A NOSTALGIC SPOOF: THE LAST OF THE SILVER SCREEN COWBOYS – Garry & Marilyn Armstrong

A Nostalgic Spoof of a Beloved Movie Genre

We watched “Rustler’s Rhapsody” again last night. I love this movie. It’s an affectionate spoof of the B-Westerns of the 1940s starring Tom Berenger, Patrick Wayne, G.W. Baily (currently with “Major Crimes” on which Berenger has a recurring guest role), Andy Griffith and Fernando Rey.

The women include Sela Ward, a solid dramatic actress perhaps best remembered as Dr. Richard Kimble’s slain wife in the movie version of “The Fugitive”. There’s also Marilu Henner who riffs on all the “Miss Kitty/Miss Lily” saloon ladies of our favorite TV westerns.

Andy Griffith and Fernando Rey both play power-mad cattle barons. Fernando usually plays an international drug czar and you probably remember him in “The French Connection”. He is slimy sinister personified. Rey and Griffith make a very odd couple. Check out the scene where they argue about who gets to do the countdown for killing the hero. They are hilarious, but Andy Griffith steals the show.

We love the movie so much we own two identical copies of it on DVD. It wasn’t going to be available for long, so Marilyn bought a copy for us, another for our best friends … and an extra. Just in case.


rustler's rhapsody dvd cover

NOTE: As it turns out, “Rustler’s Rhapsody” is available. Again. Who knows for how long? If you are interested, Amazon has the DVD and the download.


Tom Berenger is The Hero who shoots the bad guys in the hand. Pat Wayne is the other good guy, but he used to be a lawyer, so be warned. Casting Pat Wayne was an inspiration. “Rustler’s Rhapsody” could easily be an homage to his Dad’s ‘poverty row’ westerns of the 1930s. Pat even nails Duke’s acting range of that period.

My heroes have always been cowboys, even the stalwarts of those budget-challenged B movies. I had the good fortune to spend time with two legends of the genre. Buster Crabbe and Jack “Jock” Mahoney.

Crabbe, most famous for his “Flash Gordon” days, contends he had more fun playing the lead in the oaters where the line between good and bad is always clear and you get to wear nice costumes. He considers his westerns as “small classics” not B movies. (Crabbe continued his career into the late 60’s when producer A.C. Lyles revived the B cowboy movie with over the hill actors including Johnny Mack Brown, Rod Cameron, Bob Steele, Hoot Gibson and Richard Arlen among others).

Jack “Jock” Mahoney, known to many as TV’s “Range Rider,” is a former stuntman who graduated to supporting roles as nimble villains and finally established a following at Universal-International, playing literate good guys in lean, well-written westerns. Mahoney clearly is proud of his work in the B movies. I remember the smile on his face as he recalled the fun of being recognized as a cowboy hero.

I think all the cowboy actors I’ve met (Including John Wayne) would heartily approve of “Rustler’s Rhapsody”. It’s an affectionate tribute to their work.

This is the song they play at the end of the movie when the credits are rolling. I love the song and the memories it brings because I’m of the generation that went to the movies and watched those B movies as part of the afternoon doubleheader at the Carlton or Laurelton, the second or third-run movies houses where you could see two movies and a cartoon for a dime. Eleven cents if you were considered an adult. Which turned out to be any child older than 10, but they still made you sit in the kid’s section — which I firmly believed (and still believe) was unconstitutional.

Warner Brothers, 1982. “Last Of The Silver Screen Cowboys” by Rex Allen Jr. and Rex Allen Sr. Be sure to listen for Roy Rogers in the final commentary and chorus!

FEELIN’ GROOVY: SIMON & GARFUNKEL – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #42 – Groove with Simon & Garfunkel

Those definitely were the days, my friends.

This song has always made me happy. It reminded me of waking up in New York and just enjoying life. I was young. So were they. And they lived sort of next door, so you never know. I might be the next great songwriter.

The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Hello lamppost, whatcha knowing?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growing.
Ain’t cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in’ doo-doo, feelin’ groovy!

Got no deeds to do, no promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you, all is groovy.

Songwriters: Paul Simon
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

ELEMENTS IN TRACES – TOM LEHRER AT HAHVID – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #35 – TRACE ELEMENTS

No one said it better than Tom Lehrer and now, he’s going to sing it again. For me and you and all of us. Trace element. Elements.

All the elements. In song. With a piano. Thanks, Tom! Excuse me. That would be Dr. Lehrer.

NEVER A SUSPECT – MINI FICTION ON A HOT DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Suspect

You’d never guess his true occupation. A mild-mannered man. Easy-talking, casual. You’d have him over for coffee without even thinking about it. Played folk songs on his old guitar which he carried in a heavy-duty case.

You wouldn’t give that case two-seconds of thought, either. Clearly, he valued his guitar — and indeed he did. It was a Martin. A good one, probably 50 years old and who knew who might have played it before he bought it at a musical instrument auction.

He was a man who held values dear and thus he valued, even more than his nearly antique guitar, the far more modern AR-15 he carefully stowed underneath the guitar. It was broken tidily into sections. Easy to put them together and he could do it in seconds. It lay wrapped in carefully cut foam packing underneath the instrument in a well-protected part of the case.

Oddly, the broken-down gun was light. No one guessed there was more to the case than they expected. Flip (his real name was Philip) never told anyone to not pick up the case. His natural ease made his real intentions impossible to guess or even imagine.

Playing songs at parties wasn’t giving him quite the sufficiency of recompense he needed for his comfortable, middle-class life, he had a second livelihood with a much high pay grade.

Assassinating people.

It was so easy and it was all done on cell phones. No one saw his face. No one knew his name or where he lived.

That gave him the funding he needed and left him more than enough to put something by for his eventual retirement. It never crossed his mind that anyone could discover his field of endeavor. Now in his mid-forties, it was probably true. He was a well-established musician and an internationally famous and nameless gun for hire. To the right people.

He wasn’t greedy. He only killed when he needed money and he didn’t kill unless the person he was killing “needed killing.” He thought of himself as one of those old western-style heroes. When someone needed killing, he was the man.

He liked to think he was ridding the earth of its worst vermin. It was possible he had a point. The people he “took out” were, in his opinion, evil anyway and no one was going to mourn their loss. He had some occasional collateral damage, but every business has its burdens.

He grieved when he was forced to take down someone not on his list and he made sure widows and children were cared for. A good insurance policy is more than worth its price. It was hard to argue his point of view … unless you happened to be his target.

Then you could argue, but you’d never win.

JAMAICA, FAREWELL – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Tropical

Living on the “right coast,” the Caribbean has been our go-to tropical islands. Garry was addicted to Bimini. I didn’t go as often as he did, but I loved St. Martin and later, St. Thomas, Aruba, Antigua … and most particularly, I really loved Jamaica.

Maybe it was the coffee? By the time Garry and I were able to spend time in the Caribbean, I had pretty much given up buying souvenir tee-shirts, but on the other hand, I came back from Jamaica with four pounds of pure Blue Mountain coffee beans. It was the best coffee I ever had in my life and I still dream about it. Well, you know what I mean. Daydream. Not night dreams. My night dreams are way more complicated than coffee.

Also, there was something about that island. When we landed (by cruise ship) in Jamaica, we had already learned to not buy the pre-packaged tours from the ship. Go ashore and find a guy. Because there was always a guy who would pop you into his cab and if he liked you (we were always very likable on cruises), he introduced us to his mother, family, the places at which he really ate. The food was amazing and served in someone’s backyard on an old wooden table with folding chairs.

He showed us where to find the best coffee beans for a couple of dollars a pound, rum so strong no one could drink it — not even Garry and he could really drink! — and the beaches only local people knew about.

We spent two days on Jamaica and when we had to leave, I stood at the railing and watched Jamaica disappear around the curve of the earth. I wanted to go back and never leave.

I still want to go back. Jamaica was the island that called to me.

RDP #7 – PURPLE FLOWERS, PURPLE HAIR, PURPLE HAZE – Marilyn Armstrong

PURPLE FLOWERS, BETTER SWEATERS

Purple is the color of half the stuff leftover for clearance sales! Enter the annual purple sweater of the year.

It really is. Orange and purple. I know because during the poorest years of my life, those were the colors of all my shirts and sweaters. They were the only things left in my size. Eggplant, aubergine, pumpkin … whatever it was called, it was orange and purple.

I’ve always like dark purples and sometimes, the more lavender or red-violet purples, but there have been a few that were just a bit overly intense for my neutral mind to fully grasp. Orange is an okay contrast color if the rest of what I’m wearing is dark brown or black, but other than as a nightgown, I have a little more trouble with orange.

To wear that is. I absolutely love it as a Jack O’Lantern!

Purple is the color of the Mayflower, the classic iris, lilacs (sometimes more lavender, but close enough), and the spots that float across my eyes if I look into the sun for a moment.

For a brief few days, I vaguely contemplated dying my hair purple, but fortunately, no one shared my enthusiasm for the project and it died off on its own.

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/fjwWjx7Cw8I?rel=0

Let me add just a little nostalgia for long ago years when drugs were fun. Not something you took to make the pain in your back ease away. Not only was this quite the song of a generation (to be fair, it was not one of my favorites; I was more “Judy Collins” than “Jimi Hendrix”), but look how young they are! My granddaughter is older. I was that young too, but it’s hard to remember. Fifty years have passed. Fifty.

Purple Haze! Not just a song, but a crazy, mad state-of-mind … for about 12 hours with a residual fade of four more, give or take a couple. Oh, those really were the daze.

SEND IN THE CLOWNS? DON’T BOTHER, THEY’RE HERE – Garry Armstrong

“Send In The Clowns”, on its own merit, is a beautiful song from the show, “A Little Night Music.” Judy Collins’ cover has made it a popular favorite for decades. A Frank Sinatra version is especially poignant.

Jimmy Stewart (clown) and Charlton Heston in “The Greatest Show On Earth”

In the early 70’s, a seemingly more innocent period, I used “Send In The Clowns” as a musical wrap around a political TV piece. I was covering local Boston politics. A primary campaign. Those were the days of political and community icons like “Dapper,” “Fast Freddie,” Trixie, “Kevin From Heaven,” “Wacko,” and “Raybo.”

Those were influential folks, beloved by their constituents and bearers of much political clout. I was on “friendly”terms with most of these folks. There was less Sturm und drang between the media and politicians in those days. There was respect.

My piece was shot with silent black and white film.  We were still in the pre-video tape and digital days. I chose silent film over sound because I wanted the music to have more presence, less competition from people talking.

We used a montage of candidates faces, posters and campaign slogans. The lyrics of “Send In The Clowns” soared as the video zoomed in on campaign slogans and candidates kissing babies and pressing the flesh.

I anticipated a flurry of angry calls from campaign directors.  Nothing. Nada. One candidate, over happy hour drinks, praised the cleverness of my piece but said he would’ve preferred the Sinatra version of “Clowns”.

So much for being glib in those days.

Imagine using “Send In The Clowns” today.  For the coming mid-terms.  The  ’20 Presidential race. How would the “Clowns” lyrics fare over the screaming POTUS?  The ranting Rudy? The shouting Sean Hannity?

Should we intercut snippets of circus clowns with “breaking news” video and clips of all the President’s minions?  Don’t forget those shots of the President’s supporters, the “People,” with their “Jail Her” signs and the racist banners flying over political bonfires.

Send in the clowns?  Don’t bother. They’re already here.