Actors who performed in classic westerns recount their experiences. As imagined by me.
FROM THE CHAPTER ENTITLED: CHARACTERS CERTAIN TO BE KILLED.
THE RANCHER WHO REFUSED TO SELL
“There’s just no question. I have to be gunned down. But when I’m standing on my front porch, telling the Bad Guy’s henchmen I’m not selling no matter what, I’m playing it like I’ve got a shot.
“‘You’re not getting me land!’”
“It’s strange in a way. What have I got, like four acres? It’s a huge country. There’s got to be four acres somewhere else. But it’s the principle. ‘You’re not getting my land!’
“When you think about it, though, it’s like I’m begging them, ‘Please, shoot me.’
“I’m certainly not thinking, ‘If I can convince them I’ve put my heart and soul into this land – clearing the wilderness, withstanding the elements, building my herd up from nothing – they’ll think, ‘I didn’t realize how hard you’ve worked’, and leave me alone. I’m a goner!
“I mean, if they don’t kill me, there’s no picture. ‘The Good Guy seeks vengeance for a rancher the Bad Guys intimidated but eventually let live?’ That’s not a story! I have to go! That’s all there is to it!
“But that doesn’t mean I have to go quietly. No, Sir. I give them a tongue-lashing they’ll never forget. You can see it in their eyes. They know they’re doing wrong.
“Then they cut me to pieces in a hail of bullets.”
THE PROSPECTOR WHO STRIKES IT RICH
“I don’t mind gettin’ bumped off, ‘cause I’d have my fun along the way. I’d get to do a funny dance when I struck it rich, I’d get to sing drunk, I’ve even get a chuck under the chin from a pretty little saloon girl. Not bad for an old coot with no teeth.
“My only quibble was with the way they’d knock me off. I mean, if I’m ridin’ to town to register my claim and I get bushwhacked, fair enough. If I’m gunned down at the claim site, that’s fine too – I’d fall in mud, but I wasn’t all that clean to begin with.
“The one I hated was, I’m kneelin’ by the river, I discover this big, shiny nugget, I’m just about to shout, “Yahoo!”, and Wham! – claim jumpers whack me with a shovel.
“They was no time to practice the moves. They were supposed to miss and I’d act like I got whacked. But more often than not, they’d just…CLANG! I’d go down like a ton of bricks!
“I never understood that. When they shoot you in a picture, you’re not really shot. They use blanks. But, somehow, when the script says they whack you with a shovel, they sure enough whack you with a shovel! They tried a rubber shovel, but it didn’t make the right sound.
“To this day, I can’t look at a shovel without flinchin’.”
“Please explain this to me: You’re holding the bugle in one hand, the reins in the other. You have no ‘third hand’ for a firearm or a saber. That’s it! You’re ‘handsed out!’
“You’re no threat to anyone. And what happens? Every single Indian is shooting at me!
“I promise you, if I were an Indian, I would never waste arrows on the bugler.”
“I was a Juilliard-trained musician. My classmates play in symphony orchestras. So I’m a bugler in cavalry pictures. I’m fine with that. My parents aren’t thrilled, but it’s honest work. It’s great.
“But then they tell me, ‘Not only do we want you to blow “The Charge”, we want you to fall off your horse when you’re killed.
“That’s where I drew the line.”
“I’m a musician. I don’t ‘do’ falls. Fortunately, the director, who, you know, we ran with the same crowd, made an accommodation. Whenever I’d be killed, the director would cut to a ‘long shot’, to cover that fact that it wasn’t I who was falling off the horse, it was somebody else. I guess it was sort of, ‘Who does he think he is?’ being the only ‘extra’ with his own ‘stunt double’, but I’m sorry. If they wanted me, that’s just how it had to be.”
“At ‘wrap’ parties, I’d play classical trumpet solos on the bugle. They’d always ask for encores. Their most popular request? ‘Taps.’”
Attention: The "Foyles" Guy. "Foyles" is a fabulous bookstore in London. A while back, I wrote about stealing plays from "Foyles" in the sixties, and the "Foyles" manager, or something, whose name was actually
Foyle, e-mailed me back. So I'm thinking the "Foyles" system is somehow alerted if I say "Foyles" enough times.
"Foyles" Guy. I need your help.
We have a bond here - the injured party-miscreant connection. That's up there as a unifier, second only to husband and wife. We have history. And I'm calling on that historical attachment to bail me out.
Here's the situation. My wife, Dr. M, is having a birthday soon. She loves "Master and Commander" books on tape. She has a ton of them. But she can't seem to find Volume Six, "Fortune of War."
I don't even know if "Foyles" carries books on tape, "Foyles" Guy. I hope you do. And I hope you can help me get the "Fortune of War" book on tape, so I can present it to Dr. M on her birthday and be a big hero. Which is what this is all about. Dr. M's being happy is a bonus. It's really about me. And how I'll look.
So, "Foyles" Guy, please do not hesitate to drop everything in your busy schedule (which I'm pronouncing "shed-ule") to take on this important challenge. I did contact your mail order sales department on your website, but I never heard back. They probably didn't know who I was - a shameless pilferer, albeit a repentent one. As a result, I was simply ignored.
Also, if anyone else out there knows how I can get "Master and Commander's" Volume Six "Fortune of War" book on tape, please,again, drop everything, and do something for me.
Thank you for your time. I hope I said "Foyles" enough times to draw your attention.
Thanks again, and good luck selling books.
e-mail address: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.