Monday, July 21, 2014


(Note:  I learned of the death of James Garner too late to include in this week’s Round-up, but I will next week.)


This coming Saturday, July 26th, 2014, will be the Tenth Annual National Day of the Cowboy!  Over forty events are planned all over the country – in New Hampshire, New York, California, Texas, Kansas, Nevada, Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Illinois, Ohio, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Colorado!  To find the events nearest to you, go HERE.

In Griffith Park, the Day of the Cowboy & Cowgirl At The Autry will feature a full day of cowpoke family fun, which in addition to visiting the museum galleries includes trick-roping demonstrations, leather-craft, square-dancing, drop-in roping, sketching with live horses at the corral, scavenger hunts, hands-on work with cowboy tools, storytelling, screenings of GENE AUTRY SHOW episodes, barbecue, and a root-beer saloon!  It’s free for members, $10 for non-members, $6 for students and seniors, and $4 for kids 12 and under. 

Bethany Braley, Executive Director of the NDOC has been spearheading the campaign, crisscrossing the country for a decade, and she’ll be celebrating in Chatsworth, at the Valley Relics Museum, 21630 Marilla Street 91311, home to an astonishing collection of items highlighting the history of the San Fernando Valley.  The $20 per-person event, a fund-raiser for the Museum and the NDOC, will feature music by Steve Hill and by The Bob Staley Band.  Highlights include a 90th birthday celebration for WAGON TRAIN star Robert Horton – with a special Western Legends Award presentation by Martin Kove.  There will be a celebrity item auction, meet-and-greets with actor Dan ‘Grizzly Adams’ Haggerty and daughter of Clayton ‘Lone Ranger’ Moore, Dawn Moore, as well as Ben Costello, author of GUNSMOKE: AN AMERICAN INSTITUTION, author and NDOC spokeswoman Julie Ann Ream.   There will be an exhibit of clothes and vehicles by legendary designer-to-the-western stars Nudie Cohn, and the all-important food trucks! 

RED RIVER – from the Criterion Collection – A Review

I’ve heard friends talk about a movie getting ‘The Criterion treatment,’ but I never fully understood what was meant until now: there is nothing a sane person could want in a video of Howard Hawks’ classic RED RIVER that is not provided in spades in this set!

First, the quality of sound and image is without flaw.  Russell Harlan shot it, and I believe it’s one of the most breathtakingly beautiful black and white movies ever made.  The set includes both DVD and BluRay formats, and while the DVD is stunning, the clarity of the BluRay is even more so.  Made in 1948, it was Howard Hawks’ 32nd film, but incredibly, his first Western – although he did uncredited work on both VIVA VILLA and THE OUTLAW.   Hawks’ ability to place you in the action is unsurpassed.  You will feel that you are in the heart of a cattle drive, with exhilaration, monotony, exhaustion and panic that were a part of them.
Based on Borden Chase’s novel, BLAZING GUNS ON THE CHISHOLM TRAIL, which is included – yes, the whole novel – it’s the story of two men and a boy, and the first great cattle drive.  Thomas Dunsan (John Wayne) and Nadine Groot (Walter Brennan), leave a wagon train to start a ranch, and are soon joined by an orphaned boy, Matt Garth (Mickey Kuhn – whose character will grow up to be Montgomery Clift).  Fourteen years later, Matt comes back from the Civil War to find Dunsan rich in cattle, but broke.  There is no money in the south, hence no market for beef, and Dunsan has decided to drive the cattle, on what will become the Chisholm Trail, to Missouri.  That drive, and the character relationships with each other, drovers like Harry Carey Jr., Noah Beery Jr., Paul Fix, Hank Worden, Chief Yowlachie, and ‘the Hawks woman’ in the person of Joanne Dru, make up the bulk of the movie which has been described as MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY on a cattle-drive. 

The three leads are at the absolute top of their game.  Brennan is the worshipful but still cantankerous unequal partner of Wayne, who still states his mind when he must – a younger version of the role he’ll play to Wayne in Hawk’s RIO BRAVO a decade later.   Wayne’s Dunsun is so icily determined to succeed at all costs that it opened up a new career for him, playing heroes so mean and tough you hate to love them.  Clift’s performance is fascinating in its quirky intensity – he plays it somewhere between a war hero and a bashful juvenile delinquent.   John Ireland plays Cherry Valance, by turns a rival and friend to Clift.  With an overlooked but extensive catalog of excellent western performances, Ireland would go on to play Billy Clanton in Ford’s MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, Bob Ford in Sam Fuller’s I SHOT JESSE JAMES, and Johnny Ringo in John Sturges’ GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL.  In Europe, he was excellent as a hateful villain opposite Robert Woods in GATLING GUN, and even starred as Ben Cartwright’s brother in a failed attempt to revive BONANZA.

The two women in the film, Colleen Grey and Joanne Dru, are terrific as the sort of tough and independent-minded but feminine women that Hawk’s loved, though Hawks says he was disappointed in Dru: she was a rush replacement for Margaret Sheridan, who showed up for work noticeably pregnant. 

A couple of once-big cowboy stars turn up for small but striking roles.  Old Leather is played by six-time Wayne co-star Hal Talliafero, who was a popular leading man going back to the 1920s, as Wally Wales.  The chillingly monotone Tom Tyler, who plays a cattle-drive deserter here, was also a leading man in silent and talkie westerns, starred as CAPTAIN MARVEL, but among his five roles with Wayne is best-remembered as nemesis Luke Plummer in STAGECOACH. 

The score by Dimitri Tiomkin is one of the finest ever written for a western, or any movie.  Interestingly, he would use the theme again for Hawks and Wayne in RIO BRAVO, with new lyrics to make it into My Rifle, My Pony and Me.  The editing by Christian Nyby is uncluttered and almost invisible in its perfect efficiency. 
There are four discs, because there are two different versions of the film, both presented in DVD and BluRay, the pre-release version and the release version.  The main difference is that in the earlier, previewed version, frequent shots of a hand-written journal bridge the sequences.  Hawks decided to take the shots out in favor of a narration by Brennan.  The ending is a bit different as well, due to the interference of Howard Hughes, and as the story is told well in the extra features, I won’t give it away here.

And speaking of those features, you have on-camera interviews with Peter Bogdanovich, Molly Haskell, and Lee Mitchell.  You have an audio interview with Hawks, conducted by Bogdanovich.  You have an audio interview with novelist and co-screenwriter (with Charles Schnee) Borden Chase – and Chase’s life-story alone is worth the price of admission!  You have a paperback of the original novel.  You have a booklet with an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien, and an interview with editor Chris Nyby.  You have the trailer.  You even have the LUX PRESENTS HOLLYWOOD radio show, featuring Wayne, Brennan, Dru, and in Clift’s role, Jeff Chandler (he does a fine audio job, but on camera, such a big guy would have been all wrong!).  

Simply put, this is the best possible presentation of one of the finest movies ever made in any genre.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  To link up with Criterion, go HERE.


John Fasano in HANNAH'S LAW

Properly, much will be written about John Fasano’s career in horror and crime films, but he also had a passionate interest in westerns and in firearms.  He wrote frequent articles for gun magazines, and in August, one of his last articles, about the weapons of Commodore Perry Owens, will appear in GUNS OF THE OLD WEST MAGAZINE. 

He wrote three western films: THE HUNLEY (1999), about the Civil War submarine; THE LEGEND OF BUTCH AND SUNDANCE (2006); and HANNAH’S LAW (2012).  But for his most important contribution to the genre, he neither sought nor received credit: he saved TOMBSTONE (1993).  Writer-director Kevin Jarre had written a brilliant but over-long script for the movie.  An inexperienced director, he soon ran behind schedule and over budget, and was fired by the producers.  George Cosmatos took over the direction, but it was Fasano -- working in conjunction with Cosmatos, and a cast that had committed to the project based on the screenplay -- who reshaped the script without extensive rewriting, preserving the essence of it, and saving the film.      

Longtime friend and associate writer C. Courtney Joyner says of Fasano, “He was a true, devoted writer, a devotee of the industry 100%, and his legacy with TOMBSTONE is going to stand.”  Peter Sherayko, who played Texas Jack Vermillion in TOMBSTONE, and worked with John on a half-dozen other films, had three more co-projects in the works.  “He was a friend for 26 years, and in this town he was a friend I could always count on.”    

When I interviewed John for the Round-up in 2012, I told him, “An on-line list of your credits included a passing reference that you’d done script doctoring on TOMBSTONE.  Which in my circle is like casually mentioning that you did a draft of the New Testament.” 

John laughed.  “Thank you.  That’s the script that, when I get to Heaven, Saint Peter says, ‘He wrote JUDGE DREDD?’  And I say, ‘No, no – look just before that.’  And he says, ‘He wrote TOMBSTONE? Come on in.’  That’s the film that’ll get me into heaven, because everyone I’ve ever met not only saw it; they bought it.”

You can read the rest of my interview with John HERE.  


On Saturday night, July 26th, head to the historic Leonis Adobe Museum in Calabasas for the annual Mid-Valley Community Police Council  COPS & COWBOYS celebration!  There’ll be toe-tappin’ music, dancing, delicious barbecue, Black Jack and Poker in the saloon, silent and live auctions and more!  To learn more, read my write-up HERE.


Don’t know much about this mix of reenactments, commentary and historical photos, but it features all of our favorite people – Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickock, John Wesley Hardin and Tom Horn – so I’ll certainly give it a shot!  I haven’t been able to get any of the videos to play, but follow the link and maybe you’ll have better luck!


On Friday, July 25th, the Egyptian Theatre will play ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, on Saturday, July 26th THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY.  On Sunday, July 27th, the Retroformat 8mm series of D.W. Griffith films continues.  For details, visit their link:

That’s a wrap!

Have a great week, and I’ll catch you next weekend!

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright July 2014 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved


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