Sunday, January 9, 2011


(Updated 1/15/2011 -- See Los Encinos Living History)
(Updated 1/13/2011 -- See Autry Free on Martin Luther King Day)
Gilbert M. Anderson, aka Broncho Billy Anderson, was the very first movie cowboy hero – he’s in the first movie with a plot, Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery. Essanay Films, the company Charlie Chaplin tramped over to when he left Mack Sennett, was actually the phonetic spelling of the three founder’s initials, S-N-A, and the A was for Anderson. On Saturday, January 15th, 7:30 p.m. at Hollywood Heritage, aka The DeMille Barn, film historian David Kiehn of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum will host a program of movies and slides, examining Broncho Billy Anderson’s search for the right location to build his movie studio, tracing his travels from 1908 to 1913. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Broncho Billy western on a big screen – I can’t wait! Visit The Hollywood Heritage Museum at to learn more.

(pictures, top to bottom: a Broncho Billy titlecard, Buster Keaton in The General, a Clyde Bruckman titlecard, True Grit poster, Carl Sandburg on the cover of TIME, Tom Mix button, George Reeves and Fred Crane in a GWTW make-up test shot, Vivien Leigh with Butterfly McQueen from GWTW, two more Indian Chiefs)


On Wednesday, January 12th at 8 p.m., the Cinefamily Theatre, which was built in Hollywood in the 1940s as The Silent Movie – and still is on Silent Wednesdays – presents what is not only one of Keaton’s finest comedies, but also, perplexingly enough, the finest silent film about the Civil War, The General (1927). The film is co-directed by Keaton and one of the great unsung comedy geniuses of film, Clyde Bruckman. (This part is about Comedies, not Westerns, but I think it’s important: Bruckman wrote and/or directed for Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy, W.C. Fields, Abbott and Costello, and The Three Stooges among many others. One day, Harold Lloyd saw a comedy Bruckman had written, where he reused gags he’d created for a Harold Lloyd silent decades before. Lloyd sued him for $1,700,000, and destroyed his career, although he would return to writing, cranking out Columbia shorts, and Amos and Andy TV episodes. On January 4th, 1955, he went into the oldest restaurant in Hollywood, Musso & Frank’s, ordered and ate a meal he couldn’t pay for, went into the men’s room and, using a .45 automatic he’d borrowed from Buster Keaton under false pretenses, killed himself.) Visit Cinefamily here,, to learn more.


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.


Normally the Autry Museum isn’t open on Mondays, but on Monday, January 17th, Martin Luther King Day, it’s not just open, it’s FREE!

Also at the Autry this weekend, On Saturday, January 15th, from 1 to 2:30 p.m., a free lecture, part of the American Indian Lecture Series will be presented. It’s entitled American Indian Technology, the speaker is Paul Apodaca, Ph.D. (Navajo/Mixton), who will discuss technological developments of American Indians across two continents as well as how American Indian resources allowed the Industrial and Scientific Ages to change the world as we know it.

And on Sunday, January 16th, it’s Family Sunday at the Autry. The third Sunday of every month will be a full day of family-oriented events, and this week’s theme is Family Histories. Here’s what they say about it: Every Family Sunday will feature a special Western-focused craft activity, storytime, live music from the Western Music Association, gold panning, hands-on history tours with museum docents, and opportunities to explore all the Autry’s galleries.
11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. Gold Rush!
11:30 a.m. StoryTime, featuring books by Kimberly Weinberger, Sonia Levitin and Allen Say. Books featured in Story Time will be available at the museum store for 10% off.
11:30a.m., 1:00p.m., & 3:00p.m. Docent-Led Tours
Noon–3:00 p.m. Third Sunday Jam With the Western Music Association
1:00 p.m. Hands-On Family Tour of Community Gallery
1:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m. Craft Activity: Family History Lap Book. Learning about family histories is a fascinating journey back in time. Explore our Community Stories kits with museum teachers, and create your own family history lap book.


This Saturday, January 15th, the feature will be Sheriff of Tombstone (1941), starring Roy, and featuring Gabby Hayes as a judge, for a change. This is another directed by the great Joe Kane, and scripted by that prolific writer of Republic oaters, Olive Cooper, from the story by James Webb.


I’d mentioned last week that True Grit (1969) was supposed to be available at Redbox, but I hadn’t found a copy yet. I have since tracked one down at the Redbox outside my local supermarket, and the special features included a return to the original locations, some information on author Charles Portis, and brief interviews with co-stars Kim Darby, Jeremy Slate and Glen Campbell. Can’t beat it for a buck!

And speaking of how close the original movie sticks to the novel, here’s what Portis has to say in a letter to a historian at Fort Smith. “Yes, the screenplay stayed pretty close to the book. I noticed that the movie director, Henry Hathaway, used the book itself, with the pages much underlined, when he was setting up scenes. I also noticed that some of the actors had trouble speaking the (intentionally) stiff dialogue. I didn’t write the screenplay. It was sent to me and I made a few changes, not many. I did write the last scene, in the graveyard, which didn’t appear in the book or the script.”

What did he think of Hathaway and Wayne? “Hathaway was a gruff old bird, quite hard on the actors. He and John Wayne had one blazing row while I was there. Strong, loud words. The whole thing is coming to an end right here, I thought. Ten minutes later they were back at work. Such flare-ups were normal, I was told, in this tense and edgy business.”

“Wayne was a bigger man than I expected. We, the cynical public, are led by rumor to believe that movie stars will be dwarfish, disappointing little fellows in the flesh, but Wayne was no let-down. He was actually bigger than his image on the screen, both in stature and presence. One icy morning, very early, before sunrise, we were having breakfast in a motel cafĂ©, before making the long drive up into the mountains for the day’s shooting. A tourist, a middle-aged woman, startled to see John Wayne sitting across the room, came over (against her husband’s obvious wishes) to speak. Wayne rose to greet her. She went into a long, incoherent story about her son having been in the same college fraternity (Sigma Chi, I think) as Wayne. He stood there, not fidgeting and just hearing her out, but actively listening, and chatting with her in an easy way, as his fried eggs congealed on the plate. I took this to be no more than his nature. A gentleman at four o’clock on a cold morning is indeed a gentleman.”

The lady who wrote the screenplay, Marguerite Roberts, started out as a secretary at 20th Century Fox, then became a contract writer at MGM, scripting films like Ziegfeld Girl (1941) and Dragon Seed (1944), for Katherine Hepburn. But what she relished was writing roles for tough men. “I was weaned on stories about gunfighters and their doings, and I know all the lingo too. My grandfather came West as far as Colorado by covered wagon. He was a sheriff in the state’s wildest days.”

There was some doubt as to whether John Wayne would accept her as the screen writer; both she and her husband, writer John Sanford, had been blacklisted for being communists who refused to name names. But it’s said that one reading of her script was all it took to convince the Duke.

And happily, this weekend, like the last, is a box-office battle between the new TRUE GRIT and LITTLE FOKKERS, and GRIT is winning!


Thursday, January 6th was the birthday of poet and Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg (1878), cowboy hero Tom Mix (1880), and George Reeves (1914), who began his screen career as a Tarleton twin in Gone with the Wind (1939), and appeared in five Hopalong Cassidy movies before becoming The Man of Steel. And speaking of GWTW, Saturday, January 8th, is the birthday of Butterfly McQueen (1911), who played Prissy, the slave you love to hate.



Events include a parade, rodeo, frog-jumping contest, food, music and melodramas. For more info, call 760-376-2629, or visit


Events include Civil War reenactments, authentic encampments, drills, music, living history displays, period fashion shows, and a reading of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. To learn more, call 800-86-CALICO (862-2542) or visit


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 about it for this week – between transcribing a 3 hour interview with actor Earl Holliman, and trying to have a Western pilot script in a presentable form for my agent to go out with on Monday, I’m surprised I found this much to tell you about. Have a great week!


Copyright January 2011 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved


  1. Thanks for the comments about the JW True Grit. Wayne's politics didn't always prevent him from working with people of different persuasions, and he was apparently always generous with fans.

    Dick Cavett has a great story about a conversation with him. According to Cavett, Wayne said he'd love to do Shakespeare, but no one would ever believe him in that kind of role.

  2. Thanks Ron -- You remind me how much I miss The Dick Cavett Show, which they occasionally run on TCM. Unlike most talk-show hosts then and now, he knew how to interview, not just how to promote the guest's newest movie.