Tuesday, 30 June 2009
SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME (1956)
To my shame I knew nothing about this film - I would most certainly not have bought it were it not bundled together in a Paul Newman box set. I sure would have missed out on a better boxing movie than any of the Rocky movies. It's the DVD case which is a reproduction of the original cinema poster shown that would have turned me off. The poster - although an artists rendition of the very final scene in the film - is not representative of this utterly brilliant Newman movie which also features a young Steve McQueen in a minor role.
Man this film is gritty, features an amazingly tight performance from Paul Newman and an even better one from Pier Angeli. It was originally written for James Dean who, sadly died before filming could begin, but to be honest it's difficult to think of anyone other than Paul Newman in the lead.
The fighting scenes, particularly in the final fight, are brutal and it is clear that Stallone lifted several sections verbatim for his first Rocky movie.
I'm amazed I'd never heard of this movie - I think my knowledge of classic films is at least above average so the fact that this movie slipped beneath my radar is surprising. Mind you both the WIKI and IMDB are vague on details for this classic and neither site mentions that Steve McQueen, in only his second role, is a minor cast member. So maybe the film is after all somehow largely forgotten.
The first act is full of social conscience and reminded me of the old Cagney gangster Warner movies as we watch Newman's Rocco Barbella rise through the ranks of petty crime before entering the army and going AWOL before being sentenced to a year's hard labour and a dishonourable discharge. Then down on his luck Rocco takes to sparring to pay the bills and is discovered as a major new fighter.
Course it does get a little obvious in parts - crooked fight promoters, the mob, a wife who doesn't like her husband fighting but only because I've seen these themes countless times in boxing movies that came after this one. And on times Newman, in only his second movie, becomes too method and mumbles his way through whole chunks of dialogue. Nevertheless the film is gripping and the ending brought tears to these hardened eyes.
An excellent movie.
I'm gonna sit back down and watch it a second time.
On region 2 DVD as part of THE PAUL NEWMAN COLLECTION from Warner Home Video. The other films in the box are The Left Handed Gun, Harper, The Mackintosh Man and The Drowning Pool. All of which I am more familiar with.
BATTLE PICTURE WEEKLY IS BACK
After over 21 years comic lovers can once again buy Battle Picture Weekly on the newsagent's shelves - well sort of. Egmont Classic Comics in conjunction with W.H. Smith have just published a Battle Picture Weekly Souvenir Special.
The comic which costs £3.99 is for sale exclusively at W. H. Smiths. The company have more of these planned and have already published a Roy of the Rovers issue - next up is Misty and then Buster.
I and. I'm sure, other aging comic lovers would love to see the same things done for Eagle, Valiant, Tiger, Hotspur, Action, 2000ad and other books of our long departed youth.
The books are in standard magazine format and other than the fact that it would have been nice if they contained an historical article on respective titles, they are brilliant.
Download a PDF about the titles planned HERE
IT'S JUNE 30TH - THE TARNISHED STAR IS HERE
Published today by Robert Hale LTD/ Black horse Westerns the book is now available anywhere books are sold. There will be a special edition of The Tainted Podcast later today looking at the book which has become the fastest selling in BHW history. The reviews have been positive and western fans will enjoy this old style traditional tale of the American West.
There a new interview with myself over at The Black Horse blog HERE . The interview is made up of points raised during the recent Black Horse Western Weekend which focused on myself. Thanks to Ian for putting the rambling chat into a readable interview.
Monday, 29 June 2009
WESTERN ICONS - GARY COOPER
Gary Cooper is an all time great - if you take his westerns alone, of which he starred in over thirty, then his place is assured in cinema history and that's not mentioning the many classics he did in other genres. Noted film critic Pauline Kael, writing of Cooper's solid looks said - "He had the kind of look that made you want to give him power of attorney." And Charles Laughton famously said of Coop, "We act. he just is."
If you think that Eastwood invented the laid back, brooding cowboy then think again. Gary Cooper perfected the lean style of acting decades before Clint - actors who worked with him complained that he was wooden but then changed their minds when they saw the rushes.
Cooper had as a young man worked on his father's ranch in Montana. He became an expert horeseman and knew the arduous side of a cowboys life when he used to have to shovel manure at 40 degrees below.
He started out in showbusiness as a $10 extra in the silent westerns before starring himself in a series of silent westerns- his western breakthrough was an adaption of Owen Wister's The Virginnan in which Coop's trademark slow laconic speech style was developed. In 1936 he played another western icon in The Plainsman in which he took on the role of Wild Bill Hickok.
He became a sensation and his style was often mocked. George Burns used to joke that Cooper was out acted by a wooden indian. For Coop it was very much less is more and he thought the method actors to be idiots but then method guru, Lee Strasberg called Cooper a natural method actor.
In 1940 Cooper surprised everyone by showing uncanny comic timing playing against Walter Brennan in The Westerner. And in 1952 came High Noon which is regarded by many as the westerns finest moment. I wouldn't go quite that far but it would be high in my top ten.
He did several other classic westerns - Vera Cruz and the Magnificent Man of the West. The latter originally flopped because audiences couldn't take Cooper as a troubled ex-outlaw but since the films true worth has been discovered. His last western was the perfectly solid, The Hanging Tree.
Gary Cooper has long departed this world but his soul lives on in his work. The cowboy he created is still out there, riding through the psyche of every western we watch. The legacy of Gary Cooper is strength, dependability, trust worthiness and a good that time will never tarnish.
Thank you Gary Cooper.
Sunday, 28 June 2009
Project: THE TAINTED ARCHIVE
Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Pageloads 204 256 204 204 223 166 182 1,439 206
Unique Visitors 117 128 97 135 115 86 98 776 111
First Time Visitors 77 86 64 95 79 60 69 530 76
Returning Visitors 40 42 33 40 36 26 29 246 35
One day and counting
In one day I will officially become a published novelist - yep, June 30th is the official publication date for Tarnished Star even if the book is already available and people have been able to get it for the last two weeks. I'm still excited, though and I think tomorrow I'll get up extra early to celebrate.
It's an important event and one that any writer will, no doubt, remember fondly and so Tarnished Star is out there for anyone wanting some old style traditional western adventure.
And so I get back to The Tainted Archive and getting some great and varied content out there - this coming month sees the blogs first birthday and I intend to double the readership by this time next year so I'll have to get my thinking hat on. I do try and provide a entertaining mix of features and interviews and reviews.
And so here's to Tarnished Star - I hope it entertains and doesn't dissapoint any readers who give it a go. My second novel, Arkansas Smith will be out next March and so the blatent self promotion will start again before too long.
But seriously let me know what it is you like or dislike about The Tainted Archive so I can produce a blog that you just have to read.
Thanks to everyone who has supported me.
JESSIE EVANS - MUCH MORE THAN BILLY THE KID'S MUCKER
The current issue of Wild West magazine features an article on Jessie Evans (sometimes spelt Jesse). Now my knowledge of the Old West badman was vague. I knew he'd ridden both with and against Billy the Kid - the pair having rustled together and then joining opposite sides in the Lincoln County War.
The article by David S. Turk and Rick Parker was very enlightening and amazed me with some of the details - I didn't realise how well known a desperado Jessie had been - back in the day the young outlaw was as well known and feared as Billy himself. The article is accompanied by a group picture of Evans and among others, a man identified as Billy the Kid. If this is the actual Kid in the photograph then is is sensational - as far as anyone knows there is only one positive image of the kid. The photos, sepia, aged, smudged identify a short, maybe pudgy man as Billy the Kid and I suppose it could maybe be the same man as in the verified Kid picture. The picture is marked Texas Rangers 1878 and was printed in the L A Times in January 1950. And given the time it was taken there is no reason to not believe the man in the image is Billy the Kid but most historians dispute the picture.
The article informs us that Evans was 5 feet, 8 inches and weighed only 150 pounds. He had gray eyes, light hair and a fair complexion. He had a criminal record of length, several times serving prison time, and used several alias and that historians can not even be sure that Jessie Evans was actually his real name.
The WIKI tells us he was the leader of The Jessie Evans Gang and that he was born in 1853 and died - well, that's not certain. There is also a link to details of Evans' possible real identities and his connection with the dreamscape desperado himself, Billy the Kid.
Images of Jessie Evans on the web are also scarce so these two here are the best of a small selection. But anyone wanting to know more should pick up the current issue of Wild West Magazine for a interesting and detailed article. And so much more - it's my favourite magazine in the whole world.
BLACK HORSE FORUM
Saturday, 27 June 2009
THE DEVIL'S RIGHT HAND
Please leave a comment after reading.
Tarnished Star reviews
JACK MARTIN AUTHOR WEEKEND
You'll need to sign up to take part in the forum - it's a great group for all western fans.
Friday, 26 June 2009
WESTERN FICTION REVIEW
I'M EXCITED NOW
Thanks to everyone who has posted a review for this book - I love you all.
BROKEN TRAIL BY ALAN GEOFFRION
Pinacle import £7.99
I very much enjoyed Walter Hills' movie Broken Trail which had Robert Duvall in the starring role. So much so that I snapped up the source material for the film as soon as I saw it looking back at me from the rapidly shrinking western section at my local Borders - (Borders Llantrisant - you need to get some new westerns in at once.)
The author is a friend of Duvall (They are pictured together below) and wrote the novel with the actor in mind for the part of the aging cowboy, Print Ritter who with his nephew Tom who set out to drive a herd of unshod horses to Wyoming to sell to the British who are desperate for good horses to send out to their troops fighting the Boar War.
On their eventful trip they save a group of Chinese girls who are destined for the many brothels springing up on the frontier. The pair, together with the girls, and a tragic cowboy named Billy they face up to everything the trail has to throw at them - Indians, bad weather, sickness and outlaws.
There is much more background given to the Chinese girls in the novel than transferred to the screen and there is also a scene set during the Boar War that highlights the amount of horses the British were losing on the battlefield. As in the film it is the character of the aged cowboy that really carries the story forward. It's a great western adventure set very much in the traditional style.
JACK MARTIN WEEKEND ON THE BLACK HORSE WESTERN FORUM
This SAT/SUN the Black Horse Express forum will hold another of it's author weekends when the forum is given over to a specific author for the weekend. This weekend it's your truly, Jack Martin. I'll be taking questions most of Sat and all of Sunday - you'll have to be a forum member to take part and anyone wishing to do so can join the Black Horse group - HERE.
It's a great group made up of authors and readers of western fiction.
Also Jack Martin related - this weekend Beat to a Pulp will run my short western, The Devil's Right Hand which is short western story. I was thinking of Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey when I wrote this one. And hope I've captured something of the classic style. If you do like this story then the site also holds an earlier Jack Martin western, A Man called Masters.
And also this coming Tuesday sees the official publication of my novel, The Tarnished Star but it's available right now from all the usual sources. HERE
Below are some of the reviews for The Tarnished Star
Tarnished Star reviews:
Michael Jackson dead
Yeah he was strange and probably too close to children but only as another child would be. In fact from his actions and mannerisms it seems to suggest that he had never really matured himself and could only relate to children. He should have been protected and not thrown to the wolves that was the media witch hunt.
For all his wealth Jackson lived a troubled, sad and short life.
Thursday, 25 June 2009
Return of a Man Called Horse (1976)
Return of a Man Called Horse
Directed by Irvin Kershner
1970's A Man called Horse was an exceptional western and this 1976 sequel, whilst not quite as compelling as the original, is a worthy follow up. Lord John Morgan (Richard Harris) is fed up with his staid life in the UK, he's no doubt annoyed by the MP's expenses scandal, and so he decides to leave once more to join his brothers in the Yellow Hand Tribe.
Critic Judith Crist wrote at the time - "Maintains a tricky balance between nausea and boredom."
The pre-title sequence is 17 minutes long and serves as a prequel to the main narrative. We see that even when home in his British mansion, Morgan has not left his Indian Friends. His room is filled with memorabilia of his time with the Yellow Hand tribe.
When Morgan does return to the sacred burial grounds he finds that the people have been driven away by an evil band of trappers who enslave many Indians and construct a massive fort on sacred ground. What follows is an authentic look into the life of the Sioux in the early 19th century as Morgan goes through another painful ritual and persuades his Indian brothers to fight for what is theirs.
The attention to Indian life is incredibly detailed and Richard Harris puts in another great performance as the white man living among the Sioux. And there is a touching climax when the chief who died in the battle for land that has been theirs for centuries is buried in the sacred ground of his forefathers.
The film is currently available on a vanilla DVD from MGM - not so much as a trailer. Still it's an excellent movie.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
The Tainted Podcast episode three completes our look at the Leone/Eastwood Dollar films with The Good, the Bad and The Ugly. You can get it through Itunes or listen to it HERE.
Or you can listen to it while browsing via the player in the side bar of the Tainyed Archive.
Put the pen to paper.
There are scores of "How To" books out there that claim to help in every process of creating fiction - plots, names, characters. And yet none of them really help, none come to the rescue when your bogged down with a plot twist that refuses to budge and take the story forward. In fact most of them have a negative impact since the time wasted reading them could be better spent writing.
You want to be a writer, Stephen King says, then JUST WRITE.
You know I think he has a point.
Issue 2 of Filmstar Magazine has just gone on sale - of interest to western fans is a feature/interview with cult film director, Alex Cox who talks about his new book, 1o,000 ways to die which looks at the Italian westerns from a film directors perspective. Add to that all the current movie news and some nice retro cinema features makes this my current favourite among the many movie magazines. It reminds me in content of the short lived Uncut DVD. Let's hope this mag has a long future ahead of it.
The latest issue of Wild West Magazine (vol 22, no 2) is now on sale. Sporting a Bat Masterson cover the magazine is filled with the usual interesting historical features centered on the Wild West. I found the article on Jessie Evans (one time compadre of Billy the Kid) to be of special interest.
The current issue of 2000AD sees the end of Savage Book four with the American invasion of fortress Britain. I don't buy 2000AD regularly these days but always follow the Savage stories. The character was my favourite back in the day and I'm pleased with the way the writers have taken the character in the new updated series.
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
HOLLYWOOD SURVIVOR - STEVE HAYES INTERVIEW
In comparison to the adventures they put on the page, most writers live a sedentary life, not so for writer, actor and filmmaker Steve Hayes - British born as Ivan Hayes he arrived in the USA in 1949 and made straight for Hollywood. He became an actor, changing his name to Steve Hayes (Ivan, no doubt, sounding a bit too commie for the times) on the suggestion of his close friend, Steve Reeves, and worked at MGM, Warner, Paramount, Columbia, RKO and Samuel Goldwyn Mayer as well as network television and radio.
Steve has in his time counted Errol Flynn, Lana Turner, Tyrone Powers, Marilyn Monroe, Alan Ladd and Clark Cable among his personal friends. His recollections of times spent with these golden stars are detailed in his two volume memoirs, Googies: Coffee Shop to the Stars.
Steve currently lived in California where he writes novels and screenplays - he can draw detail for his all action Black Horse Westerns from the fact that he has, in his eventful life, explored the Amazon, took part in the Cuban Revolution, trekked in both the Himalayas and Tibet and been involved in many escapades that would make your hair turn grey.
Here's a snippet from an Amazon review of Steve's memoirs:
"For a decade Steve supported himself as an actor, manager of the Googies
coffeeshop adjacent to Schwab’s Pharmacy, and by taking jobs as they were
offered. Along the way he met and often befriended many of Hollywood’s popular
stars. His insight into these personalities goes against the grain of what
you’ll normally encounter in books where the allure relates directly to the geek
fan base salivating for more celebrity gossip. What Steve Hayes has accomplished
is the creation of a memoir lacking in egotism and animosity. What I appreciate
is this man’s honesty when talking about his successes and failures, and his
unabashed look back at an era he knew was ending even as he experienced it.
There is an underlying tone of sadness, but without being maudlin. I was
particularly taken by his sensitivity when talking about his marriages,
girlfriends and friendship with the stars he encountered. For example, his view
on Clark Gable is right on, and ultimately heartbreaking. Ditto with Flynn, Ladd
and others. "
So where does one start interviewing a man like Steve Hayes. I started off by asking him if he was a hellraiser himself in his younger days? After all he hung around with all these hard drinking, hard living stars.
"No, despite having a great adventurous life and being in wars and revolutions (Congo and Cuban), I never considered myself a hellraiser. I was never much of a drinker. I was always with heavy drinkers (Flynn, and others like him) and usually ended up looking after them so had to be sober. Also, I can handle one drink. But two drinks brings out the violence in me. It can be directed at anyone, including friends, so long long ago I stopped any drinking sprees as it always landed me in trouble or jail.
However, I was constantly fighting because as a young man – 16-40 – I was extraordinarily good looking (the beautiful or pretty boy type not ruggedly handsome) and was extremely defensive and sensitive about it. I had lots of blonde hair, blue eyes and was/am 6’ 2” and with my British accent was a mark for older gay men. In Hollywood and around the world I was constantly being hit on. My older sister, being a ballerina, had lots of gay friends and from my teens I was always ready to fight to prove I wasn’t like that.
As for Errol Flynn, I was a house guest of his for a while and hung out with him. We used to go to all the big Hollywood nightclubs (Ciro’s, Mocambo, Earl Carroll’s, Cocoanut Grove, etc) together and have a great time. But since he was an alcoholic, and I was his pal, I felt obligated to keep him out of trouble – which, by the way, he usually didn’t initiate; it just came to him – and to get him back home in one piece. I did the same thing for several other big stars like Sterling Hayden and Ty Power. That kept me on my toes and usually sober.
I went out with Ava Gardner and Lana Turner on occasion, and was a friend of Marilyn Monroe’s (we spent time together during her wild relationship with DiMaggio) and I would have one drink during dinner; but again, because of my innate violence, seldom had more than one drink. Not sure where that violence stems from; if you met me you’d never dream it existed. But all my wives saw it frequently whenever I was challenged in some way. And all made a point of telling me to stay sober. Today, I am loved by my wife, Robbin (she’s 29 years my junior) and her partygoer buds because I am the official designated driver!!
I knew Bob Mitchum, but I was not a “friend.” Our paths didn’t cross that often. When I arrived in Hollywood in 1949 he had recently been arrested for pot smoking (1948, I think) and because I knew Lila Leeds, who was with Bob the night he got arrested, I met him several times. He was a good guy and always treated me, and most everyone else, well. Most of the stars at that time drank and smoked heavily. So it wasn’t that unusual. Flynn was not a good drunk; had a tendency to be mean and troublesome. Sober, which he seldom was, he was a delight. I had lunch recently with one of his daughters, Rory, and she and I grumbled about how the world always loved Flynn being a hellraiser but as we both knew, he also was a great father and a homebody who loved peace and quiet and loved to write more than anything.
The guy who I did occasionally let my hair down with was Rory Calhoun – who was a hellraiser and loved the women. He was also a bow and arrow hunter. He, myself, and our mutual buddy Guy Madison often went hunting together – sometimes with Howard Hill, the famous archer who taught Flynn how to shoot. We’d go to Catalina or in the High Sierras to hunt and on occasion to Santa Cruz Island to hunt wild boar."
Steve also took part in the Cuban revolution. I asked him about this.
"When Castro first started the revolution he had most of the world on his side – including many people in the US government. He was
considered a Robin Hood trying to get rid of the Sheriff of Nottingham (the dictator, Batista). I decided to go fight alongside him and left Hollywood in Feb 1958, I think it was. I also intended to write a Cuban version of For Whom the Bell Tolls – which is why I went and saw Hemingway at his finca outside Havana before going to see Castro. I had lunch with Hemingway (he left Cuba shortly afterward and went to Ketchum, Idaho where he soon died), who warned me not to get mixed up in the fight. He didn’t trust Castro, or his brother, and as it turned out he was right. I trekked through the Sierra Maestra mountains for several days, trying to find the rebels, and eventually word reached Fidel and he sent some of his men to round me up and bring me to him. I told him what I wanted to do and he wasn’t that thrilled to have me around – and Raul and Che were even less thrilled. I think they would have shot me, rather than risk my being a spy, but Castro knew a dead Englishman (I had not yet become a naturalized American) would not help his cause. I was blindfolded and led back to Holguin. From there I met two Australian newspaper writers who had interviewed Castro’s former military advisor, William Morgan, an American army deserter who was fighting a sort of Second Front in the Escambray Mtns in central Cuba. I used their name to meet Morgan and he agreed to let me join them. But after a raid on a sugar mill, and some unpleasant butchering of Batista soldiers in surrounding villages, I realized these guys were like Quantrill’s Raiders after the Civil War, out for themselves – and took off for Havana. While there I did bump into Flynn and Beverly Aadland, his teenage girlfriend, while they were filming a dreadful movie called Cuban Rebel Girls. Flynn was debauched and barely remembered me. (Back in Hollywood in ’59 I spent time with him again at the famous Garden of Allah hotel on the Sunset Strip – and he was a pathetic drunk by then. He died shortly afterward while trying to sell his yacht in Seattle.) I wrote the novel, calling it “The Wrong Revolution,” but no one would touch it. By then Castro was hated by the US and no one wanted to be associated with him."
Enough spills and thrills for one man but Steve was no stranger to an unconvetional life and he even worked as a private investigator. I prompted him to spill the beans on this period of his eventful life,
"In 1954-59 while the manager of Googie’s, I worked occasionally for Fred Otash, an ex-cop Hollywood cop turned PI. He became famous for his mo vie star cases. He cleaned up after Monroe was found dead. I and another detective, Norman Placey, who used to take photos for the gossip mag, Confidential, worked about a dozen cases for Freddy. The most famous was the one involving Michael Rennie and Anita Eckberg. We caught them screwing and when it hit the mags, it caused no end of grief. I think he was still married then. I hated the job and as my writing progressed, I gave up PI work. I found it sleazy."
These days Steve's main efforts are put into his novels, despite the fact that screenwriting can prove much more profitable. I asked him about his novels.
"I write novels only because I enjoy the challenge. I can make five times more writing a 30-minute animation than a novel. And the latter take only a weekend to write. But nothing beats the concision and beauty of a well-written, well-structured novel. If you read any of my work (I have 2 new BHWs coming out this year as well as another western, Viva Gringo! and a PI novel called A Woman to Die For, published by BearManor Media) you’ll see the style is very succinct and understated. I learned that from doing short shorts (one page short stories) for the slicks. Can’t remember if it was Look or Colliers that always pushed them, but whichever it was they were extremely difficult to do. Any idiot can write a story when the page count is unlimited. To make sense and create characters on one page – whew! I also learned to write short, as they say, writing scripts for episodic TV. An hour had to be 54-56 pages with commercial breaks; a thirty minute drama, 24 pages. So every word counted."
So is it the novels that give Steve the most enjoyment?
" Which do I enjoy writing most? I like all writing. It is why I am here and when I’m not writing, I’m pretty much thinking about writing. When I was writing episodic TV (age prevents that now as there is great discrimination in TV, where the producers are often in their 20s), I’d often write on three series at once. I’ve always gotten up about 3am to write, and I’d work on one show till before lunch; one show till before dinner, and one show after dinner. Maybe that’s why I’ve been married so many times!!!!!"
The Archive is a big classic Hollywood fan and will all these big names going about I am feeling rather starstruck. I asked Steve what John Wayne was like.
" I did not know John Wayne. He was one of the few big stars I didn’t know. I met him twice. Once when I auditioned for a minor role on one of his movies (a stinker with Betty Bacall, can’t recall the name) and another time when Louis L’Amour, who was a good friend, introduced me to him. Both times Wayne was really friendly. No stuck up star was he. I would have loved to have been on one of his movies with Ford, though; man, that must have been a doozy. "
As a screenwriter, Steve worked on many of the classic TV westerns. I asked him if he has any anecdotes for Archive readers.
"I worked on High Chaparral but unfortunately, the script ran into character problems (network interference) and did not get past the second draft stage.
Don’t know if you know, but you used to go pitch three ideas to the story editor; if he liked one he’d tell you to write a treatment (for which you were paid). If he liked that, you went to first draft (for which you were paid). If they liked that, you did second draft and occasionally a final “polish.” That meant you got all the money, whatever the WGA scale was, and it usually made it on the air. But you could be cut off any time and only be paid for what you wrote.
I knew a couple of the cast (Gilbert Roland; and Henry Darrow in particular) who came into Googie’s, but never had much contact with the show. So no anecdotes.
Gunsmoke, when I came aboard, was being produced by John Mantley, who I got to know very well on that show and others. Ron Bishop, Bill Kelley (both of whom I co-wrote with for a spell) and Paul Savage (I think Cal Clements, too) were among the writers then. We used to have a blast toward the end of the afternoon, most of the writers getting together for drinks and tall tales. A lot of pranks were played, all in good fun. I was never taken too seriously because I was still doing modeling occasionally and was, to quote Jim Arness (whom I later wrote for on How the West Was Won), “Prettier than goddamn Miss Kitty!”) It was a bit irksome, but I knew it was said in good fun – and besides, Arness was six five and weighed 250! And was the star, so what was I going to do pout or belt him? I don’t think so. One amusing incident happened late one day: Kelley hired a stripper to sneak into Arness’ trailer while all of us stood around watching to see what would happen. We heard Jim protesting and telling her to leave (he thought she was a fan), then she stripped and he came running out and we all took pictures of him in his long johns. He wasn’t as amused as we’d hoped; and Mantley warned everyone to cut it out or else. (Jim had a bad limp and to move quickly was not easy for him)
HTWWW was a mini-series, with each episode two hours, so the writers were pretty serious about their work – including Ron and me. We wrote three episodes, two of which were filmed – The Enemy and The Gunfighter – and one of them won us the Buckle Award (a beautiful buckle that I still have). Jim Arness once invited everyone to his home in San Clemente (he lived next to Richard Nixon’s Western White House). And folks in general were friendly and we all got along. Very few pranks and drinking didn’t start until shooting was over.
I co-wrote with Sam Peckinpaugh one espisode for The Westerner, starring Brian Keith. Sam was a wild ass and drank like a maniac. (I still email one of his relatives). He was pals with Lee Marvin, another huge drinker, and I once tried to teach both of them how to shoot a bow and arrow and Lee, bombed out of his skull, almost shot one of the extras. Sam thought it was funny and wanted me to shoot an apple off one of the girl’s heads – a no, no, if there ever was one. He got pissed at me when I refused, and threw the script out. I was enraged and we almost got to blows but the crew pulled us apart. Obviously, I did not work for Sam again. But I knew Lee well from his early days (I drove him out to Malibu when he starred in the cheapo Shack Out on 101, written and produced by my pal Eddie Dein and Millie Dein) and he promised to get me work on his next movie. Never materialized, but that’s because Lee probably work up next day, and once sober never remembered promising
With such a wealth of experience in the western genre I wonder what Steve feels the future holds for the oaters.
"I sense it will survive. I hear they’re going to do a remake of Butch and Sundance (Travolta and Cruise), and other westerns are slated. But will it ever be as big as in the 60s? Never. There was a time when Warners had six western Tv series going at once, and Louis was selling 20,000 books a month!"
What future project does this remarkable man have up his sleeve?
"I have countless projects always going on at once. I still write all day, seven days a week. I’m considering writing the last book of my BHW Gabriel Moonlight series (so far it’s a trilogy, but I always knew there was a fourth book needed); I’ve been asked to write a screenplay for an indie producer (my wife and I – Sixgold Productions -- exec produced a small film called God’s Ears three years back and someone who saw it called me and wondered if I would be interested in writing something for him); and I have a PI series for TV that would translate well into paperbacks; BHW David Whitehead and I are co-writing several books as we speak, one is already in print called “Feral”; and finally I have finished a play called Wife Five which a director is interested in. My wife and I met her two weeks ago at a writer’s house in Malibu. She had read my Edgar Allen Poe play and liked it and then liked this comedy. No money in plays – unless it reaches Broadway but it’s still great fun to write them and see your words actually performed."
And so interview over I realise I have enough material for several more features on this remarkable man. Steve's own website can be found HERE. The website features details of all his books and where they can be purchased. His westerns are exceptional and Hollywood fans will love both volumes of his memoirs.
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
WILD WEST ROUNDUP
The Lone Ranger movie is due to go into immediate production even if the Lone Ranger has not yet been cast. Johnny Depp is onboard to play Tonto. The actor recently said his grandmother was full blooded Cherokee.
After the successful Broken Trails, Robert Duvall is to return to the westerns with a mini series centered on the Pony Express. 2010 will see the 150th anniversary and the mini-series will air during that time.
July 17th - 26th will see the Frontier Days celebrations return to Wyoming. The celebrations are planned to be the biggest ever and we hope to have someone on hand to record events for The Tainted Archive.
Another part of western history died this January when the Rocky Mountain News published its final issue. The News was said to be $16 million in debt. The newspaper published its first issue in 1859.
More good news for western fiction fans. Kerby Jackson reports that his western small press project is soon to come to fruition - "Submissions for “Six Guns & Shootouts” have been rolling in steadily and the first volume is now filled and is entering the editorial stage. If all goes as planned, it should be available sometime in August. I also have a few submissions of full length novels that look promising. The overall quality of the submitted work is quite high and there are some really top notch tales in the group. Meanwhile, though SG&S #2 and #3 are filling up, there is still space for both western fiction and non fiction. Those interested in submitting their work should visit:
The fourth wild west monday will be 2nd November 2009 - find details on The Tainted
PORK CHOP HILL 1959
Directed by Lewis Milestone
Starring Gregory Peck, Harry Guardino, George Peppard, Rip Torn and Harry Dean Stanton (early uncredited role)
97 mins black and white
This is a damn fine war movie and one of the few really good movies centered on the Korean conflict.
Gregory Peck is L.t. Joe Clemons a man in charge of leading his company against the Chinese at Pork Chop Hill. The hill is of no strategic value but for some reason that will become apparent as the film progresses the top brass are determined to take and hold the hill.
There's a deep anti-war message behind this story which is based on a true story and there are some great character scenes that highlight the mixed feelings the soldiers are experiencing.
Hard hitting and gritty and Peck is, as aways, magnificent.
The film is available in a pristine print in a budget release from MGM Video. The only extras are the original trailer but at this price it is a bargain.
BIG BIG NEWS
Now this is exciting - a series of low priced pocket sized paperbacks and they're westerns. I've seen what will be the first title and things are looking up for the genre. Fans of Misfit Lil will be pleased to know that the first title stars this desirable western heroine.
These books should put the western back in the mainstream and make them affordable alongside the mass market fiction of other genres. Keith Chapman AKA Chap O'keefe is one of the guiding hands on the project and so I had over the reins of the Archive.
Post from Keith Chapman AKA Chap o'keefe
In the planning stages are a new series of pocket-book, paperback westerns that will be available at the lowest cost possible and give us -- and more importantly YOU -- a chance to show publishing's "big boys" that a market does exist for unpadded, action-packed paperbacks -- rather like the Hard Case series has demonstrated opportunities in the crime genre in the US.
The initiative is supported by western doyen David Whitehead, who has been active as a fan, writer, bibliographer, commentator and historian since the 1970s. He writes, "I am very excited by this project."
The first book, which Dave (not me!) describes as "refreshing and bold" is in preparation now, and I want to take a leaf out of Gary's book in beginning our publicity drive right away with some info about the pilot offering.
Dave says, "It takes western fiction in an exciting new direction and this, I believe, is a major selling-point."
When he read the book, within a few hours of receiving the copy, he emailed me, "It's 4:20 on a chilly, wet Saturday afternoon -- you'd never mistake it for what we used to call flaming June -- and I've just finished reading Misfit Lil Cheats the Hangrope. It is a FINE and eminently ACCEPTABLE western, beautifully written as always, with a nice line in dry humour, good characterization, a whole string of neat and imaginative sequences and a mystery that certainly baffled this reader right to the end."
Please watch for more news via The Tainted Archive as it comes to hand. . . .
Tarnished Star review and some big news
And check the Archive later for BIG NEWS from Keith Chapman/Chap O'Keefe about a new line of western paperbacks. The Tainted Archive is right behind this exciting new venture and will be Keith's platform for any and all news as it becomes available. So be back later when the Archive is handed over to Keith for his exciting news that will delight all western fans.
The western is ready to ride again - oh and may I remind anyone who hasn't done so to sign our petition - you can find it in the right hand side bar of this blogozine.
Monday, 22 June 2009
WEST OF THE PECOS (1945)
West of the pecos
Directed by Edward Kelly
A pre mega stardom Robert Mitchum stars in this enjoyable though corny B-western which was adapted from the writings of the prolific Zane Grey.
The plot sees Colonel Lambeth moving West on his doctor's orders and taking with him his daughter, Rill and her maid. On the way their stage is held up and the bad men driven away by Pecos Smith (Mitchum) and his sidekick Chito played by Richard Martin.
The plot may be more worn than a cowboy's saddle but if the viewer is willing to enjoy it in the spirit of pure enjoyment then it delivers in spades. There is also a bit of pre-Brokeback Mountain hi-jinks that viewed today seems rather odd.
The film is available on DVD as part of a double bill with Nevada which was made a year earlier and also stars Robert Mitchum but here billed as Bob Mitchum. The disc is in a region 0 format and offered at a budget price. There has been some remastering and for a cheaply made B-movie the black and white pictures are crisp and clear.
Anyone expecting a realistic western will be dismayed but if the viewer is looking for a nostalgic slice of entertainment from a time when the western was king then you won't be disappointed.
It's the West of boyhood dreams.
I'll be reviewing the second movie on the disc, Nevada later.
Sunday, 21 June 2009
MY TOWN MONDAY - THE FILTH AND THE FURY
This is Pontypridd - It's feeling a little run down these days.
Business' are closing left right and centre. The pubs are all becoming run down and the council don't seem to know what to do with the town.
There are talks of redevelopment bandied about but nothing seems to actually happen. The latest grand plans were recently unveiled but people in town seem to be doubtful that anything will actually happen. The once famous market is in a shocking state of disrepair, Chavs rule the streets, the train station was called by the local MP - the filthiest in Europe and each Saturday night the streets resemble some apocalyptic movie.
It's time to clean up your act, Ponty Town Council.
Once described as the "Wild West" Pontypridd has had a turbulent past. A small, dirty, market town, run down after years of under funding and mismanagement by the local and regional councils, situated 12 miles north of Cardiff along the A470, "Ponty" is the gateway to the famous South Wales valleys and has a rich cultural and historic past: The Welsh National Anthem, Tom Jones, the Lost Prophets, the Old Bridge, Brown Lennox, Sir Geraint Evans, Neil Jenkins, William Price and Stuart Burrows all hail from Ponty or close by.
The name may come from a contraction of Pont-y-ty-pridd, bridge of the earthen house in Welsh, or the Welsh for "bridge of earth", since in earlier centuries, people took advantage of the shallowness of the River Taff here to cross it. Pontypridd marks the confluence of the rivers Taff and Rhondda and at the junction of the Cardiff to Rhondda and Merthyr railway lines and thus has a fascinating historical and cultural background.The development of Treforest and Pontypridd as commercial centres began with the opening in 1795 of the 25 mile long Glamorganshire canal, between Cardiff docks and Merthyr. At the same time, William Crawshay opened a new forge and nail works and coal was discovered by Dr. Richard Griffiths in Gyfeillion in 1790. Another new industry which thrived with the excellent transport now available was the original Newbridge Chain Cable and Anchor Works founded in 1818 - now Brown Lenox. Later, collieries were opened in the areas of Graig, Hopkinstown, Trehafod and Cilfynydd.
Project: THE TAINTED ARCHIVE
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CHINA 9, LIBERTY 37
China 9, Liberty 37
Directed by Monte Hellman
China 9, Liberty 37 (the title refers to a sign at the start of the film) is a strange latter day sphagetti western that really does deserve to be better known. The disc I watched is part of the 50 western movies megapack from Treeline Films. The print doesn't look as if it has been remastered at all for the digital age and so both the sound and picture are a little muddy.
It's a great film, though.
Fabio Testi,a big Italian star, plays the Eastwood-alike Clayton Drumm who is spared from the hangman's noose by the greedy railroad in order to kill a farmer, Warren Oates, in his last western role, who is refusing to sell his property to the land hungry railroad.
However Clayton grows to like the man and decides he can not kill him - he also starts a love affair with his wife played by the lovely Jenny Agutter. When Warren Oates discovers his wife's infidelity it sparks a fight and she stabs him. She then flees with Clayton Drumm, thinking she has killed her husband, and soon they have not only the railroad after them but her wronged husband and his retard brothers. It is worth noting that Sam Peckinpah has a small role as a hack writer.
The film has a curious dreamy feel to it and it's very 1970's in the way it depicts the west as an immoral place but inhabited by basically good people who do what they have to do in order to survive.
I thorughly enjoyed this western.
THE TEXAS TERROR 1935 - it's a FREE movie, folks!
The Texas Terror
John Wayne. George Hayes.
Directed by Robert Bradbury
Lone Star Productions
In between The Big Trail (1930) and Stagecoach (1939) John Wayne found himself in poverty row churning out B-movie after B-movie. Some of these are dire and some are very very good.
Texas Terror falls somewhere between the two extremes and is a fun, rough and tumble slice of the young Duke in action, not to mention George Hayes before he became George "Gabby" Hayes or, as often billed Gabby Hayes.
Unusual for a 1935 budget picture is the fact that the Indians are not portrayed as out and out blood thirsty savages - indeed in this movie they are good guys and actually befriend John Wayne's character.
The plot is well signposted in the dialogue and the action is non stop. There are a couple of anachronistic moments since the film is set in what seems a period immediately following the civil war and yet there are early telephones and motor cars in the movie. The fact that Wayne is able to drive the car at one point is not explained.
There are several ways to get this film - it's on the public domain and can be either downloaded or streamed at the internet archive. It is also available to watch here on The ARCHIVE as an embedded video (below).
Or the DVD pictured is worth the slim price since this region 0 Disc also contains The Dawn Rider and The Trail Beyond. And there has been some remastering to both the sound and vision.
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