Monday, May 27, 2013



The 4th Annual TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL was held in Hollywood, from Thursday, April 25th through Sunday, April 28th, at a variety of venues, including Grauman’s Chinese, the Chinese multiplex, Grauman’s Egyptian, and the Cinerama Dome, now the Arclight Hollywood.  With as many as six screenings happening simultaneously, it was truly an embarrassment of riches, and selecting what movie to see was often a difficult decision. 

On Thursday night, after covering the red carpet for the premiere of the remastered FUNNY GIRL at the Chinese (you can read it HERE ), I hurried to the multiplex and caught Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour in THE ROAD TO UTOPIA.  Every movie had a live introduction, and UTOPIA’S was provided by Greg Proops, a busy on-camera and voice actor best known for the improvisational comedy series WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY?  

I was up bright and early on Friday morning for an eleven A.M. screening of THE RIVER OF NO RETURN (1954) directed by Otto Preminger, and starring Marilyn Monroe, Robert Mitchum, Rory Calhoun, and Tommy Rettig.  Sadly, Preminger, screenwriter Frank Fenton, all the adult leads, and even LASSIE child star Tommy Rettig are all gone.  But remarkably, producer Stanley Rubin is alive and well at 95, and he and his wife, actress Kathleen Hughes (THE NARROW MARGIN, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE) were there for a chat with Leonard Maltin before the movie’s screening.  Maltin began by welcoming Rubin as a fellow college graduate, and asked him to explain the remark to the audience.
Maltin, Rubin, Hughes

STANLEY RUBIN:  I had an odd history.  I entered UCLA in 1933.  I got my degree in 2005.  I had other business to accomplish in between.  But I was very happy to go back and get my degree, because I have very dear memories of UCLA, where I was editor of The Daily Bruin.   

LEONARD MALTIN: Kathleen, what was your first date?

KATHLEEN HUGHES: Well, we were both under contract to Universal, and he kept asking me out.  But I kept turning him down.  And I turned him down for months and months and months.  But then one day he invited me to have dinner with him and to go to 20th Century Fox to see an answer-print of RIVER OF NO RETURN.  It sounded like a picture I would enjoy, because it was with Marilyn Monroe.  So we went to dinner, and we went to see the screening, and I enjoyed it very much, and to our pleasure, we were married.

STANLEY:  And that relationship still exists.

LEONARD: So you can date your relationship to that movie.  So Stanley, you had already produced a couple of pictures. 

STANLEY: I’d produced THE NARROW MARGIN, but this (RIVER OF NO RETURN) was a much bigger picture. 

LEONARD:  And you had challenges.  You were off on location in Canada, with a large crew, and a rather imperious director, Otto Preminger.  And a strong-willed leading man, Robert Mitchum.  And a sometimes difficult leading lady, Marilyn Monroe.  Not intentionally difficult, but not rock-solid.  What were the biggest challenges, working with this group? 

STANLEY: Well, it turned out very well.  Otto and Marilyn didn’t hit it off right away.  So Marilyn kind of took that as an open door to establish a relationship with me.  So that helped me, and we became very good friends.  That’s Marilyn and I -- not Otto and I.

LEONARD:  So did you lock horns with Otto?

STANLEY: No, not really.  Otto was a diplomat from the word ‘go.’  He really knew how to help keep things warm and friendly.

LEONARD:  What was the most difficult sequence to film?

STANLEY:  The toughest thing was getting Marilyn safely onto the raft; because they first day we tried, she slipped on a rock and fell into the river.  Despite all of the help we had there, we had safety boats, we had safety swimmers.  But Marilyn slipped right off of the rock, into the fast-flowing river. 
Tommy Rettig and Marilyn
LEONARD:  Did you manage to proceed on-time, overall?

STANLEY:  I don’t want to make it rosier than it was.  We worked very hard, and at times we slipped behind schedule, but at the end we’d made it up, and we were on schedule. 

LEONARD:  When you were away from home, and had a boss like Daryl F. Zanuck, and Fox, how close an eye could they keep on you?  If you fell behind by a half a day or a day, would you hear from them right away?

Rory Calhoun and Marilyn

STANLEY: No.  There was a grace period, and we took advantage of it.  Zanuck was surprisingly friendly and good-natured, and accommodating to us. 

LEONARD:  After all these years, people are still fascinated by Marilyn Monroe.  Not just as an actress, but as an icon.  How would you describe her?

STANLEY: We became good friends.  And the reason for that was, she and Otto did not like each other, so she turned to me.  And the relationship became very warm and very friendly.  However, I should tell you – this is coming back to me now.  I had met her before; she had come in on an audition a year or two before this.  And I had turned her down on the role she had come in for.  And I remember wondering how friendly she would be, and whether she would even bring up the fact that I had turned her down.  She never did.  She was a good lady.  And from the first meeting, our new relationship went very well.

KATHLEEN:  You know, you turned her down for the part that she had auditioned for, because you thought she didn’t have enough experience to handle it. 

STANLEY:  That’s correct.

KATHLEEN:  So it was just a couple of years later that you were begging Zanuck (to use her).

LEONARD:  One last question.  Robert Mitchum liked to give the impression that he really didn’t care that much, that acting was just a job.  But that seems not to have been the case.  He seemed very dedicated, professional.
Mitchum and Monroe
STANLEY: I would go along with what you just said fully.  Because he cared a great deal; and then he hid that, because that wouldn’t keep him cool.  And I found out later that he had raised some questions about how good our operation was, how good our questions might be, how appropriate they might be.  He was totally dedicated on everything he did.  He concealed the fact that he wanted it to go well. 

LEONARD: And he and Marilyn hit it off okay? 

STANLEY: Yes.  They became very good friends.   But that was it.  It was a friendly, professional, cool relationship. 

LEONARD:  And now we get to see the results.  Are you going to stay to see the movie?

STANLEY: Oh yes, I haven’t seen it in years, and I’m very interested to see it again.

LEONARD:  Thank you both for being here today. 

I was surprised and delighted at how good a movie RIVER OF NO RETURN was. (I’d seen it as a kid in junior high, ironically just before my family spent our summer vacation going down the Colorado River on a rubber raft.  My school friends in Brooklyn were convinced that they’d never see me again; if the rapids didn’t kill me, the Indians would.)  The depth of characterization, the consistency of the characters, the intelligence of the screenplay, the assuredness of the direction were remarkable, as was the photography.  During the course of the rest of the day I would see BONNIE AND CLYDE, THE GREAT ESCAPE and HONDO in 3D, directed by John Farrow. 

Leonard Maltin introduced HONDO as well, saying that many consider it one of Wayne’s very best films – some people call it a perfect film.  One of the strengths of HONDO is that it is so spare; at 83 minutes, there’s not an ounce of fat on the film.  Maltin explained that in part we can thank the 3D process for keeping the story so tight.  The original 1953 3D projection process required two reels of film to be shown simultaneously, and theatres in those days had two projectors.  After a maximum of forty minutes, an intermission was necessary, to re-thread both projectors.  That kept the movies from running much over 80 minutes. 
John Wayne and Geraldine Page

It struck me that between Tommy Rettig as Mitchum’s son in RIVER OF NO RETURN, Lee Aaker as Geraldine Page’s son in HONDO, and Brandon de Wilde’s performance in the also-screened SHANE, the TCM Fest had screened what were probably the three best performances by children in Westerns, all in one day.  There would be nothing comparable until 1972, and the terrific ensemble cast of boys opposite John Wayne in THE COWBOYS, directed by Mark Rydell.

Soon I’ll have my last article on the TCM Festival, and the tremendous panel they assembled for a modern-day Western, DELIVERANCE: Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, and director John Boorman.



President Ronald Reagan: “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job.  A depression is when you lose yours.”

Wait a second; let me make sure I’ve got this right.  President Reagan, ‘The Great Communicator,’ was helped in his communicating by Gene Autry’s scruffy sidekick?  By Mr. Haney, the rube con-man who swindled Eddie Albert every week on GREEN ACRES? 

That’s correct.  Pat Buttram, born in Alabama in 1915 to an impoverished itinerant Methodist minister and his wife, would become a star of radio, first on National Barn Dance; then a star in movies, replacing Smiley Burnette as the wing-man to Gene Autry; and later a star of television, as crafty ol’ Mr. Haney.  And while always maintaining his rural image, he became famous to show-biz insiders for his startling wit and sophisticated humor, making him the most in-demand emcee and toastmaster in Hollywood, and joke-writer to the president. 

Author Sandra Grabman, whose previous books include SPOTLIGHTS AND SHADOWS: THE ALBERT SALMI STORY and PLAIN BEAUTIFUL: THE PEGGY ANN GARNER STORY, writes in engaging, flowing prose, and her affection for Buttram is clear throughout.  Although she didn’t get to interview the man himself, who died in 1994, she’s spoken to a long list of family members and business associates, including people from the Gene Autry organization, and friends like music legend Johnny Western. PAT BUTTRAM: ROCKING-CHAIR HUMORIST, tells Pat’s story in a way that focuses as much on his family life as his career, which is perfectly sensible, since family was at least as important to Pat as his work.  And liberally sprinkled throughout the book are his delightful wise-cracks and observations.  “Here’s Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, the Lunt and Fontanne of the fertilizer set.”

Buttram, whose distinctive nasal twang made him a natural for voicing animation – he did five features for Disney, plus WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (as the voice of a bullet!), and a slew of TV cartoons –  continued to work on-camera as well in film and TV.  His final on-screen role, in BACK TO THE FUTURE III, found him endlessly playing poker with Dub Taylor and Harry Carey Jr. 

Gene Autry was more than just an employer to Pat; their friendship was legendary in this town, a friendship which may have saved Pat’s life on one occasion.  Pat co-starred with Gene in THE GENE AUTRY show on television, and when a ‘prop’ cannon misfired when filming ‘way out of L.A. at Pioneertown, Pat was almost left for dead, and it took a tremendous effort by Gene to keep his sidekick alive.  For decades after, whenever people asked Pat what he learned from the movie business, he would take out a yellowed news story about his near-death experience, headlined, ‘Gene Autry Almost Hurt In Explosion!’  “Humility,” he would say softly.  “Humility.”

Let's hope Mr. Douglas isn't as mad at Mr. Haney as he looks!

Comedians often don’t get their due as actors, so audiences and critics were as surprised as they were impressed when Pat turned villain in TWILIGHT OF HONOR, holding his own with a cast of dramatic actors including Richard Chamberlin, Nick Adams, and the legendary Claude Rains.  He followed up with guest appearances on THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR, and many consider one of his episodes, THE JAR to be the finest of the series.    

BACK TO THE FUTURE 3 - Taylor, Carey & Buttram

Pat had a wonderful career, and a wonderful marriage, and not to a homely character actress, but to beautiful leading lady Sheila Ryan.  Once the wife of cowboy star Alan ‘Rocky’ Lane, she graced the screen in many Westerns, films noir, and even a pair of Laurel and Hardy comedies. 

If one finishes the book with a slight sense of wistful disappointment, it is that a man of his wit and insight didn’t receive recognition as arguably the Will Rogers of his generation.  But he had a much longer life and career than poor Will, and a very satisfying one, and I’m sure that Pat wouldn’t have traded it.   I met Pat Buttram briefly, when he was breakfasting at one of his regular haunts, the Sportmen’s Lodge Coffee Shop.  He was very friendly, and wrote, “Thanks for remembering.  Pat Buttram.”  Sandra Grabman’s book helped me to remember, and told me a hundred things I didn’t know about this very funny man who, like Jack Benny, has rarely if ever had a bad word said about him.
Iron Eyes Cody, Pat, Harey Carey Jr., Yakima Canutt

PAT BUTTRAM – ROCKING-CHAIR HUMORIST by Sandra Grabman, is published by Bear Manor Media for $19.95.  Go HERE to order it.

Incidentally many, maybe all, episodes of GREEN ACRES are available free online through IMDB.  Just look up Pat Buttram, and you’ll find 103 video links.

I’m not knowledgeable about video games, so it’s no shock to me that ‘CALL OF JUAREZ’ has been around since 2006, and now has its fourth edition, ‘CALL OF JUAREZ – GUNSLINGER,’  just released.  It’s written by Haris Orkin, who co-wrote the previous versions, and he’s also directed the voice talent.  When I know more, I’ll share it with you.  But for the moment, check out the trailer.


Remember a 1950 Columbia film, THE NEVADAN, starring Randolph Scott, Dorothy Malone and Forrest Tucker?  My daughter gave me an old western movie magazine, and in it was a comic-strip version of the movie.  I thought my Rounders might find it amusing, so I’ve decided to run it here, and on the Round-up Facebook page.  I’ll do a panel or two a day, and on Sundays I’ll run the whole week’s worth, just like they used to do with the Dick Tracy strip.  Hope it amuses!


And speaking of TCM (okay, nobody was), have I mentioned that the segment I was interviewed for is now viewable here?


Built by cowboy actor, singer, baseball and TV entrepreneur 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 permanent 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 Hollywoodwestern, 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.




RFD-TV, the channel whose president bought Trigger and Bullet at auction, have a special love for Roy Rogers. They show an episode of The Roy Rogers Show on Sunday mornings, a Roy Rogers movie on Tuesday mornings, and repeat them during the week.

WHT-TV has a weekday afternoon line-up that’s perfect for kids, featuring LASSIE, THE ROY ROGERS SHOW and THE LONE RANGER.

TV-LAND angered viewers by dropping GUNSMOKE, but now it’s back every weekday, along with BONANZA.

AMC usually devotes much of Saturday to westerns, often with multi-hour blocks of THE RIFLEMAN, and just this week began running RAWHIDE as well.  Coming soon, LONESOME DOVE and RETURN TO LONESOME DOVE miniseries!


That's it for this week-end.  I hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend, and I hope you took time to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom. Our liberty is backed by an unbroken chain of heroism and self-sacrifice that began more than two centuries ago, and continues today.

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright May 2013 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. Pat Buttram never fails to have me laughing out loud when watching The Gene Autry Show. That's rare.