Sunday, May 10, 2020



As fine a businessman as he was a singer and Western star, Gene Autry famously acquired the rights to all of his movies, and his Gene Autry Entertainment saw to their restoration, and release on home video.   Now, just in time for those of us suffering with cabin fever, for the first time ever, Gene’s movies are being made available for streaming!  As of May 1st, South of the Border (1939), Gaucho Serenade (1940), Melody Ranch (1940), The Strawberry Roan (1948), and Blue Canadian Rockies (1952) are available to stream through Shout Factory!  Another five will be added on June 1st -- Public Cowboy No. 1 (1937), In Old Monterey (1939), Rovin’ Tumbleweeds (1939), Ridin’ On A Rainbow (1941), Sioux City Sue (1946).  There will be a new five titles added every month.


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.

Unless you’ve been in a coma for 128 years, you know that Borden was accused of slaughtering her father (here, Jamey Sheridan) and stepmother (Fiona Shaw) with an axe, was tried, and acquitted.  It is often noted with amusement from the smug superiority of the 20th and 21st centuries that there were no other suspects, no one else with motive (aside from Lizzie’s alibi’d sister), and yet the all-male jury (then the only kind) acquitted her because they could not imagine a young woman capable of committing such a crime.   My guess is that the jury, after hearing about her situation, found her not guilty because they simply understood, and forgave her. 

Either way, Sevigny, Cass, and director Craig William MacNeill extrapolate upon the known facts to tell the story of a young woman overpowered by the social rules in Victorian-era Massachusetts, rules which treated women as life-long children, who would forever be in the control of the men in their family.  Well, she found a way to take control. (Ironic how diametrically opposed most Victorian women’s lives were to that of Queen Victoria, who gave the era its name.) 

As Bridget Sullivan, the Irish housekeeper who is treated with such contempt that she is assigned a different first name because the Bordens prefer it, Kristen Stewart is a revelation as Lizzie’s confidant and conspirator, and as frank and direct as Lizzie is buttoned up.  The performances are top notch, actors, director and writer creating a believable humanity in even the most hateful.  The only minor disappointment is Lizzie’s sister Emma, played by Kim Dickens, Deadwood’s Joanie Stubbs, who performs well, but has so little to do.  Lizzie is available from Amazon and elsewhere.


The wonderful Retroformat folks are presenting two of the absolutely best of Keaton’s shorts – which is to say two of the best movies of any kind ever made – with Cliff Retallick’s live score, and an interview with comic actor Paul Dooley – to me he’ll always be the dad in BREAKING AWAY – who actually did a TV commercial with Buster! 

Watch it live tonight on Facebook – here’s the link:


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.

Andrew J. Fenady is a writer and producer who will not stop working.  On Saturday night, when I offered him a draft of this article for his comments, he asked me to FAX it to his office, as he’ll be going in to work at 9:00 a.m. – on Sunday!  When I asked him what he’d been up to, he said he’d just sent 73,000 words of his new western novel, DESTINY MADE THEM BROTHERS, to his publisher, Kensington.  He told me it’s about three great men who cross paths: U.S. Grant, George Armstrong Custer, and Johnny Yuma – the character he created for Nick Adams 53 years ago for THE REBEL.

A.J. Fenady, Nick Adams, Irvin Kershner

A. J. Fenady has been creating exciting and thought-provoking entertainment for the small screen, big screen, stage and page since he started as a self-described ‘stooge’ on the documentary series CONFIDENTIAL FILE in 1953.  He went on to create, write and produce THE REBEL, to rescue and revamp BRANDED, to adapt John Wayne’s movie HONDO into a TV series, and to write and produce the Duke in CHISUM.  And the movies he’s made for theatres and TV include RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE, BLACK NOON, THE MAN WITH BOGART’S FACE, THE HANGED MAN, TERROR IN THE WAX MUSEUM, and many more.  I was grateful that he took some time off to talk to me about his career for the Round-up.

Andrew:  I just fired up my favorite cigar, Romeo Y Julietta Cedro #1, so fire away.

Henry: That’s Cuban, isn’t it?

A: No, no.  It’s Cuban seed, but Dominican Republic.  I’ll tell you, those Cubans are so damned strong.  When we were shooting up in Canada, the prop me gave me a box of Cuban cigars.  After I smoked a few of those damned lung-cloggers I said, “Go back to the station and get some American cigars: these things are killing me!”

H: What were you shooting in Canada?

A: We shot a lot of things there.  The first thing was a two-hour TV movie with Bob Hope and Don AmecheA MASTERPIECE OF MURDER.  It’s the only TV movie that Bob Hope ever did, and it did very, very well, and Don Ameche was just a wonderful man to work with.  And after that we did YES VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS.  We also did THE SEA WOLF with Charles Bronson up there.

H: Did you always love westerns?

A: Yes.  When I was a young fellow I had an old broom, and I sawed the end off, and I would ride around the neighborhood.  And that stick was Tony, and I was Tom Mix.  So it goes back to that.  And in those days there were two tiers of Western movies, of western stars.  The Saturday matinees and the serials – there were people like Bob Steele and Buck Jones and Hoot Gibson and Ken Maynard.  And then on Sunday – well, at first John Wayne was in the lower tier, but then he graduated with STAGECOACH.  And then there were people like Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea and the Duke.  So we had the 60 minute cheapies, and we also had things like THE PLAINSMAN, and UNION PACIFIC to go to on Sundays.  There was a movie theatre in Toledo called THE REX, and the admission price was a nickel.  And I went there one day and put down my nickel, and she said, “Ten cents.”  And I said, “What?!”  I was shocked, shocked, as Claude Rains would say.  Twice as much money to see the same damned picture. 

H: You’ve had a very extensive career as both a writer and a producer.  Which do you think of yourself as, primarily?

A: You know, I am what they call a hyphenate.  A hyphenate wears two hats.  The old saying is two heads are better than one, but that’s only true when one head knows what the hell the other one is doing.  But the billing is writer-producer because of the saying, first comes the word.  Well, that’s really not true either.  First comes the idea.  Words come from ideas, not ideas from words, so you’ve got to have some kind of a concept or some kind of a character.  And for many years I had the advantage of being the writer, which means you might as well be living up in a cave, cloistered, and putting down your thoughts.  Then, when you become a producer you pick up the phone and say, “Let’s get together.”  And forty-seven guys come in and say, “What, chief?  What what what what?”  When I felt kind of cramped (as a writer), then I got to be the producer and we were in the wide open spaces.  

H: You’ve done movies and TV shows in a wide range of genres, but more westerns and crime stories than anything else.  Why do you think you focused there?

A: I’ll tell you.  I really started out in this business with Paul Coates’ CONFIDENTIAL FILE.  I started out sort of as a stooge, then did some parts in the documentaries.  Then I started giving them some ideas, and making outlines of what we were going to shoot.  A lot of it dealt with crime, with dope, counterfeiting, and used car rackets – I mean, we exposed every racket in the world except tennis racquets.  So crime was sort of my beginning and my background in documentaries.  And the first feature that we did, STAKEOUT ON DOPE STREET (1958) was about three kids who find a quarter of a million dollars worth of heroin, and they don’t even know what it is.  So the mob is after them, the cops are after them, and other kids are after them.  But the switch to Westerns was because as a kid I was interested in Westerns – who the Hell wasn’t?  We all had those six shooters and caps, and Westerns were the rage on television. 

H: How did you get together with Nick Adams?

A: I got the rights to THE EXECUTION OF PRIVATE SLOVIK, and we had it all set up.  Niven Bush and I were going to co-write the screenplay, Irvin Kershner was going to direct it – this was after we’d done some pretty good things.  And Paul Newman said he wanted to play it.  Well, I get a letter from Nick Adams saying, ‘Look Mr. Fenady.  I know you’ve got Paul Newman, but if anything should happen to him, I should play Eddie Slovik.  Eddie Slovik was Polish – I’m Polish.  Eddie Slovik was from Detroit – I’m from Detroit.’  The Polish part was true, the Detroit part wasn’t, but it didn’t matter.  He said, ‘Can I buy you lunch? I’d like to meet you.’  I said okay, fine.  We had lunch, and I paid for it.  But then he kept pestering me.  He’d come over and say, ‘Listen, do me a series – I want to do a series.’  I said, ‘Well Nick, what do you want to do?’  He said, ‘I do a great Jimmy Cagney.  Something like a JOHNNY COME LATELY.’  I said no.  He said, ‘How about something like Cary Grant on GUNGA DIN?’  No, no no.  Well, eight of the top ten shows on television were westerns, at the time.  GUNSMOKE and HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL and all of those.  I said to him and Kershner, ‘Boys, if we’re gonna do a television series, we’re gonna do a Western.’  So I sat down and wrote the damned thing.  We took it to Dick Powell, who was a friend of mine; we were going to do a feature once.  And he’d said, if you ever want to do television, let me have a look at it first.  He looked at the script for THE REBEL and said, ‘We’ll do this on ZANE GREY THEATRE next year as a pilot, like we did WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE,’ and a couple of the other things that he sold.  Great!  Now this goes back to how we got involved with Goodson Todman Productions.  While I was preparing a feature at Paramount, Kershner did a PHILIP MARLOWE (episode) – that was the first project they had that wasn’t a quiz show.  They only did thirteen episodes.  We were pretty hot – our names were in the paper all the time.  And a fellow that worked there, a vice president, Harris Katleman, who is still around, said, ‘Do you and your partner have any westerns?  We’d like to do a Western.’  And Kershner said, ‘Well, we do, but we’re going to do it with Dick Powell.’  (Katleman) called me.  I said THE REBEL’s already promised to Dick Powell, but take a look at it, and if you like it, I’ll write another one for you.  So he read it, called me back and said, ‘How much would it cost to shoot this picture?’  I didn’t know how much.  I grabbed a figure and said, fifty thousand dollars.  He called me back and said Mark and Bill will put up fifty thousand up front: fifty-fifty.  We’re partners if you want to do THE REBEL, and we’ll do it now.  I said, we can’t.  He said, I don’t think Dick Powell would stand in your way.  Why don’t you go see him?  Dick Powell said, God bless you, go ahead and do it.  Who the Hell knows what’s going to happen between now and next year.  Give ‘em Hell.  So that’s how the association with Goodson Todman came about.   We shot the damned thing in four days, and the irony is that at ABC there was only one half-hour left.  And it was between a Four Star pilot (Dick Powell’s company) that they did with Michael Ansara, and THE REBEL, and THE REBEL beat out the other pilot.  And the first one to call was Dick Powell, and he said, hey, we’ve got a lot of pilots.  You only had one.  I’m glad that it turned out this way.  And after this if you want to see me any time the door’s wide open. 

H: Now Irvin Kershner is quite a director.  All of the serious STAR WARS people always say that THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is the great Star Wars movie.  What was he like as a guy?    

A: Well, Kershner and I were like brothers – we lived together for years when we were doing CONFIDENTIAL FILE.  We were joined at the hip and in other places. (laughs)  So we truly got along.  Now Kershner always had kind of a hesitation at the beginning of each day.  All he needed was a, ‘Come on Kershner!’  A kick in the ass, really.  And once he got going it was in a fury.  He was terrific.  But when you ask, what kind of a director was he?  Well, he was a silent picture director.  Because CONFIDENTIAL FILE was silent.  We did 150 episodes, and we only had dialogue in about five of them.  So it was a silent picture technique.  The story was told in pictures, but when someone spoke, it meant something.  That’s the way that we worked. 

H: Very interesting.  I’ve never been able to find any CONFIDENTIAL FILE episodes. 

A: Well, they’re around.  We did one on capitol punishment.  He and I and a fellow named Gene Petersen – that was the entire staff – we went up to San Quentin, and I’m the only one who sat in one of those two chairs in the gas chamber, got strapped in, and got up and walked out.  I played the part and wrote the narration and produced the damned thing.  You can’t find that kind of experience today.  You can’t buy it.  One day we do that and the next week we do the John Tracy Clinic, or we do blind children, and then we do homosexuals; so in 150 episodes we did every kind of picture that was imaginable. 

H: Getting back to Nick Adams, did he really co-create the REBEL?

A: Oh, that’s another story.   He read the thing and he said, ‘Let’s say that we co-created this.’  And I didn’t care. Hell, I figured I was going to go on and do a lot of other things.  If this helps the kid out, that’s okay.  If you look at him, he wasn’t a leading man.  But put him in that damned costume and he’s suddenly a leading man; and he was a talented fellow, and he was the most cooperative kind of a star you’d ever want.  Just a prime example is, we’d shoot a day out on location, out in Thousand Oaks, or Vasquez Rocks, and Nick bought a house out there in the Valley.  We’d have a stretch-out, be on the way over there, and he would (meet us) in a gas station, already be in his outfit, be standing there waiting for us, and this is sometimes in the bitter cold of December, January.  We’d slow down the stretch-out, he’d hop in and – zoom -- out we’d go, do the day’s work, and on the way back we’d dump him off at the same place.  There weren’t many guys like that around.  There weren’t then, and there aren’t now.  Another thing about Nick was, if we were running behind, I’d save his close-ups and not shoot ‘em, and say, ‘Nick, we’ll do this later.’  And sometime later on, two or three episodes after that, when we were ahead, I’d say okay Nick, we’re going to do all your close-ups from all the shows.  He’d say, ‘Okay, who are you?’  I’d read the lines offstage.  ‘I’m Agnes Moorehead.’  He’d take a look at the script – ‘I remember that one.  Let’s go.’  And we would shoot the close-ups for that one.  Then we’d shoot the close-ups for Carradine, or whoever the Hell else that we weren’t able to get.  That’s the kind of a guy he was, too. 

H: It’s so sad, he died so young.  Do you think he would have gone on to be a big leading man?

A: Well, I don’t know about the leading man part.  But I think that he was the kind of a guy that, as he grew older, he would settle into more character parts, and be very comfortable doing that.  So I think he had a future.  No doubt about it in my mind. 

H: The character of Johnny Yuma is a Confederate veteran with ambitions to be a writer, which is not the goal of your standard western hero.  How much of Johnny Yuma was Andrew Fenady?

A: I didn’t tell this to Nick until the second season.  I said, ‘Nick, you know what we’re doing, don’t you?’  “Yeah, yeah – we’re doing THE REBEL.’  I said, ‘Nick, we’re doing Jack London.  We’re doing a story of a young man who had a limited education, who had fought a war, only not with guns and with bullets, but against poverty.  He wanted to be a writer, and he realized that you couldn’t write it unless you lived it.  So he did everything he wrote about.  He was a sailor, he was a miner, he was a farmer, he was a fighter, and this was my inspiration for THE REBEL; it was Jack London.’  And how much of that is Fenady?  Well, I don’t know, maybe 90% is Jack London, or maybe fifty fifty, half Jack London and half Fenady.

H: Now you couldn’t write them all yourself.  Who were the best writers you were working with? 

Nick Adams with Strother Martin 

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 WUTHERING HEIGHTS.  THERE CAME A STRANGER is really a western version of DOUBLE INDEMNITY.  There are only so many plots – some people say there are nine plots, other people say there are seven, some say there’s only one plot.  Somebody loses something.  That’s the plot.  Or vice versa – somebody finds something, like John Steinbeck’s PEARL.  So never mind the plot, give me a character; give me somebody that people are interested in.  What about this guy?  Here’s a guy who has his face changed to look like Humphrey Bogart.  That’s interesting – what’s he gonna do?  What’s on his mind?  You’ve got to have somebody that people are interested in.  Bill Goldman (BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID), who’s a damned good writer, just kept saying ‘Structure, structure.’  Well, he’s wrong: it’s the character and conflict that makes for an interesting story.  And I always had characters that were interesting, conflict, something that was almost impossible to do.  Something that the odds were against you. 

H: THE REBEL was your first series as a creator and producer.  And you made 79 half hours in two seasons, which would be four or five seasons now.  The pace must have been grueling.  How did you get it all done?

A: Well, I’ll tell you how: because I was young, ambitious and ignorant.  (laughs) That was the whole thing.  The first 26 years that Mary Frances and I were married I never took a day off including Saturdays and Sundays, until we did THE MAN WITH BOGART’S FACE, and they sent us to Cannes.  And I said, ‘Mary Frances, we’ve been doing this all wrong!’  Listen, in those days it was easier.  You could talk to somebody who had some authority.  You know, these days it’s all corporate.  No one person can take the credit or will take the blame.  When we did THE YOUNG CAPTIVES, I wrote a script, we went over to see D. A. Doran at Paramount, and he could greenlight any picture up to $250,000.  Well he liked the script, and he said, ‘Boys, how much can you make this for?’  I said, ‘D.A., we’re going to make this one for $215,000.’  He said, ‘Shoot it!’  Well, you can’t get that kind of a go-ahead today. 

H: Where was THE REBEL shot? 

A: We shot it in three days.  We were in profit right from the first day.  We got $40,000 for each episode the first year.  And I made ‘em for 38, 39 thousand dollars.  And every once in a while I would do what I called a DESPERATE HOURS or a PETRIFIED FOREST, an episode that only took place in one place.  Some of them went down to $29,000.  But what we would do is we would shoot one day on location.  Vasquez Rocks, and a lot in Thousand Oaks.  And the second day we would shoot on the lot; the (western) street at Paramount.  The third day we would do the interiors, whether it was someone’s house, or a shack, or a hotel or a jail.  A sheriff’s office.  So that was really the formula: first day out, second day on the street, and the third day interiors. 

H: I know you used some other western towns, because I’ve seen still of you shooting in Corriganville.

A: Oh, well that was where the pilot was shot.  Wonderful place.  And also we shot out at Fort Apache that (John) Ford built.  We shot the third episode I wrote out there; it was called YELLOW HAIR. 

H: In THE REBEL and later in BRANDED you attracted a remarkably high level of actors, who didn’t usually do half-hour episodics.  John Carradine, John IrelandJoan Leslie.

A: Well, what my plan was, I didn’t want to pay people a lot of money.  But on the third episode, I rewrote this thing; it was a strong woman’s part.  And I sent it over to Agnes Moorehead.  Now I knew her slightly.  And everybody said, ‘Jesus Christ, she wants more money than we really should pay anybody.  Andy, why are you paying her so much money?’  I said, ‘I’ll tell you why.  Because if Agnes Moorehead does a REBEL, I can’t think of many actors who would turn it down.’  I could always say, ‘Agnes Moorhead did it, fellows.  Now here’s how much money we’ve got.  You want to do it?’  And I would say 99% of the time the actor wanted to do it.  Of course the scripts were good, too. 

Agnes Moorhead

H:  They sure were.  And the one with Aggie was particularly good. 

A: Yeah, Bob Steele was in that, too. 

H: Who were your favorite actors that you worked with in guest roles?

A: On THE REBEL?  Well, John Carradine of course.  We got to be very good friends.  He was in the pilot.  I’ll tell you about that.  Stallmaster-Lister were so-called doing the casting, and when I wrote the pilot, I said, ‘Look, I wrote this part for John Carradine,’ though I’d never worked with him.  They said, ‘Ahh, you don’t want him.  We’ve had some bad experiences with him, and he’s done those horror movies, and blah blah blah.’  So finally they convince me; J. Pat O’Malley was going to play that part.  He’s good, but he’s not John Carradine.  Well, the good Lord or an angel must have been looking over my shoulder, because I get a call from O’Malley, and he says, ‘I know I’ve got a contract, and I’ll honor it, but I’ve got a chance to do a feature.  Could you excuse me from this?’  And I said, ‘You bet.’  I called Stallmaster-Lister and said, ‘Get me John Carradine, and I don’t want to hear any buts.  This was meant to be.’  So he did that, and after that we did a dozen things together.  And a real pro, always prepared, just a gentleman.  You know I went to his funeral, and Harry Townes, the actor -- he was in the pilot for THE YANK, and I used him in BRANDED and several other things.  And I go to the funeral, it’s an Episcopal Church in Hollywood, and who is the priest but Harry Townes.  And he performed the ceremony.


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. 

H: Were there any actors that you wanted to work with that you didn’t get?


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 Wayne’s HONDO into a series.  He is proud to have written, and continues to write, in many genres, from western to mystery to horror.  He also writes for many different media – TV, film, short story, novel, stage play and radio play.  And his radio plays are not from the ‘golden age’; he’s writing them to be performed on-stage right now. 

This is the second part of my interview with A.J.  If you haven’t read part one, please go HERE.  As part one of my interview ended, A.J. had related how a script for a Western movie entitled RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE had disappeared from his office.  “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!’”  At the time, Chuck was starring in the series BRANDED for A.J.

A.J. FENADY:  I said, ‘Well, I don’t know if we can put it together.’ He said, ‘Try!’  One of the people who was instrumental in getting it done the way that it was done, at Columbia, was Bill Todman.  Harris Katleman called me and he said, ‘How much can you make this picture for?’  I said I can make it for five-hundred thousand.  He said, ‘Okay.  We got you six.’  So we did it with $600,000, and we didn’t spend it all.  And we did it with Chuck and with all that cast.  (Michael Rennie, Kathryn Hays, Joan Blondell, Gloria Grahame, Bill Bixby, Claude Akins, Gary Merrill, etc.) They play it all the time – I made an awful lot of money from that picture, and will continue to make it – I’ll tell you that story some time. 

RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE villains Bill Bixby, Claude Akins and Michael Rennie

HENRY PARKE: And you have my absolute favorite actresses of all time, Gloria Grahame, in that. 

A.J.: I’d hired an assistant director named Tony Ray.  And he came to me, kind of all shriveled up and said, ‘Listen, there’s a part in here that my wife could play.’  And I said, ‘Well, uh…who’s your wife?’  ‘Gloria Grahame.’  I said, ‘You’re married to Gloria Grahame?  Tell her to come on in.’ And what he didn’t tell me, the sonuvabitch, was that she was pregnant.  If you look real close, we never shot her stomach.  But I couldn’t resist, because she was just so damned good. 

H: And five years later you used her again in your supernatural western, BLACK NOON.

A.J.: There was a part; I didn’t think she’d play it.  She didn’t have many lines, but it was a good part.  I said, let’s try and get Gloria Grahame, and somebody said, ‘She won’t do this.’  I said we don’t know unless we try it – all she can do is say no.  But she said yes, and she came to the rehearsals, and she was just wonderful.  She was there all the time. 

H: When I was at NYU Film School, a friend called and asked if I’d like to work with a film legend, but I couldn’t tell anyone.  He told me to go to the Grad School editing room.  As I’m about to walk in, my friend grabs me – he knows I’m madly in love with Gloria Grahame – and makes me swear that I will not mention her name.  Then he lets me in, and there is Nicholas Ray, and his son Tony Ray, both of whom had been married to Gloria Grahame.  And I repaired torn sprockets for Nick, who wanted a couple of reels of his work-in-progress ready for a screening.

A.J.: I never even knew that they (Nick and Tony) ever got together afterwards.  (Note: Nick was married to Gloria when he caught her in bed with his son, Tony.  She eventually married Tony, with a marriage to screenwriter Cy Howard in between.) I’m happy to hear that.  Even though it’s a strange story.  It’s almost as strange as the Rod Cameron story.  He divorced his wife, and married his wife’s mother!  And they lived happily ever after!

H: BRANDED was not originally your baby.  How did you get involved, and was it already on the air when you did?

A.J. : No it wasn’t on the air.  I’ll tell you what happened.  I had an independent deal with United Artists for television and features, and I went over to Paramount, because that was my favorite lot, because of Frank Caffey, who was in charge of physical.  I had an office, and in the next office there were these people, and I kept hearing them hollering and cursing and banging against the wall.  I said, what the Hell is going on over there?   Well, it was the BRANDED outfit.  And they were really in trouble.  They’d shot two or three of their episodes, and they couldn’t even cut them together.  They had a producer, may he rest in peace, named Cecil Barker, who specialized in comedy.  And for some reason they had made him the producer, and he and Chuck (Connors) were at each other’s throats.  It was just terrible.  I get a call from a fellah at Proctor and Gamble, which had been one of the sponsors of THE REBEL.  ‘Harris Kattleman will call you before the end of business today.’  He came in and said, ‘You’ve got to save our ass.  We can’t go on like this.  We can’t even go on the air with the shows we’ve got.  We want you to take it over.’  I said, ‘Harris, I’ve got a deal over here.’  He said, ‘This is how much we can pay you.  Will you do it?’  It wasn’t really a question of money.  I wasn’t really happy at United Artists anyhow – but that’s another story.  So I went to United Artists and said, ‘Can I get out of this deal?  Please?’  And they said okay.  But before that Harris said, ‘Come on over and talk to Chuck.’  I said, ‘No.  Have Chuck come over and talk to me.  Let’s get started the right way.’  So he came over and put on the act – ‘Oh, how do you do, Mr. Fenady?  It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Fenady.’  All that kinda crap.  And I said, ‘Look Chuck, I just want to ask you one question.  We go into production, who’s the boss?’  He said, ‘You are.’  I said, ‘Okay, just remember one thing: you came to see me; I didn’t go to see you.’  And you know what?  Chuck was, in many ways, crazy.  But he was also intelligent.  You could sit down and talk to him.  And if he had a point of view, and you had a point of view, and you’re point of view was better, he would acknowledge that.  He’d say, ‘Alright, we’ll do it.’  I loved working with him, and I loved him. 

H: How extensive were your changes to the original concept of BRANDED?

AJ: Well, not really to the concept, but to the style of writing.  First of all I hated that ‘butch’ haircut that he had.  I said, ‘Chuck, you look like Lurch!’  You remember Lurch in THE ADDAMS FAMILY?  But we couldn’t do anything about it for a while, because that’s the way that he was, and we didn’t have time to let his hair grow.  But after the first season, when we did RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE, I said now you’ve got a chance to let your hair grow, and make it nice and curly.  And he did.  And in the second season he looked more like a leading man than he did like Lurch.

Connors disgraced -- note 'Lurch' hair.

Let me give you an example (of the writing style).  In a script that somebody had written, Chuck Connors walks into a saloon and orders a beer.  And there’s a free lunch there, with the mustard and all that other kind of accoutrement.   And one of the two guys, it was Pat Conway who had all the dialog, started telling the whole Goddam story.  He’s a coward and he did this and he ran away…  Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.  And I said, fellahs, come on!  Here’s how we’re gonna shoot the scene.  He just whispers something to the guy he’s with.  Then he walks up to the bar, Chuck is standing there.  He reaches into the mustard, and he paints a yellow streak down Chuck’s back.  Chuck turns around and punches him.  And that’s the kind of thing that I inaugurated in the series.  When something can be covered by one or two words, don’t push.  A John Wayne kind of a phrase.  We eliminated a lot of the dialog, and relied on what people could see on the screen and the punch line.  Which was often followed by a punch.             

H: It’s like you said about Irvin Kershner; you started in silent pictures too, in a sense.  Do you think it was a help with BRANDED, that you had a theme song that laid out the plot every time? 

 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 Pecos, to find where you belong.”  Hey, that’s it.

H: And it’s great to have William Conrad speaking that.

AJ:  Mmm-hmm.  What a great guy – he came in one day and did that.  One day, Hell – he did it in one hour.  I said to him, Bill, do you think you ought to put a little more Texas in that?  He said, ‘You listen to it.  There’s quite a bit of Texas in there.’  He knew what he was doing.

H: Radio’s Matt Dillon: he ought to.  Midway through the first season of BRANDED, you switched from black and white to color. 

Chuck Connors, A. J. Fenady on right

AJ: It wasn’t even half way.  We did four episodes, and I wrote three of them, and then they had three different writers writing a thing called THE MISSION, the three-parter.  And I went to Bill Todman again.  And I said, if you can get me $25,000 more than is in the budget, we can release this as a feature, and I’ll shoot the damned thing in color.  So he went and got $25,000, the picture was released by Columbia as BROKEN SABRE, and it made a ton of money.  So from then on I said we’re going to shoot everything in color.  ‘What about the opening?’  I said I don’t; I have to think about it.  Somebody said, ‘That was shot in color.  We were going to shoot it, and Chuck Connors said, let’s shoot it in color.  We’ll  put it on in black and white, but we’ll have it in color.  So it was already in color, and we just shot the color version of (the show) from then on.

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?

Leonid Brezhnev meets Connors

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 MISSION) had nothing to do with James Bond or any of that.  It was just part of the story.

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 RED RIVER, Harry Carey Sr. has a line that goes something like this:  There’s three times when a man has a right to howl at the moon: when his first children are born, when he gets married, and when he finishes a job he had no business starting in the first place.  So that was kind of a template.  Finally, even in CHISUM, it got to a point when Ben Johnson said, ‘Now what are you going to do?’  ‘What I would have done twenty-five years ago:  break out the Winchesters.’  You know, there’s a time when you can’t sit by and let somebody get away with something, even if the law won’t stop them, if you can stop them.  If it’s part of your code to stop ‘em, stop ‘em. 

H: Also in BRANDED and HONDO, the plight of the Indian, especially the Apache, at the hands of dishonest whites, and the Government military, is an often-seen theme.  Is this something you felt strongly about?

AJ: Well, there are two sides to every story.  The Apaches weren’t all saints, either.  They cut off their wife’s noses, and they were slavers.  But Duke, in HONDO, identified with the Apaches, and I kind of carried that theme out, doing the series.  When somebody said to him, ‘One day there’ll be no need for reservations,’ he said, ‘There’s no need for ‘em now.’  And I still think there’s no need for them now.  All they’ve done is teach people to rely on the government: it’s usually a failure.  Government can’t do it.  They don’t gain any independence.  They become subservient.

H: One thing that people like about Westerns is that they tend to be about black hats and white hats.  You know who the good guy and bad guy is, and things will work out.  But in your shows, many of the stories are based on tough moral choices, where the answers are not that obvious. 

AJ: And sometimes you really don’t know the answers.  For example, in RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE, when he leaves, you don’t know whether he came back (for the woman) or whether he didn’t.  And at the end, modern day, when Arthur O’Connell is talking to James MacArthur, he asks MacArthur, ‘Do you think he ever came back?’  And he says, ‘No, like the song says, you can’t go home again.’  And he says, ‘Well, that’s just a song, and home is just a word.’  So you don’t know whether he came back or whether he didn’t.  Actually you can do a sequel to that. 

On CHISUM set, Johnn Wayne, Michael Wayne and A.J. Fenady go over the script.

H: That’s true.  Were you planning on a sequel?

AJ: No, I’m not much for sequels.  In writing novels, yes.  With THE MAN WITH BOGART’S FACE I wrote a sequel.  Another novel that I did, A. NIGHT IN BEVERLY HILLS and A. NIGHT IN HOLLYWOOD FOREVER, that was a sequel.  They want me to do more of those, but for some reason…  Well, for one reason, the mail building in that, the Writers & ArtistsBuilding, has now been taken over, and the whole thing has changed, and that was supposed to be his headquarters.  I could use it, but right now I’m busy doing other things. 

H: Before we leave the Western series, what series did you like other than your own?  Did you watch WAGON TRAIN --?

AJ:  Not so much WAGON TRAIN, but I loved Clint Walker.  I thought he was great as Cheyenne Bodie, and I talk to him at least once a month even now.  That was it as far as western series go.  As far as I’m concerned, the best western features, you’d have to start with STAGECOACH and go to RED RIVER, THE SEARCHERS.  And also THE PROFESSIONALS was damned good.  It was later, it was in the 20th century, but that was a helluvah movie.  They usually say don’t judge a book by its movie.  But very often the movies, as far as scripts go, improved on the novels.  It wasn’t a western, but LAURA was a better movie than it was a novel.  I think that RED RIVER – you know, I love Borden Chase – but the script was better than the novel, if you read it.  And THE PROFESSIONALS, A MULE FOR THE MARQUESA, the script was a lot better.  So sometimes you can improve on it.  First of all, you’re forced to consolidate.  You don’t have 400 pages or 300 pages.  You’ve got to tell the story in an hour and a half.  And you’re forced to make it tighter.  Those are my favorite features, as far as westerns go. 

H: Did you ever read James M. Cain’s novel, MILDRED PIERCE?

AJ: No, but I read the novel DOUBLE INDEMNITY.   The script was ten times as good. 

H: The Raymond Chandler script; it’s great.  The thing with MILDRED PIERCE, which I think is a great movie.  In the novel, there’s no murder.  That was created because the movie really needed something.  In 1967 you produced the series HONDO, based on the John Wayne movie.  Was adapting the film to a series your idea?

CHISUM - Glenn Corbett, Ben Johnson, Wayne

AJ: Yes, it was my idea.  First of all, Michael (Wayne) and I became good friends; we used to work out together at the gymnasium at Paramount. And he loved THE REBEL, and Duke loved THE REBEL – he used to watch it every Sunday night when he was home.  So I said to Allan Courtney, who was in charge of television at MGM, ‘How would you like to partner in with John Wayne and do HONDO?’  He said, ‘Well, I saw that picture a long time ago.  Let’s run it.’  We ran it, and he said, ‘How the Hell do you make a series out of that?’  And I said, ‘Well, I know how to do it.  Would you be interested?’  He said, ‘Hell yes!’  So I wrote a format.  And took it over to Michael and said, ‘You want to make some money, and perpetuate HONDO?  We’ll do it as a television series.’  And I gave him the material.  It was thirty or forty pages, and he told it to Duke.  And Duke says ‘This is the guy who did THE REBEL.’  I had met him a couple of times.  What happened was, Otho Lovering was my editor.  He edited a lot of John Ford pictures.  He edited STAGECOACH; he edited THE LONG VOYAGE HOME.  One day, we’re doing THE REBEL, I’m in the office, and I’ve got the door open as I always did.  And Otho from outside says, ‘Hey, there’s someone out here who’d like to come in and say hello.’  I say, ‘Well bring him in!’  So I look, and there’s little Otho – he stood about five feet tall – and there’s John Wayne, who filled the whole damned doorway.  And he said, ‘See, Duke.  That’s what I was talking about.’  I had a HUGE picture of Duke.  It went from the ceiling all the way down to the floor, as Hondo.  And after we shook hands he said, ‘You know, that’s one of my favorite pictures.  The rights come back to me in two years.’  And I never forgot that.  Well two and a half years later I said, that’s when I was at MGM, and that’s how HONDO came about.  The change I made was making the setting not some lady’s cabin out in Apache land, but that she and her husband ran the general store, inside of a fort.  So I had the whole damned fort to work with.  And there was a wonderful fort at MGM on Lot 3. 

H: Now did HONDO lead more or less directly to your writing CHISUM? 

AJ: They asked if I would accept Bob Morrison, who was Duke’s brother, as associate producer.  Well, he and I got to be very close.  He was a wonderful, wonderful gentle man.  He was a tough guy, but he was very gentle.  And he kept saying, ‘A.J., write something for Duke.  He needs something good.’  And I always had this idea about CHISUM.  And I wrote a format, a story outline, and I called Michael (Wayne) and I said I’d like to come over and talk to you about something for Duke.  It’s called CHISUM.’  He said, ‘Oh, the Chisholm Trail.’  I said, ‘No.  That was Jesse Chisholm, who was part Comanche, and this is John Simpson Chisum, the cattle drive from Texas to New Mexico.’  He said, ‘Oh.  That do sound like Duke, don’t it?’  Anyhow, I went over there, and that’s a long story you can read about in my book when I write it, but that’s how that came about: Bob Morrison via Michael Wayne via the Duke, and we did CHISUM. 

H: I did not know that John Chisum was a real man.  Because CHISUM is your telling of the Lincoln County Wars.  How close did you stay to the actual history?

AJ: Well, when somebody would say something (was inaccurate), Duke would say, ‘Damn it, we’re not making a documentary, we’re making a movie!’  I took some liberties.  (laughs)  Matter of fact I took quite a few liberties.  But the basic characters were all there: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett and Henry Tunstall, L.G. Murphy and all the rest of them, they were all involved in the Lincoln County War, and so was Chisum. 

H: You wrote and produced CHISUM.  As a producer, how much could you actually control John Wayne? 

AJ: Who wanted to control John Wayne?  For cryin’ out loud, if he didn’t know what was good for him, nobody did.  He had an instinct.  He was not someone who would say something (onscreen) if it did not need to be said.  And he cut himself out of a scene between Billy the Kid and Henry Tunstall, when he was supposed to be standing there -- he had one or two lines.  He said, ‘I don’t need to be in there.  It’s their scene.  It’s their part of the plot.  Let’s forget my being in it.’  And I said okay.  Another line I had, when Murphy started a store, and Duke and Tunstall say, well maybe we’ll start a store.  And Forrest Tucker, L.G. Murphy says, ‘Don’t tell me you’re going to start a bank too.’  And Duke’s line, as I wrote it, was, ‘Why not?  All it takes is money.  And I’ve got plenty.’  He said, ‘McFenady, I don’t need to say I’ve got plenty.  They know I’ve got plenty.’  So then later on, when they were going to start their store and their bank, Andrew Prine, said to him, ‘What do you know about running a store?’  Then Andrew Prine quoted Chisum:  ‘All it takes is money.’  And Duke said, ‘Yeah.  Mine.’  So that worked out very well. 

H: So John Wayne called you McFenady?

AJ: Not all the time, but most of the time.  I never asked him why.  I figured if he wanted me to know, he would tell me.  When there were people around he’d say, ‘Hey, McFenady this and McFenady that.’  He was the giant of all giants.  Very good to me, and to a lot of other people.

H:  In CHISUM you had a particularly strong supporting cast.  Forrest Tucker, Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine, Christopher George, Brice Cabot, Patrick Knowles.  As well as a lot of familiar faces from the Ford and Hawks stock company.  How did you go about assembling all of them?

AJ: You know what?  All you had to do was say I’m doing a picture with John Wayne; you want to be in it?  And the answer was yes.  ‘Cause who the Hell didn’t want to do a picture with Wayne?  Well, I tell you who didn’t want to be in a picture with him.  Who was in THE HELLFIGHTERS with him?  Katherine Ross.  He wanted her to be in TRUE GRIT, to play the girl, but she didn’t want to do a John Wayne picture.  She wanted to do a Katherine Ross picture, so she turned the thing down.  But it turned out very, very well because that little girl that played in TRUE GRIT, Kim Darby, was terrific.  The whole picture was much better than the remake.  I couldn’t understand half the things the guys were saying in the remake.  They were mumbling in their beards and mumbling in their hats.  When John Wayne said something, you didn’t have to say, ‘What did he say?’ 

H:  Director Andrew V. McLaglen, son of Wayne’s frequent co-star Victor, directed Wayne many times.  What was he like to work with?

AJ:  He was wonderful, just wonderful.  I talk to him at least once a month, too.  He’s in his nineties now.  He did over 100 GUNSMOKES and 115 HAVE GUN WILL TRAVELS.  He knew what he was doing.  Another thing was, he shot the script.  He didn’t screw around on the stage and say, let’s try this and let’s try that.  He read the script, and if he had any suggestions he made it before we got there.  He respected the script, and so did Duke.  And Duke said to me more than once, ‘You know McFenady, this is the most pleasant picture I ever made.’  He didn’t say it was the best, but he said it was the most pleasant.  And we just got along famously.  We were going to do something else too, but it just never happened. 

H: You had made a ton of Westerns by the time you did CHISUM, but was that the first one you’d done in Mexico? 

AJ: Yes.  The thing was, Duke owned Mexico.  He had shot six or seven pictures down there, and he owned the street at Durango, he owned land there, and he owned every damned thing.  And there was never any trouble at all.  I’d be riding in an open car with Duke, down the streets of Durango, and people are hanging out the windows yelling, ‘John Whine!  John Whine!’  He could have run for governor or president or what have you, and would have got elected by 99%.  And Batjac had kind of a formula for the Duke.  We could have shot it here in the United States, but he wanted to shoot it down there, he felt comfortable down there.  He’d bring his yacht there, the Wild Goose.  (laughs) Not in Durango, because it was in the middle of Mexico.  But he’d go to Mazatlan once in a while when we were preparing.  By the time we did CHISUM I got to know him very, very well.  Because I was not a part of it, but I was on the periphery of all those other pictures before.  I was on HELLFIGHTERS, that’s when he decided he wanted to do CHUISUM.  And then he did TRUE GRIT, and I was there, working in his office.  And on THE UNDEFEATED, I was down there almost all the time while he was doing that; we were knocking around with the script and knocking around with some tequila and gin.

H: Your next film was a horror/supernatural western, BLACK NOON.  How’d that come about?

AJ:  Aha!  You know we had six kids, five boys, so I was in Little League, and one of the other coaches in Little League was a guy named Paul King.  He was in charge of production for CBS, their movies of the week.  And he said, ‘I know you’re a bigshot, you just did CHISUM.  I don’t suppose you’d do a movie of the week.’  And that’s when I said, ‘Hemingway did short stories.  If it’s something that I like, I’ll do it.’  So he and Philip Barry and I had lunch, at Musso Franks, and they said, what do you want to do?  I said there’s this western…and he said, ‘Stop.  Andy, you can’t get my attention by any log-line on a western.’  Just didn’t want to do a western.  And I said, ‘I can get your attention in four words: witchcraft in the west.’  ROSEMARY’S BABY had just come out, so they said, ‘Whatayagot?  Whatayagot?’  They read the thirteen pages and said, ‘Will you write a script?  Where do you want to go?’  So I went to Arty Goldberg who was at Screen Gems at the time – I knew him from the old ABC days, and said how would you guys like to do a CBS movie?  Larry Gordon was there at the time.  Who later became THE Larry Gordon.  And he said, ‘We’ve taken sixteen projects to CBS, and they’ve turned us down on every one of them.’  I said they’re not going to turn us down on this one – believe me.  So I write the script, and Larry Gordon and I were going over with the script and talk to them about it.  I was driving, he got in the car, and all of a sudden he takes out a paper bag and puts it against his face.  I think, this guy’s going to vomit.  ‘What’s the matter with you, Larry?’  ‘I’m hyperventilating.  They’re gonna turn us down!’  ‘No they aren’t, Larry.’  So we brought them the script, they said go ahead and shoot it.  And it turned out very, very well. 

H: In 1974 you made your last western to date, THE HANGED MAN. 

AJ: That was a great premise.  A man who has done some bad things in his life is falsely accused of murder.  And they hang him, but he doesn’t die.  Why was he saved?  There had to be a reason.  My line was, ‘What did Lazarus do for the rest of his life?’  He was trying to find out why he was spared.  I’ll tell you why it didn’t go (to series).  By then, westerns were on their way out.  And that’s when I said, A.J., you’ve got to switch gears.  You ain’t gonna be able to sell many westerns, so let’s try something else.  And I loved private eyes, just loved ‘em.  And wrote THE MAN WITH BOGART’S FACE.  I did that when I was doing two other movies of the week at Warner Brothers, so I did it on Warner Brothers’ time. 

H: Why do you think Westerns faded out?

AJ:  I’ll tell you why.  Those guys like Sam Peckinpah and Altman seemed to be hell-bent on making rats out of every hero in the west who ever lived, whether it was Wild Bill Hickok or Buffalo Bill, or Wyatt Earp, they just corrupted the western.  But people were doing westerns; only audiences didn’t know they were doing westerns.  What is STAR WARS?  It was a western, only instead of a stagecoach and horses, you had rockets and spaceships.  But the plot was the same.  Two guys that were pals break up, one guy goes into danger, and the other guy says the Hell with you.   And just when you think one guy’s gonna get it, the other guy changes his mind and comes in and saves the other lead.  Borden Chase used that in practically every story he ever did.  RED RIVER and BEND OF THE RIVER and VERA CRUZ. 

H: I have a sense of what you think of Peckinpah.  What did you think of Leone and the spaghetti westerns?

AJ: I couldn’t stand them.  I was bored to death with those God damned close-ups and lingering shots.  I had a chance to make a lot of those, because I was hot; go to Italy, go to Spain.  But like I said before, Mary Frances and I had six kids, and they were growing up.  And I didn’t want to wander any farther from 126 North Rossmore than I had to.  I stayed here.

H: What are you writing today?

A. J. Fenady at a recent book signing

AJ: Well, last year I had open-heart surgery, pretty serious stuff.  I didn’t feel any pain, but they said you’ve got to do it, so I did it.  But during that time I finished up THE RANGE WOLF, which is going to come out the end of this year.  And what it is, it’s a western version of THE SEA WOLF.  Instead of a ship, it’s a cattle drive.  But it’s the same story, the same plot, only in a different venue, with different trappings. 

H: Is this something you’d like to make as a movie?

AJ: They’re not going to make that movie now.  I don’t think so.  I mean, twenty years from now they might do it.  Also I wrote a short story that was published in a book called LAW OF THE GUN.  The story is DEAD MAN RIDING TO TOMBSTONE, and I also wrote a novella while recovering, called THE BIG GUNS, or WHOSE LITTLE LILLY IS SHE?, that’s in a collection of supposedly the greatest living western writers (laughs).  Called ROUND-UP, which was sponsored by the Western Writers of America.  And I’m currently working on another big western.  You know I’ve written seven or eight plays, the last couple of them were in collaboration with my son Duke.  Three of them are radio plays that are going to be done at the Palmdale Playhouse.  YES VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS this December.  Then they’re going to do the radio version of THE SEA WOLF, and Duke collaborated with me on that.  Then THE BIG GUNS, OR WHOSE LITTLE LILLY IS SHE as a radio play is going to be performed.  So busy, busy, busy. 

H: Are you planning to make any more movies?

AJ: Well, it’s so tough to get one done.  Steve Speilberg can’t get a movie made that he wants.  I’ve only got so much time left, you know?  It’s not exactly the last round-up, but I know people who have been trying to get a movie made for twenty years and they haven’t done it.  I haven’t got twenty years.  So I’m very content to write plays, radio plays, and now if something happens, it happens.  If not, I’ll go on doing what I’m doing. 

A.J. with  L.Q. Jones at the Silver Spur Awards, 2011

H: What advice would you have for someone trying to get a western made today?

AJ: I would be very discouraging.  Because no one wants to do a classic, pure western.  They want things like the remake of the WILD, WILD WEST, with all kinds of rockets in it, and all kinds of crap.  They corrupt the western.  They won’t do it.  If they did one, like Clint Eastwood did THE UNFORGIVEN, I guarantee you they’d make a helluvah lot of money.  And even Clint says it’s tough to get one of those things made.  One of my sons, Andy Frank Fenady, is President of Physical Production at Universal, and they’re not going to make a western, not gonna make a classic-type John Ford, John Wayne western now.  First of all there is no John Ford and there is no John Wayne.  And these guys today, I don’t know if they could carry a western.  The odds are very much against it. 

Silver Spurs, Mr. & Mrs. Dick Jones with Mary Frances & A.J.

The advice of a writer is, you’ve got to swing a little bit with the times.  I know people that are specifically a certain kind of writer.  They can only write adaptations.  Or they can only write detective stories.  As far as I’m concerned, if you can write, you can write.  If you can tell a story, you can write a song, you can write a novel, you can write a script: it’s just finding the format.  The first time I wrote a play, YES VIRGNIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS, I said, now how do you get started?  I went and read THE GLASS MENAGERIE, where Tom narrates the thing.  I said aha!  That’s how it’s done.  So I sat down and wrote it as a play.  You’ve got to be able to not so much specialize, because your specialty is liable to come out of fashion.  And you’d better be able to pull a switcheroo, like I did from documentaries like CONFIDENTIAL FILE to westerns like THE REBEL to detective stories like THE MAN WITH BOGART'S FACE  And now I find the market for me is novels, and you can write western novels.  And I won the Owen Wister Award from the Western Writers of America, the highest award that you can get, and the Golden Boot Award, and all that, and you get a reputation, and there is a market for western novels.  I mean, you’re not going to make millions, but on the other hand, you’re working at your trade.


Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright May 2020 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved