Tag: John Wayne

The Mighty Red River

Linda pubpixMen have fought rivers all the way back to Biblical days but none more so than the Red River that creates a natural boundary line between Texas and Oklahoma. It’s very long at 1,360 miles and can get very wide in places and is the southernmost major river system in the Great Plains.

Seasoned cattlemen and drovers of those trail drives feared and cursed the crossing as well as those living in towns along its length. It was a roaring, growling beast. The currents were unpredictable and fast moving and, especially when it flooded, you took your life in your own hands crossing it. Many people (and cattle) died in the attempt. The river demanded respect (and got it) and earned the name The Mighty Red. Quicksand also added to the danger.

It begins not far from where I now live in the Texas Panhandle and winds its way to the Mississippi River. It’s notorious for severe flooding even today, despite that the river usually doesn’t contain but a trickle of water. In an effort to control the flood damage, levees and dams were built along the length.

I always feel very sad whenever I drive across it now and see little or no water. I feel we’ve lost part of our history.

red-river-movieThis waterway has been the subject of many books and movies. Howard Hawks directed and produced the blockbuster Red River in 1948, starring John Wayne. It was filmed in Arizona and the San Pedro stood in for the Red River.

Tidbit: John Wayne gave the producers extensive advice about the possible location and logistical problems associated with making Westerns and insisted Howard Hawks hire real cowhands and trained stunt professionals instead of the amateurs he had lined up. The director ended up signing 70 real cowboys for the job. He also contracted to have dozens of horses represent the hundreds required by the story and about a thousand head of cattle at $10 per day each stand in for Dunson’s herd of 10,000. Wayne said once it was clear Hawks was taking his advice seriously and the budget would be increased, he agreed to do the picture.

Another tidbit: Most of the cattle were actually Herefords because they couldn’t find but about two dozen longhorns. They strategically placed the longhorns during the filming to make it appear the herd was comprised solely of these. And the 10,000 strong herd was actually only about a third of that. Camera angles and other tricks were used.

Joanne Dru was the author of the book Red River that they adapted this movie from.

Often a river, town or other place becomes a character. That’s the case with the Red River. I wrote a scene in Heart of a Texas Cowboy (Book 2 of Men of Legend) of Houston Legend driving 2,000 longhorns across it.

Do you know other rivers that cause big problems, maybe where you live? Comment to enter the drawing for one copy (print or ebook) of To Love a Texas Ranger.

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THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE by CHERYL PIERSON

Cheryl7126LV movie poster

Favorite western movies? I’ve got a few. But if I had to choose, I think it would have to be The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

This Hollywood classic, starring John Wayne as Tom Doniphon, Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance, Vera Miles as Hallie Ericson, and Jimmy Stewart as Ransom “Ranse” Stoddard has just about everything a western cinema fan could hope for: action, romance, right-over-might…and an unforgettable theme song.

Dorothy M. Johnson’s short story was made into a movie in 1962. It’s one of my oldest “movie” memories, as I was five years old when it made the rounds to the movie theaters and drive-ins.

Here’s the description of the movie according to Wickipedia:

Elderly U.S. Senator Ransom “Ranse” Stoddard and his wife Hallie arrive by train in the small western town of Shinbone, to attend the funeral of an apparent nobody, a local rancher named Tom Doniphon. Prior to the funeral, Hallie goes off with a friend to visit a burned-down house with obvious significance to her. As they pay their respects to the dead man at the undertaker’s establishment, the senator is interrupted with a request for a newspaper interview. Stoddard grants the request.

As the interview with the local reporter begins, the film flashes back several decades as Stoddard reflects on his first arrival at Shinbone by stagecoach to establish a law practice.Liberty Valance  Lee Marvin

A gang of outlaws, led by gunfighter Liberty Valance, hold up the stagecoach. Stoddard is brutally beaten, left for dead and later rescued by Doniphon. Stoddard is nursed back to health by restaurant owner Peter Ericson (John Qualen), his wife Nora (Jeanette Nolan) and daughter Hallie. It later emerges that Hallie is Doniphon’s love interest.

Shinbone’s townsfolk are regularly menaced by Valance and his gang. Cowardly local marshal Link Appleyard (Andy Devine) is ill prepared and unwilling to enforce the law. Doniphon is the only local courageous enough to challenge Valance’s lawless behavior. On one occasion, Doniphon even intervenes on Stoddard’s behalf, when Valance publicly humiliates the inept Easterner. Valance trips Stoddard who is waiting tables at Peter’s restaurant. Stoddard spills Doniphon’s order causing Doniphon to intervene. Valance stands down and leaves. Doniphon tells Stoddard he needs to either leave the territory or buy a gun. Stoddard says he will do neither.

"No...I said you, Liberty...You pick it up!"

“No…I said you, Liberty…You pick it up!”

Stoddard is an advocate for justice under the law, not man. He earns the respect and affection of Hallie when he offers to teach her to read after he discovers, to her embarrassment, she’s had no formal education. Stoddard’s influence on Hallie and the town is further evidenced when he begins a school for the townspeople with Hallie’s help. But, secretly, Stoddard borrows a gun and practices shooting.

Doniphon shows Stoddard his plans for expanding his house in anticipation of marrying Hallie, and reminds him that Hallie is his girl. Doniphon gives Stoddard a shooting lesson but humiliates him by shooting a can of paint which spills on Stoddard’s suit. Doniphon warns that Valance will be just as devious, but Stoddard hits him in the jaw and leaves.

In Shinbone, the local newspaper editor-publisher Dutton Peabody (Edmond O’Brien) writes a story about local ranch owners’ opposition to the territory’s potential statehood. Valance convinces the ranchers that if they will hire him, he can get elected as a delegate to represent the cattlemen’s interest. Shinbone’s residents meet to elect two delegates to send to the statehood convention at the territorial capital. Valance attempts to bully the townspeople into electing him as a delegate. Eventually, Stoddard and Peabody are chosen. Valance assaults and badly beats Peabody after Peabody publishes two unflattering articles about Valance and his gang. The villains destroy Peabody’s office. Valance also calls Stoddard out for a duel later in the evening after Valance loses his bid for delegate. Valance leaves saying “Don’t make us come and get you!” Doniphon tells Stoddard he should leave town and even offers to have his farmhand, Pompey, escort him. But when Stoddard sees that Peabody has been nearly beaten to death, he calls out Valance. Stoddard then retrieves a carefully wrapped gun from under his bed and heads toward the saloon where Valance is. Valance hears he has been called out and justifies going out in self-defense. His wins his last poker hand before the duel with Aces and Eights.

"Pompey..."

“Pompey…”

 

In the showdown, Valance toys with Stoddard by firing a bullet near his head and then wounding him in the arm, which causes Stoddard to drop his gun. Valance allows Stoddard to bend down and retrieve the gun. Valance then aims to kill Stoddard promising to put the next bullet “right between the eyes,” when Stoddard fires and miraculously kills Valance with one shot to the surprise of everyone, including himself. Hallie responds with tearful affection. Doniphon congratulates Stoddard on his success, and notices how Hallie lovingly cares for Stoddard’s wounds.

Sensing that he has lost Hallie’s affections, Doniphon gets drunk in the saloon and drives out Valance’s gang, who have been calling for Stoddard to be lynched for Valance’s “murder.” The barman tries to tell Doniphon’s farmhand Pompey (Woody Strode) that he cannot be served (due to his race), to which Doniphon angrily shouts: “Who says he can’t? Pour yourself a drink, Pompey.” Pompey instead drags Doniphon home, where the latter sets fire to an uncompleted bedroom he was adding to his house in anticipation of marrying Hallie. The resulting fire destroys the entire house.

Stoddard is hailed as “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” and based on this achievement, is nominated as the local representative to the statehood convention. Stoddard is reluctant to serve based upon his notoriety for killing a man in a gunfight.

At this point, in a flashback within the original flashback, Doniphon tells Stoddard that it was he (Doniphon), hidden across the street, who shot and killed Valance in cold blood, and not Stoddard in self-defense. Stoddard finds Doniphon and asks him why he shot Valance. He did it for Hallie, he says, because he understood that “she’s your girl now”. Doniphon encourages Stoddard to accept the nomination: “You taught her to read and write, now give her something to read and write about!”

Stoddard returns to the convention and is chosen as representative. He marries Hallie and eventually becomes the governor of the new state. He then becomes a two term U.S. senator, then the American ambassador to Great Britain, a U.S. senator again, and at the time of Doniphon’s funeral is the favorite for his party’s nomination as vice president.

The film returns to the present day and the interview ends. The newspaper man, understanding now the truth about the killing of Valance, burns his notes stating: “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

"Hallie... who put the cactus rose on Tom's coffin?"

“Hallie… who put the cactus rose on Tom’s coffin?”

 

Stoddard and Hallie board the train for Washington, melancholy about the lie that led to their prosperous life. With the area becoming more and more civilized, Stoddard decides, to Hallie’s delight, to retire from politics and return to the territory to set up a law practice. When Stoddard thanks the train conductor for the train ride and the many courtesies extended to him by the railroad, the conductor says, “Nothing’s too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance!” Upon hearing the comment, Stoddard and his wife stare off thoughtfully into the distance.

As a side note, one of the many reasons this film holds a special place in my heart is because I remember it as being the first time I made the connection between a scene onscreen representing a flashback. Remember the “flashback within a flashback” that the Wikipedia article mentions? The smoke from John Wayne’s cigarette moves and flows to take over the screen as he tells Jimmy Stewart, “You didn’t kill Liberty Valance. Think back, Pilgrim…” That smoke took us back to the truth of what had happened, and my five-year-old brain was shocked—and enamored, even then, with the idea that time passage, or remembrances could be shown through the haze of cigarette smoke. It was the moment of truth for Ransom Stoddard. John Ford was a genius for so many reasons.

Liberty Valance JW and JS cigaretteFor me, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance embodies the core of the west—good and evil, and how sometimes “the point of a gun was the only law”—and it all depended on the man who held the weapon.

Liberty represented the purest evil. Ranse was determined to fight him with the law he treasured—the desire to do things the legal way blinding him to the fact that Liberty didn’t respect that. In the beginning, his naivete is almost painful to watch, providing Liberty some rich entertainment. Though Tom finds it amusing, his growing respect for Ranse’s perseverance is portrayed to perfection by that familiar downward glance of John Wayne’s. Accompanied by the half-smile and his slow advice-giving drawl, the character of Tom Doniphon is drawn so that by the point at which he sees the handwriting on the wall and burns down the house he built for Hallie, the viewer’s sympathy shifts, briefly, to the circumstances Tom finds himself in.

But Ranse is determined to vanquish Valance one way or the other—with a lawbook or a gun—whatever it takes. In the final showdown, the lines of resignation are etched in Tom Doniphon’s face, and we know he is honor-bound to do the thing he’ll regret forever: save Ranse Stoddard’s life and lose Hallie to him.

I love the twist. Ranse truly believes he’s killed Valance. Again, to do the honorable thing, Tom tells him the truth about what really happened.

What do you think? If you were Ranse, would you want to know you really were not the man who shot Liberty Valance? Or would you want to be kept in the dark?  If you were Tom, would you have ever told him? It’s a great movie!

GENE PITNEY SINGS THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE

Now you can sing along! (I promise, this song will stay with you all day long…)

THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE

When Liberty Valance rode to town the womenfolk would hide, they’d hide
When Liberty Valance walked around the men would step aside
’cause the point of a gun was the only law that Liberty understood
When it came to shootin’ straight and fast—he was mighty good.

 From out of the East a stranger came, a law book in his hand, a man
The kind of a man the West would need to tame a troubled land
’cause the point of a gun was the only law that Liberty understood
When it came to shootin’ straight and fast—he was mighty good.

Many a man would face his gun and many a man would fall
The man who shot Liberty Valance, he shot Liberty Valance
He was the bravest of them all.

The love of a girl can make a man stay on when he should go, stay on
Just tryin’ to build a peaceful life where love is free to grow
But the point of a gun was the only law that Liberty understood
When the final showdown came at last, a law book was no good.

Alone and afraid she prayed that he’d return that fateful night, aww that night
When nothin’ she said could keep her man from goin’ out to fight
 From the moment a girl gets to be full-grown the very first thing she learns
When two men go out to face each other only one retur-r-r-ns

Everyone heard two shots ring out, a shot made Liberty fall
The man who shot Liberty Valance, he shot Liberty Valance
He was the bravest of them all.

The man who shot Liberty Valance, he shot Liberty Valance
He was the bravest of them all.

True Grit Releases on Dec. 22nd — I Can’t Wait!

If someone had told me a year ago that I’d be eagerly anticipating a remake of  True Grit, I’d have laughed.  I’ve enjoyed the 1969 version with John Wayne and Glen Campbell for years. Who could possibly replace John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn?  No one.  To try would be a sacrilege . . .  I really couldn’t imagine it. 

Well, I can now.

Who else has seen the trailer for the remake that’s coming out this Christmas? If you haven’t, here it is . . .

What do you think?  Can Jeff Bridges pull off the role that gave John Wayne his only Oscar?  Judging by the trailer, I’m more than optimistic. Jeff Bridges has a solid track record of doing unique things with a role. My husband’s a fan of The Big Lebowski and so are my sons. I haven’t seen that movie, but I’ve seen Crazy Heart and I thought Jeff was great in it. He does burned-out and cantankerous extremely well!  I also remember him from Starman with Karen Allen.  He’s a solid actor and he looks the part of Rooster.

The new movie is by the Coen Brothers.  I find their work a little off-putting, but my husband loves their movies, particularly No Country for Old Men. As for No Country, once I got over the gruesome beginning with Javier Bardem and paid attention to the story, I had to agree with my husband.  The Coens are brilliant film makers. The movie is haunting.  As for Javier, is that really the same guy who’s in Eat Pray Love?  He’s another amazing actor.

I’m just as enthused about the supporting cast as I am about Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn.

In the 1969 version, Kim Darby played fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross, the girl seeking justice for her father’s murder.  In the remake, the part went to an unknown actress named Hailee Steinfeld. In reviews I’ve read, it seems that this movie is her story to tell. The directors stuck more closely to the original book than the 1969 version.  As a fun aside, I was visiting with a neighbor last night.  I didn’t know it, but the producers of True Grit did a casting call here in Lexington, Kentucky for the role of Mattie. They needed a teenage girl who could ride. What better place to look than the city known as “The Thoroughbred Capital of the World?”

Josh Brolin plays Tom Chaney, the thief who killed Mattie’s father, and Matt Damon is Texas Ranger La Bouef. He’s also after Chaney. Glen Campbell played that roll in the 1969 version.  La Bouef meets up with Cogburn and Mattie and the chase begins.

As a final touch, would anyone like to guess who does the song for the trailer?  It’s Johnny Cash. I can’t think of a better fit.

The movie opens December 22nd.  After all the family celebrations, I just might see if I can talk my husband into going to a movie on Christmas night. (Honey, if you’re reading this, I want movie passes for Christmas!) Anyone else? Are looking forward to this movie?

THE NAME GAME

I am a collector of names.  Have been, ever since I was a kid.  Probably because I always wished for a different one, myself.  Mine wasn’t really exotic, but it was…different.  Cheryl.  My parents decided on the pronunciation of “Chair-yl” rather than the more common way of saying it.  The way a million other people sad it…with a “SH” sound, “Sheryl,” rather than the hard “CH” sound.

So when I began writing, I knew my characters had to have ‘good’ names—names that fit.  Names that weren’t too strange, but not too common.  Names that were appropriate for the time period, the setting, and the culture.

The hero, of course, had to have a name that was also something that could be whispered by the heroine in the throes of passion, yet something that would be tough enough on the villain’s lips to strike a modicum of fear in his heart, just by uttering it.

Because I was writing historical western romance, I decided to pull up a chart that would give me an accurate “slice of life”—possible names for my heroes.  According to US Social Security records, the top ten names for men in 1880 were:  John, William, James, Charles, George, Frank, Joseph, Thomas, Henry, and Robert.

Okay, I could maybe work with the top four.  In fact, the first book I ever wrote was about a gunslinger of this time period called ‘Johnny Starr.’ 

And William could be shortened to ‘Will’—still masculine; but never ‘Willie.’  James—very masculine, and unwittingly, calls up the rest of the line—‘Bond.  James Bond.’  At least, it does for me.  I could even go with Jamie.  Charles is pushing it.  George, Frank, and Joe are names I have and would use for a minor character, but I’d never use those for my hero.  They’re somehow just too ordinary.  Thomas? Again, a great secondary character name, but not a show-stopper.  Henry…eh.  And Robert is just ‘okay.’

I fast-forwarded a hundred years to 1980.  Here are the top 10:  Michael, Christopher, Jason, David, James, Matthew, Joshua, John, Robert, and Joseph.  Four of the same names were there, though not in the same poll position.  By 2009, only William remained in the top 10.  John had fallen to #20, James to #17, Joseph to #13.  The others had been replaced, not all by modern names, but most in the top 10 were surprisingly “old fashioned.”

2009:  Jacob, Michael, Ethan, Joshua, Daniel, Alexander, Anthony, William, Christopher, Matthew.

This told me something.  If you aren’t too wild with the names you choose, you have quite a lot of choices!  We know that Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Daniel, and Matthew were Biblical names.  Just because they weren’t on the “top 10” list in 1880 doesn’t mean they weren’t being used—a lot!

Another source of names for that time period is family records.  If you go back through old family documents, it’s amazing to find some of the odd names that cropped up.

Still maybe not ‘protagonist’ material, but your secondary characters could benefit.  And who knows?  You may find the perfect ‘hero’ name!

No matter what you choose, remember these rules, too:

1. Sound and compatibility—Say your character’s name aloud.  Does the first name go well with the last name you’re using?  Be careful about running the name together—“Alan Nickerson” or “Jed Dooly” may not be good choices.  Avoid rhyming names such as “Wayne Payne”—and try to stay away from cutesy names that might make your hero the focus of ridicule.

2. Uniqueness—I’m sure my parents were only trying to be ‘unique’ by pronouncing my name differently than the other 99.9% of the people in the world would automatically say it, but you don’t want your hero to have such an odd name that readers trip over it every time they come to it.  Louis L’Amour was a master at coming up with ‘different’ names that were simple.  Hondo Lane, Ring Sackett, Shalako, Conagher…and the list goes on.

3. Genealogy—Does it play into your characters’ storyline?  If so, you may want to come up with a neat twist somehow on a common name.  In my first manuscript, Brandon’s Gold, the gunfighter, Johnny Starr, is named for his father, but the names are reversed.  His father was Thomas Jonathan Brandon.  He is known as Thomas in the story.  Johnny was named Jonathan Thomas Brandon.  He goes by Johnny.  This keeps a theme alive in my story of the ‘fathers and sons’ of this family, and their relationships.  It weighs heavily, because Thomas is dying, but Johnny doesn’t know it.  They’ve been estranged for many years.

When Johnny’s own son is born, his wife, Katie, changes the name they’ve decided on just before the birth.  She makes Johnny promise to name him after himself and his father, Thomas Jonathan, bringing the circle around once more, and also completing the forgiveness between Johnny and his dying father.

4. Meaning—This might somehow play into your story and is good to keep track of.  What do your characters’ names mean?  This is a great tool to have at your disposal when you are writing—it can be a great conversation piece somewhere, or explain why your villain is so evil.

5. Nicknames and initials—this can be more important than you think.  You may need to have your hero sign something or initial something.  Don’t make him be embarrassed to write his initials and don’t give him a name that might be shortened to an embarrassing nickname.

In my book, Fire Eyes, the protagonist has an odd name—Kaedon Turner.  I gave him an unusual first name to go with a common last name.  I learned later that Caden, shortened to Cade, though not common for the time was not unheard of.  Kaedon, shortened to Kaed, was just a different variation.  It sets him apart from the other marshals, and emphasizes his unique past in a subtle way.

Below are some excerpts from Fire Eyes, available  through The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.  I hope you enjoy!

EXCERPTS FROM FIRE EYES:

Marshal Kaed Turner has just been delivered to Jessica’s doorstep, wounded and   unconscious by the Choctaw Indians.  This is part of their first conversation, Kaed’s introduction.

 “Just pull.” Her patient moistened his lips. “Straight up. That’s how it went in.”

She wanted to weep at the steel in his voice, wanted to comfort him, to tell him she’d make it quick. But, of course, quick would never be fast enough to be painless. And how could she offer comfort when she didn’t even know what to call him, other than Turner?

“You waitin’ on a…invitation?” A faint smile touched his battered mouth. “I’m fresh out.”

Jessica reached for the tin star. Her fingers closed around the uneven edges of it. No. She couldn’t wait any longer. “What’s your name?” Her voice came out jagged, like the metal she touched.

His bruised eyes slitted as he studied her a moment. “Turner. Kaedon Turner.”

Jessica sighed. “Well, Kaedon Turner, you’ve probably been a lot better places in your life than this. Take a deep breath and try not to move.”

He gave a wry chuckle, letting his eyes drift completely closed. “Do it fast. I’ll be okay.”

She nodded, even though she knew he couldn’t see her. “Ready?”

“Go ahead.”

                                                                        *******

From Kaed’s POV—Finding out his “angel’s” name!

“I need to stop the bleeding. You were lucky.”

“One lucky sonofabitch.”

“I meant, because it went all the way through. So we don’t have to…to dig it out.” There was that hesitation again, but he already knew what it was she didn’t want to have to say to him. He said it instead.

“All we have to do is burn it.”

She let her breath out in a rush, as if she’d been holding it, dreading just how she was going to tell him. “Right. Sounds like the voice of experience.”

“Yeah.”

She touched his good arm and he reached up for her, his warm, bronze hand swallowing her smaller one. Her fingers were cold, and he could tell she was afraid, no matter how indifferent she tried to act.

“You’ve got one on me,” he muttered.

“What’s that?”

“Your name. Or, do I just call you angel?”

He felt the smile again, knew he had embarrassed her a little, but had pleased her as well.

“Jessica Monroe, at your service, Mr. Turner.”

“Don’t go all formal on me.” He paused, collecting his scattering, hard-to-hold thoughts. “I like Kaed better.”

“Better than Mr. Turner?”

He opened his eyes a crack and watched as she gave him a measuring look, her cinnamon gaze holding his probing stare for a moment. “What you’re doin’ for me warrants a little more intimacy, don’t’cha think, Jessica?”

She glanced back down at the seeping wound, worrying her lower lip between even, white teeth. Her auburn hair did its best to escape its bun.

Kaed’s thoughts jumped and swirled as he tried to focus on her, wondering disjointedly how she’d look if she let her hair tumble free and unbound. And her eyes. Beautiful. A man could get lost in the secrets of her eyes.
Maybe he should’ve used a word other than intimacy.

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