.  But we committed our lives to doing this movie, particularly Louie and I, and we went into it without the full budget, raising it as we went along.  So the day-to-day pressures of, do we have enough money to make it into the next week, was probably the toughest part. 

HENRY:  All movie productions have challenges, but WESTERN RELIGION had a whopper, losing the Paramount Ranch location in the National Park shutdown.  How much time did you have to swing things over to Peter Sherayko’s Caravan West Ranch?



Sam Bearpaw


JAMES:  About two weeks.  Right at the start of the month, Tony Hoffman, the Ranger who runs Paramount Ranch, called me and said there was a slight possibility that the government could close down all of the National Parks. He thought it was unlikely to actually happen. I hoped we we'd be fine, until his call, two weeks from our start date. The Government had officially closed all National Parks. The Paramount Ranch, our set, was one of them.  That day we had a group meeting at our office.  Pete Sherayko was there, along with Louie, the department heads and Gary Kohn. Pete started taking out all these old photographs of tent cities.  And he just lit up like a kid in a candy store. He said, this has never been done, a western tent city done in a historically correct style. Hollywood actually invented the aesthetic of the western town. In reality, most of the mining towns of that era were tent cities.  Our focus shifted from a traditional western set to, hey, we’re going to recreate things the way they really were.  Once we made that decision, the wheels got set in motion, but we didn’t have a lot of time to do it. A big factor was clearing the land so we could actually build it.  Which we got right on top of.  But it really wasn’t until several days in that we had the beginnings of a set.

HENRY:  I remember well when, between takes, the hammers would start swinging, and during takes the hammers had to stop.  Because you were building the sets, whole structures, for the next scenes.  I found it invigorating, because it seemed like a real town growing out of the wilderness.

JAMES:  It really lent itself to the atmosphere.  The old saying of art imitating life.  It felt like we were living in a real pop-up town, much like the towns from that era.

HENRY:  Next week WESTERN RELIGION is having its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.  How did that come about?



JAMES:  Twenty years ago I went to the Cannes Festival with my first feature film, VENICE BOUND – that was one of the great experiences of my life, and I always had my eye on going back there with the right project.  I know that they sometimes do a spotlight on American independents, so I sent everything on our film to the people who run the Marche du Film there, Danielle and Tomas.  And they said, well, we have a few night screenings at the Palais, that we make available to independents, and we wound up being one of the fortunate ones who got one of those slots.   May 16th, 8:30 pm, Saturday night at the Palais.

HENRY:  Are you planning your next film?

JAMES: One of my screenplays, THE BACKWARD PATH, a noir film about a detective investigating a case in Hell, is on the rails with Louie Sabatasso's new production company, Drawing Pictures. As far my next movie as a director, I'm angling to do a fantasy film: WARRIOR, MAGE, THIEF. It's being developed as a traditional picture as well as for the emerging Virtual Reality technology.  I’m writing the script now. 

HENRY:  The poker tournament that WESTERN RELIGION grows out of, was this something that was common in the old west, or was this your creation?

JAMES:  I believe poker was a way of life in the old west.  I don’t know if they threw poker tournaments as elaborate as the one in our movie.  But for sure, poker drove the saloon culture.  It was a dangerous environment full of grifters and outlaws.  I’m sure there were more battles over poker than anything else, except perhaps women.

HENRY:  And usually women were pretty near the poker tables, although rarely allowed to play.

JAMES:  Well we have one, Bootstrap Bess, played by Holiday Hadley, in our movie, who’s a card-playin’, whiskey drinkin’ gunfighter, so she got to the table.  It’s interesting the way a film – you go into it with certain intentions, but then it takes on a life of its own.  And it has a way of changing lives in ways that you never even imagined.  I just found out that two of the actors, Sam Bearpaw and Alan Tefoya, who are of the Apache tribe, are going to be attending the Cannes Film Festival; it’s the first time that anyone from their tribe has left the country.  And they’re leaving to attend our premiere in the south of France.  I never could have imagined that I could have influenced something like that.  It’s an honor for the film, and an honor for myself. 

HENRY:  What was the genesis of WESTERN RELIGION? 

JAMES:  It’s interesting to see things come full-circle.  The movie began as a…I don’t know if you’d call it a pipe-dream, because it actually happened.  But there was a group of us doing a demolition job on a house – (laughs) – it almost seemed like a chain-gang.  I was on that job with Louis Sabatasso, my producing partner on WESTERN RELIGION.

HENRY:  And an actor with quite a prominent part, as Salt Peter.


Waiting for ACTION!


JAMES: The ever colorful Salt Peter.  And also Sean Joyce, who plays Bobby Shea, the traveling carpenter.  He literally was a travelling carpenter on that job – he travelled cross-country, to put his hat back on in Hollywood.  He was working with us and Gary Kohn, who was also one of the co-producers on the film.  It’s interesting to harken back to us swinging sledgehammers on a demo job, saying hey, we’re gonna make this western.  It was almost like Butch and Sundance talking about going to Australia.   We needed to believe it. One day Louie, Sean and I met over tacos at lunch on the job and made the decision: we’re all in on this. We set as start date of Oct. 21st. It was 8 months away. We didn't have a dime in our accounts but we decided to burn the ships behind us, and commit to this as if there’s nothing else after it. We laid out a campaign that started with crowd funding, then shifted to private investors. In its own way everything went according to plan, though it always came through at the very last second, like Maxwell Smart walking underneath the closing doors. It was all about Faith really. The bridge shows up under your feet with each step. It’s fun to look back on that time now, and know that we’ll be in the south of France next week for the premiere, and the indie dream really did take shape. 

HENRY:  Do you have distribution set?

JAMES:  The plan is for a theatrical release in the U.S.  We have just signed with sales agents Michael Lurie and Jeffrey Giles of Automatic Entertainment, and they'll be representing the film at Cannes and beyond. It’s possible we’ll have a deal before Cannes, but the film will be at its highest profile when we screen it there, so that’s likely where we’ll make it all happen. After the incredible journey of making Western Religion, we're excited to finally share our vision of the Wild West with the world.


‘CALL OF THE WILD’, ‘GOOD-BYE MY LADY’ MAY 9TH AT UCLA/BILLY WILDER




As part of their William Wellman – Hollywood Rebel series, UCLA’s Billy Wilder Theatre will screen CALL OF THE WILD (1935), Wellman’s brutally poetic adaptation of Jack London’s stunning novel.  The film stars the radiant Loretta Young, and the man you wish you were, Clark Gable.  The script is by Gene Fowler and Leonard Praskins, and the black and white photography by Charles Rosher will make you shiver along with all the snow-bound prospectors.  It’s teamed with GOODBYE, MY LADY (1956), Wellman’s only film aimed at children, and stars Walter Brennan, Brandon DeWilde, Phil Harris and Sidney Poitier.  Both films are shown in 35 mm.   The program starts at 3 pm, and the director’s son, William Wellman Jr., will be there starting at 2, signing his book, WILD BILL WELLMAN: HOLLYWOOD REBEL.  More details here: https://www.cinema.ucla.edu/events/2015/05/09/call-of-the-wild-goodbye-my-lady


GREGORY PECK IN ‘YELLOW SKY’ MAY 9TH AT THE AUTRY


As part of their monthly ‘What is a Western?’ series, the Autry will screen YELLOW SKY, at 1:30 pm in the Wells Fargo Theatre.  Director William Wellman and screenwriter Lamar Trotti, who teamed in last month’s offering, THE OX BOW INCIDENT, this time tackled a W. R. Burnett (LITTLE CEASAR, HIGH SIERRA) story, about a pack of outlaws hiding out in a ghost town populated only by an old prospector and his daughter, Anne Baxter.  Also in this drama, suggested by Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST, are Richard Widmark, John Russell and Harry Morgan.  The film will be introduced by Jeffrey Richardson, Gamble Curator of Western History, Popular Culture and Firearms.  Admission is included with museum admission, free to members.  Learn more HERE


CONEJO VALLEY DAYS – THOUSAND OAKS, MAY 7-10



You can celebrate the area’s Western roots and history, with plenty of live music, carnival rides, games, a western saloon, out-house races, food, hands-on exhibits, Kids Korral, and dog adoptions.  Participants include the Chumash Indian Museum, Joel McCrea Ranch, and The Stagecoach Inn Museum.  Go here for details: http://www.conejovalleydays.us/entertainment/


FIESTA CHARITY HORSE SPECTACULAR MAY 9 AT BURBANK EQUESTRIAN CTR.




The focus is on Spanish horses and other breeds, and music and dance and food, and raising funds for Kure It Cancer Research.  Learn more here -- http://www.fiestacharityshow.com/ -- and check out the video!

NORCO RANCH TOUR – MAY 9TH



Tour six local ranches, enjoy pony rides and wagon rides, Cavalry displays and demonstrations, raffles, hot dogs, and more!  Learn more here -- http://www.friendsofnorcohills.com/


‘WORD ON WESTERNS’ RETURNS TO THE AUTRY MAY 20TH!

As noted here a couple of weeks ago, Rob Word’s fun and fact-filled A WORD ON WESTERNS programs will be returning to the Autry starting on Wednesday, May 20th, with  A Salute to Duke.  They’re going to be every other month, so the next one will be in July.  No word from Word on guests yet, but I’m posting the clip below as a teaser.  Rob went on location for this one, to Monument Valley!



THAT’S A WRAP!



Next week I’ll have my review of the long-forgotten but worth-watching SHANE TV series, starring David Carradine, and now available from Timeless Media.  And hopefully I’ll have the final part of my TCM Fest coverage.  The picture is of me, from the set of WESTERN RELIGION – keep your eyes peeled for those red and white cuffs!

Happy Trails,

Henry

All Original Contents Copyright May 2015 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved