Friday, February 27, 2009

John Dehner and Robert Wilke

These are two of my favorite western character actors of all time and both seem to have never gotten their due. Both appeared several times in almost every tv western and both have had significant roles in high-profile movies....some non-western.  Dehner was very good as a villian or a good-guy but he was especially good at portraying slippery characters such as Burgundy Smith in Sam Peckinpah's classic tv series THE WESTENER. He appeared in several GUNSMOKE episodes and was even Miss Kitty's father in one.  Dehner was in AIRPLANE II, THE SEQUEL; THE RIGHT STUFF and the two classic ROBERT MITCHUM mini-series THE WINDS OF WAR and WAR AND REMEMBRANCE. He even appeared in a Bowery Boys movie...."THE BOWERY BOYS MEET THE MONSTERS.  Dehner looked quite a bit like my maternal grandfather whose name was John Dahmer (no relation to Jeffrey).

Wilke was great as a villian and in later year played similar character types but in a comedic way.  He started out with bit parts in "B" westerns and his final role was in Bill Murray's classic comedy STRIPES.  I first remember him as Jim Pierce in HIGH NOON and later saw him, like Dehner, in almost every tv western. 

Wilke and Dehner appeared several times in the same movie/tv show.  Most notable was Anthony Mann's classic 1958 Gary Cooper flick MAN OF THE WEST.  Dehner was Cooper's embittered cousin Claude and Wilke was Ponce another member of the Uncle Dock Tobin gang, and they were both in John Sturges' 1965 "comedy" western misfire THE HALLELUJAH TRAIL.  They also were in "Incident of the Four Horsemen" a 1969 episode of RAWHIDE; THE CHEYENNE SOCIAL CLUB (1970); Tim Holt's HOT LEAD (1951); Monte Hale's OUT CALIFORNIA WAY (1946) with Roy Rogers; Rory Calhoun's POWDER RIVER (1953) and the 1946  non-western THE CATMAN OF PARIS.  Wilke was  unbilled as "The Catman."

Lets give these two guys their due.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

SIX REASONS WHY (2008 "western?")

I can give you 666 reasons why not and here are the first eighteen.......(1)  A Campagna Brothers Independent Production; (2) Directed by the Campangna Brothers (Jeff and Matthew); (3) Written by the Campagna Brothers; (4) Executive Producers....the Campagna Brothers; (5) Co-starring the Campagna Brothers; (6) Cinematography by Matthew Campagna; (7) Film Editing by the Campagna Brothers; (8) Casting by the Campagna Brothers; (9) Production Design by the Campagna Brothers; (10) Production Manager...Jeff Campagna; (11) Visual effects supervisor...Matthew Campagna; (12) Stunt Double....Jeff Campagna; (13) two of the three camera operators....The Campagna Brothers; (14) Animator...Matthew Campagna; (15) Wardrobe...The Campagna Brothers; (16) Music Supervisor...Jeff Campagna; (17) The Campagna Brothers, whoever the heck they are and whoever gave them the idea they could make a movie and (18) absolutely, positively the worst attempt at a western ever made.  ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE AUTUMN garners 10 stars compared to this piece of drek!!!!!


ESCAPE ARTIST: THE LIFE AND FILMS OF JOHN STURGES by Glenn Lovell.  Finished this gem of a book weeks ago....a very quick and enjoyable read.  Sturges is one of my favorite directors of all time and, hopefully, with this book he will finally get the respect and admiration long due him. Lovell not only goes into anecdotes about the making of Sturges's films but also, with the cooperation of friends and family, delves into Sturge's private life, especially his rampant alcoholism.  Interesting tidbits about the making of BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, THE GREAT ESCAPE (his best known works) and some of his lesser known films.  It's interesting to compare Lovell's version of how TMS came to fruition with Eli Wallach's (THE GOOD, THE BAD AND ME) and producer Walter Mirisch's (I THOUGHT WE WERE MAKING MOVIES, NOT HISTORY...which, by the way, is a quote Mirisch took from Sturges....and a very, very good account by a Hollywood insider of making movies in the 50's and 60's.)  Lovell talks about how Sturges quickly adapted to making movies in "CinemaScope" vs the old screen ratio and how his framing and use of the widescreen influenced other film makers, often without acknowledgement.

FIASCO: A HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD'S ICONIC FLOPS by James Robert Parrish (HOLLYWOOD DIVAS: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE FABULOUS....there's that play on titles/words again! & IT'S GOOD TO BE THE KING: THE SERIOUSLY FUNNY LIFE OF MEL BROOKS.)  Some of the movies dealt with are THE CHASE (with Brando, Redford and Fonda), POPEYE, THE COTTON CLUB, ISHTAR (my most hated and despised movie of all time), SHOWGIRLS, WATERWORLD (failed as a movie but made a great action and stunt laden attraction at Universal Studios), BATTLEFIELD EARTH (what in the world was John Travolta thinking?  hmmm....was he kind of pushed into doing it?) and PAINT YOUR WAGON (with Clint and Lee....a movie before one cent was spent was already thought of as being a loser) Who was director Joshua Logan (totally and I mean totally the wrong director from the get-go) talking about when he made this famous rant, "Not since Atilla the Hun swept across Europe leaving 500 years of total blackness has there been a man like ________?"  Why our beloved Lee Marvin, that's who!  And the bad experience on this movie, with its extravagantly wasteful excesses, is credited with giving Clint a valuable lesson in what not to do on a movie, and is one of the reasons why he always brings his films in on time and on budget.  A lot of the anecdotes from the making of these various films I have already heard....but there are some new ones too!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

friends I miss from the old SWWB

With a virus hitting our fave the ol' SWWB like a roadside burger through an heiress most of us, including myself, have stayed away.  I miss the drunken rants of Bob Booze Belle and those adorable southern hicks from Pine Ridge, Arkansas...ray ray and shermie.  And, will we ever find out if Barry Matalo ever finishes MATALO, THE MUSICAL.  Will we be forever  left hanging and never know what the finished lyrics are to "Thar's Red Snow On My Boomerrang, Ma'am."


A stagecoach in the 1945 Errol Flynn western SAN ANTONIO has framed pictures hanging on a back wall.  Huh?  This picture was co-written by two famous writers....W. R. Burnett (HIGH SIERRA, YELLOW SKY, THE ASPHALT JUNGLE  and Alan LeMay (REAP THE WILD WIND, THE SEARCHERS).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


This rarely seen 1997, straight to video, little gem of a western starring Michael (AMERICAN NINJA) Dudikoff who's very credible in this western role and featuring our friend William Smith (nuff said) will air on Encore Westerns on March the 2nd in the early morning hours from 5-630am (PT).  My video copy (I think from CineMax) is titled just THE SHOOTER. Pretty darn good direction from Fred Olen set your tivo's!  Wonder why Dudikoff has not acted since 2002?  His next to last job was in our friend Jim Wynorski's GALE FORCE (2002).

Monday, February 23, 2009

DRANGO debut airing on Encore Westerns

Hey you Jeff Chandler fans (and those of fellow West Virginian Joanne Dru, brother of Peter Marshall the original host, back in the day,  of  THE HOLLYWOOD SQUARES).  DRANGO, not Durango, not Django, not Jango, not Shango and not even of Jeff's rarely seen westerns will air on Encore Westerns on the first of March (check your local listings).  This 1957 civil war oater stars ol' Jeff as Major Drango (not Major Dundee....that's another movie) who is appointed US Military governor to a small Georgia community where tensions, needless to say, are running high affter the defeat of the Confederacy.....and the fly in the ointment is that ol' Jeff hisself participated in Sherman's march through the state.  John Lupton is featured as an embittered Confederate Captain and guess are CORRECT....Joanne is the love interest. Other featured familiar faces are Julie London, Milburn Stone (made on hiatus from GUNSMOKE), Chubby Johnson (one of my least favorite side-kick types), Bing (Kurt's dad) Russell, Parley Baer (the voice of Chester on radio's Gunsmoke and years away from his role as the mayor on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW), Donald Crisp (the patriarch, Mr Morgan in HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY) and Ronald Howard (no relation to Ron or Rance....but Leslie's kid).  I'm going to take a look-see as I have never seen this movie.

Bonus....Rex Allen sings the title song.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


The title song of the Glenn Ford-Inger Stevens-George Hamilton 1976 western A TIME FOR KILLING is "The Long Ride Home," which was also the film's original title but, for whatever reason(s) was changed for the US release.  Later, in 2003, the title THE LONG RIDE HOME was used on a Randy Travis-Eric Roberts-Ernest Borgnine grade "D" western.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Up until recently I was not that much of a Clint Walker fan.  I had seen most of his movie westerns and, to me, they weren't that good and I never much cared for his performances.  He just seemed to be a bit too stiff and wooden  (exception Sampson Posey in THE DIRTY DOZEN.)  I even owned the first season of CHEYENNE (on dvd) and never started watching any of the episodes until Encore Westerns started running the entire series.  That caught my attention and I started watching the show and, by and by, with each different episode my appreciation of him and his work  grew immensely.  I now really like the guy, not that I didn't before....I just didn't care for his movies......I've heard he's a very decent person.  I now actually look forward to the next episode.  In his role as Cheyenne, Clint comes off as a very kind and caring person. If I had seen the CHEYENNE show as I kid I know I would have liked Clint more and a whole lot sooner and that he would be right up there with my other cowboy heroes.  To me, on a whole, the CHEYENNE shows are much better than the MAVERICK's. Since my viewing of the other Warner Westerns of this period are limited which series was the best?  To me, without a doubt, the worst was SUGARFOOT.  I tend to think CHEYENNE would have to top the list.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Did the Los Angeles Times in an essay called "The Language of Desire" published in their Sunday(2-15-09) Calendar Section "out" Randy?  

The essay by Reed Johnson with a sub-headline of ...."Gunsels, victims, the sex-obsessed tricks. Hollywood has long been drawn to a limited range of gay 'types,' but with Milk Sean Penn embodies a far different--and admirable---leading man."

The article goes on to mention the different ways gays were portrayed in different movies and under CRUISING (a 1980 film directed by William Friedkin and starring Al Pacino) Johnson writes...."Partly under pressure from the bluenoses administering the Hays Code, Hollywood went back in the closet during the Eisenhower presidency and more or less stayed there until the late 1960's (although Sal Mineo and a few others managed to slip out once in a while.)  Coyness and euphemism were part of the day, with the likes of Rock Hudson and Randolph Scott impersonating big-screen macho men."

Was Scott gay as long rumored?  (Taylor Hackford alluded to this a bit in his commentary on one of the discs in the Budd Boetticher box set.) I don't know and I don't give a tinker's damn one way or the other.  Scott made some of the greatest westerns ever and over the years several of them have grown in stature with me and now appear on my  "all-time favorite movies" list.  The reason I say "over the years" is that when I was a kid I didn't care for Scott or his westerns that much....they were too adult, I suppose.  Even in my 20's thru my late 40's I enjoyed some of his oaters but still didn't care for him that much....but when I hit my 50's I suddenly started really appreciating him, his work and his movies.  Maybe I just aged into appreciating them and he gracefully aged in his work.

The Statler Brothers have a great song called WHERE HAVE YOU GONE RANDOLPH SCOTT and the lyrics go something like this.....and are a bit ironic in parts.

Everybody knows when you go to the show you can't take the kids along.
 You've gotta read the paper and know the code of PG and R and X.  
And you gotta know what the movie's about before you go.  
Tex Ritter's gone and Disney's dead and the screen is filled with sex . 
Whatever happened to Randolph Scott ridin' the range alone ? 
Whatever happened to Gene and Tex and Roy and Rex , The durango Kid?
Oh whatever happened to Randolph Scott, his horse plain as could be?
 Whatever happened to Randolph  Scott has happened to the best of me.
Everybody's tryin' to make a comment about our doubts and fears.  
True Grit's the only movie I've really understood in years.  
You gotta take your analyst along to see if it's fit to see. 
 Whatever happened to Randolph Scott happened to the industry.  
Whatever happened to Johnny Mack Brown and Alan Rocky Lane? 
Whatever happened to Lash LaRue? I'd love to see them again.  
Whatever happened to Smiley Burnette, Tim Holt and Gene Autry?
Whatver happened to all of them has happened to the best of me.  
Whatever happened to Randolph Scott has happened to the industry.


Got a screener dvd of this new western way back before Thanksgiving.  On the back of the dust jacket it says,  "Order Due Date: Dec. 29; Street Date: Jan 20....Only $24.95 with a PPV Window of 90 days and a 4 month Pay Cable Window of 4 months."  Oh...yeah...Bob Polunksky of The San Antonio Times said......"DELIGHTFUL.....a western just like they used to make 'em." I don't know who "they" are but whoever "they" are could certainly make 'em better....why even you and I could make 'em better if we had the same equipment and money, or even a camera, some film and a cuppla actors.  So save your $24.95, even your $2.49 or your 24 cents and sit back and read on!

It seems this Texan Anthony Henslee decided to make a western so he co-wrote a script, starred himself and even directed it.  I wish wish it were good; I even wish it were tolerable but it's so hard to watch.  Good intentions do not a good movie make.

Starts out in the early 1900's with a writer pulling into the dirt parking lot of a beer joint.  (We know it's the early 1900's since this is supposed to be a western and he's driving a Model-A roadster.) The writer wants to find out the real facts about a famous gun-fight that took place in front of the joint.  So happens a youngster in the joint overhears him talking to the barkeep and points out ol' Roy Clark and ol' Mel Tillis sitting at a table...glad it was Mel and not Buck Owens as I would have thought it to be an episode of Hee-Haw.  The youngen goes on to tell the writer that ol' Roy and ol' Mel happened to have been there some 50 odd years before when it happened and from the looks of them it appears they had  stayed there at that table for the next 50 0dd years.   So the writer sits down after being introduced and a bit of chit-chat and convinces them that he'll write the true story as they tell it as ol' Roy seems pissed that all previous writers or reporters always seemed to change what he told them and wrote what they wanted.....then one cliche western bit after another and that's only the first 14 minutes.  Shame when the regular story started and it even had Kinky Friedman in it as the Texas Govenor...'spose since he once was an unsuccessful candidate for that never got much better and seemed to take 50 years to watch.  Another actor/stuntman in the production was Bill Hart who doubled Glenn Ford in BORDER SHOOTOUT  and as bad as ol' Glenn's last western is it still is 100 times better than "PPG."    And the way he could still command the screen the leads in "PPG" couldn't even wear the support gunbelt ol' Glenn wore in his last oater.

Hate the "end arounds" they put on some westerns like the one on PPG and THE LAST RIDE OF THE DALTON GANG.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Thirty-nine years ago today my wife and I had our first date.....and Valentine's Day then was on a Saturday also.  We had dinner at a Japanese Restaurant in Century City (the name slips my mind) and saw Henry Fonda as the stage mangager in Thornton Wilder's classic play OUR TOWN at the old Huntington Hartford Theatre on Vine Street in Hollywood and co-rented a car with another couple....all for around 50 bucks.

While watching 30 ROCK the other night we had to laugh as the running gag was "you never have a first date on Valentine's Day."  Well we did, and it was  (and continues to be) wonderful!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Glenn Ford wearing a bright red poncho in DAY OF THE EVIL GUN (1968)

Saturday, February 7, 2009


The list of top party schools was released and my alma mater, good ol' WVU, West Virginia University,  was once again in the top number 4!

Friday, February 6, 2009


Don Randi's music for Glenn Ford's 1973 western Santee (which by the way was "Co-Produced" by Edward Platt, the ol' Chief hisself from the GET SMART tv show and featured John Hart, the other LONE RANGER  who couldn't carry Clayton Moore's mask) sounds spaghetti-like in several places.

The title song of the 1959 Jack (Billy The Kid) Buetel western MUSANG! sung by the amazing Champ Butler (so amazing I couldn't find any info on him) sounds like it could have been lifted from the credits of many a spaghetti.  This modern western was co-written and directed by the late great Tom Gries (100 RIFLES & THE RAT PATROL.)  Another favorite who departed this earth way too the age of 55.

The 1972 Robert Mitchum south of the border "American" oater THE WRATH OF GOD (not to be confused with the 1968 spaghetti WRATH OF GOD with Montgomery (Brett Halsey) Ford seems and feels more spaghetti to me than Mitchum's  1978 VILLA RIDES which was actually filmed in Almeria.  Some of the movie is set in a town that is a mirror image of Los Albaricoques and co-star Ken Hutchison evoked memories of Lou Castel in A BULLET FOR A GENERAL.


Jack Mahoney, yes he's billed as Jack and not Jock or Jock O'Mahoney, in OVERLAND PACIFIC with the beautiful Peggie Castle (loved her as the "Miss Kitty" rip-off in LAWMAN with John Russell and Peter Brown) and the under-appreciated and oft over-looked William Bishop (both died way before their times....Castle a couple of months before her 46th birthday and Bishop at only 41.....pulls off a stunt during a fight that I've never seen before or since.....

Mahoney gets into a fist-fight with Jenks the stage driver played by "B" western regular Fred Graham.  Ol' Jack ends up in front of a hitchin' rail and is knocked backwards by Graham.  As ol' Jack falls backwards his butt lands on top of the hitchin' rail and as his upper torso snaps downward and backwards almost touching the ground,  he catches the under side of the boards on the wooden sidewalk with the toes of his boots and then he springs upward and forward, in one fluid motion, like a giant cat.....and continues the fight.  Any guesses who wins?


When Ben Cooper clubs the deputy over the head in GUNFIGHT AT COMANCHE CREEK (with Audie Murphy and Jan Merlin) you can clearly tell the gun is made of rubber by the way its barrel bounces back and forth....

Separated at Birth

Nello Pazzafini and Lon Chaney, Jr  (see Chaney in ALBUQUERQUE with Randolph Scott)