Wednesday, March 30, 2011


(Updated April 1st -- see SILENT SOCIETY)

I spent Monday afternoon on top of a mountain in Griffith Park, one of three Western fanatics being interviewed for a TCM featurette. It was great fun to discuss which films I consider to be the great Westerns, and the significance of the genre. The crew had spent the earlier part of the day filming at the Autry Museum. At around 2:30 p.m. a Park Ranger unlocked the gates so we could drive up the mountain, steering around a large rattlesnake. On the way down around 5:30 p.m. I spotted a large deer grazing, and throughout the afternoon hawks circled overhead. Also interviewed that day were make-up artist and Western film historian Michael F. Blake (whose father, Larry Blake, has a memorable role as the bartender in HIGH NOON), and DAEIDA MAGAZINE publisher David Ybarra. The film is scheduled to air in June to coincide with a singing cowboy festival.


Eddie Brandt, the man whose North Hollywood store, Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee, has been a unique film resource and unofficial studio archive since the 1960s, died at the age of 90 on February 20th. In a town that routinely bulk-erases its own history, the Saturday Matinee is the last bastion of film information, posters, stills, and especially videotapes and DVDs.

But Eddie was much more than a man with an encyclopedic knowledge of American film, particularly the Western. He was also a successful musician, songwriter and composer. He wrote Rock & Roll Wedding for Nat King Cole, and had a major success with There’s No Place Like Hawaii. He also wrote Let’s Have A Heart To Heart Talk, to be sung by Huntz Hall in the Bowery Boys film BLUES BUSTERS.

Eddie’s son Donovan Brandt recalls, “He started with Spike Jones in ’47. My dad and Spike (co-wrote) CARMEN MURDERED, (the famous parody of Bizet’s Carmen), and a bunch of other songs that are more popular than that. Later on, my dad wrote Spike’s television show, and still wrote songs.” A self-taught pianist, Eddie occasionally played with Spike Jones and His City Slickers on stage and TV. “Then Spike got emphysema real bad, (retired), and after that my dad moved over to the Spade Cooley Show. He wrote Spade’s show, and I only have two episodes of it on tape, but I happen to have one which has my dad’s first wife, (singer Ruthie James). Then Spade went to jail for manslaughter. My dad worked with Stan Freeberg and Paul Frees, and he was in Stan’s garage when they made the first Beany and Cecil hand-puppet shows. He helped write those.”

Later Brandt wrote some of the POPEYE cartoons of the 1960s, then moved to Hanna-Barbera, where he wrote cartoon shows like THE IMPOSSIBLES, and created FRANKENSTEIN JUNIOR. It was there that he met and married his second wife, Claire, who was an animator and in-betweener. They started their North Hollywood thrift shop, which evolved into the Saturday Matinee. There are dozens of ‘The Films of…’ books, and in the acknowledgments, Eddie Brandt’s is always thanked for providing rare stills. As Eddie explained it to me some years ago, his store was a place for guys to hang out and talk about the kind of movies guys like – westerns and serials and horror films and comedies. Everyone is welcome in the store, and they carry an astonishingly wide range of movies, but it’s still very much a ‘guy’ store in terms of atmosphere. Every important studio and production company has an account there. You can frequently see well-known actors, directors and writers doing research, and often renting their own films, when they don’t have their own copies.
Eddie’s particular favorites were Westerns, and Donovan explained how his father got to know many of his screen idols in the 1970s. “Well, we sold memorabilia, and a lot of these guys had nothing on themselves. I mean, Gene Autry bought posters from my dad. He owned real estate, radio stations, television stations, major league baseball teams – but not his own posters. And if Gene with all his money didn’t have that stuff, you can bet Eddie Dean didn’t, Johnny Mack Brown didn’t, Bob Steele and Tim McCoy didn’t.” Eddie converted his back-yard to a screening-room, and the stars came. Donovan recalls, “I got to meet Bob Steele, Gene Autry, Pat Buttram, Iron Eyes Cody.” Col. Tim McCoy wouldn’t let him handle his single-action Colt, “…but I got to touch it. Got to meet Lash LaRue, seen many whip-tricks when I was just a wee kid. He was a skilled technician, let me tell you.”

Donovan and his mother Claire have run the store for a number of years now. Brandt is also survived by four daughters – Kelly, Tracy, Holiday and Heidi – another son, Eric, and four grandchildren.

(Photos, top to bottom -- HOLLYWOOD SIGN IN THE HILLS; TCM crew setting up; 1976 photo of musicians Johnny Bond, Ken Griffis, Bob Nolan and Eddie Brandt; crowd at the Paperback Show; Buck Jones Big Little Book; POKER ACCORDING TO MARVERICK; Rainbow Over Texas poster; Hills of Utah poster; Chief Lean Wolf of the Gros Ventres; Chief Mad Bear of the Lower Yanktonas Sioux)


Yes, their last show was just over a month ago, but on Saturday and Sunday, April 2nd and 3rd, the Burbank Airport Marriott at 2500 North Hollywood Way in Burbank will host The Hollywood Show, a great place to meet stars, get autographs and all manner of collectibles. This time around it’s kinda slim pickings for Western fans. But there’ll be one of the sagebrush screen’s finest villains, Morgan Woodward (to read our interview with Morgan CLICK HERE), and Academy Award winner Martin Landau, who was delightful as Chief Walks Stooped-Over,a.k.a. 'Sky Eyes', a.k.a. Symbol of Good Faith in John Sturges’ wonderful Western comedy THE HALLELUJAH TRAIL, and terrifying in NEVADA SMITH. This event is fun, but it’s not cheap – admission is twenty clams for one day, thirty-five for both, and having something signed will usually cost $20 and up.


The 32nd Annual Paperback Collectors’ Show and Sale, held this past Sunday at the Valley Inn in Mission Hills, was a rousing success. Black Ace Books honcho and show host Tom Lesser confirms that admissions are up. “It’s very good, good attendance, and it seems like a lot of interest in the show.” As I’ve noted before, this is an event where authors sign their books for free. There were hundreds of Western books for sale, but unfortunately, no Western authors were signing. “We used to have some, but they’re deceased. Gordon Shirreffs (RIO BRAVO) was one.” In addition to filling in some gaps in my Luke Short collection, my best finds were a Big Little Book: BUCK JONES AND THE KILLERS OF CROOKED BUTTE, and POKER ACCORDING TO MAVERICK. Not bad at all for two bucks each (the Big Little Book was missing its spine).


Thursday afternoon, March 31st, at 2:30 p.m. Western time, you can catch RAINBOW OVER TEXAS (1946), featuring Roy, Dale, Gabby, the Sons of the Pioneers, and the great heavy Sheldon Leonard in a tale based on a Max Brand story. Incredibly, the lovely Dale tries to pass for a man! She’d never have fooled me! On Saturday, April 2nd, at 9:00 a.m. Western times, repeating Thursday at 2:30p.m., it’s BELLS OF CORONADO (1950), written by Sloan Nibley, directed by William Whitney, and starring Roy, Dale, Pat Brady, and the Riders of The Purple Sage. Keep your eyes peeled for Rex Lease, once a Western leading man who plays the shipping-company foreman.


On Saturday, April 2nd, from noon ‘til 2 p.m., catch the double-bill of Gene Autry in SPRINGTIME IN THE ROCKIES (Rep. 1937), with Smiley Burnette. It’s directed by the great Joe Kane, and features not only the title song but Vitamine D and Down In The Land of Zulu (!). Paired with it is HILLS OF UTAH (Col.1951), with Pat Buttram, directed by John English, and featuring, in time for Easter, Here Comes Peter Cottontail. I like that the Autry has been double-billing an early Republic with a later Columbia, to give the viewer an idea of how Gene’s pictures changed over the years. The movies are free with your museum admission. And don’t forget, next Saturday it’s THE MAGNIFICENT 7 on the big screen in the Wells Fargo Theatre at 1:30 p.m.!


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.


To mark their 25th anniversary, the Silent Society will have an all-day celebration, featuring the most popular leading ladies of the silent screen. At 1:30 it's THE INNOCENCE OF RUTH with Viola Dana, at 2:30 THE VEILED ADVENTURE with Constance Talmadge, at 4:00 THE FORBIDDEN CITY with Norma Talmadge. After the dinner break, at 7:00 it's A DASH THROUGH THE CLOUDS with Mabel Normand, and at 7:45 it's Colleen Moore in ELLA CINDERS. All the prints are 16mm, and all movies will have a live musical accompaniment by Michael Mortilla. Okay, I know none of these are Westerns, but the Silent Society shows more silent Westerns than anyone else! Tickets for the public are $15 for all day, or $10 per movie. For members it's $10 all day or $5 per movie. It's at the Lasky-DeMille Barn -- read about it below. For more 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, pardners, that’s it for this week!

Happy Trails,

Henry (certified TCM Western authority!)

All contents copyright March 2011 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

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