Tuesday, February 17, 2009

February 17, 2009
I get some good questions off my True West Moments on the Westerns Channel:

On Feb 17, 2009, at 8:42 AM, Richard Perry wrote:

Dear Mr. Boze Bell,
The Westerns Channel is my favorite channel and I love the True West Moments. I have a question about the horses in some of the movies. Are the horses owned by the movie company's or are they rented or leased out to them by private owners. I realize they don't Western Movies like in the past, (I hope they start again) but my wife and I were talking about this so I said I'll ask the man that knows. Thanks Very Much Sir
—Richard Perry, Palmer, MA

Good question! To my knowledge, the movie studios have always rented horses for their productions. Various stables in the southern California area have provided horses over the years for movie shoots. The only exception being when Western movie stars like Tom Mix and Gene Autry owned, or rode a specific horse. In some of those cases, someone else owned the horse and the star rode it as if it was theirs, but usually a production would contract a stable to bring a specific number of horses to a movie location.

Another exception might be when a stage coach is contracted and the stage owner is different from the stable owner who is providing the riding horses. Most times, the stage coach comes with six specific horses, trained to pull the stage, but some times the stable owner has both a stage coach and the horses to pull it, and horses for all the riders.

A friend of mine worked on the TV show "Appointment With Destiny" back in the 1970s. They were filming the famous episode about the Gunfight at The O.K. Corral and it was his first gig. The script called for "N.D. horses" so he got on the phone and called various stables but none of the stable owners knew what an "ND horse" was. In desperation, he finally asked someone on the crew and they laughed, saying it stood for "non-descript horses," in other words, whatever they got, we'll take 'em.

You'll also notice that the caliber of horses varies from movie to movie. In "One-Eyed Jacks" starring Marlon Brando, high spirited stallions were contracted because the producer, and Brando (who also directed) wanted to raise the bar in terms of horses in Westerns. One assumes they paid quite a bit more for the privledge, unless the horses were also owned by the producer, which has been the case in certain films.

You see this in "The Good, The Bad And The Ugly" when Lee Van Cleef rides into town he is on what appears to be a Paseo stallion with a very distinctive gate. The movie was filmed in Spain and they are known for their horse breeding. Still, knowing movie companies they probably got the owner to put the horse in the movie for free! Ha.

Bob Boze Bell
Executive Editor, True West magazine

"I understand the inventor of the bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm. Unfortunately, the man-made sound never equalled the purity of the sound achieved by the pig."
—Alfred Hitchcock

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