Sunday, September 25, 2011



On Thursday, September 29th, at 7:00 p.m., four lucky New York-area Rounders – that is, readers of Henry’s Western Round-up -- will attend the premiere of BLACKTHORN, courtesy of Magnolia Pictures!  It will be at the Cinema 2, at 1001 3rd Avenue, between 59th and 60th Streets, and star Sam Shepard and director Mateo Gill are also slated to attend.   

A pair of tickets will be awarded to each of the first two entries which correctly name three shows in which Butch Cassidy is a character – movies, TV movies and TV episodes are all acceptable – and the actor who portrayed him.  And you can’t count Sam Shephard in BLACKTHORN as one of them! 

E-mail your entry, including your name, e-mail address, zip code and telephone number to  If you’re not in the New York area, and cannot attend, but want to show how knowledgeable you are, you can also e-mail your answer, but please include JUST SHOWING OFF in the subject line.  Winners will be contacted by e-mail, and winners’ names will be announced in next week’s Round-up.  Good luck!  


We all hate to lose our heroes.  That’s why there are people desperate to believe that James Dean didn’t die in that crash, and it wasn’t really Elvis in that coffin, and someone other than John Dillinger was gunned down outside of the Chicago Biograph.  So it’s no surprise that someone would want to tell a story where Butch Cassidy wasn’t shot to pieces with the Sundance Kid in that little town in Bolivia in 1908.  (And if you consider that a spoiler, this may not be the blog for you.)

BLACKTHORN suggests that, while Sundance may be gone, Butch (Sam Shepard) , circa 1927, is alive and well, breeding horses in Bolivia, and living quietly under the name of James Blackthorn.  He’s a weathered, sun-burnished older man now, cheerfully intimate with his housekeeper, Yana (Peruvian actress Magaly Solier), but she’s not the love of his life.  That woman is gone, died recently of tuberculosis back in the States.  And that leaves her son, who is Butch’s nephew… or something…alone.  Butch decides it’s time to pull up stakes, get back over the border, to meet his kin while he’s still able.

Making his way towards the States, he has an unexpected and fateful encounter with Eduardo Apocada (Eduardo Noriega), an embezzling bookkeeper on the run from his mining-mogul boss, and Cassidy eventually concludes that they have no alternative but to work together, to put their hands on the kind of money both men need.  But though Eduardo does develop a degree of hero-worship, this movie does not descend into the predictable plot that you think you see coming – this is no generic ‘buddy’ movie.  There is humor here, and irony, but underlying it all is the knowledge that these men are being relentlessly pursued by a posse that is decidedly devoid of humor.  They are also pursued by Mackinley (Stephen Rea), an investigator who feels his life and career were largely ruined by his failure to capture Butch and Sundance decades before.

Throughout the film, flashbacks remind Butch of his younger days, when he and Sundance and Etta Place rode together, the filmmakers drawing parallels and contrasts between the two different periods in his life.  It’s a tough balancing act here, because the film clearly does not want to be ‘just a sequel’ to BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, and yet it assumes knowledge of the earlier film.  So relationships change in unexpected ways that propel much of Butch’s actions in the 1920s story.  Etta Place (Dominique McElligot, soon to be seen in AMC’s HELL ON WHEELS) is a much more proactive member of the Hole-In-The-Wall gang than previously portrayed.   There is no physical resemblance between this movie’s Sundance (Irish-born Padraic Delaney) and Robert Redford; in fact, the young Cassidy (Denmark-born Nicolak Coster-Waldau) resembles a young Redford more than he does a young Paul Newman. 

Playwright-turned-actor (and sometime rodeo rider) Sam Shepard’s long string of credits includes quite a few Westerns and neo-Westerns: THUNDERHEART, STREETS OF LAREDO, PURGATORY, ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, BANDIDAS, and THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, where he plays another celebrated outlaw, Frank James.  But he first gained attention onscreen back in 1978, as the doomed farmer in Terrence Malick’s achingly beautiful DAYS OF HEAVEN, and BLACKTHORN’s Bolivia may be the most striking background he’s worked in front of since then.  Bolivia has rarely been seen on film, and from lush forests to barren salt flats to Aztec-looking villages, J.A. Ruiz Anchía’s photography is a revelation.  The costume design by Clara Bilbao and art direction by Juan Pedro De Gaspar let you know that you not in a Mexican village, but in a different culture with uniquely beautiful and colorful designs to the clothes and the homes.

Director Mateo Gil, best known as a screenwriter (OPEN YOUR EYES, THE SEA INSIDE) and screenwriter Miguel Barros have told a story that mixes adventure and melancholy, sentiment, philosophy and action.  The men live in a beautiful but hard world, and Butch’s recognition of that hardness, his own view of the degrees of right and wrong, are central to the story.  The action and gunplay is sufficient but not overblown.  In fact, the grim efficiency of it, as portrayed by the filmmakers and exercised by the shooters, is much unnerving than the excesses of a lot of action films – and saying anything more on that score would be a spoiler indeed.

My only criticism would be the filmmakers’ apparent eagerness to leave plot scenes and get to the next character scene: our leads don’t try hard enough to catch the runaway horse, or put more distance between themselves and their pursuers after a lucky escape, because the story-tellers want to get to the emotional drama.

Sam Shepard started his career as too good-looking for a playwright, and his face has taken on added character with the years; he’s playing a man of his own age, and it suits him.  He plays Cassidy with an understated and direct honesty.  Cassidy’s not a ‘nice guy’ but he’s a decent man with a sense of honor and fairness, in a way that echoes William Holden’s version of the character in THE WILD BUNCH more than the cheerier Paul Newman take. 

Produced by Andrés Santana and Ibon Cormenzana, BLACKTHORN is well made and well-worth seeing.

You can view the trailer on YouTube HERE.

BLACKTHORN opens theatrically on October 7th. 


And…Action! is the story of a fascination with the Western film as seen through the eyes of four people: a kid who grew up on the edge of the film business, an aspiring teenage actor, a TV and movie costumer, and a screenwriter.  The odd thing is, they’re all the same man, Stephen Lodge.

Stephen was eight years old in 1951, and like most American boys of the time, he and his kid brother Bobby were obsessed with Westerns -- the B kind and the TV variety.  But unlike the rest of us, he was in a position to do something about it that went far beyond wearing his cap-gun rig and watching the tube.  Not only did he live in the San Fernando Valley, where so many of the movies were made, his Aunt Bette was a secretary at Monogram Studios, and his Uncle George was a script supervisor for Gene Autry’s Flying A Productions! 
(Steve and Bobby with Johnny Mack Brown)

So Stephen begged and bugged his mom until she finally broke down and got his Aunt and Uncle to arrange a visit to a set.  The first time it was the Iverson Movie Ranch, for a Johnny Mack Brown film, and from that moment on, the kid was hooked.   Soon mom was driving the kids to Corriganville to watch the GENE AUTRY SHOW being filmed, where they met Gene, Pat Buttram and Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan; the family vacationed at Big Bear Lake, where a small movie town was the location for the WILD BILL HICKOCK series.  Best of all, Stephen’s mom broke all the rules, and always brought a camera to the set: the book is full of snapshots and 8mm frame blow-ups of the boys and all the stars they met.

(Gail Davis shooting ANNIE OAKLEY at Melody Ranch)

And Stephen could be a pretty conniving little cuss: he pretended to have started a Jimmy Hawkins fan club to get into Melody Ranch, where THE ANNIE OAKLEY SHOW was being filmed – Hawkins played Annie’s kid brother, Tagg.  Over the next few years he had the chance to visit Pioneertown, Bell Movie Ranch, Spahn Movie Ranch (yeah, the one the Manson Family moved in on).  As teenagers, he and his friends even got kicked off the set of BAT MASTERSON, although Gene Barry turned out to be such a nice guy that he shared his lunch with the outcasts. 

Though written by an adult, the stories are told from the perspective of the little kid who lived them, which is so much of their charm, although the adult world peeks in occasionally: Dickie Jones, BUFFALO BILL JR., is unhappy with negotiations with Flying A, and after he does his scenes, drives away like a bat out of Hell.  Another time, the family leaves Iverson Ranch, disappointed that a Roy Rogers shoot has been cancelled, only to learn the reason: one of the Rogers children had suddenly died.


Stephen pursued an acting career for a time, appearing in TV shows like FURY, THE FARMER’S DAUGHTER, DR. KILDARE and MY THREE SONS, and features like DINO with Sal Mineo.  At age sixteen Stephen spent a summer working as an actor/stuntman at Corriganville, and gives a fascinating and nostalgic description of that summer job most of us would have killed for. (Although maybe not on the day Ken Maynard showed up drunk and belligerent!) 

But his long-term film and TV career was as a costumer, starting in 1963 with THE FUGITIVE, followed by the short-lived John Mills Western series, DUNDEE AND THE CULHANE, which took him to Flagstaff, Apache Junction and Old Tucson Studios in Arizona.  He worked on many series over the years, and even those like the sitcom CAMP RUNAMUCK, which would seem to have no western tie-in, often did.  RUNAMUCK was shot at the Columbia Ranch in Burbank, where Gary Cooper faced down the villains of HIGH NOON.  The RUNAMUCK location was soon the home for another of Stephen’s series, HERE COME THE BRIDES.  No wonder Stephen considers the Columbia Ranch his ‘home’ studio. 

Over the years he worked at all of the studios and ranches, and his passion for them is palpable.  He has plenty to say about which were great, like Republic; which were ridiculously small, like Allied Artists (once Monogram, then a PBS station and now a studio for the Church of Scientology); which were chopped down to nothing, re-dressed until they were unrecognizable, or nearly burned to the ground.  He worked on Western comedies like THE DUTCHESS AND THE DIRTWATER FOX, TV series like THE DEPUTIES (which introduced Don Johnson), TV movies like THE SUNDANCE WOMAN, and has insights into them all.  He worked for Quinn Martin and worked around Andrew Fenady (THE REBEL), and tried desperately to work for Sam Peckinpah.  He hung out at the last of the great Western Cowboy Saloons, the Backstage Bar, right outside the Republic gate.  Now it’s a sushi bar.

And then there was another career, as a screenwriter.  With Steve Ihnat, an actor he met as a guest star on DUNDEE, he co-wrote the rodeo comedy THE HONKERS (1972), starring James Coburn and Slim Pickens.   But aside from co-writing KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977), it was a long time between writing gigs.  When he got RIO DIABLO made in 1993, starring Kenny Rogers and Naomi Judd, it was after more than a decade of trying. 

Now retired from costuming, and writing fulltime, he and his wife have moved to Rancho Mirage, not far from one of his favorites haunts, Pioneertown.  When I spoke to him about AND…ACTION! recently, he told me he hadn’t set out to write a book.  “I wrote every individual story when I felt like writing one.  They were stories that I wanted to share with people, and I’d send them to all my friends.  And finally I decided that maybe I ought to put them all together into one big compilation of stories.”

HENRY: What was your favorite experience as a kid visiting a set?

STEPHEN:  I would have to say it was Johnny Mack Brown at the Iverson Western Town.  (WHISTLING HILLS, 1951) The fact that Jimmy Ellison was there, too.  And I was not even aware of who Noel Neil was until much later.

H: Well, she hadn’t done the SUPERMAN series at that point.  What was your favorite encounter on a set, with a star, when you were a kid?

(Steve with Andy Devine)

S:  I think probably the coolest guy was Andy Devine.  He was nice to my brother and me; let us sit in a chair with him, offered to buy us a Coke.  Pat Brady was just great – he really entertained me. 

H:  You visited pretty much all of the ranches.  As a kid, did you have a favorite?

S: Corriganvile.  And I ended up working there.  That was kind of a dream.  I was sixteen years old, believe it or not, with a .45 tied to my side, out there every weekend.

H: What was Crash like to work for?

S: A very pleasant man.  I mostly worked for a guy named Charley Aldrich, who ran the street shows.  Crash was there every weekend, and had pictures taken with kids, on his horse, and all.  He wanted to do movies in the middle of the week, during the summer, for the people, when there were no movie companies out there.   He had an old script for a Billy the Kid show, an old 16mm camera, and a sound system.  He cast me as Billy the Kid, so I’d go out there every day, and put make-up on – we had a small number of people pretending to be the crew.  We started with film in the camera – and I’d love to get my hands on it, and I think Tommy Corrigan’s got it someplace.  We shot two weeks or so, and I rode Flash, his horse, and he let me borrow his gun for the whole thing.  That went on until September, when I had to leave abruptly, because I got a real job in Hollywood, doing a pilot for a show called THE WRANGLER.  It was the first videotaped Western ever – they shot it out of a truck, with three cameras.  Jesse Wayne was the other stuntman.  They did the pilot right on the KTLA backlot.  He and I had a fistfight, he knocked me down some stairs.  I turned around, pulled my gun and shot him, and he fell off a balcony.  And that was the pilot.  They wanted to see what it would look like on videotape.  Actually, they made (the series) with Jason Evers.  It went for a summer replacement. 

H: You acted on shows like FURY.

S: That was basically a silent bit.  But I did shows like MY THREE SONS, and DR. KILDARE.  And not too many more. 

H: What was it like, after spending so much time on sets, behind the camera, to suddenly be in front of them?

S:  (laughs) It’s a little more scary being in front of them. 

H: You have a lot to say about Pioneertown. 

S: I grew up near Pioneertown.  We were up here in the 1950s, when Pioneertown was in pristine shape.  We never saw Gene Autry shooting here, but he was shooting up here at the same time.  The Red Dog Saloon was open for business, the bowling alley was open for business, the restaurant was open for business – it’s not anymore, but that’s the way it was.  It was kind of nice in the old days.  I haven’t been there lately, but I’ll be going up there this week.  There’s a friend from out of town that I’m going to take up there.  

H: What was your first show as a costumer? 

S: My first was a commercial at Columbia, and then I did two or three days on THE LUCY SHOW, then I got a quick call to replace the set man on THE FUGITIVE, and I stayed there for the next two seasons. 

H: That was a show that was always on the road.

S: We had a lot of fun with that.  It was like being in the Army. 

H: As a costumer, are Westerns more fun than non-period things?

S: Oh, for me it is.  A lot more fun, because that’s what I always wanted to do: whether I was a cowboy or a costumer really didn’t matter. 

H: Is it very different being an in-town costumer, versus being off to the Painted Desert or Old Tucson?

S:  Well, when you’re on location you get a lot more freedom.  So does the director; so do the actors.  You get too far out, and someone will make a phone call.  I enjoyed the locations more than the at-home stuff. 

(Steve at Old Tucson)

H: Do you have any particular memories of Old Tucson?

S: Yeah, that it was awful hot.  I always ended up there in July, and it was in the monsoon season.  It would rain all night, and bake you during the day.  The other little town that Old Tucson owns, I don’t know what they call it now.  They used to call it Harmony.

H: Now they call it Mescal.

S: That’s it.  They used that in TOM HORN, and I was out there on GUNSMOKE.  That was a nice little town.  Looked like it was out in the middle of nowhere, but it was actually not that far off the road.

H: You worked on one of my favorite quirky Western series of the late 1960s, HERE COME THE BRIDES. 

S: Oh yes!  I’m still in touch with a lot of the fans – the middle-aged women.  I was on that for half of the first season, and the last season.  (We shot that at) Columbia Ranch.  And sometimes we’d go up into the mountains of Burbank, or behind Glendale, and we’d go up to Franklin Canyon.  We had a ‘green set’ on the stage, and we had a lagoon set, right close to the town set. 

H: What’s a ‘green set’?

S: That’s where there’s trees and rocks and it looks like outdoors, but it’s really on a stage.  Like WAGON TRAIN, whatever was set up was set up on a green set.  That was a fun show to work on.  A lot of good people to work with, not only in front of the camera, but behind the camera. 

H: In 1972 you went from costumer to screenwriter with THE HONKERS. 

S: (laughs) But didn’t stay too long.  The money runs out and you go back to rag-pickin’ again.  I got three more (movies made) than most.

H:  How did THE HONKERS come about?

S: I’d gotten to know Steve Ihnat, we’d done about four, five shows together, and we’d always talk.  He’d just finished making this little movie he’d shoot on the weekends I said I’d just written a screenplay, called HONCHO, with Dave Cass, who was my writing partner at the time.  I let him read it, and he came back and said, ‘Do you want to write a rodeo script with me?’  I’d go to his place every weekend, write everything down, and during the week I’d put everything into a screenplay format, and come back.  We worked on it four weeks.  Then we went to a rodeo, to see if we got it right, to get the color, to get the announcer’s way of saying everything.  His agent told him to write a script and he could get him a deal directing it, too.  They got us a deal immediately with Filmways, for Martin Ransohoff, but Marty passed on it.  You’ve got to remember when this was, and we were talking about shooting in real locations, in real houses, and he was talking about building sets in the stage.  He passed, and that was a big disappointment. They went to Levy-Gardner-Laven (producers of THE RIFLEMAN and THE BIG VALLEY), and they set up a deal.  And before I knew it we were in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and before you knew it, it was over.  A year later it was the premiere, and a week after that, Ihnat died. 

H: Any particular memories of James Coburn or Slim Pickens on that?

S: Slim Pickens is probably my favorite guy I ever worked with.  And he drove his Mustang like he rode that bomb in DR. STRANGELOVE.  A crazy sonofabitch, I’ll tell you.  All cowboy. 

H: He started out as a rodeo clown.  You can’t get much more dangerous than that.

S: No, and in THE HONKERS he fought the bull a little bit. 

H: You continued as a costumer and a writer – KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS is a notable success.

S: (laughs) They didn’t pay me too much for that; it was a success for everyone else.  But it’s a good credit to have, because it became a ‘midnight classic.’

H:  You didn’t write another western movie until 1993’s RIO DIABLO. 

S:  Actually we wrote that in 1975, and it was optioned a few times here and there – we probably made more off the option money than on the sale.  We made some pretty good money on it when CBS picked it up, but that was way later. 

(Steve with Dickie Jones on the BUFFALO BILL JR. set)

(Steve with Dick Jones recently at Lone Pine)

H: Was that a cathartic experience, to get it made so many years after you wrote it?

S: Yeah, and it’s also a very disappointing thing when they start cutting big chunks out of it.  There was a lot more with Kansas, that was Stacy Keach Jr.’s part.  We had a big scene where they drop bodies off of the stagecoach, and that’s when you first meet Kansas.

H: Are you still writing screenplays?

S: Yes I am, still trying to sell ‘em.  (The one I’m working on) is called SHADOWS OF EAGLES; it’s one of my novels that I turned into a screenplay.  It takes place in Texas during World War II.  I wanted to do a play on THE GREAT ESCAPE, but I wanted to do it in Monument Valley.  One time I’m driving down to Terlingua,  Texas with a friend of mine, and we go through a little town called Marfa, that’s where they shot GIANT, and he says, “Right over there is where the old German prison camp used to be.”  And I did a double-take.  So in my story it’s the furthest prison camp from the east coast, and a very important prisoner gets put in there, he’s a Blue Max guy from the First World War. So he’s an older guy, and now he’s been captured, and the Germans decide if they can break him out it’ll be good for moral.  So they send in some guys who break him out, and maybe fifteen or twenty other Nazis.  And the Army doesn’t have enough men to run the prison and chase escapees.  So the Texas Rangers offer to do that, and it ends up with Texas Rangers with six-guns and Winchester rifles on horseback, against Germans with automatic weapons and quad trucks.  And it’s a big chase across TexasBig Bend.  I have a guy who’s publishing it as an e-book. 

If you’d like to purchase AND…ACTION!, or any of Stephen Lodge’s other books, or look at his remarkable collection of on-set photos, visit his website HERE.


The classic 1960s Western series THE BIG VALLEY will begin airing on INSP on Monday, September 26th.  They’ll show two episodes each weekday and one on Saturdays – check your local listings for times.


On Thursday, September 29th, the Autry will celebrate Gene’s birthday by screening fully restored and uncut episodes of THE GENE AUTRY SHOW from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

And on Saturday, October first, see a free double-feature of Gene’s movies starting at 11:30 a.m.; THE SAGEBRUSH TROUBADOUR (Republic1935) and BLUE CANADIAN ROCKIES (Columbia1952).


On Saturday, October 1st, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee, inarguably the world’s greatest video store for Western fans, will have their first parking-lot sale in years.  There will be THOUSANDS of VHS tapes, including HUNDREDS of Westerns, on sale for $1 or $2.  Additionally there will be DVDs for $5 or less, movie posters for $2, CDs for $3, LOOK magazines for $5, LPs for $2, plus books, laserdiscs, sheet music and T-shirts!  Eddie’s is at 5006 Vineland Avenue, North Hollywood, CA 91601.  818-506-4242.

TCM FANATIC - WESTERN NOW ONLINE!And speaking of TCM, have I mentioned that the segment I was interviewed for is now viewable here?


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. 

AMC has been airing a block of THE RIFLEMAN episodes early Saturday mornings, usually followed by Western features.

And RFD-TV is currently showing THE ROY ROGERS SHOW several times a week, and a Roy feature as well -- check your local listings.

That's all for this week's Round-up!  I'm working on a documentary all this week, but hopefully I'll have my article on the Bonanzacon ready for next week's Round-up!  Have a great week, and be sure to enter our Butch Cassidy contest, even if it's just to show off!

Much obliged,


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

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