Monday, December 19, 2011


(Perry King)

Writer and director Fred Olen Ray, whose AMERICAN BANDITS: FRANK AND JESSE JAMES garnered a number of awards last year, and whose THE SHOOTER (1997) has developed a cult following, will wrap today (Sunday) BAD BLOOD: THE HATFIELDS AND MCCOYS.  Fred tells me the film, which has been shooting in Kentucky, stars Jeff Fahey, Perry King, Tim Abell (Frank James in BANDITS), Priscilla Barnes, Sean Flynn, Ted Monte, “...and a host of other great actors... freezing temperatures can't stop me!” 

(Sean Flynn)

(Tim Abell)

Just heard from Fred a few hours ago that the job is nearly done.  A few small shots at Stephen Foster's home tomorrow morning and then return the grip truck to Cincinnati and party hardy!”  The film is being produced by the team of Barry Barnholtz and Jeffrey Schenck, whose THE FIRST RIDE OF WYATT EARP, starring Val Kilmer, will open March 30th, 2012.  (Pictures courtesy of Tim Abell and Fred Olen Ray)

(Director Fred Olen Ray)

(Jeff Fahey)


eBook #4 in the Morgan Kane series by Louis Masterson, THE CLAW OF THE DRAGON, is now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all the usual suspects -- all to get you ready for MORGAN KANE: THE LEGEND BEGINS, from WR Films. You can learn more HERE.


You don’t have to check your calendars; it’s not April Fool’s Day.  Clint, his wife and two teenaged daughters are going to do a reality show for the E network, produced by the revolting characters who produce all of the revolting Kardashian family shows.  The theory I keep hearing is that he’s doing it for the teenaged daughters.  Personally, if it’s like the rest of the reality stuff, I don’t think teenaged daughters or sons should be allowed to watch it, no less be in it.


If you’re looking for a Christmas gift for a movie lover, may I suggest Peter Ford’s fascinating biography of his father, one of Hollywood’s greatest leading men, Glenn Ford.  He appeared, almost always as the lead, in nearly eighty movies, two dozen of them Westerns, and if he never was nominated for an Oscar, or received a Lifetime Achievement Award, that is a failing of the Academy and the AFI, not the actor.  Among his indelible performances were his roles in GILDA, THE BIG HEAT, COWBOY, 3:10 TO YUMA, BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE’S FATHER, and THE ROUNDERS.

Biographies by offspring can be tricky.  All too often they are up too close to write objectively, or imagine themselves of equal interest with their subject, or use the biographical form to settle scores.  Also, they often can’t write worth a damn.  But Peter Ford writes very well indeed, and manages to make his close-up perspective a plus rather than a detriment.  And boy, does he have material to work with.  In addition to his own observations, and interviews with many of his father’s friends, costars and coworkers, Glenn kept detailed diaries for his entire life, and frequently tape-recorded his thoughts.  Incredibly, unbeknownst to son Peter at the time, dad hired a man to tap the house phones, so there are hundreds of hours of the conversations of Peter, his mother, and Glenn recorded!  Moreover, Glenn was a good friend of then-President Richard Nixon – it’s kind of fun to know Nixon was being secretly taped by someone else for a change.  

It’s not surprising that Glenn Ford married another movie star, the tap-dancing miracle known as Eleanor Powell.  But what was unusual were their relative career positions.  When wed, he was just establishing himself as a leading man.  Eleanor, though only four years his senior, had been a top star for years, first in vaudeville, then in MGM musicals, and she gave that up to focus entirely on being a wife and mother.  Peter found that in a way, she focused on motherhood too much, and his father, used to being the center of a woman’s attention, felt in competition with his own child.

While A LIFE is not a MOMMY DEAREST, it’s also not a whitewash.  Although Peter had a better relationship with his father as an adult than as a child, that only began to happen after reaching a painful conclusion.  “I made a conscious decision that I would no longer wish for a traditional father, one who would interact with me as I had always dreamed.”  His relationship with his mother was much more satisfactory.  “All I can say is that my mom was an even better mother than a dancer – and as a dancer she was unparalleled.”

Not that Glenn didn’t take an interest in his son’s betterment, but it often took strange forms.  When he wanted Peter to learn about the birds and the bees, instead of having ‘the talk,’ he paid stuntman ‘Buzz’ Henry and his friends to initiate the fourteen-year-old.  But the warm-up, showing the kid stag movies that included bestiality, so unnerved the kid that they never got him to the brothel.  The job wouldn’t be completed until a few years later, with the help of Glenn Ford co-star  Andrew Prine.

While it was not unusual for romances to happen between stars during the making of a movie, it would take this entire Round-up to list all the affairs that Ford engaged in with his leading ladies.  But in the end, loyalty would win out and he would always go back – to Rita Hayworth.  Their on-and-off involvement eventually became so obvious that she went ahead and bought the house next door, and put a gate between their back yards.

Glenn Ford’s career was unusual in many ways.  He was under exclusive contract to a single studio, COLUMBIA PICTURES for decades, much longer than most stars of his stature.  In some ways it was to his detriment, in that for years he took all the roles that Harry Cohn assigned, frequently appearing in films well below his talents.  And sometimes he made mistakes when he did turn down parts.  Two of the leads he nixed were great successes for his close friend William Holden; BORN YESTERDAY and PICNIC.  Other disappointments were beyond his control – he was set to be the lead in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY until the original producer dropped dead.

He could be tremendously loyal.  He hired Howard Clifton, who directed him in his early amateur theatrics, to be his dialogue director for decades.  And his personal friends were often many years his senior; among his close pals on the set were Louis Calhern and Edgar Buchanan.  One his favorite directors was George Marshall, and when starring in the series CADE’S COUNTY, Ford saw to it that his 80-year-old friend directed his first television show.  “You know that man directed his first picture – ACROSS THE RIO GRANDE – in 1916.  D.W. Griffith had just made THE BIRTH OF A NATION…. I wonder how many people working here today realize they’re looking at one of the people who invented the movies and this place called Hollywood.” 

Much of Ford’s life in later years is tragic.  After his divorce from Powell, and one normal marriage, and a series of affairs, his life was taken over by a series of women of a sort that is found in growing numbers in Hollywood: the controllers.  These often attractive younger women (and sometimes men) specialize in insinuating themselves into the lives of wealthy fading stars, cutting them off from family and friends, and bleeding the bank accounts dry. 

But overall, you leave the book with a smile, and a greater understanding of a man who was not only one of the finest actors to grace the silver screen, but one who could sit a horse better than any other – and that’s what every wrangler I’ve asked has told me.  As Ford said, “If I could do whatever I wanted for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t do anything but westerns.”

GLENN FORD – A LIFE by Peter Ford, with an introduction by Patrick McGilligan, is published by the University of Wisconsin Press.



It’s no coincidence that WESTERN COURAGE came out of Columbia Pictures in 1935, the year after that studio’s Oscars-sweep with Frank Capra's IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT.  The story is set in the modern day, for 1935. Geneva Mitchell plays a spoiled heiress whose father, Charles K. French, is afraid she’ll elope with a twit just after her money, Cornelius Keefe -- sound familiar yet?  But being more proactive than the dad in ONE NIGHT, this dad hustles his daughter and wife off to a dude ranch where he hopes to elude the twit, not knowing the twit got there ahead of him – presumably in an auto-gyro. 

Of course Ken Maynard stars in the Clark Gable role, this time as a wrangler rather than a reporter, whom the lady just loathes.  Granted, Maynard is no Gable as an actor, but he’s amiable, and the script is written to let the girl underestimate him while the audience realizes what a sly game he is playing with her, ala TAMING OF THE SHREW.  And of course, it’s not romance but riding that Maynard’s fans look for, and there are a couple of excellent riding sequences – always clearly featuring Maynard rather than a double, since few stuntmen were any better than him.  And his horse, Tarzan, has a wonderful, if not entirely credible, scene saving our bound hero from a burning shack!

Happily, the last act of the story takes an unexpected turn with the arrival of fleeing robbers, led by Ward Bond – incidentally the bus driver in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT -- as an educated bandit whose suavity blinds the girl to his menace.  It’s a very enjoyable hour.  It's available from Finders Keepers Classics, for $7, HERE.


More and more, classic TV Westerns are available all over the TV universe, but they tend to be on small networks that are easy to miss. Of course, ENCORE WESTERNS is the best continuous source of such programming, and has been for years. It’s not in my current satellite package, which is why I often forget to mention it, but currently they run CHEYENNE, MAVERICK, LAWMAN, THE VIRGINIAN, WAGON TRAIN, HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, GUNSMOKE, BRET MAVERICK, CIMMARON STRIP, and HOW THE WEST WAS WON. (I’d get it in a minute, if I didn’t have to buy a huge package of STARZ and ENCORE channels just to get the one!)

But there are several new, or at least new-to-me, channels showing sagebrush fare. GEB, which stands for Golden Eagle Broadcasting, is largely a religious-programming cable outlet that runs at least one Western on Saturdays – the ones I’ve caught have been public domain Roy Rogers and John Wayne pictures – and sometimes have weekday afternoon movies as well.

For those of you who watch TV with an antenna, there are at least a couple of channels that exist between the standard numbers – largely unavailable on cable or satellite systems – that provide Western fare. ANTENNA TV is currently running RIN TIN TIN, CIRCUS BOY, HERE COME THE BRIDES, and IRON HORSE.

Another ‘in between’ outfit, ME-TV, which stands for Memorable Entertainment TV, runs a wide collection: BIG VALLEY, BONANZA, BRANDED, DANIEL BOONE, GUNS OF WILL SONNETT, GUNSMOKE, MARSHALL DILLON (the renamed black and white GUNSMOKE), RAWHIDE, THE RIFLEMAN, and WILD WILD WEST. Some of these channels are hard to track down, but if they show what you’ve been missing, it’s worth the search. 


That's right, 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've stopped running GUNSMOKE.  INSP is showing THE BIG VALLEY every weekday at noon, one p.m. and nine p.m., and Saturdays at 6 p.m., and have just added DR. QUINN, MEDICINE WOMAN to their schedule.


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 at 9:30 Sunday morning, repeated several times a week, and a Roy feature as well -- check your local listings.

I just noticed that next Sunday is Christmas Day, so just in case I end up posting a little late, let me take the opportunity now to wish you a very Merry Christmas and/or Happy Chanukah!

Happy Trails,


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


  1. Hey Henry — we have it on good authority that Eastwood will only be doing a cameo on the the reality show, not starring in it. Let's not sensationalize it (yet).

  2. Jeff Fahey rocks my socks... Always did, always will... And please Clint, say it ain't so.

    Merry Christmas!