Monday, March 23, 2015



On the far side of the globe, in what writer-director Matthew Holmes calls, “…the ‘other’ Wild West – in Australia,” a feature film begins shooting, telling the story of Ben Hall.  Don’t know the name?  “Ben Hall is a famous outlaw over here,” Holmes tells me.  “He’s our version of Jesse James!”  We had our outlaws, the English had their highwaymen, and in Australia they had their bushrangers, and Ben Hall was the most successful of them – for a while. 

For years, Great Britain used Australia as a penal colony, shipping their criminals there; Hall’s mother was an Irish convict, and his father was an English one.  The movie is set in 1865, the last six months of Hall’s career, and Holmes says there will be plenty of excitement: “It’ll be guns, horses, coach hold-ups and frontier life the whole way.” 

Actor Jack Martin and the real Ben Hall

One of the remarkable aspects of the film is how the money was raised: “We raised $100K through crowd-funding to make a short film of Ben Hall and now we're going to make it a two hour feature.”  On-board as executive producer Greg Mclean, who created the popular Aussie WOLF CREEK thriller franchise.  This is Holmes’ second feature – he directed and co-starred with his brother in TWIN RIVERS, about two brothers looking for work, trying to walk the 800 kilometers to Melbourne in 1939. 

Much of the cast of the short will reprise their roles in the feature, and much of that footage will be used.  Starring is screen newcomer Jack Martin as Ben Hall.  Stand by for updates!  And in the meantime, check out the original trailer – it looks terrific!


Those of us who had so enjoyed Rob Word’s delightful live monthly programs at The Autry, entitled A Word on Westerns, were astonished when they abruptly ended in December.  For a year they’d taken place on the third Wednesday of the month.  With topics as wide-ranging as Spaghetti Westerns, Western Comic Books, Sam Peckinpah, and Audie Murphy, the Crossroads Café was always packed with fans eager to hear the reminiscences of the men and women who made the big and small-screen Westerns we’d so enjoyed. 

Out of the blue, Rob was told that the events would be no more.  While he searched for an alternate venue, Word on Westerns fans began calling and writing and emailing the Autry to denounce their decision.  And happily, their voices have been heard.  The programs will begin again on Wednesday, May 20th, with A Salute to Duke, celebrating John Wayne’s birthday.  This has happened so suddenly that he can’t yet confirm who will be participating.

One change is that the events will now be every second month, so the next ones will be in July, September and November – no topics are set yet, but I’ll keep you posted!  In the meantime, check out the clip below, from a recent luncheon, with author Richard Bann discussing movie-making at Lone Pine.


seated, Henry Darrow and Don Collier with
Lauren Darrow and fans

Today was the finale for the HIGH CHAPARRAL REUNION in Tucson.  Here are a couple of snapshots from the event.  It was, to my knowledge, the first such Western event that offered to offer, for $65, a live webcast for fans who could not attend.  Western historian Charlie LeSueur led many of the conversations, and everything I saw was entertaining and informative.  And subscribers will be able to watch until April 9th – perfect for guys like me who couldn’t get a chance to watch more than a few minutes at a time!.  I’ll be very grateful if anyone who either attended or watched the webcast would post their comments! 

Charlie LeSeuer and Don Collier


On Thursday, March 26th, the sixth annual orgy of cinema-ecstasy known as the TCM Classic Film Festival will begin at the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.  This year’s theme is History According To Hollywood, and all of the films featured will portray how the past looks in Hollywood’s rear-view mirror.

A red carpet will precede the 5 pm premiere of the new restoration of THE SOUND OF MUSIC, which will be attended by stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.  At 6:30, the first screening of particular interest to Western fans will be THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, which will be attended by actor Keith Carradine, son of one of the film’s stars, John Carradine.  It’s a family affair this year – children of many of the films’ stars will be attending, including Peter Fonda, Rory Flynn and David Ladd.  For a complete rundown on Western-interest screenings and events, read my earlier article HERE.  For a complete festival schedule, and information on how to attend, go HERE.

Among the particularly unusual screenings will be HOLLYWOOD HOME MOVIES: TREASURES FROM THE ACADEMY FILM ARCHIVES.  For silent movie fans, RETURN OF THE DREAM MACHINE: 1902-1913 will feature century-old movies shown on a hand-cranked 35 mm projector, including William S. Porter’s THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY.  Also, premiering at the Fest will be a pair of restorations, Buster Keaton’s STEAMBOAT BILL JR. (1928); and long believed lost, THE GRIM GAME (1919), starring Harry Houdini.  All silent films will have a live musical accompaniment. 


John Ford’s rarely seen 1924 silent Western about the building of the transcontinental railroad, THE IRON HORSE will be screened at 7pm on Thursday, March 26th, in 35mm, at the Autry.  And since, as The Autry reminds us, silent movies were never seen silent, it will be presented with a new soundtrack by Grammy-nominated composer Tom Peters.  It’s a computer-synchronized soundscape that will be partly performed live.  The cost is $10 for Autry members and students with I.D., $20 for non-members, and reservations are warmly suggested.  Visit


The Santa Clarita Cowboy Fest will be on Saturday and Sunday April 18th & 19th. In addition to the various western entertainments and musical performances I’ve been telling you about (if you’ve missed it, please go HERE ), there are a plethora of separate-ticket events you might want to check out.  

There are two film-location tours.  On Thursday, April 16 at 2 pm, film historians E.J. and Kim Stephens will load you on a bus to show you the many movie-locations in Santa Clarita, including Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch (where they shot OLD YELLER and many others), Vasquez Rocks (where they shot everything), Mystery Mesa, Box Canyon, and the spot on Sierra Highway where Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard walked off into the sunset in MODERN TIMES – the last shot in the last silent movie!  And they’ll end up at Tesoro Adobe, home of Harry Carey.  On Friday at 9 am the bus will whisk you to Hollywood, where you’ll visit the locations of Western poverty row studios; Edendale, where Mack Sennett and Tom Mix made their films; the site of the original Bison Studios; sites associated with William S. Hart and D. W. Griffith, and a stopover at The Autry.  Each tour is about three hours, and each costs $40.

On Friday, April 17, 12:30 pm, cowboy singing legend Don Edwards will perform at the Rancho Camulos Museum the historic ‘Home of Ramona’, where author Helen Hunt Jackson set her beloved novel RAMONA.  The very first film of the story, starring Mary Pickford, and directed by D.W. Griffith, was shot here.  Tickets are $60, which includes lunch. 

Miles Swarthout and C. Courtney Joyner

Friday at 2 pm at the Repertory East Playhouse, Miles Swarthout will present JOHN WAYNE AND ‘THE SHOOTIST’, a ninety-minute talk and film presentation about the making of John Wayne’s last movie.  Spur Award winner Miles wrote THE SHOOTIST screenplay, adapting it from the novel by his father, Glendon Swarthout, who also wrote the novel THE HOMESMAN, on which the recent film was based.  Tickets are $10.  Miles has just published THE LAST SHOOTIST, a sequel to his father’s novel.  I look forward to interviewing Miles at the OutWest Store Buckaroo Bookshop, Saturday at noon.  Saturday at three I’ll be talking with Miles and fellow novelists and screenwriters C. Courtney Joyner, Stephen Lodge and Dale Jackson about their adventures adapting novels into screenplays and screenplays into novels.  If you’d like to read my earlier interview with Miles, check out the Round-up ‘Homesman Issue’ HERE.  

Friday night at Heritage Junction from 6pm to 10 pm it’s Friday Night Flickers!  For $10 you can enjoy William S. Hart short films and SUDDENLY (1954), the rarely seen assassination thriller starring Frank Sinatra, and shot entirely is Saugus!  Popcorn included!

Friday night at 8 pm, the Western swing band Cowbop will perform at the William S. Hart Mansion – tickets are $45.

Saturday night at 8 pm at Heritage Junction, Marie-Wise Hawkins will perform her country western music in the style that made her a finalist on COUNTRY SHOWDOWN IN NASHVILLE.  The $45 tickets include a barbecue chicken dinner.

Saturday night at 8 pm experience An Evening With Buffalo Bill at the William S. Hart Mansion , a one-man-show starring Peter Sherayko, who will be in a perfect location to present the story of one of the most remarkable and controversial figures in the history of the American West.  Tickets are $40. (You can read my review of An Evening With Buffalo Bill HERE. )

Peter Sherayko, me, writers Rolfe Kanefsky and C. Courtney Joyner

Peter Sherayko will also be at the OutWest Store Buckaroo Bookshop, Saturday at 11 am and Sunday at 2 pm, taking part in Wordsmiths: Poets Present Their Favorites, along with poets Alameda Bradshaw, Peter Conway and Andria Kidd. 

On Sunday from 9 am to 3 pm you can take the Santa Clarita Historical Tour by bus.  You will visit 30 points of historical interest, four in depth, and you will be fed a sandwich lunch.  Wear comfortable shoes, be prepared for some rough terrain, and don’t bring anyone under six.  And bring $60.

Sunday at 8 am attend Cowboy Church at Masters College.  Church is free.  You can learn about all of the Buckaroo Bookshop events HERE.  To find out all about the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, go HERE. 


The 36th Annual Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show was held Sunday at the Glendale Civic Auditorium.  Eighty dealers from around the country sold their wares, and 45 authors signed their books for free.  This event skews pretty sharply towards sci-fi, horror and mystery, so author-wise there was little Western interest.  Two much-anticipated guests who have frequently attended, were not there: THE WALTONS creator and TWILIGHT ZONE writer Earl Hamner Jr. was unable to attend, and sci-fi legend Ib Melchior died last week. 

Thanks for coloring in the 'I', kid.  You 
probably saved me five bucks

Serious paperback collectors are a snobby bunch – they only want their books in pristine condition, and they pay top dollar for it.  I like what they sneeringly call ‘reader copies’ or ‘place-holders’, and there were bargains to be found: many good Westerns books to be had for fifty cents to a dollar.  Among others, I picked up the novelization of the John Wayne movie CAHILL – UNITED STATES MARSHALL, by Joe Millard, who also novelized the Leone Westerns, and wrote a whole MAN WITH NO NAME series. 

SMOKY ROAD by ‘king of the pulps’ Frank Gruber, who also wrote movies for Randolph Scott – RAGE AT DAWN and FIGHTING MAN OF THE PLAINS, and the Sherlock Holmes films, TERROR BY NIGHT and DRESSED TO KILL. 

Seems to high-strung to last in the West

Also grabbed DOUBLE CROSS TRAIL by E.E. Halleran, and STAGECOACH, a novel by Robert W. Krepps, published to tie in with the 1966 movie re-make.  I love this last one particularly because of how many writers’ hands were in it: the novel is based on Joseph Landon’s 1966 screenplay, which is based on Dudley Nichols’ 1939 screenplay, which is based on Ernest Haycox’s 1937 short story STAGE TO LORDSBURG.  You can’t really tell, but the cover design, from the movie poster, is a wonderful painting by Norman Rockwell.

In the past, I don’t remember paying less than a dollar a book at this event, and while I loved getting my literary fix at two for a buck, it troubled me: does the lower price reflect a loss of interest in the Western?  At the next table, DR. WHO books and STAR WARS books were also two for a dollar, so I think all is well.  


I know I promised my Michael Horse interview this week, but I haven’t finished transcribing it yet, and with the TCM Fest starting on Thursday night, I’m not quite sure when I’ll get to!  And speaking of the TCM Fest, Peter Fonda, who will be introducing MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, and giving a talk about his father Henry Fonda, is in town for another reason as well.  He and Kevin Sorbo will spend a couple of days shooting scenes in the Santa Clarita area to flesh out a new Western, JESSE JAMES: LAWMAN, which has mostly been shot in Manitoba, starring Andrew Galligan, and directed by Brett Kelly.  I’ll tell you more when I know more!

Happy Trails,


All Original Content Copyright March 2015 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved  


  1. Another great read. After spending some time in Australia, I would love to see the new film on Ben Hall. Also sounds like the Jesse James film might have a new take on him.

  2. For all our great American cousins, if you would like more information on Australia's wild Bushranger Ben Hall and the men associated with him, then check out, full of authentic newspaper articals, photo's and colonial history etc... wishing everyone all the best, Mark Matthews.

    1. Thanks for the tip, Mark! I just checked out the site, and it's terrific!

    2. Thank you, it's still a work in progress, so much to research, Ps: I am a huge Duke fan, I have many collectables and many great films, Blue Steele, Shadow of the Eagle Vol1,2,3 etc. Once more thank you, if you like I can put your link on my link page, just a thought.
      All the very best, or as they said in old 1800's Australia, I remain Sir, your obiedient servant, Mark

    3. Thank you, Mark. I'd be delighted if you'd put a link to the Round-up on your excellent page. Come to think of it, I ought to start putting up a list of links to the pages I visit often. Much obliged, Henry