Monday, August 20, 2012


On Saturday, August 18th, I had the pleasure of watching the first day of filming for Zane Grey’s THE LAST DUANE, at the Veluzat family’s (formerly Gene Autry’s) Melody Ranch in Newhall.

The film, based on the novel LAST OF THE DUANES, is the fifth screen-telling of the story.  The first, in 1919, starred William Farnum; 1924’s starred Tom Mix; the first talkie version, in 1930 starred George O’Brien opposite Myrna Loy; and the 1941 version starred George Montgomery, Lynn Roberts, Eve Arden, George E. Stone and, in the role of Texas Ranger Maj. McNeil (a fictionalized version of Leander H. McNelly), the star of the 1919 version, William Farnum.

George Montgomery

Zane Grey, who died in 1939, was a tremendously popular and influential Western writer in his day, and his novels and stories have been the source for 113 movies and TV shows, and some, like RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE, have been filmed many times.  Big budget and small, his stories were filmed frequently at Fox, Columbia, and a particularly fine series of about a dozen films were done at Paramount in the 1930s, many featuring Buster Crabbe or Randolph Scott.  From 1956 to 1961, Dick Powell produced and hosted ZANE GREY THEATRE, often showcasing Grey’s stories.  Though Grey is not much discussed today, a glance at reveals a tremendous number of his novels in print and available in paper, hardback, and e-book form – I recorded audio-book versions of one or two of his novels a few years back.

This newest version of the story, from Market Street Productions,  is being directed by Christopher Ekstein, and written by Ekstein, Jason Chase Tyrrell and Stacy Ownes Ekstein.  The lead has not yet been determined, but he won't be needed for filming this weekend because the twelve pages of script being shot center around a dramatic incident in his character’s youth.  His role will be played by a child actor, and you’ll see one of those ‘Ten Years Later’ titles, and then the story will continue.  The bulk of the movie will be shot starting in October.

Jason Patric

Danny Trejo

Rose McGowan

The stars of the opening sequence, who were hard at work at Melody Ranch yesterday, were heroic Jason Patric; villainous Danny Trejo; and beautiful Rose McGowan.  I’ve agreed to not post any pictures of the principals for now, and I don’t want to give anything away, but I was happy to arrive onset just in time to see someone shot to death in front of a saloon -- several times -- and there was a considerable amount of shooting and stabbing and riding throughout the day. 

Peter Sherayko & Anthony DeLongis

The Tiffany Grips

I tracked down Peter Sherayko, who in addition to being armourer, through his Caravan West outfit, supplies the horses, saddles, props and buckaroos.  I asked him what were the most interesting weapons in the show, and he said it was Danny Trejo’s pistols, or rather, their grips.  “Danny’s guns have 1851 Tiffany grips.  They made them for a lot of Civil War officers starting in 1865.  Jason Patric has an 1860 Army (Colt).”  Peter was ably aided by assistant armourer Heath Hammond and art director Christian Ramirez. 

I wasn’t familiar with the story they were filming, but historian Sherayko certainly was.  “THE LAST OF THE DUANES is one of Zane Grey’s better-knowns.  This part we’re doing now, it’s about Buck Duane as a nine-year-old kid.  He grows up later, and the novel really takes off with him being an outlaw at the beginning of it, and ends up with the Texas Rangers, one of Leander H. McNelly’s Rangers.”  Buck is fictional, but McNelly was the real thing.  Peter tells me that when the other Texas Rangers were issued Winchesters, McNelly insisted his men have Sharps rifles.  ‘But Winchesters are repeaters – with a Sharps you only get one shot.’ ‘I want my men to make every shot count.’  Sam Elliot is also going to be in the movie.  I don’t know who he’s playing, but I’d put my money on McNelly.

Chris Ramirez

Larry Poole, Willy Clark & Heath Hammond

As the day’s shooting progressed, Rose McGowan switched from a beautiful burgundy velvet dress to a black one.  The men who loitered on the street, or waited to be poker-players in the upcoming saloon scene, were an unusual collection that added to the atmosphere of the film.  Anthony DeLongis is an excellent horseman, and expert with whips and swords.  Ardashir Radpour is a great rider and professional polo player.  Larry Poole and Willy Clark, with his Gabby Hayes beard, look perfect in a saloon, but Willy is also an expert gunsmith.  Brian Herrington is a Western author (CAMPO – THE FORGOTTEN GUNFIGHT), and Tony Redburn is a quick-draw expert and gun-spinner. 

Addy Radpour

Brian Herrington & Tony Redburn

It was around three o’clock, about 100 degrees, when they started shooting the saloon interior, and between the art direction, the cast, and the smoky haze, the set looked perfect.  Danny Trejo entered from the street, and did what he does best: intimidate people.  They’d shot the scene of Danny and his two henchmen riding up to the saloon and dismounting that morning, and now, while Danny was doing the scene inside, a second unit was doing close-ups of Danny’s boots – on someone else’s feet – slipping out of the stirrups and hitting the street. 

With that shot done, the three horses were done for the day.  As they were being walked back to the stable area, Danny Trejo, between takes, caught sight of them passing by, and called for them to wait.  He dashed out of the craft services area with a yellow apple, and broke it into pieces to feed to the horses, talking to them and stroking their heads.  I’ll have more details on THE LAST OF THE DUANES in the near future. 

Beginning with an all-day marathon on Saturday, September 15th, the series about the Cannon and Montoya family, rarely seen in decades, will become a part of INSP’s SADDLE-UP SATURDAY programming starting September 29th, and join the week-day schedule as well.

Henry Darrow, well-remembered as fiery-tempered Manolito, says, “Folks never get tired of a good western. And The High Chaparral is one of the BEST. People often ask me why they can’t see it on TV anymore. Now, I can tell them, ‘You can! On INSP.’ I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

David Dortort, the show’s creator, had his first tremendous success with BONANZA, about a perfect family. He decided to try something new by creating a dysfunctional family, and the social and ethnic conflicts between Anglos, Hispanics, and Apaches were daring back in 1967, and seem remarkably fresh today.

The series, which ran for five seasons and 97 episodes, stars Leif Ericson, Cameron Mitchell, Henry Darrow, Linda Cristal, Mark Slade and Don Collier. 


The Western Heritage Award winner for Best Direction, Best Screenplay and Best Lead Actors is now available on DVD and a variety of on-demand and pay-per-view options.  The film stars Michael Biehn, James Russo and Lenore Andriel. 

I’ve been following YELLOW ROCK since they first rolled camera, and I reviewed it when it premiered at – and swept the awards of – the Red Nation Film Festival (you can read my review HERE )

When I reached writer/producer/star Lenore Andriel, she was just back from the Prescott Arizona Film Festival.  “We were there for four or five days, having the time of our lives.  They screened the film and we were very honored, it was right after their tribute film, which was DANCES WITH WOLVES.   The writer was actually there, Michael Blake, and I got to meet him, and tell him how his film influenced the heart and storyline of YELLOW ROCK.  It really made the entire festival for us – it was quite wonderful. 

“YELLOW ROCK was released August 7th, across all platforms.  It was released for video-on-demand on Time-Warner Cable, Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, COX, WTC, NBC-Universal.  It’s coming to DirecTV.  And it was also released the same day on DVD through, Barnes & Noble, Blockbuster, Family Video.  It’s available for pre-order on Nexflix, and it’s available at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, because that’s where we won Best Picture and all the awards.  It’s also available, streaming, on iTunes, Sony Platform PS3.  I believe in a month from now it’s going to be available in all the RedBox units across the country.  And it will also be available in WalMart the end of October.  We still have a couple more film festivals that we’re honored to be officially selected for.  One of them is the Almeria Film Festival, in Almeria, Spain.  That is October 11th through the 13th.  Then we’ll be looking at doing limited theatricals across the country in the New Year.”     

Also on the agenda are plans to make two more westerns.  “They say the first baby’s the hardest, but I finally gave birth to it.  It was very difficult making the film, but it’s been a real dream, and a very blessed film.  Now we have a lot more knowledge of how to do a western, and what not to do.  One of the things we’ll probably not do is shoot it in the summer (laughs).  But we will be back at the Veluzat Motion Picture Ranch, and at Melody Ranch as well.  We’ll be back with Daniel Veluzat, who’s been a wonderful partner to us.” 

I caught up with Lenore’s writer/producer partner Steve Doucette as he was waiting for Lenore to come over so they could start fleshing out the other two western stories.  It sounded like possibly a prequel and a sequel to YELLOW ROCK, but Steve wouldn’t commit to that.  “And what’s exciting about it is we feel we can go bigger on the other two budgets.  So we can keep the production value at least on par, and hopefully bigger and better.” 

I asked him if YELLOW ROCK had turned out bigger than he expected.  “Yuh, it blew up on us from day one, from when we wrote it to when we brought in bigger names than we ever dreamed we could get.  For a small independent western like this; most definitely.  Bigger in a happy way.  We didn’t think that we’d be winning numerous awards with this, which we’re proud of.  We’re thrilled, and we hope we have the same financial success with the way that it’s been received.

“You know, it’s a real shout-out to independents who can do it right.   You never want to slack off on the production value, like the sound, and the way the movie is shot.  There are certain areas with independents, that makes them look weaker.  So that’s where I opened up my wallet, to make sure we had good sound, good score, good production value.   I was reading some of the reviews on  There are maybe ten reviews there, mostly four and five star reviews, and some of the things it’s being compared to, whether it’s DANCES WITH WOLVES, or the grittiness of UNFORGIVEN; that’s a real compliment to us.  We want to make everything real.  Although we do think it’s more PG than the R rating that we got.  Quite frankly, I just believe this is one that the entire family can sit down and watch, which was our intention.  We wanted, and our director Nick Vallelonga felt the same, to make a movie that was a throwback to the way stories were told when you and I were kids.  We were growing up in the ‘60s.  There were good movies with a good moral message to it, that the whole family could watch.  So whether it was SHANE or some movie like that, that’s what we were shooting for.  I hope that everybody sees it that way.  We’re very proud to be able to tell the story about Native American Indians.  That’s a big, strong point for Lenore and I.”

You can buy the DVD from HERE. In addition to the movie itself, the DVD includes a ‘Making Of’ documentary, deleted scenes, and a commentary track by director Nick Vallenlonga and Lenore Andriel. 

You can order it from NBC Universal on-demand HERE. If you have Time-Warner cable, it’s on demand HERE. 


If you’ve been meaning to visit the Museum of The San Fernando Valleythis summer, but haven’t gotten around to it, do it now! The Museum is currently located on the ground floor at Westerfields Fashion Square Mall in Sherman Oaks, but it will be leaving at the end of August, and as of yet, it has no new home. Gerald Fecht, who frequently mans the Museum, told me that the group had been amassing a collection of artifacts for some time, but did not have a permanent – or even temporary – home until the Westerfields folks approached them. A California Pizza Kitchen had closed, and the Museum was offered the space, for free, until it was rented. Well, a Vietnamese restaurant is moving in on the first of September, so the Museum will be once again on the move.

Even before they had a physical home, the Museum was surprisingly active, hosting walking tours of various parts of the Valley, and sponsoring an oral history project, recording the memories of people who have lived or grown up in this once very rural farming area. They recently recorded the reminiscences of actor Biff Elliot, who passed away this week. Best remembered as detective Mike Hammer in I, THE JURY, he was also, as a soldier, part of every major battle in Italy during the Second World War.

The Museum and the Studio City Neighborhood Council ran the REPUBLIC PICTURES 75thANNIVERSARY celebration in September of 2010, which brought together fans and a bevy of Republic stars (I covered it extensively in the Round-up, if you want to search back a ways).

Busts of Clark Gable, Martin Luther King

“We’re still getting residual effects from that event. Monte Montana’s kids recorded their histories for us as a result of that event, and we’re still getting contacts from people who worked for Republic Pictures. There’s a really good museum in Burbank, one in Chatsworth, one in Canoga Park, and a really good historical society, the San Fernando Historical Society. But there’s no museum that encompasses the whole San Fernando Valley area; and that’s our mission, to present the history and culture of the entire San Fernando Valley.”

I asked him what the Valley’s most important historical contribution was. “For 30,000 years we had the Tonga people living here. It’s never been a desert, but it’s arid. In modern times the greatest two contributions would be aerospace, and the entertainment industry.”

Their interests are also literary. On Saturday, the museum ran an event at the TarzanaCommunity Center, once within the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate, celebrating the issuance of a postage stamp honoring Burroughs. There are also several large heads and busts on display, the work of a Van Nuys sculptor. They posses a growing collection of post cards and photographs from local, long-gone restaurants and businesses, film studios, and exotic wild-animal theme parks.

While they would dearly love a permanent address, they have also created traveling historical displays, such as the pictured one about water. Come by the museum if you have a chance. And visit their website for more information:

That’s it for this week’s Round-up.  Have a great week!

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright August 2012 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

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