Search the Western Clippings Site

An Interview With…
        - Archives

Will "Sugarfoot" Hutchins
    - April 2017
    - January 2017
    - December 2016
    - October 2016
    - September 2016
    - August 2016
    - July 2016
    - May 2016
    - March 2016
    - February 2016
    - January 2016
    - December 2015
    - November 2015
    - September 2015
    - August 2015
    - July 2015
    - May 2015
    - April 2015
    - March 2015
    - February 2015
    - January 2015
    - December 2014
    - November 2014
    - October 2014
    - September 2014
    - August 2014
    - July 2014
    - May 2014
    - April 2014
    - March 2014
    - February 2014
    - January 2014
    - December 2013
    - November 2013
    - October 2013
    - September 2013
    - August 2013
    - July 2013
    - June 2013
    - May 2013
    - April 2013
    - March 2013
    - February 2013
    - January 2013
    - December 2012
    - November 2012
    - October 2012
    - September 2012
    - August 2012
    - July 2012
    - June 2012
    - May 2012
    - April 2012
    - March 2012
    - February 2012
    - January 2012
    - December 2011
    - November 2011
    - October 2011
    - August 2011
    - July 2011
    - June 2011
    - May 2011
    - April 2011
    - March 2011
    - February 2011
    - January 2011
    - December 2010
    - November 2010
    - October 2010
    - September 2010
    - August 2010
    - July 2010
    - June 2010
    - May 2010
    - April 2010
    - March 2010
    - February 2010
    - January 2010
    - December 2009
    - November 2009
    - October 2009
    - September 2009
    - August 2009
    - July 2009
    - June 2009
    - May 2009
    - April 2009
    - March 2009
    - February 2009
    - January 2009
    - December 2008
    - November 2008
    - September 2008
    - August 2008
    - June 2008
    - April 2008
    - March 2008
    - February 2008

Do You Remember?
    - Archives

Comic Book Cowboys
    - Archives

Westerns of...
    - Archives

Heavies and Characters
      - Archives

The Stuntmen - Neil Summers
    - Archives

Western Treasures
    - Archives

Circus Cowboys
    - Archives

Western Artifacts
    - Archives

Film Festival Fotos
    - Archives

Silent Western Reviews
    - Archives

Serial Report
    - Archives

Research & Consulting

Subscribe to Western Clippings

Other Western Links

COLLECTIBLES FOR SALE:

Western Clippings Back Issues

Serial Report Back Issues

Daily Comic Strips

Sunday Comic Strips

Books

Miscellaneous Collectibles

Lobby Cards

Laser Copies of Lobby Cards

Movie Posters

Home

AUGUST 2011

Howdy! T’other night Babs and I watched “Lord of the Rings”—“You need a program just to tell the human actors from the special effects actors,” I whimpered. “Aw, pipe down, ya mutt,” she explained, “Listen up! The cost of three seconds of special effects in this epic far exceeds the budget for the entire four year run of your ‘Sugarfoot’ show.”

Back in the ‘40s, flicks cost a whole lot less to make and a whole lot less to see—eleven cents got us in, five cents for popcorn. We got our money’s worth. Every Saturday afternoon across America kids were set loose in the noisy dark for hours and hours—two features (an ‘A’ and a ‘B’), newsreel, cartoon, coming attractions (some more exciting than the flicks), slew o’short subjects, serial, maybe even prizes and vaudeville. No telling what wonders lay in wait beyond the uniformed ticket takers. What do kids do today of a Saturday afternoon?

Oft’ times I’d venture forth to Hollywood Blvd. on the Asbury Rapid Transit bus. My mom didn’t worry. ‘Twas safe back then. It pleasured me to stand in the footprints of the movie stars on the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. My feet were bigger than Joe E. Brown’s! But what happened to Rod LaRoque? Wasn’t he here last week? Reckon some of the old silent screen luminaries were disappeared to make room for the happenin’ generation. How? Did men in black come in the night to dig up the hand and footprints of former screen idols and consign them to the depths of Grauman’s Chinese basement? Is there a tomb down there stacked with autographed cement slabs, an underground cemetery of shadows, echoes and fallen stars, Hollywood’s answer to the lost elephants graveyard? If so, RIP.

Inbound streetcar passes the Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. in the early '40s.And where did all the dead street cars go? Long ago the trolley tracks were ripped up. The boulevard of broken dreams was eviscerated. When the street cars vanished, so did a lot of the heart and soul of the City of Angels. In my childhood, a buck and a quarter weekly pass entitled you to unlimited streetcar rides all over town. I gleefully rode the red car up and down Hollywood Blvd. on those enchanted Saturdays. I’d sit on the right side by an open window and pull out my packet of beans and my trusty bean shooter and look for my mark, an easy loper. I’d perfected the fine art of phantom bean shooting—I’d blow a steady stream of beans out the window onto the overhanging shop awning, timing my onslaught so that when my mark reached the shop, the beans had begun their decent off the awning and were now cascading onto said loper’s head. He’d look up with a start—He’d see nothing—He’d let out a cherse curse—Then he’d move on. The streetcar was slow. Stopped for passengers at every corner, and the traffic was heavy, it took a while to catch up with my victim, and when we did I let him have it again with a fresh salvo of ammo. I can imagine my mark’s state-of-mind: “What unseen specter is this hovering over me, following me, unloading an endless fuselage of beans onto my unprotected head? Why me?” This jolly prank continued till we reached Hollywood and Vine, where I alit and paid my weekly visit to Bert Wheeler’s House of Magic.

Bert was pretty good. He was a master of the disappearing weekly allowance trick. I saved up and bought the color-changing knife trick. For the uninitiated to open the blade was a puzzlement. You didn’t pull it, you pushed it. One night a fellow slight o’hander and I attended Orson Welles’ Magic Show performed in a huge tent on Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood. How thrilling to see Orson saw Rita Hayworth in half. For one grand illusion Orson passed among us in the audience asking for the loan of a knife. I offered him my new color presto-chango. He barked, “This is a trick knife! I can’t open it!” And he stormed off. Good thing. He no doubt wanted to slit my throat.

The Hitching Post Theatre.Next door to Bert Wheeler’s shop was the Mecca of movie matinee maniacs, The Hitching Post Theatre, home of classic B-westerns. A good way to wrap up a perfect Saturday afternoon, providing you still had a fast eleven cents in your pocket. I heard tell hard-core gamblers frequented the place. They’d sit in the back row and make side-bets: After the bank robbery which posse member would take the longest to mount? What bad guy’s horse would gallop past the old oak tree first? What shirt would Roy wear in the next scene? I loved ‘em all—Tex, Lash, Hoot, Gene, The Durango Kid.

My ol’ pal Jocko Mahoney once told me when he began doubling for Charles Starrett, the Durango Kid’s b.o. skyrocketed (box office that is). Jocko told me about one of his most dangerous Durango Kid stunts. He was supposed to leap from a
Jock Mahoney. saloon balcony onto an awaiting horse. (How many times have you seen a stunt person perform that puppy wearing tennis shoes?) This stunt is fraught with peril. If the horse moves it can be very painful. Movie horses are smart. They know! Best not to over-rehearse. When they hear “Ready! Camera!! Action!” They tend to get skittish and screw up the shot—Ugh! Bad medicine for B-budgets. Jocko had a stroke of genius. He whispered to the director, then climbed to the balcony and made ready. The director silently signaled the camera operator to roll ‘em and then yelled, “That’s lunch!” The horse relaxed, and Jocko made his pawless leap. Whatta guy!

In the mid ‘50s, a fellow UCLA cinema student and I strolled down Hollywood Blvd. on an Easter Sunday. We sauntered into one of L.A.’s oldest and most successful eateries, Musso-Frank, for brunch. We sat at the counter. As we put down mighty-tasty-you-bet-flannel-cakes, our waiter, Sal, was in good spirits—we traded cheerful banter back and forth across the counter like a game of badminton with words. Came time to pay, and jovial Sal wouldn’t take our money. “Happy Easter, eggs!” he said. Maybe he thought we were bums. Maybe he was right. I’ll always remember that day. What a blue-chip gent was Sal. Such moments of random kindness in La La Land you could count on the pitching hand of famed baseball player Three Finger Mordecai Brown.

If a time machine landed that could take me back to those glorious Hollywood Blvd. daze of yesteryear, the ‘30s and ‘40s, would I hop aboard? Heh, heh—in a hot New York minute. In a hot Hollywood heartbeat.

   —Adios!