THE AMERICAN WEST (mostly): Fact and Fiction (mostly fiction)





"NOBODY GETS TO BE A COWBOY FOREVER." -- Chet Rollins (Jack Palance) in MONTE WALSH (NG, 1970)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

ELKHORN TAVERN (1980) by Douglas C. Jones

"The characters are unforgettable, the atmosphere wonderfully detailed, the action and suspense skillfully maintained." -- Dee Brown, author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee 

Beginning with this book, Jones launched what would become a series of novels recounting the lives of the fictional Hasford-Pay families.  The major theme that runs through them is a sense of family loyalty and solidity, especially during times of stress and social change.  And what could be more stressful or cause more social change than the Civil War, especially if a major battle were fought in your very neighborhood?

It is 1862 and Martin Hasford is away from his home and family serving in the Confederate army in Virginia and Tennessee. Left at home in the Ozark hills of northeastern Arkansas is his wife Ora who must protect their few animals and possessions, but more important, their two teen-aged children, Calpurnia and Roman.

Among her many burdens is the necessity of fending off the depredations of roving bands of Jayhawkers and bushwhackers who are roaming freely around the countryside while indiscriminately stealing for their personal gain.

If that isn't enough, the battle of Pea Ridge, also known as the battle of Elkhorn Tavern, erupts on and around the Hasford farm.  Even though the family sympathizes with the Confederacy, Ora provides shelter for a young Yankee officer, Alan Eben Pay, who has been seriously wounded. Much to the dismay of Roman, it soon becomes evident that his sister is attracted to Allan and that the feeling is mutual.

It is also a coming-of-age story for young Roman, who, as the story progresses, takes on more and more of the responsibilities of the man of the house.


Modern day view looking from Pea Ridge toward a field where ferocious fighting occurred during the battle of Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern)

A major portion of the battle was fought around Elkhorn Tavern, which served as a hospital during and after the battle.  If you look closely at the roof of the reconstructed building you can see the basis for the name of the tavern

"Douglas Jones brings two gigantic themes in American literature together -- the raw struggle for survival on the American frontier and the grand martial conflict of the American Civil War -- and he successfully weaves them into one seamless story." -- Jack Trammel, Civil War Book Review





Saturday, April 16, 2016

SEASON OF YELLOW LEAF (1983) and GONE THE DREAMS AND DANCING (1984) by Douglas C. Jones


These novels are companion pieces that are fictional accounts of Cynthia Ann Parker's captivity by Comanches on the Texas frontier. She underwent a cruel initiation and acculturation process but was eventually accepted as a member of the tribe.  She gave birth to a son, Quanah, who grew up to become a warrior respected by his tribe and feared by his enemies.

In Jones' stories Cynthia Ann's Anglo name is changed to Morfydd Parry, which the Comanches change to Chosen, and Quanah becomes Kwahadi (Antelope).

Season of Yellow Leaf begins in 1838 with the kidnapping of ten-year old Morfydd and ends in 1854 with her "re-capture" and return to a white world that she no longer understands and does not want to live in. By the 1850's, the Comanche were facing a bleak future as they fought to oppose Western expansion by whites and encroachment on their land by re-located tribes.


The Comancheria: the land of the Comanches until about 1850

The capture of Cynthia Ann was also the inspiration for Alan LeMay's novel, The Searchers (1954), which was adapted for the screen under the same title.  Many Western aficionados rank it as the greatest western ever filmed.  It was directed by John Ford and starred John Wayne and the spectacular Monument Valley vistas.



Palo Duro (Spanish for 'hard stick') Canyon located a few miles south of modern-day Amarillo, Texas is the second largest canyon in the U.S.  It served as a winter refuge by the Comanches.  The canyon teemed with game, including buffalo, until wiped out by hide hunters.

Gone the Dreams and Dancing takes place after 1870 and is narrated by Liverpool Morgan, the Black Welshman we first met in The Barefoot Brigade (1982).  He is now serving as a civilian interpreter for the military at Fort Sill in the Indian Territory.


In 1875, Morgan first sets eyes on Kwahadi, the last war chief of his Comanche band, defeated but proud, leading his people to the Reservation. Eventually, Morgan becomes Kwahadi's friend and attempts to help the chief with the difficult task of helping his people adapt to a new way of life.

The Western Writers of America awarded Gone the Dreams and Dancing a Spur Award for Best Historical Novel.


"In these works, Jones displays the sensitivity and artistry for which he has become renowned.  His appreciation for the culture and tradition of the Comanches is apparent, and he does not diminish his subjects by romanticizing them.  His balanced treatment of whites reflects that they too are caught in processes of change that they cannot control.  Jones' characters are complex and memorable.  His descriptions of western landscape reflects his artist's eye for color and form, and his careful research recreates settings that disappeared long ago.  His novels are important contributions to Western literature." -- Cheryl J. Foote, Twentieth-Century Western Writers



Cynthia Ann Parker and infant daughter soon after her "re-capture"


Quanah Parker












Wednesday, April 6, 2016

LAW AND ORDER (Universal, 1932)

  Why is this woman prominently featured in this poster?  Only one woman, portrayed by Lois Wilson, has a speaking part, but no listing in the credits. She portrays a lady of obviously low repute who speaks just one line.  That's it.  The only other women in the film appear in a crowd scene, but speak no lines. 

DIRECTOR: Edward L. Cahn;  PRODUCER: Carl Laemmle, Jr.;  WRITERS: adaptation by John Huston and Tom Reed based on W. R. Burnett's novel, Saint Johnson; Cinematographer: Jackson Rose

CAST: Walter Huston, Harry Carey, Russell Hopton, Raymond Hatton, Ralph Ince, Harry Woods, Richard Alexander, Russell Simpson, Alphonse Ethier, Andy Devine, Hank Bell, Walter Brennan, Lois Wilson


THE REVIEWS.
"Exceptional Western that takes a familiar story...and reworks it with style but no flourishes...stark, realistic, with knockout finale." -- Leonard Maltin

"[I]t's a strikingly spare, bleakly downbeat film which hammers home its thesis -- that law and order involves a lot of killing...." Edward Buscombe, The BFI Companion to the Western

"The austere tone, the traditional O.K. Corral shootout notwithstanding, is all the more impressive considering the cheerful vacuity of most Westerns being made at the time. -- Phil Hardy, The Western

"There was a great deal of tension but little traditional physical action throughout the bulk of the film, which literally exploded in its last reel...." -- William K. Everson, A Pictorial History of the Western Film 

"It's familiar now, but beautifully done, very tense, its atmosphere obviously indebted to William S. Hart....this may well be the definitive Wyatt Earp movie; at least it vies for the honor with MY DARLING CLEMENTINE -- Brian Garfield, Western Films: A Complete Guide


Those are rather impressive reviews of a 1932 western written by modern critics.  But modern viewers might be puzzled by all that acclaim.  It is a slow film with most of the story taking place in town and much of that indoors.  At times it comes off clunky and stagey.  But it was 1932.

William S. Hart and a few others had made westerns for adult audiences during the silent era, but the biggest star of that era was Tom Mix, whose fast-moving, action-filled films were geared to a younger audience.  By 1932, Tom, now in his early fifties, was starring in his first sound series which, as it turned out, was his last.  But his kind of western movie still predominated in the films of such notables as Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard, Tim McCoy, and Buck Jones.


William S. Hart and "Fritz"

Tom Mix and "Tony"
They were entertaining films to be sure, and though they were not geared to an adult audience, I don't quite agree with Edward Buscombe's characterization of "cheerful vacuity." Yes, they were cheerful, but they were also entertaining and gave the front row crowd heroes to cheer and to look up to. There's something to be said for that.

But since William S. Hart never made the transition to sound, westerns produced for adult audiences were few and far between. That fact, as Buscombe notes, is an important reason why LAW AND ORDER is viewed so favorably.
  
Buck Jones and "Silver"
THE PLOT.
Frame Johnson (Huston), along with his brother, Luther (Hopton) and two pals, Brandt (Carey) and Deadwood (Hatton), ride into Tombstone. 

Frame is soon recognized as the famous lawman who cleaned up several Kansas cow towns.  So spotless is his reputation that he has earned the nickname of "Saint" Johnson.

Tombstone is under the collective thumbs of the Northrup brothers (Ince, Alexander and Woods) who control everything in town and the surrounding area. In fact, just as Frame and his compadres arrive the Northrups are in the process of rigging the election of sheriff in order to give the office to one of their henchmen (Ethier).

Judge Williams (Simpson) and other citizens offer the job of town marshal to Frame.  Since it is obvious that the town needs a strong law and order man in the office he reluctantly agrees to accept the job.  This of course places him in direct conflict with the newly elected sheriff and his bosses, the Northrups.  To assist him he deputizes his brother and their two friends.

At one point, Frame faces down a mob that is about to lynch simple-minded Johnny Kinsman (Devine) who accidentally killed a deputy sheriff.  He argues that Johnny should be tried and if convicted he should hang legally rather than being lynched which was the standard procedure in Tombstone.  In the subsequent trial Johnny was convicted and he did hang -- legally.

In his position as deputy marshal, Luther is forced to kill Kurt Northrup (Alexander) in self-defense.  The remaining two brothers retaliate by ambushing and killing Brandt.  This leads to the final shootout.

Luther, Deadwood, and Frame heading to a date with the Northrups

It takes place in a dimly lit barn and only one person survives.  The Northrups and their henchmen are killed, but so are Frame's brother, Luther, and their pal, Deadwood.  

A distraught Frame rides out of town alone.

The screenplay was based on W.R. Burnett's novel, Saint Johnson.  It was a thinly disguised fictional account of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday (Carey's Brandt is the Doc-like character) and the shootout at Tombstone's O.K. Corral.  I almost wrote "the legendary" Wyatt Earp and "the famous shootout," but that would not have been true at the time Burnett's novel was published in 1930.  

Earp did not enter the public consciousness outside the southwestern U.S. until Stuart Lake published Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal in 1931.  Although it was a highly fictionalized biography it seemed to be authentic since the author had the co-operation of Wyatt who consented to being interviewed.  As fate would have it, Wyatt never read the book since he died the year before its publication.

The book was a best seller that created the image of a western lawman who courageously put his life on the line almost daily in the pursuit of justice and the enforcement of law and order. Today the book will be found on the fiction shelf -- or if it isn't, it should be.

But the point is, Burnett enjoyed even more latitude in his book than Lake did precisely because his was a novel and he didn't even use the names of the Earps or Doc Holliday.  And it is doubtful that very many viewers made the Earp connection when the film was originally released. Nevertheless, LAW AND ORDER is considered to be the first Wyatt Earp film.


THE ACTORS.

A still from Walter Huston's last film, THE FURIES (1950)

Walter Huston was born in Toronto in 1884.  A stage actor, he broke into the movies in 1929 and in his second film he hit pay dirt as the villainous Trampas in THE VIRGINIAN (Paramount, 1929), directed by Victor Fleming and starring a young Gary Cooper in the title role.

After a great start with his first two Westerns, Huston appeared in a number of other Westerns down through the years, but they turned out to be hit-and-miss propositions.

He was the best thing in that over-hyped, over-budgeted, poorly acted train wreck, THE OUTLAW (RKO, 1943).  The two young leads, Jane Russell and Jack Beutel (as Billy the Kid), were badly miscast and Thomas Mitchell, the consummate character actor, could do nothing with his poorly scripted role as a cowardly, afraid of his own shadow, Pat Garrett.  And I don't know how Doc Holliday got into the Billy/Garrett story, but there he was in the form of Walter Huston. But he couldn't save the film.

Huston also appeared in DUEL IN THE SUN(Selznick, 1946), another overblown western epic, and though it is better amd much more watchable than THE OUTLAW, it will never be counted among the great western movies.         

After being nominated for an Oscar three times (all non-westerns roles) and not winning, he finally succeeded when he was named the Best Supporting Actor for his outstanding performance in THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (WB, 1948).  When discussion of this film comes up there is almost certain to be debate of whether or not it is a western.  I prefer to believe that it is and that it is a great one aided in no small part by Huston's performance.  Also contributing to the success of the film was its director, who just happened to be Huston's son, John, who won the the Oscar for Best Director for his work on the film. 

In 1950, Huston appeared in THE FURIES (WB), directed by Anthony Mann.  The film has its partisans but I don't fall into that camp.  I tend to lump it in the overdone, over blown category with THE OUTLAW and DUEL IN THE SUN. Unfortunately, it was Huston's final film.  He died shortly after its release.

A still of Harry Carey from an unknown film
Harry Carey (1878-1947) was born in New York City, but made his mark on the other coast.  A real film pioneer he began appearing in movies as early as 1909. 

He went on to become a star in silent Westerns that featured plots very much in the tradition of William S. Hart and far removed from those of Tom Mix.  A young John Ford directed several of them.

With the advent of sound, Carey became a dependable and sought after character actor, who also starred in some gritty B-Westerns that owed more to Hart than Mix.

He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (Columbia, 1939), but lost out to Thomas Mitchell's portrayal of the drunken doctor in John Ford's STAGECOACH (UA, 1939).  

One of his best, and most underrated, performances was in Howard Hawks' World War II drama, AIR FORCE (WB,1943).  Despite his advanced age of sixty-five at the time, he was quite believable in his bittersweet, poignant role as the crew chief of a B-17 at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Like Huston, he was later cast in DUEL IN THE SUN and was responsible for one of that film's better performances.    

Raymond Hatton (1887-1971) began acting in films at about the same time as Carey, and though he was never a star he sure was busy.  He appeared in over a hundred silent films and then more than 200 films during the sound era.  Over half of his roles in the sound era were in westerns.  In most of those westerns, as in LAW AND ORDER, he filled the role of sidekick.  He is best known as a popular "old-timer" sidekick who provided a comic touch in three B-Western movie series, but one who was more in the tradition of Gabby Hayes rather than Smiley Burnette.  Burnette played the incompetent buffoon who was incapable of lending assistance to the hero unless it was by accident.  Gabby could be funny, but he could also be counted on when the chips were down.  

The same could be said of Hatton when he supported John Wayne and Ray Corrigan, and then Robert Livingston and Duncan Renaldo, in two of Republic's Three Mesquiteers combinations.  He filled a similar role in Monogram's Rough Riders series that teamed him with Buck Jones and Tim McCoy.  When the Rough Riders series ended as a result of Jones' tragic death in a nightclub fire, McCoy became Johnny Mack Brown's sidekick in Monogram's longest-running series.
Raymond Hatton, B-western sidekick extraordinaire

Hatton continued to act right into the '60's, but with the demise of the B-western movie series, he was seen most often on TV.   


THE DIRECTOR.    
There isn't much to be said here about the career of Edward Cahn (1899-1963). William K. Everson stated it in blunt terms when he wrote that LAW AND ORDER, only the director's second film, "was also his artistic zenith; he never again made a film that was one-tenth as good." 

But he did have a long career, but not in the western genre.  In the mid-'50's, he began to specialize in the monster/horror films for which he is most remembered.


THE WRITER.
William Riley "W.R." Burnett (1899-1982) was born in Springfield, Ohio.  He moved to Chicago when he was in his late twenties.  At the time he had already written over a hundred short stories and five novels -- all unpublished.

He took a job as a night clerk in a run-down hotel in a bad section of the city. There he became acquainted with the criminal underworld that inspired his first published novel, Little Caesar (1929), which was made into a movie two years later that gave Edward G. Robinson the role that made him a star.
W.R. Burnett
From that point on Burnett was a successful and busy novelist who also wrote and adapted stories for film.  He was best known for his crime novels. One of them, High Sierra, was turned into a popular Warner Brothers movie in 1941 that starred Humphrey Bogart and was directed by Raoul Walsh.  Eight years later, the studio re-made the film, but as a classic Western, COLORADO TERRITORY, again directed by Walsh, and starring Joel McCrea and Virginia Mayo.

He also wrote the story for another outstanding western, YELLOW SKY (Fox,1948), directed by William Wellman and starring Gregory Peck, Anne Baxter, and Richard Widmark.

Universal got good mileage out of LAW AND ORDER.  They subsequently re-made it three times: 

WILD WEST DAYS (1937): a B-western serial starring Johnny Mack Brown


LAW AND ORDER (1940): a B-western feature starring Johnny Mack Brown


LAW AND ORDER (1953): a B+-western starring Ronald Reagan and Dorothy Malone



Ronald Reagan is Frame "Saint" Johnson












Sunday, March 20, 2016

A CREEK CALLED WOUNDED KNEE (1978) by Douglas C. Jones

On December 29, 1890 Custer's old command, the Seventh Cavalry, attempted to disarm a band of 120 Minneconjou Sioux warriors led by Chief Big Foot that had surrendered the day before.  

When one warrior resisted surrendering his rifle and a trooper attempted to wrest it from him, either the rifle or some other weapon fired, and the soldiers began to fire indiscriminately into the group of Sioux, who then began to retrieve their stacked weapons and to fire back.  Since most of them had no weapons they began to flee in an effort to avoid annihilation.  

The Seventh had mounted four Hotchkiss cannons on a nearby knoll and the soldiers manning the guns began to fire into the Sioux encampment located some distance from where the meeting between the Seventh and Big Foot's men had taken place.  It is estimated that 230 women and children were in the camp at the time.  As they and a number of the men attempted to make their escape down a dry ravine, the guns were turned on them and the canister shells from the Hotchkiss guns rained deadly shrapnel up and down the ravine.


Soldiers and Hotchkiss guns at Wounded Knee
On that day, 153 known Sioux, including Big Foot, were killed. Over half of the dead were women and children.  Since many of the captured Sioux later died from wounds and others who were wounded but made their escape probably died as well, some estimates place the total dead as high as 300.

Twenty-five solders were killed and thirty-nine were wounded. However, because the two troops that were charged with the responsibility of disarming the Sioux were formed in an L shape in close proximity to the warriors, there is evidence that most of the Seventh's casualties were the result of friendly fire.




Body of Big Foot frozen into a grotesque shape by a winter blizzard



Monument marking mass grave in Wounded Knee cemetery

A Creek Called Wounded Knee (1978) was the third entry in what became a de facto trilogy on the Indian-white conflict on the northern plains.  The first two were The Court-Martial of George Armstrong Custer (1976) and Arrest Sitting Bull (1977).  Since the massacre at Wounded Knee occurred exactly two weeks after Sitting Bull's death, the third novel represents a natural progression.

The latter two events are closely related not only in terms of time, but also because it was the Ghost Dance movement that was spreading like a prairie grass fire among the Lakota Sioux that aroused fear among settlers, U.S. Indian Agents, and the U.S. cavalry.  Sensationalist reporting by competing newspapers not only added fuel to the fire, but also fanned the flames of hatred and distrust.  Adding further symmetry to the three novels is the fact that it was George Custer's reconstituted Seventh Cavalry regiment that was responsible for the massacre.

As he did in the first two novels, Jones utilizes both historical and fictional characters to tell the story, but within the plot he makes the story as factual as possible.  I always knew that he was a thorough researcher, but I discovered in rereading this novel that he was even more meticulous than I first imagined.  

I won't give them away, but there are two incidents in the story that just did not ring true for me.  I thought they were cases of a novelist doing what a novelist is supposed to do, in fact is obligated to do.  I assumed he had manufactured a couple of fictional events in order to spice up the story. However, in doing a little further research I discovered that both were documented events.  I also ran across other examples of a similar nature.

For some readers, this story will at first move slowly, but as a reviewer wrote in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch "[t]he ominous presence of the coming tragedy is on every page."

In the beginning, Jones sets the stage by vividly detailing the fear and distrust that pervaded Big Foot's band as well as the nervous anxiety of the relatively inexperienced raw recruits who comprised a majority of the reconstituted Seventh Calvary, a regiment that had earlier sustained a stunning defeat at the hands of the Sioux and Cheyenne on the Little Bighorn.  Fourteen years later, near a creek in South Dakota, the Seventh and the Sioux clashed again in what was initially called the battle of Wounded Knee, but today is almost universally known as the Wounded Knee Massacre.






  

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

ARREST SITTING BULL (1977) by Douglas C. Jones

"Jones displays sympathy for whites and Indians but never slips into a maudlin sentimentality.  The villains of his novels are not the people caught up in the event but a government that repeatedly dealt with Indian-White conflict ineptly and insensitively." 
-- Cheryl J. Foote, Twentieth-Century Western Writers

Douglas C. Jones’ first novel was THE COURT-MARTIAL OF GEORGE ARMSTRONG CUSTER (1976); a “what-if” story that asked (and answered) the question of what Custer’s fate would have been had he survived the battle of Little Bighorn.  His second novel, The Arrest of Sitting Bull (1977), was also a fictional account of a controversial chapter in the history of Indian-white relations.  This time it is the events surrounding the death of Sitting Bull on December 15, 1890. 

At the time, the Lakota Sioux chief was living on the Standing Rock Reservation on the borders between the recently created states of North and South Dakota. The authorities had become deeply concerned about the Ghost Dance movement that had spread among the Lakota.  The movement, sharing many of the characteristics of a religion, promised the eminent arrival of an Indian Messiah who would bring back the buffalo and free the Indians from their white oppressors.

The U.S. Indian Agent at the reservation, James McLaughlin, who believed that Sitting Bull was one of the moving forces behind the movement, sent a group of Indian policemen, thirty-nine in all, to Sitting Bull's cabin to arrest him. The botched effort by the policemen ended in tragedy.

Ten days later the Wounded Knee massacre occurred on the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.  That tragedy was the subject of Jones’ third novel, A Creek Called Wounded Knee (1978). 


As in his first novel, and as he would do in subsequent novels, Jones intertwines historical and fictional characters, intermingles fact and fiction, and uses the eye of a painter (which he was), the ear of a journalist (degrees in journalism and mass communications), and the research skills of a historian to bring history alive in a way that no historian could.













Sunday, March 6, 2016

THE COURT-MARTIAL OF GEORGE ARMSTRONG CUSTER (1976) by Douglas C. Jones

DOUGLAS C. JONES (1924-1998).
I find it difficult to understand why some western novelists are so fortunate to have many of their books and stories make their way to movie and TV screens, while other writers often just as talented, or maybe even more so, rarely, if ever, see their work adapted to film.

There is no doubt that timing is a factor. Writers such as Zane Grey, Ernest Haycox, and Luke Short, for example, were turning out novels at a time when western movies were extremely popular and were annually produced by the hundreds.  In the case of Grey all of his western novels were filmed, most of them more than once, though in some cases only the title of the story survived the screenplay.

On the other hand, the stories of a few other writers -- Louis L'Amour and Larry McMurty come to mind -- have made their way to the screen even at a time that fewer and fewer westerns were being filmed.  True, most of the L'Amour stories were filmed as made-for-TV movies, but they were filmed.

Then there is the late Elmer Kelton, who was a prolific writer of popular western novels, some of which were acclaimed by critics and won prestigious awards. And yet only one of them, The Good Old Boys, was ever filmed, and that as a TV movie with Tommy Lee Jones as producer, director, and star.

And that brings us to Douglas C. Jones.  

First of all, it would be a misnomer to call him a "western novelist."  While it is true that most of his novels were set in the West, they were far from the formulaic stories produced by the likes of L'Amour, Haycox, Short, and company, or even Kelton.  While Kelton did write a few novels that approached literary status, most of them would have to be classified as formulaic, which is not to say that they weren't well-written and enjoyable.  Jones' novels, on the other hand, were anything but formulaic.  They weren't really "western novels" as we think of the term, but were in reality historical novels that happened to be set in the West.

But like Kelton, only one of Jones' stories has been adapted to film and is likewise a TV movie. Jones' very first novel, The Court-Martial of George Armstrong Custer, was produced as a Hallmark TV movie in 1977, and is thus far the first and last Jones story to be filmed.  

He was born in 1924 in the small northwestern Arkansas town of Winslow, located about half-way between the larger towns of Fort Smith and Fayetteville. After graduating from high school in Fayetteville in 1942, he was drafted into the army and served in the Pacific Theater.

After his discharge, he attended the University of Arkansas, graduating with a degree in journalism in 1949.  He then returned to the army where he served another twenty years.  But during that time he attended the University of Wisconsin where he was awarded a master's degree in mass communications.

Having grown up in northwestern Arkansas just across the Arkansas River from the former Indian Territory, it is only natural that Jones developed a deep and abiding interest in the history of the Indian frontier.  That interest led him to deal with the conflict between Indians and whites in his first book, a work of nonfiction, as well as his first three novels which followed.  And it was a subject that he would also return to in his later work.

While still in the military, his first book, The Treaty of Medicine Lodge, was published in 1966.  His only nonfiction book, it was a re-working of his master's thesis.  That might seem a strange thesis for a degree in mass communications until you read the book's subtitle: The Story of the Great Treaty Council as Told by Eyewitnesses.  The eyewitnesses were the newspaper correspondents such as Henry Stanley who were sent to cover the proceedings.



The above marker which sets in the town of Medicine Lodge, Kansas is somewhat of an over simplification of the treaty's impact, but it is correct in stating that it did not bring immediate peace.  There were several causes, but the chief one was the fact that Congress failed to follow through with its side of the agreement.

Retiring as a Lt. Colonel in 1968, he taught journalism for six years at Wisconsin, eventually devoting full-time to his writing. Fifty-two years old when his first novel was published, he would write sixteen more, with the last being published posthumously.  His historical novels range all the way from the American Revolution to the Great Depression.  There is also an eighteenth novel, set in World War II, that has as of yet not been published.  It would seem a natural fit for a career soldier who served in that conflict, but with the passing of almost two decades since his death, it doesn't seem likely that it will ever see the light of day.


THE BOOK.
According to Jones, the premise of his first novel was born as a result of a discussion with a friend about what Custer's fate might have been had he survived the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  

It was Jones' opinion that Custer would have faced court-martial charges related to his leadership and conduct during the battle.

In the alternate history that resulted (the only foray that Jones made into that genre), charges are brought against Custer and witnesses are called to testify for and against him.  The witnesses present conflicting views of the man and confusing testimony about the events surrounding the battle that in many ways reflect the confusion that still surrounds the man and his actions to this day.  It is through the testimony of the eyewitnesses that the battle is recreated.

View from "Last Stand Hill" with Little Bighorn valley in the distance marked by trees along the bank of the river.  It was in the valley that the large villages of the Lakota (Sioux) and Northern Cheyenne were hidden.
The verdict?  I'm not at liberty to say on the grounds that I would be guilty of spoiling a good story.  But I do recommend it to anyone who is interested in the intriguing possibilities that the book offers.  I should also mention that it won the Western Writers of America's spur award for Best Western Novel.


"This is a fantasy which needs no apology, for who among us has not been intrigued by the alternatives history never reveals." -- Douglas C. Jones, writing in the preface of The Court-Martial of George Armstrong Custer


Enhancing the pleasure of reading the book are the pencil and charcoal sketches of the principal characters that are included in my first edition copy. The artist is the author.  I forgot to mention that he was also a talented artist. And as a painter, he was able to describe and bring to life landscapes in a vivid fashion in his novels.  His sketches also appear in the first editions of several of his other books.

One critic wrote that Jones' abilities as a writer, journalist, historian, and painter represented "a happy amalgamation of talents."  And so they did.  Oh, I also forgot to mention that he played the upright bass in a jazz band.  I guess that was in his spare time.


"Countless movies and books have ... featured Custer.  Sometimes Custer is a hero; recently, more often, he's a villain, but never boring .... Both admirers and critics of Custer will find something in the book to support their points of view. -- William F.B. Vearey, The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable 


"This superb novel answers the question that everyone has asked: What would have happened to Custer had he lived?  Read it." -- Jessamyn West


The Film (Warner Bros. TV, 1977)  (NBC-TV).
DIRECTOR: Glenn Jordan; PRODUCER: Norman Rosemont; WRITERS: teleplay by John Gay based on novel by Douglas C. Jones; CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jim Kilgore

CAST: Brian Keith, James Olson, Blythe Danner, Ken Howard, Stephen Elliott, Dehl Berti, James Blendick, J.D. Cannon, Nicolas Coster, William Daniels, Richard Dysart, Anthony Zerbe







Tuesday, January 26, 2016

THE DOOLIN-DALTON GANG, PART III: The Sound Films

You can read Part I here; and Part II here.






BADMAN'S TERRITORY (RKO, 1946)

DIRECTOR: Tim Whelan;  PRODUCER: Nat Holt;  STORY: screenplay by Jack Natteford, Luci Ward, Clarence Upson Young, and Bess Boyle; CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert De Grasse

CAST: Randolph Scott, Ann Richards, George "Gabby" Hayes, Ray Collins, James Warren, Morgan Conway, Virginia Sale, Richard Hale, Chief Thundercloud, Lawrence Tierney, Tom Tyler, Steve Brodie, Phil Warren, William Moss, Nestor Pavia, Isabel Jewell, Jack Clifford, Carl Eric Hansen, Neal Hart, Harry Harvey, Ben Johnson, Elmo Lincoln, Kermit Maynard, Glenn McCarthy, Bud Osborne, Emory Parnell, Buddy Roosevelt, Robert J. Wilke


"See them ALL in action in one picture!" proclaims the poster.  The ALL being a whole host of flea-bitten varmints and owl hoots who, at one time or the other, rode the outlaw trail -- but not all at the same time -- except in this movie (and one other, which we will get to next).  There's Frank and Jesse James (Tyler and Tierney); Bob, Grat, and Bill Dalton (Brodie, Phil Warren, and Moss); Sam Bass (Pavia), Belle Starr (Jewell), Bill Doolin (Carl Eric Hansen); and Charlie Bryant (Glenn McCarthy).

Even Elmo Lincoln (born Otto Elmo Linkenhelt), the screen's first Tarzan, makes an appearance as Dick Broadwell.

And lawman Mark Rowley (Scott) has to contend will all of these bad men and this bad woman who have congregated in the Oklahoma Territory.  Well, of course you have to suspend your annoying tendency to point out historical inaccuracies in films in order to enjoy this one. This is primarily necessary because several of these individuals had already bit the dust well before the Daltons became wanted outlaws.  Belle had been assassinated a year earlier; Jesse four years earlier; and Sam Bass had been gone for over a decade.

As it often happens, Oklahoma looks a lot like California.    

But never mind.  Viewers didn't seem to mind (or know) about historical chronology and the movie did good business at the box office.  The film is also significant in that it represents the beginning of Randolph Scott's transition to full-time western star.



REVIEWS:

"Nat Holt produced this absurdity; history twisted beyond belief.  The "B" antics are actionful, the performers mostly likable, the script bewildering.  Poor, but amusing for the kiddies." -- Western Films: A Complete Guide, Brian Garfield

"The number of featured parts necessarily make for an episodic structure but Whelan's spirited direction lifts the material well above the rut of routine." -- The Western, Phil Hardy

"Solid Western...nonstop fireworks.  Rich characterizations, with Hayes fun as the Coyote Kid." -- Leonard Maltin 

"....it’s a Randolph Scott Western of the 1940s and as such is definitely worth a watch. Put your credulity on hold and enjoy it for what it is. But don’t expect too much. No one would put it at the top of the Randy list." -- Jeff Arnold's West





RETURN OF THE BADMEN (RKO, 1948)



DIRECTOR: Ray Enright;  PRODUCER: Nat Holt;  WRITERS: screenplay by Charles O'Neal, Jack Natteford, and Luci Ward based on story by Jack Natteford and Luci Ward;  CINEMATOGRAPHER: J. Roy Hunt

CAST: Randolph Scott, Robert Ryan, Anne Jeffreys, George "Gabby" Hayes, Jacqueline White, Steve Brodie, Tom Keene, Robert Bray, Lex Barker, Walter Reed, Michael Harvey, Dean White, Robert Armstrong, Tom Tyler, Lew Harvey, Ernie Adams, Victor Adamson, Hank Bell, Lane Chandler, Earle Hodgins, Kenneth MacDonald, Bud Osborne, Harry Shannon, Charlie Stevens, Forrest Taylor

We're back in Oklahoma Territory and the usual suspects have been rounded up and Randolph Scott is once again a lawman forced to contend with many of the same outlaws he confronted in BADMAN'S TERRITORY two years earlier.  But he isn't the same person.  Mark Rowley in the former, he is now Vance Cordell in the latter.  But that isn't the only confusing aspect associated with RETURN OF THE BADMEN.  The same kind of inaccurate historical chronologies are as true of this film as were true of its predecessor.  So the viewer is advised to just go with the flow and accept the film for what it is, a work of pure fiction that utilizes the names of real people.      
Here is the outlaw lineup and the actors who portrayed them: 


  • The Sundance Kid (but no Butch) -- Robert Ryan
  • Cole, Jim, and John Younger -- Steve Brodie, Tom Keene (RKO's first B-Western series star at the beginning of the sound era), and Robert Bray
  • Emmett, Bob, and Grat Dalton -- Lex Barker (a year later he would become RKO's Tarzan), Walter Reed, and Michael Harvey
  • Billy the Kid -- Dean White 
  • Wild Bill Doolin -- Robert Armstrong
  • Wild Bill Yeager (never heard of him) -- Tom Tyler
  • Arkansas Kid (ditto) -- Lew Harvey
In addition, Anne Jeffreys is Cheyenne, billed as the "notorious gun girl."  Gun girl?  

Sadly, we have to say goodbye to veteran character actor Ernie Adams who died shortly before this film, his 427th, was released.


Ernie Adams

REVIEWS:

"Ryan is splendid as lead heavy." Western Films: A Complete Guide, Brian Garfield

"Ryan's edginess and Scott's air of assured competence complement each other well and, despite the showier roles of Brodie and Armstrong, they are always at the center of the film.  This is a superior RKO star western. -- The Western, Phil Hardy

"Stand-out is Robert Ryan, always one of the best bad guys available...." -- Jeff Arnold's West


Who is the star of this film anyway?






THE DOOLINS OF OKLAHOMA (Columbia, 1949)


DIRECTOR: Gordon Douglas; PRODUCER: Harry Joe Brown; WRITER: screenplay and story by Kenneth Gamet; CINEMATOGRAPHER: Charles Lawton, Jr. 

CAST: Randolph Scott, George Macready, Louise Allbritton, John Ireland, Virginia Huston, Charles Kemper, Noah Beery, Jr., Dona Drake, Robert Barrat, Lee Patrick, Griff Barnet, Frank Fenton, Jock Mahoney, James Kirkwood, Stanley Andrews, Trevor Bardette, Al Bridge, Paul Burns, William Haade, Reed Howes, Lloyd Ingraham, Kermit Maynard, Brick Sullivan


This is the best of the Doolin-Dalton gang films, although the script kills off Bill Dalton at Coffeyville, so in the aftermath of that debacle there is only the Doolin gang. It has a lot going for it, however, not the least being Randolph Scott, who not long ago was a hunter of outlaws in BADMAN'S TERRITORY and RETURN OF THE BADMEN, but now, as Bill Doolin, is the hunted.

The supporting cast is outstanding.  Filling the roles of the other gang members are: John Ireland (always a welcome presence in any western) as Bitter Creek; Noah Beery, Jr. (seems to never give a bad performance) as Little Bill; Charles Kemper, who provides the comedy relief in the Edgar Buchanan/Wallace Ford role, is Thomas "Arkansas" Jones (Arkansas Tom Jones in real life); Frank Fenton is a grumpy Red Buck; and stuntman extraordinaire Jock Mahoney is Tulsa Jack and in his spare time also doubles for Scott.

Louise Allbritton is the Rose of Cimarron who is in love with Bitter Creek. However, the adult actress in no way resembles the real Rose (real name Rose Dunn), who was only a teenager when she and Bitter Creek were keeping company.  Also not in the movie is the fact that in real life Bitter Creek was killed by bounty hunters, who just happened to be Rose's brothers.

There were a couple of other teenage girls who had some association with the Doolin-Dalton gang: Cattle Annie and Little Britches.  Legend has it that they illegally sold liquor to the Indians, stole horses, and scouted for the gang.  In the film, Dona Drake portrays Cattle Annie in an over the top and unrealistic fashion, but Little Britches is nowhere to be seen.

Gordon Douglas does a more than capable job as director in this his first Western.  Making his job easier is the assistance provided by the legendary action director, Yakima Canutt, and such expert stuntmen as Jock Mahoney and Kermit Maynard.  

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Charles Lawton, Jr.'s black and white photography.  He is one of the best.  The film is worth watching just to see the dramatic nighttime chase scene through the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, California.

It is also significant that Harry Joe Brown was in the process of replacing Nat Holt as Scott's producer and partner.  It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship that resulted in good times for star, producer, and western movie fans.


REVIEWS:   

Let's first get the negative ones out of the way:

"In this mediocre version there's little, if any, similarity to the facts of the legend." -- Western Films: A Complete Guide, Brian Garfield

"Douglas directs with some style but the plot, which seeks to romanticize Scott as the leader of five lead-spewing gunmen, is too old-fashioned....Only Lawton's stunning cinematography is at all modern." -- The Western, Phil Hardy

And now for something positive:

"The film shows the progression taking place in the star’s work that would lead inevitably to those towering roles in the late 50s and the beginning of the 60s. It also provides evidence of the growing maturity of the genre itself on the eve of its golden decade." -- Riding the High Country 








THE CIMARRON KID (Universal-International, 1952)


DIRECTOR: Budd Boetticher;  PRODUCER: Ted Richmond;  WRITERS: screenplay by Louis Stevens based on story by Louis Stevens and Kay Lenard;  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Charles P. Boyle


CAST:  Audie Murphy, Yvette Dugay, Beverly Tyler, James Best, John Hudson, Hugh O'Brian, Roy Roberts, David Wolfe, Noah Beery, Jr., Leif Erickson, John Hubbard, Frank Silvera, John Bromfield, Rand Brooks, Gregg Palmer, William Reynolds, Palmer Lee, Frank Ferguson, Harry Harvey, Tristam Coffin, David Sharpe


It is a typical Hollywood whitewash that forces a good man to become an outlaw against his will, but it does have some redeeming qualities. Audie Murphy was beginning to mature as an actor and his screen persona was coming into focus. He gave his best performances in films headed by strong directors, such as the two directed by John Huston (RED BADGE OF COURAGE and THE UNFORGIVEN) and here he is fortunate to be guided by Budd Boetticher, a director coming into his own.

Murphy is Bill Doolin, the Cimarron Kid, although I have never seen any reference to him being known by that sobriquet, and he takes over the remnants of the Dalton gang after Bob (Beery), Grat (Palmer), and Emmett (Brooks), along with Tulsa Jack (Bromfield), die in the streets of Coffeyville. Even though Emmett lived until 1937, Hollywood scriptwriters can't resist the urge to force him to die with his brothers.

In this version of the events, Doolin and two others survive the raid and make their getaway to live and rob another day.  The two who survive are Dynamite Dick Dalton (!) (Hudson) and Bitter Creek Dalton (!) (Best).  The writers have also manufactured a Will Dalton (Reynolds), a brother even younger than the deceased Emmett.  And Bill Dalton, the Dalton in the Doolin-Dalton gang, never makes an appearance.

Anyway, the gang is reformed, now under Doolin's leadership, although Red Buck (Hugh O'Brian with hair and beard dyed red), who always seems to be the dissenting voice in film adaptations of the legend, challenges Doolin for the leadership role but fails to gain any support from the other gang members.

Yvette Dugay, as the Rose of Cimarron, is Bitter Creek's girl.  However, her name is Rosa rather than Rose and she is Mexican rather than Anglo.  Beverly Tyler is Doolin's romantic interest and she pleads with him to give up the outlaw life and to settle down with her.  He agrees to do so -- after one more job -- which turns out to be one job too many.  But in typical Hollywood fashion, Doolin, like Billy the Kid and other outlaws before him, doesn't die at the end. He goes to prison, but he doesn't die.


Murphy and Tyler
The film is worth watching if you are an Audie Murphy fan and because it was the first true western directed by Boetticher, who would later make a series of classic westerns starring Randolph Scott.

And since it is a Universal production, the viewer can always count on superior photography. This time it is provided by Charles P. Boyle, with California once again standing in for Oklahoma. 



REVIEWS:  

"Uninspired formula western." -- Leonard Maltin

"Unexceptional oater is nowhere near as solid a job as the movies Boetticher directed with Randolph Scott later in the decade." -- Western Films: A Complete Guide, Brian Garfield

"Although Stevens' screenplay is hardly demanding, Boetticher and Murphy, who gives a surprisingly confident performance, do what they can....This is a minor, but entertaining film." -- The Western, Phil Hardy

"Films about the Doolin-Dalton gang are fairly thin on the ground, though there are a few....Even rarer is a film about these outlaws that is even remotely close to historical fact. This one is complete balderdash from start to finish. Still, it’s fun, and since when did we watch Hollywood Westerns for a history lesson?" -- 
Jeff Arnold's West 





ROSE OF CIMARRON (Fox, 1952)


DIRECTOR: Harry Keller;  PRODUCER: Edward Alperson;  WRITER: screenplay by Maurice Geraghty;  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Karl Struss

CAST:  Jack Beutel, Mala Powers, Bill Williams, Jim Davis, Art Smith, Bob Steele, Lillian Bronson, William Phipps, Irving Bacon, Dick Curtis, Monte Blue, George Chandler, Tom Steele, John Doucette, Tommy Cook, William Schallert, Kenneth MacDonald, Bryon Foulger, Lane Bradford, William Fawcett, Hank Patterson

This double feature second bill has B-Western written all over it beginning with its 71 minute running time and extending to its three lead actors, its supporting cast, its director, its producer, and its screenwriter. And its connection to the real Rose of Cimarron is nebulous to say the least; one might say in name only.

This Rose (Powers) was raised by the Cherokee after her parents were killed by the Comanche.  But tragedy struck again when her Cherokee parents were killed by three white outlaws who were stealing their horses.

This causes Rose and her adopted brother and protector, Willie Whitewater (Davis), to go on the vengeance trail in an effort to find the killers.  As it turns out, the leader of the outlaws is George (but not Bitter creek) Newcomb (Williams), who takes a fancy to the beautiful Rose.

Fortunately, Rose can call on Marshal Hollister (Beutel) for assistance and not only are they successful in avenging her parents' death but she and the marshal fall in love.


REVIEWS:

"Keller's direction has more bite than usual and Steele, star of so many B-Westerns, gives the unlikely hero and heroine solid support.  Nevertheless, the film marks a sad decline from Beutel's debut, THE OUTLAW (1943)." -- The Western, Phil Hardy

"Simpleminded...hack job offers terrible acting but it's speedy and the cast is filled with faces familiar to buffs." -- Western Films: A Complete Guide, Brian Garfield

"ROSE OF CIMARRON was Mala’s first Western and she’s really rather good in it, despite the rather clunky script and direction. Later, she was a regular of TV Western shows. -- JEFF ARNOLD'S WEST










STORIES OF THE CENTURY (Studio City Television Productions, 1954-55)

DIRECTOR: William Witney (30 episodes), Franklin Adreon (9 episodes); PRODUCER: Edward J. White;  WRITER: Maurice Tombragel (22 scripts); CINEMATOGRAPHY:  Bud Thackery


CAST:  Jim Davis, Mary Castle (26 episodes), Kristine Miller (13 episodes)



     
Matt Clark, Railroad Detective
If the above names seem familiar, there is a good reason.  Studio City Television Productions was the television arm of Republic Studios and the series represents its first venture into the world of the small screen.

William Witney had been a long-time director of the studio's serials and B-Western series and since the demise of those genres had become the studio's primary director of its Western features; Franklin Adreon became one of Republic's most prolific directors of serials after Witney moved on to other things; Bud Thackery had been a busy Republic employee for years; Edward J. White had been the long-time producer of both the Roy Rogers and Rex Allen B-western series; and Jim Davis at the time that this series was being filmed had been for some time appearing in practically every western Republic was producing, and nearly all of them directed by Witney.  In most of those films Davis played a heavy, but here he gets to be the hero -- and how!

As Matt Clark, railroad detective, he is in on the capture or killing of famous outlaws every week -- for thirty-nine weeks -- ranging from such notable outlaws as Billy the Kid all the way to L.H. Musgrove.  L.H. Musgrove?  Well, that's why the series lasted only thirty-nine episodes.  Matt and his cohorts had already wiped out all the famous bad guys and gals.

In his herculean efforts, Matt was assisted by a female undercover operative -- first Frankie Adams (Mary Castle) and later Margaret "Jonesy" Jones (Kristine Miller).  Despite the range of years that the series encompassed, Matt and his two female assistants never aged.  In one episode, they infiltrated Quantrill's guerilla band just before the sack of Lawrence, Kansas in the 1860's and had not aged one bit in the Tom Horn episode which takes place early in the 20th century!  Furthermore, in that span of years Matt rarely -- very rarely -- changed clothes!

In episode #9, they were at Coffeyville where they helped the citizens of that community wipe-out the Daltons and in episode #10 they are in Tombstone where they participate in the gun battle near that famous corral and -- well, you get the picture.

In episode #21, Matt and Frankie play a role in capturing Bill Doolin (Leo Gordon).  Then after Doolin escapes from jail Matt is standing beside Heck Thomas when the marshal terminates the outlaw's career with a blast from his shotgun.



Leo Gordon as Bill Doolin

In the very next episode, Little Britches (Gloria Winters) receives her thirty minutes of fame.  For some reason Cattle Annie doesn't make an appearance in the episode, nor does Bill Doolin.  Perhaps Doolin's absence can be explained by the fact that the previous week the series had dealt with him in a decisive fashion.


Gloria Winters in her best known role as Sky King's neice -- pretty, perky Penny





CATTLE ANNIE AND LITTLE BRITCHES 
(Universal, 1981)


DIRECTOR: Lamont Johnson; PRODUCERS: Rupert Hitzig and Alan King;  WRITERS: screenplay by David Eyre based on story and novel by Robert Ward;  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Larry Pizer


CAST: Scott Glenn, Diane Lane, Burt Lancaster, Amanda Plummer, Rod Steiger, John Savage, William Russ, Buck Taylor, Roger Cudney, Redmond Gleeson, John Quade, Michael Conrad


I'm going to go out on a limb here and pronounce CATTLE ANNIE AND LITTLE BRITCHES to be the best western film released in 1981, nosing out ZORRO: THE GAY BLADE and THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER.  To be truthful I have never seen the former and wish that I had never seen the latter.

What a dismal year it was for a genre that had grown virtually moribund.  Only fifteen titles were released and only six of those were American productions.  It was a sad, sad year for the genre.

As has already been established, Cattle Annie (Plummer) and Little Britches (Lane) were a couple of adolescents who purportedly broke the law by selling liquor to Indians and stealing horses.  Legend has it that they also served as scouts and conveyors of information to the Doolin-Dalton gang.  In this film, however, they play an even greater role by planning some of the gang's robberies.  They are also sisters, which in real life they were not.

Burt Lancaster is Bill Doolin and Scott Glenn is Bill Dalton.  Some of the other actual members of the gang are also characters in the film:
  • Bitter Creek Newcomb -- John Savage
  • Little Dick Raidler -- William Russ
  • Dynamite Dick -- Buck Taylor
  • Red Buck -- Redmond Gleeson
In addition, in a surprisingly restrained performance is Rod Steiger as U.S. marshal Bill Tilghman.  The marshal is successful in capturing Doolin and sending him to jail (which is true), but he escapes (which is true) with the assistance of the two girls (which is not true), and rides away with his men (which is not true because most of them had already been captured or killed). The girls are arrested by Tilghman and sent to a reformatory in Massachusetts (which is true).

Bill Doolin escapes and rides away but we know he has a date with destiny in the person of Marshal Heck Thomas and his shotgun.

Oklahoma gets slighted again.  The movie is filmed in Mexico.

Cattle Annie and Little Britches

Little Britches (Diane Lane) and Cattle Annie (Amanda Plummer)




REVIEWS:


"Excellent camera work on Durango locations, and a primitive but fitting score, help make this comedy-drama one of the more appealing minor westerns of the early 1980s." -- Western Films: A Complete Guide, Brian Garfield

"The film strains too much for its effects and its jollity is accordingly short-lived." -- The Western, Phil Hardy

"...a funny, sweet mock-western that miraculously avoids most of the sentimental traps it sets for itself." -- New York Times, Vincent Canby

"Lancaster looks happy in the movie and still looks tough: it's an unbeatable combination.  Young Amanda Plummer (in her screen debut) gives a scarily brilliant performance. -- The New Yorker






YOU KNOW MY NAME (TNT, 1999)

DIRECTOR: John Kent Harrison;  PRODUCER: Andrew Gottlieb; WRITER: John Kent Harrison; CINEMATOGRAPHER: Kees Van Oostrum

CAST:  Sam Elliott, Arliss Howard, Carolyn McCormick, James Gammon, R. Lee Emery, James Parks, Sheila McCarthy, Nataalia Rey, Jonathon Young, James Baker

The year is 1924 and Bill Tilghman (Elliott) has retired from a long career in law enforcement.  In fact, he has become a film producer, director, script writer, cinematographer, and actor.  But the good people of Cromwell, Oklahoma need help. Their oil boom town is overrun by criminals, prostitutes, and ruthless businessmen -- not to mention a crooked, psychotic federal prohibition agent named Wiley Lynn (Howard) who is in cahoots with the criminal element. Tilghman is asked by a group of respectable citizens to clean up their town.

He agrees to take on the job, despite being seventy-years old; and it was his last job.  He was shot and killed by Lynn. A postscript tells us that Lynn was tried, but the court ruled that it was a case of self defense. However, he was dismissed from federal service.

In 1932, Lynn, who was a suspect in a number of crimes, was shot and killed by Crockett Long, an agent for the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation.

Tilghman's greatest claim to fame occurred in the summer of 1895 when he captured Bill Doolin in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  In a brief flashback, Tilghman is shown arresting the outlaw (Baker).  Also making an appearance in the film are Arkansas Tom (Gammon) and ex-U.S. marshal E.D. Nix (R. Lee Emery).     

TNT filmed the TV production in Oklahoma.  Just kidding; it was filmed in Alberta.