Tuesday, April 9, 2019
THE WESTERN FAN’S GUIDE TO THE TCM FEST, PLUS SANTA CLARITA COWBOY FEST, ALL-STAR WORD-ON-WESTERNS, MEMBERS NIGHT AND ‘UNION PACIFIC’ AT THE AUTRY!
THE WESTERN FAN’S GUIDE TO THE TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL!
The 10th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival arrives in Hollywood this Thursday, April 11th, for four days and nights of wonderful movies seen as they should be, on big screens, introduced by knowledgeable and often famous guests, and attended by folks who love movies - and know as much about them - as you and I do. This year’s theme is Follow Your Heart – Love At The Movies, and there are films for all interests. I’ll have a link below to connect you to the entire schedule, but for this report I’m focusing on Westerns and attendees of Western interest. You can’t see everything, because so many films are screened simultaneously, so it’s wise to plan ahead, and make sure you give yourself enough time to get from theatre to theatre. Rather than skip movies to eat meals, I often carry a briefcase full of Smuckers Uncrustables.
TICKETS: The various festival passes, which run from $2,149 down to a paltry $299, are all sold out. But, individual passes are available for most movies on a first-come, first-served basis, for twenty buck a pop, with the Sunday evening screening of Gone With The Wind for $30. Lots of movies do fill up, so your advised to get to movies at least a half-hour early.
VENUES: The vast majority of films are screened at the Chinese complex, either the historic Chinese Theatre IMAX or the Chinese 6 Theatres Multiplex, on Hollywood Blvd., near Highland. Some films are shown a few blocks East on Hollywood Blvd., at the equally historic Egyptian Theatre. You may need to drive to films at Arclight Cinema’s Cinerama Dome on Sunset Blvd. A few movies are screened poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, across the street from the Chinese Theatres. A new venue added this year is the American Legion Theatre at Post 43, chartered in 1919 by World War I film-industry veterans, and now with a stunningly renovated theatre. It’s about a fifteen-minute walk from the Hollywood Roosevelt, and click HERE to get more details.
THURSDAY NIGHT begins with an invitation-only, Chinese IMAX Theatre 6:30 pm premiere, of a restoration of WHEN HARRY MET SALLY (not a Western), whic director Rob Reiner and stars Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal (of CITY SLICKERS) will attend.
At 7:30 pm, Poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt, the original OCEAN’S 11 will screen, preceded by a discussion with lovely Angie Dickinson (RIO BRAVO, among others).
At 8 pm at the Legion Theatre at Post 43, SERGEANT YORK will be presented, with a discussion beforehand with two of Sgt. York’s sons!
FRIDAY MORNING at 10:30 am, in the forecourt of the fabled Chinese Theatre, Billy Crystal will follow the long Hollywood tradition of placing his handprints and footprints in cement!
At 12 noon at the Legion Theatre at Post 43, there’s WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE ABOUT REPUBLIC SERIALS? It’s a program of shorts hosted by Andrea Kalas, Paramount Pictures Archivist – Paramount now owns the Republic library.
At 9:30 pm, in Chinese Multiplex #1, WINCHESTER ’73! The premiere of a new restoration, done with the input of Martin Scorcese and Steven Speilberg, the brilliantly dark Anthony Mann Western starring James Stewart will be introduced by author Jeremy Arnold.
Do it Jimmy! Dan Duryea's got it coming to him!
SATURDAY MORNING, at 9:45 am, THE LITTLE COLONEL, starring Shirley Temple, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, and Lionel Barrymore, plays at the Legion Theatre at Post 43, introduced by film critic Tara McNamara.
At 2:45 pm at the Legion Theatre at Post 43, a double-feature of rarely seen Tom Mix Westerns, THE GREAT K&A TRAIN ROBBERY, and OUTLAWS OF RED RIVER, will be introduced by N.Y. Museum of Modern Art Film Curator Anne Morra. The films will be presented with a live musical score by famed Silent Film Organist Ben Model.
At 6:30 pm at the Chinese Theatre IMAX, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID will be introduced by composer Burt Bacharach, who won Oscars for both the Original Score, and Best Song, “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.”
At 9:45 pm at the Chinese Multiplex #1, Director John Carpenter and star Kurt Russell will present ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK.
SUNDAY morning, April 14th, at 11:30 am at the Legion Theatre at Post 43, the Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball comedy YOURS, MINE AND OURS will be presented with stars Tracy Nelson, frequent TV Western guest star Kevin Burkett, BONANZA’s Jamie Cartwright, Mitch Vogel, and film historian Leonard Maltin.
At 2:30 pm at the Chinese Multiplex #1, Don Seigal’s and Ernest Hemingway’s THE KILLERS will screen. Star Angie Dickinson will speak before the film, which co-stars Western stalwarts Lee Marvin, Clu Gulager, John Cassavetes and, in his final screen role before moving on to another demanding job, Academy Award Winner Ronald Reagan.
Finally, at 4:30 pm at the Chinese Theatre IMAX, there’s GONE WITH THE WIND. Hope to see you there! You can get details on all of the films programs, and all of the guests HERE.
THE SANTA CLARITA COWBOY FESTIVAL SAT & SUN, APRIL 13TH & 14TH!
Held at silent-movie cowboy legend William S. Hart’s own ranch in Newhall, now the William S. Hart Park, this annual FREE event gives real and wanna-be cowpokes an opportunity to immerse themselves in a world of western fun and entertainment.
While most of the action occurs on the weekend, there are activities leading up, and on Thursday, April 11th, at 5 pm, on Main Street in Old Town Newhall, three new inductees will be added to the Western Walk of Stars: TV’s THE VIRGINIAN, James Drury; LARAMIE and WAGON TRAIN star Robert Fuller; and posthumously, Western character actor – generally a villain – Dan White. Everyone is welcome!
Me and Bobbi Jean Bell
At Hart Park, on Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm, Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm, visitors can roam the park and hear 22 different Western music acts perform throughout both days, including Krystyn Harris, John Bergstrom, Almeda Bradshaw, Shannon Rae and 100 Proof, The Hanson Family, and Sourdough Slim. Also, be dazzled by gun-spinning virtuoso Joey Dillon and rope twirling maestro Dave Thornbury!
Joey Dillon double-spinning!
You can also visit the Buckaroo Book Shop and meet your favorite Western authors, visit a Native American lodge, and shop for Western clothing and accessories. You can tour the Hart Mansion, and test your skills at archery, tomahawk throwing, mechanical bull-riding, gold panning and more.
And when it comes to food many fans come year after year just for the Cowboy Peach Cobbler, but there’s also barbecue, soul food, Thai food, sausage – you name it! There’s a special parking area, and shuttle buses to take you to the venue. For details, click HERE.
STARS TO PACK ‘WORD ON WESTERNS’ LOOK AT OVERLOOKED WESTERNS!
On Tuesday, April 16th, Western historian and raconteur Rob Word will present his free bi-monthly Western film program at The Autry’s Wells Fargo Theatre. The program is dedicated to the late, great character actor Morgan Woodward. The topic is Overlooked Westerns, and the stars who plan to discuss their movies are Keith Carradine, Tim Matheson, Donna Mills and Dennis Quaid. Rob always does well with his guests, but I can’t remember when he had so much firepower in one program.
Doors open at 10:30 am, and the program is from 11 am to 1 pm, after which most folks mosey across the courtyard for lunch at the Autry’s Crossroads West Café. Don’t miss it!
‘UNION PACIFIC’ SATURDAY APRIL 13TH AT THE AUTRY
A beautiful 35mm print of Cecil B. DeMille’s UNION PACIFIC will screen at the Autry’s Wells Fargo Theatre at 1:30 pm, as part of their long-running What is a Western? series. The film, from a novel by STAGECOACH author Ernest Haycox, stars Joel McCrea, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Preston and Akim Tamiroff. It will be introduced by James D’Arc, film historian and author of When Hollywood Came to Town: The History of Movie Making in Utah. Admission is free with Museum admission.
MEMBERS’ NIGHT AT THE AUTRY – SATURDAY, APRIL 20th!
The Autry celebrates its loyal members (and up to four guests) with a great evening of fun, starting at 5 pm with games on the plaza, and an in-gallery scavenger hunt. Dinner is available for purchase from Crossroads West Cafe (member discount applies!) There will be free popcorn, snacks, lemonade, and soft drinks, complimentary beer and wine.
And at 6:30 pm, there will be a special live performance by the delightful Bob Baker MarionetteTheater, followed by a screening of Gene Autry’s 1941 classic, BACK IN THE SADDLE!
EXTENDED VERSION OF ‘MAJOR DUNDEE’ APRIL 26 & 27 AT THE NEW BEVERLY!
Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 pm, an extended version of Sam Peckinpah’s heavily re-edited classic, MAJOR DUNDEE will be screened. It stars Charlton Heston, Richard Harris, Jim Hutton and James Coburn.
…AND THAT’S A WRAP!
Me and Morgan Woodward, who starred
in my first film, SPEEDTRAP!
Sorry the Round-up appears so erratically; I’ve been up to my ears writing for True West Magazine! The current issue features my interview with Kevin Costner (notice my name on the cover for the first time!), and a look at the wonderful YouTube series THE FORSAKEN WESTERNS. More good stuff coming soon! Happy Easter and Passover!
All Original Content Copyright April 2019 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved
Sunday, February 24, 2019
OSCAR NOMINEE DIANE WARREN, MICHAEL IMPERIOLI, ANDY GARCIA, AND FRANCO NERO ON THE L.A./ITALIA FEST RED CARPET!
Last Sunday, February 17th, the Los Angeles Italia Festival began, as it has for fourteen years, a week before the Oscars, in the same complex where the Academy Awards are held, at Hollywood and Highland. The week-long celebration of Italian film and culture opens with a red carpet outside the Chinese Theatre 6. Receiving special honors that night would be Franco Nero and Andy Garcia.
I first spoke to Diane Warren, the ten-times Oscar-nominated song-writer who might get her first win tonight for I’ll Fight, the theme from the documentary RBG, about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Henry Parke: When you wrote I'll Fight, was the film completed, or was it based on knowing what it was going to be about?
Diane Warren: Well, I saw a rough cut of it and I just got really inspired, and it's such an honor to be associated with this, with RBG. Here I am, and a week from today -- eek!
Henry Parke: Who's going to be performing?
Diane Warren: Jennifer Hudson. She's going to be singing it, and she's probably going to blow the roof off this place.
Henry Parke: I bet she will. Previously, what have been your favorite songs you've written for movies?
Diane Warren: Last year was one of my favorites ever, was Stand Up For Something from MARSHALL. That was Common and Andra Day, and they gave me an award for that as well. And the Lady Gaga song, Til It Happens To You (from the documentary THE HUNTING GROUND), that I wrote a few years ago. It was really proud of that. I'm proud of all of them, you know.
I next spoke to Michael Imperioli, who’s been nominated for Emmys five times for his portrayal of Christopher on THE SOPRANOS. I interviewed him, and then he interviewed me a little. In the 2018 prison-brake miniseries ESCAPE AT DANNEMORA, directed by Ben Stiller, Michael played New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Henry Parke: How did you like playing Governor Cuomo?
Michael Imperioli: Oh, I liked it a lot. I got to spend some time with him and talk to him about what it was like during the prison break that the movie is about. But it was a lot of fun. It was good to work with Ben Stiller (who) is, I think a great director and really knows how to work with actors. I had a good time on that.
Henry Parke: Tell me, do people still call you Christopher?
Michael Imperioli: Oh yeah. I think they'll call me that till the end of my life probably. As long as they keep watching THE SOPRANOS.
Henry Parke: I don't think they'll ever stop. How do you think THE SOPRANOS changed television?
Michael Imperioli: I think THE SOPRANOS brought a cinematic quality to television that never really happened before. What people loved about movies, THE SOPRANOS brought to their living rooms on a weekly basis. And I think that was a seminal moment in television history.
Henry Parke: What's been your favorite roles since then?
Michael Imperioli: I did a movie in Portugal called CABARET MAXINE, that has not been released yet, and I think that was my favorite role since then. I play the owner of a burlesque house, who's trying to keep the old, the old world of burlesque alive in the modern, gentrified big cities.
Henry Parke: Terrific.
Michael Imperioli: Thank you. Who are you with?
Henry Parke: Oh, I'm with True West Magazine and Henry's Western Roundup. I mostly write about Westerns.
Michael Imperioli: Oh, really? Big Weston fan, huh? What's your favorite western?
Henry Parke: Currently THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, but it changes from week to week. What's yours?
Michael Imperioli: Well, THE SEARCHERS, I never get tired of that, but THE WILD BUNCH I think; I love that one.. And also, THE COWBOYS. Good friend of mine who passed away was in that: Roscoe Lee Brown. Oh, he's a great actor.
Henry Parke: Wonderful actor, wonderful role in that, too.
Michael Imperioli: Wonderful role; that's a really good movie. And Robert Carradine.
Next I talked briefly with Andy Garcia, who was just in THE MULE with Clint Eastwood. Garcia is working to make a film to be titled HEMINGWAY & FUENTES, about the friendship between Ernest Hemingway and boat Captain Gregorio Fuentes, the inspiration behind THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA.
Henry Parke: How did you like working with Clint Eastwood?
Andy Garcia: Oh, Clint is incredible. That was a sublime experience.
Henry Parke: I understand you're filming HEMINGWAY & FUENTES.
Andy Garcia: I would like to; I'm in the process.
Henry Parke: That sounds like a wonderful project.
Andy Garcia: It is. Just trying to get the financing together.
Finally I spoke to the original Django, Franco Nero
Henry Parke: Franco, which are your favorite among your westerns?
Franco Nero: Well... maybe DJANGO and maybe KEOMA. I think KEOMA’s an interesting western, yes.
Henry Parke: And Enzo Castellari is a wonderful director.
Franco Nero: Yes. We are supposed to do a new one. Maybe; we are planning to do a new Keoma. But also a new Django. But you know, we see. Maybe one or the other, maybe one western will come out this year. Maybe both.
Henry Parke: I heard John Sayles had written the script of the new Django.
Franco Nero: Yes, John Sayles wrote the new Django, DJANGO LIVES. That's the title. It takes place in the United States, at the border with Mexico. New California.
Henry Parke: What other Westerns do you like, besides your own?
Franco Nero: I love the Sergio Leone Westerns. Then I love DANCES WITH WOLVES.
Then it was time to go inside the auditorium for entertainment and awards. After a montage of Franco Nero film clips, Mark Canton, who produced 2010’s LETTERS TO JULIET, which stars Franco Nero and his real wife Vanessa Redgrave, introduced the actor, who gratefully accepted his award.
“You want me to say something?” With a wry smile, he said, “This is an award for the work I've done up until now. Then in a few year's time, you're going to give me another one. When I retire, maybe in ten years' time. Anyway, I owe everything to the cinema. Sometimes they ask me, 'What is cinema for you?' I say cinema, for me it's like a big city where people of different colors, and different ethnic groups have their home and their dreams. So cinema will continue to exist as long as people will continue to dream. Cinema means freedom. Because in the country where there is no freedom, there is no cinema. Cinema gave me the possibility to travel the world. I've been everywhere, I've been to more than a hundred countries around the world. It gave me the possibility to have dinner with presidents, princes, princesses, governors, but also gave me the possibility to have dinner with humble people. Like fishermen, like farmers. And I have to tell you. I prefer to have dinner with the humble people. They are wiser. They are much, much wiser. Thank you for this.”
MORGAN WOODWARD DIES AT 93
Henry and Morgan
Morgan Woodward, the Texas-born actor who excelled at playing villains in Westerns, Sci-Fi, Crime films, and just about every other genre, has died after a long, heroic struggle with cancer. He guested more often on GUNSMOKE than any other actor, was the third most frequent guest on WAGON TRAIN, and played Shotgun Gibbs to Hugh O’Brian’s WYATT EARP in 81 episodes. Despite his cold visage in COOL HAND LUKE, which created the craze of mirror sunglasses for lawmen, he was one of the nicest, most cheerful men you could ever meet.
I first met Morgan on the set of the movie I wrote my last year in college, 1977’s SPEEDTRAP. (In it, Joe Don Baker had to face down three great villains, Timothy Carey, Robert Loggia, and Morgan Woodward, who are now, sadly, all gone.) I don’t think we ran into each other again until 1993, when Nickodell’s, the legendary restaurant outside the Paramount and former R.K.O. lots closed, and we were the last customers in the place.
Since then we’d run into each other at least once a year at western events, and he was always full of great stories about making movies, and friends like L.Q. Jones and Fess Parker. I interviewed him a few times, most recently for True West Magazine, and the article is in the current issue. I’m including the link. I’d received my copies a week ago Friday, and put one in the mail to him on Saturday. Yesterday, I had a phone message from his care-giver, telling me that Morgan had died, and that he’d insisted she call me, to tell me how much he enjoyed the article. I’m so glad I got it to him in time. Here’s a link to the interview.
Nearly a decade ago I did a longer interview with Morgan here in the Round-up. Here it is.
I first met Morgan Woodward in 1978, in Phoenix, on the set of my first movie with a writing credit, SPEEDTRAP. The hero of the piece was Joe Don Baker, and the more gravitas the hero has, the stronger the villain needs to be. Morgan Woodward, as the corrupt Police Chief, was plenty strong, with a presence that grips the attention.
Although I’ve enjoyed Morgan’s work since then, I hadn’t seen him in person for more than thirty years, when I ran into him at an autograph show in Burbank a few weeks ago. He kindly agreed to sit down and talk about his long screen career in the saddle. Not surprisingly, he’s a Texan by birth, born September 16th, 1925. “I was born in Fort Worth, only because we didn’t have a hospital in Arlington, fourteen miles away.” Naturally, I assumed he plays a cowboy so well because, being a Texan, he did so much riding as a kid. “Nope, I did not. I learned to ride when I came to California.” Well, at least I was right about his always liking western movies. “Oh sure – every kid likes westerns! Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson, Buck Jones.”
Interestingly, his first love was not acting, but aviation. “We had an Army airfield six or seven miles from Arlington and my family would go out there on weekends, and watch the weekend warriors fly the airplanes, and I was just always interested in airplanes. Most kids my age were interested in planes, back in the 1930s.” He first flew a plane when he was sixteen, and continued to fly until just a few years ago.
Graduating from High School in 1944, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps Training Program. “We went through basic training, ready to go to pre-flight. But they didn’t have room for us, so they sent us to CTD – College Training Detachment. I went to the University of Arkansas for about six months, and they still didn’t have room in preflight, so they sent us to Pampa Army Airfield, to do all the jobs the enlisted men wouldn’t do. (laughs) We saw the handwriting on the wall, because a lot of flyers were coming back from overseas, they had nothing more to do than chase pretty girls in West Texas. One morning we were told that the commanding General of the Flying Training Command said all flying training had stopped. The war was going too well, and they didn’t need any more pilots. That was the end of my hope for getting my wings in the Army Air Corps. I was sent to Scott Field, Illinois, to radio school, and I stayed until they decided we aviation cadets were just surplus, so they got rid of us just before Christmas of 1945.”
After the war he entered Arlington State, majoring in music and drama, planning on a career in opera. “I gave it up because I had a sinus condition, still do, that would not allow me to be a consistent singer. So I traded Grand Opera for Horse Opera.” In 1948, he transferred to the University of Texas at Austin, a drama and music minor, majoring in business administration. Among his classmates were Fess Parker, Jayne Mansfield, Rip Torn, L.Q. Jones, and Pat Hingle. Not all of them seemed marked for greatness. “Jayne Mansfield certainly didn’t stand out at the time. L.Q. wasn’t in the drama department – L.Q. was the cheerleader. He didn’t get into movies until Fess Parker sneaked him in to see a director. L.Q. is so crazy; he convinced the director that he ought to be in the picture. Pat Hingle was a fine actor. Rip Torn was a good actor. Then he was Elmore Torn.”
In 1951, just as he was entering law school, Morgan was recalled to active duty. He finally got overseas. “I was in the Military Transport Command; we were flying between Japan and Korea. I was happy to be up in the air, and we didn’t get shot at.” When he was back stateside, he decided against going back to law school. “World War II and the Korean War, I thought, Hell, although I was only about 26 years old, I’m getting too old to go to school. Fess Parker at that time was Davy Crockett. And Disney was getting ready to do THE GREAT LOCOMOTIVE CHASE. So Fess told Disney he knew this guy who would be just absolutely great as this wild-eyed Confederate Master Sergeant. So that’s how I got my ‘in’. I went to California to do a screen test for Walt Disney, and I was signed to a three-picture contract.”
Henry: Did you meet Walt, himself?
Morgan: Yes, as a matter of fact, the first day of shooting, when I went on the set, he came down to see this guy who had come out from Texas and was going to be in his first motion picture job. He was a great guy, great guy. Anybody’s a great guy who’ll sign me to a three-picture contract!
H: The next one was WESTWARD HO, THE WAGONS!
M: Right, and then ALONG THE OREGON TRAIL, a short film.
H: With WESTAWARD HO, you were with Fess Parker and Iron Eyes Cody.
M: Oh yes, Iron Eyes was a great friend of mine, just a splendid guy. In the words of the Indians, a straight arrow.
H: Your director, William Beaudine, used to be Mary Pickford’s personal director in silent movies.
M: That’s right, Bill Beaudine was just great. No bullshit, and he was terrific.
H: From 1958 through 1961 you had your first regular character, on WYATT EARP, as Shotgun Gibbs. How did you get that role?
M: I did an episode of WYATT EARP the year before, as Captain Langley of the Texas Rangers. The producers loved the character, so they had Stuart Lake write in a character somewhat like this Ranger Captain, Shotgun Gibbs, and I was on that until 1961. He was a wonderful writer.
(Note: Stuart N. Lake, a writer in the film business at least as far back as 1916, wrote the book WYATT EARP, FRONTIER MARSHAL, on which virtually all Wyatt Earp films, and the TV series, were based. He was nominated for a Best Story Oscar for THE WESTERNER (1940), about Judge Roy Bean.)
H: How did you like playing a recurring role, as opposed to playing a different character each time?
M: I loved it: I got a check every Friday.
H: Obviously, you worked a lot with Hugh O’Brien. What was he like?
M: He was a nice fellah. He was not the easiest fellah in the world to get along with, but he and I got along – we were together for over three years, got along fine.
H: What sort of a shooting schedule would you have for an episode?
M: We shot five days a week, Monday through Friday, usually shot three days on the set, at Desilu Studios, two days on location, out at Melody Ranch.
H: There were a lot of interesting guest stars on WYATT EARP, like Andy Clyde, and semi-regulars like Lash LaRue.
M: Well, Lash is a real character. And I working with Andy Clyde, because Andy Clyde was an icon. I also worked with Anna Mae Wong on WYATT EARP. I worked with Kermit Maynard, a lot of guys who weren’t stars anymore, and they were old, but it was quite something to work with them.
H: What are your best memories of working on that show?
M: It was the first time I had a regular series, and the producers of WYATT EARP were going to do a series on Sam Houston, called THE RAVEN, and they selected me to do Sam Houston. Unfortunately, the producer had a heart attack, and the show was put on hold for a while. Then he got better, we started to get into production, he had a another heart attack and died, and that was the end of that.
H: In the late 1950s you were doing a lot of western TV episodes. ZANE GREY THEATRE, CHEYENNE, SUGARFOOT, BROKEN ARROW, RESTLESS GUN, BAT MASTERSON –
M: That’s right, I think I did every western there was.
H: Were any of them particularly memorable?
M: They were all memorable because I got paid, I had a job. I remember all of them – I’ve never forgotten anything I ever did. Because actors never know when they’re going to work again.
H: You did GUNSIGHT RIDGE with Joel McCrea, Mark Stevens and one of my favorites, L.Q. Jones.
M: Mark Stevens – he had a fairly good career going at that time. Why is L.Q. Jones one of your favorites?
H: Because he’s one of those actors that just grabs the eye and makes you follow him.
M: Always playing crazy guys. (laughs) That’s what L.Q. does. We’ve been friends for over sixty years.
H: How did you like working with Joel McCrea?
M: He was terrific.
H: You did a couple of films with Audie Murphy – RIDE A CROOKED TRAIL and GUNPOINT. GUNPOINT was directed by Earl Bellamy, who we both know from SPEEDTRAP. What was Audie Murphy like?
M: Well, very distant. He was so distant it was hard to figure him out. He had a few very close friends, and that was it. I guess they were close. I remember GUNPOINT. In RIDE A CROOKED TRAIL I don’t think I had that great of a part. Walter Matthau was in it. He was very amenable. Henry Silva they brought from New York – it was popular at that time to bring New York actors out to California. Henry got his start on Broadway, you know. In ‘A HATFUL OF RAIN’, he played a character called ‘Mother.’ He and I became good friends.
H: You did about a dozen episodes of WAGON TRAIN. In the ALEXANDER PORTLASS STORY, you kidnap Robert Horton and help Peter Lorre search for Maximillian’s gold. And you got killed by Peter Lorre for your trouble. What was Lorre like by this time in his career?
M: Well, I didn’t get to know Peter very well. When we were not working together, we weren’t social. (laughs) All I can tell you is he was kind of a strange little man.
H: That’s what he played to perfection.
M: Himself, I think.
H: Because you were playing different characters in a dozen episodes of the same show, was there ever concern about your becoming too recognizable? Sometimes you had big scars, and sometimes you had an eye-patch. Was that to try and make you look different?
M: Well, it concerned me. I certainly didn’t want people recognizing me, saying, ‘There’s that character again.’ I hope I got away with playing the different characters.
H: You were usually a bad guy, but not always. In the JED POLK STORY, you’re a survivor of Andersonville Prison Camp. It was a very emotional part – very intense. Any particular memories of doing that episode?
M: Not really. I have all my scripts – I’d have to go back and read the scripts.
H: You did so many – which were your favorite WAGON TRAINs?
M: Well, I got to work with Polly Bergen, and that was interesting. We got to know each other, and as a matter of fact saw each other socially a few times after that.
H: What was Ward Bond like?
M: Very rough, very gruff, very profane. But in a kind of a lovable, likable way.
H: Kind of like his characters in John Ford westerns?
M: That’s right – that was Ward Bond.
H: Of course, in the middle of the series, he died, and was replaced by John McIntire. Did that change the show a lot?
M: Yuh, because they were two different types. McIntire was a very different type than Ward Bond. So it changed the character of the wagon master, but I don’t know that it changed the show a lot.
H: Over the years there were a lot of regulars who came and went. There was Robert Horton, Terry Wilson, Frank McGrath, Robert Fuller, Denny Miller.
M: Bob Fuller is one of my best friends. He’s bought a ranch in Texas, and he came out for that big autograph show two weeks ago. We were sitting side-by-side. Peter Brown was just down the row.
H: I saw Peter Brown – maybe Robert Fuller was at lunch when I came by.
M: He probably was in the bar (laughs). And Denny Miller was there. I was hoping Clint Walker would be there. I like to see those guys that are still alive. We’re all getting old.
H: In the 60s you did a lot of western series, HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, BIG VALLEY, RAWHIDE, BRANDED, DEATH VALLEY DAYS, IRON HORSE, CIMMARON STRIP, VIRGINIAN, HIGH CHAPPARRAL – like you said, you did all the westerns.
M: Yuh, I did.
H: What were your favorites?
M: Oh, GUNSMOKE, of course. I did more GUNSMOKES than any other actor in the world. I say in the world because they had people come over from Europe to do the show. I did nineteen. Plus the GUNSMOKE movie in ’91 or ’92. It seems like yesterday but, my God, it’s been twenty years!
H: I was just watching MATT DILLON MUST DIE; that’s a terrific show.
M: I enjoyed making that particular show. We shot that in Utah, in the mountains.
H: The story is a variation on MOST DANGEROUS GAME. (SPOILER ALERT) And your wife’s death fills you with such overpowering rage that you’re murdering indiscriminately. Eventually your own sons. It’s a real heartbreaker of an episode, and you bring great humanity to a character that could have seemed very one-dimensional. How do you prepare to play a role like that?
M: I just read the scripts and conjure the character in my mind. I read the script until I almost read the print right off the page. I spend hours and hours and hours, over and over and over reading the script, filming the show in my mind.
H: I was just talking to Earl Holliman last week –
M: He was at the autograph show. We spoke. I remember I worked with Earl several times, in the show with Angie Dickinson, POLICE WOMAN, and then GUNSMOKE.
H: He said there was an episode that you two did on GUNSMOKE called HACKETT. He said that it was one of his favorite shows because you switched roles.
M: Yeah, two or three days before we were to shoot the show, the producer called and said, “Look, you guys are gonna switch parts. I want Morgan the bad guy to play the coward, and I want Earl Holliman to play the bad guy.” That may have been one of the few times that Earl got to play a bad guy.
H: Which episodes are your favorites?
M: There was a segment called LOBO. I was watching it in my home, by myself, and all of a sudden I realized that I was watching me, and I didn’t know that I was watching myself. I was so engrossed in the show, then all of a sudden I snapped to, and I thought, “But that’s me!” So I figure, if I can fool myself, that I might be pretty good.
H: Any other episodes?”
M: Well, HACKETT, and then MATT DILLON MUST DIE.
H: How’d you like working with Jim Arness?
M: No better person to work with in the world than Jim Arness! He’s a good friend of mine, and I still call him about every week.
H: I understand he had a wonderful deal on the show where they would shoot his scenes for several episodes back to back, and he’d go off surfing, and they’d shoot around him. Did you have to deal with that kind of a situation, or was he usually on the set?
M: I never had to deal with that, and if it would inconvenience any other actor I don’t think Jim would allow that.
H: How about the other actors? Amanda Blake, Milburn Stone.
M: Oh, they were all great characters. GUNSMOKE was a dream to work on. The producers were great, the actors were great, they always had great cast members. They were all good scripts. Great show to work on – a happy show.
H: How many times did Matt Dillon kill you?
M: (Laughs) You know, I don’t remember. But I usually got shot. Or beat up.
H: You also did eight episodes of BONANZA.
M: Yes, I did. I liked it very much. David Dortort (the show’s creator and producer) was a favorite of mine. Dan Blocker was a good friend of mine – fellow Texan.
H: Did you have a favorite episode?
M: Oh, it may have been FOUR SISTERS FROM BOSTON, with Vera Miles.
H: In 1966 you guested on THE LUCY SHOW, in the famous LUCY AND JOHN
M: That was great fun.
H: Had you worked with John Wayne before?
M: No, I had not. I liked working with him very much. I had an opportunity to work with him again, but I screwed that deal up because I didn’t like the part that they offered me, and I turned it down. And that was one of the few mistakes – because I almost never turn down a part. But I just didn’t like that part at all.
H: What movie was that?
M: I think it was TRUE GRIT.
H: Well they’re doing that one again. I think they just wrapped shooting, with Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn.
M: Jeff’s a good actor, but I’m sorry they’re doing TRUE GRIT again.
H: How did you like working with Lucille Ball?
M: She was wonderful. Very professional, but at the same time, a great lady.
H: Had you done much comedy at that point?
M: No, but L.Q. Jones and I did a comedy on WAGON TRAIN. CHARLIE WOOSTER: OUTLAW. It’s the one where Charlie (Frank McGrath) gets kidnapped by this woman, and L.Q. and I play her two crazy sons.
H: In 1968 you did FIRECREEK with Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart.
M: Great cast, Jack Elam – just look at the cast list on that picture. God, it was just amazing to get all those people together.
H: Often people with small parts, like Ed Begley, Inger Stevens. It’s dark movie, not a very happy one.
M: No, it’s not. It is a dark film.
H: You and the rest of the gang are together, and Henry Fonda is off with Inger Stevens.
M: He was wounded, and Inger Stevens was taking care of him. You got the idea there was something going on between the two of them, or there could be. (SPOILER ALERT!) And then of course she winds up killing him.
H: You and your friends kill the town simpleton, you kick his dog, you get shot by Jimmy Stewart and dragged to death by your horse.
M: (laughs) I got my comeuppance!
H: Did you do any of that drag yourself?
M: No. Well, I started the drag, and then they cut to a stuntman.
H: Now your director on that was Vincent McEevety, who had done a lot of westerns and, like you, a lot of sci-fi.
M: I worked with Vince a lot on westerns – I can’t tell you which ones. I worked with him before and I worked with him afterwards. I did a STAR TREK with him, DAGGER OF THE MIND.
H: In ‘69 you were with Richard Widmark and Lena Horne in DEATH OF A GUNFIGHTER. It’s quite a good film, which is a surprise considering the credited director is Alan Smithee, the
pseudonym directors use on films they’re ashamed of.
M: No. Robert Totten started directing it, and he didn’t like the fact that Lena Horne was the leading lady, and that here was a racial (element) to the story, and he kept griping. And finally Lew Wasserman fired him and Don Siegal took over. So they used the phony name Alan Smithee. Turned out pretty good.
H: For several years you were in DALLAS, sort of a modern Western. That was an incredibly popular series.
M: Yes it was.
H: Did you have a good time on that?
M: Oh, I certainly did. I was a regular on it for three years. So ’86, ’87, ‘88 I didn’t do very many (other) shows. As a matter of fact I was doing DAYS OF OUR LIVES, the daytime soap opera, at the same time.
H: I understand that with soaps, you have to learn an incredible amount of dialog with every episode. Were the pressures of doing that kind of show very different from doing a regular show?
M: I hated it. If I hadn’t have been dedicated – I simply wouldn’t walk off a show, or say I don’t want to do it anymore. But if I had to do it again I would. I didn’t like it at all. I just didn’t like daytime soap opera. I didn’t have time to prepare, I didn’t like the cue cards, I thought the dialog was asinine. But I must say I certainly met some good actors on soap opera. Some weren’t, but there were some really fine actors.
H: You’ve done THE A TEAM, where you’ve done comic western episodes. Did you enjoy that show?
M: Oh yes, oh yes. God, that was a lot of fun. George Peppard was a very nice fellow.
H: The last western-ish thing you’ve done was play bounty hunter Sam Travis in THE BOUNTY HUNTER’S CONVENTION episode of THE ADVENTURES OF BRISCO COUNTY JR.
M: That was not a favorite of mine, and it was not a favorite because I didn’t do a good job on that show. I was off-center, and I don’t know why. The show, I guess, was alright, but I was not at all satisfied with my performance.
H: I just watched it this week, and I found it very funny, and I found you very good in it.
M: Thank you – I’m happy to hear you say that.
H: In addition to Westerns, you’ve had an extensive career in science fiction. STAR TREK, PLANET OF THE APES, LOGAN’S RUN, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, X-FILES, MILLENIUM. What do you prefer – science fiction or westerns or something else?
M: Well, it all depends on the script. If it’s a good show like the X-FILES, I love doing that, and I love doing westerns. It all depends on the script.
H: You’ve been acting in television for over forty years. You started near the beginning of the industry. What sort of changes, good and bad, have you seen over the years?
M: Well, I retired in 1997. My first professional job was with the Gulf Oil Theatre in Dallas, Texas. We had the first theatre-in-the-round in America. That was 1947, I was going to school in the morning, working in the afternoon and the evenings in the theatre. So in 1997 that was fifty years. And I thought, fifty years is enough, and I retired. And one of the reasons I retired is because I got tired of going in and interviewing with people who were very young, and were apparently young in the business, and they had not done their homework. And they’d say, “What have you done?” And I thought, for God’s sake, I’ve been in film for over forty years, and I have to go through the same routine all the time. It just became not that much fun, not that interesting. And some of the parts that were offered, even if I got them, they weren’t that interesting.
H: Overall, which are your own favorite Western performances?
M: Like I told you, the episode of GUNSMOKE, LOBO, when I was watching myself and didn’t realize it. And then, MATT DILLON MUST DIE, I liked that very much. I did a picture for Disney called THE WILD COUNTRY with Vera Miles and Steve Forrest.
H: Is that the one with Ron Howard and Clint Howard?
M: Yes, that was a favorite of mine. Robert Todd directed that.
H: What are your favorite westerns of other people?
M: Well, remember the series that Sam Peckinpah wrote, was it called THE WESTERNER (1960)? It didn’t last very long. With Brian Keith. That was good. THE ROUNDERS, Max Evans wrote that, with Henry Fonda and Glenn Ford.
ONE MORE THING...
A couple of weeks ago I attended an event called Film Italy Los Angeles, and waited two hours on the red carpet to talk to Claudia Cardinale, of Once Upon A Time In The West. And at the very moment when the red carpet guy says to her, "This is Henry Parke from True West," Claudia’s daughter grabs her by the wrist, says “Mom, we just have time for a cigarette before the awards”, and dragged her off. But at least I got a nice picture.
Enjoy the Oscars!
All Original Contents Copyright February 2019 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved
Monday, January 14, 2019
NEW SPAGHETTI WESTERN – ‘BOUNTY KILLER’ – PLUS ‘HOW TV WEST IS WRITTEN’, AUTRY EVENTS, DVD REVIEWS AND MORE!
THIS JUST IN! STARTING TUESDAY, JANUARY 15TH, THE AUTRY WILL EXTEND FREE ADMISSION TO LAUSD STUDENTS AND THEIR CHAPERONES DURING THE LAUSD TEACHERS’ STRIKE!
‘BOUNTY KILLER’ OPENS JAN. 25TH IN L.A.!
‘BOUNTY KILLER’, the new Spaghetti Western from Chip Baker Films, opens Friday, January 25th, at the Arena Cinelounge, 6464 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, CA 90028. When a young woman, played by Naila Mansour, is abducted during her wedding, her father, Eurowestern stalwart Antonio Mayans (MORE DOLLARS FOR THE MACGREGORS, A TOWN CALLED HELL) hires bounty hunter Crispian Belfrage to rescue the woman, and kill the men. Also in the cast are Aaron Stielstra (THE SCARLET WORM, 6 BULLETS TO HELL) and Lenore Andriel (YELLOW ROCK). Directed by Chip Baker, written by Baker and Danny Garcia, Jose Villanueva and Nick Reynolds, many of the folks who made the fine 6 BULLETS TO HELL are also part of BOUNTY KILLER. Cinematographer of both films Olivier Merckx may be the first to use a drone in a Western, and did so to striking effect.
It’s filmed in classic sets and locations in Tabernas, Almeria, and Andalucia, Spain, much of it on the McBain Ranch from ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. The film will be playing from Friday the 25 through Thursday the 31, and since the times vary from day to day, visit the Cinelounge website HERE for details.
‘HOW TV WEST IS WRITTEN’ AND MORE EVENTS AT THE AUTRY
TUESDAY JAN. 15 – A WORD ON WESTERNS SALUTES BURT LANCASTER
Detail from Thomas Hart Benton's 'The Kentuckian' poster
Tuesday, at 11 a.m., join Western authority Rob Word and his merry band at the Wells Fargo Theatre for another delightful ‘Word on Westerns’. The topic will be Burt Lancaster, whose Westerns include GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL, VERA CRUZ, APACHE, and THE KENTUCKIAN. Word notes, “Lancaster cared greatly about quality and, when he directed and starred in THE KENTUCKIAN (1955), hired Bernard Herrmann for the music and Thomas Hart Benton to do the movie poster!” Among the guests joining Rob will be Burt’s stunt double from ULZANA’S RAID and POSSE, Billy Burton, and from Burt’s last Western, CATTLE ANNIE AND LITTLE BRITCHES, producer Rupert Hitzig and actors William Russ and Kenny Call. Did I mention this event is free with your Autry admission? Doors open at 10:30.
WEDNESDAY JAN. 16 – HOW THE WEST IS WRITTEN: INSIDE MODERN TV WESTERNS
A must-attend for any would-be Western screenwriters, Wednesday night at 7 p.m., writers and producers from the latest crop of TV Westerns share insight into the creation of their series, how they’re reimagining the genre, and why stories out of the American West continue to inspire. Panelists include LONGMIRE writer and exec producer Hunt Baldwin, THE SON writer and exec producer Kevin Murphy, and HELL ON WHEELS and BRISCO COUNTY, JR. writer and exec producer John Wirth. This one costs $20 for members & students, $25 for non-members, and reservations are advised.
SATURDAY JAN. 26 – SILENT TREATMENT – ‘CLASH OF THE WOLVES’
The Silent Treatment is the Autry’s new series of silent Westerns with live musical accompaniment. 1925’s CLASH OF THE WOLVES stars Rin-Tin-Tin, his sweetheart Nanette, 7TH HEAVEN star Charles Farrell, and original Keystone Kop Heinie Conklin, in a tale of Borax miners and claim-jumpers. Presented at 2 p.m. in 35mm, with piano by Cliff Retallick. It’s free with admission.
SUNDAY, JAN. 27TH -- THE MUSIC OF ENNIO MORRICONE!
Morricone conducting the Hateful 8 score recording --
and no, he won't be there.
At 1 p.m. – the 5 p.m. performance is sold out -- a concert of music from film scores by the maestro of the Spaghetti Western, performed by a special ensemble of world-class musicians and singers. It’s $10 for members, $20 for non-members, and you’d better make your reservations now.
COWBOYS AND INDIANS AND VIKINGS! – A DVD REVIEW
Wild East Productions presents Volume 60 of their Spaghetti Western Collection, a Giuliano Gemma double feature, DAYS OF VENGEANCE and ERIK THE VIKING. In VENGEANCE (1967), Gemma stars as man framed and imprisoned not for just any crime, but the murder of his own father! His old girlfriend, Nieves Navarro, is now with the lawman who set him up, and Gemma teams up with a traveling charlatan (Manuel Muniz as his comic character Pajarito) and his granddaughter (gorgeous Grabriella Giorgelli) to get justice, and uncover a startlingly baroque conspiracy. It’s elegantly made and highly enjoyable.
The second film, ERIK THE VIKING (1965) is goofy, exuberant fun. Gemma is Erik, nephew of Viking King Thorwald, and when the old man is on his deathbed, he says he wants his power to pass to his nephew, not his own son Erloff (Lucio De Santis). It’s a tough time for Vikings, who get no end of abuse from the more militarily organized Danes. Erik convinces several Vikings that they should find a new land far away from the Danes, and sails off in search of it. They arrive in – you guessed it – the New World, where they make friends with some Indians and enemies with others.
This action-packed daffy little history lesson is surprisingly entertaining, capturing the spirit of the Warner Brothers swashbucklers of the 1930s and ‘40s, and borrowing plot elements from them as well. Yes, there is a beautiful Indian princess (Elisa Montes), and evil plotters working for Erloff, including the indispensable muscleman Gordon Mitchell.
Among the special features is an excellent interview with actress Nieves Navarro conducted by Western screenwriter Danny Garcia (6 BULLETS TO HELL, THE BOUNTY KILLER). The double feature sells for $21.72, and can be purchased HERE.
A NEW SOURCE FOR TV WESTERNS – JEWISH LIFE TV!
Gail Davis and Jimmy Hawkins
Next time you’re spinning the dial – remember when TVs had dials? – looking for a Western, you might just find one in an unexpected location: JLTV, aka Jewish Life Television, has added oaters to the line-up! Episodes of BONANZA, ANNIE OAKLEY, and the 1954 Western anthology series STORIES OF THE CENTURY have joined THE JACK BENNY SHOW and YOU BET YOUR LIFE, with Groucho Marx, as reasons to watch. Lorne Green, Michael Landon, and BONANZA-creator David Dortort were all Jewish, so perhaps that’s the connection, but whatever the reason, thanks JLTV!
‘UNSPOOLED’ LOOKS AT ‘THE SEARCHERS’
Paul Scheer and Amy Nicholson, the film critics who are re-examining all of the films on the AFI 100 Best Movies of All-Time list, with 100 individual podcasts, are up to #34, THE SEARCHERS. They are knowledgeable, but not big Western fans – it’s the first John Wayne Western Scheer has seen (!) – so their takes on it are by turns fascinating and infuriating. Well worth a listen. And I must give them credit on one point in particular: it NEVER occurred to me that John Wayne might be searching not for his brother’s daughter, but his own! THE SEARCHERS is #34. The episode about HIGH NOON, where I was guest, is #19. You can hear them all HERE.
I HAVE 5 ARTICLES IN THE FEBRUARY ‘TRUE WEST’!
It’s a personal record for one issue! If you’d like to read ‘em…
p.19 – ‘Cowboy Pens Best Rodeo Movie Ever Made’
p. 26 – ‘Remembering Jeb Rosebrook’
p. 52 – ‘Max Evans in Hollywood’
p. 54 – ‘Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ review
p. 55 – ‘Fire Engulfs Paramount Western Ranch’
ONE MORE THING…
Every spring there are two events in the Los Angeles area that movie nuts, western nuts, and especially western movie nuts dream about all year. One is the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, a great get-together of all things cowboyish, at the estate of the great movie cowboy William S. Hart. The other is the annual TCM Classic Film Festival, one of the great and rare chances to see classic movies, and especially westerns, the way they should be seen, on a big screen. Well, after years of having them one weekend after another, the Cowboy Festival has been moved up, so they will both be on the weekend of April 13 and 14. TCM is actually the 11th through the 14th, and before you say, “Then just go to TCM on Thursday and Friday,” it doesn’t work that way, since the movies you want to see are generally scattered through the four days. They’ve just started to announce films, and included are BUTCH CASSIDY, a new restoration of WINCHESTER ’73, and a Tom Mix double bill with live music, THE GREAT K & A TRAIN ROBBERY and OUTLAWS OF RED RIVER. Cowboy Festival hasn’t started announcing their events yet, but it should be noted that for the second year, the Cowboy Festival will be free, while TCM costs a fortune, and even individual movies are $20 a pop. I’ll keep you informed as I learn more!
AND THAT’S A WRAP!
All Original Material Copyright January 2019 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved