Friday, September 30, 2016

Dead Man Waiting For A Train

September 30, 2016
   Still working on the History of A Scene, a new feature for 2017 where we are going to take a famous Western scene and give the back story, or, the history of how it came to be.

Dead On Arrival
   In the opening sequence of Once Upon A Time In The West, there are three gunmen who show up at the train station. "Stony" (Woody Strode), "Snaky" (Jack Elam) and "Knuckles" (Al Mulock). Towards the end of the four day shoot Mulock jumped from the balcony of his room on the second or third floor of his hotel room in Gaudix, Spain wearing his costume. Mulock survived the fall, and before being taken away by an ambulance, Sergio Leone shouted, "Get the costume, we need the costume!" Mulock suffered a pierced lung from a broken rib and during the bumpy ride to the hospital he died. Sergio outfitted a crew member to finish the shoot and in several of the iconic shots of the trio standing on the platform you can see "Knuckles" looks a little off.

Daily Whip Out: "Dead Man Waiting for A Train"

"Knuckles" at left. Is it Mulock, or is it a crew member wearing his outfit?

   No one knows the reason for his suicide, but one of the crew members later claimed Mulock was a drug addict and committed suicide out of desperation, because he couldn't acquire drugs in the isolated location where they were filming.

"The needle and the damage done."
—Neil Young

Two Kingman Kids Get the AMEHOF treatment

September 30, 2016
   I've been in some decent bands and I've been in some awful bands. I don't want to denigrate anyone, but the decent bands could have been better if they had a better drummer. In spite of this, the Arizona Music And Entertainment Hall of Fame wants to include two Kingman kids along with Zane Grey in an upcoming awards presentation.

"Say Wha'?": Andy Devine ("Jingles") and Guy Madison ("Wild Bill")

   Yes, on November 13, I will be inducted into the Arizona Music And Entertainment Hall of Fame along with Andy Devine and Zane Grey. How's that for a funky trio?

   I've invited all my former bandmates to join me for an impromptu jam session at Prankster's where the ceremony will take place. Expect to see and hear band members from all my former bands, including the Exits, The Generation, Central Heating, The Weeklies and The Zonies. Just don't expect more than three chords.

"I wouldn't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member."
—Groucho Marx

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Mangas And Drooling Zonies

September 29, 2016
   When my son Thomas Charles was about ten he came under the spell of the Apache chief Mangas Coloradas (Spanish for Red Sleeves). For some reason, Tommy just thought he was the coolest and wanted to know all about him. This morning I was noodling some wet into wet ideas and there he was.

Daily Whip Out: "Mangas"

We've had some crazy clouds the last week or so. Here's a scene of a storm I witnessed on a trip to New Mexico several years ago. As I was motoring eastward, just around the corner from Magdalena, I soon dropped down into the slot canyon that drains into the town of Socorro,  and it was there I witnessed a fast moving storm that went right over my truck like a freight train. It was so magnificent, I had to pull over and get out and watch it. I imagine some of the passing locals muttered, "Oh, look Honey, another damn Zonie looking skyward and drooling." But, I didn't care.

Daily Whip Out: "Freight Train Clouds"

   Speaking of memorable clouds, got a link from a friend, Mort Mortensen, to some pretty spectacular photographs of West Texas. The music is strong, as well. If this doesn't make you proud to be a Westerner, nothing will.

"[Peter Berg's] movies are full of sentiment and akin to Westerns, a noble but defunct form in which life is a parable enacted on a burning plain."
—Rich Cohen, writing about Peter Berg's films in Esquire magazine

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Road Ahead

September 28, 2016
   I didn't want to get up early today.  I wanted to lounge around and wake up on my own, but I forced myself up and out the door at 6:15, and caught this wonderful Monsoon Morning Madness, with a storm rolling in and the sun coming up, creating all sorts of spectacular effects in every direction. Here's the view to the north:

"The Road Ahead"

And to the west:

"View to The West"

and off to the east as well:

"Storm to the East"

As I told Linda Stewart, a fellow desert rat and photographer who lives to the west of me, this could be my life's motto:

"Get up early, go outside and look up. You will often be surprised at what greets you."
—BBB Mantra

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Storm Over Red Mountain

September 27, 2016
   When I went home for lunch today, it was cool and sprinkling out. This inspired me to do one more Monsoon Madness painting. 

Daily Whip Out: "Storm Over Red Mountain."

"Design always depicts the things that matter to us. . .until they don't."
—Michael Rock

Cubist Snake Eyes and Van Gogh Redux

September 27, 2016
   After my marathon sessions to get a credible Romaine Lowdermilk CD cover painting, I needed to air out my brain with a palette cleanser. So this morning, I emulated a Max Papart cubist piece and tried to give it a Triple B spin. 

Daily Whip Out: "Snake Eyes"

   It was a year ago we were on the trail of van Gogh in the south of France. Great trip, very inspiring for an artist. I was especially impressed with his work ethic. He got up before dawn and hiked out to various locations to paint, arriving home after dark.

Daily Whip Out: "Van Gogh Hiking Out to Paint"

   It was also on this trip I saw where the pistol that killed van Gogh was buried, on the east end of Auvers Sur Oise, which is about 20 miles north of Paris. Thanks to a tour guide I got to see a photograph of the rusted out pistol that was discovered in the 1950s. I drew this from an iPhone image I took of it:

Daily Whip Out: "The Buried Pistol That Killed Van Gogh"

Someone sent me an annual event in Holland that I would love to see. Check this out:

Van Gogh Floats

"Figures don't lie, but liars can figure."
—Mark Twain

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Dude Wrangler CD Cover

September 26, 2016
   Our in-house designer, Rebecca Edwards took a crack at the Romaine Lowdermilk CD cover, utilizing the painting Johnny D likes the best:

Daily Whip Out: "The Dude Wrangler CD layout"

Johnny asked me how long it took me to do this and I said, most of the weekend. I think I took about ten runs at this, including this rough sketch:

Daily Whip Out: "Lowdermilk Rough Sketch"

Not to mention a couple other approaches:

Daily Whip Out: "Lowdermilk Arizona Cowboy"

And, of course, I did an early scratchboard:

Daily Whip Out: "Romaine Lowdermilk"

So, all told I probably did a dozen passes at this and if that seems excessive, or, overcompensating, I must remind you that Maynard Dixon often did 85 drawings and sketches before he got what he wanted. So, I've got a ways to go before catch up to the master. Finding the time, is another matter.

"When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself."
—Karen Blixen 

Triple B And Johnny D Present "The Dude Wrangler"

September 24, 2016
   Some time back I was contacted by the legendary music-history archivist, John Dixon, better known around here as —Johnny D—who, as it turns out, wants to give a gift of old time, authentic Arizona cowboy music to our True West readers. Johnny asked me if I would do the CD cover and so this past weekend I whipped out four different versions.

Daily Whip Out: "Lowdermilk—The Dude Wrangler, No. 1"

   Here, let me have the man behind the project himself, tell you the story:

Romaine Lowdermilk: The Dude Wrangler
    As a long time fan of Arizona music, it's songs, singers and musicians, I'm always looking for ways to expose this wonderful music to new ears that will appreciate it for the great music that it is.  I own many recordings and tapes of Arizona singers and bands and have managed over the years to get these songs, and stories released on vinyl and records.  Romaine Lowdermilk was a most interesting character to me as I had heard about his rare acetates floating around the country (I don't even have a copy), however Floyd Ramsey's son Tim had the original Romaine tapes that were used to make these one of a kind acetates.  He was kind enough to donate them to my Arizona Music Archive, that includes all of the Audio Recorders of Arizona tape masters.

Daily Whip Out: "Lowdermilk, The Dude Wrangler, No. 2"
(ironically, this looks more like Marshall Trimble, The Ashfork Wrangler!)

   Most singers, another local cowboy singer George Gillespie comes to mind, would make vinyl records of their singing to sell locally to friends and fans.  Romaine on the other hand made his own recordings of classic cowboy songs that he had honed while working on dude ranches and singing for winter visitors to The Valley.  There were two sessions, 1951 and again in 1955, done at Ramsey's Recording Studio on the corner of 7th Street and Weldon in Phoenix.  If anyone asked if he had any records he would tell them to stop by Ramsey's and there they would cut a 10" or 12" acetate on a recording lathe, in real time, type the song titles on a label, and the disc inserted into a blank record cover.  The 10" disc had 6 songs and the 12" had 12 songs.  I don't know if Romaine got any money directly for his albums, but Ramsey's charged $3.75 for a two sided disc.

Daily Whip Out: "Campfire Jammin' #5"

   Romiane Lowdermilk had a large following here as  a solo artist and as a member of The Arizona Wranglers in the early 30's.  The Wranglers had a radio show on KOY and they sang at The Arizona Biltmore before moving on to fame and fortune in L.A.,without Romaine, who (happily) remained in Phoenix.  

Daily Whip Out: "Lowdermilk (unfinished)"
(I like it that we have female campfire listeners, but I killed the campfire glow with too much orange)

   Most of these cowboy singers are never heard beyond the cow punchers sitting around the campfire or the cattle that are in ear shot.  Some of them made it out of the saddle and onto a stage or the radio waves across America and a select few sang on the big screen.   Who knows what would have happened if Lowdermilk had traveled to the West Coast in 1931 with The Arizona Wranglers.  After all these years I am thrilled to help bring Romaine's music and his story to the readers of True West. 

No one is better qualified to tell it than my friend Marshall Trimble, who has written a feature story about this talented singer that will run in the December issue.  Enjoy the memories and tales of the working cowboy in these 18 songs, performed by this one of a kind entertainer, Romaine Lowdermilk.
—Johnny D

As soon as the CDs are pressed, we will begin offering a free CD to anyone who subscribes to True West for a year ($29.95). it's going to make for a great Christmas present to our readers and to your friends who appreciate authentic cowboy music. And it's all because of the generosity of Johnny D.

Thanks Johnny!

"Work is more fun than fun."
—Noel Coward

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Croquet Photo Virus Hits France

September 23, 2016
   Yesterday I got news of a newly discovered photo that shows Vincent van Gogh at a table, drinking, along with his Arles roommate Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard, among others. Very few known photos of the adult van Gogh are known to exist, although I have seen one, in a book, that allegedly shows his back. The subject is sitting at an outdoor table (I'll post that photo tomorrow). This is all very exciting because the troubled painter left behind so few photos. This new photo was supposedly taken in Paris by Jules Antoine, an architect and amateur photographer, in December of 1887.

  When I accessed the photo, my heart sank.


The alleged photo of van Gogh (third from left) and Paul Gauguin (far right).

An auction house with the unlikely name of Romantic Agony offered the photo for sale with an estimate of $136,000-$170,000. However, the photo failed to sell. It didn't help that Bob McCubbin deemed the photo a hoax. I'm sorry, Bob had nothing to do with it, but a photo expert from the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam said it was not the famous Dutch painter.

Sound familiar?

"Art is anything you can get away with."
—Some artist who damn well knew what he was talking about

Campfire Jammin'

September 23, 2016
   For some time now I have been jammin' on campfire light.  Not easy to do and I'm still struggling with the dynamic.

Daily Whip Out: "Campfire Jammin' #1"

Daily Whip Out: "Campfire Jammin' #2"

   My good friend Johnny D, is doing a CD of a little known Arizona cowboy singer named Romaine "Romy" Loudermilk who sang around the Southwest in the twenties and thirties. Johnny found some of his early performances on tape and has preserved them for posterity. He offered True West the opportunity to give them as gifts to new subscribers and we jumped at the chance. This morning I took another swing at the concept. 

Daily Whip Out: "Campfire Sketch for Johnny D's Romy Project"

But, of course, as I'm working on the final, I came up with an entirely different name for the painting:

Daily Whip Out: 
"The Boys Were Not Quite Sure What to Make of Ernie's
Letter Perfect Intro to Led Zeppelin's 'Communication Breakdown.'"

   I doubt that Johnny will use this, but I do know he will appreciate the humor.

"In the days of my youth I was told what it's like to be a man. . ."
—Led Zeppelin, "Communication Breakdown"

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Help Us Choose A Cover

September 22, 2016
   We've got a December issue shaping up that is going to be chocked full of some solid history features. In fact, we have so many cover-worthy subjects, we are trying to figure out which cover story should get the big front-page-treatment. Take a look at these four proposed covers and tell us which one would get your attention on the newsstand.

#1: Gary Zaboly's art and compelling story about Daniel Boone's last hunt at age 81.

#2: Mark Boardman's insightful piece on the lasting influence of Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson with a sidebar on how he influenced Jeff Bridges in the new hit movie, "Hell Or High Water."

#3: A companion piece to Zaboly's Daniel Boone article, on how Boone influenced the second generation of Mountain Men, like Jim Bridger, Jedediah Smith, Kit Carson and Joseph Walker.

#4: An homage to the life And Legend of Hugh O'Brian featuring his long and worthy career and his indelible impact on 64 million Baby Boomers.


"One cool image can make or break a magazine."

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Prostate Lubrication Issues

September 21, 2016
   Went to the doctor this morning for a check-up. The nurse drew blood and I had to fill out some silly forms ("Do you ever think life isn't worth living?"), then the doctor came in and asked me what specifically I was there for and I told him my wife, Kathy, is concerned about how many times I get up in the night to go to the bathroom and she'd like my prostate checked. The doctor who knows Kathy professionally (he often recommends her to patients who need family therapy) looked at me very seriously and said, "Couldn't Kathy check this at home?" When I burst out laughing, he added, "I would be happy to send a glove home." I was still laughing when I dropped my pants and bent over the examining table. It was then he informed me Medicare is complaining about how much lubrication his office is using so he may go in dry. I think he was kidding.

   And yes, I have an enlarged prostate, but what else is new? These sketches were done before the exam, but I think you can spot some synergy:

Daily Whip Out: "Sketches In Seattle"

I've been noodling stuff from a batch of graphic novels I bought at this comic book store in Seattle, actually Bellevue:

Business Trip Write Off: "Mighty Moose Comics Store"

This inspired me to do the following sketches and ideas based on a list of what "to draw":

Daily Whip Out: "To Draw"

      Working on several features for the December issue, and also a couple new True West Moments.

"The crisis of yesterday is the joke of tomorrow."
—H.G. Wells

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

AC Cobra And Buffalo Chip Dumpster Fire

September 20, 2016
   I always wanted an AC Cobra when I was a young man, so when I saw one available for my grandson Weston, I snapped it up. Only cost $1 dollar, but it was a short ride, and then it died. Kind of sad, but at least he got to ride in one for two minutes.

Spring Little Cobra Are You Ready to Run?!

   Besides, at home he has a nice, little ride that never ends:

Weston: "They went that-away!"

Flew home on Monday and got into the office early to work on the December issue. Had a good meeting with the staff about a variety of features in the works. Changed direction on the cover and we just may opt for this guy:

Hugh O'Brian

   Sold another O.K. Corral painting and took it up to UPS to ship at lunch time. Treated Carole Glenn to lunch at China Joy, then on the way back to the True West World Headquarters we were passed by a fired truck and saw that it was answering a call at the Buffalo Chip:

Dumpster fire at the construction site of the new Buffalo Chip.

"Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo."
—H.G. Wells

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Climbing Trees and The Funtastic Playtorium in Seattle

September 17, 2016
  A full time gig following this little guy around:

Up a tree with Weston and BBB.

   Took the boy to a nearby mall where he could play at some concoction called the Funtastic Playtorium. At the end of playing we ate chicken nuggets at Red Robin and then afterwards as we were waiting for grandma he parked himself on the floor so people would have to walk around him. Somehow, I admired the audacity. When groups would walk around him, he would scoot closer to the middle to make it more difficult. I know what you're thinking: this is terrible behavior for a grandfather to allow. But, you must remember, I am his grandfather and my job is to make him laugh and admire his tenacity. Beyond that, not my job. And besides, don't worry, his parents and society will train all of this out of him in due time.

Weston the Mall Greeter

Got home and hit the trail on his bike. And when we're out on the Blueberry Trail it's easy to get distracted by stuff:

When little boys get distracted by culverts.

   "Hello?" said the little boy yelling in the culvert and expecting someone to reply. Eventually, his grandmother did just that, by crawling to the other end of the culvert and answering, "Hello, Weston!". We all laughed and laughed. He could do this all day long. But at the end of the day, it's all about the story.

And the little pickle truck goes, "Tthhhhwwwaatzie-toogie"

   Weston says he loves it when I read his favorite books because he says he likes the sounds I make. Couldn't be prouder if I was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. It's the small things.

"Don't promise when you are happy, don't reply when you are angry, don't decide when you are sad."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, September 16, 2016

Cool hats at the Dawson Post Office

September 16, 2016
   I discovered a great photo of some great hats at the Dawson Post Office, Yukon Territory, circa 1899. Saw this at the Klondike Museum in Seattle, yesterday.

Dawson Post Office, Yukon Territory, circa 1899.

Close-up of Dawson hats

   Check out the two four poster, Mountie styled blocked hats, the two snap caps (proliferating perhaps?) and the old style kepi caps.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Undercover Babysitting Assignment: You'll Never Guess Where I Am

September 15, 2016
   Took off from Phoenix on Wednesday afternoon, flying under an assumed name (R. A. Bell) and landed in a northwestern enclave known for fish throwing and people who never honk in traffic. If you must know, I'm undercover, doing top secret babysitting for a certain grandkid.

   Booked a room in a one bedroom walk-up on Sixth Street ($150 a night), overlooking a freeway that runs wall to wall 24-7.

   Met a former El Encanto bartender on top of the town's tallest building and had a drink. Before we left I excused myself and took this photo out the bathroom window:

Bathroom view.

   Took a walk this morning down to Pioneer Park to take in the Klondike Museum. Enjoyed it. A Park Ranger there told me that before he took off for Saint Michael, Alaska, Wyatt Earp used to gamble at the J&M Cafe on 2nd Ave, and that it's still there. I am skeptical of the claim, but, of course I had to walk over there and have my picture taken in front of it.

BBB at the J And M Cafe on Second Avenue

Walked up Fourth to Pike Street and then down to the waterfront to watch some guy throw fish.

Tourists actually watching a fish monger throw product.

Saw an alleged photo of Wyatt Earp walking home with a bag of fish in the early twenties:

An fishy photo of Wyatt Earp

Came back to room to write this up. Posted photo of Wyatt Earp buying fish on Facebook and mentioned I want $2.4 million for the photo. We'll see if anyone takes the hook. Assignment starts tonight. Nervous. Numerous pics to follow.

"If you choose to take this assignment, no one must know the location."
—Mission Control

Bound For The Sierra Madres

September 15, 2016
   This morning I got back to my three amigos who are bound for the Sierra Madre on their hunt for the Apache Kid.

Daily Whip Out: "Young, Free And Horn Head Out"

I'm a long way from finishing this sucker, but big projects take some patience.

"Show me a man who cannot bother to do the little things and I'll show you a man who cannot be trusted to do big things."
—Lawrence D. Bell (no relation)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Wolf at The Water Hole

September 13, 2016
   I've just seen one of the most original Westerns I've seen in a long time and it's called "Theeb," which is Arabic for wolf. This translation is unfortunate, because, unlike the Spanish word for wolf—Lobo—Theeb sounds like someone stubbed their toe.

"Theeb" looks, breaths and moves like a Western—many are calling it a "Bedouin Western."

Filmed in 2014 on the deserts of southern Jordan the first time film by two young kids, Bassell Ghandour and Naji Abu Nuwar, who went to live in a Bedouin village for a year before they filmed. Oh, and they taught the locals how to act at weekend workshops and then had them audition for parts. The only fly in the ointment was they couldn't find any women who would agree to act on film. They thought about importing actresses but they knew they wouldn't have the same Bedouin accent as the men and decided to do without them for authenticity.

   The small film was up for a foreign language Academy Award this year. The British officer in the film, Jack Fox, is the only "real" actor.

 The main character is a young boy named Wolf—Theeb—who steals away on a mini-caravan headed for a dangerous water hole in the Hejac Province of Arabia in 1916. The filming of the journey is very unique because almost all the scenes are POV, shot from behind the riders, so
they are constantly moving away from us. This has an accumulative effect on the storytelling, because we see what they see and this creates some very imaginative reveals. It also creates tension. After seeing countless thousands of Westerns it's amazing to me no one has approached a Western journey this way.

The camera moves along from behind the riders, limiting our view of what's coming.

   It gets better. When the first ambush happens, it's played out with very limited vision. We experience what Theeb and his brother are experiencing. We don't know where the firing is coming from and we are pinned down. Really effective.

A poem, at the beginning states the theme:

In questions of brotherhood never refuse a gift.

              Be the right hand of the right

when men make their stand.

   And if the wolves offer friendship

             do not count on success.

   They will not stand beside you

             When you are facing death.

   One of the themes of the movie is "the strong eat the weak" and although this sounds trite it is played out masterfully with unique little twists that play smartly all the way through.

   The most amazing sequence, to me, is when a raider, who has been shot, returns to the waterhole where the boy has been abandoned and left for dead. We see the raider on a black camel way off in the distance. The boy starts walking warily towards the camel, which has stopped to eat a dead bush. The camera, follows along behind the boy and we gradually see what the boy sees. The raider has lost blood, is passed out and falls off the camel to the ground. We think he's dead but he comes to the next day, asking for water. I don't recall ever seeing this in a Western, where a bad guy is shot, rides away, his mount wanders back towards water, carrying the wounded outlaw. I won't give away what happens, but if you like quirky Westerns give it a look. And, to the makers of the film, consider this title for a re-release party:

Daily Whip Out: "The Wolf at The Water Hole"

"The novel of a thousand pages begins with a single scene."
—James Scott Bell (no relation)


Monday, September 12, 2016

The History of A Scene: Once Upon A Time In Sergio Leone's Head

September 12, 2016
   It is a classic opening scene, in a classic Western. Sergio Leone claimed it was "the summa" of his entire career. It was ambitious and complicated and it wasn't the easiest of shoots.

Daily Whip Out: "Desperadoes Waiting for A Train:"
Left to right: Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef and Clint Eastwood shot down by Charles Bronson. 

Here's the full quote:
"I wanted to say farewell to the three characters from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and to do so in style. I wanted to say farewell to them and to the rules of the game, which I had imposed. So I hoped that the three pistoleri who are killed by Charlie Bronson at the beginning of Once Upon a time in the West would be Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach. The other two agreed, but Clint was the only one who didn't want to do it—so there wasn't any point in using Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach. It wasn't a question of expense—he just couldn't see the funny side of it. . ."
—Sergio Leone

Where Did The Idea for The Squeaky Windmill Come From?
"I'd been, some time before, to a concert in Florence where a man came onto the stage and began in complete silence to take a stepladder and make it creak and squeak. This went on for several minutes and the audience had no idea what it was supposed to mean. But in the silence the squeaking of this stepladder became something else, and the philosophical argument of this experiment was that a sound, any sound at all from normal everyday life—isolated from its context and its natural place and isolated by silence—becomes something different that is not part of its real nature. I talked about this with Sergio, who already had these things in his blood—in his ideas about silence. He made those extraordinary first twenty minutes of Once Upon a Time in the West from that idea."
—Ennio Morricone

Daily Scratchboard Whip Out: "Lee Van Cleef Scowls"

"A lot of actors think that the more words they have, the more attention they get. That's bullshit. I make people look at me. I don't have to say a lot of words."
—Lee Van Cleef

"I've never heard of an Italian Western—it sounds like a Hawaiian pizza!"
—Eli Wallach, when his agent told him an Italian director wanted to interview him for a part in a movie.

Where Did The Funky-Weird Train Station Come From?
"Listen, Sergio! I've seen some old abandoned wagons covered in dust and sand—with pots and pans still under the canvas—in some American books I've been looking at. Instead of make a [train] station that looks like a station, why not let's have a station that looks like an old abandoned   wagon?"
—Carlo Simi, the production designer for Once Upon A Time in the Old West

Duster Mania
  The dusters were a mania of [Sergio's], and they became a mania of the time as well. We went to look at costumes at Western Costume in California, and we happened to find these beautiful dusters, which were dustcoats for riding. They had also been shown in the film by John Ford, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, in the flashback. They were white, so we changed them to chocolate brown. Before we changed them, they looked like they were were worn by ice-cream vendors."
—Carlo Simi, production designer

Western Costume was in reality a very large warehouse on the lot at Warner Brothers that housed most of the costumes from every Western ever filmed there, going back decades. Crowded aisles and long racks of jackets, boots, shirts, holsters and hats were piled and strewn about for several acres. When I was a guest extra on the set of "Briscoe County, Jr." back in 1992-ish we (radio DJs and personalities) were brought in from around the country to be on the show and hopefully talk about the experience on the air, which we did. Anyway, I got to choose my outfit out of the warehouse and there were vaquero outfits next to cavalry outfits, from every period, going back 50 years. I realized this is why so many Westerns look like a kaleidoscope of styles because here you have a costume from a 1950s TV show and over there are two dusters from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Several years ago, the warehouse was liquidated and all the costumes sold, and our very own Phil Spangenberger told me he bought up all the best stuff for his collection.

And while we're on the subject of costuming, when Clint showed up in Spain for his first assignment he was somewhat amused that they didn't have extra, or duplicate, costumes for the main actors, like in the states. On a Hollywood production you have two of everything: two hats, two vests, two pairs of pants for the main actors, because a vest might get torn in a fight scene, or a hat run over by a train during a take, so there are always extra costumes as insurance. Not with the Italians. As we shall see, this gets pretty bizarre at the end of this shoot.

Silverado Needed to be Crazier?
"We digested the American Western, and then we recycled it in a more Italian—I would say Roman—way: more cynical, ironic, like the commedia all' italiana. And then when the Americans tried to do Westerns Italian style—in the sense of Silverado, for instance, it was not good, because they had not the craziness."
—Sergio Donati, co-script writer on Once Upon a Time in the West

A Very Long Detailed Script
A typical American script is, on average, 120-140 pages long. The script for Once Upon a Time in the West is 420 pages! "Hundreds and hundreds of stage directions, with just one line of dialogue. The first sequence—there is the fly, the water, the knuckles, everything. The first line is on page thirty, I think. Here, the old man asking for the money for the tickets. . .we're on page eleven already—no words yet. Pages 17 to 20, no words except the notice board, which says, 'delays': whereas in High Noon the train is on time for sure. And then page -29, the stationmaster, the old man, says, "For the tickets, you have to pay. . ."
—Sergio Donati, co-script writer

A No Fly Zone
   When it came time to film the fly scene with Jack Elam there were no flies. Zero. It was May and they had been battling flies for the entire shoot, but now, nothing! Sergio tried honey to attract flies, but it showed up too much on Jack's face. Finally, the caterer came with watermelon for the crew and Sergio rubbed a slice of watermelon on Jack's jaw and viola! several flies showed up for their close-ups.

Dead On Arrival
In the opening sequence, there are three gunmen who show up at the train station. "Stony" (Woody Strode), "Snaky" (Jack Elam) and "Knuckles" (Al Mulock). Towards the end of the four day shoot Mulock jumped from the balcony of his room on the second or third floor of his hotel room in Gaudix, Spain wearing his costume. Mulock survived the fall, and before being taken away by an ambulance, Sergio Leone shouted, "Get the costume, we need the costume!" Mulock suffered a pierced lung from a broken rib and during the bumpy ride to the hospital he died. Sergio outfitted a crew member to finish the shoot and in several of the iconic shots of the trio standing on the platform you can see "Knuckles" looks a little off.

"Knuckles" at left. Is it Mulock, or is it a crew member wearing his outfit?

No one knows the reason for his suicide, but one of the crew members later claimed Mulock was a drug addict and committed suicide out of desperation, because he couldn't acquire drugs in the isolated location where they were filming.

"[Sergio Leone] always had to go one step farther than what was expected."
—Christopher Frayling, the author of "Once Upon A Time In Italy." Most of the quotes in this post are from this exceptional book.