Sunday, March 8, 2015




In October of 2013, I had the pleasure of visiting the set of WESTERN RELIGION for day 6 of their 19 day shoot in and around Peter Sherayko’s Caravan West Ranch in Agua Dulce. (Read that story HERE )  I even got to be an extra in a poker-game scene. ( Read that story HERE   )  The film is set in 1879 Arizona, and centers on a legendary high-stakes poker game played in the mining town of Western Religion, which attracts high-rollers and gunslingers from around the country.  They’re competing for the grand prize: a cross of gold. 

Sets go up as sun goes down

Director James O'Brien films me in super-8

Religious types from the town of
Western Religion

October 2013 was the time of the shut-down of National Parks, and WESTERN RELIGION’s original location, Paramount Ranch, was abruptly unavailable.  The production was switched to Caravan West, which is a wonderful location, but without buildings!  A couple of rough wooden structures within a tent city sprung up practically overnight.  It in fact looked much more like the mining towns seen in period photographs than a Hollywood western movie street ever could.  Writer-director James O’Brien recalled, “We had to build sets literally as we were shooting. The hammering would stop when I yelled action and start up again on cut. The controlled mayhem lent itself to the gritty drama we were fashioning. Every day was an incredible adventure.”

WESTERN RELIGION will have its world premiere at the famed Cannes Film Festival on Saturday, May 16th, at 8:30 p.m., in a Marche du Film spotlight on American independent film.  More details coming soon! 


Although I’ve never taken on anything as massive as this book – with 1,250 questions! – I’ve concocted enough quizzes for Round-up giveaways to understand what a daunting undertaking writing this book must have been.  And author Graeme Ross, a Scottish former fireman who also writes extensively on football (soccer) and Frank Sinatra (he’s done a quiz-book just on Frankie), has done a masterful job, creating an entertaining, amusing and informative book which is fun for testing your own knowledge, and even better to match your wits against your pards at the local saloon.
For me, the hardest part of creating a quiz is determining how tough to make it.  If the reader scans the first few questions on a page, and can’t answer any of them, he’ll move on to something else.  The same is true if you make it so easy that they’re answering before they finish reading the questions.  The challenge is striking the right balance, and Graeme does it both by varying the difficulty of questions within a puzzle, and giving you a wide choice of quiz topics, so you can zero in on the ones you know best, and avoid humiliating yourself with the others. 

There are 125 different quizzes, the first being Opening Lines, and the last, Closing Lines.  In a test on cowboy horses, you have to identify not only who rode Topper, but who rode Pie.  In the first Spaghetti Western quiz, you need to identify movies from their original Italian titles: C’era una volt ail west!  There are quizzes about bad guys, singers in Westerns, remakes – “Who played Johnny Ringo in the 1966 remake Of STAGECOACH?” – even They Turned it Down: “Can you name the English-born actor who turned down the part of Cherry Valance in RED RIVER?”  Of course there are quizzes on John Wayne, but also Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Mitchum; not just John Ford, but also John Sturges, Budd Boetticher and so many more.  Toward the end of the book, there are eight ‘expert’ quizzes I’ve been too cowardly to even try!

Priced at $19.95 from Bear Manor Media (you can order it HERE  ) , the book also includes an introduction and brief history of Western movies by the author, and a very interesting Foreword by London Observer film critic and author Philip French, who has something to say both about Westerns (he’s written two books on the subject), but also about the history of BBC Radio quiz shows.   


Starting in April (haven’t got an exact date yet), INSP will add BONANZA – THE LOST EPISODES to their line-up.  They had a 7-episode marathon preview today.   The reason they have that ‘LOST’ moniker is, when NBC first started packaging the show for syndication, they did first an ‘early’ package, then a ‘later’ package, and 171 episodes from the middle of the show’s 14 season, 430 episode run didn’t get played for decades, and haven’t been seen on non-subscription cable for ten years. 


Manolito and the boys are heading back to Big John Cannon’s spread for a High Chaparral Reunion on the sets and sagebrush where the legendary series was filmed, at the legendary Old Tucson Movie Ranch, just outside the city of Tucson! 

On-camera talent taking part will include Henry Darrow, the brash and charming Manolito (you can read my interview with Henry, and my review of his biography, HERE )  ; Don Collier, who played ranch foreman Sam Butler, and worked with John Wayne, James Arness, and every other Western star you can name; Rudy Ramos, who played the half-Pawnee Wind, and currently does a one-man show about Geronimo; and stunt-man and Western historian Neil Summers, who’s been killed onscreen by James Arness, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen (twice!), John Wayne (five times!), and every single member of the Cannon extended family! 

The Cannon ranch house today

Behind the camera talent will include BONANZA and HIGH CHAPARRAL producer Kent McCray, who was on the show from the time it was a pilot script, and his lovely bride, BONANZA and HIGH CHAPARRAL casting director Susan McCray, whose father, composer Harry Sukman, composed the HIGH CHAPARRAL theme.  Boyd Magers, whose WESTERN CLIPPINGS publication demonstrates his encyclopedic knowledge of the Western genre, will also be taking part.  There will even be a webcast of events for those of us poor saps who can’t make it to Arizona!  To learn more about all of the events at the Reunion, and to register, go HERE!  


The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Last night the TCM site was down, so I couldn’t include all of the new events of interest to Western fans.  Now it’s up and running, and in addition to great films, the TCM folks have wrangled the offspring of some of our favorite stars to attend.  In addition to attending screenings, guests will attend live events as well.  After the Thursday night Red Carpet at Grauman’s Chinese, for the premiere of the restoration of THE SOUND OF MUSIC, with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in attendance, the Western fun starts at 6:30 pm, with a screening of THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE.  Keith Carradine, a major Western star in his own right, and son of VALENCE star John Carradine, will attend.   At 10 pm, the great Warner Brothers swashbuckler THE SEA HAWK, starring Errol Flynn, will screen attended by his daughter, Rory Flynn.

My Darling Clementine

Friday morning at 9:30, MY DARLING CLEMENTINE will screen, with again Keith Carradine, and another son of a star, and another Western star in his own right, Hank Fonda’s son Peter Fonda, attending.  At 10:30, Christopher Plummer will have his hands and feet memorialized in cement in the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.  At 12:15 pm, THE PROUD REBEL screens, attended by the son of star Alana Ladd, and one of the stars himself, David Ladd.  At 2:30 pm at Club TCM at the Hollywood Roosevelt, Rory Flynn will present a talk – Errol Flynn , A Daughter Remembers.  At 2:15 pm, YOUNG MR. LINCOLN screens, attended by Peter Fonda.  At 3:15 pm, the Steve McQueen starrer THE CINCINNATI KID screens, attended by star Ann-Margaret.  I didn’t know until I read the TCM write-up that director Norman Jewison made the film after producer Martin Ransohoff fired original director Sam Peckinpah.  At 5:45 pm at the El Capitan Theatre, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK will screen, with stuntman Terry Leonard attending.  At 6:15 pm at Club TCM Peter Fonda will give a talk, entitled Fonda the Actor, Fonda The Man. 

Saturday morning at 9:45 am, the classic John Ford war movie THEY WERE EXPENDABLE will screen.  At 10 am, THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING will screen, with Christopher Plummer, who stars as Rudyard Kipling attending.  Also at 10 am, at Club TCM you can catch A Conversation With Norman Lloyd, Orson Welles’ partner in the Mercury Theatre, villain of SABOTOEUR, producer of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, and still going strong as he enters his second century!   At 11 am, Rory Flynn will be signing her book about her father, Errol Flynn.  At 11:30, one of Walt Disney’s most personal films, SO DEAR TO MY HEART, will screen.  At 1 pm, author Scott Eyman will be signing his two books, John Wayne, Life and Legend, and Print The Legend, The Life and Times of John Ford.  At 4pm, Club TCM will present A Conversation With Terry Leonard.  At 6:15 pm, stuntman Terry Leonard will attend the screening of THE WIND AND THE LION.  Also at 6:15pm, VIVA ZAPATA! will screen.  Directed by Elia Kazan and written by John Steinbeck, Anthony Quinn won one of his two Best Supporting Actor Oscars for his portrayal of Zapata’s brother.  Quinn’s daughter, and President of the Anthony Quinn Foundation, Katherine Quinn, will attend. 

On Sunday morning at 10 am, a new restoration of the Western musical CALAMITY JANE, starring Doris Day, directed by David Butler, will screen.  Starting fifteen minutes earlier, and not a Western, but one of my favorite films noir, NIGHTMARE ALLEY screens.  It stars  Tyrone Power as a guy who joins a sideshow with a mind-reading act, and becomes a world-renowned clairvoyant.  From the novel by William Lindsay Gresham, it’s one of the toughest, most chilling and thrilling stories to emerge from the shadows and onto the screen. 

There are dozens of great non-Western screenings as well.  And there are all sorts of ticket packages – from $300 to $1649!  Happily, you can also attend individual screenings, if they aren’t full, for $20 apiece.  Get there early, because lots of the shows fill up.  You can learn more, and buy tickets, HERE


A dizzying array of events are planned at the Fest, in William S. Hart Park, and at several theatrical venues within easy walking distance.  The only tough part is that, just like at a three-ring circus, you can’t possibly do everything.  $10 a day -- $7 if you’re a kid (free if you’re under three and don’t cry!) gets you admission to the park, with fifteen bands performing on four stages, living history, food, and vendors of clothes and everything western.  Among the performers will be Band of The California Battalion, The Haunted Windchimes, Mikki Daniel, Sons & Brothers, poet Chris Isaacs, Wild Horse Dancers, and that Segovia of the Spinning Sixgun, Joey Dillon. 

Also, at the Canyon Theatre Guild, Repertory East Playhouse, and the Vu Bar and Lounge, there will be ticketed reserved-seat concerts by Don Edwards, Waddie Mitchell, Sons of the San Joaquin, Dave Stamey, Six Silver Bullets, and many others – tickets run from $10 to $30. 

Joey Dillon

Actually, the fun starts before the weekend – on Wednesday, April 15th, at the Repertory East, you can see An Evening With Kristyn Harris and Jim Jones, the Western Music Association Female and Male performers of the year!   This is part of the OutWest Concert Series, sponsored by the OutWest Boutique, who also sponsor the all-important (yes, I’m part of it) Buckaroo Book Shop – Rendezvous With a Writer events at the Fest! 

What’ll that include, you ask?  There will be six writer-events on Saturday, and three on Sunday.  Starting Saturday at eleven it’s Wordsmiths: Poets Present their Favorites, with Almeda Bradshaw, Peter Conway, Andria Kidd, Tony Sanders and Peter Sherayko. 

At noon, at The Last Shootist, The Shootist and The Homesman, I talk with author and screenwriter Miles Swarthout. 

At one, the topic is The West In Song: Protect Your Creative Gold, and John Bergstrom will chat with President of Gene Autry Entertainment, Karla Buhlman, and songwriter Jim Jones. 

At two, it’s Unsung Heroes of Film: The Hollywood Stunt Horse.  I’ll be talking with Karen Rosa – Senior Consultant at the American Humane Association’s Film & TV Unit, Petrine Day Mitchum, Audrey Pavia, and Shirley Lucas Juaregui.

At three, the topic is Screenplay to Novel OR Novel to Screenplay? I’ll be talking to four screenwriter/novelists: Dale Jackson, C. Courtney Joyner, Stephen Lodge, and Miles Swarthout.

At four, the final event of the day will be Girls and Gunsmoke.  Joyce Fitzpatrick will talk with authors Margaret Brownley, Mikki Daniel, and Janet Squires.

On Sunday, the fun starts at eleven with Who Are Those Guys?  Little Known Lawmen and Detectives of the West.  Jim Christina will chat with Western non-fiction writers Margaret Brownley, Dale Jackson, and J.R. Sanders. 

At noon, for The West in Song, John Bergstrom chats with fellow songwriters Jim Jones and Almeda Bradshaw.

Finally, at one, it’s Name That Horse, and I’ll be chatting with Karla Buhlman, Shirley Lucas Jauregui, Petrine Mitchum, and Audrey Pavia. 

Next week I’ll have more information about special events tied to the Cowboy Fest, including tours of famous local movie locations; Don Edwards performing at ‘the Home of Ramona,’ Rancho Camulos; Miles Swarthout’s presentation about the making of John Wayne’s last movie, which he scripted, THE SHOOTIST; Peter Sherayko’s one-man-show, An Evening With Buffalo Bill, presented at the William S. Hart Mansion, and much more!  To learn more, and to purchase tickets, go HERE.  


Very sorry to read in Tom Betts’ BOOT HILL site that Lloyd Fonvielle, who scripted or co-scripted THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE, THE BRIDE, THE MUMMY, and GOOD MORNING BABYLON, has died.  He’d contacted me in 2011, having just e-published his first Western story, THE TRACKER.  I read it, liked it, and interviewed him.  Read it HERE
A very talented and original writer, he went on to write several collections of Western stories and Western novels.  The link to his listing on Amazon is HERE


More thrills, chills and suspense next week!

Happy Trails,


All Original Content Copyright March 2015 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh! Henry, just great!
    "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence"!