Monday, January 16, 2012


NBC has commissioned three Western scripts this year, and according to Deadline: Hollywood the network is so pleased with the results they may actually pick up more than one.  The most recent pilot order is from Sony-TV, for THE FRONTIER, written by Shaun Cassidy, to be directed by Thomas Schlamme.  It’s the 1840s-set story of a group of pioneers traveling from Missouri to California.  And yes, the Shaun Cassidy involved is the former Hardy Boy who has a very successful career as a TV writer and producer, currently with BLUE BLOODS. 

As to the other two oaters on the NBC roster, one is RECONSTRUCTION, originally developed for FX, directed by Peter Horton and written by three-time Emmy winner Joshua Brand (NORTHERN EXPOSURE, A YEAR IN THE LIFE). Set in Missouri after the Civil War, it’s the story of a war vet who settles in a town where he is greeted as its savior. It stars Martin Henderson (OFF THE MAP), Emma Bell and Rachel Lefevre.  The other is the as-yet untitled western script from Pete Berg and Liz Heldens, of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS fame


Casting has been announced for the first dramatic series produced by BBC America, which will roll camera in Toronto later this month.  Admittedly it’s not a Western, but it’s a series of considerable historic interest.  COPPER is the story of a young Irish cop, Kevin Corcoran (a character, not the Disney child star) in 19th Century New York City, who is working to solve his wife’s disappearance and his daughter’s murder.  His beat is the infamous, teeming immigrant community of Five Points, the area brilliantly portrayed in Herbert Asbury’s history, GANGS OF NEW YORK, later filmed by Martin Scorcese.

Corcoran will be played by Tom Weston-Jones, recently of the long running MI-5 UK series.  Irish actor Kevin Ryan plays Detective Francis Maguire, an Irish-American cop.  Also in the very international cast are German-born Franka Potente, the title star of RUN LOLA RUN, and Marie in BOURNE IDENTITY and BOURNE SUPREMACY; English-born Anastasia Griffith of DAMAGES, ROYAL PAINS and currently ONCE UPON A TIME series; and Canadian-born BLOOD TIES star Kyle Schmid.   

It’s co-created by Tom Fontana and Will Rokos.  Fontana won Emmys for writing HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET and ST. ELSEWHERE, and recently wrote BORGIAS, and Rokos was Oscar-nominated for writing MONSTERS BALL.  The series is  exec-produced by Christina Wayne, late of MAD MEN and BROKEN TRAIL, and Barry Levinson who won his Oscar for directing RAIN MAN, and is currently exec producing a Phil Spector biopic starring Al Pacino.  COPPER is set to premiere this summer, for a ten episode season.


A century and a half ago, during the Civil War, the Confederate Navy’s Hunley became the first submarine to succeed in battle when it sunk the Union blockade ship Housatonic off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina.  The sub and it eight-man crew sunk as well, and rested in its watery grave until it was located and raised twelve years ago. 

The bodies of the crew members were all found at their stations, and in 2004 they were buried in what is undoubtedly the last Confederate Military Funeral.  For nearly a decade the Hunley has been on display in North Charleston, at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center.  It's received a reported half milllion visitors a year.  The only problem has been that all of those visitors had to crane their necks to see it beneath a huge eight-ton truss that suspended the war-ship.  On Thursday the truss was removed, finally offering visitors an unobstructed view.  The immediate response from many is that, although much older, it looks very much like a submarine from the First or Second World War.  

To learn more, and take a virtual tour, or take a real one, visit the Friends of the Hunley HERE


HIGH CHAPARRAL fans are mourning the loss of actor Ted Markland, who played Reno, one of the hands on the ranch, and who had more than eighty other screen credits, many of them Westerns.  Tall and handsome in the saddle, wearing his trademark fringed buckskin jacket while riding through the hills around Old Tucson, he was a fan favorite.  His popularity became a problem to CHAPARRAL costumers because so many wanted a piece of busckskin fringe as a souvenir. 

  “It drove them nuts,” Markland recalled. “I finally asked the head wardrobe guy to just give me a big long piece of the fringe, so I could cut off pieces to give to the fans.”

Surprisingly, producer David Dortort, who used Markland not only in CHAPARRAL but in RESTLESS GUN and BONANZA, discovered Ted not acting, but doing stand-up.  And his material was so stream-of-consciousness and edgy that he was managed by Lenny Bruce!

Many fans would be surprised to learn that Ted had a very mystical/metaphysical side, was involved with peyote, and was a friend of Dr. Timothy Leary.  Ted married during the filming of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, and Jack Nicholson was his best man.  He was a friend of the EASY RIDER triumvirate – Nicholson, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper – and it’s said that the Nicholson character’s rant about UFOs came from one of Ted’s peyote-induced visions. 

A member of the Walter Hill stock company, he appeared in ANOTHER 48 HOURS, WILD BILL and THE LAST MAN STANDING.  Toward the end of his life, he set great value in his relationships with his fans, especially of HIGH CHAPARRAL.  “You wouldn’t believe all the cards I get from fans, it’s wonderful. I go to every show I can. Seeing people, talking to people, it’s important.” 

Penny McQueen, editor of The High Chaparral Newsletter, who was hugely helpful in the preparation of this article, remembers, “Ted was genuinely appreciative of each fan and always eager to talk to people. Because he'd lived through such varied times he was interesting to talk with, and always enjoyed discussing his mind-expanding spiritual experiences. His crazy sense of humor was like no one else, I never knew what he might say. The world has lost someone with a unique way of thinking.”  Today, Sunday, January 15th, would have been his 79th birthday.


New Years Day marks the 83rd birthday of TV’s Bronco Layne, Ty Hardin.  You can read the interview he gave the Round-up – part one HERE, part two HERE. 

Lee Van Cleef was born on January 9th, 1925, and until the sharp-eyed, hawk-nosed actor gave up his first career, he was undoubtedly the scariest CPA in America (with the possible exception of Jack Elam).  After his first screen appearance in HIGH NOON, he became a familiar visage in big and small-screen westerns and gangster stories, but he didn’t become a star right away.  He told interviewers that when Sergio Leone called in 1964, about a part in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, he was days from having his phone shut off for lack of payment!  It was Spaghetti and American Western stardom from then on. 

Born January 11th, 1912, Don ‘Red’ Barry was the movies' original Red Ryder, seen here with Tommy Cook, the original Little Beaver. Along with a sense of humor, he brought an often chilling seriousness to that serial, and so many other Republic films, his small stature and pugnacious nature making him the Western Cagney. He was born in Houston, and would have been 102.

Born January 12th, 1905, Woodward Maurice ‘Tex’ Ritter was a law-school graduate, American music scholar and a Broadway star in GREEN GROW THE LILACS, the basis for OKLAHOMA before his movie career.  Although he starred in many Westerns for Grand National and Monogram, he’s probably best remembered for singing the theme in HIGH NOON, Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling.

A.B. Guthrie with daughter Gus Miller

Novelist Albert Bertram Guthrie Jr. was born in Indiana on January 13th, 1901, but thinking ‘Albert Bertram’ sounded like a sissy name, he shortened it to A.B. Guthrie, and his friends called him Bud.   He wrote Western novels – many of them filmed – like THE BIG SKY (1947), THESE THOUSAND HILLS (1956), and his Pulitzer Prize winner, THE WAY WEST (1949).  His screenplays included SHANE (1953) and THE KENTUCKIAN (1955).


Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, January 15th-17th, to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, they’ll be screening VIVA VILLA (1934), directed by Jack Conway (and Howard Hawks, who also worked on the script), starring Wallace Beery, Leo Carillo and Fay Wray, and JUAREZ (1939), directed by William Dieterle, starring Paul Muni, Bette Davis and Claude Rains. 

On January 23rd and 24th, Sunday and Monday, they’ll be showing THE BIG COUNTRY (1958), directed by William Wyler from Robert Wilder’s script, and starring Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons and Charlton Heston. 


Richard Brooks directed and scripted, from Frank O’Rourke’s novel, this exciting and exhilarating tale.  When his beautiful wife, Claudia Cardinale, is kidnapped by Mexican Revolutionary Jack Palance, Ralph Bellamy hires Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode to rescue her.  Part of the Autry’s ‘What is a Western?’ series, it will be preceded by a discussion lead by Jeffrey Richardson, Gamble Curator of Western History, Popular Culture & Firearms, on the film’s history and its place within the Western genre.   It’s a 35MM print, and it screens at 1:30 p.m.


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. Currently they run LAWMAN, WAGON TRAIN, HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, LAREDO, RAWHIDE, GUNSMOKEandMARSHALL DILLON, which is the syndication title for the original half-hour GUNSMOKE. Incidentally, I see on Facebook that a lot of watchers are mad as Hell at losing CHEYENNE and THE VIRGINIAN.

RFD-TV is currently showing THE ROY ROGERS SHOW, first at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Pacific Time, then repeated several times a week. They show a Roy feature every Tuesday as well, with repeats -- check your local listings.

INSP-TVshows THE BIG VALLEY Monday through Saturday, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE seven days a week, DR. QUINN: MEDICINE WOMAN on weekdays, and BONANZA on Saturdays.

WHT runs DANIEL BOONE on weekdays from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., Pacific Time, and on Saturdays they run two episodes of BAT MASTERSON. They often show western films on the weekend, but the schedule is sporadic.

TVLANDhas dropped GUNSMOKE after all these years, but still shows four episodes ofBONANZA every weekday.

GEB 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 TVis currently running RIN TIN TIN, CIRCUS BOY, HERE COME THE BRIDES, andIRON 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,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.

And for those of you on the other side of the pond, our British correspondentNilton Hargrave tells me CBS ACTION has begun showing GUNSMOKE.


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.

Well, that's about all for now.  Monday is Martin Luther King day, and I notice the Autry, which is usually closed on Mondays, is open, so maybe I'll see you there!

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright January 2012 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved


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