Thursday, July 30, 2015

‘MAGNIFICENT 7’ MEMORIES, PLUS WESTERN PORTRAIT PROJECT, ME ON WRITER’S BLOCK, AND DON RICARDO RETURNS TO THE PICO ADOBE!




PRODUCER WALTER MIRISCH ON ‘THE MAGNIFICENT 7’

On Tuesday night, July 14th, at Santa Monica’s Aero Theatre, an invited private audience attended the annual James Coburn Movie Night, part of the weekly KCET Cinema Series.  The James Coburn film to be screened was THE MAGNIFICENT 7, and it was that much more special a night, because the movie’s famed producer Walter Mirisch would be attending, and receiving the KCET Lumiere Award, recognizing excellence, artistry and innovation for outstanding contribution to film.
I spoke to Mr. Mirisch on the red carpet, and we talked about his early Western days, when he produced Joel McCrea Westerns at Monogram Studios (if you missed that, HERE is the link).

Also present were Coburn’s son and daughter, James Jr. and Lisa, and Lynda Erkiletian, exec director of the James and Paula Coburn Foundation.  Mirisch’s son and frequent collaborator Andrew Mirisch also attended.


The Coburn family


Onstage, KCET head of development Mary Mazur introduced Mr. Mirisch. “I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity to present this award to Walter tonight.  My first job in television was at NBC, and one of my first executive assignments was as the program executive on a series of TV Movies called DESPERADO, which were produced by Walter and his son Drew.”  There were five DESPERADO movies, the original written by Elmore Leonard.

WALTER MIRISCH: Somehow or other, receiving awards never gets old.  This is a wonderful evening.  It gives me a great opportunity to see one of my really treasured memories, THE MAGNIFICENT 7, which is really a milestone film in my career and in my life.  And I am deeply moved, honored and proud to receive this most distinguished award here this evening.  I am particularly proud to remember that it comes from KCET, whose studio was my home for ten years in the very beginning of my career, and where all the films of my earlier career were made.  (Note: the original home of KCET was Monogram Studios.)  I’m also proud that a sponsor of this event is the James and Paula Coburn Foundation, because Jim was a friend of mine.  I was crazy about him.  We first met when he was in a segment of a television show I was making, that starred Joel McCrea, WICHITA TOWN.  He was in the pilot episode, which was called THE NIGHT THE COWBOYS ROARED.  Jimmy was just great in it, and I remembered him, and as my career progressed, and as his did, I kept looking for opportunities to find a role.  It didn’t happen until THE MAGNIFICENT 7 came along, and then I did find the right role for him, and I think you’ll agree when you see the picture, because he’s just marvelous in it.    Later on we continued to work together, and then Jim appeared in THE GREAT ESCAPE, also a signal film in my curriculum.  And then finally, the last one he did for me was MIDWAY, in 1975.  I’m also proud to be a part of this continuing saga of KCET’s contribution to our community.  I’ve enjoyed it all my life, and I continue to.  So here we go, and if you ask me some questions, I’ll try to answer them, Pete, and I hope they won’t be too embarrassing.


The Mirisch family


DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD writer Pete Hammond then took the stage, with a recommendation that we all read Walter Mirisch’s autobiography, I THOUGHT WE WERE MAKING MOVIES, NOT HISTORY.

PETE HAMMOND:  Look at the cover: all of those Oscars, and the Thalberg Award, and the Golden Globe.  This is one helluvah career that you’ve had.  I’m curious how MAGNIFICENT 7 came about, because there was this Japanese film, SEVEN SAMURAI.

WALTER MIRISCH:  Kurosawa, the great Japanese director, made THE SEVEN SAMURAI.  I saw it and thought it was wonderful.  It starred the great Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, who I had the privilege of working with; he appeared in my film MIDWAY many years later.  For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s the story of Japanese soldiers of fortune, in the medieval period of Japan.  And I kept thinking about whether it could be translated into an American picture, when a friend of mine who was associated with Yul Brynner called me up.  He said, you’d asked me about the rights to SEVEN SAMURI.  It’s funny, Yul Brynner brought the same question up to me, because he also had Japanese connections.  We both thought that perhaps he could intervene with Toho, the Japanese company that had produced it.  I had just succeeded in attracting to our company John Sturges.  I was a great fan of John’s movies, and I called him up and said, John, I think I’ve got the first movie for us to make.  I want you to come over, and I want to run THE SEVEN SAMURAI with you.  The two of us sat alone in a projection room and watched it, and had the best time ever, talking while the movie was running, and translating all of the sequences of Mr. Kurasawa’s movie into the western motif.  So in the projection room we made a western of THE SEVEN SAMAURI.  Then we hit on a marvelous writer, Walter Newman, who did the basic script of THE MAGNIFICENT 7. 

PETE HAMMOND:  I notice Walter Newman is not listed on the posters on the lobby.  Was he a blacklisted writer at that time?

WALTER MIRISCH:  No, he was not a blacklisted writer.  Don’t let that get around.  However, Walter was very stubborn.  While we were shooting the picture, we needed some work done while we were down in Mexico.  I asked Walter to come down, and for one reason or another, he couldn’t come.  I think the Writer’s Guild then had an arbitration, and decided the writer we had brought down had made a significant contribution, and should receive some kind of a shared credit.  Walter resented that; he was angry at his Guild, not at John or I, and he said that if they didn’t give him sole credit, he didn’t want anything.  It was a very serious career mistake that Walter, who was a wonderful writer, made.  And it was Bill Roberts who did the work down in Mexico, and helped us field the suggestions that came from our always cooperative cast, all of whom wanted to enlarge their roles.  That’s how that came about.    

PETE HAMMOND:  Actually I think James Coburn was one member of the cast who liked not having many lines in the film.  Does he have eleven lines?


James Coburn, Horst Bucholtz


WALTER MIRISCH:  I never counted them.  However, he plays this laconic character.  I shall never forget, one day Walter Newman came in to my office and said, I’ve got to ask you about something that I’ve been noodling with, and can’t make up my mind.  If two men faced one another, and one man had a gun and the other had a knife, and they both fired at the same time, which would arrive first?  I said, no question about it, the bullet would.  He said, I was thinking about having the knife-thrower do it.  I said that’s a great idea; and that’s how that got into the movie.  It was showmanship, and Jim was the perfect one to execute it. 

PETE HAMMOND:  Talk about the rest of the cast, because Steve McQueen was starring in a television series, WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE, at the time.  

WALTER MIRISCH:  The casting of THE MAGNIFICENT 7 was kind of a fun exercise for John Sturges and myself.  Because we had these wonderful roles to fill.  And I’d try and get all of my favorite actors in, and John would try and get his.  That’s how Jim Coburn got in, because I had been looking for a really good Jim Coburn role since WICHITA TOWN.  John Sturges had made a movie for MGM with Frank Sinatra called NEVER SO FEW.  And he kept telling me he had this kid in it, and the kid is marvelous, and we’ve got to find a part for the kid.  And the kid, of course, was Steve McQueen.



PETE HAMMOND:  Charles Bronson?

WALTER MIRISCH:  Charlie Bronson I had known for a long time, and the O’Reilley part just cried out for Bronson.  I think the most exciting piece of casting comes with the story.  A couple of years ago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York honored me.  At the event they asked Eli Wallach to come and speak about me.  I hadn’t seen Eli a lot in recent years; he always lived in New York, and we didn’t run across one another too often.  Eli got up and said, I think I owe my whole career to Walter Mirisch.  Well, I perked up.  I didn’t know why he felt that way, but I was interested, as I hope you all are.  And Eli said, before I met Walter Mirisch, I was just another Jewish actor in New York.  After I met him, I became a Mexican bandit for life!

PETE HAMMOND:  It was Sturges’ idea?

WALTER MIRISCH:  It was John’s idea.  And it was brilliant.  I said, are you crazy?  He said no, no, think, and we looked at some film, and then I met him, and it came together.  John and I had a wonderful relationship.  As a matter of fact I am indebted to him for the title of my book.  He had called me once, while I was writing it.  He was retired by then.  He loved boats, and he was down in Mexico someplace, on his boat.  He called me and said, Walter, I’ve been asked to do an article about THE GREAT ESCAPE.   And I don’t really remember some things that I wanted to write about.  And I was wondering if you still have a copy of the script?   I said John; I can’t believe you don’t have a copy of the script: this is one of the best movies of your whole life.  He said, what are you talking about?    I thought we were just making movies, not history.  So that resonated with me, and I used that as the title.

PETE HAMMOND:  You really didn’t think you were making history when you were making all these movies?

WALTER MIRISCH:  No – I was trying to make a living.

PETE HAMMOND:  They say music is the soundtrack of your life; your movies are the soundtrack of my life, from SOME LIKE IT HOT to WEST SIDE STORY.  WEST SIDE STORY and THE APARTMENT were back to back Best Picture winners.  Billy Wilder, you did nine films with him.

WALTER MIRISCH:  Actually he worked for nobody else during the period of seventeen years when we were together.  However, the important thing in my career was not just making those movies with Billy Wilder; what was more important was having a thousand lunches with him.  He was the most interesting, stimulating, brilliant man.


KCET CEO Michael Riley, Mirisch, KCET COO Mary Mazur


PETE HAMMOND:  Can I say how old you are?  Because you’re still working every day, going to the office, developing movies.  And you’re 93 years old.

WALTER MIRISCH:  I have done nothing to deserve that.  It’s probably genetic.

PETE HAMMOND:  I heard you just had a Hallmark movie done.

WALTER MIRISCH:  Yes, they just reran it a couple of weeks ago.

PETE HAMMOND:  And another PINK PANTHER?

WALTER MIRISCH:  Yes, I’m working on the script of that for MGM now.  It’s going to be a combination of live action and animation.  It’s really challenging and something new, and I’m very excited about it.

PETE HAMMOND:  Do you have any favorites among your films?

WALTER MIRISCH:  How many children do you have?  Do you have a personal favorite?  If you have, you won’t tell.

PETE HAMMOND:  Your films really hold up.  They live on.

WALTER MIRISCH:  That’s what classic movies are, I guess.  And that’s the exciting thing about living to this ripe old age.  You get to see how succeeding generations react to your films, and to the things you wanted to say to your audiences.  And it’s particularly true to WEST SIDE STORY, and the message of WEST SIDE STORY.  That message needs to be repeated again and again, because we still haven’t learned our lesson.  IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, in which attacked the racial issue right in the heart of the civil rights revolution, I hoped would make a real contribution to better understanding, and tolerance.  I like to think that it made some kind of contribution, but it didn’t solve it; the problem is still with us.  Motion pictures, besides entertaining, can be tremendously important in educating people.  Because it’s a way to make people understand issues in a way that’s easy to accept.  And hopefully they will come away from it feeling much more sympathetic to that black detective who is the protagonist. 

PETE HAMMOND:  Now THE MAGNIFICENT 7 lives on; you made three sequels yourself to this movie.

WALTER MIRISCH:  Yes, the first one, Yul Brynner appeared in, RETURN OF THE 7.  Then other people played him.  And over the years we used the franchise a number of times. 

PETE HAMMOND:  The TV series.

WALTER MIRISCH:  And it is now being remade.  We’re shooting it now, down in Louisiana.  It stars Denzel Washington, who plays the part that Yul Brynner played.  Chris Pratt, who plays the lead in JURASSIC WORLD.  And Ethan Hawk.  It’s got a wonderful cast.

PETE HAMMOND:  And you’re going to have an executive producer credit on it.  Is it going to have any of that iconic theme by Elmer Bernstein, one of the most famous pieces of music in movie history?

WALTER MIRISCH:  It was not nominated.  Actually it was nominated in one of the sequels; but not in the original.  It just goes to show you that the Academy Awards are not perfect. (Note: Elmer Bernstein’s scores for MAGNIFICENT 7 and RETURN OF THE 7 were both Oscar-nominated, and both lost)


Mirisch and Hammond admiring a huge poster


PETE HAMMOND:  This coming from a man who used to be president of the Academy.

WALTER MIRISCH:  It is a magnificent piece of music, and it developed its own life.  It became the theme of the Marlboro cigarette company, and they played  it for years and years and years.



JAMES HORNER COMPOSED ‘MAGNIFICENT 7’ REMAKE’S SCORE BEFORE HIS DEATH!

And on the heels of our MAGNIFICENT 7 story, a remarkable surprise!  While composer James Horner recently died in a private plane crash, we will hear more of his music.  During an NPR interview, MAGNIFICENT 7 remake director Antoine Fuqua revealed that Horner, who also scored Fuqua’s just-released SOUTHPAW, surprised him with a completed score for MAGNIFICENT 7 based on the screenplay – currently shooting.  For the complete interview, go 
HERE.  


SPENT SUNDAY WITH BRUCE BOXLEITNER!




watching the GUNSMOKE and HOW THE WEST WAS WON star pose for photographer/action director Steve Carver (LONE WOLF MCQUADE, BIG BAD MAMA).  For his upcoming photography book, UNSUNG HEROES & VILLAINS OF THE SILVER SCREEN, Carver uses 19th Century photo techniques, and he’s been taking these portraits of stars and characters actors for 22 years!  There aren’t a lot of smiles in them, either: just like the old tintype days, they have to pose motionless for 8 seconds.  Try it!  The whole story, and wonderful portraits, and my interview with Bruce, coming soon to the Round-up!



I’M THE ‘WRITER’S BLOCK’ GUEST THURSDAY NIGHT!



Jim Bell, Bobbi Jean Bell & me


On Thursday, July 30th at 8 pm, I’ll be joining hosts Jim Christina and Bobbi Jean Bell for an hour of talk about writing and up-coming Westerns on their weekly show, Writer’s Block, on L.A.Talk Radio.  You can listen live (at ‘Listen Live 2’) HERE.  You can call in live at 818-602-4929.  And if you miss the live broadcast, or want to catch up on earlier shows, you can find podcasts of them HERE .



SEE ‘DON RICARDO RETURNS’ FRIDAY NIGHT AT ANDRES PICO ADOBE!



The Andres Pico Adobe Museum is a jewel in the San Fernando Valley.  The headquarters of the San Fernando Valley Historical Society, built in 1853, it is the second oldest home in Los Angeles.  On Friday night, July 31st, at 8 pm, they will screen the 1946 swashbuckler DON RICARDO RETURNS, starring Fred Coby and Lita Baron (a.k.a. Isabelita).  This rarely seen (I’ve never seen it) PRC Studios Spanish adventure story was filmed in part at the Pico Adobe itself, so seeing it there should be particular fun.  The story is by Johnston McCulley, the creator of Zorro.  The screenplay is co-written by Jack DeWitt, who would later gain fame for scripting A MAN CALLED HORSE, and Renault Duncan, pen-name for the screen’s Cisco Kid, Duncan Renaldo!  The address is 10940 Sepulveda Ave., Mission Hills 91346.  Their phone is 818-365-7810.  Their website is www.sfvhs.com

The movie is free, the gates open at 7 pm, so you can come early, and bring snacks or a picnic dinner.  If you’ve never visited the Adobe before, here’s a perfect opportunity.        


AND THAT’S A WRAP!

Have a great week – or what’s left of the week!

Happy Trails,

Henry

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


Monday, July 20, 2015

‘EL ARDOR’, ARGENTINEAN WESTERN REVIEWED, FIRST LOOK AT 'REVENANT', PLUS WALTER MIRISCH ON JOEL MCREA!



EL ARDOR – A Film Review

When you need a savior…



We never learned where Shane came from, or where he went to when his job was done; Clint Eastwood’s characters in HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER and PALE RIDER took the mystery to a nearly mystical level.  In writer/director Pablo Fendrik’s Argentinean Western, EL ARDOR, the hero seems to appear in response to primitive rituals made to river spirits by desperate jungle farmers. 





Set in the rain forest of Misiones, the finger-shaped northern Argentinean province between Paraguay and Brazil, it is much like our wild west in the worst ways – the battle for vast tracts of jungle land has brought about horrifying violence.  Joao (Chico Diaz) is a poor tobacco farmer who has seen neighboring farmers forced to sell their land; seen them burned out; seen them murdered.   He senses the smoke is moving in his direction, and he, his one farm hand, and daughter Vania (Alice Braga), are no match for the three heartless hired guns who descend upon them with a bill of sale they want executed.  Kai (Gael Garcia Bernard), the man from the river, cannot stop the slaughter of the farmer and his hand, but when the gunmen take the daughter, Kai is quickly on the jungle trail, meant to seem as much a spirit as the gorgeous but deadly leopard who seems forever on the edge of camp.


The hired guns


Cinematographer Julian Apezteguia captures the beauty and menace of the jungle in a film which rarely travels indoors.  At times too deliberate in its pacing, it is a story of isolated, frontier lives, and it is a bare bones story in many ways.  There are only eight characters in the tale.  Most of them go through jungle and swamp in bare feet: only the three mercenaries – Jorge Sesan, Julian Tello, and Lautaro Vilo – have boots.   We think of cowboy characters as laconic, but these people redefine the term.  Most is said visually, in expression and gesture: there are perhaps three expository scenes with considerable conversation.  The minimalist approach does not always work to the film’s benefit; with so few turns in the story, there is continuity, but few surprises.  Then again, there is a hauntingly eerie, smoke-filled finale shootout.



Surprisingly, there is no Macguffin.  The real case that inspired Fendrik involved killing farmers and stealing land to grow soy.  Here it could soy, or oil, or wood – we never know, and never know who the hired guns work for.  An interesting and humanizing detail is that the gunmen are brothers, the two older ones trying to bring the youngest into the family business.    



All of the performances are naturalistic and utterly believable.  The unselfconsciously beautiful Alice Braga is the only woman in the cast, strong without being a superwoman, and her character, with so much on her plate, is unaware of the desire she stirs about her.   Gael Garcia Bernard also is not superhuman – he plays his character as the right man in the right place at the right time, despite others seeing him as something more.  The mystical/supernatural element introduced at the beginning, dissipates.  The score by Sebastian Escofet is used sparingly but effectively; sometimes driving, sometimes almost symphonic, sometimes just throbbing bass-notes.  Released on Friday, July 17th, by Participant Media, it can be found in theatres, and is available on demand.





FIRST LOOK AT 'THE REVENANT'!

Here's the first trailer for Leo DeCaprio's 'mountain man' movie, set to open on Christmas Day!






A SHORT BUT 'MAGNIFICENT' CHAT WITH WALTER MIRISCH


Deadline: Hollywood's Peter Hammond, KCET's Mary Mazur,
Walter Mirisch, James Coburn Jr., KCET's Michael Riley


On Tuesday night, July 14th, at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, legendary producer Walter Mirisch was honored with the KCET Cinema Series Lumière Award at a screening of one of his finest films, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960).  Mirisch, who would go on to produce WEST SIDE STORY (1961), THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963), and a plethora of film collaborations with Billy Wilder and Blake Edwards, and win the Best Picture Oscar for IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967), started out producing at Monogram  in the late 1940s, producing a series of jungle adventures called BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY.  The productions were a cut above the studio’s usual product, and things improved vastly when Mirisch made a deal to produce a series of Westerns starring Joel McCrea. 

On the red carpet on Tuesday night, I had a chance to ask Mr. Mirisch about these early, excellent efforts.



HENRY:  Which of the films that you did with Joel McCrea were your favorites?

WALTER MIRISCH:  I guess WICHITA (1955) and THE FIRST TEXAN (1956).  I think those were the best of them.  I think I actually made six with him.  I loved Joel McCrea.  Wonderful man.

HENRY: How different was it to make those films at Monogram and Allied Artists, with going on to make something as magnificent as what we’re going to watch tonight?

WALTER MIRISCH:  I don’t know.  You cut the cloth to fit the pattern.  You do the best you can with what you’ve got to do it with.  I’m very proud of those pictures; I wouldn’t deny them for a moment. 

HENRY:  They’re delightful.  I’m also a huge fan of the BOMBA, THE JUNGLE BOY films. 

WALTER MIRISCH:  (laughs) My God, you go back a long way!  I was about 22 when I made those pictures!



At that point Mr. Mirisch was introduced, for the first time, to James Coburn Jr., son of one of the stars of both MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and THE GREAT ESCAPE.  I’ll have more about this event, and what Mr. Mirisch had to say about making MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, soon in the Round-up!  Incidentally, WICHITA, THE FIRST TEXAN, and another Mirisch/McCrea collaboration, THE OKLAHOMAN (1957), are all available as MOD (made on demand) DVDs exclusively from The Warner Brothers Archive Collection.  Go HERE for details.




ED ERDELAC ON ‘WRITER’S BLOCK’ THURSDAY




Filling in for Bobbi Jean Bell, dog trainer Russ Avion  will join host Jim Christina at 8 pm on this Thursday's Writer's Block, interviewing the very talented 'Weird West' author Ed Erdelac.  You can listen live (at ‘Listen Live 2’) HEREAnd listen to this or any previous programs on podcast HERE .


AND THAT’S A WRAP! 

Have a great week! 

Happy Trails,

Henry


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

Monday, July 13, 2015

UPDATE! NEW ‘HELL ON WHEELS’, ‘GUNSLINGERS’ REVIEWS, PLUS FIRST LOOK 'ARDOR'; ‘WESTWORLD’, ‘HATEFUL 8’ UPDATES!


UPDATED 7-14-2015 -- SEE 'ARDOR' STORY!

HELL ON WHEELS Season Five – A TV Review


Looks like a cold day in Hell!


On Saturday, July 18th, AMC’s HELL ON WHEELS returns for its fifth, and sadly final, season.  There will be seven episodes this summer, and then the final seven will air sometime in 2016.  The first episode of the new season, CHINATOWN, written by Jami O’Brien and directed by David Straiton, welcomes back Cullen Bohannan (Anson Mount), who has switched his allegiance from the Union Pacific Railroad to the Central Pacific, in the race to complete the Transcontinental Railroad.  The episode begins with a dream, and then takes off with a bang – literally – when Cullen, leading a crew blasting their way through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, gets more of a charge than he bargained for.

When the series first began, Cullen’s motivation was revenge for the killing of his wife and child.  He has a new wife and child now, and what drives him is the need to find them.  He has a new obstacle to his work, in that much of the crew is Chinese, and communication is difficult.  Moreover, while he’d had no problems working with his largely Irish and freed slave crews, they had leaders – Psalms, Elam Ferguson – who, while sometimes adversarial, were often helpful, and looked out for their people.  Cullen now faces a sinister new menace in the suave Chang (Byron Mann), the Chinese-American jobber who provides the Chinese labor for the railroad, and is in a struggle for power with Cullen. 

While season four had a high mortality rate among favorite characters, Cullen’s previous antagonists are back, from Southern Pacific Railroad chief Doc Durant (Colm Meany) to the Scandinavian you love to hate, Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl).  If the opener seems a bit choppy, it’s because so many story-lines need to be re-started, and new ones introduced.  With CHINATOWN (“Forget it, Jake”), HELL ON WHEELS season five is off to a promising and exciting start.  And for anyone who doesn’t remember just where last season ended, on Saturday AMC will be showing all of season four as a lead-in to HELL ON WHEELS season five.        


GUNSLINGERS Season Two – A TV Review



The docudrama series GUNSLINGERS returns to AHC – The American Heroes Channel – on Sunday, July 19th, for a second season outlining the lives of famous badmen and good.  As with most post-Ken Burns documentaries, the format is predictable: a mix of narration, historic photos, expert commentary, and reenactments.  While this setup has becoming overly familiar, GUNSLINGERS added two variations which make it considerably more enjoyable and involving than most of the genre.  First, the leads in the cast of the reenactments are actors as well as reenactors.   In addition to knowing how to ride and shoot convincingly, overall they give credible movie-quality performances, often working with a higher level of script, direction, and production values. 

Second, each story is narrated by the central character.  Although the telling does not include an awareness that they are telling the story of their own demise, there is an amusingly arrogant, “Here’s the nonsense they said about me, and here’s the truth,” attitude to the proceedings.  It’s hard to know how factual and how fanciful the self-awareness is.  Some legends, like Tom Horn and Bat Masterson, wrote extensively (and often self-servingly) about their lives, but most did not.  But even if what went on in the heads of these men is largely guesswork, it’s based on fairly solid history, as opposed to the recent Bill O’Reilly fiasco, LEGENDS AND LIES, which interviewed some of the same experts, but then used discredited history and made embarrassing errors. 

The second season opens with BUTCH CASSIDY – THE PERFECT CRIMINAL, revealing a man much more akin to the Paul Newman/BUTCH CASSIDAY AND THE SUNDANCE KID version than the William Holden/WILD BUNCH take.  The telling is entertaining, the action is extensive, and the cinematic approach underscores both the similarities and differences between the movie version and the admittedly cloudy historical record.  Ample time is spent on the different theories of Butch’s demise – whether he and Sundance died in South America or made it back home – and family interviews and scientific details give it a satisfying legitimacy. 



The other five episodes of the season will be SETH BULLOCK – SHERIFF OF DEADWOOD (Timothy Olyphant’s character from the DEADWOOD series), BAT MASTERSON – DEFENDER OF DODGE, BASS REEVES – THE REAL LONE RANGER, BILL DOOLIN & THE OKLAHOMBRES, and DEACON JIM MILLIER – THE PIOUS ASSASSIN.  DEADWOOD fans will want to catch THE SETH BULLOCK episode in particular, as Robin Weigert, who played Calamity Jane in the series, and DEADWOOD creator David Milch are among the commentators.    

If you’d like a preview of GUNSLINGERS, three episodes from season one, Tom Horn, Wild Bill Hickok, and Billy the Kid, will be shown earlier in the day.



EXCLUSIVE TO THE ROUND-UP!  FIRST LOOK AT ‘ARDOR’: ARGENTINEAN WESTERN OPENS IN THEATRES & VOD FRIDAY JULY 17TH!


Pablo Fendrik wrote and directed this tale of mercenaries who kill farmers and claim their land, until a mysterious man emerges from the Rainforest to save the kidnapped daughter of a farmer! The film stars Alice Braga (ELYSIUM) as the daughter, and Gael Garcia Bernal (Che Guevara in THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES) as the avenger.  Read my review in next week’s Round-up! 




WEDNESDAY’S ‘WORD ON WESTERNS’ HONORS WORTHY WOMEN OF THE WEST! 

At noon on Wednesday, July 15th, The Autry’s Crossroads West Café is the place to be for Rob Word’s A Word on Westerns, where a delicious lunch is followed by an engaging discussion of a Western movie topic led by filmmaker and historian Rob Word, with guests who know the industry first-hand.  I’m not going to post a tentative guest list until I get the okay from Rob – already some expected guests had to drop out because of schedule conflicts or health concerns.  But Rob always gets an excellent panel built around an interesting topic, in this case, Women of the West.  Incidentally, the program is free, but the lunch is not, unless you can trick someone into picking up your tab.  By the way, as these events have gotten more and more popular, attendees have begun to arrive earlier and earlier to assure having a seat.  As a result, the rumor is that the doors will close at noon – so get there early!    

As a teaser, here is a great woman of the West, Jacqueline Scott, at a previous Word on Westerns luncheon, talking about working with Henry Fonda and James Stewart. 



JOHN BERGSTROM ON ‘WRITER’S BLOCK’ THURSDAY

Hosts Jim Christina and Bobbi Bell will be joined by Western singer/songwriter John Bergstrom Thursday night at 8.  A native Angelino, John, whose 4th album is entitled BUTTERFIELD STAGE, performs a mix of traditional and original songs, with such intriguing titles as Throw Down The Box, Latchkey Cowboy, Red Rocks of Sedona, and St. Francis Dam, the last referring to the dam that collapsed and killed about 500 (again I say, “Forget it Jake.  It’s Chinatown!).  You can learn more about John (to help think up call-in questions) HERE.   You can listen to the show live (at ‘Listen Live 2’) HERE,  And listen to this or any previous programs on podcast HERE



REDBIRD’S CHILDREN OF MANY COLORS INTERTRIBAL POWWOW JULY 17-19!


Next weekend, Moorpark College will play host to an annual intertribal powwow that brings together many tribes, including native people from Alaska, Hawaii, the First Nations People of Canada, and Central and South America. All are welcome to the powwow, which is part  ceremony and part social, and is both a meeting place and a market place.  Most importantly, it’s a place where youngsters can learn from the wisdom and experience of their elders.  Among the many activities offered are singing, dancing, honoring ceremonies, arts, crafts and food booths, other nonprofit associations, tipis, story tellers, flint knapping, traditional craft demonstrations, and many opportunities throughout the weekend for people to experience the intertribal circle.

Friday night features an open flute contest, and Saturday is the Powwow Princess Contest.  It’s an outdoor, family friendly event, and a $2 per vehicle contribution is suggested.  You can learn much more HERE.  Moorpark College is at 7075 Campus Road, Moorpark, CA 93021, in Ventura County.    


ENNIO MORRICONE TO SCORE TARANTINO’S ‘HATEFUL 8’!



According to DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD, HATEFUL 8 director Quentin Tarantino revealed at COMICON today that Ennio Morricone, five-time Oscar-nominated composer, and winner of an Honorary Career Oscar, will score the new Western, his first original Western score in four decades!  Follow this link to a DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD interview at Comicon with Tarantino HERE.  : 


FIRST PEEK AT ‘WESTWORLD’!



The subject of the Comicon panel was the series PERSON OF INTEREST, but HBO producer surprised the assembled with a trailer from the upcoming miniseries WESTWORLD, based on the Michael Crichton/Saul David 1973 film about vacationers who indulge their fantasies with human-like robots in ‘safe’ environments.  That man in the black hat is Ed Harris, taking on the role Yul Brynner played, of a robot who develops a mind of his own.  WESTWORLD should start airing sometime in 2016. 

AND THAT’S A WRAP!



The August TRUE WEST should be on the newsstands soon.  My column this month, A Quarter-Century Tribute, celebrates the 25th anniversary of DANCES WITH WOLVES!  I also review the movie YELLOW ROCK.  

Have a great week, and I’ll see you next weekend!

Happy Trails,

Henry,

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



Monday, July 6, 2015

‘SLOW WEST’ REVIEW, PLUS ‘WRITER’S BLOCK’ RADIO, SO LONG ‘DUKES OF HAZZARD’!


‘SLOW WEST’ a Film Review, a Blu-Ray Release



Anyone who has ever loved desperately and hopelessly will grudgingly admire, and see something of themselves, in sixteen-year-old Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a Scottish lad who follows his lady-love Rose Ross (Caren Pistorius) and her father (Rory McCann) across continents to Colorado to be with her.  The plot is as single-minded as the lad: he will let nothing stand in his way until they are reunited, or he dies in the attempt. 



It is said that God takes care of children and fools, and that can be the only explanation of how Jay, who is both, is still breathing – not a fool in the low I.Q. sense, but in being oblivious to his inabilities as he makes his way through a beautiful but unforgiving land full of savage people.   To his great luck he meets Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender), sometimes an outlaw, sometimes a bounty hunter who, for a price, takes the lad under his wing, to help in his romantic odyssey. 

As they travel, Jay tells the at first disinterested Silas the story of himself and Rose – we see it in   flashbacks – and Silas grows to understand why Jay is so driven, why guilt is mixed with duty, and Silas begins to care.  Jay has no idea that Silas has his own agenda, and that is attempts to help Rose may put her at greater risk.  The chemistry between the outlaw and his young charge is palpable; the roles are the sort that actors dream of, and Smit-McPhee and Fassbender are triumphant.



While possessing all the elements you expect in a Western – beautiful scenery, violent action, strong men and strong women, and a powerful lead-slinging finish – it is in no way typical.  Tone-wise, it is a darkly comic tragedy, with a savvy script, strong performances, and characters who seem to be not created for the story, but to be real humans who are driven together by fate.

Filmed in his native Scotland and in New Zealand, it is the debut feature by writer and director John McLean, a musician whose film career grew out of making videos for his two bands, THE BETA BAND and THE ALIENS.  He has a strong career ahead of him, although my one quibble is that we never are given any sense of how the girl and her father, or young fellow, made their journey from the British Isles to the States.      



Also in the film is the amusing but villainous Ben Mendelsohn.  The simple but effective guitar score is by Jed Kurzel.  The cinematography, which is not only beautiful, but never hints at being anywhere but Colorado, is by Robby Ryan (PHILOMENA).  SLOW WEST, from Lionsgate, is available on BLU-Ray and DVD on Tuesday, July 7th.  Special features are a ‘making of’ video, and a pair of deleted scenes.



AUTHORS OPEN UP ON L.A. TALK RADIO’S ‘WRITERS BLOCK SHOW’

Every Thursday night at eight, Western novelist Jim Christina and bubbly OutWest purveyor Bobbi Bell spend an hour with a different author, discussing their work, on ‘The Writer’s Block Show’.  Jim Christina has written about a dozen novels, many featuring his 1880s avenger known as The Hunter.   Bobbi, with her husband, runs the delightful OutWest Boutique and Cultural Center in Newhall, which has hosted many a Western literary event, and every year at the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, Bobbi’s Buckaroo Bookshop is the central gathering place for chaps-wearing literati, an event in which Jim also participates. 



The lively and freewheeling radio discussions just started in May, and already there are seven available for your podcasting pleasure, all of them with a Western bent, including screenwriter, historian and novelist Courtney Joyner; author and documentarian Joyce Fitzpatrick; novelist Margaret Brownley; the filmmaking team of author Eric Heisner and illustrator Al Bringas; lawman-turned-historian J.R. Sanders; novelist D.B. Jackson; and novelist and Western children’s author Janet Squires.  At a time when most talk shows seem to be read from a publicist’s script, these shows are refreshingly off-the-cuff, a mix of anecdotes and nuts-and-bolts discussion about the work of writing.  And you can call in with your own questions. 


Jim Christina, J.R. Sanders, Bobbi Bell


UPDATE!  This Thursday, July 9th  Jim Christina will be answering the questions instead of asking them.  Author John Bergstrom will be the guest on July 16th. On July 23rd, the eerily entertaining author of weird Westerns, Ed Erdelac will discuss his work.  Rounding out July, on the 30th, yours truly will be in front of the mic.   THIS LINK will bring you to L.A. TALK RADIO for the live broadcast, Thursdays at 8 pm. THIS LINK will bring you to podcasts of all previous shows. 

     

‘SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF’ SATURDAY AT THE AUTRY!





James Garner, an actor whose easy charm let him slip effortlessly between comedy and drama – almost always with romance – stars in SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF (1969), Saturday, July 11th, at 1:30 in the Wells Fargo Theatre.  It’s directed by the master of Western action comedy, Burt Kennedy, who with this film gave two of the screen’s great villains, Bruce Dern and Jack Elam, a chance to play comedy, giving Elam in particular a whole new career.   Part of the Autry’s long-running What is a Western? series, the film will be introduced by Jeffrey Richardson, Gamble Curator of Western History, Popular Culture, and Firearms.



THAT’S A WRAP!



THE DUKES OF HAZZARD is being dropped by TV-LAND because it features the Stars and Bars.  When it comes to the Civil War, I have no doubt that the right side won, but I thought that war was over.  I was never a big fan of DUKES – I love Waylon Jennings’ music, and Catherine Bach in her ‘Daisy Dukes’ – but I generally got my fix of both during the title sequence, then switched to something else.  But I caught enough episodes to know that there was nothing racist or offensive going on.  And before you say, ‘who cares?’, remember that every episode had writers, directors, and plenty of actors, who did nothing wrong, but whose work will no longer be seen.  And more crucially, those people were counting on residuals to pay their bills!

TV-LAND is a business, of course, and has a responsibility to sponsors not to offend viewers.  But there was no outcry against this harmless and inoffensive comic action show.  Unfortunately we live in an age of moral one-ups-man-ship where you measure your superiority by the number of things that offend you, kind of a new-age spin on broadening your phylacteries  (I looked that one up -- Matthew 23:5). 

C’mon TV-LAND!  They’re just good ol’ boys, never meanin’ no harm!  It’s time for you to cowboy up!  By the way, I love the idea that, to avoid offense, they’re taking the Confederate flag off of the toy ‘General Lee’ cars, but continuing to sell them, and call them ‘General Lee’.  Who do they think they’re named after?  Sarah Lee?

Next week I’ll have reviews of the seasons premieres of HELL ON WHEELS and GUNSLINGERS!  

Have a great week!

Happy Trails,

Henry


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