KING OF THE COWBOYS RETURNS TO THE AIRWAVES!
(Updated Friday Nov. 4 th - see Dedication of Steve McQueen Square)
(Updated Wednesday Nov. 3rd - see Happy Birthday Queen of the West, Red Nation Film Festival)
Here’s delightful news for those of us who were a bit heartbroken when the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in Branson shut down, and its contents were sold off. You’ll perhaps recall that Patrick Gottsch, President of RFD-TV, bought the taxidermied figures of Trigger and Bullet, planning to display them. There was also talk of airing Roy Rogers movies on the network. It has all come to pass! Starting this Saturday, November 6th, HAPPY TRAILS THEATER will begin airing Roy Rogers movies, hosted by Roy’s son Dusty, and grandson Dustin!
Beginning with 1939’s SOUTHWARD HO, a Civil War story directed by the great Joe Kane and co-starring Lynn Roberts and Gabby Hayes, the movies will air Saturday in 90 minute time slots, at 9 am Pacific, 10 am Mountain, 11 am Central and Noon Eastern. They’ll repeat twelve hours later, and on Thursdays, 2:30 pm Pacific, 3:30 pm Mountain, 4:30 pm Central and 5:30pm Eastern.
Here’s the schedule for the next few months: November 13 - THE ARIZONA KID (1939), November 20 - DAYS OF JESSE JAMES (1940), November 27 - WEST OF THE BADLANDS (aka BORDER LEGION 1940), December 4 - YOUNG BUFFALO BILL (1940), December 11- THE RANGER AND THE LADY (1940), December 18 -YOUNG BILL HICKOCK (1941), December 25 - THE TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD (1950)– this one, shown on Christmas day, is about Christmas tree rustlers!, January 1, 2011 - IN OLD CHEYENNE (1941).
But wait, there’s more! RFD-TV has revived The Roy Rogers Riders Club! And Trigger and Bullet are on tour, posing for photos. They’re even scheduled to appear at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena on New Years Day. For information about the tour, the club, and merchandise, CLICK HERE.
REPUBLIC PICTURES IV – THE FINAL CHAPTER
For those of you who have been following this multipart story of the 75th Anniversary of Republic Pictures, here’s the last section. If you’ve missed any or all of it, you can click to read PART ONE, PART TWO and PART THREE.
The third panel discussion ended at 2:30 pm, to be followed, after a five minute break, by a 25 minute ‘Dignitary Presentation.’ Knowing that this would be my only chance to get anything to eat and see anything else – other panels would be running until we had to clear the studio at 5:00 pm -- I gave up my front-row seat and snuck out into 107 degree heat. When I got back for WESTERN MOVIE MEMORIES WITH REPUBLIC STARS the room was hot and packed, and using a combination of boyish charm and well-aimed elbows, I slithered to a spot against the wall and near the front.
(photos, top to bottom: Dale Evans; folks having their portraits taken with Trigger and Bullet; SOUTHWARD HO poster; Dick Jones, Donna Martell, Anne Jeffreys; Adrain Booth, Michael Chapin, Peggy Stewart; Anne Jeffreys, Hugh O'Brien; A.C. Lyles, Joan Leslie, Ben Cooper, Adrian Booth, Michael Chapin; Dick Jones, Donna Martell, Anne Jeffreys, Hugh O'Brien; the monogram 'B' on the Barkely's gate; exterior of the Barkley estate; Big Valley street set under construction; Barkley dinging room; foyer; parlour)
I was afraid I was late – the tables were full of guests waiting to speak: A.C. Lyles, Joan Leslie, Ben Cooper, Adrian Booth, Michael Chapin, Peggy Stewart, Dick Jones, Donna Martel, Anne Jeffreys and Hugh O’Brien. Leonard Maltin stood at the podium, waiting to be moderator. There was a lot of talking going on at the front, not from the tables, but in front of them. A familiar western character actor caught my eye, then jerked a thumb at two men who were talking in front. “Who is that?” he asked in obvious annoyance.
“That’s A.C. Lyles,” I said. “He made a ton of westerns at Paramount – ”
“I know Lyles,” he snapped. “I worked for him. Who’s the clown that won’t shut up?”
“Who in Hell is Tom LaBonge?”
“L.A. City Council.”
“For Chrissake!” he snarled. “Politicians!”
And for another fifteen minutes, as the Republic Pictures stars waited behind them, and hundreds of impatient audience members waited in front of them, City Council Members Paul Koretz, Paul Krekorian, Thomas J. LaBonge and Assemblyman Mike Feur ignored the clock on the wall and the contemptuous catcalls from the crowd, and hogged the mike, prancing about like geldings, mugging and clowning and issuing proclamations for the press cameras. Despite their posturing, they clearly knew nothing about the movies Republic made. If they did, they’d know how close they came to somebody getting a rope – or four ropes. When the blowhards finally left, there were only a couple of minutes left for each speaker, and Leonard Maltin did a masterful job at getting the most from speakers in the least amount of time.
“Republic was the home of the peoples’ movies,” Maltin began. “Films that played small towns, kids’ Saturday matinees, and later more adult movies. We’ll try to cover as many bases as we can. Westerns and serials were the mainstay of Republic, and everyone here worked on westerns.”
Dickie Jones is at least as famous for being the voice of PINNOCHIO as he was for starring in the Autry-produced series THE RANGE RIDER with Jock Mahoney, and as the title character in BUFFALO BILL JR. Starting as a 6 year old trick-rider in Hoot Gibson’s rodeo, Hoot encouraged Jones’ parents to take him to Hollywood. Maltin asked Dick Jones, who’d worked as a kid at Republic in the thirties, to give us a kid’s eye view of the studio.
“I had the privilege of being one of the very first Republic Studio actors, back in 1935, when I did WESTWARD HO with the great John Wayne, as his younger brother. We made most of it up in Lone Pine, and if the wind wasn’t blowing strong enough, they got these huge fans, and made a sandstorm. That wasn’t my first job in motion pictures, but it was my first job at Republic. It wasn’t 20th Century Fox or M.G.M. or Warner Brothers: it was homier.”
Like Dick Jones, Michael Chapin started at Republic as a kid, in the 1946 Roy and Dale starrer, SONG OF ARIZONA. “By that time the studio had gotten sophisticated. So we weren’t just working on the westerns streets, we were actually going out on location and shooting outdoors.” He did eight movies for Republic, four in 1952, BUCKAROO SHERIFF OF TEXAS being the first of a series with Eileen Jansen, “…a lovely lady who unfortunately had to leave here early. Eileen and I were a couple who were intended to replace Roy Rogers and Dale Evans as they matured, and at the time we were hired, she was twelve and I was just going on fourteen. We liked the intimacy, the closeness and family-like atmosphere here. They gave us a lot of latitude: despite the publicity (to the contrary), we both were good riders. They gave us lessons, and we had wonderful wranglers that taught me trick riding – Dick (Jones) was a master of trick riding. He didn’t need lessons. They gave us the latitude to practice, so we didn’t always need doubles: they weren’t so fearful. My career really spanned eighteen years, from the time that I was six months old, until I was eighteen: and that was it. And it was so formative, and Republic was at the core of that whole career. It was a joy, and I was blessed to be part of this industry.”
Anne Jeffreys, best remembered as Marian Kerby on TV’s TOPPER, has had a long film career, in Westerns and gangster and war movies. Starting out at PRC as Buster Crabbe’s leading lady in BILLY THE KID TRAPPED, soon she was Lawrence Tierney’s moll in DILLINGER, Tess Trueheart to DICK TRACY, and the female lead in ZOMBIES IN BROADWAY -- and that’s just three of her five credits for 1945! She was fond of horses even before she ever got to Republic. “I used to ride up into the hills. I used to work a lot in the backlot. I didn’t do all westerns. I was cast playing the dumb chorus girl or the gangster’s moll to Jack LaRue. And I went to the head of the studio and I said, ‘Look, can’t I play a nice girl? Why do I always have to play a dumb chorus girl?’ He said, ‘The only roles like that are in Westerns.’ ‘Then give me a western to do.’ ‘You want to do a Western?’ ‘Yes I do!’ So he signed me for a series with Wild Bill Elliot and Gabby Hayes. I did eight of those. Then I was bought by R.K.O. to do the Frank Sinatra film (STEP LIVELY -1944, the musical version of ROOM SERVICE), but I loved Republic, I learned a lot of tricks, a lot of things to do. I learned wiggle my ears from the back, because they always shot the back of the girls – she was never in the scene, she never got the man -- she would just ride off. But I learned so much – it was a wonderful, wonderful time to be here. One time I played an Indian girl. I had dark make-up on, and a head-band, moccasins on my feet and buckskins with fringe. I went into the commissary and sat down with the talent, and unbeknownst to him, my agent sat down right next to me but he didn’t know me. And I said to him, ‘You pass-um salt? You pass-um pepper?’ And then I laughed, and he knew me immediately. But we fooled him. There was a trick some of the cowboys would play on each other. They’d sit in a chair and nod off, and (the other cowboys) would sneak up behind them and tie their fringe to the chair. Well, they sneaked up on me, and I had taken off my moccasins, which weren’t very comfortable. I’m sitting there, studying my script, and they sneaked in and filled my moccasins with talcum powder, they tied my fringe to the chair. So when they called, ‘Hey Anne, we’re ready for you!’ I jumped up, dragging the chair behind me, with puffs of smoke coming from my feet! But I got even with them. I took the smoked fish that were hanging in front of the tepee, and put them in a ‘hot pot’, and they were looking for (where the smell was coming from) all day, but I wouldn’t tell them. But it was a wonderful time – we enjoyed everything we did there.”
Donna Martell confirmed, “Right here at Republic Studios I made my very first movie – am I thrilled or what? It was so great – I didn’t know a script from a camera, and there I am playing the ingénue lead in APACHE ROSE (1947), with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans – my heroes! They were so darling. That was the very first film done in Trucolor (the Republic answer to Technicolor), and someone told me a little bit ago that they can’t find it in color – but we did it in Trucolor. And not only did I do a Roy and Dale, I did a Gene Autry here (TWILIGHT ON THE RIO GRANDE), and (in between) I did a film with Gilbert Roland, the Cisco Kid, in ROBIN HOOD OF MONTEREY (1947). I got to know Gene Autry real well. We all loved Gene, I loved Republic Studios. I can’t believe what they’ve done to it – I think it’s magnificent!” She paid enthusiastic tribute to all of the other stars on the dais, especially the most dapper man in Hollywood, A.C. Lyles.
In introducing Peggy Stewart, Maltin mentioned that she had more Republic credits than anyone else at the table. The lovely western and serial queen confirmed, “I did thirty-two westerns here. I did the all the RED RYDERS – well, not all of them, but I did most of the Bill Elliots, who’s the real Red Ryder as far as I’m concerned. I did about half of the Allan Lanes. Then I did three or four of the Jim Bannons. And I was married to Don Barry, who was the first Red Ryder – he did the serial. I did lots and lots of films – lots of memories here. I did a SEINFELD back here, and on a lunch hour, I thought, aw shoot, I’m going to take a walk to the back road and see what’s left of the Duchess’ ranch. Well, I start that way, but I can see there’s nothing but trees and shrubs, so I head back to the stage out here, stage nine. I’m leaning against the wall. I started hearing the ghosts of the crew, Bela the prop man and Zachary – and I started crying. Nostalgia just took over. And here comes Jerry and the crowd back from lunch, and at the door Jerry says, ‘Hi,’ and he lets the others in, then turns around and says, ‘Peggy, are you alright?’ And I say, ‘Jerry, you’re in my cave!’ ‘You’re what?’ And I said, ‘Over there used to be the big red barn, and if you opened the doors there was a track for the coal cars, and it went all the way through to the other side of the barn where your stage is! That was the cave set that they used in all the westerns and serials, and it’s gone.’”
Maltin reminded Adrian Booth, who began her career at Republic as Lorna Gray, that the studio sometimes kept her so busy with her serial duties that she’d check into a local motel rather than driving all the way home. “Yes I did. I had the pleasure of playing Vultura (the villainess of 1942’s PERILS OF NYOKA), and we didn’t shoot in the order of the script. We had fifteen episodes, and you had to know the dialogue of all fifteen, whether it was outside, or on the backlot, or in the studio, or on the New York street. And sometimes, because of the weather, you’d have five different calls. The assistant director would call you up at three o’clock in the morning to tell you which one. You had to know the dialogue for each. Not knowing if you were going to shoot at one place or the other was the best training in the world. I’d play Bette Davis one day, someone else the next day, but most of all I just played the queen, and loved every minute of it. I go back almost as far as the studio does: I’m gonna be 93 in about a minute. One of my fondest memories was making a film with John Wayne before he was a big star, one of the Three Mesquiteers. And my agent brought me over to meet everyone, and the first thing they asked me was if I could ride a horse. And I said of course I could ride a horse – I did it in Central Park in New York. But I lied – I just had to, you know. But John Wayne in that first picture, he helped me – he told me what side of the horse to get on. And he was so dear. We’re outside, and there’s this little wooden porch. And we had to walk along this porch and down three steps. And three times he stumbled on a nail. And he did it deliberately, and the reason was to save a quarter (of a day’s) check for the extras. And this was John Wayne. I’m grateful to God that I was here at this lovely studio, it was always like a family, they were always kind, they were always good. Locations would be so much fun. I never had an unhappy day in this studio.”
Leonard Maltin next turned to Joan Leslie. Most of the speakers thus far had started at Republic, but she’d already been a big star at Warner Brothers, and many would consider the move to be, in his words, ‘slumming.’ She didn’t feel that way. “It was different than Warners – Warners was so big that sometimes you got lost in the shuffle. They always treated me like a little girl – ‘Oh, we’ll get Joan to do it.’ Here I chose the scripts I wanted to do. I worked with directors like Joe Kane.” Maltin again interjected that while many on the panel had worked with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, only Joan had worked with that great western star, Vaughn Monroe. She laughed, “He was a lovely guy, we had a grand time (on THE TOUGHEST MAN IN ARIZONA). The next one was THE WOMAN THEY ALMOST LYNCHED (1953) – I loved that title. With Brian Donlevy.”
Leonard Maltin suggested that in the 1950s, Ben Cooper was the busiest guy on the Republic lot. “I loved every minute of it. I had worked in New York for eleven years before I came out here, so it was a vacation. And the first one I did was a war picture (THUNDERBIRDS 1952), and my dressing room was on the 2nd floor. I remember walking up there and looking around – this was 1952, no smog – beautiful weather, month of May, and all I could think was, I’ve got to come back out here. So I went back (East), had pictures taken with my horse, sent them out, got to play Jesse James in THE WOMAN THEY ALMOST LYNCHED. And pretty soon after I walked on the set, Buddy Sherwood, wrangler – some of you who worked here may remember him. Always had a fresh flower in his hat, a cigar in his mouth, pot-belly and no butt. He walked up to me and he said, ‘Can you ride, kid?’ All he knew was I was that actor from New York who’s been on Broadway. I had my own horse; I’d been jumping him bareback. And I was really getting in shape to do this picture. But I knew if I said, ‘Oh yeah, I’m a good rider,’ you’re dead. You won’t live up to it. So I just said, ‘I can stay on sometimes.’ He just looked at me. So I just went over to the horse that he’d pointed out, patted him on the chest, and I saw that the cinch was a little loose. I threw up the stirrup leather, and I was about to tighten the cinch, and he was right behind me, and he said, ‘Come on, we’ll give you a good one.’
“But I loved it: I went from one to another to another. I didn’t care what they wanted me to do: I just wanted to do it. I was under contract here for four years, and I enjoyed every minute – I really did. And JOHNNY GUITAR was one that a lot of people remember. I’ll tell you about the very last shot of the picture that we did -- we were shooting all out of sequence. In the picture, Joan Crawford has me hidden under a table. And at one point my left leg’s supposed to fall out from under the (tablecloth). So, I thought it would be funny, and I had nothing else to do, so I took my shirt off, and I cut the pant-leg off pretty high. So I had on just this one blue pant-leg, boot and spur, and the top of the pants. Then I walked out and they all thought that was pretty funny. So I crawled under there, they had it all set up, ‘Okay – Action!’ I waited a moment, then my leg fell out. ‘Cut!’ Then Harry Stradling, the cameraman, said, ‘Wait a minute. That light wasn’t right – we’re gonna have to do it again. Okay, Ben, stay there, and we’ll get to it.’ ‘Okay!’ And I waited. And I waited. And I thought, not are they only very slow, they’re being very quiet. And I crawled out from under that table, and everybody had left the soundstage! The crew, the cast, the guys up in the rafters, everybody had gone to the wrap party and just left me there! And I loved them all.”
Hugh O’Brien, the last to speak, will always be remembered as WYATT EARP on his long-running series, but first he was at Republic. “I did three films here. The first one I remember very well, with Forrest Tucker, FIGHTING COAST GUARD (1951). On the first day, the studio manager came on the lot, and said to me, ‘I know it’s your first role in a film at Republic, but I know you from somewhere. How do I know you?’ And I said, ‘I used to do your windows.’ When I got out of the Marine Corps I had a card made up that said ‘Exterior Decorator’ on it. And by the time I was under contract to Universal I had thirty guys working for me. I did about 2/3rds of the lawns in the Beverly Hills area. The home I live in now, I used to landscape. I sold (the business) when I went under contract to Universal for $35,000, which would be like a million dollars today.” When Maltin asked if he found Republic a pleasant place to work, he responded, “I thought it had some of the cleanest bathrooms in town.” And when the laughs died down, he added, “Actually, it reminded me so much of where I went to high school, in Illinois.”
The final panel discussion of the day was SPECIAL EFFECTS & THE LYDECKER BROTHERS, about the work of Howard and Theodore Lydecker, whose miniatures have never been surpassed, whether in serials, war movies, crime films or westerns. An excellent website was put together to promote this event, and it’s been updated, and has very nice biographies of all the attendees. To see it, CLICK HERE.
SNEAK PEEK AT ‘BIG VALLEY’ SETS AND LOCATIONS
The accompanying photos, all courtesy of lisafemmeacadienne, show the exterior of the Barkley home, a western street under construction, and some interiors – see last week’s entry for information about where in Louisiana these places are located.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY QUEEN OF THE WEST!
Just found out that Dale Evans' birthday was on Halloween, so I added that pin-up to the top of the page!
7TH ANNUAL RED NATION LOS ANGELES FILM FESTIVAL
From Wednesday November 3rd through Tuesday November 9th, the Laemmle Sunset 5 Theater at 8000 W. Sunset Boulevard, L.A., CA 90046, will be the home of the Red Nation Films Festival,celebrating American Indian filmmakers. For details, CLICK HERE.
AMERICAN INDIAN ARTS MARKETPLACE AT THE AUTRY
Saturday and Sunday, November 6th and 7th, the Autry will host it's annual Indian Arts Marketplace. Both days will be packed with education and entertainment for all ages. Over 180 artists representing dozens of tribes will be taking part. For details, CLICK HERE.
DEDICATION OF STEVE MCQUEEN SQUARE IN L.A. SUNDAY!
Steve McQueen, whose Westerns include the series WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE, and such unforgettable movies as THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, NEVADA SMITH, THE REVIERS, JUNIOR BONNER and TOM HORN, will be honored this Sunday, Nov.7th, with the dedication of a square at the intersection of Highland and Santa Monica, the end of Route 66 in Hollywood. The event will begin at eleven a.m. on Hollywood Boulevard with a Steve McQueen Motor Parade, stop by Steve's star on the Walk Of Fame at Hollywood and Highland, and the dedication of the square will take place at around noon. For more information, go to the Jules Verne Adventures website HERE.
FREE WESTERNS ON YOUR COMPUTER AT HULU
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.
AROUND LOS ANGELES
THE AUTRY NATIONAL CENTER
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. Currently they have THE ART OF NATIVE AMERICAN BASKETRY: A LIVING TRADITION, through November 7th. I've seen the show three times, and am continually astonished at the beauty and variety of the work of the various tribes. 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.
HOLLYWOOD HERITAGE MUSEUM
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.
WELLS FARGO HISTORY MUSEUM
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.
TV LAND - BONANZA and GUNSMOKE
Every weekday, TV LAND airs a three-hour block of BONANZA episodes from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. They run a GUNSMOKE Monday through Thursday at 10:00 a.m., and on Friday they show two, from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m.. They're not currently running either series on weekends, but that could change at any time.
NEED YOUR BLACK & WHITE TV FIX?
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.
That's about it for now. Jeff Hildebrandt left me a message reminding me that the ENCORE WESTERN CHANNEL has been, and continues to regularly show Roy Rogers Westerns. I wish I still got Encore Western, but I can't without buying a whole package of stations I don't want. The particularly nice thing about RFD-TV running the shows is they're a basic cable channel, so maybe it will expose westerns to folks who aren't even looking for them -- especially kids. If you notice things running on Encore Western, or any other channel, that would be of interest to our readers, please let me know!
All Contents Copyright November 2010 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved