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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Hopalong Cassidy was a big deal when I was a little kid. That was back in the 1950s when William Boyd turned the character into a gold-plated cowboy hero and in the process became an international celebrity in his own right. Both he and Hopalong was everywhere – at the movies, on radio and TV. Mind you, at that particular time TV was a world away from where I lived in country Australia. However, the merchandise was in the shops and included comics, cups, watches and cowboy outfits, just to name a few; and we all bought into the Hopalong franchise with glee.

Between 1935 and 1947 Boyd starred in over sixty Hopalong movies, and on the back of this success he transitioned the cowboy dressed in black from the large to the small screen, by buying up the rights to all his films for $350,000. It was a bold masterstroke that was to make him one of the wealthiest actor/producers in tinsel town at that time. In 1950 alone, he earned $800,000 from his licensing and endorsement deals that manufactured $70,000,000 of Hopalong Cassidy products. This is serious money by today’s standards, so sixty years ago it was enormous.

I, like most of the boys in the neighborhood, accepted the Hopalong Cassidy character that Boyd had fashioned. In fact William Boyd and Hopalong Cassidy were one in the same person as far as I was concerned. This was a clean-cut cowboy hero with silver hair and an image that was as smooth as Brylcreen. Later in life I was to learn that this was not the original persona invented by the author, Clarence E. Mulford.

The original Hopalong Cassidy (who hopped along after being shot in the leg) was rough, rude and dangerous. In a swift makeover, he was changed by Hollywood into a role model for kids like me, so that we could clearly distinguish between good and bad, right and wrong. Well at least how ‘right and good’ looks in fairytales, and that was an all squeaky-clean image. Only problem was, I started to see some other hero types on the big screen, those movies made for the adults, and I kinda liked those rough around the edges types.

One such movie that left an early impact on me was the Wages of Fear. This 1953 French-Italian thriller about four desperados trying to drive two trucks across the mountains of South America, each loaded full of deadly and sensitive nitroglycerine that would then be exploded to blow out an oil well fire, was boy’s own stuff of the highest order. That sixty years later it still stands-up as a good movie showed that I had some taste when I was still in short pants. Fragments of film are available on YouTube and worth a look (see Rotten Wood – The Wages of Fear (1/4) movie clip) as this is a masterfully told story of adventure, drama and folly.

Another movie that left an impression was Inferno starring Robert Ryan. In this story there is no clean-cut hero, just a spoiled, alcoholic millionaire who has broken his leg falling off his horse. But what happens next is his road to Damascus, when he is left to die in the desert by his cheating wife and her lover. His journey is one of survival through tenacity, and what could be better than that?

Then there was High Noon with the brooding Gary Cooper as Marshal Will Kane as he waits for Frank Miller who is arriving on the midday train, which is a bit of a problem. Will put Miller in jail where he was to be hung for his past deeds, but he has been pardoned on a technicality and is out for revenge. That all this should come to a head on Will’s wedding day does not make for a big celebration, but it is great for the plot. Wages, Inferno and Noon are all good stories that are well told, and each has interesting if flawed leading characters.

But back to Hopalong Cassidy or should I say William Boyd. In those early movies a young Robert Mitchum was hired to play a number of different villains, due to his young shifty looks. It was to be the start of a great career that included many great Western movies, and the making of one of the best actors in the business, but lets talk about that next time.

I’ll finish on just this one little note. The Western stories I like, be they movies or books, are those of the less than perfect hero. This is usually a person who makes the wrong decision, at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons. Yet their intentions are sincere and they accept the consequences of their actions without complaint, and isn’t that as close to perfect as we should expect from anyone in life? 



November 2012

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