1st fifth of a Louis Kraft 50-film list

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2019

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


It is time to move from my Indian wars/race passion
to the world of film, my other passion, and
a blog that I announced in days
long past.

Alas, the long proposed 50-film list has been split
into five installments due to time limitations.

None of the choices made the 50-film list with only one screening.


A major fact

A film must grab and hold my interest from beginning to end. And just as important I must care about at least one character
and preferably two or more.

This detail of a photo was taken in August 2018 when Pailin shot a series of photos for the marketing department of OU Press. I’ve used it elsewhere on social media and like it better than some of the images I delivered to the press last summer. (photo © Louis Kraft and Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2018)

So you know: I study film all the time. Yes, it is for enjoyment, it is when I exercise (or bathe—you snicker and the next time we get together you’ll experience a real evil eye), and it is when I’m looking for something that shows me a way to make a smooth transition in my writing. … It is the perfect medium to see good and bad dialogue, good and bad transitions, and good and bad plots. … I learn as much from the bad as I do from the good. What follows is a living list, and it will grow and change as I move through life. What is here today may not be here tomorrow. This said, and because I’m wordy and time is short this list has been cut into five pieces. The second will appear later this year, but the promised blog that deals with a Sand Creek Massacre book update, my next two book projects, and Valley CORF (I need to complete one or more interviews for this) will happen this June (due to an unexpected event that is now present and on the horizon).

LK film lists & opinions that mean nothing

I should tell you up front that I have little respect for most reviews I read. They are opinion, and often they include the reviewer’s bias. I get the Los Angeles Times (the Times was a great newspaper and perhaps will again be so under its new management). Most of my film viewing today is on DVDs or the internet. Currently the paper has two extraordinary film critics (Justin Chang and Kenneth Turan). Even so, I often disagree with them. No big deal, for I often disagree with my view of films. I’m just like everyone else. My view of movies is opinion—nothing more and nothing less. Read it with a grain of salt. Hopefully it may influence you to see some of the films on this list.

Lists change

Certainly my film lists are in constant flux. Sometimes a film or a performance doesn’t hold up over the passage of time. And this is certainly true as films from the Golden Age of Cinema (which will soon become a major focus of future books) have little representation in this list of 50.

I don’t own a TV, and “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” to quote Clark Gable from Gone with the Wind. (David O. Selznick/MGM 1939). BTW, this film bores me to tears and yet I will be studying it with a fine-toothed comb in the very near future (see Olivia de Havilland celebrates her 100th birthday + an example of bunk if you don’t already know the reason).

From left: Hattie McDaniel, Olivia de Havilland, and Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind. All three would receive Oscar nominations. McDaniel and de Havilland for supporting actress, and Leigh for lead actress. Vivien and Hattie won, and Olivia was devastated, although years later she changed her view and was thrilled that Hattie was honored. LK personal collection.

One blazing inclusion is Olivia de Havilland’s 1948 The Snake Pit along with one other guaranteed film (and perhaps two) that didn’t make an LK top 12 Errol Flynn list a couple of years back. For years The Snake Pit has been on and then off this list of films. Two reasons stand out: It is a hard film to view for its subject matter takes no prisoners and it is not a feel good story. At the same time it gives us Ms. de Havilland’s best screen performance of all time (no other performance of hers comes close to capturing how magnificent her acting capabilities really were). The film was extraordinary for 1948. If Olivia was thirty-two (her age when the The Snake Pit was released) in 2019 and the film was made today one can only wonder what the final product would have looked like, what she would have exposed to the camera for public viewing, and how you and I would have reacted to her performance. My view, and let me tell you that I disagree with easily 90 percent of the Oscar awards for acting and screenwriting, she was robbed for her performance as Virginia Cunningham was before its time at the end of the 1940s and it still is today.

The last two films in this 50-film list

For films at the bottom fifth of the list there is another problem, and doubly so as they won’t be shared until after three additional film blogs are posted first. Simply this means that two really good films will never be selected as numbers 49 or 50 of those last two slots are solid, in place, and they “ain’t” ever going away.*

* Hints: Singing while riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle and the pirate Drake. I had linked two spoilers here but changed my mind. I do love being a tease.

Wonder Woman, other films, & Hollywood kissing itself on its rear end

Wonder Woman? What the (expletive)! Yeah, Wonder Woman. Digest this!

Pailin Subanna-Kraft inside the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, Calif., just before she saw Errol Flynn’s last A-film The Roots of Heaven (1958) on 15may2014. And … AND … she sat between my good friend Robert Florczak (like me, a Flynn historian) and myself at this screening. She told me that she was able to follow the story, which dealt with the preservation of elephants. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft and Louis Kraft, 2014)

Let’s start with Pailin. … Her English grows with leaps and bounds, and this is on a daily basis. Still, when I show her films on the computer and when we see a movie in a theater I try keep the choices to basically western, action, and thriller (although this changed last year). Reason for these choices: Less dialogue, the action often moves the story to conclusion, and I like the above stated genres.

My gorgeous woman (Pailin) works way too-many hours while I’m chained to my computer working on getting the Sand Creek manuscript published and still punch out a blog now and again. Who knows, but perhaps some day I will return to a time currently gone but something that I dearly miss—writing magazine articles and giving talks. Pailin and I are two busy people, but we need a little R&R once in a while. A couple of years back I proposed seeing Wonder Woman to her, a film genre that I have great distaste for and avoid seeing. My proposal to my lady was based on film hype, no other decent films playing in LA, and the current trailer that I showed her, along with a decent review of the film (which, again meant zero).

Pailin took this closeup image of a lighted (that is not a paper) poster of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, which was across the hall from the AMC 16 Burbank Theater screening room where we saw the film.

Know that I am not a fan of pulp fiction, other than Edgar Rice Burroughs’ (of Tarzan fame; Tarzana, a town in Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley, is named after his creation) eleven-book series on John Carter of Mars. The first book in the series hooked me for all time, A Princess of Mars, and her name was Dejah Thoris. A great series, although the last two or three books weren’t as good as the earlier ones.

This book cover dust jacket art is by the late, and great, illustrator, Frank Frazetta (1912: Reprint; 1970 in a bookclub edition of the novel. I’ve liked Frazetta’s work since I discovered him while in junior high school and gobbled up Burroughs’ multitude of books that were then experiencing a mass-market paperback bonanza. … A film, John Carter (2012) was based somewhat on this novel (but unnecessarily updated). It had great production value, and an okay John Carter (Taylor Kitch), but a lifeless and sexless Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), and I’m bing kind to the lady here. The novel had a lot of sexuality and nudity; zero in the film, which still should have succeeded. Its advertising murdered it for it didn’t let a potential audience know the story’s roots and where the storyline was headed. Too bad. This film had been on an LK top 60 film list, but was banished over two years ago. Pailin has seen it in the Kraft theater and liked it. I like it too, just not Collins’ Dejah Thoris. Yuk! When you have a major player in a film and they don’t show up you have nothing. Will I ever change my mind about Collins’ dismal portrayal as Dejah Thoris? … No.

As we all know, Diana, “Wonder Woman,” was a DC Comics character. I’ve known that this film, directed by Patty Jenkins, was coming, and had for some time.

I was pulling for Pailin to agree. … She did, and on June 3, 2017, I stole her away to see WW in a movie theater. Yeah, we went out on a date.

Wow! To steal from what I said elsewhere on social media: “All I want to say here is this is a good film. It had a plot, character development, decent characters performed by good actors, acceptable dialog, and you know what—I was on the edge of my seat during the entire film. I laughed, I smiled, I was thrilled, and I actually shed a few tears.” … Wonder Woman had been in the running to make this film list. Although it still is the only super-hero film that I’ve seen and liked it didn’t make the list. Perhaps as I’ve only seen it once; most likely it’ll never make a Kraft film list.

I also want to mention an extraordinary film, War for the Planet of the Apes (2017). It is science fiction but much more—much-much more. It is a story of survival and racism, and when we get to the 50 films you’ll see that people of different races play a major role in my choices. This was not pre-set, it just happened when I viewed, then viewed again and again as I studied the films that made this list. I’ve only seen War for the Planet of the Apes once and that was in a movie theater.

Andy Serkis as Caesar in War for the Planet of the Apes (2017). LK personal collection.

Andy Serkis’ work as Caesar, the leader of the apes in their revolt for freedom in War for the Planet of the Apes, was created using CGI. I’m not going to get technical but Serkis and the other ape actors performed while wearing special clothing and had devices attached to them allowing their actions be captured which in turn permitted the special effects team to use their reactions and emotions while turning them into apes. Serkis and the other actors’ work shines and his or one of the other performances should have been recognized during the god-awful four-five months of pure hell time in Los Angeles when money buys awards for films that are stuffed down our throats on a daily basis.

Steven Spielberg photo by Patrick T. Fallon for the Los Angeles Times (it appeared in the California section of the paper on 3mar19, pB8). Mr. Spielberg was upset that Roma won three Oscars (it was nominated for 10). As far as he was concerned it streamed on TV, and even though it had the required number of days playing in movie theaters he considered it little more than a TV film. I can’t comment on Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma as I haven’t seen it (I haven’t seen Green Book or any of the other films that were nominated for Best Picture with the lone exception being A Star is Born). BTW, Cuarón won three Oscars for Roma (directing, cinematography, and best foreign film) and previously won two others in 2014 (for directing and editing Gravity). I wonder if Mr. Spielberg is jealous. Jealous or not, my take on him is that perhaps he complains too much. Why not speak out about the millions upon millions of dollars that are wasted every year to win an Oscar (take a look at the amount of money spent, and that includes for Mr. Spielberg’s films over the decades). I guess it’s okay to buy awards, but don’t you dare stream a film while also forking out big bucks as you may have an advantage over the poor-poor-poor film companies that refused to move forward with how films are viewed today. As Jeff Daly (West Hollywood) wrote in a letter to the Times (published  on 10mar19): “As the Academy Awards attempts to stay relevant, he [LK: Spielberg] proposes to constrict, rather than expand, the scope of what constitutes an Oscar-worthy film.” I agree with Mr. Daly.

My view on Hollywood kissing itself on its ass for a third of the year every year isn’t printable. If they used that money in Los Angeles where it was needed there would be no homeless problem (I can give you 30,000 words on this subject). No, instead they buy awards (which is similar to buying elections). Oops! That just popped out. Andy Serkis deserved to be nominated for his performance. Yes, his performance was that good, and so were many of the ape characters in the film. … Better, it was a story of survival, a story of caring and humanity. It was also a story of war, and it is tragic. My first impression: This is a great film. Will it make the list before the other four blogs are posted? I don’t know, but as stated above I need to see it more than once.

A lot of good films aren’t going to make this list.

Lady Gaga and A Star is Born

I don’t know Lady Gaga’s music; don’t think I ever heard her sing until I saw A Star is Born. My lone memory of the lady was at the 2016 Golden Globe awards, which I only saw clips of on the internet. She won an award and while making her way to the stage she bumped Leonardo DiCaprio’s back. He looked around to see who hit him, then turned back to his table with a huge grin on his face. I have no intention of interpreting what went through his mind at that moment, but I can guess and it was priceless.

The young Lady Gaga had posed for what might be considered risqué images but they were artistic and I think not offensive in any way. However, when compared to the painted person who created an ultra-persona that shot to mega-music stardom with her writing and singing is something that this ol’ cowboy missed. Everything: The massive hits, the multitudes of awards, and a celebrity that is extraordinary.

This image of Gaga is from a Los Angeles Times added section that was devoted to film awards (28dec2018). Lady Gaga, just like my lady, knows how to pose for the camera.

I took Pailin to see Bradley Cooper’s directing debut while playing the jaded and on the downside rock-country star that Kris Kristofferson created in the 1976 Barbra Streisand film of the same name (which was the third reincarnation of the story of an up-and-coming talent who meets and teams with a major star spiraling, for lack of better words, toward the end of life).

I viewed the coming attraction for Cooper’s 2018 A Star is Born way too-many times. The combination of Cooper and Gaga—read the connection between them on film—grabbed me. Pailin was going to see that film if I had to hogtie her. Luckily the preview caught her interest and she readily accompanied me to a movie theater.

There’s only one question that needs to be asked here, has LK seen A Star is Born more than once?

Actually the last two years have been good for film …

I’m being sarcastic and yet I’m not. … A Star is Born was the only film I saw in movie theaters last year. To date, not one film released in 2019 has caught my interest. All I can say here is that if the film industry depended upon my cash It would have been out of business a long time ago.

Four other films that were released in 2017 and 2018 did grab and hold my attention although I didn’t see them during their theatrical runs: Hell or High Water, Wind River, Hostiles, and Juliet, Naked (which has zero nudity). I have Amazon Prime so I study film (and TV shows that have better casts, scripts, and production quality than many of the films released in recent times) that I don’t own. Oh, in case I didn’t mention it, I have not had pay TV since 2007 when I bought a Corvette (yep, the Vette was worth a hell of a lot more to me than being glued to the boob-tube), and that $130 or so monthly cost was wasted bucks that easily moved over to pay for a car that handled like none other I have ever owned.

What follows is totally opinionated and personal

First fifth of LK’s Top 50 films

Most of the films in the top have remained at the top even though this blog has been years in the making (except for the last two as they have special conditions attached to them, and those “special conditions” make them mandatory). … Believe it or not I have been called a racist over the years, for the simple reason that three very important ladies in my life have been Asian. I don’t know what to say about people who say this about me. The following is not defensive, it is simply a fact of my life. When it comes to ladies I love them all. Every race has gorgeous and intelligent and caring women; every race. I am going to state a simple fact that is not self-justifying as all the attacks upon my so-called racism toward women has always come from Anglo-American women. I need to address this. They don’t know what they are talking about and they should keep their damned mouths shut. If they did any research they would know that I have been intimate with more white women than all the other races put together. More important, when a woman enters my life her race means nothing to me. All that matters is who she is.

Below you’ll see that many actors (male and female) are in numerous films. They are listed not because of their race but because I cherish their performances in the 50 films. Nothing more and nothing less.

  1. Thunderheart, directed by Michael Apted and w/Val Kilmer, Sam Shepard, Graham Greene, Sheila Tousey, Chief Ted Thin Elk, John Trudell, Julius Drum, Fred Ward,and Sarah Brave (1992)
    This film has moved around at the top of the LK’s favorite films since I saw it shortly after it was released.

    One of the DVD covers for the film.

    The reason is simple: Thunderheart has a great plot and screenplay (by John Fusco), deals with a fictional depiction of events that happened on a Lakota reservation in the 1970s, many characters that grabbed my interest and made me care about them, and deals with racism going in both directions. It is a thriller; it is also a tragedy. I can’t spoil the film by telling you what happens, but when it does you’ll cringe and perhaps tear up. I did. I’ve seen Thunderheart at least thirty times (not counting the three screenings for this blog), and each viewing was as alive as when I first saw it. I haven’t talked about the cast, but the leading and most of the supporting players are extraordinary. When I view the film time and again I think to myself that some of them weren’t/aren’t actors—they were/are real people playing roles based upon the tragic reality of their peoples’ lives in modern-time USA. This sentence gives you a hint of what you are going to experience in Thunderheart. It doesn’t matter if this film is number five or number one on my list, for I enjoy it every time I watch it.

    Kilmer is sitting with Chief Ted Thin Elk, who in real life was an elder in the Oglala Lakota tribe. In the film, Thin Elk is also a tribal elder who is at the center of the fictional Sioux res. When Kilmer first meets him he is disrespectful but over the course of the film he changes his opinion. LK personal collection.

    There are seven key relationships in this film, and all are of major importance: Kilmer/FBI agent Ray Lavoi (who hates that he is quarter Lakota); Shepard/FBI legend Frank Coutelle; Greene/Tribal police officer Walter Crow Horse; Tousey/Maggie Eagle Bear; Ted Thin Elk/Grandpa Sam Reaches; Trudell/Jimmy Looks Twice; and Brave/Grandma Maisy Blue Legs (Tousey’s name should be above the title, and I can make a case for Thin Elk and Trudell also being above the title). Kilmer must deal with all of them once he is assigned to investigate a murder on the rez (reservation); an assignment he abhors but is stuck with it because of his mixed-blood heritage.

    During Thunderheart there are many keys that unravel what really happened when a tribal member is murdered on the rez at the beginning of the film. For Kilmer’s part it is a journey that could have never happened if he didn’t follow the trail of clues without an open mind. Here he is presenting Tousey with a ticket from an event that he is certain will reveal who the murderer was. Tousey tells him that it is a piece of paper and that she won’t look into it even though she has access to who bought the tickets. LK personal collection.

    Shepard meets Kilmer at the airport and immediately sets Kilmer’s reception and status on the rez in place. “Turn your head to the right,” Shepard drily states. “In the right light you look like Sal Mineo. Did you ever see Arizona Prairie, did you ever see that one?” BTW, this film doesn’t exist and Shepard has delivered a major insult. Mineo was not an American Indian but played one at least twice (in Disney’s Tonka, 1958, and in John Ford’s Cheyenne Autumn, 1964). Still it was enough for Shepard to use him to ridicule Kilmer. It would be worse from the Indian side. Greene calls him out as a “wanna-be Indian,” Tousey dismisses him as the “FBI Indian,” and Drum/Richard Yellow Hawk fries him as the “Washington Redskin.” These relationships are critical to the plot moving forward at an increasing pace until suddenly you are confronted with wolves feasting. It is tragic and gut-wrenching moment, and I love it.

    Kilmer, who has slowly sided with Greene, has the proof he needs and brings the tribal police officer to meet the key to what is going on, but it isn’t as it was when he obtained the information. The modern-day cavalry is about to shoot them as their cars charge forward, which is similar to a dream Kilmer had of being at Wounded Knee when the Seventh U.S. Cavalry massacred the Sioux in December 1890 (Greene claims he had a vision). Their end has arrived, … or has it? LK personal collection.

    Tousey was, along with Thin Elk, Trudell, Brave, Drum, and Greene, perfect casting. She played a university-educated school teacher with children who had returned to the rez to “help” her people, which also included being raped before the film begins. She is pretty, in control, but there is no relationship between her and Kilmer. Still, and although they were at odds and confrontational, there is a connection. A connection. We’ve all been there, that is we’ve known people who might have been special but the relationship could never move to fruition for whatever reason.

    Best, Thunderheart grabbed me from the moment that Shepard began introducing Kilmer to the rez. From there it goes in directions that change time and again. This is perhaps the most satisfying film I’m ever seen.

  2. Miami Vice, directed by Michael Mann and w/Colin Farrell, Gong Li, Jamie Foxx, John Ortiz, Naomie Harris, Luis Tosar, Elizabeth Rodriguez, John Hawkes, Barry Shabaka Henley, and Ciarán Hinds (2006)
    I liked the TV series Miami Vice with Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas (1984-89, with an unaired episode in January 1990), so when this film opened I was first in line to see it.

    This photo of Gong Li dates to Miami Vice. This is an LK image with her signature (not shown). LK collection.

    This thriller moves at lightning speed, has characters that jump off the screen, and it grabbed me from beginning to end. The TV series? Poof! Gone, never to be seen again. I have never been a fan of Farrell, but his performance was decent, tough, edgy, and by the end of the film, human. But the total surprise of the film was the Chinese actress Gong Li. For her English-language films Li learns her lines phonetically, which makes her performances even more amazing. Of her films on this list only one other is in English.

    A drug undercover operation goes bust; agents are killed, and Hawkes/Alonzo Stevens steps in front of big rig in front of Farrell/Sonny Crockett and Foxx/Ricardo Tubbs when he learns that his wife and daughter have been murdered. …

    John Ortiz as Jose Yero in one of his computer rooms watching Gong Li/Isabella dance with Colin Farrell/Sonny in a Cuban club in Havana, Florida. He isn’t pleased with what he sees and his discovery will lead to a big twist in the film. LK collection.

    We see Li for the first time when Florida undercover agents Farrell and Foxx pose as drug dealers who can deliver product in Florida, and maneuver to meet the linchpin who runs operation in the field, Ortiz/Jose Yero. Although Ortiz is not the kingpin of the cartel he is in complete control every time he is on camera. He is a master of the internet and the digital world and controls his domain from his computer rooms at his base or elsewhere when necessary (his performance was charismatic while being frightening). Farrell and Foxx appear to be unarmed when they enter a safe house in a very bad neighborhood way south of the border. It is obvious that they will be lucky to survive the encounter. They do, but it has nothing to have to do with luck. They are as focused, as deadly as Ortiz, and they one-up him. … They also get hired by him.

    Li is a silent image sitting in shadow, and the only memory of her is her crossed legs. This was my introduction to an actress who has since become my favorite of all time. Li’s performance was riveting, and I’m terribly understating this here. I could not take my eyes off her whenever she was on camera. This was not because she was beautiful, and she is, but because her natural and yet controlled performance captivated me in every scene.

    The film keeps me on edge while multiple characters are in jeopardy throughout. The dialogue is strong and moves the plot while developing all the characters. Yes, this film is a thriller and yet we are involved with almost every one of them, and it is relationship driven.

    Colin Farrell and Gong Li in the final scene in Miami Vice. They are outside a safe house and waiting for the boat that will remove her from the here and now. The relationship they had is over (but not dead), this is the present, and there is no future. … Been there and totally understand the moment. LK collection.

    Again this is a fast moving thriller, sexy beyond belief, but with a multitude of people I liked and cared about—good and evil, and trust me that John Ortiz is the devil incarnate while charismatic and so alive he still resides in a dark area I never want to visit. … Li and Farrell struggle at the climax of the film when he must grab her and yank her to safety or watch her be killed. She is fury on two legs as she lashes out at him. He is stronger and pulls her from the carnage. By the time they reach a deserted building that butts up to a river she has calmed down. Inside the house he turns his back to her and she walks outside. She understands the reality that it is inevitable and cannot change. So does he. Great acting. This is my favorite scene on film.

  3. Blood Diamond, directed by Edward Zwick and w/Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, David Harewood, Arnold Vosloo, and Kagiso Kuypers (2006)
    This film is absolutely brilliant in oh-so-many ways.

    DVD cover for the widescreen edition of Blood Diamond.

    It deals with the illegal diamond trade in Sierra Leone, Africa, during the 1990s, racism, and the brutal murder of innocent people during a civil war wherein young boys were abducted and forced to become soldiers and trained to kill. It gives DiCaprio/Danny Archer (a white South African) his best part to date as a smuggler who doesn’t care about anyone or anything but himself; Hounsou/Solomon Vandy (a Black Mende fisherman who loves his family and will do anything to protect them); and Connelly/Maddy Bowen (an American reporter who craves a sensational story that would turn the diamond smuggling world on end).

    Without giving too much away, DiCaprio and Hounsou are incarcerated at the beginning of the film.

    As Hounsou and Kuypers race toward their family the worst possible happens. LK personal collection.

    This began after a good day at school for Kuypers/Dia Vandy (who is Hounsou’s son). He is excited at what he just learned as they walk back to their village. Suddenly rebels in trucks appear in the distance and it is obvious what their destination is. Hounsou forces Kuypers to flee (to no avail) as he attempts to save the rest of his family.

    The DiCaprio/Hounsou relationship doesn’t begin well. Worse, war erupts in the city and both run for their lives. LK personal collection.

    DiCaprio works for Vosloo/Colonel Coetzee (a big-time diamond smuggler). Unfortunately his latest gig to smuggle diamonds out of Sierra Leone ended badly. Hounsou’s life also sucks for after his village had been destroyed he became a forced worker for an illicit-diamond mining operation that is overseen by Harewood/Captain Poison. When the mining operation is raided Hounsou ends up in the same jail as DiCaprio. Harewood—now minus an eye—soon joins them. All three are separated in large cages of prisoners but can see each other. When Harewood exposes Hounsou for burying a huge diamond DiCaprio is all ears. DiCaprio is released first. When Djimon is set free DiCaprio is ready to strike for this diamond is his ticket out of Africa. …

    But all isn’t as it should be, and this is the spine of the film. By now most of us are aware of how bad race relations have been in the Land of Free over the centuries. No matter what my or your opinion of that is, it has been much worse on the continent of Africa. Some of what goes on during this small time-grab of history not long in the past is both horrifying and hard to watch.

    Hounsou is released from jail but DiCaprio’s forcing a partnership is ill-timed. They are at odds with no common ground. Worse the war has come to them and they must flee or be massacred.

    DiCaprio and Connelly in a private moment as he presents her with the information that will shoot her to the front of the newspaper-reporting world. LK personable collection.

    Enter Connelly, who oozes sex appeal (but not because she wears slinky clothes as she doesn’t). All business she connects with DiCaprio at an outside bar, but her lone goal is to expose the worldwide diamond trade, which in turn will give her credibility and celebrity. He realizes who she is, and says, “You’re a journalist.” “That’s right.” “Piss off, huh?” he replies. They see each other later at the same bar and while they dance she pushes him, finally saying, “Help me out off the record.” “Well, off the record I like to get kissed before I get fucked, huh,” he replies before walking away. A truer statement was never said. These two people never kiss, DeCaprio is harsh on Hounsou throughout the film, but by the end of it all three of them are human beings worth knowing in a shocking world that I have heard about, read about, but have never experienced. This film has been in my top five for years.

  4. Nobody’s Fool, directed by Robert Benton and w/Paul Newman, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Jessica Tandy, Dylan Walsh, Alexander Goodwin, Melanie Griffith, Bruce Willis, and Philip Seymour Hoffman (1994)
    Over time more than one person has declared that Paul Newman always played himself. This wasn’t negative, for these people made it clear that Newman was very good at playing himself. … I know this for a fact. In Nobody’s Fool, Newman/Sully struggles with surviving winter with his son’s family (and he’s not welcome), a lady who is his for the asking (Griffith/Toby Roebuck) who works for his sometime employer (Willis/Carl Roebuck), and a fragile woman who rents him a room (Tandy/Miss Beryl). This picture, probably more than most of the other films on this list, is character driven and the results are extraordinary. I can’t say enough about Newman’s sardonic and yet heartfelt performance of a man who meanders through his world of woe (he had been nominated for an Oscar and he should have won, at least in my view). The ups and downs of not only Newman, but of all the people in his life and this includes grandson Goodwin/Will Sullivan. All of them are a delight to behold regardless of their level of misery. Still I don’t want my life to be like his cinematic life, and yet I do as it is vibrant, in trouble, taking wrong-turns, caring, disappointment, and love. No matter how bad it gets (and Newman even gets shot at and arrested for driving his pickup on the sidewalk) it is totally up-lifting. Maybe I should show you why. …

    Philip Seymour Hoffman played Officer Raymer. He didn’t like Newman’s Sully and sped his patrol car to a parallel halt in front of Newman as he drove his beat-up pickup on the sidewalk in a residential neighborhood. He’s out of his car in a flash and with his revolver supported by his auto’s roof ordered Newman to stop and get out of the car. When Newman inched toward him, he fired away. The bullets missed Vince/Rub and Newman but shattered the windshield. Newman stopped the truck and walked toward Hoffman, who approached him. You can see what happened, and can guess what followed. LK personal collection.

    Maybe I shouldn’t.

    I’ve had my run-ins with John Law and they should be documented. Forget the streets for the worst was with LA County Sheriff’s Department Officer Libel. She pronounced her name differently than spelled and didn’t like it when I addressed her as Officer Libel (as spelled). This was in the mid-1980s when I quit acting cold turkey. My sister was then an officer in the Sheriff’s Department and she supported me joining her on the force. Officer Libel took offense at me applying for the position and told me, “I’m going to get you.” “Why?” “We don’t want any actors on the force,” and she did get me. When I told my sister that I was going to go after her in print, she said: “Don’t do it.” “Why?” “Don’t do it.” “Why?” “They’ll get you.” “Why?” “Don’t do it,” was all she’d say. I eventually understood her meaning and walked away from a heinous lie. … And I haven’t even mentioned encounters on the streets. All I’ll say here is that I’m not the goodie-two-shoes you think I am.

    Ditto Paul Newman’s Sully. At the same time he’s a giving and caring person (I hope that you’re making the connection here).

    Nobody’s Fool takes place in December. It is cold and dark at times. Here Newman is talking with his hired hand and best friend Pruitt Taylor Vince (as Rub Squeers). The best part of their relationship is that Vince has no fear of voicing what he is unsure or unhappy about. When Newman’s grown up son (Dylan Walsh as Peter Sullivan) enters the picture with his own family problems and Newman turns his back on the past and welcomes his reunion with his son Vince fears for his relationship, and this includes a major piece of jealousy. LK personal collection.

    Every movie—every movie—should be like this! Like Thunderheart, every time I see this film it is a new experience, and affects me in a different way. … It is a piece of life that all of us experience but in different and yet personal ways. I need to say something about Paul Newman here, and it’s a black mark on LK for I’ve mostly ignored his films over the years. Don’t ask why for I don’t know the answer while at the same time seeing some damned-good performances by him.

    I’ve made a point of ignoring the plot for the reason that it is all over the place, and I could never do it justice without giving everything away. I don’t want to do this as this is a film that must be experienced without knowledge of what is coming.

  5. Red Corner, directed by Jon Avnet and w/Richard Gere, Bai Ling, Tsai Chin (Chairman Xu), Jessey Meng, Tzi Ma, and James Hong (1997)
    This film is a nightmare lurking quietly in the dark for any of us who visit foreign countries if you or I make a mistake.


    At the beginning of this century my daughter and I were riding in a Paris subway. The
    car was empty except for two young women who sat across from us near the rear
    exit (two men stayed by the exit and although we couldn’t see them they carried on
    a conversation with the women in French. I had some words, enough to know that
    they were talking about us. “At the next stop,” I quietly said to my daughter, “we’ll wait
    until it’s almost time for the subway to depart. When I tell you, we’re going to rush
    to the front exit and get off.” “Why?” “Just do it.” During the stop the women watched            us and smiled as they chatted with the still unseen men. “Now,” I whispered and we
    dashed to the exit and got off just before the door shut. As the subway pulled away all
    four were
    glaring at us through the windows. …


    This was nothing compared to what Richard Gere is about to experience.

    Businessman Gere/Jack Moore is about to close a major deal with his Chinese partners. Everyone is enjoying themselves in a hotel banquet room, drinking, and watching a fashion show on a ramp. One of the models pointedly makes eye contact with him. He catches her look, and as she is pretty he maintains the contact. After the show has ended Gere notices her glancing at him and drawing something. He excuses himself and crosses to her table and looks at her creation. He points to his nose. “Is that me? My nose?” They’re able to communicate with a few words and gestures.

    Richard Gere and Jesse Meng easily connect, but it won’t go as either of them expect. LK personal collection.

    The conversation flows easily, too easily, and before the evening ends Meng/Hong Ling is in Gere’s hotel room. The night is magical as they enjoy each other’s company.

    Morning arrives early—too early—and Chinese police break the hotel door open and charge into the room. Gere is yanked awake. He’s groggy, unaware what has happened or is about to happen. He quickly learns that horrid screams were reported in the night. Gere appears so drunk that it would have been impossible for him to indulge in sex, much less rape and brutally murder Meng. Still, the room is one-huge murder scene. There is blood and gore everywhere, not to mention Meng’s corpse. Three large and empty bottles of alcohol are just part of the evidence (but none of the police ever question how two people could have drank that much without passing out hours before the crime allegedly happened).

    The case is open and shut and there is no doubt what the final verdict will be. Ling/Shen Yuelin is assigned to defend the evil Jack Moore. This is the last thing in the world she wants. Ditto Gere when he realizes that his defender considers him guilty. We are now at the point where the story begins.

    This is a dramatic scene from the film captured in a German lobby card, and the title translates to Red Corner: Labyrinth Without a Way Out. Gere’s character has been accused of murder in China. Bai Ling (center) is his lawyer, and her performance is right there with Gere as the story progresses to conclusion. Unfortunately I have never seen her in anything else although she has been in a number of other movies that might be considered “B” films. Perhaps it is because she had posed nude elsewhere; if yes, she shouldn’t be punished for this. LK personal collection.

    With Gere’s arrest and being assigned to Ling the plot of Red Corner moves into the world of racism and shows the consequences of might happen when a person is imprisoned in a foreign country, … and it is brutal.

                         Hey, folks, take a look at the USA: How many
                    foreign-born children are going to die in modern-day
                 concentration camps while separated from their parents,
                    or simply disappear never to be reunited with their
                                parents before they are deported?

    The film is a courtroom drama and a thriller and both genres mix easily.

    A free man, Gere is about to board a flight that will return him to the USA. Unfortunately I don’t know the translation of the words. For the record the film never screened in China. LK personal collection.

    Unforeseen circumstances lead to Gere’s eventual freedom. This is not to say that Ling’s Shen Yuelin didn’t do everything she could to win in court but her country controlled what she could and could not do.

    The scene in the poster is at the end of Red Corner. Like other films in this list the leading characters have come to respect each other, have the beginnings of feelings for each other, but there is no where to go as their lives have different life trajectories.

    Perhaps Richard Gere is ignored in the USA and damned in China for something that if you aren’t aware of it you should be: His stance on Tibet and other injustices in our world. KUDOS to him for he dares to speak up about heinous reality. This has not pleased China, and after this film was released he became a persona non grata in both Tibet and China. By the way, the film was shot in the USA.

  6. Quigley Down Under, directed by Simon Wincer and w/Tom Selleck, Laura San Giacomo, Alan Rickman, Steve Dodd (1990)
    This is a western down-under in Australia. Don’t let this fool you for it deals with racism, the butchery of indigent people, and in my opinion contains the best gunfight in all of western film history.

    This image of Tom Selleck was taken as he got off the ship that transported him from the USA to Australia. He is good with guns, especially the rifle, and he answered an ad for a gun for hire. This image is almost iconic, and I love what the production company did to move from color to almost grayscale in the photo. LK personal collection.

    Selleck/Matthew Quigley was/is just one of numerous actors that starred on TV and then moved successfully to film (Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, James Garner, and George Clooney were/are four biggies that made this jump).

    Although Laura San Giacomo’s Crazy Cora is tough, a fighter, and a survivor, she is totally in tune with the harsh world that she has been dumped into and reacts to it. Here she is looking at a dead Aboriginal woman that she had connected with. LK personal collection.

    What can I say? Quigley Down Under is little more than an American Indian wars story moved to the Australian Outback. Yeah, right. I need to say a few more words, mainly that this is a storyline that shines beyond belief.

    The wild and unpredictable prostitute San Giacomo/(aptly named) Crazy Cora and the stoic gunman Selleck are a mismatch from the get-go. Their relationship is hilarious and sad at the same time. Their joining is one that can never work, and we know that in the first reel when Selleck protects her from an escort that are little more than thugs with rape on their minds, and whose function is to deliver her and others to their final destination that are days in the future.

    Alan Rickman is perfect as Elliott Marston, a wannabe gunman and all that it entails. LK personal collection.

    Journey’s end is the massive ranch that Rickman/Marston lords over. He is also envious and knowledgeable of the gunfighters of the American West, and especially Wild Bill Hickok whom he desperately wants to become the Australian counterpart and this to the point that he envisions himself walking the streets of Dodge City, Kansas, during its heyday. Worse, he yearns to kill a worthy pistoleer in a gunfight. Selleck had no idea what he hired on to do when he reached Rickman’s ranch. He quickly learns when he dines with his racist employer who traffics in people. Aborigines and women, and the former are the reason for his employment.

    Dodd/Kunkurra is Rickman’s token Aborigine man servant and is dressed appropriately for his position. He is throughout the film and we get to know him for who he really is despite him performing his duties without a misstep. Actually, we soon see that the entire film focuses on the plight of the Aboriginal people who inhabit the wide open spaces of the never-ending Outback of Australia. Do not doubt that you will see that their lifeway, although on the other side of the world, is similar to the American Indians in that they are looked down upon as less than human and the invading white man would like nothing better than eliminate them. Although there are many Aborigine actors in the film, except for Dodd, their parts are small. At the same time they and what they represent is forever present.

    Alas, I don’t have any photos of Steve Dodd from the film, and it looks like his acting career and active support of Australian Aborigines was long. In this scene from the film Laura San Giacomo holds an Aborigine boy who she rescued from a massacre and has since protected with her life. It is one of many in which we get an inside look at her character as well as Tom Selleck’s. LK personal collection.

    Even though two people struggling to survive in the middle of a desert without anything but themselves, don’t let this fool you. The intended elimination and butchery of the Aborigines is the focus of the film. It is vivid, heart-rending (the only thing missing is the sexual mutilation of dead victims) and it effects me each viewing as much as it does San Giacomo and Selleck.

    This is a publicity photo of Laura San Giocomo and Tom Selleck near the end of the film. It is one of several taken at this time and is my favorite. LK personal collection.

    Selleck quickly realizes he made a mistake sailing to Australia, and this quickly puts him and San Giacomo on the run—two outcasts who don’t get along with no chance of survival. This mismatched farce that joins them at the shoulder gives both of them plenty of room to explore who they are and what they want. Their relationship is always alive and easily worth 20 viewings of the film.

    Although presented upfront the murder of the Aborigines is basically ignored by the British who rule the land as they look down at the Australians and the wild people of the Outback. Racism drips from the screen. Although hinted at but not anticipated a one-on-one gunfight looms—a la Wild Bill Hickok. It is a comin’, and when it happens it does not disappoint. The film stands up fine without a final gunfight, but when Selleck and Rickman face each other it is classic duel, and my favorite of all time.

  7. Last of the Mohicans, directed by Michael Mann and w/Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Wes Studi, Russell Means, Steven Waddington, Eric Schweig, Jodhi May, and Maurice Roeves (1992)
    The first time I saw this film was when my daughter needed to view it for a school assignment and we rented it on video. I was bored to tears and fell asleep.

    Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe are the best film duo in what I consider a western film (and that includes Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland in They Died with Their Boots On, Warner Bros., 1941). I know, I know—heresy! … But this isn’t so as production values and film have changed over those 51 years. If Flynn and de Havilland played George and Livvie Custer in 1992 it might have been a different LK comment here. We’re talking about place and time. LK personal collection.

    A great start (and I’m being sarcastic at myself). … Believe it or not I’ve seen the film many times since then, so I guess that first impressions are not always accurate.

    Wes Studi plays Magua, a Huron chief who has aligned with the French during the French and Indian war with the English (between 1754 and 1763). LK personal collection.

    All I can say is that the scope of this film, the script (adaptions from James Fenimore Cooper’s novel and Philip Dunne’s 1936 screenplay by John L. Balderston, Paul Perez, and Daniel Moore), the dialogue, the grasp of race (and that includes between the British and the colonists) during the French and Indian war, and acting all gel in such a fusion of reality and fiction that every time I see the film it is an experience.

    I need to introduce you to Wes Studi; he’s a great American actor who happens to be a full-blooded Cherokee from Nofire Hollow, Oklahoma. What’s best about the roles he’s played is that he easily moves between being an antagonist and a protagonist. In Last of the Mohicans his Huron Chief Magua is the former as he chose to team with the French. On screen he is focused, intense, totally in control of the moment, dangerous beyond belief, and his character is someone none of us ever want to face when our lives are on the line. This is a terrific portrayal by him and one of numerous performances wherein he brings American Indians to life on screen.

    These are real people in real situations, and I don’t care if it is Day-Lewis/Hawkeye, the scout who walks between the races with the father who adopted him; Means/Mohican Chief Chingachgook; the white princess Stowe/Cora Munro who has been sheltered from the world by her father Roeves/Colonel Edward Munro of the British army; her younger sister May/Alice, who falls in love with Chingachgook’s son Schweig/Uncas; and finally the British officer Waddington/Major Duncan Heyward who stood firmly for God and country but becomes heinous when Cora refuses to accept his proposal of marriage. It sounds complicated; it isn’t.

    Major Duncan Hayward (Steven Waddington) has offered his life for Hawkeye and his lady’s lives. They run but stop and look back. He is burning at the stake. This cannot be and Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) ends his life while Cora Munro (Madeleine Stowe) watches. This is not the climax of the film. LK personal collection.

    Chingachgook (Means) and Hawkeye (Day-Lewis) look into the distance. They have survived, as has Cora (Stowe), but the chief is now the last Mohican. LK personal collection.

    In this film we walk between race and equality time and again. It is alive, explosive, and, even though I have read James Fenimore Cooper’s great novel several times and know the ending I am on the edge of my seat until this film ends, and the final reel explodes in tragedy.

    Before walking away from Mr. Means (10nov1939-22oct2012), who was an Oglala Lakota (Sioux), I need to tell you that he played a large role in the creation of the American Indian Movement (AIM), the takeover of the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota (1973), with Dennis Banks and many others, a standoff with the U.S. government that lasted 71 days (27feb1973-8may1973). Many have cursed Means and those with him during those days that seem a lifetime ago. No! He and AIM were fighting for American Indian rights. This must be praised and not censored.

    Daniel Day-Lewis (left), Michael Mann (director), Madeline Stowe, and Russell Means at what appears to be a premier of Last of the Mohicans in 1973 (but I don’t know where). LK personal collection.

    Day-Lewis and Stowe are the best film duo in what I consider a western film (and that includes Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland in They Died with Their Boots On, 1941). I know, heresy, … but not as production values and film have changed over those 51 years (If Flynn and de Havilland played George and Libbie Custer in 1992 it might have been a different LK comment here). These words exist as we’re talking about place and time here and nothing else.

  8. The Birds, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and w/Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette (as Annie Hayworth), and Veronica Cartwright (1963)
    Even though all the advertising pushed Hedren, Alfred Hitchcock’s current “discovery,” this is Rod Taylor’s film.

    Rod Taylor/Mitch Brenner begins a relationship with Tippi Hedren/Melanie Daniels in Bodega Bay shortly after they met in a bird shop in San Francisco. and has fun at her expense. It was not a good introduction but—there’s also a “but” when a relationship begins. What I really like about this film is its connection to the Golden Age of Cinema and the inception of what film would become at the end of the 1960s/beginning of the 1970s. LK personal collection.

    Mr. Taylor’s charms, as almost always, light up the screen from the moment he appears. More, the story is seen through his eyes, and he dominates this decent reinvention of Daphne du Maurier’s short horror story of birds attacking people on a farm in England. His charm, like fellow Australian Errol Flynn’s, is always present in his films after he became a leading man. Although The Time Machine (1960) would turn him into a star, it was The Birds that would be his film for all time.

    A production shot from The Birds with director Alfred Hitchcock discussing a scene with his cast (from left center: Veronica Cartwright, Rod Taylor, Tipi Hedren, and Jessica Tandy, along with some of their feathered co-players in the film). LK personal collection.

    Regardless of Tipi Hedren (who was perhaps forced to do things she did not want) being publicized as the lead of the film—she wasn’t. I have heard hints of what most-likely happened between her and director Alfred Hitchcock but have never been privy to this and don’t know the details. Of course I can guess. I met Ms. Hedren once at the end of the 1970s when I believe that tigers from (her?) Shambala Preserve, an animal sanctuary created in the early 1970s in Acton, California, were used in a Tom Skerritt TV film wherein they terrorized a rural community. I had met Tom when I was assigned to work with him on a script he was developing at Theatre West (Studio City, Calif.) in 1969. Before the play went into production he was cast as one of the three leading doctors in MASH (1970), a black comedy about the Vietnam war, and never looked back.

    Although featured and pretty to look at starlet Hedren had no chance of upending Taylor’s charm and presence in every frame in which he appeared in The Birds. From beginning until the end his persona and performance drove the film to conclusion. Taylor delivered an easy and yet well-defined performance that was key for one of Hitchcock’s best films to succeed.

    Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren in one of their many scenes after the birds begin to attack people. LK personal collection.

    The film begins simply when lawyer Taylor is in a bird shop in San Francisco to buy a bird for Cartwright/Cathy Brenner, his young sister’s birthday, who lives in the small Northern California community of Bodega Bay with their mother Tandy/Lydia Brenner. Hedren is present and they clash over the identity of lovebirds. Taylor enjoys the confrontation; her less so. On a whim she buys the lovebirds to deliver to his sister in Bodega Bay, a little more than an hour’s drive north of San Francisco on the California coast (for the record a good part of the film was shot on location). This is just the beginning of a film that is filled with charm, caring, and even love before it slowly dives into a horror that could someday happen—a relationship-centric reality that begins on a light note and slowly gets darker and darker and darker …

    The next two films are musts for this list but they shouldn’t be in the number 9 and 10 spots. They are here for one simple reason, and that is
    they have played a major role in my life. To be exact they
    have impacted over 20 years of my life.

  9. Last of the Dogmen, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and w/Tom Berenger, Barbara Hershey, Steve Reevis (1995)
    The story centers on the Cheyenne people (seen or not), and although they are mostly shadows for easily three-fifths of the film they are the focus throughout. This film has been a major part of my life since before 2011 when I finally signed a contract to research and write a book about the Sand Creek massacre. No joke, and I’m as surprised as you, for no later than 2010 if you asked me if I would write a book about the massacre and mutilation of people who thought they were under the protection of the U.S. government I would have laughed in your face.

    These photos are totally out of order here. Who gives a damn? I don’t. What you’re looking at here is Tom Berenger’s fantasy that could never be true; Barbara Hershey’s most magnificent dream becoming reality; and a world of Cheyenne people surviving from 1864 and long into the future undiscovered (Lordy-lordy, this is a time and place that LK would gladly step into even if he could never return to reality). LK personal collection.

    Do not doubt that I have known this film since the beginning for I saw it twice when it premiered in Los Angeles in 1995. Barbara Hershey was already one of my favorite actresses and in my opinion she and Tom Berenger had the perfect chemistry to make this story work. Better, 16 years later the film influenced my decision to buy into a project with such a huge scope that I knew that it would be years before it saw print. Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway will be published in spring 2020. Hershey and Berenger’s performances are delightful and I never saw a false moment in their relationship. At the same time I’ve cursed them for all the years they’ve stolen from my life. If not for them, and the magnificent former Editor-in-Chief at OU Press Chuck Rankin, the Sand Creek manuscript would have never happened.Let’s start with Cheyenne Dog Men surviving the massacre of Sand Creek on November 29, 1864, and living undiscovered into the modern world is a great premise (although totally illogic). For the record there were only a small number Dog Men (white man term for the warrior society: Dog Soldiers) at Sand Creek.

    Tom Berenger and Barbara Hershey are prisoners of Cheyennes lost in time in Last of the Dogmen. LK personal collection.

    The butchery was beyond description and included the hacking sexual organs off the dead and using them as ornaments and headbands (this is a fact). Berenger can be evil and he can be charming (I could list a number of his films that didn’t make this list, but could have), … Hershey is one of the best ignored actresses of my time (perhaps because many of her films were B productions, perhaps because she never had a breakout success, perhaps because she did a lot of TV work). I don’t know. This is a lady that I have never met, have no clue to who she really is, and this is disappointing.

    Barbara Hershey in Last of the Dogmen. LK personal collection.

    Years back I fantasized that she was a guest on a major nighttime talk show and I was an add-on due a book being published and she tore into me for my view on history. I challenged her to present proof to backup what she claimed. She challenged me to do the same. The host enjoyed the fireworks and invited us both back to continue our personal war. By the second evening Ms. Hershey had read some of my books and backed away from her less than savory view of me. Alas, nothing could happen for by then our history was already fact and couldn’t be rewritten. … I like my history but at times wonder what could have happened if I had turned right instead of left on that long lonely road we all travel.

    One of many photos of Tom Berenger and his horse in the film. He is glaring at Barbara Hershey when she announces that she is joining him in his search for Cheyennes from 1864 living into the present. LK personal collection.

    Berenger is a modern-day bounty hunter and has ridden into a mostly unexplored Montana mountain range called the “Outback” with his dog, Zip (who is a scene stealer), to track down three escaped convicts. All he finds are a few pieces of what once were men and an Indian arrow. One night he sees Indians from the mid-nineteenth century riding in and out the mist. Or did he? After returning to civilization and needing to know the answer he looks for a university professor and Cheyenne Indian expert on a massive excavation site but can’t find him (that is Professor L. D. Sloan). He is pointed one way and then another and always misses his target. Finally he comes upon two college students who are on both sides of a woman. In frustration he blurts out: “Do any of you know where the old fart L. D. Sloan is?” The two students slowly point at the woman (Hershey), who says: “‘L. D.,’ for ‘Lillian Diane.'” Oops!

    She isn’t impressed with his suggestion that Indians from the past could have survived into the future undetected. Refusing to leave he shows her the arrow. Hershey confirms that it is a Cheyenne Dog Man arrow. “Well?” he pushes, trying to get her to confirm that Cheyennes from times past are living in the Outback. “$12.95 in any gift shop,” she says, dismissing him.

    Later, and after Berenger has done research in old newspapers (something that LK does often), Hershey agrees to accompany him into the Outback. He thinks one of her male students is going to join him, and is upset when he realizes that she is going with him. After he complains that the trip is no place for a woman, she checks her saddle and mounts. “Let’s get a move on,” she says. “As they say, we’re burnin’ daylight.”


    Other than totally enjoying this film while knowing that it could never have happened, there is one scene in it that grabbed me the first time I saw it and it has never let go. It happened one night in the Outback while Hershey and Berenger relaxed in camp after a long day with zero results hunting for the Cheyenne Dogmen. Put another way, her handful of words are the reason why I decided to sign the contract for the Sand Creek manuscript.

  10. Geronimo: An American Legend, directed by Walter Hill and w/Wes Studi, Jason Patric, Gene Hackman, Kevin Tighe, Matt Damon, Robert Duvall, Steve Reevis (Chato), Stephen McHattie, Rino Thunder, Rodney A. Grant, Lee du Broux, and Pato Hoffman (1993)
    When this film opened in Los Angeles I saw twice in movie theaters. I liked the scope and grandeur, but not the focus which I thought was all over the place. It should have concentrated on Studi/Geronimo but wandered.
    Although this blog isn’t about music I must mention Ry Cooder’s magnificent film score, which was a mix of period music and his original compositions. I have a lot of film scores that I play often, and Mr. Cooder’s soundtrack is my favorite for all time.
    … At the time I saw the film it was touted as factual. I knew nothing about the war leader/mystic Geronimo (although I did like how the mysticism was worked into the story) or the Chiricahua Apaches. I also knew nothing about the whites who had large roles.

    This image is from the beginning of the film when Geronimo and Gatewood hold off a Tucson posse after he returned to the U.S. in February 1884. There are a number of problems with this scene and they are major. 1) When Geronimo returned he was accompanied by 15-16 warriors, some 70 women and children, and a herd of 135 cattle stolen in Mexico. 2) Gatewood wasn’t present although Davis was but he wasn’t a raw recruit right of West Point. 3. There wasn’t a posse (only two government officials, whom Davis and Lt. J. Y.F. Blake got drunk while Geronimo moved northward with his people and stolen cattle). Actually the error list for Geronimo’s return to American soil is extensive. … The above scene shows Studi and Patric scattering the “Tucson” posse and it has decent dialogue and is fun to watch but is little more than pure fiction. (LK personal collection)

    This is “The Dreamer” (or medicine man?) at Cibicue (think Hoffman but the credits are confusing). It is a small part but it has always stayed with me as he is sympathetic (perhaps read symbolic) while the U.S. officer in charge is brutal and non-listening and pushing the event to violence, which included three Apache scouts turning on the soldiers they served with and which resulted in them hung as traitors. It is the perfect scene to move the story forward. … Or is it? The Cibicue Apaches were/are one of five bands of Western Apaches, of whom the White Mountains were/are the largest and most aggressive (the other three were/are the San Carlos, Northern Tonto and Southern Tonto). More important. Actually MORE IMPORTANT is that that White Mountains and Chiricahuas did not get along to the point that the former often served as Apache scouts for the U.S. in the wars against the hated Chiricahuas. … The incident at Cibicue happened in 1881—three years before Geronimo returned to American soil in 1884 (see above)—and there were no Chiricahuas present and certainly not Geronimo but this tragic incident has Studi present and it shows just how good Geronimo was at surviving while at war. This is good for it gives us a close-up look at Geronimo, but again the Western Apaches were enemies of the Chiricahuas. But—that is BUT—the film continues with its fiction for the next major sequence in it gives us Geronimo’s final breakout from the reservation (1885 from Turkey Creek, which was some 30-35 miles east southeast of Fort Apache, which was located on the White Mountain Apache Reservation. Lordy-lordy, how many missed opportunities could this film present to a movie-going public that was/is clueless? LK personal collection.

    The film begins when Geronimo returns to the  U.S. from Mexico. Patric’s Gatewood and Damon’s Davis (a raw recruit just out of West Point) travel to the Mexican border to meet him and escort him to the reservation.

    Things are about to get complicated in the string of events and their dating that the film covers right through Geronimo’s final surrender. This said, they are dramatic, exciting, and present culture while supposedly documenting the final years of Geronimo and the Chiricahua Apaches freedom. A few examples will show just how mixed up the script was—and again touted as historically correct—while mixing a string of events that weren’t related and at the same time shoving a number of scenes into the film that are right out of paperback western novels sold in grocery stores that romanticize or demonize the taming of the American West.

    The killing at Cibicue, as intimated above, led to Geronimo and Naiche’s last outbreak from being prisoners of war and living on a reservation (LK: pure baloney). Naiche was the last hereditary Chiricahua chieftain and during those last years while struggling to remain free they often camped and traveled together, and of great importance were together at the final surrender. His absence from the film is huge (and in my opinion the most heinous error in it).

    This scene shows Geronimo (Studi), Nana but called “Old Nana” (Thunder) in the film as the producers probably felt we wouldn’t see his white hair and realize that he was older than Geronimo, and Mangas (Grant) at Turkey Creek. Although not in the film there would be a lot of dissension within the tribe prior to the final breakout and it totally missed the disruption between the Chiricahua leaders and people in regards to if they should flee or not. LK personal collection, and this is my favorite still from the film.

    Soon after the breakout Patric/Gatewood led a patrol of soldiers with a handful of Apache scouts. A Chiricahua war party tailed him. Soon the war leader challenged him to a one-on-one duel. This was nicely shot and exciting. In the image Patric realizes what is happening and knows what he must do. LK personal collection.

    Prior to the 1885 breakout from Turkey Creek Charles Gatewood commanded patrols of 80 Apache scouts when in the field (a subordinate officer and an interpreter were the only other white men on these patrols; sometimes the interpreters were Apaches). In 1885 the real Gatewood was military commandant of the White Mountain Indian Reservation headquartered at Fort Apache in the mountains to the north of the San Carlos Indian Reservation in the valley far below. Although in the field briefly at the beginning of the outbreak he spent the rest of the war overlooking his wards, the White Mountain Apaches. … No matter for in the film Patric/Gatewood is center stage in two of the most dramatic scenes in the film after Geronimo fled the rez for the last time—scenes that never happened in reality (see the above image for the first one).

    As you’ll see directly below I’m not too keen on Bob Duvall’s performance. This image is from the first scene in the film (I have a great shot of him firing away in the Mexican cantina but I didn’t want to use it. LK personal collection.

    In the second scene Patric/Gatewood and his totally fictional escort travel into Mexico looking for Geronimo. They stumble upon a destroyed village and see the remains of Indian men, women, and children who weren’t at war but had been murdered and then hacked to pieces by scalphunters. When Patric and escort enter a cantina he sees McHattie/Schoonover, who craves Reevis/Chato’s scalp. This scene reeks of hatred and violence.

    Before moving forward I need to share a few thoughts. Hackman/General George Crook and Tighe/General Nelson Miles provide good and believable performances while “Bob” Duvall absolutely sucked as scout Al Sieber (those of you who know anything about Sieber can guess why). I hate myself for saying this as I enjoyed a great three-plus months working closely with Bob in 1980. I can’t say enough good words about the man, the human being who was kind and giving, and one of the most iconic actors of my lifetime (more below when I share a few thoughts about Mr. Patric).

    Patric/Gatewood and Studi/Geronimo reach Skeleton Canyon, New Mexico Territory for the final surrender in September 1886 (the actor/characters in the background weren’t present). Unfortunately the entire Geronimo-Gatewood meeting in Sonora, Mexico, that August was total bullshit in the film (the researchers-writers-producers of Geronimo: An American Legend had no clue how dramatic that long one-day meeting between Gatewood, Geronimo, and Naiche was. The film’s loss, our loss, film history’s loss. LK personal collection.

    Wes Studi, even though ten-plus years too young to play Geronimo, is brilliant. I’ve always felt this way about his performance because he humanized the war leader/mystic. Geronimo’s name terrorized people in the American Southwest, but that was/is a totally one-sided view. Let’s simply consider the number of wives, number of children, number of family members he lost over his lifetime and ask one question: Why did he do what he did? I know the answer and it’s never going to change. … Not so with Jason Patric’s performance and since 1995 I’ve ripped his portrayal of Gatewood (mainly because I don’t think he did any research other than knowing that the lieutenant was from Virginia). … There have been three films that have played major impacts on my life: Errol Flynn’s The Sea Hawk (1940), Flynn’s They Died with Their Boots On (1941), and Geronimo: An American Legend. If I can remove/ignore the facts in Mr. Flynn’s films I can do it with Mr. Studi and Mr. Patric’s film. When I do this, and it has taken me over two and a half decades to do so, this is a pretty damned good movie. I just told you my view of Wes Studi’s  performance. Finally after what feels like forever I can accept Jason Patric playing Gatewood heroically (and ditto Mr. Duvall’s racist performance).


    Almost a year and a half after seeing Geronimo: An American Legend I signed Custer and the Cheyenne for Aaron and Ruth Cantor Cohen at Guidon Books in Scottsdale, Arizona. They had always helped me over the years, and on this occasion our conversation turned to western film. Specifically we discussed two films, this one (which did not do well at the box office) and Tombstone (which was a major hit), and how they impacted book sales. Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the gunfight at the OK Corral saw a major increase in sales whereas Geronimo and the Apache wars did not. I’ve read about Holliday and Earp but I’m never going to write about them. Conversely Gatewood and Geronimo had caught my interest.

    LK with a colorized cutout of a photo of Geronimo taken at Canyon de los Embudos in Sonora, Mexico, in 1886, at the Geronimo exhibit, Arizona Historical Society, Tucson, Arizona, on 12feb2012. (photo by Glen Williams and © Louis Kraft and Glen Williams 2012)

    Ruth told me that the Gatewood Collection was housed at the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson, Arizona. The following month I took a week off from Infonet (where I was a technical writer) wrapped between two weekends and drove to Tucson. Whoa, cowboy! The following month I took two weeks off wrapped between three weekends. At that time I had begun my next Indian wars book (Ned Wynkoop), but now it went on hold (as it turned out a ten-year hold, although there were Wynkoop talks, articles, and the beginning of Wynkoop one-man plays). I had discovered an amazing man in Charles Gatewood but it wasn’t enough, and I quickly realized that Geronimo would be the perfect companion in dual biography.

    So why is this film on the list?
    No film, … no two LK books:
    Gatewood & Geronimo (2000) and
    Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (2005).

What’s next

The next blog will focus on updating Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway’s 2019 status. It will also officially announce my writing future, much of which has been around for a long-long time, as well as introduce you to Valley CORF.

  • The official announcement of Errol & Olivia, a nonfiction book that deals with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland’s life and times when they appeared in eight classic films together between 1935-1941 (three of which were westerns).
    • It will also announce that I’m continuing research on two additional books on Flynn.
  • The official announcement of Navajo Blood, a novel that deals with an old Diné (as the Navajo’s call themselves) warrior, his granddaughter, and Kit Carson, during a very trying time in their history.
    • I will also continue digging deeper into primary research on Carson and his relationship with Indians for what will become my next nonfiction book dealing with race-relations on the American frontier.
  • In 2015 I imposed a forced leave on myself from writing magazine articles. This has ended as I have begun to prepare ideas for stories I intend to pitch beginning in June.
  • In 2013 I imposed a forced leave on myself from talking at events. This too has come to an end. In the coming months I will create a handful of topic ideas that go hand-in-hand with Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway’s publication. The goal is to land speaking dates in 2020 (and beyond). This is nothing new as all my talks in the past have been related to what I write about.
  • Valley CORF has played a big part in my life. I hope to do a few interviews in the coming days, share images of special people, and merge these words and photos with an updated LK life status.

I know, the above is a mouthful, and I can’t wait to bite into it.


For the record, the second fifth of an LK 50-film list will most-likely post in the early fall, and just like these 10 films I’m certain that there’ll be a lot of surprises.

Louis Kraft, SoCal fires, earthquakes, Sand Creek Massacre, & an Errol Flynn tidbit

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2019

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


For starters Pailin and I hope that the day we celebrated Jesus Christ’s birth was a peaceful and loving one for you with your family and friends. … Also that you had a safe and uneventful New Year’s Eve. Ours was at Wat Thai (Thai Temple of Los Angeles in North Hollywood) praying and seeing some friends as we welcomed in 2018.

On 20dec2017 Mimi took this image of us at Jantana (pronounced Jan-ta-na) and Richard’s (pronounced Ri-chard’s) apartment in Northridge, California. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft and Louis Kraft 2017)


The year 2017, more than any other, has made me realize how
fragile life really is. For the record, I have a family of four—three ladies
and yours truly. I’ve survived some horrific car crashes, I’ve had guns
pointed at me, a knife at my throat, I’ve taken a motorcycle over a
a cliff, I’ve been knocked cold (I don’t know if this counts), and
I’ve survived cracking my skull open more than once as
well as surgeries that had to succeed or I would I have
been dancing with Angels long before now.

My view: I love walking on Mother Earth.

Fire, wind, more fire, & more wind … a SoCal story

Elsewhere I’ve documented the frightening Los Angeles and Ventura County fires of December 2017. It’s rough when you can watch flames billow into ever-growing puffs of brown smoke that obliterate the sky. You know that property is being destroyed and animals are dying.

This image dates to December 6, 2017, and is of a man attempting to calm a horse during the Sylmar/Creek fire. These fires in SoCal were absolutely devastating on horses and over livestock during these fires. My great friend and Apache scouts expert Layton Hooper commented numerous times about this image (as he also cares about animals). I couldn’t agree more with Layton’s views on horses and how they are innocent bystanders to man’s destruction of our world.

But often the men and women who combat these horrific Santa Ana winds that range upwards to 80 MPH and fuel the fires that ravage SoCal year-in-and-year-out fall under the radar. These people, these heroes, risk their lives on a daily basis. During the recent Sylmar/Canyon fire in the San Fernando Valley that put Pailin and I at risk (a December 6 LA government text read: Strong winds over night creating extreme fire danger. Stay alert. Listen to authorities.”), they worked 24-hour shifts to combat an enemy (wind and fire) that is a hundred times more devastating than the earthquakes that are associated with SoCal. These brave human beings deserve all our respect and thanks. Believe it or not, they aren’t alone for volunteers joined them along with fire fighters from other states as well as people serving jail time in California.

All of them are magnificent!!!

I have favorite animals. Just five: Wolves, coyotes, mountain lions (pumas), horses, and doberman pinchers, The last are dogs, and they are the most gentle animals I have ever known. The Pumas are beyond belief, and they are a major part of my life as I follow their struggle to remain free in SoCal. Today, tomorrow, and always. These photos are from an article in the 27Dec2017 issue of the Times. This young Puma was burned while attempting to flee from the Thomas fire. It has been rescued and is on its way to recovery.

… and the Thomas fire continues to burn (as of 30dec17).

Ye-ough!!! (a sound) … For California 2018 will be back to normal if what the LA Times just published is accurate, mainly that this winter would be one of the driest in California history. If true next year’s fires will again ravish the Golden State. Pailin’s and my home was at fire risk twice in 2017 (June and October).

This image of a condor and its chick was on the front page of the LA Times on 1jan2018, as it featured a story on endangered species chick no. 871, who should have left its cave and flew for the first time in December. It didn’t as the Thomas Fire ravished the Los Padres Sespe Condor Sanctuary. Scientists have recently seen its parents near the cave and hope that the chick has survived.

If fires attack Los Angeles in 2018 it is not going to be 1,000 homes destroyed, it is not going to be 2,000 homes destroyed, … it will be thousands upon thousands of homes destroyed. The homeless count in LA is currently 55,000 (how large is the city you live in?). If, and I pray God this never becomes reality, … if the 2018 fires destroy the San Fernando Valley (one of numerous valleys in the county of Los Angeles) 1.3 million people will become homeless; the threat was ominous in 2017. … Will it become reality in 2018?

Earthquakes? What are they? Fire is the numeral uno enemy to the Golden State.

Oh, I forgot to mention that global warming is little more than fiction. My view on this: Everyone who thinks global warning is little more than a left wing piece of baloney have got their fingers firmly stuffed somewhere.

The year 2017 is one for the California record books

It is official, 2017 has been the hottest year on record for California. It has also been the worst fire year on record, and the Thomas Fire that started in Ventura County (which borders Los Angeles County) and has raged north and into Santa Barbara County is the largest fire in California since they began keeping accurate records in the early 1930s. This fire began on December 4; it was still burning on December 30 (but supposedly 65 percent contained … homes are still threatened).

Something needs to be said about earthquakes

I have lived through the last two major earthquakes in SoCal: 1971 and 1994. I can’t tell you how often I have been quizzed about the horror of an earthquake when outside California. People I have met when giving talks or performances or on research trips are forever interested (some of them are terrified of experiencing one). … Let’s start this conversation with LK isn’t keen on living through a hurricane or a tornado.

I guess it’s all about perspective.

Let’s start with tornados. In 1974 I flew to Missouri to buy a 1951 Hudson Hornet, a great automobile that ruled NASCAR racing during the first half of the 1950s (I even wrote a screenplay about them cleaning up at the racetrack called Hornet; unfortunately my agent couldn’t sell it).

Time is short, and this blog is about four months late. Thus this old collage. This picture of the Hudson that came from Missouri was taken in the still-rural Northridge in the San Fernando Valley. The photo of the Camaro was taken overlooking the Pacific Ocean in northern San Diego County. … BTW, bets were out that I wouldn’t make a wedding in Tucson, Arizona, which was a little over a week after I bought the car. I covered the bets and won.

The Missourian picked me up at the airport. After checking out the Hornet and taking it for a test drive I bought the car. Tornado warnings were live on Missouri TV that morning. He and his family didn’t want me to leave. I ate his wife’s homemade ice cream and then allowed the family to show me the house where future U.S. president Harry Truman was born. I am a patient and polite cowboy. During this time I had visions of Judy Garland’s classic film The Wizard of Oz (1939) dancing around in my brain. If you don’t know the film, a tornado transports Judy’s character to the land of Oz. It was 1974 and I was picturing me and the 1951 Hudson Hornet being transported to the land of Oz.* Honestly, this was a living nightmare for me. When the seller’s family finally gave me a tearful goodbye about eight-thirty that morning I pushed the Hornet’s accelerator pad to the floor, … and hightailed it out of Kansas as quickly as I could.

From left: Hattie McDaniel, OdeH, and Vivian Leigh in Gone with the Wind. Olivia was nominated for a supporting Oscar in this film. She didn’t win. At first she was angry, but later was thrilled for Hattie’s win. I couldn’t agree more with her view. (photo in LK personal collection)

* The Wizard of Oz should have won the Oscar for best film of 1939 (I know, heresy). Gone with the Wind did. I have a large connection with Gone with the Wind due to Ms. Olivia de Havilland. Writing about her connection with this film will take up quite a number of pages in Errol & Olivia, and these words have and will flow speedily forward on the keyboard. Her story here is good stuff. No-no-no; it’s great stuff! All I want to say here is The Wizard of Oz, which took me decades to accept and like, is a great film, while Gone with the Wind, which I’ve hated since the first time I attempted to see it is not. For the record, I have never seen this film completely in one screening (and that includes seeing it in a movie theater; I walked out before falling asleep). I doubt this is a high recommendation.

Let’s get back to earthquakes. On February 8, 1971, I needed a place to sleep. My then girlfriend was living with her father. I parked my motorcycle next to her car in the apartment building’s underground parking lot and slept in it that night.

This image of LK was taken just months before the 9feb1971 earthquake. I’m sitting in my office just north of the apartment building where my then-girlfriend lived with her father. (photo © Louis Kraft 1970)

The next morning I was awake and reading the newspaper in her car when the earthquake struck. I was out of that parking structure in a flash and as far as I could be from the surrounding apartments. In front of me was a large swimming pool with tidal waves pounding the sides. The surrounding complex consisted of three-story apartments. They looked like old-time cartoons as they swayed back and forth in rhythm with the pool’s pounding waves.

The 1994 Northridge earthquake caught me asleep in bed in North Hollywood. It struck about four-thirty in the morning on January 17. Let me say one thing here. When a fairly large earthquake hits there is no guesswork. You know immediately what is happening. Get away from windows and anything that can collapse or fall on you.

Earthquakes don’t last long. One minute, two minutes, maybe three minutes and it’s over. There are after shocks that can go on for days.

Front and center in an unbelievable story

LK image choices are now being selected for Sand Creek and the Tragic
End of a Lifeway, and they will add great value to the book.

Pailin took this photo of me relaxing at home with guests on 13sept2017. This is one of the last images of me as I looked like this. A joke? I wish, but alas, no. (photo © Louis Kraft and Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2017)

I know, I know, I’ve always known (nothing new here). For the record I’m working on the Sand Creek manuscript seven days a week until I deliver a first rough draft to the great editor-in-chief of OU Press, Chuck Rankin at the end of January. He has always been my friend since we met years back. By that I mean that he has done everything possible to see that my manuscripts saw publication, … and this was long before we signed the Wynkoop contract. Folks, in case you don’t know, OU Press is the largest and best publisher of Indian wars books in the world. In the world! They are my publisher, which makes me one of the luckiest guys in the world.

At times events happen and they affect all of our hearts in different ways. …
31dec2017 was one of those days, but with life there’s always hope.
Pain over the loss of a cherished person is always private. … Life
can be fickle. One day we’re here and healthy, but there is
no guarantee for tomorrow (I’m not talking about me).

A bashed-face and worse … that’s me!!!

Ouch! … for it is worse, and I hate to say it but this is the story of my life.

Christopher Juarez at the central Los Angeles Public Library in downtown on 19nov2017. I cannot begin to tell how much this young man helped me during my two days at the library studying the Nancy Morton microfilm from the Nebraska State Historical Society. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

On 11nov2017 I took the subway from the North Hollywood hub (the Red line) to the main LA Public Library. My bad from the beginning, but it was worse than that for good ol’ LK got lost. What should have been three miles of total walking turned into six + miles of walking. Huh??? Take one guess. LK was clueless and got lost. If you know downtown LA there are good places and there are bad places and I got to see all of them, including a male urinating in pure daylight (I know, this is not a major selling point for Los Angeles). When I finally reached the library I was in for a shock. It was November 11—Hello cowboy! … Veteran’s Day—and the library had shut down Friday, the 10th, through Sunday, the 12th, for the Veteran’s Day weekend. What can I say other than keep your views to yourself. That’s right, I don’t want to hear them.

My day excursion, which began at nine in the morning ended at 12:25 in the afternoon with roughly two and a half hours spent as LK walked as fast as he could. Again, and by my calculations, it was over six miles. … You do not want to know what my feet felt like that afternoon, for all you’ll get from me is a bunch of XXXs and !!!s.

See below for the continuation of this story. …

The creation of history

If I chose to list all the historians who have shaped history in their image you would be shocked. I know a very good Indian wars historian who once told me that he wanted to turn history upside down. Say what? Basically this person wanted to push Indian wars history to the extreme.

That’s right, and more often than you would ever guess historians do this. Facts don’t drive what they write, sensationalization does. Most of the time they choose people who are no longer with us as you can’t be charged with defaming the dead in the USA. This is not hard to do when you write about the American Indian wars or the Golden Age of the Cinema.

LK at Tujunga House on 5mar2017. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

This blog, as most in the near future, features events that led to the attack by Colorado Volunteers on people who thought that they were under the protection of the U.S. military on 29nov1864.

For the record I’ve been giving talks based upon reality for thirty years, and since 1986. These are talks wherein I know my subject matter and I don’t read. At the moment I’m on self-imposed sabbatical. The reason is simple: I have a book to complete that is of major importance to me.

Believe it or not, I have been persona non-grata for more years than I’d like to count. You do not want to know about people who turn their back to me when I walk past them. What’s their problem? Hell, I don’t know. I’ll say this, they ain’t my friends.

Barbara Hershey and a film I like

What can I say about Ms. Hershey other than I’d like to know her well enough that we could share our views on the world, living, and creativity. Given decent parts in film or class TV productions she has time and again proven how good of an actress she is.

Last of the Dogmen

Barbara Hershey played an anthropologist whose expertise was the Cheyenne Indians in Last of the Dogmen (Savoy Pictures, 1995). In this film, which always makes my top 50 (now 60) film list had a great quote that Barbara said. But first she had to deal with a modern-day bounty hunter played by Tom Berenger.

As stated elsewhere some of Hershey’s performances are top-notch, and certainly  in Last of the Dogmen and Defenseless. Also she is someone that I wish I knew. This, in the Kraft world, is a high recommendation. (photo in LK collection)

Berenger had found evidence that points to Cheyenne Indians from a time long gone killing escaped criminals, and he’s trying to learn if people from the mid-nineteenth century could have survived undiscovered into the mid-1990s. Hershey finds his quest ludicrous. And it is, but it opens a door to explore race relations between people from a time dear to my heart with those living in the mid-1990s. From the get-go the film is fantasy for the simple reason that there were no Cheyenne Dog Men (whites called them Dog Soldiers) at the November 29, 1864, massacre of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians on Sand Creek, Colorado Territory, an attack that saw children used for target practice, an unborn child cut from his dead mother’s womb and scalped, … it gets worse, much-much worse. … Before the story can take off Hershey gives Berenger a history lesson on the Cheyennes along with their struggle to retain their freedom, land, and lifeway before again making it clear that Dog Men could not and did not murder the escaped convicts as there were no “Dog Men” from the 1860s living as they had in 1864 in modern times. Lordy-lordy, you have got to love this premise as it is a good one. Barbara’s quote in the film was great, but you’re not going to read the words in this blog. See the film.

Sand Creek players have been pounded time and again …

Certainly Ned Wynkoop has been labeled a “traitor” to his race, and an Indian-lover. This pounding centers on his acting without orders (not cool when you are in the military) to save white prisoners and bring seven Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs to Denver to discuss ending the 1864 Cheyenne war with John Evans, the second territorial governor of Colorado. One premise holds that the massacre at Sand Creek would have never happened if he had not done this.

LK as Ned Wynkoop in an one-man show seeing the sexually dismembered bodies of the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos months after the butchery at Sand Creek on 29nov1864. (photo: Johnny D. Boggs during a dress rehearsal for performances at a Washita Battlefield National Historic Site symposium in 2008).

Really? All I’ll say here is that illogic follows and stampedes its way into the foreground.

This isn’t worth talking about, other than to say there were many participants in the events that led up to the attack on a Cheyenne and Arapaho village on Sand Creek in November 1864. It was not just one player, it was a combination of multiple players and all their actions. People make choices. You make choices; I make choices. So did Evans, Wynkoop, Colonel John Chivington, Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle, Arapaho Chief Left Hand, and on and on.

The tragedy of Sand Creek is much more than an officer (Wynkoop) acting without orders to rescue four white children and bring seven Indian leaders to Denver to discuss ending a war. If illogical thinking rules the day, why not say that the Sand Creek village was “easy prey,” like some of those hunting estates where macho men with big guns can hunt big game that can’t escape as they are trapped within the preserve?

These people had their vaginas cut out, their penises hacked off. Their children had their skulls bashed in. The term “war crime,” didn’t exist in 1864, but it does now. What happened in 1864 was a war crime regardless of what it might have been called then. Pure and simple. You do this today, and you happen to be an American soldier, you will be tried for war crimes. … I’m not certain when this came to pass but it was certainly in place at the end of World War II when Nazis were charged with heinous crimes of genocide against the Jewish people. (BTW, “genocide” became a word in 1945).

These crimes live into the twenty-first century when on March 12, 2006, an American soldier (Specialist James Barker) raped and murdered a fourteen-year-old Iraqi girl, Abeer Qassim al-Janabi. He and five soldiers with him then murdered her father, mother, and six-year-old sister in Mahmoudiya, twenty miles south of Baghdad. They burned the bodies in an attempt to cover up their crime.

… and the Cheyennes?

For starters there were a number of Southern Cheyenne bands trusting Chief Black Kettle’s efforts to remove them from the on-going war. Unfortunately their approximate location was known, making them an easy target. Chivington’s goal was never to fight Cheyenne Dog Men and Lakotas who rode the war trail farther north. Instead, he wanted a target that never expected to be attacked. Chivington would claim a lopsided victory with a huge death count that perhaps exceeded the total number of people that could have possibly been living in this Sand Creek village, and for a short time became a great Indian fighter.

From left: Leo Oliva, LK, and Fort Larned Chief Historian George Elmore. We are walking the on the parade ground, and we are heading toward the building that Wynkoop rented for his headquarters when he was a U.S. Indian agent, which was just outside the perimeter of the post. Good friends Leo and George have helped me oh-so many times over the years. Both have been instrumental in getting me to Kansas time and again to speak and perform, as well as aiding my research. … I can’t begin to tell you how much George has aided my Sand Creek research. This photo was taken on 20sept2012. Two days later Leo and I spoke on the now protected Cheyenne-Dog Man-Lakota village that Major General Winfield Hancock destroyed in April 1867. … This part of Kansas is in my blood. It is one of my homes away from home.

What can I say. My Sand Creek proposal was 37 pages long. I presented a detailed outline of what I thought the final manuscript should include. It also stated that nothing was set in stone, that my research would define the flow of the manuscript. … Boy, is this a true statement.

Actually Chivington is going to have a smaller role than planned. Such is life. This said, his impact on the story is huge.

On 24apr1999 Cheyenne Peace Chiefs Gordon Yellowman (kneeling) and Lawrence Hart (standing right-center) blessed the Pawnee Fork village site. The lady with the robe wrapped around her is Connie Yellowman, Gordon’s wife. This was the first time that I spoke at Fort Larned. That’s George Elmore in the sergeant’s uniform at the left of the image. (photo © Louis Kraft 1999)

Fort Larned plays an important role in the Sand Creek story. Black Kettle, Neva, Left Hand, Little Raven, William Bent, George Bent, John Smith, and Wynkoop all spent time there. The destruction of the Pawnee Fork village (about 35 miles west of the post) was a continuation of what began in the early 1860s.

Territorial governor John Evans has been pounded

But should he have been? I’m not so sure, and although I hate to admit this, I don’t totally agree with the University of Denver’s study of Evans, and his part in the disaster. Still, they uncovered key information regarding the governor ducking the issue while in Washington D.C., and he didn’t return to Denver until spring 1865.

As I didn’t use an image of John Evans in the Wynkoop book, and have not decided what image(s) of him that I’m going to use in Sand Creek, this color portrait of Black Kettle is good here. The chief and the governor met at Camp Weld on 28sept1864, and both walked away from that meeting with totally different views upon what had been decided. For all the chief’s efforts to avoid or end war he has been pounded as hard as the governor. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Let’s be up front, some of John Evans’ words and actions led to his downfall (which has been frighteningly similar to the racist backlash we have seen against the Southern states fight to remove themselves from the United States of America in the 1860s. Yikes!!!! How can the USA banish and remove one of the most important pieces of our history, the war between the states? Without a doubt slavery is heinous, and it has always been so. Owning another human being and playing god with his or her life is evil (but I’m talking from a modern POV). Times have changed in regards to racism for the better, but from what we have seen in 2017 we still have a long way to go.

Some of Evans’ proclamations are damaging. However, his attempts to avoid or end war were something he tried to do. More important, he left for the east on November 10, that was nineteen days prior to Chivington’s massacre of men, women, and children, and he didn’t learn of the battle until days afterwards. Evans wanted war and wanted the Cheyennes and Arapahos removed from the territory but he had no clue that this would happen to the people who tried to end the war.

Art of Mr. Carson dating to about 1845. (LK personal collection)

Evans’ fall from grace is similar to Kit Carson’s. … Folks, Kit was a good friend to the American Indians. He spoke seven languages: English, Spanish, and five native languages. If he were the butcher that modern times attempts to label him, why would he speak (at least partially) the words of the Navajos, Mescalero Apaches, Cheyennes, Arapahos, and Utes? Oh, I forgot to mention that he had three wives: Arapaho, Cheyenne, and a Latina of Spanish decent. One more fact, he converted to Catholicism to marry his Spanish wife. Does this sound like a racist? I think not. … Pray God I live long enough to complete two books that deal with Carson and his relationship with American Indians. … One fiction; one nonfiction.

John Evans has become an evil person. … Really? Guess what? John Evans was a human being who thought he was doing right when he did it. I’m not going to tell you that he was a good person or an evil one. If I do my job his words and actions will allow you to make your own decision of who he was.

Ditto everyone else, and this includes John Chivington. BTW, he will be the last piece of the manuscript to be completed. Oh, he has a presence now, but it is not close to being finished. Like Evans and everyone else, it is my job is to show what he said and what he did. There is nothing worse than an author (history or fiction, it matters not) who has a preconceived premise on an historical personage and will stay the course regardless of how much discovery disproves their premise. God forbid they shy away from their damnation of a human being because they see facts that shoots arrows into their task of destroying a person’s life. And especially people who are gone and cannot defend themselves. Yep, folks you can defame the dead in the USA (but be careful if you attempt to defame the living, for then you might set yourself up to join the homeless wandering the streets of LA).

Back to the reality of our times

Is it ethical to sell out truth for greater book sales? Honestly, you don’t want to know my opinion on this. Many writers have done this over the years, and it isn’t confined to the Indian wars. The most infamous—in my opinion—was Charles Higham.

In his 1980 best-selling piece of slop called Errol Flynn: The Untold Story, without proof Higham wrote that Flynn was both homosexual and a Nazi spy. Over the years real historians have debunked all of Higham’s falsehoods. Still the general public, if they remember anything about Flynn, it is that he was homosexual Nazi spy. Hell, the media still sells this as there is nothing better than trashing a star name for the simple reason that the public gobbles it up. As said above there is no punishment for defaming the dead in the USA. Not so in Canada; Higham’s book was also published in the land of our neighbors to the north. Flynn’s daughters Deidre and Rory went after Higham in Canada. To avoid going to court and potential prosecution Higham never set foot in Canada for the rest of his life. … I can’t speak about Higham’s other film biographies save one—Sisters: The Story of Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine (1984). I presented Olivia with a lot of questions about this book in letters and in person. Olivia made one reply in writing in which she dismissed Higham with three words (and none were profane). In person the only thing she said about him and his book on her and Joan was that he never contacted her, never asked her one question.

Was Higham a charlatan? Are other historians charlatans? I believe in challenging history. I also believe that it must be done ethically and not by presenting outrageous statements that are fiction-based on preconceived premises with the lone goal of destruction.

Another story

He was flesh and blood, had a deep baritone voice, was a college professor, had lived through the revolution of the 1960s, had evolved into the 1970s, and when I met him in the 1980s he had fine-tuned his persona. Oh, I forgot, he was also a writer. Charm oozed from him. He instantly became a friend (think 1989 in San Diego).

Years passed. It was now 1995 and we were at the Western Writers of America (WWA) convention in Cheyenne, Wyoming (I’m foggy on the location but think the timing was with the publication of Custer and the Cheyenne).

I’m going to pull from a major lesson I learned from Errol Flynn’s magnificent memoir, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, which was published shortly after his death in 1959. Mainly, that at times one must remain vague to protect friends, former lovers, and yours truly. I hope that what I share here is okay. Am back to the writer from the 1960s. He was working on a book wherein he claimed his subject—Billy the Kid—outlived his death by decades. “Do you believe he wasn’t murdered?” He honestly replied that he did believe that the Kid was murdered. “Why are you writing this manuscript?” He again honestly answered that it would sell books.

Kudos to him for his honesty. At the same time his words now mimic the truth of today’s world. If the truth gets in the way of your preconceived premise, dismiss it. If someone confronts you on your lie, one-up them and call them “little Billy,” or “bullshitting Johnny,” or “sex stalker Alex.” The new key words here are: “Fake News.” Point your finger at them, scream, and if possible see that your hateful rants explode all over social media. …

Luckily for me the Dennis the Menace cartoons continue to live in the Los Angeles Times (this cartoon appeared in the 22nov17 edition of the paper). Although cartoonist Hank Ketcham is long gone, his wonderful creation continues to live at dennisthemeance.com and in various newspapers. The North America Synd. holds the 2017 copyright.

Good Lord, is this really today’s world? If yes, I need say no more.

The struggle to bring the Tsistsistas (Cheyennes) into their new world

Ladies and gents, separating myth and fiction from fact is an hellacious task, and one I’ve struggled with for years now. Also, unfortunately, no one is ever going to get all the facts straight. It is an impossible task.

Believe it or not the Cheyennes have been mostly painted as villains throughout their history. Their views and their facts have been almost totally ignored as little more than lies. There’s an adage, and it is that the conqueror writes the history books. … The vanquished are savages or worse and the winners are heroes who have saved mankind.

… and this includes some mixed-blood Cheyennes

I’ll mention two here: Julia Bent and her step brother Charles Bent. Their father was trader William Bent, who plays a fairly large role in the manuscript, but surprisingly wasn’t as I expected him to be (this statement should have a few exclamation points as the William Bent I now know is not the William Bent I thought I knew). … I can’t begin to tell how many hours I’ve spent on Julia and Charley. I know them somewhat, but I wish more. She is little more than a beautiful image that appears and disappears during the tumultuous times of the 1860s while Charles has been pounded to hell as little more than a vicious killer.

George Bent was Julia’s older brother and Charley’s older step-brother. He lived well into the twentieth century and left a wealth of information for anyone willing to dig and understand, and by that I mean cross-reference and closely check what he wrote.

If you believe just half of the recordings of supposed Cheyenne raids between 1864 and 1867, Charley Bent was named way-too-many times as a traitorous leader of perhaps thirty percent of these raids, and yet when he died he had not yet reached his twentieth year, and this is an easy fact to prove regardless of David Lavender’s fanciful words without a drop of proof in Bent’s Fort (1954) or Halaas & Masich’s tons of research citations in Halfbreed (2004), which simply muddies the water while providing little support for important text in their biography of George Bent.

I don’t have much on either Julia or Charles, but what I do have will be in the book for both were exceptional young people during a time of death and destruction. I won’t come close to sharing who they really were, but I will present them to you in an honest way while at the same time destroying some of the undocumented baloney that has been printed and reprinted about them ad nauseam.

There is Sand Creek Massacre research coming that will open some eyes

The misinformation and out-and-out fabrications of reality in the Sand Creek story is mind-boggling. These ongoing fabrications range from Laura Roper becoming Black Kettle’s sexual object to Isabelle Eubank being five when the Cheyennes gave her to Wynkoop on September 12, 1864 (a date that is improperly documented easily sixty percent of the time).

A wonderful research surprise in Downtown LA

A young wife was captured one day after the Cheyenne raid that captured Isabelle, her mother, younger brother, a relative, and Laura Roper. This young woman, like those taken with Isabelle, also plays a key if small role in the story. I had seen most if not all of the published documentation about her. Her name was Nancy Morton. She along with many other whites were, during an horrendous string of a few days mostly along the Platte River Route survived seeing their families and loved ones murdered and hacked to pieces before their eyes. Traveling settlers, ranchers, station employees were attacked, many murdered, while a small number of whites were taken prisoner. There is an old cliché, “Save the last bullet for yourself,” as death or captivity by Indians was not something anyone wanted to experience. … Nancy and a boy named Daniel Marble survived the attack on their wagon train.

I have spent a lot of good time with Marty Vestecka Miller, of the Nebraska State Historical Society, who secured the interlibrary loan of a microfilm reel on Nancy Morton for me. As the only library in the 100-library system of Los Angeles that still had microfilm readers that could also print was the central library in downtown Los Angeles I had to set up the loan there as the microfilm could not leave the library.

The west entry to the Central LA Public Library in downtown Los Angeles on 18nov2017. The library is a treasure, both inside and outside. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

On November 18 I got wise and looked at a map of the subway exit and the downtown library. They looked shockingly close to each other. On this day I used the Hope Street exit from the subway, looked to my left and could see the library two and a half blocks distant. On this day I worked closely with Christopher Juarez (pictured above), who not only got me set up on the microfilm machine but made me aware that I didn’t have to pay for printouts of the pages, but could scan them and email them to myself free of charge. Folks, when you are looking at over 250 images this is a pretty cool savings. Christopher worked closely with me on this day and then the next day as he ensured that I obtained every image that I needed. I have nothing but kudos to say about Christopher. The city of Los Angeles should give this young man a pay raise, and I’m not joking here. Los Angeles is lucky to employ him. Good work needs to be rewarded. Mayor Eric Garcetti, if you see this post or if you hear of this post, know one thing: Christopher Juarez is an extraordinary employee and the city is lucky to have him.

LK’s workstation at the Central Los Angeles Public Library in the History Department on 19nov2017. Cool times for LK. (photo ©  Louis Kraft 2017)

The people of Sand Creek

The major players range from the second territorial governor of Colorado Territory, the chief editor and co-partner of the most successful newspaper in Denver during the 1860s and beyond, the commanding colonel of the District of Colorado, the official U.S. interpreter for all four major treaties with the Cheyenne Indians between 1851 and 1867, a major partner of the most successful trading post who married into the Cheyenne tribe, one of his mixed-blood sons, and the one man who dared to act for he thought was for the good of mankind and has since been termed a traitor to his own race. They were ambitious, had views of success in their dreams, but like you and I had to survive in a world beyond their control.

I know. Where’s Cheyennes Black Kettle, Lean Bear, or Bull Bear; and Arapahos Left Hand, Neva, and Little Raven? Trust me, for they are a comin’ to life, … I want them to be surprises; I want them to explode off the pages. Actually Black Kettle and Little Raven will surprise you, but unfortunately I simply don’t have enough on the others to allow them to also dominate. Still Left Hand was a person I wish I could have known in life.

More important, and like most of us, they thought that what they did was right when they did it. … What I’ve learned is not what I wanted to know. I’m writing the manuscript as a biography through the eyes of (currently) nine people. I’m doing everything I can to be in their point-of-view (POV), a film term.

This is my lady, Pailin, on the bluffs to the west of the 1864 Sand Creek battlefield. Our terrific friends John and Linda Monnett took us to the isolated site in 2014. You want to read good history pick up some of John’s books that deal with the Cheyennes. … Pailin and I are totally different in all phases of our lives, and yet she supports everything that I do. I pray to my God that I am capable of supporting everything that she does. Life and love is a two-way street. You won’t believe what is in our future. (photo © Louis Kraft & Palin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

Where the hell am I? Simply, I’m treading water in the middle of pure hell. Does this sound negative? Probably, but it shouldn’t be as I’m inching closer to completing perhaps the most important manuscript of my life. If true, I must see Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway through to print. Folks, I can’t see this happening before 2019. This means I need to live another two years. Doable? I think so, … I hope so. Time will tell.

This is the OU Press dust jacket for the Wynkoop book; I’ve had some great covers over the years but this jacket is by far my favorite. It was an image that I requested, and it was an image that the art director did great work.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway has 37 contracted images. Three will be maps; that leaves 34 photos or art.Good times for LK to fill in the blanks. At this moment I have chosen 16 (as I don’t own the rights to all these images the process to purchase and determine the use fees is under way. Actually several have already been procured, and all that needs to happen is working out the publishing details and paying the use fees. I hate to say it but at this point in time I must become secretive. Of the 16 I’ve previously used six of them. This is more than I hoped to use, but the images that will again be used are mandatory to telling the story of the events that led up to the Sand Creek attack and its aftermath.

For the record Chuck Rankin had requested I place as many women in the manuscript as possible. My research leading to the creation of the proposal and its acceptance was less than sparkling, meaning that there were no women who would be in the manuscript. Over the last three years of research this view has changed. I mentioned a couple of young ladies above. This is, for me, great news. Hopefully they will come to life when the book is published, even if their presence is small, for they are oh-so important to the Sand Creek story.

A small repetition

My Sand Creek proposal was a very-detailed thirty-seven pages, but it also included a “get out of jail” pass. This simply means that as a writer-historian I track all the usual suspects and try to follow where the trail leads. That is, the documentable facts. Actions and words define character. My job is not to create villains and heroes; rather it is to present people to you. If I do my job correctly you will make your own decisions of who they were and what happened.

As said above, this is a seven-day-a-week job. I’m up between four and four-thirty and often don’t get to bed until nine, ten, or later. … You guessed it. Sometimes I have to crash. But even on these days I must research and/or add word count.

I love what I do.

An Errol Flynn tidbit

I want to go off course here while still tiptoeing the straight and narrow. Thank you, Mr. Flynn. I’m not being sarcastic here, for Flynn’s My Wicked, Wicked Ways is the best book that I’ve ever read. His book dealt with time and memory, it dealt with good and bad, success and failure, and protecting the innocent in more ways than one (for example: Not saying much about a person or event, changing a key fact or two, or names of people that Mr. Flynn did not want to hurt, or perhaps because he did not want to be hurt).

The Flynn photo used on the dust jacket for the first printing of My Wicked, Wicked Ways. (photo © Esquire, Inc. 1958)

For the record, a successful writer named Earl Conrad was hired by Flynn’s publisher (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) to spend time with him at his home in Jamaica in 1959. Flynn had received a good advance to write his memoir, but he was almost at the end of his time on earth, was having trouble completing the manuscript, and needed help. Flynn was self taught, literate, and well published. He always had a story to tell, forever stood firm for what he believed, and never shied away from anything in his life. Without checking, and perhaps it is in Conrad’s memoir of his time with Flynn or in Thomas McNulty’s Errol Flynn: The Life and Career (by far the best biography on Flynn), but I think Flynn shared about 200,000 words during a handful of weeks with his guest Conrad. Flynn would see and sign-off on the galleys of his memoir but then died before seeing his last book published. (I’ll deal with this in my third book on Flynn; perhaps my second if I get lucky and something I want to do happens.)

My friends, … those of you who fear that I’ll never complete the first book
on Errol Flynn (and Olivia de Havilland), relax, for that book is closer
to publication than you think. Moreover, the two other planned
books on Mr. Flynn will happen. The second or third
books—there is no order here—will blow you
away in many ways.

Closing thoughts

There are pieces of my life, and luckily they didn’t deal with life and death on a major scale or decisions that would affect hundreds and thousands of people. Luckily I’ve lived in the shadows of time. Honestly, I think that this is a better place to be … for if I lived in earlier times when I would have had a target on my back as I would not have stepped in line and said, “Yes sir!” Luckily I didn’t live in the 1860s, for if I had, I’m certain that I would have been murdered on the streets of Denver as Captain Silas Soule was.

Still things have happened and they have affected my life in more ways than I’ll ever admit. During those times I wasn’t smiling. Looking back I can’t stop chuckling.

The little angel sitting on my right shoulder just whacked me in the face. The little devil sitting on my left shoulder simply snickered and said, “You wimp, you deserved that!”

What it all comes down to is life—my life.
My view is simply that you and I have different views of
our lives. … I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sand Creek Massacre, Errol & Olivia, Louis Kraft, and a perfect storm

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2019

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


Rod Taylor, Michael Parks, Sam Shepard. OUCH!
Three actors who have played roles in my life are
all gone in one godawful 2017.
Who’s next? Me?

Parks* and Taylor have been favorite actors since I discovered them, and this has continued throughout my life even though some of their films and appearances on TV weren’t in top-notch productions.

In LK personal collection.

Still, fully ninety percent of their performances that I saw shined.

Michael Parks also has the distinction of being my favorite singer of all time.

* Kevin Smith directed Red State (2011), a film in which Michael Parks delivered one of my favorite performances of all time. If you don’t know anything about Parks see Kevin Smith’s memory of Michael Parks. Warning: There are some foul words, but the interview is from the heart of a director who viewed Michael Parks as a good person and an acting genius—something I agree with. Better, Parks’ performance shows how a person can play evil on screen while being charming, charismatic, and certain that everything he does is absolutely for the good when he does it.

I haven’t seen all that many of Shepard’s films and I don’t think I’ve seen any of his TV work. Still he always adds intense credibility to every performance that I’ve seen.**

** All three have films on my top 60 film list.


Time moves forward at lightening speed, and as the years have passed I have had a few-too-many encounters with the grim reaper.

As the body grows frailer, and as it is harder and harder to swing a blade with deadly intent I have come to cherish life. Shockingly, this is new to me as I have always been “charge forward with guns blazing.”

Two projects that are a long time coming

  • Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
    I plan on delivering a first rough draft to my editor, Chuck Rankin (OU Press), in December or January 2018, and the final draft before 2018 ends.
  • Errol & Olivia
    Research is continuous, and every so often when I have a few spare minutes I open the draft and add information. Right now I’m trying to confirm if Flynn’s first wife, Lili Damita, earlier had married the great film director Michael Curtiz or not. This must be confirmed without a doubt.

Below is an update on both.

Wandering through a life rife with change

I’ve been walking between the races since 1970 (but really it had been earlier as my parents had an open door policy no matter what a person’s race was). That year I joined Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), which is/was like a continental Peace Corps. I had wanted to work with American Indians (even at that age), and the two other possibilities were African Americans (Blacks back then) and Latinos (Chicanos then). There was a lot of training at the University of Texas in Austin, … and afterwards we—the other candidates and I—partied. Big time. We were housed in tall a dorm (ladies on one floor and guys on another), and the celebrations went deep into the night in various dormatory rooms (two rooms that shared a bathroom).

Great friend Dennis Riley, then a photographer’s mate in the U.S. Navy, took this image a few days after my last final at SFVSC (now CSUN) in June 1969. That day was my first acting publicity shoot, and this image represented how I often dressed while earning my BA. I had picked up the god-awful nickname of “Tex” in college as I often wore a cowboy hat. “Tex”? Yee-ough! (a sound; not a word) (photo © Louis Kraft 1969)

One night in the wee hours I said something to a married couple that they enjoyed but a Chicano who would eventually select people to work with Latinos didn’t like. Suddenly I had a knife at my throat as he grabbed me from behind. I was scared to death but had my wits and kept calm. In between his bursts of rage I pointed out that he had fifteen and perhaps twenty witnesses. Did he intend to kill them too? I also pointed out that if he killed me his cause was DOA (dead on arrival).

He let go of me, and let me tell you that I was one happy cowboy to see the sun rise that morning. Surprisingly at breakfast, which began at six, I had become a celebrity. This was stupid, and I hated it. From my view I was damned lucky to be alive. … A few weeks later the American Indian, Black, and Chicano group leaders chose their candidates a la choosing a sand lot football team. I was chosen early by a Black group from Oklahoma. A week of living with a Black family in Sapulpa (Oklahoma), more training in Austin, back to Sapulpa, and back to Texas before being assigned to Oklahoma City. My supervisor in OK City, Cheetah Gates, told me to ditch the cowboy boots when he saw them. I asked why. “The brothers don’t like cowboys,” he said. “If you want to live don’t wear the boots.” I took him at his word.

During the summer of 1976 Kitty Moore was playing one of the leads in a Texas Tech theater department play (Lubbock, Texas). She was about to begin her junior year in college. What I saw that summer was an eye opener. Lubbock was a mass of racial inequality and hatred, it struggled with what appeared to be a drug culture that grew by the day, and a theater department that was split by two different cliques. Some of my not so-good  experiences in Lubbock initiated the writing of my first screenplay, and surprisingly it landed me my first screenwriting agent. I based the female lead on what I viewed as the essence of who Kitty Moore was (she eventually read a draft of Laird Francis and liked it).

This was just the beginning. By the mid-1970s I was writing screenplays and a number of them dealt was race (this came about after a summer of dinner theater in Lubbock, Texas, a place I was lucky to put in my rearview mirror without being tarred and feathered as racism in the city and factionalism in the Texas Tech theater department was rampant that that time). Most of my screen plays were current day, or at least historically based in the 1970s. The two exceptions included 1) Wonderboat, an epic tragedy that dealt with U-boats during WWII, and 2) Corsair, which dealt with the Englishman John Ward who became a feared Tunis pirate during the early seventeenth century.* By the mid-1980s I was writing and selling baseball articles, but soon changed focus to the American Indian wars (writing for periodicals and speaking at symposiums).

* Drafts of my screenplays are housed in the Louis Kraft Collection at the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library (Santa Fe, New Mexico). For more information about Wonderboat see Louis Kraft’s top 12 Errol Flynn films … a personal view.

In 1999 I wrote for a space industry firm that had one customer: Hughes. My major deliveries usually consisted of about 1,000 pages of documentation (and you would choke if I told you what Hughes paid for it). My editor worked in the company’s headquarters in Herndon, Virginia, as did my manager. Most of the documentation department was in Herndon except for one writer in Colorado, one in Northern California, and yours truly in the South Bay of Los Angeles County. That summer all of us attended week-long demonstrations at headquarters that dealt with using code-based software to create documentation that could be delivered to multiple types of output while discussing the difficulty of such a massive change while still making our deliveries on deadline.*

* This didn’t happen during my time in the space industry, but I later experienced moving from WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) book design to code-based production tools that could deliver documentation in various formats at the now defunct Sun Microsystems and later at Oracle.

The editor and I had a great long-distance working relationship, and during the evenings she became my tour guide, dinner companion, and drove me to Leesburg where I spent time with Wild West editor Greg Lalire at Primedia’s headquarters (they then published a great grouping of about 12 history magazines).

While there I verbally pitched and sold an article on Ned Wynkoop and the Cheyennes to the then editor of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History (it was published as “Between the Army and the Cheyennes” in the Winter 2002 issue).

Being so close to Washington D.C. I had negotiated not flying home until Sunday. That Saturday my space-industry editor took me to the National Archives and we worked together. I liked her, but she had a dual-personality that I didn’t know about until I returned to Los Angeles. She had told me about the “good ol’ boys” at headquarters, but after I flew home I became one of them. I think that this was all in her head, but that doesn’t matter. She began calling my home phone but her voice had turned demonic and threatening. Eventually I received and unmarked package. Inside was an oversized mailing envelope with one word in bold red ink: “SHAME” (there was hair inside the envelope). Creepy. I kept it for DNA evidence.

My father Louis Sr. (left), brother Lee, and me. I’m on a 1970 Triumph Trophy 500. The bike survived both accidents described below, although the collision with the girl that outweighed me turned me into a gimp for a couple of months and the Triumph required a lot of work to fix. For the record I was wearing a helmet during both crashes. (photo © Louis Kraft, 1972)

While racing around turns on a narrow mountain dirt trail, the motorcycle in front of me suddenly stopped when the path ended. To avoid ramming the motorcyclist I attempted to slide around him as I braked. I almost pulled it off, but instead took my Triumph over a cliff. On another occasion an oversized girl who was running hit me broadside as I exited a driveway at low speed. My hand jerked the accelerator, the Triumph shot into the street, jumped a curb, and left me knocked out and hanging from a chainlink fence. Car wise, the worse was hitting the center divider of the CA 134 freeway headfirst at high speed, the car spun and took out the left side on the center divider, spun in the opposite direction and destroyed the rear end, and this is where the car stopped. Shockingly I walked away from the crash (what helped was that it was two days before Christmas 2010 and traffic was light).

Being vague has become a way of life to protect numero uno—yours truly

I’ve been coy, or rather vague, elsewhere on social media. That’s just me, but the horror of an end stares me in the face, and for multiple reasons. … I have three ladies to protect, three lives to see long into their futures. You know one of the ladies but the other two will remain unknown. I also have multiple books to complete. This is a massive task but I have every intention of completing it. Unfortunately there are pointers that hint that the future may not be as I envision it.

LK and Pailin on 2sept2016. It was just minutes before I would be prepped for throat surgery. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2016)

Actually I’m staring at something that I cannot possibly complete today as the story is ongoing and without end (unless …?). This leads me to a place that I have ignored, been vague, or worse I have refused to discuss. I’m going to try and do that in this blog, and hopefully with a minimal number of words while still talking about Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway and Errol & Olivia status.

In September 2016 I had my second operation that year (both were in my ear, nose, and throat specialist’s surgery center in Northridge, California). It was the twentieth surgery to date and was a throat operation (in April I had my second sinus surgery there). As advertised it would improve my breathing. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprising as I had been warned that the recovery would not be fun, it easily took two weeks of pure hell as the drugs to mellow the pain flat out didn’t work.

LK joking while waiting to be prepped for throat surgery on 2sept2016. I was relaxed and enjoying myself. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2016)

Two previous operations had eliminated cancer, and if they had not happened I would have long ago begun dancing with angels. One removed a portion of my spine, and if this didn’t happen I would have stopped walking fourteen years ago. … I have other problems now, for earlier this year breathing again reared its ugly head, but this time he brought his pals with him. Walking had been making great strides between late September 2016 and the beginning of June 2017 as I averaged fourteen miles per week. … The phrase, “all things must pass,” has been around forever, but for me this couldn’t happen soon enough as it began to get scary in mid-spring 2017. By this time isolated incidents slowly began to become ongoing events to the point of concern. Worse, I hadn’t been able to figure out why this was happening and neither could my specialists.

I know … still vague! Sorry, but I have to ease into this.

I’m a fighter. I have three aforementioned ladies to protect,
I have books to write, and I have every intention of willing myself to do this.

A quest for truth

Many books contain errors that have been perpetrated for decades or longer. Sometimes this is because the “so-called” fact has been printed so often that it is accepted as truth. Other times it is because of laziness, or worse because it propels a writer’s story forward even though he or she knows that the fact is fictitious. This leads directly to writers who ignore proven facts simply because it blows holes in their set-in-stone premise. And it gets worse than this, for sometimes writers create facts and quotations and cite obscure material figuring that most readers don’t have the source, and the handful that might have the documentation won’t bother to check the citation. … The above is a mouthful, but not my point. Like medicine, history is not an exact methodology and the reason has always been in place. Simply stated, if five people participate in a specific event there is a good chance that their views on what happened differ. Sometimes slightly but at times considerably. Occasionally a known fact can confirm truth in a documented event while at other times deciding upon what really happened is not an easy task.

A couple examples follow:

  • Edmund Guerrier and Julia Bent were two mixed-blood Cheyennes who were young at the time of the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado Territory on 29nov1864. They were both in the village on that tragic day, but luckily both escaped death and sexual dismemberment. Some books have them married on that tragic day, but without any proof. Actually they weren’t married, and wouldn’t be for many years in the future (and I can prove this).
  • LK speaking about Errol Flynn, Olivia Havilland, and The Santa Fe Trail (1940) at the Festival of the West, Scottsdale, Arizona, on 19mar2005. (photo by Johnny D. Boggs)

    Olivia de Havilland is a good case in point. Fortunate enough to spend time with her I know firsthand that she is a warm, kind, and caring person. She is also charming and very intelligent, and can easily shift from topic to topic without hesitation, such as moving from being cast in Gone with the Wind to Jack Warner to modern-day USA politics. To be precise she specifically told me how well she knew Warner (great stuff here, but not in agreement with what has been published). In regards to Gone with the Wind, she had a “take no prisoners” stance. On the visit wherein we talked about her landing the role of Melanie I was well prepared for the conversation. By that I had notes with me relating to her landing the role including the points-of-view of fired director George Cukor and producer David O. Selznick, along with additional storylines. She listened intently to what I shared, and then proceeded to inform me what really happened. Like most primary sources—and I don’t care if it is 1860s Colorado Territory or 1930s Hollywood—everything must be considered in an attempt to piece together what happened. At times I have placed conflicting, but just as valid, points of view of an event in my notes. I’ll give you one guess of what is going to happen here.

An Active Person am I

Always! I learned how to duel with a foil with the great Ralph Faulkner, who won the World Amateur Sabre Championship in 1928, and represented the USA at the Olympics that year and in 1932. He had come to Hollywood to become an actor in the early 1920s (even playing Woodrow Wilson in a silent film) but soon began his great career as a stunt double and as a choreographer of duels for decades, as well as having has own Falcon Studios on Hollywood Boulevard where he taught fencing for over fifty years.

My partner parries an LK slashing sabre lunge to her midriff at North Hollywood Park in December 1981. Although mostly cropped, our coach and the cameraman dominate the foreground of this image as they taped the workout. (photo © Louis Kraft 1981)

I grew up with a pool, swam in the Pacific, and up until early 2013 swam (the last years in 24-Hour Fitness pools, which are great!). A lot of sandlot football, and this resulted in my first real injury in the late 1960s. Ditto sandlot baseball (my parents refused me playing on a Little League team), but between 1980 and 1990 I played ten years of year-round softball (for the Kool-Aid Kids), but this ended in early 1990 with a knee operation and my brother’s sudden death (the most shocking event of my life then and it still is today). At that time I had also been running since the late 1970s, usually doing three and a half miles or seven miles per day. Let me tell you that running and swimming (and I was doing thirty-plus laps at 24-Hour Fitness without a break when I ran out of time) keep you in shape. Think the 24-Hour Fitness pools are Olympic sized (they were certainly the same size as the pool that I used in college). Oh, I also learned swashbuckling, or stage dueling, in the early 1980s ( and fought and choreographed duels for the stage), and I still work out with a blade when all is well.

A change of pace

In fall 2015 I redid the front yard during my spare time (I had previously removed the grass and already had a lot of drought-resistant vegetation growing in the yard). I leveled the ground, put in walkways of rock and stones and wood chips, and created a maze of cactus, aloe vera, and other plants that provide beauty (at least to my eyes). Every time I stand or sit in the front yard I feel as if I am in New Mexico or Arizona or the original SoCal. This was easy work and I never broke a sweat.

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Still, a lot of the work was on my knees, and this is where I discovered a problem for in this position I began to huff and puff. I completed the work about the second week of December but the breathing problem bothered me. I began searching for answers, and the only one I came up with of pointed to my heart.

My heart has always skipped a beat and my cardiologist and I have tracked it for decades without any problems. Early in January 2016 I visited him (he’s also my internist), and he ran all the usual tests and everything came up negative.

How? Why? Something was going on. … Finally he had me blow into a breathalyzer. I failed—twice. He prescribed an inhaler and pills to control blood pressure, which he felt would climb (my blood pressure had always been good, but soon it would become a challenge).

Final LK art of my internist/cardiologist of over twenty years, and writing partner on The Discovery. (art © Louis Kraft 2017). If I ever complete The Discovery page on my website I intend to use this image on it.

Late on January 16 while using the inhaler for the night dose I fell backwards into the bathtub and cracked the top of my skull open. Blood flowed onto the wall and into the tub. My legs were hooked over the side of the tub, my ass was in the tub, and my back and head propped against the back of the tub and the wall. The blood was slippery and it continued to flow. I couldn’t get a firm grip with my hands and had become a turtle stuck on his back. Pailin, who had had just gone to bed, heard the crash, and rushed to help me get out of the tub. Afterwards she cleaned me up and I cleaned the bathroom. She asked if should go to the ER. … I shook my head. My brain functioned and I had performed a few simplistic concussion tests. I felt I okay, but told her I’d go to the internist/cardiologist in the AM. Before going to bed I called my PPO’s nurse line, and she recommended a night in the ER. … Pailin had a long day in front of her and I didn’t think the injury was that bad.

The following morning in my doctor’s office the nurse cleaned the wound as well as possible. She told me that I’d need staples. After checking me over the doctor asked if I was dizzy, felt faint, or had passed out before I fell. I told him no, that I was wide awake when I hit. He confirmed the nurse’s view, I walked across the driveway that separated the medical building from Providence Tarzana Medical Center, and checked into the ER. … The wound required six staples.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

Folks, this manuscript dominates my days. As said above a delivery is due to my editor in December 2016 or January 2017. Alas, the word count grows and grows and grows. This is similar to the situation I had with the Wynkoop book contract. I luckily had then Editor-in-Chief Chuck Rankin behind me then, and he was again responsible for the Sand Creek contract. Actually Chuck pitched the story to me. I refused, but he refused to accept “no” for an answer. It took us two years to work out a proposal that was acceptable to both of us. … It is still acceptable to me, but this story has been pure hell to write. The research is ongoing, and as I’ve said elsewhere I put in about eight hours of research to about two hours of writing. And this is probably an understatement on the research side.

Pailin studying David Mann’s painting, “First of Five Thousand,” at the then Autry National Center on 7mar2015. Unfortunately the Plains Indians are not identified, something that I would have liked. The painting’s story is about a raid that is returning home to Canada with horses stolen in Mexico. Two thoughts: 1) That was one hell of a raid, and 2) That was a long trek to complete and return to their village safely with 5,000 horses. Considering that unknown Indians have successfully driven 5,000 horses from Mexico to Canada sounds like a movie plot and not reality, I like this painting. (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

For the record, the Cheyenne storyline is now jumping forward in leaps and bounds. John Chivington and John Evans move forward at a good clip. As do Black Kettle and Arapaho Little Raven. These two chiefs are coming to life through their actions and words. But these four aren’t the only ones: Ned Wynkoop, Rocky Mountain News owner and editor William Byers, and John Smith are also beginning to shine. Alas, William Bent is a little behind schedule, but this should end soon. Although Chuck Rankin was pleased with the Sand Creek fight that was in the 37-page book proposal years back, it too has changed considerably as I know more now. Better, a lot of people are coming to life in what is currently chapter 13 as the fight turns into a scramble of single events that merge together to create the whole.

Pailin took this image of LK and Chuck Rankin at the Western History Association Conference in Newport Beach, California, on 17oct2014. (photo © Louis Kraft & Chuck Rankin 2015)

Earlier this year the manuscript lost a chapter when I decided merge chapters 1 and 2 together. The reason was simple: The manuscript is people driven regardless if they are major players, supporting players, or simply players who appear and then are never seen again. Too much time was being spent before I introduced a Cheyenne who emerged from the mists of time. Unfortunately his life ended tragically. And of course I’m struggling to confirm his presence at an early meeting with William Bent or reject it.

As in the past I take my time and challenge what I write and what I consider required for the manuscript. And time is ticking, … tick, tick, tick. It is time to walk the walk, that is it is time to put up or shut up. …

Right after I learned of Sam Shepard’s death I again watched his and Barbara Hershey’s film, Defenseless (1991). It has been on my top 60 film list, off it, back on it, and off it ad nauseam. When you have a chance, do yourself a favor and see this film. Nice performances by Hershey and Shepard.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I learn by studying film that I respect. For one thing, and this is important to Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, as decent film constantly provides ideas on how to smoothly move from one event to the next.

Left: The DVD cover for Thunderheart (1992), another film I watch often.

Val Kilmer, Graham Greene, Shelia Tousey, Ted Thin Elk, John Trudell, Fred Ward, and Shepard are the key players in this thriller that deals with a murder on a Sioux reservation around the time of the 1973 takeover of the town of Wounded Knee (27feb1973-8may1973) and the standoff with the U.S. government. For the record, and in stark contrast to Defenseless, this film has constantly been in my top five. On Thursday, 17aug2017, I asked Pailin if she’d like to join me in the Kraft Theatre and watch Thunderheart with me. She accepted and was glued to the screen.

Better, the Cheyennes and Arapahos are moving forward. We’re talking about raids and treaties and death and peace. We’re talking about a people who were led by chiefs that stood firmly for peace to save their people from murder as well as chiefs that stood firm for freedom at any cost.

Back to the healthy world of Kraft

This heading sounds facetious, or at best a big fat lie, … but this isn’t so. I have taken good care of myself over the years, and even more so after the cancer and spinal surgeries. As stated the first cancer surgery was to keep me among the living and the spine surgery (some four and a half months later) to hopefully keep me walking. … After I fainted the morning after this cancer surgery when three nurses attempted to help me to a chair by the window all hell broke out. A neurologist at the hospital (not one of mine) thoroughly examined me and afterwards proclaimed that I would not walk in the near future … to which I told him to F-himself and get out. Additional testing continued deep into the night, and without checking I remained in the hospital nine days.

Dejah Thoris (named after the princess of Mars in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter/Martian novels). Fully grown in this 1978 photo, she was the kindest and sweetest animal I have ever known. (photo © Louis Kraft 1978)

Not all was well when I returned home from the cancer surgery on a Saturday for on the next evening the catheter fell out of position and required a trip to the Encino Hospital Medical Center. The ER doctor told me he didn’t know how to put the catheter back in place. I told him to look it up in a medical book, which didn’t please him. Too bad! I then insisted he call my surgeon (who is also my urologist, who I’ve seen every three months since fall 2002) and he replaced it in less than a minute. The catheter was finally removed twenty-one days after the surgery. No fun.

There would be additional surgeries over the coming years, including an implant of animal tissue. I never asked, but have since hoped that it was Doberman tissue and not rat tissue.*

* See above photo for reason.

The next biggie …

My sister, Linda-Kraft-Morgon, lived in Lake Arrowhead with her husband Greg. They were supposed to come to my house for Christmas 2005 but I was under the weather and Linda’s immune system could not be put at risk. The second week of January Linda called and told me that she would soon die of the cancer that she had been fighting for several years. On the fifteenth I drove to Lake Arrowhead and we celebrated Christmas. On that day she told me that she had six more weeks to live.

Sunday, January 15, 2006, was a day that I’ll never forget. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

Sudeshna Ghosh, my documentation manager at Sun Microsystems, did one of the kindest things anyone has ever done—something I’ll never forget—for she allowed me to take a few hours off to drive to Lake Arrowhead two-three times a week during weekdays to see Linda, which gave me three to four days each during the remaining weeks with my sister. Sudesha’s compassion gave me a lot of memories captured in a handful of stolen hours, and they will be forever cherished.

During drives up the mountain to see Linda a sharp pain in my head became so intense that on numerous occasions I had to pull to the side of the road until it subsided. I didn’t think much about it as I figured that it was stress. … It wasn’t, for after Linda died on March 1 it continued in Los Angeles. That April I had my first sinus surgery, and I was lucky I did for if not I would have been heading for big trouble. Greg was right there for me, as was a former girlfriend and her son.

The years continued

I swam laps at 24-Hour Fitness, worked out with sabres, wrote for companies (Yahoo! and Oracle), did my research in the field as well as in archives, spoke about the Cheyenne and Apache Indian wars as well as Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, saw articles published, finished a book (Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek), and signed a new contract (Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway).

March, Pailin’s good friend Daranee’s son, took this image just before we went through security at the Thailand International Airport on 1dec2014. We had spent the previous evening with Pailin’s great friends (Noi and Wichen) in Bangkok. Two of her brothers Pum and Mana, and Mana’s wife Pen, who had taken care of me during the wee hours before dawn when I arrived in Thailand weeks before and made sure I made my next flight, also joined us (along with other friends). Mana, Pen, and Pum took us to the airport the next morning.

Life was good. …

And on June 15, 2013, it got better. On that day I hosted a dinner party for five at Tujunga House. I invited a good friend and Errol Flynn expert and his beautiful wife (Robert and Annette Florczak) and another twosome. The other couple brought a lady for me. She was petite, pretty, quiet, and yet totally aware of her surroundings. Oh yeah, she was born in Thailand. Before that afternoon and evening ended I knew that I wanted her in my life. Yes, “That Lucky Old Sun” (my favorite rendition was Frankie Laine’s, released for the first time in 1949) is about long days and struggle while the sun shines. I find this very positive. Soon Pailin Subanna entered my life permanently—making me the luckiest guy in the world. And this feeling has easily quadrupled over the years.

Errol & Olivia is reality

I know that by now many of you think that my book on Flynn and de Havilland is little more than a pipe dream. Not so. I’ve been researching Errol & Olivia since 1996. The research is ongoing although the writing is light (but that is only because of what has been going on in my life and the major task of completing Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway).

In spring 2013 I spoke about Ned Wynkoop at the Order of Indian Wars symposium in Centennial, Colorado. I think that the trip was eleven days, and most of them I spent with Layton and Vicki Hooper in their then Fort Collins home (it was my pleasure, although most of the time we were snowed in). Before the symposium I enjoyed a great morning, lunch, and afternoon with Mike and Dee Koury. Before leaving I pitched Mike on a Gatewood/Geronimo talk in Tucson for the OIW’s 34th Annual Assembly, and he kindly said yes. This image was taken in Tucson on 26sept2013. This was Pailin’s first Indian wars event (and to date her last).

For the record my last article, “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude,” was published in the October 2015 issue of Wild West. At that time I informed editor Greg Lalire that there would be no more articles until the Sand Creek manuscript was in production. In September 2013 I delivered my last talk, “Gatewood’s Assignment: Geronimo,” before the 34th Annual Assembly of the Order of the Indian Wars in Tucson, Arizona. Again, this is related to the writing that I must complete (Sand Creek and E&O).

You’ve waited this long, a little while longer will only build your anticipation and that might be good. I can’t begin to tell you what I have found about Flynn and Livvie (Flynn’s pet name for Olivia) over the decades but it is massive. When Errol & Olivia is finally published it will be an eye-opener for numerous reasons (and this is not braggadocio). There is a lot of new information to present, there are egregious errors that need to be corrected, and the presentation will not be like any book you have read about either of them before.

This is a publicity shot for They Died with Their Boots On (1941). It won’t make into Errol & Olivia.

Hint: If you have read one or more of my biographies you have an idea of what is coming. Continuing this thought, if you have read any of my nonfiction books you know that I don’t just tell one side of a story. While saying this, I must add that I don’t take on long-term projects (Charles Gatewood, Geronimo, and the Apaches as well as Wynkoop, Cheyennes, and Sand Creek) without being 100 percent behind my topics. By that I mean that I do not explore major players in my writing without a deep commitment to write the best book possible. Also, I never write a book or article with the intention of trashing someone. As far as I’m concerned just about everyone (and there are exceptions, such as Charles Manson or Ted Bundy—both of whom were mass murderers) believes that they were right when the did something. Sometimes events overwhelm them and they act rashly, but this isn’t often.

A staff artist for American Classic Screen, John Tibbetts, created the art of Flynn and de Havilland in Captain Blood in 1978, and it graced the cover of the Jan/Feb 1979 issue of the journal (right). Tibbetts’ art grabbed my attention decades ago. However, as the journal is long gone it might be difficult to track down who currently owns the rights to the painting or more important obtain a good digital copy of the original art.

If you’ve missed it, Errol & Olivia deals with their arrival in Hollywood, landing the leading roles in Captain Blood (1935), their life and times during their eight films together (1935-1941), and an epilogue. Like my Indian wars research I question a lot of what is generally considered fact for way-too-often information that has been sold as truth for decades is taken as truth, when in fact it isn’t. Ten, twenty, even a hundred printings of a supposed fact doesn’t guarantee anything if the source is unknown. Heck, it could have originated in a Daffy Duck cartoon. … I’ve seen numerous photos and a handful of paintings that feature Flynn and de Havilland together that would work for the cover of the book. Currently I’m leaning toward images dating to the 1940s.

For the record two other books are planned on Flynn. I already have the art that I want for the cover of one of these books.

A year of uncertainty—2017

The year began as any other, and for the most part I felt good. Walking the fourteen or so miles each week had done wonders for me. I even had different routes (half mile, mile, mile and a half, two miles, two and half miles, and three miles), and with this range I could take care of a lot of errands from grocery shopping to needed items at the drug store to dealing with the post office and the public library.

And this includes Sand Creek progress

Research and writing of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway has made decent progress. Actually it finally started to have a life of its own as certain historical personages began driving the manuscript. I let them take control and followed leads until they revealed events and more important certain players’ roles in these events in ways I never imagined. But sometimes the leads led to dead ends, but this is always good as it lets me know what I thought happened never did. I can’t begin to tell you how valuable this is to know.

But for me there’s always that bleepin’ BUT

I stopped walking two or three days before July 5, 2017, as my left heel hurt. Worse, during the last handful or so of walks I often began to breathe heavily. At times I felt dizzy. Each time I halted until my breathing returned to normal. Also, if there was still a hint of dizziness or lightheadedness I remained stationary until it also passed.

As July 4th fell on a Tuesday our trash pickup was the following day. The first trashcan was picked up about 6:30 but I didn’t retrieve it immediately for on this day I felt dizzy and was wobbly on my feet after taking my one medication and using the prescribed inhaler. This had happened before (but sometimes it was later in the day). At these times I sat down until the feeling passed (sometimes at the computer). By seven that morning I felt great, and went outside to put the trashcan away. When the trashcan was in place I let go of it and looked west toward the garage. Without warning I fell over backwards, crashed onto the driveway, and cracked the back of my skull open.

I took the photo that I based this art on nine hours after the fall. I was only a handful of inches from a huge prickly pear cactus that a friend gave me in 1992. I shudder when I think about landing on that cactus. (art © Louis Kraft 2017)

I had difficulty rolling onto my stomach. Luckily Pailin had taken the day off as it was her birthday. Hoping  that she was still relaxing in the dining room I called for her. She heard me, rushed to help me roll onto my stomach, stand up, and into the house. A bloody trail followed us all the way to the bathroom, where she cleaned the wound. Without her I’m certain that it would have been a struggle for me to get off the asphalt. Nervous, she called our close friends, and the three of them took me to the Providence Tarzana Medical Center emergency room.

This is how I felt when admitted to the ER. This photo of me was taken on 14dec1979 while in makeup at Universal Studios. (photo © Louis Kraft 1979)

Surprisingly, and certainly after a holiday where firecrackers and other nasty things light up the sky deep into the night, there was no waiting line. The wound continued to seep and I quickly stained the sheet behind my head. After I was cleaned up more, the ER doctor examined the damage while she asked all the usual questions: Did I feel faint, dizzy, or light-headed before the fall. I didn’t feel anything before the fall, absolutely nothing. This was just the beginning as hours would pass while tests were performed and studied. The doctor finally returned and informed me that the test results (including a CAT Scan) were good. She left and my scalp was cleaned yet again. The doctor reappeared and inserted three staples into my head. I was released, but before leaving I asked the attending nurse to clean my scalp and wrap my head. “Why?” I held up my right hand; my fingers were red with fresh blood. “So I don’t ruin the car seat.” She did as requested.

It was pushing three in the afternoon when I was released from the ER. No one had yet eaten, and everyone asked if I was up to a food break on the way home—something quick? “As long as it isn’t McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr., or something similar, I’m okay.” We settled on Sharky’s Woodfire Mexican Grill. Until seeing this image by a good friend I didn’t realize how red I was at that time. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2017)

The head healed slowly, but the dizziness increased and the blood continued to seep. Over the next week or so I saw my internist/cardiologist and my pulmonary specialist and presented them with detailed notes and told them the highlights. My pulmonologist told me that my one medication could cause dizziness (I already knew this per the prescription’s documentation but was happy to have a verbal confirmation) but my internist/cardiologist would have to change the prescription. The inhaler was his and he told me that it didn’t cause dizziness. “What about the potency of it?” When I had tested several inhalers in May they had a higher dosage. Since I already had another appointment with him early in September he suggested we discuss it in more detail then. I agreed. … My internist/cardiologist didn’t think that the medication caused my dizziness.

I still didn’t know what was going on, but I knew that I wouldn’t be doing any walking in the near future, and that my six-plus hours of yard work would be less. … On the plus side I had more time to research and write.

The Sand Creek tragedy is in my blood

Oh yeah, you can bet it is! Yesterday, today, tomorrow, and now forever. I’ve known Ned Wynkoop intimately for decades. This meant that I knew something about Black Kettle, Little Raven, John Evans, John Smith, George Bent, John Chivington, Bull Bear, Left Hand, Silas Soule, and on and on, but not as much as I would have liked as I had previously focused on their connections to Wynkoop. This is no longer the case, for now I need to know them as much as I possible. Some of this has been easier said than accomplished.

In this “hunting party” image Rocky Mountain News editor William Byers is standing at the right (as printed in “When Wynkoop was Sheriff,” Wild West, April 2011). From the moment I saw the photo during a research trip I have liked it. Alas, Byers is the only person in the photo that has been identified to my knowledge. I had suggested the image to Editor Greg Lalire, but then had second thoughts about using it as at the time I was considering it for the Sand Creek book. When more room was required at the beginning of the article for a portrait that I had done of Ned Wynkoop that was smaller than I felt it should be and suggested to Greg that he cut the “hunting party,” he emphatically said,”No.” “Why not?” “Because I like it.” I could understand his view as I still like it. However, I have decided that it isn’t for Sand Creek as it dates to the mid-1870s (which is interesting as Byers looks younger here than in the 1860s).

At one time the word “survival” was in the title of this blog. It no longer is as it appeared to relate just to me. Nothing could have been further from my intension. For most of the leading players, including everyone listed above, and a good number of the supporting players in the Sand Creek story, dealt with survival often. For the Cheyennes and the Arapahos it was a part of their daily life, be it food, the weather or tribal enemies, such as the Pawnees. When the white man—the vi’ho’ i—came they were presented with an even greater danger to their survival. It was no easier for the Anglo Americans who were lured to their world by the dream of golden riches, or those who followed and discovered a magnificent land. They too, were at risk, but not only from the people whose territory they craved, but each other while experiencing the same daily problems as the people they wanted to eliminate (food, weather, and so on). Doubt not that those who survived in the land that became Colorado Territory were strong, focused, and had no intention of ignoring what they saw as their future.

Byron Strom, custodian of the Anne E. Hemphill Collection, graciously allowed me to use this image of Captain Silas Soule on 1apr1865 (his wedding day) in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. Actually he had given me permission to use two images, but the other I failed to restore in a timely manner. My skills have improved over the years and with Byron’s permission I plan on taking another attempt at an image that is terrific although terribly deteriorated.

The Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway contract states that the book will contain 37 images. Three will be maps and I’ll deal with them when the manuscript is in production. I’ve been looking for images for the book for years now. I prefer to use images that date to the time period of the manuscript. Hopefully there are photographs that will support the text, but in some cases I have used them in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. I really don’t want to duplicate many of these images but know that some will be reprinted as they are key to the storyline unless I can locate similar images. At this time there are four photos that I’ll probably reprint, including the great portrait of John Chivington.

I’ve often used art (woodcuts, paintings, or line drawings). Also I have no problem with creating collages, as they count as one image. … I’ve been looking at the work of Cheyenne artists, and some of their work is descriptive and tells a story. If I decide to approach any of them, they will have to understand that I’m just a writer who would like to use their art and that I will provide them with a first edition of the book.

The cover for the October 2015 issue of Wild West. Really nice work by the art director.

There’s a story here (there’s always a story). I did two books on Lt. Charles Gatewood (Sixth U.S. Cavalry), Geronimo, and the Chiricahua Apaches’ struggle to remain free in the 1880s over a ten-year period. During a longer spread of time Wild West printed two stories of mine dealing with this subject. One of Gatewood finding Geronimo in Sonora, Mexico, and talking him, Naiche, the last hereditary Chiricahua chief, and the remnants of their people into returning to the United States and surrendering (“Assignment Geronimo,” October 1999) and Geronimo’s struggle to remain free (“Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude,” October 2015). Both magazines featured the great painting by Howard Terpning (“Legend of Geronimo”) on the cover.

Guy Manning’s Geronimo painting (El Prado Galleries, Sedona, Arizona).

For both articles I recommended Guy Manning’s terrific oil painting of an alert and squatting Geronimo as he watches for trouble in a night scene with blue dominating the painting. Both times either Editor Greg Lalire or the art director went with my suggestion. … The point of this story is that I contacted El Prado Galleries in Sedona, Arizona, and inquired about using Manning’s Geronimo art in Lt. Charles Gatewood & HIs Apache Wars Memoir. “Sure,” the person I spoke with said. “The cost is $2,000.00.” “No thank you,” I replied as I chuckled. … The above image is from the 1999 Wild West article. Unfortunately the text bled through from the following page. The presentation in the 2015 issue of Wild West was terrific but it took up the first two pages of the article (and I didn’t feel like taking the magazine apart to scan the image).

Images already in place for Sand Creek

I have several images long in public domain that I own and they will be in the book when published. I also intend to use two images of white captives, and one of a Cheyenne girl captured at Sand Creek. I’ve also seen an earlier portrait of John Chivington that I might use. … In regards to large art there is a painting of the Battle of the Washita (27nov1868), that although stiff in presentation, features Black Kettle and Medicine Woman Later attempting to escape death.* I plan on looking into the rights to use it but only if it can be printed as a detail as the entire painting is way-too large to be of any use in the Sand Creek book.

The Battle of the Washita is in the scope of the Sand Creek as the manuscript concludes at the end of the 1860s.

There will also be a new portrait of Black Kettle. A good friend of mine is Jeroen Vogschmidt, an artist and historian who lives in the Netherlands. He specializes in American Indians. He does a lot of portraits of especially the Plains tribes, and he has written books that also deal with them. Unfortunately they are in Dutch, although he told me that he is trying to get one of his books translated into English. Earlier this year he asked some of his friends which Indian portrait they would like to see him paint next. Motor-mouth Kraft jumped at this: “Black Kettle!” Jeroen liked the idea and completed the portrait. I liked his art, especially BK’s eyes which are focused on someone who is slightly to his left. Not shy I pitched him on allowing me to use the image in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Jeroen immediately agreed. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of Jeroen, and I need to rectify this.

Chief Yellowman (left) and Southern Cheyenne Peace Chief Harvey Pratt near the battlefield overlook during the first day of the Washita Battlefield NHS 2011 Symposium on November 11. On this day Gordon blessed the sacred ground and Harvey spoke about what it was like to be a Cheyenne warrior in the 1860s and to fight on foreign battlefields in modern times. (photo © Louis Kraft 2011)

Those of you that have read my Sand Creek blogs know that I like a painting that Southern Cheyenne Peace Chief Gordon Yellowman painted years back (a framed print is displayed in one of the rooms in Tujunga House). When we near production I plan on sharing it along with other paintings for the book cover (to date I only have Chief Yellowman’s art on the list) with Chuck Rankin and current OU Press Editor-in-Chief Adam Kane to hear their thoughts on the painting.

A perfect storm

I saw my neurologist near the end of July 2017. As the CAT Scan had been negative at the Providence Tarzana Medical Center on 5jul2017 and a Brain MRI and X-rays of my lungs had been negative in May, he remained concerned and ordered a Brain EEG. After the EEG test on August 8 (in the medical building across the drive from the medical center) the technician told me that my brain looked fine. He then called me to his monitoring device and showed me that my heart rate was low. It ranged between mostly 35 and 36, and at times it dropped as low 30 while never reaching 40.

Knowing that my neurologist wouldn’t see the results for two or three days I took the elevator up to my internist/cardiologist’s office and told him the Brain EEG results. His nurse did an EKG (the heart rate was 39), and then attached a device on me that would record my heart rate for the next 24 hours. The next day when I returned it I was told to call the following morning for the results.

About 11:30 AM on August 10 I called for the test results, but there were none yet. I called back at 11:55 AM. “You have severe heart blockage, and need to get to the ER immediately,” my internist/cardiologist said. “Do not drive.” He also told me the name of my surgeon. My surgeon?

For the record, this was the first time I was aware that I might have a heart problem.

After the surgery, and until just before I was released, my vitals were watched closely. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

The next four images
precede the flow of text but
do not ruin the telling of what
has recently impacted my life.

As Pailin was en route to West LA, I called our close lady friends. They didn’t answer but returned my phone call within minutes. They arrived at Tujunga House at one and drove me to Providence Tarzana Medical Center ER. … In the ER my heart rate remained low while my blood pressure shot off the charts (for me) and well above 200 and sometimes reaching into the 240s plus. After about two hours of the ER doctor studying my medical records and speaking to at least one of my specialists I was admitted to the hospital.

About 4:30 the doctor who would be my heart surgeon met me and showed me the printout of the 24-hour heart study. … My heart rate was skipping three and four heart beats at a time, and these were not isolated instances. The hospital had been monitoring my heart rate and blood pressure since my admittance, and I’m certain that the gap between these two readings increased considerably.

Pailin took this image of me holding the device that captures and displays my heart rate in realtime early on the morning of 12aug2017. At that moment it was 74. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

Through all of my surgeries I had been calm and collected except for two cancer surgeries, and they frightened me. The calmness has mainly been because I have always had full trust in my surgeons and surgical crews. I’m forever curious with everything that happens as events move quickly toward the anesthesia entering me. Knowing that when everything is over I’ll wake up, … or perhaps not. Surprisingly this is soothing to me.

If not, I’ll never know what happened. Trust me for I am aware of potential disaster as Dr. Robin Cook’s medical thrillers scare the hell of me (am currently reading Charlatans, which was just published). Still he is my favorite novelist. … We can now add a third surgery to my nervous list as I had entered the unknown world of the heart—my heart.

Pailin, who visited me at ten the previous night was back at seven on the morning of the eleventh. She had taken the day off. Her company was a godsend. As the day dragged by with uncertainty, my heart rate remained low, and the thought of my heart continuing to miss three and four beats at a time kept my blood pressure out of sight. … The unbearable sluggishness continued. I was supposed to be in surgery at four, but an hour passed without a peep out of anyone. I rang for the day nurse and asked for an update. She left but returned shortly and told me that the surgeries before mine proceeded slower than anticipated.

Breakfast with my lady on the morning of 12aug2017. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

Long story short I was wheeled to surgery a little after six and my procedure began around six-thirty but moved slowly as my blood pressure remained high (I was not told what my heart rate was while under the knife). A bi-ventricular pacemaker was attached to my heart.

I had never seen what a pacemaker looked like until Pailin brought me home on August 12. Not a pretty sight but a thousand times better than a probable alternative. Pailin took this image of the pacemaker and scar above it as sunlight blasted through a bay window early on 27aug2017. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

Like the previous night I barely slept as the night nurse kept on top of my vitals. Again, a device that read my heart was attached to me (the same one as the previous two days) and it was plugged in as soon as my bed/gurney was back in place. The intravenous line was again attached and I was again put on air. My blood pressure remained high until four-thirty on the morning of the twelfth, and from that point on it slowly returned to normal. The monitoring continued all day, but I was finally released at four-thirty. Like the day of surgery—and it was a terribly long day for Pailin—she was back with me at seven on Saturday morning. On this day, which she again didn’t work, she informed her various managers that she would be taking the next six days off.

Free at last, and with hopefully a new outlook on life. Although I didn’t realize I was in big trouble until August 10, I am absolutely thrilled that a perfect storm set me in motion to get the pacemaker before something terrifying happened. I’m one lucky fellow.

The future?

Mine is now.

I met with my heart surgeon on 18aug2017 and had a lengthy description of what had happened between August 10 and 12, and what I had experienced since. The bi-ventricular pacemaker is currently set to 60, meaning that ideally it will trigger my heart to function whenever the heart rate drops below 60. However, I have atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart beat. As I had shared that I had some chest pain and slight lightheadedness, he told me to use Aspirin to thin my blood and that I would probably be put on a blood thinner. The mild chest pain continues off and on, at times my heart races*, and my breathing is heavy, but the lightheadedness is gone. The next two weeks will be key.

* My heart surgeon is mainly concerned about my lower heart chambers not having a regular rhythm and beating faster than they should, which could cause clot-related blood flow problems. Honestly, so am I.

LK on the morning of 27aug2017. I’m getting a little stir crazy, and there’s weeks more of this, but I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

That same day my internist/cardiologist ordered a second 24-hour heart test for September 1, and on the fourteenth I’ll enroll in my heart surgeon’s heart monitoring clinic. Once set up, the clinic will be able to monitor my heart when I’m home.

My neurologist, who I have a sparkling relationship with (medically, life interests, and personally), has kept up with what is going on with me via the phone (he has the surgeon and hospital records). I also see him in early September.


Will I live to see our future, our country’s future? My friends, the answer is yes!
On May 31 I told my pulmonary specialist that I planned to live to 130.
He chuckled and said that he did, too.

Olivia de Havilland birthday, update, & quiz

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


Friends have been contacting me all day regarding OdeH’s 97th birthday (July 1). On Sunday good friend Paul Fardink, who has written a terrific article on Lt. Charles Gatewood and his military service in the Southwest with Apache Indians (which includes a cool interview of me), let me know that he had seen OdeH on 60 Minutes this past Sunday night (June 30). He said: “David McCullough was in Paris doing a book signing and she shows up unexpectedly—96 years old and sharp as a tack!” Just what I want to hear!!!! What a great present from OdeH to the world that enjoys her classic films.

Here’s a personal note on Livvie: In a letter I received from her in December 2012 she requested information regarding her life; what I thought was important and who she should talk about. I sent her a detailed list. Hopefully some of it will work its way into her autobiography.

odehART_lkCollection_ws

Original artwork of OdeH in Louis Kraft collection.

The original artwork of OdeH seen here is in my personal collection. In 2004 when my daughter Marissa and I visited her in Paris, I gave her a print of it. She immediately recognized who she was playing. If you recognize who she’s playing, let me know.
The first person with the correct answer will receive one free dueling lesson with sabers. ‘Course you will need to live in the Los Angeles area for I don’t travel to train people on how to run other people through with a blade. 

I should add that the only local person who might identify this portrait correctly will be my buddy Robert Florczak. Unfortunately, or fortunately for you, I don’t think he’ll step forward as I don’t think he wants to cross blades with me. I wonder why.

Do your research and submit your answer to the email address at the bottom of this page. Good luck to all!

The good news is that Livvie at the time of her 97th birthday looks well and sounds great. Happy Birthday to a wonderful person!