Sunday, October 4, 2015





Get-TV, a SONY antenna movie network, or digi-net, has doubled-down on their Saturday Western series offerings.  In September they premiered NICHOLS, HONDO, and A MAN CALLED SHENANDOAH (you can read my coverage HERE.)

On Saturday, October 3rd, they added three more Western series to their schedule: THE TALL MAN (1960-1962), WHISPERING SMITH (1961) and LAREDO (1965-1967).  While LAREDO played on Encore Westerns a few years ago, the other two have rarely been seen since their brief initial runs.  All are from Universal Studios

THE TALL MAN tells stories about Billy the Kid (Clu Gulager) and Pat Garrett (Barry Sullivan) when they were still friends (you can read some of Clu’s memories of the series – and a lot of other memories – HERE .) .   In WHISPERING SMITH, Audie Murphy, America’s most decorated soldier of the Second World War, takes on the role of the railroad detective popularized by Alan Ladd in the 1948 Paramount feature of the same title.  Based on the Frank Spearman novel, four earlier WHISPERING SMITH films was made starting in 1916, with the character variously portrayed by H.B. Warner, J. P. McGowan and George O’Brien.  In the series, Guy Mitchell plays Smith’s right hand, George Romack.  LAREDO, sort of a GUNGA DIN out west, is the story of three Texas Rangers, played by Peter Brown, William Smith, and Neville Brand (also one of the most decorated American soldiers of World War II), plus Robert Wolders in season two (read my interview with star Robert Wolders HERE ), and their long-suffering captain, played by Philip Carey.  

Earlier this week I had the chance to talk with Jeff Meier, get-TV’s Senior Vice President of Programming, about all of the exciting recent additions to the get-TV line-up. 

Audie Murphy and Guy Mitchell in

Q: Most of the talk about ‘cord-cutters’, dropping satellite or cable service, is about people who decide to get all of their TV from the internet.  But there’s a whole other kind of cord-cutter, folks who are switching from cable back to antenna TV, and Sony’s Get-TV is a big part of that.  Why do you think it’s happening?

A: Well, the technology in the last few years has enabled the birth of a whole new group of channels, and that technology allows all the local (channels) to have the capacity to air three or four digital channels in addition to their regular feed.  Because there were already many millions of people who were just getting their television through the antenna, it created a market for these channels to develop, and it feeds upon itself.  Once you have another dozen channels available over the air, it makes people feel comfortable about using that as their main way to get entertainment.   

Q: How long have you been on the air?

A: get-TV’s been on the air since February of 2014.  So it’s been a little over a year and a half. 

Q:  I would classify you as a classic movie channel.  Initially, what audience were you aiming for? 

A:  We were looking for a classic movie audience.  We had looked at the landscape of digi-channels that had already launched, and it felt like there was a hole in the market for a classic movie channel.  And we were working at the Sony lot, and it’s something that I felt we could do really well.  We had always thought of the possibility of adding series to the channel, being generally classic across both TV and movies.  Now we’re at the beginning stages of adding some series to the mix.

Q:  Who watches – is it a rural or city audience, older or younger?

A:  Interestingly enough, our demographic information is not too extensive.  We gather a lot of our understanding of our audience by both social media, and by who writes to us.  I would imagine that our demographic is on the older side of the TV demographic.  It’s no surprise that when you’re airing classic TV and movies, the people who are most interested in that are people who experienced some of that content when they were growing up.  I wouldn’t make a guess as to whether we’re more rural or urban.  We’re carried in all of the top twenty-five markets, so we’ve got a lot of coverage in major cities.  By default, the most rural of places don’t get these stations because there’s not a local channel to carry our feed.

Q: Thus far you’ve drawn your content primarily – maybe exclusively – from the Columbia Pictures library, owned by SONY.  And you’ve had a particular focus on Westerns, both As and Bs.  Why?

A:  There’s such a passionate audience for Westerns.  When you look around the dial, whatever channels air westerns, they always get a tremendous audience.  So I knew there was a hunger there.  And I knew we had the potential to explore some Westerns that don’t get seen as often.  Since the very beginning of the channel we’ve been airing the Durango Kid movies, the Tim McCoys.  And those movies are a little bit on the older side, so they’re not the every-day fare of most of the channels that are airing Western content.  It felt like we could offer something new to an audience that was really hungry.  And that’s proven to be the case; we get a lot of great response about all of the Westerns that we air.

Q: How should viewers communicate with you, if they want to get in touch to say they’re enjoying something?

A: If you go to the get-TV website, on the bottom of the home page, there’s a section called ‘contact us.’  You can get in touch that way, if you want to reach us directly.  And on Facebook you can go to the get-TV page, like us there, and join that community – we have a very strong social media community, and we’re always looking to see what people say there.  And you can also engage with other viewers about the channel, and share your opinion.

Q: You’ve introduced an exciting new Saturday Line-up, Saturday Showdown, featuring NICHOLS, HONDO and A MAN CALLED SHENANDOAH.  And now you’re adding three more: LAREDO, THE TALL MAN, and WHISPERING SMITH.  Why did you choose these particular shows?

A:  I had both an overall goal and some specific goals.  I’m really interested in the whole area of how popular culture gets passed down from generation to generation.  It often seems like only a few big hits ever make it through the clutter.  Whether that’s a few big Beatles songs that make it through the clutter of music, or whether it’s things like BONANAZA and GUNSMOKE – they’ve made it through the clutter of Westerns, and they’ll be here forever; and those are great.  But there’s a lot of other really good stuff out there, and nobody’s let it see the light of day.  And I really think that there’s a lot of rabid interest, particularly in the Western content arena, and I thought that (viewers) deserved to have a few more options.

Then with each of the specific shows, there were different things that sold me on them.  In some cases it was star power: you can’t go wrong with James Garner in almost anything he does – he’s just wonderful.  So NICHOLS was important to me for that reason.  Others of the shows, because these are the first series we’re putting on the air after being primarily a movie channel, I wanted to have connection to movies.  HONDO is based off a movie; WHISPERING SMITH is based off a movie.  And WHISPERING SMITH stars Audie Murphy, who has been in a ton of movies, so I liked that connection.

Q: I suspect you’re going to be introducing Audie Murphy to a lot of people, because although he was a very big star in his day, his movies are very rarely shown.

A:  We’ve actually had some experience with Audie Murphy, because at one of the other channels we work on here at Sony, The Sony Movie Channel, we’ve aired a bunch of Audie Murphy movies, and they do really, really well for us, so I already knew he had that potential.  Frankly I hadn’t known he’d done a series, and when I discovered that he had, I crossed my fingers that it would look good, that we could get the materials, that we thought it would be a good hit for the channel.  And we were really happy that we could get it.  I was really interested in LAREDO because there are not that many Westerns series in color from those later years of the Western.  It’s important to me to have a mix of black and white and color on the channel, and this series has a sense of humor, and was well-regarded.  For all of the series we looked through information on-line that fans had written.  And we watched them and we tried to figure out which held up over time, and these all made the cut.  It’s an interesting mix, and it’s one that we expect in the future to be folding new series in on.  Viewers, if they have some particular favorites, they can use that contact information.  We’d love to hear their ideas of what they’d like to see, that they haven’t seen in a long time.

Clu Gulager, center, Barry Sullivan, right,

Q: What in particular attracted you to THE TALL MAN?

A: What I liked about TALL MAN was it’s Billy the Kid and sheriff Pat Garrett.  And even though it’s a series people have forgotten about, they’re iconic Western characters that people can still tap into now.  It provides an entry point that isn’t obscure, and allows Western fans of today to have a context with which to watch the show.   It’s a different take on that relationship.  And on A MAN CALLED SHENANDOAH, Robert Horton is from WAGON TRAIN, so he’s an established Western star.  This show didn’t fit a lot of my other parameters: it wasn’t based on a movie, it wasn’t in color, it wasn’t with a movie star.  But we watched it, and we just thought it felt like such a quintessential Western story that we couldn’t not try it out.  It also has a lot of great guest stars, and a great creative pedigree, and felt like it would be a fun show to watch.

Q: Does the smaller number of episodes in these series concern you?

LAREDO stars William Smith, Peter Brown,
and Neville Brand

A: No actually.  Because we’re airing our Saturday Showdown once a week, having a smaller number of episodes is fine.  If we were trying to air these episodes Monday through Friday for two years running, then I think they’d burn out pretty quickly.  But in the context of how we’re using them, I think they’ll be just fine.  And we hope to refresh the line-up and mix it up from time to time, too, so I think it’s just the right number of episodes.

Q: With adding these series, with adding THE JUDY GARLAND SHOW and THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW, are you redefining get-TV away from being a ‘movie channel’?

A: I think we are trying to redefine it a little, to be a channel that runs classics, and the classics can be classic movies or TV, but in no way are we going away from the core of being a classic movie channel.  Later this month we’re working with the Bogart Film Festival in Florida.  We’re always trying to figure out some classic movies we could help preserve, or premiere again.  And that remains very important to us.  We just wanted to add the extra elements and see how it goes.

Q: Did you grow up watching westerns?  Did you have favorites as a kid?

A: I’m probably too young for the core era of the Western.  I very specifically remember watching BRET MAVERICK, which was a sequel to MAVERICK, probably in the early ‘80s, with my father, who was always a James Garner fan – I remember that very vividly.  And we also watched a year-long mini-series called CENTENNIAL (1978-79), based off of the James Michener book.  I would say that was my first really big experience with an epic Western, and I thought that was a phenomenal show.  But like I was telling somebody yesterday, I’m from the LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE era of Michael Landon, not the BONANZA era of Michael Landon.

Q:  The kinder, gentler Landon.  What are your favorite western features?

A:  Oh gosh, it’s too hard for me to pick.  The most famous, classic ones, I fall in line with those:  HIGH NOON, SHANE, some of the big John Wayne ones.  Not an atypical general fan kind of point of view.   I have people here on my team who help us program all this, who are more specialists in Westerns than I am.

Q: What was your first job in television?

A:  I was an assistant in the scheduling department at Comedy Central before it was Comedy Central, when it was Comedy Channel in New York. 

Q: Are you a New Yorker?  I’m a Brooklyn boy myself.

A: I actually grew up in southern New Jersey, near Philadelphia.

Q: Anything else I should know?

A:  We’ll have more shows on the way, and more movies on the way.  And I hope people keep on watching, and let us know what they like.

Here’s the Saturday Showdown line-up:

2 & 3:15 p.m. – LAREDO
4:30 p.m. – HONDO
5:45 p.m. – NICHOLS

You’ll notice that the half-hour shows are in 40-minute slots, and the hour shows are in 75 minute slots.  That’s because the episodes are being show with commercials, but uncut.


As part of the Beyond Fest the much-anticipated new Western with horror overtones (if you consider cannibalism horrible), BONE TOMAHAWK, written and directed by Craig Zahler, and starring Kurt Russell, Richard Jenkins, Sean Young, Matthew Fox and many other notables, will play at 7:30 pm at Hollywood’s famed Egyptian Theatre.  Director Zahler and star Matthew Fox will attend.  For more information, go HERE.  

On October 23rd, the limited national release will begin. 


WESTERN RELIGION, James O’Briens’s exuberant Western fable about a gathering of high-rollers for a legendary poker tournament, kicks off its national release with a private red-carpet opening on Friday, Oct. 9th, followed by six days of screenings at the Arena Cinema in Hollywood, at 1625 North Las Palmas Ave., 90028.  It will also play dates in Austin, Iowa City and New York City.  Go HERE to buy tickets.   .  Go HERE  to read my review, and interview with James O’Brien.  Go HERE here to read about my on-set adventures: 


Thanks to author and ‘Dances With Wolves’ soldier Bill Markley for passing this on to me!  Recently I wrote that the historic TRIPLE U RANCH, location for much of ‘Wolves’ was up for sale.  Good news: it has been bought by the man who created Turner Classic Movies, Ted Turner.  Details HERE.  


Angie Dickinson & John Wayne in RIO BRAVO

I’ll be at the openings for BONE TOMAHAWK and WESTERN RELIGION this week, and report back.  And hopefully I’ll have part two of my SILVER SPURS coverage in the next Round-up.  And speaking of the Spurs, Wednesday was the 84th birthday of Angie Dickinson.  At the Spurs I had the chance to interview the talented and beautiful actress about her work on GUNSMOKE, RIO BRAVO and her other Westerns, and she could not have been more charming and funny.

And Monday was the 81st birthday of Brigitte Bardot, a fine actress and eye-popping delight in VIVA MARIA, SHALAKO and FRENCHIE KING, and a lifelong advocate for the protection of animals!

And Friday would have been the birthday of the great singing cowboy, actor, filmmaker, sports lover, visionary Gene Autry!

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright October 2015 by Parke – All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, September 22, 2015



At about 5 pm this past Friday, September 18th, the folks who make the Westerns and the folks who love them, began gathering at Studio City’s famed Sportsmen’s Lodge for the 18th Annual Silver Spur Awards.  (The Sportsmen’s, which will soon close its doors, has been the location for the Awards for many years, and in fact predates the film business in Los Angeles.  In the old days, you could fish in their ponds for trout, and have them cooked for your dinner.)

While the Silver Spurs, presented by The Reel Cowboys, has always honored Western film and television in general, this year’s Awards were much more specific, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the longest-running live action series in television history, GUNSMOKE.  Reel Cowboys President Robert Lanthier rode shotgun, but handed the reins over to Julie Ann Ream, combining the event with her Western Legends Awards.  Julie grew up around GUNSMOKE – her grandfather, Taylor ‘Cactus Mack’ McPeters, appeared in 48 episodes, and her cousin Glenn Strange was Sam the bartender at the Long Branch in 238 shows. 

I’ve done a number of red carpets, but this time was a little different for me: Julie assigned me a cameraman, and asked me to do interviews from five ‘til six as the guests arrived, for a DVD of the event.  I was very happy to do it.  After that hour, I continued doing interviews with just my recorder, and those are what you’ll read below.  You’ll have to wait to hear what Mrs. James Arness, Bruce Boxleitner, Angie Dickinson, Morgan Woodward, and Martin Kove had to say until the DVD is ready.

Mariette Hartley flanked by costumed escort, husband Jerry Sroka

When I asked Mariette Hartley which of her three GUNSMOKES was her favorite, without hesitation she said COTTER’S GIRL (1963), in which she played a wild girl found living in the trees, and in need of civilizing.   

MARIETTE HARTLEY:  COTTER’S GIRL.  The very first.  It just stretched me to the limit.  Because I was doing a play, a very heavy play, at UCLA, at the same time as I was doing GUNSMOKE.  Jim Arness never reads the (script).  He reads the page that he’s doing that day, rips it up and throws it away.  The character I played is Clarey, and Jim was very nervous about hiring somebody to actually be on the trail with him for that long a period of time.  He didn’t want Matt to be accused of, I guess, child molestation or whatever.  So he actually insisted on meeting me, reading with me, which is very unusual.  So I got the part of this character who lives in the trees and eats berries.  Ends up getting dressed up.  But I can’t walk – they have to teach me how to walk, how to eat.  And in that particular scene, the eating scene, which was so funny, I end up grabbing a steak and shoving it into my mouth.  Now Jim, having not read the scene, had no idea what was going to happen.  And when these guys, and Kitty, got together, and started laughing, that was the end of the scene.  And it took us four hours to get that scene.  I had to leave, do the play, come back in the morning, we started again, and the minute they said ‘action’ we started laughing, and we were done, just done.  That’s one of the reasons I loved it.  Also it was a wonderful script by Kathleen Hite, who writes a lot of the ones on Sirius XM.  (Note: Sirius XM plays old time radio shows.  Kathleen Hite wrote more than eighty radio scripts, including many GUNSMOKES, and 36 FORT LARAMIE episodes.)

Four-time Emmy-winner Miss Michael Learned may be best known for playing Olivia Walton, but she also appeared on GUNSMOKE.  The first time she played, as she told me, “a hooker.”  The next time, also in 1973, she played Matt’s love interest in MATT’S LOVE STORY.  She was called upon to play the same role in 1990 in the TV movie GUNSMOKE: THE LAST APACHE.   
HENRY: You had a relationship with Matt Dillon like no one else did.

MICHAEL LEARNED: Yes I did, but we don’t talk about it.  He had amnesia, so he could be forgiven.  I knew what was going on, but I didn’t know who he was.  I didn’t know about Miss Kitty.
HENRY:  Would you have cared?

MICHAEL LEARNED: (laughs) Probably not.

HENRY:  What was it like continuing a story with so many years in between?    

MICHAEL LEARNED:  It was kind of weird, to tell you the truth, because I never knew what had happened.  I didn’t know we had a daughter until (producer) John Mantley called me and said, “We’re doing a movie of the week, and you had a daughter.”  I said oh; okay.  It was a little strange, but just being with James, he’s such a calming person.  It was wonderful.  Nice to have a second chance to be with him.

L.Q. Jones and Tanner Beard

Miss Learned has been doing a lot of theatre lately.  “I just got back from doing MOTHERS AND SONS in Austin, Texas, and I’m going off in the summer to do another play in Canada.” 
Not all of the GUNSMOKE fans were old enough to have seen it in its original run.  Tanner Beard, who directed and co-starred in 6 BULLETS TO HELL was there with co-star Ken Lukey.  Their second Western together, 6 BULLETS was shot in Spain on Leone’s sets, and is probably the first Western to replace helicopter and crane shots with drones for dramatic pull-ups.  Actress Mindy Miller, all in buckskin, was eager to speak to L.Q. Jones.  Back in 1983, they starred together in the Charles B. Pierce Western SACRED GROUND. 

L.Q. Jones and Mindy Miller

L.Q. Jones is an accomplished writer and director as well as an actor.  I asked him about his thoughts on the GUNSMOKE writers.   

L.Q. JONES:  They had the best on GUNSMOKE. And you learn very quickly, you may think you can write, and you might be able to.  But can you write for GUNSMOKE?  Can you write for thirty minutes?  Can you write for an hour show?  I can’t. I have a tough time doing an hour and a half or two hours.  That’s a very special thing.  And they knew the people, and they knew their work.  Almost everything I’m in, they ask me to change (my lines) to fit me.  And I do a lot of it over the years.  But not on GUNSMOKE.  You take what they give you, hit your marks, say your words, and pick up your check.  The writers, the producers, the crew, they were so professional in what they did.

HENRY:  You did so many Westerns series at that time.  How did the atmosphere of the sets vary?

L.Q. JONES:  What do I say?  The people had become a family on GUNSMOKE.  Now I also did a lot of VIRGINIANS; and we became a family there.  I was a regular on about seven Westerns.  I’m not saying that GUNSMOKE was the only enjoyable series – I don’t mean that.  But they were the best of the best. They had great budgets.  They could afford to do the things they wanted to do.  And a lot of the other shows…  THE VIRGINIAN bear in mind, we were putting on a new western every other week.  That means you had two weeks to make an hour and a half show, which is a full motion picture.  So we had to clip a few things here and there on budgets.  We did some changes on the scripts.  Not that nobody did any changes on GUNSMOKE; they did.  But by and large you hit your marks, said your words, because what they gave you is what they wanted, and what worked.  And that’s what you’re out there to do, to please first the director, then the producer.  And I got so familiar with them that I could pretty well do it without having to ask them what to do next.  It’s hell to beat family, and I had family on two or three others.  I started out on CHEYENNE.     

HENRY:  What’s your favorite episode of GUNSMOKE

L.Q. JONES:  I know this sounds Pollyana-ish, I don’t mean to, but any show I do is my favorite at the moment.  If I didn’t, I’d have quit the business long ago.  What for me was the greatest fun, I did the first black episode of GUNSMOKE, where except for the regulars, it was all black.  And I was a terrible person.  I literally kicked dogs.  I beat kids.  I chased women, I drank, everything you could do.  They showed it on a Sunday as opposed to a Saturday.  That Monday I went to work; we lived in Camarillo.  I had about a forty-five minute trip to get to the studio.  I was driving my MG.  The top was down.  And I was booed and hissed for the entire twenty or thirty miles.    They had all seen the show the night before.  And they were throwing things and hissing and booing.  It was great fun to work under something like that.  That is my favorite, because of what happened after the fact, but I enjoyed the others as much as that. 

Then it was time for everyone to move in to the banquet hall.  I’ll have the highlights of what was said there in the next Round-up.  For my own interest, I was trying to explain the incredible longevity of the series.  It’s easy to just say ‘it was the best,’ and it was.  But why?  It’s worth noting that this past week also marked the 50th anniversary of the premieres of both THE BIG VALLEY (112 episodes) and LAREDO (56 episodes).  In fact, yesterday, September 20th, marked the 60th anniversary of the first hour-long Western drama, CHEYENNE, which ran for 108 episodes.  Why did GUNSMOKE last for more than twenty years as a series, producing 635 episodes, and four TV movies?  I believe it was the writing as much as the cast, and the secret to the writing was that it began on radio.  Radio is a much more intimate, less ‘showy’ medium than film, and with no visuals, story rather than action had to carry the interest.  And the thirty-minute running time meant that the shows had to rely on character at least as much as plot, since there was simply no time to get complicated.  The first six seasons of GUNSMOKE were half hours, most based on radio episodes, and even when the time ran up to an hour, the writers had already established the lead characters, and learned that stories about people were much more compelling than stories about events.




GUNSMOKE is everywhere, from TV-LAND to ME-TV to ENCORE WESTERNS, and with the new interest peaked by the television series’ 60th anniversary, it’s a perfect time to pick up these two fine reference books, and deepen your knowledge, and thus your enjoyment, of the greatest Western series ever to grace the small screen. 

Each book devotes hundreds of pages to episode guides, listing cast and crew and a brief synopsis of all 635 episodes, as well as the TV movies.   Ben Costello’s book is a lavish coffee-table book, with photographs, black and white as well as color, on nearly every page.  Costello’s book, clearly a labor of love done over many years, begins with a foreword by story editor Jim Byrnes, who wrote 34 episodes, and a preface by Oscar-winner and three-time GUNSMOKE guest star Jon Voight.  
Opening chapters detail the Gunsmoke story from its beginnings as a ground-breaking radio show created by John Meston and Norman Macdonnell, how western screenwriter Charles Marquis Warren would help craft it into a television series, the casting, and the real people behind the roles of Matt, Kitty, Chester, Doc, Festus, and all of the others.  Chapters are devoted to the many fine writers and directors who crafted the show.

Among the high points are interviews with the series stars, Dennis Weaver (Chester), Burt Reynolds (Quint) and Buck Taylor (Newly).  And there are two chapters of reminiscences by guest stars, including Morgan Woodward, Paul Picerni, Anthony Caruso, James Gregory, Adam West, William Windom, William Schallert, David Carradine, Loretta Swit, Earl Holliman, William Smith, Harry Carey Jr., and many more.   There are chapters about live performances by the cast, a staggering array of toys and collectibles, and even favorite recipes of the stars – I’m definitely going to try Jim Arness’ chili if I can find enough venison! 

‘GUNSMOKE CHRONICLES’ is by David R. Greenland, whose previous excellent books include BONANZA – A VIEWERS’ GUIDE TO THE TVLEGEND  and RAWHIDE – A HISTORY OF TV’S LONGEST CATTLE DRIVEHis trade paperback-sized book opens with a long chapter about the members of the GUNSMOKE acting family.  It’s followed by a look at Dodge City’s familiar faces, a season-by-season overview of the series, and a look at the GUNSMOKE movies.  Also included are lengthy interviews with actress Peggy Rea, actor Jeremy Slate, and a particularly in-depth talk with GUNSMOKE’s greatest and most frequent villain, Morgan Woodward. 

Ben Costello’s GUNSMOKE – AN AMERICAN INSTITUTION, is published by Five Star Publications, and is available from Amazon in hardcover, softcover and Kindle HERE

David R. Greenland’s THE GUNSMOKE CHRONICLES, published by Bear Manor Media, is available from them HERE.



Morgan Fairchild & Patrick Swayze 

THE REEL CIVIL WAR will be the topic of Wednesday’s WORD ON WESTERNS.  From THE BIRTH OF A NATION, to GONE WITH THE WIND to Ken Burns’ nine-part documentary and beyond, what were the best portrayals of the Civil War?

Bruce Boxleitner in GODS AND GENERALS

Confirmed guests include:  Bruce Boxleitner (GODS & GENERALS), Alex Hyde-White (G&G, IRONCLADS), Morgan Fairchild (NORTH AND SOUTH), Lee de Broux (THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE) and historian Phil Spangenberger.  The program begins at 12:45pm.  Come early to buy lunch and get a seat!  


Borax fans unite!  Activities will include a parade, games, music, food, and vendor booths!  It’ll be held at the Boron Community Park.  To learn more, call 760-793-4139.


The celebration features sagebrush songstress Belinda Gail, plus Southern Caliber and the Billhilyz.  Trick-roper, whip-cracker and gun-spinner Will Roberts will perform, and there will be reenactments and other Western entertainments courtesy of the Tombstone Legends and the Sweetwater Outlaws.  Not to mention equestrian events, stagecoach rides, a kids’ zone, vendors, food, and a beer garden.  It all happens at the Helendale Community Parke.  Learn more at 760-951-0006, ext. 230, or visit


Here's lookin' at you!

See you back here in a couple of weeks!

Happy Trails,


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

Monday, September 7, 2015




Three Western series from the sixties and early seventies, two of which haven’t been seen since their original airdates, will be returning starting September 12th on GET-TV, a SONY-owned antenna company in some markets, and cable or satellite in others.  

For years, series that had less than a hundred episodes were not considered worth syndicating.  All three series had just one season each: A MAN CALLED SHENANDOAH (1965) produced 34 segments, NICHOLS (1971) had 24, and HONDO (1967) just 17.  But the recent success of very short-lived programs, particularly ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (2003), whose production was actually revived after a seven-year hiatus, has proved there is life in a good show no matter how few the episodes.  

SHENANDOAH was developed by writer-producer E. Jack Neuman, who previously created MR. NOVACK (1963), and would go on to develop THE BLUE KNIGHT (1973), POLICE STORY (1973) and PETROCELLI (1974). It starred Robert Horton – still going strong at 91 – who’d starred for years on WAGON TRAIN as head scout Flint McCulloch.  When he left the series in 1962, he announced that he would not do a Western series again, but was tempted back by the tale of a man who awakens from a savage beating with no memory of who he is, or why anyone would want to kill him.  As he travels the West looking for answers, his adventures involve a stellar group of guest stars: Oscar winners Cloris Leachman, Martin Landau and George Kennedy, as well as Bruce Dern, John Ireland, Warren Oates, Sally Kellerman, L.Q. Jones and Strother Martin.

James Garner as NICHOLS

Between his great TV successes MAVERICK (1957-1962) and THE ROCKFORD FILES (1974-1980), James Garner starred as the lead character in NICHOLS, one of his personal favorites.  Set in the early 20th century, Garner plays a career soldier now tired of fighting, who comes home to the town named for his family, and is bullied into becoming its lawman, a job he does without packing a gun, and riding an Indian chopper instead of a horse.  Created by Frank Pierson, writer Juanita Bartlett wrote several episodes before moving with Garner to ROCKFORD FILES, and NICHOLS shares its humorously savvy tone.  Margot Kidder plays Ruth, the Miss Kitty of the town, and unlike at the Longbranch, you have no doubts about what goes on upstairs.

Ralph Taeger as HONDO

Of the three series, only HONDO had exposure after cancellation.  In 1988, Ted Turner bought MGM’s library, and created TNT.  HONDO started getting a lot of play.   A.J. Fenady, who created and produced HONDO, as well as the just DVD-released THE REBEL starring Nick Adams, recalls those early cable days.  “Ted Turner and I became pals.  He loved THE REBEL, but next to THE REBEL he loved HONDO.  When he was there at TNT, they played that thing time and again.  I saw him one time and I said, ‘For God’s sake, how long are you going to keep playing those same seventeen episodes of HONDO?’  And he said, ‘As long as I’m there.’” 

An unusually cheerful HONDO moment.

Ralph Taeger had the unenviable job of taking on a role that John Wayne made famous.  Fenady thought he was up to the challenge.  “You couldn’t draw a picture of a leading man any better than Ralph.  He had the build of Tarzan, he was handsomer than Randolph Scott, and he had a voice like Humphrey Bogart.  If that isn’t a combination for a western, I don’t know what the Hell is.” Even John Wayne was a fan of the show.  “Now Duke used to watch the series, and he said to me, ‘Ralph Taeger is as good a Hondo as I was.’  Parenthetical pause, ‘Almost.’  Well I loved Ralph Taeger.  I talked to him at least once a month until last year, when he died.  And doing the series HONDO led to (my) doing the movie CHISUM with John Wayne and his son Michael Wayne.” 

In addition to Taeger, the cast included Kathie Browne, Noah Beery Jr., and Aussie-playing-Indian specialist Michael Pate.  Among the guest cast did Fenady have a favorite?  “Without doubt, it’s Robert Taylor.  See, I’m the first guy who did a two-hour (theatrical) western, HONDO AND THE APACHES, and used it as a pilot.  MGM said, if you could get Robert Taylor to be in it, we’ll do it.  And I got Robert Taylor, and he was the gentleman of all gentlemen; he was a consummate actor, and a fine, fine man.  And, I’m still making money from that damned thing, because it’s still being featured overseas.”

Each series will be re-introduced with a ‘mini-marathon’, starting at noon on Saturday, September 12th with five episodes of NICHOLS; September 19th with five HONDOS; then September 26th with ten episodes of A MAN CALLED SHENANDOAH. After, they’ll be getting regular spots on Saturdays.  Saturday has always been an all-Western feature day for getTV, showcasing a lot of Tim McCoys and Durango Kid films from the Columbia Pictures vault, as well as big-budget oaters.   Jeff Meier, getTV’s senior veep of programming is excited about adding the shows to the line-up.  “Although each of these series originally had a short run, they all feature classic Old West action that will have viewers agreeing that they were cancelled far too soon.”


On Friday, September 18th, the 18th annual Silver Spur Awards, presented by The Reel Cowboys, will honor the 60th anniversary of the Western TV classic GUNSMOKE!  The event, to be held at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, will be attended by many Western stars who can trace the start of their careers to GUNSMOKE.  The event will benefit United Cerebral Palsy and The National Day of the Cowboy.  Those planning to attend, subject to their availability, include members of the James Arness Family, Bruce Boxleitner, Morgan Brittany, Angie Dickinson, Ed Faulkner, Mariette Hartley, Earl Holliman, Bo Hopkins, L.Q. Jones, Martin Kove, Martin Landau, Michael Learned, Gerald McRaney, Mihaly 'Michu' Meszaros, Mayf Nutter, Jacqueline Scott, Jon Voight, Johnny Whitaker, and Morgan Woodward – GUNSMOKE’s most frequent guest star!

There will be a silent auction, an elegant Delmonico’s-worthy dinner, musical entertainment, a panel discussion and Q&A led by Bruce Boxleitner, and the awards presentation – and a chance to clink spurs with some of your favorite Western stars.  Tickets are $125, $175 for VIP seating, and $250 for premium seating.  For tickets, call 818-395-5020.  To learn more, go to the official website HERE.

There you can also listen to a radio interview with the two folks who are running the event, Reel Cowboys president Robert Lanthier, and historian and event coordinator Julie Ann Ream, cousin of Glenn Strange, aka Sam the bartender at the Longbranch. 


On Saturday, September 12th, as part of The Autry’s long-running ‘What is a Western?’ monthly series, SANTA FE TRAIL (WB 1940) will be presented at 1:30 pm at the Wells Fargo Theatre.  Admission is free with your admission to the museum.  Directed by Michael Curtiz, it stars Errol Flynn as Jeb Stuart, and Ronald Reagan as George Custer, West Point Cadets in the days leading up to the Civil War, with Olivia de Havilland, with Van Heflin, Alan Hale, and Raymond Massey as John Brown. 

One big change is that Jeffrey Richardson, The Autry’s Gamble Curator of Western History, Popular Culture, and Firearms, who has for years informatively and entertainingly introduced the films, will not be there; he’s left the Autry for a curatorial job in New Mexico.  Instead, the film will be introduced by screenwriter, director, Western scholar and author C. Courtney Joyner, who is very excited about the opportunity.  “I consider this one of Curtiz' best westerns - and it’s the last of the Flynn/de Havilland team-ups.  There’s lots of history about it - and how far it strays from the truth!”  In compliment to the current, fascinating exhibition at the Autry, Empire and Liberty: The Civil War and the West, this and the next pair of films will have Civil War themes.  GLORY (1989) will screen on October 10th, and THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES (1976) will screen on November 14th – I’ll be introducing that one!


Following an always delicious lunch in the Autry’s Crossroad CafĂ©, Rob Word’s ‘A Word on Westerns’ interview program will focus on how the Civil War has been portrayed on film, from Keaton’s THE GENERAL to GONE WITH THE WIND and beyond.  Confirmed guests include Bruce Boxleitner and Alex Hyde-White of GODS AND GENERALS and esteemed historian Phil Spangenberger.  The program begins at 12:45, but get there early for lunch, and to make sure you get a seat, because these events always fill up.  But don’t get there a week early – the Autry’s ‘What’s Next? calendar incorrectly says this event is September 16th – it’s definitely the 23rd!


Thanks to author Martin Grams  for posting about this in the Rick’s Place  site. The former home of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans in Apple Valley, California, is up for sale.  It sold in 2012 for $645,000, and is now being offered for $770,000.  Want to take an on-line tour?  The realtor has made a ten-minute video, showing not only how the property looks today, but how it used to look.


Norman Rockwell's portrait of 
Alex Cord for STAGECOACH

And speaking of desirable cowboy properties, Alex Cord who, among many other roles, played the Ringo Kid in the 1966 version of STAGECOACH, and starred in the spaghetti Western A MINUTE TO PRAY, A SECOND TO DIE (1968), is looking to sell his home in Texas.  He says, “Quail Run Ranch (is) 30 acres with three fenced pastures, run-in sheds, a pond and a creek running through a wooded area. A custom covered arena with Bob Kiser footing, 200 feet long and 80 wide, built by Butch Reddish. Charming house on a hill, 3 bdrms, 2 bth, granite counters, hardwood floors, Jacuzzi tub, storm shelter. Insulated shop, 40 x 40 ft. Horse barn, 4 indoor stalls and 4 sheltered runs, large tack room, feed room and hay storage, wash rack. Three connected round pens, 125 feet, 50 ft, and 25 ft. The place is dead quiet, surrounded by 3 cattle ranches owned by the finest neighbors in the world. It is secluded but not isolated. Twenty minutes to Denton, one hour to DFW airport, ten minutes to Gainesville, Walmart, Home Depot, Tractor Supply.” 

If you’re in the market, or know someone who is, you can contact Alex through his official website, HERE.


I’ve decided to make a change to the Round-up.  Instead of publishing every weekend, I’m going to publish every other weekend, or bi-weekly.  The fact is, between writing the Round-up, being the Film Editor for TRUE WEST, and teaching full-time, I’m not devoting any time to a screenplay I’ve been trying to finish for months – and that’s the job that’s supposed to make me rich and famous!  With that in mind, if you have any good tips to pass along to me, or know of events that I should be covering, please let me know a little earlier! 

Happy Trails,


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