Monday, April 18, 2011


When I cut short a phone conversation by telling a friend that I had to get to a screening of MEEK’S CUTOFF, he asked me what it was about. I told him, a lost group of pioneers who meet up with an Indian who might be trying to save them, or might be leading them into a trap. My friend, who is not even a Western fan, commented, “Yeah, like there’s a chance that an Indian in a movie could be the bad guy, leading them into a trap.” He had a point. For most of the history of film, the Indian could be friend or foe, but ever since Iron Eyes Cody stood by the side of the road, crying, while people tossed trash at his feet, the ‘Noble Savage’ image has been pretty-much unbreakable. The good news is, this is a story based on fact, and fact is not nearly as pat, and neat, as fiction.

And MEEK’S CUTOFF is not a neat story – it’s a dusty, sweaty, sore-muscled one, as three wagons of emigrants follow one Stephen Meeks through an endless, baking desert. The story-telling is also not neat, but naturalistic, documentary in style – not in the self-conscious, jerky-camera way, but in the sense that you are watching real people, real events, and no one is casually giving you the back-story. You only see people sullenly on-the-move. It takes some time to gather that they followed Meek off the main path of the Oregon Trail because he claimed to know a shortcut, and it takes longer to learn that he promised to have them delivered in two weeks, but it’s already been five. And if you were going by the word of the pompous braggart Meek, you’d never know that they are lost at all.

Meek is played by Bruce Greenwood, unrecognizable under a mass of beard and mustache which provides him a visage somewhere between Bill Cody and Charles Manson. He seems not a conscious villain, but a fool who doesn’t realize how far beyond his depth he is. But one cannot be sure of his motives. Michelle Williams, Oscar-nominated this past year for BLUE VALENTINE, stars as Emily, the least cowed of the pioneers, and Will Patton plays her husband, Solomon.

As the days and weeks stretch on, water getting scarce, and only ten-year-old Jimmy (Tommy Nelson) still finding Meek’s tales inspiring, things are becoming desperate. Then, to add to the growing panic, with all the men off searching for water, Emily spots an Indian watching her! In one of the films most strikingly real moments, she runs back to the wagons to get a rifle and fire a signal – two shots in the air. But because it’s 1845, the rifle is a muzzle-loader, and even moving as quickly as she can, the process of putting shot and wad and powder down the barrel, ramming it home, priming the hammer and firing – and doing it twice – takes what seems like forever, all without a cut.

After much supposition about what the Indian wants -- Meek’s guess being to skin them all alive -- Meek and Solomon capture the Indian (Rod Rondeaux) and lead him back to the camp. In a situation which must have happened often but is rarely dramatized, the pioneers are completely unable to communicate with the Indian, or he with them. We understand what the pioneers want: water, and not to be killed in their sleep. Meek wants to kill the Indian then and there, but the others have no faith in him anymore, and think the Indian may lead them to water. Rondeaux gives an ominous and frequently chilling performance as the enigmatic Indian. His long speeches are sometimes offhand, and often seemingly bitter, and we are often as maddened as the pioneers who cannot fathom what he is saying. Will they let him lead them? If they do, where will he take them?

The look of the film, shot by first-time-feature cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt, is often striking. Comparisons will be made to Terrence Malick’s DAYS OF HEAVEN (1978), for all the women in bonnets doing hard labor, and he manages to communicate the horrid monotony of the situation without making it monotonous to watch – from arid and dusty riverbeds to compositions that bring Charles Russell to mind. There are painfully beautiful shots of the moon shooting through the clouds.

The most visually arresting sequence involves the lowering of a wagon down a hill, beautifully shot by Blauvelt, and directed and edited by Kelly Reichardt. Reichardt, whose previous films include WENDY AND LUCY (2008) and OLD JOY (2006), and screenwriter Jon Raymond, have clearly set out to tell a story that may occur in the ‘West’ without being a traditional ‘Western.’ To a great extent, they succeed, but ironically, though there is little gunplay, what there is is among the most memorable scenes. And the most heart-grabbing moments are the iconically Western images of a watchful Indian glimpsed on a horse, then suddenly disappearing.

And there are some basic rules to filmmaking that are true for any genre, and those rules are broken at the filmmaker’s peril. Just as we know that if you show a gun, you need to fire it eventually, if you show a very pregnant woman in a lost wagon-train, she had better give birth or have a miscarriage at some point. And if, while lost in the desert, you find gold, and mark it for your return, you’d better return, or say something about it.

My biggest complaint is that with such a tiny cast – nine people – several had very little to do. Paul Dano, so good in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and THERE WILL BE BLOOD, does little more than calm down his hysterical wife, played by Zoe Kazan. The third couple, Shirley Henderson and Neal Huff, get even less.

I enjoyed this movie, but I do caution you that it is not a traditional Western, and when the lights went up at my screening, I heard an incredulous, “That’s it?” from more than one voice. While it is all well done, not enough happens. While the comparisons to Malick are obvious, the director whose naturalism it brought to my mind – and I consider this a major compliment – is D.W. Griffith. He did RAMONA effectively in 17 minutes. He would have told MEEK’S CUTOFF in two reels at most.


On Saturday, March 19th, the First Los Angeles Spaghetti Western Festival was held at the El Portal Theatre, in North Hollywood. The event, the brainchild of John Antoniou, brought together fans, filmmakers, video-sellers, and seven stars of the genre: Robert Woods, Mark Damon, Richard Harrison, Brett Halsey, Jack Betts (known onscreen as Hunt Powers), Michael Forest and Dan Van Husen. One of the most startling aspects of the phenomenon of Spaghetti Westerns is that, while the American film industry has been making westerns for eight years more than a century (counting 1903’s GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY as the first), Spaghetti Westerns started in 1962 with SAVAGE GUNS, and petered out around ten years later. I don’t know if anyone has counted how many American Westerns there are, but in one decade, the Italians made six hundred! So all the leading men we see are roughly the same age, because they are the only generation of Spaghetti Western stars.

The program began with a 10:30 a.m. screening of GATLING GUN starring Robert Woods. To read my review of the film, click HERE. To buy the DVD from Dorado Films, CLICK HERE.

The screening was followed by a Q&A with star Robert Woods, which was conducted by Tom Betts, editor of the influential magazine and now site, Westerns All’Italiana.

Among the insights revealed was the reason Woods did most of his own stunts. “I’m so tall (6’7”) that there were no Italians tall enough to double me, so I did all my own stunts.” One of the roughest looking scenes in GATLING GUN is when Woods is dragged by a horse. “I had a sled, under my shirt. It was a breast-plate, a wooden piece that fit over your chest, but with all the twists and turns I was pretty bruised, I’ve got to tell you.” To read my interview with Robert Woods, CLICK HERE.

“The first (Spaghetti Western) I did was in 1963, and that one was bought by MGM. When they saw that there was a market – an American market – for these films, that’s when they came to America to get actors, when Leone came. He wanted Bronson, but Bronson wanted too much money. Then they wanted Eric Fleming, but he was already doing a film, and he called up (his RAWHIDE costar) Clint Eastwood and said, ‘Get over to the Beverly Hills Hotel, they’re casting a film.’” Woods was longer in Italy than most of the others, living in a little colony of American actors. “I was there for 16 years, from 1962 to 1978.”

Next there were trailers, then a screening of DEAD MEN DON’T COUNT, which is available on DVD from Wild East ProductionsCLICK HERE to learn more.

This screening was followed by a Q&A with the film’s star, Mark Damon, again conducted by Tom Betts. For some reason, Damon played a lot of characters with the same first name. “I was Johnny in this one, then Johnny Oro, then Johnny Yuma.” Damon won the audience over by asking, “You all clapped a lot, and I wonder if it’s because you really enjoyed this picture, or because you probably knew I was in the audience, and that I was going to talk afterwards.” After our applause convinced him we really like the movie, an early ‘buddy’ picture with Anthony Stephan, he continued. “I did this movie about forty years ago, and since then I’ve acted in another five or six pictures, and quit, and since then I’ve produced seventy pictures and distributed about 300, and I tell you, you forget. Most of what I saw tonight I don’t remember having done. I thought it was kind of cute, actually. I don’t remember seeing it at all. Anthony Stephan was a great guy who was very much a loner, very closed. And very wooden, yes.” Incidentally, among the films Damon has produced are 9 1/2 WEEKS, DAS BOOT, LOST BOYS, THE NEVERENDING STORY and MONSTER, which won Charlize Theron her Oscar.

Looking back at Spaghetti Westerns, one thing that strikes Damon is, “…how many of those films were forerunners of some of the great movies of today. So many movies that had great success afterwards, that were not westerns, were based on so much of what happened in those Spaghetti Western years. The director of this particular film I had not known before, a Spanish director, and what I saw tonight was very interesting, because he had a great eye. Some of the scenes, where you have the bad guys running off in the distance, (seen through) this boy’s legs just swinging – you had a lot of those nice touches. So many of the directors that I have worked with were really very talented. They tried to do much more than was necessary. I was actually very pleased to see this film. Much better than I thought. The title, in Italian, means something different. DEAD MEN DON’T COUNT. In Italian, the title means ‘There Are So Many Dead Men That You Can’t Count Them.’ More dead in this film than in almost any other Western ever!”

Next there were more coming attractions, then the one whose runaway success started it all, A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, the film introduced by David Frangioni, author of CLINT EASTWOOD ICON: THE ESSENTIAL FILM ART COLLECTION. Following this was the highpoint of the event, a panel discussion, moderated by Tom Betts, with all of the guests. One of the first questions raised was how each of the guests got into the business of Spaghetti Westerns.

MARK DAMON: I had been acting in America for some years. I went to Italy to do a picture – it was cancelled, I was stuck there. Then I went off to do a picture called THE LONGEST DAY, in Paris. And met a guy, a director named Sergio Corbucci, who said, “You did The Longest Day, right?” I said, “Si.” He said, “Why don’t you come and do a picture for me?” “What’s the name of the picture?” He said, “THE SHORTEST DAY.” It was a spoof on The Longest Day. I believe I’m the only actor in the world who appeared in both The Longest Day and The Shortest Day. Corbucci and I became friends – he was a great director – great, fun comedy director. Of course, all of us here know who Sergio Corbucci was. One day he says, “I’m gonna do a Western. Why don’t you do it?” I said, “Well, I’ve never ridden a horse before.” He said, “You’ll learn.” I said, “Western heroes are usually tall and blond. I’m not tall and I’m not blond.” “It doesn’t matter.” “Why do you want me?” “You’re American.” I said, “That’s the only reason?” He says, “I like you. And you’re American.” Because at that time you had to have American names as stars of Westerns, because they figured that if they had an American name, whether he was a big name or not, they could sell the movies to America. I had never been in a Western before, never rode a horse before, but I got a start simply because I had an American name.

ROBERT WOODS: I was working at a theatre in Paris, I was doing Checkov’s THE CHERRY ORCHARD. A producer came to see it, and he offered me a movie. At the time I said no thank you. The next dy he came with a contract for five pictures, with money I could only dream of. I said, yes that’s how it all began, in Barcelona.

MIKE FOREST: I went to Italy in ’68. There was a film that was going to be done, and I thought if I was there, I’d have a good chance at getting it. It was 100 RILFES, Raquel Welch, Jim Brown, and as luck would have it, I was on that film for three months. We shot it in Spain, and that was the beginning of my career in Italy. Prior to that, though, I had been working in dubbing. And I did an awful lot of what we called ‘dubbage’ in those days.

HUNT POWERS – How I got to Rome, and became Hunt Powers (instead of Jack Betts). It was because of a phone call I made. I was on my way home, stopped off to call my agent Paul Kohner, he said there was an Italian producer who had been in New York for three weeks, can’t find an actor. If you want to drop by… I was there in ten minutes! By then (director) Franco Giraldi had seen some of my stuff, and he spoke very, very little English. But we instantly had a connection. He said to me, “Do you ride the horse?” I said, “Yes, I ride all the time.” I had never been on a horse in my life. He said, “Do you shoot a gun?” I said, “Si. I’ve won several prizes for sharp-shooting.” I’d never had a gun in my hand in my life. But there was something about the meeting between the two of us. And he said, “Can you be in Rome Tuesday at Cinecitta Studios?” I said, “Yes, I can.” He said, “I have only one thing, I never make a decision without my wife. We’re leaving for Rome tonight. Would you mind coming by the hotel to meet my wife and finalize the casting?” I went to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, knocked on the door, and this gorgeous blonde opens the door, and says, “Madonna! It’s Sugar Colt!” Instantly, like that. So the next day I called (a friend) and told him, you’ve got to teach me how to get on a horse!

Moderator Tom Betts pointed out that one of the pleasures of watching a Spaghetti Western was watching our own history from a different point of view. “It’s a European view of our history. I always like them because they showed a roughness, where in a lot of American films, you went into a town, all the building were clean. In the real West, people had to struggle, they didn’t have things being shipped out, they had to make it from what they had. The faces were burned from the sun and hard work, and that’s what shows up here, because they used people who lived (in the villages), so it’s a rougher, maybe truer view of what our west looked like.”

HUNT POWERS: A lot of people don’t realize that these were actual villages. These weren’t sets. They didn’t have telephone wires and TV antennas – even though they look like elaborate sets, the Spanish villages were Spanish villages. The Western towns were built, but the villages were actual villages, and the people who lived there were extras.

RICHARD HARRISON: I loved Italy in the ‘60s, and into the ‘70s. It was the most fantastic place I’d ever been – it was like a little child going to Disneyland. I suppose we were there at the best time. For me it was everything was wonderful, the food was wonderful, people treated us like royalty. I learned one thing though, when they say to you (the Italian phrase that translates to) ‘you are more than a brother to me’, watch out!

MARK DAMON: He’s absolutely right. I remember getting the feeling that the national game among most of the Italian movie-makers was who can you screw the most, who is the closest to you. Other than Sophia Loren. But Richard is right – it was such a magic time, we were treated like Magnificent Strangers (the original title for A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS) -- bigger than life American actors. One of the differences I remember is that if a film role came up for an Italian, and he couldn’t do it, he wouldn’t tell anyone. But if a film role came up and an American couldn’t do it, he’d call up other Americans. We were very close that way.

HUNT POWERS: It was truly delightful to live there – it changed my entire life. La dolce vita. The whole way I live, the way I thought about life. The Italians taught me one thing, in work, play, in play, work. The most important thing to Italians is this moment, right now. Enjoy the moment – the work, the lunch – truly la dolce vita. I miss it very much.

ROBERT WOODS: What I loved about making films in Italy is that it was collaborative. In American filmmaking in general, everything was segregated. You move a light and the grip will kill you. There, everybody collaborates to do a film. Granted, on a low budget, but still we all worked together to get a good result. Every time I left a shoot, after eight or ten weeks of work, I felt like weeping, because these were people I might not see again, and we were a family. If you ever get a chance to go to Europe, the lifestyle is so much healthier. I love America – I’m American – but I’m telling you, the way they live life is the way we all should.

MIKE FOREST: Someone once asked me, what was it like to be in Italy for ten years? I said I was on a party for ten years. It really was – it was like being at a party. Playing – I played a lot of tennis and golf in those days, you were working or you were having a few drinks and dinner and so forth, it was a wonderful time.

MARK DAMON: Very first picture I did in Italy, I had a character, that I decided to give an Irish accent to, so I worked a week, perfecting my accent. And I remember my first day I had a big speech, walking and talking, and I had it down pat, and I couldn’t wait to start. So I start walking, talking, walking – and suddenly I realize that there’s no boom. There was no recorder. I said, “Stop! Where’s the sound?” The guy looks at me like I’m crazy. They explain to the director, who didn’t speak English. And he says, tell the boy to relax. We do all the dubbing afterwards, we don’t care what he sounds like.

Tom asked the group if there was ever trouble with stunts.

RICHARD HARRISON: I admired the stuntmen. I didn’t have to do any stunts, and it’s a stupid thing for actors to do stunts.

ROBERT WOODS: Thank you.

RICHARD HARRISON: I went to the hospital many times. And I saw a lot of people killed. Because as you all know, they really didn’t have many safety precautions. I remember in one film, I had a hatchet I was supposed to throw at a mob, so I go like that (makes a throwing gesture, freezing with the hand extended), I stopped with the hatchet like that. The director said, “What are you doing?” “I can’t go any further.” “Why not?” “Because I can’t really throw the hatchet!” “Why not? They’re only extras.”

MARK DAMON: I remember how they used to have horses fall. These days they have ways to bend down and (make it look like they trip). Then they would just put a wire across, so the horses would really stumble, break legs and everything. It was the beginning of stunt work in Westerns, sword and sandals. And like Richard said, in every single picture I did, I got hurt. And one of the reasons was, I wanted to show the crew that I was macho enough to do some of my own stunts. Being just a mediocre athlete, I pushed myself, to be as good as I could, to show what I could do.

BRETT HALSEY: When I started off making the sword-fighting pictures, (the stunt men) were masters, but when we got to the Westerns, we had to show off. I remember one time I had a scene where I ride a horse right in front of a train, bad guys are chasing me, and I said I can do it. Then when I saw the dailies, it could have been my wife, the figure was so small.

When asked if anyone ever had trouble getting paid, EVERY hand went up.

MARK DAMON: They would offer you something called cambiati, which we all know about. It’s a promissory note – it means you’re supposed to pay at a certain time. You say, “You don’t have the money to pay me now. What if you don’t have the money to pay me then?” He says, “You sue us.”

ROBERT WOODS: And by then they’ve changed their company name.

Why did the genre end?

MARK DAMON: You could make Westerns very cheaply, that sold very very well overseas, and you could make a lot of money. So what happened was, 80% of the production in Italy at that time were Westerns or action pictures. And people just got tired of them. There were just too many, and the quality got worse and worse, and there are just so many ways to tell a Western (story). And in about 1970, ’71, I wasn’t getting any mnore offers for any kind of picture. They said, “Well, you’re a capelloni – a guy in a ten gallon hat” – and the fact was we were all typed as that, and most of us had to seek others areas. I quit acting and went into distribution. Now suddenly it’s all come back, and spaghetti westerns are considered classics, and their stories are being (re)told in so many different ways. I don’t think the Western, as such, will ever come back.

ROBERT WOODS: Tarantino changed everything by using spaghetti Western influence – it’s in all (of) Tarantino’s work. This kind of genre still works, whether it’s modern or it’s Western.

DAN VAN HUSEN: They’re starting to make remakes of some of the Spaghetti westerns. This year I’m in the remake of a Western called CUTTHROATS NINE, with Harvey Keitel, and it’s going to be filmed in Canada. At the same time, I’m talking about a western by Danny Garcia, DOLLARS FROM HELL, so they’re doing Westerns again. (Dan and Brett Hallsey are also both in THE SCARLET WORM).

ROBERT WOODS: I’ve had so many close calls: I fell off a water-wheel on SEVEN GUNS FOR THE MACGREGORS on my back – some really awful stuff. But I loved it! The honest truth was, it was fun; it was all playing cowboys and Indians.

After the panel, there was a signing for David Frangioni’s book, and band The Insect Surfers played a tribute to the classic scores of Ennio Morricone. It was a great event, and all that attended hope that it is only the first of many. If you’d like to get a feel for the event, CLICK HERE to see a brief but excellent video by Salvatore Seberganido.

And speaking of tributes to Morricone, at the event I met a composer named Chris Casey, who gave me a CD of his music. I’ve been listening to it a lot while writing this piece. If you’re in a good, or a bad, or an ugly mood, and you’d like to take a listen, go HERE.

(Spaghetti Western pics: Robert Woods; Mark Damon; Mike Forest;Robert Woods, Mark Damon and Richard Harrison; Brett Halsey and Hunt Powers; Hunt Powers, Mike Forest, Dan Van Husen)


Today, Sunday April 17, 2011, would have been the 93rd birthday of actor William Holden, who died far too young, at the age of 63. Holden, who won his Oscar for STALAG 17 (1954), and was nominated for SUNSET BOULEVARD (1951) and NETWORK (1977), was wonderful in every kind of film, from sports stories like GOLDEN BOY (1939) to war movies like BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (1957) to sophisticated comedies like SABRINA (1954), but he certainly excelled in Westerns. For many, his most indelible performance was at Pike in THE WILD BUNCH (1969), but among his others were ARIZONA (1940), TEXAS (1941), THE MAN FROM COLORADO (1948), STREETS OF LAREDO (1949), ESCAPE FROM FT. BRAVO (1953), THE HORSE SOLDIERS (1959), ALVAREZ KELLY (1966), THE WILD ROVERS (1971) and THE REVENGERS (1972).

As part of their series on the Civil War, TCM will be showing a double bill of his best on Monday night, starting with THE HORSE SOLDIERS at 10:00 p.m. Pacific, followed at 12:15 a.m. by ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO.


Unless you’ve been reading the Round-up almost from the very start, you haven’t read my piece about actor Paul Harper, who played Ross, one of the bounty hunters in THE WILD BUNCH. You can read it HERE.

Yesterday I was surprised and delighted to hear from Oregon Sue, who writes Daily Drivel HERE.

She’d been searching online for a picture of Paul, and the one she found led her to my write-up. She tells me, “Paul was a friend of ours, and a very funny man. He gave my husband a hat William Holden wore in THE WILD BUNCH. Something you may not have known about him, he was a Reserve Deputy Sheriff for L.A. County. To make his part in The Wild Bunch more “exotic,” for a better word, the studio offered him $20,000 to have all his teeth pulled. He did. Then later he did those Pace (Picante Sauce) commercials – “Get a rope!” – where he snickered and showed off his lack of teeth! Just fyi.” I hadn’t realized that it was Paul Harper driving the wagon in the Pace Picante Sauce commercial, but I found it HERE.

And when I looked at a few more of them – people post everything on Youtube – I was surprised and delighted to learn that at least two other Pace commercials featured cast-members from THE WILD BUNCH! To see Bo Hopkins, click HERE.

To see Dub Taylor, click HERE.

I wonder if the folks at Pace did it on purpose?


Los Encinos State Historical Park will be holding their traditional Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday, April 23rd, from 1 pm to 3 pm. In addition to eggs, they’ll have traditional games, a blacksmith, old time music, tours of the historic adobe and performers in period costume. Admission is free. Donations are welcome. Please bring your own baskets.
The Egg Hunts will be grouped as follows:
1:00-1-3 y ears old
1:30: 4-6 years old
2:00: 7 years and up
Los Encinos State Historic Park is located at 16756 Moorpark in Encino, East of the intersection of Balboa and Ventura Blvds.


On Wednesday, April 20th, Turner Classic Movies continues their examination of the War Between The States with a second night of Civil War-themes Westerns. At 5:00 pm it’s ALVAREZ KELLY (1966), directed by Edward Dmytryk from a script by Franklin Coen, and starring William Holden, Richard Widmark, Patrick O’Neal, Don ‘Red’ Barry and Harry Carey Jr. At 7:00 pm Michael Curtiz directs Errol Flynn, Randolph Scott, Miriam Hopkins, Humphrey Bogart and everyone else under Warner Brothers contract in VIRGINIA CITY (1940). There’s a rousing Max Steiner score, Charles Middleton (Ming the Merciless) as Jefferson Davis, and keep your eyes peeled for Tarleton twin and future man of steel George Reeves as a telegrapher. At 9:15 it’s THE SIEGE AT RED RIVER (1954), directed by Victor Mate’ from a Sidney Boehm screenplay, about the battle for possession of a Gatling gun. It stars Van Johnson, lovely Joanne Dru, Richard Boone before he was Paladin, and Milburn Stone before he was Doc. At 10:45 pm it’s GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING (1956) directed by Jacques Tourner, starring Robert Stack, Alex Nicol, Virgina Mayo, Ruth Roman and Raymond Burr. At 12:30 am, HANGMAN’S KNOT (1952), written and directed by Roy Huggins, with second unit direction by Yakima Canutt, stars Randolph Scott, Donna Reed, Lee Marvin and Claude Jarman Jr. Finally, at 2:00 am it’s DEVIL’S DOORWAY (1950), directed by the outstanding Anthony Mann, starring Robert Taylor, Louis Calhern, Edgar Buchanan and Paula Raymond, and featuring costumes by Walter Plunkett, and more 2nd unit by Yakima Canutt. All times are west-coast.


On Thursday, April 21st, from 2:30 pm to 4 pm, Roy and Dale and Pat Brady fight Roy Barcroft and hoof-and-mouth in DOWN DAKOTA WAY (1949), directed by William Whitney from a script by John Butler and Sloan Nibley.


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 Pardners, it's 1:30 in the a.m., so I'm going to post this now, and tomorrow I'll put up the pictures, and a few more items.

Have a great week!


All Contents Copyright April 2011 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved


  1. I read the IMDb list of best westerns and said to myself what is MEEKS CUTOFF. Thanks for the review, but I think it I'll wait until it show up on TV.

    Thanks also for the review of the 1st L.A. Spaghetti Western Festival. John Antoniou did a great job, and starting from just an idea he was able to bring together a great group of the genre's actors and a nice selection of films and their music. Hopefully we can do it again as it was well received by all who attended.

  2. Tom, thank you for the great job you did moderating the panel discussion!

  3. Thanks for the kind words regarding my music, Henry! Glad you have been enjoying it.