Often when a star gets a producer credit on a film, it means nothing – it’s just a way to give an actor a little more credit without giving them more money. But among the thirteen credited producers, Chloe Sevigny, long fascinated by Borden, has for years been the driving force behind this project. She hired screenwriter Bryce Cass, and her seriousness sets the tone for this atmospheric, sympathetic, and often chilling examination of the Lizzie Borden legend.
REMEMBERING ANDREW J. FENADY
Screenwriter, novelist, playwright, and film and television producer Andrew J. Fenady passed away in April, at the age of 91. His beloved wife of 63 years, Mary Frances, had died the previous May. They leave five children, six grandchildren, and one great-grand son. He created the series THE REBEL, making a star of Nick Adams. He rescued the series BRANDED in mid-stream, and made it a hit. He wrote CHISUM for John Wayne, and turned Wayne's HONDO into a popular TV series which still has a cult following. He was one of the kindest men I knew, in a position and business not overflowing with kindness. He had a great sense of humor. He loved to write, and never stopped. He was so athletically driven that he'd had both hips replaced multiple times -- he would be back in the gym before he was fully healed, and would end up needing a newer new hip!
Back in 2012 I had the pleasure of interviewing him at length for the Round-up. Originally presented as a two-parter, I'm running the whole thing in one today.
A: The best writers I ever worked with – are you ready? – were Emily Bronte, Jack London, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett. I once said to my son, who is a writer, ‘My boy, if you’re ever going to get a collaborator, get a dead one. They’re the best kind. They don’t give you any damned trouble at all.’ It’s true that a lot of the stuff that I did is based on classics. RIDERS TO MOON ROCK, that’s a western version of
H: They sure were. And the one with Aggie was particularly good.
H: I have the feeling that Michael Rennie must have been a favorite, because it’s so unusual to see him in any Westerns but yours.
A: That’s right. We got Michael Rennie to do that (BRANDED), and we became not real friends, but we had respect for each other. And then, when RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE came along, I thought Michael Rennie, and he did the part and was very, very good. Another pro.
A: Not there. But I’ve never worked with James Garner, and I would have loved to do something with him. And Clint Eastwood and Clint Walker. As a matter of fact, I may as well tell you this now; when I got RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE and wrote the script, I wrote it for Clint Walker. Because (the character) was supposed to be a big, strong fellow. And I like Clint; we were pals. Never worked together. And I took it to Joe Levine, the sonuvabitch. And he said, ‘Great, we’ll do it. You’ve got a deal.’ Then he calls me up and says, ‘I don’t want to do it with Clint Walker. You might as well do it with King Kong.’ So that fell apart. But in the meanwhile, I did BRANDED, and Chuck Connors, who is a terrific actor, is also a thief. One day I had a script for RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE – it was called NIGHT OF THE TIGER then – on my desk, and it was missing. And I said to my secretary, ‘Erika, did you take that script?’ ‘I didn’t take it.’ Well in walks Chuck Connors a couple of hours later. He slams the script on the desk and said, ‘Goddamnit, I’ve got to do this picture!’
Writer – Producer Andrew J. Fenady is probably best known for creating the series THE REBEL, and producing BRANDED. Others might argue his claim to fame was writing and producing the John Wayne classic CHISUM. He also turned
AJ: Yeah, absolutely. Wait, my damn cigar went out – too much talking and not enough inhaling. Alright, songs. Now look, THE REBEL told the story of Johnny Yuma when he roamed through the west. “He was panther quick and leather tough, ’cause he figured that he'd been pushed enough, the rebel. Johnny Yuma.” Well, you know a lot about him, right? Okay, well I didn’t write the song to BRANDED, but it carried out that same concept. And RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE, which I think is the best song that I ever wrote the lyrics (to); You Can’t Go Home Again. “A man will come home to the place of his youth, in search of the things left behind. He looks for a place, for a smile on a face, but the last mile’s the hardest to find.” That tells the story of the guy, you know? “I know the high country, where wild eagles fly, the desolate no-paths terrain. But now that my years are all winters I try to call back the summers in vain.” If you don’t know what that’s about, there’s something wrong! The same with CHISUM. “Chisum, John Chisum. Weary. Saddle-worn. Chisum, John Chisum. Can you still keep goin’ on? They’re bettin’ you can’t make it, but you bet your life they’re wrong. So keep ridin’ towards the
H: Radio’s Matt Dillon: he ought to. Midway through the first season of BRANDED, you switched from black and white to color.
H: He was a smart guy.
AJ: I told you that he was intelligent. He was ornery sometimes, but intelligent.
H: I know that at Warner Brothers Television, they dreaded switching their westerns to color because they relied so much on stock footage.
AJ: You know what the old saying was, about those black and white Warner Brothers shows? If you see more than four people in the picture, it’s stock. (laughs) They used more damned stock than anyone else who ever did a television show.
H: That’s what Ty Hardin (BRONCO) told me. But you didn’t use that much stock, did you?
AJ: I don’t think I used 100 feet of stock in all the things I did. We shot it.
H: With the BRANDED three-parter, THE MISSION, Jason McCord becomes a secret agent for President Grant. Was this story-line the result of the huge success of the James Bond movies at the time?
AJ: No. You know, I turned down THE WILD, WILD WEST, because I said, this is James Bond as a cartoon, and I don’t want to do it. (THE
H: You’ve had two very successful series in a format that’s pretty-much disappeared, the half-hour drama. Do you think the Western was particularly well suited for the half hour?
AJ: I’ll tell you something. After I did CHISUM I got a call. They said well, you probably wouldn’t be interested in doing television. Let me tell you something. Ernest Hemingway was a pretty good writer. He not only wrote novels, he wrote novellas, and he also did short stories. Hell, I’ll do a short story. And the Western can certainly be adapted as a short story in a half hour format, and as far as the hour goes, that was a novella. Either way; it just took a little bit longer, you had a little more money to work with. So HONDO was a pleasure to do.
H: Speaking of HONDO, THE REBEL and BRANDED and HONDO were all stories about men who were essentially rootless loners, who’d suffered a great personal tragedy and loss – it’s also true of the man in RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE. They often seem to be in conflict with arbitrary and corrupt authority. Are these themes that you were consciously going to?
AJ: Not in all of them. For instance, in CHISUM, when L.G. Murphy (Forrest Tucker) came into town, and Ben Johnson kept saying, ‘There’s another of L.G. Murphy’s (gun)men, Duke said, ‘Listen, he’s not bothering us. It’s a free country. Leave him alone, until he does something that affects us, or breaks the law.’ So I didn’t always do that. But I think there was an unconscious kind of a thing. Howard Hawks was the same way. In Howard Hawk’s movie
H: That’s true. Were you planning on a sequel?
AJ: Yes. The thing was, Duke owned
...AND THAT'S A WRAP!
All Original Contents Copyright May 2020 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved