Wednesday, October 31, 2018



LARAMIE's Bobby Crawford, Robert Fuller
and John Smith

When the Emmy nominations for 1959 were announced, the Crawford clan managed a trifecta that no other show-business family has ever matched – not the Barrymores, not the Hustons, not the Fondas -- even though none of the Crawfords won. Robert Crawford Sr. was nominated for Best Editing of a Film for Television for THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW, and lost to Silvio D'Alisera on PROJECT 20. Son Johnny Crawford’s work on THE RIFLEMAN saw him nominated for Best Supporting Actor, Continuing Character, in a Drama Series, which he lost to Dennis Weaver, playing Chester in GUNSMOKE.  

But perhaps the most impressive nomination was for Johnny’s older brother, 14-year-old Robert Crawford Jr., whose appearance on PLAYHOUSE 90, in an episode called CHILD OF OUR TIME, would not only earn him a nomination for Best Single Performance by an Actor, but pit him against Fred Astaire, Paul Muni, Rod Steiger, Christopher Plummer, and Mickey Rooney. “I got to sit right in front of Fred Astaire during the show,” Bobby recalls, “And he tapped me on the shoulder and he says, ‘Oh, we're the same category, and that's ridiculous.’  And he won the award that night.” But remarkably, fourteen years later, Bobby would re-team with his show’s soon-to-be-legendary director, George Roy Hill, not as an actor, but as producer on a string of classic films including THE STING, THE GREAT WALDO PEPPER, SLAPSHOT, A LITTLE ROMANCE, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, and THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL.

In the heat of this past summer, I had the opportunity to chat with Bobby about his wide-ranging career, and his family, who already had a history in “the biz.” His mother, Betty Megerlin, was a stage actress with parents who were both vaudeville violinists. “On the other side of the family tree, my grandpa Bobby Crawford was a music publisher.” When he met his soon-to-be-bride, Thelma Briney, Bobby relates, “She was a piano player at a five and dime store. My grandpa later on was a music publisher with DeSylva, Brown and Henderson. And they created the song, I Found a Million Dollar Baby in a Five and Ten Cent Store.” Grandpa Bobby, who managed Al Jolson, built Crawford Music
“Sold it to Warner Brothers in 1928. And then lost his fortune in the 1929 [Stock Market Crash].”
Jump ahead a generation, and it’s déjà vu: Robert Crawford (the soon-to-be-editor), is working as an extra at Universal Pictures when a fellow extra wants to introduce him to the girl he’s been courting.  

“So, my dad walked into the room and my mom was playing the piano and he was smitten immediately by her.” It took some time, but he stole her away, and they were married in New York City by Norman Vincent Peale, the Minister famous for his bestseller, THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING. Robert was working as a film librarian at Columbia Pictures when he was drafted into World War II. He joined the Marines, wanting to be a cameraman, but when they learned of his background, he was made a military film librarian at Quantico. “He never talked a lot about it, but he felt guilty about doing the librarian work because he would get all this footage in; the cameraman's shooting everything, and then oftentimes you'd see the camera images fall into the sand, as the man had been hit. He did that from ‘43 to ‘46 and I was born in Quantico.”

HENRY PARKE: When did you start acting?

BOBBY CRAWFORD: [My parents] did some shows at the Pasadena Playhouse. He had a scooter and they'd go out to Pasadena from Hollywood, Mom riding on the back, and then have to change from her scooter clothes into the costume. I remember being a child and watching them in a small theater in Hollywood. My brother I think was four years old when he did Little Boy Lost in a stage show somewhere in Hollywood. And I did a few little things that I don't recall except I recall being Tiny Tim in some Christmas show. I was about eight years old. My folks never really belonged to a church, but Grandma sent us off to Sunday school; we went to the Christian Science Church on Olympic Boulevard, and our Sunday School teacher just happened to be one of the major agents for children in Hollywood. She took an interest in both John and I, and she started representing us and sending us out on commercials. John started getting MATINEE THEATRE [an hour-long daily live TV drama anthology], and small parts, and I'd get a commercial now and then. Johnny was the Anglo-looking blond kid and I was the Hispanic-looking Latino, and I did Indians and French and Spanish-looking roles as a child. I remember the Fritos commercial, being at the factory and eating them hot off the assembly line; it was really good.

HENRY PARKE: Did you take acting classes, or did your parents teach you?

BOBBY CRAWFORD: My mom was our coach. We’d go on interviews, and we'd sit out in the lobby and read through the lines. And the instruction I got from mom, then reinforced when I got my first big break, by the director George Roy Hill, is the most important thing about acting? Don't. Don't act. Just be real. I think that was my cue. Therefore, I figured I'd better not study acting, I'd better just do it. I remember years later reading the James Cagney autobiography. They asked him, what's your secret to acting? And he says, stand there and tell the truth. So, I think those are my two bits of instruction. And I was afraid to get into school plays or get into theater at UCLA, thinking whatever it was that I did -- and I didn't know what it was I did -- it seemed to be working, and I was afraid I'd get corrupted if I started to try to learn it.

HENRY PARKE: You appeared on a number of TV shows – DONNA REED, WYATT EARP, ZORRO.

BOBBY CRAWFORD: I did a couple of ZORROS. I remember, I loved being at the Disney Studios and I also loved being with Zorro, Guy Williams, a wonderful man and a beautiful man. And Mary Wickes played my aunt. And the sergeant on ZORRO, Henry Calvin. I didn't realize he was a great opera singer. A roly-poly fellow, and a wonderful man. Zorro saves me from the well, I guess, but I remember hugging the big burly Spanish soldier.

Bobby in Playhouse 90's
A Child of Our Time

HENRY PARKE: Before LARAMIE, you were nominated for an Emmy for A CHILD OF OUR TIME, where you play Tanguay, a boy who winds up in a Nazi Concentration Camp. How big an effect was your Emmy nomination on your career? Had you already been cast in LARAMIE?

BOBBY CRAWFORD: No, I got LARAMIE immediately after doing A CHILD OF OUR TIME, right about the time we were nominated. A Producer, Robert Pirosh, cast me, wanted me. He was the writer of the pilot, [and] strongly committed to the series, involved and in charge. I came out to do a reading with Bob Fuller, a screen test; we did the scene together. Slim [Sherman, the role John Smith would ultimately play], was the part that he had originally been cast for, and he went up to talk to a fellow I later worked with, Pat Kelly, and said, ‘It's wonderful, but the part's wrong. I should be Jess.’ And Pat Kelly said, ‘Oh yeah?’ He said, ‘Absolutely, I can't do it otherwise.’ John Smith was a very nice man and he said, ‘It's fine with me.’ Fuller said, ‘Let me test for it.’ And so we did the scene in which he was going to convince the powers that be that he should play Jess. And he convinced them that I should play Slim’s brother. Of course, me being the Latino, I’d had my head shaved. It's just, John Smith was blond, and I'm supposed to be his brother, and I looked a lot more like Bob Fuller. So they dyed my hair blond for the pilot. And it grew out in like four months. I went from being a short haired blond to brunette with long hair in the series. But anyway, it didn't really matter. They had their show and it went on the air along with RIVERBOAT which featured some unknown guys, one of them being Burt Reynolds. I just remember Eastwood starting RAWHIDE and Burt Reynolds on RIVERBOAT our same season, and I was astonished that our show was a hit. I just said, wow, I got a job, and I get to go to the studio every day. And then I was worried.  I still wanted to get into UCLA at that time. I was just starting high school, and I’d just run into the first defeat of my career in school, geometry. But I remember getting a leg up because I had a private tutor on LARAMIE.

HENRY PARKE: What were Robert Fuller and John Smith like?

John Smith and Bobby

BOBBY CRAWFORD: They were jolly. They were in their prime. They were just thrilled to be starring in the series. They were congenial and having fun on the set, which is the only time I got to be with them for the most part. We had some publicity stunt things that we did, I did a double- date with Bob Fuller once. At 14 or 15 years old I got myself a moped, and I would tool around, in the Hollywood Hills, before I could have a driver's license. And there is a shot of Bob Fuller on my moped. Other than that we had very little social contact off the set. But it was like going to Disneyland each a day of work when you walked into the set. The guys were all about the business of shooting the scene and the story and getting onto the next one. There isn't a whole lot of time between takes and so would have our chairs. I remember that first Christmas in the show, Bob Fuller bought us all nice leather director's chairs, with our names engraved on them.

John Smith was the most beautiful man I had ever seen in my life. I don't know what kind of curse that was on him, but he just wasn't real to see in life. He was decent, charming man, but it was so hard to get over -- it was like he was back-lit all the time. He just glowed in the dark, in the sunlight. You couldn't be help but be struck by it.  He's not real, he's so good looking. And Fuller was good-looking, but rugged; it wasn't quite the same impact.

Robert Fuller and Bobby

Bob Fuller had a forearm as big as my thigh. And my ambition as a kid in that series was to get a forearm as big as Bob Fuller's. So I would do my push-ups and pull-ups and my fencing. But I never learned how to build my body so I'd get a forearm like Bob Fuller. Bob was a great charismatic fellow. He was a quick draw. What I was learning on LARAMIE was my lines, and how to be a quick draw. I got the steel holster that helped make you a quick draw. But I could never quite out-draw Bob. I came close, but I didn't get the cigar.

HENRY PARKE: How about Hoagy Carmichael?

Smith, Fuller, Hoagy Carmichael and Bobby

BOBBY CRAWFORD: I adored Hoagy Carmichael. I'm ashamed to say I didn't get to know Hoagy other than in passing.  We have a couple of episodes where he's showing me the piano, and he's singing a cute song. Now in my later years, I find myself driving down the road singing Stardust in the morning. And I'm thinking, if only I'd known about that when he was playing at the piano.

HENRY PARKE: Did you have any favorite guest stars?

Ernest Borgnine plays a former soldier accused
of cowardice in this episode

BOBBY CRAWFORD: It was just terrific fun to work with Ernie Borgnine. I remember being under the table with him. I knew he was an Academy Award winner, and doing TV was still a second gig for a movie actor. He was always playing these mean tough guys, but in person, he was just the most easygoing, charming guy who just loved being there on the set, as I did. And on the first episode, Dan Duryea, playing the bad guy. He had this wonderful demeanor about him. I just remember him being scary. A scary man. He was good casting, a dangerous fellow. I loved all the actors that I got to be around. Every one of them was a character, but it was true of all the grips, electricians, the prop men; everybody who would be on a Hollywood set is a pro, especially if you got lucky enough to get into the major leagues, and I was in the majors then. Those guys are having fun. They're so confident about what they do that they can just have fun doing it. There's the pressure of getting it done, but they're very confident they're going to get it done well. You’re imbued with confidence when you're on a set like that. Everything works, and nobody gets hurt. You only appreciate as an adult, that movie-making is all about moving. You are moving arcs and lights, and in those days the equipment was big, heavy. And it's horses and wagons and, and I only appreciated later how physical making a good movie can be, and making a Western in particular. And also how absolutely prone to accidents things can be, and that's why you want guys who don't have accidents.

Dan Duryea is the villain in
Laramie's pilot

HENRY PARKE: On LARAMIE you had two of my absolute favorite action directors, Leslie Selander and Joe Kane. Do you have any memories of working with them?

BOBBY CRAWFORD: I remember Leslie Selander, because I loved his name. I remember the directors telling me what to do. I don't remember them vividly; in fact the only director I remember vividly was Lee Sholem, who was a director on CHEYENNE. Who was called “Roll 'em Sholem.” Which was because -- look, there's an airplane! Roll 'em! He was a forceful character. And you didn't want to do two takes with Roll 'em Sholem. You wanted to do one take.  I remember the cameramen and I remember faces, but I think I was kind of intimidated and shy on the set; I didn't develop relationships with the crew. I was always feeling a bit like I was the kid on the show, not necessarily the pro on the show. I don't know. Somehow, my brother John would get around to every member of the set, [even]the background extras. He knew everybody on the set, and I knew everybody to say hi, but I didn't develop relationships. I think I just sort of passed through my experience as a kid on LARAMIE, enjoying the moments and remembering some of them, but mostly just saying this too will pass.

HENRY PARKE: You did a few guest shots on THE RIFLEMAN. How did you like working with your kid brother?

BOBBY CRAWFORD: I did, and the problem was it was just a couple of days work. We got to get on horses, we'd be here and we'd be there. We had to go to school for three hours and then we’d get to be on the set a bit. We got to wrestle in one of them; we got a lot of practice at that.

HENRY PARKE: Early in season two of LARAMIE, you and Hoagy Carmichael disappeared.

BOBBY CRAWFORD:  Bob Pirosh left, and then John Champion came along. [Note: Writer and producer John Champion had made several successful Westerns for Allied Artists, and would produce LARAMIE and write 36 episodes.] I didn't know who John Champion was, and I didn't make it a point of trying to stay in the show, or even think that I wouldn't, until the next season began and they said well, they've written you out. And I said, okay, I'll do something else. Whether Hoagy wanted to leave or not, I don't know. And I never talked to anybody about it.

With LARAMIE, my experience with the cowboys and the horses, what was probably 20 weeks of working and being part of it, was sensational. It made me feel like a real Hollywood cowboy, and I could go to Griffith Park, where I had a horse for about three years, that I would groom and take care of, and be the king of corral 17, and go on parades and riding. I felt comfortable around horses and always have felt at home in a stable around the big animals. That I thought was my gift from LARAMIE.

HENRY PARKE: A couple of seasons later they brought in a new kid, Dennis Holmes and Spring Byington essentially playing a female version of Hoagy Carmichael. Did you feel vindicated?
BOBBY CRAWFORD: Well, I'm ashamed to say I haven't watched it, but I don't think I was watching it when I was making it, either. I didn't want to be inhibited. I do have the DVD set of the first season, and I have watched some episodes. If I'm going to a signing show, I'll run an episode or two, but I'm ashamed to say I haven't done that with THE RIFLEMAN episodes either. So I am an uninformed participant. And before I go to Kanab, I think I'm going to run some RIFLEMANS and some more LARAMIES, LARAMIES I haven't been in. I owe Dennis Holmes a look.
In the next Round-up, the second and final part of my interview, Bobby Crawford discusses his work on BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, and twenty years as Producer to iconic movie Director George Roy Hill.

SHOUT FACTORY has put LARAMIE out on DVD, although season one is out of print. The entire series is available on STARZ.


Following up on the fascinating Emmy-winning documentary TENDING THE WILD, produced in partnership with KCET and THE AUTRY MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN WEST, the partners have made a 3-year commitment to continue with the series TENDING NATURE, which premieres Wednesday, November 7th. Just as TENDING THE WILD examined land management techniques used for centuries by American Indians, TENDING NATURE will explore California’s Native stories, traveling across the state to visit and hear from several Indian communities striving to revive their cultures and inform western sciences. This season, the Tolowa Dee-Ni’, Ohlone, Pit River tribes, and the multi-tribal Potawot Health Village, will welcome the series and share their knowledge on topics including ocean toxicity, decolonizing cuisine, tribal hunting, food deserts, and traditional sweats.  Henry’s Western Round-up is honored to share the exclusive following first look.


Director Edwards on location

Filmmaker Jay Wade Edwards set out to make an American film, pretending to be an Italian film, which is itself pretending to be an American film: an Italian-language Spaghetti Western shot in, well, the West! Not just any west, but around one of the most photographed of western locales, Pioneertown!  And he shot it, spectacularly, on an iPhone!  I’ll have more details coming soon to the Round-up, but for now, here is the wonderfully daft movie itself.  Enjoy!


UNSPOOLED’s Paul Scheer and Amy Nicholson are re-examining all of the films on the  AFI 100 Best Movies of All-Time list, with 100 individual podcasts. They're very knowledgeable about film, but are not Western nerds, which makes their discussion of HIGH NOON, and its placement on the list all the more insightful and entertaining. They’re also funny as Hell. I had a great time as their guest on this segment, and think you’ll enjoy it – especially since, whether you’re a HIGH NOON or RIO BRAVO loyalist, you’ll find plenty to be offended by! Here’s the link to the series. HIGH NOON is #19, and APOCALYPSE NOW, #20, begins with listener comments about HIGH NOON. Enjoy them all! 


If you’re looking for a spooky Western to watch on Hallowe’en (and who isn’t?) Here’s a link to my True West article on the best and worst of the ‘Weird Westerns.’

Happy Trails, and Happy Hallowe'en!
All Original Content Copyright October 2018 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 26, 2018


Booger Brown doing his best Jack Benny

If you’re on the West Coast, Booger and Cody and Bubba and their brides and kids will be back for season four of THE COWBOY WAY today at 5 pm. If you’re on the East Coast it’ll be 8 pm.  It airs again on Thursday night -- check your local listings for times.  Just a couple of days ago I had the chance to talk to Booger Brown about the show, the network, his partners and family, and what’s in store for fans. 

For those of you who haven’t watched the show, Booger, Cody and Bubba are partners in the Faith Cattle Company. They’ve been friends and co-workers for many years. Cody Harris is married to Misty, and they have a son, Carter. Bubba Thompson is married to Kaley, and they have a daughter, Andie. Booger married Jaclyn, a widowed pharmacist, with a young son, Matthew, in season two. Booger began by talking about the article I wrote about the show for True West Magazine.  If you haven’t read the piece, you can CLICKHERE.

Booger Brown: Mr. Henry,!

Henry Parke:   Booger! How are you doing, sir?

Booger Brown: Now I'm doing good. How are you?  I just looked at that magazine just this morning, man. You did a heck of a job. Everybody was real excited, and our photographer, he was pretty excited that he got his pictures in a magazine.

Henry Parke:   Well that's great. It was such fun to meet all of you and it's great to talk to you again. I can't believe when we met you had just wrapped up season three and now you've got another season ready to go. It seems so quick.

Booger Brown: Yeah.

Henry Parke:   My wife is a huge fan of the show and she made me promise that I'd tell you that she loved your wedding. Jaclyn looked gorgeous. My wife especially loved your having the pillow made out of your granddad’s shirt there.

Booger Brown: Thank you.

Henry Parke:   How are you enjoying being a daddy to Matthew?

Matthew, Jaclyn and Booger

Booger Brown:  Oh man, it's great. There ain't no if, ands or buts about it. I couldn't draw a picture or couldn't write down a kid who would be any more perfect fit in my life then my little old son Matthew. I mean, he is it. When I first met Jaclyn, Matthew loved cars. His daddy passed away when he was 13 months old, and he sold cars.  And Matthew, he's turned on this cowboy thing, and especially when I'm keeping him, he comes home and he puts on his cowboy shirts and cowboy hat and cowboy boots and cowboy buckle belt -- he calls it not belt buckle but his buckle belt. And he wants to ride his pony and he goes with me. You can't ask for more.

One evening about a week ago, I was real tired, and  he said, “Dad, I want to ride my pony. Will you catch Trigger so I can ride him?” And I was thinking, I waited my whole life for a little old kid to ask me that, to want to go do what I do. And you can't turn it down. So I called his horse and kind of caught my second wind. And I thought, you know, I need to pen them heifers, bring 'em in. I went and caught my horse and I was leading Matthew everywhere I went, and he followed me while we penned the heifers; he likes being big boy and he likes being a country boy. At that point he said, “Dad, can I take my shirt off?”  And I said, “You bet you can: take it off!” He throws his shirt off and he thinks that's cool, you know. And his boots, he's got slip- on boots and they're a little big for him, and they slide off his feet while he's riding the horse. I had to fix them a time or two, and I was trying to pen them cattle. And he said, “My boots! My boots!” I said, “Give 'em here.” And I threw them over by a tree. We went out of the house this morning and he couldn't find his boots, and Jaclyn said, "I don't know where they're at." And I thought about it, and they're still there in the pasture by that tree! (laughs)

Henry Parke:   I have to tell you I just got to see the first episode of season four, where you get Matthew his own horse and it's just the dream of my childhood.  

Booger Brown: Did you see him when he took his hat off? He got his horse, and he's trotting around the yard. He takes his hat off and holds it up in the air. Like 'Howdy y'all!'

Henry Parke:   A lot of season 3 was about you and your partners getting into the restaurant business. Were you disappointed that it didn’t work out?

Booger Brown: No, I wasn’t. It was something we thought we could go and do, it’d be profitable for us guys. And we got us a belly full of it, and we decided we were already married, and we was in the cattle business. We didn't need to be in two things. Couldn't be married to anything else, you know?

The trio plus one: Cody, unidentified,
Booger and Bubbah

Henry Parke:   Have you spent all of your life in Alabama?

Booger Brown: No, I actually grew up in South Florida. We had ranched in South Florida and  my family had a lot of historythere ; you should check it out sometime. William Brown come over from England when they were laying the transatlantic cable. He hid out in Cuba and then got a ride on over here to America.  He become an Indian Agent, and he started the Brown’s Boat Landing where the Seminole Big Cypress Reservation is now. There’s a video on Youtube called MYSTERY OF WILLIAM H. BROWN AND BROWN’S TRADING POST. I honestly haven't watched the whole Youtube video because it starts showing my granddaddy talking and I know I can't really handle seeing him, you know, but it's good stuff. The day they buried him, when they got done with a funeral, the Indians came and treated him just like he was an Indian and held an Indian ceremony at his grave. That's pretty cool, you know.

I was in my teens when we came to Alabama and bought a piece of property. (In Florida) it just got tough with the environmentalists and we realized if we were ever going to actually own anything ourselves, we had to get out of there.

My Dad is still a rancher here today. My mom and dad have been together for 35 years. Got married young and my Dad tells a story of when him and my mom got together. There was lots of wild cattle, and they had 'em a jeep, and a tranquilizer gun, and they would go around and tranquilize wild cattle in this old jeep, and had me in a car seat riding that old jeep at two years old. They would go around and tranquilize them, then come back with a trailer and load them up, and that's why they made extra money.

Henry Parke:   Without giving too much away, what can viewers look forward to in season four of THE COWBOY WAY?

Booger Brown:  We kind of expand, you know? We sign on with another business partner and we grow.  I mean, it just gets better. And I'm hopeful there'll be more action in there. I know they filmed a lot of action and it just depends on what makes the cut and what everybody wants to see on TV. And INSP is so supportive of us. They are so wanting to see the real cowboy side of things, and they treat us like real people. It's really good to work for somebody like INSP and know you're appreciated for what you do and what you stand for. They shoot us straight and we shoot them straight as well.

Henry Parke: And how are you doing personally?

Booger Brown: I've sold more cattle and traded more cattle this year than I have in the past. The economy is looking good and things are looking up for us. It's just a good feeling, and going back to the show, it seems like we're having such a positive influence on so many people.

Henry Parke:   Any other future plans, outside of the series, that we should know about?

Booger Brown:  Me and Jaclyn's really eager to find us a piece of property if we don't get my granddaddy's property back. And who knows, in the future might have a child. We're really ready to grow with what we got going on, expand our business in trading cattle and raising cattle.


Happy trails,


All Original Contents Copyright August 2018 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 3, 2018




The folks at Paramount TV are so delighted with the popular and critical success of YELLOWSTONE that they’ve given the Kevin Costner vehicle an early renewal – the 10th and final episode of the tyro season will air on August 22nd, and the cast and crew will be heading back to Utah and Montana shortly. Reactions of Western aficionados to the Taylor Sheridan series have been mixed – Facebook complaints run the gamut from improper calf-delivery to no likable characters to “LONGMIRE did it better” – but all gripes seem to end with, “…but I can’t wait for the next episode!”

The series follows the Dutton family, led by Costner’s John Dutton, and their struggle to hold on to the largest cattle ranch in America, and the attempts of a developer (Danny Huston) and an Indian activist (Gil Birmingham) to take it apart.  It’s the 2nd most watched series on basic cable, following AMC’s WALKING DEAD.

What with production of YELLOWSTONE’s 2nd season imminent, it’s fortunate that Costner’s next project, THE HIGHWAYMEN, is already in the can. Made for NETFLIX, Costner and Woody Harrelson star as Fred Hamer and Maney Gault, respectively, the legendary Texas Rangers who got Bonnie and Clyde. Originally announced for October, the date has been changed to March of 2019. The movie is directed by John Lee Hancock (THE ALAMO) from a script by John Fusco (YOUNG GUNS).


Things are busy at Gene Autry’s old Melody Ranch these days, where WESTWORLD is moving out, and DEADWOOD is coming home. Absent since 2006, David Milch’s series that did so much to reinvigorate excitement about the genre, is returning to HBO. Everyone involved is being tight-lipped about story-lines, returning characters, and whether it will be a series or a movie. What is known is that it will be directed by Daniel Minahan, who directed the series in the past, and has been busy of late helming HOUSE OF CARDS and GAME OF THRONES.


Tim Blake Nelson as Buster Scruggs

The Coen brothers’ Western series THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS will have its premiere at The Venice Film Festival, which begins at the end of August.  It was originally announced as an anthology series with a difference – six episodes with six intersecting story lines.  You can read the details about the stories and casts from my earlier coverage, HERE.

Of course, an international film festival seems an odd place to premiere a TV series, but the Coens, who brought you the remake of TRUE GRIT and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, have decided to recut the series into a 132-minute movie.  NETFLIX says they will be premiering BUSTER SCRUGGS by the end of 2018, but no word yet on whether it will be in feature form or episodic. Or both (that’s my guess).


Booger Brown closing in on a steer

Bubba, Booger, Cody, and their wives and youngins make the move to Sunday nights with the 4th season of INSP’s remarkably popular and enjoyable reality series, THE COWBOY WAY.  The real-life day-to-day challenges and adventures of the Faith Cattle Company partners are a perfect antidote to citified stresses. You can read my Round-up interview with Bubba Thompson HEREYou can read my True West article on the series HERE.


It seems like THE REVENANT made a deep impression on a lot of filmmakers. After years of the sandy, gritty, deserty oaters that took their inspiration from Spaghetti Westerns, independent filmmakers have decided to look to the mountains.

The two new Westerns that open this week were both shot in heavy snow; A RECKONING in Montana, and THE IRON BROTHERS in Idaho and Wyoming.  And at the end of the month, a third Western, ANY BULLET WILL DO, from the writer-director of A RECKONING, Justin Lee, is also snowbound.  Below is an exclusive-to-the-Round-up clip from A RECKONING.

A RECKONING is the story of Mary O’Malley (June Dietrich), a young wife whose husband is brutally murdered. It’s not the first unsolved dismemberment murder in the small community, and the nominal mayor, played by Lance Henriksen, hires a flock of bounty-men to catch the killer. When Mary, with no faith in that rabble, tries to sell her property for a rifle, a pistol, and a horse, to find her husband’s killer herself, only one townswoman, played by Meg Foster, will help.

June Dietrich in A RECKONING

As Mary searches, through stunningly photographed forests, in snow, by lakes, we see she’s correct in her assessment: the bounty hunters are more interested in hunting each other than the killer. The problem is, you never get a sense that she has a plan. She isn’t following tracks, isn’t looking for sign, rarely speaks to anyone, has no suspect. She just rides or walks through stunning visuals. She once makes a comment that she’s sticking to well-travelled roads, assuming the killer would do the same, to look for more victims. But what she travels doesn’t appear to be a road or even a path; she’s just stumbling between trees, until she stumbles upon her husband’s killer, and that’s when the action starts.  A RECKONING is being released today by SONY PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT.

IRON BROTHERS features a pair of real brothers, Tate Smith and Porter Smith, as Abel and Henry Iron, two mountain-men struggling to make a living as fur trappers since their father died.  Lazy and short-tempered Henry blows up at traders who offer him an insulting price for his pelts. In moments, a man is dead and Henry is on the run. At the same time, the more even-tempered Abel has an unexpected run-in with Shoshone hunters. Suddenly a chief is dead, and the Iron brothers are running a gauntlet of dangers on their way out of the mountains, trying to reach the safety of civilization.


As with A RECKONING, there is a wealth of beauty, but a poverty of incident. As Mary slogged through forest and snow, the Irons slog through snow and more snow. When the action comes, it’s entertaining, but the brothers, despite being engaging at times, mutter a great deal of their presumably improvised dialogue. Many of the conversation scenes are framed ala Ingmar Bergman, and shot in one take. If you have great actors, well-rehearsed, this can be very effective. But if you have actors doing their first film, what you have is a scene that cannot be edited, either to speed it up, or to use the best parts from several takes. THE IRON BROTHERS is co-written and co-directed by brothers Josh Smith and Tate Smith, and is available on many platforms, including AMAZON, from RANDOM MEDIA.



Back in the late 1930s, World War II was raging in Europe, but Japan had not yet pulled the sneak-attack on Pearl Harbor that would propel the U.S. into the fray. A group of American intellectuals, among them writers Dorothy Parker, Archibald MacLeish, Lillian Hellman and Ernest Hemingway, took the side of Spain’s democratically elected government, against the fascist Generalissimo Franco, and decided to finance a documentary to try and sway American public opinion. Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens shot the movie, and Orson Welles performed the narration written by Hemingway. But when Hemingway saw the finished version, he found Welles’ delivery too gentle and cultured – he rewrote the commentary, and recorded it himself. It’s a fascinating documentary, and a fascinating document, whether you are a history buff, or a Hemingway fanatic or, like me, both.


In 1948’s DEADLINE, Sunset Carson is a Pony Express rider on his last run. The Western Union Telegraph is putting the Pony Express out of business, and when sabotage and murder occur, Sunset seems a likely suspect. A decent entry in the Sunset Carson cannon, it’s written and directed by Oliver Drake, whose greatest service to Western movie fans was co-writing Yakima Canutt’s autobiography.

But of much greater interest than DEADLINE is a half-hour educational film sponsored by Standard Oil, INJUN TALK.  Apparently the last film directed by B-movie whiz Nick Grinde in 1946, at a powwow, Col. Tim McCoy and chiefs from several tribes tell the fascinating history of Indian sign-language. As a form of communication used then mostly by elders, there was real concern at the time that sign-language would be lost. And Tim McCoy was no casual signer. Before his movie career he’d been Adjutant General of Wyoming, lived for a time on the Wind River Reservation, and was considered one of the most articulate of its practitioners – he taught Iron Eyes Cody among others.


RIDERS was one of eight ROUGH RIDER films that Buck Jones, Tim McCoy and Raymond Hatton made for Monogram in the 1940s, movies that traded on the charm of Western stars who were getting a little too old for the rough stuff. They would have made more but, incredibly, Col. Tim McCoy was drafted – recalled to active Army duty at age 51. Shortly thereafter, tragically, Buck Jones, on a cross-country bond-selling tour, died in a fire in a Boston nightclub, The Cocoanut Grove, along with nearly 500 others.

As with the previous set, the best part here is the short, an episode of THE BUSTER CRABBE SHOW from 1951. Much like THE GABBY HAYES SHOW and a number of others, Crabbe hosted a half-hour program where he chatted with the viewers, and showed a truncated B-Western. The fun of this one, of course, is watching Buster. The film he shows is GUNS OF THE LAW from the P.R.C. TEXAS RANGERS series. Normally these chopped movies are hard to follow. Fortunately, P.R.C. Westerns tended to be so short on plot that this is probably the best way to watch it!


I hope you’re having a grand summer!
Happy Trails,
All Original Contents Copyright August 2018 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved