It was a real surprise at our Western Movie Night get-together. David Morrell chose two films none of us had seen before.
First up was an episode from the 1960 television series, TATE. It starred David McLean, better known as the Marlboro Man in cigarette ads, who comes out west making his living as a bounty hunter. An intriguing twist to the series was that Tate had lost the use of an arm during the Civil War and covers it with a black leather glove and sling. The episode we watched featured more surprises. Entitled “Bounty Hunter,” if featured a very young Robert Redford as an angry man bent on revenge. So certain that Tate had murdered his family, he hired his own bounty hunter, played by Robert Culp, to bring Tate in, dead or alive. Created by Harry Julian Fink, whose writing credits include episodes of HAVE GUN—WILL TRAVEL, and co-writing MAJOR DUNDEE and DIRTY HARRY, the series ran for only one season. All thirteen episodes are available on DVD and on YouTube.
The main feature David brought was SLIM CARTER released in 1957. Though not exactly a Western, it is about Westerns, Western movie heroes to be more precise. Written by Mary C. McCall Jr. and her husband David Bramson, the story is loosely based on the life of William Boyd, better known as Hopalong Cassidy, whom Bramson worked for back in the 1930s.
In this telling, Hughie Mack, a handsome but womanizing Western singer, gets discovered by Clover Doyle (Julie Adams), a Hollywood publicist, who sees him as the next big cowboy star. Changing his name to Slim Carter helps make him famous, but doesn’t change his rowdy, raucous ways, until the winner of a contest, a young orphan boy who idolizes Slim, comes to collect his prize: spending a full month with Slim in Hollywood.
We all agreed it’s a cute film, and the idea was one full of potential what with Slim having to learn movie cowboy ways like trick riding, fancy roping and getting out of tight spots. But the picture could have benefitted from a better build up to Slim becoming a decent guy in the end, something less mawkish and more convincing.
Along with David, award-winning author and New York times best-selling author of FIRST BLOOD, our groups includes Johnny D. Boggs, record eight-time Spur Award-winning author whose works include RETURN TO RED RIVER, and Robert Nott, award-winning journalist and author of THE FILMS OF BUDD BOETTICHER. Kirk Ellis, Emmy-winning writer and producer of HBOs JOHN ADAMS and TNTs INTO THE WEST, was away.