Monday, May 26, 2014
CANNES REPORT – TARANTINO ON ‘DJANGO’ MINI; ‘HOMESMAN’ NABS A DOMESTIC DISTRIBER, PLUS ‘B-MOVIE’ REVIEW!
TARANTINO AT CANNES: ‘HATEFUL 8’ AND ‘DJANGO’ NEWS
Franco Nero, Quentin Tarantino, Uma Thurman
picture by Getty Images
Quentin Tarantino was at Cannes to present A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS on closing night, and had plenty to say – or tease – about his upcoming Western projects, according to Deadline: Hollywood. About THE HATEFUL EIGHT, once cancelled, then revived after doing the live audience reading: “I have calmed down a bit from the knife in the back. The wound is starting to scab.” He said the staged reading was “…a blast. I might do that on every script. It was great to have three days of rehearsal and hear it out loud.” The second draft is nearly finished, and he’s contemplating a third. “I’m in no hurry. Maybe I’ll shoot it. Maybe I’ll publish it. Maybe I’ll do it on the stage. Maybe I’ll do all three.”
Also, with an hour and a half of unused scenes from DJANGO UNCHAINED, he’s considering a four-hour miniseries. “The idea is to cut together a four-hour version…cut it up into one-hour chapters like a four-part miniseries and show it on cable television. People love those!”
SABAN FILM ACQUIRES ‘THE HOMESMAN’ AT CANNES
In what was described by Deadline: Hollywood as “a competitive situation,” Saban Films, a brand-new entity of Saban Entertainment, has acquired the North American distribution rights to the well-reviewed Western, for about $3,500,000. Based on Glendon Swarthout’s 1988 novel, the film is directed by and stars Tommy Lee Jones, co-starring with Hilary Swank, with a supporting cast that includes Meryl Street, James Spader, John Lithgow, Hailee Steinfeld, and Barry Corbin.
Saban Entertainment has a long history of kid entertainment, long associated with various incarnations of the MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS, but they have had considerable experience in distribution and production of features as well, beginning in 1988 with the remarkable HEATHERS. They’ve also been involved with at least two previous Westerns. In 1994 they distributed TRIGGER FAST, based on a J.T. Edson novel, starring Jurgen Prochnow, Martin Sheen and Corbin Bernsen. That same year they produced the Western comedy SAMAURI COWBOY, starring Hiromi Go, Robert Conrad and Catherine Mary Stewart. They also own the beautiful Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, built in 1930 as the Fox Wilshire.
ORIGINAL ‘DJANGO’ ATTENDS CANNES ‘FISTFUL’ CLOSING SCREENING
Franco Nero with DJANGO LIVES producer
Franco Nero, the original DJANGO, soon to star in DJANGO LIVES!, attended the Cannes closing screening of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS; he’s seen here with DJANGO LIVES! producer Davis Hollander. The screening was to honor the 50th anniversary of the Spaghetti Western, and it’s amusing that Nero attended, as the great debate among fans has always been whether the Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood films or the Sergio Corbucci/Franco Nero films are the greatest of the genre. I refuse to choose. But what is inarguable is that Clint Eastwood is the image of the Spaghetti Western in the United States, and Franco Nero is the image in Europe.
‘RESURRECTION OF EL PURO’ STARTS PRE-PRODUCTION
B MOVIE – A Play by Michael B. Druxman
In a way, traveling to the period of B-MOVIE, Michael Druxman’s play about the Barbara Payton/Franchot Tone/Tom Neal scandal, is more of a time-warp than going back to the Civil War: it’s a trip from the Post-Morality present to the 1950s, when a morality clause was something to keep an actor, not a basketball-team owner, in line.
Today, there may be no such thing as bad publicity – the once-clear line between fame and infamy has been erased. Kim Kardashian became a media star with no other talent or credentials than staring in a home porn video: this week she and rapper Kanye West had an exorbitantly expensive wedding in Italy, her third, and she wore white. In the 1950s, one single still photograph was taken of Barbara Payton and Tom Neal doing something similar to Kim’s video: it ended both of their careers.
B-MOVIE is a two-act, three-character play about three very real characters, who suddenly were forced into the spotlight of public moral judgment. They were all known actors with varying degrees of success. Franchot Tone was the big star, ever since 1935, and the splash he made with MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY. Under contract to MGM, and later other studios, he worked regularly with Jean Harlow, Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. Suave, elegant, educated; but his character rarely got the girl. He was Ralph Bellamy until Ralph Bellamy came along. His first marriage was to Joan Crawford, and he’d have three more, including Payton. I liked him best, cast against type, in an underrated noir from Universal, THE PHANTOM LADY. It’s the only role I recall where his character was as dangerous as Tone could really be, when crossed.
Barbara Payton, 22 years Tone’s junior, was a platinum blonde beauty who impressed in the early 1950s opposite Cagney with KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE, opposite Gregory Peck in ONLY THE VALIANT, and opposite Guy Madison in the Civil War drama DRUMS IN THE DEEP SOUTH. Not coy, she admits in her autobiography that she slept with most of her producers, directors and leading men. Gregory Peck found her presence so distracting and disturbing that he had her banned from their set when she wasn’t working. Even when she was going with Tone, she and Guy Madison were less than discreet about their relationship.
from JUNGLE GIRL
Compared to Tone and even to Payton, Tom Neal was a bit out of his league. Even with a long list of credits going back to 1938, his roles were usually minor, often unnamed characters – typically, in an episode of THE GENE AUTRY SHOW his character is ‘animal abuser.’ But he was a big, handsome guy with a strong jaw and a great physique, shown off well without a shirt, as the male lead in the Republic serial JUNGLE GIRL. He was with the Duke in FLYING TIGERS, with Rondo Hatton in THE BRUTE MAN, and his biggest break doubtless was as the star of Edgar G. Ulmer’s no-budget noir, DETOUR. But what a picture to be the lead in; sometimes described as the best B-movie of all time, it is only considered that by the sort of moviegoer who would rather laugh at a bad movie than enjoy the qualities of a good one. It is ironic indeed that Neal plays a hapless dope traveling to L.A. to meet up with his fiancé, and en route keeps accidentally killing people. When he finally did kill someone in real life, he’d claim that was an accident, too.
Druxman’s play starts in the 1960s, with Tone, his career and dignity somewhat recovered, living in a New York brownstone. Neal is in Palm Springs, in a cell, waiting to go on trial for the murder of his third wife. Tone is astonished and amused to be asked to contribute money to Neal’s defense – the former Golden Gloves fighter nearly beat Tone to death over Payton. And yes, it really did happen. And yes, Tone did contribute.
Gregory Peck and Barbara Payton in
ONLY THE VALIANT
They sometimes address each other, sometimes speak directly to the audience. The story bounces back and forth between the two men and their memories of Barbara Payton, the woman who loved them both, who made and changed decisions, who made and broke promises, and ruined both men’s lives, and her own. Although some would say that what ruined Payton and Neal was the photograph, and what ruined Tone was being a husband brought so low that he papered the studios with it.
Payton and Tone
It's a fascinating and tragic story, told with humor and empathy, and a great sense of the people and time and place involved. After I read it, I watched MUNTINY ON THE BOUNTY, and DETOUR, and Payton in BRIDE OF THE GORILLA, and was struck by how well Druxman captured their voices in his words. No surprise, really. After a long career as a publicist, Michael became a very busy writer and sometime-director for Roger Corman, scripting CHEYENNE WARRIOR, one of the best Westerns of the last twenty years.
As much devoted to theatre as he is to film, Druxman has written and published a series of one-person biographical plays of the stars, called THE HOLLYWOOD LEGENDS, which have seen numerous productions. Their subjects include Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Orson Welles, Errol Flynn, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, Clara Bow – his best-selling, and Al Jolson – his most successfully produced.
In addition to his talent, all of us struggling writers can take a lesson from Michael, who aggressively gets his work out there like no one else I know. B-MOVIE is in negotiations currently, but it is a very new play, and there have been as yet no stage productions. If you’re looking for a two male, one female play with simple sets, check it out. You can purchase this play or his others through Amazon.com. If you’re interested in licensing a play, write to him: Michael B. Druxman, PMB 142, 6425 S. IH-35, Suite 150, Austin, TX 78744, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can visit his official site HERE . You can read my interview with Michael HERE .
Neal and Payton
SILENT SCREENINGS SAT. AT EGYPTIAN FEATURE MICKEY ‘MCGUIRE’ ROONEY!
On Saturday, May 31st, the Retroformat folks, the ones who show rare silents in 8mm, are taking a break from their D.W. Griffith series to show a varied program including the role that made Mickey Rooney a star – and no, it’s not Andy Hardy. It’s the Mickey McGuire films, a silent series capitalizing on the success of Hal Roach’s Our Gang comedies. They’ll be screening Mickey in MICKEY’S MOVIES; Harry Langdon in SOLDIER MAN, one of his earliest collaborations with Frank Capra; DANGER GIRL, a Mack Sennett Comedy starring Gloria Swanson; Larry Semon (why didn’t he change his name?) in THE SHOW; and chapters 11 & 12 of the serial THE WOMAN IN GREY. There will be a live musical accompaniment by Cliff Retallick.
THAT'S A WRAP!
I hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend, and I hope you took time to remember that it's more than a three-day weekend: it's a day to honor the memory of men and women who gave their lives to preserve our freedom!
All Original Contents Copyright May 2014 by Henry C. Parke - All Rights Reserved
Monday, May 19, 2014
WESTERN ‘HOMESMAN’ SCREENS AT CANNES, MEL BROOKS ON ‘BLAZING SADDLES’, PLUS JOHN WAYNE COWBOY LUNCH!
TOMMY LEE JONES' 'HOMESMAN' PREMIERS AT CANNES
‘THE HOMESMAN’ had its world premiere Sunday night at the Cannes Film Festival. While hundreds of films will screen during the festival, and thousands will be bought and sold, only a handful of films are accepted into competition every year, and THE HOMESMAN is one of the few. Based on the novel of the same name by Glendon Swarthout, who also wrote the novel THE SHOOTIST, it’s the story of a man set to be hanged as a claim-jumper, who is given the chance to redeem himself by helping transport three madwomen to an insane asylum. The star and director is Tommy Lee Jones, and the woman he’s helping is played by Hilary Swank. Both Oscar-winners, they are joined by a third, Meryl Streep, and the rest of the exceptional cast includes Hailee Stanfield from TRUE GRIT, Oscar nominee John Lithgow, James Spader, William Finchner, Barry Corbin and Grace Gummer. At the recent Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival I had the opportunity to interview Miles Swarthout, son of Glendon, who scripted THE SHOOTIST, and has plenty to say about both films. You’ll be reading that interview soon in the Round-up.
Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank Sunday at Cannes
CANNES TO HONOR SPAGHETTI WESTERN’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY
Acknowledging that the explosion of Western action with a Italian/Spanish flavor began five decades ago, the Cannes Film Festival will feature screenings of two of Sergio Leone’s classic films. THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY was screened on Saturday night. The one that started it all, A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, will screen on Sunday, May 24th, after the Awards Ceremony, and will be hosted by Quentin Tarantino. The copy will be a new restoration done from the original Techniscope camera negative.
And what better way to honor the subgenre than to demonstrate that the Spaghetti Western is alive and well. Franco Nero, the screen’s original DJANGO (1966) will star in DJANGO LIVES! and producer Mike Malloy (of THE SCARLET WORM fame) is at Cannes with Resolution Entertainment hoping to wrap up financing. In the sequel – actually the third Franco Nero/DJANGO outing following 1987’s DJANGO STRIKES AGAIN – the gunman will have turned up in Los Angeles in the early days of the silent movie industry, working, as many former lawmen and outlaws did, as a technical advisor on westerns. I am very eager to see this movie made, so if you’ve got a hankering to invest, drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch with Mike.
DJANGO LIVES director Joe D'Augustine & Franco Nero
MEL BROOKS AT THE TCM FEST ON ‘BLAZING SADDLES’
Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder
One of the high points of this year’s TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL for Western fans was on Friday night, April 11th, when the tremendous Chinese Theatre, now with a huge IMAX screen, was 100% packed to see Mel Brooks introduce his 1974 western comedy sensation, BLAZING SADDLES. There are quite a few western comedies when you think about it. Among my favorites are CAT BALLOU, CITY SLICKERS, the Burt Kennedy comedies like SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF, and the TRINITY films. That’s not to mention Bob Hope’s THE PALEFACE, and recent entries like SHANGHAI NOON and THE THREE AMIGOS. There was once a time when every comedy movie star did a western comedy, like Jack Benny in BUCK BENNY RIDES AGAIN, Laurel and Hardy’s WAY OUT WEST and THE MARX BROTHERS GO WEST. Almost every series eventually had one – from OUT WEST WITH THE HARDYS to BOWERY BUCKAROOS with the Bowery Boys. In twelve days we’ll have another, A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST. But few would argue that the best known, and one of the funniest, is Mel Brooks’ BLAZING SADDLES.
One serious note about Mel Brooks. Speaking as a transplanted New Yorker who loves the city and loves Broadway, we can never applaud Mel Brooks enough, following the 911 attack, for having the courage and independence to open THE PRODUCERS on schedule, not only bringing much needed laughter to a terrified city and nation, but letting the terrorists know that they hadn’t broken our spirit, and couldn’t change our way of life.
As always, practically everything Mel Brooks says is actually shouted, and should be followed with an exclamation point. In a town of false modesty, his very real immodesty is wonderfully refreshing. After he walked onto the stage to deafening applause, singing the theme of the movie, and before he was joined by Robert Osborne, Mel spotted some very young audience members.
MEL BROOKS: You kids have never seen BLAZING SADDLES. They’re in for a weird surprise. It may be my favorite movie. It may be the funniest movie ever made. Bless you for all coming here and being a part of this night. I really appreciate it. I’m going to talk to Mr. Osborne,
ROBERT OSBORNE: That standing ovation was well-deserved. I think it’s also amazing that this movie came out in 1974, as did YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN.
MEL BROOKS: The same year, and they were #1 and #2 for the year.
ROBERT OSBORNE: Two of the funniest movies of all time – no question about it. This was a difficult movie to sell, wasn’t it?
MEL BROOKS: I remember the first screening for the executives at Warner Brothers. John Calley was running the studio. Dick Shepherd had left, and there were like eight other guys, all executives at Warner Brother, and they all said (with expressions of disgust), “Oi! Oooh! Ay!” This one said, “We can’t release it. It’s too vulgar for the American public.” At any rate, John Calley said, “Let’s try it in New York, Chicago and L.A., and if there’s any love for it, we’ll release it.” So they released it in those cities, and believe it or not, it was the biggest hit Warner Brothers had that year.
ROBERT OSBORNE: Before they released it, did they ask you to cut anything from the picture?
MEL BROOKS: That’s a good question, Robert. He knows his stuff. The truth is, the head of Warner Brothers at the time, who will go nameless, was Ted Ashley. The preview was really great. We had cattle in the lobby. We had cowboys riding up and tying up their horses outside the theatre. We had tons of Raisenetts. And the audience loved it. And Ashley took me by the scruff of the neck, threw me into the manager’s office, handed me a legal pad and pencil, and said, “Take these notes!” I said yessir. He said, “No farting! You can’t punch the horses! You can’t beat old ladies up!” There were like twenty of those notes. And if I followed all of these notes the movie would have been twelve minutes long. So when he left, I crumpled up all my notes. And I threw the balled-up notes across the office, into a wastebasket, and John Calley said, “Good filing!” I didn’t cut a sentence, or a word, or even an expression. A lot of people don’t know that. So keep it under your hat.
ROBERT OSBORNE: That was a daring movie to make at that time, the (scatological) jokes and stuff; that was dangerous territory to go into.
MEL BROOKS: It was beyond vulgar. It was dirty.
ROBERT OSBORNE: Where did you get the courage to do that?
MEL BROOKS: I didn’t know better. You know, if I was wiser, if I was more diplomatic, or smarter, or if I realized what the rules of courtesy and kindness were, I never would have made the movie. I was a scruffy little kid from Brooklyn, and there are no rules, or there are just a few. And there were some things that I just had to say. I’d been watching westerns all my life – three westerns on a Saturday morning. Hoot Gibson, Tim McCoy, Ken Maynard! I loved westerns! And they’d sit around the campfire. And they’d eat straight beans off a tin plate -- a lot of beans. And they’d drink black coffee from a tin cup. And you never heard a sound across the prairie! I decided to…let the boot drop. I wanted to tell the truth about westerns.
The German version
Richard Pryor, one of the writers, I asked Warner Brothers to hire him as the black sheriff, to play Black Bart. And they said no, we can’t get him insured because he was arrested for drugs; we can’t do it. Richard and I did a lot of auditions, looking for our sheriff. Finally there was this guy from Broadway, and his name was Little, Cleavon Little. And he was absolutely wonderful. And beautiful. And Richard said something really profound. He said, “If I had the part, I could be Cuban, light as I am; I’m coffee-colored. And I’ve got a mustache; I could be the Cuban sheriff. This guy is so black, and he’s gonna scare the shit out that town. And he’s what you want – he’s so damned handsome and so talented.” And we were so lucky to get him, to play the lead. And by the way, a lot of the people in that movie are long gone (note: of the top-billed stars, Cleavon Little, Slim Pickens, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, and David Huddleston are all gone. Only Mel, and Gene Wilder are still around). But in the audience tonight is the school marm who punches one of the bad guys -- Carol Arthur is sitting somewhere out there! (Carol Arthur, who will be 80 in August, once married to Dom Deluise, and a veteran of four Mel Brooks movies as well as THE SUNSHINE BOYS, stands for tremendous and well-earned applause)
ROBERT OSBORNE: Also you had a lot of casting changes. Gig Young was originally going to play the Waco Kid, right?
MEL BROOKS: I hired Gig Young to play the Waco Kid. He was a great actor, he’d won the Academy Award for THEY SHOOT HORSES DON’T THEY, and I knew he was a recovering alcoholic, so he was perfect for the Waco Kid. Unfortunately he was not really…recovered. So we’re in the first scene, there’s something green on his mouth. And he’s spraying the jail-cell all green, and I said, I don’t think he’s ready yet. I was stuck, and I didn’t know what to do. So I called my best friend in New York, I called Gene Wilder and said, what am I going to do? And he said just get a costume for me to wear, and a gun, and a horse to ride on, and I’ll be there tomorrow. And he did. And he saved me, and he saved the picture. It was fate.
ROBERT OSBORNE: And fate that you had Madeline Kahn.
MEL BROOKS: She came to my office, and after I heard her sing, I said, raise your skirt; I want to see your legs. She said, “Oh, it’s that kind of an audition.” I said no, no. It’s just that you’re playing like Marlene Dietrich, and you’ve got to straddle that chair. She said okay, she raised her skirt, she straddled the chair. She sang I’m Tired, and I fell madly in love with her. She was so good, so talented, so richly talented. You know, Madeline could have been a coloratura in opera. That’s how great a voice she had. Also she had a sense of comedy, with her own strange timing, and her own weird little takes – she was just amazingly talented. And she died of ovarian cancer – just awful. And Harvey, the great Harvey Korman. One of my favorite moments is Harvey making love, physically, to the globe. And when he says, “My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention.” And Slim Pickens says, “Ditto.” And Harvey says, “Ditto? Ditto, you provincial putz?” There are some moments that tickle me so much. I think this could be the funniest picture of all time.
ROBERT OSBORNE: One last question. Could this motion picture be made today?
MEL BROOKS: Well, you couldn’t say the ‘n’-word. You know, I said we don’t have to use the ‘n’-word, but Richard Pryor said, “No. We are writing a story about racial prejudice. It’s a fact; it’s real. And the more we use it, from the bad-guys and redneck side, then the more the victory of the sheriff, the black sheriff, who in the end is loved by the townspeople.” And I said okay Richard. The ‘n’-word will be all over the screen.
ROBERT OSBORNE: Thank you for this movie. Thank you for being here. Thank you for Mel Brooks.
WEDNESDAY’S ‘COWBOY LUNCH @ THE AUTRY’ SALUTES JOHN WAYNE!
At 12:30 pm on Wednesday, May 21st, Rob Word’s third-Wednesday-of-the-month Cowboy Lunch @ The Autry will salute John Wayne just a week short of what would have been 107th birthday. Admission is free (although you have to buy your own lunch) and after the feed, Rob will lead a discussion with folks who worked with the Duke in various capacities, and are admirers of his work. Last month’s luncheon celebrated THE WILD BUNCH, and Rob brought together actors Bo Hopkins and L.Q. Jones, master horse and car stunt-man Gary Combs, and costumer-turned-screenwriter-turned-producer for Peckinpah Gordon Dawson.
As people’s schedules can change at the last minute, Rob understandably plays it cagey as to who will take part. But I can tell you that among the folks he’s invited are one of Wayne’s greatest romantic co-stars, a co-star in Wayne’s best TV comedy turn, a fine character actor who did six films with the Duke, and the man who scripted Wayne’s last movie. And you never know who will turn up in the audience. Last time I found myself sitting among actors Paul LeMat, Morgan Woodward, and GUNSMOKE writer Jim Byrnes.
Below is a poignant teaser, with director Rupert Hitzig talking about directing Mickey Rooney and Ben Johnson in a western at the end of the trail.
THAT’S A WRAP!
That’s it for now – have a great week!
All Original Contents Copyright May 2014 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved
Sunday, May 11, 2014
VOTE FOR MOTHER(S) OF ALL WESTERNS, PLUS TARANTINO DROPS SUIT, ‘SOME GAVE ALL’ REVIEWED, ‘LONG RIDERS’ INSIGHTS!
VOTE FOR THE MOTHER(S) OF ALL WESTERNS!
Karen Grassle in LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE
The Round-up wants to honor the Best Moms’ of Western film and TV. Please post your choices under comments or send an email -- and your suggestions for great ladies I’ve left out. And please SHARE this, so we can get more voters!
FOR BEST MOTHER IN A WESTERN MOVIE, the nominees are: Maureen O’Hara in RIO GRANDE, Jean Arthur in SHANE, Jane Darwell in JESS JAMES, Katie Jurado in BROKEN LANCE, Dorothy McGuire in OLD YELLER, Cate Blanchett in THE MISSING.
Dorothy McGuire in OLD YELLER
FOR BEST MOTHER IN A WESTERN SERIES, the nominees are: Barbara Stanwyck in THE BIG VALLEY, Linda Cristal in THE HIGH CHAPARRAL, Karen Grassle in LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, and Jane Seymour in DR. QUINN, MEDICINE WOMAN.
Granted, we’d have a lot more to choose from if we were going for ‘Best Saloon Girls,’ but after all, today isn’t Miss Kitty’s birthday, it’s Mother’s Day. And here are the Honorary Mothers Day awards:
BEST MOTHER IN A MOVIE IF SHE’D LIVED – Mildred Natwick in THE THREE GODFATHERS.
BEST MOTHER WHO NEVER TOLD THE FATHER THAT THEY HAD A CHILD – Miss Michael Learned, who was impregnated by amnesiac Matt Dillon (not the actor Matt Dillon, but James Arness), in GUNSMOKE – THE LAST APACHE.
BEST MOTHER YOU HEARD ABOUT BUT NEVER SAW – Mark McCain’s mother in THE RIFLEMAN.
BEST STEPMOTHER EVER, IF THE KIDS HAD LIVED – Claudia Cardinale in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.
TARANTINO DROPS ‘HATEFUL 8’ LAWSUIT AGAINST GAWKER
According to Deadline: Hollywood, writer-director Quentin Tarantino has dropped his copyright infringement suit against the website Gawker, for posting his Western work-in-progress screenplay THE HATEFUL EIGHT online. He has withdrawn his suit ‘without prejudice,’ which is legalese for saying he reserves the right to refile at a later date.
For those who haven’t been following the case, Tarantino, frustrated at how quickly his scripts have been leaked, went to great lengths to make sure this one would not be. When one of the only three copies to leave his hand turned up on the internet, he cancelled the project, and filed suit. As the case moved along on the docket, Tarantino decided, as a fund-raiser for the L.A. County Museum of Art, to hold an on-stage script reading of the script, which was held on April1 9th. You can read Andrew Ferrell’s review of the event for the Round-up HERE .
As had been hoped by many of us, the days of rehearsal reignited Tarantino’s enthusiasm for the project, and he is now engaged in writing another draft. Apparently the largest legal hurdle Tarantino’s lawyer’s would have faced would be the fact that Gawker did not post the purloined script on their site, but rather posted a link to where it could be found on someone else’s site. In a way it is disappointing that the case is not going forward, as it would be useful to have the law clarified. While I cannot deny having downloaded scripts from the internet, posted by people who often had no authority to put them there, the difference is that they were scripts from completed and released movies: there were no secrets exposed. But it’s clearly good news that Tarantino is focusing on the re-write rather than problems encountered with the first draft.
AUDIO INSIGHTS FROM ‘THE LONG RIDERS’ AT THE AUTRY
I hadn’t seen this Walter Hill-directed film on a screen since its 1980 release, and it holds up wonderfully. The trick to this one was casting actor brothers as outlaw brothers: the Youngers are played by David, Keith and Robert Carradine; Frank and Jesse James are Stacy and James Keach; the Miller brothers are Dennis and Randy Quaid; and the dirty little coward Fords are Christopher and Nicholas Guest. Also of note in the cast are Pamela Reed as Belle Starr, a very young James Remar as Sam Starr, and a great cameo by Harry Carey Jr. as a stagecoach driver held up by the Youngers.
As always, Curator Jeffrey Richardson’s introduction was full of information I’d never heard before. For instance, the genesis of the project was a 1971 PBS docu-drama about the Wright brothers, which starred the Keach brothers as Orville and Wilbur. They had such fun working together that they started looking for another project to do together. Reasoning that they’d enjoyed the ‘Right’ brothers, they decided to play the ‘Wrong’ brothers, Frank and Jesse. This led to the stage musical, THE BANDIT KINGS, and they decided to try and make it into a film.
The film musical never happened, but they kept trying, and came up with the idea of casting all brothers. Potential director George Roy Hill blew it off as too gimmicky. Then in 1975, James Keach was playing Jim McCoy in a TV movie, THE HATFIELDS AND THE MCCOYS, starring Jack Palance as Devil Anse Hatfield. Robert Carradine was playing Bob Hatfield, and wanted to know from Keach about the project. Pretty soon it started looking real, and Beau and Jeff Bridges were soon onboard, though schedule conflicts would cause them to be replaced by the Quaids.
Randy Quaid, Keith Carradine, Stacy Keach
Jeffrey had a surprise guest in LONG RIDER supervising sound editor Gordon Ecker. The work of a sound editor is much more covert than that of a film editor, and he revealed some fascinating details about how the soundtracks were built. At Walter Hill’s direction, a slightly different gun-sound was developed for each star – they may all have been firing Winchester rifles, for instance, but no two sounded quite alike.
Hill liked to underplay the audio volume in the non-action scenes, so the LOUD action would really jump out at you. Foley sound is the recording of live effects synchronized to picture, and to make the horse foot-falls sharper than the usual cocoa-nut shell method, they attached a Lavalier (clip-on) microphone onto a boot’s instep and stamped it in the dirt.
My favorite revelation was about the use of gunshots as a premonition. There were many shots fired for every hit. For the gunshots where characters actually got hit, a ricochet effect was used. Now, as Ecker pointed out, normally a ricochet sound would only be used if the bullet bounced off of something, as opposed to hitting someone. But what they did instead was play the ricochet sound in reverse before the shot, then the shot, followed by the ricochet played forward. The unconscious psychological effect is that, amidst all the others shots, you begin to anticipate, like a premonition, the bullets that will hit a victim, a fraction of a second before it happens. It’s an unnerving effect. I hope to have a full interview with Mr. Ecker in the near future.
If I were booking film programs, I would love to run THE LONG RIDERS and TOMBSTONE as a double-feature – the two great Westerns about brothers, on each side of the law.
SOME GAVE ALL by J.R. SANDERS – A Book Review
SOME GAVE ALL – Forgotten Old West Lawmen Who Died With Their Boots On, is a remarkable piece of research and writing by J.R. Sanders, who has previously penned two books, and many articles for WILD WEST magazine. His fascination with the wild west goes back to his youth, growing up in the once lawless cattle town of Newton, Kansas, and childhood vacation visits to Abilene, Dodge City, and the Dalton Gang’s hideout.
As a former Southern California Police Officer, he takes the subject of his newest book seriously and personally. He sifted through many possible lawmen to focus on, and selected ten to report on in depth. In all likelihood, not even one will be familiar to the reader. And that’s part of the point: plenty has been written about the Earps and the Mastersons, and these ten heroic men have been too quickly forgotten, some seemingly before their bodies had gone cold. The fate of some of their families is tragic.
Some of the histories are startling for what a different world they seem to take place in. Others are just as startling for how little has changed. On the one hand, a U.S. Marshall in Western District, Texas, died because, being a well-raised Victorian gentleman, he assumed a woman would not lie. On the other hand, a police officer in the mining town of Gold Hill, Nevada, died as a result of what is, to this day, the most dangerous situation for a lawman to get involved in: a domestic dispute. Some of the cases have unexpected elements that would never occur to a fiction writer, such as the pair of hold-up men who made their getaways on bicycles.
While many non-fiction books of the old west end their tale when the lawman dies, this is often just the midway point in Sanders’ telling. He writes about the pursuit, capture, trial, and punishment of the killers, and the reader will likely be amazed at how little has changed. We think of the wild old days as a time when someone uttering, “Get a rope!” was time for the story to end. In fact, just like today, legal maneuverings often made these court battles go one for years. Lawyers endlessly debated points such as the difference between ‘stooped’ and ‘round-shouldered’ in the description of a suspect. And also like today, the longer it took to bring the miscreant to justice, the more frequently the press would start to admire and fawn over the killer, the victims quickly forgotten.
Some of the whims of justice would be laughable if they weren’t so infuriating. A convicted murderer and train-robber serving a life sentence turns artist, and sculpts a bust of the governor, who soon after paroles the killer!
Author J.R. Sanders
Sanders’ subjects are meticulously researched with primary sources; his bibliography lists numerous newspapers, periodicals, census and other public records, court transcripts, and books. His style of story-telling is engaging and accessible, and never dumbed down: hooray for the writer with the courage to use ‘pettifogging’ when no other word will quite do.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about the every-day heroics of the lawmen of the old west.
On Thursday, May 15th, from 7 to 10 p.m. at William S. Hart Park in Newhall, California, J.R. Sanders will be taking part in The National Peace Officers Memorial Day. This is a free and open-to-the-public event, and Sanders will be one of a number of speakers, as well as signing his book. To learn more, please contact the William S. Hart Museum office at (661) 254-4584 or Bobbi Jean Bell, OutWest, (661) 255-7087.
You can learn more about J.R. Sanders by visiting his website HERE. You can purchase SOME GAVE ALL from OutWest Boutique HERE
THAT’S A WRAP!
And that’s all for this week’s Round-up! Have a great Mother's Day!
All Original Contents Copyright May 2014 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved
Monday, May 5, 2014
MEETING CLASSIC MOMS – AND MORE – AT ‘THE CABLE SHOW’
From Tuesday, April 29th through Thursday, May 1st, thousands of people in all aspects of the cable television industry converged on the Los Angeles Convention Center for The Cable Show. Over 200 exhibitors filled the exhibit hall promoting their channels, services, hardware, software and other products. I was the guest of INSP, the channel famous for their daily TV westerns and Saddle-Up Saturday block, and their exclusive airings of THE VIRGINIAN and HIGH CHAPARRAL.
INSP had arranged to have a pair of stars from two of their most popular series, two of America’s favorite moms, Karen Grassle from LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, and Michael Learned from THE WALTONS, present to meet-and-greet and pose for pictures. Knowing how long it had been since they’d starred in their series – LITTLE HOUSE had their last season in 1983, and THE WALTONS in 1981 – I was delighted to find how charming and vivacious both ladies were. When I took my turn posing with them, I commented that I was excited to meet them because I’d enjoyed their shows so much, and also because they’d both starred in episodes of GUNSMOKE, something neither one knew about the other. “I played a whore!” Karen blurted out.
“I played a whore, too!” Michael Learned added with a laugh. I was delighted to be able to discuss their experiences in Dodge City.
Karen Grassle in LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE
KAREN GRASSLE: Well, I came at the very tail end of GUNSMOKE, right after we did the pilot for LITTLE HOUSE. Victor French, who played Mr. Edwards (on LITTLE HOUSE) was going to direct his first television episode ever (THE WIVING, 1974). And so he wanted me to come on, and I went on, and I was one of a number of saloon girls. And at that time I was a big feminist, and I had hair under my arms! (Laughs) And so they had to come very politely to me and say, ‘Miss Grassle, do you mind?’ I said of course – that was pretty funny. We did a show where these boys, who were kind of…missing a few batteries, they were told by their dad, ‘Go find wives, or you’re not going to get any inheritance!’ So they went to town and kidnapped a few saloon girls; brought us out to the farm. It turned out that the farm where we shot became the location for THE LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE.
MICHAEL LEARNED: That’s a really great story.
HENRY: Now Miss Learned, you did two GUNSMOKE episodes and a movie.
MICHAEL LEARNED: Well, in the first one (A GAME OF DEATH…AN ACT OF LOVE, part 2 1973) I played a lady of ill repute in a court scene. I was a witness, and I only remember because I saw it recently on Youtube. It was very early (in THE WALTONS run), and they had to clear me; there’s a morals clause when you sign a contract to do a series – I don’t know if you had to sign one, Karen, but I did. So they had to get clearance from (WALTON’S creator) Earl Hamner and (producer) Lee Rich and Lorimar, and they let me do it. Then I did something called FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE (later retitled MATT’S LOVE STORY 1973). Matt’s had a concussion, and he’s lost his memory. We fall in love, and I’m the only woman that Matt Dillon ever kissed. And out of that kiss…came a little baby! (laughs)
HENRY: It must have been a great kiss.
MICHAEL LEARNED: It was, actually. He called me up and asked me out for a date. I thought he was a really great guy, and I like him a lot. Very self-effacing and kind. I was kind of nervous; (to Karen) like you, I was just starting out. Then they did follow that up with a move-of-the-week (GUNSMOKE: THE LAST APACHE – 1990), where he doesn’t know he has a child, because he gets his memory back, and he goes back to Miss Kitty, where he should have been in the first place.
HENRY: And he never kissed her.
MICHAEL LEARNED: He never kissed her – not on screen anyway. So in the movie-of-the-week, our child is abducted. And I call on him to find her, to bring her back. And he discovers that he has a child that he didn’t know he had. And that’s my history with GUNSMOKE. And the funny thing is that I never told him, but when I was a child, I used to watch GUNSMOKE with my dad. And so the first time I did the show with him, I couldn’t speak, I was so shy. I just sat there looking at him. But he warmed me up; he was a very nice guy.
HENRY: Now Karen, you also did WYATT EARP with Kevin Costner. What was that experience like?
Karen Grassle relaxing
KAREN GRASSLE: That was a lot of fun. I was living in New Mexico at the time, and they came there to shoot. They had done some casting in L.A. Then they tried to fill out some of the roles in Santa Fe. I was teaching at the time, at the College of Santa Fe, teaching acting for the camera. There was a great studio there; that’s why they were there. And so I got to do this little part, as the mother of Kevin Costner’s bride. And I worked with some great people: Gene Hackman, Kevin of course – he was amazing. Gene Hackman was so terrific. And then the camera would cut, and he was, ‘Well, that wasn’t any good.’ You know, we’re so self-critical, actors. It was a lot of fun.
HENRY: What is WALTONS creator Earl Hamner like?
MICHAEL LEARNED: He’s just one of the greatest guys in the world. Sweet, kind, and everything you think he would be. He’s got a raunchy sense of humor, which saves the day; otherwise you’d get diabetes. He likes to drink; he’s just a great all-around guy. He and his wife have been together for I don’t know how many years; theirs is a real love story. I think somebody’s trying to do a documentary on him, but somebody should do a story about their love story. Recently I talked to him, and he said, “My wife is at the beach for the weekend, and I’m just sitting around crying, I miss her so much.” So sweet, after all those years – sixty, I think.
Incidentally, Ralph Waite, who played John Walton Sr. opposite Michael Learned, died this past February at the age of 85. Active until the end, in 2013 he was playing continuing characters in BONES, NCIS, and between 2009 and 2013, he did 94 episodes of DAYS OF OUR LIVES. One of his last performances was in a dramatic short for INSP called OLD HENRY. You can see the entire 21-minute film HERE.
Visiting exhibits of other channels, I learned what is on the horizon for Western fans, and discerning viewers in general. The STARZ/ENCORE folks told me that the highest viewership of any of their many channels, right after STARZ, is ENCORE WESTERNS. At present they don’t have plans to create any original Western programming.
At HALLMARK CHANNEL and HALLMARK MOVIE CHANNEL, WHEN CALLS THE HEART, the Western Canadian romance series, has ended its first season, and cameras have already rolled on season two. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the two HALLMARK channels have announced a slate of about thirty TV movies, and not one is a Western. This would not be a surprise with any other network, but HALLMARK has staunchly supported the genre when no one else did, and averaged at least two Westerns per year. The popular GOODNIGHT FOR JUSTICE franchise produced three features starring and co-produced by Luke Perry, and last year’s QUEEN OF HEARTS is by far the best of the group. As of now, there are no plans to make more. HALLMARK has decided to shift its focus to mysteries, and in fact, the HALLMARK MOVIE CHANNEL will be re-branded THE HALLMARK MYSTERY CHANNEL in October.
For those of us who worry that younger viewers aren’t discovering classic films, some heartening news: according to TCM, two thirds of their 62 million viewers are between the ages of 18 and 49.
AMC is in the middle of its first season of TURN, the Revolutionary War spy series, and this summer will be bringing back HELL ON WHEELS for its fourth season.
THE HISTORY CHANNEL will soon be presenting its own Revolutionary War series, SONS OF LIBERTY, focusing on such characters as John Adams, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Benedict Arnold.
A&E will deliver a new season of LONGMIRE starting on June 2nd, and FX will bring us one more season of JUSTIFIED, but then they’re pulling the plug. Over the last couple of years, the Round-up has been following a number of proposed series at all the major networks, and some pilots have been shot, but not one, Disney’s BIG THUNDER prominent among them, has gotten a go-ahead.
At the seminars that I attended, and in talking to many of the exhibitors, the main topic of conversation, of concern, was making TV content easily and instantly available on all possible devices. This is absolutely sensible; this is their livelihood. And yet, as an outsider, it seems to me that such content is too available already. Just a few years ago, any group of people standing around waiting, at a post office or bank or about to board a plane, would feature a substantial number of people reading newspapers or books, or doing crossword puzzles, or talking to each other. The reading and conversation was gradually replaced by people talking loudly in their cell phones, and kids with annoying loud portable video games – the same kids who have wheels on the bottom of their sneakers. Now nobody reads or talks at all; they text, or they stare at videos on their iPhone and check Tweets – reading Tweets is not actual reading. At a high school last week, I observed a class waiting for a late teacher : I counted sixteen kids sitting on the floor, side by side, none talking, none acknowledging each other, all staring at their smartphones. They were waiting for a drama class to begin, and not one was communicating with another. And for all the constant updating, if you can pry a minute or two of conversation out of them, you will find only a tiny percentage has any idea of what is going on in the world. They don’t need to have watching TV any easier. They need to watch less, read more, listen more, and then talk more.
WITH BUFFALO BILL ON THE U.P. TRAIL – A Video Review
This newest silent Western release from Grapevine Video was made in 1926 by Sunset Productions, just a year before sound would turn the movie industry upside down. One of the particularly appealing aspects of the film is that paralleling the coming changes to the movie industry are the progress-borne changes in the lives of Buffalo Bill Cody and other characters. The U. P. in the title is the Union Pacific Railroad, and the film concerns a time when the Pony Express, once Cody’s employer, is disappearing, and the wagon train is soon to be replaced by the transcontinental railroad.
Just as the specificity of the time is unusual, so are many of the characters and plot elements. In a surprisingly plot-heavy opening, we are quickly introduced to Cody, an Indian whom Cody rescues and befriends (played by actual Indian Felix Whitefeather), a wagon train whose passengers include a runaway wife and her paramour, and a runaway slave (played by apparent white guy Eddie Harris). They are pursued by a lawman, and a parson, who happens to be the abandoned husband of the runaway wife.
The wagon train reaches the fort, and soon Cody and a friend, seeing the coming of the rails as inevitable, become land speculators. Reasoning that the rails must go through a certain pass, Cody and company commence to build a town along the route, but are soon up against the railroad’s corrupt head surveyor, who says he will either be made an equal partner in the town, or he’ll find another route, regardless of what it costs the railroad.
There’s a good deal of action here, much of it involving the Indians, and a purposely stampeded herd of buffalo. There are even more subplots – the Major, his daughter and her suitor; the crooked gambler devoted to his beautiful little daughter – and all of them are paid by the end: surprising in a 53 minute film. One of the curious effects of so much happening is that Cody is only nominally the lead – much time is devoted to other characters.
Portraying Buffalo Bill Cody, star Roy Stewart is not a familiar name today, but he was a big star in silent films, co-starring with Mary Pickford in SPARROWS that same year. Most of his roles were in Westerns, and when sound came in, he was gradually relegated to bit parts, often unbilled, but he managed to compile nearly 140 film appearances. He’s big and likable and good with the camera. He makes an acceptable Buffalo Bill Cody, especially once he starts wearing the familiar fringed buckskin jacket. The one odd choice was keeping the long brown hair, but not the mustache and goatee. To look right as Cody, you have to go full hair-and-whiskers, ala Joel McCrea, or abandon the fuzz entirely, ala Charlton Heston. The hair alone triggers distracting comparisons to Barrymore’s MR. HYDE, and Tiny Tim.
The movie is well-acted and entertaining, and some elements of the story are very progressive for their time. The first sighting of Indians is preceded by this title-card: ‘The scouts of the original Americans kept watchful eyes on all white invaders.’ Contrast this with the words from the original poster: ‘DO YOU LIKE ACTION AND HAIR-RAISING THRILLS? You will see Indians attacking the whites --- Indian warfare in all its horrors - action - fights - and the most thrilling suspense you have ever witnessed!’ Obviously not the same writer.
Also progressive, in spite of the white actor portrayal, and some standard-for-the-time toadying, is the runaway slave. When he is discovered, not even the lowest characters in the story ever consider returning him to his owners. The film is well directed, handsomely shot and generally well-edited – though a herd-of-buffalo shot that does not match the action is featured much too often – and the print, though scratchy in places, is quite crisp and clear, with sharp lines, dark blacks, and a wide range of grays. Priced at $12.99, with a piano score by David Knudston, it is available from Grapevine Video, which has about 600 films currently available, and frequently brings out more. THIS LINK will take you to the WITH BUFFALO BILL page.
CATCH ‘THE LONG RIDERS’ SAT. MAY 10 AT THE AUTRY!
Walter Hill’s 1980 film about outlaw families has an irresistible gimmick: brother outlaws were played by actual brothers. Thus the Youngers are portrayed by David, Keith and Robert Carradine (their father John had scenes, sadly deleted), the Millers by Dennis and Randy Quaid, the miserable Ford brothers by Christopher and Nicholas Guest, and the James boys by James and Stacy Keach, who also co-wrote the script with Bill Bryden and Steven Smith. I haven’t seen it in years, but I remember it as very entertaining, with memorable action scenes.
Presented as part of the Autry’s ongoing monthly ‘What is a Western?’ series, it will be preceded by a discussion lead by Jeffrey Richardson, Gamble Curator of Western History, Popular Culture, and Firearms.
EFREM ZIMBALIST JR. DIES AT 95
The Round-up is sorry to note the passing of actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr. The son of concert violinist Efrem Zimbalist Sr. and opera star Alma Gluck, he was awarded a Purple Heart for his military service, and first garnered wide attention playing private eye Stu Bailey on the Warner Brothers 1960s detective series 77 SUNSET STRIP. He later starred in about 250 episodes of THE F.B.I. Though not particularly known for Western roles – his easy sophistication made him more natural in big city stories – he did appear early in his career in the Civil War drama BAND OF ANGELS, with Clark Gable. And in his SUNSET STRIP days he did all of the WB westerns series: five MAVERICKS, and one each of BRONCO, SUGARFOOT, plus a RAWHIDE, and in 1982 played Michael Horse’s father in the impressive and often overlooked THE AVENGING. In the frst season of the 1990s ZORRO series he played Zorro’s father Don Alejandro de la Vega, before handing the role over to Henry Darrow. A busy voice actor late in his career, Zimbalist was the voice of Batman’s butler, Alfred, in a half dozen series. Among his finest work was playing L.A. Police Sgt. Harry Hansen in the only good movie on the subject, WHO IS THE BLACK DAHLIA? starring Lucie Arnaz.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANN-MARGRET
Norman Rockwell's portrait of Ann-Margret
I’m a little late, but happy birthday to Ann-Margret, whose birthday was April 28th. In 1966 she starred in the remake of STAGECOACH, playing Claire Trevor’s role of Dallas, opposite Alex Cord in John Wayne’s role of The Ringo Kid. Seven years later she was starring opposite the real Duke in Burt Kennedy’s THE TRAIN ROBBERS. Then in 1994 she played Belle Watling in the miniseries sequel to GONE WITH THE WIND, SCARLETT.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY WILLIE NELSON
Willie in BARABOSA
Born on April 30th, 1933, Willie has continued the tradition of the singing cowboy started by Gene Autry, but has done it in his own way. Starting in THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN in 1979, Willie has appeared in many westerns, often as the lead, sometimes as a cameo. Among them are BARABOSA, THE LAST DAYS OF FRANK AND JESSE JAMES, STAGECOACH, REDHEADED STRANGER, ONCE UPON A TEXAS TRAIN, WHERE THE HELL’S THAT GOLD?, and several DR. QUINN episodes. And though it’s been often said that, with his chinful of whiskers, he could save studios money by being his own sidekick, there’s something about him, perhaps his voice, that makes ladies respond in a way that few ever did for Al St. John, or even Gabby Hayes.
THAT’S A WRAP!
Next week I’ll definitely finish up my coverage of the TCM Festival, and either the WILD BUNCH LUNCH at the Autry, or THE SANTA CLARITA COWBOY FESTIVAL at Gene’s Melody Ranch.
Have a great week!
All Original Material Copyright May 2014 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved