Monday, June 27, 2011
ROUND-UP JOINS TCM FOR A SALUTE TO SINGING COWBOYS!
July 2011 will be the month of the Singing Cowboy on Turner Classic Movies, and Henry’s Western Round-up will be putting its two cents in. I was interviewed for a short TCM documentary about people who are crazy for westerns, which will be run in conjunction with the features. I don’t know how much I’ll be in it – there were other interviewees after all -- or exactly when it’ll air, but I’m told it’ll be ready to run by July 1st. I’ll have info on the Facebook page as soon as I know more.
But back to the singing cowboys! Every Friday in July will feature a different line-up of sagebrush troubadours. July 1st will feature five films starring Roy Rogers beginning at 5 p.m. Pacific time: COWBOY AND THE SENORITA, DON’T FENCE ME IN, MY PAL TRIGGER, THE GOLDEN STALLION and TRIGGER JR. July 8th will take aim at Gene Autry with OLD CORRAL, HOME ON THE PRAIRIE, BACK IN THE SADDLE, TEXANS NEVER CRY and WAGON TEAM. On July 15th the night is split between Tex Ritter and Jimmy Wakely, July 22nd it’s Dick Foran and Monte Hale, and on July 29th we’ll hear from Rex Allen, Herbert Jeffrey and Ken Maynard.
Film Review - CHEYENNE WARRIOR
CHEYENNE WARRIOR, made in 1994 and recently released on DVD, is one of the very best Westerns of the last twenty years. Directed by Mark Griffiths from Michael B. Druxman’s original screenplay, it begins at the start of the Civil War, with a young couple, Kelly Preston and Charles Edward Powell as the Carvers, on their way to Oregon. Impatient to get there, instead of waiting to travel with a wagon train, they’ve gone alone. At a trading post at the base of the mountains, the trader Barkley, played by Dan Haggerty, stuns them by revealing that they are too late: the trail will be impassable until spring. They have nowhere to go now, nowhere to wait out the bitter winter, and Kelly is with child. Barkley is as helpful and generous as he can be, but he’s disgusted with their lack of planning, and tells them, “Dumb people just don’t make it out here.”
And that’s a theme that runs throughout the movie: the Wild West is an unforgiving place, and people that don’t learn fast, that rely on old prejudices, rather than observation, to tell their friends from their enemies, die quickly. It’s consistent that intelligence should be at the core of such an intelligently written story. While Cheyenne Warrior delivers all of the basic ingredients one expects from a western, it does so by having those elements arise naturally from the behavior of believable characters, not because it’s time for a shootout or an Indian fight or to burn a cabin.
In fairly short order Rebecca Carver becomes a widow and meets Hawk, played by Pato Hoffman, the Cheyenne warrior of the title, and they must rely on each other to survive. Their relationship is not an easy one – even with his gratitude for her saving his life, she is so obstinate and slow to learn that he nicknames her ‘Not Too Smart Woman,’ but they eventually come to an understanding, and a respect for each other. But the question remains; when she has her baby, will she stay at the trading post, or try to go back home, or go to Hawk’s village, where many would not welcome her. Screenwriter Druxman’s inspiration was to transpose The King and I to the west, and there are some amusing moments that go along with that premise. There is a solid romance to the story, but not the sappy cookie-cutter sort one expects from, say Hallmark Channel pseudo-westerns.
CHEYENNE WARRIOR is the best micro-budget westerns that I have seen, and I have seen a lot. Costing roughly three quarters of a million, looking like Canada but shot in Simi Valley, about a mile from the Reagan Library, it is a text-book example of how producer Roger Corman puts all the money on the screen. With most low-budget westerns of the past couple of decades, you are forced, as an audience member, to forgive things that reflect the budget: the story is recycled or the supporting actors are amateurish or there’s only one horse and no rolling stock. But there are no excuses necessary here: the script and direction and performances are first-rate; Blake T. Evans’ photography is beautiful and evocative, Roderick Davis’ editing is crisp without calling attention to itself, and Arthur Kempel’s score brings to mind the subtler music in John Ford Westerns.
Of course, it all rises and falls on whether we care what happens to Rebecca and Hawk, which means it’s all on Kelly Preston’s and Pato Hoffman’s shoulders, and they are very much up to the challenge. Pato is smart and dignified, but also frequently baffled by and frustrated by Kelly, by turns amusingly and dramatically. He is much more that the cliché noble savage. Kelly’s Rebecca is independent without being strident, with strong beliefs, but willing to learn new ways. She’s also, without being obviously glamorized, at her most beautiful (I may be somewhat prejudiced: she did CHEYENNE WARRIOR and my noir, DOUBLE CROSS, back to back).
In addition to Dan Haggerty, who gives what is my personal favorite of his performances, the supporting cast includes Bo Hopkins as the scout for a wagon train, and Rick Dean (a fine actor who died tragically at age 53) and Clint Howard as a pair of buffalo hunters enamored of the Carvers’ Henry rifle. It seems like an injustice that CHEYENNE WARRIOR was released directly to home video. We should see this one on the big screen. It’s available from Amazon, Netflix, Blockbuster and Roger Corman’s New Horizons Pictures among other places. But if you want to email writer Michael Druxman at Druxy@ix.netcom.com, he will sell you the DVD and the published script, autographed, for $25.
A CHAT WITH ‘CHEYENNE WARRIOR’ AUTHOR MICHAEL B. DRUXMAN
Having read MY FORTY-FIVE YEARS IN HOLLYWOOD…AND HOW I ESCAPED ALIVE, and seen CHEYENNE WARRIOR, I thought I’d do a quick phone interview with author and screenwriter Michael Druxman, to get a couple of good quotes. I reached him at his home in Austin, Texas. I didn’t expect to talk for two hours, but that’s what happens when you meet a kindred spirit. We got to the main event, CHEYENNE WARRIOR, eventually, but he’d just watched the Coen Brothers’ TRUE GRIT the night before, and that got us onto the subject of remakes versus originals, and favorite westerns.
MICHAEL: Overall I think it was a little better than the original. The girl was terrific. I thought that John Wayne was more fun than Jeff Bridges, but performance-wise it was a toss-up. I hate remakes. I think 99% of the time they’re never as good as the originals; case in point, 3:10 TO YUMA. But what happens is the new generation sees the remake, and unless they’re real movie-lovers they never see the original, which is so often much better, because they figure, been there, done that. I never really liked the original TRUE GRIT all that much. I don’t think it’s one of John Wayne’s best westerns. I think it’s a ‘classic’ because he won the Oscar. But I think STAGECOACH, THE SEARCHERS, RED RIVER, THE COWBOYS and THE SHOOTIST are so much better. I wrote a book some years ago called MAKE IT AGAIN, SAM, about remakes. And the point I brought out is you don’t remake a hit, you remake a movie that flopped. They remade SABRINA? You’re competing with the memory of Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and William Holden, for cryin’ out loud. But TRUE GRIT turned out to be quite a good film. I understand it’s the most successful western film of all time at this point.
I did a picture with Roy Scheider in Ireland, and we were the only two people in the company over thirty, so we spent a lot of time together, and he says, “The reason they don’t make westerns anymore is because when westerns were popular, everyone had a father or a grandfather who remembered those days, or a part of those days.” Like my father, when he was fourteen years old, was a steward on a ship that went from Seattle to Alaska on the Alaska Gold Rush. My dad was born in 1886. But now that generation is totally gone. In fifty years or less there’s going to be no one around who remembers World War II.
H: What are your favorite westerns?
M: You’ll probably hang up on me when I say it, but I am not a big fan of John Ford – Hello? Hello? I like STAGECOACH, and I like THE SEARCHERS – I think THE SEARCHERS is probably the greatest western ever made. I think part of Ford’s problem was his sense of humor stunk. The worst part of THE SEARCHERS is the wedding scene. It stops the movie. He was one of the greatest director, from a visual standpoint, that we’ve ever had, but his stories were so slow-moving. Hawks was another one. With the exception of RED RIVER, I don’t like his westerns. I think RIO BRAVO is much too long. I interviewed Hawks once. And he said something to me that really took me aback. He said, “I’m not interested in telling stories. I’m interested in making good scenes.” And as a writer, I really find that shocking. Tim Burton says, “I wouldn’t know a good story if it jumped up and bit me in the face.” But I like his movies. Although I didn’t care too much for ALICE IN WONDERLAND once they went down the rabbit hole and it became a CGI movie – I hate CGI movies. The reason we’ve got so many shitty movies is everybody wants something different. The director is interested in making good scenes, the cinematographer wants pretty pictures, the actor is interested in his part, the producer would sell his soul just to get the movie made on budget, and the only person that’s really interested in telling a viable story is the writer, and he’s the first one they kick off the picture. It’s like a dog on a lamppost: everybody wants to put their mark on the movie. The only truly creative part of a screenplay is done by the original writer. Everything else is interpretation. ‘Wouldn’t this work better if you turned the old Eskimo woman into a Hawaiian dancing girl?’ The director has his ideas, the star wants his ideas put in, and what you find so many times is the thing that was so appealing in the script, by the time they’re ready to film, is gone. But now they’re under a time-pressure thing, because they’ve got to start shooting by Monday. So they’re forced to go with the latest version of the script, which may not be the best one, and that’s why you get shitty pictures.
H: Whose western do you like?
M: I like the westerns of Anthony Mann – I think they’re terrific. I love the westerns of Delmer Daves. I liked the westerns of Budd Boetticher, with Randolph Scott – Boetticher used to be a publicity client of mine. Randolph Scott I think is my favorite western star. I like John Wayne movies. A client of mine, George Sherman, directed BIG JAKE, which is a pretty good movie. I like THE GUNFIGHTER. You know what’s a great little western that’s not out on DVD is THE LAST POSSE with Broderick Crawford. I like DANCES WITH WOLVES. There’s a B western called DAWN AT SOCORRO with Rory Calhoun, OPEN RANGE. I like SHANE – the only problem with SHANE is Alan Ladd. If they put in Gary Cooper or Randolph Scott, someone who can act… A great fun western is THE OKLAHOMA KID, with Bogart and Cagney. The other Cagney one I really like is RUN FOR COVER. Ernest Borgnine’s in it.
H: You came to Hollywood to make movies, and you did, but with about a 32 year period as a publicist in the middle. During that time did you ever give up your goal of making movies?
M: No, I never gave it up, but I was enjoying the first several years. I was playing with the big boys – I was at the studios every day. I was representing people like Eddie Dmytryk – who did (directed) WARLOCK, which was a damned good western. Of course he did a shitty western when he was with me, called SHALAKO. The Dmytryk western I love is BROKEN LANCE, which Delmer Daves wrote.
And there was a particular story that Michael wanted to tell.
M: The original concept of CHEYENNE WARRIOR was The King and I in the old west. And I carried this idea around in my head for seventeen years. And I didn’t write it because the western was pretty much dead. Then DANCES WITH WOLVES and LONESOME DOVE and UNFORGIVEN – and Clint Eastwood makes a damned good western – they came out, and I decided to sit down and write this. And it’s essentially a love story.
The person who changed Michael’s life forever was Roger Corman.
M: And I have the greatest respect for Roger Corman: he can take a dollar and a half and make a movie that looks like a million bucks. And he gives people a chance – he let me direct my first feature movie when I was fifty-eight years old! How many producers would do that? I quit the PR business and became a screenwriter thanks to Roger Corman, who kept hiring me, and for ten years I made a very good living. Roger Corman did not want to make this movie, because it had a female protagonist, and Roger’s movies mostly appeal to young males. His producer really pushed to do it.
H: Your female lead in CHEYENNE WARRIOR is Kelly Preston. What’s she like?
M: She was sweet. This was before PULP FICTION came out. At one point, when (she and her husband, John Travolta) got here, they offered the part of the husband to Travolta. Which I think was a three or four day shoot. His agent said, we want $100,000 a day and top billing, because PULP FICTION was about to come out, and that was gonna rejuvenate him. So that didn’t happen. And the Dan Haggerty part they originally offered to Robert Duvall.
H: He didn’t want it?
M: He wanted too much money.
H: I think it’s the very best performance I’ve seen Haggerty give.
M: He said to me, ‘You son of a bitch, it’s the only movie I’ve ever been killed in!’
It became one of the highest-grossing movies that New Horizons had ever made, and the people at the studio said it was the best movie they’d ever made. I’m very proud of that. There’s one thing in the picture that I strenuously objected to. (SPOILER ALERT!) In my script, they don’t go to bed together. And the director said, ‘we’ve gotta have the sex,’ and I said at that time they could have become the best platonic friends, and maybe there’s that thought, but it wouldn’t happen. The other thing, where he did listen to me. I had seen the first cut of the film, where they’re eating outside with all of the Indians. They had rewritten that scene so it was Christmas, and they were talking about the Christ child. And I said to them, “It’s Christmas on the Great Plains, and they’re sitting outside. Are you crazy?” All mention of Christmas was taken out. It was shot in the Simi Valley about a mile from where the Reagan Library is. It’s all houses now. Had they moved the camera a foot to the right or the left you would have seen telephone poles.
It’s amazing how CHEYENNE WARRIOR took off. Because it played one or two theatres, then it went directly to DVD and Showtime, and I would go into video stores, and when someone’s browsing, looking for something to rent, and without telling them who I was I’d say, ‘Here’s a good movie.’ And they’d say, ‘I saw that – I love that film!’ When did that come out – ’94? I still get fan-mail from that film; Pato Hoffman still gets fan-mail. People said, ‘Do a sequel! Do a sequel!’
He had the story, but the sequel wasn’t made.
M: I took the story I would have used as a sequel, changed the characters’ names, reworked it a bit, and I wrote a script called SARAH GOLDENHAIR, which begins with the Sand Creek Massacre, and goes on from there. That was in play for a while, but it didn’t happen. Then a year or two later, Roger calls and he says, “Okay, you win. I want you to write a sequel to CHEYENNE WARRIOR.” So I went back to my original story, and he offered me more money than he’d ever offered me to write it, because Frances (Doel, Corman’s story head) said, “If not Michael, who?” He approved the story-line, I wrote the first draft.
Mike wrote two different versions for Corman, but they’re both sitting on the shelf for now. It was not going to be a small picture; it was going to be shot in Canada, but the whole Canadian film-production financing situation changed. We jump ahead to the present day…
M: I tried to decide what I wanted to do next, writing-wise. I have a book of short stories that’s going to come out in August, from Bear Manor Fiction, and one of the stories has to do with Jesse James, for western fans. (The book’s) called DRACULA MEETS JACK THE RIPPER, AND OTHER REVISIONIST HISTORIES. I was also not very happy with what they did with my movie DILLINGER AND CAPONE. I had retained the publishing rights to the script. So I went back to my script, pulled out the essence, and wrote it as a short story. I also retained the publishing rights to both of those CHEYENNE WARRIOR sequels. So my next publishing project, I’m going to publish the two screenplay sequels, and SARAH GOLDENHAIR, in the same book. That will probably be coming in 2012 or so. But I must tell you that the character of Rebecca is not in the sequel. It’s about Hawk.
QUENTIN GETS HIS CAST FOR 'DJANGO UNCHAINED'!
Tarantino’s ‘Spaghetti Southern’ is set to go. Will Smith is out (good – he had his chance with WILD WILD WEST) and Jamie Foxx is in as title character of a slave turned bounty hunter, trained by German dentist Christoph Waltz! Django is out to rescue his wife from the clutches of Calvin Candie (Leo DiCaprio), owner of plantation/brothel CANDYLAND, with Samuel L. Jackson as his gentleman's gentleman. Among those rumored to fill out the cast are Franco Nero, Keith Carradine and Treat Williams. Aiming for a Christmas 2012 release, the Weinstein production is expected to lens starting in the fall in Louisiana.
RELEASE DATE SET FOR UNI R.I.P.D. STARRING ‘GUNSLINGER’ BRIDGES
Universal has announced a release date of June 28th, 2013 for the previously (in May) announced newest in the seemingly endless line of comic-book-based supernatural pseudo-westerns. R.I.P.D. from Dark Horse Comics, written by Peter M. Lenkoy, is about the Rest In Peace Department, a ghost police force, and Ryan Reynolds stars as a recently slain cop. Jeff Bridges will play his Old West gunslinger partner, a role originally announced for Zach Galifianakis, before schedule conflicts intervened. Director Robert Schwentke has lately helmed the Bruce Willis actioner RED and Jody Foster suspenser FLIGHT PLAN. Screenwriting team of Phil Hay and Fred Manfredi have scripted CLASH OF THE TITANS and other effects-heavy actioners.
‘THE ROY ROGERS SHOW’ COMES TO RFD-TV!
Starting Sunday, July 3rd at 9:30 a.m. Pacific time, RFD-TV brings the Roy Rogers Show back to the airwaves! Roy, Dale, Trigger, Bullet, Buttermilk, Pat Brady and Nellybelle will all be back and if you haven’t seen this show since you were a kid – or never saw it – you’ll be delighted with how well it holds up. No surprise really as the writers, directors and supporting players were largely the cream of the crop from Republic Pictures. Each show airs Sunday at 9:30, then repeats Thursday at 2:30 p.m. and Saturday at 9:00 a.m.. Unfortunately this will take the place of the Happy Trails Theatre on the RFD-TV schedule, but the Roy Rogers features are widely available, and shown frequently on Encore Westerns and TCM – check the article on the TCM singing cowboy salute for details. If you’d like to get in the mood, click HERE to see a medley of TV show openings, starting with the Roy Rogers Show.
BILLY THE KID TINTYPE SELLS FOR $2,300,000
The most optimistic conjecture had predicted half a million at the most, but the tintype considered the only authenticated photo of the young Regulator fetched nearly five times that. The winning bidder, 71 year old Palm Beach businessman William Koch, who traveled to Denver for Brian Lebel’s 22nd Annual Old West Show and Auction told the New York Daily News, “I love the Old West. I plan on enjoying it and discreetly sharing it. I think I’ll display it in a few small museums.”
The fact that in the picture, Billy sports a Winchester in his right hand, and a Colt pistol in the holster on his left hip, gave credence to the legend that Billy was left-handed. However, tintypes being a reverse image, the pistol was actually on his right hip. I’ll have more details on other items in the auction in next week’s Round-up.
FREE SATURDAY MATINEE AT THE AUTRY
on Saturday, July 2nd at noon, the Autry will screen Gene in RYTHYM OF THE SADDLE (Republic 1938) with Smiley Burnett, and COW TOWN (Columbia 1950) costarring Gail ‘Annie Oakley’ Davis and Jock Mahoney.
GLEN CAMPBELL DIAGNOSED WITH ALZHEIMER’S
Fans of country music were saddened this week to learn that the Wichita Lineman singer is suffering from the early stages of Alzheiemer’s disease. Campbell, 76, whose final studio album will be released in the end of August, decided to go public with the diagnosis. His wife Kim explained to PEOPLE MAGAZINE that he’s hoping to begin a series of farewell concerts in the fall, and if by chance he should forget a lyric, he didn’t want his audience to think that he’d been drinking. It’s a tragic, slow end to a brilliant career. One of the unexpected effects of the release of the Coen brothers’ remake of TRUE GRIT is that many movie fans saw the 1969 version again, and many have noted how well Campbell’s performance as Le Boeuf holds up.
ROBERT MITCHUM WESTERN FEST AT THE BILLY WILDER
Weekends in July will be packed with double-bills of that sleepy-eyed cowpoke Robert Mitchum, presented at the Billy Wilder Theatre in the Westwood Hammer Museum. It all starts Friday, July 8th at 7:30 PM with PURSUED (1947), directed by Raoul Walsh from a Niven Busch screenplay, and BLOOD ON THE MOON (1948), directed by Robert Wise from a Lillian Hayward script. Saturday July 9th it’s Nicholas Ray’s THE LUSTY MEN scripted by They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? novelist Horace McCoy. On Sunday July 10th, at 11:00 a.m., it’s THE RED PONY (1949) scripted by John Steinbeck from his own stories, and directed by Lewis Milestone. This one’s not just family-friendly, it’s free! All the screenings listed are in 35MM, and later in the month will be THE SUNDOWNERS, TRACK OF THE CAT, RIVER OF NO RETURN, THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY, WEST OF THE PECOS, RACHEL AND THE STRANGER, and EL DORADO. To learn more visit www.cinema.ucla.edu.
STORIES YOU MAY HAVE MISSED IF YOU DIDN'T CHECK THE ROUND-UP FACEBOOK PAGE THIS WEEK
Quentin Tarantino pinned down his cast for DJANGO UNCHAINED; MEEK'S CUTOFF screened at the Egyptian; AMC ran LONESOME DOVE and 17 episodes of THE RIFLEMAN this weekend, and you could have saved 50% on memebership to the Autry Museum. Check Facebook often, and don't miss a thing!
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.
Also, AMC has started showing two episodes of THE RIFLEMAN on Saturday mornings.
That oughta cover it for the week, but if anything else turns up, you'll find it here, or on our Facebook page.
All Contents Copyright June 2011 by Henry C. Parke - All Rights Reserved