Home on the Range …

Where to go next … ?? There is no end of possibilities.  So many great Westerns … so little time.

I’ve received two suggestions: Eastwood’s Academy Award winning Unforgiven – Academy Awards Best Picture in 1992. (Wow, was it really that long ago?)

And Open Range (2003) a worthy duster (also shot in Alberta) with Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall.

Unforgiven 1992
Open Range wallpaper
Open Range (2003)

I worked as a set painter on Unforgiven which was shot near Longview, Alberta – the small Western town set was built on some (well guarded and secluded) private property. I wish I could tell you that it was a glorious experience where I smoozed with Movie Stars, Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, and Richard Harris. But it wasn’t.The set was tight and strict – high security. I never saw any of the Stars at all, but there was strict rules not to approach or talk to them unless invited.
My work has hot, dirty and tough. And even dangerous. I recall being up 3 storeys on a rickety scaffold – painting the back a building – by myself – that never even appeared in the film.
I made 8 dollars an hour – working alongside carpenters who were making 100 dollars an hour – or more.
Aw yes … the romance of film. Eastwood had a couple of henchmen whose only job seemed to be to go around kicking ass and hustling chicks on the set … who all mysteriously got better jobs. It’s not what you know …
We worked hard long days – bused in at 5 in the morning and often leaving sometimes late in the evening.
As I said, I never saw any of the Stars. There were several Locations in the area and I always seemed to working somewhere else.
Later, I got a temporary job with an outfit called F&D (Fast & Dirty) Scene Changes building the train station that was used in the movie – in a large hanger in Calgary. The station was then dismantled and shipped down to Senora California (that’s where the train was) and reassembled for some scenes that really take very little time in the movie. Clint has a blank cheque in Hollywood – his movies make money.
I hope I don’t sound too jaded – it was a worthy experience.
I’m sure I can come up with a few dozen  more anecdotes surrounding my experience with Unforgiven … and I will.

Westward Ho !!!


The Appaloosa (1966) …

The Appaloosa (1966) 

When you do a search on Google for ‘Western Movies of 1966′ here is what you will likely find:
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Professionals, Nevada Smith, El Dorado,
Alvarez Kelly, Duel at Diablo, The Shooting, Navajo Joe,
… and a few others …

A few Western Classics mixed in with a few clunkers. But, all in all, a pretty impressive year for Westerns.

Yet on most of these lists there is one glaring omission:
The Appaloosa.

The Appaloosa a a good Western. It is well directed by Sydney J. Furie and has excellent Cinematography, and it has Brando and Saxon.
It also contains one of the most famous and powerful scenes in Western Film:
The famous scorpion arm wrestling scene with the between Saxon and Brando.

The Appaloosa - 1966
The Appaloosa – 1966

I am at a loss to figure out why this movie seems to have been so overlooked? Was there a big ‘hate on’ for Brando at the time?
Or was it a case of merely being overshadowed by two of the Greatest Western Classics of All Time: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and The Professionals?

I hope to see it eventually take it’s rightful place.

Updating … My Darling Clementine …

Thot I’d trot back and fill in a bit on some of My pages. John Ford’s classic My Darling Clementine has been undated. Not all content is new, but I hope to add some fresh materials as able.

Quite a few of My pages need some work also. Such as,
The Last of the Mohicans.

Much to do …

Walter Brennan
Walter Brennan


The Missouri Breaks … Death in the wind …

Death in the wind …

Blood on the mind …

The Missouri Breaks - Blood on the mind ...

Vengeance in the Heart …



Not all it’s cracked up to be?

The Missouri Breaks - Confirmed ...

The Missouri Breaks - Brando

The Missouri Breaks – Gardening in Montana

The Missouri Breaks:
The Hazards of Gardening. 

The Missouri Breaks - Nickolson, Brando
Nicholson encounters an unwelcome garden pest

IMDB Trivia:
During the entire production Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando
were only on the set on the same day just one time,
despite their multiple scenes together.

This would account for the fact that it’s almost impossible to find
shots of them within the same frame.

The Missouri Breaks - Brando 7
Brando … Regulating

IMDB Trivia:
Marlon Brando’s performance was mostly improvised. Arthur Penn eventually gave up on him and decided to just let him act
whatever way he wanted.

Brando unprofessional behavior became the stuff
of movie legend. But he didn’t seem to care.
How profoundly this affected his career is hard to say?

Brando … Ruminating.
The Missouri Breaks - Brando 5
Brando … killing cabbage.

IMDB Trivia:
Jack Nicholson also didn’t like the fact that Marlon Brando used cue cards while filming. In their scenes together, Nicholson broke his concentration every time Brando shifted his gaze to the cue card behind the cameraman.

 “I’d like almost anythin better ‘n bein burnt up.”

The Missouri Breaks - Brando 6
The Missouri Breaks – Brando …

IMDB Trivia
agreed to accept $1 million for five weeks work
plus 11.3% of gross receipts in excess of $10 million.

The Missouri Breaks - Jack Nicholson 2
Nicholson … If looks could kill.

– IMDB Trivia
agreed $1.25 million for ten weeks work,
plus 10% of the gross receipts in excess of $12.5 million.

In 1976 that was good loot.
Hell I’d go for that right now.
And retire.


The Missouri Breaks – The Cast

The Missouri Breaks / Directed By Arthur Penn

The Cast:

The Missouri Breaks opening
The Missouri Breaks – Montana Territory
The Missouri Breaks - Nickolson
The Missouri Breaks – Jack Nicholson

“Regulator? Ain’t that like a dry gulcher?” 

The Missouri Breaks - Brando
The Missouri Breaks – Marlon Brando

“Well, that’s not the softest term you could use, I’d say.” 

The Missouri Breaks - Kathleen Lloyd 2
The Missouri Breaks – Kathleen Lloyd

“Why don’t we just take a walk and we’ll just talk about the Wild West
and how to get the hell out of it!”

The Missouri Breaks - Randy Quaid
The Missouri Breaks – Randy Quaid

“Damn, I don’t know why they had to put Canada all the way up here.”

The Missouri Breaks - Harry Dean Stanton
The Missouri Breaks – Harry Dean Stanton

“The closer you get to Canada, the more things’ll eat your horse.”

The Missouri Breaks … 1976

The Missouri Breaks (1976)


The Missouri Breaks opening

Brando and Nicholson




DVD Savant:
Movie: Very Good: “Even with its stellar teaming of Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson, The Missouri Breaks was a big-bust movie in 1976 … Almost 30 years later, The Missouri Breaks plays a lot better … That ending is still a head-scratcher but most of the rest of the movie is a Western lover’s delight, with excellent and often hilarious dialogue between sad sack horse thief Nicholson and his pack of misfit rustlers. If anyone lets the film down, it’s Brando … “

Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
User Reviews: 4 out of 5
“The Missouri Breaks
 (1976) is not your usual Western. In fact, it’s not your usual anything. The words most commonly used in reviews at the time of its release were “bizarre” and “odd” and it must have equally confused audiences expecting something quite different from the inspired teaming of Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson. But seen today, the film’s peculiar mixture of Western cliches, black comedy, quirky romance and revenge drama makes for a decidedly offbeat entertainment.”

SIx Shooter Bar

Death in the wind …

the missoui breaks poster

the missoui breaks poster 4

MISSOURI BREAKS nicholson and brando MISSOURI BREAKS brando and nicholson MISSOURI BREAKS wheatfield symphony MISSOURI BREAKS see ya

The Missouri Breaks - Randy Quaid The Missouri Breaks - Harry Dean Stanton

Pulque … a Gringo favorite …

Caballero Cuisine

Cantina Caballero
Brando – Cantina Caballero

In The Appaloosa Brando ingests a little Pulque (a repulsive sounding brew) in a small Mexican cantina – obviously frequented by Mexican banditos
(aren’t they all).
But he smarts his way out of a potential fracus with some nice double talk
… then rides on.

MFW: Pulque – in it’s several variations is actually said to have some medicinal qualities – with or without flies.

Excert from “Tequila’s mystical ancestor, pulque, produced since Aztec times”: 


“Pulque is like beer – it has a low alcohol content, about 4-8%, but also contains vegetable proteins, carbohydrates and vitamins, so it also acts as a nutritional supplement in many communities.
Tequila’s predecessor, pulque, was made from as many as six types of agave grown in the Mexican highlands … Pulque is one of about 30 different alcoholic beverages made from agave in Mexico – many of which are still made regionally, although seldom available commercially. Pulque has remained essential to diet in the central highlands of Mexico since pre-Aztec times.”

PulqeaholicsShameless Pulquaholics carousing in a Mexican street
(Possible Bandito on the right)

Brando’s Western Trilogy …

Westerns aren’t likely the first films that rise to mind when we mention
Marlon Brando.
Yet he made 3 pretty good ones:

One Eyed Jacks 1961


One Eyed Jacks

Malden and Brando

brando 2
One Eyed Jacks – Brando


The Appaloosa (1966)

The Appaloosa
The Appaloosa

The Appaloosa

Saxon – Brando
Scorpions for breakfast


Missouri Breaks 1976

the missoui breaks poster
The Missouri Breaks

The Missouri BreaksThe Missouri Breaks – Jack Nicholson

Almost ‘Break’ing …

More Favorites …

My list of Favorites is pretty long. No problem there –
‘cept gettin’ sumpthin’ dun on them.

Sooo wilst I’m trying to figure what to do next, here are a few more of My Favorites:

The Mask of Zorro


I know wut yer thinkin’: HEY! is that a Western?

Yep. I don’t have a swashbuckler blog.

 Catherine Zeta Jones
Catherine Zeta Jones

Anyway … it’s got Catherine Zeta Jones




I know wut yer thinkin’: HEY! is that a Western?

Yep. It’s got a cowboy … and a horse.


The Rainmaker

The Rainmaker
The Rainmaker

I know wut yer thinkin’: HEY! is that a Western?

Yep.  There’s a horse in there … somewhere.

Anyway … it’s got Katherine Hepburn. And Lancaster.

What was the question?

Vera Cruz … that’s a wrap …

“I spend 70 per cent of my time praying for it to rain … and 30 per cent praying for it to stop.” – Oldtimer living in the desert

Vera Cruz - Burt Lancaster, Gary Cooper
Vera Cruz – Burt Lancaster, Gary Cooper

I’m sure many of you have been (eagerly) anticipating The End of my Vera Cruz celebration. I’m wrapping it up some trivia and a few pics. I hope you enjoyed it. I did.

Trivia From: Internet Movie Database (IMDB)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047647/trivia:

  • One of the first major Hollywood films to be made on location in Mexico.
  • Film-making legislation in Mexico meant that a local director had to be involved in the production in some capacity, though he wasn’t actually used. (MFW: This guy actually gets Billing in the credits. How do you get a job like that anyway?)
  • One of Robert Aldrich’s personal favorites of his films, he particularly enjoyed the fact that it had a hero and an anti-hero. (MFW: This was an innovative concept – especially with Gary Cooper!)
  • Clark Gable warned Gary Cooper not to work with Burt Lancaster, saying, “That young guy will blow you off the screen.” Ironically, Gable himself later worked with Lancaster in Run Silent Run Deep. (MFW: Coop, of course, more than holds his own. And when both of them are in the same frame, it’s dynamite.)
  • Burt Lancaster was quite happy to cede top billing to Gary Cooper, knowing that the older actor had more box office pull than he did. (MFW: on the posters the Billing and images are usually equal – but can change from country to country – and sometimes from year to year.)
  • Lancaster recalled that Gary Cooper would object to anything in the script that implied his character was anything other than good, and demand it be changed. (MFW: Good for you Coop. Nowadays most actors would probably insist on the opposite.)
  • Produced by Burt Lancaster’s own production company for $1.7 million, the film went on to become a sizable hit, grossing over $11 million. (MFW: These days that wouldn’t even pay for Johnny Depp’s shoelaces. The 2 recent Hobbit films cost over 500 million dollars to make – and there’s another one coming. The 3 Lord of the Rings movies made over 3 billion dollars.)
  • This film is sometimes called the “first spaghetti western,” due to its reputed influence on the Italian directors such as Sergio Leone who popularized the genre.
  • Gary Cooper was taking medication during much of the filming. (MFW: Cooper was also ill (with a stomach ulcer) during the filming of High Noon. And it’s said that his pained expression in much of High Noon was not from acting.)
  • Cooper was badly hurt when he was struck by fragments from a bridge that had been blown up and the special-effects team had used too much explosives. (MFW: this probably didn’t help much either.)
Vera Cruz - chowing down at the palace
Vera Cruz – chowing down at the palace

Trivia from Turner Classic Movies TCM:  http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/17830/Vera-Cruz/articles.html

  • Vera Cruz was not actually filmed in Vera Cruz, due to the unpredictable weather conditions. Production was set up instead in Cuernavaca, not exactly an ideal substitute as many of the crew promptly came down with sunstroke in the sizzling Mexican desert. (MFW: Ever had sunstroke? It can kill you.)
  • A caravan of a 100-member cast and crew and 50 horses were joined by 200 extras hired in Mexico. (MFW: One set location in The Hobbit had over 600 people.)
  • The equipment included a dangerous 25,000 rounds of live ammunition because blanks were in short supply. (MFW: Don’t do this at home folks.)
  • Although no one was shot, there was one false arrest: actor Charles Horvath, who plays one of the baddies. Mistaken for a real-life bandit named Jaramillo, who was active in the area during filming, Horvath was apprehended by Mexican authorities in full costume while trying to buy cigarettes on a break. (MFW: Some trivia sources claim it was Bronson and Borgnine who were arrested. Don’t believe everything (anything?) you read on the internet folks – except for this blog.)
Vera Cruz - Romero, Darcel 2
Darcel and Romero
Montiel and Cooper
Montiel and Cooper

Adios Amigos

Vera Cruz … Robert Aldrich / Director

“A director is a ringmaster, a psychiatrist and a referee.”

Robert Aldrich - Director
Robert Aldrich – Director

Robert Aldrich

Director / Writer / Producer

“The power is for the director to do what he wants to do. To achieve that he needs his own cutter, he needs his cameraman, he needs his own assistant and a strong voice in his choice of writer; a very, very strong voice on who’s the actor. He needs the power not to be interfered with and the power to make the movie as he sees it.”

Partial Filmography:

The Flight of the Phoenix / The Choirboys / The Frisco Kid  / Too Late the Hero / Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte / What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?  / Twilight’s Last Gleaming / Emperor of the North  / The Angry Hills  / The Dirty Dozen / Ulzana’s Raid  / The Longest Yard / Apache / The Big Knife  / Ten Seconds to Hell  / 4 for Texas  / The Killing of Sister George / Hustle

Aldrich Directed 5 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Victor Buono, Bette Davis, Agnes Moorehead, Ian Bannen and John Cassavetes.

Aldrich Directed 3 Westerns starring Burt Lancaster: Ulzana’s Raid, Apache, and Vera Cruz.


President of the Directors Guild of America (DGA). [1975-1979]

Head of jury at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1959

Berlin International Film Festival
1956 Won Silver Berlin Bear – Best Director for: Autumn Leaves (1956).

Cannes Film Festival
1963 Nominated Palme d’Or for: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).

Directors Guild of America, USA 
Nominated DGA Award Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures for: The Dirty Dozen (1967).
1963 Nominated DGA Award Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures for: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).

Hochi Film Awards
1982 Won Hochi Film Award Best Foreign Language Film for: …All the Marbles (1981).

Laurel Awards
1970 Nominated Golden Laurel Producer-Director 10th place.
1968 Nominated Golden Laurel Producer-Director 4th place.
1967 Nominated Golden Laurel Producer-Director 6th place.
1965 Nominated Golden Laurel Producer-Director 6th place.

Venice Film Festival
1956 Won Pasinetti Award for: Attack (1956)
Nominated Golden Lion for: Attack (1956).
1955 Won Silver Lion for: The Big Knife (1955).
Nominated Golden Lion for: The Big Knife (1955).

“The struggle for self-determination, the struggle for what a character wants his life to be . . . I look for characters who feel strongly enough about something not to be concerned with the prevailing odds, but to struggle against those odds.”
– Robert Aldrich

Vera Cruz – The Politics

Robert Aldrich - Director
Robert Aldrich – Director

The Politics of Vera Cruz 

It’s often the case that movies have a message that has gotten foggy over time. Vera Cruz was such a movie – with plenty to say about the politics in 1954.

A director with a message –
Reviewed by Glenn Erickson / DVD Savant


Vera Cruz shows Robert Aldrich at his subversive best. It played right in the Eisenhower years of CIA ‘adventurism’ in Central America, and the director has a field day showing interloping imperialist Maximillian as a slightly depraved schemer in contrast to his deification in William Dieterle’s Juarez. One can’t help thinking that the director was expressing his own radical outrage when he has moral icon Cooper participate in such unsavory deeds as holding innocent children as hostages. Outgunned by Colonel Fielding’s, I mean, General Ramirez’ troops, Lancaster acknowledges that his gang can’t fight its way out, “But they can stop an awful lot of little kids from growin’ up, amigo.” Ramirez backs down because it’s clear that Lancaster’s action is no bluff; In one fell swoop Aldrich shows his American ‘adventurers’ behaving with a ruthlessness usually reserved for depictions of Nazis. Since the French are presented as greedy murderous parasites, Roland Kibbee and James R. Webb’s script points audience sympathy to the conventionally virtuous Juaristas. “Wars are not won by killing children,” Ankrum intones nobly, but we are already expected to know better.

Lancaster / Cooper
Lancaster / Cooper and gang 

Vera Cruz’s tension (and thrills) indulge our delight at seeing how cynically outrageous things can get. The moral center weakly returns to Cooper’s Ben Trane when he eventually sides with the Juaristas against the doublecrossing Lancaster, but this development smacks of insincerity. Trane keeps claiming his intentions are just as mercenary as Lancaster’s, but it is Jo Erin who does all of the backstabbing, murdering several of his own gang. Lancaster’s most loyal follower Ballard, a black ex-soldier still in Union uniform, is his most sympathetic victim. The shaky triumph of Gary Cooper’s iconic ‘goodness’ defeats what seems to be Aldrich’s aim: To totally sully audience expectations of American Heroism and conclude with a cynical apocalypse. In reality, the cynicism appalled sensitive critics like Bosley Crowther while thrilling Western fans, who undoubtedly saw nothing ironic or troubling about the picture!

Plotting in the shadows...
Darcel, Cooper, Lancaster – Plotting in the shadows…

Vera Cruz … the rest of the gang

And what a gang it was …

Jack Elam, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson
Jack Elam, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson

Jack Elam, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson

Picture pilfered from Western Cinemania


Vera Cruz ... dastardly owlhoots
Vera Cruz … dastardly owl hoots in front of a church

The Fiends! These dastardly owl-hoots have pulled their guns right in front of a church!

Vera Cruz -Darstardly owlhoots ruffing up Coop in the cantina
Vera Cruz – Dastardly owl hoots ruffing up Coop in the cantina

The Fiends! Six dastardly owl-hoots ruffing up Coop in the cantina!

Six darstardly owlhoots molesting Sarita Montiel
Five dastardly owl hoots molesting Sarita Montiel

The Fiends! Five dastardly owl-hoots molesting Sarita Montiel!

Vera Cruz - Chuck and Ernie
Vera Cruz – Chuck and Ernie

Men who enjoy their work. 

Vera Cruz ... the wrong end of a gun
Vera Cruz … Coop and Burt … on the wrong end of seven guns …

Vera Cruz … Denis Darcel / Francais Fatale …

Denise Darcel (1925–2011)

“All my life I go up, down, up, down, I am indestructible.”

Denise Darcel
Denise Darcel

Celebrating Denise Darcel:

I admit it. I was stuck.

I couldn’t figure out whether Denise should be viewed as yet another fallen Star who passed through the Hollywood mills before falling to earth and facing the reality that the rest of us peons know on a day to day basis. This perception is probably exaggerated by the sizable cast of very successful Stars who appear in Vera Cruz: Lancaster, Cooper, Montiel, Romero, Bronson, Borgnine … most of who had enjoyed long and illustrious film careers.

And although Denise played the conniving and unsympathetic Countess Marie Duvarre in Vera Cruz, I ultimately found her to be the most accessible and REAL person in the film: a charming lady of great humor and resiliency who cared dearly for her two sons – and did what she needed to do – a survivor.

Vera Cruz - Cooper, Montiel, Darcel, Lancaster
Vera Cruz – Cooper, Montiel, Darcel, Lancaster
Vera Cruz - Coop, Darcel, Lancaster
Denise Darcel

Denise Darcel Bio:


Born in Paris, Sept. 8, 1925
Passed: Dec. 23, 2011, Los Angeles County, California

Best known for her sensual parts, she will be remembered as Countess Marie Duvarre in the film “Vera Cruz” (1954), which starred Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster. Born Denise Billecard, she attended the University of Dijon and launched her career in entertainment, initially as a cabaret singer and became a featured vocalist at Paris’ La Comedie Francaise. This popularity along with her radiant looks earned her the distinctions as “The Most Beautiful Girl in Paris” and “The Most Photographed Girl in France”. After marrying an American serviceman, she moved to Hollywood where she marked her motion picture debut with a small role in the picture “To the Victor” (1948). She found more substantial parts with “Battleground” (1949), “Tarzan and the Slave Girl” (1950, opposite Lex Barker), “Westward the Women” (1951, co-starred with Robert Taylor) and “Dangerous When Wet” (1953), while simultaneously appearing on Broadway and TV in the play “Pardon Our French” (1950 to 1951) and the programs “Naked City” and “Combat!”. She retired from acting during the early 1960s to raise her family.

Bio: “Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0201005/bio:

“She never took herself or her image too seriously during her prime and was known and admired for her fine sense of humor …

“Hollywood folklore has it that Ms. Darcel gave the cold shoulder to the heated romantic advances of both Columbia mogul Harry Cohn and producer playboy Howard Hughes, and thereby sealed her own fate. While waiting out the snub, she left Hollywood and made live appearances on stage, in dinner theaters and around the nightclub circuit …”

Denise Darcel - Burt Lancaster
Denise Darcel – Burt Lancaster