Sunday, July 25, 2010



(Updated 7/29/2010 - See Screenings)
I haven’t learned anything about the story yet, but it’s a western! It will begin lensing in Southern California on August 25th, toplining Michael Biehn, Lenore Andriel, James Russo and Peter Sherayko. Ms. Andriel is also writer and producer. Director Jay Miracle is a documentary filmmaker. Biehn, who made a splash in the TERMINATOR and ALIEN movies, starred in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN television series, THE LEGEND OF BUTCH AND SUNDANCE, and the legendary TOMBSTONE. Russo, whose credits include ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA for Sergio Leone, has demonstrated his brand of western villainy in BAD GIRLS and the excellent BROKEN TRAIL. Peter Sherayko’s extensive western career was profiled in this space last week. More details are coming very soon.


The Saturday, July 10th screening of ‘SANTA FE’ at the Autry was preceded by a brief introduction by a representative of the Autry and Shannon Kelly, head of programming for U.C.L.A.’s Film and Television Archive. It was announced that, last year, the Autry received a financial grant from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to underwrite more screenings at the Wells Fargo Theatre. The Autry is using that money to partner with the extensive U.C.L.A. Archive, to present a series of films under the heading The Imagined West. As the Autry representative put it, “We’re working in 35mm now, which is a whole different animal.” And to prove it, they screened a flawless 35mm Technicolor print of ‘SANTA FE’, starring Randolph Scott, directed by Irving Pichel, and photographed by the great western cinematographer Charles Lawton Jr. It’s easy to forget how beautiful real Technicolor is until you see it on the big screen. The program began with Edwin S. Porter’s THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY, acknowledged to be not only the first western, but the first movie to tell a story. It was, I believe, a digital copy, but a high quality one, with orange hand-tinting on the gun-shots. If you, like I, haven’t sat down to watch it in twenty or thirty years, it’s quite incredible for the fluid editing, use of convincing rear-projection in the train office, and actually includes bad-guys shooting at a dude’s feet, to make him dance. And if memory serves, the dude became better known as Bronco Billy Anderson, the first western star.


Now don’t panic! But Stephen Moyer, of the vampire TV series TRUE BLOOD, set to play the most cool-headed Barkley in the big-screen version of THE BIG VALLEY, while filming a scene, fell off of his horse and hurt his wrist. The weird thing is, it was during the filming of the blood-sucker show, not the western. Weirder still, though the story just went out this week, the accident occurred in January – I guess his press agent just wanted to make him look good before he starts his western. Hell, it coulda been worse: if it’d been his leg instead of his arm, they’d have to destroy him! (With a wooden stake?)


This is the first I've heard of this movement, probably because it's he first time the Autry has taken part, but the point is, obviously, to celebrate the contributions of the American cowboy to our culture and way of life. In 2005, then-president George W. Bush, sent a letter of support, and since then, people have erroneously thought this was a national holiday, but it isn't yet, and the folks at the National Day Of The Cowboy organization are working hard to make it a reality, state by state. So far they've succeeded in New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Arizona, so there are forty-five states to go. There were celebrations all over the country, including Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Wyoming, Idaho, Ohio, Virgina, Florida, Pennsylvania, and at the El Paso Saloon in Pantigliate, Italy! Incidentally, of all of those places, only Los Angeles is so politically correct that they felt it necessary to make it the Day of the Cowboy and Cowgirl.

At the Autry, it was a huge and happy affair, involving music, food, crafts, screenings of Gene's TV series, book signings, clothes and art sales,trick roping and gunslinging demonstrations. If you'd like to find out more about the National Day of the Cowboy, CLICK HERE.


This topic has brought me more feedback than any other (just beating out Kurt Russell’s behavior on the set of TOMBSTONE), and I’ll happily add any information you readers can send me about cowboy actors and western writers who served in the military. Here are my most recent updates: James Garner dropped out of school at 16 and joined the Merchant Marines. He was wounded in the Korean War, and received a Purple Heart. Clint Eastwood was a G.I. in the Korean War, serving as a boot camp swimming instructor. Paul Newman served in the Navy in World War II. Elvis Presley, at the height of his popularity, was drafted into the Army in 1958. Gene Hackman joined the Marines at age 16 in 1946. Robert Duvall, son of an admiral, surprisingly joined the Army for a two-year hitch in 1953. And here’s perhaps the most unexpected entry: Pat Brady, Roy Rogers’ comical sidekick, served with Patton’s Third Army in Europe, where he won citations for valor and two Purple Hearts. Fellow Sons of the Pioneers member Karl Farr recalled, “The top of his tank was blown off at close range just as he was bending over to pick up a shell.”

(Photos, top left to bottom: Michael Biehn, Lenore Andriel, James Russo. At Autry, Tumbling Tumbleweeds perform in courtyard,Julie Ann Ream signs books, silversmith Miguel Davalos Jr. does filigree work for belt buckle, details of the Nudie car.)



The delightful George Sidney-directed Technicolor musical tells the story of the building of the Fred Harvey Restaurants, and stars Judy Garland, Angela Lansbury, John Hodiak and Preston Foster, based on the novel by Samuel Hopkins Adams. This is part of the Imagined West series, in collaboration with UCLA. The Autry has confirmed that tickets are $9 for general admission, $5 for Autry members.


My favorite documentary of the year, REEL INJUN, is screening Saturday, July 30th at 9:00 a.m. at the Traverse City Film Festival in Traverse, Michigan. To read my review, CLICK HERE. For more information about the screening, CLICK HERE.



Built by cowboy actor, singer, baseball and TV entrepeneur Gene Autry, and designed by the Disney Imagineering team, the Autry is a world-class museum housing a fascinating collection of items related to the fact, fiction, film, history and art of the American West. In addition to their permenant galleries (to which new items are frequently added), they have temporary shows. Currently they have HOMELANDS: HOW WOMEN MADE THE WEST through August 22nd, and THE ART OF NATIVE AMERICAN BASKETRY: A LIVING TRADITION, through November 7th. I've seen the basketry show three times, and am continually astonished at the beauty and variety of the work of the various tribes. The Autry has many special programs every week -- sometimes several in a day. To check their daily calendar, CLICK HERE. And they always have gold panning for kids every weekend. For directions, hours, admission prices, and all other information, CLICK HERE.


Across the street from the Hollywood Bowl, this building, once the headquarters of Lasky-Famous Players (later Paramount Pictures) was the original DeMille Barn, where Cecil B. DeMille made the first Hollywood western, The Squaw Man. They have a permanent display of movie props, documents and other items related to early, especially silent, film production. They also have occasional special programs. 2100 Highland Ave., L.A. CA 323-874-2276. Thursday – Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. $5 for adults, $3 for senior, $1 for children.


This small but entertaining museum gives a detailed history of Wells Fargo when the name suggested stage-coaches rather than ATMS. There’s a historically accurate reproduction of an agent’s office, an original Concord Coach, and other historical displays. Open Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Admission is free. 213-253-7166. 333 S. Grand Street, L.A. CA.



Every weekday, TV LAND airs a three-hour block of BONANZA episodes from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. They run a GUNSMOKE Monday through Thursday at 10:00 a.m., and on Friday they show two, from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m.. They're not currently running either series on weekends, but that could change at any time.


Check out your cable system for WHT, which stands for World Harvest Television. It's a religious network that runs a lot of good western programming. Your times may vary, depending on where you live, but weekdays in Los Angeles they run THE LONE RANGER at 1:30 p.m., and two episodes of THE RIFLEMAN from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.. On Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. it's THE RIFLEMAN again, followed at 2:30 by BAT MASTERSON. And unlike many stations in the re-run business, they run the shows in the original airing order. There's an afternoon movie on weekdays at noon, often a western, and they show western films on the weekend, but the schedule is sporadic.

Later today I'll have the story that goes with the pictures of the National Day of the Cowboy and Cowgirl celebration at the Autry.

Until then, Adios!


All contents copyright July 25th, 2010 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved

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