Thursday, April 01, 2004

April 1, 2004
Watched the second installment of Deadwood last night. At the end, Kathy started clapping. I looked at my liberal wife with my mouth agape. Could it be possible she actually digs the show? A Western?! She does! Amazing. It is a rough ride, to say the least. Pigs eating cadavers, knives in the ribs, pinching, biting, and gouging whores, pecker wielding Johns (full frontal nudity), not to mention the salty language. Here’s what Dan Buck has to say about one of the words that’s getting wide play (8 mentions in first episode) :

“[rhymes with rock mucker] first appeared in a dictionary, per Lighter, in Farmer and Henley, SLANG AND ITS ANALOGUES PAST AND PRESENT, vol. II (1891). By the early 1900s, Dos Passos, Sandberg (in a private letter, not a poem), and Hemingway were using the word, which would indicate it had by then a wide currency.

“This raised a different question, one that scriptwriters and other literary entertainers face, assuming they spend much time thinking about such topics at all. Can the use of a word be historically accurate but sound out of place because the audience is not expecting it? Or, conversely, how about using an anachronism because the audience expects, is accustomed to hearing it, even though it's inaccurate?

“Did cowboys talk like more like Tony Soprano or Gabby Hayes? Do we want to go there?”

Excellent point and it speaks to the heart of the matter. Which West is it we want to watch? The sanitized Roy Rogers version, or the Unforgiven Satan-ized version?

Almost all of the plot points in Deadwood have a historical origin. The family slaughtered by Indians that turn out to be anglos framing Indians, and, when Seth Bullock and Sol open their hardwear tent, a guy starts to say he bought some soap and found money in it. Seth moves towards him menacingly and tells him to front his scam somewhere else. This is a real scam that the infamous Soapy Smith plied in Creede, Colorado and allegedly across the West all the way to Scagway, Alaska (where he was shot and killed).

I spotted Jack McCall in the first episode (even though he’s not named). And I believe the makers of Deadwood used True West to costume this nefarious character. Here’s why: Thadd Turner, who worked on the series, personally told me that the director, Walter Hill (Long Riders) had the Wild Bill True West Collector’s Edition on his desk in his office before shooting began. Exhibit number two is this: here’s page from that issue where I did three drawings of McCall (no photos of him exist). If you watch the show on Sunday, see if you think they have used my artistic guess of the man who killed Hickok. I rest my case.

“A good conspiracy is unprovable. If you can prove it, it means they screwed up.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

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