Sunday, November 20, 2011


On Thursday night, November 10th, more than 800 of Marion Robert Morrison’s closest friends and biggest fans filled the Arclight Cinerama Dome in Hollywood for a tribute to Oscar-winning movie star John Wayne.  Wayne, who died more than thirty years ago, has been in the Harris Poll of Top Ten Movie Stars every year for over fifteen years – and he’s the only deceased actor on the list.  It was a perfect location for the tribute, as so many John Wayne movies, among them, HOW THE WEST WAS WON, had played there over the years.

(Nikki Pelley shows off buckle)

Folks in Western costume and regalia massed outside the theatre, and filled the lobby.  One I spotted was trick-rider and costumer Nikki Pelley, showing off the John Wayne Rodeo buckle she’d won at the Dean Smith Tribute to John Wayne Rodeo, where she and Western actor Ben Cooper were penning partners.  Also spotted were SILVER SPUR AWARD producer Cyndi Tracy and Western film and TV producer Rob Word. 

The orchestra section of the theatre was quickly filling up as the 7:30 start of the program neared, and sizing up the remaining spots, I grabbed the last seat in the first row of the balcony, reasoning that any farther back and I’d be looking through a sea of Stetsons. 

(Tommy Morgan and Clyde Lucas)

Music was provided, at an on-stage campfire set, by harmonica virtuoso Tommy Morgan, accompanied by singer and guitarist Clyde Lucas.  Morgan’s distinctive sound can be heard in John Wayne movies like HOW THE WEST WAS WON, THE WAR WAGON, RIO BRAVO, RIO LOBO, CHISUM, THE COWBOYS, and other Westerns from THE WILD BUNCH to BLAZING SADDLES, DANCES WITH WOLVES, and the current video game RED DEAD REDEMPTION.  He even plays solos on The Hollies’ ‘HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S MY BROTHER’, and the Beach Boys’ ‘GOOD VIBRATIONS.’ 

After a well-deserved hand for Morgan and Lucas, and ‘a word from our sponsor’ – in this case Land Rover of Encino -- the program began with Jules Verne Festival co-founders Jean-Christophe Jeuffre and Frederic Dieudonne speaking about their organization and its many good works – their annual Legendaire Award is their principal fund-raiser.  To underline where their inspiration comes from, they showed an original 1871 edition of Verne’s 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, which they’ve carry around for inspiration, from the Arctic to the Amazon when making their documentaries. 

Next onstage was John Wayne’s son Patrick Wayne, who commented, “If you had told me, in 1980 that my father’s popularity and celebrity would be as it is today, I would have said you were crazy.  I am in awe and amazed and humbled – and happy to have you all here – and I’m not alone.”  He asked his siblings, nieces and nephews, and step-mother to stand up, and it was a quite a group – well over a dozen.  He pointed out that the poll that still puts Wayne in the top ten movies stars, is taken with people from eighteen to twenty-six, none of whom were alive when Wayne died. 

Patrick next did an onstage Q&A with Nick Redman, whose WILD BUNCH documentary was Oscar-nominated.  “My dad was driven; he was driven to be successful.  He was focused.  When he was in high school he wanted to go to the Navy Academy, but they didn’t have the political connections to get him in there.  By the way – if he got into the Navy Academy he would have been the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  He was offered a football scholarship to S.C..  He played football his freshman year, and during the summer he broke his shoulder showing off for the girls in Newport Beach.  He couldn’t play football; he lost his scholarship.  But the kids who played football at S.C. worked at the studios for summer jobs, So he started working as a prop man, a stunt man…and went on to become John Wayne.  He was going to be successful wherever he went, and it just turned out by fate that it was to be in films...  He was encouraging.  He never tried to tell any of his children what they should do in their lives, he was always supportive.  But I think he was proud that Ethan and I decided to work with him.” 

Patrick Wayne was just a boy when John Ford offered him a whopping five bucks a day to work along with his dad in movies.  “It was a very special experience for me, because at that time I had four brothers and sisters, and none of (them were) interested in working in film.  So when I’d go on a film with my dad, I had him to myself, and didn’t have to share him.  It was special.”  He talked about how Ford was, “…brilliant, cynical, acerbic,” and how anyone who worked with Ford knew that one day they would become his target.  Patrick actually fared pretty well, outside of playing gin rummy with Ford.  “I thought I was pretty good, so I thought, ‘Well, I’ll let this old man win one.’  He catches on and says, ‘From now on, just play with Ward Bond and young boys.’”

Patrick held up the TRUE GRIT eye patch, which he explained was actually ‘a’ TRUE GRIT eye patch, because Wayne decided, what with dirt and sweat and make-up, to use a new one every day, so there were something like sixty eye patches. 

(Patrick, Marisa, Ethan and Pilar Wayne admire Legendaire Award)

Next to speak, briefly, was Ethan Wayne, and then Duke’s daughter Marisa and former wife Pilar were brought onstage to receive the Jules Verne Legendaire Award.

Next was Robert Mitchum’s son Christopher, who appeared with Duke in BIG JAKE.  “Duke was one of three mentors in my life.  My father of course, and much later Charlton Heston.  But in the middle I did three films with Duke, and he was my mentor.  And he took me from a two-line part in CHISUM, introduced me to Howard Hawks, to a co-starring role in RIO LOBO.  He asked me, ‘How’d you like to play my son?’  How do you say ‘no’ to that?  I love this family.  And I’m delighted and proud to be here.”

(Earl Holliman and Christopher Mitchum)

Next up was Duke’s brother from the SONS OF KATIE ELDER, Earl Holliman.  “It was a thrill for me.  I was a movie usher, and I used to see all these John Wayne movies.  I could never call him ‘Duke.’  It was always ‘John’ and ‘Big John.’  I was never a member of that inner clan.  I was like an orphan on THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER, because John had all these other people he’d worked with all these years – it was like a family.  And there was Dean Martin, who was in a world of his own – who was a great guy, a wonderful guy.  So I just kind of stood aside and watched all these folks, and it was really a great experience.  I think John at first kind of doubted my potential, because he didn’t know me at all.  And when he found out that I could fight and I could shoot and actually act, he was wonderful.”  And turning to Chris Mitchum, he added, “And your father, I played with too, in ANZIO.  It was a great experience.  It’s great fun to be here – thank you for letting me come.” 

Next onstage was John Wayne’s costar from TRUE GRIT, Kim Darby.  “I want to thank the Wayne family for asking me to be here tonight, and always being so supportive of me.  There is one story that sticks out in my mind, and that was at Paramount.  We had been on location, and we were back at the lot shooting.  And there was a big picture being taken of all the stars at Paramount.  They were shooting there (on the lot) all at the same time: Barbra Streisand, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Goldie Hawn, and there were some others in there.  There was this big room, and in the middle was (Paramount boss) Bob Evans.  So I was standing on the side watching this, and – I never called him Duke either – Mr. Wayne stepped out of the picture, walked over to me and said, ‘You’re not going to be on the side,’ and put me right in the middle of the picture with him.”

(Ethan and Pilar Wayne, Kim Darby, with Councilman Tom LeBonge presenting a proclamation)

There was one last surprise before the screening of TRUE GRIT on the Dome’s giant screen.  A filmed greeting was shown from Glen Campbell, who looked very well, and showed no signs of the Alzheimer’s Disease he’s been diagnosed with.  He told the story of John Wayne coming backstage after one of his concerts, because one of his daughters thought Campbell had talent, and offering him the part of LeBoeurf in TRUE GRIT.  When Campbell worried that he had no acting experience, Wayne assured him, “…that he could drag me through it alright.”  He had a great time on the film, though he was put out by the fact that, because he had little riding experience, “…what they gave me was a Shetland pony,” and Wayne enjoyed needling him with, “You understand that when we all ride off, you’re supposed to keep up with us!”  Always modest, Campbell claims that it was his own poor performance that helped make Wayne look so good that he got his Oscar.  But as we all saw a little while later, Campbell’s performance is solid, and considering his lack of experience, compares well to Matt Damon’s as the same character in the recent remake.  And yes, Campbell’s horse does appear to be a Shetland pony.        


Former California Governor and action movie-star Arnold Schwarznegger Tweeted this picture of himself, direct from the set of THE LAST STAND his modern-day Western directed by the Korean director of the wonderful THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WEIRD, Jee-Woon Kim. "Got a little banged up on set today. Thanks to the medical staff who got me back in action an hour later!"

The story about a small-town sheriff tracking down drug dealers who escape from court, the picture also stars Oscar Winner (for LAST KING OF SCOTLAND) Forest Whitaker (in the role previously announced for Liam Neeson), Rodrigo Santoro, Johnny “JACKASS” Knoxville, and one of the greatest of all Western villains, Harry Dean Stanton.


The Annual New Years Day Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena will feature an RFD-TV-sponsored float honoring the 100th birthday of the King Of The Cowboys, Roy Rogers!  And though they’ve been gone longer than Roy, riding the float will be Trigger, the smartest horse in the movies, and Roy’s wonder-dog, Bullet!  The artfully taxidermied pair has been touring the country, making public appearances, for about a year, since network owner Patrick Gottsch purchased the dynamic duo at the big Roy Rogers Estate Auction.  RFD-TV shows an episode of the Roy Rogers Show every Sunday, and a Roy Rogers movie – this week it’s JESSE JAMES AT BAY – every Tuesday, with repeats.  To get you in a Roy Rogers mood, click HERE to watch him on HEE HAW, singing a song about an auctioneer.


The Friday after Thanksgiving, when all those dummies are standing on lines to buy gifts they could as easily buy a week later for the same price, many smart characters like myself will be sitting at home watching the Big Valley Young Whippersnapper Marathon on INSP, featuring guest performances by youngsters on the edge of stardom.  Here’s a preview:


More and more, classic TV Westerns are available all over the TV universe, but they tend to be on small networks that are easy to miss. Of course, ENCORE WESTERNS is the best continuous source of such programming, and has been for years. It’s not in my current satellite package, which is why I often forget to mention it, but currently they run CHEYENNE, MAVERICK, LAWMAN, THE VIRGINIAN, WAGON TRAIN, HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, GUNSMOKE, BRET MAVERICK, CIMMARON STRIP, and HOW THE WEST WAS WON. (I’d get it in a minute, if I didn’t have to buy a huge package of STARZ and ENCORE channels just to get the one!)

But there are several new, or at least new-to-me, channels showing sagebrush fare. GEB, which stands for Golden Eagle Broadcasting, is largely a religious-programming cable outlet that runs at least one Western on Saturdays – the ones I’ve caught have been public domain Roy Rogers and John Wayne pictures – and sometimes have weekday afternoon movies as well.

For those of you who watch TV with an antenna, there are at least a couple of channels that exist between the standard numbers – largely unavailable on cable or satellite systems – that provide Western fare. ANTENNA TV is currently running RIN TIN TIN, CIRCUS BOY, HERE COME THE BRIDES, and IRON HORSE.

Another ‘in between’ outfit, ME-TV, which stands for Memorable Entertainment TV, runs a wide collection: BIG VALLEY, BONANZA, BRANDED, DANIEL BOONE, GUNS OF WILL SONNETT, GUNSMOKE, MARSHALL DILLON (the renamed black and white GUNSMOKE), RAWHIDE, THE RIFLEMAN, and WILD WILD WEST. Some of these channels are hard to track down, but if they show what you’ve been missing, it’s worth the search. 


That's right, the segment I was interviewed for is now viewable here:


Built by cowboy actor, singer, baseball and TV entrepeneur Gene Autry, and designed by the Disney Imagineering team, the Autry is a world-class museum housing a fascinating collection of items related to the fact, fiction, film, history and art of the American West. In addition to their permenant galleries (to which new items are frequently added), they have temporary shows. The Autry has many special programs every week -- sometimes several in a day. To check their daily calendar, CLICK HERE. And they always have gold panning for kids every weekend. For directions, hours, admission prices, and all other information, CLICK HERE.


Across the street from the Hollywood Bowl, this building, once the headquarters of Lasky-Famous Players (later Paramount Pictures) was the original DeMille Barn, where Cecil B. DeMille made the first Hollywood western, The Squaw Man. They have a permanent display of movie props, documents and other items related to early, especially silent, film production. They also have occasional special programs. 2100 Highland Ave., L.A. CA 323-874-2276. Thursday – Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. $5 for adults, $3 for senior, $1 for children.


This small but entertaining museum gives a detailed history of Wells Fargo when the name suggested stage-coaches rather than ATMS. There’s a historically accurate reproduction of an agent’s office, an original Concord Coach, and other historical displays. Open Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Admission is free. 213-253-7166. 333 S. Grand Street, L.A. CA.


A staggering number of western TV episodes and movies are available, entirely free, for viewing on your computer at HULU. You do have to sit through the commercials, but that seems like a small price to pay. The series available -- often several entire seasons to choose from -- include THE RIFLEMAN, THE CISCO KID, THE LONE RANGER, BAT MASTERSON, THE BIG VALLEY, ALIAS SMITH AND JONES, and one I missed from 2003 called PEACEMAKERS starring Tom Berenger. Because they are linked up with the TV LAND website, you can also see BONANZA and GUNSMOKE episodes, but only the ones that are running on the network that week.

The features include a dozen Zane Grey adaptations, and many or most of the others are public domain features. To visit HULU on their western page, CLICK HERE.


Every weekday, TV LAND airs a three-hour block of BONANZA episodes from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. They've stopped running GUNSMOKE.  INSP is showing THE BIG VALLEY every weekday at noon, one p.m. and nine p.m., and Saturdays at 6 p.m., and have just added DR. QUINN, MEDICINE WOMAN to their schedule.


Check out your cable system for WHT, which stands for World Harvest Television. It's a religious network that runs a lot of good western programming. Your times may vary, depending on where you live, but weekdays in Los Angeles they run DANIEL BOONE at 1:00 p.m., and two episodes of THE RIFLEMAN from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.. On Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. it's THE RIFLEMAN again, followed at 2:30 by BAT MASTERSON. And unlike many stations in the re-run business, they run the shows in the original airing order. There's an afternoon movie on weekdays at noon, often a western, and they show western films on the weekend, but the schedule is sporadic. 

AMC has been airing a block of THE RIFLEMAN episodes early Saturday mornings, usually followed by Western features.

And RFD-TV is currently showing THE ROY ROGERS SHOW at 9:30 Sunday morning, repeated several times a week, and a Roy feature as well -- check your local listings.

Have a great Thanksgiving, and take a minute to think about what you've got to be thankful for -- I mean besides getting the drumstick!

Much obliged,

All original content copyright November 2011 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. Thanks! You are a good guy and a straight shooter, Henry!
    Happy Thanksgiving to you, my friend!