Monday, May 26, 2014



Franco Nero, Quentin Tarantino, Uma Thurman
picture by Getty Images

Quentin Tarantino was at Cannes to present A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS on closing night, and had plenty to say – or tease – about his upcoming Western projects, according to Deadline: Hollywood.  About THE HATEFUL EIGHT, once cancelled, then revived after doing the live audience reading: “I have calmed down a bit from the knife in the back. The wound is starting to scab.” He said the staged reading was “…a blast. I might do that on every script.  It was great to have three days of rehearsal and hear it out loud.” The second draft is nearly finished, and he’s contemplating a third. “I’m in no hurry. Maybe I’ll shoot it. Maybe I’ll publish it. Maybe I’ll do it on the stage. Maybe I’ll do all three.”

Also, with an hour and a half of unused scenes from DJANGO UNCHAINED, he’s considering a four-hour miniseries.  “The idea is to cut together a four-hour version…cut it up into one-hour chapters like a four-part miniseries and show it on cable television. People love those!”


In what was described by Deadline: Hollywood as “a competitive situation,” Saban Films, a brand-new entity of Saban Entertainment, has acquired the North American distribution rights to the well-reviewed Western, for about $3,500,000.  Based on Glendon Swarthout’s 1988 novel, the film is directed by and stars Tommy Lee Jones, co-starring with Hilary Swank, with a supporting cast that includes Meryl Street, James Spader, John Lithgow, Hailee Steinfeld, and Barry Corbin. 

Saban Entertainment has a long history of kid entertainment, long associated with various incarnations of the MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS, but they have had considerable experience in distribution and production of features as well, beginning in 1988 with the remarkable HEATHERS.  They’ve also been involved with at least two previous Westerns.  In 1994 they distributed TRIGGER FAST, based on a J.T. Edson novel, starring Jurgen Prochnow, Martin Sheen and Corbin Bernsen.  That same year they produced the Western comedy SAMAURI COWBOY, starring Hiromi Go, Robert Conrad and Catherine Mary Stewart.  They also own the beautiful Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, built in 1930 as the Fox Wilshire.


Franco Nero with DJANGO LIVES producer
David Hollander

Franco Nero, the original DJANGO, soon to star in DJANGO LIVES!, attended the Cannes closing screening of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS; he’s seen here with DJANGO LIVES! producer Davis Hollander.  The screening was to honor the 50th anniversary of the Spaghetti Western, and it’s amusing that Nero attended, as the great debate among fans has always been whether the Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood films or the Sergio Corbucci/Franco Nero films are the greatest of the genre.  I refuse to choose.  But what is inarguable is that Clint Eastwood is the image of the Spaghetti Western in the United States, and Franco Nero is the image in Europe.


Not all the Western action was at Cannes this week!  Here’s Chip Baker Film’s Cesar Mendez with the original El Puro, Robert Woods in Los Angeles, on the first day of pre-production of RESURRECTION OF EL PURO, the sequel to the 1969 EL PURO (a.k.a. La taglia è tua... l'uomo l'ammazzo io) .  The script is finally locked, and they plan to roll camera in late September, after the 2014 Almeria Western Film Festival has wrapped.  Starring Woods, of course, the cast will include Western stalwarts Brett Halsey, Simone Blondel, Nicolleta Machiavelli, and Antonio Mayans.

B MOVIE – A Play by Michael B. Druxman

A Review

In a way, traveling to the period of B-MOVIE, Michael Druxman’s play about the Barbara Payton/Franchot Tone/Tom Neal scandal, is more of a time-warp than going back to the Civil War: it’s a trip from the Post-Morality present to the 1950s, when a morality clause was something to keep an actor, not a basketball-team owner, in line. 

Today, there may be no such thing as bad publicity – the once-clear line between fame and infamy has been erased.  Kim Kardashian became a media star with no other talent or credentials than staring in a home porn video: this week she and rapper Kanye West had an exorbitantly expensive wedding in Italy, her third, and she wore white.  In the 1950s, one single still photograph was taken of Barbara Payton and Tom Neal doing something similar to Kim’s video: it ended both of their careers.

B-MOVIE is a two-act, three-character play about three very real characters, who suddenly were forced into the spotlight of public moral judgment.  They were all known actors with varying degrees of success.  Franchot Tone was the big star, ever since 1935, and the splash he made with MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY.  Under contract to MGM, and later other studios, he worked regularly with Jean Harlow, Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy.  Suave, elegant, educated; but his character rarely got the girl.  He was Ralph Bellamy until Ralph Bellamy came along.   His first marriage was to Joan Crawford, and he’d have three more, including Payton.  I liked him best, cast against type, in an underrated noir from Universal, THE PHANTOM LADY.  It’s the only role I recall where his character was as dangerous as Tone could really be, when crossed.

Barbara Payton, 22 years Tone’s junior, was a platinum blonde beauty who impressed in the early 1950s opposite Cagney with KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE, opposite Gregory Peck in ONLY THE VALIANT, and opposite Guy Madison in the Civil War drama DRUMS IN THE DEEP SOUTH.  Not coy, she admits in her autobiography that she slept with most of her producers, directors and leading men.  Gregory Peck found her presence so distracting and disturbing that he had her banned from their set when she wasn’t working.  Even when she was going with Tone, she and Guy Madison were less than discreet about their relationship.


Compared to Tone and even to Payton, Tom Neal was a bit out of his league.  Even with a long list of credits going back to 1938, his roles were usually minor, often unnamed characters  – typically, in an episode of THE GENE AUTRY SHOW his character is ‘animal abuser.’  But he was a big, handsome guy with a strong jaw and a great physique, shown off well without a shirt, as the male lead in the Republic serial JUNGLE GIRL.  He was with the Duke in FLYING TIGERS, with Rondo Hatton in THE BRUTE MAN, and his biggest break doubtless was as the star of Edgar G. Ulmer’s no-budget noir, DETOUR.  But what a picture to be the lead in; sometimes described as the best B-movie of all time, it is only considered that by the sort of moviegoer who would rather laugh at a bad movie than enjoy the qualities of a good one.  It is ironic indeed that Neal plays a hapless dope traveling to L.A. to meet up with his fiancé, and en route keeps accidentally killing people.  When he finally did kill someone in real life, he’d claim that was an accident, too.
Druxman’s play starts in the 1960s, with Tone, his career and dignity somewhat recovered, living in a New York brownstone.  Neal is in Palm Springs, in a cell, waiting to go on trial for the murder of his third wife.  Tone is astonished and amused to be asked to contribute money to Neal’s defense – the former Golden Gloves fighter nearly beat Tone to death over Payton.  And yes, it really did happen.  And yes, Tone did contribute.

Gregory Peck and Barbara Payton in

They sometimes address each other, sometimes speak directly to the audience.  The story bounces back and forth between the two men and their memories of Barbara Payton, the woman who loved them both, who made and changed decisions, who made and broke promises, and ruined both men’s lives, and her own.  Although some would say that what ruined Payton and Neal was the photograph, and what ruined Tone was being a husband brought so low that he papered the studios with it.

Payton and Tone

It's a fascinating and tragic story, told with humor and empathy, and a great sense of the people and time and place involved.  After I read it, I watched MUNTINY ON THE BOUNTY, and DETOUR, and Payton in BRIDE OF THE GORILLA, and was struck by how well Druxman captured their voices in his words.  No surprise, really.  After a long career as a publicist, Michael became a very busy writer and sometime-director for Roger Corman, scripting CHEYENNE WARRIOR, one of the best Westerns of the last twenty years. 

As much devoted to theatre as he is to film, Druxman has written and published a series of one-person biographical plays of the stars, called THE HOLLYWOOD LEGENDS, which have seen numerous productions.  Their subjects include Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Orson Welles, Errol Flynn, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, Clara Bow – his best-selling, and Al Jolson – his most successfully produced. 
In addition to his talent, all of us struggling writers can take a lesson from Michael, who aggressively gets his work out there like no one else I know.  B-MOVIE is in negotiations currently, but it is a very new play, and there have been as yet no stage productions.  If you’re looking for a two male, one female play with simple sets, check it out.  You can purchase this play or his others through  If you’re interested in licensing a play, write to him: Michael B. Druxman, PMB 142, 6425 S. IH-35, Suite 150, Austin, TX 78744, or email him at  You can visit his official site HERE . You can read my interview with Michael HERE .

Neal and Payton


On Saturday, May 31st, the Retroformat folks, the ones who show rare silents in 8mm, are taking a break from their D.W. Griffith series to show a varied program including the role that made Mickey Rooney a star – and no, it’s not Andy Hardy.  It’s the Mickey McGuire films, a silent series capitalizing on the success of Hal Roach’s Our Gang comedies.  They’ll be screening Mickey in MICKEY’S MOVIES; Harry Langdon in SOLDIER MAN, one of his earliest collaborations with Frank Capra; DANGER GIRL, a Mack Sennett Comedy starring Gloria Swanson; Larry Semon (why didn’t he change his name?) in THE SHOW; and chapters 11 & 12 of the serial THE WOMAN IN GREY.  There will be a live musical accompaniment by Cliff Retallick. 


I hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend, and I hope you took time to remember that it's more than a three-day weekend: it's a day to honor the memory of men and women who gave their lives to preserve our freedom!

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright May 2014 by Henry C. Parke - All Rights Reserved

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