Tuesday, October 10, 2017

"Deadwood" Is Dead-On

October 11, 2017
   When I was a panelist at the Lone Pine Film Festival last Saturday, the panel moderator told us the word in Hollywood is that the reprise of "Deadwood," the HBO acclaimed series, is apparently a go. As I have been researching the authentic Wild Bill and his demise in the illegal boomtown, I have been struck with how authentic many of the characters in the fictional David Milch production really are:


Timothy Oliphant as Seth Bullock in the HBO series "Deadwood"


"Deadwood" Is Dead-On

   Here are a few of the things the HBO show got right historically:

• Seth Bullock and Sol Star, did establish the Star and Bullock Hardware Store in 1876.
• Al Swearingen did own the Gem Theater but he was from Iowa, not England.
• As many as 400 Chinese lived in an area of Deadwood, known as the “Badlands.” They elected their own mayor and council, as well as establishing their own police force and fire department.
• George Hearst did come to Deadwood and eventually bought the Homestake Mine.
• E.B. Farnum was appointed as mayor by the first miners’ court in Deadwood. 
• Calamity Jane was every bit as foul-mouthed and drunk as she is portrayed in the series. 
• Lucretia  Marchbanks was known as “Aunt Lou” in the camp and she did work at the Grand Central Hotel as the kitchen manager.
• Albert W. Merrick did found the Deadwood Pioneer newspaper in 1876. 
• There actually was a Gem Theater prostitute named Tricksie, who shot a man through the front of his skull for beating her up. The attending doctor was amazed that he survived the gunshot.
• Jack Langrishe did in fact come to Deadwood Gulch in 1876 along with the rest of his troupe. They temporarily conducted their productions at the Bella Union Theatre before building their own building.
A Slight Nitpick:
• Jack McCall’s first trial that acquitted him of murder was not held in the Gem as shown, but instead at the Deadwood Theatre, sometimes referred to as McDaniel’s Theatre (for its builder,) or the Langrishe Theatre, for Jack Langrishe, the performer’s troupe manager.
I need to thank Mary Kopco, director of the Adams Museum in Deadwood, and Jerry L. Bryant, the museum’s research curator and archaeologist for this great inside information.
Also, it must be said, the best portrayal of Jack McCall, based on the descriptions of him (there are no known photos) is this guy:

Garret Dillenhunt as Jack McCall in "Deadwood"

"Here's my counteroffer to your counteroffer: go f--- yourself!" 
—Al Swearengen (Ian McShane), in "Deadwood"


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30 comments:

  1. I didn't watch more than 10 minutes because I refused to pollute my mind with the filthy language.

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    1. The language was spot on for the way people talked back then. It was not a place for gentlemen.

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    2. "You can afford your delicate sensibilities by looking the fuck away." ~ Cy Toliver

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    3. Anonymous11:29 PM

      Agreed

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    4. get over yourself

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    5. Well if the sounds of real life are too delicate for your ears shut the fucking tv off and shut your mouth

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    6. Anonymous9:24 AM

      The swear/curse words are inaccurate for the era. It is gratuitous and used because appeals to the debased state of the audience. Decay of a civilization's language, particularly in entertainment expression, is a strong indicator of its general decline.

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    7. Anyone who didn't watch this series missed one of the best ever. I rate it number ONE side by side with the Sopranos and just slightly above Justified.
      Do yourself a huge favor and put aside your sensitive ears and experience Deadwood. I know a couple of the actors and if they can handle the language, you could too.
      "You can afford your delicate sensibilities by looking the fuck away." ~ Cy Toliver

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    8. If you can get past the swearing (I did) and listen to the dialog, it's beautiful. Old English, beautiful.

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  2. Mr Bell, the one knock against the series that I've come across is that HBO used their non-network status to up the vulgarity. How accurate was the series as far as this is concerned? You've mentioned Calamity Jane, but what about the rest of the cast?

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    1. I’ve read that the producers fully admit that the language used in the show would have been unheard of during the deadwood era, but used it to convey them vulgarity of the actual language used at the time, which would have seemed almost silly to us as viewers today.

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    2. Ive read that the produce readily admit that they used language that would have been unheard of during the deadwood era, but did so in order to convey the shocking vulgarity of the actual language that would have been used, which would seem juvenile and silly to watchers in today’s climate.

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  3. Bob,
    Just to add on, here's my Deadwood article I did for you back in June 2006, Deadwood's Lost Chinatown. https://truewestmagazine.com/deadwoods-lost-chinatown/
    Bill Markley

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  4. Senora Peggy4:46 PM

    I loved that series!! Don't see how they could bring it back as most of the characters were killed...

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  5. If you didn't watch all of this series for any reason then you missed some od the greatest lines and acting ever done in any series before or since.

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  6. I'm a skeptic about their, "historical accuracy". Especially the personalty types their actors had. Sure they got the names of buildings, famous people, gold mines, etc... correct but not the personalities of the folks back then.

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    1. Anonymous12:26 PM

      From what I have read. Seth bullocks character was pretty close. He acted first thought later. Had a bad temper.

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  7. Anonymous5:35 PM

    The foul language is reported as historically correct. Don't worry, if you feel dirty it washes off.

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  8. Although the characters were pretty close, there were some elements that we're far from authentic. The infamous Peter Sherako tried to point out some of the immsvuracies and it cost him (and his Hollywood Buckeroos, including me our jobs). Simple fixes like the non-period saddles and other items that would have nailed the series as the best portrayed effort of the Old West of the modern era, if they had only listened...

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    1. Famous not infamous and inacuracies not immsvuracies!

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  9. Don Rockhill8:13 PM

    Al Swearingen was a distant cousin. There's one in every family.

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  10. I think the westerns we watch from the 30's -60's were made for a radio or TV audience most movies didn't even use that language. I felt uncomfortable watching Deadwood because of the language likely more real life than Hollywood.

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  11. I’re read that foul language was prevalent in Deadwood, but came in the form of “tarnation” and “goldarned”. Milch thought these would be laughable to a modern audience, and so the f-bombs (which I also read, didn’t come into fashion until the 1920’s) were used.

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  12. loved this, wish it was a series an back on

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  13. Anonymous6:45 AM

    I loved the show and watch it from time to time.

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  14. Anonymous1:42 PM

    Swearing is only words. If those words, not directed at you are going to polute youre mind or upset you then you have bigger problems

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  15. Deadwood is brilliant, shakespaerian, & for grown ups. deadwood was a rowdy newly minted mining town, & as i believe, would have been "like walking into a busy truck stop at 3AM as far as the language goes.
    anyone offended can go watch wheel of fortune. i do hope it returns, (very few characters were killed, & the town grew, changed & carried on well, so why not the series?) give pete dextewr's book "deadwood" a read, & "hang dai, fucking Wu."

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  16. Anonymous7:51 PM

    Really loved the music!Tought it made the show.

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  17. I read that HBO has given Milch the green light, and he's mostly finished the script of a movie, not a series. The most challenging is getting all the principal actors on the same schedule, which could delay filming another year or two.

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  18. God I hope they at least make a movie and end this story

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