Sunday, September 24, 2017
NEW FEATURE ‘BLOOD COUNTRY’AND NEW WEB-SERIES ‘C-BAR’ SHOOT UP THE SCREENS, PLUS GENE’S AUTRY’S B-DAY, NEW SHOWS ON INSP!
‘BLOOD COUNTRY’ REVIEW
Tough and elegant, set in Mississippi after the Civil War, and shot in a mix of eerie swamps and in many historical sites in that state, BLOOD COUNTRY is based on a real murder between brothers, and its spiraling aftermath for all those involved or in the vicinity. From the start, the filmmakers fill the screen with a quiet but troublingly intangible sense of menace. The troubles begin, incredibly, over the disputed possession of some cabbages, and soon a man is killed, a hearing is held, and a pair of black men who were unwilling witnesses find themselves in greater danger than the accused.
Written and directed by Ecuadorian-turned-Arizonan filmmaker Travis Mills, he and cinematographer Nicholas Fornwalt fill the screen with clever and often beautiful compositions and intriguing faces. Strong on mood, style and atmosphere, there are gaps in the story – why the cabbages?
While the shots are beautifully composed, most scenes are shot in a single long set-up, meaning that the camera rarely gets close enough to the characters to sense what they’re thinking, and to identify with them. The only characters we are truly invested in are the two witnesses (Markeith Coleman and Aspen Kennedy Wilson), and a reluctant lawman (Cotton Yancey). Further, by having no cutaways to other angles, there is no way to pick up the pace within the scenes. There is a good deal of killing, but it is shown so obliquely that the hoped-for Western action doesn’t really start until an hour in.
BLOOD COUNTRY, from Running Wild Films, will be in theatres October 7th. Here’s the trailer.
You can learn more at the official BLOOD COUNTRY site HERE.
C-BAR II – A TALE OF THE WILD WEB WEST
Mark Baugher, who’s been everything from a ferrier (horse-shoer) to a stock-broker, retired at 65 to pursue his life’s desire: move to Arizona, and write a Western novel. A college film student, Patrick Ball, liked what he read on his Kindle, and suggested they make a movie of it. After 38 days of shooting over eight months (when you’re not paying anyone, you’re at the mercy of everyone’s schedule), the movie C-BAR arrived in 2015. Baugher himself starred as Dockie, an old lawman who must go back to his outlaw roots to see justice done. (You can read my ROUND-UP review and interview with Baugher HERE. You can read my TRUE WEST B article on Indy Westerns including C-Bar HERE)
Mark and Patrick are back in action, continuing the saga, now as a web-series, and the first chapter of the new adventures is online. Badman John Doe (Charlie LeSueur), either by bribe or muscle, has escaped en route to Yuma Prison, and Dockie and company must track him down. Here’s the link to chapter one.
Below is the trailer for the original C-BAR feature.
You can learn more and see more, and get Mark’s novels, at the official C-BAR site, HERE.
‘HIGH CHAPARRAL’ 50TH ANNIVERSARY AT THE BURBANK MARRIOTT
On Friday and Saturday, September 15th and 16th, cast, crew, and about 150 dedicated fans of THE HIGH CHAPARRAL, the beloved family Western series of the late 1960s and early ‘70s, gathered, perhaps for the last time, to honor the series, and the folks who made it. While in recent years, gatherings have celebrated anniversaries of BONANZA, THE VIRGINIAN and GUNSMOKE, the dedication of HIGH CHAPARRAL fans is unique – hundreds of them have been gathering annually for several years now in Arizona at Old Tucson, the Western movie town where the series was shot, and where the Cannon family home still stands.
Camille Mitchell, Henry Darrow, Cameron Mitchell Jr.
The hosts for the two days of fun and nostalgia and stories were the delightful couple, Kent McCray and Susan McCray. He was the production manager of the series – and for BONANZA before it – and as Michael Landon’s partner went on to produce LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE and HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN. She was the daughter of series composer Harry Sukman; she started on CHAPARRAL as a receptionist and worked her way up to casting not only the series, but HAWAII 5-0 and the Michael Landon shows.
Kent & Susan McCray at the banquet
The McCrays pulled out all the stops, not only providing the promised two elegant banquets, but hosting elaborate breakfasts and lunches as well. Among the series regulars who attended were Henry Darrow, who starred as Manolito; Don Collier who played top hand Sam Butler; and Rudy Ramos, who played Wind, the half-breed teen adopted by the Cannons in the final season. Linda Cristal had intended to come, but suffering from vision problems, sent her son Jordan Wexler. Representing deceased cast members were relatives of Frank Silvera, Rudolpho Acosta, Robert Hoy, Ruberto Contreras, and Jerry Summers. Cameron Mitchell was represented by his daughter and son, Camille Mitchell and Cameron Mitchell Jr.
Also present was frequent series guest Marie Gomez, who played Manolito’s girlfriend Pearlita; Bo Svenson, who guessed in the well-remembered episode TRAIL TO NEVERMORE; and representing Yaphett Koto, who couldn’t get there from Manila in time, was his lovely daughter Mirabai Kotto. Yaphett’s episode, BUFFALO SOLDIERS, is the favorite of many, including Kent McCray.
This was not a ‘stars only’ event, with plenty of attention paid to folks whose identities are hidden, like attending stuntmen Neil Summers and David Cass, who both went on to be important stunt coordinators – Cass has directed several Western and non-Western films. I was personally delighted to meet Jackie Hummer Fuller, who doubled for Linda Cristal, and Steve DeFrance. I hadn’t seen either of them since 1978, when they worked on the first film I wrote, SPEEDTRAP, where Jackie doubled for Tyne Daley and Steve double for Richard Jaekal. It’s a small world!
There were many fascinating panel discussions, and I had the chance to interview all of the principals – I’ll have much more soon in The Round-up, and in TRUE WEST MAGAZINE.
INSP ADDS ‘BRANDED’ AND ‘MEN OF SHILOH’ SAT. SEPT. 30TH!
The INSP channel, which is currently presenting the remarkable reality series THE COWBOY WAY: ALABAMA, is adding two very interesting and rarely seen series to their weekend Western line-up, BRANDED and MEN FROM SHILOH.
Chuck Connors has his buttons torn off.
BRANDED (1965-1966) starred Chuck Connors in his follow-up to the legendary THE RIFLEMAN. He plays Jason McCord, the only survivor of the Civil War Battle of Bitter Creek. Branded (like the title) a coward, court-martialed and kicked out of the Army, he travels the West trying to escape his infamy, and to learn what really happened. Created by Larry Cohen, it looked likely to crash and burn until producer A. J. Fenady, who had created THE REBEL with Nick Adams, was brought in to take over, and fashion some logic into the story. Fenady remembers meeting the famously volatile Chuck Connors. "And I said, ‘Look Chuck, I just want to ask you one question. We go into production, who’s the boss?’ He said, ‘You are.’ I said, ‘Okay, just remember one thing: you came to see me; I didn’t go to see you.’ And you know what? Chuck was, in many ways, crazy. But he was also intelligent. You could sit down and talk to him. And if he had a point of view, and you had a point of view, and you’re point of view was better, he would acknowledge that. He’d say, ‘Alright, we’ll do it.’ I loved working with him, and I loved him." (You can read my whole interview with Fenady about BRANDED HERE.) It’s a very entertaining series, probably better for audiences right now, with their fascination with conspiracies, than it was in the 1960s.
THE VIRGINIAN, at eight seasons, had outlived most of its competition, but it couldn’t go on forever. As television Westerns had become less and less violent, in response to government pressure, the series were losing their audience to movies, especially the action-filled Spaghetti Westerns. The decision was made to reboot THE VIRGINIAN in the Sergio Leone mold. From the original show, only James Drury and Doug McClure were retained, and their wardrobe and whiskers changed considerably. Lee Majors, fresh from THE BIG VALLEY, was added. The title was switched to THE MEN FROM SHILOH, and a new theme was composed by Euro-Western maestro Ennio Morricone. And in the wise old man role that had started as Lee J. Cobb was movie star Stewart Granger as a retired British military officer.
As he revealed at the VIRGINIAN 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, James Drury and others liked the changes at the time, but in hindsight, he didn’t. “They gave the show a new look, and everybody kind of signed on to it. I got myself a new horse and a longer gun. From a 5 ½ inch barrel to a 7 ½ inch barrel. Longer sideburns. Much bigger hat. A sense of accomplishment or…a sense of entitlement – let’s put it that way. I smoked cigars on the show. And I just mowed down anybody with my firearms. But the thing is, we all thought it was a good idea at the time; it was a terrible idea. And the worst of the terrible ideas was putting Stewart Granger in the same position that Lee Cobb had occupied, that John McIntire had occupied, Charles Bickford had occupied; that John Dehner had occupied. These were truly great western actors. Stewart Granger came in and decided that he was going to be the big star of the show: fired my crew, fired my Academy Award-winning cameraman, got all new people. He pissed off everyone in the entire organization. And he sunk the show. So thank you, Stewart, wherever you are.”
Granger’s casting was in one way a savvy move – though they were rarely released in the U.S., Granger had become a big Western star in Europe, starring in a series of German Westerns based on the novels of Karl May. His presence undoubtedly made the show more saleable overseas. The series actually holds up quite well, and what probably did it in was the title change: fans simply didn’t know that THE MEN FROM SHILOH actually was THE VIRGINIAN. The new title is more suggestive, at that time, of a spy series, like THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
If you’d like to know more, HERE is a link to my review of THE MEN FROM SHILOH from when it was brought out on home video.
HAPPY 110TH BIRTHDAY GENE AUTRY!
Friday, September 29th, is the 110th anniversary of the great singing cowboy Gene Autry’s birth! Drop by the Autry Museum to celebrate, and if you’re among the first 110 visitors to enter, you’ll receive a free DVD of Gene is SIOUX CITY SUE. Even if you’re 111 or after, you’ll get a slice of birthday cake!
BOYD MAGERS ‘GATHERING OF GUNS’ SIGNING AT THE AUTRY
Come to the Autry on Saturday, September 30th at 9:30 a.m., and enjoy a Q&A with one of the most knowledgeable people in the world of Western film & TV, and author of Western Clippings, Boyd Magers. Maxine Hansen, Executive Assistant to Mrs. Gene Autry, will be interviewing Boyd about his new book, A GATHERING OF GUNS: A HALF CENTURY OF TV WESTERNS (1949-2001). After, he’ll be signing the book at the Autry Museum Store.
BEN TURPIN IN ‘YUKON JANE’
Grapevine Video, my primary source for high quality silent Westerns, posted this very funny silent (with music and sound effects) one-reeler starring the great cross-eyed comic Ben Turpin as a lawman trying to rescue a kidnapped damsel. Back around 1980, I met a fellow who grew up in Hollywood, and drove a beautiful 1956 T-Bird he’d bought new – I wish I could remember his name, but it’s been too long. A boyhood friend of his was future movie star Frankie Darrow, and when they were kids, they’d hitchhike to and from Malibu to surf. One time, heading back, Ben Turpin gave them a lift, and when he saw that they were nervous about his crossed eyes, he took pleasure is weaving all over the road.
AND THAT’S A WRAP!
All Original Contents Copyright 2017 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved
Monday, July 31, 2017
THE COWBOY WAY – ALABAMA – A Review
Cody, Booger and Bubba
A new reality show premieres on the INSP Network with a replay of the pilot on Saturday, August 5th at 10 p.m. ET, followed by the first official episode on Thursday night, August 10th, at 8 p.m. If you’ve been reading the Round-up, you know that in its seven year existence I’ve never had anything good to say about reality TV. But I am hooked on this show, and I think you will be, too. THE COWBOY WAY – ALABAMA follows the lives and careers of three working cowboys and their families, and it’s informative, entertaining, sincere, and a lot of fun. It brings the 19th century world and the 21st century world together in a continually surprising but entirely believable way, as nothing on TV has done before.
Cody Harris and his wife, Misty, are much-awarded riders who met on the rodeo circuit, and run rodeos in addition to ranching and farming. Bubba Thompson is a skilled carpenter as well as a cowboy, and when we meet him in the pilot, he and his fiancé, Kaley, are planning their wedding, and their move into a house Bubba has built from the ground up. Chris ‘Booger’ Brown is a well-respected animal trainer and cowman. The lone bachelor of the group – his previous lady couldn’t abide by the unpredictable life of a cowboy – he’s dedicated to his grandmother, who makes him breakfast every day.
Together, in addition to their own spreads, they own Faith Cattle Company, and their day-to-day challenges are as real as they are unexpected. Like having to come to a baseball field in the middle of the night to round up loose cattle – it’s not even their herd, but the police come to them for help. Or the fact that Bubba is marking more wedding things on Pinterest than Kaley is – later contrasted with his ability to build a crib overnight. Or when a loose bull gets among their cows, there’s not only the adventure of watching them drive the bull away, but Cody’s enlightening explanation of how disastrous having some cows impregnated at the wrong time of year could be. As a city boy, I had no idea of the economic effect of having the births strung out instead of being around the same time.
And it all seems so natural. At one point Booger goes to the cemetery to talk with his grandfather. We’ve all seen those scenes in movies, and we know how contrived and awkward they usually seem. But he was just absolutely real and sincere. One of the best things about the show is that they are such hopeful cowboys. The sad truth is that historically most cowboys never saved any money, and worked themselves to death. But these are all men with a future.
I strongly advise you to see the pilot first, as it really gives you a chance to get to know and appreciate the fellows. Episode one starts with the assumption that you already know who’s who, and takes off with a bang. INSP is so pleased with the show that they’ve already picked it up for a second season! CLICK HERE to see a trailer for THE COWBOY WAY - ALABAMA.
A CHAT WITH BUBBA THOMPSON – ALABAMA COWBOY
Last week I spoke with one of the show’s stars about his friends, the series, and how a dating show lead to THE COWBOY WAY. Bubba’s roots in farming and ranching go back several generations. “Lot of my family came from south and central Florida. My grandfather, he was a farmer, we grew up in the nursery business as well as citrus groves, and cattle as well. One of my grandfather’s brothers had some of the first white Brahma bulls back down in South Florida. He did that for a long time, then he swapped over to Hereford cattle. So it’s been in my family for several generations.
“I always knew that I was going to work outside, work with my hands. And considering I had my first pony when I was four or five years old, I knew that I was going to do something with horses and cattle my whole life. I never saw myself sitting behind a desk.”
Oddly enough, THE COWBOY WAY had its genesis as a result of a dating show. “I did a show back in 2012 called SWEET HOME ALABAMA, as a single cowboy who had a ranch, looking for love. I went all the way to runner-up. At the end of the elimination, it was me and another fellah, and I knew that old gal wasn’t gonna pick me, so I just walked up to her, tipped my hat, and told her I understood, told her she was making the best decision, and I left her standing there on the stage – I wasn’t gonna be eliminated on national television. The producer of the show and I became very close friends. He spent some time with me here in Alabama, and he decided that he would love to come down here and film a reality show about how we all work together – myself, Booger and Cody. That’s how it started.
“We all knew each other – Booger and I had been cowboys together for close to ten years. We would day-work for other men at their ranches. We would go catch wild cattle out on the pasture; once we needed to rope cattle right off the interstate, for a man whose cattle had gotten loose. And Cody and myself, we roped together (in rodeos). I used to rope calves, and Cody still does. We would practice together and be in competition together, and that’s how our relationship began.”
Kaley and Bubba
Bubba didn’t meet Kaley on the dating show, but as a result of it, a show Cody had also been a contestant on. “After that, Cody and I put on an event called BULLS ON THE BEACH, we had bull-riding on the beach, and I actually met my wife down there. She was with a big group of ladies, and they didn’t want to come talk to me because they were nervous. Kaley, she wasn’t nervous, so she just walked up to me and talked. I sell Faith Cattle Company hats and t-shirts, it’s just a real cool logo. I gave her a hat, and before she left, I said, ‘Make sure you take a picture and post it on Facebook and tag me in it,’ because I wanted to find out who she was. From that night on we became friends. I couldn’t ask for a better woman.”
‘POWDER BURNS’ POSTS EP. 6 STARRING ED ASNER!
David Gregory’s new Western radio drama, POWDER BURNS, about a recently blinded lawman, has just posted its 6th episode. Entitled Psalms For a Broken Man, it guest-stars Ed Asner as an aging cowboy who is losing his memory. This LINK will bring you to all of the episodes, but if you haven’t heard the earlier ones yet, I urge you to start at the beginning. If you’d like to learn more about the series, you can read my interview with David Gregory HERE.
AND THAT’S A WRAP!
All Original Contents Copyright July 2017 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved
Sunday, July 9, 2017
COEN BROS.’ WESTERN SERIES ‘BUSTER SCRUGGS’ READY-TO-ROLL IN NEW MEXICO!
Joel and Ethan Coen’s Western series, THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS is rolling camera in Albuquerque this month, reportedly from mid-July through mid-September! The brothers’ first entry into the small-screen Western format follows their excellent and hugely successful 2010 remake of TRUE GRIT, which received five BAFTA awards and ten Oscar nominations.
SCRUGGS will be an anthology series. It will consist of six episodes with six separate but interwoven story-lines. The first, SCRUGGS, will concern a singing cowboy, and in the title role is Tim Blake Nelson, who starred in one of the brothers’ earlier successes, 2000’s OH BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? No stranger to the genre, Nelson played a freighter in the excellent but grim THE HOMESMAN (2014), his performance was one of the few bright spots in the dreary KLONDIKE miniseries (2014), and he appeared in the LONESOME DOVE miniseries prequel DEAD MAN’S WALK (1996).
NEAR ALGODONES, about a feckless would-be bank robber, will star James Franco, previously in WILD HORSES (2015) for Robert Duvall. Also starring are Stephen Root, who played a judge in the series JUSTIFIED (2012), and appeared in 2013’s SWEETWATER and THE LONE RANGER, and other Coen films; and Ralph Ineson, who plays Amycus Carrow in the HARRY POTTER films.
No casts have been announced yet for MEAL TICKET or ALL GOLD CANYON. Zoe Kazan, currently starring in THE BIG SICK and previously in the indie Western MEEK’S CUTOFF (2010), will play the title role in THE GAL WHO GOT RATTLED. And finally, THE MORTAL REMAINS, following five stagecoach passengers to a mysterious destination, will star Tyne Daly, whose career I take credit for, since I wrote her her first role as a policewoman in 1977’s SPEEDTRAP, which she followed with CAGNEY AND LACEY (1981-1988). She previously appeared on episodes of THE VIRGINIAN (1968) and MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1999). Updates are coming soon!
INSP ADDS ‘GUNSMOKE’ TO SADDLE-UP SATURDAYS AND WEEKDAYS!
INSP, whose Saddle-Up Saturdays already featured THE VIRGINIAN, THE HIGH CHAPARRAL, THE BIG VALLEY, DANIEL BOONE and BONANZA has now added GUNSMOKE to the mix! Starting Saturday, July 8th, they began running two episodes beginning at 10 a.m., Eastern time.
Starting on Monday morning, they’ll be running one episode at 9 a.m., Eastern on weekdays. Best of all, these are the 176 hour-long black & white episodes made from 1961 until 1966, which are among the very best, and not being shown by anyone else. They’ll also be showing at least four of the five GUNSMOKE movies from the ‘80s and ‘90s – on Sunday, July 16th it will be 1987’s RETURN TO DODGE, at 2 p.m. Eastern. On Saturday, July 22nd, INSP will run a six-episode marathon of justice-themed GUNSMOKE episodes, and the GUNSMOKE movie TO THE LAST MAN. On Sunday, July 23rd, it’s a double feature of GUNSMOKE: THE LONG RIDE and GUNSMOKE: ONE MAN’S JUSTICE.
GUIDE TO THE OLD WEST – A Book Review
The full and modest title of this tome is An Educational and Slightly Amusing Guide to the Old West, and I hope it’s author, Don Dunham, won’t take it the wrong way if I say that it’s the best bathroom reader I’ve had in years! I don’t mean that the book is scatological in any way, but rather, that its alphabetical short-entry format makes it ideal for skimming and random reading for a couple of minutes at a time. While not encyclopedic in scope, the 100-page volume can quickly give you a smattering of information on a host of Western topics. Its first entry typically describes in a concise paragraph the 101 Ranch:
“Large (110,000 acres), cattle ranch on Oklahoma founded by Confederate Veteran Col. George W. Miller. It also had thousands of sheep and thousands of buffalo. Established in 1879, it lasted into the twentieth century and began to put on Wild West Shows starring such future noted cowboys as Tom Mix and Will Rogers.”
While appealing to anyone with an interest in American history, as historian Peter Sherayko points out in his foreword, it’s just the thing for writers, historians, reenactors and actors, “…to get their creative juices flowing.” And not all entries are as brief as the example given. When a topic is of major importance, it is given as much space as it needs. The “cattle drive” entry is nearly three pages, and full of details about the different routes, who did the work, what they were paid, and how they dealt with Indians along the way. The entry about Indians is nearly six pages long, and other in-depth articles look at the Presidents, firearms, and the proper wardrobe of the working cowboy.
There are some confusing elements; a reference at the end of an article, such as “see film Wagonmaster 1949,” doesn’t refer to another entry in the book, but is rather a suggestion that you should see that movie (and you should, if you haven’t). But overall, this large format – 8 1/2” X 11” – book is full of useful and amusing and enlightening information for adults and kids, with hundreds of ‘idea triggers’ when you don’t know which way to take your story. It’s available from Amazon books for $19.95, HERE.
NEW RELEASES FROM ALPHA VIDEOS!
REX BELL IN ‘DIAMOND TRAIL’
Handsome Rex Bell is one of those elusive B-western stars, rarely seen, and better known for his marriage to Clara Bow than for his movies. Alpha has unearthed a sparkling little 1930 Monogram programmer, DIAMOND TRAIL, in which Bell starts out not as a cowboy, but as big-city reporter Speed Morgan. When he saves gangster Flash Barrett (Lloyd Whitlock) from an ambush, pretending to be mobster Frisco Eddie, he becomes Flash’s best friend, and his plans to get the goods on Flash leads him to a western diamond-smuggling racket.
Also included are a pair of shorts. The 1930 Pathe two-reeler RANCH HOUSE BLUES is a Western comedy concerning an attempt to trick a crabby old rancher into selling, without telling him there’s oil on his land. The crab is former Keystone Kop Nick Cogley, and the romantic interest is Charlie Chaplin’s first wife, Mildred Harris. 1933’s THE LAST DOGIE is an Educational Pictures one-reel bunk-house musical starring Metropolitan Opera tenor James Melton singing traditional Western songs very well. You can order it HERE.
ULTRA-RARE PRE-CODE COMEDIES – BERT LAHR IN ‘NO MORE WEST’
Here’s a fascinating collection of six talkie comedy shorts made before the 1934 Hays Code, or Motion Picture Production Code, put stringent limitations on what could be said or shown, in order to quiet would-be censors who found movies immoral. The very best is Bert Lahr in NO MORE WEST, a particular delight to folks who only know Lahr as The Cowardly Lion in 1939’s THE WIZARD OF OZ. Bert plays a Coney Island shooting-gallery operator who nabs a pair of bank robbers, which inspires him to move out west to a town where he’s immediately made the sheriff. It’s ridiculous fun throughout, with a few casting surprises: the lead bank robber is Harry Shannon, who would play Charles Foster Kane’s dad in CITIZEN KANE. The judge who appoints Lahr sheriff, Harry Davenport would soon be seen as Dr. Meade in GONE WITH THE WIND.
The rest of the shorts include another with Lahr, HIZZONER; a very early talkie directed by Mack Sennett, 1928’s THE LION’S ROAR; DOWN WITH HUSBANDS, featuring Bert Roach and Johnny Arthur (Spanky’s dad in the OUR GANG comedies) as husbands whose wives go on strike; HONEYMOON BEACH, where a greedy mom tries to force her daughter to marry wealthy Keystone Kop Billy Bevan; and the most bizarre of the bunch, TECHNO-CRAZY, involving a Bolshevik technology-run utopia, and plans to bomb the mansion of Mayor Billy Bevan. The quality of prints varies greatly, but it’s an outrageous and often very funny collection. You can order it HERE.
WATCH ME YAK ABOUT TV WESTERNS!
I recently spent an enjoyable afternoon being interviewed for a webcast, along with fellow blogger Patti Shene, about the TV Western. The interview was for Dan Schneider’s COSMOETICA series, which I understand is the longest-running webcast series on the arts. If you enjoy it, take a look at the links to Dan’s other webcasts – he finds a lot of very interesting guests and topics.
…AND THAT’S A WRAP!
Tonight, I got an email from a friend who noted that it had been over a month since I’d posted a new Round-up. He wanted to know if I’m alright. I am. But other priorities have kept me from the blog for some time. I’m back, and my backlog of articles and interviews and film and book reviews which need to be written and posted is truly staggering! I’ll catch up as quickly as I can!
All Original Contents Copyright July 2017 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved
Saturday, June 3, 2017
‘UNDERGROUND’ GOES UNDER – NO 3RD SEASON FOR WGNA DRAMA
Amid all of the good TV-Western news – second seasons of HBO’s WESTWORLD and AMC’s THE SON – comes disappointing news for fans of the excellent pre-Civil War historical adventure series, UNDERGROUND. Despite strong ratings and Emmy buzz, WGNA has announced cancellation of the Underground Railroad drama.
WGNA is owned by Tribune Media, and it was announced in May that Tribune was being acquired by local-TV giant Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 54 local Fox affiliates across the country. Sinclair execs have gone on record saying that despite their respect for the quality and popularity of UNDERGROUND, they are looking for less expensive original programming. Also cancelled was WGNA’s other high-profile drama OUTSIDERS, about generations of war-like hill people living off the grid in the Appalachians.
UNDERGROUND Exec Producer John Legend and series stars Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Aldis Hodge have reached out to fans via social media, asking them to campaign for a move to another network. Oprah Winfrey’s OWN has been approached, and it looked like the show might have a chance with BET, the Black Entertainment Television Network, but the deal didn’t happen. HULU streams UNDERGROUND and they, too, have been approached without success. Not that anyone’s asked, but to me, the most logical home for the show would be NETFLIX, who had great success when they acquired the A&E-cancelled contemporary Western LONGMIRE; my second suggestion would be AMAZON, which is in a frantic competition with NETFLIX for market share.
PARAMOUNT RANCH CELEBRATES 90TH ANNIVERSARY SUNDAY 6/4!
The Paramount Movie Ranch in Agoura will mark its 90th anniversary this Sunday. The fun starts at 6 pm with a tour, and there will be displays, presentations, and a panel discussion featuring Hollywood historians Marc Wanamaker, Donald Bitz and Mike Malone.
In 1927, Paramount Pictures bought 2,700 acres of the original Rancho Los Virgenes to build their movie ranch. While they filmed there for decades, the sets eventually crumbled, and the buildings we think of as Paramount Ranch actually started out with a different studio. Mark Wanamaker explains, “The RKO Ranch was at Louise and Burbank Boulevard, in Encino. The CIMARRON street was built there in 1931, which was a major western town if you remember the film. It became the nucleus of the ranch, and later they built other buildings, residential neighborhoods… In 1953 Howard Hughes owned RKO, and he liquidated the ranch – he didn’t need it anymore. The Hertzs were a family that came from back east that always wanted to own and run a movie ranch. The Hertz family purchased the Paramount Ranch, purchased pieces of the RKO Ranch and brought them to the Paramount Ranch. The current western town at the Paramount Ranch was the RKO western town.” You can read the rest of my interview with Marc HERE.
SAN FERNANDO VALLEY RELICS CELEBRATES ‘IVERSON MOVIE RANCH’, MOVES TO SAVE ‘CASABLANCA’ FAÇADE!
Iverson's Garden of the Gods
On Tuesday, May 23rd, The Valley Relics Museum, final resting place for hundreds of mementoes of San Fernando Valley restaurants, theatres and other fun spots – their collection of classic neon signs is unequalled – honored the memory of the Iverson Movie Ranch with a Power-point presentation by Iverson Ranch historian Dennis R. Liff, and Ray Vincent of the Chatsworth Historical Society.
Original sign on display at Valley Relics
The place was packed with Western-movie aficionados, many of whom had grown up near Iverson; in their enthusiasm it was sometimes a race to see whether audience members could blurt out a location or identify a movie still before the speakers could. A popular location since the silents, including Buster Keaton’s THREE AGES and Curtiz’ NOAH’S ARK, hundreds of A and B Westerns have been shot there. The burned-out relay station from STAGECOACH was filmed there, as were TV series like THE LONE RANGER – it’s the home of the famed ‘Lone Ranger Rock’, HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, BONANZA, THE VIRGINIAN, and dozens more.
Julie Ann Ream meets a cigar-store Indian
she purchased at the recent Knott's Berry Farm auction
Sadly, in the late 1960s, the Simi Valley Freeway cut through the ranch, its visual incongruity and associated noise making it increasingly difficult to make any kind of movies, and record sound. Condominiums have popped up among the iconic movie rocks that were the ranch’s greatest attraction; others have been dynamited, and still others have been buried. But happily, the most famous rock area, the Garden of the Gods, is part of a park that is open to the public, as is the Lone Ranger Rock.
Find your way to the Garden of the Gods
Lone Ranger Rock
Just as I was putting this story to bed, I learned that Valley Relics and its founder, Tommy Gelinas, were in the news again. It began a decade earlier, Christmastime in 2007, when it was announced that the original airplane hangar #1 at Van Nuys Airport, formerly Metropolitan Airport, was about to be demolished. The reason this was big news was that it was the hangar around which so much of the action in Warner Brothers’ CASABLANCA (1942) had taken place. It’s where Victor (Paul Henried) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) Laszlo arrive early on, and it’s where at the end someone leaves and someone stays and someone gets shot and it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship (I’m not going to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it).
The owners of the Van Nuys hotel The Airtel, Jim and Christine Dunn, read the story, rushed over, and bought the front façade of the hangar. It’s been stored in pieces at the Airtel ever since. Christine Dunn announced in The Daily News that she is turning the job of reassembling the façade to Tommy Gelinas. It’s not yet clear where its new location will be – Tommy thinks it would be too large for his museum. It may well become the façade for a Moroccan restaurant in Van Nuys. I know this isn’t strictly Western-related, but Humphrey Bogart starred in THE OKLAHOMA KID, and Paul Henreid directed nine episodes of THE BIG VALLEY, so I’ll continue to follow this story.
KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN FOR ‘LEGEND OF NED KELLY’!
Matthew Holmes, whose THE LEGEND OF BEN HALL was named True West Magazine’s Best Foreign Western of the Year, has announced his next film, THE LEGEND OF NED KELLY. Played previously by Mick Jagger and Heath Ledger, Kelly is an even bigger folk-hero in Australia then Ben Hall. The most famous of the Aussie Bushrangers or highwaymen, he’s the one who made himself a suit of armor. Matthew has just begun a Kickstarter campaign to finance the film. He financed the short subject version of BEN HALL that way, which lead to the feature. I’ve never gotten involved with crowdfunding before, but I’m going to kick in a few bucks on this one. If you’d like to learn more about the project, or possibly invest in it, click the link below:
FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE, 'GUNFIGHTER' BY THE MIDNIGHT LARKS!
Here's a brand-new video, directed by Mike Malloy, producer of the fascinating Western THE SCARLET WORM (2011) and director of the excellent documentary EUROCRIME (2012). Midnight Larks in a new band with roots from the band Spindrift, who contributed to the soundtrack of the Scott Eastwood Western DIABLO. The Gunfighter in the clips is the very talented and scary Aaron Stielstra, in scenes from SCARLET WORM and 6 BULLETS TO HELL (2014). Enjoy!
HEAR ‘GUNSMOKE’ RADIO STARS COURTESY OF S.P.E.R.D.V.A.C.!
Jon Dehner is on the air!
Thirty-five years ago, in August of 1982, at a meeting of SPERDVAC, the Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety and Comedy, some of the greatest voice-talents in the history of radio gathered to discuss their work. All had performed on GUNSMOKE, most on HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, and all had other impressive credits. Parley Baer was the original Chester Proudfoot; John Dehner played Paladin on HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL and starred in FRONTIER GENTLEMAN; Virginia Gregg; Harry Bartell; Peggy Webber; and Vic Perrin played countless characters on dozens of series. Barbara Watkins of SPERDVAC has begun posting one remarkable program a month, and this is a wonderful beginning. Click HERE to listen.
Georgia Ellis & Parley Baer
The link will also take you to the SPERDVAC page, where you can learn more about this fine organization, and even join up!
AND THAT’S A WRAP!
In the coming Round-ups I’ll be catching up with the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, the TCM Festival, book and video reviews, and the new documentary SPIRIT GAME – PRIDE OF A NATION. And the nation is the Iroquois Confederacy. It’s the true story of the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team, and how for the first time the Championship Games were held on an Indian Reservation.
All Original Contents Copyright June 2017 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved