Tuesday, January 17, 2017

VILLAINS AT THE AUTRY TUESDAY! PLUS ‘MERCY STREET’ RETURNS, OLD WEST AUCTION, ‘BOONVILLE REDEMPTION’ AND ‘HIS FIRST COMMAND’ STARRING HOPPY REVIEWED!


MORGAN WOODWARD TO STARE DOWN ‘WORD ON WESTERNS’!



Tuesday, January 17th, at eleven a.m. sharp – don’t make him wait! – the man who faced down Matt Dillon nineteen times, and was killed my Matt in nearly all of them, will be joining Rob Word in the Wells Fargo Theatre of The Autry Museum for a look at WESTERN BAD GUYS in the newest edition of ‘A Word on Westerns.’  Other sinister visitors will include Jerry Potter from GUNSMOKE, THE WILD WILD WEST MOVIE, and THE ALAMO: THIRTEEN DAYS OF GLORY.  Also Patrick Kilpatrick from THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, LAST STAND AT SABRE RIVER and LAZARUS MAN, and Tara Gordon, daughter of Leo Gordon, of MCCLINTOCK!, MAVERICK and GUNSMOKE fame!  It’s a free event, always entertaining and informative. Don’t miss it!   


ALSO AT THE AUTRY – ‘THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE’ ON SATURDAY



As part of the Autry’s long-running ‘What is a Western?’ film series, on Saturday, January 21st, at 1:30 pm in the Wells Fargo Theatre, see Sam Peckinpah’s charming and surprisingly gentle THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE (1970), starring Jason Robards Jr. and the dazzling Stella Stevens, and screened in glorious 35MM! 

BRIAN LEBEL’S OLD WEST AUCTION SATURDAY – JAN. 21ST!



This year’s annual Old West Auction in Mesa, Arizona will feature a compendium of beautiful and fascinating art and artifacts from American history.  They always have wonderful posters, paintings, Cowboy art, American Indian Art, guns, saddles, Edward Bohlin silver. Among the most fascinating items, seen on the catalog cover above, is a Sharps rifle scientifically proven to have been used by an Indian at The Little Bighorn – it’s expected to fetch from $300,000 to half a million.  And there are costume items from John Wayne, Buck Jones, and Gene Autry, Roy Rogers’ watch, Tom Mix’s chaps, letters written by Buffalo Bill Cody, a gold watch given by Will Rogers to Charlie Russell, and much more.  The link to learn more is HERE.


‘MERCY STREET’ RETURNS!  SEASON 2 STARTS SUNDAY, JAN.22ND!



The story of two volunteer nurses on opposing sides of the Civil War, working together at a military hospital, PBS’s MERCY STREET is back for another season starting this Sunday.  As schedules for PBS vary from station to station, check for times, and also check to see if they’re doing any kind of recap from season one.  The one criticism I heard last year was that the show was a little claustrophobic, but the producers have promised to open it up more for season two, as the trailer indicates.

BOONEVILLE REDEMPTION – A Film Review



Feeling a need to get out of town, film executive, casting agent and author Judy Belshe-Toernblom visited the town of Boonville, in Northern California, learned about the locals’ unique dialect, ‘boontling,’ and the seed of a story took root in her imagination. In time it grew into a screenplay, and now a movie, BOONVILLE REDEMPTION (to read about my visit to the set, go HERE and HERE), and a prequel novel, BOONVILLE REDEMPTION: THE END OF THE BEGINNING. 

Directed by Don Schroeder, the faith-based film set in 1906 boasts an impressive supporting cast, including Pat Boone as the town doctor and story narrator, Diane Ladd as the grandmother, Robert Hays as a pastor, and Ed Anser as the judge. 


Pat Boone and Emily Hoffman between scenes

But the film truly rises and falls on the shoulders of the very young and very talented Emily Hoffman at the story’s center.  She plays Melinda, a child who has always known she was looked down upon, but only recently learned the reason; that she was born out of wedlock.  She lives with her mother Alice (Shari Rigby), half-brother (Callder Griffith), and stepfather, a man named Maddox (Richard Tyson), who is the most wealthy, and feared, man in town.  He considers himself to have ‘saved’ her mother by marrying her, and he hates Melinda as a living reminder of his wife’s history, and shame.
When Alice’s mother (Diane Ladd) is ailing physically and mentally, Maddox seizes the opportunity, and sends Melinda away to care for the old lady.  Through the old lady, who drifts in and out of rationality and the boontling language, Melinda starts to uncover the truth about her true father, his disappearance, and crimes that include murder.  She’s helped in her efforts by an eccentric young boy nicknamed Shakespeare (Nicholas Neve). 

I’m not going to say ‘spoiler alert’, but it is 1906 in Northern California, and true history does intrude in this fictional tale.  A Western only in terms of its setting, it is in many ways a mystery, though without the urgent pacing we identify with that genre.  But whether in several genres or none exactly, it’s a well-acted, attractively filmed story of an endearing girl’s search for the truth about her own existence, and how her revelations turn a seemingly sleepy and highly secretive community on its head. 

BOONVILLE REDEMPTION is available on Amazon.com, and in stores on DVD.


HIS FIRST COMMAND – A Video Review



Early in the story, spoiled playboy Cary Culver (William Boyd) is asked by a society lady if he is ‘that’ Culver, whose scandals are always in the paper.  He laughs it off – that’s his cousin, he fabricates, who makes it hard for folks who share his name.  Ironically, less than two years later Boyd would be in precisely the same position, with no fabricating.  In 1931 another actor named William Boyd would be arrested in a brothel, and when newspapers ran a picture of the wrong man, the white haired DeMille star would be ruined for years, until he was hired to play the role that would change his life and make his career, Hopalong Cassidy.

In the 1929 service comedy HIS FIRST COMMAND (Pathe), Boyd’s character is so determined to prove to Col. Gaylord’s smug but lovely daughter Judy (Dorothy Sebastian) that he can be more than a dilettante, that he enlists in the cavalry, and unexpectedly (okay, very expectedly) has a chance to prove himself a hero.  

Originally promoted as “All Music, Color and Dialogue” (the color sequences presumably no longer exist), this early talkie shares many of the traits common to films in the transition from the silents – pacing problems, some stilted performances, with most scenes done in one shot, because it was so difficult to edit.  But it’s amusing, and novel to see Boyd playing a character so different from his trademark role.  And Boyd’s naturalness and ease with sound is years ahead of its time.  The film was important in Boyd’s life as well as career, since he subsequently divorced his second wife, Elinor Fair, and married leading lady Dorothy Sebastian.  She was well-known for starring opposite Buster Keaton in SPITE MARRIAGE (1929) and other films, and they were said to have been lovers at one time.   

It’s directed by Gregory LaCava, whose 1936 comedy hit MY MAN GODFREY would find William Powell and Carole Lombard examining many of the issues raised by COMMAND. LaCava co-wrote COMMAND with actor/writer James Gleason and Jack Jungmeyer.  The audio quality is good, and the grey scale and condition of the print is good, although the focus is fuzzy throughout.  But odds are it’s the best, quite possibly the only, copy available of this entertaining little film.  It’s available from Alpha Video HERE


ONE MORE THING…



It’s a pity that after 146 years, Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus is, or soon will be no more.  I loved it as a kid, and I loved it as an adult who likes to feel like a kid once in a while. While I was often dubious about the treatment animals received at the tiny fleabag circuses, most of the complaints about abuse at Ringling Brothers didn’t ring true.  Sorry, kids of coming generations. You’ll never experience the Greatest Show on Earth!

AND THAT’S A WRAP!

Happy Trails,
Henry

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

  

Saturday, December 24, 2016

WESTERN CHRISTMAS TV TIPS, PLUS STAGECOACH – THE TEXAS JACK STORY, REVIEWED!




BEST OF THE CHRISTMAS TV WEST!

Three of our favorite networks – INSP, ME-TV and GET-TV – are celebrating Christmas by airing Christmas-themed Western episodes.  Here’s the list, and all the times are Western, so adjust your viewing accordingly. 
Christmas Eve, December 24th, at
7 a.m. – INSP -  EBENEZER – a 1997 TV-movie Western version of Dicken’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL, starring Jack Palance as Scrooge, co-starring Ricky Schroder
9:15 a.m. – GET-TV – THE TALL MAN – BILLY’S BABY (1960), starring Clu Gulager as Billy the kid, and Barry Sullivan as Pat Garrett
9:55 a.m. – GET-TV – YANCY DERRINGER – OLD DIXIE (1958), starring Jock Mahoney and X Brands.
10:30 a.m. – GET-TV – RESTLESS GUN – THE CHILD (1957), starring John Payne
11:10 a.m. – GET-TV – RESTLESS GUN – A BELL FOR SANTO DOMINGO (1958) starring John Payne
11:45 a.m. – GET-TV – CIMARRON CITY – CIMARRON HOLIDAY (1958) starring George Montgomery
12:00 noon – ME-TV – THE BIG VALLEY – JUDGEMENT IN HEAVEN (1965)
1:00 p.m. – ME-TV – GUNSMOKE – P.S. – MURRY CHRISTMAS (1971)
2:00 p.m. – ME-TV – BONANZA – GABRIELLE (1961) 
3:00 p.m. – ME-TV – RAWHIDE – 25 SANTA CLAUSES (1961), guest-starring Ed Wynn
4:00 p.m. – ME-TV – WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE – 8 CENT REWARD (1958), guest-starring Jay North
4:00 p.m. – GET-TV – MIRACLE IN THE WILDERNESS (1991), TV-movie starring Kris Kristofferson and Kim Cattrall
4:30 p.m.  – ME-TV – WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE – NO TRAIL BACK (1959)
6:00 p.m. – GET-TV – THE CHRISTMAS STALLION (1992) contemporary Western TV-movie, set in Wales, starring Daniel J. Travanti and Lynette Davies
10:20 p.m. – GET-TV – MIRACLE IN THE WILDERNESS (1991), TV-movie starring Kris Kristofferson and Kim Cattrall
December 25th – Christmas Day
5:00 p.m. – INSP - EBENEZER – a 1997 TV-movie Western version of Dicken’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL, starring Jack Palance as Scrooge, co-starring Ricky Schroder
7:00 p.m. – INSP – 3 GODFATHERS (1948) – the John Ford Classic, starring John Wayne, Pedro Amendariz, and Harry Carey Jr. (obviously not a TV episode, but a great Christmas movie)
AMC will be showing some great, non-Christmas John Wayne and Clint Eastwood Westerns all-day Christmas Day.

STAGECOACH – THE TEXAS JACK STORY -- A Film Review


After years of quietly refining his acting skills laboring in cinema’s boondocks, taking small roles in big shows, and big parts in films that go largely unseen, with STAGECOACH : THE TEXAS JACK STORY, Trace Adkins emerges as something we haven’t seen in more than twenty years: a genuine new B-Western star.  Despite his Country Music stardom, Trace would not have been a leading man in the days of the original crossover stars like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.  His grim countenance would have earned him the parts played by Glenn Strange.   As scruffy as Willy Nelson, and as massively menacing as Ron Perlman, Adkins seems to have stepped out of a Matthew Brady photograph and onto the screen.  But his gruff, quiet, shoot-from-the-hip confidence and camera appeal is the stuff of movie stardom.

In STAGECOACH he plays genuine highwayman Nathaniel Reed, alias ‘Texas Jack’ Reed, whose gang robbed many a stagecoach and train in the Indian Territory during the 1880s and ‘90s, and who lived longer than any of his contemporaries, surviving halfway into the 20th century, dying an evangelist in 1950.


Making their getaway

The story begins with a stage hold-up pulled by Reed and his partners, including Sid Dalton (Judd Nelson, of ‘Brat Pack’ fame) and Frank Bell (Claude Duhamel, the demonic Anton Stice in last year’s WESTERN RELIGION). All goes efficiently, and no one gets hurt.  That is, until shotgun guard Calhoun (Kim Coates of SONS OF ANARCHY) takes shots at the fleeing bandits.  Reed returns fire, and Calhoun goes down.

Abruptly six years have passed.  The gang members have parted ways, and Reed, no longer an outlaw,  is now happily married to Laura Lee (Michelle Harrison), and facing more mundane concerns like paying his mortgage when his livery business has slowed down.  Without warning or welcome, Frank Bell appears to tip Reed that a deadly man is on their trail: Calhoun, the shotgun guard who lost an eye in the earlier robbery, is now a U.S. Marshall, with a personal vendetta against Reed and his gang: he’s already killed one of their accomplices, and is on Reed’s trail.


Claude Duhamel

Moments later, Calhoun arrives and all Hell breaks loose, in an exciting room-to-room gun battle that leaves Reed alive, but with nothing to live for.  Soon he’s back in business with Frank and Sid, robbing stages and staying a step ahead of the dementedly driven Calhoun, although a showdown is, of course, inevitable.  There’s plenty of action when called for, but it’s the real kind, not the CGI’d nonsense – the gunshots frequently sound like actual gunshots.  Director Terry Miles, who previously helmed the Westerns THE DAWN RIDER (2012) and LONESOME DOVE CHURCH (2014), brings a genuineness from his actors, and a sense of brooding, panic and sometimes despair, which one doesn’t usually get in a Western, but is highly appropriate to the story. 

The dialogue in the script by Dan Benamor and Matt Williams has a naturalness that helps us buy the characters, and unusually, allows what would normally be throw-away characters to shine.  When was the last time you saw a likable young banker in a Western?   The one sour note in the film is the character of psychopathic female bounty hunter Bonnie Mudd (Helena Marie), who works for the U.S. Marshall (!), and despite Ms. Marie’s best efforts, seems to have stepped into the wrong movie.  


Judd Nelson

Produced by Jack, Jacob and Joseph Nasser, STAGECOACH, like their DAWN RIDER and LONESOME DOVE CHURCH, and their surprisingly effective version of THE VIRGINIAN (2014), in which Adkins also had the title role, is filmed in Canada, and takes full advantage of the lush greenery and other visual values.   Their films are low-budget, but rather than being threadbare, they are self-contained and intimate, avoiding busy towns and containing few extraneous characters.  The art direction and costuming is not self-consciously elaborate, but is correct and attractively photographed. 

The strong performances by the criminal triad of Adkins, Nelson, and Duhamel, and their nemesis, Coates, are the core of this action-packed but thoughtful Western.  STAGECOACH – THE TEXAS JACK STORY is from Cinedigm, who brought you TRADED, starring Michael Pere, Kris Kristofferson and Trace Adkins earlier this year.  STAGECOACH – THE TEXAS JACK STORY is available on Amazon, iTunes, and other streaming services, as well as DVD.

NOMINATIONS ARE IN FOR 'WESTWORLD' AND 'HELL OR HIGH WATER'


It's the start of the dreaded 'Award Season' in 'The Industry', and the good news is, WESTWORLD and HELL OR HIGH WATER are getting the attention they deserve.   The Critics Choice Awards were already announced, honoring WESTWORLD's Evan Rachel Wood as Best Actress in a Drama Series, and Thandie Newton as Best Supporting Actress.  The Writers Guild announced their TV nominations, and WESTWORLD was nominated for Best Drama and Best New Series.  


Evan Rachel Wood

The Foreign Press Association announced their Golden Globe nominations, HELL OR HIGH WATER is nominated for Best Motion Picture - Drama.  Jeff Bridges is nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and Taylor Sheridan is nominated for Best Screenplay.  Bridges has been Oscar and Globe nominated six times each, and won both in 2009 for CRAZY AT HEART.  WESTWORLD is nominated for Best Television Seris - Drama.  Evan Rachel Wood is nominated for Best Actress, and Thandie Newton for Best Supporting.  


Thandie Newton

The SCREEN ACTORS GUILD has nominated Thandie Newton not for supporting, but for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor for WESTWORLD.  Jeff Bridges is nominated for his HELL OR HIGH WATER supporting. Additionally, WESTWORLD is nominated for a S.A.G. Award for Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble.  And WESTWORLD’s entire featured cast is nominated for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.  In case you’re wondering who some of them are, here are the names:   

BEN BARNES / Logan
INGRID BOLSØ BERDAL / Armistice
ED HARRIS / Man in Black
LUKE HEMSWORTH / Ashley Stubbs
ANTHONY HOPKINS / Dr. Robert Ford
SIDSE BABETT KNUDSEN / Theresa Cullen
JAMES MARSDEN / Teddy Flood
LEONARDO NAM / Felix Lutz
THANDIE NEWTON / Maeve Millay
TALULAH RILEY / Angela
RODRIGO SANTORO / Hector Escaton
ANGELA SARAFYAN / Clementine Pennyfeather
JIMMI SIMPSON / William
PTOLEMY SLOCUM / Sylvester
EVAN RACHEL WOOD / Dolores Abernathy
SHANNON WOODWARD / Elsie Hughes
JEFFREY WRIGHT / Bernard Lowe

AND THAT'S A WRAP!


It's been officially Christmas Eve and the first day of Chanukah  Eve for an hour and a half, and I'm setting the DVR, then hitting the hay.  I hope you find what you want in your stocking, and I hope 2017 is an improvement on your 2016.  And I thank you for your continued support of my writing in The Round-up and True West,  

Happy Trails,

Henry

All Original Contents Copyright December 2016 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved


Sunday, December 4, 2016

THE ROUND-UP CHRISTMAS GIFT SUGGESTIONS FOR 2016!


I’ve decided to try something different this wintertime, and make some gift-giving suggestions for the Western fan.  Most of my recommendations are actually gifts I’ve received, that I was particularly taken with -- and I’m told I’m a difficult guy to shop for.  If you have any suggestions for gifts, please leave them as a comment!  And of course, while more American people celebrate Christmas at this time of year than the holidays of other religions, if you’re looking for gifts for Chanukah, Ramadan, Kwanza, or any other religious or secular occasion, these suggestions are for you as well.

GENE AUTRY – A MELODY RANCH CHRISTMAS



Gene’s weekly Melody Ranch radio show ran from 1940 through 1956, a delightful blend of music, stories and humor.  Christmastime was always special on the show that starred the man who brought us Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer, Here Comes Santa Claus, and so many others.  The fine folks at Gene Autry Entertainment have cherry-picked from years of Christmas episodes to bring you the ultimate Gene Autry Christmas program.  Gene is joined by his frequent band in his movies and TV shows, The Cass County Boys, as well as Carl Cotner’s Orchestra, The Pinafores, Gene Autry’s Blue Jeans, Rosemary Clooney, and of course, sidekick Pat Buttram.  Pat sings All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth, and gives his own answer to Did You Ever Have to Sleep at the Foot of the Bed? 
Included among the twenty-four cuts are carols like Joy to the World, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and Silent Night, traditional songs such as White Christmas, Jingle Bells, and Winter Wonderland.  The included booklet tells the history of Gene’s Christmas shows, pointing out songs that were taken from The Sgt. Gene Autry Show, the show’s wartime title when Gene was serving in the Army Air Corps. 
Here’s a sample of the show, Gene singing a medley of Rudolph and Here Comes Santa Claus.

The album is from Varese Sarabande, and available direct from the Gene Autry Museum HERE,
as well as on iTunes and Amazon.  And Gene Autry now has an official Facebook page – check it out HERE.


SHOTGUN: THE BLEEDING GROUND
By C. Courtney Joyner



Adventurous Westerners and Steampunks alike will enjoy this second adventure in the kick-ass series of paperback originals about the surgeon who lost his right hand and replaced it with a shotgun!   This time Dr. John ‘Shotgun’ Bishop and his Cheyenne sidekick White Fox are on the trail of the good doctor’s despised brother Dev, and going to work for John Chisum.  In recent years, the paperback original Western market has taken a serious beating, but the SHOTGUN series has pumped much-needed blood – literally and figuratively – into the genre, and the folks at Kensington Books have committed to several more volumes.  You can buy both SHOTGUN volumes, and the prolific Mr. Joyner’s other books, at Amazon, HERE.

SILENT VIDEO – LIFE IN HOLLYWOOD



On one disc are seven short documentaries made less than a year before the coming of sound would turn the movie industry inside out.  Sort of like ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT only not insipid, L.I.H. released a one-reeler every week, featuring tours of many long-ago vanished studios, views of Hollywood from the air, many on-set visits, animals brought from Africa to make jungle films, the opening of a Hollywood hangout – the celebrated Yamashiro’s – and much more.  Along with many forgotten faces, many of the top stars of the day – Tom Mix, Buck Jones and Hoot Gibson, Buster Keaton, Colleen Moore and Lupino Lane – are on hand.  German film titan Max Reinhardt visits the set of LOVES OF CARMEN, visiting with director Raoul Walsh, and stars Victor McLaglen and Dolores Del Rio.  It’s wonderful fun, and if the image quality is spotty, it’s remarkable that this footage still exists.  It’s one of many fascinating videos available from Alpha Home Video HERE.

 JAMES A. FITZPATRICK’S TRAVELTALKS



If you’ve enjoyed the dazzling Technicolor travelogues TCM shows between features, you can now own them!  From the early 1930s through 1954, Fitzpatrick’s short films were America’s window on the world.  Now the Warner Archive has released three sets of these films, with sixty short films in each set – 66 in the final collection!  Beyond the sheer beauty of these wonderfully restored films, they freeze moments in time and place that are now gone.  Some of the pre-war visits to our soon-to-be Axis enemies are, by turns, poignant and ironic.  And because many shorts focus within our borders, the American West of the ‘30s and ‘40s is handsomely preserved.  They provide a first-hand introduction to 20th century history that you can find nowhere else.  You can order them HERE.

ROD SERLING’S ‘THE LONER’



It’s amazing to think that Rod Serling didn’t believe that his TWILIGHT ZONE would last more than one season!  Not wanting to take any chances, and seeing the success of Westerns, he started planning his own Western series in 1960.  He put it on the shelf when TWILIGHT ZONE proved a hit, but in 1964, when TZ finally folded after five season and 156 episodes, Serling dusted off that Western script again, hired Lloyd Bridges, not exactly wet behind the ears after SEA HUNT, and produced one of the finest of one-season Western series. 

While Western stories are generally post-Civil War, THE LONER is specifically six months after Lee’s surrender, the country is still seething in bitterness, and Bridges plays William Colton, an ex-Union officer roaming the West, trying to get his bearings.  In today’s parlance he’d be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.   Bridges was always an underrated actor, and in THE LONER half-hours he does some of the best work of his career.  There were only 26 episodes produced, and Serling wrote more than half of them himself. 

Among the guest stars were James Whitmore, Anne Baxter, Jack Lord, Sheree North, Burgess Meredith, Brock Peters, Dan Duryea, and Katherine Ross.  The whole series, plus two informative documentaries, is produced by Shout! Factory, and sold exclusively at WalMart.  You can order it HERE.


CANADIAN PACIFIC – STARRING RANDOLPH SCOTT



This very enjoyable 1949 Western from 20th Century Fox was unavailable for years, except in black and white, because it was shot in an obsolete color process, Cinecolor.  Now it’s been restored to its previous, heavily green but very attractive glory.  Scott is the railroad builder, Jane Wyatt is the ‘Lady Doctor’ who despises him (at first), and Victor Jory is, as usual, the guy who will stop at nothing to block Scott.  It ain’t CITIZEN KANE, but it’s a lot of fun.  And among the special features is the Castle Films 8mm home movie version!  You can order it HERE.


AND HERE’S A PERFECT WESTERN CHRISTMAS VIDEO!
The Carolyn Sells Combo does a brilliant mash-up of Christmas and the West with their song, Ghost Reindeer in the Sky!  Enjoy!


ONE MORE THING…



Earlier this week, I was teaching a 4th grade, and I heard something wonderful that I rarely hear from young kids.  A boy saw that I was reading the William Dale Jennings novel THE COWBOYS, on which the John Wayne movie is based.  The kid lit up with excitement.  “I love THE COWBOYS!” he said, the words spilling out in a torrent.  “I love Westerns!  I’ve seen TRUE GRIT and THE MAGNIFICENT 7 – ‘1’ and ‘2’.  And I really liked ‘1’ much better.  With Yul Brynner.  And I’ve seen UNFORGIVEN – that is, I’ve seen the appropriate parts…”  I was thrilled; thrilled that his parents are obviously exposing him to Westerns, and being careful of how much of the darker elements he’s exposed to.  But I couldn’t help thinking what a pity it is that, as we are having a rebirth of Westerns, so few of them are appropriate for kids.   Most of the theatrical ones, many of them fine films, are far too brutal and sexual for young kids.  I loved HELL ON WHEELS, love WEST WORLD, and looking forward to season two of UNDERGROUND, but the last TV Western series I remember that I’d show to a kid was PARADISE, which went off the air in 1991.  We need a ‘gateway’ Western to safely bring kids into the genre.


AND THAT’S A WRAP!


A week ago today I was invited to see the premiere screening of a new Western, GONE ARE THE DAYS, starring Lance Henriksen, Tom Berenger and Steve Railsback.  I had a friendly chat with Lance – don’t believe the picture!  We got along fine!  Anyhow, more about GONE OUR THE DAYS, and Lance, coming soon to the Round-up!

Happy Trails,

Henry

All Original Contents Copyright December 2016 by Henry C. Parke - All Rights Reserved


Sunday, November 13, 2016

‘VALLEY O’ VIOLENCE’ REVIEWED, PLUS INDIAN ART MARKETPLACE, ‘CALAMITY JANE’ MOVIE, AND MORE!



Ethan Hawke

IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE – A FILM REVIEW

After watching Ethan Hawke gamely slog through the bloated and rambling MAGNIFICENT 7 reboot, it’s a pleasure to see him given a real chance to act again, in the small but ambitious new Western, IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE, now in theatres and available on Amazon, iTunes and Vudu.  It’s written and directed by the aptly named Ti West, better known for horror films – V/H/S/, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL – than oaters, but he makes a strong impression in his first stab at the genre.


James Ransome

Hawke plays Paul, a troubled drifter headed to Mexico with his horse and dog, whose stop for provisions in a small town turns into a nightmare.  Gilly (James Ransome), the town bully with delusions of grandeur, tries to draw Paul into a fight, which leads to a hateful act I’ll not reveal, and Paul’s subsequent quest for revenge.  Here Paul comes into conflict with the town’s Marshal (John Travolta), who was urban the last time he was a cowboy.  He's sympathetic to Paul, but he’s also Gilly’s father. 


John Travlota

A couple of young ladies, sisters running the hotel, feature prominently: beautiful red-headed Ellen (Karen Gillan of DR. WHO and SELFIE) is Gilly’s girlfriend, who sees his shortcomings, but considers him the only man in town with a future.  Her younger sister Mary-Anne (Taissa Farmiga) is less self-absorbed, and attracted to Paul as a man, and as a way to get out of the town. 


Hawke with Taissa Farmiga

The action is exciting, the plotting sensible, the performances uniformly strong – West knows very well how to create characters and structure dramatic scenes, adding humor without getting cute.  There’s a particularly nice extended conversation between Paul and Mary-Anne, where both excel – especially the quirkily frantic but endearing Farmiga. 

It’s a good film, although not notably original.  The bully son of the prominent townsman wasn’t exactly new in ’55 when Anthony Mann used it so well against Jimmy Stewart in THE MAN FROM LARAMIE, and it became an annoying familiar cliché on episodic TV.  You can argue whether the opening, feature a fine turn by Burn Gorman as a man of the cloth, is an homage or a steal from the opening of THE SHOOTIST.  But what is inarguable is that the scene takes twice as long here as it does in the Wayne film: virtually every sequence in this film is a bit too long, a few much too long.  West is his own editor: he needs to turn the scissors over to someone a bit more ruthless.

Also, the town is too underpopulated.  At one point, one of the sisters comments that she’s not a whore, and if that’s what you want, you can find it at the saloon.  But we never see a whore, or saloon girl, or any female other than the sisters in the entire film.  Similarly, Travolta’s Marshal worries about his position in the town if he should let anything bad happen to his son.  But the town appears to consist of less people than you can count on your fingers.  It would work if it were said humorously, or if he was a madman presiding over a ghost town, but clearly there just wasn’t the budget for extras. 


The music score by West’s frequent collaborator Jeff Grace is at times Morricone-derivative but effective.  The cinematography by Eric Robbins is handsome, and his exteriors evoke Andrew Wyeth paintings.  Particularly striking are the costumes by Malgosia Turzanska, who did the same chores on the excellent HELL OR HIGH WATER.  The Blumhouse Film is expected to go to disk on December 27th


AUTRY’S INDIAN MARKETPLACE DRAWS HUGE CROWDS




This Saturday and Sunday tremendous crowds once again descended on The Autry for the annual American Indian Arts Marketplace,   where two-hundred artists from over forty tribes presented their work under an immense tent.  Painting, sculpture, jewelry, textiles – every medium and every form imaginable were included.  Among my personal favorites were a marble bison carved by Robert Dale Tsosie, traditional Hopi carved figures by Bendrew Atokuku, and the first prize for sculpture, an irornwork by Jason Reed Brown.



Outside of the tent, in addition to art and craft demonstrations and fry bread, there were kiosks with informative representatives for different concerns.  Kenneth Van Wey of the U.S. Department of the Interior Indian Arts and Crafts Board (I.A.C.B.) was eager to discuss the problem of fraudulent ‘Indian art’, and the Indian Arts and Crafts Act passed in 1990, which forbids passing off as ‘Indian Made’ any art from a different source.  The problem is widespread.  Pendleton Woolen Mills recently reached a settlement for misleading labeling of blankets as “Indian Product.”  Part of the settlement includes Pendleton donating over forty-thousand dollars to the Red Cloud Indian School’s Heritage Center in South Dakota.  Also, coordinated searches and seizures were made in New Mexico, California, and the Philippines, leading to the arrest of three New Mexicans for trying to sell Filipino jewelry as Indian-made.  Learn more at www.doi.gov/iacb


Kenneth Van Wey

At the next tent, Jim Davis of TLC, the nonprofit The Language Conservancy, reminded me that starting in 1879, it was official U.S. policy to try to erase Native American language, a policy that lasted in some cases into the 1990s.  As a result, 90% of Native American speakers are over 65; the languages are disappearing.  TLC’s mission is to save the many Native American languages by teaching them to the children of the various tribes at their reservation schools, as well as beyond the reservation.  To this end, they’ve produced dictionaries and teaching programs in Crow, Lakota, Dakota, Hidatsa, and other languages.  They’ve dubbed Berenstein Bears videos into Cherokee!  They’re active in the Dakotas, Oklahoma, Minnesota and elsewhere.  You can learn more at their website, http://www.languageconservancy.org/




The next booth belonged to our local independent station, KCET, who are marking Native American Heritage Month with a new short documentary series, TENDING THE WILD, which they are producing in collaboration with The Autry.  It’s available both digitally and on TV, and can be seen at The Autry as part of the California Continued exhibit.  Subjects include GATHERING MEDICINE, CULTURAL BURNING to prevent wildfires, and KEEPING THE RIVER, about the importance of salmon for Indians of the Klamath River.  Other related documentaries include HEALING THE WARRIOR’S HEART which examines the important role of military service in Native life, and tradition and ceremonies’ roles in reintegrating soldiers into civilian life.  You can learn more, and watch several of the shows, here: https://www.kcet.org/category/native-american-heritage-month


Saginaw Grant

You never know who you’ll run in to at these events, and I was delighted to meet Saginaw Grant, who plays Chief Big Bear in the recent LONE RANGER movie, and Screaming Eagle in THE RIDICULOUS 6.  And he has seven more projects in pre- or post-production.  As I was leaving, who was coming in but LONGMIRE star Zahn McClarnon, who was also in last year’s BONE TOMAHAWK, and has a lead role in the upcoming AMC Western series THE SON, starring with Pierce Brosnan. 


Zahn and me

A WORD ON WESTERNS TUESDAY AT THE AUTRY!


This Tuesday, November 15th, producer and Western historian Rob Word hosts his next A Word on Westerns event at the Wells Fargo Theater.  This time the topic is MAKING WESTERNS – STORIES BEHIND THE SCENES.  Rob will be looking at what skills and qualities makes for a convincing Western actor – the ability to ride and shoot and wear a ten-gallon hat without looking like a half-pint?  Those sharing their opinions and experiences will be Oscar-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr., whose Westerns include THE SKIN GAME, BLACK BART, BONANZA, and ROOTS; actress Rosemary Forsyth, whose starred in SHENANDOAH, TEXAS ACROSS THE RIVER, and the series KUNG FU; and Norman Powell, who produced LAZARUS MAN and GUNSMOKE movies, and was production manager on WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE, THE BIG VALLEY, and Sam Peckinpah’s THE WESTERNER.  Doors open at 10:30!  And head across the way for lunch and more conversation after!



OKLAHOMA! SATURDAY NOV. 19TH AT THE AUTRY!


As part of their continuing ‘What is a Western?’ series, the Autry presents OKLAHOMA!, the 1956 film version of the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein Musical that revolutionized the Musical form in the way it told its story directly through song.  Starring Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Rod Steiger and Gloria Grahame, it’s directed by that master of the Western, Fred Zinnemann, whose HIGH NOON will be shown in December.  OKLAHOMA! will be introduced by Josh Garrett-Davis, Gamble Assistant Curator of Western History, Popular Culture and Firearms.  The 35mm print will be screened at 1:30 pm in the Wells Fargo Theater.

‘CALAMITY JANE’ ANIMATED FEATURE IN THE WORKS


Calamity Jane thinking of Lucky Luke

French animators Henri Megalon and Remi Chaye, whose current animated feature, LONG WAY NORTH concerns a Russian aristocratic girl searching for her grandfather, will next tackle the extremely American story, CALAMITY JANE: A CHILDHOOD OF MARTHA JANE CANNARY, according to Deadline: Hollywood.  The film will focus on Jane as a little girl who was orphaned at ten.  As Chaye explained to DEADLINE:HOLLYWOOD’s Anita Busch, lone women and girls in the western frontier had few options for employment beyond laundry and prostitution, and some brave souls decided to try and pass as men. 


Calamity Jane thinking of Wild Bill, at his grave.

While the feminist angle is certainly a hook, Calamity Jane is not a major pop-culture figure in the U.S., despite the Doris Day musical, and the popular character in DEADWOOD, played by Robin Weigert.  But she’s a much bigger character in Europe, because of the long-time popularity of the Franco-Belgian comic strip LUCKY LUKE, which has been running since 1946, in which she was a major character.  Says Chaye, “We knew her as kids. She is part of the childhood of every French person.”

AND THAT’S A WRAP!

Luke Hemsworth

Soon I’ll be writing about my visit to the set of ABILENE, a new Western about Wild Bill Hickok, starring WESTWORLD’s Luke Hemsworth and Kris Kristoffereson, and my days at the American Film Market, tracking down new Westerns.  I just found out that the RED NATION FILM FESTIVAL is going on right now in Pasadena, and will continue through November 21st.  You can find out more at their official website: http://www.rednationff.com/

LATE BREAKING NEWS – Just learned that lovely Lupita Tovar, one of the very last stars of early talkies, has died at 106.  Among her several Westerns she co-starred with Gene Autry in SOUTH OF THE BORDER, and was the female lead in Universal’s Spanish-language version of DRACULA.


Lupita and Gene


Happy trails,
Henry
All Original Content Copyright November 2016 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved