(Wayne portrait by John Decker)
On Thursday and Friday, October 6th and 7th, on behalf of John Wayne’s family, Heritage Auctions will bring down the hammer on 744 lots from the Duke’s estate. The auction will take place at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, in Century City, the development built atop the bull-dozed backlot of 20th Century Fox, the studio where Wayne made THE BIG TRAIL(1930), THE BARBARIAN AND THE GEISHA (1958), NORTH TO ALASKA (1960), THE COMANCHEROS (1961), THE LONGEST DAY (1962), THE UNDEFEATED (1969) and RIO LOBO (1970).
Among the items featured are wardrobe pieces, some much-used, like a shirt from THE COMANCHEROS, MCCLINTOCK! and EL DORADO; a cavalry hat from THE UNDEFEATED, THE HORSE SOLDIERS, CIRCUS WORLD and RIO LOBO; a wonderful portrait of Wayne by the great John Decker; several awful portraits of Wayne, presumably by fans; a vast array of trophies and plaques; scripts from STAGECOACH, THE SEARCHERS, RIO BRAVO, THE SHOOTIST and many more; personal letters from stars and politicians; cufflinks, watches, and more belts and belt buckles than you can imagine. The viewing days are Monday through Wednesday, October 3rd through 5th. For more information, visit the Heritage Auction site HERE .
From Friday, September 16th through Monday, September 19th, BONANZA fans from around the nation and around the world converged at the Marriott Hotel in
for BONANZACON2011. The event, ramrod-ed
by Cheryl Whitman Dubuque, was a gathering not just of fans, but of those who
were involved with the making of the series, some from the very beginning. Burbank
The events varied from the festive – visits to stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, location visits, a Warner Brothers Studio tour, a country fair; to the somber – visits to Michael Landon’s and Lorne Greene’s gravesites, series creator David Dortort’s tombstone unveiling.
On Friday night, just before a panel discussion that included the lovely Mariette Hartley, BONANZA villains Morgan Woodward, Gregory Walcott and Michael Dante, Dave Blocker (Dan’s son), actor Richard Hatch (Lorne’s costar on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), writer Tony Lawrence, producer Susan McCray and firearms expert Allan Frisch, I got to talk to several of the guests, including Morgan Woodward, who was celebrating his 86th birthday at the event. I asked Morgan why BONANZA is such an important series.
MORGAN: Well, it’s important to me because David Dortort was one of my very best friends, and a mentor of mine. I worked with him on RESTLESS GUN (1957), with John Payne. I was signed to WYATT EARP, with Hugh O’Brien, when BONANZA started. And David called MCA to see if they might let me out of my contract, to do Hoss. At that time I was six foot three and weighed 225. But he made the right choice by choosing Dan Blocker. Dan was a very, very close friend of mine – we’re fellow Texans – and we knew each other long before BONANZA came along. I was very happy to see Dan get a series, because I was already working on WYATT EARP, and MCA wouldn’t let me go anyway, and why would I want to leave one series and go to another? I’m working! That was one reason BONANZA was so important to me. But also I liked the color; I liked all the guys that worked on the show.
HENRY: Of your eight BONANZA episodes, which was your favorite?
MORGAN: I believe it’s called OLD FRIENDS. I was always interested in doing that one because it was about Lorne and me, primarily.
HENRY: Was Lorne Greene a lot like Ben Cartwright?
MORGAN: Yeah, I think so. Lorne was pretty formal, he was from radio, you know. Lorne was a nice guy, always a gentleman, and we got along great.
Actor Michael Dante, whose dark good looks made him a natural for ethnic roles of all sorts, played Crazy Horse in the CUSTER TV series. He believes BONANZA is important, “…because it was family. What I loved about it is all the moral themes which we need in our country now because, as you know, we’re a very polarized country at the moment.” Although he appeared in a single episode of the series, his connection goes back to before the pilot was even shot.
MICHAEL DANTE: I came very close to being the third son. It was the character that Pernell Roberts played. He had a different name then; they changed it to Adam. But me and Michael Landon looked a little bit too much alike. And I was much taller, though we were both handsome young men. But I came very close to doing it. It’s interesting, after I did a BONANZA, I was taking off my wardrobe when the assistant director came and said, “Mr. Dortort wants to see you right away. Don’t leave the lot without him seeing you.” So I went to see him, and he said, “Michael, you did a great job in THE BRASS BOX – love what you did. We’d like you to do a series for us; HIGH CHAPARRAL.” I said, “Who’s the character? What’s he like?” “It’s a Mexican. He’s named Manalito.” I said, “David, I played the Mexican character, Miguel Ortega, in THE BRASS BOX, but versatility is my salvation in the business. I can do a lot of different characters, and I don’t want to pigeonhole myself, get typecast as a Latin-type actor. That I know would destroy my career. I’m grateful that you asked me, but I can’t do it.” I did just one BONANZA, just THE BRASS BOX, with Ramon Navarro, who was a big star – he was the original BEN HUR. And we had a nice camaraderie, he played my uncle in the piece, and we worked well together – he was a very good actor, very professional.
(Mariette Hartley and Michael Dante)
Actress Mariette Hartley still looks as fresh and beautiful as she did when Sam Peckinpah discovered her. I told her that I always think of her with the title-card, “And introducing Mariette Hartley,” in RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY.
MARIETTE HARTLEY: I have such feelings about that; my father was sitting next to me, when that came up in the showing.
Her father died soon after that, so it was very important to her that her father saw the beginning of her career success, seated beside her. I asked her how many episodes of BONANZA she starred in.
MARIETTE: (with a laugh) Four; I went through the whole family, one brother at a time. And then I dated Ben.
HENRY: That’s got to be something of a record. Which was your favorite episode?
MARIETTE: I think the one I did Dan, THE IRON BUTTERFLY, mostly because he was such a terrific actor. But also because he thought it was special. Because he didn’t get a lot of romantic parts, and it meant a lot to him. And then of course, he passed away a year after that. I loved doing that one, but I liked doing all of them.
Rick Drown is a little guy, but I wouldn’t mess with him, because easy-going as he seems, he’s all muscle. Rick was stunt-double for Mitch Vogel, who played Jamie Cartwright in the later seasons. I asked Rick how he liked doing stunt work.
RICK DROWN: I love it; I’ve been doing it for a long time.
HENRY: What kind of stunts did you do doubling for Mitch?
RICK: I did horse falls, I did saddle falls, little fights, got thrown around, beat up -- anything with horses, I drove wagons. All the stunts they needed.
HENRY: How long were you on BONANZA?
RICK: Three and a half or maybe four and a half seasons – Mitch would remember. When they moved from
HENRY: Did you double for anyone else on the show?
RICK: Yeah, I doubled for women they had on there. I doubled for other kids. Whenever they had anyone my size, I doubled them.
HENRY: Outside of BONANZA, who have you doubled for?
RICK: I doubled for Dudley Moore. I doubled him for nineteen years, starting in 10 (1979). I did the fall down the hill. I doubled Danny DeVito for eighteen years. Then I worked on MCMILLAN AND WIFE and I doubled Martha Raye for a whole season.
HENRY: Are you still working?
RICK: Oh yeah, I just finished a couple of months working on SPIDERMAN 4. Doing stunts, cars, explosions, things like that.
I had to stop asking questions then, because the panel discussion was about to begin. I’ve been to a lot of panel Q&As lately, and this was the most smartly run I’ve ever seen, because all of the questions had to be submitted in writing. This avoided the frequently seen problem of late, where a questioner will get a hold of the microphone and clamp onto it like Patty LaBelle, never giving up the floor. (The worst case I saw of this was at the Nixon Library, when Gore Vidal was supposed to introduce George McGovern at a book signing. Gore would not give up the mic or the stage, and by the time McGovern finally got to speak, his Q&A consisted of one question before he had to start signing books, so they could close the place on time.)
There were many revelations at the panel discussion. Among them, Morgan Woodward’s secret weapon as a screen villain: he never blinks on camera! Dan Blocker had his schedule arranged so he only had to work in the early part of the week, because after his fame became a problem, he moved himself and his family to
The next Bonanza Round-up is planned for June of 2014 in
NBC ORDERS YET ANOTHER WESTERN PILOT!
According to The AV CLUBB and Deadline:
SURPRISE WESTERN REVELATIONS
For several months I’ve been working as a creative consultant on a documentary called THANK YOU VERY LARGE, about three of the great, and unfairly forgotten, comics of early television, George Gobel, Martha Raye and Imogene Coca. We’ve just finished a week of interviews with comedians and writers, among them Norman Lear, Carl Reiner, Carol Channing, Jack Carter, Fred Willard and Alan Young. Among the surprises, Fred Willard revealed that he came to
(Alan Young and me)
Alan Young had revealed in his autobiography, MR. ED AND ME AND MORE, that the voice of Mr. Ed was provided by Republic Western star and curmudgeon Alan ‘Rocky’ Lane. Young confirmed that he was not an easy man to work with. “Just awful! He was his own worst enemy. After the first season they tried to replace him, but no one could reproduce that voice. He was mad because he didn’t have his own parking space. They gave him a raise, and then it was okay.” Alan also said the former Red Ryder star was a great horseman, and taught him a lot about riding. After MR. ED ended, Alan was up for the lead in a Western movie with a mystery plot. But he lost the part when a producer objected to him as a detective: “The audience will figure the horses will just tell him everything!”
BIG VALLEY INSP UPDATE
I’ve been catching episodes of THE BIG VALLEY on INSP since they started running the series on Monday. I absolutely did not remember there was a fourth son, Eugene Barkely (Charles Briles), who they ditched after eight episodes. I remember when the series came on in 1965, I was eleven, and excited to hear the word ‘bastard’ used on television. So I was startled this time when, in the pilot, I heard this exchange between Nick and Heath: “Just who are you?” “I’m Heath, Tom Barkley’s ______ son!” Yeah, INSP cut out the bastard! Sorry, eleven-year-olds of today! But otherwise the show is great, and Linda Evans is so beautiful it’s unnerving.
‘BLACKTHORN’ CONTEST WINNERS
A pair of Brooklyn-based writers, and their spouses, were the beneficiaries of our ‘BLACKTHORN/BUTCH CASSIDY CONTEST’, and attended the
Until Paul Newman redefined the role into a leading-man, the majority of actors who played the famous outlaw were among the best of Western character actors. Among them were Charles Bronson in an episode of TALES OF WELLS FARGO (1958); Neville Brand in two movies, THE THREE OUTLAWS (1956) and BADMAN’S COUNTRY (1958); Arthur Hunnicutt in CAT BALLOU (1965); Joe Sawyer twice in episodes of STORIES OF THE CENTURY (1954) and FRONTIER DOCTOR (1958); Walter Sande in DAKOTA LIL (1950); John Doucette in THE TEXAS RANGERS (1951); Gene Evans in WYOMING RENEGADES (1954); Harry Lauter in an episode of BUFFALO BILL JR. (1955); Steve Brodie in an episode of BRONCO (1961); and John Crawford in RETURN OF THE GUNFIGHTER (1967).
Post-Newman, Spaghetti Western star Hunt Powers (Jack Betts) played Butch in A FISTFUL OF DEATH (1971); there was Jarion Monroe in THE DREAM CHASER (1982); Scott Paulin in THE GAMBLER V: PLAYING FOR KEEPS (1994); John Pyper-Ferguson in an episode of MENTORS (2002); David Clayton Rogers in THE LEGEND OF BUTCH AND SUNDANCE (2006); and finally Brian Wimmer in OUTLAW TRAIL: THE TREASURE OF BUTCH CASSIDY (2006). I’m not counting the cartoon show about a rock band called BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KIDS. Oh, what the heck, Chip Hand in that thing.
TCM FANATIC - WESTERN NOW ONLINE!And speaking of TCM, have I mentioned that the segment I was interviewed for is now viewable here?
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.
AMC has been airing a block of THE RIFLEMAN episodes early Saturday mornings, usually followed by Western features.
And RFD-TV is currently showing THE ROY ROGERS SHOW several times a week, and a Roy feature as well -- check your local listings.
That's all for this week, folks. Next week I hope to have a pair of movie reviews, and a story about my recent visit to Tombstone, Arizona!
All Original Contents Copyright October 2011 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved