Tuesday, December 16, 2014

‘BOONVILLE REDEMPTION’, PLUS ‘MYSTERY AT MOVIE RANCH’ REVIEW, 99c NETWORK LAUNCH, TCM/DISNEY SUNDAY!



BOONVILLE REDEMPTION – Part One



Pat Boone & Emily Hoffman

In August I was invited to spend a day on the set of BOONVILLE REDEMPTION, the new Western that was filming at Paramount Ranch in Agoura.  In addition, I was given the opportunity to be a ‘background’ in the film – for that part of the story, go HERE

Set shortly after the turn of the 20th century, the tale is located, significantly, in the real town on Boonville, in Northern California.  That town is unique, in possessing its own recognized language, Boontling, and that baffling lingo plays an important part in the movie’s plot.  The story revolves around thirteen-year-old Melinda (Emily Hoffman), who is treated by many with scorn, even though she is the stepdaughter of the most powerful man in the Valley, Maddox (Richard Tyson).  When she learns that she was born out of wedlock, she is determined to unlock the mystery of her true father’s identity, and what became of him, a mystery wrapped up in the enigmatic language of Boontling. 
The remarkably strong cast includes Pat Boone as Doc Wood, Ed Asner as Judge Mordecai Price, Diane Ladd as Melinda’s aged and Boontling-speaking grandmother, and Robert Hays as Pastor Reign.  On-set, I had the opportunity to speak with stars Pat Boone and Emily Hoffman; writer and executive producer Judy-Belshe Toernblom; director Don Schroeder; and prop-man, armorer, stunt co-ordinator and actor Peter Sherayko.


PAT BOONE


No stranger to the rural life of the film’s characters, Pat Boone grew up on his parents’ dairy farm in Nashville.  He laughs about the time he guested on THE TONIGHT SHOW, and told Johnny Carson that he’d milked many a cow.  Band-leader Doc Severinsen countered that he’d also grown up milking cows, and Carson set up a milking contest.  Pat Boone won, but he admits that it wasn’t quite fair.  “Doc started the orchestra playing ‘Turkey in the Straw’ for one minute.  I followed him, and I got twice as much milk.  But what he didn’t take into account, and I didn’t either, but when you start milking a cow, it doesn’t start flowing freely at first – you have to start pulling the milk down.  He got about a quart, but when I sat down, the cow was ready, so I got two quarts.  And he was so chagrined to be out-milked by a pop singer.” 



Pat as Doc Wood, waiting for his cue

DOC WOODS: “I did my duty; I brought you into this world, but it would give me great pleasure to take you out again.”  Pat Boone loves that line, loves that his character, Doc Woods, has an edge to him.  “I see the doctor very like Doc from GUNSMOKE. I see this as a Jimmy Stewart kind of thing. And Jimmy Stewart’s best characters are when he lets his faults show.  He’s irritable, he’s cantankerous, he’s judgmental, flinty, but when the chips are down and someone needs him, he’ll rise to the occasion.  I love this about this character. Also, it’s my first Western ever.  I did about sixteen other films, but they were movie musicals, and JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, and romantic comedies…”

HENRY: And PERILS OF PAULINE; I loved that.                      

PAT:  Did you?  Did you know, PERILS OF PAULINE was supposed to be a TV series?  We filmed most of the film as pilot, and ensuing segments for a series.  But it didn’t get sold for some reason, and so they went ahead and added more scenes, and made a movie out of it.  And I loved playing that character too; the completely na├»ve multi-millionaire.  I played somebody like that with Debbie Reynolds and Walter Matthau in a film called GOODBYE, CHARLIE. And so I probably, to many people, embody that kind of character, that’s almost too good, goody-goody, but kindly, and you like him.  But you don’t expect anything confrontational out of him.  

HENRY: How would you describe BOONVILLE REDEMPTION?

PAT BOONE:  It’s almost like an Agatha Christie Western.  We consider this a faith-based film, which is entertainment for the whole, broad audience, but from a faith perspective.  It’s not preaching to anybody, but turn of the century, most everybody went to some kind of church.  And they believed in the Golden Rule, things that are Biblical.  And so that emerges from time to time in the script.   There’s a scene where a man’s been shot, and Doc, when he tries to go into the wound in his chest, discovers – this was my idea – that he had a New Testament in his pocket.  And in that New Testament was a little wooden cross.  And the bullet goes right through the cross, shatters it, splinters it, and the Bible, into the guy’s chest – because it was a big gun he shot him with.  But Doc, when he sees the man’s still living, and sees why he didn’t die, though he still could, he says Lord, you did your part.  Please help me do mine.  I like the imagery. 

HENRY:  You mentioned that this is your first Western.  Are you a Western fan?

PAT:  Definitely, yes.  I mean, who isn’t?  That’s the good thing about Westerns; you can count on them.  They’ll never go away.

HENRY:  They do seem to be making a comeback. 

PAT:  And you know, now is time for a film like this.  And TV series like BONANZA and WAGON TRAIN.  And films where the good guys always won.  And yes, they may have had faults and foibles, and they always had problems.  You knew the bad guy was going to get what he deserved, and yet you wanted to see how it happened.  And you felt good at the end of it; it just reinforced your faith in the backbone of early America.  And that’s what endeared us to the rest of the world; that was one of our most important exports to the world.  Our Western films, where the bad guy got what he deserved, and the good people won.  It was never a downer.  There’s reinforcement of good moral values.  So the rest of the world envied America.  Now, for the last several decades, we’ve been exporting, to huge success, shows like DALLAS, and many other shows where people do all kind of evil tings, and they’re Americans, and they’re rich, and all they care about is their money, and their dynasty, and their power.  And they win. 

At this moment, director Don Schroeder stops by to ask Pat about a schedule change for over the weekend.  Does Pat have a preference from a couple of options?  He says the only thing he likes to not miss on Saturday is his workout at the gym.  No problem – they’ll schedule around it.  They talk for a moment about how the editing is coming along, and how convincing Pat is as the crusty old Dr. Wood.

PAT:  It’s funny; when I put on the clothes, this mustache, I just feel older.  I walk – these shoes, of course, are platypus feet shoes, and that works.

HENRY:  How did you get involved with this project?

PAT:  It’s interesting; I think I was meant to be involved.  First off, my name was Boone, and my dad and granddad did the genealogical search and traced our way direct back to Daniel Boone, I think to his son Morgan.  So I’ve always been proud of that, and a little bit miffed when Fess Parker, who played Davy Crocket, then was picked to play Daniel Boone as well.  I thought wait a minute, I’m an actual direct descendant – why don’t I play him? Didn’t happen, but that was okay; Fess was great.  Now, it was only about a year ago one of my musicians said to me, are you aware that there’s a town in northern California called Boonville?  They have their own language – they created an alternative language.  They speak English, of course, but they created many alternative words and phrases so they could speak in front of outsiders, and the outsider wouldn’t know what they were talking about, for just a little extra privacy, that rural people like.  Boontling, it’s called.  So I got interested in that, just idly, thinking I’ve just got to visit Boonville some day, and walk among my fellow descendants of Daniel.  So my musical director for thirty years is scoring the music for this film.  And he was talking to the director Dan Schroeder, who was just here.  And he said, you know, I work for Pat Boone.  Do you think there might be a role in your film for him?  He said, you work for Pat Boone?  Well, it’s a modestly budgeted film, but if he’d like to, yes.  And if not, maybe he’d like to help us get the rest of the funding for the film.  So I met with them, and I read the script, and I loved the story.  And they said, we see you as Doc Wood.  And I said, I will be Doc Wood, and not only that, I will help you get the rest of the funding.  And I did, and I invested materially in it myself, because I think it’s a good film.  I’ve been involved with a number of good films.  And the fact that it’s a Western, and the fact that it’s faith-based, the fact that I liked the part, and I believed in these people that are making it.  And the music, there will be some of my music woven into the score, because I’ve done at least twenty gospel albums --      

HENRY:  It won’t be LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND?

PAT:  It won’t be LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND, but twenty gospel albums, and about four of them, country gospel, southern country gospel.  And so we’re going to close, when the problems are solved and the victories are won, and there’s a wedding, and everyone wants to celebrate, we’re going to close with a rousing rendition of I SAW THE LIGHT.  There’ll be a square-dance, and everyone’ll be celebrating.  I was worried about that – they wanted me to do a solo.  I said, I’ll be wearing this mustache, because I want to look old, I want to look like a country doctor.  And when I start singing, if Pat Boone’s voice comes out, won’t that be a bit incongruous?  So they’re just going to play my record.  And people who recognize my voice, it’s okay; the movie is over.   They know I played Doc Wood, but I’ll stay in character, I’ll still be Doc Wood all the way to the titles.  But that’s how this came about, just a weird set of circumstances.  My name is Boone.  It’s called BOONVILLE REDEMPTION.  There’s no ‘e’ in Boonville.  There are some records that say Daniel Boone didn’t spell it with an ‘e’ either.  ‘D. Boon kild a bar,’ someone found carved on a tree. And I hope I’m a boon to the film.   


JUDY BELSHE-TOERNBLOM

HENRY:  You’re both the writer and executive producer of BOONVILLE REDEMPTION.  How did the story come to you?


Judy Belshe-Toernblom


JUDY BELSHE-TOERNBLOM:  It’s been seven years in the works.  We had taken a trip up north to Lakeport, to visit a friend.  And I don’t like to return the way that I go.  So I always look for interesting places to stop off on the way back, and one of the places I saw was Boonville.  And I saw that they had this quirky language called ‘Boontling’, so I thought, I’m going to go there, just what to see what that’s all about.  When I got there, it was nothing; just a little dusty town, and I couldn’t find anyone to speak Boontling, and I thought, this just doesn’t seem right.  I found books about Boontling, and they would give you the English words.  But as I began to want to know more about it, I discovered I needed to flip the words around, so I wrote the book ENGLISH TO BOONTLING.  I just used the nice words; I left all the bad words out.  I began to use it as a dictionary for myself, and I fell in love with the place.  Well, I began to learn where the Boontlingers were hiding.  We ran across Ite, which is Boontling for Italian, and his (real) name is Don Cardini.  Then I ran across Donald Smoot, whose name is Deekan, because he was a shy boy, and to ‘deek’ means to stare.  Not like ‘deacon’ of a church.  Then we ran across a young man named Jeff Spiffy Burrows.   And Jiffy took us all over the valley, showed all the hidden spots where things used to be; if I made an album of it, it would be a large album of empty lots.  (laugh)  But I began to get more and more flavor for this place.  I went to Boonville twice, I interviewed the people, and I talked to the historical society, and as I began to hear about the history, I began to think that this was a charming time for this town.  So this story began to unfold.  And I write very fast, but just skin and bones, it didn’t have form yet. 

HENRY:  What time is the story set?

JUDY:  It’s set in 1906.  It starts thirteen years earlier, when our little girl is conceived.  Now she’s thirteen, and old enough to ask questions.  And she wants to know, ‘What did I do?’  Because the town scorns her, because she was born out of wedlock.  And then the richest man in town, who is a really bad guy, took (her mother) in and married her, because he always wanted her.  But the girl’s left with this kind of ‘ick’ on her life, and she wants answers.  And in that process she discovers that people held a lot of secrets.   Therefore, it’s BOONVILLE REDEMPTION, when we come through all the secrets.  While I was writing it, I was writing another film, and it was just a good family film.  And I kept hearing God’s voice saying, “Where’s my part?”  And I kept thinking, yeah, I’m just writing a good family film, but I’m not writing a Christian film.  And I kept getting that knocking on my heart; that still, small voice that you hear.  And I thought, my people have some problems, and these problems shouldn’t be the kind that they just work out with a pencil.  They need to show their trust in God, how God can turn an impossible situation around.  And so each one of our characters, each one of our heroes, from all different walks of life, all different nationalities, they have to reconcile their faith versus their superstitions, versus their false doctrine, and come to the realization that if they trust God, all heck may break loose, but they’re going to get the better result by trusting God, and that’s what they do.  I think in this story, we all get to make our own choices, but we don’t get to decide the results.

HENRY:  I understand that you started shooting this about a year ago, with a trial sequence.  How did that work out?

JUDY:  We didn’t have any money.  We had three backers at that time, and there wasn’t enough money to shoot – especially a period piece.  We went back to our investors, and said we don’t have enough money to make this film, so we’re done.  To even do a trailer is going to cost us several thousand dollars.  Our investors came to us and said, ‘We’re going to give it to you.’  So we came here to Paramount Ranch.  We brought our director Don Schroeder, (cinematographer) Virgil Harper, and these men – the only thing missing about them are wings.  They’re amazing men.  They took ahold of this script, and they worked on it; no compensation, they just wanted to see this happen.  And they made an incredible trailer at that time, which was basically the proof of concept.  And we thought, this is great; we’ve got something good, we can go back to more investors, we can try to get more money, enough to shoot this film.  Along the way we ran into a few people, Pat Boone being one of them, who ultimately became one of our investors.  And as a result, no one ever saw the proof of concept trailer except for us and our close friends and family, because the money was raised on God moving the hearts of our investors, and the story.  I was entrusted with the story from God, and tried to keep it scripturally accurate, so nobody has any issues with it, and so it can be used as a Bible-study later on. 

HENRY:  Is the entire film being shot here at Paramount Ranch



JUDY:  No, we were at a couple of different locations.  We were at Ventura Farms, over at Saddle Rock, and the remainder is being shot here because we need all of the town shots.  But we had the houses, and beautiful terrain back there.  Along with six million flies and seven thousand bumblebees.  Yuck, it was horrible.  I mean, the bees were so strong that they could carry your ham sandwich away.  Ridiculous.

HENRY:  The story takes place in the early 20th century.  Do you consider it a Western?  Is that your genre?

JUDY:  You know, it is a Western, but it’s not a Western like ‘O.K. Corral’, okay?  It just happens that we’re in that era.  And that story itself is universal.  It doesn’t matter what generation sees this film; they’re going to relate to the story.  We already have people coming up to us saying, ‘that scene where the mother was abused, I went through that.’  ‘That scene here brought me to tears.’  So I’m watching different themes of the story resonate with different people for different reasons, and that is really cool. 

HENRY:  Who do you see as the audience for this picture?

JUDY:  Everybody.  We hit all four quads.  We have the youngest of the kids, and we have as old as our grandma.  And we’ve got several nationalities.  We’ve got American Indian, we’ve got Spanish, we’ve got African American, we’ve got Italian, Caucasian.  Our African American woman who is one of our stars is from Nigeria.  Her name is Stephanie Okereke; she plays the part of Doris (Grandma’s housekeeper).  The history is that the American slaves were sold by the Nigerian people in the late 1700s.   She did not know this.  We bring that into our story. Doris  realizes that her father is probably in prison someplace.  And she says, if he’s in prison, we know what prison is about.  We came from slavery, sold by our own people.  So we’re bringing in that story. 

HENRY:  Speaking of casting, you’ve assembled a remarkable cast.  You told me that Pat Boone actually came in as an investor.  How about Ed Asner?  How’d you get him?

JUDY:  You know, I needed a hanging judge, and I thought Ed Asner is a great hanging judge. I wanted the guy who is just so fed up with little towns and all their nonsense.  He’s a circuit judge, and he has to ride, and maybe he should have retired ten years earlier.  He was presented to us through his agent, and that was just it – he’s our guy.  He read it right away, and responded the very next day; he already had notes for us.  When your actors give you a note, you’ve got to pay attention to it.  My feeling is criticism is a blessing, because that means they didn’t understand something, or they need something clarified by us. He gave us some amazing notes, and we made the adjustments that he thought would make it better.

HENRY:  You have Diane Ladd.

JUDY:   Diane Ladd came to us through our line producer, and we had wanted her for a long time.  So when the movie actually came to fruition, we were able to get to her.  This woman was so tender and so sweet with the kids, you really believed that she was their grandmother.  There’s a boy in the story, and she’s not his grandmother, but she treats him as one of her own.  She had ideas, and twists and tweaks that she wanted to do on it also, and if it made sense we went with it, and she’s got years and years of expertise, and so we need to do it.  She was magic on the screen.  As a matter of fact, one of the scenes she was doing, Pat Boone was in, but he had to walk off; his character was done.  And she brought him to tears, because it reminded him of when he said goodbye to his mom.



HENRY:  I understand she speaks Boontling in the movie.

JUDY:  She does.  It’s the first movie to ever use Boontling, and to use it in solving a mystery.

HENRY:  That’s fascinating.   And of course this is a Western, it’s a Christian film, and it’s also a mystery. 

JUDY:  We needed the struggle, we needed the conflict, or there is no film.  And the conflict works on both sides: why isn’t someone giving up the information?  What are they going to lose if they give up the information.  Everyone has something to lose if they confess. 

HENRY:  I watched the little documentary you have on the website.  In a sense, this language was developed to keep secrets.  It didn’t just develop organically because it was a population away from other people, and words just developed.  It was a consciously developed thing.

JUDY:  It was organic, in the fact that, where my story-line comes from, there was a girl who was pregnant, and nobody wanted to talk about it.  So they began to talk about it in another way.  In a small valley like the Anderson Valley, once you got in there, you were in; you didn’t want to haul those oxen back over that hill again.  So it was a combination.  Yes, they wanted to make up some secret words about this girl, and then they began to use other words.  There was a man in town named Jefferson, and he always had a big fire going, summer, winter, spring or fall.  So they began to call fires ‘jeffers.’  All things that worked with motors, that were machines, were called ‘moshes’.  So when the first fire-engine came to town, it was called a jeffer-moshe.  Schools were called wee-hees, because that was the little house for little kids.  The first man in town to have a telephone was named Walter, and it cost half a dollar to use, so a payphone was called a bucky walter.  Peace-officers were called high-heelers, and the book is full of stories of how those words came to be.  So it may have started to keep the secret of this girl, and then it just continued to grow to more than a thousand words in their vocabulary. 

HENRY:  Getting back to your cast, you also have Robert Hays.

JUDY:   Robert Hays came in for a really sweet cameo.  I wanted someone to play the pastor that the people liked.  And everyone likes Robert Hays.  And what I think they’re going to enjoy about him is his kind nature.  And I am very personally tired of pastors being portrayed as insane maniacs who are out to kill the entire church for whatever reason, or sleep with half of it.  And I wanted a nice, believable, kind pastor, and I hired Robert. 

HENRY: Faith-based movies are getting a lot more respect now than they were even a couple of years ago, because there’s been an audience proven for them. 

JUDY: Because they’re making good ones: just because you’re Christian doesn’t mean you have the right to make a crappy film.  “Oh, God will fix it in post.”  No, He won’t.  You’ve got to make a good film. 

Part Two of my BOONVILLE REDEMPTION story will appear in next Sunday’s Round-up.


‘99CENT MOVIE NETWORK’ LAUNCHES WEDNESDAY DEC. 17TH WITH THREE WESTERN COLLECTIONS!      



The folks behind the Movies & Music Network are launching a new streaming movie network this Wednesday, called the 99cent Network.  They’re going to be offering several ten-film collections – including three different Western collections – and you can select any three from a collection for ninety-nine cents!  For $1.99, you can buy all ten!  Heck, for six bucks you can buy all thirty Westerns!  Too many exclamation points?  And these films are yours to stream for life – you can even share ‘em with your friends!  There’s some cheap Christmas shopping for you! 

They’ll also be offering movie collections in other genres, including comedy, horror, sci-fi, holiday, and more.  What Westerns will they be?  I don’t know yet – I’m not even posting the link here until Wednesday, because it won’t link to anything until then.  Come back on Wednesday, hit the link, and you’ll be magically transported to the 99cent Network!  Or visit the Round-up Facebook page on Wednesday, hit the link, and the same marvelous thing will happen!  For all of you that are more involved with social network stuff than I, I’ve got a couple of hash-tag things I’m supposed to do something with, but cannot fathom what.  So I’ll put ‘em here: @99centnet  #99centnetwork .   See you Wednesday!


MYSTERY AT MOVIE RANCH by Darryle Purcell – a Book Review



Mystery readers’ love of Hollywood made it natural that many a crime story would be set in the movie capital, cast with imaginary stars at fictional studios.  This gave birth to a sub-genre of Hollywood mystery fiction where real stars were at the center of the action – many a cowboy hero solved mysteries in Big Little Books, and Lela E. Rogers wrote about her daughter in GINGER ROGERS AND THE RIDDLE OF THE SCARLET CLOAK.  Andrew Bergman, who would later write the screenplays for the classic comedies BLAZING SADDLES, THE IN-LAWS and HONEYMOON IN VEGAS, revived the idea in the 1970s with two delightful bestselling comedy-mysteries set in Hollywood’s golden age, THE BIG KISS-OFF OF 1944 and HOLLYWOOD AND LEVINE.  Following Bergman’s lead, Stuart Kaminsky would write twenty-four Toby Peters mysteries, including, MILDRED PIERCED and MURDER ON THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD.  George Baxt penned at least a dozen Jacob Singer mysteries, including THE DOROTHY PARKER MURDER CASE and THE TALLULAH BANKHEAD MURDER CASE. 

Well, the subgenre has been dormant for a while, but now Darryle Purcell has revived it with MYSTERY AT MOVIE RANCH, the first of his Hollywood Cowboy Detective series.  The novelty here is that while all of the previous movie star mysteries have been set at the majors – MGM, Warner Brothers, Paramount – and focused on the top box-office stars and directors of the day, 

MOVIE RANCH is set squarely on Poverty Row, at Mascot Pictures no less!  Set in 1934, during the Great Depression, the detective character and wise-cracking narrator is Sean Woods, an L.A. Examiner reporter who got canned for offending important people, and now is working as a P.R. man for Nat Levine’s studio.  And instead of focusing on Bogart or Gable making CASABLANCA or GONE WITH THE WIND, Sean is trying to keep Ken Maynard sober long enough to finish making his Mascot serial, MYSTERY MOUNTAIN.  But Maynard’s drinking is a small part of the problem – someone is trying to kill the cowboy and scuttle the production. 

As the cover art and illustrations by Purcell indicate, MOVIE RANCH is meant as a pulp story. Told in twelve chapters, just like a serial, Sean and Maynard enlist the aid of Maynard’s real pal Hoot Gibson in trying to flush out the bad guys, utilizing Maynard’s and Gibson’s real-life experience as plane pilots.  They deal with serial-like menaces, including sliding panels, a masked villain known as The Viper, a secret fascist training camp, a mad-scientist-created monster, and more real-life dangers like the Klan, Nazis, and Lucky Luciano, who is planning to unionize Hollywood under his control – while squiring around poor, doomed Thelma Todd.  MOVIE RANCH really is a name-dropper’s delight, with Russ Columbo, Art Acord, Syd Saylor, Snub Pollard, George Chesebro, and even Flip the Frog turning up either as characters or references. 

In terms of the writing and story-telling, Purcell is breezy and entertaining, but not yet up to the standards of Bergman and Kaminsky.  I didn’t get a great sense of time and place – I never figured out which movie ranch it was supposed to be.  Some of the dialogue is stilted and tends towards speechifying.  On the other hand, if you read Lucky Luciano’s speeches aloud, you can hear Sheldon Leonard saying every word, which is just how he ought to sound.   

The second mystery in the series, MYSTERY OF THE ARIZONA DRAGON, is already available for download, and soon will be in paper as well.  Set during the filming of CHARLIE CHAN GOES WEST, it unites Sean, Ken and Hoot with Warner Oland and Keye Luke.  Number three, MYSTERY OF THE MATINEE MURDERS, will add Orson Welles and Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan to the mix – now that’s a pair to draw to!  MOVIE RANCH is available from Amazon.com here HERE


TCM SHOWCASES DISNEY WESTERNS NEXT SUNDAY!





As I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago (HERE is the story if you missed it ).   TCM and Disney are joining forces, and bringing a lot of Walt’s rarely seen treasures out of the vault.  They will be shown in occasional programming blocks a few times a year, commencing this Sunday, December 21st, at 5 p.m. Pacific time.  Here’s the schedule: Three classic cartoons, SANTA’S WORKSHOP, ON ICE – with Mickey and Minnie, and CHIP & DALE.  5:30, THE DISNEYLAND STORY.  6:30, THE RELUCTANT DRAGON (1941), starring Robert Benchley. 8:00, DAVY CROCKETT: KING OF THE WILD FRONTIER, starring Fess Parker.  9:45 THE VANISHING PRAIRIE (1954), the nature documentary by which all others are measured.  11:00 THIRD MAN ON THE MOUNTAIN (1959), starring James McArthur.  And finally, at one a.m., WALT DISNEY PRESENTS, featuring the making of THIRD MAN ON THE MOUNTAIN and 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA.




THAT'S A WRAP!

Week I'll conclude my story on BOONVILLE REDEMPTION, and have a review or two, depending on how much reading and how much watching I manage between Christmas-shopping safaris.

Happy Trails,

Henry

All Original Contents Copyright December 2014 by Henry C. Parke - All Right Reserved




   

Sunday, November 30, 2014

BURT REYNOLDS’ PROPERTY UP FOR BIDS, PLUS DISNEY & TCM TEAM UP, A NEW FRENCH WESTERN, AND ‘BONANZA’ BOOK REVIEWED!



BURT REYNOLDS TO AUCTION PERSONAL PROPERTY




In order to raise cash and save his Florida home from foreclosure (according to The Hollywood Reporter), Burt Reynolds is selling over 600 lots of his personal property in Las Vegas December 11th and 12th.  The 78 year old star whose impressive career took off when he was cast as blacksmith Quint on GUNSMOKE, and has included numerous Westerns, DELIVERANCE, the SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT movies, and an Oscar nomination for BOOGEY NIGHTS, has had numerous health problems in recent years.  The sale, to be held at the Palms Casino Resort, will be run by Julien’s Auctions, and a look at the on-line catalog reveals that many items already have bids, some already passing the estimate’s high-end.

How'd you like the numbers 
on Burt's Rolodex?


There is a great deal of art for sale, and many items related to sports, both Burt Reynolds’ own career, and those of professionals in several sports.  There are many books personalized to Burt by authors such as Louis L’Amour, Ray Bradbury, Budd Schulberg, Ossie Davis, Robert Stack, Rudy Vallee, Roddy McDowell, and Carol Burnett.

Sculpture by George Montgomery


Among the art items of particular interest are those by other performers.  There’s a brass sculpture by Western star George Montgomery, a lithograph by Burt’s GUNSMOKE co-star Buck Taylor, a sketch by Fellini, paintings by Doug McClure, Henry Fonda, James Cagney, a poster by Red Ryder-creator Fred Harman, several by Burt’s long-time love Dinah Shore, and a striking horse-head sculpture by Reynolds himself.

This sculpture is Burt Reynolds' own work



Sketch by James Cagney


Among other collectibles are a slew of badges, real and prop guns, boots and belt buckles.  You can guess who one of Burt’s personal heroes is: included in separate lots are a leather chair, desk, and name-plate that were property of director John Ford.  There’s also a framed check signed by Zane Grey.  There are also souvenirs given to him by Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, and signed photos and letters from many stars, including Clayton Moore, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Liz Taylor, Ronald Reagan, Barbara Stanwyck, and Katherine Hepburn. 


Clayton Moore signed this pic for Burt



Zoom in to read this great letter to Burt
from Katherine Hepburn


Among the dazzling array of awards for sale, including many Peoples’ Choice and box-office trophies are a pair of Wrangler awards, his Emmy for EVENING SHADE, and his Golden Globes for EVENING SHADE and BOOGIE NIGHTS.  While few items relate directly to specific Western movies, his hat from THE MAN WHO LOVED CAT DANCING, and his sombrero from 100 RIFLES are up for bids.  To see the entire catalog on-line, and to bid, go HERE.  

Several items belonged to John Ford




You can buy the sombrero Burt is
wearing from 100 RIFLES


‘THE ROUND-UP’ – AND HENRY C. PARKE – IN THE ‘INSP’ BLOG!



It’s shameless self-promotion time!  The good folks at INSP invited me to write an article for their blog, and the result was ‘When Times Changed, So Did TV Westerns,’ examining how outside events effected long-running Western series.  To read it, go HERE . If you’d like to read ‘Henry C. Parke in the Spotlight’, INSP’s Q&A with me, go HERE . 


TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES AND DISNEY TO TEAM UP!


Audioanimatronic Duke in
The Great Movie Ride


A very promising teaming has been announced between the two great entertainment concerns, and it bodes well for Western movie and TV lovers.  At Walt Disney World in Florida, TCM will help the mouse revamp one of Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ most popular attractions, The Great Movie Ride, currently an 18-minute ride that is said to immerse you in classic Hollywood, and utilizes over fifty audioanimatronic figures.  Although details about changes are not yet available, TCM host Robert Osborne will be filming a new introduction, and “inject TCM brand authority” into the ride. 

In exchange, Disney will open ‘the vault’ so TCM can run great stuff the Disney Channel hasn’t shown in decades.  To be presented as a ‘block’ of programming four or five times a year, the first scheduled block will be just in time for Christmas.  On December 21st, nine items from the Disney archives will air, including the 1932 cartoon SANTA’S WORKSHOP, the 1954 documentary THE DISNEYLAND STORY, the feature film version of DAVY CROCKETT, KING OF THE WILD FRONTIER, and the classic nature documentary THE VANISHING PRAIRIE. This is not the first TCM/DISNEY teaming of late: the last two TCM Classic Cruises have been aboard The Disney Magic. 


BONANZA – A VIEWER’S GUIDE TO THE TV LEGEND



If you’re a fan of Western TV, David R. Greenland’s BONANZA – A VIEWER’S GUIDE TO THE TV LEGEND will be an indispensible volume on your reference book-shelf.  I’ve previously reviewed his excellent book on RAWHIDE ( HERE’s the link ), and will soon review his book on GUNSMOKE.  And I understand he’s got a new one on Michael Landon, all from Bearmanor Media

It ran for fourteen seasons, more than any other drama series except GUNSMOKE.  It was the first hour-long drama to be shot in color.  It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of BONANZA in the world of popular entertainment: it was the prototype for all family TV dramas, and its echoes are heard not only in Westerns like THE BIG VALLEY and HIGH CHAPARRAL and LANCER, rurals like DR. QUINN and LITTLE HOUSE, but Depression-era series like THE WALTONS – any show where family is important. 

Usually, by the time a series is judged worthy of this sort of study, the principals are long gone, but Greenland convinced BONANZA-creator David Dortort to take part on the project, and his input elevates the telling of the history of the series from theory to indisputable fact – and a lot of those facts are quite surprising.  You’ll learn that Dortort’s original motivation to do a show about a family was to make sure he never again got stuck doing a series with one principal character – producing RESTLESS GUN with John Payne was a royal pain.  Also, he took his inspiration for the Ponderosa from Camelot, seeing the Cartwrights as knights in denim armor. 

Although they were largely unknown actors, he’d worked with Michael Landon and Dan Blocker before, and wrote the roles of Little Joe and Hoss for them – and had an awful time convincing NBC to go with actors who weren’t names.  Dortort found his ‘Pa’ when he visited the WAGON TRAIN set, and saw no-name actor Lorne Greene refuse to take abuse from series star Ward Bond.  The last to be cast was Pernell Roberts as Adam, and little did Dortort know how prescient his description of the character as ‘the spoilsport of the Ponderosa’ would be.  Roberts’ lack of professionalism when he’d tired of his role is even more appalling than I thought when it was happening back in the ‘60s.  Greenland’s research is remarkably in-depth.  I knew that Victor Sen Young, who played the Cartwrights’ cook, Hop Sing, had played Tommy Chan in the CHARLIE CHAN movie series many times, but I had no idea he was Captain in Air Force Intelligence during World War II.

Greenland examines all of the Cartwrights’ careers at length, before and after BONANZA, then analyzes the series season by season, marking high and low points, discussing guest stars, writers and directors, and their contributions.  I was particularly interested to learn how early on Michael Landon began writing and then directing episodes.  Daringly, Greenland suggests that BONANZA started off weak, story-wise, and improved with each season.  He notes where episodes were shot, and to what effect locations were used.  There are chapters on the show’s legacy, the collectibles, and then a season by season, episode by episode guide, with cast and crew, plot summary and often interesting details of the production. 

The book was first published in 1996, and this is a reprint – not an update.  Hence, its narrative is frozen in the1990s, so it makes no mention of the deaths of David Dortort or star Pernell Roberts.  You’re encouraged to visit Incline Village, home of the Ponderosa location which, regrettably, closed in 2005.  Much is said about the now defunct Family Channel, which was airing the series, but not all of the episodes, back then.  Nothing is said about INSP, ME-TV or TV-LAND, which air the series today.  The shows then available on VHS tapes are listed, but not current DVDs – I’ve been looking on Amazon, and can’t figure if the whole series is available, or not.  The book lacks an index, so you cannot look up guest stars or directors or writers, or titles.  To find an episode, you’ll need to know its year, and search through the titles.  Also, this reprint was made by photographing each page of the earlier edition.  As a result, the photographs have the grey, grainy quality of a photocopy. 

BONANZA – A VIEWER’S GUIDE TO THE TV LEGEND is a carefully researched, entertainingly written book with a wealth of information for the legions of BONANZA fans.  It’s available for $24.95 from Bearmanor Media HERE.



FRENCH WESTERN ‘BUFFALO RISING’ MAKING FEST ROUNDS



‘BUFFALO RISING’ is the story of a father and young son, Tom and Jack, moving their herd to market, hoping to raise a big enough stake to move to California, and what happens when they cross paths with bison and bad men.  With a French cast and crew, but dialogue recorded in English, much was lensed at a Randall Bisons, a huge ranch in the middle of France, on the hills of Cevennes.  It’s written by Laurent Bertin and Pierre Yves-Hampartzoumian, and directed by Pierre.  Filmed this past June, the fourteen-minute film will play on December 10th at the Almeria Western Film Festival, and then it’s on to other festivals, even as pre-production for the feature-length version has begun. 



Here is a teaser trailer.  I’ll have more to tell you about this one soon. 




THAT’S A WRAP!

As I write, it’s been pouring rain all day – which in L.A. is a blessing!  Next week I plan to have an in-depth article on the filming of BOONVILLE REDEMPTION, which I understand is near completion!  Have a great week!

Happy Trails,

Henry

All Original Contents Copyright November 2014 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved


Monday, November 24, 2014

‘LONGMIRE’ TO RETURN ON NETFLIX, PLUS ‘APACHE’, ‘HILLS RUN RED’ DOUBLE-BILL REVIEWED!



‘LONGMIRE’ TO RETURN ON NETFLIX



Craig Johnson’s lawman LONGMIRE has received a reprieve of his A&E death sentence not from the Governor, but from Netflix.  Three months ago, fans of LONGMIRE, the modern-day Western that has attracted A&E’s best drama ratings for three years running were stunned to hear that it was being cancelled in spite of its popularity, because its audience was ‘too old’, and its fans’ money has pictures of dead presidents, instead of that dopey symbol on bitcoins. 



No date is set yet on when Longmire will make its appearance on Netflix, but it will be sometime in 2015, and it will be a ten episode season.  The story will continue moments after the cliffhanger ending of season three.  Leads Robert Taylor and Katee Sackhoff are back, but being a cliffhanger, they’re playin’ it cagey about whether everyone will be back.  More info as I get it. 



‘THE HILLS RUN RED’ AND ‘APACHE’ – a DVD Review

While they’re an arbitrary pairing – one an American-made Western biography from 1954, the other a Spaghetti Western from 1966 – APACHE and THE HILLS RUN RED are an eminently enjoyable Western Double Feature from the MGM library, released by the Timeless Media Group.  
  


Every Russian I’ve ever discussed Western movies with invariably tells me that his favorite growing up was APACHE, starring Burt Lancaster.  While the film doesn’t have that big a reputation stateside, having now seen it, I concur with the comrades: it’s very good.  I can also understand why the Soviet government allowed their citizens to watch it: it wouldn’t make you want to defect to the U.S.  APACHE is the substantially true story of Massai, the last Apache warrior to be captured following the surrender of Geronimo.  After escaping from the train transporting him to a reservation in Florida, Massai goes stealthily back, carrying on a one-man guerilla war against the Army and its associates.  He also goes back to seek revenge against his one-time woman whom, he believes, betrayed him.  Instead, they go off together, complicating his one-man war even further. 

The film is produced by Hecht-Lancaster, the partnership of Burt Lancaster and dancer-turned- choreographer-turned-producer Harold Hecht, and their collaboration would produce some of the finest films of their time in many genres.  They’d already made THE CRIMSON PIRATE, and they followed APACHE with the spectacular VERA CRUZ, and then the four-Oscar-winner MARTY.  Later triumphs, many starring Lancaster, would include THE UNFORGIVEN (1960), BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ (1962) and ULZANA’S RAID (1972).  Based on the novel BRONCHO APACHE by Paul Wellman, the screenplay was by James R. Webb, who started out scripting Roy Rogers pictures at Republic, and would win an Oscar for his screenplay of HOW THE WEST WAS WON. 


Burt Lancaster


APACHE was the first important feature from a talented young TV director named Robert Aldrich, who would of course go on to make his mark on hyper-masculine films like VERA CRUZ, THE DIRTY DOZEN, THE LONGEST YARD and, tough in a different way, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?  This was no minor production.  In addition to familiar California shooting locations like Vasquez Rocks, where the film opens, and Corriganville, for the fort sequence, the crew travelled as far as Arizona and New Mexico.  Cinematographers Ernest Laszlo (Oscar for SHIP OF FOOLS, and seven other nominations) and uncredited Stanley Cortez (FLESH AND FANTASY, NIGHT OF THE HUNTER) made full use of the beauty, and occasional desolation, which surrounded them.

The sequences of Massai’s single-handed guerilla war are original and energetic as only an acrobat like Lancaster could make them.  And there are a number of sequences and plot elements that I’ve never seen before.  Massai’s meeting with a westernized Cherokee is a standout, as is the scene where Massai, having escaped the train, finds himself, for the first time, in a town full of white people, and where virtually every object is unfamiliar and menacing. 


Jean Peters


True to the time of production, there are no actual Indians playing major Indian roles, although all of the performances are strong, and in no way demeaning.  In addition to Lancaster, his woman is Jean Peters, Geronimo is Monte Blue, and Hondo, a despised Indian scout and traitor to the Apache is Charles Buchinsky, later Charles Bronson.  The motley crew of white people, officers and accomplices, include John Mcintyre and radio’s Paladin, John Dehner.  Lt. Col. Beck, the only soldier with a noticeable sense of humanity, is Walter Sande.  The ending could not be further from what you would have predicted from the beginning, but make perfect sense. 

In THE HILLS RUN RED, the Civil War has just ended, and pair of Confederate soldiers has fled in a wagon with a Union payroll.  Their elation is momentary – the theft has been discovered and a detachment of bluecoats are gaining on them.  Reasoning that there might be a chance for one of them to escape, they draw cards: high card to jump off the wagon with the saddlebag of money and hide, and low card to keep driving the wagon, and hope for the best. 



Low Card, Jerry Brewster (Thomas Hunter), is caught by the soldiers, savagely beaten, and serves five years at hard labor for the robbery.  When he gets out, he returns to find his homestead in ruins, his wife and son gone – and evidence that his ‘friend’ High Card – Ken Seagull (Nando Gazzolo), rather than telling the family that he’s in prison, has told them he’s dead!  He also learns that his wife has died.  (Niagara Falls!  Slowly I turn!)

Jerry sets out to track down and punish Ken.  Meanwhile, Ken has invested the stolen money and built a beautiful and prosperous ranch.  His sister Mary Ann (the exquisite Nicoletta Machiavelli) lives with him, and has no idea her brother built his wealth by theft, and by letting a friend rot in prison.  Ken knows when Jerry is getting out of jail, and sends his top gunman, Mendez, to find and kill Jerry.   


Nicoletta Machiavelli & Henry Silva


Already a solidly plotted story – sounds a bit like a Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott movie – but it really takes off when Mendez appears, in the person of Henry Silva, in a wonderfully over-the-top performance, strutting around in black leather and cackling maniacally – and coveting his boss’s sister.  Lucky for Jerry, Mendez underestimates him, sending a pair of flunkies to do a man’s work.  They end up dead, Mendez determines to take care of the job personally, but Jerry has gotten himself an unexpected ally – a drifting cowpoke named Winny Getz, played Dan Duryea. 

Duryea is one of several Hollywood stars, like James Stewart and Robert Taylor, who got better at tough-guy roles, especially in Westerns, as their faces took on some deep lines and signs of wear.  Duryea, always a likable performer, had already teamed thrice with Audie Murphy in Westerns, most memorably in SIX BACK HORSES, and his lazy confidence with a deadly edge is a welcome addition. 

Jerry makes plans, with Winny’s help, to infiltrate his old partner’s operation, and in a nod to history that’s unusual for films of its time, there are no photographs of Jerry, so Mendez and company only have Ken’s description to work with.  There are a few moments that strain credulity, but plenty of action, and a satisfying conclusion.  It’s a solid entertainment, straddling the American Western tradition, which was winding down, and the European model, which was in its heyday, coming the same year as THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY and DJANGO. 


Dan Duryea


Top-billed, Savannah-born Thomas Hunter had only previously appeared in WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR, DADDY? as ‘American G.I. #3’, but producer Dino de Laurentiis, who loved to pair big stars with new talent – witness FLASH GORDON, starring Max Von Sydow and Sam J. Jones – saw something special in Hunter, and would use him in several more films, including ANZIO.  
Hunter is perfectly adequate in THE HILLS RUN RED, but did not become the star Dino had hoped for.  Returning to the U.S. in 1969 for an episode of GUNSMOKE, he continued to act mostly in Europe, and later became a screenwriter, he and Peter Powell co-writing THE HUMAN FACTOR and THE FINAL COUNTDOWN.  His last screen credit was acting in 1984’s THE ACT.

Nando Gazzolo, the villain of the piece, is fine in his role, but is hard for English-speakers like myself to fully appreciate because he distinguished himself starting in the 1960s as a voice-actor, for cartoon characters, narration, and looping actors who needed a better sound.  Busy on TV and in features from 1958 until 2002, he was active in Westerns, sword and sandal films, comedies, and in 1968 starred in a miniseries as Sherlock Holmes.  He turned 86 in October. 

Director Carlo Lizzani, working under the awful American pseudonym of Lee W. Beaver, had been nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar for RISO AMRO (BITTER RICE) in 1949.  He would go on to direct seventy features, documentaries and TV shows, mostly in Italy, but came to the U.S. in 1974 to direct CRAZY JOE, starring Peter Boyle as mobster Crazy Joe Gallo.


Thomas Hunter


Screenwriter Piero Regnoli penned possibly the first Italian horror film – thus helping create an industry – LUST FOR A VAMPIRE in 1957, and after HILLS would help write the entertaining  Sergio Corbucci directed, Burt Reynolds starrer, NAVAJO JOE.  When he retired in 1994, he had 112 writing credits, in every genre of film Italy produced, among them a pair of Jack London-based WHITE FANG films, starring Franco Nero and Robert Woods. 

The terrific score is by Leo Nichols – pseudonym for Ennio Morricone: need I say more?
This Western Double-Feature is available for $9.99 from Shout Factory HERE.   



HAPPY BIRTHDAY FRANCO NERO!



As the unforgettable original Django turns 73 today, he is busily filming DJANGO LIVES!, playing his legendary character as a retired gunman, now livening in 1020s Los Angeles, working as a technical advisor on Western movies.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN DEHNER!



The Disney animator-turned-DJ-turned-actor who died in 1992 is best remembered by radio fans as PALADIN on the radio version of HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL.  He also starred as the London Times reporter visiting the American West on FRONTIER GENTLEMAN; his distinctively rich baritone voice never tried to adopt an English accent, and no one ever asked why. On TV he appeared frequently on GUNSMOKE, RAWHIDE and THE VIRGINIAN, and turned up on just about every other Western series, as well as detective series and comedies – he was a regular on THE DORIS DAY SHOW, and appeared in many movies where a suave, mustachioed villain or good-guy was needed.       

THAT’S A WRAP!

So, HELL ON WHEELS is done for the season, but we have one more season, with fourteen episodes, to look forward to on AMC.  LONGMIRE will be back, on Netflix, and JUSTIFIED returns to FX , for its final season on January 20th!  Next week I’ll be reviewing a book about a really long-running series, BONANZA – A VIEWER’S GUIDE TO THE TV LEGEND, by David K. Greenland. 

Have you seen THE HOMESMAN yet?  You should!  Funny thing, I’ve had a few messages since my review, saying they’re sorry they missed it, or asking me if it will play again.  I must repeat: it is a real big-screen, movie-theatre-type movie! 

Happy Trails,

Henry

All Original Contents Copyright November 2014 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Resereved