Monday, July 9, 2012


Ernest Borgnine, who earned his Oscar as MARTY, and was unforgettable as Dutch Engstrom in THE WILD BUNCH, has died at 95.  From FROM HERE TO ETERNITY to JOHNNY GUITAR, VERA CRUZ, BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, THE DIRTY DOZEN, Borgnine was unique, not only switching deftly between drama and comedy, but also between hero and villain.  Never idle, over the past few years he gained a new children’s audience voicing Mermaidman in SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS. 

Having written his autobiography, ERNIE, over the past several years he’d been travelling the country doing book-signings and personal appearances at venues big and small, even appearing at the North Hollywood Public Library for a MARTY screening.  He never seemed to be in anything but a great mood, and I’ve never heard a bad word about him from anyone who worked with him.  And he never stopped working.  When I asked him last July when he was going to do another Western, he laughed, “I'm doing one right now! It's called THE MAN WHO SHOOK THE HAND OF VINCENTE FERNANDEZ. It's a Western, but it takes place in a nursing home.”  I understand the film has been completed, and Borgnine won the Outstanding Achievement in Acting Award at this year’s Newport Beach Film Festival.


SADDLE-UP SATURDAY, featuring episodes of BONANZA, THE BIG VALLEY, DR. QUINN, MEDICINE WOMAN,and sometimes movies, now starts at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT, and runs all day and all night!  You can learn more about the line-up HERE  To celebrate the expansion, INSP is sponsoring a sweepstakes that will win some lucky viewer an all-expenses-paid four-day Dude Ranch getaway for two worth $5000! The second prize is a Weber Barbecue, Omaha Steaks and groceries worth more than $1300! Third prize – these are worth $300, and there are a dozen of them – are BIG VALLEY and BONANZA DVDs, plus a new pair of Levis and a Fisher Gold Mining Kit! To find out more, click under the banner below, and good luck!  Let's make sure these prizes are won by Round-up readers, and not someone less deserving! 


Only Wyoming has beaten California to the punch!  On Monday, July 2nd, California became the 2nd state in the Union to recognize the National Day of the Cowboy and Cowgirl as July 28th, in perpetuity.  Other states that are currently on board for this year, either by State Senate resolution, or Governor’s proclamation, are Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas.  If you’d like to watch the proclamation pass in California, featuring politicians and NDOC National Director Bethany Braley, go to the video here:

Speaking of the National Day of the Cowboy, events are happening all around the country, and as we get closer I’ll have more and more details, but to start, author J.R. Sanders, the man who created the READ ‘EM COWBOY Barnes and Noble Bookfair last year in Redlands, is at it again, and there are at least 8 READ ‘EM COWBOY events this year, including Redlands, Santa Clarita, and Valencia, California.  If you make a copy of the voucher below, when you make a purchase at any Barnes and Noble, in-store or on-line, from July 28th through August 2nd, a percentage will be contributed to organizations who encourage kids to read.  J. R.’s planned a week-long series of events, starting on July 22nd with a 50th Anniversary screening of THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE at the Fox Theatre in Old Town Redlands.  There will be all manner of related music, writing and reading events for kids and adults all week long.

(I'm having technical difficulties getting the voucher to appear -- I'll have it in place as soon as I can)

All manner of celebrations are to be held in Sedona, Arizona; the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame; Sullivan, Missouri; Slippoff Hollow, Alabama; and Jefferson, Amarillo and El Paso, Texas.  You can find out details at the NDOC website here:

The Autry plans a day packed with activities including gun-slinger Joey Dillon, trick-ropers, square dancing, music, arts and crafts, gold-panning, screening of GENE AUTRY SHOW episodes and so much more.  Learn more here:

If you have an event related to the Nation Day Of The Cowboy planned, please share it with the Round-up, so we can share it with the Round-up Rounders (our readers)!

HENRY FONDA and THE DEPUTY -- a book review

It’s hard to say what kind of roles the public thinks of when they think of Henry Fonda, because he was so damned good at all of them.  This may come off as blasphemy in the Round-up, but I usually think of him first in comedy, especially Preston Sturges’ THE LADY EVE; then as Tom Joad in the GRAPES OF WRATH; and third as Wyatt Earp in MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, and all those other great Western roles, both comic and dramatic.

We don’t think of him as the star of a Western television series, but that’s exactly what he was in 1959 and 1960, starring in THE DEPUTY, and the story of how that series came about, as well as its demise, is the subject of Glenn A. Mosely’s illuminating book.

Mosely’s previous book, JEFFREY HUNTER AND TEMPLE HOUSTON (see my review HERE ) examined a series that didn’t make it to a full season.  THE DEPUTY lasted two, and NBC wanted to renew for a third, and extend the show from a half to a full hour.  And yet, it was doomed from the start by creating expectations that the makers had no intention of fulfilling.

Television in 1959 was a very different medium than it is today, and both the public and actors looked on it very differently.  For many years, certainly well into the 1970s, established actors did not want to appear regularly in a TV series.  Guest appearances were fine, but it was believed that audiences would never pay to see an actor once they’d gotten used to seeing them for free, so doing a TV series was considered the kiss of death to a career.  So why did an actor who’d just starred in MR. ROBERTS, Hitchcock’s THE WRONG MAN, 12 ANGRY MEN and THE TIN STAR agree to do a series?  “Many of my friends have asked why I’ve picked this season to debut in my own western series.  Gold convinced me.  Residuals is a magic word.  It means it rains gold.  It is the only chance an actor has to save money these days.  The thought of having an annuity from the residuals is very satisfying.” 

So it was more for love of money than love of westerns, but whatever it took to get Henry Fonda in the door was fine.  The premise was clever: Fonda plays Marshal Simon Fry in 1880 Arizona Territory, and he’s forever conning gunman-turned-shopkeeper Clay McCord (Allen Case) to ‘temporarily’ don a deputy’s badge, and help him on a case.  The plots were dramatic, but if the setup sounds a little more humorous than westernish, it’s no surprise when you learn THE DEPUTY was the first series created by soon-to-be sitcom powerhouse Norman Lear, and VERA CRUZ and CRIMSON PIRATE author Roland Kibbee.  And Norman Lear reveals that he and Kibbee borrowed that marshal-conning-deputy gag from Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s THE FRONT PAGE, better known as the Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell remake HIS GAL FRIDAY.

So, what went wrong?  Notice the series isn’t named THE MARSHAL, after Fonda’s character, but THE DEPUTY, after Case’s.  Fonda agreed to be ‘in’ every episode of the series, but to ‘star’ only in a few.  In the first season, he was the lead in seven out of 39 episodes!  In the other thirty-two, he did appearances so brief that they could shoot as many as five Fonda segments a day!  Fonda’s real love was the theatre, and his deal on THE DEPUTY made it possible to do plays or movies for nine months out of the year.  But would the public stand for it?

Mr. Mosley is a booster for the series, both the Fonda and non-Fonda episodes, and describes each in the fifty page episode guide.  He makes the point that if the quality of each script isn’t uniformly brilliant, shows of that period were expected to churn out 39 or 40 episodes per season, compared to our current fifteen or ten.  True, but it must be remembered that shows of the same period and with the same production schedule, like HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, GUNSMOKE, THE REBEL and THE RIFLEMAN, hit a tremendous amount of home runs per season.  Of course, they had a steady writing and directing staff – GUNSMOKE even had a decade of radio scripts to fall back on.  But after the creators of THE DEPUTY, Lear and Kibbee, turned in their pilot, Lear never wrote another episode, and Kibbee only wrote one.  Perhaps having a consistent vision when the show was getting established would have helped.

Mr. Mosley is the director of Broadcasting in the School of Journalism and Mass Media at the University of Idaho.  He brings the thoroughness of academia to his study of entertainment.  He demonstrates that many television westerns were not so much the reduced offspring of film, as they were the visual descendents of the radio western.  He also makes a convincing case that one reason for the tremendous number of westerns on television at the time – over thirty – was partly attributable to the quiz show scandals. 

THE DEPUTY board game

If you’re a fan of Fonda’s, a fan of Western TV, or just interested in how network deals were struck in TV’s early days, you’ll find HENRY FONDA AND THE DEPUTY very entertaining and informative.  It’s published by BearManor Media, and available through them, Amazon and other dealers, priced at $19.95.  The forward is by Read Morgan, who played Sgt. Tasker in season two; the prologue is by Christian I Nyby II, who, like his father, was a talented and prolific director, but who began his career on the ‘labor gang’ at Republic, where THE DEPUTY and so many other westerns, big-screen and small, were shot. 

Incidentally, if the book whets your appetite to see THE DEPUTY, you can find the entire run for sale on eBay for as little as $42. 


WR Films, the folks preparing to film MORGAN KANE: THE LEGEND BEGINS, have been releasing e-book versions of the novels to familiarize English-speakers with the most successful series of European-written Western novels since Karl May wrote about Winnetou and Old Shatterhand.  The stories are by Louis Masterson, pen-name for the prolific Kjell Hallbing, Norway’s most popular author.  Morgan Kane is sometimes a lawman, sometimes a bandit, sometimes a Texas Ranger.  The covers have all been eye-catching, but #13, REVENGE!, is their sexiest yet.  It and #12, GUNMAN’S INHERITANCE, have been released, and are available through Amazon and wherever e-books are sold, as are #1-11 -- and you definitely want to start at the beginning.


As regular readers know, Los Encinos Park in Encino is one of the California treasures threatened with closure by a bankrupt and incompetent state government.  An anonymous donor stepped up and gave them enough money to keep afloat through the 2012-2013 fiscal year!  The Docent Association, the park, and community invite you to join them on Sunday, July 15th from 11-3:30 for an extra special celebratory Living History day. It's B.Y.O.P.--bring your own picnic!  Also, from 1 to 2 p.m., they’ll be filming park visitors, asking what makes Los Encinos, locally known as ‘the duck park,’ special to them, and why they chose to make a donation to keep the park open.  Questions? Contact us: 818.784.4849 or


Season two of HELL ON WHEELS won’t begin until Sunday, August 12th, but while we’re waiting, here are some season one behind-the-scenes pictures featuring, top to bottom, Anson Mount, Common and Wes Studi.

That'll have to do it for this week -- what with getting called for jury duty this week, I'm amazed I got half this much done.  Oh, and let's not forget to wish a happy birthday to an actress who, with a single performance, made a great addition to the Western film, Kim Darby!

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright July 2012 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved


  1. For one thing the score of the Deputy was terrible. It was a jazz score and didn't fit with the series at all. I guess they were trying to play up to the young crowd but western scores are special and shouldn't be messed with. I think a gradual decrease in Fonda's appearances over the season may have worked better than his usual cameos.

  2. I agree with you on both counts -- that jazz guitar was too 'hip' then and too dated now, completely pulling you out of the show. I think you're right about Fonda's role as well. In MY THREE SONS and FAMILY AFFAIR, as Brian Keith and Fred MacMurray got tired of the shows (and who wouldn't?), they did the Fonda thing, shooting short cut-ins, but by then, the audience had gotten to know and like the other characters, and it was no longer just about the name star.

  3. Henry you're the best! I really appreciate all the effort you put into sharing information about the National Day of the Cowboy. Even though the 4th Saturday is drawing close, we're still hoping to get a few more proclamations supporting the resolution this year. I'm totally excited about J.R's Read Em Cowboy project which has taken off around the country, because it's such a creative way to re-engage young folks in this culture. In addition to the ones in CA, there will be five Read Em Cowboys in Texas, one in South Dakota, one in Wyoming and one in Colorado. The Will James Society is donating four sets of his books to REC Ramrods J.R. Sanders, Julie Ream, Francie Ganje, and Liz Lawless, which they in turn will donate to their local libraries. One last thing, I have a volunteer working really hard in Indiana who is having a hard time finding cowboy connections to support the NDOC resolution. If you live in Indiana and you'd like to help him out, send an email to Hats off to the cowboy and a big yahooo shout out to California for passing the resolution in perpetuity.

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    1. I'm going to have to find out about e-mail subscription hyperlinks and e-newsletter services! They sound like something I should have, but I wasn't aware of them. As I am writing this I see, below where it will be posted, a link that says 'subscribe by email.' Maybe that will do the trick. I'll definitely find out -- thanks for bringing it to my attention! P.S. -- I like your Old Indian Movies site!

  5. Whoops, I tried the 'subscribe' button, and it's only for subscribing to comments. I'll have to work on this.