Sunday, May 29, 2011


(Updated 5/30 - see SUMMER OF SILENTS)
The man who won Best Director and Best Picture Oscars, and was nominated for Best Actor, for DANCES WITH WOLVES (1991), will star in THE HATFIELDS AND THE MCCOYS, a miniseries announced for the History Channel. Although the channel is known for documentaries, this will be a dramatic presentation based on the infamous decade-long Kentucky feud that began near the end of the Civil War, and saw the murder of at least a dozen men – some versions of the events say many more.

Costner, who has played many real-life people, from Wyatt Earp to Eliot Ness to Jim Garrison, will portray Hatfield patriarch Devil Anse Hatfield – a role played by Jack Palance in a 1975 MOW. Set for the 2012 season, the show will be produced by Leslie Greif, who produced WALKER, TEXAS RANGER.


Yes, another sci-fi western, based on Stephen King’s novel THE DARK TOWER, is set to roll camera in the spring, with Ron Howard at the helm. Howard is no stranger to the Western form, from behind the camera, where he directed FAR AND AWAY and THE MISSING, or in front of the camera, where he starred in THE SHOOTIST and THE SPIKES GANG, and series like BIG VALLEY, BONANZA and GUNSMOKE.

The script is by Akiva Goldsman, a frequent Howard collaborator who also scripted I AM LEGEND, CINDERELLA MAN, and won an Oscar for A BEAUTIFUL MIND. A very large and complex undertaking, DARK TOWER involves three feature films and possibly two TV series. A week ago, Universal, balking at the price tag, threatened to pull the plug, but seems to have reconsidered. Javier Bardem had been announced as the lead, but that is now in doubt. Says Howard, “I can’t really say who’ll be in it yet, buy Javier Bardem has shown a great deal of interest. We’ll know by the end of the summer, when our flashing green light goes solid. We had to pull back to our September start date due to budget delays and ongoing story development and logistical issues, but DARK TOWER is moving forward.”


DAMN YOUR EYES is a 19 minute Western film directed by 24 year old David Guglielmo. He graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 2009. DAMN YOUR EYES is his thesis film, a demo for the feature version he plans, and was produced by Jennifer Joelle Kachler and shot by Alex Chinnici.

I think DAMN YOUR EYES is an impressive piece of work, and instead of just giving you a link to the trailer, you can see the entire movie HERE. I warn you that some of the dialogue and visuals are pretty rough, in keeping with the Spaghetti Western tone.

HENRY: I really enjoyed your film, and being from New York myself, I know there’s not a lot of Western atmosphere there. Whereabouts did you film?
DAVID: The scene with the horse – that was actually a horseback riding place in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Literally, if I moved the camera an inch to the right or left you would see buildings, and telephone poles. We were in a very urban area.
H: I think this makes you the first person to successfully make a western in Fort Lee since Edwin S. Porter made the GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY there. That makes it about 108 years since the last one.
D: Wow, that’s great – I’m going to start saying that!
H: Wasn’t Fort Lee where Griffith was making his films?
D: It’s exactly where. You wouldn’t know it from walking around town now, but Fort Lee used to be Hollywood. You know, Chaplin worked here, and John Barrymore’s house is still standing.
H: Where else did you shoot?
D: Louisa’s cabin is actually a highway rest stop in New Jersey – it’s the first exit off the P.I.P. It used to a bathroom, but they made a bigger bathroom, so that one was abandoned, and the town opened it up for me. There’s not a lot of production design in there, but I brought a table, and with the sound design, the way I lit it, I made it like there was a fire going. That opening scene in the saloon, that’s in a studio, just an empty room. I rented furniture from antique shops in Brooklyn, hauled them over there and filled up the place, made it look like an old saloon. I had access to that studio, and I would go there with my cinematographer and block the whole thing out; made sure we were prepared because we knew that was the biggest scene. With short films especially, if you don’t grab them within the first couple of minutes you’re not going to grab them, so I really wanted to make that scene strong. So the shot-list was a little looser for the rest of the locations, but for the saloon it was really prepared.
H: Not a ton of guys who are 24 have even seen a western, no less want to make one. How were you introduced to Westerns?
D: I don’t remember how I was introduced to westerns, and I don’t remember when I first saw it, but the one that made the difference was THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. That made me fall in love with European Westerns.
H: So you discovered European ones before you discovered American ones?
D: I don’t think I discovered them first, but I fell in love with them first. Then I went and watched the traditional Westerns – the John Wayne films and the John Fords – and I love those, but I definitely got into the Spaghetti Westerns first. It probably has to do with Quentin Tarantino. I was nine years old when my mom let me watch PULP FICTION. We made a deal, because we were going somewhere I didn’t want to go, and she said, “If you go, I’ll let you watch PULP FICTION.” So I watched it, and I became a big Tarantino fan, and he’s very influenced by Spaghetti westerns, so I went back and watched all of them as well.
H: Where did the story DAMN YOUR EYES come from? Anything in particular suggest it to you?
D: The funny thing is I wrote the film my first year in film school, which was 2005. I never made movies growing up. I always knew that I wanted to be a film director, and I wrote stuff, but I never went out and made a film. I just watched a lot of movies and gathered all of these ideas for the one day when I would be able to do it right. So I wrote this idea, and a couple of scene, and I showed it to someone who said, ‘You’re not going to be able to pull this off.’ And they were right, so I put it on the back burner and I wrote smaller short films, just for practice, so I could develop a visual language, try my hand at making movies, and then, when thesis year came around I went back to that story and I said, you know, I think I could do this now.
H: You pulled it off; you’re direction is very solid. How did you cast it?
D: I started putting up casting calls online. I had a lot of people coming to audition, and I couldn’t really find the right people. No offense to them, there are a lot of very talented actors in New York, but a lot of them are very pretty, more like models than actors. And for Westerns, you want a get those gritty faces, older actors, and a lot of the time you get just college-age actors. I found one guy, Angelo Angrisani, who plays the antagonist in the film, and I thought he had a really good face, because he could play bad and still be sympathetic. So I cast him right away, and he helped me cast the other people – Sam and Louisa, just about everyone. He really ought to get a casting credit.
H: Have you written a feature length version?
D: It was always a feature idea, but I wrote it first as a short. And I was going to serialize it, and make it kind of a modern take on the old serials, but I wrote a couple of parts, and then I realized that I don’t really want this to be an internet movie. I mean, it’s good for the short film, but the whole thing I see as constantly getting bigger, with more action, the sets more elaborate. I really want it to be in a theatre. So I wrote the feature, and now I’m trying to get it off the ground. People are reading it and really liking it. I’m getting great feedback, working with my producer, Jennifer Joelle Kachler, and we’re putting everything together on the business end. We’re looking for backing.
H: Any other projects?
D: I’m adapting a screenplay right now, another feature. It’s a crime noir. It takes place in Texas. I love the visual sense you get in Westerns and I try to incorporate that into things that aren’t westerns.
H: What other films and filmmakers have influenced you?
D: I love Sam Peckinpah. RIO BRAVO’s one of my favorite films. THE SEARCHERS. For Spaghetti Westerns I particularly like THE BIG SILENCE. That’s probably the biggest influence on DAMN YOUR EYES. Sergio Corbucci’s really good. COMPANEROS, DJANGO – I think all of his stuff is really great.
H: Have you heard about Tarantino’s newest project, DJANGO UNCHAINED?
D: Yeah, I’m excited for that. It’s funny – I met Tarantino. Right after I made DAMN YOUR EYES I was in the West Village and I see him go into a Starbucks. I run after him, and I happen to have my film, because I always have my film with me. It’s obsessive, I know, but it comes in handy. So I go into the Starbucks and I say, “Mr. Tarantino, I’m such a big fan of yours!” For the first time I’m really star-struck. I really didn’t know what else to say, but, “Please watch my movie!” And I handed it to him and I said, “You’ll see your influence in it.” And he was really cool about it, and said, “Cool cover,” and he went home with it, so hopefully he watched it.
H: What else should we know about you?
D: I have a lot of stories, a lot of different genres. If you like this, then keep up with what I’m doing. If you don’t like it, don’t keep up with what I’m doing. I’m just really excited to be making movies.
H: For a short movie, you certainly have a lot of good graphics.
D: What’s really cool is I have over a hundred posters. One of the graphic design teachers at SVA wanted to get her students into movie posters. And since my film was one of the only genre films, and had a lot of room for different interpretations – it’s a western but with a horror movie vibe to it -- she assigned it to all of her classes, and each student had to do three posters. I’m never gonna get that lucky again!
(By the way, if you’d like to learn something about the history of filmmaking in Fort Lee, New Jersey, go HERE.)

In L.A., the best entertainment deal of the summer has long been the film series at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Previous series have featured Oscar winners, Oscar nominees, and last summer it was Oscar-nominated Film Noir Screenplays. This year it’s SUMMER OF SILENTS, featuring nine silent features that have won the Photoplay Magazine Medal of Honor, an award that predates the Oscars.

The programs are Monday evenings from June 13th through August 8th, each film will be a 35mm print, have a live musical accompaniment, selected shorts, and an introduction by someone knowledgeable, among them the great film historian Kevin Brownlow. And the price for the entire series is just $25, $20 for Academy members and students, or $5 per movie. Only two of the films are truly Westerns, but some others are ‘rurals’, and all are well worth seeing. Here’s the line-up:
June 13th – HUMORESQUE (1920)
June 20th – TOL’ABLE DAVID (1921)
June 27th – ROBIN HOOD (1922)
No movie on the 4th of July (Who wants silent fireworks anyway?)
July 11th – THE COVERED WAGON (1923)
July 18th – THE BIG PARADE (1925)
Wednesday July 20th – Bonus comedy – THE GENERAL (1927)
July 25th – BEAU GESTE (1926)
August 1st – 7TH HEAVEN (1927)
August 8th – FOUR SONS (1928)

Tickets go on sale June 1st, which is Wednesday, but you can start buying online at midnight Tuesday night, and knowing the tendency of these programs to sell out, that’s when I buy mine. To buy tickets, go to HERE or visit the box office 9 to 5 on weekdays at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.


About half a year ago, doing some much-needed office cleaning, I came upon a set of fifty cigarette insert cards that my father had given me more than thirty years ago. Forerunners of bubble-gum cards, they measure 1 ½” by 2 ¾ ”, and are the ‘Celebrated American Indian Chiefs’ collection, from Allen & Ginter of Richmond, Virginia, and date from 1888. I’ve been running two a week, and today I share the last two, plus a check-list. In the next week or so I’ll be putting the whole set in the photo section of our Facebook page. Hope you enjoy them


The first Saturday of every month, The Autry presents a free Gene double feature at noon. The first is always pre-war a Republic Picture, the second is always a post-war Columbia. First it’s PUBLIC COWBOY #1 (1937) and pits Gene against modern (for 1937) rustlers with refrigerator trucks and walkie-talkies. Next is RIDERS OF THE WHISTLING PINES (1949), where Gene must fight unscrupulous lumbermen and DDT! Normally the films are shown in the smaller Imagination Galley, but this time they’re in the roomier and more comfortable Wells Fargo Theatre!


At 2:30 pm Pacific time catch IN OLD CALIENTE (1951) starring Roy and Dale. Son Roy ‘Dusty’ Rogers and grandson Dustin do the intros, and have interesting things to say about the unpopularity of short-time sidekick Pinky Lee. But when they start giving away too much plot, stick your fingers in your ears and yodel!


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.

Also, AMC has started showing two episodes of THE RIFLEMAN on Saturday mornings.

That's about it. My wife just handed me a newspaper ad about a North Valley Heritage Festival Saturday and Sunday, June 4th and 5th -- I'll find out about it, and update you here and on Facebook. In the meantime, don't forget to take time to remember that Memorial Day is not just a three day weekend, it's the day we honor our brave war dead who have kept up free all of these years FLY YOUR FLAG!

Happy Trails,


All contents copyright by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved!

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