What is the Corral about?

Well, simply, it is a place to round-up ideas, thoughts, comments and anything else you may like to hear about. My original intention was to have a forum but the time to manage such a gathering is really beyond me at this stage. But via email I can gather up your input and get it into the Corral.

So, would you like to make comment?

What is your favorite western story, either as a book or a movie?

Want to tell us why?

What are you currently reading, watching or listening to (regardless if it is a Western or not)?

What do you want to see in future Western stories (grit or romance, maybe both, gunplay or justice, grim reality or happy endings)?

Anything you would like to see in one of my stories?



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February 2013

A guy I really admire is Ron Howard, not that I was a great Happy Days fan, but that was only because the show just seemed to pass me by at the time it went to air. I guess I didn’t fit into the demographic that it was aimed at in those years of the second half of the 1970s. Yet, I could see, on the odd occasion that I did catch a glimpse of the show, that Richie Cunningham was an engaging character.

No, Ron Howard came to my notice later in the mid 1980s with the movie Cocoon. I liked the movie and was amazed to learn that he had directed it. I didn’t even know that he’d taken up directing, so I did a little digging around and found that he had also directed Splash the year before. Both were big box office successes, and more were to follow, with Backdraft, Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Director. Of course, had I been paying attention, I would have known that Ron Howard directed, starred in and co-wrote the 1977 comedy road movie Grand Theft Auto. This was a Howard family affair movie, made on a shoestring, that went on to gross over $15m. Not bad for a directing debut, ah?

Yet through out all of this success of fame and fortune, Ron Howard has remained as likeable as his character in Happy Days. In every interview I’ve managed to see, he comes over as a nice, well-grounded guy, which is amazing in the movie world of giant egos. But, you may ask, what has any of this to do with The Western?

Well, as expected, throughout his long career of acting and directing Ron Howard has come in contact with the Western genre. After all, back when he was a kid, the Western was king, especially on TV and that seems to be where it first started. In 1960 at around the tender age of six years he played Timmy (although uncredited) in Season 4, Episode 2 (Counterfeit Gun) of Cheyenne, the TV show that made Clint Walker a household name. And back then, when it was shown on Australian black and white TV in the late 1950s and early 60s, I was one in a legion of rusted-on Cheyenne Bodie fans.

But it was in 1976 that Ron Howard played a significant part in an important Western called The Shootist, as this was to be John Wayne’s last movie before he died three years later in 1979. The movie was adapted from the 1975 book of the same name written by Glendon Swarthout, a writer of commercial fiction with a Ph.D in Victorian literature. He was to also write the novel Where the Boys Are, a coming-of-age sitcom with some serious adult themes for 1960 that also went to the silver screen and starred Connie Francis.

Swarthout was one very versatile and talented author, as was his son Miles who adapted his father’s novel The Shootist into a screenplay and was nominated for Best Adaptation by the Writer’s Guild. Miles continues to writes and you may have come across his film column for the Western Writers of America magazine The Roundup. It is also believed that he is writing a sequel to The Shootist. So, could there be a movie in the future? Who knows?

But as important as Ron Howard’s involvement in The Shootist may be, it is not, in my opinion, his crowning Western glory. That belongs to the movie The Missing (2003), which he directed and co-produced. It was adapted from the 1995 novel The Last Ride by Thomas Eidson. Now, some will be dismissive of this movie, in fact it was a commercial flop as it failed to recover the $60m that it took to make, only earning $38m worldwide. But I still think it is a sleeping classic that will be rediscovered by future generations. Or maybe, I’ve been blinded by the stellar cast that includes Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett, Aaron Echart and Val Kilmer. Or maybe I was desperate for another Ethan Edwards The Searchers (1956) type plot. But I’ll leave you to form your own opinion and just recommend this movie as worth selecting from your local video store for a look-see, especially on one of those a wet weekend that keep you indoors.  

Anyway, that’s my little homage to Richie Cunningham aka Ron Howard. I think he is fine director so I keep my eyes open and my fingers crossed, in the hope that he will be tempted to make another Western.



Lee Clinton

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