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There is no doubt that the Hollywood Huckster had a favorite genre of movie, something he loved to watch. His guilty pleasure might surprise you — westerns.
He was a sucker for the oaters staring the likes of Hopalong Cassidy, Randolph Scott, Gary Cooper, Roy Rogers and John Wayne. Serious or action packed, he’d light up a joint, keep himself refreshed for the run of the picture and while away the hours, shouting at the screen, commenting on how it was Italians and Mexican who were always playing the Indians, rarely Native Americans. And when asked why that was, he loved to tell this story:
One time a director brought his film company to a small Arizona community where he was going to shoot a 12-part Tom Mix western serial. He hired a bunch of locals including some actual Navajos for the picture.
It was the last time he ever did that. During the filming of the cliff-hanger scene for part one, the director was eager to get his final shot just perfect. It required smoke signals to warn the hero he was heading into a trap.
The prop guy just couldn’t get it right. Either the fire wasn’t smokey enough or the puffs ran together. Twice the blanket used for making the signals ignited. Take after take and not one met the director’s satisfaction. Finally, just as they were losing the light, the director got what he wanted– four distinct puffs of smoke, one after the other.
As the smoke lifted from the ground, the assembled cast and crew watched in relieved awe. The director no sooner yelled cut when one of the Navajo extras pointed toward the rising puffs of smoke and said to the director, “You’re not done.”
The director was confused. “What are you talking about?”
The Native American said, so far you only wrote out “F-U-C-K”. Don’t you want to add the “Y-O-U”?
Along those lines, the Huckster dragged me to a western marathon one Sunday. I couldn’t believe how into these movies the audience got. They were thrilled by wild chase scenes, the preposterous shootouts and the over-the-top villains.
Then disaster struck in the theater. The film suddenly broke right during the climactic chase scene. The audience was growing restless while the projectionist struggled to fix the film. That’s when the Huckster brought down the house as only he could. He stood up, turned toward the projection windows in the back of the theater and yelled out, “Hurry up and fix the damned thing before the bad guys get away!”
Something else you don’t want to let get away is a chance to read all the wonderful true stories about the Hollywood Huckster and his escapades.
Grab a copy or download one. Here’s the link: