Sunday, August 28, 2016
NEW BOOK ON ‘MAGNIFICENT 7’, PLUS ‘HELL ON WHEELS’ LAST CHANCE, DONNER PARTY MOVIE, LARRY MCMURTRY AUCTION, AND MORE!
THE MAKING OF ‘THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN’ by Brian Hannan – A Book Review
With Antoine Fuqua’s remake of the THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN on the horizon this September, it’s the perfect time for a reappreciation of the 1960 classic. Author Brian Hannan, whose previous books have looked at directors Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg, has meticulously researched the history of THE MAGNIFICENT 7, and details it with enthusiasm and insight, from its Japanese inspiration, Akira Kurasawa’s SEVEN SAMAURI, onward. More than that, he gives an in-depth picture of the entire movie industry at the turn of the ‘60s, when studios were imploding under the weight of TV competition, long-term studio contracts were vaporizing, money locked in foreign banks was necessitating overseas production, and actors with muscle were starting their own production companies.
The Kurasawa film is the story of medieval farmers who hire Samurai to protect them from bandits who rob their harvests; farmers who are so poor they cannot pay for the help beyond feeding their defenders. Many who saw the film immediately grasped that the concept would work beautifully as a Western, moving the locale to turn-of-the-century Mexico, exchanging the samurai for gunmen who are working for a pittance; they are working for redemption rather than profit.
Before reaching the screen, the property passed through many hands and versions. Originally the 7 were to be an older, world-weary group, led by Spencer Tracy. Anthony Quinn hoped to produce and star, but his role, Toshiro Mifune’s comic character in SAMURAI, was re-tooled into the romantic lead for young German actor Horst Bucholtz. Quinn took the production to court over his exclusion. Eli Wallach likewise wanted the Mifune part, but instead played bandit leader Calvera, a performance which re-defined his career. Yul Brynner, the one member of the 7 who was already an above-the-title name, hoped to direct the film, rather than play the lead.
Hannan describes all of the hubbub that went into the hiring of director John Sturges and casting the leads. He details the careers of each actor. He separates fact from fiction about the stars’ attempts to jockey for the lead position. And he tells the remarkable story of how a film that was already written off as a flop domestically by MGM became such a hit overseas that it got a new release and a new life in the U.S.
Not that he considers the film flawless – Hannan points out the film’s few glaring mistakes, the greatest being Horst Bucholtz getting excessive screen-time in a role and performance that was supposed to be charming, but is almost universally considered irritating. Although I do think he goes too far. When he complains that this trio of minor characters needed to be separately delineated, or that character should have had a close-up, it strains the reader’s patience: John Sturges knew damned well what he was doing. That’s why you wrote the book.
This is truly a one-movie book – you’ll find scant reference to the three sequels or the TV series. You may actually learn more than you wanted to know about the making of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, but you certainly will have at least 95% of your questions answered. THE MAKING OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN is published by McFarland, and available HERE.
LAST CHANCE TO CATCH THE END OF ‘HELL ON WHEELS’ AND ‘AMERICAN WEST’ COURTESY OF AMC!
If you missed any of the final seven-episode season of HELL ON WHEELS – my DVR somehow erased the second-to-last episode before I could see it – or if you want to binge-watch ‘em all over again, AMC is making them all available on-line, for free, for about a month. Go HERE to watch.
And they’re doing the same for the Robert Redford-produced THE AMERICAN WEST documentary series. Go HERE to catch up.
‘THE HUNGER’ FEEDING ON DONNER PARTY LEGEND.
You may remember that last year The Weather Channel had a miniseries DEAD OF WINTER, based on The Donner Party tragedy, starring Darby Hinton as George Donner. Now 20th Century Fox and director Ridley Scott’s company, Scott Free, have just announced a Donner Party movie, based on a net-yet-published, not-yet-written novel by THE TAKER author Alma Katsu called THE HUNGER. It will be directed by Luke Scott, whose first movie, MORGAN, will be released by Fox later this week. It’s being described as ‘DONNER PARTY MEETS THE WALKING DEAD’. I hope it’s not in poor taste.
‘LONESOME DOVE’ AUTHOR MCMURTRY’S LIBRARY ON THE AUCTION BLOCK!
Heritage Auctions always feature unusual items, and their September 15th session is no exception. This one includes a 1788 edition of THE FEDERALST, by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, seeking an opening bid of $85,000; and there’s a first edition of Joseph Smith’s THE BOOK OF MORMON, with $38,000 already bid.
While not nearly so old, among the unexpected and unusual offerings are from LONESOME DOVE author Larry McMurtry’s legendary research library. They’re grouped by subject, and while there are nearly twenty days to bid, at the moment there are a lot of bargains. Fifty volumes of Depression-era WPA guides are at $12. A collection of 150 poetry books are at $1. On the other hand, when it comes to McMurtry’s forte, Texas, the bidding is a bit more lively. A group of Texana history books is at $320, but considering that it contains 180 books, that’s one helluvah bargain! And an uncorrected proof of LONESOME DOVE is currently at $1! HERE is the link to the auction site.
CINECON FESTIVAL 52 LABOR DAY WEEKEND!
Once again, Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard will be the home of the Cinecon Classic Film Festival. Their special guest this year is Marsha Hunt. As usual they have a great schedule of both silent and talkie films, and for Westerners that includes 1928’s RAMONA, the first talkie version of Helen Hunt Jackson’s classic novel, starring Dolores Del Rio and Warner Baxter, Ken Maynard in THE FIGHTING LEGION, and Gary Cooper starring in the first talkie version of Rex Beach’s THE SPOILERS. The dealers rooms across the boulevard at the Loews Hotel is a wonderful place to hunt for stills, posters, DVDs, and book signings. You can learn more HERE.
‘HATEFUL 8’ AND MORE AT THE AUTRY!
There are two excellent new exhibits at The Autry. The photography show Revolutionary Vision: Group f/64 and Richard Misrach – Photographs from the Bank of America Collection, highlights a movement in photography, started in the late 1920s, moving away from ‘pictorializing’, an effort to make photographs look like paintings, in favor of sharp, unadulterated images, and featuring the works of Edward Weston and Ansel Adams among others.
New Additions, Featuring the Kaufman Collection, covers a wide range of works by past and contemporary painters and sculptors and American Indian artists.
And on Saturday, September 3rd, on the large, grassy lawn of the Autry you can, at 5:30pm enter and grab a patch to sit in, at 7pm you can hear music, and at 8pm you can see Quentin Tarantino’s THE HATEFUL 8 on their immense outdoor screen. There will be food trucks, and there will be a bunch of morons who will talk through the whole movie. To my way of thinking, it’s the most hateful possible way to see a movie, but folks who don’t give a damn about film think it’s great. Enjoy!
JOHN MITCHUM CD RELEASE PARTY AT PARAMOUNT RANCH, SUN SEPT 4TH!
A star-studded celebration will be held at the Paramount Movie Ranch to mark the release of the new CD JOHN ‘THE HUMBLE’ MITCHUM’S LEGACY’, featuring over fifty Western film and TV legends performing their favorites Mitchum songs and poems. A man with nearly 160 film and TV credits, best known as Clint Eastwood’s partner in all of the DIRTY HARRY movies, he was also a fine writer, and first gained attention in that realm when John Wayne recorded his poem, America, Why I Love Her, which became a hit record.
The kid brother of Robert Mitchum, John died in 2001. His daughter, Cindy Azbill Mitchum, has worked for 13 years to make this event happen. A glance at the list of contributors reveals that some – Ann Rutherford, Ernest Borgnine, Dick Jones, Herb Jeffries, Robert Easton – are no longer with us. But happily, most are, and a great many will be attending the event. And a few tickets are available. The contact info is on the poster.
If you’d like to learn more about John Mitchum, the event, and hear some of the recordings, including one by the great James Drury (John appeared on THE VIRGINIAN many times), click the link HERE for Equestrian Legacy Radio, then click on the episode entitled ‘Dirty Harry, Josey Wales’ to hear a lively discussion with Cindy.
‘COPS & COWBOYS’ 2016 SEPT. 10 AT LEONIS ADOBE!
The annual Cops & Cowboys fundraiser for the Mid-Valley Community Police Council will once again take place at the historic Leonis Adobe Museum in Calabasas, on Saturday, September 10th. You’ll have a chance to tour the Adobe, built in 1884, one of the oldest buildings in the San Fernando Valley; enjoy the hosted libations; place your bids in the silent auction; place your bets at the poker and blackjack tables, with cards handled by the Dealer Dolls; have a delicious barbecue dinner; dance to the music of Eli Locke and the Locke and Loaded Band, and get a line-dancing lesson! To learn more, and order tickets, go HERE.
STAR-STUDDED ‘SILVER SPUR’ SEPT. 16!
Friday, September 16th, join the Reel Cowboys at The Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City for the 19th annual Silver Spur Awards. This is always a glamorous and exciting event, and this year’s emcee will be one of the greats of Western TV, Bruce Boxleitner. Among those being honored will be the late, great King, Elvis Presley, star of FLAMING STAR and ROUSTABOUT; and the late, extremely talented Western character actor Gregg Palmer. Those honorees attending are frequent John Wayne co-star Eddie Falkner, stuntman and actor Ben Bates, WALTONS mom Miss Michael Learned, and characters actor and frequent Western guest star Richard Herd, who tells me he’s especially excited that his presentation will be made by the great Morgan Woodward. Other presenters include Edie Hand, Western costumer (BIG JAKE, THE SHOOTIST, CHISUM) Luster Bayless, Janet Arness, Wyatt McCrea, and the WALTONS’ eldest daughter, Judy Norton. Contact info is on the poster. See you there!
AND THAT'S A WRAP!
Had a great time on Thursday interviewing Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy Nolan about their upcoming HBO mini-series, WESTWORLD – you can read about it soon in True West. In the meantime, the current True West, with the Tombstone walk-down on the cover, includes my article on the excellent new modern western HELL OR HIGH WATER, starring Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster and Robert Pine. Have a wonderful week, and a wonderful Labor Day Weekend!
All Original Contents Copyright August 2016 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved