Tuesday, April 21, 2015



Sheri Keenan, son, and a rubber gun 

As I write, the 22nd annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival is coming to a close, after a wonderfully enjoyable weekend of music, poetry, art, literature, history, and fun.   When the tradition first began, it was simply as a celebration of cowboy poetry, presented at a high school auditorium.  When the 1994 Northridge earthquake struck, demolishing the auditorium, the event was almost cancelled, when the Veluzat family, owners and operators of the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio, offered the ranch for the event.  They’ve generously hosted the Festival at the Ranch ever since.  Melody Ranch reached its greatest fame when Gene Autry owned it, but it had previously been Monogram Ranch, and its early history stretches well back to the silent movie days.

Bill Hart watches SONS AND BROTHERS

Happily, more and more Westerns were being filmed, and filmed at Melody Ranch.  When Quentin Tarantino booked the ranch for a full year to shoot DJANGO UNCHAINED, it was feared that the Festival would be cancelled, but they worked around it.  Last year, with the start of work on the HBO miniseries WESTWORLD, the Festival was held, but with much of the western street off-limits.  With WESTWORLD now utilizing all of the ranch, many of us regulars worried about the future of the Festival.

Well, that future, now the present, is bright indeed.  The Festival was moved to Old Town Newhall, centered at William S. Hart Park, once home to one of the greatest stars of the Western silent screen.  The venue is large and beautiful and varied, with plenty of space for shops along Sutler’s Row, an extensive Civil War encampment, Indian lodge, pioneer living display, four music performing stages, and activities like archery, hatchet-throwing, quick-draw laser-tag, and much more.

One of my favorite surprises, the folks from Logix Banking, generous sponsors of the Festival for several years, had a booth where you could dress up in cowboy clothes, have a shoot-out against a green screen – a western street added in the background, and be presented with a flipbook of your movie in a minute!  There’s even a link to email it to your friends!  There was so much going on, in fact, that I attended both days, and probably took in less than half of the events, and a tiny fraction of the musical offerings – and I definitely have to come back and tour the Hart Mansion sometime soon.

The 'bells' on the dancer above are actually coiled
tobacco-tin lids!

Part of the park is a cluster of historic buildings called Heritage Junction, and I spent most of my time there at the Pardee House, built in 1890, where Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell, of the OutWest Boutique, were again operating their Buckaroo Book Shop, packing the two days with a wonderful mix of poetry and prose discussions, enjoyable and enlightening to Western writers and civilians alike.  There I led four Western-themed panel discussions and interviews on Saturday and one on Sunday, and it gave me a rush to know I was working in a building used as a film location by Tom Mix, John Ford and Harry Carey.

With my wonderful 'Stunt Horse' panel --
Human Association's Karen Ross, HOLLYWOOD HOOFBEATS
authors Audrey Pavia and Petrine Mitchum, and Autry 
Entertainment Pres. Karla Buhlman

Authors Miles Swarthout, C. Courtney Joyner
and Jim Jones

Authors Stephen Lodge, J.R. Sanders, D.B. Jackson,
Jim Cristina, and Miles Swarthout

Right next door was the Kingsbury House, with art displays upstairs and down, and right beyond it the Saugus Train Station – relocated to avoid demolition – where Charlie Chaplin filmed parts of THE PILGRIM in 1917; nearby, in 1936, Chaplin would film the very last scene of MODERN TIMES, the very last ‘official’ silent movie.  The station holds the compact and charmingly eclectic Santa Clarita Historical Society Museum featuring artifacts from the Indians who once lived in the region, mementos of the silent film industry, a diorama of one of California’s oldest oil refinery, and a trunk that belonged Buffalo Bill Cody.

Union Soldiers pass train station

The beautiful Mogul steam engine was whistling away at the station, and over the hill just above it, a bloody Civil War skirmish was fought, twice a day, with thundering cannon that shook the ground beneath your feet.

There was a several-day run-up to the Festival, with the walk of fame honoring stunt legend Diamond Farnsworth and poet and singer Waddie Mitchell, screenings and tours, and concerts at four nearby theatres, all of them well-attended.  THE LAST SHOOTIST novelist Miles Swarthout packed a theatre with his talk about the making of John Wayne’s final film, THE SHOOTIST, which Miles scripted.  Peter Sherayko’s CODY: AN EVENING WITH BUFFALO BILL was sold out at the Hart Mansion.

Peter Sherayko performing Robert W. Service poems

There was a wide variety of appetizing fare, the most crucial being the Cowboy Coffee in the commemorative tin cup, and Cowboy Peach Cobbler, both by the Visalia Cowboy Cultural Committee, who are celebrating their first quarter-century.   And much of the fun at this kind of event is the people you run into – Michael F. Blake, author of HOLLYWOOD AND THE O.K. CORRAL; Jeffrey Patterson, producer and star of HOT BATH AN’ A STIFF DRINK 1 & 2, and doing some casting on 3; and celebrating her birthday at the event, the lovely star and co-writer and co-producer of YELLOW ROCK, Lenore Andriel – incidentally, YELLOW ROCK was shot at nearby Veluzat Movie Ranch.    

Jeffrey Patterson

Living history on break

About 3:30 on Sunday, my wife and I started to head out, but I made one more stop, back at the Buckaroo Book Shop.  I was feeling a bit guilty that here I was, enjoying the largesse of the great William S. Hart, and yet I’d never seen one of his movies in its entirety.  So I picked up a DVD double-bill, to familiarize myself with the founder of the feast.  I’m closing with the short movie below, which was shot there at the Hart Ranch, in 1939, and is one of the very films made with Hart speaking.  It was a new introduction for the re-release of one of his greatest silent successes, TUMBLEWEEDS (1925).  “The thrill of it all!”  Give Fritz a pat for me, Bill.


I’m delighted to announce that I’ve just become the new film columnist for the finest Western history magazine in history, TRUE WEST.  You can imagine what a pleasure this is, considering that I started reading TRUE WEST when I was about ten years old, picking it up at newsstands when my Brooklyn family would take summer vacations in the West.  My first column will probably appear in the August 2015 issue – but you may want to start your subscription now, to make sure you don’t miss it!



It’s a short one this week, because I’ve got to get that August column done, but I’ve got a lot of interesting things coming up, including book reviews, movie reviews, and an interview with director James O’Brien, whose WESTERN RELIGION is, to the best of my knowledge, the only Western movie premiering this year at Cannes.  Of course, if you can’t get to France, just keep reading the Round-up – I’ll be reviewing it before Cannes!

Happy Trails,


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

Monday, April 13, 2015



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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

That's bearded Hank with Peter and Brooke

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

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

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

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

Warren Oates and Peter Fonda in THE HIRED HAND

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

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


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

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

Henry Fonda in once upon a time in the west

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


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


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

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

Happy Trails,


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

Sunday, April 5, 2015



The theme of the sixth annual TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL was “History according to Hollywood,” and a fine time was had by all who attended.  This is the third year that I’ve attended, and nowhere else do I meet so many people so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about movies.  The center of this cinematic orgy is the fabled Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, it’s next-door multiplex, and the Roosevelt Hotel across the street, but the screenings spill out to quite a few other venues. 

The fun started at 5 pm on Thursday, March 26th, with a Red Carpet before the Chinese Theatre, leading to the premiere of the new restoration of THE SOUND OF MUSIC, with stars Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, and several portrayers of the Von Trapp kids present.  I enjoyed covering the red carpet the first two years, but could not convince myself that THE SOUND OF MUSIC was a Western.  So I skipped it in order to attend a screening of John Ford’s THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, introduced by a son of one of its stars, and a major star in his own right, Keith Carradine.  Keith Carradine began his professional acting career with MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER, and went on to play Jim Younger in THE LONG RIDERS, Buffalo Bill Cody in WILD BILL, and many others.  He created the role of Will Rogers on Broadway in THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES, and was sorely missed by DEADWOOD fans when, as Wild Bill Hickok, he drew aces and eights after only  five episodes – dumbest mistake the series’ producers could have made!   

Keith Carradine introducing THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE

He was delighted to see the theatre entirely packed.  “I cannot tell you what it does for my heart to see this many people here to see this movie – oh my gosh!  I am a huge John Ford fan, and he only made two more feature films after this, DONOVAN’S REEF and CHEYENNE AUTUMN.  I have a particular attachment to this film for a number of reasons.  It has an amazing cast, obviously, with Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne.  Lee Marvin, who was a pal ever since we did EMPEROR OF THE NORTH together – the incomparable Lee Marvin.  And in fact I just paid homage to him.  We did a concert production, the Encore series in New York, of PAINT YOUR WAGON, in which I played Ben Rumson (note: Lee Marvin’s role in the film).  Anyhow, as Orson Welles said when he was asked who his influences were, “Well, I studied the great masters, by which I mean John Ford, John Ford and John Ford.”  This is one of his great works, and in addition to that great cast, and my friend Lee Marvin, my father is in this film.  I can’t thank you all enough for being here to support what TCM has been doing so brilliantly now for lo these many years, burnishing, maintaining; preserving the legacy of the motion picture.  Thank goodness for them, and for what they do.  This stuff is where all the movies came from.  And to give us the opportunity to see them the way they were originally meant to be seen, in a theatre, surrounded by other people, on the big screen – it’s incomparable.  So, enjoy THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, and I’ll see you down the road.” 

Andy Devine and Woody Strode in LIBERTY VALANCE

As many times as I’d already seen LIBERTY VALANCE, I’d never seen it on a big screen before, and there are a thousand little details that are invisible on a smaller image – like how many flies were on Andy Devine!  Incidentally, Andy’s son Dennis has some fascinating details on the making of this film in his book YOUR FRIEND AND MINE, ANDY DEVINE (read my review HERE), including why it was shot in black and white – to try and hide the advanced age of Wayne and Stewart in the ‘young’ sequences.

As always, the TCM Fest is an embarrassment of riches, and you cannot possibly attend all of the events you wish.  At 9:45 pm, the Australian Western-ish film BREAKER MORANT screened, introduced by its director Bruce Beresford, whose other credits include TENDER MERCIES, BLACK ROBE, and AND STARRING PANCHO VILLA AS HIMSELF.  Fifteen minutes later, Rory Flynn, daughter of Errol Flynn, was introducing one of her dad’s classics, THE SEA HAWK. 

Peter Fonda and Keith Carradine for CLEMENTINE

Friday was the big Western day, starting at 9:30 am with Ford’s MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, featuring an introduction and audience Q & A with Peter Fonda and Keith Carradine, again sons of the stars.  At 12:30 pm, THE PROUD REBEL screened, introduced by David Ladd, who co-starred with his father Alan Ladd in the film.  At 2:30 pm, while Rory Flynn discussed her father at Club TCM, Peter Fonda was introducing another Ford classic, YOUNG MR. LINCOLN, starring Henry Fonda.  Two blocks to the east, at Sid Grauman’s other great Hollywood theatre, The Egyptian, Ann Margaret was introducing her Steve McQueen co-starrer, THE CINCINNATI KID, to a packed house – I know it was packed because I couldn’t get in!  

PINOCCHIO stars Dickie Jones and Cliff Edwards
study character sketches

I headed back to see what I could squeeze into, and entered another movie palace that they were using, the El Capitan, to see Walt Disney’s PINOCCHIO.  I was halfway through the movie before I recalled that Pinocchio was voiced by Dickie Jones, later to star in many Westerns, including Errol Flynn’s best, ROCKY MOUNTAIN, and the series THE RANGE RIDER and BUFFALO BILL JR.  He also had a small role in YOUNG MR. LINCOLN, showing in another theatre at the same time.  Jones just passed away a few months ago.  And Pinocchio’s sidekick, Jiminy Cricket, was portrayed by Cliff “Ukulele Ike” Edwards, who sidekicked for Charles “Durango Kid” Starrett and Tim Holt. 

Another tough choice came at about 6 pm.  Legendary stunt man Terry Leonard was introducing RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, where he recreated Yakima Canutt’s famous under-the-coach whip-drag and climb-up from STAGECOACH.  Instead I attended FONDA THE ACTOR, FONDA THE MAN, with Peter discussing his father Henry with Scott Eyman, author of PRINT THE LEGEND – THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JOHN FORD, and JOHN WAYNE – THE LIFE AND LEGEND.  Put kindly, Henry was not the best or most consistent father, but his son still had many positive memories, and shared them with startling candor; several times he had to stop when his emotions overtook him.  

Here are some of the highpoints.  The first movie he saw his father in was CHAD HANNA, made in 1940, the year Peter was born.  “I think I was five, and there was my father on-screen.  And he wasn’t in the Pacific theatre (of the war) – he’d run away with Linda Darnell to the circus!  We had home movies, but my dad was never in the home movies, because he was operating the camera.  This is the first movie I’ve seen on the big screen.  So I didn’t know about Linda Darnell.  I didn’t know about the circus.  So all these questions are building up in this little boy’s mind.  The moment I remember best is (when) Chad went into the lion’s cage to clean it out.  What Chad didn’t know, and which I could see and the rest of the audience could see – it was a small screening room at Fox – is that the lion was in the cage.  So by this time I don’t think it’s Chad, I think it’s Dad.  And my God, he’s gonna get Dad.  I got so upset I ran down to the screen yelling, ‘Daddy! Daddy!  Daddy!  The lion’s there!’  Of course they had to take me out of the theatre.”  His mother calmed him down, telling him it was not Dad, but Chad Hanna, a character in the movie.  At the time, Henry Fonda was away at war, in Naval Air Intelligence.  When he came home on leave, he went by Peter’s school to pick him up.  “I saw the family’s ’38 Buick limousine.  It opens, and out steps Chad Hanna.  I had a tremendous problem, because here was Chad with the family car, and I sure as Hell did not want to drive with someone who was so stupid that he’d get into a lion’s cage.  So I hid in a bush.  I was a skinny kid and they couldn’t get me.”  Later he gained a much better understanding of his father from watching him do theatre, particularly MR. ROBERTS, rather than in movies.    

He described his first visit to a film set.  “I actually went on the set of FORT APACHE.  I went driving on the set and it was amazing – I told this story to John Wayne, Duke, and he was amazed that I could remember the detail of the car he was driving.  It was a crème-colored Cadillac, with red leather seats, and me and my sister (Jane) sat in the back, which was a smaller seat than in front, with John Wayne driving, my dad, and Ward Bond.  This was the first time I’d gone on a set.  And it didn’t mean anything; nobody explained it.  But I remember the car, John Wayne’s lovely Cadillac, and it was beautiful – four door, convertible, top down.  Now people say, what was it like growing up as Henry Fonda’s son?  My fast remark is, did you see FORT APACHE?  Do you know who Colonel Thursday is?  Do you know what kind of a man he was?  I’m joking – but unfortunately some people think, ‘Oh, he hates his father.’  I loved my father.  I love him now.  I miss him.” 

James Stewart was a good friend of the family.  “Jimmy Stewart was my godfather, and we all called him Uncle Jimmy.  He and my father were very close friends, and before they got heavy into filming, they were flying around in airplanes.  Although politically at opposite ends, they were very tight friends.  Whenever (Dad) was off in the Pacific, Jimmy would come back from his tours in the European theatre, flying a B-17, and come and see us all.  You have to understand that in 1945, ’46, Los Angeles was very small, and the air was extraordinarily clean.  My sister and I used to climb up on the roof – it was a pretty steep roof, on a very big house, but my sister and I had a way of getting up there.  And my mother would freak out if she knew.

“ One day, it’s Christmas Eve, there’s Uncle Jimmy.  He’s at the house, having a wonderful time.  We all knew him, all loved him – he was a funny man.  We were sent up the stairs of course, because it’s Christmas Eve.  We don’t get out until they let us in the morning.  Jane’s in her room, I’m in mine, and I hear some banging around on the roof.  I went to her room, I said, ‘Santa Claus is here, I think!’ We got out the window, on the roof, and there is Santa, at the chimney, with the Santa hat, the big bag.  But on closer observation, it was Uncle Jimmy.   Ho-ho-ho-ho!  But we’re on the roof, no one else is gonna hear this, so this performance is just for us.  And that’s when I stopped believing in Santa Claus, but I kept believing in Uncle Jimmy.”   

Next Round-up I’ll have the rest of my TCM coverage, and part two of FONDA ON FONDA, including Peter’s memories of his father making ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, and directing Henry in WANDA NEVADA.  


It was quite a week for John Ford!  In addition to all of his films that were screened at the TCM Fest (and I’ve only talked about half of them), Thursday night saw The Welles Fargo Theatre at The Autry packed for the silent THE IRON HORSE, presented with an original score, a combination of live and programmed music by Emmy Award-nominated composer Tom Peters. 

Composer Tom Peters

Curator Jeffrey Richardson told me, “The Autry was proud and excited to host the debut of Tom Peter's score for John Ford's THE IRON HORSE. The audience, myself included, was captivated by the kaleidoscope of sound that magnified the power and intensity of the silent classic.” Senior Manager of Programs and Public Events Ben Fitzsimmons added, “Tom Peters certainly deserved his standing ovation after almost two and a half hours of playing his new score. He took folk songs of the era and combined them with other musical inspirations to create an epic piece of music to accompany an epic movie.”  

Although his IRON HORSE score is not yet available to hear, to give you an idea of the work Tom Peters does with silent film, here is a sample of his score from THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI.


It’s less than two weeks until the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, on Saturday and Sunday, April 18th & 19th, and a new conversation has been added to my schedule at the Buckaroo Book Shop.  On Saturday at 5 pm I’ll be chatting with Karla Buhlman, President of Gene Autry Entertainment, about the legacy of America's Favorite Singing Cowboy, Gene Autry.  Karla knew Gene very well, and I’m sure she’ll have a lot to tell us.  Karla will also be joining the previously announced Saturday 2 pm panel discussion, Unsung Heroes of Film: The Hollywood Stunt Horse, where I’ll also be chatting with with Karen Rosa -Senior Consultant at the American Humane Association's Film & TV Unit, and authors Petrine Day Mitchum, Audrey Pavia, and National Cowgirl Hall of Fame Honoree Shirley Lucas Jauregui.  For a complete schedule of events at the Buckaroo Book Shop, go HERE
For the official Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival site, go HERE


One of the most independent voices in the golden years of Hollywood, William Wellman will be honored at UCLA’s Billy Wilder Theatre with a 21 film retrospective, mostly double features.  While many of the ‘social commentary’ directors of the era had a tendency to preach, Wellman entertained while exposing society’s flaws, and certainly won more converts that way.  The series, entitled WILLIAM A. WELLMAN – HOLLYWOOD REBEL opens this Friday, April 10th, at 7:30 pm with a wonderful double-bill: A STAR IS BORN and NOTHING SACRED.  They’re both in 35mm, both in color, and both from 1937 – can you imagine any director today making two such landmark films in one year?  (Of course, two years later, Victor Fleming made GONE WITH THE WIND and THE WIZARD OF OZ – but with a lot of help!)  Starting at 6:30 pm, William Wellman Jr. will be selling and signing his book, Wild Bill Wellman: Hollywood Rebel

On Saturday it’s WINGS (1927), with a live piano score by Cliff Retallick.  Westerns included in the series are CALL OF THE WILD, THE OX-BOW INCIDENT, THE TRACK OF THE CAT, YELLOW SKY, THE GREAT MAN’S LADY and WESTWARD THE WOMEN.  Non-Westerns of particular note include NIGHT NURSE, THE PUBLIC ENEMY, BEAU GESTE and WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD.  You can get the complete schedule HERE.  


Happy Passover and Happy Easter!  Next Round-up I’ll have the rest of my TCM coverage, which will include more Peter Fonda, plus some interesting comments from Christopher Plummer on John Huston, Sean Connery, and the making of Kipling’s THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING; and insights from a pair of Oscar-winning special effects men about the filming of Kipling’s GUNGA DIN in Lone Pine’s Alabama Hills!

I’m sorry I don’t have any good Western Passover clips, but here are three nice Easter pieces from the folks at Gene Autry Entertainment.  Enjoy!

Happy Trails,


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

Monday, March 23, 2015



On the far side of the globe, in what writer-director Matthew Holmes calls, “…the ‘other’ Wild West – in Australia,” a feature film begins shooting, telling the story of Ben Hall.  Don’t know the name?  “Ben Hall is a famous outlaw over here,” Holmes tells me.  “He’s our version of Jesse James!”  We had our outlaws, the English had their highwaymen, and in Australia they had their bushrangers, and Ben Hall was the most successful of them – for a while. 

For years, Great Britain used Australia as a penal colony, shipping their criminals there; Hall’s mother was an Irish convict, and his father was an English one.  The movie is set in 1865, the last six months of Hall’s career, and Holmes says there will be plenty of excitement: “It’ll be guns, horses, coach hold-ups and frontier life the whole way.” 

Actor Jack Martin and the real Ben Hall

One of the remarkable aspects of the film is how the money was raised: “We raised $100K through crowd-funding to make a short film of Ben Hall and now we're going to make it a two hour feature.”  On-board as executive producer Greg Mclean, who created the popular Aussie WOLF CREEK thriller franchise.  This is Holmes’ second feature – he directed and co-starred with his brother in TWIN RIVERS, about two brothers looking for work, trying to walk the 800 kilometers to Melbourne in 1939. 

Much of the cast of the short will reprise their roles in the feature, and much of that footage will be used.  Starring is screen newcomer Jack Martin as Ben Hall.  Stand by for updates!  And in the meantime, check out the original trailer – it looks terrific!


Those of us who had so enjoyed Rob Word’s delightful live monthly programs at The Autry, entitled A Word on Westerns, were astonished when they abruptly ended in December.  For a year they’d taken place on the third Wednesday of the month.  With topics as wide-ranging as Spaghetti Westerns, Western Comic Books, Sam Peckinpah, and Audie Murphy, the Crossroads Café was always packed with fans eager to hear the reminiscences of the men and women who made the big and small-screen Westerns we’d so enjoyed. 

Out of the blue, Rob was told that the events would be no more.  While he searched for an alternate venue, Word on Westerns fans began calling and writing and emailing the Autry to denounce their decision.  And happily, their voices have been heard.  The programs will begin again on Wednesday, May 20th, with A Salute to Duke, celebrating John Wayne’s birthday.  This has happened so suddenly that he can’t yet confirm who will be participating.

One change is that the events will now be every second month, so the next ones will be in July, September and November – no topics are set yet, but I’ll keep you posted!  In the meantime, check out the clip below, from a recent luncheon, with author Richard Bann discussing movie-making at Lone Pine.


seated, Henry Darrow and Don Collier with
Lauren Darrow and fans

Today was the finale for the HIGH CHAPARRAL REUNION in Tucson.  Here are a couple of snapshots from the event.  It was, to my knowledge, the first such Western event that offered to offer, for $65, a live webcast for fans who could not attend.  Western historian Charlie LeSueur led many of the conversations, and everything I saw was entertaining and informative.  And subscribers will be able to watch until April 9th – perfect for guys like me who couldn’t get a chance to watch more than a few minutes at a time!.  I’ll be very grateful if anyone who either attended or watched the webcast would post their comments! 

Charlie LeSeuer and Don Collier


On Thursday, March 26th, the sixth annual orgy of cinema-ecstasy known as the TCM Classic Film Festival will begin at the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.  This year’s theme is History According To Hollywood, and all of the films featured will portray how the past looks in Hollywood’s rear-view mirror.

A red carpet will precede the 5 pm premiere of the new restoration of THE SOUND OF MUSIC, which will be attended by stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.  At 6:30, the first screening of particular interest to Western fans will be THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, which will be attended by actor Keith Carradine, son of one of the film’s stars, John Carradine.  It’s a family affair this year – children of many of the films’ stars will be attending, including Peter Fonda, Rory Flynn and David Ladd.  For a complete rundown on Western-interest screenings and events, read my earlier article HERE.  For a complete festival schedule, and information on how to attend, go HERE.

Among the particularly unusual screenings will be HOLLYWOOD HOME MOVIES: TREASURES FROM THE ACADEMY FILM ARCHIVES.  For silent movie fans, RETURN OF THE DREAM MACHINE: 1902-1913 will feature century-old movies shown on a hand-cranked 35 mm projector, including William S. Porter’s THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY.  Also, premiering at the Fest will be a pair of restorations, Buster Keaton’s STEAMBOAT BILL JR. (1928); and long believed lost, THE GRIM GAME (1919), starring Harry Houdini.  All silent films will have a live musical accompaniment. 


John Ford’s rarely seen 1924 silent Western about the building of the transcontinental railroad, THE IRON HORSE will be screened at 7pm on Thursday, March 26th, in 35mm, at the Autry.  And since, as The Autry reminds us, silent movies were never seen silent, it will be presented with a new soundtrack by Grammy-nominated composer Tom Peters.  It’s a computer-synchronized soundscape that will be partly performed live.  The cost is $10 for Autry members and students with I.D., $20 for non-members, and reservations are warmly suggested.  Visit TheAutry.org


The Santa Clarita Cowboy Fest will be on Saturday and Sunday April 18th & 19th. In addition to the various western entertainments and musical performances I’ve been telling you about (if you’ve missed it, please go HERE ), there are a plethora of separate-ticket events you might want to check out.  

There are two film-location tours.  On Thursday, April 16 at 2 pm, film historians E.J. and Kim Stephens will load you on a bus to show you the many movie-locations in Santa Clarita, including Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch (where they shot OLD YELLER and many others), Vasquez Rocks (where they shot everything), Mystery Mesa, Box Canyon, and the spot on Sierra Highway where Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard walked off into the sunset in MODERN TIMES – the last shot in the last silent movie!  And they’ll end up at Tesoro Adobe, home of Harry Carey.  On Friday at 9 am the bus will whisk you to Hollywood, where you’ll visit the locations of Western poverty row studios; Edendale, where Mack Sennett and Tom Mix made their films; the site of the original Bison Studios; sites associated with William S. Hart and D. W. Griffith, and a stopover at The Autry.  Each tour is about three hours, and each costs $40.

On Friday, April 17, 12:30 pm, cowboy singing legend Don Edwards will perform at the Rancho Camulos Museum the historic ‘Home of Ramona’, where author Helen Hunt Jackson set her beloved novel RAMONA.  The very first film of the story, starring Mary Pickford, and directed by D.W. Griffith, was shot here.  Tickets are $60, which includes lunch. 

Miles Swarthout and C. Courtney Joyner

Friday at 2 pm at the Repertory East Playhouse, Miles Swarthout will present JOHN WAYNE AND ‘THE SHOOTIST’, a ninety-minute talk and film presentation about the making of John Wayne’s last movie.  Spur Award winner Miles wrote THE SHOOTIST screenplay, adapting it from the novel by his father, Glendon Swarthout, who also wrote the novel THE HOMESMAN, on which the recent film was based.  Tickets are $10.  Miles has just published THE LAST SHOOTIST, a sequel to his father’s novel.  I look forward to interviewing Miles at the OutWest Store Buckaroo Bookshop, Saturday at noon.  Saturday at three I’ll be talking with Miles and fellow novelists and screenwriters C. Courtney Joyner, Stephen Lodge and Dale Jackson about their adventures adapting novels into screenplays and screenplays into novels.  If you’d like to read my earlier interview with Miles, check out the Round-up ‘Homesman Issue’ HERE.  

Friday night at Heritage Junction from 6pm to 10 pm it’s Friday Night Flickers!  For $10 you can enjoy William S. Hart short films and SUDDENLY (1954), the rarely seen assassination thriller starring Frank Sinatra, and shot entirely is Saugus!  Popcorn included!

Friday night at 8 pm, the Western swing band Cowbop will perform at the William S. Hart Mansion – tickets are $45.

Saturday night at 8 pm at Heritage Junction, Marie-Wise Hawkins will perform her country western music in the style that made her a finalist on COUNTRY SHOWDOWN IN NASHVILLE.  The $45 tickets include a barbecue chicken dinner.

Saturday night at 8 pm experience An Evening With Buffalo Bill at the William S. Hart Mansion , a one-man-show starring Peter Sherayko, who will be in a perfect location to present the story of one of the most remarkable and controversial figures in the history of the American West.  Tickets are $40. (You can read my review of An Evening With Buffalo Bill HERE. )

Peter Sherayko, me, writers Rolfe Kanefsky and C. Courtney Joyner

Peter Sherayko will also be at the OutWest Store Buckaroo Bookshop, Saturday at 11 am and Sunday at 2 pm, taking part in Wordsmiths: Poets Present Their Favorites, along with poets Alameda Bradshaw, Peter Conway and Andria Kidd. 

On Sunday from 9 am to 3 pm you can take the Santa Clarita Historical Tour by bus.  You will visit 30 points of historical interest, four in depth, and you will be fed a sandwich lunch.  Wear comfortable shoes, be prepared for some rough terrain, and don’t bring anyone under six.  And bring $60.

Sunday at 8 am attend Cowboy Church at Masters College.  Church is free.  You can learn about all of the Buckaroo Bookshop events HERE.  To find out all about the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, go HERE. 


The 36th Annual Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show was held Sunday at the Glendale Civic Auditorium.  Eighty dealers from around the country sold their wares, and 45 authors signed their books for free.  This event skews pretty sharply towards sci-fi, horror and mystery, so author-wise there was little Western interest.  Two much-anticipated guests who have frequently attended, were not there: THE WALTONS creator and TWILIGHT ZONE writer Earl Hamner Jr. was unable to attend, and sci-fi legend Ib Melchior died last week. 

Thanks for coloring in the 'I', kid.  You 
probably saved me five bucks

Serious paperback collectors are a snobby bunch – they only want their books in pristine condition, and they pay top dollar for it.  I like what they sneeringly call ‘reader copies’ or ‘place-holders’, and there were bargains to be found: many good Westerns books to be had for fifty cents to a dollar.  Among others, I picked up the novelization of the John Wayne movie CAHILL – UNITED STATES MARSHALL, by Joe Millard, who also novelized the Leone Westerns, and wrote a whole MAN WITH NO NAME series. 

SMOKY ROAD by ‘king of the pulps’ Frank Gruber, who also wrote movies for Randolph Scott – RAGE AT DAWN and FIGHTING MAN OF THE PLAINS, and the Sherlock Holmes films, TERROR BY NIGHT and DRESSED TO KILL. 

Seems to high-strung to last in the West

Also grabbed DOUBLE CROSS TRAIL by E.E. Halleran, and STAGECOACH, a novel by Robert W. Krepps, published to tie in with the 1966 movie re-make.  I love this last one particularly because of how many writers’ hands were in it: the novel is based on Joseph Landon’s 1966 screenplay, which is based on Dudley Nichols’ 1939 screenplay, which is based on Ernest Haycox’s 1937 short story STAGE TO LORDSBURG.  You can’t really tell, but the cover design, from the movie poster, is a wonderful painting by Norman Rockwell.

In the past, I don’t remember paying less than a dollar a book at this event, and while I loved getting my literary fix at two for a buck, it troubled me: does the lower price reflect a loss of interest in the Western?  At the next table, DR. WHO books and STAR WARS books were also two for a dollar, so I think all is well.  


I know I promised my Michael Horse interview this week, but I haven’t finished transcribing it yet, and with the TCM Fest starting on Thursday night, I’m not quite sure when I’ll get to!  And speaking of the TCM Fest, Peter Fonda, who will be introducing MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, and giving a talk about his father Henry Fonda, is in town for another reason as well.  He and Kevin Sorbo will spend a couple of days shooting scenes in the Santa Clarita area to flesh out a new Western, JESSE JAMES: LAWMAN, which has mostly been shot in Manitoba, starring Andrew Galligan, and directed by Brett Kelly.  I’ll tell you more when I know more!

Happy Trails,


All Original Content Copyright March 2015 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved