Sunday, April 29, 2012


The annual Heritage Days Civil War Historical Reenactment took place at the Pierce College Farm Center in Woodland Hills, California on Saturday and Sunday, April 28th and 29th.  On each day, a few hundred soldiers in blue or grey stormed the battlefield at noon and again at three, each time followed by President Lincoln presenting his Gettysburg Address. 

The battle itself involved several cannons on both sides, and soldiers armed with rifle and pistol.  Much of the Union Army was behind a breastwork that offered some protection, whereas the majority of Confederate soldiers were in the open, and officers of both sides were on horseback.  There were bleachers sponsored by a fraternal group, and plenty of standing room along the lines of skirmish.  The hundreds of observers who packed the place were mostly family groups, photographers and, to my surprise, teenaged high school students who seemed genuinely excited at the event.

As both sides advanced, each trying to outflank the other, the cannon and long-gun fire continued, and a stretcher was rushed onto the field to retrieve a wounded soldier.  Observers near the temporary medic station were startled to see blood gushing from an open wound, and soon after, he was laid aside with his face covered, his hands folded across his chest.  A twin barrage of rifle-fire from both sides abruptly littered the battlefield with bodies, and brought even the most gabby observer to a gasping silence.

This being the third reenactment I’ve attended, I am again struck that the soldiers taking part often look much more like Matthew Brady’s photographs than the actors in Civil War movies do.  The reason is that these soldiers, like the genuine ones, didn’t have their uniforms issued en masse from Western Costume, but assembled them and had them sewn from patterns.  They don’t all match perfectly, and they take note of the fact that there was a vast difference in uniform design from regiment to regiment.

In addition to the battlefield, tent encampments were full of era-attired civilians, some demonstrating arts and crafts to passers-by, others more passively presenting a visible history lesson.  Beyond the encampments, tented shops sold clothes, uniforms, books, and food of the period.  Many a girl tried on her first hoop skirt; many a boy pleaded for a Springfield Rifle with an orange tip, and a kepi, blue or grey.  My favorite overheard exchange was at a stall where a man in his early twenties was buying four books, and also wanted to know, “What is the Gettysburg map?”

“It’s a map of Gettysburg.”

“Is that a city?”

Gettysburg.  Like the Gettysburg Address.”

“Wait a second,” he said, fumbling out a pen.  “Is that a web address?”

I know, I know, but I’m cutting the guy some slack.  At least he’s buying four books: hopefully he’ll learn about Gettysburg from them.

Speaking of books, author David H. Jones was there with his book, TWO BROTHERS, ONE NORTH, ONE SOUTH, a novel based on the true story of the Prentiss brothers, who were divided by the War Between the States, and met in the battlefield.  It’s available in hardback and trade paperback as well as an audiobook.  You can learn more at    

Last year there was only a representative of the Sons Of Confederate Veterans, but this year there was also a representative of the Sons of Union Veterans of The Civil War. 

Among the displays by representatives of Civil War-related museums was a contingent from Fort Tejon, near Frazier Park.  I’ve detailed in the Round-up that with California’s financial woes, combined with the state’s financial incompetence, many sites of great historical value are endangered, and listed for closure.  While Los Encinos Park and Santa Susanna Pass Park have been saved by generous and undisclosed donors, many more are still threatened, including Will Roger Park, Pio Pico State Historic Park (home of the last Mexican Governor of California) and now Fort Tejon.  John Harman, a volunteer at Fort Tejon for fourteen years, told me some of the history behind the fort.  “The Fort was established in 1854, initially garrisoned by various companies of the First Regiment of United States Dragoons…the Dragoons being a mounted force, but also trained on various weapons, including the mountain howitzer.  At the beginning of the Civil War, the first Regiment of Dragoons was re-designated the First Cavalry.”  

Among the historical events coming up at the Fort is a Dragoon-era period program on the first Saturday of every month – the next one is May 5th.  There is a Civil War Battle weekend on May 19th and 20th.  He went on to tell me, “At this time, the park is scheduled to be closed at the end of the fiscal year, on June 30th.”  If you would like to find out more about Fort Tejon, to visit, or to help in the fight to save the Fort and other historically important places on the chopping block, please visit  Incidentally, the Pierce College Farm Center is also said to be in danger of closing.

Also present were representatives from THE DRUM BARRACKS, in Wilmington, California, the last remaining Civil War era military facility in the Los Angeles area.  Built in 1862, with 22 buildings on sixty acres, the Drum Barracks is the last remaining building, and houses the museum.  You can learn more, and enjoy an on-line tour by going to  There’s a link there that features a great run-down of Civil War-related events all over Southern California.

One of the most striking elements of events like these is the realization that you are surrounded by so many people with a great passion and knowledge of history.  I was on the way back to my car when I spotted a young Union soldier walking my way.  I asked his name.  “Bridger Zadina.  Over the weekend, Corporal Bridger Zadina.” I asked him if he’d been involved in reenactments before.  “I’ve been doing it for about five years now.  It’s been a heckuva five years.  I’ve always been interested in history, and I’ve always had the desire to feel closer to my ancestors, and the struggles they’d gone through.  And I feel that by partaking in this, I can….educate the public about what happened before.  Seeing soldiers on a field; it’s not something you can get out of a book.  This summer I went to First Manassas, in Virginia, where there were 7,000 re-enactors in the field: that was a grand old time!  I actually got to fight in the same regiment – the 2nd Mississippi – same company as my family, the Brookshires, did.  It was quite an experience.  A little intense.  A little crazy.”  I asked him how old he was.  He said eighteen: he’s been taking part in reenactments since he was 12 or 13.  I bet even then, he knew what Gettysburg was.    


Back in November of 2011 I started following ‘WESTERN X’.  By far one of the most ambitious webisode productions I’ve seen, WESTERN X, the creation of Michael Flores, is available online through Youtube and ITunes, and tells its story in six to ten minute ‘bites’. Chapter #8 is now available, and I believe the whole will be fifteen chapters. Shot in striking desert locations and Western towns, its hero is named X because he awakens after a beating, not knowing where, or who, he is.
Overall the chapters are elegantly produced, with eerie music, striking editing and often beautiful photography. But they’re heavy on atmosphere and light on plot – there’s a lot going on at times, but while I assume it will all become clear down the line, at times, much of it is incomprehensible. But it’s certainly worth a peek. Here’s the official website link:  That page has links to all the chapters.


Daily horse shows and an equestrian musical showcase on May 5th.  At the Los Angeles Equestrian Center,  818-842-8444.


On Saturday, May 5th, The Autry will present, at noon, a double-bill of Gene Autry Westerns: DOWN MEXICO WAY(1941) and THE BIG SOMBRERO (1949).


Celebrating California life in the mid-19th century with music, dance, food, crafts, reenactors, presentations by local historians, and hands-on activities.  Heritage Hill Historical Park.  949-923-2230.


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, GUNSMOKE, THE REBEL, and MARSHALL DILLON, which is the syndication title for the original half-hour GUNSMOKE.

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.

TVLAND has dropped GUNSMOKE after all these years, but still shows four episodes of BONANZA every weekday.

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, 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,RAWHIDE, THE RIFLEMAN, THE REBEL, 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.


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.

That's about it for now.  I've been working all week on a doumentary about early TV comedians, and didn't think I'd get half this much written!

Happy Trails,


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

Monday, April 23, 2012


Yesterday and today, Saturday April 21st and Sunday April 22nd, thousand of devotees of cowboy poetry and western music, literature, movies and television poured into Melody Ranch for the 19th Annual Cowboy Festival.  What started as a Cowboy Poetry event at Santa Clarita High School got ‘Earthquaked out’ in 1994.  The Veluzat family, who own and have operated Melody Ranch since they bought it from Gene Autry in 1990, invited the displaced poets to hold their event at the ranch, and they’ve been doing it there ever since.  The event gets bigger and more enjoyable, every year.

The ranch opened to filming in 1915, was later bought by Monogram Studios, and sold to Gene Autry in 1952.  Over 750 ‘B’ westerns were shot there, as well as many ‘A’s, and countless TV episodes – over 2000 productions in all.  The main western street served as Dodge City in GUNSMOKE, and the main street of DEADWOOD, and just finished up as the primary location of Quentin Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED.  

The New Livery Stable

As Melody Ranch is only opened to the public this one week-end a year, it is an event not to be missed, and I was particularly eager to see what changes Tarantino, who reportedly had the ranch sewn up for six months, had wrought.  Happily, the changes made were so in keeping with the place that they were all but unnoticeable.  The biggest addition, right at the beginning of the street, is a livery stable.  The other addition – and I’d never have noticed it if a man who’d helped build it hadn’t pointed it out to me – is to the Adams Hotel.  A balcony has been added to the second story.  Overall, everything looked just a bit sturdier – not ‘newer’, because they’re expert at hiding any inappropriate newness, but somehow more substantial.

Hotel with new balcony

That livery was occupied by a group of Buffalo Soldiers, including Justin Collins, who is pictured showing an officer’s saddle.  He also told a joke about the difference in design between the enlisted man’s and the officer’s saddle, and if there was any way to clean it up, I’d repeat it. 

The street was full of entertainers, from lariat-spinners to fiddlers.  The shops sold a wide variety of art, hats, and anything you could make out of leather. 

LAREDO star William Smith, set up in a saloon, did land-office business selling his book of poetry, sharing the space with VENTURES guitarist Nokie Edwards. 

Nokie Edwards and William Smith
picture by Mike Gaglio

Bobbi Jean and Jim Bell

Across the street was the Buckaroo Bookshop, run by Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell, whose OutWest store in Newhall is a hub for western literature and music.  They’ve taken on a massive project: identifying all of the cowboys in a photo taken at the Madison Square Garden Rodeo in 1944!  Among authors out on the patio was Peter Sherayko.  His TOMBSTONE: THE GUNS AND GEAR, details all of the weapons and props he provided for that film, and his new book, THE FRINGE OF HOLLYWOOD explains, as its subtitle says, THE ART OF MAKING A WESTERN. 

Peter Sherayko

Among the authors signing books inside, and taking part in panels, were Roy Roger’s daughter Cheryl Rogers-Barnett, JR Sanders, Troy Andrew Smith, Larry Kenneth Potts, and C. Courtney Joyner, whose THE WESTERNERS is an unbeatable collection of interviews with Western-makers, in front of and behind the camera. 

JR Sanders and C. Courtney Joyner

The Children’s Corral featured all manner of arts and crafts like wool spinning, and money-makin’ propositions like gold-panning. 

Among non-musical performers was the always impressive and amusing champion quick-draw artist and gun-slinger, Joey Dillon.  Having trained Josh Brolin with a gun for JONAH HEX, his behind-the-scenes training will soon be demonstrated in the upcoming LOOPER, DUKE, GANGSTER SQUAD and THE BIG VALLEY remake.   He’s also working at putting together a series for the History Channel, which he describes as, “basically WILD WEST TECH and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE squeezed together.” 

Joey Dillon about to shoot an apple off a volunteer's head

There were five performance spaces, from the intimate to the Texas-size, featuring poets like Waddie Mitchell, Gary Robertson and Doris Daley.  They alternated with music acts like The Quebe Sisters Band, Don Edwards, John Bergstrom and Cow Bop. 

Cow Bop performs

The Gold Rush Food Court featured all manner of barbecue, Mexican and Native American food, and the Visalia Cowboy Cultural Committee was present with their famous cowboy peach cobbler and cowboy coffee.  I tried an Indian dog, which was a hot-dog cooked in fry-bread; like a corn-dog, only not rancidly sweet.  At the food court I ran into Jeffrey Richardson, who curated the wonderful new Colt Firearms show at the Autry, and actor Mike Gaglio, who was enjoying his last day wearing a scruffy western beard, knowing he’d have to shave it on Sunday, to play a military part in a web series.

Costume designer Karin McKechnie

As always, my favorite part of the event was walking the Western street, strolling along the boardwalk, trying to recognize where things were shot, admiring the folks who came in costume, the horses, and odd pieces of rolling stock.  It was a great event, and I only wish I could have come back on Sunday to hear more of the music. 


Just as it has been since 1923, RAMONA, California’s official outdoor play, will be presented at the Ramona Bowl Amphitheatre in Hemet, California.  Now in its 89th season, RAMONA is a grand tradition, based on the novel written by Helen Hunt Jackson in 1884.  Her intention was to draw attention to the plight of California Indians in the same way that Harriet Beecher Stowe exposed the evils of slavery with UNCLE TOM’S CABIN.  A work of fiction, but set in real locations, RAMONA was a publishing phenomena, and it was decided to present a play based on the book, in a natural outdoor setting, in the area where the story takes place. 

It’s a remarkably colorful presentation, with about 350 participants, and only the two leads are usually professional actors.  Some locals have taken part, in various roles and positions onstage and behind the scenes, for decades.  Among the famous actors who have taken part are GONE WITH THE WIND villain Victor Jory, who played the lead early in his career, and was associated with the show for years, and Raquel Welch, who played Ramona in 1959.  To learn more, and buy tickets, call 800-645-4465, or go HERE.


If you want to smell the black powder, feel the thunder of cannon, and be transported back to America’s greatest inner-conflict, visit the Pierce College Farm Center as hundreds of re-enactors recreate The Civil War.

Whether you want to give your kids a stirring lesson in living history, or immerse yourself in another time, you can’t beat it. You’ll see cavalry charges, artillery barrages, and infantry assaults.  Each day will feature demonstrations of Victorian dancing, military drill, and skills and crafts from the era.   And you’ll see President Lincoln deliver his Gettysburg Address!  I’ve attended for the past two years, and enjoyed it immensely both times.  To learn more, and order tickets, go here:

To save 25%, use this promotional code: FAMILY.


I am hugely jealous of anyone who gets to attend the event Sara Monacelli is organizing on May 11-13, in Orvieto.  In addition to a great line-up of films to be screened, here are some of the guests who will be making personal appearances:  composer Ennio Morricone; Spaghetti Western stars Tomas Milian, Fabio Testi and Gianni Garko; director Giancarlo Santi (The Grand Duel); screenwriter Sergio Donati (Once Upon A Time In The West); editor Nino Baragli (all of Leone’s Westerns!); and producer Claudio Mancini (many Leone films).  For more information, go here:


Continuing with their monthly What Is A Western? Saturday series, curator Jeffrey Richardson will be showing THE GUNFIGHTER (1950) on June 9th; CAT BALLOU (1965) on July 14th; BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969) on August 11th; MARK OF ZORRO (1940) on September 8th; 3:10 TO YUMA (1957) on October 13th; ONE EYED JACKS (1961) on November 10th; THE TALL T (1957) on January 19th 2013; and LAST OF THE MOHICANS on February 8th, 2013.  All prints will be 35mm, unless we’re informed otherwise.  I’ll be talking about the rapid disappearance of 35mm film in next week’s Round-up.

And coming on Saturday, September 22nd, the Autry will salute the 75th Anniversary of THE VIRGINIAN TV series.  Cast members scheduled to attend are James Drury, Randy Boone, Gary Clarke, Sara Lane, Diane Roter, Roberta Shore and Don Quine, and the moderator will author Boyd Magers.


On Sunday, April 29th, catch a pair of 1970s Clint Eastwood westerns that are rarely shown on the big screen anymore: HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, directed by Clint, and JOE KIDD, directed by John Sturges from an Elmore Leonard script.

That’s all for today’s Round-up – I’ll be working on a comedy documentary most of week!

Happy Trails,


All Original Material Copyright April 2012 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 15, 2012


John Ford Point, Monument Valley

THE LONE RANGER is currently on location in Monument Valley.  Director Gore Verbinski, Johnny Depp (Tonto) and Armie Hammer (Lone Ranger) are working among the buttes immortalized by John Ford in STAGECOACH, FORT APACHE, SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON, MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, THE SEARCHERS, and several others.

Leon Rippy in YOUNG GUNS II

Leon Rippy, late of ALCATRAZ and DEADWOOD, plays Collins in the re-telling of the story of the masked man.  Leon’s wife Carol tells me, “Monument Valley is incredible! The Navajo people are everywhere, many in their native attire. The Tribal Leaders came out with their families and blessed the film. Johnny spent time with them, truly interested in their issues.”  More updates to come!

GOOD FOR NOTHING is a damned good Western!  It’s a five year labor-of-love by newlyweds who decided to make a movie instead of buying a home.  If it does half as well as it should at the box-office, they’ll be buying a mansion.   Writer-director Mike Wallis and producer-star Inge Rademeyer met working at Peter Jackson’s celebrated Weta Digital, the New Zealand FX house responsible for some of the astonishing sights in RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, AVATAR, and the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy among many others.  For three years they spent their vacations western location-hunting throughout New Zealand, and it was worth it. 

At a time when film stories have become maddeningly convoluted, GOOD FOR NOTHING’s plot is refreshingly direct.  Englishwoman Isabella Montgomery (Inge Rademeyer) is on her way to her uncle’s ranch when she witnesses a killing, and is kidnapped by the man who did it (Cohen Holloway).  The man, in a nod to Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name is simply The Man.  Cowboy heroes traditionally are men of few words, but The Man takes taciturn to a level that approaches William S. Hart.  He says not a word for the first sixteen minutes of the film, and he doesn’t say anything to Isabella for the first 28 minutes, although they are together almost continually from the moment they meet.   And when they finally do speak, here is their first exchange:

Isabella: What do you plan to do with me?
The Man: Give you a poke.

And yes, that’s what propels much of the story.  Because The Man finds to his humiliation that he has a…problem, and captor and captive travel together throughout the West looking for a cure.  So no, it’s not even slightly politically correct, and no, you might not want to take a young kid, unless you want to explain the oblique references to erectile dysfunction. 

The Man is not someone who will ever say a word, or even throw a fist, when a bullet will do.   Holloway is completely convincing as a lightning-fast and deadly shot, and one of the men he kills is a lawman.  That brings his sheriff brother, a deputy friend, and a handful (fistful?) of scurvy gunmen on the trail of The Man, and what they suppose to be The Whore he’s traveling with.  And I don’t think it will be considered a spoiler to say that as the Isabella and The Man travel together, against all her intentions, a romance blooms.  

Writer-director Wallis’ script crackles with crisp but natural dialogue and sly humor; ala Lubitsch, he respects the audience, and expects them to catch the slight inflections in voice, facial expression or gesture to understand things would be much more coarse and less funny if they were directly stated.  The infrequency of the vulgarity is what makes it so funny when it does occur.  His direction of actors and staging of action seems deceptively effortless, the result of a clear vision of his story and characters down to the slightest detail.

Director of Photography Mathew Knight, who has shot documentaries and commercials worldwide, does a stunning job of turning New Zealand into the America West, capturing broad vistas, desert, and rock formations that bring Monument Valley to mind.  The western town they visit at night is notable for being lit believably, with neither too much light nor impenetrable shadows.  Isabella is photographed attractively without being over-glamorized; not surprisingly she looks more feminine and attractive as she progressively wears less and less clothes – though it’s nothing revealing by modern standards.  Actually, one of the most pleasing images is of the two riding double, Isabella behind The Man, her long petticoat covering the rump of their horse, whose tails juts out just below the hem.

In the silent movie that GOOD FOR NOTHING is for long stretches, John Psathas’ score is soaring, stirring and dramatic.  At times it suggests Morricone, but without aping him, and the Elmer Bernstein influence is there as well.  And speaking of sound, every gunshot is so clear that you can hear the metal clink of the hammer hitting the shell.  The combination of that audio with the haze of black-powder smoke subtly underlines the seriousness, as does the fact that The Man frequently takes time to do something rarely seen in even the best Westerns: he reloads!

While much has been made of GOOD FOR NOTHING’s perceived homage to Sergio Leone’s work, to me it is much more reminiscent of the better American Westerns of the early 70’s, especially Don Siegel’s TWO MULES FOR SISTER and Richard Sarafian’s THE MAN WHO LOVED CAT DANCING.  Not that GOOD FOR NOTHING is imitative of either, but it manages to tread the same tricky line of balancing tough action, romance and humor.  And speaking of humor, the depraved and inept posse that trails the couple could have come straight out of a Burt Kennedy Western like HANNIE CAULDER.   

The success of such an intimate story rises and falls on the two romantic leads, and whether the audience cares about what happens to them.  Happily, Cohen Holloway, a star in New Zealand television, and South African-born Inge Rademeyer, who is making her feature debut, are both up to the task.  They are natural and believable, attractive (except for that disconcerting cut across his nose) and at times admirable. 

I don’t know yet what the distribution plans are world-wide – I know it played a festival in New York City last month – but I’ll find out.  It’s well worth seeking out.


The History Channel miniseries, toplining Kevin Costner as Devil Anse Hatfield, will play for three nights over Memorial Day Weekend.  Here’s a first look!


Saturday and Sunday, April 21st and 22nd you can stroll the streets of Melody Ranch, where all the greats, from Gene Autry to Matt Dillon to Maverick, to the DEADWOOD folks, and most recently Quentin Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED cast have trod.  This is a wonderful not-to-be-missed event. 

Admission is $20 a day for adults, $10 for kids, with discounts for two days.  There will be a wide variety of musical performances at four stages.  The Melody Ranch Museum will be open to give you a peek into movie history.  Every manner of Western art, crafts, clothing, boots, and hats imaginable will be available.

Authors of Western fiction and fact will be signing and selling their tomes.   Entertainers like champion gun-spinner Joey Dillon, saloon pianist Professor David Bourne and magician Pop Haydn will be performing.  Cowboy poets and story-tellers will be rhyming words and spinning yarns.  And there will be a ton of activities aimed at kids of all ages.

On Thursday, April 19th -- no admission for this – at Old Town Newhall on Main St. from 7 PM to 11PM, join the party filled with Music, Dancing, Food Trucks, Western vendors, and the unveiling of two new Stars in Old Town Newhall. The plaques for the new inductees into the Walk of Western Stars will be unveiled at 7:30 p.m. on the West side of Main Street. The inductees are Glenn Ford, who will be represented by his son Peter Ford, and Oscar-winning editor Joel Cox, who will attend.
On Friday, April 20th, at 3:00 p.m. at the Repertory East Playhouse 24266 Main St. in Old Town Newhall, join Peter Ford, son of the great Glenn Ford, and author of Glenn Ford – His life and Movies.  They’ll be screening "The Rounders" and afterwards Peter will discuss his father's life and movie career.

And there’s so much more!  For details and directions, go HERE. 

That’s all for this weekend!  Next weekend, among other things, we’ll look at the fight to save 35mm film, which is getting buried by digital projection.

Happy Trails,


All Original Content Copyright April 2012 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Writer – Producer Andrew J. Fenady is probably best known for creating the series THE REBEL, and producing BRANDED.  Others might argue his claim to fame was writing and producing the John Wayne classic CHISUM.  He also turned Wayne’s HONDO into a series.  He is proud to have written, and continues to write, in many genres, from western to mystery to horror.  He also writes for many different media – TV, film, short story, novel, stage play and radio play.  And his radio plays are not from the ‘golden age’; he’s writing them to be performed on-stage right now. 

This is the second part of my interview with A.J.  If you haven’t read part one, please go HERE.  As part one of my interview ended, A.J. had related how a script for a Western movie entitled RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE had disappeared from his office.  “Well in walks Chuck Connors a couple of hours later.  He slams the script on the desk and said, ‘Goddamnit, I’ve got to do this picture!’”  At the time, Chuck was starring in the series BRANDED for A.J.

A.J. FENADY:  I said, ‘Well, I don’t know if we can put it together.’ He said, ‘Try!’  One of the people who was instrumental in getting it done the way that it was done, at Columbia, was Bill Todman.  Harris Katleman called me and he said, ‘How much can you make this picture for?’  I said I can make it for five-hundred thousand.  He said, ‘Okay.  We got you six.’  So we did it with $600,000, and we didn’t spend it all.  And we did it with Chuck and with all that cast.  (Michael Rennie, Kathryn Hays, Joan Blondell, Gloria Grahame, Bill Bixby, Claude Akins, Gary Merrill, etc.) They play it all the time – I made an awful lot of money from that picture, and will continue to make it – I’ll tell you that story some time. 

RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE villains Bill Bixby, Claude Akins and Michael Rennie

HENRY PARKE: And you have my absolute favorite actresses of all time, Gloria Grahame, in that. 

A.J.: I’d hired an assistant director named Tony Ray.  And he came to me, kind of all shriveled up and said, ‘Listen, there’s a part in here that my wife could play.’  And I said, ‘Well, uh…who’s your wife?’  ‘Gloria Grahame.’  I said, ‘You’re married to Gloria Grahame?  Tell her to come on in.’ And what he didn’t tell me, the sonuvabitch, was that she was pregnant.  If you look real close, we never shot her stomach.  But I couldn’t resist, because she was just so damned good. 

H: And five years later you used her again in your supernatural western, BLACK NOON.

A.J.: There was a part; I didn’t think she’d play it.  She didn’t have many lines, but it was a good part.  I said, let’s try and get Gloria Grahame, and somebody said, ‘She won’t do this.’  I said we don’t know unless we try it – all she can do is say no.  But she said yes, and she came to the rehearsals, and she was just wonderful.  She was there all the time. 

H: When I was at NYU Film School, a friend called and asked if I’d like to work with a film legend, but I couldn’t tell anyone.  He told me to go to the Grad School editing room.  As I’m about to walk in, my friend grabs me – he knows I’m madly in love with Gloria Grahame – and makes me swear that I will not mention her name.  Then he lets me in, and there is Nicholas Ray, and his son Tony Ray, both of whom had been married to Gloria Grahame.  And I repaired torn sprockets for Nick, who wanted a couple of reels of his work-in-progress ready for a screening.

A.J.: I never even knew that they (Nick and Tony) ever got together afterwards.  (Note: Nick was married to Gloria when he caught her in bed with his son, Tony.  She eventually married Tony, with a marriage to screenwriter Cy Howard in between.) I’m happy to hear that.  Even though it’s a strange story.  It’s almost as strange as the Rod Cameron story.  He divorced his wife, and married his wife’s mother!  And they lived happily ever after!

H: BRANDED was not originally your baby.  How did you get involved, and was it already on the air when you did?

A.J. : No it wasn’t on the air.  I’ll tell you what happened.  I had an independent deal with United Artists for television and features, and I went over to Paramount, because that was my favorite lot, because of Frank Caffey, who was in charge of physical.  I had an office, and in the next office there were these people, and I kept hearing them hollering and cursing and banging against the wall.  I said, what the Hell is going on over there?   Well, it was the BRANDED outfit.  And they were really in trouble.  They’d shot two or three of their episodes, and they couldn’t even cut them together.  They had a producer, may he rest in peace, named Cecil Barker, who specialized in comedy.  And for some reason they had made him the producer, and he and Chuck (Connors) were at each other’s throats.  It was just terrible.  I get a call from a fellah at Proctor and Gamble, which had been one of the sponsors of THE REBEL.  ‘Harris Kattleman will call you before the end of business today.’  He came in and said, ‘You’ve got to save our ass.  We can’t go on like this.  We can’t even go on the air with the shows we’ve got.  We want you to take it over.’  I said, ‘Harris, I’ve got a deal over here.’  He said, ‘This is how much we can pay you.  Will you do it?’  It wasn’t really a question of money.  I wasn’t really happy at United Artists anyhow – but that’s another story.  So I went to United Artists and said, ‘Can I get out of this deal?  Please?’  And they said okay.  But before that Harris said, ‘Come on over and talk to Chuck.’  I said, ‘No.  Have Chuck come over and talk to me.  Let’s get started the right way.’  So he came over and put on the act – ‘Oh, how do you do, Mr. Fenady?  It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Fenady.’  All that kinda crap.  And I said, ‘Look Chuck, I just want to ask you one question.  We go into production, who’s the boss?’  He said, ‘You are.’  I said, ‘Okay, just remember one thing: you came to see me; I didn’t go to see you.’  And you know what?  Chuck was, in many ways, crazy.  But he was also intelligent.  You could sit down and talk to him.  And if he had a point of view, and you had a point of view, and you’re point of view was better, he would acknowledge that.  He’d say, ‘Alright, we’ll do it.’  I loved working with him, and I loved him. 

H: How extensive were your changes to the original concept of BRANDED?

AJ: Well, not really to the concept, but to the style of writing.  First of all I hated that ‘butch’ haircut that he had.  I said, ‘Chuck, you look like Lurch!’  You remember Lurch in THE ADDAMS FAMILY?  But we couldn’t do anything about it for a while, because that’s the way that he was, and we didn’t have time to let his hair grow.  But after the first season, when we did RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE, I said now you’ve got a chance to let your hair grow, and make it nice and curly.  And he did.  And in the second season he looked more like a leading man than he did like Lurch.

Connors disgraced -- note 'Lurch' hair.

Let me give you an example (of the writing style).  In a script that somebody had written, Chuck Connors walks into a saloon and orders a beer.  And there’s a free lunch there, with the mustard and all that other kind of accoutrement.   And one of the two guys, it was Pat Conway who had all the dialog, started telling the whole Goddam story.  He’s a coward and he did this and he ran away…  Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.  And I said, fellahs, come on!  Here’s how we’re gonna shoot the scene.  He just whispers something to the guy he’s with.  Then he walks up to the bar, Chuck is standing there.  He reaches into the mustard, and he paints a yellow streak down Chuck’s back.  Chuck turns around and punches him.  And that’s the kind of thing that I inaugurated in the series.  When something can be covered by one or two words, don’t push.  A John Wayne kind of a phrase.  We eliminated a lot of the dialog, and relied on what people could see on the screen and the punch line.  Which was often followed by a punch.             

H: It’s like you said about Irvin Kershner; you started in silent pictures too, in a sense.  Do you think it was a help with BRANDED, that you had a theme song that laid out the plot every time? 

 AJ:  Yeah, absolutely.  Wait, my damn cigar went out – too much talking and not enough inhaling.  Alright, songs.  Now look, THE REBEL told the story of Johnny Yuma when he roamed through the west.  “He was panther quick and leather tough, ’cause he figured that he'd been pushed enough, the rebel.  Johnny Yuma.”  Well, you know a lot about him, right?  Okay, well I didn’t write the song to BRANDED, but it carried out that same concept.  And RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE, which I think is the best song that I ever wrote the lyrics (to); You Can’t Go Home Again.  “A man will come home to the place of his youth, in search of the things left behind.  He looks for a place, for a smile on a face, but the last mile’s the hardest to find.”  That tells the story of the guy, you know?  “I know the high country, where wild eagles fly, the desolate no-paths terrain.  But now that my years are all winters I try to call back the summers in vain.”  If you don’t know what that’s about, there’s something wrong!  The same with CHISUM.  “Chisum, John Chisum.  Weary.  Saddle-worn.  Chisum, John Chisum.  Can you still keep goin’ on?  They’re bettin’ you can’t make it, but you bet your life they’re wrong.  So keep ridin’ towards the Pecos, to find where you belong.”  Hey, that’s it.

H: And it’s great to have William Conrad speaking that.

AJ:  Mmm-hmm.  What a great guy – he came in one day and did that.  One day, Hell – he did it in one hour.  I said to him, Bill, do you think you ought to put a little more Texas in that?  He said, ‘You listen to it.  There’s quite a bit of Texas in there.’  He knew what he was doing.

H: Radio’s Matt Dillon: he ought to.  Midway through the first season of BRANDED, you switched from black and white to color. 

Chuck Connors, A. J. Fenady on right

AJ: It wasn’t even half way.  We did four episodes, and I wrote three of them, and then they had three different writers writing a thing called THE MISSION, the three-parter.  And I went to Bill Todman again.  And I said, if you can get me $25,000 more than is in the budget, we can release this as a feature, and I’ll shoot the damned thing in color.  So he went and got $25,000, the picture was released by Columbia as BROKEN SABRE, and it made a ton of money.  So from then on I said we’re going to shoot everything in color.  ‘What about the opening?’  I said I don’t; I have to think about it.  Somebody said, ‘That was shot in color.  We were going to shoot it, and Chuck Connors said, let’s shoot it in color.  We’ll  put it on in black and white, but we’ll have it in color.  So it was already in color, and we just shot the color version of (the show) from then on.

H: He was a smart guy.

AJ: I told you that he was intelligent.  He was ornery sometimes, but intelligent. 

H: I know that at Warner Brothers Television, they dreaded switching their westerns to color because they relied so much on stock footage. 

AJ: You know what the old saying was, about those black and white Warner Brothers shows?  If you see more than four people in the picture, it’s stock.  (laughs)  They used more damned stock than anyone else who ever did a television show. 

H: That’s what Ty Hardin (BRONCO) told me.  But you didn’t use that much stock, did you?

AJ: I don’t think I used 100 feet of stock in all the things I did.  We shot it.

H: With the BRANDED three-parter, THE MISSION, Jason McCord becomes a secret agent for President Grant.  Was this story-line the result of the huge success of the James Bond movies at the time?

Leonid Brezhnev meets Connors

AJ: No.  You know, I turned down THE WILD, WILD WEST, because I said, this is James Bond as a cartoon, and I don’t want to do it.  (THE MISSION) had nothing to do with James Bond or any of that.  It was just part of the story.

H: You’ve had two very successful series in a format that’s pretty-much disappeared, the half-hour drama.  Do you think the Western was particularly well suited for the half hour?

AJ: I’ll tell you something.  After I did CHISUM I got a call.  They said well, you probably wouldn’t be interested in doing television.  Let me tell you something.  Ernest Hemingway was a pretty good writer.  He not only wrote novels, he wrote novellas, and he also did short stories.  Hell, I’ll do a short story.  And the Western can certainly be adapted as a short story in a half hour format, and as far as the hour goes, that was a novella.  Either way; it just took a little bit longer, you had a little more money to work with.  So HONDO was a pleasure to do. 

H: Speaking of HONDO, THE REBEL and BRANDED and HONDO were all stories about men who were essentially rootless loners, who’d suffered a great personal tragedy and loss – it’s also true of the man in RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE.  They often seem to be in conflict with arbitrary and corrupt authority.  Are these themes that you were consciously going to?

AJ: Not in all of them.  For instance, in CHISUM, when L.G. Murphy (Forrest Tucker) came into town, and Ben Johnson kept saying, ‘There’s another of L.G. Murphy’s (gun)men, Duke said, ‘Listen, he’s not bothering us.  It’s a free country.  Leave him alone, until he does something that affects us, or breaks the law.’  So I didn’t always do that.  But I think there was an unconscious kind of a thing.  Howard Hawks was the same way.  In Howard Hawk’s movie RED RIVER, Harry Carey Sr. has a line that goes something like this:  There’s three times when a man has a right to howl at the moon: when his first children are born, when he gets married, and when he finishes a job he had no business starting in the first place.  So that was kind of a template.  Finally, even in CHISUM, it got to a point when Ben Johnson said, ‘Now what are you going to do?’  ‘What I would have done twenty-five years ago:  break out the Winchesters.’  You know, there’s a time when you can’t sit by and let somebody get away with something, even if the law won’t stop them, if you can stop them.  If it’s part of your code to stop ‘em, stop ‘em. 

H: Also in BRANDED and HONDO, the plight of the Indian, especially the Apache, at the hands of dishonest whites, and the Government military, is an often-seen theme.  Is this something you felt strongly about?

AJ: Well, there are two sides to every story.  The Apaches weren’t all saints, either.  They cut off their wife’s noses, and they were slavers.  But Duke, in HONDO, identified with the Apaches, and I kind of carried that theme out, doing the series.  When somebody said to him, ‘One day there’ll be no need for reservations,’ he said, ‘There’s no need for ‘em now.’  And I still think there’s no need for them now.  All they’ve done is teach people to rely on the government: it’s usually a failure.  Government can’t do it.  They don’t gain any independence.  They become subservient.

H: One thing that people like about Westerns is that they tend to be about black hats and white hats.  You know who the good guy and bad guy is, and things will work out.  But in your shows, many of the stories are based on tough moral choices, where the answers are not that obvious. 

AJ: And sometimes you really don’t know the answers.  For example, in RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE, when he leaves, you don’t know whether he came back (for the woman) or whether he didn’t.  And at the end, modern day, when Arthur O’Connell is talking to James MacArthur, he asks MacArthur, ‘Do you think he ever came back?’  And he says, ‘No, like the song says, you can’t go home again.’  And he says, ‘Well, that’s just a song, and home is just a word.’  So you don’t know whether he came back or whether he didn’t.  Actually you can do a sequel to that. 

On CHISUM set, Johnn Wayne, Michael Wayne and A.J. Fenady go over the script.

H: That’s true.  Were you planning on a sequel?

AJ: No, I’m not much for sequels.  In writing novels, yes.  With THE MAN WITH BOGART’S FACE I wrote a sequel.  Another novel that I did, A. NIGHT IN BEVERLY HILLS and A. NIGHT IN HOLLYWOOD FOREVER, that was a sequel.  They want me to do more of those, but for some reason…  Well, for one reason, the mail building in that, the Writers & Artists Building, has now been taken over, and the whole thing has changed, and that was supposed to be his headquarters.  I could use it, but right now I’m busy doing other things. 

H: Before we leave the Western series, what series did you like other than your own?  Did you watch WAGON TRAIN --?

AJ:  Not so much WAGON TRAIN, but I loved Clint Walker.  I thought he was great as Cheyenne Bodie, and I talk to him at least once a month even now.  That was it as far as western series go.  As far as I’m concerned, the best western features, you’d have to start with STAGECOACH and go to RED RIVER, THE SEARCHERS.  And also THE PROFESSIONALS was damned good.  It was later, it was in the 20th century, but that was a helluvah movie.  They usually say don’t judge a book by its movie.  But very often the movies, as far as scripts go, improved on the novels.  It wasn’t a western, but LAURA was a better movie than it was a novel.  I think that RED RIVER – you know, I love Borden Chase – but the script was better than the novel, if you read it.  And THE PROFESSIONALS, A MULE FOR THE MARQUESA, the script was a lot better.  So sometimes you can improve on it.  First of all, you’re forced to consolidate.  You don’t have 400 pages or 300 pages.  You’ve got to tell the story in an hour and a half.  And you’re forced to make it tighter.  Those are my favorite features, as far as westerns go. 

H: Did you ever read James M. Cain’s novel, MILDRED PIERCE?

AJ: No, but I read the novel DOUBLE INDEMNITY.   The script was ten times as good. 

H: The Raymond Chandler script; it’s great.  The thing with MILDRED PIERCE, which I think is a great movie.  In the novel, there’s no murder.  That was created because the movie really needed something.  In 1967 you produced the series HONDO, based on the John Wayne movie.  Was adapting the film to a series your idea?

CHISUM - Glenn Corbett, Ben Johnson, Wayne

AJ: Yes, it was my idea.  First of all, Michael (Wayne) and I became good friends; we used to work out together at the gymnasium at Paramount. And he loved THE REBEL, and Duke loved THE REBEL – he used to watch it every Sunday night when he was home.  So I said to Allan Courtney, who was in charge of television at MGM, ‘How would you like to partner in with John Wayne and do HONDO?’  He said, ‘Well, I saw that picture a long time ago.  Let’s run it.’  We ran it, and he said, ‘How the Hell do you make a series out of that?’  And I said, ‘Well, I know how to do it.  Would you be interested?’  He said, ‘Hell yes!’  So I wrote a format.  And took it over to Michael and said, ‘You want to make some money, and perpetuate HONDO?  We’ll do it as a television series.’  And I gave him the material.  It was thirty or forty pages, and he told it to Duke.  And Duke says ‘This is the guy who did THE REBEL.’  I had met him a couple of times.  What happened was, Otho Lovering was my editor.  He edited a lot of John Ford pictures.  He edited STAGECOACH; he edited THE LONG VOYAGE HOME.  One day, we’re doing THE REBEL, I’m in the office, and I’ve got the door open as I always did.  And Otho from outside says, ‘Hey, there’s someone out here who’d like to come in and say hello.’  I say, ‘Well bring him in!’  So I look, and there’s little Otho – he stood about five feet tall – and there’s John Wayne, who filled the whole damned doorway.  And he said, ‘See, Duke.  That’s what I was talking about.’  I had a HUGE picture of Duke.  It went from the ceiling all the way down to the floor, as Hondo.  And after we shook hands he said, ‘You know, that’s one of my favorite pictures.  The rights come back to me in two years.’  And I never forgot that.  Well two and a half years later I said, that’s when I was at MGM, and that’s how HONDO came about.  The change I made was making the setting not some lady’s cabin out in Apache land, but that she and her husband ran the general store, inside of a fort.  So I had the whole damned fort to work with.  And there was a wonderful fort at MGM on Lot 3. 

H: Now did HONDO lead more or less directly to your writing CHISUM? 

AJ: They asked if I would accept Bob Morrison, who was Duke’s brother, as associate producer.  Well, he and I got to be very close.  He was a wonderful, wonderful gentle man.  He was a tough guy, but he was very gentle.  And he kept saying, ‘A.J., write something for Duke.  He needs something good.’  And I always had this idea about CHISUM.  And I wrote a format, a story outline, and I called Michael (Wayne) and I said I’d like to come over and talk to you about something for Duke.  It’s called CHISUM.’  He said, ‘Oh, the Chisholm Trail.’  I said, ‘No.  That was Jesse Chisholm, who was part Comanche, and this is John Simpson Chisum, the cattle drive from Texas to New Mexico.’  He said, ‘Oh.  That do sound like Duke, don’t it?’  Anyhow, I went over there, and that’s a long story you can read about in my book when I write it, but that’s how that came about: Bob Morrison via Michael Wayne via the Duke, and we did CHISUM. 

H: I did not know that John Chisum was a real man.  Because CHISUM is your telling of the Lincoln County Wars.  How close did you stay to the actual history?

AJ: Well, when somebody would say something (was inaccurate), Duke would say, ‘Damn it, we’re not making a documentary, we’re making a movie!’  I took some liberties.  (laughs)  Matter of fact I took quite a few liberties.  But the basic characters were all there: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett and Henry Tunstall, L.G. Murphy and all the rest of them, they were all involved in the Lincoln County War, and so was Chisum. 

H: You wrote and produced CHISUM.  As a producer, how much could you actually control John Wayne? 

AJ: Who wanted to control John Wayne?  For cryin’ out loud, if he didn’t know what was good for him, nobody did.  He had an instinct.  He was not someone who would say something (onscreen) if it did not need to be said.  And he cut himself out of a scene between Billy the Kid and Henry Tunstall, when he was supposed to be standing there -- he had one or two lines.  He said, ‘I don’t need to be in there.  It’s their scene.  It’s their part of the plot.  Let’s forget my being in it.’  And I said okay.  Another line I had, when Murphy started a store, and Duke and Tunstall say, well maybe we’ll start a store.  And Forrest Tucker, L.G. Murphy says, ‘Don’t tell me you’re going to start a bank too.’  And Duke’s line, as I wrote it, was, ‘Why not?  All it takes is money.  And I’ve got plenty.’  He said, ‘McFenady, I don’t need to say I’ve got plenty.  They know I’ve got plenty.’  So then later on, when they were going to start their store and their bank, Andrew Prine, said to him, ‘What do you know about running a store?’  Then Andrew Prine quoted Chisum:  ‘All it takes is money.’  And Duke said, ‘Yeah.  Mine.’  So that worked out very well. 

H: So John Wayne called you McFenady?

AJ: Not all the time, but most of the time.  I never asked him why.  I figured if he wanted me to know, he would tell me.  When there were people around he’d say, ‘Hey, McFenady this and McFenady that.’  He was the giant of all giants.  Very good to me, and to a lot of other people.

H:  In CHISUM you had a particularly strong supporting cast.  Forrest Tucker, Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine, Christopher George, Brice Cabot, Patrick Knowles.  As well as a lot of familiar faces from the Ford and Hawks stock company.  How did you go about assembling all of them?

AJ: You know what?  All you had to do was say I’m doing a picture with John Wayne; you want to be in it?  And the answer was yes.  ‘Cause who the Hell didn’t want to do a picture with Wayne?  Well, I tell you who didn’t want to be in a picture with him.  Who was in THE HELLFIGHTERS with him?  Katherine Ross.  He wanted her to be in TRUE GRIT, to play the girl, but she didn’t want to do a John Wayne picture.  She wanted to do a Katherine Ross picture, so she turned the thing down.  But it turned out very, very well because that little girl that played in TRUE GRIT, Kim Darby, was terrific.  The whole picture was much better than the remake.  I couldn’t understand half the things the guys were saying in the remake.  They were mumbling in their beards and mumbling in their hats.  When John Wayne said something, you didn’t have to say, ‘What did he say?’ 

H:  Director Andrew V. McLaglen, son of Wayne’s frequent co-star Victor, directed Wayne many times.  What was he like to work with?

AJ:  He was wonderful, just wonderful.  I talk to him at least once a month, too.  He’s in his nineties now.  He did over 100 GUNSMOKES and 115 HAVE GUN WILL TRAVELS.  He knew what he was doing.  Another thing was, he shot the script.  He didn’t screw around on the stage and say, let’s try this and let’s try that.  He read the script, and if he had any suggestions he made it before we got there.  He respected the script, and so did Duke.  And Duke said to me more than once, ‘You know McFenady, this is the most pleasant picture I ever made.’  He didn’t say it was the best, but he said it was the most pleasant.  And we just got along famously.  We were going to do something else too, but it just never happened. 

H: You had made a ton of Westerns by the time you did CHISUM, but was that the first one you’d done in Mexico? 

AJ: Yes.  The thing was, Duke owned Mexico.  He had shot six or seven pictures down there, and he owned the street at Durango, he owned land there, and he owned every damned thing.  And there was never any trouble at all.  I’d be riding in an open car with Duke, down the streets of Durango, and people are hanging out the windows yelling, ‘John Whine!  John Whine!’  He could have run for governor or president or what have you, and would have got elected by 99%.  And Batjac had kind of a formula for the Duke.  We could have shot it here in the United States, but he wanted to shoot it down there, he felt comfortable down there.  He’d bring his yacht there, the Wild Goose.  (laughs) Not in Durango, because it was in the middle of Mexico.  But he’d go to Mazatlan once in a while when we were preparing.  By the time we did CHISUM I got to know him very, very well.  Because I was not a part of it, but I was on the periphery of all those other pictures before.  I was on HELLFIGHTERS, that’s when he decided he wanted to do CHUISUM.  And then he did TRUE GRIT, and I was there, working in his office.  And on THE UNDEFEATED, I was down there almost all the time while he was doing that; we were knocking around with the script and knocking around with some tequila and gin.

H: Your next film was a horror/supernatural western, BLACK NOON.  How’d that come about?

AJ:  Aha!  You know we had six kids, five boys, so I was in Little League, and one of the other coaches in Little League was a guy named Paul King.  He was in charge of production for CBS, their movies of the week.  And he said, ‘I know you’re a bigshot, you just did CHISUM.  I don’t suppose you’d do a movie of the week.’  And that’s when I said, ‘Hemingway did short stories.  If it’s something that I like, I’ll do it.’  So he and Philip Barry and I had lunch, at Musso Franks, and they said, what do you want to do?  I said there’s this western…and he said, ‘Stop.  Andy, you can’t get my attention by any log-line on a western.’  Just didn’t want to do a western.  And I said, ‘I can get your attention in four words: witchcraft in the west.’  ROSEMARY’S BABY had just come out, so they said, ‘Whatayagot?  Whatayagot?’  They read the thirteen pages and said, ‘Will you write a script?  Where do you want to go?’  So I went to Arty Goldberg who was at Screen Gems at the time – I knew him from the old ABC days, and said how would you guys like to do a CBS movie?  Larry Gordon was there at the time.  Who later became THE Larry Gordon.  And he said, ‘We’ve taken sixteen projects to CBS, and they’ve turned us down on every one of them.’  I said they’re not going to turn us down on this one – believe me.  So I write the script, and Larry Gordon and I were going over with the script and talk to them about it.  I was driving, he got in the car, and all of a sudden he takes out a paper bag and puts it against his face.  I think, this guy’s going to vomit.  ‘What’s the matter with you, Larry?’  ‘I’m hyperventilating.  They’re gonna turn us down!’  ‘No they aren’t, Larry.’  So we brought them the script, they said go ahead and shoot it.  And it turned out very, very well. 

H: In 1974 you made your last western to date, THE HANGED MAN. 

AJ: That was a great premise.  A man who has done some bad things in his life is falsely accused of murder.  And they hang him, but he doesn’t die.  Why was he saved?  There had to be a reason.  My line was, ‘What did Lazarus do for the rest of his life?’  He was trying to find out why he was spared.  I’ll tell you why it didn’t go (to series).  By then, westerns were on their way out.  And that’s when I said, A.J., you’ve got to switch gears.  You ain’t gonna be able to sell many westerns, so let’s try something else.  And I loved private eyes, just loved ‘em.  And wrote THE MAN WITH BOGART’S FACE.  I did that when I was doing two other movies of the week at Warner Brothers, so I did it on Warner Brothers’ time. 

H: Why do you think Westerns faded out?

AJ:  I’ll tell you why.  Those guys like Sam Peckinpah and Altman seemed to be hell-bent on making rats out of every hero in the west who ever lived, whether it was Wild Bill Hickok or Buffalo Bill, or Wyatt Earp, they just corrupted the western.  But people were doing westerns; only audiences didn’t know they were doing westerns.  What is STAR WARS?  It was a western, only instead of a stagecoach and horses, you had rockets and spaceships.  But the plot was the same.  Two guys that were pals break up, one guy goes into danger, and the other guy says the Hell with you.   And just when you think one guy’s gonna get it, the other guy changes his mind and comes in and saves the other lead.  Borden Chase used that in practically every story he ever did.  RED RIVER and BEND OF THE RIVER and VERA CRUZ. 

H: I have a sense of what you think of Peckinpah.  What did you think of Leone and the spaghetti westerns?

AJ: I couldn’t stand them.  I was bored to death with those God damned close-ups and lingering shots.  I had a chance to make a lot of those, because I was hot; go to Italy, go to Spain.  But like I said before, Mary Frances and I had six kids, and they were growing up.  And I didn’t want to wander any farther from 126 North Rossmore than I had to.  I stayed here.

H: What are you writing today?

A. J. Fenady at a recent book signing

AJ: Well, last year I had open-heart surgery, pretty serious stuff.  I didn’t feel any pain, but they said you’ve got to do it, so I did it.  But during that time I finished up THE RANGE WOLF, which is going to come out the end of this year.  And what it is, it’s a western version of THE SEA WOLF.  Instead of a ship, it’s a cattle drive.  But it’s the same story, the same plot, only in a different venue, with different trappings. 

H: Is this something you’d like to make as a movie?

AJ: They’re not going to make that movie now.  I don’t think so.  I mean, twenty years from now they might do it.  Also I wrote a short story that was published in a book called LAW OF THE GUN.  The story is DEAD MAN RIDING TO TOMBSTONE, and I also wrote a novella while recovering, called THE BIG GUNS, or WHOSE LITTLE LILLY IS SHE?, that’s in a collection of supposedly the greatest living western writers (laughs).  Called ROUND-UP, which was sponsored by the Western Writers of America.  And I’m currently working on another big western.  You know I’ve written seven or eight plays, the last couple of them were in collaboration with my son Duke.  Three of them are radio plays that are going to be done at the Palmdale Playhouse.  YES VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS this December.  Then they’re going to do the radio version of THE SEA WOLF, and Duke collaborated with me on that.  Then THE BIG GUNS, OR WHOSE LITTLE LILLY IS SHE as a radio play is going to be performed.  So busy, busy, busy. 

H: Are you planning to make any more movies?

AJ: Well, it’s so tough to get one done.  Steve Speilberg can’t get a movie made that he wants.  I’ve only got so much time left, you know?  It’s not exactly the last round-up, but I know people who have been trying to get a movie made for twenty years and they haven’t done it.  I haven’t got twenty years.  So I’m very content to write plays, radio plays, and now if something happens, it happens.  If not, I’ll go on doing what I’m doing. 

A.J. with  L.Q. Jones at the Silver Spur Awards, 2011

H: What advice would you have for someone trying to get a western made today?

AJ: I would be very discouraging.  Because no one wants to do a classic, pure western.  They want things like the remake of the WILD, WILD WEST, with all kinds of rockets in it, and all kinds of crap.  They corrupt the western.  They won’t do it.  If they did one, like Clint Eastwood did THE UNFORGIVEN, I guarantee you they’d make a helluvah lot of money.  And even Clint says it’s tough to get one of those things made.  One of my sons, Andy Frank Fenady, is President of Physical Production at Universal, and they’re not going to make a western, not gonna make a classic-type John Ford, John Wayne western now.  First of all there is no John Ford and there is no John Wayne.  And these guys today, I don’t know if they could carry a western.  The odds are very much against it. 

Silver Spurs, Mr. & Mrs. Dick Jones with Mary Frances & A.J.

The advice of a writer is, you’ve got to swing a little bit with the times.  I know people that are specifically a certain kind of writer.  They can only write adaptations.  Or they can only write detective stories.  As far as I’m concerned, if you can write, you can write.  If you can tell a story, you can write a song, you can write a novel, you can write a script: it’s just finding the format.  The first time I wrote a play, YES VIRGNIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS, I said, now how do you get started?  I went and read THE GLASS MENAGERIE, where Tom narrates the thing.  I said aha!  That’s how it’s done.  So I sat down and wrote it as a play.  You’ve got to be able to not so much specialize, because your specialty is liable to come out of fashion.  And you’d better be able to pull a switcheroo, like I did from documentaries like CONFIDENTIAL FILE to westerns like THE REBEL to detective stories like THE MAN WITH BOGART'S FACE  And now I find the market for me is novels, and you can write western novels.  And I won the Owen Wister Award from the Western Writers of America, the highest award that you can get, and the Golden Boot Award, and all that, and you get a reputation, and there is a market for western novels.  I mean, you’re not going to make millions, but on the other hand, you’re working at your trade.  


Neal McDonough, seen in FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, MINORITY REPORT, CAPTAIN AMERICA, and currently scaring the Hell out of folks as Robert Quarles on JUSTIFIED, has signed on to play General Joseph Hooker in the upcoming Civil War miniseries, TO APPOMATTOX.  He joins a tremendous cast, including Rob Lowe as Grant, Stephen Lang as Lincoln, Will Patton as Lee and William Petersen as William Tecumseh Sherman.  The series is written by Michael Frost Beckner and directed by Mikael Salomon.  Mark Maritato shared the costume designs below. 


The Australia-shot pilot for the 1840s Missouri-set Western drama has been getting strong notice for its ‘rich look,’ according to Deadline: Hollywood.  Written and produced by Shaun Cassidy, and directed by Thomas Schlamme, the Sony Pictures Television production stars Ethan Embry, Megan Ferguson, Jake McLaughlin, Bridget Regan, Al Weaver, Gina Bramhill, Clancy Brown and Mustafa Shakir.  Recent additions to the cast include Erik Jensen, Chaske Spencer of the TWILIGHT films, and 14-year-old Nathan Gamble of the recent DOLPHIN TALE.


Yes, it’s an eastern not a western, but it sounds awfully interesting.  BBC America’s first-ever original drama, about an Irish-American cop patrolling New York’s infamous Five Points district in the 1860s, will premiere on August 19th.  The ten episode first season, starring  Tom Weston-Jones, is currently shooting in Toronto, and set to wrap in May.


On April Fools Day in 1912, Bronco Billy Anderson, searching for realistic backgrounds for his westerns, brought his Essanay film crew to Niles California.  And in four years they made 350 one-reel westerns – and no, 350 is not a typo.  To commemorate a century of sagebrush sagas in Niles, the NILES ESSANAY SILENT FILM MUSEUM is celebrating my making a new silent western on Bronco Billy’s old stomping grounds.  Entitled THE CANYON, it will be made with the Museum’s historic equipment and historical techniques.  They are seeking cast and crew members, and they are raising funds through  If you’d like to learn more, and perhaps take part, financially or otherwise, please go HERE. 


On Saturday, April 14th at 1:30 pm, catch John Ford’s brilliant telling of the shootout between the Earps and the Clantons.  It’s the third film in the Autry’s What Is A Western? series to examine the ultimate gunfight, following GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL and TOMBSTONE.  It stars Henry Fonda, Tim Holt and Ward Bond as Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp.  John Ireland and Grant Withers play Billy and Ike Clanton.  Victor Mature gives the best performance of his career as Doc Holliday, and the role of Old Man Clanton – and yes, that’s what he’s called on his headstone – is portrayed by Walter Brennan in a chilling manner that will erase your sappy/folksy image of him.  Based on the Stuart N. Lake book FRONTIER MARSHALL, which was filmed twice before, and was later the source for the Hugh O’Brien WYATT EARP series.   

Curator of Western History, Popular Culture, and Firearms, Jeffrey Richardson will lead a discussion of the film and Hollywood’s intertwining of myth and history before the screening.  After, you might want to visit the Museum and see firearms that belonged to Wyatt and Doc, and check out the amazing Colt Gallery.


This annual celebration of film returns on April 12th.  The event is pricey: festival passes cost from $300 to $1200.  Single event tickets are $20 a pop, but cannot be bought in advance, and are sold on a first-come, first-served basis.  Western events include the screening of Howards Hawks’ RIO BRAVO, with Angie Dickinson attending, and a newly reconstructed Cinerama print of HOW THE WEST WAS WON, which will be attended by Debbie Reynolds.   To find out more, visit the TCM Festival site HERE. 


Saturday and Sunday, April 21st and 22nd you can stroll the streets of Melody Ranch, where all the greats, from Gene Autry to Matt Dillon to Maverick, to the DEADWOOD folks, and most recently Quentin Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED cast have trod.  This is a wonderful not-to-be-missed event. 

Admission is $20 a day for adults, $10 for kids, with discounts for two days.  There will be a wide variety of musical performances at four stages.  The Melody Ranch Museum will be open to give you a peek into movie history.  Every manner of Western art, crafts, clothing, boots, and hats imaginable will be available.

Authors of Western fiction and fact will be signing and selling their tomes.   Entertainers like champion gun-spinner Joey Dillon, saloon pianist Professor David Bourne and magician Pop Haydn will be performing.  Cowboy poets and story-tellers will be rhyming words and spinning yarns.  And there will be a ton of activities aimed at kids of all ages.

In addition, there will be separate events, some at different locations, different dates and separate charges.  On Saturday, April 14 at 7:00 p.m. in the Hasley Hall Theatre at College of the Canyons, attend AN EVENING WITH JOEL COX, the Oscar-winning editor of UNFORGIVEN, and thirty other Clint Eastwood films (he was even an assistant editor on THE WILD BUNCH!). 

On Thursday, April 19th -- no admission for this – at Old Town Newhall on Main St. from 7 PM to 11PM, join the party filled with Music, Dancing, Food Trucks, Western vendors, and the unveiling of two new Stars in Old Town Newhall. The plaques for the new inductees into the Walk of Western Stars will be unveiled at 7:30 p.m. on the West side of Main Street. The inductees are Glenn Ford, who will be represented by his son Peter Ford, and Joel Cox, who will attend.

On Friday, April 20th, at 3:00 p.m. at the Repertory East Playhouse 24266 Main St. in Old Town Newhall, join Peter Ford, son of the great Glenn Ford, and author of Glenn Ford – His life and Movies.  They’ll be screening "The Rounders" and afterwards Peter will discuss his father's life and movie career.   And there’s so much more!  For details and directions, go HERE

That should do it for this week's Round-up!  I hope you had a great Easter, or are having a great Passover.  Next week I'll have my review of the New Zealand Western GOOD FOR NOTHING.

Happy Trails,


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