Sunday, November 14, 2010


(Updated Friday 11/19/2010 -- see screening ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST)
The line was long and eager as Ernest Borgnine and Western authors William Blinn, Andrew J. Fenady and C. Courtney Joyner autographed their writings yesterday at Dark Delicacies, a Burbank bookstore that specializes in eerie fiction, but also has a penchant for sagebrush sagas. Oscar-winner (for MARTY) Borgnine’s booming laugh and cheerful nature filled the normally gloomy-tomb book-seller, as he autographed his auto-bio, ERNIE, posed for pictures, and answered questions about THE WILD BUNCH, VERA CRUZ, A BULLET FOR SANDOVAL and so many others.
Blinn, who created the series STARSKY AND HUTCH, wrote the Prince movie PURPLE RAIN, and won Emmys for his teleplays of BRIAN’S SONG and ROOTS, returned to his own roots – westerns like GUNSMOKE, RAWHIDE, BONANZA and HIGH CHAPPARAL -- with his most recent western novel, A COLD PLACE IN HELL.

(Photos, top to bottom: Ernest Borgnine, William Blinn saying, "Get that light meter out of my face!", Courtney Joyner and Andrew Fenady pose with a fan, Cowboy (Gene) and Indians (Carmelo family) at the Autry, big tepee and little tepee, silver by the Lees, drums by Bobby Bales, D.W. Griffith stamp, WAY OUT WEST poster, Stan won't give Vivian Oakland the deed)

Like Blinn, both Fenady and Joyner made their names in the screenplay format before moving to the printed word. Fenady, who produced John Wayne’s CHISUM, also adapted the Wayne property HONDO to a TV series, as well as creating THE REBEL and developing BRANDED, among many others. Joyner, author of the terrific THE WESTERNERS, a collection of interviews with western stars both in front of and behind the camera, is best known for his horror and sci-fi screenplays, including PRISON, DR. MORDRID and several TRANCERS outings. Fenady and Joyner were both signing their stories in LAW OF THE GUN, a new collection of western fiction.


More than 160 artists representing over forty tribes converged last weekend at the Autry for the American Indian Arts 2010 Marketplace. While musical and dance performances took place in the courtyard, an immense white tent erected in the area to the east of the museum housed the artists. From silver to painting to sculpture, all imaginable mediums were used. Prices ranged from under ten dollars to well into the thousands. To the left you can see the work of a couple of artists that I particularly admired, the silver work of Clarence and Russell Lee (p.o. box 539, Gallup, New Mexico 87305), and drums made by Bobby Bales ( The dancers performing in front of Gene and Champion are the Carmelo family, in a program called Toveema, featuring Southern California native song and dance.


Every Monday night, starting November 1st and concluding on December 13th, Turner Classic Movies is presenting a new seven chapter documentary series tracing the history of the film industry, and while the focus is on the United States, the importance of the film business in other countries is not minimized.

Each one-hour program airs first on Monday night at 8. p.m., is repeated on Wednesday night, when it will be followed by related movies, and is repeated again the following Monday before the new episode. And I’ve spotted other repeats as well, so you can hopefully track them all down. Narrated by Christopher Plummer, the first two episodes have already aired, and are fine and illuminating pieces of work. Episode #1, PEEPSHOW PIONEERS covered the years 1889 to 1907, and episode #2, THE BIRTH OF HOLLYWOOD, covered 1907 to 1920. On Monday, November 15th, episode #3, THE DREAM MERCHANTS, will cover 1920-1928.

The interviews within the documentary are with historians, critics and descendants of the moguls themselves, and very enlightening. Forgive me if I digress here, but it puts one in mind of the wonderful documentary series HOLLYWOOD – CELEBRATION OF THE AMERICAN SILENT FILM, which the team of David Gill and Kevin Brownlow did in 1980 for Thames Television, which aired here on PBS. That was thirty years ago, and one of the striking differences in the two documentary series is the guests who are interviewed: in the new series, the guests are one and two generations away from the people being discussed. In the old series, those people were speaking for themselves. I had the pleasure of recently hearing Kevin Brownlow speak, introducing a screening of FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE at the Motion Picture Academy, and he revealed that of the 150 people interviewed for his film, only one was still alive. Now here’s the maddening part: HOLLYWOOD, the best documentary of its kind, is virtually impossible to see. It has not been released to DVD, and may never be. The reason? Back more than thirty years ago, when Gill and Brownlow were pulling their film clips together, all of the studios opened their vaults to them for little of no money. Since then, with cable TV, videotape and now DVDs, studios see potential profits where they never did before. And so now, to license those same clips for a DVD release, the studios are asking so much money that, if paid, it would be impossible to make a dime selling the DVDs.

Okay, back on topic, the 2nd chapter of the new documentary dealt with D. W. Griffith’s THE BIRTH OF A NATION, both the brilliance of the filmmaking, and the furor over the racism inherent in the story. Those who haven’t seen the movie may not be aware that the ‘nation’ the title refers to is not the United States but the Ku Klux Klan. I believe the controversy was evenhandedly discussed in the documentary. So I was appalled , after seeing the episode, to watch a discussion, led by Robert Osborn, with a pair of the film critics from the documentary, about Griffith and BIRTH OF A NATION. The woman critic minced around the topic nervously, and finally concluded that while the film, described by President Woodrow Wilson as, “Writing history with lightning!” was, because of its great artistic merit, worthy of our study and respect, Griffith was not. As if the movie had directed itself! Was Griffith a racist? Surely, but 95 years ago that did not leave him far from the middle of the road. Thankfully we’ve come a long way since then, but to try and judge him by today’s standards is ludicrous. And in fact, even in 1915 he was so loudly denounced for his views that it’s generally acknowledged that his follow-up epic, INTOLERANCE, was meant as an apology to those offended by BIRTH. In fact, one of Griffith’s final films, and few talkies, is a sympathetic biography of that enemy of the Klan, the South and the Confederacy, Abraham Lincoln! The contributions Griffith made to the art of filmmaking cannot be overestimated, and yet eleven years ago the smug, ignorant, politically correct morons at the Directors Guild of America saw fit to take his name off the D.W. Griffith Award. If today, prominent members of the DGA were held up to the same standard of conduct that they expect, retroactively, from Griffith, if one single, stupid, offensive public act would mean the end of their careers, then there would be no one left to direct movies!

For those who would like to see some of Griffith’s work, on Monday, November 29th, the Academy will present GRIFFITH IN CALIFORNIA – HOLLYWOOD’S EARLIEST FILMS FROM A CENTURY AGO at the Linwood Dunn Theatre. The bad news is that the show is sold out, but the good news is that there are always some no-shows, and people who show up early usually get in. For more details, CLICK HERE.


The venerable Arizona western studio, built in 1939 for ARIZONA, starring William Holden and Jean Arthur, has been home to more than 300 movies and TV shows. This September it was the location for a pilot entitled STARDUST AND THE BANDIT. In this contemporary comedy, a former mob-accountant is placed by the Witness Protection Program in a studio/theme park not unlike Old Tucson Studios. But instead of working in the backrooms as an accountant, he is put into a stunt show, and who shows up, on vacation with his family, but the gangster he’s set to testify against.

That’s all I’ve been able to learn so far, but if I find out more I’ll pass it on.


This coming Saturday, November 20th, at 9 a.m. Pacific and noon Eastern, RDF-TV will present DAYS OF JESSE JAMES (1940), another directed and produced by Republic’s best, Joe Kane. Roy stars with – you guessed it – George ‘Gabby’ Hayes, Don ‘Red’ Barry, Scotty Beckett, Monte Blue, Cactus Mack and everyone’s favorite bartender at the Longbranch, Glenn Strange, and of course, Trigger. November 5th would have been Roy’s 99th birthday, and RFD started Happy Trails Theatre the next day with SOUTHWARD HO, following up today with THE ARIZONA KID. The movies are short, and scheduled in 90 minute timeslots, which give the programmers a little wiggle-room to be creative. Roy’s son and grandson, Dusty and Dustin, do the introductions and wrap-ups from the Mickey Gilley Theatre in Branson, Missouri. The first week’s program wrapped up with Dusty and his band performing several songs, and some old Roy Rogers toy commercials. Today’s program ended with a documentary hosted by Dusty, shot some years ago when the Roy Rogers Museum was still in Victorville, and featured a lot of home movies. It’ll be interesting to see what they come up with in the coming weeks. For more information, including merchandise, Trigger and Bullet’s tour, and the Roy Rogers Rider’s Club, CLICK HERE.




Vidiots, the ecclectic Los Angeles videostore which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, recently opened the Vidiots Annex, a screening room that seats 30, and offers HD projectiona and surround sound. They teach teach classes most nights, but on Saturday nights at 8 p.m. they screen movies, for free, on a first come, first served basis. Saturday, November 20th, at 8 p.m. they'll screen Sergio Leone's immortal ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. I haven't been to this venue yet, so if you go, let us know how it was. 302 Pico Blvd., 310-392-8508.


On Sunday, November 21st, at 2 p.m. in the Wells Fargo Theatre, the Autry, in conjunction with UCLA, will present WAY OUT WEST (1937), a delightful comedy starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy as two good souls trying to deliver a valuable deed to an orphan. The film costars beautiful and innocent Sharon Lynn, beautiful but wicked Vivian Oakland, and James Finlayson, the man who Homer Simpson imitates when he says, “Doh!” Incidentally, when Stan sings bass, that’s Chill Wills, who plays a singer in the film, vocalizing for him. It’s directed by James Horne. Admission is $5 for members, $9 for non-members, $4 for children and $7 for seniors and students – and includes admission to the museum. And if you get to the museum at noon, check out the THIRD SUNDAY JAM WITH THE WESTERN MUSIC ASSOCIATION. Join musicians and cowboy poets as they perform stories and songs of the romantic days of the Old West and contemporary music of the American West.


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. 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 now -- have a great week!

Adios amigos,


All Contents Copyright November 2010 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. Ernest Borgnine is amazing. Thanks for the great pic. And thanks for the heads up on events around town.

    As for Griffith, I agree with you. If you read the popular fiction of the time, racist assumptions about people who weren't white-anglo-protestant are everywhere. Griffith saw an exciting story about the post-war South and didn't see that he could be perceived as intolerant. Yet some would let that one miscalculation outweigh the entire pioneering output of his career.