Friday, August 3, 2018




The folks at Paramount TV are so delighted with the popular and critical success of YELLOWSTONE that they’ve given the Kevin Costner vehicle an early renewal – the 10th and final episode of the tyro season will air on August 22nd, and the cast and crew will be heading back to Utah and Montana shortly. Reactions of Western aficionados to the Taylor Sheridan series have been mixed – Facebook complaints run the gamut from improper calf-delivery to no likable characters to “LONGMIRE did it better” – but all gripes seem to end with, “…but I can’t wait for the next episode!”

The series follows the Dutton family, led by Costner’s John Dutton, and their struggle to hold on to the largest cattle ranch in America, and the attempts of a developer (Danny Huston) and an Indian activist (Gil Birmingham) to take it apart.  It’s the 2nd most watched series on basic cable, following AMC’s WALKING DEAD.

What with production of YELLOWSTONE’s 2nd season imminent, it’s fortunate that Costner’s next project, THE HIGHWAYMEN, is already in the can. Made for NETFLIX, Costner and Woody Harrelson star as Fred Hamer and Maney Gault, respectively, the legendary Texas Rangers who got Bonnie and Clyde. Originally announced for October, the date has been changed to March of 2019. The movie is directed by John Lee Hancock (THE ALAMO) from a script by John Fusco (YOUNG GUNS).


Things are busy at Gene Autry’s old Melody Ranch these days, where WESTWORLD is moving out, and DEADWOOD is coming home. Absent since 2006, David Milch’s series that did so much to reinvigorate excitement about the genre, is returning to HBO. Everyone involved is being tight-lipped about story-lines, returning characters, and whether it will be a series or a movie. What is known is that it will be directed by Daniel Minahan, who directed the series in the past, and has been busy of late helming HOUSE OF CARDS and GAME OF THRONES.


Tim Blake Nelson as Buster Scruggs

The Coen brothers’ Western series THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS will have its premiere at The Venice Film Festival, which begins at the end of August.  It was originally announced as an anthology series with a difference – six episodes with six intersecting story lines.  You can read the details about the stories and casts from my earlier coverage, HERE.

Of course, an international film festival seems an odd place to premiere a TV series, but the Coens, who brought you the remake of TRUE GRIT and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, have decided to recut the series into a 132-minute movie.  NETFLIX says they will be premiering BUSTER SCRUGGS by the end of 2018, but no word yet on whether it will be in feature form or episodic. Or both (that’s my guess).


Booger Brown closing in on a steer

Bubba, Booger, Cody, and their wives and youngins make the move to Sunday nights with the 4th season of INSP’s remarkably popular and enjoyable reality series, THE COWBOY WAY.  The real-life day-to-day challenges and adventures of the Faith Cattle Company partners are a perfect antidote to citified stresses. You can read my Round-up interview with Bubba Thompson HEREYou can read my True West article on the series HERE.


It seems like THE REVENANT made a deep impression on a lot of filmmakers. After years of the sandy, gritty, deserty oaters that took their inspiration from Spaghetti Westerns, independent filmmakers have decided to look to the mountains.

The two new Westerns that open this week were both shot in heavy snow; A RECKONING in Montana, and THE IRON BROTHERS in Idaho and Wyoming.  And at the end of the month, a third Western, ANY BULLET WILL DO, from the writer-director of A RECKONING, Justin Lee, is also snowbound.  Below is an exclusive-to-the-Round-up clip from A RECKONING.

A RECKONING is the story of Mary O’Malley (June Dietrich), a young wife whose husband is brutally murdered. It’s not the first unsolved dismemberment murder in the small community, and the nominal mayor, played by Lance Henriksen, hires a flock of bounty-men to catch the killer. When Mary, with no faith in that rabble, tries to sell her property for a rifle, a pistol, and a horse, to find her husband’s killer herself, only one townswoman, played by Meg Foster, will help.

June Dietrich in A RECKONING

As Mary searches, through stunningly photographed forests, in snow, by lakes, we see she’s correct in her assessment: the bounty hunters are more interested in hunting each other than the killer. The problem is, you never get a sense that she has a plan. She isn’t following tracks, isn’t looking for sign, rarely speaks to anyone, has no suspect. She just rides or walks through stunning visuals. She once makes a comment that she’s sticking to well-travelled roads, assuming the killer would do the same, to look for more victims. But what she travels doesn’t appear to be a road or even a path; she’s just stumbling between trees, until she stumbles upon her husband’s killer, and that’s when the action starts.  A RECKONING is being released today by SONY PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT.

IRON BROTHERS features a pair of real brothers, Tate Smith and Porter Smith, as Abel and Henry Iron, two mountain-men struggling to make a living as fur trappers since their father died.  Lazy and short-tempered Henry blows up at traders who offer him an insulting price for his pelts. In moments, a man is dead and Henry is on the run. At the same time, the more even-tempered Abel has an unexpected run-in with Shoshone hunters. Suddenly a chief is dead, and the Iron brothers are running a gauntlet of dangers on their way out of the mountains, trying to reach the safety of civilization.


As with A RECKONING, there is a wealth of beauty, but a poverty of incident. As Mary slogged through forest and snow, the Irons slog through snow and more snow. When the action comes, it’s entertaining, but the brothers, despite being engaging at times, mutter a great deal of their presumably improvised dialogue. Many of the conversation scenes are framed ala Ingmar Bergman, and shot in one take. If you have great actors, well-rehearsed, this can be very effective. But if you have actors doing their first film, what you have is a scene that cannot be edited, either to speed it up, or to use the best parts from several takes. THE IRON BROTHERS is co-written and co-directed by brothers Josh Smith and Tate Smith, and is available on many platforms, including AMAZON, from RANDOM MEDIA.



Back in the late 1930s, World War II was raging in Europe, but Japan had not yet pulled the sneak-attack on Pearl Harbor that would propel the U.S. into the fray. A group of American intellectuals, among them writers Dorothy Parker, Archibald MacLeish, Lillian Hellman and Ernest Hemingway, took the side of Spain’s democratically elected government, against the fascist Generalissimo Franco, and decided to finance a documentary to try and sway American public opinion. Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens shot the movie, and Orson Welles performed the narration written by Hemingway. But when Hemingway saw the finished version, he found Welles’ delivery too gentle and cultured – he rewrote the commentary, and recorded it himself. It’s a fascinating documentary, and a fascinating document, whether you are a history buff, or a Hemingway fanatic or, like me, both.


In 1948’s DEADLINE, Sunset Carson is a Pony Express rider on his last run. The Western Union Telegraph is putting the Pony Express out of business, and when sabotage and murder occur, Sunset seems a likely suspect. A decent entry in the Sunset Carson cannon, it’s written and directed by Oliver Drake, whose greatest service to Western movie fans was co-writing Yakima Canutt’s autobiography.

But of much greater interest than DEADLINE is a half-hour educational film sponsored by Standard Oil, INJUN TALK.  Apparently the last film directed by B-movie whiz Nick Grinde in 1946, at a powwow, Col. Tim McCoy and chiefs from several tribes tell the fascinating history of Indian sign-language. As a form of communication used then mostly by elders, there was real concern at the time that sign-language would be lost. And Tim McCoy was no casual signer. Before his movie career he’d been Adjutant General of Wyoming, lived for a time on the Wind River Reservation, and was considered one of the most articulate of its practitioners – he taught Iron Eyes Cody among others.


RIDERS was one of eight ROUGH RIDER films that Buck Jones, Tim McCoy and Raymond Hatton made for Monogram in the 1940s, movies that traded on the charm of Western stars who were getting a little too old for the rough stuff. They would have made more but, incredibly, Col. Tim McCoy was drafted – recalled to active Army duty at age 51. Shortly thereafter, tragically, Buck Jones, on a cross-country bond-selling tour, died in a fire in a Boston nightclub, The Cocoanut Grove, along with nearly 500 others.

As with the previous set, the best part here is the short, an episode of THE BUSTER CRABBE SHOW from 1951. Much like THE GABBY HAYES SHOW and a number of others, Crabbe hosted a half-hour program where he chatted with the viewers, and showed a truncated B-Western. The fun of this one, of course, is watching Buster. The film he shows is GUNS OF THE LAW from the P.R.C. TEXAS RANGERS series. Normally these chopped movies are hard to follow. Fortunately, P.R.C. Westerns tended to be so short on plot that this is probably the best way to watch it!


I hope you’re having a grand summer!
Happy Trails,
All Original Contents Copyright August 2018 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


The cast of BIG JAKE, top row John Wayne, Ethan Wayne, 
Maureen O'Hara, bottom row Patrick Wayne, Bobby Vinton, 
Chris Mitchum 


By Henry C. Parke

Interview Conducted May 17th, 2018

(If you missed Part 1, HERE is the link.)

First, an interesting update. When I asked Ethan, who was named after his father’s character in THE SEARCHERS, if that was one of John Wayne’s own favorite films, he replied, “It was. In fact, we found a questionnaire from the Academy of Motion Pictures where they asked actors to list their five favorite films. And he did put THE SEARCHERS down at number five.”

I asked Ethan if he could send me the complete list, and a couple of days later he sent me not only the titles, but a photo of the questionnaire. As it turns out, it was not from the AMPAS, but from THE PEOPLE’S ALMANAC, a hugely successful series of books by bestselling authors David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace.  He listed: 1.) A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, 2.) GONE WITH THE WIND, 3.) THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (I’m assuming the 1921 Rex Ingram-directed version starring Rudolph Valentino), 4.) THE SEARCHERS, and 5.) THE QUIET MAN.  

Ethan also included John Wayne’s responses to “the 5 best motion pictures actors of all time.” The list: 1.) Spencer Tracy, 2.) Elizabeth Taylor, 3.) Katharine Hepburn, 4.) Laurence Olivier, and 5.) Lionel Barrymore. Sadly, of the group, he only acted with Katharine Hepburn, in 1975’s ROOSTER COGBURN.  

In part one of our interview, we discussed Ethan’s childhood, his relationship with his father,  and his film career. In part two, Ethan talks about his stuntman career, and his work running both John Wayne Enterprises, and The John Wayne Cancer Institute.

ETHAN WAYNE:     I didn't feel like the work had been done to try to create something timeless, and authentic, with a level of quality that was appropriate for my father or something that he would have enjoyed if he was still here and would like to see his name on.  Trying to change what the company did was another learning experience for me. We had some family disputes and that was totally unexpected, but also a nice learning experience. And I think everybody's on the same page now. We have a bourbon released called Duke Bourbon. It's a very nice product, and Tequila is just arriving at stores now. It’s called Duke Spirits and we have a Bourbon, a Rye and a Tequila

HENRY PARKE:       Great -- three things I drink!

ETHAN WAYNE:     When I took over the company, we found there was sort of an archive that had been stored since his death.  A lot of things were pulled out; all his artwork and memorabilia collections went to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. The rest of the house was sort of stored in a wooden vault in one of those giant warehouses. Just a number on it.  When we started going through it, we realized there was a lot of great information in there. It was a terrific archive that had been preserved for many, many years. And something that was in there was all the alcohol from his house, and from his boat. So we had a real good idea of what he liked. And there's a tremendous amount of texture material, correspondence, notes, speeches, doodles. And so we were able to sort of piece together a profile of what he really liked and his Bourbon and this Tequila. And that's what sort of spawned this project. The other reason is when he would go on location, it'd be my job to load the car with the things that we would want. You're in Mexico for three months. You end up with a go-to pair of boots, a go-to jacket, go-to work gloves that you wear, a mug that you like for your coffee in the morning. And he'd go to a house. You find the things that you use, so I put those things in the car that we would send down to the locations. And I thought, oh my goodness, this is a great idea. This this how we ended every day, around certain items, and a little drink with his friends to recall the day, have a laugh and then go to bed, start over again. So Bourbon on the one hand, and now we're working on a coffee to come out soon and yeah, that's how we started every day there.

HENRY PARKE:       Do you deal with a lot of unauthorized use of the John Wayne Image?

ETHAN WAYNE:     Constantly. Yeah.

HENRY PARKE:       What sort of things do people do that you have to stop?

ETHAN WAYNE:     They run ads, they put a signature on things, they make products with him on it. It's just constant. We'll have a license with somebody like Case Knives and then somebody in China starts making copies. They intercept them at customs and we deal with it. So it's all the time. 

HENRY PARKE:       Your father has been gone a long time. How aware of John Wayne are the younger generations out here?

ETHAN WAYNE:     Well, great question. That's really hard to answer because obviously he has this audience that we're losing every year, the guys who actually went and saw him in the theater. But he's also been passed down from one generation to the next by millions of people who share John Wayne with their sons and daughters and their families. And so he's still very relevant to a lot of people, and he means a lot to a lot of people, because of his value set. And because the person that he represented on screen is the guy that we all want to be. And that John Wayne hoped to be.  I mean, he crafted that guy and constantly worked on him right up until his last film. You know, (when filming THE SHOOTIST, director) Don Siegel was like, ‘And then you shoot him in the back.’ ‘No, I won't. I haven't done it in 50 years. I'm not going to do it now.’  It was a big deal; they had an actual argument over it. He's like, ‘I don't do that. That's not me. I know who I am.’ He knew who he was and he was very, very protective of that guy. 

HENRY PARKE:       What does the John Wayne Cancer Foundation do now?

ETHAN WAYNE:     The Cancer Foundation supports research through grants. We support the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, at Saint John's Hospital, and it does research. The Cancer Foundation and the Enterprise have supported that research for many, many years. Along with the research, general surgeons will graduate and they can go into private practice or they can come to John Wayne and become a specialist in noninvasive neurosurgery, breast, melanoma, G.I. urology. A bunch of different disciplines. And then they go out there, top of the charts for those types of surgery. So 150 of those guys have graduated. And one thing the Foundation has done recently is connected them all, supported them all. We're sending four grants out tomorrow. It's for research that these surgical fellows are working on. We have a panel from the Society of Surgeons, Oncology, American Association of Breast Surgeons.

ETHAN WAYNE:     We've got an oversight panel that helps pick what research to fund.  So, training surgeons, funding research and educating kids how to avoid cancer. We have something called Block the Blaze, that started here in Newport Beach. Are you familiar with the Junior Lifeguard programs? There's a mass exodus of kids to the beach when school's out and they get into this program. You have to be able to swim (well) to qualify for it. It's for kids eight to 14. Thousands of kids become Junior Lifeguards, and they learn about rip currents, but nobody was teaching them about Sun Safety. So we go down and we have young people do these fun presentations. They get a John Wayne Cancer Foundation hat. We give them a John Wayne Sunscreen, which is ocean safe, reef safe, non nano, non paba; no chemicals. It's a terrific product. And that program has grown in the last three years from just being in Newport Beach, to every Junior Lifeguard program from the Mexican border to Canada and I think 11 or 12 other states, and it continues to expand rapidly. We've had kids find malignant melanoma; they’ve come to us for treatment at the John Wayne Cancer Institute, and have successful recoveries. So it's really an amazing program. And then we have athletic fundraising programs. They do whatever type of event they want and do peer to peer fundraising and raise money for the Foundation. 

ETHAN WAYNE:     My little sister (Marisa) has a number of spin studios (GritCycle) and she started doing a one-day spin class to raise money for the Cancer Foundation. I think this is the fourth year that they've done it. So it's just one spin class, right? They just raised over a million dollars so far this year. The event is June first, down here in Newport Beach. It's called the Gritty Up.  

HENRY PARKE:       I wanted to ask you a little about stunting.  Your credits include THE BLUES BROTHERS, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, BABY GENIUSES, RED STATE. Are there any particular stunts that you specialize in?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I worked on a lot of B. J. AND THE BEARS, and a number of KNIGHTRIDERS, as a stunt person, and I had acting parts in those as well. I was okay on a motorcycle. I could do a wheelie, I could jump it out of the back of the semi, I could do a cable-off.  I drove cars in THE BLUES BROTHERS.

HENRY PARKE:       What was John Landis like to work for it?

ETHAN WAYNE:     Well, you know, I was 17. I didn't know how to put my shoes on the right foot at that point. I was good at being quiet, listening and doing exactly what I was told to do.  Eddie Dano was a stunt man that was around on most of the films that that my father made when I was a boy, and he ended up being a great stunt guy. He doubled John Belushi on that show, but then they do a lot of other things. So we were rolling this car, and he was driving. And it was not just our car rolling.  We went over this embankment and down this steep hill, and then six or seven cars go over the embankment, and all these cars are crashing on top of it! I just remember like, they don't say anything, it’s just like hop in, put this hat on. It was terrifying when the other cars started landing on our car. Dirt starting to come in the windows, and it's shoveling its way into this wet soil. Oh man, I couldn't get out of that thing fast enough. But those guys were great.  They're like, eh, just hold still. It will be fine. You know, they were tough old dudes.

HENRY PARKE:       Well, when you hosted Westerns Icons With Ethan Wayne on HDNET, they show three of your father's great pictures, THE ALAMO, THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER, and THE UNDEFEATED. Do you have a favorite among those?

ETHAN WAYNE:     You know, it changes all the time for me. I know all the struggles that went into THE ALAMO. I know how important it was to him. So I have a soft spot in my heart for that film. I think SONS OF KATIE ELDER is probably the one that I like to watch the most. THE UNDEFEATED, I was there for. I have vague memories of it, but I don't think I've watched that film in quite a while.

HENRY PARKE:       What were your favorites among the films shown that didn't star your dad?

ETHAN WAYNE:     There was one with Omar Sharif, MACKENNA’S GOLD.It's not the greatest movie ever, but they had pretty cool special effects. So I got a kick out of that. They mounted the camera on something, it was like on a horse running through the trees, and there was a giant earthquake, and cliff fall when this thing collapses, and I just thought that was pretty aggressive for that time period.

HENRY PARKE:       I was wondering if any of the stars were favorites.

ETHAN WAYNE:     I love Lee Marvin. I loved him in LIBERTY VALANCE. He was just such a man. Just a frightening character. He was terrific. And Joel McCrea, I mean iconic. And then Randolph Scott. I don't know why I always liked that guy. Just something about him that I took to, you know? He seemed like a good guy. So I liked watching his movies.

HENRY PARKE:       And as long as we're talking about LIBERTY VALANCE, Lee Van Cleef.

ETHAN WAYNE:     Lee Van Cleef, that's right. I crossed paths with him on one of my horrible films -- I can't remember which one it was.

HENRY PARKE:       He became one of the kings of European films.

ETHAN WAYNE:     Exactly. Let me tell you something: it's not a bad place to be king.

HENRY PARKE:       What was the best part of it?

ETHAN WAYNE:     Go to Italy. You get an apartment, you work and you're getting paid. You're living in Italy! I mean, it's good. I felt the same way about Germany, France, Spain, England, just life experience. You know, as long as I was working I was really enjoying it. I felt like I was learning. And I wanted to learn, to get to a level where I was comfortable coming back and really going after work that would satisfy me, or be at a level that was significant compared to what I'd done here.

HENRY PARKE:       If a good acting role were to come along would you still be interested?

ETHAN WAYNE:     In a heartbeat!  I would love to do that sometime. That'd be terrific.


And speaking of John Wayne, starting this Friday, June 29th, and continuing throughout July, every weekend movie will be a John Wayne classic! On Friday night it’s THE ALAMO, Saturday night HONDO, and Sunday afternoon THE QUIET MAN. Following weekends will feature THE WAR WAGON, CAHILL – UNITED STATES MARSHAL, THE UNDEFEATED, THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER, BIG JAKE (featuring Ethan Wayne), THE SHOOTIST, and Wayne’s most popular Western comedy, MCCLINTOCK! 


Finally: a contemporary Western/Eastern slacker comedy-drama! Deputies Thurman Hayford (Jake Dorman of LADYBIRD) and Jim Doyle (Martin Starr of SILICON VALLEY) know they must be doing a good job of policing crime in their rural New York State community. After all, they make no arrests, so there must be no crime. But the Sheriff (Ron Perlman) doesn’t see it that way. He fires the pair. But the phone rings as they’re cleaning out their desks: a prisoner has escaped. Perhaps, the pair reasons, if they can catch the escapee they can earn back their badges!

But after capturing Prisoner #614 (George Sample III), they begin to suspect that he’s an innocent man. This comedy, by turns broad and droll, is always amusing and often laugh-out-loud funny. It also indulges in the almost frightening humor inherent in incompetent people with firearms.
Perlman, who made his Western bones starring in the MAGNIFICENT SEVEN TV series (1998-2000), and played Judge Garth in the 2014 remake of THE VIRGINIAN, is so well-suited to the West that the degree to which the deputies are outmatched is as laughable as it is menacing. Written and directed by Zach Golden, played straight and played well by a talented cast, photographed to take full advantage of the unexpected New York State locations, it’s a very enjoyable, and at times unexpectedly thoughtful, way to spend an hour and a half. From LIONSGATE, THE ESCAPE OF PRISONER 614’ goes on sale today, June 26th, $19.98 for DVD, $21.99 for Blu-ray plus digital. It’s also available from Amazon Prime and other platforms.


If you’re anywhere near the town too tough to die on Saturday, June 30th or Sunday, July 1st, you’ve got to go to that real town to see the folks who immortalized TOMBSTONE on the big screen!  Attending will be Michael Biehn (Johnny Ringo), Joanna Pacula (Kate), Peter Sherayko (Texas Jack Vermillion), Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (Mattie Earp), Frank Stallone (Ed Bailey), Sandy Gibbons (Father Feeney), Billy Zane (Mr. Fabian), Costume Designer Joseph Porro, and Producer Bob Misiorowski.  Julie Ann Ream will be panel moderator. Some events will take place at the legendary Crystal Palace and at The Bird Cage Theatre – one of the most wonderfully spooky places I have ever been! There will also be tours of Mescal, where so much of TOMBSTONE was shot. And unlike its sister-studio Old Tucson, which is always open, Mescal is almost never open to the public – so don’t miss it!  You can learn more HERE.


The contemporary Western series from Taylor Sheridan, who brought us HELL OR HIGH WATER and WIND RIVER, premiered with a two-hour episode on Wednesday night on the Paramount Channel (formerly Spike TV). The story of the Dutton clan, led by Costner, and their struggles to preserve the largest private ranch in America, is a hit!

According to Deadline: Hollywood, the premiere reached nearly five million viewers in Live + 3. In case you, like me, are not familiar with ‘live +’ terminology, what it refers to is the number of viewers who watched the program live, plus those who DVR’d it and watched over the next three days.

That number makes it the most-watched summer premiere so far on cable or broadcast TV. In fact, it’s basic-cable’s biggest premiere ratings since 2016’s THE PEOPLE VS. O.J. SIMPSON.


Zahn & me

I’ve been a fan of actor Zahn McClarnon ever since we met on the set of YELLOW ROCK back in 2011. He’s been awfully busy since then, varying humor and chilling intensity in movies like LEGEND OF HELL’S GATE, BONE TOMAHAWK, and as a regular in the series THE RED ROAD and FARGO, really making his mark as the hostile Officer Mathias in LONGMIRE. This past November, when I ran into him at the American Indian Arts Marketplace at The Autry, I had to tell him he was brilliant as Toshaway, the Indian raising the young Eli McCullough (Jacob Lofland) in AMC’s THE SON. When I told Zahn it was the best role I’d ever seen him do, he grinned and said, “Wait until you see what I do in season two of WESTWORLD!” He wasn’t kidding. The website Gold Derby, which handicaps the Hollywood awards races, was the first to publicly predict that Zahn will get an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Akecheta, particularly for episode 8, which is entirely centered on his character. The season closer for HBO’s WESTWORLD aired Sunday night.
If he were to win, he would be the very first American Indian to win an acting Emmy, and only the second to be nominated – the first being August Schellenberg, nominated for Best Supporting Actor, for playing Sitting Bull in 2007’s BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE.  For the record, the only American Indian who has won an Oscar is Buffy Sainte-Marie. She and Jack Nitzsche and Will Jennings shared the Best Original Song Oscar for “Up Where We Belong”, the theme from 1983’s AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN.


The good folks at the INSP channel asked me to write something for their blog for Father’s Day, and I decided to write about Fess Parker, with input from Darby Hinton, who played his son Israel Boone on the DANIEL BOONE series. If you’d like to read it – and you should – HERE is the link!


I must note the recent passing of an extremely talented producer and awfully nice man, Kent McCray, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 89. He started out as a Production Manager on live TV, and when the medium began turning towards film, he did as well, soon becoming Production Manager on David Dortort’s BONANZA, as well as Dortort’s HIGH CHAPARRAL. Kent became friends with Michael Landon during the BONANZA years, and when Landon decided to make LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, he and Kent became Co-Producers on that, and later on HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN.
I got to know Kent and his lovely wife and partner Susan during the recent HIGH CHAPARRAL 50th ANNIVERSARY celebration, and had the pleasure of interviewing Kent for a few hours. I have only posted a small part of that interview thus far – a technical glitch has made it very slow to transcribe. But I promise the rest of it is coming soon.


Happy Trails,

All Original Contents Copyright June 2018 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 20, 2018


TRUE GRIT set photo of John Wayne
and Ethan Wayne by Phil Stern

HDNET is celebrating great Western movies with a more than week-long celebration, WESTERN ICONS WITH ETHAN WAYNE. The actor, stuntman, and youngest son of John Wayne will provide introductions to a classic double feature every night, concluding with a 24-hour marathon on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28th. There are three John Wayne classics in the line-up: THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER, THE ALAMO, and THE UNDEFEATED. The movies start at 4 pm Pacific Time, 7 pm back east. Today’s double bill is HIGH NOON and TWO RODE TOGETHER. Monday night it’s BILLY TWO HATS and YOUNG BILLY YOUNG.  Get the complete rundown at the HDNET channel on your system, or go HERE.

By Henry C. Parke
Interview Conducted May 17th, 2018

Ethan Wayne today

You may have assumed that Ethan Wayne, the youngest son of incomparable Western legend John Wayne, had the ideal boy’s life. Turns out you were right.  Then again, in 1979, when Wayne Sr. died at age 72, his 17-year-old son would face major challenges.  We discussed Ethan’s relationship with John Wayne, growing up on Western movie sets, Ethan’s career as an actor and stunt man, and his current occupation, heading both The John Wayne Cancer Institute and John Wayne Enterprises.

HENRY PARKE:       You're named after your father's character in THE SEARCHERS, one of his greatest performances, and one of his most complex characters. Was it a favorite of his?

ETHAN WAYNE:     It was. In fact, we found questionnaire from the Academy of Motion Pictures where they asked actors to list their five favorite films. And he did put THE SEARCHERS down at number five.
(Editor’s note: Ethan didn’t know the rest of the list offhand, but he’s getting me the information, and I’ll update the article when I have it.)

HENRY PARKE:       Which are your favorites of your dad's movies?

ETHAN WAYNE:     People ask me that a lot. It's a tough question for me. Obviously I love THE SEARCHERS. I love THE SHOOTIST. And I like different movies for different reasons. For me, it's sort of a window into my DNA. I get to see my dad when he was younger, because I knew him as an older man. So at different periods in my life I'd see him, when he was my age, and I could see what he looked like physically and how he moved. And I'd get that sort of, ‘oh yeah, I see where that comes from.’ For me it changes, and it might not be the greatest film, but I get to see him in a different place. But he died when I was 17, and I was lucky enough to get hired by a couple of guys to do stunt work, and that led to small acting jobs. I would never pose because I thought that my father would never pose for a photo. And it's funny, since I took the Wayne Enterprises over a few years ago, I started looking through all the photos that we’ve been collecting: he poses in everything!
I'm not coming to him from the screen, I'm coming to him, you know, as my dad. I loved my dad. I liked being on location with him, and on the boat. So, it's just different. But again, you're dealing with me having memories that are from the child.

HENRY PARKE:       Of course. I think many Americans feel a great personal connection with John Wayne, but it's nothing like your personal connection.

ETHAN WAYNE:     I didn't come to them through the screen. I didn't really start watching John Wayne films until I was older, and he was gone. So it's just different. Great Dad.

HENRY PARKE:       Was he a very involved dad when you were growing up?

ETHAN WAYNE:     Yeah, he was. When I was doing my best, it was when he had time to sit with me while I did my homework, or we'd read stories together. There was a period of time where we had that time. And then his marriage started getting tough, you know, and there were some business issues; all that starts happening, and he gets pulled away. I certainly noticed that as a young person, the difference. I couldn't articulate it at the time, but it was better when we had our time together.

HENRY PARKE:       I have a friend whose mother starred in a beloved Christmas movie, and she finds it disconcerting to walk into somebody's kitchen and see pictures of her mother all over the place. Do you ever have that kind of moment?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I'm just so used to it; it's just a part of life. You walk into homes that have displays related to John Wayne, or you go to a bar and he's painted on the men's room door (laughs). I think it's all done out of love, and I get a kick out of seeing all the different ways that people pay tribute to him. I haven't really come across anything negative with him.

HENRY PARKE:       But your dad was very controversial especially politically.

ETHAN WAYNE:     Controversial. I guess he was. He had his viewpoint, and he shared his viewpoint civilly with people who were at the far, far other end of the spectrum. And they could still get along, and they could still work together.  He was very capable of articulating his point of view and why he had certain feelings. Today we have a lot of people making a lot of noise, but they can't articulate exactly why they feel that way, and they're not doing it in a civil manner, which is not good for any of us.

HENRY PARKE:       That's very true. What's the first visit to one of your father’s sets that you can recall?

ETHAN WAYNE:     He was older when I was born, and he knew we weren't gonna have a lot of time together, and I'd eventually turn into a teenager and we'd probably spend some years apart. So he took me with him on every film. I mean, I can remember Old Tucson, and Dean Martin, so that would be RIO BRAVO. So that'd be one of the early ones. I have these small images. Probably the first true memories were TRUE GRIT. To run around and have some freedom. And then BIG JAKE, obviously I was very involved. In THE COWBOYS I was getting old enough to be independent in the sort of wild country, and I could get on a horse and leave the set and go exploring. It was terrific. Great Childhood.

Ethan and John

HENRY PARKE:       Speaking of THE COWBOYS, I find it very interesting that you first appeared with your father in RIO LOBO, and then you had a very nice part in BIG JAKE. And the next picture your dad did was THE COWBOYS. I was surprised that you weren't one of the cowboys.

ETHAN WAYNE:     It's funny. I don't know why. Maybe they didn't like, me in BIG JAKE (laughs) -- you never know. Even on BIG JAKE, I kinda remember coming home and he said, “Put this on.” And I'm like, “Why?” This is the weirdest outfit I've ever seen. Green felt shorts. Why would I put this on? “Because you're going to be in the movie. We're leaving tomorrow.” At least for me you were just sort of told, and you did it. It's like, you come home and you get your dog and we're going on a road trip. The dog has no idea what's happening. I think it was that way for me as a young guy; I honestly don't know why I wasn't in THE COWBOYS. I was there with my father, but I don't know.

HENRY PARKE:       I’ve read that you had an uncredited appearance in RIO LOBO. I just watched it again. I could not spot you. What do you do in it?

ETHAN WAYNE:      I have no recollection of being in RIO LOBO. I have seen photographs of me dressed in some sort of costume on the set, but I don't remember if I did anything. I'll have to go back to watch the movie.

HENRY PARKE:       RIO LOBO was directed by the great Howard Hawks. I know you were just a little kid, but do you have any memories of Hawks?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I do. I liked him. There was something about him, he had like a cool look. I don't know how to describe it. And some of those guys were pains, you know? Richard Boone was kind of painful to be around; you'd get pinched, or he'd put duct tape on your hair, do something to you, you know? Very antagonistic with some of those people.  But I remember Hawks was a nice guy.

HENRY PARKE:       As long as we're are talking about directors, did you ever meet John Ford?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I did. And he was my godfather. But again, I was pretty young by the time he passed and my memories of him are just like little images. Maybe the smell of a wet cigar.  That's all I’ve got.

HENRY PARKE:       How about Henry Hathaway on the TRUE GRIT set?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I was seven then. I liked Henry Hathaway too. Very nice guy, nice to me. He could wear a cowboy hat and a sweater and he looked Western but still professional. They had a good style, those guys.

HENRY PARKE:       In BIG JAKE you’re Little Jake McCandles, the kidnapped grandson of Big Jake. Did you think it was odd at the time, that you’re playing your father’s grandson and not his son?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I did. It was a little like, well that's weird. Why is that? But again, I'm like eight years old.  

HENRY PARKE:       As an eight-year-old you got to do a lot of cool stuff. You're grabbed off of horses, chased, shot at, you fire a derringer.

ETHAN WAYNE:     That was kind of normal life around our house. I mean, I can't remember a time when there wasn't a loaded gun around the house. That was a tool, like anything else. You had to do the lawn mower a certain way and you had to take care of the gun a certain way; it was just the way it was. You know, on all the movie sets, I loved the wranglers, I loved the stunt guys. And they would help me figure stuff out or show me how they did things. So it was just something that you absorb by being there. So by the time I got to actually be involved in the film, they'd drop you into the pads, or shoot squibs on you, or let you shoot the blank guns. It was just part of part of my life as a little boy,

HENRY PARKE:       It sounds like an ideal childhood to me.

ETHAN WAYNE:     You left the set, where everything's sort of make believe, and then you got on my father's boat, which was a World War II minesweeper that was converted for pleasure use. Then it was another outdoor kind of lifestyle. He gave you a lot of freedom, but he expected you to be somewhat responsible. I always had to watch my little sister (Marisa Wayne). I could never do anything that would put her in trouble. And if I did, I caught hell, even if it was a misunderstanding. There were chores, just like on the set. The boat had chores, and the boat had guns, and the boat had fishing, and the boat had exploring -- and bears, and all these things that you encountered when you were exploring British Columbia and Southern Alaska. You just had to be aware. It's like the kid who grows up on a ranch. He's aware of different things than when a kid who grows up in the city. It's just a certain set of things that you learn about.

John, Ethan and Patrick Wayne aboard the Duke's
beloved Wild Goose
from Vanity Fair

HENRY PARKE:       Any favorite memories of the shooting of BIG JAKE?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I love that I got to do the pitchfork! I loved the dogs. There was one dog that you could pet, and one that didn't want you to pet him. My tutor was a guy named Tom Hennessy, who was much bigger than my father. He has the scene in the movie where my dad hits him (and he doesn’t go down). He was a giant man and kind of a big teddy bear, but pretty gruff. I spent three hours a day in studies with him, and the rest of the time we would go into town; he'd explain why I'm learning this or that, why you do division, or how you add a percentage. He showed me in real life how that translated and it was just a great, great time. I lived with my dad, and Bruce Cabot, we all stayed in the same house. We’d make Bruce a little vodka in the morning, threw him in the shower. I helped my dad with his stuff to get ready, and read the script with my dad at night. I don't think I ever had a script. They’d just tell me what to say before we shot the scene. I’d always go to bed with my father, and he would be studying the story. 

HENRY PARKE:       How did you like Bruce Cabot?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I liked him. He was a great guy. I love my brother Patrick. He was there. Michael was a producer. We had great stunt guys. A number of guys that I grew up with were on that movie. Maureen O'Hara, Hank Warden, a family from Nogales, Arizona, the Wingfields, were there, the boys were in it. Man, it was great. I was old enough to ride away from the set on a horse, and I knew all the guys. It was just, it was really living for me.

HENRY PARKE:       Did your interest in being a stuntman start here?

ETHAN WAYNE:     No, not really. You know, if the stunt guys had their kids there, we'd run around and fake fight scenes, fall off little ledges or fall off the horse -- do whatever we could do to try to impress the older guys. After my father died, I'd reached out to (stunt coordinator) Gary McLarty about a motorcycle race somewhere and he just said, how old are you? Do you want to work? I was pretty rudderless at that time and he gave me a job. I got to be there and I got to learn and got a paycheck, and was hooked up with another guy when I got back to L.A. who put me to work on series, in the eighties.  B.J. AND THE BEAR, KNIGHT RIDER. A bunch of shows and I got little acting parts out of it. And just kind of grew.

HENRY PARKE:       Now Chris Mitchum was in RIO LOBO and BIG JAKE. And you certainly had something in common in terms of parentage. Any memories of him?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I do and I've seen Chris recently. He's come down to the office and we've talked about licensing. He's in Santa Barbara. He ran for a Congressional seat. I probably haven't seen him in a year, but it was nice to cross paths with him and see him again. He looks great. He and my brother both look very young, you know; those guys are very well preserved.

HENRY PARKE:       Your dad did not put you into movies after BIG JAKE. Do you think that your parents didn't want you to be a Hollywood kid or didn't want to push you into it?

ETHAN WAYNE:     Gosh. As soon as I was born my parents moved out of town, and then moved down to Newport Beach. Going to the set was not about (Hollywood), it was like going to the ranch. You know, where my father filmed was Durango, Mexico. Or outside of Santa Fe, or Ridgeway. We weren't near civilization. He’s my dad. That's what he did and that's what we did, and I went with him. I loved the guy, loved all the adventure, and to do my schoolwork, and not stepping in anybody's a line of sight, or block a light, or step on a cable or get in front of the camera; you know, I knew all the rules. And then, I never had a chance to talk to him about it.

HENRY PARKE:       In 1984 you did CALIFORNIA COWBOYS, aka ESCAPE FROM EL DIABLO, in Spain, with my old friend, director Gordon Hessler. What was that experience like?

ETHAN WAYNE:     That was crazy! There was a takeover of that production. Somebody was trying to put that thing together. They raised the below the line money (money for everything except star salaries), and then they were putting up the above the line money, but it was a shell game, so they're trying to pull the thing off on just what they'd gotten. And we weren't being fed, we didn't have hotel rooms. It was crazy. I called my agents and I said that this was going on and they were like, what? And so people flew over, and Gordon Hessler was stabbing the tires of the producer's car, trying to stop him from getting away with the film. Eventually the production got taken over by my agents and they ended up being producers. And they did a bunch of stuff later on.  But Gordon Hessler was such a nice man and the poor guy had to deal with three or four, like 20 year old kids (Note: Ethan’s co-stars were Timothy Van Patton, Jimmy McNichol, and the late Marilyn Burns of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE fame).

HENRY PARKE:       In THE ALAMO: 13 DAYS TO GLORY, you worked with James Arness, of course a western icon, and one who got his career-making role of Matt Dillon because your dad recommended him.

Ethan Wayne in THE ALAMO: 13 DAYS TO GLORY

ETHAN WAYNE:     He was very nice to me and an interesting man to talk to. He was a pilot and I started flying very young so I liked him. Brian Keith was there, Alec Baldwin was there. Those guys were great. It was an interesting bunch. Buck Taylor, he works a lot, he’s a great guy. We've maintained the friendship for many years because of that project. And then (director) Burt Kennedy. (Note: Burt Kennedy wrote a number of pictures for John Wayne, and directed him in THE WAR WAGON and THE TRAIN ROBBERS) Again, when I came to these guys in my early twenties, I didn't know the history. I didn't know it because when my dad died, the executors locked the house up and we were out. And then at one point I got 12 stickers, and the kids from L.A., and me and my sister, went in and put stickers on things. That's what we were able to take out, and that was it. I lived with my dad. I mean, I didn't live with my mother, and spent little time with her, and then was pretty much out of it. It was a difficult time for me, and I'm really grateful to those stunt guys for giving me just a nudge in the right direction. You know, sometimes that's all it takes to change someone's life, and they did it, so I’m forever grateful to those guys.

The Waynes at home - John, Ethan, Aissa, John's wife
Pilar, and Marisa

HENRY PARKE:       Speaking of Burt Kennedy, I read that you starred with Kris Kristofferson, Wilford Brimley, Gerald McRaney and Buck Taylor again, in COMANCHE, the true story of the only survivor of Custer’s Last Stand, a horse. It’s the last film written and directed by Burt Kennedy, but I can find hardly anything about it. Was it finished? Was it ever released?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I don't know if it was ever finished and I think he paid for it. You know, he was in the last regiment of mounted cavalry in World War II, in the Philippines. It was a story that he always wanted to see made, and it never happened, so he put this small production together and got people to go on it. I actually made a behind-the-scenes documentary on it, so I have a bunch of footage of the making of COMANCHE. But I never saw COMANCHE actually come out, and I wouldn't know where it is or who's got it. I think that was just a labor of love, something he wanted to do. He wanted to be with some friends, and those guys came out for him and we filmed it up in Canada and in Kansas, and it was just a pet project of his. Something he cared about,

HENRY PARKE:       In the 1980s and ‘90s, you acted in action films and TV series, not only in the U.S. but in Spain, Italy, Argentina. How does working internationally differ from working in the U.S.?

ETHAN WAYNE:     Oh, it differs significantly. (laughs) I got a job on a soap opera here, and that soap opera, THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, was sold a few years later to Europe, and they started at episode one. So they said, hey, we’ll go do some press for this, and when I got over there it was very popular. They ran it at night, with everybody's voices dubbed into Italian, but it became a big thing.  They did a lot of co-productions -- Italian-German, Italian- French, Italian-Spanish. And they're like, hey, will you be the Italian side of this coproduction because you're popular here. I did a few of those and I really enjoyed it. Because I would go work overseas and I'd be gone three to six months, and then I would come back home and it would be like vacation. So I can go earn some money, come back and put it into a rental, or I'd fix up an old airplane and sell it, or a boat. I would always have some project that I would do when I got back. It was pretty good. It was a little strange because sometimes you're filming with people speaking different languages and they give you a script that was translated. And the words don't work, so you try to figure out what's going on and play along. I liked every place I went, except Venezuela was tough; Caracas is a tough city. It's going through hard times down there and that was probably the only one I didn't enjoy. I'm pretty happy anywhere. I’ve worked in India. I've worked in Europe, in the city, in the country. I've worked pretty much everywhere and I'm typically happy, but that was tough in Venezuela, tough environment, tough attitude in that place.

HENRY PARKE:       I know that you started in one euro western, MA IL BUON DIO E PROPIO IN GAMBA.

ETHAN WAYNE:     I think that was one of the Italian things. It wasn't a western, it was like a six-month miniseries. The opening character is a guy who goes from Europe to South America to find his way. He goes down there and settles an area. That was me. Then I get killed and the generations start after that. But I never saw these things. I can't believe you found the name. It's funny, I felt like I had enough experience by the time I got through that European stuff to work and really be a great tool for somebody to tell a story on film. For years leading up to that, I don't think I was very prepared. It was all a learning process. You know, when you open a book and you read a couple sentences and all of a sudden, you're in that story, you're not even aware of your surroundings. That was starting to really happen for me and it's something that I thoroughly enjoyed. And it's something that I miss all the time. But when my brother Michael died, there was a void to be filled for the family business. That was also very interesting to me because I felt like what we were putting out, it was easy. It was celebrity collectible product. There's a place for it, but I didn't feel like the work had been done to try to create something timeless, and authentic, and with a level of quality that was appropriate for my father, something that maybe he would have enjoyed if he was still here and liked to have seen his name on.

In the next Round-up, the Ethan Wayne interview concludes with a discussion of his stunt work, his favorite Westerns, and his work heading both THE JOHN WAYNE CANCER INSTITUTE and JOHN WAYNE ENTERPRISES.


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Happy Trails,
All Original Content Copyright May 2018 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved