Wednesday, April 19, 2017

SANTA CLARITA COWBOY FEST, PLUS REMEMBERING STEVE LODGE, LONE RANGER RADIO, THANKS A MILLION!!


SANTA CLARITA COWBOY FEST THIS WEEKEND!  




The Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival will once again take place in Old Town Newhall, at William S. Hart’s own old stomping ground, Hart Park.  The Festival was inspired by a cowboy poetry event in Nevada, and expanded by an earthquake!  Taking their cue from the Elko, Nevada National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, an annual Cowboy Poetry event had been held at the Santa Clarita High School for a few years when, in 1994, the Northridge Earthquake that leveled much of California flattened the school’s auditorium.  The event was going to be cancelled when the Veluzat family, owners of Gene Autry’s old Melody Ranch movie studio, offered their Western street as a location. 

It was a hit, and the Festival would continue there for two decades, growing with each year, shifting its focus beyond cowboy poetry to include cowboy music and shopping and a celebration of cowboy culture and Western life, although the doggie doggerel is still a big part. 

Happily, interest in Western film and TV has had a mighty resurgence, and Melody Ranch, which had been a sleepy hamlet since the cancellation of DEADWOOD, became in great demand:  Quentin Tarantino leased it for a year for DJANGO UNCHAINED, and HBO for two years for WESTWORLD.  The Festival had to relocate, and is now celebrating its 3rd year among the historical buildings at Hart Park.


Andrea Kidd, Peter Sherayko, Don Edwards, Bobbi Jean Bell


There will be five performance stages, two large shopping areas – Sutlers’ Row and Mercantile Row – living history activities, decidedly Western activities for grown-ups and for the little squirts, a vast array of grub, a tour of Hart’s mansion, and a slew of presentations at the Buckaroo Book Shop and OutWest Stage, right across from Hart Hall.  This venue is presented by Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell of the OutWest Western Boutique and Cultural Center just across the street from Hart Park.  In addition to the opportunity to meet your favorite Western authors and buy their books, there will be events aplenty.  Among the musical talents who will be performing there both days are the legendary John Bergstrom, Almeda Bradshaw, Women on the Move Trio, and Jerry Hall and Trick Shot.  Bobbi Jean and Jim Christina, who co-host the Writer’s Block Radio Show, will be hosting panel and interviewing guests.  Cheryl Rogers-Barnett, daughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, will be speaking about growing up among Western royalty, and about the smartest horse in the movies, Trigger.   


Western authors Andria Kidd and Janet Squires will be reading their stories and poems to the youngins, and for grown-ups, Andria and P.W. Conway will share their poetry.  Peter Sherayko, actor, author, and undisputed go-to man for creating historical authenticity in Western films, will share his insights on succeeding in the Western film industry.  Jim Christina will chat with Western non-fiction authors J.R. Sanders and Jeff MacArthur about some of the less-known but fascinating lawmen and characters that enlivened the Old West.

And, yup, I’ll be there, too.  At 1 p.m. both days I’ll be with C. Courtney Joyner, author of the SHOTGUN books series, discussing the odd world of Weird Westerns, sagebrush tales with horror and sci-fi elements.  Sunday at 11 a.m. I’ll be talking with Westerns novelists and screenwriters Dale B. Jackson and Eric Heisner about turning Western books into movies and movies into books!
You can get the full schedule for the Buckaroo Book Shop for SATURDAY and for SUNDAY. 


Cliff Retalick creating a live soundtrack for silents!

For the second year, Tom Barnes, he of the long-running Retroformat series at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre, will be back at the Pardee House to present two days of silent Westerns, all in glorious 8mm celluloid.  And once again the films will be accompanied by the keyboard virtuosity of Cliff Retalick.  As Pardee House, built in 1890, was at times a filming location for Tom Mix, Harry Carey and John Ford, any lingering ghosts should be delighted.  Here is the screening schedule, which includes a William S. Hart and an Art Acord feature:

Saturday
10:00 a.m.  Broncho Billy Anderson in Shootin' Mad (1919) (approx. 25 min.)
10:45 a.m. Will Rogers in Hustlin' Hank (1923) (approx. 25 min.)
11:30 a.m.  Stan Laurel in West of Hot Dog (1924) (approx. 25 min.)
12:00 p.m.  William S. Hart in Knight of the Trail (1915) (approx. 25 min.)
12:30 p.m.  William S. Hart in Bad Buck of Santa Ynez (1915)  (approx. 25 min.)
1:30 p.m. Art Acord in The White Outlaw (1929)  (approx. 70 min.)

Sunday
10:00 a.m.  Broncho Billy Anderson in Shootin' Mad (1919) (approx. 25 min.)
10: 45 a.m.  Stan Laurel in West of Hot Dog (1924) (approx. 25 min.)
11:30 a.m.  Will Rogers in The Cowboy Sheik (1924) (approx. 25 min.)
12:15 p.m.  William S. Hart in Bad Buck of Santa Ynez (1915)  (approx. 25 min.)
[Lunch break]
1:30 p.m.  William S. Hart in The Narrow Trail (approx. 70 min.)
3:00 p.m.  Will Rogers in Hustlin' Hank (1923) (approx. 25 min.)
3:45 p.m.  Stan Laurel in West of Hot Dog. (1924) (approx. 25 min.)
4:30 p.m.   Broncho Billy Anderson in Shootin' Mad (1919)
5:00 p.m.  William S. Hart in Knight of the Trail (1915) (approx. 25 min.)
5:30 p.m.  William S. Hart in Bad Buck of Santa Ynez (1915)  (approx. 25 min.)



With more than twenty music acts, American Indian dance by The Wild Horse Dancers, traditional Mexican dance by Ballet Folklorico, rope-twirling by Dave Thornbury, and gun-spinning by champion Joey Dillon, there will be plenty to entertain attendees of all ages and interests. 
The hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 10 ‘til 6 Sunday.  Daily tickets are $13 for adults, $9 for kids, free if you’re under 3, and you can save more if you buy in advance.  Parking is free, as is the shuttle to the event.  You can learn tons more at the official site,HERE.  I hope to see you there!




REMEMBERING STEPHEN LODGE

This February many of us Western fans lost a dear friend, author Stephen Lodge.  His career was so far-flung that I was trying to figure out what to write about him, and then I realized he told his own story better than anyone else possibly could.  I first met Stephen back in 2011 I reviewed the book that was the story of his life, AND.....ACTION! and interviewed him.  Knowing that many of my current readers weren't reading The Round-up back then, I'm re-running the review and interview below.  If you'd like to read Stephen's books, you can find them all at Amazon, HERE.


BOOK REVIEW:  AND…ACTION!

And…Action! is the story of a fascination with the Western film as seen through the eyes of four people: a kid who grew up on the edge of the film business, an aspiring teenage actor, a TV and movie costumer, and a screenwriter.  The odd thing is, they’re all the same man, Stephen Lodge.

Stephen was eight years old in 1951, and like most American boys of the time, he and his kid brother Bobby were obsessed with Westerns -- the B kind and the TV variety.  But unlike the rest of us, he was in a position to do something about it that went far beyond wearing his cap-gun rig and watching the tube.  Not only did he live in the San Fernando Valley, where so many of the movies were made, his Aunt Bette was a secretary at Monogram Studios, and his Uncle George was a script supervisor for Gene Autry’s Flying A Productions! 
(Steve and Bobby with Johnny Mack Brown)


So Stephen begged and bugged his mom until she finally broke down and got his Aunt and Uncle to arrange a visit to a set.  The first time it was the Iverson Movie Ranch, for a Johnny Mack Brown film, and from that moment on, the kid was hooked.   Soon mom was driving the kids to Corriganville to watch the GENE AUTRY SHOW being filmed, where they met Gene, Pat Buttram and Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan; the family vacationed at Big Bear Lake, where a small movie town was the location for the WILD BILL HICKOCK series.  Best of all, Stephen’s mom broke all the rules, and always brought a camera to the set: the book is full of snapshots and 8mm frame blow-ups of the boys and all the stars they met.


(Gail Davis shooting ANNIE OAKLEY at Melody Ranch)



And Stephen could be a pretty conniving little cuss: he pretended to have started a Jimmy Hawkins fan club to get into Melody Ranch, where THE ANNIE OAKLEY SHOW was being filmed – Hawkins played Annie’s kid brother, Tagg.  Over the next few years he had the chance to visit Pioneertown, Bell Movie Ranch, Spahn Movie Ranch (yeah, the one the Manson Family moved in on).  As teenagers, he and his friends even got kicked off the set of BAT MASTERSON, although Gene Barry turned out to be such a nice guy that he shared his lunch with the outcasts. 

Though written by an adult, the stories are told from the perspective of the little kid who lived them, which is so much of their charm, although the adult world peeks in occasionally: Dickie JonesBUFFALO BILL JR., is unhappy with negotiations with Flying A, and after he does his scenes, drives away like a bat out of Hell.  Another time, the family leaves Iverson Ranch, disappointed that a Roy Rogers shoot has been cancelled, only to learn the reason: one of the Rogers children had suddenly died.



(Filming THE ROY ROGERS SHOW)


Stephen pursued an acting career for a time, appearing in TV shows like FURY, THE FARMER’S DAUGHTER, DR. KILDARE and MY THREE SONS, and features like DINO with Sal Mineo.  At age sixteen Stephen spent a summer working as an actor/stuntman at Corriganville, and gives a fascinating and nostalgic description of that summer job most of us would have killed for. (Although maybe not on the day Ken Maynard showed up drunk and belligerent!) 

But his long-term film and TV career was as a costumer, starting in 1963 with THE FUGITIVE, followed by the short-lived John Mills Western series, DUNDEE AND THE CULHANE, which took him to Flagstaff, Apache Junction and Old Tucson Studios in Arizona.  He worked on many series over the years, and even those like the sitcom CAMP RUNAMUCK, which would seem to have no western tie-in, often did.  RUNAMUCK was shot at the Columbia Ranch in Burbank, where Gary Cooper faced down the villains of HIGH NOON.  The RUNAMUCK location was soon the home for another of Stephen’s series, HERE COME THE BRIDES.  No wonder Stephen considers the Columbia Ranch his ‘home’ studio. 

Over the years he worked at all of the studios and ranches, and his passion for them is palpable.  He has plenty to say about which were great, like Republic; which were ridiculously small, like Allied Artists (once Monogram, then a PBS station and now a studio for the Church of Scientology); which were chopped down to nothing, re-dressed until they were unrecognizable, or nearly burned to the ground.  He worked on Western comedies like THE DUTCHESS AND THE DIRTWATER FOX, TV series like THE DEPUTIES (which introduced Don Johnson), TV movies like THE SUNDANCE WOMAN, and has insights into them all.  He worked for Quinn Martin and worked around Andrew Fenady (THE REBEL), and tried desperately to work for Sam Peckinpah.  He hung out at the last of the great Western Cowboy Saloons, the Backstage Bar, right outside the Republic gate.  Now it’s a sushi bar.

And then there was another career, as a screenwriter.  With Steve Ihnat, an actor he met as a guest star on DUNDEE, he co-wrote the rodeo comedy THE HONKERS (1972), starring James Coburn and Slim Pickens.   But aside from co-writing KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977), it was a long time between writing gigs.  When he got RIO DIABLO made in 1993, starring Kenny Rogers and Naomi Judd, it was after more than a decade of trying. 

Now retired from costuming, and writing fulltime, he and his wife have moved to Rancho Mirage, not far from one of his favorites haunts, Pioneertown.  When I spoke to him about AND…ACTION! recently, he told me he hadn’t set out to write a book.  “I wrote every individual story when I felt like writing one.  They were stories that I wanted to share with people, and I’d send them to all my friends.  And finally I decided that maybe I ought to put them all together into one big compilation of stories.”

HENRY: What was your favorite experience as a kid visiting a set?

STEPHEN:  I would have to say it was Johnny Mack Brown at the Iverson Western Town.  (WHISTLING HILLS, 1951) The fact that Jimmy Ellison was there, too.  And I was not even aware of who Noel Neil was until much later.

H: Well, she hadn’t done the SUPERMAN series at that point.  What was your favorite encounter on a set, with a star, when you were a kid?


(Steve with Andy Devine)


S:  I think probably the coolest guy was Andy Devine.  He was nice to my brother and me; let us sit in a chair with him, offered to buy us a Coke.  Pat Brady was just great – he really entertained me. 

H:  You visited pretty much all of the ranches.  As a kid, did you have a favorite?

S: Corriganvile.  And I ended up working there.  That was kind of a dream.  I was sixteen years old, believe it or not, with a .45 tied to my side, out there every weekend.

H: What was Crash like to work for?

S: A very pleasant man.  I mostly worked for a guy named Charley Aldrich, who ran the street shows.  Crash was there every weekend, and had pictures taken with kids, on his horse, and all.  He wanted to do movies in the middle of the week, during the summer, for the people, when there were no movie companies out there.   He had an old script for a Billy the Kid show, an old 16mm camera, and a sound system.  He cast me as Billy the Kid, so I’d go out there every day, and put make-up on – we had a small number of people pretending to be the crew.  We started with film in the camera – and I’d love to get my hands on it, and I think Tommy Corrigan’s got it someplace.  We shot two weeks or so, and I rode Flash, his horse, and he let me borrow his gun for the whole thing.  That went on until September, when I had to leave abruptly, because I got a real job in Hollywood, doing a pilot for a show called THE WRANGLER.  It was the first videotaped Western ever – they shot it out of a truck, with three cameras.  Jesse Wayne was the other stuntman.  They did the pilot right on the KTLA backlot.  He and I had a fistfight, he knocked me down some stairs.  I turned around, pulled my gun and shot him, and he fell off a balcony.  And that was the pilot.  They wanted to see what it would look like on videotape.  Actually, they made (the series) with Jason Evers.  It went for a summer replacement. 

H: You acted on shows like FURY.

S: That was basically a silent bit.  But I did shows like MY THREE SONS, and DR. KILDARE.  And not too many more. 

H: What was it like, after spending so much time on sets, behind the camera, to suddenly be in front of them?

S:  (laughs) It’s a little more scary being in front of them. 

H: You have a lot to say about Pioneertown. 

S: I grew up near Pioneertown.  We were up here in the 1950s, when Pioneertown was in pristine shape.  We never saw Gene Autry shooting here, but he was shooting up here at the same time.  The Red Dog Saloon was open for business, the bowling alley was open for business, the restaurant was open for business – it’s not anymore, but that’s the way it was.  It was kind of nice in the old days.  I haven’t been there lately, but I’ll be going up there this week.  There’s a friend from out of town that I’m going to take up there.  

H: What was your first show as a costumer? 

S: My first was a commercial at Columbia, and then I did two or three days on THE LUCY SHOW, then I got a quick call to replace the set man on THE FUGITIVE, and I stayed there for the next two seasons. 

H: That was a show that was always on the road.

S: We had a lot of fun with that.  It was like being in the Army. 

H: As a costumer, are Westerns more fun than non-period things?

S: Oh, for me it is.  A lot more fun, because that’s what I always wanted to do: whether I was a cowboy or a costumer really didn’t matter. 

H: Is it very different being an in-town costumer, versus being off to the Painted Desert or Old Tucson?

S:  Well, when you’re on location you get a lot more freedom.  So does the director; so do the actors.  You get too far out, and someone will make a phone call.  I enjoyed the locations more than the at-home stuff. 


(Steve at Old Tucson)



H: Do you have any particular memories of Old Tucson?

S: Yeah, that it was awful hot.  I always ended up there in July, and it was in the monsoon season.  It would rain all night, and bake you during the day.  The other little town that Old Tucson owns, I don’t know what they call it now.  They used to call it Harmony.

H: Now they call it Mescal.

S: That’s it.  They used that in TOM HORN, and I was out there on GUNSMOKE.  That was a nice little town.  Looked like it was out in the middle of nowhere, but it was actually not that far off the road.

H: You worked on one of my favorite quirky Western series of the late 1960s, HERE COME THE BRIDES. 

S: Oh yes!  I’m still in touch with a lot of the fans – the middle-aged women.  I was on that for half of the first season, and the last season.  (We shot that at) Columbia Ranch.  And sometimes we’d go up into the mountains of Burbank, or behind Glendale, and we’d go up to Franklin Canyon.  We had a ‘green set’ on the stage, and we had a lagoon set, right close to the town set. 

H: What’s a ‘green set’?

S: That’s where there’s trees and rocks and it looks like outdoors, but it’s really on a stage.  Like WAGON TRAIN, whatever was set up was set up on a green set.  That was a fun show to work on.  A lot of good people to work with, not only in front of the camera, but behind the camera. 

H: In 1972 you went from costumer to screenwriter with THE HONKERS. 

S: (laughs) But didn’t stay too long.  The money runs out and you go back to rag-pickin’ again.  I got three more (movies made) than most.

H:  How did THE HONKERS come about?

S: I’d gotten to know Steve Ihnat, we’d done about four, five shows together, and we’d always talk.  He’d just finished making this little movie he’d shoot on the weekends I said I’d just written a screenplay, called HONCHO, with Dave Cass, who was my writing partner at the time.  I let him read it, and he came back and said, ‘Do you want to write a rodeo script with me?’  I’d go to his place every weekend, write everything down, and during the week I’d put everything into a screenplay format, and come back.  We worked on it four weeks.  Then we went to a rodeo, to see if we got it right, to get the color, to get the announcer’s way of saying everything.  His agent told him to write a script and he could get him a deal directing it, too.  They got us a deal immediately with Filmways, for Martin Ransohoff, but Marty passed on it.  You’ve got to remember when this was, and we were talking about shooting in real locations, in real houses, and he was talking about building sets in the stage.  He passed, and that was a big disappointment. They went to Levy-Gardner-Laven (producers of THE RIFLEMAN and THE BIG VALLEY), and they set up a deal.  And before I knew it we were in CarlsbadNew Mexico, and before you knew it, it was over.  A year later it was the premiere, and a week after that, Ihnat died. 

H: Any particular memories of James Coburn or Slim Pickens on that?

S: Slim Pickens is probably my favorite guy I ever worked with.  And he drove his Mustang like he rode that bomb in DR. STRANGELOVE.  A crazy sonofabitch, I’ll tell you.  All cowboy. 

H: He started out as a rodeo clown.  You can’t get much more dangerous than that.

S: No, and in THE HONKERS he fought the bull a little bit. 

H: You continued as a costumer and a writer – KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS is a notable success.

S: (laughs) They didn’t pay me too much for that; it was a success for everyone else.  But it’s a good credit to have, because it became a ‘midnight classic.’

H:  You didn’t write another western movie until 1993’s RIO DIABLO. 

S:  Actually we wrote that in 1975, and it was optioned a few times here and there – we probably made more off the option money than on the sale.  We made some pretty good money on it when CBS picked it up, but that was way later. 


(Steve with Dickie Jones on the BUFFALO BILL JR. set)




(Steve with Dick Jones recently at Lone Pine)


H: Was that a cathartic experience, to get it made so many years after you wrote it?

S: Yeah, and it’s also a very disappointing thing when they start cutting big chunks out of it.  There was a lot more with Kansas, that was Stacy Keach Jr.’s part.  We had a big scene where they drop bodies off of the stagecoach, and that’s when you first meet Kansas.

H: Are you still writing screenplays?

S: Yes I am, still trying to sell ‘em.  (The one I’m working on) is called SHADOWS OF EAGLES; it’s one of my novels that I turned into a screenplay.  It takes place in Texas during World War II.  I wanted to do a play on THE GREAT ESCAPE, but I wanted to do it in Monument Valley.  One time I’m driving down to Terlingua,  Texas with a friend of mine, and we go through a little town called Marfa, that’s where they shot GIANT, and he says, “Right over there is where the old German prison camp used to be.”  And I did a double-take.  So in my story it’s the furthest prison camp from the east coast, and a very important prisoner gets put in there, he’s a Blue Max guy from the First World War. So he’s an older guy, and now he’s been captured, and the Germans decide if they can break him out it’ll be good for moral.  So they send in some guys who break him out, and maybe fifteen or twenty other Nazis.  And the Army doesn’t have enough men to run the prison and chase escapees.  So the Texas Rangers offer to do that, and it ends up with Texas Rangers with six-guns and Winchester rifles on horseback, against Germans with automatic weapons and quad trucks.  And it’s a big chase across Texas’ Big Bend.  I have a guy who’s publishing it as an e-book. 


LONE RANGER RADIO REVIVAL!



Back in October, with the Presidential election just around the corner, I had the pleasure of taking part, as announcer, in a series of election-themed Old Time Radio reenactments,  One of them was a Lone Ranger episode, 'The Not-So-Crooked Election', and I was delighted to learn that Steven Kirk, who plays the Lone Ranger, had the show video-recorded.  If you're a fan of dramatic -- okay, melodramatic -- radio, watching this will bring back fond memories.  And if you haven't seen how Old Time Radio shows were performed, with live sound effects, it might even be educational, and hopefully funny.  By the way, Jeff Zimmer, who does the sound effects, also directed.




THANKS A MILLION!  

Or make that 1,017,241!  That's how many pageviews the Round-up has had since it began in January of 2010.  I find it astonishing, and hugely gratifying.  As I write, the Round-up is being read in the United States, China, Spain, Turkey, France, Belgium, Lithuania, The Netherlands, South Korea, Germany, and Austria.  Thank you so much to all of my readers, in more than 100 countries, who regularly read the Round-up!

THAT'S A WRAP!

I hope you're all enjoying season two of UNDERGROUND on WGN, and the new AMC Western THE SON.  I've only seen episode one of the former, and one and two of the latter, so don't give anything away!  Coming very soon, video reviews, and my coverage of the TCM Festival!

Happy Trails,

Henry

All Original Contents Copyright April 2017 by Henry C. Parke - All Rights Reserved




Wednesday, April 5, 2017

TCM CLASSICS FEST, PLUS AUTRY EVENTS, NEW FREE WESTERNS ON-LINE!




Laurel 'helps' Hardy in WAY OUT WEST


TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL THURS-SUN APRIL 6-9!

America’s finest classic film festival begins this Thursday in Hollywood.  Ever since 2010, Turner Classic Movies has brought attendees the finest movies in history under the best of circumstances, and this year is no exception.  ‘Make ‘em laugh!’ is this year’s theme, and comedies outnumber everything else, but there is enough Western interest to keep us placated until next year.

The main venues are the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (technically the TCL Chinese) with its immense IMAX screen; three theatres within the Chinese Multiplex; Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre; The ArcLight Cinerama Dome – and yes, there will be films in Cinerama; The Montalban Theatre; and poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt.


Dawson's busy Main Street

Thursday night at 6:15 they’re showing a new documentary, DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME.  Back at the turn of the 20th century, in the middle of the Yukon gold rush, Dawson was the last stop for movie prints that had been shipped from town to town across the country.  No one thought it was worth the expense to ship them back to Los Angeles, so more than 500 reels of film – tons of them Westerns, several about the gold rush -- were used as landfill under a skating rink, and the land was so cold that the permafrost preserved many thought-to-be-lost films starring William S. Hart, Lionel Barrymore, Lon Chaney, Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd, and many others.



On Friday night at 7:15 with THE GREAT NICKELODEON SHOW, the earliest days of movies, when shorts were played as part of vaudeville shows – will be celebrated.  I think it’s a mix of film and live performance.  At 9:15, the festival will premier the restoration of a very rarely seen Western musical – the first 3-D musical ever – THOSE REDHEADS FROM SEATTLE (1953).  It stars Agnes Moorehead as the mother of four beautiful daughters, including Rhonda Fleming, who brings them to the Gold Rush in Dawson! (Agnes also had a son in the Gold Rush named Charles Foster Kane.) It also stars Gene Barry and Guy Mitchell.  The TCM Festival is much like Ringling Brothers’ Circus, in that there is always much more going on than you can see.  At the same time as REDHEADS, other venues will be screening the classic mystery LAURA (1944) starring Gene Tierney; THE TWENTIETH CENTURY (1934), featuring John Barrymore’s finest comedy performance; Val Lewton’s terrifyingly sexy THE CAT PEOPLE (1942) starring Simone Simon; and Mel Brooks will be introducing his comedy HIGH ANXIETY (1977). 


Wayne & Clift in RED RIVER

Saturday morning starts at 9 with a screening of the best movie about cowboys and cattle drives ever made Howard Hawk’s RED RIVER.  At 3:45 pm, Laurel and Hardy’s Gold Rush comedy, WAY OUT WEST (1937) will be introduced by Dick Cavett.  Incidentally, when they sing The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and Stan sings a bass solo, that’s actually future Oscar nominee, for THE ALAMO, and voice of Francis, the Talking Mule, Chill Wills.

On Sunday morning at nine, DR. STRANGELOVE (1964), that movie that made Slim Pickens a star, will screen.  At ten it’s the new restoration of THE EGG AND I (1947), starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert as city-folk who move to the sticks to become chicken farmers – for better or worse, it was the birth of the Ma and Pa Kettle series, and co-stars Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride.  Kate MacMurray, daughter of Fred MacMurray and June Haver, will attend. 

Finally, at 2 pm they’ll be showing a new documentary, REPUBLIC PRESERVED.  Paramount Pictures now owns Republic Pictures’ film library, and is restoring it – the film features clips from many of their westerns with John Wayne and Roy Rogers, serials, and British quota films, many that haven’t been seen since the original release.

Sadly the festival will lack the great Robert Osborne, but among the many great talents who will be attending will be Carl and Rob Reiner – who will be getting their footprints in cement, Beau Bridges, Dana Delaney, Keir Dullea, Peter Bogdonavich, James L. Brooks, Buck Henry, Norman Jewison, Qunicy Jones, John Landis, Ruta Lee, Leonard Maltin, Bob Newhart, Sidney Poitier, Martin Sheen… the list goes on and on.

While the Festival Passes can get very pricey – packages run from $299 to $2,149, the good news is that you can attend single movies for $20, ten if you have a student i.d.  The singles are stand-bys, so there’s no guarantee that you’ll get in, but it’s certainly worth a try!
To see the complete schedule, visit the official website HERE.


‘SMOKY’ SCREENING AT THE AUTRY SAT., APRIL 8 AT 1:30 PM
As Part of the Autry’s continuing ‘What is a Western?’ series, SMOKY (1946), will screen in glorious 35mm!  It stars Fred Mac Murray and Anne Baxter, and is directed by Louis King.


‘A WORD ON WESTERNS’ TUES., APRIL 18 AT THE AUTRY!



Once again, producer, film historian and Western crazy Rob Word will bring his ‘A Word on Westerns’ presentation to the Autry’s Wells Fargo Theatre -- doors open at 10:30, program starts at 11 -- this time examining the elusive world of the Western TV movie and miniseries.  There’s a good argument that most of the best Westerns of the last few decades have been created for the small screen – can any feature top LONESOME DOVE?  Tom Selleck is one of the finest Western leads to come along in years, but aside from QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER, all of his Westerns have been made for TV.  Guests will include stars Stephanie Powers and Jeff Osterhage.  Admission is free with Museum admission – but you have to buy your own lunch!

‘WESTERN RELIGION’ FREE ON-LINE!



One of the great frustrations for Western fans is that over the past few years, some of the very best new Westerns have been low-budget independents, which can be extremely hard to track down. Recently WESTERN RELIGION director James O’Brien took a break from preparing his next project, a pirate film, to let me know that WR is now available, for free, online, through Popcornflix, on YouTube.  “Popcornflix is an arm of Screen Media Films, the distributor of WR. They released it free on that venue for the ad revenue. It's not delivered widescreen, how it was shot, but it does get a lot of eyes on it, which at this point is the main objective.”  You can read my review HERE.

Popcornflix offers some other fine films as well, including the dark Australian Western DARK FRONTIER (review HERE), and the comedic New Zealand Western GOOD FOR NOTHING (review HERE).


…AND THAT’S A WRAP!


In next week’s Round-up I’ll have details about the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, coming from April 19th through the 23rd at William S. Hart Park – in the meantime you can learn all about it HERE.

I’ll also be paying tribute to a pair of fine talents we recently lost, Western novelist and screenwriter Stephen Lodge, and Alessandro Allesandroni, a musician and whistler who will always be best-remembered for his contribution to Ennio Morricone’s score of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS.  He did it live for the BBC, above.  Have a great week, and hope to see you at TCM, and at The Autry!

Happy Trails,

Henry


All Original Contents Copyright April 2017 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 20, 2017

HAPPY PRESIDENTS’ DAY! ‘FREE STATE OF JONES’ REVIEWED, PLUS CIVIL WAR IN SIMI!


FREE STATE OF JONES – A Film Review




Matthew McConaughey and Jacob Lofland


One of the much-anticipated films of 2016, which disappeared far too quickly, THE FREE STATE 
OF JONES is a remarkable, though flawed, film about a largely unknown aspect of the Civil War.  ‘Based on actual events’ (how we dread those words), JONES is the story of Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey), a Confederate Army nurse who deserts, skins home to Mississippi, where he finds the Confederate home guard is using the cover of war taxes to rob and starve the poor folks who’ve stayed behind to keep the farms running.


Mahershala Ali and McConaughey

Playing cat-and-mouse with the Reb Army, Newt helps the farmers resist, and when he’s driven into the swamps to avoid capture, he allies himself with runaway slaves.  He fashions an alliance between the poor whites and blacks that becomes a ragtag army, and soon a force to be reckoned with, even offering assistance to Union General Sherman.  McConaughey’s performance is terrific.  He’s powerfully supported with several standout performances, including Mahershala Ali as the runaway slave Moses – currently Oscar-nominated for MOONLIGHT and co-starring in HIDDEN FIGURES, Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Newton’s would-be wife Rachel, and Jacob Lofland as a boy pressed into military service before he’s ready – watch for Lofland in AMC’s upcoming THE SON. Keri Russell as Newton’s wife is fine, but one wishes she had more to do.


Keri Russell & Gugu Mbatha-Raw


Writer-director Gary Ross who wrote THE HUNGER GAMES (2012), and wrote and directed SEABISCUIT (2003) and PLEASANTVILLE (1998), writes and directs beautifully within scenes, but the overall vision is what probably brought the picture down.  Simply put, all of Newton’s heroic efforts are for naught.  There’s a stirring sequence where Newton and his men pounce on a military transport in the forest – in the best sense it recalls the great Errol Flynn adventure films, with Newton as a drawling Robin Hood.  But if the Sheriff of Nottingham is ultimately the winner of the tale, the letdown is great. 


The real Newton Knight

The story is repeatedly interrupted with a flash-forward sequence, either the 1950s or 1960s, where presumably a descendant of Newton’s is on trial, and the suggestion is, even almost a century later, things aren’t much better.  Here’s a spoiler if you haven’t seen THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963).  Do the POWs accomplish everything they want to?  No; some are killed, and almost all are recaptured.  But they know they’ve made great problems for the Nazis, and when Steve McQueen returns to solitary with his baseball, you know he’ll be busting out again.  FREE STATE OF JONES needed that kind of hope.  FREE STATE OF JONES is available on DVD and BluRay, on Amazon Video, and all manner of platforms.





CIVIL WAR DAYS AT STRATHEARN PARK



Rebs tune up


Friday’s rains had been heavy, and sporadic rain was falling on Saturday, February 11th, turning some walkways into muddy creeks.  “Rain?” scoffed a Rebel sergeant?  “You should have been at Gettysburg!”  Good point.

The Strathearn Park and Museum, in Simi, just a couple of miles from the Reagan Presidential Library, is a 19th century oasis, which includes ranch and farm buildings, Ventura County’s first library building, a mansion, and some smaller homes. 



This weekend they were hosting Civil War Days – Union encampment to the left, Confederacy to the right, as you entered.  Unusually, there was an enlistment booth right in the middle.  Kids chose a side, and were issued a blue or grey kepi, a wooden rifle, and sent to boot camp.  I thought it was a terrific way to get the kids involved, to immerse them in the history. 


Choosing sides

The rain had slowed me down – I had missed both the 11 a.m. skirmish, and the Gettysburg Address, but caught up with President Lincoln, and had a nice chat. 


My great moment with Mr. Lincoln

I hurried to the barn in time to watch a square-dance class, where ladies in antebellum gowns and gents in uniforms of varying rank joined women in yoga pants, cavorting to the caller’s instructions.






Later, while enjoying a bowl of chili in the barn, I looked up at a souvenir display and spotted a pennant from one of the area’s bygone historical attractions, Corriganville. 



I was determined to catch the 2 p.m. skirmish, so I kept an eye on my timepiece while I checked out the encampments, historical buildings, and was in the gift shop/bookshop when a cloudburst trapped several of us for a quarter hour. I ended up buying a stack of TimeLife Civil War volumes.

Bailey-Denton Photography had a fascinating display of period photography, as well as their own, using the old processes; they make tintypes and ambrotypes – photos on blue glass. 



In the Visitor Center, we were treated to what was billed as a Civil War Era Clothing Demonstration. It was actually a slow-motion, and very lady-like, striptease, as a Southern belle removed layer after layer of petticoat, hoopskirt, corset, with a narrator describing each garment. 




Sadly, I don’t know how far the lady went, because it was suddenly 2 p.m., and I hurried outside for the skirmish, and like the others gathered there, I waited.  Having attended a few Civil War reenactments, I knew a few things. Principally I knew that the most available free standing room is by the cannon batteries, and for a very good reason: hearing loss.  But there were no cannon to avoid.  

A Confederate combo had been playing throughout the day, and now a Union band marched and played.  We waited. The field of battle was mud, and empty.  


Taking advantage of the delay, a squad of grade-school Union recruits took the field under their commander.  A Rebel troop soon did the same.  On command, they pointed their wooden rifles and yelled, “Bang!”  They ‘reloaded’ and did it again.  I checked my watch. “Bang!” Some kids were dropping in the mud.  I gave them credit for letting themselves be hit, instead of yelling, “Missed me!” like me and my friends always did.  


Rebs take the field

As I was checking my watch for the third time – 2:40 p.m. – it suddenly dawned on me: this, with the little kids and their wooden rifles, was the 2 p.m. skirmish!  I looked up; the Confederate sergeant was by my side.  “What were you expecting: Gettysburg?”



The 2 o'clock skirmish.


AND THAT’S A WRAP!


Barry Bostwick


Walter Huston

Happy Presidents’ Day!  I was going to list all of the movies on TV today that are about Washington and Lincoln, but as far as I can tell, there aren’t any.  There aren’t any about the other Presidents, either.   So, I don’t know where you can get it, but I’m recommending Barry Bostwick’s portrayal of Washington in the 1983 miniseries GEORGE WASHINGTON.  I checked for other portrayals on IMDB and sadly, almost all are comedy sketches.  And I’m recommending Walter Huston’s portrayal of Lincoln in D.W. Griffith’s 1930 film ABRAHAM LINCOLN.  I’m not saying Huston is better than Raymond Massey or Henry Fonda or Daniel Day Lewis; but he’s awfully good, and rarely seen – and it’s in public domain, so you can see it anywhere – I’ve posted a link to it on Youtube below.  You might also want to check out Bill Oberst Jr.’s Lincoln in ABRAHAM LINCOLN VS. ZOMBIES.  He does a particularly fine reading of the Gettysburg Address. 

Happy trails,
Henry




All Original Contents Copyright February 2017 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved