Monday, September 29, 2014


FRONTERA – a Movie Review

Ever since the birth of theatre in ancient Greece, the classical tragedy has always been about people of social importance: if they don’t have social status to begin with, how can they fall?  And implicitly, if they’re not important, who cares about them?  That all changed in 1949, when Arthur Miller wrote DEATH OF A SALESMAN, and showed that the lives of ‘nobodies’ could be as compelling as the lives of ‘somebodies.’ 

FRONTERA is a tragedy about regular working people on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border – a retired lawman and his wife tending their ranch; a family whose father must travel north when there is no work at home, and another hungry mouth to feed on the way. 

To the south, the pregnant wife (a beautiful but de-glamorized Eva Longoria) dreads having her husband (Michael Pena) make the dangerous trek through the desert, even though he’s done it before.  And Pena has an extra worry – his father-in-law is saddling him with the son of a friend (Michael Ray Escamilla) who is stupid and irresponsible at best, and maybe much worse.  To the north, Amy Madigan has saddled her horse for a ride, and while her husband, Ed Harris, would come along, his knee is still healing.  He asks her not to take the best trail, because it runs along the border, but he knows she will.   Her meeting with the two men from the south is both cordial and cautious.  She kindly gives them water bottles, and a blanket from her horse against the coming cold of night.  The difference in the two Mexican men is most clear here: Pena is formal and respectful; Escamilla flirts childishly. 

Michael Pena, Eva Longoria

All would have been fine, each going their separate ways, until a series of gunshots shatter the silent desert air.  The woman is dead.  I am loath to give away too much more, because this is a highly compelling, masterfully told story.  It’s not a mystery – you always know who is committing what act, but not what the results will be, and yet the tale is told by writers Louis Moulinet and Michael Berry and director Berry with a self-assurance that makes the outcome of each scene seem both inevitable and infuriating: you can easily imagine yourself making many of the mistakes that the characters do.  For Moulinet, best known as an art director, and Berry, directing his first feature, it is a highly auspicious debut.

Ed Harris and Amy Madigan are actually husband and wife – they met on the set of PLACES IN THE HEART, and have since worked together frequently, including co-starring in RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE and the recent SWEETWATER.  Though here Madigan’s time on the screen is cut short, in a few strokes she etches a character that you like and miss.  Harris, Longoria, Pena and Escamilla bring humanity and dignity to their characters, and you care about them all.  Longoria in particular, when she tries to join her husband, pays a coyote to take her, and goes through sheer hell. 

And the movie plays fair with the highly controversial subject of unsecure borders, something I did not expect in the politically correct world of Hollywood.  Not all of the ‘secure the border’ crowd are portrayed as redneck racists.  Not all of the illegals coming across are people that anyone would want in their country.  In one stunningly effective but almost throw-away scene, two men out of a dozen traveling across the border with a coyote separate themselves from the others, throw down prayer-rugs and  begin bowing towards Mecca, underlining how little we, or even the coyotes, know about who is coming across the desert, and what their motives might be. 

I’ve described FRONTERA as a tragedy, and it is full of tragic events, yet it is not a ‘downer,’ nor are the characters without hope.  Cinematographer Joel Ransom gets plenty of atmosphere into the often moon-like border desert, and editor Larry Madaras bridges the gaps between places and moments seamlessly.  This fine film is receiving a sporadic release, and is very much worth the trouble of seeking it out. 


It’s kind of hard to know how much to tell you about Saturday night’s performance of THE WESTERN UNSCRIPTED, because you’re never going to see that story.  In fact no one will ever see it again – because it’s an improvised story, performed by members of The Impro Theatre, and no two performances are alike! 

The FALCON THEATRE, comedy legend Garry Marshall’s venue in Burbank, was packed – all 120 permanent seats were filled, and ten more chairs were put in place.  And no wonder; The Impro Theatre has quite a following, having already tackled CHEKOV UNSCRIPTED, SONDHEIM UNSCRIPTED, and L.A. NOIR UNSCRIPTED among others – coming in December is the return of TWILIGHT ZONE UNSCRIPTED!

As the audience took their seats, the mood was set with instrumental themes from THE WILD WILD WEST, TRUE GRIT, and HOW THE WEST WAS WON.  I was struck by the quality of the sets immediately: a projection screen in the back for the sky, a two-story saloon exterior on the left, and a two story building on the right.  Then the lights went down, a campfire bloomed center-stage, and an old sourdough explained that the rest of the cast would soon come onstage, and they would improvise an evening’s entertainment based on suggestions from the audience.  Then he picked up his campfire and left. 

A moment later, the cast cantered out like SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, handsomely period-costumed, and one of them, Lisa Frederickson, addressed the audience, asking for suggestions for a reason for a lot of town-folk to gather.  Audience voices called out, “A hanging!”  “A funeral!”  “A shotgun wedding!”  “A shotgun wedding.  I like that,” Lisa responded.  

Having seen a fair amount of improvisational comedy, I thought I knew what was coming: a brief sketch about a shotgun wedding, followed by more audience polling, and more sketches.   But I was wrong – this was a feature western, not a short subject, and they played the story for a full two hours, minus intermission, and never slacked the pace.  Within moments an actor had opted – or been appointed – to be the reluctant spouse.  A reason for the urgent marriage – a baby – was improvised with a rolled-up blanket.  The conflict was created – three other men became his accomplices in a series of train robberies.  There’s a big payroll coming, and they’ve been waiting for him to get this marriage done so they can pull the big job.  He wants to go straight, but this one job could help save her family’s farm…you know, that’s a darn good plot: I can see George Montgomery or even Joel McCrea doing it!  It already made twice as much sense as JOHNNY GUITAR!

It was hysterical -- wonderfully silly fun, without ever being juvenile.  On-the-fly, actors created characters and relationships; clearly the cast is well-versed in the common elements of westerns.  And as has often been said, comedy acting is hard, and if you can do it, you can certainly do drama.  One sequence involved a matriarch who’d disguised that she was dying until one of her daughter’s had married.  As the three daughters gather around their dying mother, even with the jokes, we got choked up: they were that good. 

Many of the jokes grew out of western clich├ęs, and some grew out of anachronisms.  One of the actors, desperate to think up a name for a hideout, came up with Smuggler’s Cul-de-sac; I think they’re still needling him about that.   One of the lead bandit’s sisters-in-law gets the idea of smuggling him back to town dressed like a woman; the idea of seeing him in a dress becomes something of an obsession to several characters, even when it no longer serves the plan.  And the actors certainly challenge each other.   When the bandit’s accomplices taunt him for not re-joining them sooner, one says to him, more or less, “I think you’ve been away from it too long.  I think you've forgotten the plan.”

“I remember the plan.”

“Then tell it to us, all of it, to be sure,” forcing him to create off-the-cuff a four man plan to rob a train!  THE WESTERN UNSCRIPTED plays Wednesday through Sunday, October 5th.  Wednesday through Friday the curtain is at 8 pm; on Sunday it’s 4 pm.  I loved it, and I’m going to try to catch it once more, to see how different the second performance will be!  Here’s the link for information and tickets:


Barry Pepper in TRUE GRIT

Barry Pepper, who played Lucky Ned Pepper in the Coen Brothers’ TRUE GRIT, and appeared in THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA and THE LONE RANGER, is set to star in TRAIL OF BLOOD to run on CINEMAX for Endemol Studios, the folks who bring us HELL ON WHEELS!  He’ll portray a frontier preacher in search of his teenage daughter, who has been kidnapped by the Harpe brothers, real-life infamous serial killers who were active in the late 1790s.  It’s written by Ross Parker, and he and Christina Wayne, who was producer on the mini BROKEN TRAIL and the BBC-America series COPPER, will produce. 


Kurt Russell in TOMBSTONE

Western horror novelist S. Craig Zahler will make his debut as a writer/director with BONE TOMAHAWK.  The western tale of four men trying to rescue captives from a group of cave-dwelling cannibals has long been set to star Kurt Russell and Richard Jenkins, who will now be joined by Patrick Wilson and Matthew Fox.  Peter Sherayko is consulting producer -- he and Kurt Russell last worked together on TOMBSTONE, which turned out rather well.


The Depp Version

The Michael Horse Version

I was catching up on the last three episodes of HELL ON WHEELS – thank goodness for the DVR – and was delighted to see Michael Horse, who was the best thing in 1981’s LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER, playing Tonto.  In the H.O.W. episode THE BEAR MAN he plays Old Porcupine, and a little bird told me he was poking fun at the new LONE RANGER movie, and Johnny Depp’s dead-bird headdress.    


Pickens & Gillam in BLAZING SADDLES

Great news via our good friends at Westerpunk!  They tell me that when Burton Gillam, the toothy and goofy star of BLAZING SADDLES, PAPER MOON, and many comic turns in westerns, appeared at their Weird West Fest, he revealed that he’ll be in the up-coming Broadway musical version of BLAZING SADDLES, playing Slim Pickens’ role from the movie!


Yul Brynner in WESTWORLD

Ed Harris in APPALOOSA

Remakes of terrific shows are usually a bad idea, especially when they involve recasting iconic characters: you don’t want to follow John Wayne or Steve McQueen or Yul Brynner into a role, no matter how good the paycheck.  But whoever thought of casting Ed Harris in Brynner’s role in WESTWORLD is a genius.  Movie also stars James Marsden and Evan Rachel Woods and Anthony Hopkins as the lead humans.  And if you don’t understand that reference, you need to run out and see Saul David’s original 1973 production of Michael Crichton’s WESTWORLD, posthaste.   Here's the trailer from the original.


I’m trying to get some script revisions finished this week, but I know I’ll have some interesting news next Sunday, including a review of a new book on the Christmas music of Gene Autry

Happy Trails,


All Original Content Copyright September 2014 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

Monday, September 22, 2014



THE REDEMPTION OF HENRY MYERS is an unexpectedly powerful and effective Western, with uniformly strong performances by a largely unfamiliar but very talented cast.  Its co-writer and director Clayton Miller – he wrote with Charlie Shanian and Chris VanderKaay – has only directed one feature before, but he draws absolutely natural and effecting performances from the early-teenaged Jaden Roberts and Ezra Proch who, while not the leads, drive a great deal of the story.
Drew Waters, who had a small but showy role as Champagne Charlie Austin in LEGEND OF HELL’S GATE, plays Henry Myers who, with accomplices Clay (Beau Smith) and Mac (Rio Alexander), pull a bank job that turns needlessly bloody.  They separate, and Henry is trying to hide the loot in a church, when he’s startled by the minister (Michael McCabe), and accidently shoots and kills him. 

A year later, his accomplices track him down, looking for the loot and all but kill him before he escapes.  A family finds his nearly lifeless form, and the young girl, Laura (Jaden Roberts), overrides her brother Will’s (Ezra Poch) and their mother Marilyn’s (Erin Bethea) doubts, and insist they take him in and nurse him back to health.  And while Henry heals, now living with the first real family he’s ever known, he is being hunted by his ex-accomplices for the loot, and by Sheriff Tom (Luce Rains), for the robbery, and the murder of the minister. 

Erin Bethea & Drew Waters

This is an elegant production, and a savvy one.  The filmmakers have mounted the size of movie that they can effectively afford to produce: not too many characters, not too many locations.  Filmed at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the breathtaking cinematography is by Reynaldo Villalobos, who also shot HOUSE OF THE RIGHTEOUS, which premiered on INSP in August (read my review HERE )  Special credit also goes to production designer Sean Cunningham and his crew for unself-conscious realism, and the make-up crew headed by Mandy Danielle Benton for giving us some of the truly dirtiest, scummy-bearded villains I’ve ever seen outside of a Sergio Corbucci Spaghetti Western.

This is a faith-based production, and while that used to be a warning to expect poor production values, amateur acting and sappy plots, faith-based filmmaking has improved tremendously over the last several years, I believe because Tyler Perry showed the way, his films bursting from church screenings to mainstream theatres by virtue of the fact that they were hysterical and accessible comedies.   Though not a big box-office name, Erin Bethea is a superstar in the faith-based film world, having starred opposite Kirk Cameron in the ground-breaking FIREPROOF, and several others.  Among the supporting players, Rio Alexander has been seen in INTO THE WEST, 3:10 TO YUMA, LONGMIRE and the modern Western THE LAST STAND.  Luce Rains has had the most sagebrush experience, having been seen, often with a star, in DESPERADO: AVALANCHE AT DEVIL’S RIDGE, INTO THE BADLANDS, THE YOUNG RIDERS, LIGHTNING JACK, WYATT EARP, WILD BILL, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, 3:10 TO YUMA, APPALOOSA, SHOOT FIRST AND PRAY YOU LIVE, DOC WEST, DEAD MAN’S BURDEN, and last year’s SWEETWATER! 

Jaden Roberts & Drew Waters

If I have any criticism of the recent crop of faith-based Westerns, it is that too many have ‘redemption’ in the title: there was 2011’s excellent REDEMPTION: FOR ROBBING THE DEAD, the current THE REDEMPTION OF HENRY MYERS, and last month I acted in BOONVILLE REDEMPTION.  It gets confusing!

REDEMPTION OF HENRY MYERS has appeared on the Hallmark Movie Channel, and is also available on DVD.


It’s been said that since the passing of the cinema’s Golden Age, roughly from the coming of sound to the 1950s, character actors are a dying breed – even a dead breed.  Author, interviewer and raconteur Justin Humphreys has given the lie to that claim, with his fascinating, informative, and wonderfully entertaining collection of interviews, NAMES YOU NEVER REMEMBER – WITH FACES YOU NEVER FORGET.  Published by Bear Manor Media, it should take its rightful place on your bookshelf, beside Leonard Maltin’s REEL STARS and Jordan Young’s REEL CARACTERS, tomes which interviewed and profiled the great character actors from previous decades. 

Mark Lawrence on THE RIFLEMAN

The final interview of the book, with the wonderfully villainous and delightfully gutter-mouthed Marc Lawrence, is the only conversation that goes back to the early 1930s.  The rest are with actors whose careers began post-war, and I was particularly surprised and pleased to learn quite a bit about two men I’d seen, but never known their names – Don Pedro Colley, whose imposing height and menacing presence made him a natural for sci-fi films and Blaxsploitation; and Buck Kartalian, whose diminutive stature on a body-builder’s frame has given him a long career in action, horror and sci-fi.  Both men have unforgettable roles in PLANET OF THE APES films – Buck as the cigar-puffing ape who abuses Heston, and Don, in BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES, as one of the ‘A’ bomb-worshipping mutants – and James Franciscus’ torturer.   

Royal Dano on THE RIFLEMAN

This is clearly a labor of love done over a long string of years – many of the books’ ten subjects are gone; one, Royal Dano, to whom it is dedicated, for two decades.  Western fans will be particularly interested in the interviews with Dano, R.G. Armstrong, Bo Hopkins, and L.Q. Jones – all Western specialists on the big and small screen, all frequent collaborators with Sam Peckipah, and L.Q. even wrote the forward. 

These are not Red-Carpet chats but detailed career discussions – R.G. Armstrong’s at 34 pages is only a little longer than average.  And in it you’ll learn about his desire to be a poet rather than an actor, how his time spent as a hobo would inform his performances as a lawman dealing with hoboes, how Peckinpah used Armstrong’s serious religiosity to create his hypocritical and fanatical religious roles in films like RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY. 

Dick Bakalyan takes the kill-shot in CHINATOWN

Dick Bakalyan, the pre-eminent juvenile delinquent of the 1950s, later Jack Nicholson’s nemesis, Detective Loach, in CHINATOWN, really grew up as a tough-guy – hence the famously flattened beak – and is endlessly cheerful discussing his strings of Sinatra films and Disney films.  But as with many of the interview subjects, his projections for the future of the industry are bleak for directors as well as actors.

Many of the subjects’ best stories are not about themselves, but about their co-workers.  Don Pedro Colley’s adventures working with Jack Palance in the deep south, and Palance’s sticking his neck out for the black members of the cast, are all the more impressive for being so unexpected.  High points of both Royal Dano’s and Mark Lawrence’s interviews are their memories of ‘Cookie,’ the great Elisha Cook Jr., the movies’ perennial victim and, to my surprise, a drunkard of epic proportions.  Another surprise is to find how funny in real life Royal Dano, almost always a tragic figure on-screen, really was.  His insights into working with directors Nicholas Ray on JOHNNY GUITAR and Alfred Hitchcock on THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY are revealing as well. 

Roger Corman made Jonathan Haze a genre star, casting him as the lead in the original LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, and he starred in easily a dozen more for the low-budget mogul.  But I was surprised to learn that, rather than sinking into obscurity afterwards, he moved behind the camera, often partnered with Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler, and has had a series of successes.

Bo Hopkins in THE WILD BUNCH

Bo Hopkins had just as tough a beginning as Dick Bakalyan, a frequent runaway, in and out of homes, then reform schools, then given the choice of jail for a robbery, or joining the Army.  He fought in Korea, came back with acting scholarships that led to do plays from Kentucky to South Carolina to New York to Hollywood.  He made a smash in his first film role, playing Crazy Lee in THE WILD BUNCH, but he actually earned his S.A.G. card on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW.


Speaking of THE WILD BUNCH, L.Q. Jones, half of my absolute favorite bounty-hunting team (with Strother Martin), reveals that he took his name from the character he played in his first movie, BATTLE CRY.  His story of how, as a non-actor, he got the part, and his dealings with director Raoul Walsh on BATTLE CRY and THE NAKED AND THE DEAD are too delicious to give away.  He also credits his buddy Fess Parker with getting him in the door and having his back (Morgan Woodward would tell me the same about Fess).  A man with many more facets to his personality than his screen villainy would suggest, L.Q. would also write and produce the wonderfully creepy THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN, and write, produce and direct the sci-fi classic A BOY AND HIS DOG, from Harlan Ellison’s novella. 

Buck Kartalian’s story of how we went, with no intervening steps, from being a professional wrestler, to acting onstage opposite Olivia De Havilland and Jack Hawkins in ROMEO AND JULIET is alone worth the price of admission. 
German-born, Canadian-raised Paul Koslo became a familiar, menacing face starting with OMEGA MAN, and has done a wide range of horror, action, sci-fi films, and Westerns like JOE KIDD, ROOSTER COGBURN and HEAVEN’S GATE.  His stories about Charles Bronson are as astonishing as they are disappointing – Mr. Deathwish comes off as an absolute bastard.  And yet, Bronson would hire Koslo for two more films!  Of equal interest is Koslo’s convincing analysis of the demise of the character actor: the tremendous rise of star salaries has reduced everyone else, regardless of their fame, experience and talent, to scale – take it or leave it.

It’s clear in the tone that some of the subjects were more eager to talk than others – Marc Lawrence continually interjects comments like, “I think you’ve got enough there to write fifteen articles.  What else do you want?”  But author Humphreys charmed and persuaded and cajoled the anecdotes out of them.  Along with the faces, there are a hundred stories you will never forget.  NAMES YOU NEVER REMEMBER – WITH FACES YOU NEVER FORGET, will give you hours of pleasure, ten unique perspectives on the film industry, and will send you searching for dozens of movies – ones that you’ve never seen before, and others you know well, but will appreciate on a whole new level.  I recommend it highly.    


Sam Elliot, the actor with the best ‘western’ voice to come along since Bill Conrad voiced Matt Dillon on radio’s GUNSMOKE, will be joining the cast of JUSTIFIED as a continuing character for its sixth, and final, season.  His character is Markham, an ex-gangster who has turned over a new leaf – the cannabis kind – and made a fortune growing legal weed in Colorado.  Also joining the cast is Garret Dillahunt, who played Ed Miller in THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES, Wendell in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, and Sheriff Baskin in WINTER’S BONE.  His character, Walker (not a Texas Ranger), is a special ops-turned-security maven for a not-so-clean businessman.  JUSTIFIED returns to FX in January.


Fess Parker 

This coming Sunday, September 28th, INSP will bring back DANIEL BOONE, within four days of its NBC premiere in 1964. In the title role, Fess Parker had become a superstar on early television as Davy Crockett on a series of WALT DISNEY’S WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR episodes, and for insurance, NBC decided to have him wear the same wardrobe playing Boone, coonskin cap and all.  (As a result, virtually no member of my generation can separate the exploits of Boone and Crockett.) 

Fess Parker and Ed Ames 

For six seasons and 165 episodes, the series told the sometimes true, sometimes fanciful tales of the pioneer frontiersman who lived from 1734 to 1820, fought in the Revolutionary War, was captured by Shawnee warriors who planned to kill him and ended up adopting him, and who blazed his famous Wilderness Trail through the Cumberland Gap in the Appalachian Mountains.  Most of the stories take place in the town of Boonesborough, Kentucky. 

Starring along with Fess Parker was Patricia Blair as his wife Rebecca, Veronica Cartwright as their daughter Jemima, and Darby Hinton as their son Israel.  (For the record, Boone and Rebecca actually had ten children, and this past Friday at the Silver Spur Awards, host Darby Hinton explained that there were going to be two sons in the series.  But the producers were so pleased with his work in the pilot that they wrote the other son out.)

Over the years, Dan’l had several friends and sidekicks that drifted in and out, refreshing the series, including Ed Ames, of the singing Ames Brothers, as Mingo, Boone’s Oxford-educated half-Cherokee friend; crusty old Dal McKennon – incredibly, the voice of Archie Andrews in cartoons – as Cincinnatus; Albert Salmi as Yadkin; pro-football player Rosey Grier as Gabe Cooper; and country singer and sausage purveyor Jimmy Dean as Josh Clements.      

Patricia Blair, Darby Hinton, Fess Parker, Veronica Cartwright

Daniel Boone’s life, and hence the series, covered a period in American history that was not often shown, and the battles with the British military, and stories about slavery in a pre-abolitionist society, are pleasantly unfamiliar.  It started in black & white, and I prefer these tougher and darker tales than the later ones.  (I feel the same way about the first noir-ish episodes of SUPERMAN for that matter.) But there is plenty to recommend in the entire run of the series. 

As Doug Butts, SVP of Programming at INSP says, “DANIEL BOONE is not only entertaining. It embodies the timeless values and positive entertainment audiences have come to expect from INSP.  We couldn't be more thrilled to bring DANIEL BOONE to our lineup during the 50th anniversary of the series, and we believe it will be a great opportunity for a whole new generation of viewers to enjoy this family drama.”

INSP will begin with a star-studded 6-hour marathon on Sunday, September 28th, opening with the two-parter from the second season, THE HIGH CUMBERLAND, about the blazing of the Cumberland Trail.  It’s directed by Western specialist (he directed John Wayne eleven times) George Sherman, and written by D.D. Beauchamp, who started out with Abbott & Costello before becoming a Western pro.  The series will run Monday through Thursday at 10:00 a.m., ET.  If you don’t know if you get INSP, follow the link: <>.


On Saturday, September 27th, Get-TV will present an eight-film marathon featuring some of the very best of Col. Tim McCoy’s Columbia Westerns!  These were the absolute zenith of his career in talkies, and to have such a block of them is unprecedented!  It starts off with a bang at 9:00 a.m. PDT with 1932’s END OF THE TRAIL, featuring both an involving a story and, remarkable for its time, the Colonel speaking, as I recall, direct to camera, delivering a stunning indictment of the Federal Government’s failure to honor the terms of virtually any of the treaties it made with the Indian tribes.  It’s followed by THE PRESCOTT KID, SHOTGUN PASS, THE FIGHTING FOOL, TEXAS CYCLONE, TWO-FISTED LAW, DARING DANGER, and FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE, all from 1930-1933.  And they’re followed at 7:30 by three westerns I don’t know, RELENTLESS        (1948) starring Robert Young, THE PHANTOM STAGECOACH (1957) starring William Bishop and directed by Ray Nazarro, REPRISAL (1956) starring Guy Madison, and one we all know, THE OUTLAW (1943ish) starring Jack Beutel, Jane Russell, Walter Huston, Thomas Mitchell, and directed by the two Howards, Hughes and Hawks.  And here’s a link to find out if you can get GetTV:


This great picture from the ‘Spirit of The Cowboy’, held in McKinney, Texas on September 14th, was sent to me by CHEYENNE WARRIOR author Michael Druxman.  What a great gathering!
Upper row: Dan Haggerty, Michael Druxman, Clu Guhlager, James Stacey    
Middle row: Marshal Teague, Robert Fuller, Darby Hinton, Ken Farmer,  Bo Hopkins

In front: Alex Cord


Coming to the Round-up ASAP are an article on BOONEVILLE REDEMPTION, THE CINECON SALUTE TO CLAYTON MOORE, THE SILVER SPUR AWARDS, and tons of other good stuff! 

Have a great week!

Happy Trails,


All Original Content Copyright September 2014 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

Monday, September 15, 2014



Dawn and Clayton at the Cowboy Hall of Fame 1990

The first time I saw Clayton Moore in person was the day he got his star at 6914 Hollywood Boulevard, on the Walk of Fame.  His is the only star of the more than 2000 which also names the character that brought him fame. 

In 1996, my wife and I actually got to shake his hand.  It was at a book-signing for his autobiography, I WAS THAT MASKED MAN, written with Frank Thompson.  It was at the biggest bookstore in the San Fernando Valley, Bookstar.  Once a movie theatre,  the line stretched from Moore, seated at a table in front of what had been the screen, all the way through the orchestra, across the lobby, past the box-office and onto Ventura Boulevard.  (Incidentally, if you’d turned right on Ventura, then left at the next corner, Laurel Canyon, you’d be at the entrance to Republic Studios, where Clayton had been ‘King of the Serials.’) 

While we waited for our turn to meet the man we’d both grown up watching portray history’s greatest champion of justice, we were struck by the number of men in line, in military and police uniforms – in front of us was a CHP officer with his helmet dangling from his arm.  The atmosphere was electric – voices all around us announced that watching Clayton Moore as The Lone Ranger had inspired them to go into the Army or the police department.  I spotted a friend in line, an attorney who happens to be one of Tex Ritter’s sons.  When we got to the head of the line, we got our book signed, a chance to say ‘thanks’, a big grin, a strong hand-shake, and strong eye contact – through the mask! Who could ask for more?

I am indebted to my friend Maxine Hansen at Gene Autry Entertainment, who thought that Clayton’s daughter Dawn and I should meet.

Clayton (r) in Buffalo Bill in Tomahawk Country

HENRY:  Your father is so associated in the public mind with the Lone Ranger that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that it’s not the 100th birthday of the character; it’s the hundredth anniversary of the birth of the man who portrayed him.  Tell me something about your father that we fans of the Lone Ranger wouldn’t guess. 

DAWN MOORE:  What most people don’t know about Dad is that he had an incredible sense of humor.  He was really a big kid; he was irreverent, and kind of whacky, and liked to have a good time.

HENRY: Besides playing the Lone Ranger, your dad played a wide range of roles – I particularly liked his villains.  How did he like playing a bad guy?  Did he have any favorite non Lone Ranger roles?

DAWN:  You know, he did actually, because when he got the role of the Lone Ranger he was told in no uncertain terms, that he was to mimic (radio’s Lone Ranger) Brace Beemer’s performance, and mimic his voice.  And the Lone Ranger was stoic, and was not to laugh or smile or be light-hearted in any way.  That was challenging, and several seasons into it, he actually said, ‘I’d like to smile.’  And if you watch the progression of it, not only does his horse-back riding improve,  which he also readily admitted, but he actually smiles towards the end of the series run, which he wasn’t allowed to do at the beginning.  He very much enjoyed playing heavies, because that’s when he’d kind of break loose.  (When the Lone Ranger would be in disguise in an episode) he enjoyed playing the prospector, he enjoyed doing the Mexican bandito, he enjoyed the padre; this was much more fun for him than just sticking to the one role consistently.   And that role, let’s face it, was an unemotional man. 

Clayton as the Old Prospector

HENRY:  Yes, nothing upset him, and nothing made him particularly happy, as you say, until a few seasons in.  It’s funny, because you really see that with George Reeves playing SUPERMAN too, that he was stoic and humorless for the first few seasons.

DAWN:  And you can see what that did for Reeves.

HENRY: Didn’t do him any good.  I loved when your dad did The Old Prospector and other characters.  Those roles were so much fun and he did a lovely job of them.

DAWN:  Well he, in fact, had The Old Prospector voice on the answering machine at our house.  And often he would, if he didn’t know who was calling, or depending on the kind of mood he was in, often answer in the Old Prospector voice.

HENRY: How old were you when you realized that your dad was a hero to millions of kids?  How did you find out?

DAWN:  I didn’t watch the show; the show was off the air by the time I showed up.  It would have been in re-runs in the 1960s, and in any case, I wasn’t interested – I was watching the MICKEY MOUSE CLUB.  And because he was in a costume and because he was in a mask, he was rarely recognized in public, so I had a normal childhood; he had quite a bit on anonymity.   So therefore I didn’t know he was famous for a very long time.  I was probably almost nine when we were shopping for a television, and the saleswoman stopped him and said, “I recognize your voice.  Are you The Lone Ranger?” 

HENRY:  As you said, the series was already in re-runs when you came along.  Were your friends aware of who your father was?  Did your parents have many friends in the business? 

DAWN:  Kids in school; you know, mostly I got teased.  I remember being teased quite a bit.  The fun thing was, when I had a birthday party, Dad would be Dad when the kids arrived, and at some point in the middle of the party, he would make a personal appearance as The Lone Ranger.  And then he would disappear again, and come back as Clayton Moore.  And the kids never were the wiser, because they were too young to get the voice thing.  That was fun – that was very fun.  But at school it was more about kids looking for things to tease you about.  About my father’s friends; he didn’t really hang out with other actors.  He hung out with the grips and the stuntmen, and the behind-the-scenes guys.  Because he was a guy’s guy, a man’s man.  And he really wasn’t interested in hanging out with the stars.  My mother would always kind of ride him about that.  ‘Why should I hang out with actors?’  He was not interested.

Clayton is a villain in Gene Autry's 'Night Train to Galveston'

HENRY: Did you ever watch the show with your dad?

DAWN: I didn’t ever watch it with him, and I didn’t watch pretty much anything that he was in with him until we started working on his book, so this was not until the ‘90s. And when we did start working on his book, I did make a point of going through every one of the serials even, and I have both audio and video of the two of us watching that together, and his comments.


DAWN:  That was his first one, 1942.  And that in fact was the inspiration for RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. 

HENRY:  Oh yes, when you watch it, it becomes very obvious.

DAWN:  I’m thrilled that you know that.  It’s almost identical, including the characters.  The only thing that’s different is that in PERILS OF NYOKA, the star is Nyoka.  But the doctor, and all the other characters – it’s all there.  I don’t think Speilberg ever copped to it, but I know Lucas did.  Do you know if Speilberg ever did?

Kay Aldridge, Clayton, Billy Benedict in
'Perils of Nyoka'

HENRY:  I don’t remember him doing so, but he certainly said he did a great study of the Republic serials before making it.  He was certainly copping to owing a huge debt to the genre.

DAWN:  Dad actually brought that to my attention.  I don’t know who brought it to his attention.

HENRY:  In his autobiography, your father describes adopting you as, “…the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”  How close were you and your dad? 

DAWN:  Dad was a big kid, and because of that he really was a fun father.  He was not a disciplinarian.  That fell to my mother.  So naturally, what does that do to any kid?  The parent who was not the disciplinarian becomes your friend.  So in hindsight I realize my poor mother really got the short end of the stick on that deal.  Somebody’s always the bad guy, and it was never my father.  He enjoyed those roles, but he would never take the bad-guy position in real life.  I would also say he was encouraging.  He was not judgmental, which in a parent is an extraordinary thing.  He thought I walked on water.  He always praised anything, any stupid little thing I did got tremendous praise.  Buuuut… and here’s kind of a fun flipside of that.  Because he was such a good athlete, and I’m sure he learned what I am about to share with you from his own father, he didn’t ‘let’ me win anything that we did together.  If I won fair and square, that was great, but he would not just give it to me.  We played tennis together, and I‘d be running from one side of the court to the other, and he’d be standing still.  And I got so frustrated I can remember one time saying to him, “Why don’t you just let me win one?”  And he said, “Because you’re not going to learn anything by me letting you win.”  He taught me how to dive.  He was an excellent swimmer – he used to swim with Johnny Weissmuller at the Hollywood Athletic Club.  And obviously he knew, from being a trapeze artist, how to be graceful in a dive. So he taught me how to dive, and he would rate me.  “That’s a 7, that’s an 8, that’s an 8 and a half – try again.”  He was encouraging without being judgmental, and that’s a good thing when you’re young, and still living at home, and you come home drunk.  (laughs)  That’s another sign of great parents; I knew when they were disappointed in me.  They didn’t have to go into a long verbal dissertation about it; it was very clear.  He gave direction and encouragement and 
guidance when needed.  He was a buddy; he was a friend.

HENRY:  Were there any other things you two liked to do together?

DAWN:  He used to take me fishing.  He had two brothers; there were three boys in his family, and he was very close to his father, so he did all the same things with me.  We went fishing.  When he would practice using the bullwhip, I would be the one standing there with the cigarette in my mouth.  Now of course, the cigarette was a rolled up piece of paper.  And my mother was mortified – and sure that he was going to hurt me in some way, accidentally of course.  But I was having great fun.  When he was home, he engaged me in everything he was doing.  Some people’s parents come home from work, and they need some downtime.  But because Dad was home all the time, there wasn’t that separation.

Clayton and Dawn at Pat Buttram's 1959

HENRY:  Were there any particular friends from the Lone Ranger days – actors, directors, writers, that stayed friends after the series had finished?

DAWN:  You know, if they didn’t have children, then I wouldn’t remember.  My father remained very close to his Army buddies.  And they were not actors.  He remained close with them until they all started dying off in the 1970s and 1980s.  There were four of them, Dad was one of the four, and they would get together with their wives.  That I remember very distinctly.  But that is another good example of my father being down to Earth, and being more interested in befriending people who were not in the industry. 

HENRY:  Somewhere I have in the back of my head that your father and Rand Brooks were good friends.  Is that right?  (Note: Rand Brooks and Clayton Moore worked together in 1940’s THE SON OF MONTE CRISTO, and seven Lone Ranger episodes)

DAWN:  That’s absolutely right.  I never associate Rand with THE LONE RANGER because Rand, having been in GONE WITH THE WIND in 1939 (note: he played Scarlet O’Hara’s first husband) was already doing very well before my Father arrived.  They were best friends; they were very very close friends.  Rand spoke at Dad’s memorial service, and was very moving.

HENRY: What were your father’s interests or hobbies outside of acting?

DAWN:  For the most part, his hobbies all involved athletics.  He swam almost every day.  He would be out for very long walks.  He would go for camping trips on weekends – he always had some kind of motor-home or camper.  Some kind of vehicle that allowed him to get away.   To this day – why I continue to save it I don’t know – I have all his camping equipment, his fishing gear, and sleeping bag and Coleman stove, and I’m never going to use it as long as I live.  But somehow, that is more who my father was.  It was more important to me even than saving a lot of his Lone Ranger memorabilia.  People ask me, when I’ve had these various auctions, “How can you part with these things?”  And that is not who my father was to me.  My father is in the fishing reel and the tackle box, and I remember him showing me how to get a worm on a hook.  Those things are my father.  The Bohlen gun rig is a character, and part of my father’s job, but that’s not him to me.  So the difference in what I choose to keep, and what’s not as important to me, and should go out for fans to enjoy and be stewards of – the mind-set is a little different.

HENRY:  What triggered your father’s decision to ‘become’ the Lone Ranger, and never appear in public without the mask?

DAWN:  He never appeared, working at any kind of a performance where he would be the Lone Ranger – he didn’t show up or leave without being in the costume – so-as not to dispel the mystery and ruin the mystique.  But he’d really found something that made him feel good about himself.  That’s really what it drove down to: he fell in love with the character, and he said many times that it made him a better person.  And when you look at the Lone Ranger Creed, you can pick out any one of the tenants, and see that it is still completely relevant eighty years later.  And very powerful stuff.  He read it; he took it to heart.  He thought, this is a way to live a better life.  It meant something to him, and he made choices every day based on the creed.  It’s hard to be perfect (laughs).  He certainly didn’t achieve perfection by any means, but the fact that he made the effort to is certainly more than most of us would ever try to do.

HENRY:  Yes, to have a code to live up to every day is taking on an awful lot.

DAWN:  It is taking on a whole lot, and I think my father wasn’t particularly religious, but in lieu of that, that was his religion. 

HENRY:  Much of your father’s later Lone Ranger work, like the Aqua-Velva and Pizza-Roll commercials, was tongue-in-cheek, and he had to play it stoic for the joke to work.  What was your father’s sense of humor like?

DAWN:  He loved doing those commercials because they were so tongue-in-cheek – he was totally in on the joke; he absolutely ‘got it.’  If you came to the house you would have been encouraged to put the mask on, you would have been encouraged to put the hat on or the gun-belt on.  It was a lot of fun for him – he never really got out of being ten years old himself.  There he was playing a character that any kid would want to be, so why wouldn’t he want to do this for the rest of his life.  Dad’s sense of humor -- he thought it was hilarious that they had just bought two plots at Forest Lawn, and how beautiful it was up there.  So when we had guests visiting from Minneapolis, and they wanted to tour around and see all the sights, we went there of course, and he thought it was just hysterical to lay down where his plot was, and make them take a picture.  And they wanted to play along, and my mother was mortified – “Clayton, get up out of there!”

HENRY:  By the 1980s, most active actors of your father’s era were making the rounds of LOVE 
BOAT, FANTASY ISLAND and MURDER SHE WROTE.  Was he approached for this sort of show?  Did he consider them, though it would have gone against his intention to only appear as The Lone Ranger?  

DAWN:  You know, I don’t know exactly where the line got drawn with him.  Garry Marshall approached him to come on HAPPY DAYS, because The Lone Ranger was Fonzie’s hero, and Dad turned that down.  I was surprised at that because it perfectly fit in with who he was, and his portrayal of the character.  I mean, he appeared as The Lone Ranger on LASSIE, and other shows, so it was interesting to me that he turned that down, and another actor had to do that.

HENRY:  It was John Hart. (Note: When, after a few years, Clayton Moore wanted a raise, he was fired and replaced by John Hart.  After one season the producers rehired Moore for more money.)

DAWN:  It was John Hart?  I didn’t realize that.  What did make sense for me was to turn down Johnny Carson.  Johnny Carson asked him a record three times.  Dad’s position was, ‘I’m not going to sit there, on that kind of a format on that kind of a show, in a costume and a mask, and a gun-belt – it’d look absolutely silly for a full-grown man.  And I’m not going to appear as Clayton Moore, because that will destroy the mystique.’  Carson asked him again and he said no, same reason.  Jay Silverheels did appear, and I believe he was in costume, and I think that reinforced Dad to say ‘I won’t do it.’  That makes perfect sense, because he wanted to continue to maintain the mystery.  So that’s why he only took the commercials, which allowed him to continue the mystery.  He did ED SULLIVAN, and my Dad never said a bad word about anyone except Ed Sullivan.  Ed did not go along with the program, meaning he didn’t go along with the joke, he couldn’t interact with him the way he needed to.  My guess is he didn’t want a repeat of the Ed Sullivan experience with Johnny Carson.  He was smart in how he crafted the balance of his career that way, and what he chose to do and what he chose not to do.  In hindsight he did a good job.

HENRY:  I recently met Michael Horse, who played Tonto in the 1981 THE LEGEND OF THE 

LONE RANGER.  And when I re-watched the film, there was a role in it, of a newspaper publisher, that I thought would have made an excellent cameo for your father.  And when I saw the credits, I was stunned: it was played by John Hart.  Was that ever offered to your father?

DAWN: He was not offered any part, but in any case, had he been offered that, he would not have accepted it.  His take on (the story for the movie) would have been totally genius.  He understood that the Lone Ranger was a young man in his late teens or early twenties.  And the way to have transitioned from the fan stand-point, and it would have made a fantastic story-line, is to have him hand the mask down to the next generation onscreen.  Literally, shooting from behind, have him take the mask off and hand it to the next Lone Ranger.   That would have been fantastic, and the story is a great conceit.  They did a fantastic job when Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster did MAVERICK.  It was smart and funny and irreverent, and there was that great wink, how they folded in James Garner.  And they didn’t take the role away from Garner, he was Maverick, but the father.   But no, (my father) was not offered anything, and he would not have taken the bartender had he been offered it. 

HENRY:  What is your father’s legacy?

DAWN:  As I continue to hear from fans, his legacy lies in what the fan-letters say.  This was during his lifetime, in addition to the letters I continue to receive, and what you can find on-line on chat-boards and tribute sites.  The letters are from policemen, and firemen, and teachers, all of whom say they chose a career in service because of him, because of his portrayal.  Not just because of the Lone Ranger, but because of Clayton Moore, and how he chose to live his life.  That is pretty powerful stuff.  This is not just an actor portraying a role for entertainment’s sake.  This is how someone who has been able to transcend the entertainment value, and influence young peoples’ lives at a time that they are sponges, and they absorb something positive and carry it forward into their adult lives.  And they are serving other people, protecting other people.  I think that’s very powerful, and it’s important to me to share that on my father’s birthday. 

Next week I’ll have my coverage of Cinecon’s tribute to Clayton Moore.  Below is a video of Clayton Moore receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


On Wednesday, September 17th, Rob Word’s third-Wednesday-of-the-month Cowboy Lunch at the Autry will celebrate the legendary Western movie location, Lone Pine, located several hours north of Los Angeles on the east slope of the Sierra Nevada.  The sun-scorched desert, eerie rock formations and Alabama Hills have made it a favorite film location since the silent days, much used by Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy and hundreds of others – it even stood in for India in GUNGA DIN! 

Among the guests expected are Mariette Hartley, who starred in Sam Peckinpah’s RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY; William Wellman, Jr.; Robert Sigman of the Lone Pine History Museum;  and author Dick Bann.  Incidentally, October 10 – 12 is the 25th Annual Lone Pine Film Festival – I’ll have details in the Round-up next week.   As always, Wednesday’s is free, tho’ you have to buy your lunch.  Lunch starts at noon, the talk starts about one, but if you want to be sure to get a seat inside, gets there early!

To whet your appetite for the luncheon, here’s a look at the WILD BUNCH LUNCH, where stuntman Gary Combs describes working for Sam Peckinpah:


2012 finale, featuring Wilford Brimley, Anne Jeffreys, 
Delores Taylor, Bo Svenson, Louis Gossett Jr., 
Tom Laughlin and Ben Murphy

There are still tickets available for the  17th Annual ‘SILVER SPUR AWARDS’ banquet this Friday night, presented by The Reel Cowboys.  Reel Cowboys President Robert Lanthier gave me an update on presenters and honorees.  Master of Ceremonies will be Israel Boone from the DANIEL BOONE series, Darby Hinton, who will soon be seen in the Western mini-series TEXAS RISING!  The first Lifetime Achievement Award will be represented to Clayton ‘The Lone Ranger’ Moore, represented by his daughter Dawn Moore.  The Jack Iverson Founder Award will be presented in honor of Cactus Mack by former child star Tommy Ivo.  Dan Haggerty will present an award honoring John Payne.  Wyatt McCrea, son of Joel McCrea and Frances Dee, will present an award honoring director William Wellman.  Roger E. Mosley will present to stun-man Bob Minor.  Patrick Wayne will present to Stephanie Powers.  Rich Little will present to Ruta Lee.  Among the folks expected to attend are Hugh O’Brien, Trini Lopez and Tab Hunter. 

A portion of the proceeds will go to the John Tracy Clinic, which helps young children with hearing loss.  For the best seating, VIP tickets are $175 on-line and $195 at the door.  General seating is $125 on-line and $145 at the door.  To learn more, and to buy tickets, visit the official website HERE.


The Almeria International Western Film Festival was held this week, and here are the winners:

6 BULLETS cast and crew take to the Apollo Stage

Public’s Choice – LA FLOR DE LIS



As the attached WSJ article explains, LONGMIRE, one of the best and smartest series in years, and an unqualified hit, was cancelled because (a) A&E doesn’t own it, and they want to own more of what they air (understandable) and (b) because polling has shown that the median age for the show’s viewers is 60!  Our geezer-bucks aren’t good enuf for ‘em, even though we have more of ‘em than the young farts they’re coveting!  I’M SHAVING 20 YEARS OFF MY AGE FROM NOW ON, WHENEVER I’M POLLED ABOUT ANYTHING!  PLEASE JOIN ME IN THE BIG LIE!  Jack Benny was right all along!  Signed, Henry C. Parke, age 39.


Have a great week, and I’ll see you here next Sunday!

Happy Trails,


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