Sunday, January 23, 2011
RIFLEMAN GUNS GO UNDER THE HAMMER AT ‘HIGH NOON’
Thanks to Julie Ann Ream for letting me know that on Saturday, January 29th, items from the estate of actor Chuck Connors, including one of his famous ‘Rifleman’ rifles, will be auctioned by High Noon Auctions in Mesa, Arizona. Jeff Connors, Chuck’s son, who spoke at the Republic 75th Anniversary celebration (click HERE to read what he had to say), will be attending. The auction will also feature items from the estate of Western collector Art Miller, and costumes by the great Western designer Nudie. There will also be many American Indian items. Previews will begin Thursday, January 27th, at 3:00 p.m.. The auction will begin Saturday at 5 p.m., at the Phoenix Marriott Mesa, 200 N. Centennial Way, Mesa, Arizona 85201. The auction is part of the High Noon Western Americana Weekend, which includes an antique show on Saturday and Sunday at the Mesa Convention Center, 263 N. Center Street, Mesa, Arizona 85201. For more information, call the High Noon offices at (310) 202-9010.
PBS DOCUMENTARY ‘TELEVISION PIONEERS – WESTERNS’ PREMIERES TUESDAY, JANUARY 25th
The 2nd of a four-part series, the documentary will focus on the TV Western. It features interviews with Fess Parker and Rosey Grier about breaking down racial barriers on Daniel Boone; Linda Evans’ memories of stunt-work on The Big Valley; James Garner on Maverick; and Leonard Nimoy’s and William Shatner’s experiences guesting on Gunsmoke. It’s supposed to run at 8:00 p.m., but check your local listing to be sure. The first episode of the series, about Science Fiction, aired last Tuesday, but will run again in some areas. The next two Tuesdays will focus on crime dramas and local kids’ TV shows. (I would have missed this series completely – thanks to Tom Dubensky for filling me in)
(photos top to bottom: Jeff Connors with his dad's rifle; page from the auction catalog; Corriganville sign; stunt-kid Marc Wanamaker at Corriganville; Indian Chiefs)
‘LOCATION FILMING IN LOS ANGELES’ BOOK SIGNING AT LARRY EDMUNDS BOOKSHOP – THURSDAY JAN. 27TH
The newest of the beautifully illustrated regional history books from Arcadia Publishing, ‘Location Filming In Los Angeles’, will be celebrated with a signing on Thursday at 7:00 p.m., by the book’s three authors, Marc Wanamaker, Kari Bible and Harry Medved. The address is 6644 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA 90028. 323-463-3273. Medved is a well-known author and PR specialist, Bible is the creator of the absolutely indispensible film-in-L.A.-website FilmRadar.com, and Wanamaker owns the premiere Hollywood image collection, Bison Archives.
A Chat with Archivist and Stunt-Kid Marc Wanamaker
When I phoned Marc for a little more info on the book, I had no idea how deep his Western-movie roots went. “I was a stunt kid for two years at Corriganville. My father was a doctor, and some of his patients were Col. Tim McCoy, who I met, and Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan, and I met him and his son Tom Corrigan, and I’ve known him in recent years.”
Cowboy star Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan had built the Western-movie town of Corriganville over the years by renting the land to studios and keeping the western structures they’d built on it. It had for years been one of Hollywood’s busiest movie-ranches, but things were slowing down by the end of the 1940s. “In 1949 or ’50, there were less rentals of the property, and to keep the property going, he needed to get some more money coming in. Somebody said he should open it to the public, and charge people to come in and look around. And it was a very good idea. He opened it only on Sundays. The people came – we’re talking maybe five or ten thousand people. The parking lots were full. They added more exhibits; they built more buildings onto the western town. They added stores – they made it into one of the first theme parks, before Disneyland.
“Ray said to my father, you’ve got to come out – bring your kid out. So my father brought me out there probably in 1954 for the first time, when I was seven, dressed as a cowboy. They had this stunt show; the robbing of the bank was the usual scenario. People would be in the street, then the gunfire started, and immediately people ran away, because it was a little too scary, a little too real. So Ray would cordon off people away from the bank and say, ‘We’re going to have a little program now,’ instead of doing it spontaneously. Well, I was I was nine or ten years old, always there, in my cowboy outfit, and Ray thought, wouldn’t it be funny if I would confront the robbers as they came out of the bank, holding a gun on them until the marshal got there. So we tried it, and the people laughed their heads off – that a little kid was holding a gun on these guys. And I did that for two years, almost every Sunday. And Ray’s son did it, and some other friends of Ray’s son did it. So we considered ourselves stunt kids. It was great fun, and I’m so glad my father took some pictures of it, because now I can look back on it.”
The book is large enough to have high-quality pictures, but small enough to be carried around when you're doing a walking tour, trying to find locations. I asked Marc which were the busiest locations for Western filming in the old days. “Bronson Canyon’s number one. Then the Providencia Ranch -- that’s where the Squaw Man was filmed, and the Nestor Westerns. Nestor came in 1911, built the first studio in Hollywood, and made the first westerns in Hollywood. And they shot most of them in Providencia Ranch, which later became known as Lasky Ranch, which became Forest Lawn Cemetery.” Of course, some of Squaw Man was also filmed at the DeMille Barn, which now sits across from the Hollywood Bowl. “The Barn was (in Hollywood) at Selma and Vine, on the southeast corner. They filmed the English scenes there, and some western scenes. All the rest was done in the San Fernando Valley, and in Hemet. They built the train station in Roscoe, California, which is now Sun Valley. Douglas Fairbanks did the Mark of Zorro in Sun Valley as well, right by Tuxford Street and San Fernando Road. It was all gravel pits, a gravel mining area then.
“Another important location was the San Fernando Mission; a lot of stuff was shot right around the Mission. D.W. Griffith did a Custer film near there. Charge of the Light Brigade – that’s Lasky Mesa, the Hidden Hills area today. That was the Ahmanson Ranch, just purchased by the Santa Monica Conservancy. So that’s open land now, and protected, thank goodness.”
Of course, at one time every studio had their own ranch for westerns and other outdoor pictures. Marc is the official historian and tour guide for the Paramount Ranch in Agoura. But I was amazed to learn that there had been a major Western movie-town ten minutes from my home. “The RKO Ranch was at Louise and Burbank Boulevard, in Encino. The Cimarron street was built there in 1931, which was a major western town if you remember the film. It became the nucleus of the ranch, and later they built other buildings, residential neighborhoods, and in 1939 they built the Paris sets and Notre Dame for the Charles Laughton version (of Hunchback of Notre Dame). When Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra came there to do It’s a Wonderful Life, they remodeled the Cimarron Street to be Bedford Falls. In 1953 Howard Hughes owned RKO, and he liquidated the ranch – he didn’t need it anymore. He dismantled it, and the Hertz family, who’d purchased the Paramount Ranch, purchased pieces of the RKO Ranch and brought them to the Paramount Ranch. The current western town at the Paramount Ranch was the RKO western town. The Hertzs were a family that came from back east that always wanted to own and run a movie ranch. So when the National Park Service purchased it (Paramount Ranch), I was the one who did the historic report on it. We contacted the Hertz family, and they came out for the dedication. They were very proud to know that their little ranch was going to be saved.” To learn more, come to the book signing.
TEX RITTER AND BUFFALO BILL
After writing about Tex Ritter’s birthday last week, I was in the mood to see one of his films, and got out Trouble In Texas (1937), one of his Grand National pictures, that I’d picked up in a Public Domain package at my supermarket. Directed by Bob Steele’s dad, R. N. Bradbury, and written by oater specialist Robert Emmett Tansey, it’s a nice actioner featuring lovely Rita Hayworth, Glenn Strange, Charles King, and Yakima Canutt, who alternates doubling for Tex and beating him up. There’s some particularly wild stunt work even for Canutt – a fist-fight on top of a runaway team of horses pulling a stagecoach! But what is usually the most boring part of a programmer, the stock footage, turned out to be a high-point. Tex plays a rodeo cowboy, and there are two too-long rodeo sequences featuring badly matched edits from the newsreel stuff to our stars. But also featured are several minutes of what is clearly Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and much better-quality footage than I have ever seen elsewhere!
UNFORGIVEN AT BAY THEATRE – SEAL BEACH – JAN. 24,27
Clint Eastwood’s classic will be showing on Monday and Thursday night at 8:00 p.m. The theatre has been near the intersection of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway since 1947. The address is 340 Main Street, Seal Beach, CA, 90740. (562) 431-9988.
JOHN WAYNE DOUBLE-BILL AT THE AERO JAN. 27TH
The Aero Cinemateque will screen The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Red River on Thursday, Jan. 27th, starting at 7:30 p.m. They’re located at 1328 Montana Avenue at 14th St. in Santa Monica. In February they’ll be showing Gone With The Wind; The Good, The Bad and The Ugly; Once Upon a Time in the West; and Once Upon a Time in America!
ROY ROGERS IS ‘JESSE JAMES AT BAY’ ON RFD-TV
This week’s offering from 1941 is directed by Joe Kane, and features a clearly fictional but highly entertaining spin on the Jesse James legend, and Roy gets a double role. Also starring Gabby Hayes and Sally Payne, the cast includes the greatest of all Republic villains, Roy Barcroft, Hal Taliaffero, the adorable Gale Storm, Billy Benedict, and as the town drunk, one of the original Keystone Kops, Chester Conklin.
WESTERN EVENTS ON THE HORIZON
FEB. 18TH-21ST – WHISKEY FLAT DAYS IN KERNVILLE
Events include a parade, rodeo, frog-jumping contest, food, music and melodramas. For more info, call 760-376-2629, or visit kernvillechamber.org.
FEB. 19TH-20TH – CIVIL WAR WEEKEND AT CALICO GHOST TOWN
Events include Civil War reenactments, authentic encampments, drills, music, living history displays, period fashion shows, and a reading of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. To learn more, call 800-86-CALICO (862-2542) or visit calicotown.com.
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. 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.
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.
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.
I need to get this stuff up now, so tomorrow I'll add info on next Saturday's Roy Rogers picture, and whatever else comes up!
Copyright January 2011 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved