Monday, April 13, 2015



In addition to the previously announced musical, literary, eating and shopping-related events happening at the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival this coming weekend, something new has been added!  Marking the 150th Anniversary of the end of the Civil War, for the first time the Festival will include living history encampments, plus at 12:45 and 3:15 on both days, Heritage Junction will be transformed into a Civil War battleground!  These events are peopled by dedicated history buffs, and will immerse you in that time in a way no book or movie ever could – it’s a wonderful way to introduce kids and adults to the history of the Civil War and the American West!      

And you can test your stamina on the mechanical bull, and your skill at hatchet-throwing, archery, and fast-draw laser tag! For a rundown on all of the musical events, go HERE . For my rundown of all the separate-ticket events, go HERE

Once again I’ll have the pleasure of moderating several of the panels and conducting interviews at the Buckaroo Book Shop, starting Saturday at high noon for a talk with author and screenwriter Miles Swarthout, about THE SHOOTIST, THE LAST SHOOTIST, and THE HOMESMAN.  At 2 pm I’ll discuss Unsung Heroes of Film: The Hollywood Stunt Horse, with Karen Ross, senior consultant at the American Humane Society’s Film & TV Unit, authors Petrine Day Mitchum and Audria Pavia, Gene Autry Entertainment president Karla Buhlman.  

Saturday at three I’ll be talking with novelists and screenwriters Miles Swarthout, C. Courtney Joyner, Stephen Lodge and Dale Jackson about their adventures adapting novels into screenplays and screenplays into novels.  At 5 pm I’ll be chatting with Karla Buhlman, President of Gene Autry Entertainment, about the legacy of America's Favorite Singing Cowboy, Gene Autry. 

On Sunday I only have one panel, Name That Horse – Famous Horses and Their Pards, featuring Karla Buhlman and authors Petrine Day Mitchum and Audria Pavia. 

There will be many other interesting panels both days -- for an official schedule of all of the events happening at the Buckaroo Book Shop, go HERE.  Every book mentioned or shown will be available at the Buckaroo Book Shop, And they can all be purchased right now from OutWest -- just click the link at the top left of the page!  

I’m particularly excited that the Buckaroo Book Shop will be located in the cluster of historic buildings called Heritage Junction, in the Pardee House, which was built in 1890, and was used as a film location by Tom Mix, John Ford and Harry Carey among many others.  Other structures at the Junction include the Newhall Ranch House, Saugus Train Station featuring the Mogul Engine, Mitchell Adobe, Edison House, Kingsburry House, Callahan Schoolhouse, and the Ramona Chapel.   
For all of the specifics of the entire Santa Clarita Cowboy Fest, visit


We think of Peter Fonda as a film actor, but he has worked extensively on stage as well; one of his first successes, in college, was the James Stewart role in HARVEY.  “I was listening to Chris Plummer and Julie Andrews talk about this last night, what it is to share with an audience.  I liked starting my career out, as my dad did, on stage, because it’s a much more defined area of acting.  Film acting is totally different.  One thing I’ve taught to students in colleges, if they are actors, and want to know about stage acting, I tell them this, if you catch this, and let it bleed out to all the other things you do on stage, this is the key:  if you’re supposed to cry, and then the audience cries, you have to be very, very tender with the timing.  Because if you drop a tear first, the audience will let you cry for them.  But if you wait until you hear the first sniffle, the first catch in somebody’s the throat somewhere in the audience, and then drop a tear, the audience goes Niagara.  In movies, it can be helped by editing.  But if you’re on stage, and you want them to laugh, don’t laugh first, don’t cry first.” 

Interviewer Scott Eyman, author of PRINT THE LEGEND – THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JOHN FORD, and JOHN WAYNE – THE LIFE AND LEGEND, noted that Peter’s and Henry’s relationship had been ‘fraught,’ but said that by the time Hank passed, they were ‘very tight’.  What changed their relationship?   Peter replied, “Well, I got to direct him, and act with him (in WANDA NEVADA) – which he thought was totally nuts.  Brooke Shields, me and dad.  I hired my dad.  It was funny, I called him on the phone and asked him, if he’d be able to work with me for one day, and I could only pay him fifteen-hundred bucks.   He said, ‘Is it a good part?’  Yuh, I’ll send you the sides.  ‘Sides, you’ll send me the sides?  You don’t know what sides are!’  Now I do, if you recall me on the road, feeding your cue lines to you from sides. 

That's bearded Hank with Peter and Brooke

“He came and worked with me, and the experience was remarkable.  I don’t have enough time to tell you all of the beautiful details, and how it started to crumble.  He hated the beard, and I don’t blame him, but he didn’t hear me when I said it was a fairy tale, and it didn’t need to be a real beard.  I say Dad, you’re supposed to be chewing tobacco in the scene, and you’re not well, and I’ve got this little bag of ground up licorice.  And he absolutely adored this stuff, and the camera doesn’t know it’s not tobacco.  No, it’s my dad, the perfectionist, the realist.  (He) took out a bag of Red Man Chewing Tobacco.  Don’t take this the wrong way; he said, ‘Bill Cosby gave me this!’ You’re too sick to chew tobacco, and I’ve got this all ready for you.  ‘No.’ I knew when the no meant no further talk.  I popped the licorice in my mouth, got over him, and started to drool the licorice into his beard.  I got a little spirits of mineral oil on it – ‘Close your eyes, Dad!’  Whew -- threw dust into his beard.  ‘You’re ready for your close-up now – see you on-set!’ Went ouside, and Michael Butler, the cameraman said, ‘Wow!  How do you do that?’  I said, ‘First time, I never did it before.  But I was the director, what the heck.’  

“He did the job for me, and three weeks later, I got a letter from him in Page, Arizona. And it was hot.  I was glad Dad didn’t die of the heat; but I knew Dad was dying.   And he wrote me this fabulous letter – perhaps the fifth that he had ever written me.  And it was that he felt bad about the beard, and he wouldn’t blame me if I cut it out of the film, but it would have been such a gas – his phrase.  Here comes the hard part to tell.  It was a five page letter.  And at the end, ‘In my forty-one years of making motion pictures, I have never seen a crew so devoted to the director.  You are a very good director.  And please remember me for your company.’  Now a company is a word we normally use in stage.  But in John Ford’s time, he carried a (stock) company of actors with him from one film to the next.  Ward Bond was one of them.  John Carradine was another.   Great characters.  Walter Brennan.  Great characters that he would have as his company.  And the fact that my dad wanted to be part of my company… How cool is that?”

Peter and Scott Eyman talked about the films they re-watched in preparation for this interview.  Fonda recalled, “I had to watch THE OX-BOW INCIDENT, and THE GRAPES OF WRATH, of course.  And then I blew it on the red carpet last night.  They asked me what my favorite film was, and I said DUCK SOUP.  I should have said BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES.  I should have said EMPIRE OF THE SUN, a great film by Steven Speilberg.  Of course, Groucho loved EASY RIDER.” 

Scott Eyman asked, “When you look at your dad’s work today, one actor to another, what do you see?”

Warren Oates and Peter Fonda in THE HIRED HAND

Peter replied, “I watch his timing.  I watch how his eyes move or don’t.  And I’ve learned that, when you’re in close-up, eye movement can really be disturbing on a big screen.  And I can see, and I always watched him on-stage, he had this tension in his fingers like this (his arms straight down, his fingers drumming on his leg).  He knew how to do hands-down performances day-in and day-out.  There’s a reason I call them hands-down performances. He didn’t have to do this (Peter makes a bunch of hand-gestures).  You just have your hands at your sides, and say the lines, and say them with such fullness and conviction that the audience understands them without any added movements.  I was watching one of my favorite Westerns - and I blew it again on the red carpet.  They asked me what my favorite Western was, and I said (laughs) THE HIRED HAND (which Peter Fonda directed and stars in).  And when my dad finally saw that, by the way, he was thoroughly pleased.  ‘That’s my kind of Western,’ he said.  I couldn’t ask for a better compliment.  But now I see it (the hands) in MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, he’s doing that again, and it doesn’t distract me from the story, from the character.  He is Wyatt Earp.  I believe, and I knew Ward Bond very well, I knew John Wayne, I knew all these guys.  I knew them all, I believe all their characters.  And Victor Mature was so incredible in that film.  It was his best performance.  I don’t know how many of you have seen that film.  It was his finest performance, and he did it for John Ford.  And I’m so thrilled to be able to say that about another actor, even though this talk is called Fonda on Fonda.”

Some questions were taken from the audience.  One man asked if, in making EASY RIDER, Peter Fonda was making references to two of his father’s films, GRAPES OF WRATH, and MY DARLING CLEMENTINE.  “You’re going across-country, but in opposite direction from GRAPES; your scene in the commune is a lot like the WPA camp; your character is names ‘Wyatt’.  The end of EASY RIDER is a bit like the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.  Or am I all wet?”


Fonda replied, “You’re not wet; it was unconscious, but thank you, that’s a great compliment.  When I was first writing that, the concept I came up with was two guys -- not one hundred Hell Angels riding to a Hell’s Angels funeral -- which had been WILD ANGELS, because I had been told no more motorcycles-sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll movies.  As I started writing EASY RIDERS, the first thing that came to my mind was riding through John Ford’s west.  We were going to ride east, as an homage to Herman Hesse’s JOURNEY TO THE EAST.  I didn’t expect the audience to go – “Wow!  That’s Herman Hesse’s JOURNEY TO THE EAST!’  We would have blown it if that happened – I did want to say that line again.   And then watching a couple of shots from CLEMENTINE, and looking at that one rock that Hopper and I would shoot at in the background when we entered Monument Valley, where CLEMENTINE was shot.  Of course, there’s never been a town in Monument Valley except the ones that John Ford dropped there.  Tombstone certainly isn’t there.  But there’s Tombstone.  A town that has a road and buildings.  Not on the other side of the road.  There’s a church being built on the other side of the road. And in this one-sided town you had three bars, one Shakespearean actor doing a play; John Ford was a genius.  And he helped my dad get past THE MAGNIFICENT’S DOPEs and THE IMMORTAL SERGEANTs,  and get to THE GRAPES OF WRATH, MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, YOUNG MR. LINCOLN.  I think Ford released him to do that.”

Another guest asked Peter to comment about his father’s performance in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.  “I would love to, in fact.  He was not so sure about working with (Sergio) Leone.  He came in with brown contact lenses.  And Leone flips, because he had hired my dad for his blue eyes.  If you’ve ever seen spaghetti westerns, all of those Italians have really blue eyes.  So Sergio Leone flipped out, but that’s my father.  He would go to those extremes.  So there he is, and (in his first scene) he’s identified.  ‘What are you gonna do with the kid, Frank?’  ‘Well, now that you’ve named me.’  And he shoots the kid in the stomach.   This is the first time my dad had ever done anything like that in any film.  He did some noir films that people don’t know about.  He shot the shit out of the Clantons in CLEMENTINE, but this is a kid – and gut-shooting a kid?  The audience freaked out, because there was Hank Fonda shooting a kid in the stomach.  But because of Sergio and my dad, and the other actors, they just kept the story going.  To take it a little further, I was in Almeria, Spain, to direct a commercial for Citroen cars, and I got my daughter in it, and we would go by the big house from ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST – it’s still there.  And so on the wrap day, which was a week later, I had taken all these pieces of paper together, and written on them ‘ONCE UPON A TIME IN MY LIFE’.  And I got everybody together, start up the camera, run and get in the shot, we all hold up the sign, and I wanted to show it to myself and to my family.  Dad was already gone, but I thought, this is so fff-so-bloody cool.  But I thought it was a very interesting Western.  Very different from the greatness of Ford’s MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, or OX-BOW INCIDENT, or some of the others, but it was very interesting, very entertaining.  I liked it a lot.”

Henry Fonda in once upon a time in the west

The third and, probably, final installment of my coverage of the TCM Fest will include highlights from film introductions by Katherine Quinn, the widow of Anthony Quinn; Oscar winner Christopher Plummer, speaking at the THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING screening about director John Huston and star Sean Connery; and Oscar-winning special effects men Craig Barton and Ben Burtt on the making of GUNGA DIN. 


French TV producer ATLANTIQUE PRODUCIONS and Italian indie CATTLEYA will co-produce a pair of series based on the classic Sergio Corbucci spaghetti western that helped ignite the genre, and the hypnotic Dario Argento horror film – and Argento is aboard as artistic advisor!  Each has received orders for twelve fifty-minute episodes.  No more info yet, except that they will be shopped at Cannes next week, at the MIP TV Market!


With the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival coming this weekend, I don’t know what I’ll be able to manage for next week’s Round-up.  Did anyone catch the premiere of LEGENDS & LIES – THE REAL WEST, from Bill O’Reilly, on Fox News?  The few minutes I caught looked good, certainly well-produced, but I had to finish writing the Round-up.  Let me know what you thought of it.  One criticism I’ve heard is that it covers the usual suspects – Jesse James, Doc Holliday, Davy Crockett – yet again, but on a news network, I’m hoping it’ll reach a wider audience.  If you’re reading the Round-up, you don’t need to be convinced that Western history is fascinating.  Hopefully this will round up some strays for us, maybe start a stampede, along with TURN, which reTURNs for season two tomorrow.  Still a moronic title that tells you nothing – what’s wrong with the book’s title, WASHINGTON’S SPIES? 

Have a great week, and hope to see you at the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival!

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright April 2015 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

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