Monday, February 7, 2011


The best-recalled Western child-stars of two generations -- Kim Darby and Robert Blake – will both be meeting fans and signing autographs next weekend at The Hollywood Show, located at the Burbank Airport Marriott Hotel and Convention Center, 2500 North Hollywood Way, Burbank, California 91505. On Saturday, February 12th, from ten ‘til five, and Sunday from ten ‘til four, Mattie Ross from the original True Grit (1969), and Little Beaver from the Republic Red Ryder films, will join a few dozen other actors, actresses and models for what is always a very entertaining event. Those who will be of particular interest to Western fans include Republic star Adrian Booth, Angie Dickinson (Rio Bravo), Corbin Bernsen (Trigger Fast, Savage Land), Fred Williamson (Joshua, Take a Hard Ride, Adios Amigos), George Hamilton (Viva Maria!, Zorro The Gay Blade) and Richard Roundtree (Bad Jim, Bonanza TV movies ). Note: Kim Darby, George Hamilton and Richard Roundtree plan to attend on Saturday only.

This event is fun, but it’s not cheap – admission is twenty bucks for one day, thirty-five for both, and having something signed will usually cost $20 and up. In addition to collecting autographs, it’s a great place to find posters, stills, videos and any other movie and TV-related collectibles you can think of.

(pictures top to bottom - Kim Darby flanked by True Grit co-stars John Wayne and Glenn Campbell; both Mattie Rosses -- Kim Darby and Hailee Steinfield; Robert Blake with Alice Fleming, 'The Dutchess', from a Red Ryder film; 'Tracker' cover; Lloyd Fonvielle; Buster Keatoon in 'The General'; cigarette cards of Deer Ham and Geronimo)


I must admit I was initially intrigued about reading ‘Tracker’ not for the story itself, but for how it was offered – as a download from Amazon, for a Kindle. It only cost a buck, but I hesitated because I don’t own a Kindle, and don’t even want one, but it turns out there’s free Kindle Reader software that I could download to my PC. I’m glad I did.

‘Tracker’ is a western short story about an unexpected alliance between a bounty-hunter with a wounded shooting-arm, and a desperate young woman with a skill for shooting. It’s written in a very crisp and direct, unadorned style, and it goes places that I did not expect. While the tone is not grim, let me warn you that elements of the tale are very dark indeed. I strongly recommend anteing up the dollar. It’s written by Lloyd Fonvielle, a very talented and experienced screenwriter who’s lately started writing prose in part because he’s been unable to get a western movie made. Although he’s worked in the film business for years, he’s currently located not in Hollywood but in Las Vegas.

“I'm from North Carolina but lived most of my adult life in New York, commuting to Los Angeles frequently for work. New York got a little yuppified for me, so I lit out for the territory. Las Vegas feels like the last frontier town in America -- I was looking for that kind of wide-open Wild West feeling.”

Henry: What brought you to Hollywood initially?
Lloyd: I'd always wanted to work in movies. In 1980 I wrote a script which got me an agent, who got me a writing assignment in Hollywood, and I've worked as a screenwriter and director there ever since.

H: In 1983 you made a splash with your co-adaptation of the Pat Conroy novel, The Lords of Discipline. How did that come about?
L: I was working on a couple of projects with the director Franc Roddam when he got the assignment to direct The Lords Of Discipline. He wanted some changes to the script by Thomas Pope and brought me in to do them. It was a terrific experience. My first screen credit, and I was on the set the whole time -- got a great close-up view of a film production.

H: You’ve written two very high-profile horror hits, The Bride (1985) and The Mummy (1999). Is it a favorite genre’ of yours?
L: My first love as a kid was the cycle of classic Universal horror films. They were what made me want to be filmmaker. It was a dream come true to revisit those movies and try to create modern versions of them.

H: How did those two experiences differ?
L: I was not involved in the productions of either of those films. The Bride didn't turn out to be the film I envisioned, and I was a little heartbroken over it. The Mummy wasn't what my co-writer Kevin Jarre and I envisioned, either, but I loved what Stephen Sommers did with it. We wrote a kind of adult horror film, but Sommers decided to pitch it to a younger audience, and he made it work. I thought it was a wonderful film.

H: Both films were reworkings of Universal classics. What particular challenges did you face, rewriting really fine films?
L: With The Bride, it was just a question of wanting to do more with the Bride character, who's only onscreen for about ten minutes in the original and yet is such an iconic female figure. I wanted to place her at the center of a modern feminist fairytale. With The Mummy, we wanted to take a classic movie and bring modern special effects to it -- but in the spirit of the original.

H: Good Morning Babylon (1987) has such an offbeat premise, the story of two brother Italian stone-masons coming to Hollywood to help build the sets for D. W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916).
L: I got the idea from Kevin Brownlow's book The Pioneers, about the silent era, which mentions the Italian plaster workers Griffith recruited to help create the sets for Intolerance. I'm a big fan of the Taviani brothers, wanted to find a project about America they could do, and this story seemed like one they might relate to. Meeting them was one of the highlights of my career. (Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have co-written and co-directed, among many other films, The Night of The Shooting Stars (1982) and Padre padrone (1977).) It was all shot in Italy except for a few days on location in San Francisco. I was only on the set in San Francisco, which was great fun. Ironically, The Lords Of Discipline was shot mostly in England, standing in for America. A lot of the exteriors for The Bride were shot in France. I was along for the location scouts for The Bride but not for the shooting.

H: I understand you’ve been having a tough time trying to get a western movie made.
L: I've written several Western screenplays over the years but could never get anyone interested in making them. Hollywood has decided that "people don't like Westerns", even though they do, if it's the right kind of Western, as True Grit has demonstrated. Recently I decided to write a super-low-budget Western which could be financed through private equity. It's about two young people who fall in love in the course of a mission of revenge.

H: Is Tracker your first experience with ePublishing?
L: This was my first experience with ePublishing, and I'm very excited about its possibilities. I think there's a market out there for the sort of rip-roaring tales that used to be published in magazines like "The Saturday Evening Post" and pulp novels, even though print venues for them have dwindled. ePublishing offers a way to get the stuff out there and see if there are other folks who like that sort of thing as much as I do. Tracker actually began as the outline for a screenplay, but I quickly realized that its natural shape was too short for a feature film. But it seemed just right for a short story, and ePublishing gave me a way of presenting it as that.

H: What are your future writing plans?
L: I'm working on a Western novel, which I plan to ePublish. It was conceived as novel from the start.

H: Were you a Western fan as a kid?
L: As a kid I loved Have Gun Will Travel. My appreciation of Western movies has developed over the years, to the point where it's now just about my favorite genre.

H: What are your favorite Western films?
L: I love the Ford Westerns best of all, and then the Westerns of Boetticher and Mann. But the truth is that I love almost all Westerns, and have a special fondness for B-movie series like the Hopalong Cassidy and Tim Holt films. Beautiful photography and good horsemanship get me every time.

H: Who are your favorite western writers?
L: Elmore Leonard is a special favorite. True Grit is one of my favorite novels of all time.

H: Does it seem like we’re in a Western revival over the last few years?
L: The Western is always threatening to make a comeback, but people seem to want Westerns that affirm traditional values, and those are the kinds I like, too. Lonesome Dove, Unforgiven, Tombstone, Open Range and True Grit are all traditional Westerns at heart and all have been successful. Darker and more cynical Westerns, like The Assassination Of Jesse James and Appaloosa, which don't appeal to me, also don't seem to appeal to audiences. Hollywood doesn't seem to have gotten the message -- it doesn't like Westerns and always wants to make anti-Westerns, dark, revisionist Westerns. Then, when they flop, it just confirms Hollywood's conventional wisdom that "people don't like Westerns".

H: Any feelings about up-coming high profile westerns, like Cowboys & Aliens, the Big Valley ?
L: Don't know much about them, but I think I can safely predict that new Westerns which are rooted in traditional values will succeed, and ones that don't will flop.

Tracker is available to download to your Kindle for one dollar HERE, or at


Maybe it should be R.O.S. – for “rent our stuff!” Vidiots has long been the eclectic video store on the south side of the hill in Los Angeles, and they’ve fought the good fight as most independent video stores have disappeared. They recently sent an e-mail call for help to all their on-line customers. I phoned to ask why, and spoke to the businesses’ two owners, Cathy Tauber and Patty Polinger, who have been friends since they were three, and opened the store together more than twenty-five years ago. “We’ve been struggling for a while,” Cathy told me. They recently opened another business, the Vidiots Annex, for screenings and classes. “It’s doing okay, not as well as we hoped. It’s still very new, and we’re still trying to get the word out on it, to rent it to people who want to do screenings or parties.” Of course the majority of their business is DVD rentals, “But we still do VHS, though it’s a pretty small percentage of what we do.”
“About three percent,” says Patty.
“But on the other hand we have things like Sam Shepherd’s True West, which has never been released to DVD. We have, like, 15,000 VHS – there’s just not that many people who rent them. We’ve kept pretty-much everything that’s not on DVD, so we’ve got a lot of rare things.”
Patty adds, “We have a Western section, a John Ford section, a Peckinpah section. True Grit has been going out a lot. We probably have over 500 Westerns – that’s a guestimate. We have two-day rentals, but if you rent three you get them for three days. If you’re a member, you rent five, you get five days.”
If we want to continue to have choices in what we watch, if we don’t want to be limited to a short list of top hits, we need to skip the Redbox occasionally and rent from the few places like Vidiots that are still in business. Vidiots is located at 302 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405.



On Wednesday, February 9th, the Buena Vista Branch of the Burbank Library will present 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), co-directed by Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman. The film, which screens for free at 7:00 p.m., will have a live piano accompaniment by celebrated pianist Michael Mortilla. The address is 300 N. Buena Vista St., Burbank. 818-238-5620.


A 35MM print of John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) will be screened at the Autry’s Wells Fargo Theatre on Saturday, February 12th, at 1:30. With a screenplay by Frank Nugent, from the novel by Alan Lemay, the picture stars John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Ward Bond, Vera Miles, Natalie Wood, Lana Wood, John Qualen, Hank Worden, Henry Brandon, Olive Carey and Harry Carey Jr. – and it is among the best work of every one of them. Admission is free with museum admission. And here’s more info from the Museum calendar. “Jeffrey Richardson, Associate Curator of Western History and Popular Culture, will lead a discussion of the film’s history prior to the screening. After the screening, please visit the Autry’s Imagination Gallery, an exploration of the Western genre. The gallery’s John Wayne case includes many interesting artifacts, including one of the red bib-front shirts he wore in The Searchers.”


Saturday, February 12th, RFD'S Roy Rogers movie is HEART OF THE ROCKIES (1951). Directed by William Whitney, it stars Penny Edwards, Gordon Jones (who will always, for me, be Mike the Cop from the Abbott and Costello Show), Ralph Morgan, Foy Willing and the Sons of the Pioneers, with Hopalong Cassidy’s sidekick and Scarlet O’Hara’s first husband, Rand Brooks. Music is by Dale Evans' first husband, R. Dale Butts. First showing is noon eastern time, 9 a.m. western time.



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.

Well, I don't know about you, but I've got some tough choices to make, like how to squeeze The Searchers and The Hollywood Show into one afternoon. Have a great week!


Copyright February 2011 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved


  1. Lot of good e-book (and paper) westerns, including a whole line of 99 cent shorts, available from Western Trail Blazer-
    -including some of the top writers in the biz today... I'm excited to be in this publisher's stable, I think they're going to become a real mover in the western fiction world.

  2. Thanks for the tip, Troy. I just followed your link to Western Trail Blazer, and it looks mighty interesting.