The Last Days of Kate & Doc

Thanks to True West Magazine for this content – the original post can be found here

The Last Days of Kate & Doc

The Last Days of Kate & Doc

big nose kate doc holliday true west magazine
Was Kate “Big Nose” Elder with Doc Holliday in Tombstone during the Earp-Cow-boy troubles that led up to the deadly shootout of October 26, 1881? Kate said she was, but after the gunfight she left town and never returned.
— Painting “The Last Days of Kate & Doc” by Bob Boze Bell, Photo of Kate Elder and All Other Art by Bob Boze Bell, Photos/Maps Courtesy True West Archives Unless Otherwise Noted —

Kate Elder was a working girl. Throughout most of her young life, she was employed as a soiled dove—a woman of ill fame, a sporting gal, a prostitute. It was Kate’s relationship with John Henry (Doc) Holliday that brought her notoriety and lifted her out of the role of a mere courtesan to that of common-law wife to the well-known gambler, gunfighter and dentist.

Kate’s story of her life on the frontier as a soiled dove, and her time with one of the West’s most recognizable characters, has value. She was in her eighties when she dared to recall all that had transpired since she’d left Hungary, where she was born, up to the events preceding the historic gunfight near the O.K. Corral. Kate claims to have witnessed the famous gun battle in October 1881. What she said happened between she and Doc leading up to the incident, and what transpired afterwards with outlaw John Ringo, adds another controversial layer to the historic event.

big nose kate true west magazine
Kate “Big Nose Elder.”

It was a chilly evening in mid-March 1881. Kate had traveled from Globe, Arizona, where she had a business, to Tombstone to see Doc. According to her, she made the trip at his request. Doc had taken up residence on Sixth Street in a small boardinghouse positioned between a funeral parlor and a winery.

Kate said that a holdup, in which driver Bud Philpot and a passenger were killed, occurred during her visit to Tombstone. One of the four suspects in the stage robbery and the double killing was William Leonard, one of Doc’s friends he had met in Las Vegas, New Mexico. When Leonard relocated to southern Arizona he fell in with a bad crowd and began robbing stages. It wasn’t long before Doc was implicated in the crime. His friendship with Leonard, and a visit he had made to his home near Tombstone, made him look suspicious.

A group of outlaw cow-boys, including well-known Cochise County, Arizona, residents Ike Clanton, Pete Spencer, Frank Stillwell and Curly Bill Brocius, encouraged the rumor of Doc Holliday’s involvement in the robbery. An article in the March 24, 1881, edition of the Arizona Weekly Citizen implicated Doc in the crime as well. Three of the robbers were headed to Mexico. “The fourth is at Tombstone and is well-known and has been shadowed ever since his return.” Doc was furious. Many suspected him of taking part in the robbery, and that included Kate.

“I thought that after the holdup things looked very suspicious about the Earps and Doc,” Kate recalled later. “Something tells me Doc was in with Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan in that affair. One night after we retired, Warren Earp came after Doc and said that Wyatt wanted to see him at his home. Doc was gone for almost two hours, and when he returned I could see that he was very much put out about something. He kept saying, ‘the damned fool! I didn’t think that of him.’ And later he said, ‘I have to get up early in the morning, but I will think about it.’ This was after the holdup.

“In the morning, after we had our breakfast, Doc said. ‘Well, I don’t know what I am going to stack up against today. I am getting tired of it all.’”

Kate knew he was referring to the fact that several people believed he was one of the men who robbed the stage. She tried to convince Doc to leave town with her, but he refused. “Wyatt Earp had a powerful influence over Doc,” Kate noted years later, “which I came to realize when I could not overcome that influence and induce Doc to return to Globe with me.”

By the beginning of April 1881, Kate had left Tombstone and traveled back to her business in Globe. According to Kate, Doc sent for her a second time in June 1881. Doc invited Kate to spend Independence Day with him, and she happily accepted. Kate and Doc were reunited just before the holiday, but their time together was less than civil. His tuberculosis, which had been somewhat in remission when they lived in New Mexico, was now causing coughing fits that brought up blood. To deal with the aggravation, Doc drank to excess. Kate drank right along with him. The pair was not shy about arguing in public. The fight the couple had on July 4 ended in name-calling and cursing. Angry and crying, Kate staggered to the room she shared with Doc. The plan she had to sleep until she was no longer intoxicated was interrupted when John Behan stopped her before she reached the hotel.

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Burning the Midnight Oil
When Doc arrives in Tombstone, there is no record of him practicing dentistry at all. Instead, he gambles full-time, often with Kate standing over his shoulder. The two of them are inseparable for periods of time. Other times they need to be separated.

According to Kate, “Sheriff Johnny Behan took me to Judge Spicer’s Justice of the Peace office, and the judge put me through the third degree. He asked me about the Earps and Doc Holliday. How did Doc act the evening of the holdup? He was referring to the stage holdup where Bud Philpot and a passenger were killed. Did the youngest or which one of the Earps came to me for Doc’s rifle? Did Doc change his clothes that afternoon and what did Warren Earp say, if anything? How long had I known the Earps?

“Then suddenly he asked me, ‘Are you sure that Doc Holliday was with the Earps at the holdup?’

“Then I told the judge I was positive of nothing and would not swear to anything Spicer said. He felt sure that the Earps and Holliday were in that holdup. I asked him why he did not question Mattie [Blaylock] and Alice Earp, that he knew Morgan Earp was the Wells Fargo messenger on that stage. The judge then got out of patients [sic] with me and threatened me. I said, ‘I can’t tell you any more.’”

Once Kate sobered up she wasted no time walking back any statements she might have made about Doc that implicated him in the stage robbery and death of two people. She insisted she was coerced into reporting anything negative about Doc. All murder charges against Doc were dismissed on July 9. The judge reviewing the case determined there was no evidence to show Doc had a part in the crime.

Kate planned to leave town as soon as she knew Doc was out of harm’s way. She was aware she wasn’t wanted in Tombstone. “It was after that,” Kate noted later, referring to her arrest by Virgil Earp, “Wyatt Earp became anxious to get rid of me. Several days later [once she was released] a gambler named J. M. Nichols, also known as Napa Nick, invited me to go for a buggy ride with him, but I declined. Mattie Earp, Wyatt’s wife, later told me in Globe that I was lucky in refusing the buggy ride, as Napa Nick had instructions to get rid of me in some lonely canyon.”

Sometime between late August and September 9, 1881, Kate and Doc reunited and traveled to Tucson to enjoy some time together. It wasn’t until late October that one of the Earps tracked down the couple at a popular saloon on Meyer Avenue in Tucson. According to Kate, on October 25, 1881, she was standing behind Doc watching him deal cards when Morgan Earp arrived on the scene. “The day before the fight took place in Tombstone, Wyatt sent Morgan to Tucson to tell Doc that he was wanted in Tombstone the following day,” Kate said later. “Morgan found us at Congress Hall where Doc was trying his luck at [the] faro bank. He took Doc aside and delivered the message from Wyatt.

“Then Doc came to me and told me that he would take me to our hotel, as he had to go back to Tombstone, but that he would come for me later on. I would not have it that way, though, and told him that if he was going to Tombstone I was going with him. We left on a freight for Benson and from there drove to Tombstone in a buckboard. Doc and I had a room in the building owned by Mr. and Mrs. Fly, who also had a photograph gallery there. It was on Fremont Street next to the back entrance of the O.K. Corral. We got to the room after midnight. Doc left me there, he and Morgan going away together.”

Doc and Morgan set off for the Alhambra Saloon, where Wyatt was waiting for them. Wyatt informed Doc of the difficulties he had with Ike Clanton. He told Doc about those difficulties and warned him to be on his guard.

Doc turned his attention to playing cards and drinking whiskey. He didn’t give the matter much thought until he ran into Ike at the restaurant adjacent to the saloon. It was after one in the morning, and Doc was less than sober. He cursed at Ike, which started a verbal sparring between the two. According to Ike Clanton, Doc called him a “damn son-of-a-bitch” and told him to “get his gun out.” Ike indicated in his eyewitness account of the matters leading up to the street fight that he left the eatery after his encounter with Doc. He noted that Morgan was watching the pair verbally abuse one another and that Morgan had his hand on his pistol. Seeing he was outnumbered, he left the building knowing that war between the Earps, Holliday and the cow-boys was on the horizon.

“Doc and Ike Clanton had some words in a restaurant,” Kate recalled about the events of the first night she returned to Tombstone in late October 1881. “In the morning Ike Clanton came to Fly’s photograph gallery with a Winchester rifle. Mrs. Fly told him that Doc was not there. Doc was not up yet. I went to our room and told Doc that Ike Clanton was outside looking for him and that he was armed. Doc said, ‘If God lets me live long enough to get my clothes on, he shall see me.’

big nose kate doc holliday true west magazine
“After the fight was over, Doc came in, and sat on the side of the bed and cried and said, ‘Oh, this is just awful—awful.’” — Big Nose Kate

“With that he got up and dressed. Going out he said, ‘I won’t be here to take you to breakfast, so you had better go alone.’ I didn’t go to breakfast. I don’t remember whether I ate anything or not that day.

“In a little more than a half an hour the shooting began. This lady-friend and I went to the side window, which faced the vacant lot. There was Ike Clanton, young Bill Clanton, Frank McLowry [sic], and his brother Tom on one side, Virgil, Wyatt and Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday on the other. Before the first shot was fired, Ike Clanton ran and lost his hat and left his young brother and the McLowry boys to fight it out.

“I was at the side window looking on and saw the fight. Doc had a sawed-
off shotgun. He fired one barrel, but after the first shot something went wrong. He threw the gun on the ground and finished the fight with his revolver. I saw him fall once. His hip had been grazed by a bullet. But he was on his feet again in an instant and continued to fire.

“Bill Clanton and the McLowry boys were killed. Morgan and Wyatt [She meant Virgil Earp.] were wounded. It’s foolish to think a cow ‘rustler’ gunman can come up to a city gunman in a gunfight. After the fight was over, Doc came to our room and sat on the side of the bed and cried and said, ‘Oh, this is
just awful—awful.’ I asked, ‘Are you hurt?’ He said, ‘No, I am not.’ He pulled up his shirt. There was just a pale red streak about two inches long across his hip where the bullet had grazed him. After attending to the wound, he went out to see how Virgil and Wyatt [She meant Morgan this time.] were getting along.”

On October 29, 1881, a coroner’s inquest was held, and a summary of the evidence was compiled. Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers were charged with killing the McLaurys and Billy Clanton. Doc and Wyatt were confined to the county jail.

While the inquest was being conducted, Kate befriended Johnny Ringo. Ringo was a hard drinker who had been indicted for one murder and had been involved in several others. Kate remained in the room she and Doc had shared at Fly’s boardinghouse, and it was there that Ringo found her. Doc was residing at the Cosmopolitan Hotel while out on bail. Morgan and Virgil were staying at the Cosmopolitan recuperating, and their families were with them. Doc and Wyatt had decided to stay to protect them from any cow-boys who might sneak in and try to kill the brothers.

“I kept close to my room at Mrs. Fly’s during the Earp-Holliday trial hearing before [the] justice of the peace,” Kate recalled years later. “John Ringo visited me there twice. I gave him a tumble both times. The second time he visited me he advised me to leave the camp, but I told him I did not have enough money to go back to Globe, as Doc had lost all my money playing against faro while we were in Tucson.” Kate also noted in 1935 that she had $100 at the time of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and gave $75 of it to help with Doc’s bail.

“Ringo said that some of the Clanton gang were watching for Doc to come to our room and intended to get him there,” Kate added in her memoirs. “Ringo told me ‘if I haven’t enough money, here is fifty dollars.’ So I left that evening.

“After the O.K. Corral fight, the Clanton and McLowry gang gave notice that they would get revenge on the Earps and Holliday. John P. Clum, who was mayor of Tombstone, was notified that he was on the list, and he left the camp. Virgil was the first they got. He was shot from
ambush; the bullet failed to reach a vital spot, but he was laid up for a while with a shattered arm.

“Morgan was the next victim. At the time he was playing pool in the Palace Saloon. The back door of the place was half-glass, painted white. Someone scratched off enough of the pain [sic] to see through and fired through the door, killing Morgan. I understand that the killer was one of the Clanton gang by [the] name of Stilwell.”

Kate left town in November 1881 before Doc’s fate had been determined. She tended to her business in Globe and never again returned to Tombstone.

“The Last Days of Kate & Doc” is excerpted from Chris Enss’s soon-to-be-released book, According to Kate: The Legendary Life of Big Nose Kate, Love of Doc Holliday (TwoDot, 2019).

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Pleasant Valley

Pleasant Valley: An Unpleasant Place for Sheriff Mulvenon“Look out down below boys.”

pleasant valley arizona map billy mulvenon true west magazine
A map of Pleasant Valley, Arizona, by Miguel Otero.

Following the fatal shootout with the Tewksbury’s and Jim Roberts at the Middleton Ranch, John Blevins had some second thoughts about security at the ranch on Canyon Creek. The ranch had been a lair for horse thieves but with the killing of his brother Hamp and mysterious disappearance of his father Mart, he decided to relocate the family to a little cottage in Holbrook until things cooled off a bit. It would turn out to be a fateful decision.

Graham partisans struck again in the early dawn of August 17th, 1887.  While on their way back from Holbrook, several of the Tewksbury fighters including Ed, Jim and Jim Roberts were camped near the Tewksbury Cherry Creek ranch. Roberts had gone out on the camp horse to gather the rest of the horses that had been hobbled for the night. He’d climbed to a high spot and looking down, saw several Graham partisans edging towards the camp.

He called out to the others, “Look out down below boys.”

Ed and Jim, who were just crawling out of their blankets, grabbed their rifles and opened fire, killing several. Harry Middleton was wounded as was Joe Ellenwood. Middleton was taken to the Graham ranch where he died. Ellenwood took a bullet in the rear.  Years later Ed recalled that during the gunfight Ellenwood had patted his rump in a defiant gesture so he obliged by putting a bullet where the man was indicating. “He jumped ten feet” laughed Ed.

That same day eighteen-year-old Billy Graham was allegedly shot by Tewksbury partisan, Jim Houck, who was also an Apache County deputy for Sheriff Owens. According to Houck the two met on the Payson Trail and Billy went for his gun and Houck had to shoot him.  Graham rode back to ranch, arriving with his intestines hanging out and died soon after.

Since Houck was a deputy and could not get in trouble for shooting Billy, he confessed to the shooting, but it’s likely Ed Tewksbury shot Billy and Houck’s confession was to save Tewksbury from a murder charge. On his death bed Billy identified Tewksbury as the man who shot him. Two men who testified at the inquest swore that Tewksbury was the shooter.

The coroner’s inquest ruled Billy died at the hands of Ed Tewksbury but nothing came of it after Houck claimed he killed Billy.

billy mulvenon true west magazine
Billy Mulvenon.

Yavapai County Sheriff Billy Mulvenon was under pressure to go to Pleasant Valley and put an end to the killing. He rode in with a four man posse but was visited by a lone rider one night who advised him to turn around and leave or he would be killed. Off in the distance were other riders. Mulvenon ignored the advice and rode on. The next day he met another group of armed men who gave him the same warning. He realized this group was the other faction in the feud. This time the sheriff heeded the advice and returned to Prescott.

On August 19th, 1887, Mulvenon left Prescott leading another posse into Pleasant Valley with warrants for the Tewksbury’s after the Middleton Ranch fight. They trailed them into the Sierra Ancha Mountains with no luck so the sheriff and his posse returned to Pleasant Valley intending to watch the Tewksbury ranches and wait until they returned. They hid their horses in a thicket and scouted the area on foot. When they returned their horses were missing. On foot they were forced to walk to the Tewksbury ranch and sheepishly ask to borrow some horses and saddles. The message from the Tewksbury’s came through loud and clear:

If you sons of bitches will get out of this country and leave us alone you can have your own horses and saddles.”

Once again, the sheriff was forced to leave Pleasant Valley with his tail between his legs. Next time he’d bring a small army.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu.

Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid

Thanks to True West Magazine for this content – the original post can be found here

Butch & Sundance & Pike & Dutch

Butch & Sundance & Pike & DutchHow two films from the summer of ’69 changed Westerns forever.

ben johnson warren oates william holden ernest borgnine the wild bunch movie true west magazine
Director Sam Peckinpah’s legendary choreography of (l.-r.) Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, William Holden and Ernest Borgnine’s “walk down” in the The Wild Bunch iconically set up the film’s violent climax.
— Courtesy Warner Bros. —

Every period picture, consciously or not, reflects two periods, the time in which the story is set, and the time the film is made. Half a century ago, in the summer of 1969, the tumult of the times was inescapable. The “Summer Of Love” of 1967, when hippies and flower-power and LSD were supposed to save the world, had been followed by the ghastly 1968, with the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, riots at the Chicago Democratic Convention, the seemingly endless Vietnam War and, good or bad, the election of President Richard M. Nixon.

the wild bunch sam peckinpah true west magazine
In The Wild Bunch, director Sam Peckinpah juxtaposed Pike Bishop’s outlaw brotherhood against the railroad company’s notorious bounty hunters (standing l.-r.): Strother Martin, Bill Shannon, Robert Ryan, Bill Hart, L.Q. Jones; (kneeling, l.-r.) Buck Holland, Paul Harper and Robert “Buzz” Henry.
— Courtesy Warner Bros. —

Out of this maelstrom came two Western movies. Each was directed by a TV-trained World War II Marine veteran, each budgeted at the then princely sum of about $6 million, and fictionally recast and enlarged the legendary story of Butch Cassidy’s Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, a.k.a. The Wild Bunch. At the box office, Butch would earn $102 million, four Oscars and three more nominations. Wild Bunch would earn $638,000, two Oscar nominations, and no awards. Two of the finest films of the 20th century, their popularity today is far greater than when they were made, and their influence on films released since is incalculable.

the wild bunch behind the scenes sam peckinpah true west magazine
Director Sam Peckinpah (above, center in chair) employed six cameras, including on a barge with a crew on the river, to capture the stunning—and very dangerous—stunt of the bridge (top) blowing up and the men and horses falling into the river in The Wild Bunch.
— Photo by Paul Harper, courtesy of Nick Redman and Jeff Slater —

Although the two stories have remarkably different tones, the historical inspirations for the plots are remarkably alike. In the early 1900s, an outlaw gang learns in the midst of a hold-up that they’ve been set up; a railroad magnate has spent a small fortune to assemble a super-posse to track them down and kill them. The posse in Butch is a faceless enemy. In The Wild Bunch they are a big part of the story, led by former associate Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan). The gang flees south of the border. In Bunch, the gang stays together, goes as far as Mexico, and becomes involved with revolutionaries. In Butch, the gang splits up in the U.S., and Butch, Sundance, and Etta flee all the way to Bolivia, and restart their criminal careers.

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The Wild Bunch bridge set.
— Photo by Paul Harper, courtesy of Nick Redman and Jeff Slater —

The longer gestation was for Butch. Novelist, playwright and screenwriter William Goldman started researching the life of Cassidy in the late 1950s. He wrote his first drafts while teaching at Princeton. As he recalls in his book Adventures in the Screen Trade, “The Wild Bunch consisted of some of the most murderous figures in Western history. Arrogant, brutal men. And yet, here running things was Cassidy. Why? The answer is incredible but true: People just liked him.” Goldman loved that while Sundance was a brooding killer, Butch had never even injured anyone during his outlaw career. Goldman had already had success in Hollywood with 1966’s Harper, the Paul Newman detective film, when producer Paul Monash bought the Butch script for $400,000, the highest price paid for a screenplay at that time. It’s frequently been called the best screenplay ever written. It won the Oscar.

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Despite being sick during much of The Wild Bunch’s production, veteran actor Edmund O’Brien (left) with leading man William Holden gave one of his greatest and most memorable performances as the wily outlaw Freddie Sykes.
— Courtesy Warner Bros. —

The Wild Bunch was the brain-child of stuntman and Marlboro Man-model Roy Sickner. While not a writer, he’d worked in many Westerns, including Nevada Smith and Peckinpah’s ill-fated Major Dundee. He had an idea for a Western about some outlaws who move down to Mexico to escape the law, and get into more trouble. Though more about action than plot and characters, Peckinpah was encouraging, as was Sickner’s drinking buddy Lee Marvin, a big star since his 1966 Best Actor Oscar for Cat Ballou, who attached himself to the project. Katy Haber, who worked with Sam Peckinpah in various production roles on eight movies, says the story really took shape when Sickner teamed up with young screenwriter Walon Green. “It had been a Civil War film, but it was Walon Green who placed it in the Mexican revolution.” Green, a Beverly Hills kid, had visited Mexico on a nature program as a teen, and fell in love with the country and its people. He went to college in Mexico City, and absorbed the nation’s history. Though then a writer with no movie credits, he had talent and knowledge, and when he teamed with co-writer Peckinpah, they shaped the screenplay into something magnificent.

the wild bunch movie poster true west magazine
The Wild Bunch movie poster.

Sam Peckinpah was on shaky ground when The Wild Bunch came along. Ride the High Country had been a sleeper hit, especially overseas. But his follow-up, Major Dundee, with 42 minutes slashed from Sam’s cut, was not the film he meant it to be, and it bombed. Next, he began directing Steve McQueen in The Cincinnati Kid, but was fired after a week for filming an unscripted nude scene. He was hired to write and direct Villa Rides!, but when star Yul Brynner complained that Villa wasn’t coming off as heroic enough, Peckinpah was replaced by writer Robert Towne and director Buzz Kulick. He hadn’t directed in two years.

sam peckinpah warren oates behind the scenes the wild bunch true west magazine
Actor Warren Oates (above, right) receives direction from director Peckinpah during the filming of The Wild Bunch’s iconic and violent conclusion. Oates was a favorite of the director, co-starring or starring in four of Peckinpah’s pictures
— Courtesy Warner Bros. —

George Roy Hill also had his troubles. Robert Crawford Jr., who would produce eight movies for Hill, and describes himself as “Sancho Panza to his Man of La Mancha,” recalls, “George got fired off Hawaii three times. And he was let go in post-production on Thoroughly Modern Millie.” But unlike Peckinpah’s situation, “Millie was a terrific success. So was Hawaii, and his agent then sent him Butch Cassidy.” Paul Newman and Steve McQueen had been cast as the leads, but with Newman as Sundance. “George [tells] Newman, ‘You’re not right for Sundance. You should be playing Butch.’ Newman says, ‘This is kind of comedy, and I don’t do comedy well.’ George said, ‘No, this is a tragedy, and you’ll be terrific as Butch.’ He convinced Paul to take Butch. McQueen said, ‘That’s great, but I don’t want to play Sundance.’” It may seem surprising that Robert Redford wasn’t the natural choice for Sundance, but until Butch made him a star, he was considered a light comedy actor, not a dramatic lead.

the wild bunch butch cassidy and the sundance kid true west magazine
The “Wild Bunch” in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid posed for posterity on location in Utah. They are (l.-r.) Timothy Scott, Robert Redford, Ted Cassidy, Paul Newman, Dave Dunlop and Charles Dierkop.
— Courtesy 20th Century-Fox —

Katharine Ross, who would play Etta Place, recalls, “The first script I got was called The Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy.” She was a natural for Westerns. “I started riding when I was seven.” One of the last of the contract players at Universal, she’d guested on many Western series, and her first feature-film role was as James Stewart’s daughter in the anti-war Western Shenandoah. “I really got that because of the Gunsmoke I did that Andy McLaglen [who would also direct Shenandoah] directed.” She got the role of Etta in part because she’d become a star, and an Oscar nominee, for her wonderful performance opposite Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. Also, as Hill noted in his audio commentary on Butch, “She came on the picture basically because I thought she was the sexiest girl I’d ever seen…just ravishingly beautiful.”

butch cassidy and the sundance kid movie stunt true west magazine
Director George Roy Hill’s production of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid features dangerous and dramatic stunts, such as the dynamiting of the railroad express car.
— Courtesy 20th Century-Fox —

As the Wild Bunch script evolved, Lee Marvin began to have real doubts. Pike Bishop was becoming more and more like his character in 1966’s The Professionals, plus same locale, same uniforms; he didn’t want to be typed. When he was offered $1 million to co-star with Clint Eastwood in the musical Paint Your Wagon, he took it. That gave William Holden the chance to give the performance of his career. Fifty, but looking far more world-weary, Holden had been giving repetitive performances in mediocre films; he’d been convicted of manslaughter after a drunk-driving accident in Italy. He knew Pike Bishop’s desperation, when all you have left is pride. He wasn’t the studio’s first choice, but Peckinpah held firm. “You know, Ernie Borgnine wasn’t their first choice either,” Haber remembers. After his Oscar for Marty, he’d squandered his talent on dross like McHale’s Navy. “But Sam was emphatic. Proof is in the pudding in the film—that relationship was brilliant.”

Most of the rest of the cast was made up of Peckinpah regulars, all doing exceptional work. Among the gang were Warren Oates and Ben Johnson, both on the eve of stardom, as the Gorch brothers. As Paul Seydor, director of the Oscar-nominated The Wild Bunch: An Album in Montage, says, “Tell me another movie in which you believe two men are brothers more than in The Wild Bunch.” New to the Peckinpah fold was Bo Hopkins as Crazy Lee, the first of the Bunch to die, but about the last still living, and currently preparing to star in Hillbilly Elegy for Ron Howard. It was an unforgettable time in his life because, he says, “I got to work with my heroes. Bill Holden got me into two pictures. Ernest Borgnine became like a father to me till the day he died. Robert Ryan helped me do my first interview, because I didn’t know what to say.” He remembers preparing for the scene where he holds the railroad customers hostage, forcing them to march and sing hymns, “and Dub Taylor stayed up all night with me, helping me sing ‘Shall We Gather at the River,’ ’cause I hadn’t memorized the whole song.”

katharine ross robert redford butch cassidy and the sundance kid true west magazine
The historic romance between outlaws Etta Place and the Sundance Kid was forever defined by actors Katharine Ross and Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
— Courtesy 20th Century-Fox —

Between TV and movies, L.Q. Jones appeared in practically everything Sam Peckinpah did, here teamed with Strother Martin as bounty hunters who came off like a degenerate Abbott and Costello. Edmund O’Brien, Oscar-winner for The Barefoot Contessa, has a delightful turn as Freddy Sykes, a geezer who recalls Walter Huston in Treasure of the Sierra Madre, one of Peckinpah’s favorite films. L.Q. recalls, “Eddie was so ill all the way through the picture that I spent two weeks at Eddie’s place seeing they were feeding him right, that he was doing what the doctor told him to. Sam spaced his shooting out so Eddie didn’t have to work two days in a row. He was sweating blood, but he was getting the work done.” Remarkably, O’Brien would recover, and live another fifteen years.

Another great performance was delivered by Emilio “El Indio” Fernandez as Mapache, the terrifyingly erratic rebel leader. A unique figure in Mexican history, Fernandez was a star actor, director and a convicted killer. L.Q. remembers, “He was also a military hero for Mexico. He came in one day to get me, and I was studying at my Spanish. He loved it, so after that, every day I came to his place so he could teach me some more Spanish. But I was petrified of the man, because the first day on the show, he tried to kill a waiter for giving him the wrong food.”

katharine ross robert redford butch cassidy and the sundance kid bicycle ride true west magazine
Katharine Ross’s Etta Place and Paul Newman’s Butch Cassidy’s bicycle ride through the outlaws’ homestead hideout is one of the most iconic and light-hearted scenes of the comedic and iconic
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
— Courtesy 20th Century-Fox —

The music from the two films could not have been more different. Jerry Fielding composed the score for Wild Bunch and five other Peckinpah films. W.K. Stratton, author of The Wild Bunch, the definitive book on the film, notes, “Jerry went to Mexico and researched the actual music that was being played during the revolution and then wrote his. The Wild Bunch has 85 minutes of music in it.” Fielding’s score was Oscar-nominated. Hill wanted a contemporary feel to Butch Cassidy, and that included the score by Burt Bacharach, which was focused on three lyrical music sequences. Crawford reveals that when Hill gave them the rough-cut to work with, he’d cut the famous bicycle scene to Simon and Garfunkel’s “59th Street Bridge Song,” a.k.a. “Feeling Groovy.” Bacharach would win Oscars for the score and the replacement song, “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.”

Ross reflects, “[One] of the most memorable parts, for me, is the bicycle ride. [It] was done with a very long lens and, and the only direction we got was whether we were going left to right or right to left across frame. So we were left to our own devices; it was very improvisational. It is very uncomfortable riding in an orchard on the handlebars
of a bicycle.”

That wasn’t the only uncomfortable situation for Ross on the shoot. She was watching cinematographer Conrad Hall, who would win the Oscar for Butch, shooting the sequence where the super-posse bursts from the train. “I was going with Conrad at that time.” He invited her to operate one of the cameras. “It was the last shot of the day. There were six cameras, and I was on camera six, an Arriflex on a McConnell head, just panning along. George Roy Hill decided to sit near the camera I was operating, but he never said anything. Back at the motel, the production manager said, you have a very angry director on your hands. I got banned from the set except when I was working.” Considering how male-dominated the Camera Union was at that time, Katharine Ross may very well have been the first woman to be a camera operator on a Hollywood movie.

paul newman robert redford butch cassidy and the sundance kid true west magazine
Robert Reford (left) and Paul Newman’s Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy realize they are pinned in by the posse and only have one chance of escape—leaping into the river a hundred feet below—one of the awe-inspiring stunts of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
— Courtesy 20th Century-Fox —

Lucien Ballard was Peckinpah’s cinematographer on The Wild Bunch and eight other shows, and his work was phenomenal. Notes Seydor, “He would set up four cameras and they would often be shooting at four different speeds.” This was particularly crucial for the elaborate shoot-outs at the beginning and end of the film, for which Peckinpah and editor Lou Lombardo masterfully alternated between standard speed and various degrees of slow motion, to make the viewer hyperaware of the destruction and slaughter. No action-film since The Wild Bunch has not been influenced by Ballard’s photography and Lombardo’s editing.

While the leads in both films die in the end, the filmmakers deal with it very differently. Peckinpah showed it in brutal detail. Hill did not want to see his heroes torn with bullets, and decided on a freeze-frame, with the audio of gunfire continuing. While the Wild Bunch’s last few speeches were dramatically terse, Butch and Sundance, even when mortally wounded, kid each other rather than talking about their dire situation.

Crawford remembers the first preview of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid in San Francisco. “People were laughing right up to the end of the movie, when they were all shot up, and about to charge out. Everybody was elated, all the applause, all the executives saying, ‘It’s a winner! It’s wonderful!’ And George was that little guy with a cloud over his head. And he looked at me, and said, ‘They laughed at my tragedy.’”

Henry C. Parke, Western films editor for True West, writes Henry’s Western Round-uponline. His screenplay credits include Speedtrap (1977) and Double Cross (1994), and he’s done audio commentary on a fistful of Spaghetti Westerns.

The Comanche and his Horse

Thanks to True West Magazine for this content – you can check the original post here https://truewestmagazine.com/comanche-horse/

The Comanche and his HorseThe acquisition of the horse in the 1600s brought immediate and sweeping changes to the Plains Indians.

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Comanche tribe members with their horses.

The acquisition of the horse in the 1600s brought immediate and sweeping changes to the Plains Indians. For the first time it gave them a wide range and mobility for hunting and military might. It brought about the most glorious period in their history. The Comanche were the first to acquire the horse referred to them as their “God Dogs.” They built an entire culture around them.

The Comanche became expert ropers and popular way to capture and break a young horse was to rope him, choke him to exhaustion and while the horse was down on the ground the captor would then blow his breath into the nostrils of the animal and remove the “wild hairs” around its eyes. A headstall or hackamore, a loop was placed around the jaw and tied at the neck. The horse would then be attached to a gentle mare. The warrior would then handle him enough to get him used to being around humans. After a few days he would be turned loose to be free but would remain with the mare, following her everywhere she went. When it came time to ride the handler would take the horse into deep water or a sand-bottomed creek to mount. This served to take some of the starch out of his bucking and make the landing softer if the horse succeeded in unloading its rider.

Capturing and breaking a wild horse was good but the Comanche was also an excellent horse thief and stealing them was developed into an art. Getting horses by plunder and especially under dangerous conditions gave the warrior an opportunity for valor and prestige. The Comanche raided for other plunder and scalps but more often than not he preferred to go on horse-stealing forays.

There were a lot of ways to break a horse and over time the Indians adopted some of the methods of the white man and vice versa. Kindness rather than cruelty was always the most effective way to break a horse.

They also practiced selective breeding, gelding the inferior males and breeding the best stallions with their mares.

Rival Plains Indians tribes noted the Comanche affinity for his mounts in their campfire stories noted that in time of danger a Comanche would bring his favorite horses into the tee pee and make his wives sleep outside. They also claimed that when a Comanche copulated with his wife he would mount her from behind and whinny like a stallion.

Artist George Catlin, who was one of the first to write about them wrote: “A Comanche is out of his element and comparatively almost as awkward as a monkey on the ground without a limb or a branch to cling to; but the moment he lays his hands upon his horse his face even becomes handsome and he gracefully flies away like a different being.”

William Blakemore, an Englishman spent eight years with the tribe left this description: “On foot slow and awkward, but on horseback graceful, they are the most expert and daring riders in the world. In battle they sweep down upon their enemies with terrific yells, and concealing the whole body with the exception of one foot behind their horses, discharge bullets or arrows over and under the animal’s neck and accurately. Each has his favorite war-horse which he regards with great affection and only mounts when he goes into battle. Even the women are daring riders and hunters, lassoing antelope and shooting buffalo.”

Boom Town Belles

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Boom Town Belles in the Old WestWhat kind of reception did the traveling sideshows or circuses or drama/theater groups receive?

Old West Theatre Performers Boom Town Belles True West Magazine
Lotta Crabtree.

What kind of reception did the traveling sideshows or circuses or drama/theater groups receive?  Were any of these financially successful?

They were very popular in the entertainment-starved West and the good ones made a lot of money. Shakespearean plays were always popular as was “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Citizens in the mining towns had money to spend and they loved to show the eastern cities how sophisticated and up to date they were.

Pretty women because were the most popular and many became very rich. Caroline Chapman was one of the first real actresses to head west. Following her first performance in San Francisco the audience carpeted the stage with poke sacks filled with gold.

Maria Eliza Rosanna Gilbert from Limerick, Ireland took the stage as the exotic Lola Montez. She could spin whoppers as good as any prospector. She had the dark, sultry beauty and exquisitely molded features of the women of Spain.  So, she invented a line of Spanish ancestors and a fraudulent girlhood spent in Seville. Another whopper she told was that she was the illegitimate daughter of Lord Byron.

In California, Lola became quite rich doing her famous “Spider Dance.” She performed the dance in Spanish costume with full, short skirts and flesh-colored tights.  The dance began with Lola wandering on stage then becoming entangled in a spider’s web. Suddenly she discovered a spider, (made of rubber, cork and whalebone) on her petticoat.  Attempting to dislodge the bug, she shook her petticoat furiously. On examining her skirts, she discovered other spiders and she shook her skirts with similar fury, revealing her tights.

During the 1850s this was daring to make the rowdy audiences shout “Higher! Higher!” as Lola searched beneath her skirts for the evasive spiders.  She’d kick a leg high into the air as if to squash a spider on the ceiling, and then she’d kick the other.

Finally she succeeded in shaking off all the spiders and stamped them to death on the floor.  Thunderous applause greeted her as she took her bows. She then stripped a silken garter off a shapely leg and tossed it into the audience.

In the mid-1850s Caroline became so annoyed with the attention given Lola Montez and her Spider Dance, she decided to burlesque the dance.  Her uproarious performances transformed Lola’s act from high sensuality to low comedy.

Lotta Crabtree was a pretty, red-haired Irish lass whose girlish innocence on stage made her rich. Whatever she lacked in talent she made up in image—a lamb among wolves and pure as the driven snow. She had an overprotective stage mother who, fearing they might steal the heart of her meal ticket, kept the wolves away.

As Lotta grew older, she took a fancy to smoking fancy cigarillos.  She also introduced gaminelike bits into her performances—showing off her knees by pulling off her stockings, rolling off divans with a flurry of lifted petticoats and wearing the briefest skirts.  She is believed to be the first actress to smoke on stage and the first to expose her bare legs on stage. She was the Shirley Temple of her time.

For thirty-five years, Lotta was the perennial little pet of the Western theater, and when she retired at the age of forty-four she still wore her red curls.  She lived alone with Mother, who had saved most of Lotta’s enormous earnings. After Mother died, it was too late for romance in her life. When Lotta died in 1924, she left behind a fortune of four million dollars that went to charity.

Adah Isaacs Menkens innocent appearance belied her wild and wicked lifestyle. Mark Twain wrote about her appearance in Virginia City in the play “The Mezappa” where she rode across the stage on a horse in a flesh-colored bodystocking that made her appear nude. Afterwards her adoring audience showered the stage with gold and silver.

These are but a few of the talented women who came west to “mine the miners.”

The Name Who Redeemed The Hamer Name

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The Man Who Redeemed The Hamer Name Screenwriter John Fusco makes good on his pledge to set the record straight on the takedown of Bonnie & Clyde.

John Fusco The Highwaymen True West Magazine
John Fusco, on right, shakes hands with Frank Hamer Jr. outside the former Texas Land and Cattle Steak House, in Austin, Texas, with a pledge to “do right by my daddy.”

The story of The Highwaymen, the new Depression-era Western from Netflix, has been a thirty-year obsession for author John Fusco.  “Those old photos of Barrow and Parker, leaning on their stolen 1932 Ford V8 Sedan, downright haunted me.” His investigation revealed that the real Bonnie and Clyde were the antithesis of romantic Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, and the real hero of the story was the Texas Ranger who ran them down. “As I researched, I became fascinated by Frank Hamer, one of the greatest lawmen of the 20th century, and I was really disturbed [by] his portrayal in this classic movie.”

Hamer is the lawman the outlaw duo capture, photograph and humiliate in the press, motivating him to hunt down and kill them. It never happened: Hamer and the Barrow gang never ‘met’ until the brief moment when Hamer tried to get them to surrender before opening fire. “[He’d] been shot 17 times over the course of his career, had killed over 50 men. He’d patrolled the border on a horse, with a Winchester. He was an old-time Ranger, in an era that had passed him by.” That is until Texas Governor “Ma” Ferguson (played in Highwaymen by Oscar-winner Kathy Bates) reluctantly asked Hamer to come out of retirement to get the Barrows.

John Fusco The Highwaymen True West Magazine
John Fusco.

 The story simmered on the back burner until fifteen years ago, during the shooting of Fusco’s Hidalgo in the Mojave Desert. “Producer Casey Silver asked me what my passion projects were, and I told him about Frank Hamer. Coincidentally, we were staying at Whiskey Pete’s Casino Hotel where the actual Bonnie and Clyde death car was on display.” Silver was quickly onboard.

Fusco wanted the cooperation of the family, but the Hamers, who’d won a settlement from Warner Brothers for defamation, weren’t talking. “Frank Jr. like his father had been a Texas Ranger, one of the last of the flying game wardens, hunting down poachers from a Cessna plane. I happened to have a few game warden contacts; I did ride-alongs in three states.” They interceded for Fusco, and a meeting was set.  At a lunch of mostly bourbon, Fusco convinced 86-year-old Frank Jr. of his righteous intentions. “We walked out into the sun. He said, ‘I only ask one thing: to do right by my daddy.’ He had his friend take a [picture] as we shook hands, and he said, ‘Here’s our contract right here.’”

Fusco’s initial dream-cast to play Hamer and partner Maney Gault were Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Redford got the script first. “He said, ‘Don’t send the script to Paul. I’m going to bring it to him and I’m going to make sure that we do this. After Butch and Sundance and The Sting, [this] will be a perfect last one for us to do together.’” Newman signed on, and the new pairing was the talk of Hollywood. Sadly, Newman was soon too ill to work, and the deal fell apart.

John Fusco The Highwaymen True West Magazine
Scenes from the forthcoming (pictured above and below) “The Highwaymen,” starring Kevin Costner as Frank Hamer and Woody Harrelson as Maney Gault.

Fast-forward a dozen years, to Netflix, where Fusco is writing and producing the Marco Polo series, and Casey Silver is making Godless. Director John Lee Hancock had long been a supporter, “We knew there had been interest from Kevin (Costner), and Woody (Harrelson) had been circling it for quite a while. Casey called me and said, ‘You’ve got a relationship with Netflix; I do now.  What about taking Highwaymen to them?’ And bingo: they were on board and we were off to the races.”

Fusco grew up on his father’s farm in rural Connecticut, dropped out of high school to ride the rails, then got a G.E.D., and went to NYU Film School. Screenwriting teacher and Oscar-winner Waldo Salt took Fusco under his wing. “He had hoboe’d with Woody Guthrie. We were kind of kindred spirits. He got behind my work and I just idolized him.” His Bachelor’s thesis script became the 1986 movie Crossroads. Then Fusco defied all his agents’ entreaties to do something commercial, and wrote a Western, although, “A Western had not made money since Butch Cassidy.” Young Guns was a hit, as was Young Guns  2, beginning the genre revival that lead to Dances With Wolves, Tombstone, and Deadwood.

John Fusco The Highwaymen True West Magazine

“Working with the ‘Young Guns’ was great,” Fusco recalls, “but working with the ‘Old Guns’, that was the career highlight. We were casting Lawrence Murphy. I said I wrote it as Jack Palance and everybody looked at me like, he’s still alive? And so they reached out. He’s retired, he’s happy, he’s not reading anything. I said, don’t give up. Tell him this Western’s being made with all these young guys, and we want the old guard, the icons of the American Western to take on the ‘brat pack on horseback’. He read the script and came out of retirement. From there he’d go on to win an Academy Award. I think of being down on the Mexican border during Young Guns II, drinking tequila with Kiefer Sutherland, Emilio Estevez, Lou Diamond Phillips, James Coburn, and Christian Slater. James said, ‘You know, that Emilio, that’s the best (expletive) Billy the Kid there’s ever been.’ He said, ‘I played opposite Kristofferson. Kris is a good actor. But he was a pacifist. He never aims his gun directly at anybody. But Emilio, he just breathes life into the character. That’s what made me want to do this.’”

John Fusco The Highwaymen True West Magazine

“There are projects that get offered to me, and I’ll say to my wife, I just can’t find my way into this. She always says the same thing to me: think of it as a Western. As soon as I do that, I’ve got it. The Western’s in my blood and it always will be. I’ve been reading True West for years, and it’s such an honor being [named] True Westerner of the Year, it’s just so meaningful to me, as is The Highwaymen. After this 30-year dream of telling the story of Frank Hamer, I’m making good on my word, and helping to keep the interest in the west and the Western going.”

Jack Swilling

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Jack Swilling might well be called Arizona’s “Forrest Gump” because seems to have had a penchant for being involved in a number of historic events in Arizona’s early history.

In 1858 he was a prospector at Gila City, site of the first gold rush. When Tonto Apache and Yavapai Indians raided the new camp, Jack was elected leader of a group of rangers whose mission was to protect the prospectors.

A couple of years later he was in Pinos Altos, New Mexico, where miners were being attacked by Mimbres Apache under the leadership of the great chief Mangas Colorados. Jack was elected lieutenant of a militia group who called themselves the Arizona Rangers.

During that time the Civil War broke out Southern forces from Texas invaded New Mexico and the rangers were drafted into the Confederate Army. Lieutenant Jack Swilling joined a force of some 100 Texans who arrived in Tucson and created the Confederate Territory of Arizona. Jack was familiar with the land and proved invaluable assisting the Texas guerilla tactics along the Gila River trying to impede a Union force of some 2,000 troops from California who were coming to retake Arizona.

The Union forces vastly outnumbered the Rebs and in a few weeks, drove them out of the New Mexico Territory. Jack remained in New Mexico where he was recruited by the great mountain man and explorer, Joe Walker, to guide them into the unknown central mountains of Arizona.

Walker’s party was looking for gold in an area where few white men had ever dared to travel. At Pinos Altos, near today’s Silver City, New Mexico, they encountered Jack’s old nemesis, Mangas Colorados and his Mimbres Apache. During a parley, Jack managed to get the drop on the old chieftain and turned him over to the Union troops occupying New Mexico.

Following the encounter with the Mimbres Apache Jack would guide the Walker party up the Hassayampa River where, in 1863, they discovered rich deposits of gold that led to the founding of Prescott a year later. That same year Arizona became a territory and Prescott was chosen to be the capital city.

Jack also became a founder of another rich gold strike near the Hassayampa, Wickenburg. He was also with the party that found gold at Rich Hill, a few miles north of Wickenburg. It was the richest single gold strike in Arizona history.

Then in late 1868 he led another group into the Salt River Valley. This time they weren’t looking for gold but for farm land. With mining camps and military post springing up there was a great need for farm products. They cleaned out the ancient canals originally dug by the Hohokam Indians some 1,500 years earlier and by 1870 a new community rising out of the ashes of an old civilization the future capital city of Phoenix was born.

Jack Swilling is a name that goes almost unrecognized by Arizonans today. Much of what is known about him today comes from tall tales, lies and half-truths. He was a tall, powerful man, brave, generous to a fault, a wonderful family man and for the most part was respected by his contemporaries. Swilling was the stuff of legends and certainly deserves a better place in history.