Saturday, June 3, 2017

‘UNDERGROUND’ GOES UNDER, PARAMOUNT RANCH 90TH ANNI., ‘NED KELLY’ KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN, PLUS MORE!





‘UNDERGROUND’ GOES UNDER – NO 3RD SEASON FOR WGNA DRAMA

Amid all of the good TV-Western news – second seasons of HBO’s WESTWORLD and AMC’s THE SON – comes disappointing news for fans of the excellent pre-Civil War historical adventure series, UNDERGROUND.  Despite strong ratings and Emmy buzz, WGNA has announced cancellation of the Underground Railroad drama. 

WGNA is owned by Tribune Media, and it was announced in May that Tribune was being acquired by local-TV giant Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 54 local Fox affiliates across the country.  Sinclair execs have gone on record saying that despite their respect for the quality and popularity of UNDERGROUND, they are looking for less expensive original programming.  Also cancelled was WGNA’s other high-profile drama OUTSIDERS, about generations of war-like hill people living off the grid in the Appalachians.     

UNDERGROUND Exec Producer John Legend and series stars Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Aldis Hodge have reached out to fans via social media, asking them to campaign for a move to another network.  Oprah Winfrey’s OWN has been approached, and it looked like the show might have a chance with BET, the Black Entertainment Television Network, but the deal didn’t happen.  HULU streams UNDERGROUND and they, too, have been approached without success.  Not that anyone’s asked, but to me, the most logical home for the show would be NETFLIX, who had great success when they acquired the A&E-cancelled contemporary Western LONGMIRE; my second suggestion would be AMAZON, which is in a frantic competition with NETFLIX for market share.


PARAMOUNT RANCH CELEBRATES 90TH ANNIVERSARY SUNDAY 6/4!


The Paramount Movie Ranch in Agoura will mark its 90th anniversary this Sunday.   The fun starts at 6 pm with a tour, and there will be displays, presentations, and a panel discussion featuring Hollywood historians Marc Wanamaker, Donald Bitz and Mike Malone. 

In 1927, Paramount Pictures bought 2,700 acres of the original Rancho Los Virgenes to build their movie ranch.  While they filmed there for decades, the sets eventually crumbled, and the buildings we think of as Paramount Ranch actually started out with a different studio.  Mark Wanamaker explains, “The RKO Ranch was at Louise and Burbank Boulevard, in Encino. The CIMARRON street was built there in 1931, which was a major western town if you remember the film. It became the nucleus of the ranch, and later they built other buildings, residential neighborhoods… In 1953 Howard Hughes owned RKO, and he liquidated the ranch – he didn’t need it anymore. The Hertzs were a family that came from back east that always wanted to own and run a movie ranch. The Hertz family purchased the Paramount Ranch, purchased pieces of the RKO Ranch and brought them to the Paramount Ranch. The current western town at the Paramount Ranch was the RKO western town.”  You can read the rest of my interview with Marc HERE.  

SAN FERNANDO VALLEY RELICS CELEBRATES ‘IVERSON MOVIE RANCH’, MOVES TO SAVE ‘CASABLANCA’ FAÇADE! 

IVERSON

Iverson's Garden of the Gods

On Tuesday, May 23rd, The Valley Relics Museum, final resting place for hundreds of mementoes of San Fernando Valley restaurants, theatres and other fun spots – their collection of classic neon signs is unequalled – honored the memory of the Iverson Movie Ranch with a Power-point presentation by Iverson Ranch historian Dennis R. Liff, and Ray Vincent of the Chatsworth Historical Society. 


Original sign on display at Valley Relics

The place was packed with Western-movie aficionados, many of whom had grown up near Iverson; in their enthusiasm it was sometimes a race to see whether audience members could blurt out a location or identify a movie still before the speakers could.  A popular location since the silents, including Buster Keaton’s THREE AGES and Curtiz’ NOAH’S ARK, hundreds of A and B Westerns have been shot there.  The burned-out relay station from STAGECOACH was filmed there, as were TV series like THE LONE RANGER – it’s the home of the famed ‘Lone Ranger Rock’, HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, BONANZA, THE VIRGINIAN, and dozens more.   


Julie Ann Ream meets a cigar-store Indian
she purchased at the recent Knott's Berry Farm auction


Dennis Liff

Sadly, in the late 1960s, the Simi Valley Freeway cut through the ranch, its visual incongruity and associated noise making it increasingly difficult to make any kind of movies, and record sound.  Condominiums have popped up among the iconic movie rocks that were the ranch’s greatest attraction; others have been dynamited, and still others have been buried.  But happily, the most famous rock area, the Garden of the Gods, is part of a park that is open to the public, as is the Lone Ranger Rock.


Find your way to the Garden of the Gods


Lone Ranger Rock


CASABLANCA


Just as I was putting this story to bed, I learned that Valley Relics and its founder, Tommy Gelinas, were in the news again.  It began a decade earlier, Christmastime in 2007, when it was announced that the original airplane hangar #1 at Van Nuys Airport, formerly Metropolitan Airport, was about to be demolished.  The reason this was big news was that it was the hangar around which so much of the action in Warner Brothers’ CASABLANCA (1942) had taken place.  It’s where Victor (Paul Henried) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) Laszlo arrive early on, and it’s where at the end someone leaves and someone stays and someone gets shot and it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship (I’m not going to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it). 

The owners of the Van Nuys hotel The Airtel, Jim and Christine Dunn, read the story, rushed over, and bought the front façade of the hangar.  It’s been stored in pieces at the Airtel ever since.  Christine Dunn announced in The Daily News that she is turning the job of reassembling the façade to Tommy Gelinas.  It’s not yet clear where its new location will be – Tommy thinks it would be too large for his museum.  It may well become the façade for a Moroccan restaurant in Van Nuys.  I know this isn’t strictly Western-related, but Humphrey Bogart starred in THE OKLAHOMA KID, and Paul Henreid directed nine episodes of THE BIG VALLEY, so I’ll continue to follow this story. 

KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN FOR ‘LEGEND OF NED KELLY’!



Matthew Holmes, whose THE LEGEND OF BEN HALL was named True West Magazine’s Best Foreign Western of the Year, has announced his next film, THE LEGEND OF NED KELLY.  Played previously by Mick Jagger and Heath Ledger, Kelly is an even bigger folk-hero in Australia then Ben Hall.  The most famous of the Aussie Bushrangers or highwaymen, he’s the one who made himself a suit of armor.  Matthew has just begun a Kickstarter campaign to finance the film. He financed the short subject version of BEN HALL that way, which lead to the feature.  I’ve never gotten involved with crowdfunding before, but I’m going to kick in a few bucks on this one.  If you’d like to learn more about the project, or possibly invest in it, click the link below:

FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE, 'GUNFIGHTER' BY THE MIDNIGHT LARKS!



Here's a brand-new video, directed by Mike Malloy, producer of the fascinating Western THE SCARLET WORM (2011) and director of the excellent documentary EUROCRIME (2012). Midnight Larks in a new band with roots from the band Spindrift, who contributed to the soundtrack of the Scott Eastwood Western DIABLO.  The Gunfighter in the clips is the very talented and scary Aaron Stielstra, in scenes from SCARLET WORM and 6 BULLETS TO HELL (2014).  Enjoy! 


HEAR ‘GUNSMOKE’ RADIO STARS COURTESY OF S.P.E.R.D.V.A.C.!


Jon Dehner is on the air!

Thirty-five years ago, in August of 1982, at a meeting of SPERDVAC, the Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety and Comedy, some of the greatest voice-talents in the history of radio gathered to discuss their work.  All had performed on GUNSMOKE, most on HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, and all had other impressive credits.  Parley Baer was the original Chester Proudfoot; John Dehner played Paladin on HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL and starred in FRONTIER GENTLEMAN; Virginia Gregg; Harry Bartell; Peggy Webber; and Vic Perrin played countless characters on dozens of series.  Barbara Watkins of SPERDVAC has begun posting one remarkable program a month, and this is a wonderful beginning.  Click HERE to listen.  


Georgia Ellis & Parley Baer

The link will also take you to the SPERDVAC page, where you can learn more about this fine organization, and even join up!

AND THAT’S A WRAP!



In the coming Round-ups I’ll be catching up with the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, the TCM Festival, book and video reviews, and the new documentary SPIRIT GAME – PRIDE OF A NATION.  And the nation is the Iroquois Confederacy.   It’s the true story of the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team, and how for the first time the Championship Games were held on an Indian Reservation. 

Happy Trails,

Henry


All Original Contents Copyright June 2017 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 21, 2017

KILMER HEADS BACK TO TOMBSTONE, INSP SALUTES DUKE, HIGH CHAPARRAL COMES TO BURBANK, AND MORE!


VAL KILMER TO RETURN TO TOMBSTONE AS DOC HOLLIDAY IN AUGUST!    


Cheers!

Iconic is a word used way too loosely, but if Val Kilmer’s portrayal of Doc Holliday in 1993’s TOMBSTONE is not iconic, I don’t know what performance is.  This August 12th & 13th, Val Kilmer will be in Tombstone, Arizona for ‘Doc Holli-Days’, a celebration planned by Sherry and Kevin Rudd.  The couple, who run the Tombstone Mustachery, a barber shop with an emphasis on facial hair, met the actor at a performance of CINEMA TWAIN, Kilmer’s multi-media performance as Samuel Clemens.  They told him what they’re planning, and Kilmer just announced on Facebook that he’s attending.  Stand by for details!  And while you wait, here’s a clip of Kilmer as Twain.


And just to be clear, when I say Val Kilmer is returning to Tombstone, I don’t know that he was ever actually in the hamlet of Tombstone before.  The movie TOMBSTONE was filmed nearby, just outside of Tucson, in the Western movie town of Old Tombstone, and the associated Western movie town of Mescal.


INSP ‘SALUTES THE DUKE’ FOR HIS BIRTHDAY MONTH OF MAY



John Wayne was born May 26th, 1907, and to celebrate the Western icon’s birthday, INSP is featuring his movies every weekend this month.  Not that this is exactly a new idea at INSP.  As Senior VP of Programming Doug Butts has observed, “Western movies are the preferred choice of our viewers. In the first quarter alone, we had more than 32 million viewers tune in to watch Westerns on INSP.  INSP has quickly become the go-to network on weekends for Western programming, and we are excited about being able to feature so many great John Wayne movies.  We know they will resonate well with our audience.”  Sunday, May 21st, at 2 pm Western Time, INSP will show John Wayne in THE WAR WAGON (1967) co-starring Kirk Douglas, directed by Burt Kennedy, scripted by Clair Huffaker from his own novel about an armored stagecoach full of gold.  At 7 pm it’s the John Ford classic SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON.  WAR WAGON repeats at 9 p.m. 

‘HIGH CHAPARRAL’ 50TH ANNI CELEBRATION IN BURBANK SEPT. 14-16



For several years, HIGH CHAPARRAL events have been held in Old Tucson, where the series exteriors were shot.  This September, a special celebration marking the 50th Anniversary of the classic Western series will be held in Los Angeles, this time under the auspices of Kent and Susan McCray.  Kent was the production manager on HIGH CHAPARRAL, as well as BONANZA.  He later partnered with Michael Landon and produced LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN, and some BONANZA movies.  Susan, whose Oscar-winning father Harry Sukman composed for HIGH CHAPARRAL and BONANZA, worked in casting on BONANZA, HIGH CHAPARRAL, and all of the Michael Landon series. 


Susan told me that among the series regulars attending would be Henry Darrow (Manolito Montoya), Don Collier (Sam Butler), Rudy Ramos (Wind), and Marie Gomez (Pearlita Flores).  Several guest stars will also be attending, including Buck Taylor – the GUNSMOKE star featured recently in HELL OR HIGH WATER, Bo Svenson, Geoffrey Duel.  When we spoke, Susan was excited to have just received confirmation from Yaphet Kotto, currently in the Philippines, that he will be attending as well.  His guest episode, BUFFALO SOLDIERS, is one of the most popular episodes in the series.  I recently wrote an article for TRUE WEST MAGAZINE about the history of Buffalo Soldiers in film and on TV – you can read it HERE.  I’ll be keeping you updated as the date gets closer.  You can go to the website on the poster to learn more, and to buy tickets!


Yaphett Koto and Cameron Mitchell

RADIO WESTERN ‘POWDER BURNS’ RETURNS FOR SEASON 2 WITH ED ASNER!



David Gregory’s POWDER BURNS, the new dramatic Western radio series, is returning for a second season with special guest star Ed Asner!  This is the second remarkable casting coupe’ for writer and star Gregory.  In season one, Robert Vaughn, the last of the Magnificent 7, guested, in one of his final performances, before dying this past November. 

The premise of POWDER BURNS, is that a man (John Wesley Shipp) comes back from the Civil War largely unscathed, is reelected sheriff, and just before his term is to end, a freak hunting accident blinds him and kills his son.  With the help of deputies, he plans to finish his term, and find out what really happened.  You can read my 2015 interview with David Gregory here.  Rather than a traditional ‘over the air’ broadcast, POWDER BURNS is an internet radio show.  While episodes of the new season have not yet been posted, click Episode One, Season One to hear the story from the beginning.  Links to the next episode will follow.

ONE MORE THING…


Michael Parks

We must, before closing, note the passing of two very fine acting talents.  Michael Parks, who died on May 9th at the age of 77, started his screen career with a pair of appearances on ZANE GREY THEATRE in 1960 and 1961, and made his first big splash as the lead in the series THEN CAME BRONSON (1969-1970), as a loner drifting across the country on his Harley, meeting people and having adventures ala ROUTE 66.  He was on his way to stardom. But then his growing reputation as a difficult actor, combined with his endorsement of George Wallace for President in 1972, put him on a blacklist, and he worked only in small supporting roles for a couple of decades.  I met him in 1979, at Warner Ranch, when he was guesting on FANTASY ISLAND.  I tossed a football around with him and his son.  He could not have been a more regular guy.  But he was also a wonderful actor.  Happily, directors like David Lynch, then Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez saw the great, overlooked talent there, and in the 21st century his career took off once more.   Among his Westerns were THE LAST HARD MEN, STRANGER ON THE RUN, GORE VIDAL’S BILLY THE KID, THE RETURN OF JOSEY WALES – which he also directed, FROM DUSK TO DAWN – THE HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, and DJANGO UNCHAINED. 


Powers Boothe

Powers Boothe, who died at the age of 68 on May 14th, 2017, went from Texas to Broadway to Hollywood, and created an indelible impression with his portrayal of Curly Bill Brocius in 1993’s TOMBSTONE.  He didn’t have to do anything else to be unforgettable, but he did it anyway, when he took on the role of Cy Tolliver in DEADWOOD.  His wonderfully deep and cynical voice made him a top choice for comic-book villains as well.

…AND THAT’S A WRAP!

Have a great week, and a great Memorial Day, and don’t forget that it’s not an arbitrary three-day holiday, but a time to remember the people who gave up their lives for our freedom.
Happy Trails,

Henry


All Original Contents Copyright May 2017 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

SANTA CLARITA COWBOY FEST, PLUS REMEMBERING STEVE LODGE, LONE RANGER RADIO, THANKS A MILLION!!


SANTA CLARITA COWBOY FEST THIS WEEKEND!  




The Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival will once again take place in Old Town Newhall, at William S. Hart’s own old stomping ground, Hart Park.  The Festival was inspired by a cowboy poetry event in Nevada, and expanded by an earthquake!  Taking their cue from the Elko, Nevada National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, an annual Cowboy Poetry event had been held at the Santa Clarita High School for a few years when, in 1994, the Northridge Earthquake that leveled much of California flattened the school’s auditorium.  The event was going to be cancelled when the Veluzat family, owners of Gene Autry’s old Melody Ranch movie studio, offered their Western street as a location. 

It was a hit, and the Festival would continue there for two decades, growing with each year, shifting its focus beyond cowboy poetry to include cowboy music and shopping and a celebration of cowboy culture and Western life, although the doggie doggerel is still a big part. 

Happily, interest in Western film and TV has had a mighty resurgence, and Melody Ranch, which had been a sleepy hamlet since the cancellation of DEADWOOD, became in great demand:  Quentin Tarantino leased it for a year for DJANGO UNCHAINED, and HBO for two years for WESTWORLD.  The Festival had to relocate, and is now celebrating its 3rd year among the historical buildings at Hart Park.


Andrea Kidd, Peter Sherayko, Don Edwards, Bobbi Jean Bell


There will be five performance stages, two large shopping areas – Sutlers’ Row and Mercantile Row – living history activities, decidedly Western activities for grown-ups and for the little squirts, a vast array of grub, a tour of Hart’s mansion, and a slew of presentations at the Buckaroo Book Shop and OutWest Stage, right across from Hart Hall.  This venue is presented by Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell of the OutWest Western Boutique and Cultural Center just across the street from Hart Park.  In addition to the opportunity to meet your favorite Western authors and buy their books, there will be events aplenty.  Among the musical talents who will be performing there both days are the legendary John Bergstrom, Almeda Bradshaw, Women on the Move Trio, and Jerry Hall and Trick Shot.  Bobbi Jean and Jim Christina, who co-host the Writer’s Block Radio Show, will be hosting panel and interviewing guests.  Cheryl Rogers-Barnett, daughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, will be speaking about growing up among Western royalty, and about the smartest horse in the movies, Trigger.   


Western authors Andria Kidd and Janet Squires will be reading their stories and poems to the youngins, and for grown-ups, Andria and P.W. Conway will share their poetry.  Peter Sherayko, actor, author, and undisputed go-to man for creating historical authenticity in Western films, will share his insights on succeeding in the Western film industry.  Jim Christina will chat with Western non-fiction authors J.R. Sanders and Jeff MacArthur about some of the less-known but fascinating lawmen and characters that enlivened the Old West.

And, yup, I’ll be there, too.  At 1 p.m. both days I’ll be with C. Courtney Joyner, author of the SHOTGUN books series, discussing the odd world of Weird Westerns, sagebrush tales with horror and sci-fi elements.  Sunday at 11 a.m. I’ll be talking with Westerns novelists and screenwriters Dale B. Jackson and Eric Heisner about turning Western books into movies and movies into books!
You can get the full schedule for the Buckaroo Book Shop for SATURDAY and for SUNDAY. 


Cliff Retalick creating a live soundtrack for silents!

For the second year, Tom Barnes, he of the long-running Retroformat series at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre, will be back at the Pardee House to present two days of silent Westerns, all in glorious 8mm celluloid.  And once again the films will be accompanied by the keyboard virtuosity of Cliff Retalick.  As Pardee House, built in 1890, was at times a filming location for Tom Mix, Harry Carey and John Ford, any lingering ghosts should be delighted.  Here is the screening schedule, which includes a William S. Hart and an Art Acord feature:

Saturday
10:00 a.m.  Broncho Billy Anderson in Shootin' Mad (1919) (approx. 25 min.)
10:45 a.m. Will Rogers in Hustlin' Hank (1923) (approx. 25 min.)
11:30 a.m.  Stan Laurel in West of Hot Dog (1924) (approx. 25 min.)
12:00 p.m.  William S. Hart in Knight of the Trail (1915) (approx. 25 min.)
12:30 p.m.  William S. Hart in Bad Buck of Santa Ynez (1915)  (approx. 25 min.)
1:30 p.m. Art Acord in The White Outlaw (1929)  (approx. 70 min.)

Sunday
10:00 a.m.  Broncho Billy Anderson in Shootin' Mad (1919) (approx. 25 min.)
10: 45 a.m.  Stan Laurel in West of Hot Dog (1924) (approx. 25 min.)
11:30 a.m.  Will Rogers in The Cowboy Sheik (1924) (approx. 25 min.)
12:15 p.m.  William S. Hart in Bad Buck of Santa Ynez (1915)  (approx. 25 min.)
[Lunch break]
1:30 p.m.  William S. Hart in The Narrow Trail (approx. 70 min.)
3:00 p.m.  Will Rogers in Hustlin' Hank (1923) (approx. 25 min.)
3:45 p.m.  Stan Laurel in West of Hot Dog. (1924) (approx. 25 min.)
4:30 p.m.   Broncho Billy Anderson in Shootin' Mad (1919)
5:00 p.m.  William S. Hart in Knight of the Trail (1915) (approx. 25 min.)
5:30 p.m.  William S. Hart in Bad Buck of Santa Ynez (1915)  (approx. 25 min.)



With more than twenty music acts, American Indian dance by The Wild Horse Dancers, traditional Mexican dance by Ballet Folklorico, rope-twirling by Dave Thornbury, and gun-spinning by champion Joey Dillon, there will be plenty to entertain attendees of all ages and interests. 
The hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 10 ‘til 6 Sunday.  Daily tickets are $13 for adults, $9 for kids, free if you’re under 3, and you can save more if you buy in advance.  Parking is free, as is the shuttle to the event.  You can learn tons more at the official site,HERE.  I hope to see you there!




REMEMBERING STEPHEN LODGE

This February many of us Western fans lost a dear friend, author Stephen Lodge.  His career was so far-flung that I was trying to figure out what to write about him, and then I realized he told his own story better than anyone else possibly could.  I first met Stephen back in 2011 I reviewed the book that was the story of his life, AND.....ACTION! and interviewed him.  Knowing that many of my current readers weren't reading The Round-up back then, I'm re-running the review and interview below.  If you'd like to read Stephen's books, you can find them all at Amazon, HERE.


BOOK REVIEW:  AND…ACTION!

And…Action! is the story of a fascination with the Western film as seen through the eyes of four people: a kid who grew up on the edge of the film business, an aspiring teenage actor, a TV and movie costumer, and a screenwriter.  The odd thing is, they’re all the same man, Stephen Lodge.

Stephen was eight years old in 1951, and like most American boys of the time, he and his kid brother Bobby were obsessed with Westerns -- the B kind and the TV variety.  But unlike the rest of us, he was in a position to do something about it that went far beyond wearing his cap-gun rig and watching the tube.  Not only did he live in the San Fernando Valley, where so many of the movies were made, his Aunt Bette was a secretary at Monogram Studios, and his Uncle George was a script supervisor for Gene Autry’s Flying A Productions! 
(Steve and Bobby with Johnny Mack Brown)


So Stephen begged and bugged his mom until she finally broke down and got his Aunt and Uncle to arrange a visit to a set.  The first time it was the Iverson Movie Ranch, for a Johnny Mack Brown film, and from that moment on, the kid was hooked.   Soon mom was driving the kids to Corriganville to watch the GENE AUTRY SHOW being filmed, where they met Gene, Pat Buttram and Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan; the family vacationed at Big Bear Lake, where a small movie town was the location for the WILD BILL HICKOCK series.  Best of all, Stephen’s mom broke all the rules, and always brought a camera to the set: the book is full of snapshots and 8mm frame blow-ups of the boys and all the stars they met.


(Gail Davis shooting ANNIE OAKLEY at Melody Ranch)



And Stephen could be a pretty conniving little cuss: he pretended to have started a Jimmy Hawkins fan club to get into Melody Ranch, where THE ANNIE OAKLEY SHOW was being filmed – Hawkins played Annie’s kid brother, Tagg.  Over the next few years he had the chance to visit Pioneertown, Bell Movie Ranch, Spahn Movie Ranch (yeah, the one the Manson Family moved in on).  As teenagers, he and his friends even got kicked off the set of BAT MASTERSON, although Gene Barry turned out to be such a nice guy that he shared his lunch with the outcasts. 

Though written by an adult, the stories are told from the perspective of the little kid who lived them, which is so much of their charm, although the adult world peeks in occasionally: Dickie JonesBUFFALO BILL JR., is unhappy with negotiations with Flying A, and after he does his scenes, drives away like a bat out of Hell.  Another time, the family leaves Iverson Ranch, disappointed that a Roy Rogers shoot has been cancelled, only to learn the reason: one of the Rogers children had suddenly died.



(Filming THE ROY ROGERS SHOW)


Stephen pursued an acting career for a time, appearing in TV shows like FURY, THE FARMER’S DAUGHTER, DR. KILDARE and MY THREE SONS, and features like DINO with Sal Mineo.  At age sixteen Stephen spent a summer working as an actor/stuntman at Corriganville, and gives a fascinating and nostalgic description of that summer job most of us would have killed for. (Although maybe not on the day Ken Maynard showed up drunk and belligerent!) 

But his long-term film and TV career was as a costumer, starting in 1963 with THE FUGITIVE, followed by the short-lived John Mills Western series, DUNDEE AND THE CULHANE, which took him to Flagstaff, Apache Junction and Old Tucson Studios in Arizona.  He worked on many series over the years, and even those like the sitcom CAMP RUNAMUCK, which would seem to have no western tie-in, often did.  RUNAMUCK was shot at the Columbia Ranch in Burbank, where Gary Cooper faced down the villains of HIGH NOON.  The RUNAMUCK location was soon the home for another of Stephen’s series, HERE COME THE BRIDES.  No wonder Stephen considers the Columbia Ranch his ‘home’ studio. 

Over the years he worked at all of the studios and ranches, and his passion for them is palpable.  He has plenty to say about which were great, like Republic; which were ridiculously small, like Allied Artists (once Monogram, then a PBS station and now a studio for the Church of Scientology); which were chopped down to nothing, re-dressed until they were unrecognizable, or nearly burned to the ground.  He worked on Western comedies like THE DUTCHESS AND THE DIRTWATER FOX, TV series like THE DEPUTIES (which introduced Don Johnson), TV movies like THE SUNDANCE WOMAN, and has insights into them all.  He worked for Quinn Martin and worked around Andrew Fenady (THE REBEL), and tried desperately to work for Sam Peckinpah.  He hung out at the last of the great Western Cowboy Saloons, the Backstage Bar, right outside the Republic gate.  Now it’s a sushi bar.

And then there was another career, as a screenwriter.  With Steve Ihnat, an actor he met as a guest star on DUNDEE, he co-wrote the rodeo comedy THE HONKERS (1972), starring James Coburn and Slim Pickens.   But aside from co-writing KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977), it was a long time between writing gigs.  When he got RIO DIABLO made in 1993, starring Kenny Rogers and Naomi Judd, it was after more than a decade of trying. 

Now retired from costuming, and writing fulltime, he and his wife have moved to Rancho Mirage, not far from one of his favorites haunts, Pioneertown.  When I spoke to him about AND…ACTION! recently, he told me he hadn’t set out to write a book.  “I wrote every individual story when I felt like writing one.  They were stories that I wanted to share with people, and I’d send them to all my friends.  And finally I decided that maybe I ought to put them all together into one big compilation of stories.”

HENRY: What was your favorite experience as a kid visiting a set?

STEPHEN:  I would have to say it was Johnny Mack Brown at the Iverson Western Town.  (WHISTLING HILLS, 1951) The fact that Jimmy Ellison was there, too.  And I was not even aware of who Noel Neil was until much later.

H: Well, she hadn’t done the SUPERMAN series at that point.  What was your favorite encounter on a set, with a star, when you were a kid?


(Steve with Andy Devine)


S:  I think probably the coolest guy was Andy Devine.  He was nice to my brother and me; let us sit in a chair with him, offered to buy us a Coke.  Pat Brady was just great – he really entertained me. 

H:  You visited pretty much all of the ranches.  As a kid, did you have a favorite?

S: Corriganvile.  And I ended up working there.  That was kind of a dream.  I was sixteen years old, believe it or not, with a .45 tied to my side, out there every weekend.

H: What was Crash like to work for?

S: A very pleasant man.  I mostly worked for a guy named Charley Aldrich, who ran the street shows.  Crash was there every weekend, and had pictures taken with kids, on his horse, and all.  He wanted to do movies in the middle of the week, during the summer, for the people, when there were no movie companies out there.   He had an old script for a Billy the Kid show, an old 16mm camera, and a sound system.  He cast me as Billy the Kid, so I’d go out there every day, and put make-up on – we had a small number of people pretending to be the crew.  We started with film in the camera – and I’d love to get my hands on it, and I think Tommy Corrigan’s got it someplace.  We shot two weeks or so, and I rode Flash, his horse, and he let me borrow his gun for the whole thing.  That went on until September, when I had to leave abruptly, because I got a real job in Hollywood, doing a pilot for a show called THE WRANGLER.  It was the first videotaped Western ever – they shot it out of a truck, with three cameras.  Jesse Wayne was the other stuntman.  They did the pilot right on the KTLA backlot.  He and I had a fistfight, he knocked me down some stairs.  I turned around, pulled my gun and shot him, and he fell off a balcony.  And that was the pilot.  They wanted to see what it would look like on videotape.  Actually, they made (the series) with Jason Evers.  It went for a summer replacement. 

H: You acted on shows like FURY.

S: That was basically a silent bit.  But I did shows like MY THREE SONS, and DR. KILDARE.  And not too many more. 

H: What was it like, after spending so much time on sets, behind the camera, to suddenly be in front of them?

S:  (laughs) It’s a little more scary being in front of them. 

H: You have a lot to say about Pioneertown. 

S: I grew up near Pioneertown.  We were up here in the 1950s, when Pioneertown was in pristine shape.  We never saw Gene Autry shooting here, but he was shooting up here at the same time.  The Red Dog Saloon was open for business, the bowling alley was open for business, the restaurant was open for business – it’s not anymore, but that’s the way it was.  It was kind of nice in the old days.  I haven’t been there lately, but I’ll be going up there this week.  There’s a friend from out of town that I’m going to take up there.  

H: What was your first show as a costumer? 

S: My first was a commercial at Columbia, and then I did two or three days on THE LUCY SHOW, then I got a quick call to replace the set man on THE FUGITIVE, and I stayed there for the next two seasons. 

H: That was a show that was always on the road.

S: We had a lot of fun with that.  It was like being in the Army. 

H: As a costumer, are Westerns more fun than non-period things?

S: Oh, for me it is.  A lot more fun, because that’s what I always wanted to do: whether I was a cowboy or a costumer really didn’t matter. 

H: Is it very different being an in-town costumer, versus being off to the Painted Desert or Old Tucson?

S:  Well, when you’re on location you get a lot more freedom.  So does the director; so do the actors.  You get too far out, and someone will make a phone call.  I enjoyed the locations more than the at-home stuff. 


(Steve at Old Tucson)



H: Do you have any particular memories of Old Tucson?

S: Yeah, that it was awful hot.  I always ended up there in July, and it was in the monsoon season.  It would rain all night, and bake you during the day.  The other little town that Old Tucson owns, I don’t know what they call it now.  They used to call it Harmony.

H: Now they call it Mescal.

S: That’s it.  They used that in TOM HORN, and I was out there on GUNSMOKE.  That was a nice little town.  Looked like it was out in the middle of nowhere, but it was actually not that far off the road.

H: You worked on one of my favorite quirky Western series of the late 1960s, HERE COME THE BRIDES. 

S: Oh yes!  I’m still in touch with a lot of the fans – the middle-aged women.  I was on that for half of the first season, and the last season.  (We shot that at) Columbia Ranch.  And sometimes we’d go up into the mountains of Burbank, or behind Glendale, and we’d go up to Franklin Canyon.  We had a ‘green set’ on the stage, and we had a lagoon set, right close to the town set. 

H: What’s a ‘green set’?

S: That’s where there’s trees and rocks and it looks like outdoors, but it’s really on a stage.  Like WAGON TRAIN, whatever was set up was set up on a green set.  That was a fun show to work on.  A lot of good people to work with, not only in front of the camera, but behind the camera. 

H: In 1972 you went from costumer to screenwriter with THE HONKERS. 

S: (laughs) But didn’t stay too long.  The money runs out and you go back to rag-pickin’ again.  I got three more (movies made) than most.

H:  How did THE HONKERS come about?

S: I’d gotten to know Steve Ihnat, we’d done about four, five shows together, and we’d always talk.  He’d just finished making this little movie he’d shoot on the weekends I said I’d just written a screenplay, called HONCHO, with Dave Cass, who was my writing partner at the time.  I let him read it, and he came back and said, ‘Do you want to write a rodeo script with me?’  I’d go to his place every weekend, write everything down, and during the week I’d put everything into a screenplay format, and come back.  We worked on it four weeks.  Then we went to a rodeo, to see if we got it right, to get the color, to get the announcer’s way of saying everything.  His agent told him to write a script and he could get him a deal directing it, too.  They got us a deal immediately with Filmways, for Martin Ransohoff, but Marty passed on it.  You’ve got to remember when this was, and we were talking about shooting in real locations, in real houses, and he was talking about building sets in the stage.  He passed, and that was a big disappointment. They went to Levy-Gardner-Laven (producers of THE RIFLEMAN and THE BIG VALLEY), and they set up a deal.  And before I knew it we were in CarlsbadNew Mexico, and before you knew it, it was over.  A year later it was the premiere, and a week after that, Ihnat died. 

H: Any particular memories of James Coburn or Slim Pickens on that?

S: Slim Pickens is probably my favorite guy I ever worked with.  And he drove his Mustang like he rode that bomb in DR. STRANGELOVE.  A crazy sonofabitch, I’ll tell you.  All cowboy. 

H: He started out as a rodeo clown.  You can’t get much more dangerous than that.

S: No, and in THE HONKERS he fought the bull a little bit. 

H: You continued as a costumer and a writer – KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS is a notable success.

S: (laughs) They didn’t pay me too much for that; it was a success for everyone else.  But it’s a good credit to have, because it became a ‘midnight classic.’

H:  You didn’t write another western movie until 1993’s RIO DIABLO. 

S:  Actually we wrote that in 1975, and it was optioned a few times here and there – we probably made more off the option money than on the sale.  We made some pretty good money on it when CBS picked it up, but that was way later. 


(Steve with Dickie Jones on the BUFFALO BILL JR. set)




(Steve with Dick Jones recently at Lone Pine)


H: Was that a cathartic experience, to get it made so many years after you wrote it?

S: Yeah, and it’s also a very disappointing thing when they start cutting big chunks out of it.  There was a lot more with Kansas, that was Stacy Keach Jr.’s part.  We had a big scene where they drop bodies off of the stagecoach, and that’s when you first meet Kansas.

H: Are you still writing screenplays?

S: Yes I am, still trying to sell ‘em.  (The one I’m working on) is called SHADOWS OF EAGLES; it’s one of my novels that I turned into a screenplay.  It takes place in Texas during World War II.  I wanted to do a play on THE GREAT ESCAPE, but I wanted to do it in Monument Valley.  One time I’m driving down to Terlingua,  Texas with a friend of mine, and we go through a little town called Marfa, that’s where they shot GIANT, and he says, “Right over there is where the old German prison camp used to be.”  And I did a double-take.  So in my story it’s the furthest prison camp from the east coast, and a very important prisoner gets put in there, he’s a Blue Max guy from the First World War. So he’s an older guy, and now he’s been captured, and the Germans decide if they can break him out it’ll be good for moral.  So they send in some guys who break him out, and maybe fifteen or twenty other Nazis.  And the Army doesn’t have enough men to run the prison and chase escapees.  So the Texas Rangers offer to do that, and it ends up with Texas Rangers with six-guns and Winchester rifles on horseback, against Germans with automatic weapons and quad trucks.  And it’s a big chase across Texas’ Big Bend.  I have a guy who’s publishing it as an e-book. 


LONE RANGER RADIO REVIVAL!



Back in October, with the Presidential election just around the corner, I had the pleasure of taking part, as announcer, in a series of election-themed Old Time Radio reenactments,  One of them was a Lone Ranger episode, 'The Not-So-Crooked Election', and I was delighted to learn that Steven Kirk, who plays the Lone Ranger, had the show video-recorded.  If you're a fan of dramatic -- okay, melodramatic -- radio, watching this will bring back fond memories.  And if you haven't seen how Old Time Radio shows were performed, with live sound effects, it might even be educational, and hopefully funny.  By the way, Jeff Zimmer, who does the sound effects, also directed.




THANKS A MILLION!  

Or make that 1,017,241!  That's how many pageviews the Round-up has had since it began in January of 2010.  I find it astonishing, and hugely gratifying.  As I write, the Round-up is being read in the United States, China, Spain, Turkey, France, Belgium, Lithuania, The Netherlands, South Korea, Germany, and Austria.  Thank you so much to all of my readers, in more than 100 countries, who regularly read the Round-up!

THAT'S A WRAP!

I hope you're all enjoying season two of UNDERGROUND on WGN, and the new AMC Western THE SON.  I've only seen episode one of the former, and one and two of the latter, so don't give anything away!  Coming very soon, video reviews, and my coverage of the TCM Festival!

Happy Trails,

Henry

All Original Contents Copyright April 2017 by Henry C. Parke - All Rights Reserved