Sunday, December 21, 2014
THE MAKING OF ‘BOONVILLE REDEMPTION’ PART 2
Kassandra Voyagis, Ed Asner & Pat Boone
In last week’s Round-up, I shared part one of my visit to the set of BOONVILLE REDEMPTION at Paramount Ranch (if you missed it, the link is HERE . If you missed my earlier story about being ‘background’ on the film, that link is HERE .) Here is the conclusion of my report, beginning with my interview with director Don Schroeder.
DON SCHROEDER Interview
HENRY: How did you get involved in this project?
DON SCHRODER: Judy Belshe-Toernblom called up just before Christmas in 2012 and asked, “How would you like to direct a feature film?” Okay! Can I look at the script? And it was really quite wonderful, so I accepted immediately. It’s a great opportunity – a great story. The first thing I said after I read it is, I could do this. Even though it’s my first feature, believe it or not I’ve made two or three-hundred other films.
HENRY: What sort of the films were the others?
DON: Mostly I’ve been doing informational films, public service announcements, documentaries, that sort of thing. I’ve won Emmy Awards for documentaries, and I won a Golden Angel Award for a narrative film I directed Robert Mitchum and Rhonda Fleming in.
HENRY: Wow, tell me about that one.
DON: It was called WAITING FOR THE WIND; it was a thirty-minute special for Lutheran Television, in the 90s. It’s about a farmer with a boat on his pasture, who’s always wanted to sail around the world. Robert Mitchum played the farmer, and Rhonda Fleming played his wife.
HENRY: Had you done any westerns before BOONVILLE?
DON: No, that’s what’s so exciting about this.
HENRY: What do you see as the big differences between doing a western, and the other genres you’ve worked in?
DON: Well, the thing about a Western is the technology is 19th century. So much of our world today is digits, but in the 19th century they had a physical world, and what’s great thing about that is it’s cinematic. Because you’re dealing with things, objects, and you interact with the world.
HENRY: Were there any surprises things you didn’t anticipate in a Western until you were actually doing it?
DON: The horses – you’re really don’t know what it’s like to work with them until you get there. And I really respect the wranglers, because they’re very safe. The thing about horses is they’re horses; they’re not people. The wranglers have really been careful. You have to think how a horse is going to think. You don’t put things over their heads, for example; that can excite them. They like to have friends around, they don’t like to work by themselves; they’re herd animals. With movie-trained horses, when you say “action” they understand they’re supposed to act. But sometimes if you yell “Action!” loud enough they’ll start to run. It’s very different working with horses; it’s been a lot of fun.
HENRY: You’re again working with very familiar actors – Pat Boone, Ed Asner, Diane Ladd. What is the difference in your approach, working with known actors like that, versus people who are certainly talented but not necessarily well known?
DON: I used to recoil at the idea of working with big stars, and it finally dawned on me that the reason they’re name talent is they’re really good! So, it’s been a dream – the casting that Judy’s done has been just spectacular. You expect that the actors bring something to the party; that they not only know their lines, but they’ve thought about the character, know what their backstory is. What mannerisms they may have developed. And these people are real pros – they do that, they bring something to the party, and it’s always more than you expected. Diane Ladd was just spectacular, and amplified the role way beyond anything we expected.
HENRY: I understand she does part of her role in Boontling. What is it like directing in an almost foreign language?
DON: She had a little trouble with Boontling; it was difficult for her, and I have to give her credit, because she mastered it. She did a beautiful job. It was like doing a part in a foreign language; she had some long speeches with Boontling, and she was fine.
HENRY: Would you call the film’s genre more of a western or a mystery?
DON: I would call it a family drama. It’s set in 1906, Boonville, California, and primarily a family drama.
HENRY: Who do you see as the natural audience for this film?
DON: That’s a good question. It’s a family film. I’m sort of pointing it at a thirteen-year-old girl because that’s the protagonist.
HENRY: What should I know about you, and this production, that I don’t know?
DON: You know what really helps is to have the executive producer. Judy’s been 35 years doing casting, and it’s made an enormous difference. Because she has really gathered a tremendous cast. I don’t mean just the lead parts, the name parts, but all the rest of the roles are character people with years and years of experience. She chose carefully, and we have a tremendously rich cast, which makes my job a whole lot easier.
HENRY: I know that you’re a film teacher at Loyola Marymount University, as well as a filmmaker. Which is good, because there are so many who teach it, who have never done it. And we are now a generation where most of us in the business have gone to film school. I went to NYU.
DON: I went to U.S.C.
HENRY: How does working with students and training new filmmakers effect what you do on-set?
DON: What’s fun is the other way around – what I do here effects how I go about teaching. Now this experience is so rich I’ll be able to bring a lot of it back to the classroom. The kind of equipment we need to have, what goes into making a shot. We have a behind-the-scenes photographer, one of my former students, taking pictures. And I gave her an assignment; I told her I’d like you to shoot all of the different elements that go into making one good shot. And it’s really remarkable, the amount of preparation that it takes to get one good shot.
HENRY: What kind of camera are you using?
DON: This is a Red One camera. It’s digital HD technology, but not the absolute latest. It’s just a little bit older, and my director of photography, Virgil Harper, knows how to get the very best out of it. We’re getting an incredibly good look – the visual is just stunning.
HENRY: A lot of people are very upset at the disappearance of celluloid in exchange for digital. How do you feel about it?
DON: I understand the purists, and in truth film is still a long-term preservation medium. But when you can control each pixel on the screen, you really don’t need film. You can make it look like anything. So as far as I’m concerned, film is unnecessary except for archival purposes.
HENRY: Are you interested in making the video look like film, or do you just let it look the way it looks?
DON: No, there’s a whole lot that goes into making a film look cinematic. And Virgil knows those secrets; I don’t. But there’s a lot involved with setting up the chips so that they record a cinematic look. You can do that also in post, but he’s doing that here with the way he’s set up the camera, and filtration. He uses a lot of filters to give it that cinematic look.
HENRY: Have you given thought to the music you’re going to use?
DON: Well, you know one of the stars is Pat Boone, and he’s going to sing a song at the big wedding party at the end. He’s going to sing ‘Old Time Religion,’ and everyone’s going to be dancing to that. Also, one of our actors, Nicholas Neve, plays the violin; we discovered that in auditions, and we’ve woven that into the story. Beautiful, beautiful scene where he says goodbye to Grandma Mary, not knowing that this is the last goodbye. And he plays ‘Just As I Am’ as he walks down the road by himself, beautiful sun going down behind him.
HENRY: Do you have any favorite Westerns?
DON: Virgil and I watched a lot of them. John Ford Westerns are of course the best. The control of the frame – he gets the right things in front of the camera, and he arranges them so cinematically. John Ford is by far the best teacher for Westerns – without question. There’re others too, but nobody measures up.
EMILY HOFFMAN interview
Emily Hoffman plays Melinda, the thirteen-year-old whose search for her father’s identity is the core of BOONVILLE REDEMPTION’s story. We didn’t have much time to chat, because she was in virtually every shot on the day I was there, but we talked for a minute or two between takes, while she petted a horse. She, and Nicholas Neve, who plays Melinda’s companion, Shakespeare, are two of the nicest, most enthusiastic, genuine, and patient kids I’ve ever met on a set.
HENRY: Is this your first starring feature?
EMILY HOFFMAN: Yes it is, and it’s really exciting. It’s a big thing for me, and it’s surreal, I’ll tell you. I’ve been getting used to it, and how it works, and it’s awesome.
HENRY: How long have you been filming?
EMILY: I’ve been acting since I was six and a half; but I’ve been filming this movie for about three weeks now.
Pat Boone & Emily
HENRY: What had you done previously?
EMILY: I’ve done some short films. I’ve done some music videos, voice-overs, and modeling.
HENRY: I’m guessing this is your first Western.
EMILY: Yeah (laughs) It’s so cool to see what they wore back then; how there was no air-conditioning back then, which sucks. And how they acted. It’s cool.
After the 1906 Earthquake --
Emily and Nicholas Neve
HENRY: Is this your first period film of any kind?
EMILY: I believe so and it’s awesome. I like to time-travel.
PETER SHERAYKO Interview
Ever since TOMBSTONE, where he played Texas Jack Vermillion before the camera, and was in charge of the authenticity of props, costumes, saddles and the expert riders known as the The Buckaroos, Peter Sherayko has been the go-to guy for getting Westerns right. He’s written a pair of books, TOMBSTONE: THE GUN AND GEAR, and THE FRINGE OF HOLLYWOOD – THE ART OF MAKING A WESTERN – you’ll find his site HERE. I asked Peter what his job is on
Peter Sherayko and me
PETER SHERAYKO: We at Caravan West are doing everything – the props, the set dressing, the costumes, the horses, the saddles, and the guns, and Sheri Keenan, my assistant, is handling all of the background people. That’s the Caravan West side of it. The Peter Sherayko side of it is I’m the armorer. It’s not a gun-heavy movie, it’s a gun-light movie. And I’m also the stunt coordinator, and I’m playing the part of Jack, who is ranch-hand to the main bad guy.
HENRY: Now you were just recently working on the second season of QUICK DRAW, the Hulu series, here at Paramount Ranch.
PETER: We finished that earlier this year. The second season of QUICK DRAW comes out in August, and we’re anxiously waiting for a third season to come up. And Nancy and John, who are the producers, director and star of the show, want us to come back and do more stuff. They just did an interview with the L.A. Times, and the reporter called me up, wants to interview me regarding the Buckaroos, and putting everything into the shows.
HENRY: Terrific – that’s the kind of exposure you want.
PETER: It would be nice to be in the L.A. Times, yes. The end of last year we did HOT BATH, STIFF DRINK2, and I just got a call that we’re going to do HOT BATH, STIFF DRINK 3. But then I’m negotiating with another show, it’s a ten-episode documentary series for FOX TV. They want me to do everything – not only what we normally do, but they also want me to get the medic, and the water truck, and the fire department and the permits, and hotels. The company is Warm Springs, and they’re out of Montana. They’re the ones who do the series MOUNTAIN MEN. So the supervising producer, we’ve worked together on four different shows. And he just said, when we do a Western series, we know who to call.
HENRY: Would this be a show done in Montana?
PETER: No, it would be done here. We plan on doing ten weeks, five days a week. Three days a week at my ranch, and they want to book Melody Ranch for the other two days, to do the recreations.
HENRY: So it’s documentary recreations of what?
PETER: Documentary series on ten people: Davy Crockett, Butch Cassidy, Wild Bill Hickok, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Kit Carson, Custer, the real Lone Ranger – supposedly the Lone Ranger was based on a real character, but not so much like Clayton Moore played him. Black Bart, and there’s one more that escapes me – it’s like trying to name the seven dwarfs.
HENRY: How did you get involved in BOONVILLE REDEMPTION?
PETER: Don, the director called me last year, and he said he was trying to do this nice family movie about this little girl and her mother. We came out, shot here one day, and we did about four scenes. They cut it together, and then they tried to raise the money all year. And they raised the money, and they called me about two months ago. They said Ed Asner’s going to be on the movie, Pat Boone, Diane Ladd, Robert Hayes, me, and can you put everything together? I said yeah, I’d be glad to. We’re doing a 24 day shoot and having a great time.
HENRY: Twenty-four days – that’s a long shoot.
PETER: It’s a long shoot. I’m working as an actor about eight days, I’m working as a stunt coordinator three days, and supervising everything else is every other day – every day.
HENRY: What’s so far been the biggest challenge on this production?
PETER: The biggest challenge for me is getting everything right with very little preparation time. We have a very tight schedule. We have a different designer. I have a way of doing things, and they have their way, and it took a few weeks until I could get into their rhythm. I know the West. I always pre-plan everything. I look at every set that’s there, I go this is what’s going to go in this set: this, this, this and this. And I get it all lined up. Other people work in a different way. So they didn’t line it up. And then they have people pulling it, but it’s not the stuff that I’m saying to pull, so it’s kind of a hectic thing.
HENRY: When you say pulling it, you mean pulling props.
PETER: Going to my ranch, going to the buildings and getting the props. I’m literally doing nine jobs on this movie, and I can’t be at all places at all times.
HENRY: You’re a purist when it comes to historical accuracy. So when you’re, let’s say, picking saddles, how many saddles would you have of your own to choose from?
PETER: I have over sixty period saddles. So it’s 1906; I’m playing the ranch hand, for instance, who is the old guy. So the saddle that I’m riding in the movie, my character bought twenty-odd years ago. So it’s an 1880s saddle, not a 1906 saddle. But for the sheriff as well as the deputy, I have a loop-seat saddle that came out in the mid to late 1880s. Then for the main bad-guy, Maddox, I have a brand-new saddle of the 1900 period. So depending on who it is, I’m designing every saddle.
HENRY: So you’re casting saddles to characters.
PETER: I’m casting saddles as well as firearms. For Maddox, I have him having an 1877 Colt Lightning, a double-action gun which they made into the early 20th century, which you don’t usually see in movies. For his throw-away gun I’m using an 1890s style double-action top-break gun. And the sheriff and the deputy, who are the only other ones in the movie carrying guns, I’m giving them Colt single actions. The Colt single actions from 1902 to 1906, that’s the gun they made the most of, so I’m giving them the standard gun of that time
HENRY: So that late, into the 20th century, they were still making more single-action than double-action guns?
PETER: They were making more single-actions in the early part of the 20th century. They may have been making them because they had more parts to put together, so they said, let’s get rid of these, so we can start promoting the newer style guns, but historically that’s what they were doing. And because it’s California 1906, that’s basically what a lawman would be carrying.
HENRY: Looks like quite a bit of rolling-stock out there. Are they yours?
PETER: Yes, I have seven wagons on the show. I had four; I just purchased three more.
HENRY: Are these reproductions?
PETER: No they’re all originals; they could go back as far as the 1880s. I found three of them in June when I was doing a book-signing in Grass Valley. I found a guy who had twenty wagons.
SHERI KEENAN Interview
HENRY: How long have you worked with Peter Sherayko?
SHERI KEENAN: About a year and a half. I live in the next town, in sister towns. There was a write-up about him in our local magazine, and it sounded like it fit my background pretty well, and I thought I might be able to assist him. So I wrote him an introductory letter. He called me right back, and here I am.
HENRY: Is this your first job in the film industry?
Sheri Keenan -- made up for the earthquake
SHERI: In the film industry proper, yes, but not my first job in the entertainment industry. I worked for Disney for fourteen years. I started off at the Park, which was really fun, and then I moved on to Imagineering.
HENRY: How many Westerns have you worked on since you started working for Peter?
SHERI: What’s interesting about that is I think I’ve worked on as many non-Westerns as Westerns, which I didn’t expect. One thing about the western genre is, even though it’s a western, it could be a commercial, or it could be a rock video. The other thing is, Peter has his ranch, which we utilize for locations quite a bit, and that brings in all sorts of other projects, and other times periods. They wanted it to look like Jonestown, in South America the other day, and flew in an airplane. So you just never know – that’s the exciting part of the job.
HENRY: You fit me with clothes and boots for this one. Are you the background wardrobe person on this one?
SHERI: I can’t take credit for that. Peter is unique in that when he supplies background, they come prepared dressed and ready-to-go, in their period attire. For this we’ve had a lot of women, which we don’t normally have in a Western. They have their own wardrobe, but I am doing more and more wardrobe.
HENRY: What are your duties on this production?
SHERI: My title on this is background casting. And because Peter is also doing set design and props and wardrobe, and is required on the set, and I get to come out for that as well.
HENRY: Where do you see the Western industry going? Do you expect to see more and more?
SHERI: I certainly hope so, for my future of course, selfishly so. It does seem like we’re heading into a resurgence, an upswing of interest.
Sheri among the 'backgrounds'
HENRY: Do you ride?
SHERI: I do, I grew up trail-riding, and competing every once in a while in horse shows.
HENRY: Have you gotten on a horse in any of these productions?
SHERI: Sadly, no. Not much call for a riding lady in the 1880s. however, I do ride quite often at the ranch with Pete.
When I contacted writer/executive producer Judy Belshe-Toernblom to find out where the production stands, she was enthusiastic. “We believe we are in our last edits. We then will proceed to color corrections, sound, v.o. work (looping) and finally music. We have some great interest but are waiting until it is in the highest form it can be for showing to distributors. We have had some test screenings and the feedback from them has been so helpful. We hope to get a 2015 release. This is all in the Lords hands but we are using the hands that He gave us to help. It's like Joel Osteen says "Do all that you can and then God will do what you can't." I’ll keep posting updates as thing progress, but you can also check out the official website HERE.
‘99CENT MOVIE NETWORK’ LAUNCHES WITH FOUR WESTERN COLLECTIONS!
As promised, the folks behind the Movies & Music Network have launched a new streaming movie network called the 99centNetwork. They’re going to be offering several ten-film collections – including four different Western collections – and you can select any three movies from a collection for ninety-nine cents! For $1.99, you can buy all ten! Heck, for eight bucks you can buy all forty Westerns! And these films are yours to stream for life – you can even share ‘em with your friends! There’s some cheap Christmas shopping for you!
They’re also offering movie collections in other genres, including, horror, sci-fi, holiday, and something called Pink Eiga, which appears to be Japanese soft porn. But let’s talk about Westerns! In Collection #1, high points include ONE-EYED JACKS, directed by and starring Marlon Brando; Monte Hellman’s Spaghetti Western CHINA 9, LIBERTY 37, starring Warren Oates; Dennis Hopper in the Aussie Western MAD DOG MORGAN; Lesley Selander’s BUCKSKIN FRONTIER with Richard Dix and a great supporting cast; two Roy Rogers films; a Buster Crabbe, and more. Collection #2 features, among others, Sam Peckinpah’s first Western, DEADLY COMPANIONS; two Bob Steeles; three Roy Rogers; and Enzo Castellari’s excellent ANY GUN CAN PLAY, starring Edd Byrnes, George Hilton and Gilbert Roland – incidentally, Enzo was in L.A. last week, speaking at USC, screening KEOMA, and discussing a new Western he’s planning with Franco Nero.
Collection #3 includes THE BIG TREES starring Kirk Douglas; Zane Grey’s FIGHTING CARAVANS starring Gary Cooper; the Spaghetti Western, BETWEEN GOD, THE DEVIL, AND A WINCHESTER, starring Richard Harrison and Gilbert Roland; the Israeli Western KID VENGEANCE, starring Lee Van Cleef and Leif Garrett; and Randolph Scott in ABILENE TOWN. Finally, Collection #4 includes KANSAS PACIFIC, starring Sterling Hayden, and featuring Reed Hadley as Quantrill; Howard Hughes’ infamous THE OUTLAW; DEATH RIDES A HORSE, starring Lee Van Cleef, and featuring a great Ennio Morricone score; Don Red Barry’s laughably bad and thoroughly enjoyable JESSE JAMES WOMEN; and the very interesting-sounding Mexican-shot JORY, starring Robby Benson and John Marley. Check out the site HERE , and please let me know what you think!
ARTHUR GARDNER DIES AT 104
Arthur Gardner, who came to Hollywood to be an actor, then became a very successful producer of series like THE RIFLEMAN and THE BIG VALLEY, and features like SAM WHISKEY and THE SCALPHUNTERS, has died at 104. After playing a small role as a German soldier in ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, he joined the First Motion Picture Unit of the Army Air Force during World War II, helping make military training films at Hal Roach Studios. There he met the two men who would become his production partners, Jules Levy and Arnold Levin, who would form GARDNER-LEVY-LEVIN PRODUCTIONS, a company whose name became synonymous with ground-breaking, high-quality Western productions for big-screen and small.
Johnny Crawford, who starred in THE RIFLEMAN as Mark McCain, recalled on his Facebook post, “I first met him in January 1958. One day, after school, my mother drove me to Hal Roach Studios to be interviewed for an episode of Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater. That episode was also the pilot for The Rifleman, and Mr. Gardner was one of the producers. He was a great role model and a dear friend for many years.” Even at age 102, Gardner was still going into his company’s Beverly Hills office regularly.
His autobiography was entitled THE BADGER KID. Below is part one of Arthur Gardner’s interview from the Archive of American Television.
‘RIO BRAVO’, ‘LITTLE BIG MAN’ OTHER WESTERNS ADDED TO NAT’L FILM REGISTRY
As happens this time every year, twenty-five films have been added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry. Among them are several Westerns: RIO BRAVO (1959), Howard Hawks’ and John Wayne’s contemptuous response to HIGH NOON; LITTLE BIG MAN (1970), Arthur Penn’s entirely different take on Custer’s Last Stand; RUGGLES OF RED GAP (1935), where transplanted English butler Charles Laughton proves himself more American than his employers; and STATE FAIR (1933), the first of three filmed versions of Philip Strong’s novel, starring Will Rogers. Among the non-Western films named to the list are ROSEMARY’S BABY, FERRIS BEULLER’S DAY OFF, HOUSE OF WAX and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. For the complete list, go here: http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2014/14-210.html
‘YELLOW ROCK’ CHRISTMAS NIGHT ON SONY MOVIE CHANNEL
December 25th at 10:40 pm, Pacific time, after you’ve finished unwrapping everything, and consumed as much food as you dare, you can catch YELLOW ROCK, the 2012 Western Heritage Award – Bronze Wrangler – Best Picture winner, starring Michael Biehn, James Russo and Lenore Andriel.
THANK YOU READERS! ‘ROUND-UP’ REACHES 200,000 HITS!
Last night, the number of times folks have visited the Round-up since I started posting in January of 2010 surpassed 200,000! Today, the top ten countries reading Round-up are The United States, France, The Ukraine, Germany, The Netherlands, Canada, Romania, China, Australia and Norway! We’re read regularly in over ninety-five countries, and my gratitude to all of you around the world who have made Henry’s Western Round-up an important source for your Western information is overwhelming. I am sure you realize that it takes a huge amount of time and work every week, and your support, and encouraging messages, makes it all worthwhile. I am more grateful to you all than I know how to express.
THAT’S A WRAP!
It’s already Chanukah, almost Christmas, and New Years is just around the bend. Here’s wishing all of you a wonderful celebration, a pause to appreciate your blessings, and high hopes for a spectacular 2015!
All Original Contents Copyright December 2014 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
‘BOONVILLE REDEMPTION’, PLUS ‘MYSTERY AT MOVIE RANCH’ REVIEW, 99c NETWORK LAUNCH, TCM/DISNEY SUNDAY!
BOONVILLE REDEMPTION – Part One
Pat Boone & Emily Hoffman
In August I was invited to spend a day on the set of BOONVILLE REDEMPTION, the new Western that was filming at Paramount Ranch in Agoura. In addition, I was given the opportunity to be a ‘background’ in the film – for that part of the story, go HERE.
Set shortly after the turn of the 20th century, the tale is located, significantly, in the real town on Boonville, in Northern California. That town is unique, in possessing its own recognized language, Boontling, and that baffling lingo plays an important part in the movie’s plot. The story revolves around thirteen-year-old Melinda (Emily Hoffman), who is treated by many with scorn, even though she is the stepdaughter of the most powerful man in the Valley, Maddox (Richard Tyson). When she learns that she was born out of wedlock, she is determined to unlock the mystery of her true father’s identity, and what became of him, a mystery wrapped up in the enigmatic language of Boontling.
The remarkably strong cast includes Pat Boone as Doc Wood, Ed Asner as Judge Mordecai Price, Diane Ladd as Melinda’s aged and Boontling-speaking grandmother, and Robert Hays as Pastor Reign. On-set, I had the opportunity to speak with stars Pat Boone and Emily Hoffman; writer and executive producer Judy-Belshe Toernblom; director Don Schroeder; and prop-man, armorer, stunt co-ordinator and actor Peter Sherayko.
No stranger to the rural life of the film’s characters, Pat Boone grew up on his parents’ dairy farm in Nashville. He laughs about the time he guested on THE TONIGHT SHOW, and told Johnny Carson that he’d milked many a cow. Band-leader Doc Severinsen countered that he’d also grown up milking cows, and Carson set up a milking contest. Pat Boone won, but he admits that it wasn’t quite fair. “Doc started the orchestra playing ‘Turkey in the Straw’ for one minute. I followed him, and I got twice as much milk. But what he didn’t take into account, and I didn’t either, but when you start milking a cow, it doesn’t start flowing freely at first – you have to start pulling the milk down. He got about a quart, but when I sat down, the cow was ready, so I got two quarts. And he was so chagrined to be out-milked by a pop singer.”
Pat as Doc Wood, waiting for his cue
DOC WOODS: “I did my duty; I brought you into this world, but it would give me great pleasure to take you out again.” Pat Boone loves that line, loves that his character, Doc Woods, has an edge to him. “I see the doctor very like Doc from GUNSMOKE. I see this as a Jimmy Stewart kind of thing. And Jimmy Stewart’s best characters are when he lets his faults show. He’s irritable, he’s cantankerous, he’s judgmental, flinty, but when the chips are down and someone needs him, he’ll rise to the occasion. I love this about this character. Also, it’s my first Western ever. I did about sixteen other films, but they were movie musicals, and JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, and romantic comedies…”
HENRY: And PERILS OF PAULINE; I loved that.
PAT: Did you? Did you know, PERILS OF PAULINE was supposed to be a TV series? We filmed most of the film as pilot, and ensuing segments for a series. But it didn’t get sold for some reason, and so they went ahead and added more scenes, and made a movie out of it. And I loved playing that character too; the completely naïve multi-millionaire. I played somebody like that with Debbie Reynolds and Walter Matthau in a film called GOODBYE, CHARLIE. And so I probably, to many people, embody that kind of character, that’s almost too good, goody-goody, but kindly, and you like him. But you don’t expect anything confrontational out of him.
HENRY: How would you describe BOONVILLE REDEMPTION?
PAT BOONE: It’s almost like an Agatha Christie Western. We consider this a faith-based film, which is entertainment for the whole, broad audience, but from a faith perspective. It’s not preaching to anybody, but turn of the century, most everybody went to some kind of church. And they believed in the Golden Rule, things that are Biblical. And so that emerges from time to time in the script. There’s a scene where a man’s been shot, and Doc, when he tries to go into the wound in his chest, discovers – this was my idea – that he had a New Testament in his pocket. And in that New Testament was a little wooden cross. And the bullet goes right through the cross, shatters it, splinters it, and the Bible, into the guy’s chest – because it was a big gun he shot him with. But Doc, when he sees the man’s still living, and sees why he didn’t die, though he still could, he says Lord, you did your part. Please help me do mine. I like the imagery.
HENRY: You mentioned that this is your first Western. Are you a Western fan?
PAT: Definitely, yes. I mean, who isn’t? That’s the good thing about Westerns; you can count on them. They’ll never go away.
HENRY: They do seem to be making a comeback.
PAT: And you know, now is time for a film like this. And TV series like BONANZA and WAGON TRAIN. And films where the good guys always won. And yes, they may have had faults and foibles, and they always had problems. You knew the bad guy was going to get what he deserved, and yet you wanted to see how it happened. And you felt good at the end of it; it just reinforced your faith in the backbone of early America. And that’s what endeared us to the rest of the world; that was one of our most important exports to the world. Our Western films, where the bad guy got what he deserved, and the good people won. It was never a downer. There’s reinforcement of good moral values. So the rest of the world envied America. Now, for the last several decades, we’ve been exporting, to huge success, shows like DALLAS, and many other shows where people do all kind of evil tings, and they’re Americans, and they’re rich, and all they care about is their money, and their dynasty, and their power. And they win.
At this moment, director Don Schroeder stops by to ask Pat about a schedule change for over the weekend. Does Pat have a preference from a couple of options? He says the only thing he likes to not miss on Saturday is his workout at the gym. No problem – they’ll schedule around it. They talk for a moment about how the editing is coming along, and how convincing Pat is as the crusty old Dr. Wood.
PAT: It’s funny; when I put on the clothes, this mustache, I just feel older. I walk – these shoes, of course, are platypus feet shoes, and that works.
HENRY: How did you get involved with this project?
PAT: It’s interesting; I think I was meant to be involved. First off, my name was Boone, and my dad and granddad did the genealogical search and traced our way direct back to Daniel Boone, I think to his son Morgan. So I’ve always been proud of that, and a little bit miffed when Fess Parker, who played Davy Crocket, then was picked to play Daniel Boone as well. I thought wait a minute, I’m an actual direct descendant – why don’t I play him? Didn’t happen, but that was okay; Fess was great. Now, it was only about a year ago one of my musicians said to me, are you aware that there’s a town in northern California called Boonville? They have their own language – they created an alternative language. They speak English, of course, but they created many alternative words and phrases so they could speak in front of outsiders, and the outsider wouldn’t know what they were talking about, for just a little extra privacy, that rural people like. Boontling, it’s called. So I got interested in that, just idly, thinking I’ve just got to visit Boonville some day, and walk among my fellow descendants of Daniel. So my musical director for thirty years is scoring the music for this film. And he was talking to the director Dan Schroeder, who was just here. And he said, you know, I work for Pat Boone. Do you think there might be a role in your film for him? He said, you work for Pat Boone? Well, it’s a modestly budgeted film, but if he’d like to, yes. And if not, maybe he’d like to help us get the rest of the funding for the film. So I met with them, and I read the script, and I loved the story. And they said, we see you as Doc Wood. And I said, I will be Doc Wood, and not only that, I will help you get the rest of the funding. And I did, and I invested materially in it myself, because I think it’s a good film. I’ve been involved with a number of good films. And the fact that it’s a Western, and the fact that it’s faith-based, the fact that I liked the part, and I believed in these people that are making it. And the music, there will be some of my music woven into the score, because I’ve done at least twenty gospel albums --
HENRY: It won’t be LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND?
PAT: It won’t be LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND, but twenty gospel albums, and about four of them, country gospel, southern country gospel. And so we’re going to close, when the problems are solved and the victories are won, and there’s a wedding, and everyone wants to celebrate, we’re going to close with a rousing rendition of I SAW THE LIGHT. There’ll be a square-dance, and everyone’ll be celebrating. I was worried about that – they wanted me to do a solo. I said, I’ll be wearing this mustache, because I want to look old, I want to look like a country doctor. And when I start singing, if Pat Boone’s voice comes out, won’t that be a bit incongruous? So they’re just going to play my record. And people who recognize my voice, it’s okay; the movie is over. They know I played Doc Wood, but I’ll stay in character, I’ll still be Doc Wood all the way to the titles. But that’s how this came about, just a weird set of circumstances. My name is Boone. It’s called BOONVILLE REDEMPTION. There’s no ‘e’ in Boonville. There are some records that say Daniel Boone didn’t spell it with an ‘e’ either. ‘D. Boon kild a bar,’ someone found carved on a tree. And I hope I’m a boon to the film.
HENRY: You’re both the writer and executive producer of BOONVILLE REDEMPTION. How did the story come to you?
JUDY BELSHE-TOERNBLOM: It’s been seven years in the works. We had taken a trip up north to Lakeport, to visit a friend. And I don’t like to return the way that I go. So I always look for interesting places to stop off on the way back, and one of the places I saw was Boonville. And I saw that they had this quirky language called ‘Boontling’, so I thought, I’m going to go there, just what to see what that’s all about. When I got there, it was nothing; just a little dusty town, and I couldn’t find anyone to speak Boontling, and I thought, this just doesn’t seem right. I found books about Boontling, and they would give you the English words. But as I began to want to know more about it, I discovered I needed to flip the words around, so I wrote the book ENGLISH TO BOONTLING. I just used the nice words; I left all the bad words out. I began to use it as a dictionary for myself, and I fell in love with the place. Well, I began to learn where the Boontlingers were hiding. We ran across Ite, which is Boontling for Italian, and his (real) name is Don Cardini. Then I ran across Donald Smoot, whose name is Deekan, because he was a shy boy, and to ‘deek’ means to stare. Not like ‘deacon’ of a church. Then we ran across a young man named Jeff Spiffy Burrows. And Jiffy took us all over the valley, showed all the hidden spots where things used to be; if I made an album of it, it would be a large album of empty lots. (laugh) But I began to get more and more flavor for this place. I went to Boonville twice, I interviewed the people, and I talked to the historical society, and as I began to hear about the history, I began to think that this was a charming time for this town. So this story began to unfold. And I write very fast, but just skin and bones, it didn’t have form yet.
HENRY: What time is the story set?
JUDY: It’s set in 1906. It starts thirteen years earlier, when our little girl is conceived. Now she’s thirteen, and old enough to ask questions. And she wants to know, ‘What did I do?’ Because the town scorns her, because she was born out of wedlock. And then the richest man in town, who is a really bad guy, took (her mother) in and married her, because he always wanted her. But the girl’s left with this kind of ‘ick’ on her life, and she wants answers. And in that process she discovers that people held a lot of secrets. Therefore, it’s BOONVILLE REDEMPTION, when we come through all the secrets. While I was writing it, I was writing another film, and it was just a good family film. And I kept hearing God’s voice saying, “Where’s my part?” And I kept thinking, yeah, I’m just writing a good family film, but I’m not writing a Christian film. And I kept getting that knocking on my heart; that still, small voice that you hear. And I thought, my people have some problems, and these problems shouldn’t be the kind that they just work out with a pencil. They need to show their trust in God, how God can turn an impossible situation around. And so each one of our characters, each one of our heroes, from all different walks of life, all different nationalities, they have to reconcile their faith versus their superstitions, versus their false doctrine, and come to the realization that if they trust God, all heck may break loose, but they’re going to get the better result by trusting God, and that’s what they do. I think in this story, we all get to make our own choices, but we don’t get to decide the results.
HENRY: I understand that you started shooting this about a year ago, with a trial sequence. How did that work out?
JUDY: We didn’t have any money. We had three backers at that time, and there wasn’t enough money to shoot – especially a period piece. We went back to our investors, and said we don’t have enough money to make this film, so we’re done. To even do a trailer is going to cost us several thousand dollars. Our investors came to us and said, ‘We’re going to give it to you.’ So we came here to Paramount Ranch. We brought our director Don Schroeder, (cinematographer) Virgil Harper, and these men – the only thing missing about them are wings. They’re amazing men. They took ahold of this script, and they worked on it; no compensation, they just wanted to see this happen. And they made an incredible trailer at that time, which was basically the proof of concept. And we thought, this is great; we’ve got something good, we can go back to more investors, we can try to get more money, enough to shoot this film. Along the way we ran into a few people, Pat Boone being one of them, who ultimately became one of our investors. And as a result, no one ever saw the proof of concept trailer except for us and our close friends and family, because the money was raised on God moving the hearts of our investors, and the story. I was entrusted with the story from God, and tried to keep it scripturally accurate, so nobody has any issues with it, and so it can be used as a Bible-study later on.
HENRY: Is the entire film being shot here at Paramount Ranch?
JUDY: No, we were at a couple of different locations. We were at Ventura Farms, over at Saddle Rock, and the remainder is being shot here because we need all of the town shots. But we had the houses, and beautiful terrain back there. Along with six million flies and seven thousand bumblebees. Yuck, it was horrible. I mean, the bees were so strong that they could carry your ham sandwich away. Ridiculous.
HENRY: The story takes place in the early 20th century. Do you consider it a Western? Is that your genre?
JUDY: You know, it is a Western, but it’s not a Western like ‘O.K. Corral’, okay? It just happens that we’re in that era. And that story itself is universal. It doesn’t matter what generation sees this film; they’re going to relate to the story. We already have people coming up to us saying, ‘that scene where the mother was abused, I went through that.’ ‘That scene here brought me to tears.’ So I’m watching different themes of the story resonate with different people for different reasons, and that is really cool.
HENRY: Who do you see as the audience for this picture?
JUDY: Everybody. We hit all four quads. We have the youngest of the kids, and we have as old as our grandma. And we’ve got several nationalities. We’ve got American Indian, we’ve got Spanish, we’ve got African American, we’ve got Italian, Caucasian. Our African American woman who is one of our stars is from Nigeria. Her name is Stephanie Okereke; she plays the part of Doris (Grandma’s housekeeper). The history is that the American slaves were sold by the Nigerian people in the late 1700s. She did not know this. We bring that into our story. Doris realizes that her father is probably in prison someplace. And she says, if he’s in prison, we know what prison is about. We came from slavery, sold by our own people. So we’re bringing in that story.
HENRY: Speaking of casting, you’ve assembled a remarkable cast. You told me that Pat Boone actually came in as an investor. How about Ed Asner? How’d you get him?
JUDY: You know, I needed a hanging judge, and I thought Ed Asner is a great hanging judge. I wanted the guy who is just so fed up with little towns and all their nonsense. He’s a circuit judge, and he has to ride, and maybe he should have retired ten years earlier. He was presented to us through his agent, and that was just it – he’s our guy. He read it right away, and responded the very next day; he already had notes for us. When your actors give you a note, you’ve got to pay attention to it. My feeling is criticism is a blessing, because that means they didn’t understand something, or they need something clarified by us. He gave us some amazing notes, and we made the adjustments that he thought would make it better.
HENRY: You have Diane Ladd.
JUDY: Diane Ladd came to us through our line producer, and we had wanted her for a long time. So when the movie actually came to fruition, we were able to get to her. This woman was so tender and so sweet with the kids, you really believed that she was their grandmother. There’s a boy in the story, and she’s not his grandmother, but she treats him as one of her own. She had ideas, and twists and tweaks that she wanted to do on it also, and if it made sense we went with it, and she’s got years and years of expertise, and so we need to do it. She was magic on the screen. As a matter of fact, one of the scenes she was doing, Pat Boone was in, but he had to walk off; his character was done. And she brought him to tears, because it reminded him of when he said goodbye to his mom.
HENRY: I understand she speaks Boontling in the movie.
JUDY: She does. It’s the first movie to ever use Boontling, and to use it in solving a mystery.
HENRY: That’s fascinating. And of course this is a Western, it’s a Christian film, and it’s also a mystery.
JUDY: We needed the struggle, we needed the conflict, or there is no film. And the conflict works on both sides: why isn’t someone giving up the information? What are they going to lose if they give up the information. Everyone has something to lose if they confess.
HENRY: I watched the little documentary you have on the website. In a sense, this language was developed to keep secrets. It didn’t just develop organically because it was a population away from other people, and words just developed. It was a consciously developed thing.
JUDY: It was organic, in the fact that, where my story-line comes from, there was a girl who was pregnant, and nobody wanted to talk about it. So they began to talk about it in another way. In a small valley like the Anderson Valley, once you got in there, you were in; you didn’t want to haul those oxen back over that hill again. So it was a combination. Yes, they wanted to make up some secret words about this girl, and then they began to use other words. There was a man in town named Jefferson, and he always had a big fire going, summer, winter, spring or fall. So they began to call fires ‘jeffers.’ All things that worked with motors, that were machines, were called ‘moshes’. So when the first fire-engine came to town, it was called a jeffer-moshe. Schools were called wee-hees, because that was the little house for little kids. The first man in town to have a telephone was named Walter, and it cost half a dollar to use, so a payphone was called a bucky walter. Peace-officers were called high-heelers, and the book is full of stories of how those words came to be. So it may have started to keep the secret of this girl, and then it just continued to grow to more than a thousand words in their vocabulary.
HENRY: Getting back to your cast, you also have Robert Hays.
JUDY: Robert Hays came in for a really sweet cameo. I wanted someone to play the pastor that the people liked. And everyone likes Robert Hays. And what I think they’re going to enjoy about him is his kind nature. And I am very personally tired of pastors being portrayed as insane maniacs who are out to kill the entire church for whatever reason, or sleep with half of it. And I wanted a nice, believable, kind pastor, and I hired Robert.
HENRY: Faith-based movies are getting a lot more respect now than they were even a couple of years ago, because there’s been an audience proven for them.
JUDY: Because they’re making good ones: just because you’re Christian doesn’t mean you have the right to make a crappy film. “Oh, God will fix it in post.” No, He won’t. You’ve got to make a good film.
Part Two of my BOONVILLE REDEMPTION story will appear in next Sunday’s Round-up.
‘99CENT MOVIE NETWORK’ LAUNCHES WEDNESDAY DEC. 17TH WITH THREE WESTERN COLLECTIONS!
The folks behind the Movies & Music Network are launching a new streaming movie network this Wednesday, called the 99cent Network. They’re going to be offering several ten-film collections – including three different Western collections – and you can select any three from a collection for ninety-nine cents! For $1.99, you can buy all ten! Heck, for six bucks you can buy all thirty Westerns! Too many exclamation points? And these films are yours to stream for life – you can even share ‘em with your friends! There’s some cheap Christmas shopping for you!
They’ll also be offering movie collections in other genres, including comedy, horror, sci-fi, holiday, and more. What Westerns will they be? I don’t know yet – I’m not even posting the link here until Wednesday, because it won’t link to anything until then. Come back on Wednesday, hit the link, and you’ll be magically transported to the 99cent Network! Or visit the Round-up Facebook page on Wednesday, hit the link, and the same marvelous thing will happen! For all of you that are more involved with social network stuff than I, I’ve got a couple of hash-tag things I’m supposed to do something with, but cannot fathom what. So I’ll put ‘em here: @99centnet #99centnetwork . See you Wednesday!
MYSTERY AT MOVIE RANCH by Darryle Purcell – a Book Review
Mystery readers’ love of Hollywood made it natural that many a crime story would be set in the movie capital, cast with imaginary stars at fictional studios. This gave birth to a sub-genre of Hollywood mystery fiction where real stars were at the center of the action – many a cowboy hero solved mysteries in Big Little Books, and Lela E. Rogers wrote about her daughter in GINGER ROGERS AND THE RIDDLE OF THE SCARLET CLOAK. Andrew Bergman, who would later write the screenplays for the classic comedies BLAZING SADDLES, THE IN-LAWS and HONEYMOON IN VEGAS, revived the idea in the 1970s with two delightful bestselling comedy-mysteries set in Hollywood’s golden age, THE BIG KISS-OFF OF 1944 and HOLLYWOOD AND LEVINE. Following Bergman’s lead, Stuart Kaminsky would write twenty-four Toby Peters mysteries, including, MILDRED PIERCED and MURDER ON THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD. George Baxt penned at least a dozen Jacob Singer mysteries, including THE DOROTHY PARKER MURDER CASE and THE TALLULAH BANKHEAD MURDER CASE.
Well, the subgenre has been dormant for a while, but now Darryle Purcell has revived it with MYSTERY AT MOVIE RANCH, the first of his Hollywood Cowboy Detective series. The novelty here is that while all of the previous movie star mysteries have been set at the majors – MGM, Warner Brothers, Paramount – and focused on the top box-office stars and directors of the day,
MOVIE RANCH is set squarely on Poverty Row, at Mascot Pictures no less! Set in 1934, during the Great Depression, the detective character and wise-cracking narrator is Sean Woods, an L.A. Examiner reporter who got canned for offending important people, and now is working as a P.R. man for Nat Levine’s studio. And instead of focusing on Bogart or Gable making CASABLANCA or GONE WITH THE WIND, Sean is trying to keep Ken Maynard sober long enough to finish making his Mascot serial, MYSTERY MOUNTAIN. But Maynard’s drinking is a small part of the problem – someone is trying to kill the cowboy and scuttle the production.
As the cover art and illustrations by Purcell indicate, MOVIE RANCH is meant as a pulp story. Told in twelve chapters, just like a serial, Sean and Maynard enlist the aid of Maynard’s real pal Hoot Gibson in trying to flush out the bad guys, utilizing Maynard’s and Gibson’s real-life experience as plane pilots. They deal with serial-like menaces, including sliding panels, a masked villain known as The Viper, a secret fascist training camp, a mad-scientist-created monster, and more real-life dangers like the Klan, Nazis, and Lucky Luciano, who is planning to unionize Hollywood under his control – while squiring around poor, doomed Thelma Todd. MOVIE RANCH really is a name-dropper’s delight, with Russ Columbo, Art Acord, Syd Saylor, Snub Pollard, George Chesebro, and even Flip the Frog turning up either as characters or references.
In terms of the writing and story-telling, Purcell is breezy and entertaining, but not yet up to the standards of Bergman and Kaminsky. I didn’t get a great sense of time and place – I never figured out which movie ranch it was supposed to be. Some of the dialogue is stilted and tends towards speechifying. On the other hand, if you read Lucky Luciano’s speeches aloud, you can hear Sheldon Leonard saying every word, which is just how he ought to sound.
The second mystery in the series, MYSTERY OF THE ARIZONA DRAGON, is already available for download, and soon will be in paper as well. Set during the filming of CHARLIE CHAN GOES WEST, it unites Sean, Ken and Hoot with Warner Oland and Keye Luke. Number three, MYSTERY OF THE MATINEE MURDERS, will add Orson Welles and Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan to the mix – now that’s a pair to draw to! MOVIE RANCH is available from Amazon.com here HERE.
TCM SHOWCASES DISNEY WESTERNS NEXT SUNDAY!
As I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago (HERE is the story if you missed it ). TCM and Disney are joining forces, and bringing a lot of Walt’s rarely seen treasures out of the vault. They will be shown in occasional programming blocks a few times a year, commencing this Sunday, December 21st, at 5 p.m. Pacific time. Here’s the schedule: Three classic cartoons, SANTA’S WORKSHOP, ON ICE – with Mickey and Minnie, and CHIP & DALE. 5:30, THE DISNEYLAND STORY. 6:30, THE RELUCTANT DRAGON (1941), starring Robert Benchley. 8:00, DAVY CROCKETT: KING OF THE WILD FRONTIER, starring Fess Parker. 9:45 THE VANISHING PRAIRIE (1954), the nature documentary by which all others are measured. 11:00 THIRD MAN ON THE MOUNTAIN (1959), starring James McArthur. And finally, at one a.m., WALT DISNEY PRESENTS, featuring the making of THIRD MAN ON THE MOUNTAIN and 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA.
THAT'S A WRAP!
Week I'll conclude my story on BOONVILLE REDEMPTION, and have a review or two, depending on how much reading and how much watching I manage between Christmas-shopping safaris.
All Original Contents Copyright December 2014 by Henry C. Parke - All Right Reserved