Wynonna Earp: Season 1 Episode 1 – Purgatory (Review)

What is worse than having spent a good portion of your teen years on Juvenile Corrections and a mental hospital? Being the heir apparent to the Earp legacy where demons all attempt to retrieve a Buntline peacemaker and kill off the bloodline. Wynonna Earp returns home to Purgatory for a family funeral and discovers that the Wyatt Earp curse is alive and well.

Wynonna Earp - Season 1

What is worse than having spent a good portion of your teen years in Juvenile Corrections and a mental hospital? Being the heir apparent to the Earp legacy where demons all attempt to retrieve a Buntline peacemaker and kill off the bloodline. Wynonna Earp returns home to Purgatory for a family funeral and discovers that the Wyatt Earp curse is alive and well.

And waiting for her.

Wynonna  learns that things are still bad in Purgatory and that demons are aggressively looking for the “magic” gun.  She reunites with her sister Waverly (played with enormous pluck and energy by Brit actress Dominique Provost-Chalkley) and meets up with a new “badge” in town, Deputy Marshall  Dolls (Shamier Anderson).

Earp (Melanie Scrofano) has flashbacks to the family homestead where revenants attacked and were responsible for  her father’s death  and murdered her older sister Willa.  She also learns that things are bad before entering the town when she gets off the bus. 

Dolls questions Wynonna who really does not want to play and leaves things open. Earp goes to the homestead and realizes she needs the gun. As the oldest she will inherit her great-great grandfather’s ability and will need it to kill the 77 revenants out for revenge.

She gets the Buntline special from an old well and she is met by Deputy  Dolls who tries to recruit her to his team.  After the two leave someone comes climbing out of the dry well; Doc Holiday (Tim Rozon).

Wynonna is part smart-arse and part angry anti-hero.  She is also a lousy shot, at least the first time she tries the gun, and must learn to get better. Earp learns that her little sister has been keeping track of the legend and wants to help.

A lot of Wynonna’s anger comes from the homestead attack and the Buntline special.  She meets Doc in Shorty’s Bar and the two talk philosophy and about Wyatt. Wynonna bitterly tells Holiday:

“He was good at killing, so they called him a hero.”

Waverly is taken by demons and Dolls reveals that he knows about the revenants.  Wynonna goes to rescue her sister. Once she arrives, the demons reveal that they know about the Earp legacy;  when the eldest reaches 27 all the previously killed revenants arise to kill out the family.

This is a modern western where horses have been replaced by motorcycles and country music mixes easily with hard rock.  High flying martial arts is combined with gunplay and the mystery of just why  Doc Holiday has returned. He is not on the Earp’s side nor is he a revenant.

Scrofano is believable as the reluctant hero and she pulls off the mixed feelings and attitude  effortlessly .  Rozon also makes Holiday his own and kudos to Provost-Chalkley for her impeccable “country” American accent.  The English performer has what can best be describe as a boarding school accent  and there is no sign of it in her portrayal of Waverly.

The series is shot in Calgary, Alberta, Canada (where The Revenant was also filmed as well as Interstellar) and it works well as a stand-in for the western US.

Thus far, Wynonna Earp is good entertainment. It has interesting dialogue and a excellent premise.  It could be called Supernatural meets Tombstone  but with an earthy and strong female heroine with an equally strong female sidekick.

Wynonna Earp airs Fridays on SyFy.

Iron Eyes Cody: Living the Dream or a Delusion?

Iron Eyes Cody in full regalia.

A year ago, I bought Iron Eyes Cody’s autobiography in an entertainment specialist shop in Norwich. I’d often wanted to read the book as he was a pretty iconic character after his pollution advert back in the 1970’s. He also had always claimed tribal ancestry not too far from my own and I hoped that by reading the book I’d learn not just about Hollywood in the early years but also about his lineage.

I had completely forgotten that Iron Eyes had been “defrocked” as it were in 1996. A half-sister appeared from the sagebrush and claimed that not only did he not have Indian blood in his veins, he was in fact Sicilian. Even after a birth certificate was produced and records found that substantiated the woman’s claim, Cody denied vigorously that he was anything but a Cherokee/Cree Indian.

He stood up for many Native American causes and was awarded for his efforts. He never left his house unless he was dressed in beaded moccasins, buckskin clothes and wearing his braided wig. Even though the tribes he supported through his efforts ascertained that he was not of Native American Heritage, they still accepted him as one of their own; which he was, in spirit at least, if not through blood.

The question is, was Cody so enamoured of his role as the mistreated red man that he came to believe it? Was this part of his “Hollywood” image that he maintained in order to find more work as an actor? Or had he lived this lie so long that he believed it; the “role” he’d invented for himself in order to ingratiate himself to the acting community?

Cody had a long career as a “screen” Indian. He worked with big names in the western film making crowd. He’d been around Hollywood long enough to be able to “name drop” with the best of them. He knew the old silent film cowboys and stuntmen. He also knew retired lawman and living legend Wyatt Earp (although he maintained that if you asked Earp anything about his past he would just look at you and say he couldn’t remember) as well as some of the other less savoury remnants of the old west.

He also provided a treasure chest of “authentic” props for film makers that were used in other films besides westerns. He appeared in over 200 films and worked quite a lot in television as well. But Cody was more than a celluloid “red man” he also lived his life according to the Cherokee/Cree culture.

Cody’s book, titled My Life as a Hollywood Indian, was published in 1984 and was ghost written by Collin Perry (the book’s jacket actually says “As told to Collin Perry”) and includes a lot of photographs of Iron Eyes and his family and some of the Hollywood “big wigs” he worked with. As I’d hoped the book did have a few anecdotes and stories about some of the lesser known players in the old days of western film making. A lot of the stuntmen and extras in those days were rough and tough real cowboys who found that fist fighting and getting shot off of a horse paid a hell of a lot better that working on a ranch punching cows.

So in that area the book was interesting enough. He tells a bit about his married life and his peccadilloes. He also talks about Native Americans and their battles to retain their heritage and claim back their past.

Of course, as the book was written in 1984, he makes not one mention of his Sicilian heritage. The book is set up to sell the idea that Cody was Native American. He obviously believed it. Writing a biography, even with the use of a “ghost writer,” puts your personal “truths” in concrete form. There is your life story, in black and white, filling pages of a book.

You cannot retract your story. You cannot go to the publishers who paid you for your book and say, “Oh by the way, I may have stretched the truth a bit in the area of ancestry.” They may want their money back or worse sue you. That could be the main reason that Iron Eyes Cody, who was actually born Espera Oscar de Corti in Kaplan, Louisiana the second son of two Sicilian immigrants Antonio de Corti and his wife Francesca Salpietra, continued to deny his “real” roots.

So the idea of lawsuits might well have been Cody’s inspiration for denying his true lineage, but, when you take into account his lifestyle; the life he lead following the traditions of the Native American culture, he believed in his “reel” life completely. He may have adopted the ancestry because it was more romantic than his own or he could have gotten so caught up in the whole idea that he forgot his real life existed.

I guess that perhaps that is another “truth” of one’s ancestry or past; when the pretend memories become real, so real that they take over fact and become a deluded reality.

A delusion that can be used to benefit some and that harms no one. Then it is most likely a truth or reality much stronger and powerful than the reality of a father who deserted his wife and children and ran away to Texas.

The only sad thing is, Iron Eyes Cody never told anyone why he preferred the lie or if he was even able to recognise that it was a lie. The 1996 revelation casts an unfortunate tinge on the biography and the validity of its source. But it is still worth looking up just for some of the photographs and for the stories (true or not) of the characters who filled the backdrop in the early days of western film making.

Shedding a little tear…


Tombstone (1993): OK Corral and After

I have tried repeatedly to write a review that would do this beleaguered film justice. Each time I start rapping the keyboard on my laptop I can get no further than three paragraphs.

So I sat down today and started researching the film and its subject matter again. I am not a stranger to the town of Tombstone and the disputes and daily arguments between the main factions. I have always had a fascination for the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral and the Earp’s ride of retribution afterwards.

That the gunfight and the events following are almost common knowledge is down to the feuding newspapers of the day. One paper supported the Earp’s and their ‘town’ backers of businesses and traders. The other paper supported the Clanton’s, Sheriff Johnny Behan  and their ‘cattlemen’ supporters.

The film shows this divide from the very beginning. The ‘Cowboys’ were an organised crime outfit that not only rustled cattle, they robbed and murdered and were even thought responsible for the murder of Mexican troops who were on their way to deposit gold,  bullion and Peso’s in the Tombstone banks.

That there was tension between the two factions is a matter of fact. Kurt Russell‘s portrayal of Wyatt Earp is easily the best I’ve ever seen. He hits the right notes of righteousness and weariness of the law business and his intention to settle down with his wife and family around him.

Sam Elliot and Bill Paxton (in the first role where he actually plays a good guy) played their parts equally well. Elliot as the stiff-necked and doomed Earp brother Morgan and Paxton as the eager and righteous (and most experienced of all the brothers in the world of law enforcement in real life) Virgil both help bring this strong willed family to life.

Michael Biehn, Powers Boothe, Jason Priestly, Val Kilmer and Dana Delany all provide the ambiance and backbone of the film. Kilmer (who lost so much weight to play the consumptive Doc Holliday that he made himself ill) almost stole the show as the man who could not fear death as it was already a constant companion.

Biehn as the over educated yet bestial Johnny Ringo and Boothe as the over bearing Brocius were brilliantly cast as the two ‘main men’ behind the Cowboys gang.

The film looks stunning capturing the colours and hues of a ‘boom town’ in the late 1800’s American west. The sets, the costumes and the props all look great. Overall this film shows the greatest attention to the facts leading up to and following the infamous gunfight. There are a few things that the film makers have chosen to change or gloss over, but the fact remains that this film is pretty damn accurate.

Tombstone. Allen street 1880

The actual gunfight is a perfect example of the ‘liberties’ taken by the film makers. In reality the entire gunfight at the OK Corral lasted under 30 seconds. Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne both fled the area when the fighting started and Ike did tell Wyatt that he was not armed, to which Wyatt replied, “Get fighting or get out. [sic]”

No one entered a   photo  studio to be shot down.

Incredibly, most of the important details they got right. Virgil Earp did give Doc Holliday the sawn off shotgun and took his walking stick in return. The Earps entered the vacant lot behind the Corral not expecting a fight, Sheriff Behan who met the Earp’s as they were walking towards the Corral told them that the Clanton’s were not armed.

When Virgil called for the Clanton’s to turn over their weapons and guns were pulled and cocked by the gang Virgil shouted out, ” Hold! I did not mean that (or ‘Hold on! I did not mean that!) and a party from each side opened fire simultaneously.

Behan did attempt to arrest the Earps immediately following the gunfight and Wyatt did indeed say, “I won’t be arrested today. I am right here and am not going away.”

In reality there was a trial and the Earps, as well as Holliday were found innocent of any wrong doing. This was what inflamed the already bitter feud between the Cowboys and the Earps.

That Wyatt Earp and Josephine Marcus were a couple was common knowledge at the time.

Russell’s own feud with Kevin Costner about the film (which Costner was meant to be in) lead to Costner leaving the project and starting up his own version of events in the the mediocre Wyatt Earp (1994). After he left Tombstone, Costner then lead a ‘hate’ campaign against Russell’s film and attempted to prevent it from getting distributed by any major studio.

Suffice to say that history repeated itself with Russell’s Earp’s winning against the nefarious actions of the pretender (Costner). Tombstone opened well and pulled in a decent box office receipt. Costner’s film did not do as well.

I can vaguely remember as a child travelling through Arizona with my parents. We stopped at Tombstone and someone (dammed if I can remember who) took pictures of the OK Corral for our own posterity. For years the entire gunfight has been re-enacted for thousands if not millions of tourists. I have never seen one of these re-enactments. I don’t need to. I can picture the entire thing in my mind.

Of course if I’m feeling lazy, I can always watch Tombstone.

Because folks, it’s about as accurate as you can get.

*If you’d like to read more about the Earp’s and the gunfight at the OK Corral, check out Wikipedia, it’s a good starting point and will reference many different sites for more information.*

One Lovely Blog Award! Thanks! Just What the Doctor Ordered

One Lovely Blog Award. Cheers george-b!

I was very chuffed to be nominated for this award by george-b  over at euzicasa yesterday! Cheers mate, it was just what I needed to get me started this week!

I had a friend around yesterday who was checking on whether the rumours of my still being alive were true and that the surgeons did indeed find the presence of a heart in my chest.

One cup of tea and coffee later, he looked at me closely and said, “I’m wearing you out. I’ll be going now, don’t forget to call if you need anything.” I did feel a bit tired.

I decided that I’d write something about 9/11 and how it had impacted on me, a ‘yank’ living abroad, and I couldn’t get past two paragraphs.

I decided that another coffee was in order and after making it, I started from scratch and still could not get much further than three paragraphs.

Three very short paragraphs.

It then dawned on me that perhaps I had exhausted my meagre intellectual pool on my social visit. I jumped at this excuse and decided to give my brain a rest and have a long soaking bath instead.

It was after getting out of the bath that I got george-b’s comment informing my that he’d put my name up for the ‘One Lovely Blog Award’ and in case you missed his blog post here’s a link to it: One Lovely Blog Award – second time around is sweeter.

I decided to write on this new development, but,  I was still not getting around the ‘three paragraph’ stonewall. I watched Tombstone, the vastly entertaining Wyatt Earp film by Kurt Russell and co. My brain was so tired that, if threatened, I could not have written the most abbreviated shopping list in the world.

It was only after sleeping for well over 12 hours, that my mind has recovered from it’s hour long visit from yesterday.

So! The One Lovely Blog Award is another of those ‘feel good’ awards that helps the the blogging community identify itself and lets the same community learn a bit more about the folks who populate it. It’s a bit of fun, a bit ‘self indulgent’ (But honestly, isn’t that what blogging really is? Our creative self indulgences in print?) and a good natured way for blogs of all disciplines to shine a bit. *Whew! That was a long paragraph!*

There are only 3 rules connected with this award, which is not bad at all in the world of blogging awards, and pretty simple.

1. Give credit to the awesome person who nominated you. 

2.  Describe 7 things about yourself:

1. I have just been realised from hospital after emergency open heart by-pass surgery.

2. I am single again after almost 27 years of marriage.

3. I am not in a hurry to have any ‘deep and meaningful’ relationships with anyone at the moment.

4. I am in the process of ‘re-discovering’ myself.

5. I have worked as a professional actor.

6. I have always hated the way my recorded voice sounds.

7. I am completely addicted to real coffee.

3. Nominate 15 other bloggers:

1. Tim The Film Guy 

2. leOpard13

3. Deep Rem Rum

4. Marked Movies

5. Noah’s Ark 13

6. Christine Friesenhahn

7. Daphne Probst

8. Fortyteen Candles

9. oatmeal&art 

10. jennifermdarling

11. Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop 

12. Cinema Schminema

13. Cinema Train

14. Out of Fal

15. My Far Away Places

And that, as they say, is that. I can only apologise in advance to those  who did not ‘make’ the list. I follow so many wonderful blogs that I have to use a sort of ‘shorthand’ lottery. If you were missed, it doesn’t mean that you are forgotten.

Thanks again for the award!

12/09/2012

Sunset (1988): A Western Mix Earp

I actually watched this film on television. It obviously made the theatrical rounds quickly and got put on the ‘Saturday Night Movies’ early.

I liked it.

The film had the amazing (to me anyway) partnering of Bruce Willis and James Garner. As I am huge fans of both, it was a winning combination.

Directed by Blake Edwards (pick the Pink Panther film of your choice) Sunset is the tale of two legends, one of celluloid and the other of the wild west. Tom Mix (Willis) is making a silent film version of the Gunfight at the OK Corral. Wyatt Earp(Garner) is hired to be the technical advisor for the film. Mix meets and befriends Wyatt and the two team up together to solve a murder mystery.

Tom Mix, the True King of the Cowboys

In real life, Tom Mix did indeed know Wyatt Earp. Wyatt had settled in Hollywood when he was retired. In fact, Mix was such a good friend that he served as a pall bearer at Earp’s funeral. Tom Mix did try to get Hollywood interested in making a film about Earp’s legendary gunfight, but the project fell through.

0319 - Wyatt Earp born
0319 – Wyatt Earp born (Photo credit: Bradford Timeline)

In Iron Eyes Cody‘s book, My Life as a Hollywood Indian, he talks about Wyatt Earp and says that he, Earp, was only interested in sitting on his front porch and if pressed about his life as a law-man would say he couldn’t remember.

The film was interesting enough with both Garner and Willis turning in good performances. But what made the film special to me is a scene that occurs near the end of the film.

Garner had played Wyatt Earp before in John SturgesHour of the gun. Towards the end of the film, the silent film that Mix is working on has just ‘re-created’ the OK corral shoot-out. Mix asks Wyatt if they got it right. Earp looks off in the distance and remembers the actual shoot-out.

Using cuts from Sturges’ film, we see what really happened as Wyatt relives it in his mind. Wyatt then looks at Mix and says, “Yeah, just like that.”

That scene is cinematic genius. When we  the audience see through Wyatt Earps ‘flashback’ what really happened that infamous day, we see that the silent film comes nowhere near being correct. But what we also see, along with Wyatt, is that the film medium will never be able to capture what really happened. The icing on the metaphorical cake is that we also know that Hollywood has re-created that scene repeatedly.

Cover of "Hour of the Gun"
Cover of Hour of the Gun

And there you have it. For me the biggest reason for liking the film was a scene that took up less than a minute of screen time.

Sunset is a good film, nothing to write home about perhaps, but it is still worth a look. If for no other reason than to see Bruce Willis and James Garner, and maybe just for that tiny scene I just mentioned.