Sunday, May 20, 2018


TRUE GRIT set photo of John Wayne
and Ethan Wayne by Phil Stern

HDNET is celebrating great Western movies with a more than week-long celebration, WESTERN ICONS WITH ETHAN WAYNE. The actor, stuntman, and youngest son of John Wayne will provide introductions to a classic double feature every night, concluding with a 24-hour marathon on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28th. There are three John Wayne classics in the line-up: THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER, THE ALAMO, and THE UNDEFEATED. The movies start at 4 pm Pacific Time, 7 pm back east. Today’s double bill is HIGH NOON and TWO RODE TOGETHER. Monday night it’s BILLY TWO HATS and YOUNG BILLY YOUNG.  Get the complete rundown at the HDNET channel on your system, or go HERE.

By Henry C. Parke
Interview Conducted May 17th, 2018

Ethan Wayne today

You may have assumed that Ethan Wayne, the youngest son of incomparable Western legend John Wayne, had the ideal boy’s life. Turns out you were right.  Then again, in 1979, when Wayne Sr. died at age 72, his 17-year-old son would face major challenges.  We discussed Ethan’s relationship with John Wayne, growing up on Western movie sets, Ethan’s career as an actor and stunt man, and his current occupation, heading both The John Wayne Cancer Institute and John Wayne Enterprises.

HENRY PARKE:       You're named after your father's character in THE SEARCHERS, one of his greatest performances, and one of his most complex characters. Was it a favorite of his?

ETHAN WAYNE:     It was. In fact, we found questionnaire from the Academy of Motion Pictures where they asked actors to list their five favorite films. And he did put THE SEARCHERS down at number five.
(Editor’s note: Ethan didn’t know the rest of the list offhand, but he’s getting me the information, and I’ll update the article when I have it.)

HENRY PARKE:       Which are your favorites of your dad's movies?

ETHAN WAYNE:     People ask me that a lot. It's a tough question for me. Obviously I love THE SEARCHERS. I love THE SHOOTIST. And I like different movies for different reasons. For me, it's sort of a window into my DNA. I get to see my dad when he was younger, because I knew him as an older man. So at different periods in my life I'd see him, when he was my age, and I could see what he looked like physically and how he moved. And I'd get that sort of, ‘oh yeah, I see where that comes from.’ For me it changes, and it might not be the greatest film, but I get to see him in a different place. But he died when I was 17, and I was lucky enough to get hired by a couple of guys to do stunt work, and that led to small acting jobs. I would never pose because I thought that my father would never pose for a photo. And it's funny, since I took the Wayne Enterprises over a few years ago, I started looking through all the photos that we’ve been collecting: he poses in everything!
I'm not coming to him from the screen, I'm coming to him, you know, as my dad. I loved my dad. I liked being on location with him, and on the boat. So, it's just different. But again, you're dealing with me having memories that are from the child.

HENRY PARKE:       Of course. I think many Americans feel a great personal connection with John Wayne, but it's nothing like your personal connection.

ETHAN WAYNE:     I didn't come to them through the screen. I didn't really start watching John Wayne films until I was older, and he was gone. So it's just different. Great Dad.

HENRY PARKE:       Was he a very involved dad when you were growing up?

ETHAN WAYNE:     Yeah, he was. When I was doing my best, it was when he had time to sit with me while I did my homework, or we'd read stories together. There was a period of time where we had that time. And then his marriage started getting tough, you know, and there were some business issues; all that starts happening, and he gets pulled away. I certainly noticed that as a young person, the difference. I couldn't articulate it at the time, but it was better when we had our time together.

HENRY PARKE:       I have a friend whose mother starred in a beloved Christmas movie, and she finds it disconcerting to walk into somebody's kitchen and see pictures of her mother all over the place. Do you ever have that kind of moment?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I'm just so used to it; it's just a part of life. You walk into homes that have displays related to John Wayne, or you go to a bar and he's painted on the men's room door (laughs). I think it's all done out of love, and I get a kick out of seeing all the different ways that people pay tribute to him. I haven't really come across anything negative with him.

HENRY PARKE:       But your dad was very controversial especially politically.

ETHAN WAYNE:     Controversial. I guess he was. He had his viewpoint, and he shared his viewpoint civilly with people who were at the far, far other end of the spectrum. And they could still get along, and they could still work together.  He was very capable of articulating his point of view and why he had certain feelings. Today we have a lot of people making a lot of noise, but they can't articulate exactly why they feel that way, and they're not doing it in a civil manner, which is not good for any of us.

HENRY PARKE:       That's very true. What's the first visit to one of your father’s sets that you can recall?

ETHAN WAYNE:     He was older when I was born, and he knew we weren't gonna have a lot of time together, and I'd eventually turn into a teenager and we'd probably spend some years apart. So he took me with him on every film. I mean, I can remember Old Tucson, and Dean Martin, so that would be RIO BRAVO. So that'd be one of the early ones. I have these small images. Probably the first true memories were TRUE GRIT. To run around and have some freedom. And then BIG JAKE, obviously I was very involved. In THE COWBOYS I was getting old enough to be independent in the sort of wild country, and I could get on a horse and leave the set and go exploring. It was terrific. Great Childhood.

Ethan and John

HENRY PARKE:       Speaking of THE COWBOYS, I find it very interesting that you first appeared with your father in RIO LOBO, and then you had a very nice part in BIG JAKE. And the next picture your dad did was THE COWBOYS. I was surprised that you weren't one of the cowboys.

ETHAN WAYNE:     It's funny. I don't know why. Maybe they didn't like, me in BIG JAKE (laughs) -- you never know. Even on BIG JAKE, I kinda remember coming home and he said, “Put this on.” And I'm like, “Why?” This is the weirdest outfit I've ever seen. Green felt shorts. Why would I put this on? “Because you're going to be in the movie. We're leaving tomorrow.” At least for me you were just sort of told, and you did it. It's like, you come home and you get your dog and we're going on a road trip. The dog has no idea what's happening. I think it was that way for me as a young guy; I honestly don't know why I wasn't in THE COWBOYS. I was there with my father, but I don't know.

HENRY PARKE:       I’ve read that you had an uncredited appearance in RIO LOBO. I just watched it again. I could not spot you. What do you do in it?

ETHAN WAYNE:      I have no recollection of being in RIO LOBO. I have seen photographs of me dressed in some sort of costume on the set, but I don't remember if I did anything. I'll have to go back to watch the movie.

HENRY PARKE:       RIO LOBO was directed by the great Howard Hawks. I know you were just a little kid, but do you have any memories of Hawks?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I do. I liked him. There was something about him, he had like a cool look. I don't know how to describe it. And some of those guys were pains, you know? Richard Boone was kind of painful to be around; you'd get pinched, or he'd put duct tape on your hair, do something to you, you know? Very antagonistic with some of those people.  But I remember Hawks was a nice guy.

HENRY PARKE:       As long as we're are talking about directors, did you ever meet John Ford?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I did. And he was my godfather. But again, I was pretty young by the time he passed and my memories of him are just like little images. Maybe the smell of a wet cigar.  That's all I’ve got.

HENRY PARKE:       How about Henry Hathaway on the TRUE GRIT set?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I was seven then. I liked Henry Hathaway too. Very nice guy, nice to me. He could wear a cowboy hat and a sweater and he looked Western but still professional. They had a good style, those guys.

HENRY PARKE:       In BIG JAKE you’re Little Jake McCandles, the kidnapped grandson of Big Jake. Did you think it was odd at the time, that you’re playing your father’s grandson and not his son?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I did. It was a little like, well that's weird. Why is that? But again, I'm like eight years old.  

HENRY PARKE:       As an eight-year-old you got to do a lot of cool stuff. You're grabbed off of horses, chased, shot at, you fire a derringer.

ETHAN WAYNE:     That was kind of normal life around our house. I mean, I can't remember a time when there wasn't a loaded gun around the house. That was a tool, like anything else. You had to do the lawn mower a certain way and you had to take care of the gun a certain way; it was just the way it was. You know, on all the movie sets, I loved the wranglers, I loved the stunt guys. And they would help me figure stuff out or show me how they did things. So it was just something that you absorb by being there. So by the time I got to actually be involved in the film, they'd drop you into the pads, or shoot squibs on you, or let you shoot the blank guns. It was just part of part of my life as a little boy,

HENRY PARKE:       It sounds like an ideal childhood to me.

ETHAN WAYNE:     You left the set, where everything's sort of make believe, and then you got on my father's boat, which was a World War II minesweeper that was converted for pleasure use. Then it was another outdoor kind of lifestyle. He gave you a lot of freedom, but he expected you to be somewhat responsible. I always had to watch my little sister (Marisa Wayne). I could never do anything that would put her in trouble. And if I did, I caught hell, even if it was a misunderstanding. There were chores, just like on the set. The boat had chores, and the boat had guns, and the boat had fishing, and the boat had exploring -- and bears, and all these things that you encountered when you were exploring British Columbia and Southern Alaska. You just had to be aware. It's like the kid who grows up on a ranch. He's aware of different things than when a kid who grows up in the city. It's just a certain set of things that you learn about.

John, Ethan and Patrick Wayne aboard the Duke's
beloved Wild Goose
from Vanity Fair

HENRY PARKE:       Any favorite memories of the shooting of BIG JAKE?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I love that I got to do the pitchfork! I loved the dogs. There was one dog that you could pet, and one that didn't want you to pet him. My tutor was a guy named Tom Hennessy, who was much bigger than my father. He has the scene in the movie where my dad hits him (and he doesn’t go down). He was a giant man and kind of a big teddy bear, but pretty gruff. I spent three hours a day in studies with him, and the rest of the time we would go into town; he'd explain why I'm learning this or that, why you do division, or how you add a percentage. He showed me in real life how that translated and it was just a great, great time. I lived with my dad, and Bruce Cabot, we all stayed in the same house. We’d make Bruce a little vodka in the morning, threw him in the shower. I helped my dad with his stuff to get ready, and read the script with my dad at night. I don't think I ever had a script. They’d just tell me what to say before we shot the scene. I’d always go to bed with my father, and he would be studying the story. 

HENRY PARKE:       How did you like Bruce Cabot?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I liked him. He was a great guy. I love my brother Patrick. He was there. Michael was a producer. We had great stunt guys. A number of guys that I grew up with were on that movie. Maureen O'Hara, Hank Warden, a family from Nogales, Arizona, the Wingfields, were there, the boys were in it. Man, it was great. I was old enough to ride away from the set on a horse, and I knew all the guys. It was just, it was really living for me.

HENRY PARKE:       Did your interest in being a stuntman start here?

ETHAN WAYNE:     No, not really. You know, if the stunt guys had their kids there, we'd run around and fake fight scenes, fall off little ledges or fall off the horse -- do whatever we could do to try to impress the older guys. After my father died, I'd reached out to (stunt coordinator) Gary McLarty about a motorcycle race somewhere and he just said, how old are you? Do you want to work? I was pretty rudderless at that time and he gave me a job. I got to be there and I got to learn and got a paycheck, and was hooked up with another guy when I got back to L.A. who put me to work on series, in the eighties.  B.J. AND THE BEAR, KNIGHT RIDER. A bunch of shows and I got little acting parts out of it. And just kind of grew.

HENRY PARKE:       Now Chris Mitchum was in RIO LOBO and BIG JAKE. And you certainly had something in common in terms of parentage. Any memories of him?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I do and I've seen Chris recently. He's come down to the office and we've talked about licensing. He's in Santa Barbara. He ran for a Congressional seat. I probably haven't seen him in a year, but it was nice to cross paths with him and see him again. He looks great. He and my brother both look very young, you know; those guys are very well preserved.

HENRY PARKE:       Your dad did not put you into movies after BIG JAKE. Do you think that your parents didn't want you to be a Hollywood kid or didn't want to push you into it?

ETHAN WAYNE:     Gosh. As soon as I was born my parents moved out of town, and then moved down to Newport Beach. Going to the set was not about (Hollywood), it was like going to the ranch. You know, where my father filmed was Durango, Mexico. Or outside of Santa Fe, or Ridgeway. We weren't near civilization. He’s my dad. That's what he did and that's what we did, and I went with him. I loved the guy, loved all the adventure, and to do my schoolwork, and not stepping in anybody's a line of sight, or block a light, or step on a cable or get in front of the camera; you know, I knew all the rules. And then, I never had a chance to talk to him about it.

HENRY PARKE:       In 1984 you did CALIFORNIA COWBOYS, aka ESCAPE FROM EL DIABLO, in Spain, with my old friend, director Gordon Hessler. What was that experience like?

ETHAN WAYNE:     That was crazy! There was a takeover of that production. Somebody was trying to put that thing together. They raised the below the line money (money for everything except star salaries), and then they were putting up the above the line money, but it was a shell game, so they're trying to pull the thing off on just what they'd gotten. And we weren't being fed, we didn't have hotel rooms. It was crazy. I called my agents and I said that this was going on and they were like, what? And so people flew over, and Gordon Hessler was stabbing the tires of the producer's car, trying to stop him from getting away with the film. Eventually the production got taken over by my agents and they ended up being producers. And they did a bunch of stuff later on.  But Gordon Hessler was such a nice man and the poor guy had to deal with three or four, like 20 year old kids (Note: Ethan’s co-stars were Timothy Van Patton, Jimmy McNichol, and the late Marilyn Burns of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE fame).

HENRY PARKE:       In THE ALAMO: 13 DAYS TO GLORY, you worked with James Arness, of course a western icon, and one who got his career-making role of Matt Dillon because your dad recommended him.

Ethan Wayne in THE ALAMO: 13 DAYS TO GLORY

ETHAN WAYNE:     He was very nice to me and an interesting man to talk to. He was a pilot and I started flying very young so I liked him. Brian Keith was there, Alec Baldwin was there. Those guys were great. It was an interesting bunch. Buck Taylor, he works a lot, he’s a great guy. We've maintained the friendship for many years because of that project. And then (director) Burt Kennedy. (Note: Burt Kennedy wrote a number of pictures for John Wayne, and directed him in THE WAR WAGON and THE TRAIN ROBBERS) Again, when I came to these guys in my early twenties, I didn't know the history. I didn't know it because when my dad died, the executors locked the house up and we were out. And then at one point I got 12 stickers, and the kids from L.A., and me and my sister, went in and put stickers on things. That's what we were able to take out, and that was it. I lived with my dad. I mean, I didn't live with my mother, and spent little time with her, and then was pretty much out of it. It was a difficult time for me, and I'm really grateful to those stunt guys for giving me just a nudge in the right direction. You know, sometimes that's all it takes to change someone's life, and they did it, so I’m forever grateful to those guys.

The Waynes at home - John, Ethan, Aissa, John's wife
Pilar, and Marisa

HENRY PARKE:       Speaking of Burt Kennedy, I read that you starred with Kris Kristofferson, Wilford Brimley, Gerald McRaney and Buck Taylor again, in COMANCHE, the true story of the only survivor of Custer’s Last Stand, a horse. It’s the last film written and directed by Burt Kennedy, but I can find hardly anything about it. Was it finished? Was it ever released?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I don't know if it was ever finished and I think he paid for it. You know, he was in the last regiment of mounted cavalry in World War II, in the Philippines. It was a story that he always wanted to see made, and it never happened, so he put this small production together and got people to go on it. I actually made a behind-the-scenes documentary on it, so I have a bunch of footage of the making of COMANCHE. But I never saw COMANCHE actually come out, and I wouldn't know where it is or who's got it. I think that was just a labor of love, something he wanted to do. He wanted to be with some friends, and those guys came out for him and we filmed it up in Canada and in Kansas, and it was just a pet project of his. Something he cared about,

HENRY PARKE:       In the 1980s and ‘90s, you acted in action films and TV series, not only in the U.S. but in Spain, Italy, Argentina. How does working internationally differ from working in the U.S.?

ETHAN WAYNE:     Oh, it differs significantly. (laughs) I got a job on a soap opera here, and that soap opera, THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, was sold a few years later to Europe, and they started at episode one. So they said, hey, we’ll go do some press for this, and when I got over there it was very popular. They ran it at night, with everybody's voices dubbed into Italian, but it became a big thing.  They did a lot of co-productions -- Italian-German, Italian- French, Italian-Spanish. And they're like, hey, will you be the Italian side of this coproduction because you're popular here. I did a few of those and I really enjoyed it. Because I would go work overseas and I'd be gone three to six months, and then I would come back home and it would be like vacation. So I can go earn some money, come back and put it into a rental, or I'd fix up an old airplane and sell it, or a boat. I would always have some project that I would do when I got back. It was pretty good. It was a little strange because sometimes you're filming with people speaking different languages and they give you a script that was translated. And the words don't work, so you try to figure out what's going on and play along. I liked every place I went, except Venezuela was tough; Caracas is a tough city. It's going through hard times down there and that was probably the only one I didn't enjoy. I'm pretty happy anywhere. I’ve worked in India. I've worked in Europe, in the city, in the country. I've worked pretty much everywhere and I'm typically happy, but that was tough in Venezuela, tough environment, tough attitude in that place.

HENRY PARKE:       I know that you started in one euro western, MA IL BUON DIO E PROPIO IN GAMBA.

ETHAN WAYNE:     I think that was one of the Italian things. It wasn't a western, it was like a six-month miniseries. The opening character is a guy who goes from Europe to South America to find his way. He goes down there and settles an area. That was me. Then I get killed and the generations start after that. But I never saw these things. I can't believe you found the name. It's funny, I felt like I had enough experience by the time I got through that European stuff to work and really be a great tool for somebody to tell a story on film. For years leading up to that, I don't think I was very prepared. It was all a learning process. You know, when you open a book and you read a couple sentences and all of a sudden, you're in that story, you're not even aware of your surroundings. That was starting to really happen for me and it's something that I thoroughly enjoyed. And it's something that I miss all the time. But when my brother Michael died, there was a void to be filled for the family business. That was also very interesting to me because I felt like what we were putting out, it was easy. It was celebrity collectible product. There's a place for it, but I didn't feel like the work had been done to try to create something timeless, and authentic, and with a level of quality that was appropriate for my father, something that maybe he would have enjoyed if he was still here and liked to have seen his name on.

In the next Round-up, the Ethan Wayne interview concludes with a discussion of his stunt work, his favorite Westerns, and his work heading both THE JOHN WAYNE CANCER INSTITUTE and JOHN WAYNE ENTERPRISES.


If you’re get Sirius Radio, it’s Jimmy Stewart Day for 24 hours today, with many episodes of THE SIX SHOOTER, guest shots on SUSPENSE, a LUX PRESENTS HOLLYWOOD version of DESTRY RIDES AGAIN, and much more. Tune in now!
Happy Trails,
All Original Content Copyright May 2018 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

Saturday, May 5, 2018



Tom Wopat and Jeff Fahey take their 
shots back to back

Alden Rockwell (Tom Wopat) and Clint Thorne (Jeff Fahey), sheriffs of neighboring Georgia counties, have been good-old-boy friends since before Vietnam. Then Alden loses his reelection bid, is widowed, and settles into a half-hearted existence as a pig-farmer who won’t slaughter his livestock because he’s given them names. Things change when Clint is shot while investigating a redneck crime family, and their links to a shadowy and sinister organization. With no legal authority, but decades of experience, Alden, at the request of Clint’s wife (Dendrie Taylor) starts poking his unauthorized nose in, and the fireworks begin.

The Prattler brothers have the drop on Jeff Fahey

Part contemporary Western, part mystery, the vigorous and enjoyable COUNTY LINE, which premieres Saturday night on INSP, has wisely teamed two stars who’ve covered lots of miles, but still have plenty of tread left. Wopat will, of course, always be remembered as Luke Duke in seven boisterous seasons of THE DUKES OF HAZARD. But he’s also appeared in the recent Westerns JONAH HEX and DJANGO UNCHAINED, on LONGMIRE, and his impressive string of Broadway Musical credits include a Tony Nomination for ANNIE GET YOUR GUN. Indie film favorite Jeff Fahey played Tyree in SILVERADO, was Ike Clanton to Kevin Costner’s WYATT EARP, and was Devil Anse Hatfield in BAD BLOOD – HATFIELDS AND MCCOYS. Recently on television, he was the Texas Secretary of War in TEXAS RISING, and impressed as Zachariah on JUSTIFIED.
Patricia Richardson plays Wopat’s potential romantic interest, a waitress at a diner that straddles the county border, with a blue stripe dividing it down the middle. Emmy-nominated four times for playing Tim Allen’s wife in HOME IMPROVEMENT, she played more dramatic roles on STRONG MEDICINE and THE WEST WING, and starred opposite Peter Fonda in ULEE’S GOLD. Abbi Butler plays Wopat’s strong and handsome daughter, who’s enlisted in the Army, and about to go overseas.

While the term ‘contemporary Western’ has lately been bestowed on any film where someone wears a Resistol hat, COUNTY LINE, written by Jon Nappa, Shea Sizemore and Jason White, and directed by Shea, earns the label. There is a clear underlying pioneer spirit to the story, a philosophy of self-reliance. It is full of likable folks who all carry guns, and aren’t coy about using them – it is said derisively of a Deputy, “He carries a shotgun like it’s a broomstick.”

Davis Osborn, Michael Ruff and Brian Durkin
as the Prattler Brothers

Along with a complex plot, there is a surprising amount of convincing choking, punching, general brawling and specific shooting, and the ladies are every bit as dangerous as the gents. Western fans will be particularly amused by the Prattler Brothers, a family of dumb but malevolent thugs who call to mind the similar trios you’d find on a BIG VALLEY or GUNSMOKE, always with a young Warren Oates or Bruce Dern, and one, Sly Prattler, played by Davis Osborne, is practically the spitting image of the king of what Strother Martin termed prairie scum, L.Q. Jones!  With considerable humor, heart, action and smarts, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it begat COUNTY LINE II, or even a series.


Singer Almeda M. Bradshaw

On Saturday and Sunday, April 21st and 22nd, the 25th anniversary of the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival was marked in a highly unusual way: free admission! Held at William S. Hart Park in Old Town Newhall, the event originally started as a cowboy poetry reading at Santa Clarita High School. Then on January 14, 1994, the Northridge Earthquake hit Southern California, destroying, among so many other structures, the gymnasium where the readings were always held. The event was going to be cancelled for lack of a venue when the Veluzat brothers, owners and operators of Melody Ranch, Gene Autry’s old Western movie town, offered the ranch as an alternative location.   

Gunspinner Joey Dillon shows a 
volunteer the ropes

With the move, the event expanded to include music, merchandise, and all manner of activities, and it grew steadily for twenty years. Then four years ago, the resurgence of the Western movie and TV show began. Melody Ranch, which had only been sporadically busy since the demise of DEADWOOD, suddenly became in demand. Quentin Tarantino leased it for a year to shoot DJANGO UNCHAINED.  HBO has leased it for multiple years to film WESTWORLD. Again, a new venue was required, and what could be more appropriate than William S. Hart Park, the home range of one of the Western film’s great stars and philanthropists.

A Buffalo Soldier and his horse

Indian dancer

Hart Park is full of historical buildings, some built there, some moved there, and on this weekend it was also full of people, couples and families and packs of friends, there to do some shopping and eating, and to soak up cowboy atmosphere, and maybe some cowboy and Indian history as well.
As long as I have been attending – about a decade now – the center of activities for me has always been The Buckaroo Book Shop which was for years run by Bobbi Jean and Jim Bell, from their nearby OutWest Boutique. Bobbi and Jim recently packed up their cowpoke finery and moved home and operations to Albuquerque, New Mexico. But they came to town on Saturday to see how the event was going. Jim Christina, a Western author often featured at the event, took over the reins of the Book Shop this year. Other Western authors who attended included SHOTGUN series creator C. Courtney Joyner, Johnny D. Boggs, D.B. Jackson, Peter Sherayko, J.R. Sanders, Bob Brill, Eric Heisner, and artist and illustrator Al Bringas.  Also ran into Western author and entertainer Troy Andrew Smith by the cowboy coffee and peach cobbler.

Susie Arredondo, Troy Andrew Smith, with Bobbi Jean
and Jim Bell

Right beside the Book Shop tent, who had just set up shop but Johnny Crawford, Mark McCain from THE RIFLEMAN, and fresh a West Virginia film shoot, where he was portraying William S. Hart in the new Western film, BILL TILGHMAN AND THE OUTLAWS.

Tea-time for this Southern Belle

Union surrender

Among the high points of the event was the twice daily Civil War reenactment. Here's a quick and sloppy glance at it --hopefully it’ll give you a sense of the event. Hope to see you there next year!


Photo by Paul Wood

This weekend the Reenactment Guild of America will be taking part in the 6th annual Ramona Old West Days in Ramona, California.  Large 19th century encampments will represent pioneers, the American Indian Wars, and the life of the cowboy. There will be hearty grub, western collectibles, and a Showdown at Sundown, where reenactment groups compete for prizes. For more information, go here:


Tom Corrigan with his dad, Ray 'Crash' Corrigan

Tom Corrigan, the Thousand Oaks restaurateur who kept the memory of his father, Ray “Crash” Corrigan, alive for decades, had died.  For more than thirty years he ran the popular Corrigan’s Steak House, which was packed with memorabilia from his father’s long career as a Western star, stunt man, gorilla portrayer, and builder and operator of Corriganville, one of filmdom’s premiere Western movie towns. Tom died in his home on March 14th, with his wife and niece by his side.


And no, I’m not dissing WESTWORLD, I just haven’t had a chance to sit down and watch it.  If you have, what do you think?

Happy Trails,


All Original Material Copyright May 2018 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 15, 2018



YELLOWSTONE, the new contemporary Western series starring Kevin Costner, will premiere on the new Paramount Network on June 20th. The creation of writer and director Taylor Sheridan, Costner stars as the head of the Dutton family, who own the largest private ranch in the country. It’s right on the doorstep our nations’ oldest National Park, and under siege by developers and an Indian reservation. Will the Duttons, and their ranch, survive?

Taylor Sheridan has accomplished a remarkable hat trick: in three years he has given us three remarkable contemporary Western crime films: SICORIO (2015), HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016), and WIND RIVER (2017) – he wrote all three, and WIND RIVER is his directorial debut.  Check out the teaser trailer:


BIG KILL, the new Western from writer-director Scott Martin and Archstone, was recently lensed in Old Tucson. It tells the story of a tenderfoot from Philadelphia, a pair of gamblers on the run, a deadly preacher (Patric), and his colorful gunslinger Johnny Kane (Phillips). They all have a date with destiny in a boomtown gone bust called Big Kill.

Here’s the first peek, featuring Lou in a role so different from his usual.


Kent McCray over Bob Hope's shoulder

Kent McCray has had a remarkable career in television from its earliest days.  His association with Westerns began when he became Production Manager on David Dortort’s BONANZA. When Dortort followed that hit with HIGH CHAPARRAL, McCray became Production Manager on both series, and on the latter met future wife Susan Sukman, who was involved in casting, and was daughter of the show’s composer, Oscar-winner Harry Sukman.

When both series folded, McCray would partner with BONANZA star Michael Landon, and together would produce LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN, FATHER MURPHY, and other series and TV movies.  With Marianne Ritter-Holmes, Kent has written his autobiography, KENT MCCRAY – THE MAN BEHIND THE MOST BELOVED TELEVISION SHOWS, and will be speaking and signing his book this Saturday, March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, at The Autry. The event will begin at 9 a.m., and the Q&A will be hosted by one of McCray’s LITTLE HOUSE stars, Dean Butler, who played Almanzo Wilder. Also attending will be other LITTLE HOUSE stars, including Matt Labyorteaux, Stan Ivar, Pam Roylance, Katherine Cannon from FATHER MURPHY, and Michael Landon’s daughter, Leslie Landon Matthews.

I had the pleasure of meeting Kent and Susan McCray at the HIGH CHAPARRAL 50th Anniversary Celebration, and got to speak with Kent at length about his career. At such length, in fact, that below I present Part One of my interview with Kent, which focuses on his years in live television, prior to his Western work.  Are Part Two and possibly a Three are on their way!

Henry Parke:      First I’ve got to tell you how much I enjoyed the High Chaparral 50th Anniversary.   Thank you so much for including me; it was just terrific.

Kent McCray:     The response we've gotten from most of fans is that they really enjoyed themselves. I think it's the last one that will ever take place, so we wanted to make it special.

Henry Parke:      Well, you certainly succeeded.  You were one of the pioneers of early TV, live TV, and your father was a pioneer early radio.

Kent McCray:     That's correct.

Henry Parke: Did his career have a large effect on your career choices?

Kent McCray:     Well, in some ways, yes. During the early '30s, when I was ten years old, he was program manager for WGIC, the radio station of Travelers [Insurance] in Hartford, Connecticut. Every night he listened to the radio, to make sure everything was done properly, so I just laid down on the floor and just listened to radio. And radio is in your mind; you have to envision where they are and what they're doing. And so I kind of got that into my head at a very early age.  He was behind me 100% in whatever I wanted to do. Except the one thing he didn't want me to do was work for NBC. (laughs)

Henry Parke:      Which, of course, you did end up doing.

Kent McCray:     That's right. It all blew over after he realized I was on my own, and he was not part of it. But he helped me with the initial letters and calls to a TV station in Hollywood, not NBC. And that was the initial call that got me into thinking about television

Henry Parke:      Before that, as a young man you wanted to act on stage and study at Yale, but a special opportunity introduced you to a very different part of the theater.

Kent McCray:     That's correct.   What happened, the Julius Hart College of Music, which is now part of the University of Hartford was a separate music college, and my dad used a lot of their professors and string quartets on the radio. So the head of the art school and his family became very close to my family through the years. I was acting in a play in prep school up in New Hampshire, and my dad asked me if I liked that end of it. I said I liked I like being an actor, but I liked the backstage work best. I thought that Yale was the best opportunity for theater art. And my dad suggested that I talk to Dr. Nagy, because he had taught at Yale and might have some pointers. I was on a spring break, working in a flower shop, and went down and talked to Dr. Nagy one afternoon. I had a very nice chat with him. I liked him, and he suggested some books. I went back to work. I got a call a few days later. He said, I need to talk to you again. I have a deal for you you won't refuse. Well that kind sparked my interest.  I got off work early, went down and talked to him, and he said, I will teach you the course I taught at Yale, all your other courses at the college will be free. But, you have to work for me as many hours as I want you. In a sense you are my slave.   I said I can't ask for a better deal than that. So that's how I went to the art school and music. And I was there four years. I couldn't get a degree in theater arts because that's not one of the credited courses that the school had at the time; I was the only person that ever did that, and they didn't have one after I left.

Henry Parke:      You were there at the right time.

Kent McCray:     Yeah. He was a very clever, clever man, very artistic, very precise. He wanted everything done in his way of thinking. He didn't turn on the light with a switch, he turned it on with a dimmer, very slowly, and kept tempo with the music. I learned everything about stage from him.

Henry Parke:      And how did the things you learned from him prepare you for your future career in live and filmed TV? 

Kent McCray:     Stage work is stage work, and whether it be live or now television, it's pretty much the same. You need scenery, you need lighting: all those things I learned to do on a stage with opera. My final year with Dr. Nagy, we were doing an opera. He turned to me and he said, “You light it.” I said, “What?” He said, “I'm not going to tell you where to put up lights. You put them where you think they should be.” I did and he critiqued that, he changed things, but he let me learn. I never had a class with him. We'd be in the car and he'd start asking me questions. He'd say give me 200 or 300 words about that. That's how I got my education. I couldn't ask for anything better.

Henry Parke:      When you moved on to live television, you were working on the Colgate Comedy Hour, which is just something I'm crazy about. And you worked with great stars. Martin and Lewis, Jimmy Durante, Eddie Cantor, and Abbott and Costello.

Kent McCray:     Yeah, there were two shows.  The All-Star Revue was on Saturday night, and Colgate Comedy Hour was on Sunday.  Most of the stars in those days were great. Now television was being done in New York. The stars had to fly to New York, stay there for a few weeks, disrupt their family life. Then with the advent of the coaxial cable, which was put in place in 1951, you were broadcasting on a phone line from here (California) to New York. So, if we went on out here at six, they could see the show at 9:00 in New York, live. Of course, the recording we could get out of it was called a kinescope, an electronic copy of the show which quality-wise was very poor.

Henry Parke:      Don't stand up much to rebroadcast.

Kent McCray:     When my dad was on radio, he was asked to go to Florida by an agent to look at this comedy (act) routine, which was Martin and Lewis. He put them on NBC radio and they were doing fairly well, but they're ratings started to drop off. So, he put through a memo to the lawyers to cancel their contract. But in their initial contract, if they weren't notified of cancelation by a certain date, they were automatically picked up for another year. Well, the lawyers goofed up somewhere along the line, and Martin and Lewis were on the radio two more years, and then made the move to television.

Henry Parke:      They probably did better work on television in the movies.

Kent McCray:     Ah, well, it's a different format. They loved live television. Jerry Lewis was great. If they had a gag that didn't work, he'd walk off the stage and bring the prop man onstage to fix it live on the air.  It was a great time. I loved live television -- other than the fact that you were bound by the clock. If you had an hour show, and you went on at 6 o'clock, you were automatically cut at seven.  We had to do what we called back timing on a lot of things that were in the show, and the credits were always the first things to go, to be cut.  Once on the Red Skelton Show, he opened with the closing credits. He said, "These are the people who were cut. Their names were never seen last week because I ran too long.”

Henry Parke:      What sort of work were you doing on these shows? 

Kent McCray:     I was hired by a gentleman named Earl Reddick, who was head of production for NBC Television. He said we like what we see on paper, but we know nothing about you. We'll put you on, on a week to week basis. I said okay. I can't ask for anything better. I never got a day off until May! NBC only had one theatre big enough to do a variety show, and that was the Palace Theatre, then called the El Capitan, which they rented. It was right across the street from Capital Records Building on Vine Street.

For both shows to air, one on Saturday, one on Sunday, they rehearsed at the rehearsal hall during the week. On Wednesday and Thursday, I did all the sets for the All-Star Revue in the Palace, so on Friday morning they could rehearse on camera. Friday night all those sets were taken out in big trucks, and we would bring in the sets for the Colgate Comedy Hour. They would rehearse on Friday, we’d take out the sets that night, on Saturday bring in the All-Star Revue sets, and go on the air with that, and the sets would go down to the scene dock, and we'd bring back the Colgate Comedy Hour, so they could be there on Sunday night. That was one of my first assignments, juggling these sets going in and going out. They only had one engineering crew that did both shows.

Henry Parke:      What was it like working with Groucho Marx on You Bet Your Life?

Kent McCray:     Well, Groucho Marx's company had been shooting the show for a number of years and they weren't happy. They wanted a different studio, closer to Vine Street because that's where all the people congregated, around Hollywood and Vine, to get onto TV shows. NBC had converted an old radio studio into a television studio, and I was in charge of following through with the design. We had to take seats for the band, had to put in a grid above for the lights, all the equipment had to come in. Groucho Marx was one of the funniest men I've ever worked with, and I've worked a lot of talents. (For You Bet Your Life), the writers and the director would interview a contestant.  There were no teleprompters in those days, but you remember in the old days, in bowling alleys, when you would write your score, and it would be projected above? Well, the director would put a one-line thing up there for Groucho to ask the contestant. He would ask the contestant the one line, and he would take off, and it was all ad-lib -- there was no script. I thought he was very clever.

Henry Parke:      You went on to be associated with Bob Hope for quite a while and did big Christmas shows at military bases all over the world. How did you link up with Bob and what was he like to work with?

Kent McCray:     Well, I had just finished up a show on film called Matinee Theatre, and I was told that Bob wanted to film a show in Alaska. He asked if I could put a show together, and I said, Hell yes! I went up on a survey to see what the facilities were like. Put a crew together, we took off. We did five or six shows in Alaska between Anchorage and Fairbanks. It was quite an experience because of the weather -- it was colder than Hell, and always dark. Bob decided he wanted to enter stage pulled by a sled dog.  So, I had to go find somebody who had a sled-dog who could pull Bob through the (saloon) batwing doors. After that, the gentleman who had been associate producer with Bob Hope for a number of years wanted to make a change. Bob hired me.  Well I can't say enough about him. He was a wonderful, caring person. We had a few cross words, but very rarely. He was always very pleasant. One night we were going over things at his office. It was dinner time. "Come on over and have dinner with us." I sat down at the table with his family and he was just like a father. "What did you do today? What did you learn in school?" He was a completely different character. He wasn't telling jokes, he wasn't trying to be funny, he wanted to know, truly, how his kids were doing.  He had a friend, Charlie Cooley, who was with him in vaudeville, When Bob moved to California he brought Charlie Coooley out here, bought him a house. And then Charlie got quite ill. Lots of times Bob would walk over to his house, and he didn't like to walk alone. I would walk over with him. The association with him was wonderful.

Henry Parke:      He sure cared about our soldiers and sailors around the world.  

Kent McCray:     Did he ever. It all started in the '40s, during the war, when one of his writers had a buddy posted at March Air Force Base in Southern California.  He says, why don't we take the show and do it up there? They're dying for entertainment. Well that sounded terrific.  He started doing the radio shows at different camps, and then took them overseas. When he did the radio shows, it was just he, a piano player and a drummer and a singer. It wasn't a big crew. When we sat down to plan the first Christmas show to the Orient, we ended up having 76 people in the crew.

Henry Parke: That’s quite a jump!

Kent McCray:     This was all very sudden: I got a passport in one day, because it was Bob.  Anyway, from Travis Air Force base we flew out, and after an hour we lost a motor and had to turn back, and then we lost the second motor, and slid into Travis Air Force Base. 

Bob Hope was just wonderful. All the comedians were different. They learned radio, but their background was vaudeville, so they understood timing. They knew how to tell a joke, and their jokes weren't dirty. They were double entendres, a couple of them, but very rarely was there ever a dirty joke out of one of the comics at that time.  Bob couldn't sleep at night. He never slept a full night. He would call, say I think we should do this or do that. I'd had a pad of paper by my bed to write down what he was saying. He called me one time, told me a joke, then said how did you like that joke? I said, I'll be honest with you. I don't think it's very funny. And all he said is, 'wait.' I wait. We did the show, and with his timing, with his pauses, with his look, it brought down the house.  And all he did was look at me, and point his finger, like, 'I told you.'

When I left to go overseas, there were two other gentlemen who went with me. We left the day after Thanksgiving, we went to all the bases we were going to perform at.  The choices came out of Washington, the USO, we had nothing to say in the matter. 

We loaded into 21 different bases, Okinawa, Korea. We had to have transportation, food for people, lodging for people, the stage set up, the platforms for the cameras, platforms for the lights – it was quite a chore to get everything organized. For that one month, when I was in the military, my civilian rank was one-star general. They told me, when you’ve got to get a good place to sleep, you’ll get the best. If you started getting in trouble with anybody, flash them your orders. If some sergeant doesn’t want to do something for you, flash him your orders: it’ll get done. I only had to use them a few times, but I always had that piece of paper in my pocket.  What we basically did was a two-hour stage show, and I had to get everybody on with the right cue – that was just a side job I did. We did 21 shows in fourteen days, including travel. All the generals, of course, always wanted Bob Hope to come out to their house for dinner. I think it was to show off. But Bob told me going in, “I don’t go to any house for dinner. If they want to throw a party for the 76 of us, that’s fine. But no one in this group works any harder than the boy who puts out the music for the band. We’re all working our tails off to get it done. And I will not go to anybody’s house by myself.” He really loved performing. The writers would hit every base, they were making fun of this General or that Colonel, drop somebody’s name, and the troops went nuts. One of the other things I had to do was to make sure at every base where we had a refueling stop, that Mr. Hope had a car and driver waiting, to go to the base hospital, to see the men who couldn’t get to the show. And he would walk through the wards – I went with him a couple of times, but it was too heart-wrenching. I couldn’t take it. These guys – it was after the Korean War. And all these guys with lost legs, busted arms, all kinds of things, all laying in bed, with scowls on their face. But by the time Bob left, they were all laughing. I always respected him for that. He was gentle.

Henry Parke:  Nicer than Dinah Shore?

Kent McCray: (laughs) You can say it, but I won’t. We referred to her as the chocolate-covered black widow spider. That kinda gives you a clue, doesn’t it?

Kent McCray Part Two, The Western Years, coming soon!



In Bufort, Texas, in the summer of 1958, two men who feel they have nothing to lose, meet by chance. Harland Cain is an aging small-time rancher with a medical death sentence and nothing to look forward to. Dodger is a cripple-legged teenager living with a useless, drunken mother and her violent boyfriend, and sees no hope. They meet up while trying to end it all, and when Harland takes the boy under his wing, they each start having something to live for. But when their horses are rustled during an overnight campout, trailing the stolen animals into Mexico sets dramatic wheels into uncontrollable motion that will leave you breathless to finish the adventure. 

D.B. Jackson, whose previous novels include the fine UNBROKE HORSES and THEY RODE GOOD HORSES, has created strikingly real characters whose personalities and problems draw you in. Dodger is the adolescent who’s smart enough to think things through, but whose youthful impatience leads him to deadly mistakes. Harland is a man whose pride and sense of honor won’t let him walk away and cut his losses even when it’s the far safer path.  
With a publication date of May 15th, from Turner Publishing, it will retail for $17.99.  You can order it HERE 


About eight years ago, when I first started writing the Round-up, a woman took issue with a positive review I gave a movie, commenting, “I don’t consider a movie a Western if there isn’t even one saloon fight.” She has a point – there’s nothing like the vicarious thrill of a knock-down, drag-out fight to bring a smile to one’s face.  If you like on-screen fighting, you’ll love Gene Freese’s new book, CLASSIC MOVIE FIGHTS – 75 YEARS OF BARE KNUCKLE BRAWLS, 1914-1989.  Arranged chronologically, whether your taste runs to John Payne vs. Lee Van Cleef and Neville Brand in KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL, Alan Ladd vs. Ben Johnson in SHANE, Ronald Reagan vs. Preston Foster in LAW AND ORDER, or The Filling Station Brawl in IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD, they’ve got you covered, with plenty of biographic and filmographic details about the on-screen participants, fight choreographers, stunt doubles, and production notes. The more I read, the longer my list of movies to rewatch grows. The amount of detail Freese imparts in his breezy style is astonishing.

The reason he chose to start with 1914 was for that year’s THE SPOILERS, and the first great movie fight – there was no such thing as stunt fighting, and stars William Farnum and Tom Santschi just beat the living hell out of each other on-camera. Why does he stop in 1989? Because by 1990, the rise of CGI, flashy cutting and purposely shaky cameras made it hard to even watch a fight on-screen. CLASSIC MOVIE FIGHTS is published by McFarland, costs $45, and can be ordered HERE  or ordered by calling 800-253-2187.


When a set of movies has such a generic title, and at $24.98, such a reasonable price, there’s a tendency to assume it’s a bunch of public domain, hard-to-watch cheapies. Nothing could be further from, the truth. This is a remarkable selection of Columbia Pictures Westerns on six discs, and the quality is first-rate. Included are many Randolph Scott films, including all of the fabled Ranown/Scott Budd Boetticher films with the exception of 7 MEN FROM NOW, which was a Batjac, Warner Brothers picture.  There are several titles starring Glenn Ford and William Holden, including ARIZONA, the movie they built Old Tucson Studios for. If your taste runs to Bs, there are Charles Starrett DURANGO KID films, and even two Tim McCoys and a Buck Jones that all feature a young John Wayne. To get the complete list, and to order collection, go HERE.


In the next Round-up I'll have details about a TOMBSTONE 25th reunion that'll take place June 30th and July 1st in the actual town of Tombstone, Arizona!

Happy Trails,


All Original Material Copyright March 2018 by Henry C. Parke - All Rights Reserved