Sunday, December 12, 2010


(Updated Thursday 12/16 -- see ROY ROGERS CHRISTMAS MOVIE)
I’ve received some nice comments about the Cody Jones article last week, but when I looked through it again I realized that in editing my interview, I dropped all reference to his most recent film, Hard Times in HWood. The short film isn’t a Western, but it’s Cody’s first lead. Written and directed by Sally Kemper, it’s about a young man’s search for success, with the help of his neighbors, guys who are looking for love during tough times in Hollywood. Cody costars with popular stand-up comic Felipe Esparza.


I just got to see the first trailer for Yellow Rock, and it looks terrific – sorry I’m not allowed to share it yet. Round-up regulars know I’ve covered the Michael Biehn/James Russo starrer extensively. Producer/writer/actress Lenore Andriel tells me that a rough cut is almost complete. Nice to know we’ve got another solid western to look forward to.


On Thursday, December 9th, I was watching JEOPARDY, and was delighted to see one of the question topics was ‘The Golden Boot Awards’, the annual event that Gene Autry sidekick Pat Buttram began in 1983 as a benefit for the Motion Picture and Television Fund. It ran for twenty-five years, until they ran out of people to give awards to. Of all the questions asked, there was only one correct answer given, and none of the contestants ventured to take a guess at any of the others. Like to know what the three doofuses couldn’t answer? For $400: in 1983 this singing cowboy & sports owner got one of the first Golden Boots, given for work in Westerns. No one said Gene Autry. For $800, Liz correctly answered: This 1992 recipient hosted TV’s ‘Death Valley Days’ & went far in politics (Ronald Reagan). For $1200: In 1998 this actor recited the Lone Ranger’s Creed as he received the Founder’s Award (Clayton Moore.) For $1600: In 1985 he was honored with a Golden Boot; he also won a Medal of Honor for his deeds in World War II (Audie Murphy). They ran out of time before they got to the $2000 question, but I doubt they could have answered it: He was the star of the Roy Rogers Show. Just to show that their moronitude isn’t limited to Westerns, even being told that the word contains two of the letter ‘e’ together, followed by a third ‘e’, no one could tell Alex that ‘This type of hunting cap is associated with Sherlock Holmes,’ was a deer-stalker.

(illustrations, top to bottom: Cody Jones; Michael Biehn, James Russo and cast of Yelloe Rock; Golden Boot; David Dortort's Bonanza card;German Scalphunters poster;The Cowboys poster; the next two portraits from the American Indian Chiefs cigarette card series)


This Saturday, Dec. 18th, RFD-TV, which has been showing pictures from the early 1940s, jumps ahead a decade with Roy's Christmas movie, TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD (1950). It involves Christmas-tree rustles muscling in on Jack Holt's Christmas tree farm. It's shot in Republic's own Trucolor, a process that reproduced blue poorly, but red and green very well -- which is why most of Republic's leading ladies of the era were redheads, and why green Christmas trees seem like an ideal subject. The picture features the entire Republic star roster of the day: Roy, Rex Allen, Allan 'Rocky' Lane, Ray 'Crash' Corrigan, Monte Hale, Kermit Maynard, Tom Tyler, Tom Keene -- not to mention Penny Edwards, Trigger, and Gordon Jones -- Mike The Cop from the Abbott and Costello Show.


On September 5th, 2010, David Dortort, the man who created the Cartwrights, Western television’s most enduring family, died at the age of 93, outliving all of the actors who portrayed the Cartwrights. Although frail, last year he attended the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Bonanza at the Autry, where it was announced that the museum had acquired the David Dortort archives – and he even pledged $100,000 to help with their preservation. Bonanza started in 1959 and ran for fourteen years and 425 episodes. In the sixties he created another very successful series, this time a dysfunctional one. High Chaparral ran for nearly one hundred episodes. To learn more about this remarkable talented writer producer, check out his on-camera interview with The Archive of American Television HERE.


Writer William W. Norton died on October 1st. It’s not unusual to hear about a screenwriter having been called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, but when Norton was called, he wouldn’t be a screenwriter for several years: he was called when he was a Park Ranger at Los Encinos State Park (coincidentally, more about that park below). After testifying he fled to Cuba for a year, then, becoming disenchanted with Castro, he moved to Mexico, and eventually snuck back into the U.S., eventually learning that the FBI was no longer looking for him. He started writing exploitation films in the early sixties, got noticed by Levy-Gardner-Laven, and wrote the Burt Lancaster starrer The Scalphunters, the Burt Reynolds comedy western Sam Whiskey, and several episodes of The Big Valley. He later co-wrote the John Wayne cop-actioner Brannigan, also for Levy-Gardner-Laven. He had a slew of non-western screen credits as well, but never lost his interest in politics. He was arrested in France in 1985 for running guns for the Irish Republican Army, and served two years in a French prison. To read an interesting interview with the late Mr. Norton, CLICK HERE.


Screenwriter Irving Ravetch who, with his wife and writing partner Harriet Frank Jr., wrote screenplays for many fine Westerns and mainstream movies, died on September 19th, at the age of 89. Recognized for films like Norma Rae and Hud, they excelled in outdoor pictures. Sometimes alone and more often with his wife, he wrote for some of the great Western screen icons: The Outriders (1950) and The Lone Hand (1953) for Joel McCrea, Vengeance Valley (1951) for Burt Lancaster, Ten Wanted Men (1955) for Randolph Scott, Run For Cover (1955) for James Cagney, Home From The Hill (1960) for Robert Mitchum, Hombre (1967) for Paul Newman, The Reivers (1969) for Steve McQueen, The Cowboys (1972) for John Wayne, and The Spikes Gang (1974) for Lee Marvin. To see an example of his work, CLICK HERE to watch Vengeance Valley in it’s entirety.


On this day, and the third Sunday of every month, Los Encinos State Historic Park, located at 16756 Moorpark St. in Encino,91436, has a Living History Day. From one to three p.m. enjoy music, period crafts,a blacksmith, docents in 1870s attire, tours of the historic buildings, and traditional children’s games.


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. 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.


A staggering number of western TV episodes and movies are available, entirely free, for viewing on your computer at HULU. You do have to sit through the commercials, but that seems like a small price to pay. The series available -- often several entire seasons to choose from -- include THE RIFLEMAN, THE CISCO KID, THE LONE RANGER, BAT MASTERSON, THE BIG VALLEY, ALIAS SMITH AND JONES, and one I missed from 2003 called PEACEMAKERS starring Tom Berenger. Because they are linked up with the TV LAND website, you can also see BONANZA and GUNSMOKE episodes, but only the ones that are running on the network that week.

The features include a dozen Zane Grey adaptations, and many or most of the others are public domain features. To visit HULU on their western page, CLICK HERE.


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 DANIEL BOONE at 1:00 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.

That's it for this week, friends, unless I add some bits and pieces in a day or two. Sure lost a lot of important writers lately, and I woldn't have known if not for the Writers Guild magazine, Written By.

Adios Amigos!

All Contents Copyright December 2010 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. Henry, just to let the word out - I saw TRUE GRIT today and it's terrific. It's Charles Portis' book and honors The Duke and Henry Hathaway all at the same time. A little darker than the original, but hot damn, it's good.
    So fill yer hands and support the hell out of it!