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
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
THE FESS PARKER ISSUE! DARBY HINTON – ISRAEL BOONE – INTERVIEWED, PLUS ‘DANIEL BOONE’ SEASON ONE, ‘CLIMB AN ANGRY MOUNTAIN’ REVIEWED!
DANIEL BOONE – SEASON ONE – A DVD Review
One of the true pleasures of home video viewing is discovering a hidden treasure-trove from a series you thought you knew completely. Fess Parker, fresh from his success playing Davy Crocket on Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, starred as DANIEL BOONE for six TV seasons, from 1964 to 1970. There were 165 episodes in all, and you can catch one daily on INSP. But you can’t catch the first season – no one airs it because it was in black and white! Now that entire first season is available from TIMELESS VIDEO, and it’s not only entertaining, it’s something of a revelation.
Just as the black and white GUNSMOKEs are a different animal from their color descendants, these early BOONEs, while as warm as the later tales, are tougher, more historically based adventures.
While most Western series and movies center around the post-Civil War era, the real Daniel Boone lived from 1734 to 1820, and that’s the time period the plots are drawn from. These stories have the novelty of an earlier time, when relations with different tribes varied, and where the English and the French were still involved. In the pilot episode KEN-TUK-E, Daniel is sent by General Washington to build a fort, soon to be known as Boonesborough, in the Kentucky Territory (not yet a state), located to hopefully prevent several Indian tribes from joining forces with each other, and with the British. Here he rescues and befriends Mingo (Ed Ames), an Oxford-educated Cherokee half-breed who will be Dan’l’s closest friend throughout the series. (While I always thought the Oxford business was pretty random, I suspect the idea was to have an Indian character that didn’t speak like Tonto.)
At the end of the pilot, Dan’l is joined by his family; his wife Rebecca Boone (beautiful Patricia Blair), daughter Jemima (Veronica Cartwright) and son Israel (Darby Hinton). It was scripted by the brilliant Borden Chase, who wrote WINCHESTER ’73 (1950), and was Oscar-nominated for adapting RED RIVER (1948) from his own short story. It was directed by George Marshall, one of the all-time great studio directors, who started out making Westerns with Harry Carey Sr. in 1916! A master of Westerns, comedies, and noirs, he directed some of the best work of Hope and Crosby, Martin and Lewis, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, and directed both James Stewart and Audie Murphy as Destry. His skill at combining good-natured humor with serious danger was ideal for Fess Parker’s personality and talent. With the pilot, Marshall and Chase set the adventurous tone for the series – and they set the bar high.
The second episode concerns a white girl, stolen by one tribe as a child, rescued by another tribe later on. In what world does she truly belong? In succeeding episodes Daniel deals with a Welsh family trying to escape indentured servitude, an accusation of murder against Mingo, a French river pirate who was once a friend, a seemingly minor injury that gets infected, leaving daughter Jemima to have to protect her father against outlaws. There is a powerful sense of home just under the surface, which makes the adventures of the Boone kids that much more compelling. One of my personal favorites is the Val Lewton-like, atmospheric DAUGHTER OF THE DEVIL, which was broadcast in April, but is ideal around Halloween.
Albert Salmi with Fess
The talented Albert Salmi plays Yadkin, Boone’s often blustery right hand aside from Mingo, but only in the first season. Dal McKennon, who runs the fort store, a very busy voice-actor in cartoons, was in the show from the first season to the last. So were Patricia Blair and Darby Hinton, but Veronica Cartwright only lasted a few episodes into season two, and another brother didn’t survive the pilot – read my interview with Darby to find out why.
Interestingly, while Ed Ames was in until the last season or two, Mingo changes quite a bit. In season one he is surprisingly, and cheerfully, bloodthirsty, always eager to slay one or many Shawnee, enemies. And his weapon of choice is a bullwhip!
The set from TIMELESS MEDIA/SHOUT FACTORY contains all 29 hour-long episodes from season one, as well interviews with Darby Hinton, Veronica Cartwright, Ed Ames, and the late great man himself, Fess Parker. Of particular fun are the kids’ memories of working with animals on the show, especially bears, panthers, and Israel’s pet goose, Hannibal. The set is available exclusively from Walmart, either in-store or HERE.
SON OF DAN’L – A CONVERSATION WITH DARBY HINTON
Fess and Darby
Looking at the muscular, handsome bearded man who plays George Donner on The Weather Channel’s THE DONNER PARTY, and who portrays Texas’ first president in the blockbuster mini-series TEXAS RISING, it’s hard to reconcile the fact that said man was once a tow-headed sprite named Israel on DANIEL BOONE, back in the 1960s. But they’re both Darby Hinton, an actor before he was a year old, and an international TV star before he was 7.
When I made contact with Darby, to discuss Fess Parker, the series, and his career since, he was in the midst of putting together an awards banquet. I asked him who it was for.
DARBY: It’s called Looking Ahead. It’s an organization I’ve been involved with since the beginning – over a dozen years. It looks out for young performers in the business. We make a nice little community; we take them down to community service, and take them paint-balling. Child actors can be very isolated, and feel left apart, so this is an organization that tries to do things for them to make them feel better, and then we look ahead and see what they might want to do after acting.
HENRY: That’s a terrific cause, because as you say, child actors do get very isolated, and it’s not a kind business when they get a little older.
DARBY: I know, because I’ve lost quite a few friends, so that’s why I’ve gotten involved, and glad to do it.
HENRY: I talked to Paul Peterson (note: Jeff Stone on THE DONNA REED SHOW) about his organization, A Minor Consideration, about similar concerns.
DARBY: I’ve been a member of that for a long time. As a matter of fact, Paul Peterson will be at my table for the awards on Thursday night, along with Tony Dow (note: Wally Cleaver on LEAVE IT TO BEAVER) and some other fun people.
HENRY: What was the earliest show you remember doing?
DARBY: I started when I was six months old. The earliest one that really stands out was a MR. ED (1963) I did, because I remember watching the show, and I was a little disappointed to learn how they made Mr. Ed talk (note: pulling a nylon string under Ed’s lip made him appear to talk). I remember when I did BROTHERS GRIMM (1962), they had a fake snow-machine, and they kept saying, “Don’t look up at the snow.” So of course I would look up at the snow. And I would have to keep going to the nurse because I would have these plastic pieces of snowflake stuck in my eye. (LAUGHS) So I guess it’s those painful things that stick out.
HENRY: Before DANIEL BOONE, you did a couple of episodes of Western series, WAGON TRAIN and BIG VALLEY. Were you a fan of the genre as a kid?
DARBY: Oh sure, I still am. I think it’s great; I love being a cowboy.
HENRY: Do you remember how you got the part of Israel Boone?
DARBY: Yeah. My mom came and picked me up, said “Come on, we’ve got an interview at Fox. It’s for a movie.” And she dressed me up in lederhosen and knee-high socks, and all the way to 20th she had me singing ‘Edelweiss’, because it was for THE SOUND OF MUSIC. In the original (story) the youngest one was a boy, and that was what they were casting. And my mom, God bless her, was always late to everything. We were late to the interview, we got to the casting building, and she said, “Quick, go run in there! They’ll be waiting. I’ll park the car and I’ll come right in.” I ran in; saw a line of kids, so I jumped in that line. I saw the secretary, and she saw me, and she must have cracked up. All of a sudden she took me to the front of the line, into a room full of adults. “I think you might want to see this guy.” And that was it. Fess was in there. They didn’t really even have a part for me. I had an older brother called Israel Boone, and they wrote a part for me for the pilot, called Nathan Boone. I came out of there, my mom saw me in the hall, and was upset. “What are you doing? They were just looking for you!” I said, “I don’t know, but whatever’s in there, I just got that!” And that’s how I got the DANIEL BOONE SHOW. I’m sure I made a sight in lederhosen.
HENRY: What happened to your older brother? I don’t remember him.
Fess, Darby, Veronica Cartwright, Patricia Blair
DARBY: It’s really funny. Now thanks to DVDs you can see all this. If you watch the pilot, the last shot, Daniel’s walking out of the fort with his family, he’s got two kids (Israel and Jemima) in tow. But in the very beginning, there’s two boys (and the girl). George Marshall was the director – he was one of those old-time directors who yelled and screamed at everybody. I liked him; we got along great. Anyway, he got to like me, and halfway through it he added a scene to the pilot, where a flaming arrow goes into a powder-keg, and I run out, grab the flaming arrow, pull it out, stomp on it, put the fire out, run back to Becky, who goes, “Awww!” They saw that in dailies and said, “We don’t need the older one. The little one seems able to handle all this stuff. Let’s just go with him.” So right in the middle of the pilot, Daniel went from having two sons to having one son.
HENRY: You were certainly involved in a lot of action. Was that a plus or a minus?
DARBY: Loved it! Are you kidding? That’s all the fun of it. I remember when I did that BIG VALLEY (BOY INTO MAN 1967) you were talking about, Richard Dreyfus was my older brother. They had asked him, can you drive a team of horses? He said, “Oh sure I can. No problem.” (LAUGHS) He was a New York actor just out here: he didn’t know which end of the horse to feed. We got on the set to do the scene, we’re on the wagon. There was a little girl between us, playing my sister, and I was on the outside. Ricky had the reins, and when they said ‘action’, he only had to go a three or four feet, pull up, and stop. But when they said action, he did the only thing he’d seen in the Westerns. He yelled “Yee-haw!” and they took off! That was quite a stunt scene, even though it wasn’t supposed to be.
HENRY: After the first season, the show went from black and white to color.
DARBY: I remember everyone as very excited about it. They knew it was a real tip of the hat by NBC because we were one of their first to go to ‘living color.’
HENRY: How old were you when the show started?
DARBY: For that pilot I was five and a half. By the time we started shooting the full lot of thirteen, I had just turned six.
HENRY: Did you attend school at the studio?
DARBY: Three hours a day with my tutor. It was interesting. You know, Veronica (Cartwright) was my sister for a couple of years, so I had her. But then she left the show, and it was just me and any young kid guest stars. So it was good one-on-one education, but I kind of missed the sports, being with the kids, playing on a playground and having that kind of fun.
HENRY: So you weren’t with a group of kids from other shows or movies.
DARBY: We filmed out at Sunset and Western Avenue, which was the smaller lot for Fox. So there was LANCER and HIGH CHAPARRAL and 12’OCLOCK HIGH, but nothing else with kids, so any time we were shooting there it was just me. Now if I was off the show for a number of days, then they would have me come to the Fox lot (in Century City), and I went to the schoolhouse there, with the teacher who taught everyone from Shirley Temple on up. And at that time there was Billy Mumy, Angela Cartwright, Veronica’s sister, doing LOST IN SPACE. All the young actors at Fox came through there. Tammy Locke with THE MONROES was another.
HENRY: Did you have kid friends who were not in the business?
DARBY: One; there was one guy who lived down the street for a while, and we got along really well. But there was just no time.
HENRY: What was your schedule like on an average week? How long did it take to shoot a show?
DARBY: I believe they could work me – was it eight hours? And one hour off for lunch. Once we were on location we had an hour and a half for lunch. Then it just depended what we were filming. I might be there all day to shoot one shot. The teacher would go out with me, and I might have school in the back of a car, or on a walk, or in a trailer somewhere. That’s the thing about the business. You never know what you’ll do – there is no normal.
HENRY: Looking back, are you satisfied with the education you got?
DARBY: Oh sure. I’m dyslexic, and back then they didn’t even know what that meant. But it actually served me to be able to have a teacher to work with one-on-one. Because I could communicate and learn and study, but when it came to getting something from the chalk-board to the paper, that’s where it gets tricky, and I didn’t have to do that so much. And my mom is also a schoolteacher, so education was always important to her. And as I got off (the show), I went to a junior high school, found out what real life was like, got beat up and everything. Then I got myself to Switzerland, so I graduated high school from The American School in Switzerland. I came back and went to college on World Campus, which was the floating college that went around the world. You’re only supposed to go once but I loved it so much I went three semesters on that. Then I studied at Pepperdine under Cousteau with Project Ocean Search. I kept my studies up at UCLA. I still consider myself learning.
HENRY: That’s terrific. Because I’m sure you’re aware, when you speak to former child actors, they often missed out on a lot of education. You said that you shot in the Fox lot in Hollywood. Was that for interiors or exteriors?
DARBY: Both. They had two sound stages, and one was the Boone cabin interior, and the Cincinnatus interior; all the interiors. And the other soundstage was for all the exteriors. And when they needed bigger exteriors we would got to the Fox Ranch out in Malibu. We shot some of the pilot and one other episode in Kanab, Utah. And we went to Fraser Park up in the snow a couple of times.
HENRY: What was the best part of doing the show?
DARBY: I think Fess, and the family that I just kind of had there. You know, I lost my father when I was a year old. I only had my mom and two older sisters, so I really liked the male influence. One of the prop guys was an Eagle Scout leader, so when we worked together he would show me knots. So when you talk about education, it might not all have been calculus and reading, but I had great pyrotechnics teaching me about gun powder and all different kinds of weapons. Indian history I always found fascinating, and I got to spend time on Indian reservations. I look on it as a rounded thing more than the academics.
HENRY: What was Fess like to work with?
DARBY: Fess was a lot like what you saw on the screen. A great family guy – look how long he was married to Marcie all thorough his successful career. Two great kids. Ron Ely, who was a great friend of his, spoke at his wake right before I did. And one of the things that got me was he said, “When I came to visit on the BOONE set, I couldn’t believe that it was a working set. Nobody was yelling at anybody, there were no tempers flaring, there were no drama queens.” And that was all Fess. You did your job, we had fun, and that was it.
HENRY: Were you close with Fess after the show?
DARBY: Yes, I was. There were a number of years in between when I didn’t see him as much. We would run into each other and it would be great. But towards the end, I started going up to Santa Barbara a lot and having fun up there – Ely, his son, and Ashley I really enjoyed. I know it sounds weird, but on Marcie’s birthday, I just woke up and I told my wife I have to go up and wish Marcie a happy birthday. She said, were you invited? I said no, but I just feel that I really need to go up and wish Marcy a happy birthday and give her a kiss, and see Fess. And she said if you feel that strongly, go do it. I’m driving up, and just as I’m at the spot where you hit the Pacific Ocean, Ashley called me up and said, “Darby, I just wanted to tell you before you hear it on the news that Fess just passed away.” I said, “You know what? I’m driving up there now. Is it okay if I just swing by?” She said, “We’d love to have you.” So yes, we were close.
HENRY: You mentioned Veronica Cartwright, who played your sister Jemima. What was your relationship like?
DARBY: She was a lot of fun. You know I had sisters, so I didn’t need any more of them. (laughs) I still see her today, and we have fun doing things. I think she’s a wonderful actress.
HENRY: Why did her character disappear after the second season?
DARBY: (laughs) For all these years, I was always told that she left because she asked for too much money. It wasn’t until Fess has us up when he got the DVDs released, and he had a big party at the vineyard. We tried to get everybody back – we had Ed (Ames) and Rosey (Grier), and a lot of people; it was fun. I sat down with Veronica, hadn’t seen her in ages, and we started talking about that. And she laughed, and said, “Darby, we didn’t ask for too much money. We were thrilled to be on the show – that’s not what happened.” (On one episode), a young Robert Logan was flirting with her; actually gave her a kiss. Evidently Pat Blair said, “No! No! No! I don’t have a daughter old enough to be dating, and becoming a love interest. Either she goes or I go.” And that’s why, Veronica told me, she was off the show. But they told my mom she had asked for too much money, so Mom didn’t ask for any more money.
HENRY: Over the years there were several players that came and went, and I was wondering what they were like to work with, starting with Ed Ames.
DARBY: Wonderful. Saw Ed not too long ago. He sang at Fess’s internment up on the hill in Santa Barbara. He broke into Amazing Grace, and it was just spiritual. His voice is still that dreamy; wonderful. Great guy.
Fess and Ed Ames
HENRY: Rosey Grier?
DARBY: Fabulous guy; talked to him not too long ago. You know he’s a pastor now, doing wonderful things. Actually I shouldn’t say anything, because it was one of the world’s worst movies, but we did a thing called (THE TREASURE OF JAMAICA REEF, and we got Rosey to come down to Jamaica for that.
HENRY: Jimmy Dean?
DARBY: Jimmy was fun. Evidently they had warned him, ‘There’s a minor on the set; you’ve got to watch your humor.’ I could tell he was a little like – uh-oh, it’s the kid. So I just came out with the dirtiest joke I knew at the time. It cracked him up, and we had a little thing every morning in make-up, where we would trade dirty jokes with each other. Which I’m sure didn’t make the school teacher happy, but it was sure fun. Jimmy was a great guy, great talent.
HENRY: Dal McKennon?
DARBY: Dallas was great fun. He did a lot of voicework, Archie and Jughead, lots of cartoons. He’d always get me cracked up telling me stories in the different cartoon voices – it would just come alive in front of me. We used to have the stretch limo, and he would get in the back, and he could do such a great police siren that he kept pulling the driver over.
HENRY: Did you have favorite episodes?
DARBY: ‘THE OLD MAN AND THE CAVE (1965) is one. I liked the one with Vincent Price (COPPERHEAD IZZY, 1969), because there were a lot of other kids; that meant I got to hang out with a lot of kids for that week. One was Butch Patrick; he went on to do THE MUNSTERS, and we’re still friends today. We had great guys that did come through: Kurt Russell, Ron Howard. Jodie Foster was going to be Jimmy Dean’s adopted daughter if the show had gone another year, because I was getting too old to be the kid in danger any more – I’d hit my teens. So they brought her in and a young boy, in one of the last episodes, where Jimmy had found them in the forest and was going to adopt them.
HENRY: I remember one with you and Michael Dante as a Shawnee Chief who’s kidnapped you. You’re really the center of that one, working one-on-one with a very interesting actor.
Neville Brand with Darby
DARBY: I remember that one; that was a lot of fun, and the one where Neville Brand kidnapped me. That was a really great one – I loved working with Neville. I did a show called HERO’S ISLAND (1962) with him when I was maybe 3 ½ or 4. Then we worked on DANIEL BOONE together. Then I did two or three for Greydon Clark that Neville was in. It was fun that I got to touch base with him all along the way. It kind of amazes me: I’ll go back and see some of the DVDs and I forget that I worked with Dick Sargent, Darrin from BEWITCHED, and all these people who went on to do other things.
HENRY: Did you have any favorite directors?
DARBY: George Marshall, who directed the pilot, and for a couple of years after he would just pop and in out (of the series) a lot. I got along with all of them. Like I said , I got along with adults really well; I grew up in an adult world, and learned to take direction early.
HENRY: In the late 1960s there was a lot of pressure to tone down the violence on TV. Were you aware of that? Did that affect DANIEL BOONE?
DARBY: Absolutely: I think it’s what killed BOONE. Once Martin Luther King was shot, there were no more gunfights on the show. There was no more shooting Indians – there were no more heathen savages either; there were just Indians. Couldn’t call them redskins, couldn’t say anything derogatory. You took all the gunplay and Indian fighting out of the show, and it basically became a family show, and for that they had FAMILY AFFAIR, and other places to go.
HENRY: What was the work schedule like? How many days did you have to shoot a show?
DARBY: Usually we did it in a week, which means the five days. Occasionally it would go over to six days, but usually you’ try to get it wrapped up in a week.
HENRY: What was working at Fox like compared with other studios?
DARBY: Well, the smaller lot was like my back yard; I knew everything there. The big Fox lot was fun because Friday was ‘arts & crafts day’, so we’d go where we wanted. It was huge! We’d go to the metal shop and use the welders. Or the wood shop. I loved going into make-up – I helped make the masks for all the PLANET OF THE APES movies. I used to have a great collection of everyone, all the way down to the mutants. VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA also had great sea monster that we would make masks for. That always seemed like home because I grew up there. Disney was fun; I did things there. I love a movie lot: once you get behind the guard gate, it’s a very freeing feeling for me.
HENRY: I’ve asked you about the best part of doing the show. Was there a worst part?
DARBY: No; I could harp on some bad things, but it was great! I was a very lucky kid, and I feel very blessed that I had that opportunity, so I don’t spend any time visiting the negatives.
HENRY: Between 1964 and 1970, 165 episodes were produced, and eventually folks run out of ideas. Some of the ‘lost civilization’ episodes were kinda out there. Did you feel there was a point when DANIEL BOONE jumped the shark?
DARBY: You know it’s funny. I think Pat (Blair) was the one who first pointed it out to me. “We just did this script two years ago. All they did was change the names.” I guess that’s what happens.
HENRY: You all had a good, long run, but after 6 seasons, the series was cancelled. Were you surprised, or did you see it coming?
DARBY: No, I didn’t see it coming. Mom just said, it looks like we’re not going back there to work.
HENRY: How old were you then?
DARBY: I was twelve.
HENRY: At that point, did you want to keep acting, or did you want to do something else?
DARBY: I was very curious to see what school was like.
HENRY: Having been so visible for so long as Israel Boone, did you have trouble with typecasting?
DARBY: I got to do THE BOLD ONES: THE NEW DOCTORS (1970). I got to play a young drug addict in that, which was a lot of fun, and helped me to shake that image. Then of course on DAYS OF OUR LIVES I was ‘The Salem Rapist.’ I guess I kind of had the gamut of characters.
HENRY: You mentioned earlier about going to school and getting your ass kicked. Was that just average school rough-housing, or was it the problem of being a well-known kid star?
DARBY: Oh no; I got my nose broken a couple of times. As I said, I only had two sisters, so I didn’t have any brothers to rough-house with. I grew up in an adult world, so I did what I was told. I kind of identified with the teachers more than I did the kids. And you know, kids can be bullies. ‘Let’s see if you’re as tough as you are in DANIEL BOONE,’ or, ‘My girlfriend thinks you’re cute.’ And they pushed me, and I didn’t know to fight back. But it was great; it led me on a quest to learn martial arts. Which lasted quite a long time, so I was very happy with it.
HENRY: How did you get involved?
DARBY: On the Fox lot, one of the sets I liked to visit was THE GREEN HORNET (1966/67). I used to love to watch this little Kato (Bruce Lee). They told him, you need to slow down your attacks; the camera isn’t catching it. He said, “I don’t slow down my attacks: you slow down your camera.” That was one of the first times they started using slow motion for fights. He intrigued me so much that I went to Hong Kong, found out who he studied under, which was Grand Master William Chung, who’s now in Australia. We became good friends. Then out here Danny Inosanto, who was Bruce’s number one student – I studied under him for many, many years.
HENRY: I don’t know if you have kids, but if so, would you want them to act?
DARBY: I have five kids, and one of them is at Cal Arts; he’s an actor getting ready to open in a play. All my kids, I told them, if you want to do it, that’s great, but you’re going to wait until you’re sixteen, so you’re old enough to drive yourself to the interviews. I’m a lousy stage mother. But he’s the only one who’s got the acting bug and pursued it.
HENRY: You attend a number of film festivals and western events. What are these events like? What is it like to meet fans?
DARBY: Oh, it’s fun; I love that. That’s how Dan Haggerty (GRIZZLY ADAMS) and I became such good friends. I shied away from doing those for a long time. Then somebody invited me to go, and all of a sudden it was all the kids I knew, and all the actors I’d grown up with. It was like having a school reunion, and I never had that, because I never stayed in one school long enough. During the day, meeting everyone’s lots of fun. It’s nice to be appreciated, and people are coming up to you and appreciating you. And the fun really starts afterwards at the bar, when we sit down, trading war stories and talking shop.
HENRY: Last year you were in the blockbuster mini-series TEXAS RISING, playing Texas President Burnet. How did that come about?
DARBY: I’d taken a lot of time off from making movies and doing things that kept me away from home, because I’d be ten weeks in Romania, and off to Bulgaria, and my kids started having birthdays and stuff that I was missing. I had my four boys, and then my littlest, my little girly, when she came around… Without stating it, I started backing away, except I kept doing a play that I love, that I do in Beverly Hills, called THE MANOR, which is up at Greystone Manor, and all about the Dohenys, and we get to actually do it in the Doheny Estate. It’s such a wonderful, fun, dynamic play that I enjoy doing that. That’s the only thing I did to keep the acting chops up, that and commercials that are done locally. This casting director I love came to see the play, and then she came back a couple of nights later with the producers. They said, we have this thing that we think you’d be great for. Would you like to go down to Mexico and do it? And I said, you betcha! Because now my daughter’s old enough where she’s got her driver’s license and ‘see ya’, so now I’m having fun getting back into it. And I’ve just done THE DONNER PARTY.
HENRY: I was just watching that. It’s very good, and you’re excellent in it. You’ve played a lot of real people – Israel Boone, the first President of Texas, George Donner. How do you feel about playing real people over invented characters?
DARBY: It’s great, because I love history. I’d heard about the Donner Party in school, but I didn’t read up on it, because it was gross, and who cared? So I didn’t appreciate it back then. But to go up there and live it for a few weeks, oh my goodness! As soon as I knew I was going to play the role I read three or four books and did the homework. It’s fun to keep this alive and show it in a way that people might really get it. What it took to come out here and settle this. We should be so grateful that we’re already here. Think of that every Thanksgiving, as we overeat, and here’s people stuck in the snow that didn’t eat for four months. When I’d heard about the cannibalism before, I thought that’s terrible. Until you realize that the little girls are there; six, seven, eight-year old daughters. You’re going to watch them starve? I think it’s great, any time you can bring a thing to life like that, shine a light on it, that people haven’t seen. I think it’s a good thing.
HENRY: Did working on a period piece again spark a lot of memories?
DARBY: Oh yeah; it’s all fun. The equipment is a lot different from when I was a kid, that’s for sure, but a set is still a set. It’s the circus comes to town.
HENRY: What’s next on the horizon?
DARBY: We’ve got things in the fire. Nobody likes to talk about those things until they’re done. I just voiced a video game I can’t talk about until it’s released. But my kids’ll be happy about that because they’ll be playing it. We just move onward and upward, and are grateful for each day.
CLIMB AN ANGRY MOUNTAIN - a DVD Review
Fess Parker’s final film performance came just two years after the end of DANIEL BOONE’s run, after which he devoted himself fulltime to his business interests. Available from the Warner Archive Collection, CLIMB AN ANGRY MOUNTAIN (1972), a made-for-TV movie, is a modern-day Western. It’s a variation on TELL THEM WILLIE BOY IS HERE, of two years earlier, which starred Robert Redford and Robert Blake as white lawman and Indian escaped killer. In this version, shot in and around the beautiful snowy peaks of Mt. Shasta, Fess is Sheriff Elisha Cooper (Elisha was Fess’ real middle name), a pre-LONGMIRE lawman going after Indian acquaintance Joey Chilco (football legend Joe Kapp), an escapee convicted of manslaughter.
Chilco is planning to scale the highest mountain in the range, following his peoples’ belief that if he does so, his sins will be forgiven. And he wants to meet his baby son, and see his wife Sheila (Stella Stevens). The Sheriff must track him, at the same time dealing with snow-related problems, and an intrusive New York City cop (Barry Nelson), who lost Chilco in the first place.
A feature-length unsold pilot for a TV series, there are extraneous characters who would no doubt have become regulars, the most welcome being Western stalwart Arthur Hunnicutt as housekeeper and babysitter to the widowed Sheriff’s two kids. One of the writers, Sam Rolfe, had already created THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. and co-created HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL.
While it seems contrived that, of all possible kids, it’s the Sheriff’s son that Chilco happens to be forcing to help him climb the mountain, it’s all played with sincerity. Stella Stevens is memorable as the wife who doesn’t want Chilco there, but can’t bear to keep saying no. While it didn’t go to series, the movie works fine as a stand-alone, and is a cut above most TV movies of the period. CLIMB AN ANGRY MOUNTAIN is available from Warner Archive as a made-on-demand DVD HERE.
WESTERN WEEKEND CELEBRATION AT THE AHRYA FINE ARTS!
The Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills, part of the Laemmle family of theatres, was recently the venue for two Western premieres, TRADED and OUTLAWS AND ANGELS. This Friday, Saturday and Sunday they’re celebrating a Western weekend as part of their Anniversary Classics series. On Friday night at 7:30, they’ll be showing THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, celebrating its 50th anniversary. Saturday at 2:15 pm, DANCES WITH WOLVES, 25th anniversary, will screen, and star Mary MacDonnell will be a guest speaker. That night at 7:30, they mark the 50th anniversary of THE PROFESSIONALS. Sunday at 2:15 they’ll mark the 60th anniversary of THE SEARCHERS, with Lana Wood, the little girl kidnapped at the beginning, as a guest speaker. Then at 5:30 pm, it’s the 55th anniversary of THE MISFITS. All films will be introduced by Hollywood Reporter film critic Stephen Farber. To learn more, and order tickets, go HERE.
AND THAT’S A WRAP!
In the next Round-up I’ll have details about a whole slew of new and returning Western and Westernish TV series on the way!
All original contents copyright August 2016 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved