Howdy! Wine, Dine, Get Supine! It’s 2015!
In school I was the klass klown, the kornball kid, a disruptive force. In college I was dubbed Ol’ Sugarcured. (Imagine! From Sugarcured to Sugarfoot.) My creative writing prof, Dr. Edward Weismuller, reckoned my weekly submissions were not unlike Spike Jones conducting “The Star Spangled Banner.” He told me, “Too many exclamation marks, Hutch.” The good doctor gave me my lowest grade—Shudder!! Back then, I was required to keep my GPA up, lest Uncle Sam ship me overseas where I’d suffer that most dreaded of all diseases, Gonnakorea!!! Hi Ho. And so it goes.
I remember the Alamo. Produced by, directed by, starring John Wayne. Chill Wills (right) was in it and stirred up a flapdoodle by over-hyping himself for an Oscar. He didn’t get it. I voted for him, a deserving actor. Vivid in “Giant”, “McLintock”, “Way Out West”, not to mention his hoarse voice as Francis the Mule.
Nowadaze, they spend more money on pluggin’ Big Budgeteers than they used to fork out makin’ solid B-flicks. Today some actors wouldn’t know who they are if it weren’t for PR. Today they overload us with data. My UCLA teacher, Arthur Ripley (he directed Mitchum in “Thunder Road”), said, “Don’t tell your audience anything. Let ‘em discover it for themselves.” ‘Course, that would call for waking up dormant imaginations.
Once, I flew with Chill and other Hollywood highrollers to Elko, NV, for a Fest of the West and a visit to the local casino. Jack Kelly rolled those bones with great vigor. He punished those puppies. They hit the back of the craps table and came galloping back like racehorses in the home stretch. He barked at them. “Come on, Babies! Don’t let Daddy down!” They didn’t. Afraid to. Jack came home with more happy lettuce than a month of salary. When we approached Burbank airport, the landing gear refused to lower. Kelly’s barks failed to budge those wheels. They stayed pat. Chill Wills offered, “Why not try pouring water from the cooler into the hydraulic system? We sure didn’t drink any. The co-pilot did just that. The wheels came tumblin’ down. Happy landing. Chill and I shook goodbye. He said, “You know, cousin, I look just like you—only upside down.”
John Ford, unannounced, uninvited, paid a visit to “The Alamo” location outside Brackettville, TX. First day, Pappy Ford plopped onto Duke’s Director’s chair to “cast a paternal eye,” he said. Wayne was directing a scene with Laurence Harvey and Richard Widmark. Wayne called, “Cut. Print” Ford called louder, “No, it’s not. Do it again.” Wayne asked, “Why, coach?” Ford replied, “Cause it’s no damn good.” Later, Wayne asked his cinematographer William Clothier, “What the hell am I gonna do?” Clothier suggested, “Let’s give the Old Man a second unit.” And so they did. Wayne said, “I don’t care what it costs, but I am not going to let him feel rejected. I’d rather spend a million dollars than hurt his feelings.”
Ford loyally pretended none of his shots were used. Wayne maintained the fiction. In fact, quite a few Ford scenes appear in this saga. Spectacular battle footage, Santa Anna’s troops in action, funny stuff with the featured players, poignant moments, as well, in true Ford fashion. Wayne was sensitive to gossip that Ford was largely responsible for whatever quality the film had.
There’s lore aplenty about the making of “The Alamo”. My favorite tidbit: Wayne is unhappy with the way Laurence Harvey carries himself in the role of Colonel William Travis. “Damn it, Larry! Can’t you at least walk like a man?” Harvey thinks it over. “Whatever you say, Marion!”
Yes folks, I remember “The Alamo”. One night back in ‘60 my date and I followed the criss-crossing search lights to the fabulous Carthay Circle Theatre for the world preem of “The Alamo”. The sweet gal was Caroline Kido Barret. Born in Tokyo to a Japanese mother, her dad was an American GI. In ‘57 Audie Murphy came to Japan to make “Joe Butterfly”. Caroline and her Mom visited the set and Audie sauntered over for a Howdy. The gals were thrilled, especially when Audie invited them to come back with him to the USA under his sponsorship. Whatta guy! What an adventure!
I met Caroline a couple of years later, as we sat on the floor for an all-night session of a hard-fought, crooked game of Monopoly. I lost all my money and property. Sound familiar? All the invitees to “The Alamo” preem were asked to dude-up Western style. I knew most would arrive in variations of Roy and Dale. I wanted us to be different. Courtesy of Warner Bros.’ Wardrobe Dept. I went as a cowboy sidekick, an old gold prospector, replete with red long johns and a big bushy red beard (left w/ Caroline). I took Caroline to Nudie’s famous Western outfitters. I figured razzle dazzle was called for. Her all-white ensemble: hat, boots, halter top, hot pants. Truly, a Nudie cutie. Warner’s PR supervised the event. All my publicity pals shunned us. No interviews, no TV, no pics, nada. We were the designated outcasts. A big tent was set up next to the theatre for an after-flick shindig. Caroline and I had a whee of a time, a party of two. No one talked to us. We were in Glower Gulch. We were a disruptive force.
A few years later, Caroline went to work for Marlon Brando on the Pacific isle he discovered while working on, Ugh, “Mutiny on the Bounty”. She was his girl Friday. One day, native fishermen caught a huge blowfish. Marlon warned them it was poisonous, deadly if cooked improperly. He told them how. When he left, the fishermen laughed. “White man think he Great Kahuna.” They cooked the fish their way, ate it, became deathly sick. Brando to the rescue. He gathered the fishermen into his private plane and had them flown to a hospital in Tahiti. He saved their lives.
Caroline now lives in La La Land. She knows of my love of American music from the ‘30s, sent me two audio tapes, copies from Brando’s vast collection of jazz, swing and pop from daze of yore!
You know, life is a big circus parade. There must be klowns…Oh, oh! Help! Boyd! Stop me before I pun again! Arghhh! It’s too late! What was John Wayne’s favorite dessert? Pie Alamo!