Sunday, October 10, 2010
REPUBLIC 75TH ANNIVERSARY PART 2
Back at the 2nd Generation panel (if you missed part one last week, CLICK HERE). Julie Ann Ream told the story of how Rex Allen got his famous horse, Koko. “Koko was bought for Dale(Evans), and he was a big horse – too much for her, and a little wild. And Roy, who was a real good friend of Rex’s said, ‘He’s too much for her, and honestly I don’t want my wife riding a horse that’s prettier than Trigger.’ Rex loved that horse – I think these men loved their horses better than they loved their wives – I really do.”
Julie Rogers followed that one up with a story about the horse Dale ended up with, Buttermilk. “Grandma hated Buttermilk. Not really a very pleasant horse. It was rough, and she was not the best rider anyway. When she was at the end of her life, my uncle was talking to her, and she was really sweet about it, because she wasn’t afraid of death at all. She thought of it as a graduation. And he’s saying, ‘Dad’s there. And Trigger’s there. And Buttermilk.’ And she shot him the skunk-eye, and said, ‘If Buttermilk’s there, I don’t want to go!’” A member of the audience asked her to tell why Dale didn’t want to precede Roy in death. “As you know, when Trigger passed away, he had Trigger mounted – he used to get mad when people said ‘stuffed’. And when Bullet passed away, he had him mounted as well. And Dale said, ‘You know what? I’m not going before you, because I’m afraid you’ll do the same thing to me!’ And he said, ‘I don’t care. Just stuff me and put me on top of Trigger.’”
(Photo captions:Bo Hopkins and Andrew Prine; Ben Cooper and Ty Hardin; Andrew Prine; Peggy Stewart, Ben Cooper and Ty Hardin; Ty Hardin, Donna Martell and Bo Hopkins; John Mitchum; John Mitchum's book; Bill 'Hoppy' Boyd with Grace Boyd, Gloria Winters beside The Songbird.)
The second panel discussion, COWBOYS, POETRY & THE MITCHUMS, was moderated by Cindy Mitchum – daughter of John and niece of Robert – and Rob Word. The panel included actors Cliff Emmich; Larry Maurice; Andrew Prine; Republic stalwart Ben Cooper; TV’s BRONCO, Ty Hardin; Republic leading lady (often as Donna DeMario) Donna Martell; wildest member of the WILD BUNCH, Bo Hopkins; Republic leading lady and serial queen (and currently in the rock biopic THE RUNAWAYS) Peggy Stewart; the Henry Higgins of Hollywood, dialectician Robert Easton; and action star Martin Kove. Robert Mitchum only did one film for Republic, but it was a peach: THE RED PONY, from the John Steinbeck novel. His brother John Mitchum, with about 150 acting credits, often as bartenders and deputies, did several at Republic, but the subject here was not so much movies as the poetry of John Mitchum.
As his daughter Cindy explained it, “It actually started on the set of CHISUM, in 1969. Forrest Tucker had asked my father to write a special song for him, for his nightclub act. So he wrote a song, and the next night he sang it for Tuck, who said, ‘That’s fantastic. What else have you got?’ And he recited a poem. They went back to the set, and John Wayne was playing chess with my cousin Christopher (Mitchum). And Tuck said, ‘You’ve got to hear what John just wrote.’ So dad recited this poem. And John Wayne started to cry. Forrest Tucker said, ‘If it means that much to you, do something about it.’ John Wayne stood up, shook my father’s hand and said, ‘I’ve never recorded anything, but I want to do an album of your poetry.’” The poem was AMERICA, WHY I LOVE HER, and with John Wayne battling lung cancer, it took four years to put the album together, but it was nominated for a Grammy in 1973. If you’ve never heard it, or if it’s been a long while, and you’ve forgotten its simple power and beauty, CLICK HERE to hear it on Youtube. Gregg Palmer, an actor with a slew of Western credits, including a half-dozen with John Wayne, and who was a dear friend of John Mitchum, did his impression of the Duke reciting AMERICA, WHY I LOVE HER. The other guests on the panel, most of them old friends of the late John Mitchum, took turns reminiscing about Republic, and John Mitchum, and reading his poems. All of the readings were strong, but the emotional highpoint was celebrated six-gun fast-draw Ben Cooper reading DEAREST. His wife passed away three years ago. “Originally a tribute to Eddie Dean and his dearest, (I) adjusted the words to express (my) love of (my) dearest of almost fifty years, Pamela.”
Cindy Mitchum is currently at work recording her father’s poems as read by some of the great actors and voices in the industry. This project has been going on for several years, and a number of the stars who lent their voices have since passed away.
The Third Panel Discussion, entitled MEMORIES OF REPUBIC PICTURES WITH REPUBLIC STARS, was moderated by film historian Stan Taffel, and included Robert Easton, Marjorie Lord, Theodore Bikel, Tommy Cook, Jane Withers, James Lydon, Colleen Grey and Jane Kean.
Jane Kean, best remembered as THE HONEYMOONERS’ 2nd Trixie Norton, began with, “Here I am, the Lady Gaga of the Stone Age. I made a picture here years and years ago called SAILORS ON LEAVE. I was about fifteen – and that wasn’t Tuesday. I played ‘Miss Sunshine,’ and I had the best time – I led the band. Shirley Ross was in it, who introduced ‘Two Sleepy People,’ with Bob Hope. She was the star, and I used to follow her around – hoping I’d get more lines. Never did. (The lot) is so different, so built up with all of these new stages. Herbert J. Yates – we called him Poppa – was an inspiration. I remember when he had an ice rink built here, so Vera Hruba Ralston could practice. And later she became Mrs. Yates. And on such a hot day as this, we really appreciate you all coming out here today.” It surpassed 108 degrees during the day.
Colleen Grey, a queen of films noir, recalled, “My one experience at Republic was a picture called THE TWINKLE IN GOD’S EYE. With Hugh O’Brien, Mickey Rooney, and some others – I don’t have a clue as to what that picture was all about! But I do remember that the famous and infamous Mickey Rooney was a minister, an itinerant preacher in this movie. He had a guitar, and he would play and sing, and The Twinkle In God’s Eye was the song. I don’t remember the movie, but I remember the last few phrases (of the song). ‘And when a man has finished sinnin’, you’ll find he has a new beginnin’, and it starts with the twinkle in God’s eye!’” After singing it, and acknowledging applause, she confided, “I don’t think we even shot it on this lot, so I feel like an interloper today. However, it was my privilege to work with one of the enormous, marvelous stars of Republic Pictures, John Wayne. My first movie was RED RIVER, with John Wayne, the icon, marvelous man, so I feel that, by hook or by crook, I am connected to Republic.”
Moderator Stan Taffel, while acknowledging it wasn’t a Republic series, couldn’t resist introducing the next panelist by shouting, “Henry! Henry Aldrich!” To which James Lydon dutifully responded, “Coming Mother!” Then he came clean: “I hated it, really. I did. Because I’ve made about eighty-five features in my lifetime, before I became a producer and a director and a writer. I only made nine of those, and guess who I got stuck with? Henry Aldrich. I first came to Republic in 1940 from R.K.O. I was a young boy, I was sixteen, but I looked about twelve, so I played high school kids for about twenty years. Coming to Republic was an experience, because we made pictures differently from how the major studios did. We were all very well-behaved. We did what we were told, and we did it rapidly, and it was always a challenge because we had such short schedules. At Paramount, for instance, we made the ALDRICH pictures in 21, 22 days. When I first worked with Jane (Withers) in 1940 at 20th Century Fox, we had 25 days to make a ‘B’ picture. And at R.K.O. we had 21 days. When I came to Republic we had twelve days. You realize we had to go to school three hours a day. And the assistant couldn’t take you out of the school unless you’d had at least fifteen minutes in school. I want you to know it’s quite a trick to learn anything, when you’re in high school, in fifteen-minute segments. It was quite an experience growing up in the motion picture industry. And I was a kid from the New York stage. I loved that (in motion pictures), if you made a mistake, it was okay. If you had a nice director, he’d say, ‘It’s okay, do you want to take another rehearsal? Film is cheap.’ And you didn’t feel badly. But on the stage, if you made a mistake, you would make it in front of God and everybody. So coming to motion pictures was a great relief to me. Coming to Republic, I had the opportunity to make seven pictures, and two of them starred my friend of a lifetime, Jane Withers.”
And as they’d say in old-time radio, ‘Next week we’ll learn what Jane Withers has to say in Part Three of the Republic 75th Anniversary Celebration!’
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 17TH LOS ENCINOS LIVING HISTORY DAY
On this day, and the third Sunday of every month, Los Encinos State Historic Park, located at 16756 Moorpark St. in Encino,91436, has a Living History Day. From one to three p.m. enjoy music, period crafts,a blacksmith, docents in 1870s attire, tours of the historic buildings, and traditional children’s games.
AN EVEN BIGGER PEEK AT THE NEW ‘TRUE GRIT’
If last week’s trailer whetted your appetite – I have one friend whose watched it thirty times already – then CLICK HERE to check out the brand new, two and a half minute trailer featuring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, and Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, the little girl determined to bring her father’s killer to justice.
GRACE BOYD DIES
An actress who, as Grace Bradley, starred opposite Harold Lloyd in THE CAT’S PAW, and W.C. Fields and Bob Hope in THE BIG BROADCAST OF 1938, Grace Boyd is best known as the widow of William ‘Hopalong Cassidy’ Boyd. They married in 1937, when she was 23 and he was 45, and she did comparatively little acting afterwards. Boyd died in 1972, but Grace worked hard to keep the image of Hoppy and Boyd alive and in the public eye for many years.
GLORIA WINTERS – SKY KING’S PENNY – DIES
Gloria Winters Vernon, the adorable little (5’ 1 ½”) blonde fireball who played niece Penny to Kirby Grant’s Sky King, passed away from complications from pneumonia at the age of 78. Starting on television as Jackie Gleason’s daughter in THE LIFE OF RILEY in 1949, after two years she moved to the modern American West. From 1952 until 1959, in all 72 episodes, she was forever getting in trouble with rustlers, kidnappers and all manner of crooks. Sooner or later she would have to be on the radio, calling Uncle Sky to fly out in his plane, The Songbird, and rescue her. But her character wasn’t completely helpless – she frequently flew the Songbird herself, an inspiration to young budding pilots watching at home. Winters married Dean Vernon, a sound engineer, and soon gave up acting. Her last credit was an episode of WYATT EARP in 1960.
FREE WESTERNS ON YOUR COMPUTER AT HULU
A staggering number of western TV episodes and movies are available, entirely free, for viewing on your computer at HULU. You do have to sit through the commercials, but that seems like a small price to pay. The series available -- often several entire seasons to choose from -- include THE RIFLEMAN, THE CISCO KID, THE LONE RANGER, BAT MASTERSON, THE BIG VALLEY, ALIAS SMITH AND JONES, and one I missed from 2003 called PEACEMAKERS starring Tom Berenger. Because they are linked up with the TV LAND website, you can also see BONANZA and GUNSMOKE episodes, but only the ones that are running on the network that week.
The features include a dozen Zane Grey adaptations, and many or most of the others are public domain features. To visit HULU on their western page, CLICK HERE.
AROUND LOS ANGELES
THE AUTRY NATIONAL CENTER
Built by cowboy actor, singer, baseball and TV entrepeneur Gene Autry, and designed by the Disney Imagineering team, the Autry is a world-class museum housing a fascinating collection of items related to the fact, fiction, film, history and art of the American West. In addition to their permenant galleries (to which new items are frequently added), they have temporary shows. Currently they have THE ART OF NATIVE AMERICAN BASKETRY: A LIVING TRADITION, through November 7th. I've seen the show three times, and am continually astonished at the beauty and variety of the work of the various tribes. The Autry has many special programs every week -- sometimes several in a day. To check their daily calendar, CLICK HERE. And they always have gold panning for kids every weekend. For directions, hours, admission prices, and all other information, CLICK HERE.
HOLLYWOOD HERITAGE MUSEUM
Across the street from the Hollywood Bowl, this building, once the headquarters of Lasky-Famous Players (later Paramount Pictures) was the original DeMille Barn, where Cecil B. DeMille made the first Hollywood western, The Squaw Man. They have a permanent display of movie props, documents and other items related to early, especially silent, film production. They also have occasional special programs. 2100 Highland Ave., L.A. CA 323-874-2276. Thursday – Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. $5 for adults, $3 for senior, $1 for children.
WELLS FARGO HISTORY MUSEUM
This small but entertaining museum gives a detailed history of Wells Fargo when the name suggested stage-coaches rather than ATMS. There’s a historically accurate reproduction of an agent’s office, an original Concord Coach, and other historical displays. Open Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Admission is free. 213-253-7166. 333 S. Grand Street, L.A. CA.
TV LAND - BONANZA and GUNSMOKE
Every weekday, TV LAND airs a three-hour block of BONANZA episodes from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. They run a GUNSMOKE Monday through Thursday at 10:00 a.m., and on Friday they show two, from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m.. They're not currently running either series on weekends, but that could change at any time.
NEED YOUR BLACK & WHITE TV FIX?
Check out your cable system for WHT, which stands for World Harvest Television. It's a religious network that runs a lot of good western programming. Your times may vary, depending on where you live, but weekdays in Los Angeles they run DANIEL BOONE at 1:00 p.m., and two episodes of THE RIFLEMAN from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.. On Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. it's THE RIFLEMAN again, followed at 2:30 by BAT MASTERSON. And unlike many stations in the re-run business, they run the shows in the original airing order. There's an afternoon movie on weekdays at noon, often a western, and they show western films on the weekend, but the schedule is sporadic.
That's it for tonight! Tomorrow I'll be adding pictures from the Republic panels, and some other interesting stuff.
See you manana!
All Contents Copyright October 2010 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved