Monday, June 20, 2011



While Hollywood-themed auctions happen every year, it’s been decades since anything like ‘Debbie Reynolds -- The Auction’ has taken place. The breadth and scope of her collection is without parallel, and guestimates of what the take would be were all over the map. It was predicted and hoped that she would earn a few million, but no one was prepared for the staggering amount that was paid.

The biggest price-tag of all was the white dress Marilyn Monroe wore, standing over the subway grating in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH, which fetched $4,600,000! Although Western items were a very small part of the sale, some of them did very well. A Cesar Romero ‘Cisco Kid’ costume brought $5,000. Two of his gun-rigs and pistols sold as well, the more low-key bringing $5,000, and the one with the silver buckles drawing $8,500. The get-up Marlene Dietrich wore while singing “See What The Boys In the Back Room Will Have,” in DESTRY RIDES AGAIN, went for $8,000. Glenn Ford was a bidder favorite, most items going for double the estimate. His boots and hat went for $2,000, and wardrobe items from CIMARRON, THE SHEEPMAN and THE ROUNDERS brought $3,750. His well-worn personal saddle, a gift from Debbie Reynolds, and estimated at $600-$800, sold for $3,750.

Betty Hutton played Annie Oakley in the Cole Porter musical ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, and her Helen Rose-designed wild west show get-up sold for $11,000. Her hillbilly rags from the same role brought $1,700. Judy Garland was originally cast in the part, and a two-piece dress and blouse designed for her by Walter Plunkett and Helen Rose brought $7,000. Howard Keel played marksman Frank Butler in the movie, and his suit, boots and hat went for $2,700. His Winchester .30-30 model 1894 lever-action rifle with ‘FB’ inlaid in the stock sold for $4,000.

Robert Redford’s dress jacket from BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID sold for $8,500 – without the pants. Marilyn Monroe’s gold saloon-girl dress from RIVER OF NO RETURN, designed by Travilla, brought six times the low-end estimate: $510,000.

There were many costume items from HOW THE WEST WAS WON, in which Miss Reynolds costarred. James Stewart’s suede trapper outfit cost $17,000. Gregory Peck’s overcoat and pants were $4,500, and his suit was $4,000. Thelma Ritter’s blue silk gown, now faded nearly white, sold for $2,750. George Peppard’s cavalry lieutenant’s jacket brought $7,000, far above the $800-$1,200 estimate. Debbie’s silk floral gown sold for $11,000, and Plunkett’s costume sketch of it sold for $4,750. The eggplant-colored gown she wears as an old lady near the end of the picture went for $17,000. Even the paper went high: a set of eight lobby cards, estimated at $200-$300 fetched $1,900, and a linen-backed six-sheet poster cost $2,250.

And in six months, Debbie’s selling the other half of her collection! I think it’s a wonderful thing that the collection is bringing her such a windfall. Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the studio system was crashing and burning, and frantic studio drones, with no sense of the value of their companies’ history, burnt and shredded everything they could get their hands on, selling off the costume, prop, art and research departments and bulldozing the lots. A very few people, like Debbie Reynolds and Jane Withers, bought up what they could to preserve it. From the beginning, forty years ago, Miss Reynolds’ goal was to build a museum, to share her collection with the public. She managed it, in Las Vegas, for all of five years, and was nearly bankrupted because of it. She has been a wonderful steward of Hollywood history all of these years, and she deserves every penny. Moreover, speaking as someone who fears that younger generations don’t care about films from Hollywood’s golden age, the prices these items are bringing suggest that they do care.

Still, it’s a pity that the collection could not be kept together. Unexpectedly, the auction catalog begins with an introduction by George Lucas, who says in part, “Thanks to Debbie, these iconic pieces are intact and in excellent condition – a rarity in an industry too often driven by the Next Big Thing, rather than respect for the past. As time passes, there are fewer opportunities for fans to avail themselves – firsthand – of this rich heritage, and I hope that true cinema-philes will see this collection for what it is: a treasure.” It was nice of Lucas to write an introduction. But why didn’t he, instead, write a check, preserve the collection, and build the Debbie Reynolds Museum?


Don’t forget Brian Lebel’s Old West Auction this Saturday, June 25th, in Denver, Colorado. I’ve mentioned in previous Round-ups about the Billy the Kid tintype, and the bizarre Buffalo Bill Cody divorce documents, but there’s much more. There is a tremendous collection of Bill Cody items, beautiful Indian artwork, and paper items and weapons related to the Lincoln County Wars, the Hole in the Wall Gang, and even Pat Garrett’s autograph. To learn more, go HERE.


Michael B. Druxman’s memoir, MY FORTY-FIVE YEARS IN HOLLYWOOD…AND HOW I ESCAPED ALIVE, is not your usual showbiz autobiography. For one thing, Druxman is not a household name. He’s not a movie star, he only directed one feature, and while he’s written several, none of them were blockbusters. He did not have a gigantic career in Hollywood, but he’s had a good one, and he’s a talented writer. It’s not so much ‘The Story of My Triumphs’ as it is ‘What Happened While I Was Trying to Get My Foot In the Door.’ And what happened was a series of unusual careers.

His interest in showbiz began when, as a child vacationing with his parents in Los Angeles, he met the great Jimmy Durante, who not only gave him an autograph, but made a big fuss over the cute little kid. Going back home to Seattle, Michael haunted the major hotels when stars came to visit, and collected the signatures of Eddie Fisher, Gypsy Rose Lee, Ricardo Montalban, Howard Duff and Ida Lupino. Hired as an extra for IT HAPPENED AT THE WORLD’S FAIR, he got to hang out with Elvis, but was unimpressed: his taste in stars ran to the Golden Era of film. As he grew, his interest and involvement with local theatre eventually led him to Hollywood, where he directed a short film that was shot by soon-to-be exploitation legend Ted V. Mikels.

Paying the rent by writing resumes, he learned about the publicist game – planting news stories in trades like The Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, for actors and directors who figured visibility led to employment. Undercutting all the pros – his one-inch ad in Variety promised, “A PRESS AGENT FOR $25” -- he was soon hard at work, and his first client was Sal Mineo. Some clients were relative unknowns, like Charles Wagenheim, the assassin from FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, who was playing a continuing role on GUNSMOKE as the town drunk. Others were well-known actors like Howard Keel, Robert Horton, Charles Nelson Reilly, Madlyn Rhue, Pat Harrington, Edd ‘Kookie’ Byrnes, Steve Kanaly, John Rusell and Dan O’Herlihy, songsters Paul Francis Webster and Sammy Fain, directors Budd Boetticher and Edward Dymytrk, and producer Stanley Rubin. He has wonderful stories trying to get press from threats against Michael Ansara, and a premature obit for Abe Vigoda.

But though Druxman had entre to all the studios, and hobnobbed with stars for more than two decades, he wanted to be the creative talent himself. His next career was that of a star biographer, and after writing about Paul Muni, Basil Rathbone and Merv Griffin, he turned playwright. This was the time of one-man shows like Hal Holbrook’s MARK TWAIN TONIGHT and James Whitmore’s WILL ROGERS show. Druxman wrote shows about Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Carole Lombard and Al Jolson. William Conrad, radio’s Matt Dillon and arguably the best voice-actor in history, was all set to play Orson Welles for him, but JAKE AND THE FATMAN intervened.

Still, Druxman wanted to write for the big screen, and after writing many a spec script, finally got a green light for the crime comedy KEATON’S COP, starring Lee Majors , Abe Vigoda and Don Rickles. The finished product wasn’t everything he’d hoped, but it was his foot in the door, and it led to a career writing for Roger Corman and his wonderful story editor, Frances Doel. For the king of the low-budgets he wrote DILLINGER AND CAPONE, about their imagined meeting, starring Martin Sheen and F. Murray Abraham. He wrote NIGHTFALL, RAPTOR and BATTLE QUEEN 2020, and directed THE DOORWAY, in Ireland, starring Roy Scheider. But the work that he is most proud of is the screenplay for his Corman-produced western, CHEYENNE WARRIOR. Druxman has great respect for Corman, and his ability to get every dollar on the screen.

You won’t just learn about his showbiz career. You’ll learn about his family, his women, his in-laws. I assumed a chapter entitled ‘Cashing Checks’ was about working for fly-by-night producers, but it’s actually about when Druxman ran a check-cashing business.

As I said, it’s not the life-story of a mega-star, but haven’t we read enough of those? It’s the life-story of a man who created his own path to success in the film business, and it’s enjoyable and informative reading for anyone who’d like to read beyond the superficial gloss, and anyone who’s similarly trying to cut their own trail in this town. It’s also very funny. It’s from Bear Manor Media, a publisher that produces in-depth and specialized film and TV-related books. To visit the publisher, go HERE. In next week’s Round-up I’ll have an interview with Michael Druxman, and a review of CHEYENNE WARRIOR, which is the best tiny-budget western I’ve seen.


During the year and a half that I’ve been writing the Round-up, one of my favorite benefits has been the chance to visit those magical locations, Western movie towns and sets. Melody Ranch, Veluzat Ranch and Paramount Ranch are all a kind of dream-world to me, and to be present for the filming of a Western is icing on the cake.

The very first time I visited a movie ranch was when I was a kid, on vacation in L.A., and we jumped a fence at Spahn Ranch, where a DEATH VALLEY DAYS crew had left the day before. My sister and I ran up and down the street, having shootouts, never dreaming that it would soon become the base-camp for Manson and his band of lunatics.

About twenty-five years ago, I was working at the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank. When my parents and sister, Deirdre, came out to visit, I got them a drive-on, so I could get them on the lot and take them to lunch in the commissary. Afterwards, we roamed the Western streets, and Deirdre took the pictures that are on the left. I’m sorry to say that the western street is gone now, bulldozed for a parking structure. At least we have memories, and a few pictures.


On Thursday, June 23rd, the Autry will show the brilliant and often hilarious documentary REEL INJUN, which examines the role of American Indians in film from the American Indian point of view. Also shown will be the short AMERICAN INDIAN ACTORS. This program is from 7 to 9:30 p.m., and a Q&A with filmmakers will follow. Free tickets are available online and at the box office.

On Saturday, June 25th at 2:00 p.m. they’ll show HEART OF THE RIO GRANDE (1942), which, unlike the first-Saturday-of-the-month screening will be a 35mm print from the UCLA Archives.


On Thursday June 23rd at 2:30 pm it’s SPOILERS OF THE PLAIN (1951), with Roy, Trigger, Penny Edwards, Gordon Jones, William Whitney directing, and Sloan Nibley supplying a tale of rockets, satellites, foreign spies, and Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage. On Saturday, June 25th at 9:00 a.m. it’s THE COWBOY AND THE SENORITA. It’s Roy’s first movie with Dale, and let us hope they show the full 78 minute version rather than the 52 minute chop-job.


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.


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.

Also, AMC has started showing two episodes of THE RIFLEMAN on Saturday mornings.


I’m getting this report out a little later than usual because my daughter took me out to lunch and to do some gold panning. I was thinking of my favorite fathers in Western TV and films. On the tube it’s Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain on THE RIFLEMAN, with Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright on BONANZA as a close second. Favorite dad in a dysfunctional family would be Leif Ericson as Big John Cannon on HIGH CHAPARRAL. But when it comes to features, aside from Van Heflin in SHANE, nothing much came to mind. Who do you like as a western father figure?

Have a great week!

Happy trails,


All Contents Copyright June 2011 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

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