Louis Kraft talks about what drives his writing and life

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


Terrible times beyond belief

First and foremost I need to say a few things that have impacted, and are impacting, my life (and one of them has become a curse on all of us the world over).

  • The COVID-19 pandemic (by now way too many of us know someone who has fallen prey to this heinous virus).
  • We still have two more months of fire season in California, and already 2020 has been the worst season on record, and this includes the worst air quality in LA County in 40 years (at these times wear a mask to protect your lungs).
  • A great friend and one of the most talented people I’ve ever known has suffered a terrible tragedy in his family (it is not for me to share).
  • Olivia de Havilland died (I had thought that she would outlive me; certainly that was my hope but it was not to be).
  • My great bro throughout time, Glen Williams, has died.
  • Not to brag, but this has been a dreadful year for me. Although it has nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic, it has cost me 24 months of no exercise, no lifting, no yardwork, no walking, … no—you name it.
  • My brain functions at all times, and believe it or not, at this sad time of woe that all of us will remember for the rest of our lives, … I have more freelance writing, related work, and deadlines than ever before (to the point that I’ve had to turn away work).

I’m the luckiest guy you know.

A request to review a Ned Wynkoop document by the National Park Service

LK playing Ned Wynkoop in a five-week run of Cheyenne Blood in SoCal in 2009. Folks, this was a highlight in my life. Yep, LK knows a hell of a lot about this extraordinary human being. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

Whoa cowboy!!!!! Yeah, the NPS was doing a flyer on ol’ Ned for a few of their National Historic Sites (NHS), such as Fort Larned NHS, Sand Creek Massacre NHS, and the Washita Battlefield NHS. To say that I was honored is an understatement of major proportions.

I treated this as a major project, and it took weeks to complete. The response from the NPS? Zero!!! Not a peep. Ha-ha, you know exactly where my view of the National Park Service went. Yep, right into the trashcan. I need to say, that regardless of what I wrote—and it had to have been hard for NPS management to swallow a review that was less than a thrilling kiss-ass of love for every piece of bullshit that they came up with—but what pissed me off was that the NPS never replied, never said we disagree with everything you wrote. Hell, that would have been acceptable.

Nada! Not anything from the National Park Service. Of course, your pal Kraft couldn’t keep his mouth shut. See my review of the travesty of BS that the NPS would eventually print: National Park Service, Ned Wynkoop, & a bad taste.

LK with Shawn Gillette at the Sand Creek Massacre NHS headquarters in Eads, Co., on 3oct2014. I think that Shawn is an upstanding person, and I’m lucky to know him. Our relationship has nothing to do with the National Park Service and I hope that this remains true as our lives move forward. (photo © Shawn Gillette, Louis Kraft, & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

In 2014 great Cheyenne wars historian John Monnett and his wonderful wife Linda invited us to visit them in Lafayette, Colorado, and this included them taking Pailin and myself to the Sand Creek Massacre NHS. After walking the grounds (as much as we could, but this wasn’t much), we went to Eads, where the headquarters for the Sand Creek Massacre NHS was located. Here I met Shawn Gillette, chief of interpretation, in person for the first time. He told me that the chiefs of interpretation agreed with my review but upper management ruled the day.

I could agree with this. … But my bad taste for the USA government grows by the day (I need to say that the National Park Service isn’t at the top of my list—the Federal government is, and from all indications this isn’t going to change for the rest of my life).

An LK interview that was to accompany a review of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

This was a book that I didn’t want to write, but my good friend and former editor-in-chief at the University of Oklahoma Press refused to accept my “No, I don’t write books about war” refusal. To this date in time—egotism aside—this is not only the best,  but also the most important book that I’ve ever written.

The interview was to accompany a review of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a LIfeway. I’m wordy, so it appeared in two editions of the paper (August and September 2020), but everything personal, everything that led up to why I write about the American Indian wars, everything that directs what I write and why, along with my next major writing project (which was a major question) was totally cut from the two issues of the newspaper.

Oh, the review of the Sand Creek book was five sentences. Five sentences! It was okay, but why bother? A silent parting of ways. Been here before.

I spent a fair amount of time writing what follows but the paper wasn’t interested in the Sand Creek book. It wanted information on Lt. Charles Gatewood and Geronimo, while totally uninterested in why I spent 10 years to write two books about Gatewood, Geronimo, and the Apaches, and follow them through to publication. Additional questions wanted to know what drove me to write about the Indian wars and racism.

As I stated in my submitted draft of the interview, I retained the copyright to my words and that I intended to use them in a memoir and in my blogs. As two procedures and two operations have knocked my health for a loop this year, not to mention the coronavirus pandemic, a major delivery to the Louis Kraft Collection, an upcoming talk on the Sand Creek Massacre, among other deadlines—and I haven’t even mentioned Errol & Olivia.

What follows are words that will give you an inside peek at who I am and what drives me.

In late spring 2020
I received two requests to do an interview

I stupidly agreed to the requests. The first one is still floating on the wind somewhere on the lone prairie. But this is no longer true, for that person is a human being by the name of Bob Reese, who, if I get lucky, will someday meet in person and spend good time with him. Recently he confirmed that changes in personal and that this slowed the production process; this also included his health. Bob Reese is one of the good guys in this world (hopefully he is again healthy). … As said above the other person purged every word that I shared that was personal and would have given his readers an understanding of who I am and why I write what I write. My opinion of what was printed in the two editions of that publication is unprintable. Will I ever read another word published by that publication? probably not. Will I ever write another piece for that publication? No.

LK with great friend Lt. Col. Paul Fardink, USA, Ret., in the Beverly Hills Hilton dining room on 16Jan2015. He and his wife Cheryl had flown to Los Angeles for a huge military awards ceremony at the hotel. The three of us had a terrific time enjoying each other’s company and discussing Lt. Charles Gatewood’s chances of being awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor. Paul had brought several of my articles and books for me to sign. I brought his terrific article on Gatewood and myself in On Point, which would play a key role in his upcoming presentation (which also included an amazing amount of primary source material). (photo © Paul Fardink & Louis Kraft 2015)

This person used me to comment on his hot topic/a major writing topic from my past that is dead and will never happen—that is, present the Medal of Honor to Lt. Charles Gatewood for the part he played in ending the last Apache war in 1886. Years back I had worked closely with Lt. Colonel Paul Fardink, USA-Ret., to create a major submission to obtain Gatewood this honor. Paul had a major general, and a handful of other generals, supporting the project. They had forewarned us that the answer would be “no,” and it would forever be “no.” Will this person—who wants to be a crusader but is always too busy; hell, he couldn’t even provide the publication dates for the two issues of the paper—ever contact me again? Honestly I don’t think so (his silence has been golden).

Was this wasted time lost by me when I’m in a zone wherein I have no free time?
Yes! and No!

My brother Lee Kraft in fall 1988. I can’t begin to tell you how close we were (whether at war or as buddies). We partied together, we worked together, we played ball together. Like our father, who was always there for both of us, he was for me and me for him. His premature death in March 1990 is still the most devastating day in my life. (photo Louis Kraft 1988)

This paragraph initially shared my views on the above—and certainly of the second interview. Unfortunately it got a little too personal, a little too gunslinger-like with LK walking the Southwest looking to put yet another notch on his Colt.

Hell, I’m a Kraft, and like my brother Lee, we were spittin’ images of our father—that is we always walked our own trail, come hell or high water. … Always.

ALWAYS.

I deleted what was to be the following text also.* Too bad, for it was lively and zinged off the page. …

* I should state that when I delete text that is on point or too personal I usually drop it into a potential blog that serves as a holding tank, as it will never be posted. Sometimes I go digging and discover gems that I had buried.

Maybe I should return to some of my favorite Arizona and New Mexico haunts and strut about and play-act doing what I don’t dare saying in print. Oh yeah, Kraft can still do this. That said, I have allowed my life experiences determine the trail that I would follow through life.

The following isn’t bragging; it’s simply fact. I’ve been knocked cold by my father (who was, and still is, the most important person in my life). I’ve taken my motorcycle over a cliff. I’ve had a knife at my throat (in Austin, Texas). I’ve had guns pointed me (and I’ve never been to war). I’ve survived high-speed crashes in fast cars that defy description and yet I walked away from them unharmed. I’ve had 24 surgeries; that’s right 24, and let me tell that wild cats, rats, and possums that cross my path in the wee hours of morning run for the hills when they see me. Am I the devil?

(I’m smiling) I don’t think so.

At my age, macho is good, for it means that I’m still breathing.

My bro Glen Williams would love the above—hopefully he sees it in heaven.

The Tombstone Epitaph
Interview, Louis Kraft
June 2020

Interview © Louis Kraft 2020. This said The Tombstone Epitaph has full right to publish
all or part of this interview in print and online. Also know that I intend to use portions of the following interview in a memoir and in my blogs and I retain the right to do so.

I signed no contract for my FREE interview,
and the words are mine. I am reprinting them here.

TE: Talk about your new book Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. What inspired you to tackle the history of the Sand Creek Massacre?

LK: This answer can be short and sweet. I met Chuck Rankin, former editor-in-chief of the University of Oklahoma Press (OU Press) at the beginning of this century. No Chuck, no Sand Creek book. Next question. …

Just joking but not about Chuck. More’s a comin’.

This image is from the 2012 Western Heritage Awards ceremony in Oklahoma City in April 2012.

At that time when we met I was in the process of trying to work out a contract with the University of New Mexico Press for my second book dealing with Lieutenant Charles Gatewood; actually piecing together his incomplete and failed attempt to write a memoir about his experiences with the Apache Indians in the 1880s. I had a terrific contract for the first Gatewood book but this contract was peanuts in comparison. I countered, but the publisher refused, I said goodbye and never looked back. In retrospect this was a very good day for LK. Chuck was interested, but the two OU Press peer reviews were negative and he sent me a short letter saying that Oklahoma would pass. I took what I agreed with from the reviews, incorporated it into my manuscript, and sent a proposal to the University of Nebraska Press. They quickly requested the manuscript, liked it (as did their peer reviewers), and added an advance to my first Gatewood contract.

During this time Chuck and I continued to discuss a book about Ned Wynkoop, a soldier turned U.S. Indian agent due to events that surrounded the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado Territory in 1864 (he wasn’t present at the massacre). He had migrated to what would become Colorado Territory in 1858 at the beginning of the gold rush, and as many who migrated westward harbored the typical racial hatred of American Indians. Although he didn’t realize it at that time, he was different than most of his comrades. … By fall 1864 he was a major in the First Colorado Volunteer Cavalry and commanded Fort Lyon (southeast Colorado Territory). That spring events led to the Cheyenne war of 1864, and the hatred and violence escalated as the summer moved toward fall. He had already stated that he intended to kill every Indian he came across, but to date (and this included a command he led against the Utes in 1863, and during which he never saw the enemy) he had not fired his revolver at a Cheyenne or Arapaho Indian.

This LK art of Black Kettle dates to 2015. It has appeared on these blogs but has never been published (the reason is simple: I never liked it enough to submit it to a publisher). Maybe I’ll think about repainting and improving it. Time will tell (or not tell). (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

That September 3, he received two letters (to the commanding officer of Fort Lyon and the Cheyenne-Arapaho Indian agent) dictated by Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle that stated that there was a large village (about 2,000 people) of mostly Cheyennes and Arapahos on a tributary of the Smoky Hill River in Kansas. Black Kettle and other chiefs wanted to discuss ending the war while juggling a carrot that they had white prisoners that they would give up if he met with them. His officers viewed it as a suicide mission, but Wynkoop refused to listen to them. A village that large couldn’t remain in one location for any length of time due to their huge horse and mule herds as well as supplying fresh meat, fruit, and vegetables that grew in the area. To send a courier to headquarters in Kansas would take at least a week (most likely longer) and the same amount of time for a return answer. Wynkoop couldn’t wait, and without orders set out for the village with 127 men. …

Much would happen, including facing a large warrior battle line; speaking with angry chiefs; eventually talking seven chiefs into traveling to Denver to meet with John Evans, the territorial governor; and receiving four children. During the council, which took place south of the city at Camp Weld, Evans made it clear that the war would continue. However, when Colonel John Chivington, who commanded the District of Colorado, verbally passed the Indians to Wynkoop to oversee them at Fort Lyon, the major, Indian chiefs, and Rocky Mountain News editor and publisher William Byers thought a tentative peace had been reached until the military command in Kansas decided what action it would take.

By early November Wynkoop was removed from command at Fort Lyon, and replaced by Major Scott Anthony. Before setting out for Kansas, where he anticipated being cashiered out of the military, Wynkoop was present when Anthony told Black Kettle and Arapaho Chief Left Hand, among others to move to Sand Creek, about forty miles northeast of the fort. Anthony also told them that he would inform them of the military’s decision in regards to the war ending or not.

This was my first attempt at creating a portrait of Ned Wynkoop. The pin and ink portrait is framed and is displayed at Tujunga House. It was based upon a woodcut of him in 1867, and has been printed at least once (I need to check, for it may more than once). (art © Louis Kraft 1990)

During Wynkoop’s brief time with the Cheyennes and Arapahos he had realized that they were human beings. When he learned that Chivington and Colorado Volunteers attacked the Sand Creek village and brutally butchered men, women, and children who thought that they had been removed from the war, he was outraged. He considered the massacre heinous, and it changed his life forever. By 1866 he was well on his way to becoming an U.S. Indian agent for the Cheyennes and Arapahos, … and perhaps the most hated white man in Colorado Territory.

I had discovered Wynkoop when looking for an Indian agent on the take for a novel I intended to write; that is defrauding the U.S. government and the Indians he represented to become rich. I never wrote the story, but by 1987 my first article on him had been published (this was my first Indian wars article). Two years later I delivered my first talk on him. By the mid-1990s I was moving forward with a planned biography on him.

Chuck Rankin was definitely interested in my Wynkoop manuscript. There was one problem. Chuck didn’t want was a duel biography like Gatewood & Geronimo; in other words, no Wynkoop & Black Kettle. Actually this was not a problem, for I never considered a joint biography—this book would focus on Wynkoop.

This is a portrait of interpreter/trader John Simpson Smith. It is one of numerous portraits that I’ve done of him (to date none have been printed). This man spoke many languages; this man had numerous wives and none of them were white. Was he a racist? I don’t think so. If you ever read Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway you’ll get to know Mr. Smith. Trust me: he was a combination of good and evil, and more important he was a human being. (art © Louis Kraft 2016)

Over the coming years we often talked about how to handle the massacre in the book. As Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek went into production (OU Press published it in 2011), Chuck returned to that tragic November when men, women, and children were murdered and savagely hacked to pieces. This led to us discussing me writing a book about the massacre. At first my reply was “no” for the simple reason that I consider myself a biographer as opposed to a historian (even though history has a large presence in all my nonfiction and fiction). At that time I still wrote for software companies—meaning that travel and research were never a concern—and we talked in person, on the phone, and with email. We both listened and between us we discussed a book that would be acceptable to both of us. The massacre was a key piece in the proposal, and we both agreed that I would deal with it similar to how I did in the Wynkoop book. But people, their words, and actions would drive the story to conclusion. I wanted to write the book through the eyes of the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos, whites who married into the tribes, their offspring, whites who coveted Indian land to the east of the Rocky Mountains, and whites who dared to speak out against the Sand Creek Massacre. Once we were in agreement on how I would approach the storyline everything else fell into place. …

That is until I began to write the book. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I needed more research, a lot more research. As always, I allowed my research to drive the flow of the manuscript, and the more I learned and understood, the deeper I had to dig. There were surprises—big surprises. People that I thought would have leading parts became supporting players and people I thought would have smaller roles became the focus. Two huge examples here are Arapaho Chief Little Raven (who I really didn’t know that much about) became the Indian lead, along with Black Kettle, whom I always knew would have a large role. But digging into Black Kettle also presented a lot of information about him that I never knew existed.

Arapaho Chief Little Raven examines journalist Albert Deane Richardson’s revolver in this 1859 woodcut. New York Tribune publisher Horace Greeley relaxes in the background (woodcut in the Louis Kraft Collection)

For me it is the process of research, writing, more research, more writing, rewriting, research, writing, editing, and more research, until the manuscript begins to take shape. Then comes the hard part, and that is trying to make all the facts, events, and people flow together in hopefully a readable manner. It doesn’t stop there, for I play a large role in the production process.

For the record if I ever become homeless and can have only one of my books, it would be Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Yeah, and this was a book that I initially didn’t want to write.

TE: What challenges did you face while researching American Indian history?

LK: This is a wide open question, but my answer is simple: how to locate information that gives life to (in my case) the Cheyennes, Arapahos, Apaches, and, if I live long enough, the Navajos’ side of their history and culture. A good portion of the life and times of these people has been told by the white man, and much of it has been biased, but not all of it. Often raiding warrior numbers have been inflated, as has been white casualties. And this goes the other way also, and the Sand Creek Massacre is a good example of this. I’m going to stick with my current book for this question.

Colonel John Chivington wrote two official reports of his November 29, 1864, attack on the Cheyenne village circles and the Arapaho village, which may have had two camp circles on Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado Territory. On the day of the massacre Chivington reported that he killed between 500 and 600 Indians, including Black Kettle. Sand Creek Massacre NHS ranger, and the most knowledgeable person on what happened on those two days, Jeff Campbell’s calculations places the death count at 230 with 75 percent of the dead being non-combatants. This means that approximately 67 of the dead were chiefs and warriors. By the way, Black Kettle wasn’t even wounded.

Not all the soldiers present took part in the carnage, and some refused to fire their weapons. Two of them were Wynkoop’s subordinates, Captain Silas Soule and Lieutenant Joseph Cramer. Both dared to speak out against the massacre during the investigations, and Soule was later murdered on the streets of Denver. Wynkoop, who was exonerated in late December 1864 might have shared the same fate, but was again in command of Fort Lyon. Even so he was called “Black Kettle’s puppet.”

Honestly, the hardest part was trying to remain in the point-of-view (POV, a film term) of the person I was currently writing about. We already know all the negative prose directed at Black Kettle regardless of his efforts to maintain peace. There were many leading and supporting players in the Sand Creek story, including Black Kettle, Cheyenne chief and Keeper of the Sacred Arrows Stone Forehead; Dog Men (“Dog Soldiers” is a white-man term) Tall Bull and Bull Bear; Arapaho chiefs Little Raven, Left Hand, Neva; trader William Bent, and his mixed-blood Cheyenne sons George Bent, Charley Bent; mixed-blood Cheyennes Edmund Guerrier and Jack Smith, and his father, trader John S. Smith; and Byers, Evans, Chivington, Soule, and Wynkoop to name a few. The goal has always been to present them with their words, their actions, and views of them by their contemporaries.

Regardless of my views—and those of you who read my writing know what they are for I mostly focus on people who try to end war or keep the peace. These are people who reach across racial boundaries to do this. Some of them understand this and become friends, while others do what they think is right regardless of their racial feelings. Bottom line: these are the people I write about. That said, I view the Los Angeles mass murderer Charles Manson as a heinous villain; ditto Adolph Hitler. … None of the people that I write about in the Indian wars do I consider a heinous villain. I believe that what they did when they did it they thought that they were doing what was right. If I do my job correctly, you will be able to make your own decision about them. That is my goal.

TE: What is the legacy of the Sand Creek Massacre today?

LK: To begin with there is still a large divide between white-Indian relations. And certainly a lot of what I’ve watched move forward with racial equality since the 1960s, although slow I thought that it was steady. Over the last three and a half years we have a national government that fosters racial hatred, and it’s almost as if the last 60 years of progress never happened.

LK speaking about Ned Wynkoop’s efforts to save the joint Cheyenne-Dog Man-Lakota Pawnee Fork village in Kansas from destruction in April 1867 on the preserved land where Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock refused to listen, destroyed the village, and began the 1867 Cheyenne war (September 2012).

A truthful reporting of what happened on that bloody ground on November 29 and 30, 1864, is shocking. It affects my psyche and brings tears to my eyes every time I think about the details. Most of us are lucky to have loved ones, children, parents, friends. The words that describe what happened on that bloody ground are horrifying. Do you get the gist of what I’m talking about?

I have a talk coming up with the University of New Mexico on the afternoon of October 21 titled “An attempt to kill every Cheyenne man, woman, and child: The Sand Creek Massacre, Colorado (November 29, 1864).”* I thought that the novel coronavirus had killed this talk, but luckily Tomas Jaehn (Director, Special Collections/CSWR University of New Mexico Libraries) who hosts monthly talks at UNM saved the day when he decided to have them continue live via Zoom. I don’t want to share much about the talk other than to say that I intend to focus on the scramble from within the various Cheyenne village circles as people attempt to survive sexual butchery. A number of Cheyenne mixed-bloods were in the village. Over the years many of them have gotten a bad rap, as traitors to the white race, and worse, little more than renegades and pure evil. All I’ll say here is that they saw what happened. Some of them grew up walking between the two races and indeed attended school in Missouri. This dark time would remain with them for the remainder of their lives. To this point in time, they had moved back and forth between the races. Not any longer (although Edmund Guerrier did well working with the white man, and he was present) for young men like George and Charley Bent were horribly affected by what they saw and from that time forward they considered themselves Cheyennes.

* LK: This wasn’t in the interview: If you would like to see the talk, which will be live on October 21, you need to send Tomas an email with your name and email address (tjaehn@unm.edu). He will add you to the attendee list, and the Zoom information will be emailed to you two days before the talk. Signing in will be between 4:00 and 4:30 pm Pacific time/5:00 and 5:30 pm Mountain time, with the talk beginning at 4:30/5:30, and so on depending upon your time zone.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (art Louis Kraft 2016)

Racism has been different during my lifetime than how it was in the 1860s. The twentieth century saw lots of theft, incarceration, brutality, rape, and murder—so much so that I’m not going to even attempt to talk about it here. I don’t want to go into the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the 1960s, 1970s, and beyond, other than to say that I do not consider their continued fight to protect what was theirs while fighting racism as criminal activity. What was in place when I was young has never ended. Hopefully what is happening on the streets of America today can somehow lead the USA to become one country where every man, woman, and child are treated the same, and that is as human beings. When I was young, I thought that I’d live to see that day. As the days grow shorter, I’m doubtful. But hope burns eternally.

The legacy of the Sand Creek Massacre is present today, and it will most likely never end, never fade away. What happened on those two days of horror will live forever in infamy. Certainly for every Cheyenne, Arapaho, as well as many other American Indians living today. It is burned in their souls. It is also front-and-center in the lives of a lot of people I know, people I call friends (and some of them are Cheyennes), and they damn it.

This is how it should be, for November 29-30, 1864, were two days that can never be forgotten. This said, we cannot and should never censor history. If we do, this plague on humanity will continue to tear us apart until we figure out how to destroy life on earth as we know it. History must be told from all sides—from all sides. We’re all people with our views. Just because you disagree with me, or I with you, doesn’t make either of us evil. This is our world, and regardless of what we look like we’re all human beings.

What is the legacy of the Sand Creek Massacre? Don’t hate me, for I believe that the racial hatred of the 1860s is alive and thriving in the year 2020. It is on us to end it.

TE: Your career as a historian and writer has been hallmarked by books dealing with the intersection of the U.S. military and the American Indian. What prompted this interest in you early on?

Olympian and champion duelist, actor, stunt man, sword choreographer, and fencing instructor Ralph Faulkner in the late 1950s, and just a few years before he coached me at Falcon Studios on Hollywood Blvd.

LK: I like this question, but it is a question that you shouldn’t ask me for you are going to get a mouthful (please delete this sentence, for it was only for you).

I think that I discovered Errol Flynn and his films while in the fourth grade. Two Warner Bros. films stood out: The Sea Hawk (1940) and They Died with Their Boots On (1941). Many people think that The Sea Hawk was based on Rafael Sabatini’s classic novel. No. Warners Bros. had the rights to his book, but it wasn’t about an Elizabethan pirate during the time leading up to the Spanish Armada and the invasion of England in 1588. Instead it was about an English nobleman sold into slavery in North Africa, who later became an infamous Tunisian pirate who raided British ships. I highly recommend Flynn’s The Sea Hawk.

This film led to me studying fencing with the U.S. Olympian Ralph Faulkner, who turned actor, stunt double with swords on film, and eventually taught fencing in Hollywood, California. While in junior high school I studied under him, and in the only competition at his studio that I took part in I placed third in foil (my competition were all male adults). In college I took fencing in my first semester, was good enough with the foil that the coach asked me to join the team. I consented, providing I could learn and fight with a sabre, and only a sabre. Reason: almost all the great duels on film are shot with a combination of thrusting and slicing. She agreed. … This Flynn performance is important for it led to me studying acting in junior high school, high school, and college. Eventually I learned “swashbuckling” or stage combat, and would choreograph duels and swordfight on stage. Great times.

CD cover of the film score.

Now to They Died with Their Boots On, and on looking back, it, although not at first, has had a much greater impact on my life. Errol Flynn played George Armstrong Custer and Olivia de Havilland played his wife Elizabeth Bacon Custer (“Libbie” is the correct spelling of her nickname). I have written at least four articles about this film (including a cover story for American History (February 2008), and have spoken about it five times in four states (Missouri, Montana, Texas, and California). Mr. Custer and the American Indian wars (as depicted in this film) grabbed my interest and refused to let go. Back in those days long gone there were many bookstores in Hollywood, California, and one featured nonfiction western history books. I bought a lot of Custer books, read them, enjoyed them, but then the anti-hero worship again struck (at least in Southern California) in the 1960s. Custer was one of the people hardest hit, and he became a caricature that stood for racism and butchery of American Indians. By the end of the decade I boxed up all my Custer books. Luckily I exiled them to a closet and didn’t throw them away. In the late 1970s I visited Arizona (over the years I would spend between six and eight months of my life in Scottsdale, Tucson, and elsewhere hanging out, doing research in archives and on the road). On this trip I discovered Aaron and Ruth Cohen’s Guidon Books in Old Scottsdale, and immediately fell in love with their store. It was the beginning of a wonderful relationship with them. During that trip I visited their shop at least three times. They had a bookshelf that was perhaps seven or eight feet high that featured Custer books. I bought some, and before heading home I bought more. I read them all, and then rescued my exiled books and reread them. I was hooked and knew where my future headed.

Be patient, for everything that I do (or now more important to my writing) is interlinked. Everything.

In summer 1976 I played the lead in two plays in Lubbock, Texas.

Before moving forward here, let me say that I grew up with parents who had an open door to anyone, regardless of race, color, or religion. I had marched for Martin Luther King Jr., and in 1970 I joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). This was like the Peace Corps but in the continental United States. I had hoped to work with American Indians (the other two choices were with Blacks and Chicanos, as they were called during my tenure). The training was in Austin, Texas (we housed in the dormitory where a sniper way back shot and killed people on the University of Texas; women on one floor, men on another). At that time they rolled up the sidewalks at 10:00 pm. Before that time we loaded up with beer and wine before returning to the dorm. One night in one of the dorm rooms I said something to a married couple that I liked. It didn’t bother them, but it did a Chicano leader who would soon pick volunteers to work with his people.

LK rehearsing Eat Your Heart Out, a play about an actor who is forced to wait on tables while trying to survive in Hollywood. The week before it opened we rehearsed every day until about two hours before the current play, What Did We Do Wrong (a generation gap comedy that led to a father and son (me) swapping places), was performed (we had seven performances each week). This was during summer 1976 in Lubbock. (photo Louis Kraft 1976)

Suddenly I had an arm around me, and a knife at my throat. It was about 2:00 am and there were between 15 and 20 people in the room. I told my attacker (and I knew his name, but not now) that if he killed me he would destroy his cause. He laughed and called me a number of choice names. I continued, and asked him if he intended to kill everyone else in the room, that is to eliminate all the witnesses. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but the words worked and he released me. Breakfast began at six, and to my shock I was a hero. Bleep no! I was one scared person who was thrilled to see the sun come up. When the time came I was quickly chosen to work and live with Blacks in Oklahoma City.

Back to Lubbock … During our first week we stayed in a motel (the director and three leading actors were from LA). My roommate was a Black actor named Jim Reynolds. We hit it off immediately. However, our first visit to the motel’s restaurant let me know what was coming. The waitress gave me a menu and a cup of coffee. When she returned, I said: “Where’s his coffee and menu?” She gave me a dirty look but did as requested. During my three months there I saw a lot that turned my stomach upside down (some good too). When I returned to Los Angeles I wrote a screenplay about my experience. The agent I submitted it to, said, “This is terrible, but let’s talk.” We did, and he became my agent for the next seven years. We came close to selling and optioning screenplays, but never did. Often I dealt with race relations. My favorite was called Wonderboat, which dealt with a U-Boat commander during WWII, the downfall of Nazi Germany, and his Jewish girlfriend. A producer wanted to produce it, but only if I moved the story to WWI and removed the Jewish connection. I refused.

This image is of Boston Red Sox 1st baseman Bill Buckner just before he hit his first home run of 1985 on April 4 at Fenway Park. If my memory is good, this was an image that I used in one of my articles about him. (photo © Louis Kraft 1985)

In 1984 I decided that I needed to make money with my writing. I quit writing screenplays and began selling magazine articles. Since I played competition softball year round, knew baseball, and spent time with Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers great Duke Snider (and even pitched him on writing his biography with him; unfortunately he had already signed a contract to coauthor what would be published as The Duke of Flatbush, 1988). I had a number of articles on the Duke, as well as my favorite baseball player of all time—Bill Buckner. Most of what he accomplished during his career he did on one leg, and my articles about him were all published while he was still playing.

The baseball writing was just to get my foot in the published writing door. I did an about-face and began writing about the American Indian wars. A feature on George Armstrong Custer would be my second published article in this category.

This opened a floodgate that would soon blossom to talks, a novel, and finally to nonfiction: Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains (Upton and Sons, Publishers, 1995; and God bless Dick and Frankie Upton, for without them my nonfiction book future would have never been). The focus of this book dealt with Custer’s efforts to roundup the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos without further bloodshed after his November 27, 1868, surprise attack on Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle’s Washita village in Indian Territory (almost four years to the day had passed since Sand Creek, but this time the chief and his wife didn’t survive the attack). Custer had two armies behind him and they craved blood. Custer pulled off his task with no additional deaths.

The above is all key to who I am as a writer today. I’m lucky for I’ve been in control of my writing path every step of the way.

TE: What about Geronimo? What kind of a man was he?
LK: I think that this question should move above the Gatewood question, and have moved it upward. The reason is a film, Geronimo: An American Legend, for without this film there would have never been two Gatewood/Apache books. Hope that you agree.

LK: I know film intimately, and study it all the time. The reason is simple: I can’t begin to tell you how much it helps me as a writer—plot development, character, dialogue, and transitions from one plot point to the next. Yes! This is totally valid for a nonfiction writer.

Left: A German lobby card of Geronimo: An American Legend with Wes Studi portraying the Bedonkohe Chiricahua Apache mystic and war leader. If I never saw this film I never would have written a word about Geronimo, Lt. Charles Gatewood, or the Apache Indians. (entire lobby card set in the Louis Kraft personal collection)

In regards to Geronimo, I think that we have to start with a film about him: Geronimo: An American Legend (Columbia, 1993), with Wes Studi playing him. I saw the film twice when it opened in Los Angeles in December 1993. I loved the grandeur, scope, and some of the character development, but hated the lack of focus. That title states that it is about Geronimo but there are too many other characters that have major focus, and shouldn’t. If there was to be a second lead it would be Lieutenant Charles Gatewood, and he had plenty of focus in this film. I was good with that, but not the large focus on scout Al Sieber and General George Crook. Also, there were too many other players that shouldn’t have been in the film. Read that much of this film was total fiction (perhaps even more than Flynn’s They Died with Their Boots On). Oh yeah, fiction dominates this film, although I didn’t know this in 1993. Actually I knew nothing about Geronimo or Gatewood at that time. Zero! Two years later in April 1995 I visited Aaron and Ruth Cohen at Guidon Books to sign Custer and the Cheyenne. Our talk turned to film and how it impacts book sales. Tombstone (1993) with Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer had been a major hit at the box office and increased Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday sales while Geronimo: An American Legend failed at the box office and had no impact on Geronimo sales. During the course of our conversation Ruth told me about the Charles Gatewood Collection at the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson. The following month I took a week off (nine days), visited the collection, and was blown away. In June I took two weeks off (16 days). At that time Gatewood put Wynkoop on hold and became my next nonfiction project. Two years later it became a joint biography about two men on collision course—Gatewood & Geronimo. I can never begin to tell you what this book has meant to my life and career.

Before moving forward, I want to say that Wes Studi’s portrayal of Geronimo was magnificent, as have been some of his other filmed performances. He is great actor, and his honorary Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Lifetime Achievement award this year was long overdue. I luckily met him shortly after Dances with Wolves (1990) was released in an American Indian gift shop in Tarzana (a suburb in Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley) in 1990. He was excited and I enjoyed our half hour or so of time together. Alas, I’ve never seen him since.

LK talking about Gatewood finding Geronimo in Mexico and talking him, Naiche, and the remnants of their people into returning to the United States and surrendering at the Festival of the West in Scottsdale, Ariz., on 18mar2004. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Every time I have written or spoken about Geronimo I have tried to be in his viewpoint. Trust me, for this hasn’t been hard to do. Beginning in 1851 when he lost his first wife and family in a raid in Río de Janos in Mexico until his final surrender in fall 1886 he would lose more wives, children, family members, friends, and tribal members to death or abduction. His outrage was instantaneous and totally justified. There were major cultural and political ideologies at stake during the Chiricahua Apaches’ long fight with Mexico and the United States to keep their land, their culture, their lifeway, their language, their religion, their children, and their freedom. Geronimo was a mystic and war leader, and more—for he was a survivor.

LK portrait of Geronimo. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

What happened to him and his loved ones over the course of his lifetime was unbelievable. Often he, the Bedonkohe (his band of the Chiricahua Apaches) as well as all the other bands of Chiricahuas have been branded as aggressive outlaws who raided, raped, stole, and killed at random on both sides of the American-Mexican border. There are some good historians who made it clear that the Chiricahuas considered the land that they claimed was theirs. They had nothing to do with the Americans’ land grab from Mexico, but suddenly their land wasn’t their land in the north (and ditto in the south). They didn’t sign any treaties giving away their land. It was still their land, and Geronimo, Naiche, and those who dared to fight for their freedom and lifeway became murderers, robbers, and worse. What about all the murder, rape, abduction, and constant fear of attack that they had to deal with, live with, during their lives? They were in the way of American progress, and what the hell! They had no rights! I’ve often seen Geronimo listed as a chief. He was never a chief. I’ve also seen him listed as little more than a hellion who never came close to becoming a leader, for all he cared about was himself and his immediate situation. Read the facts about his life, and you’ll quickly see what he had to deal with. He reacted with hate, anger, and vengeance. How would I react in the same situation? How would you react? How are many people in the United States today reacting?

This question is about Geronimo, but I’m sorry, for it is also about me, you, and everyone else in our homeland today. If this generates hate and anger at me, that’s life. I’ve been there before, and I deal with it more often than I want in my life. Way too many times I’ve been called a racist and traitor to my own kind and my homeland. What a bleeping joke!

Geronimo was a patriot, and he had the guts to fight back against what he considered wrong. He lived during a time of violence when his lifeway was coming to an end for all time. We’ve all suffered tragedy during our lifetimes, some of us more than others, but when looking at Geronimo’s life it was an ongoing hell without end. Regardless of what you think about him, he was a very intelligent man. He knew how to fight, when to fight, and when to run. Moreover, he had no intention of giving up the fight for his freedom until that fatal day in September 1886 when he, Naiche, and the remnants of their followers discussed surrendering with Lieutenant Charles Gatewood and returning to the United States to become prisoners of war. As Gatewood had told Naiche and him, surrender, for if not all of you will die.

Geronimo, Naiche, and their followers (less than 40 men, women, and children) surrendered. They would be lied to, but not by Gatewood. For the rest of Geronimo’s life he was a prisoner of war. Still he learned how to survive in the white man’s world of incarceration. Actually he became a celebrity, and realized that if he could sign his name he could earn money. He extended his marketability and began signing photographs of himself (as well as maps). He had not only learned how to play the white man’s game, he excelled at it. Unfortunately General Nelson Miles’s promise that he and those who surrendered with him 1886 would only be exiled to Florida for two years was a lie. When he died in 1909 he was still a prisoner of war.

I have often been asked if I could pick one American Indian who would you select? I don’t have one, I have two: Geronimo and Black Kettle.

TE: Let’s talk about Lt. Charles Gatewood who was the subject of two of your earlier books. Who was he and why do people today not remember his contributions to the taming of the west?

Gatewood (Jason Patric) reaches the top of the mountain at the bend of Río Bapispe in Sonora, Mexico, to meet Geronimo in Geronimo: An American Legend (another German lobby card). A bunch of problems here, including everyone that accompanied Gatewood into Mexico weren’t in the film, Naiche wasn’t in it, and the meeting took place near a bend in the river where there was trees, shade, and water. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

LK: First Lieutenant Charles Gatewood (Sixth U.S. Cavalry) convinced Naiche (the last hereditary Chiricahua chief), Geronimo, and the remnants of their people still with them in Mexico to return to the United States and surrender in fall 1886. He was known as a (General George) “Crook man” as he had served under him, but they had a huge falling out in 1884. At that time Gatewood, who had been a commander of Apache scouts, was in charge of the White Mountain Indian Reservation, headquartered at Fort Apache, Arizona Territory. That year Arizona Territorial Judge Francis M. Zuck defrauded Gatewood’s wards (the White Mountain Apaches), and the lieutenant arrested him. The judge was outraged. Crook agreed with Zuck, and ordered Gatewood to drop the charges. Gatewood refused. When the trial began, the presiding judge dismissed the case on a technicality: Zuck was a judge and should be in his own district presiding over his court. Zuck immediately arrested Gatewood for felonious false arrest. Gatewood appealed to Crook, who turned his back on him. When Gatewood’s trial began, the presiding judge tossed out the case, as the arrest of Zuck had taken place on an Indian reservation and U.S. courts had no jurisdiction on Indian land. For all intensive purposes this destroyed what had been a good working relationship between Gatewood and Crook.

In March 1886 Geronimo and those with him appeared at Cañon de los Embudos, Sonora, to speak with Crook (Gatewood wasn’t present). On the 25th Geronimo told the general why he left the reservation in 1885 (he thought that he would be murdered), of wanting peace, while unhappy with newspapers stating that he should be hanged. He wanted his actions deleted. While he spoke Crook refused to look at him; this angered Geronimo. When Crook did speak, he called Geronimo a liar.

LK tracking Gatewood and Geronimo in Arizona and New Mexico (23jul1996). My daughter Marissa took this image. I can’t begin to count all the trips that we have made together over the years. Good times. (photo Louis & Marissa Kraft 1996)

The following morning Geronimo told Crook that he, Naiche, and the others wanted to return to the White Mountains as they had in 1883. Crook refused; they had to spend two years in Florida. After agreeing to surrender and return to the States, and at a camp while traveling northward, Geronimo, Naiche, and some of their followers feared being killed. In the wee hours they vanished into the night.

Crook had failed and was soon gone and Miles now commanded the mop-up operation of the Chiricahua Apaches that had refused to surrender. Many troops patrolled the U.S.-Mexico border, while others from the Fourth U.S. Cavalry were in Mexico hunting the warring Indians (less than 40 men, women, and children) with one goal—to kill them. Many of these officers would win Medals of Honor for their actions. Not Gatewood, who was ill when Miles summoned him to his headquarters in July 1886 and ordered him to find Geronimo in Mexico and get him to surrender.

Gatewood wasn’t part of Miles’s campaign of capturing and destroying the warring Apaches, but the first lieutenant would pull off an impossible task while the Fourth Cavalry continued to hunt the Apaches. After talking Geronimo and Naiche into returning to the USA and ending the current Apache war, he did everything possible to get them back to the United States. This was not an easy task as both the Mexican authorities and the U.S. troops wanted them dead. This included convincing Geronimo to meet with Jesus Aguirre, the prefect who commanded the Sonoran district of Arispe (headquartered at Fronteras, Mexico), and defusing an attempt by two officers in the Fourth U.S. Cavalry (Surgeon Leonard Wood and First Lieutenant Abiel Smith) that plotted to kill Geronimo. For more on this see Gatewood & Geronimo (University of New Mexico Press, 2000) and Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2005). Gatewood was a first lieutenant in 1886; he was still a first lieutenant when he died in 1896, while many of Miles’s officers (captains and lieutenants) in Mexico that summer and fall of 1886 were colonels and generals when they retired or died. Miles totally wrote Gatewood out of the last Apache war. To quickly get an idea of Gatewood’s contribution to what happened in Mexico in late summer-early fall 1886 see a talk that I gave at an Order of the Indian Wars Geronimo symposium in Tucson on September 26, 2013: “Gatewood’s Assignment: Geronimo” (on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3AaI2l8J6I).

TE: What is next for Louis Kraft?

(magazine in Louis Kraft personal collection)

LK: My next nonfiction book is Errol & Olivia, which deals with the life and times of actors Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland during their time at Warner Bros. in the 1930s and 1940s. Between 1935 and 1941 they made eight films together, and their onscreen chemistry was real and vibrant. Three of their films were westerns: Dodge City (1939), Santa Fe Trail (1940), and They Died with Their Boots On. (By the way, I talked about Flynn, de Havilland, and the Santa Fe Trail in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2005. Afterward I realized how important this talk was to my upcoming manuscript, and have never again shared this information. Luckily the talk wasn’t filmed.) Surprisingly Errol and Olivia seldom had any personal contact except on their film sets. There were many reasons for this, and much of what has been printed about their relationship is false. Shockingly some of the untruths have been reprinted so often that they are no longer cited and worse, accepted as fact.

As stated above I discovered Errol Flynn while in elementary school, and he has remained with me all these years. Luckily in Los Angeles Flynn’s films still play in movie theaters (although not in 2020 due to the theaters being shut down). Without realizing what I was doing I began researching Flynn at an early age. At first just for myself, but in the early 1990s I began thinking about writing a book about him. This led to the articles and talks.

Art based upon a photo of Olivia de Havilland and LK at her Paris, France, home in July 2009. It is in the Louis Kraft Collection. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

In 1995 professor, historian, and friend Eric Niderost knew of my Flynn project and shared Olivia’s address in Paris, France. I wrote her once, twice, and perhaps three times with no response to questions about Flynn. This obviously wasn’t working, so I turned on my charm and began sending her Christmas and birthday cards, gifts (mostly my books and articles), and another letter dealing with an article that would soon be printed that dealt with They Died with Their Boots On, which as it turned out would be the last film they made together although neither knew this at that time. She did reply to this letter, but too late for that article. … Everything changed for the better when I sent her a hardbound copy of Gatewood & Geronimo in 2000. She liked the book and my approach to the Flynn manuscript, and answered quite a number of questions I had sent her in 1999. This opened a floodgate that led to her inviting me to visit her at her Paris home to interview her (first in 2004 and again in 2009), and to her big 2006 shindig at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, when the Academy honored her and her film career. It has included roughly twenty-plus years of correspondence, and this influenced me on how I would move forward.

I believe that it was sometime in 2002 that my Flynn book became a story of two people over the course of roughly 15 years—that is Errol & Olivia. Over the last 25 years I have accumulated a massive amount of primary source material. Los Angeles is a goldmine for those who write about the Golden Age of the Cinema, and for me the center-point is the USC Warner Bros. Archives. For the record, I’m approaching this book just as I have with all my nonfiction Indian wars books.

Another heart surgery

What follows could be a book, and I have been struggling to cut it to pieces. I think it is best to lead with a sentence or two, maybe a short paragraph of 2016-2017, and then focus on the most recent.

As soon as Carlos Castillo, who is a key part of Pailin’s and my small family  in the USA, got me home from Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, Ca., Pailin helped me get out of my clothes so that she could take this photo (which has been cropped). Although you can’t see it in this image there were three locations on my left arm and one on my right that were set up to handle multiple needles and drains. Also there were also a number of patches that the hospital didn’t bother to remove. … In 2017 Pailin had taken a similar photo. It, also, was cropped, but only as I didn’t want to shock you, for in that photo I was au naturel. For the record there will never be a nude photo on these blogs. I’m not a prude, but they simply don’t belong here. (photo © Pailin Kraft & Louis Kraft 2020)

I have had some health problems (an understatement), but I’m alive. I should have died in 2003, 2006, 2017, and this year. … I really don’t want to talk about the past now, but I also don’t want to leave you hanging. Long story very short. I’ve had two procedures and two operations this year. When I awoke from the first operation in March, my heart surgeon and a technician from Boston Scientific, the company that manufactured the pacemaker that saved my life in 2017, were monitoring my heart and pacemaker. My surgeon confirmed information that I already knew, mainly that a lead had separated from the lower right ventricle of my heart. Originally the pacemaker was supposed to last 13½ years. By fall of 2019 the pacemaker was down to 4½ years of life. My heart surgeon told me that this was no longer so, for the pacemaker now moved toward the end of life. There was a good chance that it wouldn’t make it until the end of the year. He also told me that the loose lead had punctured my heart, and that the pacemaker no longer functioned properly. He told me that I needed to replace the pacemaker when I had healed from the March surgery (that is, in mid-June). One problem, the coronavirus made elective surgeries no longer possible in Los Angeles. All my heart appointments in March, April, May, and June were canceled. This changed in mid-June. My pacemaker is monitored whenever I’m home 24/7 by a Boston Scientific Latitude device that sits next to my computer. What was happening during the March surgery was now constant and my heart rate was rarely above 40. When I met my heart surgeon on June 23 he told me I needed the surgery ASAP, but that he couldn’t perform this operation. He recommended the best surgeon for the task in LA. I met with him a little over a week later, and we discussed my X-rays on two computers, he informed me of all that could happen (negative and positive), and that he wouldn’t know how to proceed until he cut me open on the day of the surgery. He then asked if I wanted to proceed. “Yes, I want your next available time.” The surgery was on July 10, and there were problems but I didn’t learn about them until August 4 when we met for a post-OP examination and he gave me the official surgical report. This said, the surgery was successful. I again have a new life.

To repeat part of the interview: When wild cats, possums, or rats see me at night, it is as I am the Devil staring at them and they run like hell. We have mountain lions (my favorite animal) and coyotes pass by at times. If I show my face I hope that they don’t run but allow me to talk to them.

They say a photo is worth a thousand words

The year of 2020 has been one of the COVID-19 pandemic; massive unemployment and the drastic loss of savings; outrage over systemic racial prejudice that is fueled by white supremacists; debunked and yet widespread conspiracy theories; and the continuation of horrific climate change. The United States as I and perhaps you once thought we knew it is coming to an end. Granted much of what is happening today is simply a continuation of what has been ongoing for a long time. A good part of what is now is on us, and I’m talking about human beings; that is I’m talking about me, you, and everyone else on earth. We’re all people regardless of our race, color, religion, or if we are rich or poor. We need to work together and not for our specific agendas. Our leaders must work to bring all of the countries together and not work at destroying relationships and creating enemies. Our local leaders must work to eliminate the huge and growing gap between the haves and the have-nots; they must work at eliminating homelessness and not just talking about it and raising taxes; they must stamp out the ongoing violence that is most often directed African Americans and people of Hispanic decent. Supposedly our country is the land of the free. Well I’ve got to tell you that today this is little more than a bad joke, for it is the land of the rich, and more specifically it is the land of the white rich and to hell with everyone else.

This photo of No. Hollywood, Calif., was taken from Burbank, the city that borders it from the east-southeast by Kent Nishimura of the Los Angeles Times on 4jul2020 (and printed in the California Section of The Times on the 26th, pB5). For those of you who aren’t aware of it, fireworks are totally illegal in Los Angeles County, and can only shot off at events in parks, country clubs, or at large locations such as Universal Studios Hollywood or Dodger Stadium, and then only with permits. On this July 4th there were no fireworks at parks, clubs, Dodger Stadium, and so on because of the ongoing fire season that had been raising havoc since May. Every explosion you see in this image was totally illegal. The Times reported on July 6 that “L.A. firefighters responded to thousands of emergency calls.” I live in No. Hollywood and the joke here has always been that the LAPD takes the evening off (The Times also reported that supposedly over 300 police officers called in sick that day/night). I live about a mile and a quarter from the closest fire station in No. Hollywood and about a mile and a half from the closest police station. Every year Pailin and I are surrounded by illegal fireworks that last deep into the wee hours, and the following morning I clean up all the burnt-up debris in our yard. Now here’s the kicker (and this is not news in No. Hollywood), on this year’s July 4 evening I did not see or hear one fire or law enforcement vehicle. (photo © Los Angeles Times 2020)

Regarding my thoughts on the illegal fireworks as California burns or all of my concern (whining to conspiracy aficionados) in the previous paragraph, it’s on us. Our country is a mess. It’s none of my business how you vote. This said, how are you doing; are you unemployed; can you pay all of your bills or are you living on credit or out of the bank; are you fearful of becoming homeless; how do you feel about your neighbors who are people just like you and me but are being murdered and under attack because their language, religion, or color is different; how many people do you know that have died from COVID-19; have you been affected by climate change? Dig into your soul, your humanity, and make a choice: is today’s world the one you want … or not? Follow your conscience and vote for what you know in your heart is right.

Oh, for the record, Pailin and I earn about 40 percent of what we earned last February.

Sand Creek Massacre, Errol & Olivia, Pailin’s big day & Louis Kraft’s dark times

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020
(All rights reserved.)

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


Pailin and I hope and pray that all of you, your loved ones,
and friends worldwide are healthy and safe.

I never thought I’d make it to this wonderful time in my life,
and let me tell you that I feel like the Devil’s got a strangle hold on my left leg
and isn’t about to let go. … Not a good feeling.

Pailin took this photo of me in our front yard—which is always a place of peace for me—after a sleepless night but a good early morning on 7mar2020. I chose to use it here as an introduction to my current writing world and hopefully the beginning of the end of a living nightmare that began in June 2019. Not a promising start for what will hopefully be a very positive blog. At the same time the last nine months have perhaps been the best in my life. My brain functions—it always functions—and it has been key to me maneuvering through a maze of dead ends and false leads while not only making my deadlines, but setting myself up for the best times of my life. If not yet, the answers are getting closer. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2020)


Sand Creek
and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
has become reality

I completed all of my work at the end of December 2019,
and damnit to hell I miss it! There is a big hole in my life but Errol & Olivia is
doing a good job of lessening the loss (see below).

Available at

University of Oklahoma Press
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
Target
and various National Historic Sites and museums

At first this project seemed like it was from hell, … a hell without end. Physically it has cost me a lot. If I had guts I’d post a recent photo here—an image taken between hanging from a limb and yet being able to scramble to safety yet again. When I was young and playing sports, we used to have a saying, “No guts, no glory.” Today I have no guts, which means no sharing of a photo wherein I’m hanging from that limb and it is starting to crack. … If I did, some of you might cringe, and I don’t want that.

Doris and Louis Kraft Sr. in Yonkers, NY, in 1947. Both were born in Yonkers, as I was, but in less than six years would migrate to Southern California, a state they had long decided would be their home after they had driven across the country twice to visit it. (photo © Louis Kraft 1947)

As the days pass, I’m good with where I am. However, I should share some words that I said at my father’s funeral in 1999:

“As my papa got older, his world shrank. By the time he died, the furthermost extension of his world was his neighborhood. And what a neighborhood it was. When I was growing up it was just like one of those fantasy neighborhoods in the ‘sixties TV shows. The world changed, got harsher, different—but not the neighborhood. It remained the same. It was still that fantasy neighborhood from a 1960 TV show. Pardon me, for I know I’m going to forget someone, and I don’t mean to. You all played a big part in my papa’s life, and Linda* and I will remain forever grateful.”
* Linda was my sister (24dec1950–1mar2006).

This was the only software badge that I bothered to capture. Sun Microsystems was flourishing when it purchased Seebeyond, but five years later it was spiraling toward oblivion when Oracle bought it for peanuts on the dollar.

My neighborhood isn’t like the one I grew up in, for it isn’t magical. That’s okay, for many people of different races and cultures surround me. I like this. My house was built in 1928 and I have lived in it since January 1993. It’s home, and I love it here, as my dad did his final home that he bought in 1955 (yeah, I’ve got a ways to go yet). Still, my life has begun to mimic his, for as I age, my world has also shrunk. (Certainly current events have impacted the previous sentence tenfold.) Maybe I’ll talk about it, and maybe I won’t.

Still, I should share that my life includes my small family of six (representing three races); Pailin’s family and friends in Thailand; our Los Angeles connections; and all of my friends that I met during my personal quest of knowledge, exploration, and creativity. This includes writers, historians, editors, directors, actors, artists, museum and National Park Service personal, the entire software world (which played a major part in my development as a writer and human being), and everyone else that has touched me in one way or another.

Sand Creek & the world it created for me

I am going to share photos of some people that have played key roles in bringing the Sand Creek story from the mists of Neverland to the reality of a book.

LK and Glen Williams, my bro for all time, on a road trip to Tucson, Arizona. On 15jan2012 we had just arrived at Mission San Xavier del Bac. I needed this trip with my good friend; some research (walking into the past and reliving it, if only for a short while), but more importantly doing some mending within myself.(a joke times two in 2011; if I ever share these two episodes from my life that are joined at the hip for all time you’d fall off your chair you’d be laughing so hard). … My sister-in-law worked with the Indian kids at the mission school in the early 1970s. I have some photos from that time, and need to find them. (photo © Louis Kraft and Glen Williams 2012)

Alas, there are many people who played major roles in this process but I don’t have images of many of them. This said, I don’t want them to be ignored or forgotten, and hopefully they won’t be.

An obscure beginning to the Sand Creek story in the 1980s

When I was preparing to walk away from the entertainment industry cold turkey in the early 1980s—and I was about to turn my back on writing screenplays as I had already had begun to write and sell magazine articles—I decided to write a novel about race relations during the time of the 1860s Cheyenne wars. By this time I was aware that some U.S. Indian agents were using their government-appointed positions to become rich by working with traders to steal from their wards. At this time my Indian wars knowledge was minimal other than my study of George Armstrong Custer, which was decent and growing.

LK walking with Leo Oliva (left) and George Elmore (right) on the parade ground at Fort Larned in Kansas on 12may2012. NPS ranger Ellen Jones shot this image as we were walking toward the reconstruction of the building that Ned Wynkoop rented from the post trader for his Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency, which was just outside the southwest perimeter of the fort. Since the early 1990s George, who is now chief historian of the National Historic Site, and Leo, who is a historian, writer, and lecturer, have played major roles in my understanding of the Cheyenne Indian wars. Ellen, after a long career in public service, which includes 17 years at Fort Larned, is retiring this April.

I had seen a little of the soldier turned Indian agent Edward W. Wynkoop in general Indian wars books (a paragraph or two here and another there with both saying basically the same thing), none of which I could recommend at this time for no matter how accurate or how inaccurate they were, the authors glossed over their subjects with a scattering of facts. Worse, much of the information was repeated from book to book with little that was new.

Jack Hines art of George Armstrong Custer and Sitting Bull in “Two Trails to Destiny.” I’m not crazy over his text, but I’ve always liked his portraits of Sitting Bull and Custer, even though he based his rendition of GAC on a famous Civil War image of the soldier. Oh, for those of you who aren’t  aware of it, Custer had his already short hair cut before setting out on what would be his final campaign in May 1876; he died at the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876. I state this as some people who have seen the Warner Bros. 1941 film, They Died with Their Boots On with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland mistakenly think that the battle site was a short distance from Fort Abraham Lincoln, and it was not. (painting © Jack Hines 1985)

I was well aware of the Indian Ring (or tradership) scandal of 1876 due to George Armstrong Custer’s testimony in March and April of that year. This led to President Ulysses S. Grant’s secretary of war William Belknap’s resignation, and his brother, Orvil Grant, being implicated. An angry president refused to see Custer, and when the lieutenant colonel left Washington D.C. without orders he was placed under arrest. This almost removed Custer from taking part in the 1876 Sioux war. Again, those film buffs who know They Died with Their Boots On (1941) intimately, Custer was punished, but it wasn’t for exposing a fake war due to gold being discovered in the Black Hills but for his participation in the Indian Ring scandal. Also, Custer wasn’t reinstated to command the Seventh U.S. Cavalry due to Flynn’s Custer confronting Grant. No! Generals Alfred Terry and Philip Sheridan requested that Custer be reinstated.

As Wynkoop was good looking, had risked his life to meet with warring Indians in an attempt to end a war, and had later become an Indian agent, I decided that he would make the perfect villain for my novel. I began to research him, and Oops! … He wasn’t who I thought he was, and he wasn’t on the take. I never wrote that novel, but my discovery of who Wynkoop really was led me on a journey that has continued to this day.

Portrait of Wynkoop that has been published in two books and I think three magazines. (art © Louis Kraft 2007)

Ultimately it would be how he reacted to the Sand Creek Massacre that allowed me to be open to writing a book about the subject. This said, it took roughly 25 years before a friend who had a hand in Lt. Charles Gatewood & his Apache Wars Memoir being published and who contracted Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek broached the subject of writing a book that I had no desire to write. He pitched that I had a lot of the required information in-house.

I didn’t have anything close to all the research in-house, but I didn’t know that then. Luckily then University of Oklahoma Press editor in chief Chuck Rankin didn’t give up.

LK with OU Press Editor-in-Chief Chuck Rankin at the Western History Association convention in Oakland, California, on 15oct2011. Chuck gave me the Wynkoop book poster hanging behind us. I framed it and it has been displayed at Tujunga House ever since. (photo © Louis Kraft & Chuck Rankin 2011)

I said “no” numerous times, but Chuck—God bless him—refused to accept my answer, and the rest is history. … Meaning he won me over, we worked out a proposal that was acceptable to both of us, the contract was signed, and I quickly descended into the depths of hell as I struggled to locate mandatory information while at the same time trying to piece the jigsaw of facts and quotes and actions of the leading and supporting players into a readable story.

Although the beginning of the project was a disaster as I searched for what was mandatory to bring the story to life, I did find numerous leads that led to block walls and dead ends. At times this was costly, … not always in cash, but always in time—special time, which is oh-so fleeting for it is something that is gone in a flash never to return except in our memories. This said, some of these failures are worth their weight in gold, for they proved without a doubt that what appeared to be history was nothing more than fiction that had been reprinted so often that it is now accepted as fact.

Gordon Yellowman (left) and Harvey Pratt standing on the overlook to the Cheyenne Washita River village site where Chief Black Kettle and his wife Medicine Woman Later where killed by Custer’s troops when the Seventh U.S. Cavalry charged into the village at dawn on 27nov1868 without knowing who the occupants were. On that day Harvey spoke about Cheyenne warriors from the past and in today’s wars around the globe. Gordon blessed the village site on this day, and on the following day talked about what it was like to be a Cheyenne chief. (photo © Louis Kraft, Gordon Yellowman, and Harvey Pratt 2011)

Of course there is one instance of this that isn’t true. Actually the documents exist but the Oklahoma state government—in an effort to hide the theft of American Indian land—blocked the access to this valuable information from researchers such as myself as the dark past had to vanish to protect the guilty. This was also tragic to historian Dee Cordry, whose upcoming book on key players that I also write about will be must reading when published. Harvey Pratt, his good friend, and a man I was privileged to meet at the Washita Battlefield NHS during a two-day symposium wherein we both spoke in 2011, provided us with the citation we needed.

My memories of the entire process of creating Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway slowly morphed into the best project of my life. It far exceeded anything from my acting career, anything from my software writing career, and anything from my fictional and nonfiction projects (including articles and talks). This is a big statement from me. … One of the highlights was Gordon Yellowman allowing me to use his magnificent art, Sand Creek, on the cover of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway.

Pailin took this image on 3oct2014. Good friend and great Cheyenne and Indian wars historian John Monnett (center) and his wife Linda took us to the Sand Creek Massacre NHS in southeast Colorado. Before walking along the bluffs to the west of the extended village site Jeff C. Campbell (NHS ranger–interpretation) kindly spent time with us. I consider him the foremost expert on the village and the terrible actions of November 29-30, 1864. He has since provided me invaluable information in phone conversations, and by providing his documentation and commenting on mine. I can’t begin to tell you how much John has contributed to my understanding of the Cheyenne wars of the 1860s. This was a good day for me. (photo © Jeff C. Campbell, John Monnett, Pailin Subanna-Kraft, and Louis Kraft)

Southern Cheyenne Chief Harvey Pratt (left) on 30mar2017 near El Reno, Oklahoma, when he was honored by the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes for his service to the tribal community. He is with his friend Dee Cordry, an historian and former police officer, on the day of the ceremony. Eleven chiefs of the Cheyenne Tribal Council of Forty-four were present, as were the tribal governor and lieutenant governor. (Good friend Dee Cordry shared this image with me.)

I’m already feeling the loss of having a day-in and day-out schedule that was non-ending. No matter what else I had to complete, and there was a lot going on during these long-long years that I had to deliver: talks, articles, software books (I think that my last full set of books at Oracle was 23, which I delivered on deadline—I think the cost for them was $100,000), and a novel from hell (but it contained many of the same obstacles as did the Sand Creek manuscript, and I used it as a training ground). I’m proud of The Discovery, a medical-legal thriller that goes in totally unexpected directions and of the Sand Creek story.

One thing that I have is a brain, and it functions on all cylinders at all times.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of people who help me, for there are, and they range from good friends from my Indian wars, American Indians, and Golden Age of Cinema connections. This also includes archival staffs, library staffs, and book and magazine editors and their staffs. Some I know in the flesh and have spent good times with them in SoCal and in many locations across the USA from Virginia to Tucson, Arizona, and in the case of Olivia de Havilland in Paris.

I have many-many more who have worked with me on the phone, via email, and with letters but have never met in person, and some of these people have become good friends, especially Dee Cordry, who, God-willing, I’ll meet in person later this year (at the moment COVID-19 has put that trip in jeopardy). For a number of years now Dee and I have enjoyed an open-door round-robin phone calls and emails wherein we’ve done everything possible to help each other out with our writing projects. Dee administers a terrific page on Facebook that I highly recommend: Cheyenne Trails & Tales. It is a wonderful location to learn about the “Called Out People,” the Tsistsistas (Cheyennes), and rub elbows with them and other American Indians, artists, writer-historians, and people who know and care about their lives, culture, and history.

Harvey Pratt, who, as mentioned above, came to my and Dee’s rescue with invaluable documentation that is related to his family, but is no longer available to writer-historians due to a law that the state of Oklahoma set in place years back to protect unscrupulous people that were thieves and worse. I can’t begin to say how grateful I am to him for his kindness.

I created this painting from a photo I took of Paul and Connie Hedren at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum Wrangler Awards in April 2012. Paul won a Wrangler for his book, After Custer (OU Press, 2011) and I won one for “When Wynkoop was Sheriff” (Wild West, August 2011). (art © Louis Kraft © 2016).

There have been many others who contributed, and one, Indian wars historian Paul Hedren did an in-depth peer review of the Sand Creek manuscript that was easily worth a bag of gold. So did my other peer reviewer but this person chose to remain unknown. As I know a lot of writers who distain or refuse to consider constructive criticism, I have just a handful of words for you—stuff your egos in a box and do what you can to improve your work. … Once there was a Custer historian who thought that he was God’s gift to Indian wars history. Decades back one of his books was being reprinted by another publisher, and I asked him if he would do anything to improve it. He answered, “No. It’s perfect.” He moved on to the other side many years back. Before he did, I never had the guts to tell him that I couldn’t get through the first chapter of “his masterpiece.” Back to Paul; he’s an award-winning author and a well respected authority on the Indian wars. Thank you, Paul, from the bottom of my heart.

I had hoped to post photos and talk about others here, but due the unfortunate truth that I don’t have photos that I had requested of many of them, along with the fact that I don’t have enough room to do so, I hope to address this in future blogs.

LK’s writing world is an ongoing swirl
of research & creativity

Errol & Olivia

Know that some of my copyrighted photographs have been lifted illegally; ditto some of my art. All I can say is that it is a sad state of affairs in the United States when distortion, lies, theft, and violence are condoned. A sad state. The current government is responsible for this (and I have little respect for most of the elected candidates in both major parties), for most of our elected officials think nothing about blatantly lying while doing everything to better the rich at the cost of the electorate, and in some cases doing everything possible to destroy anyone who disagrees with them.

I know, … a strange beginning to my current number 1 book project. I know.

This photo of Tujunga House was taken on 13oct2016 shortly before nightfall, and for the record our rooms are in constant change. One of the reasons is downsizing. To date the largest hit has been on books and research (and I hate to say it but they are in every room except for the bathroom and kitchen). It’s simple with the books. Do I need them for my current and future projects or will I perhaps read them again for pleasure? If no to either question—good bye. This is similar with the research, except some of the past as well as some that is still in the future is going to move to the Louis Kraft Collection at the Chávez History Library (History Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe) later this year. I had hoped (and still hope) that this could be an in-person delivery. If not, it will be via FedEx. I sold a lot of American Indian (actually everything I had up for sale last year), Custer, Indian wars, and fiction. More has since been boxed for local bookstores but my health shut that down. COVID-19 has now shut down the local stores (although one bought four huge boxes prior to the Federal government waking up to the fact that the pandemic is real) and a surgery has shut me down until mid-June. More will be eliminated ranging from Custer (my collection is still huge), more Indian wars, probably some film stuff, certainly more fiction (including a first edition Steinbeck along with other key novels), and whatever else I dig up. … Back to the room, which enters into my office and then into a hallway. Change is good, but there’s always a part of me present (and now a part of Pailin is in all the rooms, and you can see some of it here). This said, some of what you see are key to my future writing. The Flynn posters have been up for a long time for two reasons: I like them and each time I look at them they remind me to get the work done! The two small framed images by the lamp are of the pirate Francis Drake for the same reason. The two swords I designed, and they are totally illegal in dueling competition. They are your basic sabres, except that the blades are for épées (where you score points by merely plucking a wrist or arm with the point of the blade) and they don’t bend like foils or sabres, the bells are for sabres but are oversized (and not allowed in competition). Almost all the good dueling you see on stage or in film is with both thrusting and slashing, which you do with sabres. (photo © Louis Kraft 2016)

Progress
Progress is slow, but good. … This is the only way that I work, and honestly I’m thrilled. Just so you know, I easily have enough research in house to complete this project, but believe it or not, since I have returned to Errol & Olivia full time in January 2020 (not counting about four weeks that I have lost due to my health and other work that had to be dealt with, including this blog) my research continues to outpace my writing by easily 75 percent of the time that I have allotted to this manuscript. This is good, for as my knowledge grows so does the twists and turns in the storyline. This  is how I work, and for me it is the only way to work. And this means that I must be focused at all times while being ready to change direction at the drop of a hat.

Scope
The scope has grown considerably, but there’s nothing new here for the growth was already in place in 2015—I just didn’t advertise it. More exactly I needed to sit on this growth for five years. Am I good with this? You bet! Currently this expansion is already over 30,000 words, and more is a comin’.

The reason should be obvious, and it is based upon how long it takes me to complete a polished draft, and the fact that I need to live a long time for there are other Flynn book ideas hovering on the horizon.

What I bring to the table
I wrote these words in August 2013, and they are appropriate here.
I think you need to know a little about me that relates to me being capable of writing Errol & Olivia. Obviously I write biographies, but more is required. I don’t want to drag this out with a lot of words, so we’ll use a few bullets:
  • I discovered Flynn and de Havilland’s films when a boy
  • Flynn’s acting and writing influenced my life
  • While a young teenager I studied fencing with Ralph Faulkner in Hollywood
    • This led to me learning sabre and dueling competition in college
    • It eventually led to me learning “swashbuckling,” or stage combat, and choreographing duels and dueling on stage
  • In junior high school I began studying acting and performing
    • This continued in high school
    • In college I majored in acting and directing
  • For about 15 years after college I attempted to survive in the acting world
  • After quitting acting I have survived as a writer
  • When opportunity presented itself in 2002 I returned to the stage but only in plays I have written
  • I have a track record of bringing historical figures to life in print, on stage, and when speaking before an audience … not to mention my skill with a blade

LK working out with a lady I loved crossing swords with on 3dec1981, as she was a good swashbuckler and fun to be around. That’s our coach on the right side of the image as he and a cameraman shot this workout. Alas, I never saw the filmed footage. (photo © Louis Kraft 1981)

I believe the above qualifies me to not only write about Mr. Flynn and Ms. de Havilland but to approach their lives during a very short period of time in a different and perhaps avant-garde manner. These words are key, for they provide a hint to how I’m writing Errol & Olivia. … And better, I’m going into detail and it’s going to be fun detail; fun and multi-leveled. All I have to do is make it happen.

“Must See, Must Read”
Five intriguing books and five films about the Indian Wars
by Louis Kraft*
Wild West (August 2014)
They Died With Their Boots On (1941, on DVD, Warner Home Video): If Errol Flynn hadn’t played George Armstrong Custer, there would have been no Kraft writing about the Indian wars. Long years past through the present day, critics of this film have pounded it for its historical inaccuracy. Although true, let me invite you to actually research it—which I’ve done since the mid-1990s in preparation of multiple books on Errol Flynn (the first to be called Errol & Olivia). The thrust has been simple: In 1941 Warner Bros. feared being sued, and historical players and facts changed to fiction. Even though the film is fiction, it is so close to truths that have been disguised and altered that it’s scary. I can’t list them here, but trust me, for ’tis true. Don’t buy it? Do your own research. … Errol Flynn’s performance as George Armstrong Custer is magnificent, for he captured the spirit of the man; and Olivia de Havilland is perfect as Libbie Custer. It is arguably Flynn’s best performance, and by far their best performances in the eight films they did together.”
* This column is ongoing in Wild West (by contributors to the magazine).
Usually five books and five films have mini reviews. I made my comments personally related to my writing career. This issue also included two other LK articles.
One, a feature, “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War,” was, I believe, the best
article that I have written about Ned Wynkoop.

Errol Flynn as George Armstrong Custer in They Died with Their Boots On just before he sets out for Montana Territory and destiny, and the real Custer 11 years before his death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. For the record Custer set out from Fort Abraham Lincoln in Dakota Territory on his final Indian campaign on May 17, 1876. He didn’t engage Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians on the Little Bighorn River until June 25, 1876. This fact is here for, believe it or not, people have stated to me numerous times that Custer fought his final battle a day or two after setting out. (This image is in the Louis Kraft Collection)

A glimpse at Captain Blood

Here I’m talking about Rafael Sabatini’s great 1922 novel, Captain Blood: The Odyssey, and the classic 1935 Michael Curtiz-directed Captain Blood, which made Errol Flynn a superstar (this term wouldn’t be created until decades after his death) and Olivia de Havilland (and she said this), “a small star.”

This image is based upon a photo taken during a workout shortly before nightfall on 15sept2015. For the record, stage combat/swashbuckling is done with a minimal amount of protective gear, such as elbow and knee pads. Also, in case you didn’t know, the slashing offensive moves have numbers with the same numbers attached to the defensive actions to parry (block) the attack. It’s just like dance, and both combatants must know the moves in slow motion before confronting each other in real time. If not, and one of the duelists gets lost, he/she must get back on track by calling out the numbers so that both parties know exactly what is happening, or simply back off and halt the encounter. I know this for a fact, for while playing Miles Hendon in a 135-performance tour of The Prince and the Pauper in Northern California in 1982 I came within an inch of losing my left eye when the villain got lost and improvised. After the performance the other actors had to hold us apart as I wanted to tear his head off. … When allowed, the first thing I’ll be doing is strengthening my legs, midriff, and arms, and then working out with a blade. BTW, that’s my hair. Yep, sometimes I’m a little slow cutting it. Also I was trying to sell Johnny D. Boggs to allow me to adapt his great novel, East of the Border (Five Star, 2004), which was about Wild Bill Hickok joining Buffalo Bill Cody and Texas Jack Omohundro on the stage. I wanted to play Hickok. Neither Johnny or my great friend and only director this century, Tom Eubanks, weren’t interested. After several years I gave up. You win some and you lose some. Oh, Mr. Eubanks, this image is for you. Guess why. (image © Louis Kraft 2020)

Sabatini’s Captain Blood played a large role in the creation of the Curtiz film, which is in stark contrast to his terrific novel The Sea Hawk. I’ll spend a fair amount of time with the story line of the film, as I think what I’ll say is important. Also, what I have discovered this year has improved my view of the film at least tenfold.

I don’t think that I’m giving anything away when I state that the only thing that Warner Bros. used from Sabatini’s The Sea Hawk, was his title.

That’s it? That’s all you’re going to say about Captain Blood?

I know, … I know, and I know, but I need to say something and it is important:

I could easily add 7,500 words to this blog discussing Captain Blood, my progress with Mr. Flynn, Ms. de Havilland, and the early part of their life and times working together at Warner Bros. The lead-in to this section guarantees that I must keep my mouth shut or face the consequences—the ongoing theft of my copyrighted material, and facts turned into readable prose is a much greater loss than the images. Besides if I share everything there would be no reason for you to buy the book.

I track the thefts. Obviously I don’t have the money to sue each and every cretin. This said, if I ever meet one of them in the flesh, I will deal with them exactly as Mr. Flynn dealt with columnist Jimmie Fidler. Those of you who know Flynn, know exactly what I’m talking about (but it will be juicier than what you know); those of you who don’t will be in for a treat.

E&O on a daily basis

I bought this book (left) when it was first published in 1962, and although treated with kid gloves it hasn’t aged gracefully. The pages have all yellowed and the cover has begun to darken on the edges. There are a lot of quotes in the chapter on Flynn, but I don’t dare trust any of them. That’s right, my view of this book is not worth stating here. All I’ll say is that it won’t appear in my bibliography unless I decide to use a small portion of it to demonstrate how amoral writers deceive their readers. Honestly, this isn’t going to happen for I’m not going to waste any of my word count on a book that should never have been published.

One Flynn historian (who was clueless on how to write nonfiction, and lordy-lordy help us for the fiction will fly fancy-free with zero documentation when his BOOK to END ALL FLYNN BOOKS sees print. I know this for a fact, for after he provided me with a great quote, AND after a month’s worth of my time searching the confirmed archival file for the proof of what he provided, I realized that he was F—g me in the rear end; his research was pure bullshit). This clown once asked me why I read everything that I can get my hands on that is related to my research on Flynn and de Havilland. My answer was simple: “If you don’t know what is in print, regardless if it is accurate or not, you’ll never know this unless you read it.” This was above his egotistical comprehension. Let me just say this, a lot of what has been published about Flynn and de Havilland is error-riddled crap. Lucky us, for there is yet another book moving toward publication that will join this club. If it is ever published buy it at your own risk.

For example, the nonfiction book, “Get Me Giesler” (above) by John Roeburt (the title of the book is a quote). Jerry Giesler was the famed defense lawyer who took on Errol Flynn’s statutory rape case in 1942. I don’t know what I thought about the book in the dark ages. However, now I view it is a sensationalized piece of crap. Of course it is loaded with errors, some of which are egregious. Outrageous might be a better choice of words here, for when the author introduces that Flynn was again confronted with sex with a minor when he had just married his third wife, Patrice Wymore, in Europe, the reader is told that this crime again took place on his ketch, the Sirocco. As Errol had sold the Sirocco not too long after he was acquitted of the charges in 1943, and didn’t marry Pat until 1950, this error pops off the page. Why? Was Roeburt shooting from the hip and didn’t confirm any of his facts? Or did he do it on purpose to make a parallel comparison? If yes, why? These types of errors also make me wonder how many other errors are present in the book. If ever you read the book, and see what I’m talking about, you should also ask the same question. Mainly, are Roeburt’s errors simply piss-poor research or did he create them on purpose? Trust me, this is an either/or question.

Although writing isn’t everyday, for the simple reason that the days aren’t long enough to get everything on my daily list accomplished. More, research is ongoing from day to day. It might be working on tracking down something that may have happened and may not have have happened. Regardless, I must know the answer. Or it might be rummaging through my massive collection of primary source documentation. When I do this, I’m usually looking for something that I know I have and want to add it to the manuscript. Or it might be spent reading selections from my massive library on Mr. Flynn, Ms. de Havilland, and the supporting players in their lives.

Errol, Olivia & the Sand Creek story

One of the things that took so long to complete Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway was that I needed to get the historical events in the correct order (no easy task) and bring the main and supporting players to life (and this was totally based upon their actions, their words, and what other contemporaries said about them). This is exactly how I intend to present Mr. Flynn and Ms. de Havilland.

Pailin took this image Tom McNulty at our house on 11apr2014 when he and his beautiful wife Jan visited. (photo copyright © Thomas McNulty, Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

I’m certain that many of you who know anything about Errol Flynn’s life are acquainted with Thomas McNulty’s magnificent biography of him, Errol Flynn: His Life and Times (McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2004). If you aren’t aware of Tom’s book, or haven’t read it, do yourself a favor and get your hands on it. I first read it when it was published, and immediately realized that it was—by far—the best biography written about Mr. Flynn, actor, writer, sailor, father. It was then and it still is today. I’m proud to call Tom and his wife Jan friends.

Tom went the extra mile with his EF book, he did a massive amount of research and added a lot of information that isn’t present in other biographies—that is, he did everything possible to bring Errol to life using his actions, quotes, and others’ thoughts about him.

**********

Like my writing about race relations between Cheyennes, Arapahos, Apaches (and soon to be Navajos), and whites, I have a fairly large network of Flynn/de Havilland archives and knowledgable people (and most are friends, but due to the distances between us some I only know long distance. Those of you in this category I hope to meet in the flesh someday. Flesh? Meaning naked? If you are a beautiful woman, yes! A man? Absolutely not! Regardless of your view of these words by LK, for true or not it was just my mind floating in Na-na land, Pardon me.

This photo of Selene Hutchison-Zuffi was taken in November 2019. She is a historian who works at the Duncan Tavern Historic Center in Paris, Kentucky, who loves to research, is an avid reader (“an avid reader” … my kind of person), and has a deep-rooted interest in the study of Errol Flynn. Because of this David DeWitt made her a co-administrator on his The Errol Flynn Blog on Facebook (also see below). (photo © Selene Hutchison-Zuffi 2019)

To repeat myself, E&O is about their life and times, and if all goes as planned I hope to add a lot that you may not know about them, and not just the good (although there will be good where you thought there wasn’t). All lives are not all good, although in many memoirs and biographies the subjects are pristine individuals without any faults. I have trouble reading these books for all of us—certainly me—have made decisions that weren’t good or mistakes we shouldn’t have made along the way. This is what makes us who we are. Errol and Olivia are no different, and by showing who they were/are will hopefully bring them to life. What I share will not be all positive and certainly not all negative, for the story will be about two people who thought they acted correctly when they did what they did. Trust me, Errol and Olivia were/are two exceptional human beings. Both were/are very intelligent; both were people of the world (Errol beginning with his early days and Olivia when she decided to change her life’s course); both were very desirable to those who knew/know them or wanted to know them; and damn, but both had/have great senses of humor. They were/are real people with real emotions and desires, and not clichés.


I am responsible for every word I write that is published. it doesn’t matter
if an editor messes up my facts or stuffs something into my manuscript that they
know nothing about but spit forth crap as if they are God’s gift to the published word.
When I fix their errors back to what is correct, I expect to see it in print. But sometimes this doesn’t happen. Sometimes the fixes make it into the proofs but then poof! They
are removed from a final proof that I wasn’t allowed to see. It makes no
difference why this happens, for whatever the reason for the errors,
theirs or mine, are now mine and only mine. Everything is on me.
Everything. … This said, I love my editors no matter how livid
I may become when something that should
have happened didn’t.


This is a library binding of Sabatini’s book that I purchased from a library used book sale in the San Fernando Valley decades ago. It is a 1950 reprint of the classic 1922 work.

As with all my writing, and I can’t stress this enough, is how much people help me during the entire process of discovery and comprehension while I slowly piece my manuscript together. The process continues until the work is published, and often never stops unless I decide to walk away from the subject. Selene (her photo is above) is one of these people who has kindly helped with E&O. Better, this has led to a friendship.

Oh, one more thing and it is important. Over the years I have talked about Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and some Flynn and de Havilland historians and fans haven’t been too pleased with some of my views—which I will discuss in E&O. This year I have spent a lot of time with both films digging through my primary source research, studying the scripts, and viewing selected scenes from the films that will be highlighted in the book.

To those of you who think that I need a good stoning or tar and feathering for my heretical views, mellow out. My opinions of both films* have improved considerably, and this, too, will be highlighted.

* When I complied a top 12 Flynn film list a number of years back Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood didn’t make the cut. I know, heresy. Neither did Four’s a Crowd, which I love and would have made the list if it been a top 13 list. Flynn and Livvie, as he called her, shine in this film.

Some thoughts that aren’t new

Before louiskraftwriter.com I had the long dead louiskraft.com, but I didn’t design or control it (I only supplied the words, images, and links). Eventually I couldn’t get anything updated (nothing—nada), and it didn’t matter what I offered $$$-wise to get the website updated. This was a joke, a bad joke, and there were other reasons that I couldn’t get it updated. Enough was enough! I walked away and waited for it to die a lonely death. A website (or blog) must be a living presence on the internet (and the administrator can’t disappear). A website/blog can’t be static. The end had been coming for some time, but when the website vanished—gone as if it had never existed I didn’t know it, as I wasn’t informed. It took months before I stumbled upon its demise. … A fleeting image, a ghost, remembered but no longer reality.

About two years later great bud and Errol Flynn expert David DeWitt visited LA and stayed at Tujunga House in early 2013. I had already been planning to create louiskraftwriter.com (even though I didn’t know what the name would be at that time), and he hooked me up with PressHarbor and set up the key information for the new website & blog. He also provided me with some training, a lot of tips, and information on how to proceed.

See David’s great The Errol Flynn Blog, and also his The Errol Flynn Blog on Facebook, both of which he administers. Selene Hutchison-Zuffi, who has become my friend, is also an administrator on the EF Facebook blog.

David_DeWitt_jan2013

I took this image of David DeWitt in the front of Tujunga House in January 2013 when he visited and helped me set up this website/blog. Great times for LK. (photo © Louis Kraft & David DeWitt 2013)

David is an extraordinary gentleman, funny, bright, and I can’t begin to tell you how many great hours we shared just letting our minds connect and flow deep into the night while we talked during his visit. Certainly we discussed Flynn and Olivia de Havilland during his visit, but we also chatted about our current worlds—his and mine—and our past worlds. David is one of my great friends and a go to-expert that I respect.

We live near oceans. I have a mountain range (Santa Monica Mountains) between me and the Pacific, which means if ever a tsunami assaults SoCal as has have happened to Thailand, India, and many other locations Pailin and I will survive the devastation (I shouldn’t say this, but will: there are a lot of stories to tell about LK and the Pacific and some of them are R-rated). David lives on a beach on the South Carolina coast of the Atlantic. When he shares some of his images that he has taken while walking along the sand it looks like heaven. I can’t tell you how envious I am, if I ignore the hurricanes. … Luckily we have a great relationship that grows and thrives. I just wish that we were both lived on the same USA coast.

As everyone who sees these blogs knows that louiskraftwriter.com deals with my thoughts on writing, history, work, life, opinions, and sometimes craziness. I don’t need to say anything else about it, other than when you visit I hope that I don’t bore you to tears.

The website has been updated; some pages have vanished while others have appeared, and certainly Errol & Olivia is featured under Projects.

psk_hallowween_2016_1_ws

Something that hasn’t happened—yet

Jasmine took this image of Taipae, her dog, and my beautiful Pailin at Green Day Spa on Halloween 2016. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2016)

In mid-September 2016 I learned that louiskraft.com would become available to purchase at a bargain, and I started the process to buy it. Why? I don’t know, but it didn’t matter, for after I had the winning and only bid I was told that they wanted more money. Adios, amigos. Viya con Dios (Go with God). End of subject. No loss for LK.

Timing is always everything. At that time when the website name became available, but before I realized it was a scam, Pailin had presented me with a Thai word that she told me meant “happy.” When I started using it, she laughed and laughed. Something smelled fishy, but what? Finally we agreed that I’d use the word as it related to a friend (forever unnamed) and she’d film it. Afterward she laughed and laughed. We viewed the video together and she again laughed and laughed. I had used an angry interpretation of the word but couldn’t understand why she was laughing. She enlightened me somewhat, but not totally. I told her that I needed a take no. 2. We taped it. Much better, as I came across sincere, but she couldn’t stop laughing when I viewed it with her. Why? She refused to share the reason. I said that I’d post take 2 on You Tube.”No! No!” she exclaimed, “You can’t do that!” “Huh?” Silence. … I pressed her for what was really going on and eventually she told me the word’s real definition. … What it really meant, … and it wasn’t close to what she had originally told me. The word actually meant something totally different—something good, something that’s always on my R+ rated mind (sorry, but no details are forthcoming).

Pailin at Tujunga House on 22nov2018—Thanksgiving. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2018)

My turn. I laughed and laughed. She was right. Neither tape could ever be posted anywhere. Ever!

*****

Still the two tapes gave me an idea on how to try to expand my writing projects to the public. Heck, you never know—it might even bring in extra money. Wouldn’t that be nice? More important, this idea might be another way for me to raise questions that I need to ask. How can I truthfully write about people if I’m unclear who they were or why they did what they did? … Alas, this still has not happened due to time limitations. Fingers are crossed that it may now be in my near future.

February 14 throughout time …

Time is short, and I don’t have much to spare, but this day has always played an important role in my life. … And it continues until this time. Actually the here and now is much-much more important than ever.

February 14 is Pailin’s day and it is my day, and nothing can
change this. Ever. Night has arrived. The Vette is ready to growl
(something that makes my lady nervous, but it shouldn’t as the car
and I have bonded over the years). We are off to celebrate not
only this special day but also our marriage on this day in
2014—time flies when you are in love for all time.
(photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2020)


Oh yeah, the wrinkles are deeper now, thanks to the past nine months.
Still, I’m grateful for each and every minute since June last,
for this time has been the most special in my entire life.

This image of us playing in the snow was taken in 1956; most likely at Mount Baldy, which is local to Los Angeles and was an easy drive from Reseda, where we lived in the San Fernando Valley. (photo © Louis Kraft 1956)

My mother was my first Valentine
And she was so for many-many years. As the song that Elvis Presley sang and excelled at, says, “Oh, mama liked the roses in such a special way …,” and mine did, especially on Mother’s day and Valentine’s day. I was a mama’s boy, and I can’t begin to tell you how close we were over the years. … We still are.

It’s hard to believe that she’s now been gone for over forty years.

Five women who played major roles in my life
I’m not sharing their names (but you know one of them for she’s in this blog—and she and one other are the only two people I would forfeit my life for in a heartbeat), but some of you may have known one of the other three. There are stories to tell here. Some would make you laugh; others might make you cringe. This said, I’m lucky to know or have known all five. … One I still have contact with and another currently plays a huge part in my life (our relationship has grown and matured over the decades).

My father
He was never my Valentine, but he was forever present in my life … as I was in his (and there are stories to tell here; I could write a book about our relationship). Over most of those years we clashed, and yet he always had my back. There was never a doubt that we loved each other, although at times our actions may have seemed to contradict this. … As the years passed and he grew frail I took care of him, and saw him three- or four- or five-times each week. We ate together, drank together, joked together, discussed our lives (past and present) and enjoyed each others company.

When this photo was taken I wrote for Storm Control Systems, a company that created software that controlled unmanned spacecraft after they were in orbit. We had one customer, the Hughes Satellite Wing of the Hughes Space and Communications Company, which was across the street from us in the South Bay of Los Angeles County in El Segundo. My hours began at 6:00 am and the 26-mile drive was a breeze, but it didn’t matter if I left at 3:00 pm or two or three hours later—the drive was a nightmare (at least an hour and a half to his house and two to mine). I did all his shopping and ate with him about four times a week. Although he was totally against me not following in his footsteps, he saw every play I did locally and read and commented on my drafts, screenplays, articles, and books. On this day (probably a Sunday) we were watching a Dallas Cowboys football game. Johnny Unitas was my man (and always will be). I did like Joe Montana, and Jim Plunkett looked like he played sandlot football (which I did often) but he won some big games. They were gone and I dropped football like a hot potato, except when with my dad—although I did enjoy John Elway’s perseverance. It took Tony Romo (near the end of his career) and Tom Brady to bring me back to football. In this image my dad was enjoying a glass of whiskey and water or Coke, and I may have had a glass of vodka and juice. (photo © Louis Kraft 1998)

My presence, along with a family with three boys across the street, did everything we could so that he could remain in his home. We almost succeeded, but he became so frail that he needed to spend time in an assisted living facility. He was there a week, maybe a little longer, and I could see he wouldn’t leave. I saw him and spent good time with him every day. On a special evening as I was leaving, he said, “I love you.” I always knew this, for during our entire lives together it was obvious. This was the first and only time he ever said this to me.

The next day, February 14, 1999, began early in the morning but quickly turned into a long day and night in living color—a nightmare without end. He died shortly before the wee hours of the fifteenth. This seems like a terrible memory. It wasn’t, for I was lucky to be with him to the end. It was as it had been when his wife/my mother died nineteen years earlier—just him and me (although on this late afternoon and evening three ladies/two are still major in my life) were with me even though a wall separated us when the time arrived. … Afterward my daughter and I were then able to spend time with him.

I’m one lucky cowboy,
for my father gave me the strength to follow my own trail.

Pailin’s perfect day

The following was mostly pulled from social media, but I posted it there so that it
was ready to place here. Those that have already read it, my apologies for
my lady’s perfect day was a major piece of her life and it belongs here.

As some of you knew I had problems beginning in late January before exploding into burning pain by mid-February. Unable to learn how to deal with it online I figured out how to work around this to allow me to escape from captivity even if only for a short time—don’t eat anything.

Pailin playing finger guns with me on 17jun2015. It’s a combination of hide and seek and shooting each other. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

Also, as some of you may know, Pailin and I are much alike. We are goofballs and we make each other laugh all the time. Perhaps this is because we are still kids at heart. We also have total focus on what we want to do, what we want to accomplish, and we do whatever is necessary to make this happen regardless of what we must overcome.

March 10 was an important day in my lady’s life and I wasn’t going to miss it. She drove while I chattered away, kept my legs as straight as possible, and applied pressure to the lower right side of my abdomen. The early morning rainstorm pounded her car while she maneuvered her way through bumper-to-bumper traffic while avoiding numerous freeways. She was heading to the USCIS building in downtown Los Angeles. This is a place that we both know well, and she intimately, for although I have been in key meetings there with her, on this day it would just be her. Oh, if you don’t know, USCIS stands for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The rain had stopped by the time we reached her destination, and this was lucky for us for after we took an elevator up to a courtyard in a mall I led us up the wrong staircase. Outside we should have been facing the USCIS building, but weren’t. Still we crossed the street to figure out where we were. As it turned out we had used the wrong elevator, and the courtyard looked the same to the east and west staircase exits. As we could see the building to the west we worked our way to it. The cane worked fine as did the pressure I held on the trouble spot. Once inside the building and in the correct room Pailin checked in and sat down to await her turn. I tried to get comfortable while standing, but couldn’t do it. We had discussed this, and had agreed that I would return to the car.

Pailin in the huge garage across Los Angeles Street from USCIS on 10mar2020 (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2020)

As it turned out Pailin’s interview was elsewhere in the building. As she reached the door for her interview the person before her exited the room crying. Pailin knew immediately why, for this lady only carried her passport and what looked like her appointment letter. In stark contrast she carried a large briefcase with all the required documentation, including five years of tax returns, all the original documents from her life, which also included our marriage license, photos, her and my passports, and on and on. She also had two books that I had dedicated to her. She had studied for months (including a document with 100 possible questions to a handful of films and slideshows that showed the process as well as presented different questions), and I can’t begin to tell you how much her spoken and written English had improved. She had a good idea of how the meeting would play out and was not upset by what she had just seen.

She called me after she returned to the courtyard, and I hustled to get to her. She was so excited and happy. We hugged and hugged, and I’ll never be able to tell you how proud I am of her for it is beyond belief.

Pailin and LK shortly after see aced her USCIS interview. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2020)

Pailin’s interviewer was a Latina, and the entire meeting was casual; that is, they mostly talked about this and that in Pailin’s life with the USCIS agent randomly slipping questions into their conversation. Basically they chatted and got to know each other a little. The meeting focused on Pailin’s life, civics, U.S. history, and the English language.

Pailin told me that the USCIS agent asked her about the drive that morning and how long it took, her name, her employer’s address, why did she travel to the United States, what is the number U.S. senators, how long has she lived at her current address, when is the presidential election, how did you meet your husband, … There were no numbers to the questions, and she answered everything correctly. This also included few questions on a tablet that Pailin read and then wrote her answers. After a while the interviewer said to Pailin, “We don’t have to go on, for you have answered everything correctly, and I can see how much you love your husband and living in the United States,” … yes, my lady was enthusiastic and full of joy with some of her answers … “and I have recommended that you become a United States citizen. You’ll learn the answer soon.”

I took this photo of my happy lady shortly after we returned home from her USCIS appointment on 10mar2020. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2020)

Before the day ended Pailin received notice that her application to become a U.S. citizen had been accepted. The ceremony wherein she would swear an oath to allegiance the U.S was set for March 19. Appropriately just days before she swore her oath of allegiance, the ceremony was postponed due to the novel coronavirus that has been sweeping across the USA (in particular Washington, California, New York, and now also Florida) and the rest of the world. Whenever it is rescheduled you can bet that I’ll be present with a huge smile on my face.

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde or is it …
Dr. Kraft & Mr. Hyde, and a surgery

Some of the classic writers that were prolific in the late nineteenth century or the early twentieth century or both have been some of the writers that I’ve enjoyed over the decades, from Robert Louis Stevenson to H. G. Wells to Edgar Rice Burroughs to Rafael Sabatini.

John Barrymore as Mr. Stevenson’s creations on a video cover (BTW, it’s on Amazon Prime). My mother told me more than once that her father was amazed with the Great Profile’s transformation from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde on the Broadway stage. I have yet to confirm that Barrymore played Jekyll/Hyde on Broadway and think her memory had been off and that her father/my grandfather (who died when I was six) was referring to the 1920 film.

Certainly Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) is a classic. At times I feel that I would be perfect casting to play both roles, and I could make the transition from Dr. Kraft by not getting a shot and nine days of declining pills; that is four pills twice for three days, three pills twice for three days, and two pills twice for three days. By the evening of the fourth day after the pills had ended I would begin to become Mr. Hyde. The transition would be complete by the morning of the fifth day.

The physician treating me (and he is special) and I realized that the only way for me to again become Dr. Kraft would be to administer a shot and begin another cycle of pills (BTW, these pills would differ over time). 

A little LK background before we talk monsters

Actually this is LK, but it is also the warrior/mystic Apache Geronimo and actor/writer Errol Flynn and the pirate Francis Drake and on and on with me listing everyone I have written about. That is, we are all human beings and we will be judged by our actions, our words, and what other people who know/knew us share. My life is totally different from Flynn, Geronimo, and Drake’s and their lives are totally different from mine. … When anyone writes about us or anyone else the goal should be to find the truth, for that is what defines the person—and not what has most often been printed, “goody-two shoe stories” or “an evil as dark as the devil.”

I’m no saint, and lordy knows I’ve been a hellion for a good part of my life. Does this make me a monster, such as Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde as created by Dr. Jekyll?” No. … For me, mass murderers, rapists, butchers of humankind, and out-and-out racists are or could be monsters depending upon how their actions, views, and words play out.

A long time back after completing roughly 12 days at sea on a Navy nuclear helicopter carrier while living at Hotel del Coronado—the historic beachfront hotel in the city of Coronado, just across San Diego Bay from the California city of San Diego—and better, just steps from the harbor. After location filming concluded I returned to LA. On December 14 of that year this image of me was taken while I was in makeup as Dr. Frankenstein’s monster. Other than dealing with death it was a good time for me. (photo © Louis Kraft 1979)

Slipping back in time I was for a short instant a monster, and so was the lady at my side. This slight detour should really be labeled “beauty and the beast,” for she was (and still is) gorgeous, and well, hell, the image of me in makeup is closer to my view of myself.

Yuck! Just nasty!

After years I’ve learned to live with what I look like, but also over this time I have covered my face with all sorts of mustaches, goatees, and beards—at least then I could envision myself as a pirate or a frontiersman. AND NO, I’m not looking for a comment here. I know, “Kraft, that’s a bad attitude.” What can I say, other than it has been present for decades.

In June 2019 during a trip to Tucson, Arizona, to meet with Stuart Rosebrook, editor of True West, to discuss me writing for the magazine, reality crashed into my world and totally upset the apple cart. No longer would I have to avoid mirrors as I didn’t like my mug, for something, and it is still unknown (although my key physician has worked his way down to a few obscure diseases that aren’t contagious), attacked my face. The dreaded mug that I have cursed until I’ve become blue in the face suddenly shocked me into a new reality. “You think that you’re ugly, cowboy? Well, hold onto your saddle, for you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

As I had announced elsewhere on social media I was considering talking about my health but only if I could play around with Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and somehow deal with my ongoing situation in a humorous way. … I had recently reread Stevenson’s 1886 classic work for the first time in decades and enjoyed it even more this time. Alas, what follows won’t be hilarious.

BTW, for those of you who know Flynn’s 1953 swashbuckler, The Master of Ballantrae, Stevenson wrote the novel that it is loosely—very loosely—based upon. The Richard Thomas (Henry Durie), Michael York (James Durie; the Flynn role) and Timothy Dalton (Col. Francis Burke) TV film (1984) is much darker and much closer to the storyline. … I had worked with Richard on the 1980 TV film, Johnny Belinda (1982) with Dennis Quaid and Rosanna Arquette, which updated the classic Jane Wyman and Lew Ayres 1948 film while making the leading player—Thomas—a member of VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). I had been a member of VISTA in 1970. When I told him in detail of how clueless the script was on how the volunteers worked with poor people in the continental USA, he said that he couldn’t get it changed. Still, it stated a friendship that lasted until we drifted apart several years later.

Robert Louis Stevenson (perhaps a year or two after he wrote Jekyll/Hyde).

Mr. Hyde is Dr. Jekyll
At the beginning of Stevenson’s story, Mr. Utterson (a lawyer), who is good friend of Dr. Jekyll’s, and who leads us through a good part of the telling of events, had this to say about Mr, Hyde: “He’s is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something down-right detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point.

And later Dr. Lanyon, upon receiving a letter from Dr. Jekyll, thinks his friend is insane, and yet follows his instructions and meets Mr. Hyde. He also described the gentleman: “This person (who had thus, from the first moment of his entrance, struck in me what I can only describe as a disgustful curiosity), was dressed in a fashion that would have made an ordinary person laughable; his clothes, that is to say, although they were of rich and sober fabric, were enormously too large for him in every measurement—the trousers hanging on his legs and rolled up to to keep them from the ground, the waist of the coat below his haunches and the collar sprawling wide upon his shoulders. Strange to relate, this ludicrous accoutrement was far from moving me to laughter. Rather, as there was something abnormal and misbegotten in the very essence of the creature that now faced me …”

Stevenson wanted to explore the two sides of man, good and evil. I could be talking about the evil in Kraft, but I’m not. I’m more interested in what Dr. Jekyll had stumbled upon with his experimentation.

Of course if you do some digging you might find that once I received a 10×13″ envelope with a 8×10″ envelope inside it. On the outside of the smaller envelope SHAME was printed in bold with a red marker. The envelope was filled with long dark hair. My heart missed a number of beats.

That delivery still makes my shiver.

People have asked about my heart and cracking my skull open more than once. The second time I photographed the scene of the crime after returning from the emergency room. Thirteen hours had passed since the incident and the blood had dried. I turned the result of falling on my noggin’ into art and posted it on social media (see above, © Louis Kraft 2017).

To learn more about cracking my skull, which led to an EEG of my brain, and ultimately me continuing to walk Mother Earth, see: Sand Creek Massacre, Errol & Olivia, Louis Kraft, and a perfect storm.

Most of my past, the really bad past is hilarious when I look back. In a time not too far gone I had been in a long relationship with a possessive lady; not the person above who scared the XXXX out of me. We had gone out to dinner; one we should have passed on. Later that night she was in her panties and washing her face in the sink in preparation to showering. I had just finished my shower and stepped to the sink to turn the water off as it was about to overflow. “That’s it!” she screamed. “I’m out of here!” … Nope, I don’t think I’ll share this here. Looking back I often ask myself do I dare present these events in a memoir? That’s a big question and I still don’t have an answer. This said, Mr. Flynn did his memoir the proper way (with a little help from a friend), and most likely will have the deciding vote. … I just need to make damn sure that I’m dancing with angels before it is published. If not, I’m certain that my rear end will be sued from here to kingdom come.

I’m going to focus on the transformation from doctor to mister and back. Again, I’m interested in the transformation and not the evil that Dr. Jekyll created.

I’m not a physician but my father-in-law, who became our family doctor shortly after we migrated to California in 1953, certainly was. Over my early adult years, many acting publicity photos were shot in his medical suite. The B&W image of me is one of them. I’m sitting in my father-in-law’s chair in his office (September 1979). This photo actually had a silent bit on the short lived TV show Tucker’s Witch (12 episodes, 1982-83) with Tim Matherson, Catherine Hicks, and Alfre Woodard. It was turned into a political campaign poster and gave me a nice payday for simply handing 2nd assistant director Pam Grant an 8×10. She was a dark-haired beauty and a sweetheart; I luckily worked with her on numerous projects.

This photo was taken on 4oct2019, the night after the assault returned with a vengeance. it would be nothing when compared to what was to come. (photo Louis Kraft 2019)

An ongoing problem without end
As the cyclic attacks occurred twice a month after the shot and pills ran their course, my problem shot through the months. Although the pill prescriptions changed slightly whatever invaded my facial skin and turned my back into a bumpy mess of itchiness, it did not affect any other part of my body. When I looked like Mr. Hyde I avoided all contact with the public except my physicians.

I saw my go-to physician who has been doing everything possible from obtaining various blood tests, biopsies (I wanted a “Z” cut on my face so that I could say that I crossed swords with Zorro; my doctor simply smiled and shook his head no), and referred me to other doctors for second opinions and/or to do additional testing.

LK with Dejah Thoris, my doberman pincher, in 1978. She was fully grown in this image, and was the kindest animal I’ve ever known. My sweetheart died in 1992, and I’ve never owned another animal since. (photo Louis kraft 1978)

Over three weeks last fall an allergist stuck 260 needles in my arms twice to see what might be attacking me. … Milk products (duh; this has been ongoing for decades). … Dogs and cats (I haven’t had a dog since 1992, … my beloved Dejah Thoris, whom I named after the princess of Mars in Edgar Rice Burroughs’s series of books on John Carter of Mars). After the second session he told me, “I don’t know what is attacking you, and I can’t help you. Good luck.” … AND goodbye.

The problem raced into December. I kept my doctors smiling, as I had as many appointments as five or six per week. Ditto my pharmacy, where I think that I became their No. 1 client. That was my social life. … No big deal, for I had to complete all my work on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway no later that December 31, 2019, for it to see a spring publication.

I viewed this as do or die. It was that important to me.

At the end of December 2019 another physician took the lead. He discovered that I was bleeding internally, had a terribly low red blood count, and was anemic. To combat this he eliminated the shot and the drugs that controlled my mysterious skin disorder, which he wasn’t interested in, and replaced them with an expanding range of prescriptions—some of which affected my system but not totally in a positive way.

On subsequent visits with him he refused to look at my detailed printouts of my current health situation and would not listen to what I knew was now happening to me. This would cost me big time.

Dr. Kraft becomes Mr. Hyde & here we’re only talking about the transformation of the real me to the monster
The new drugs prescribed at the end of December 2019 were too potent and ongoing for way-too-long. Oh, they would slowly raise my red blood count. They also plugged me up; by the end of January 2020 I had a hernia. No matter what I said about the growing pain, the physician ignored it for I was now set for the first of two procedures that hopefully discover where the internal bleeding was located.

The drugs also did something else. … and somehow prevented the burning attacks upon my face from returning until the beginning of February. When they returned it was like nothing before, for the transformation was horrifying.

This is one of a series of photos that Pailin took on the evening of 3feb2020. It does not do justice to what I then looked like. Here you can see the bulging red puffs under my eyes, the frightening physical change to the structure of my face, and the arrival of wrinkles that are here to stay. I had become Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2020)

The disease had returned with a vengeance, turning my face into a burning infernal. Like the flames that have destroyed a good part of California the past three years, my skin  burned around the clock. When the skin began to peel, the burning continued, creating new layers of peeling skin below the top layers (trust me, this would be difficult to recreate with makeup).

When Pailin returned home at 9:30 on February 3 I was waiting for her with my cell phone in hand. She cringed when she saw my skin for it was much worse than when she had left for work. I got in her face and asked her to snap a few photos. My next appointment with the physician now in charge was set for the seventh and I wanted proof of what was happening.

I can’t begin to tell you what this does to one’s hope for the future, and especially so since it had been ongoing since June 2019. But now, … NOW I had proof to show the physician currently in charge of my health, even if what had happened disappeared before my appointment.

Sometimes my faith in the medical profession is pushed to the limit. … Changes are a comin’.

I need not have worried, for my new look was going nowhere. Kraft had become Hyde and needed another medical concoction to reverse what I now had become. My  subsequent medical appointment on the seventh was ludicrous. The first procedure, which this doctor had not ordered, proved negative and did not identify the location of my internal bleeding. Still his only interest was the second procedure (which he also did not order). … Not that I was stuffed up, had a blossoming inguinal hernia that now burned, and had my skin problem staring him the face. … “You don’t look so hot,” he finally managed to say. “I don’t feel so hot,” I sarcastically mimicked. He wouldn’t even refer a surgeon for the hernia. The appointment had ended, for there was nothing more to say.

I ran to the office of my doctor that I trusted and walked in unannounced. He saw me immediately, gave me a shot and an old prescription. But this was just a stop gap; I would see him on the thirteenth to discus my future.

Another of the photos that Pailin had taken on 3feb2020, but this one is better for it shows that I’m a benevolent monster. This said, I wasn’t much in the mood for socializing (the U.S. government had downplayed the coronavirus to the point that I didn’t know anyone who felt at risk at that time). (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2020)

Throughout all this I remained Mr. Hyde
I obtained a reference for the hernia surgery, didn’t bother to tell my physician, and met the surgeon. The surgery was set for March 13. Would I make it to that date?

The second procedure was scheduled for February 27, but the hernia pain now grew by the hour. I couldn’t sit for more than five minutes, and standing was almost as bad. I frantically searched for answers without success.

Then, quite by accident, I discovered that if I lay on my back with my legs stretched in front of me the pain went away.

By this time the burning pain reached the point wherein I could no longer sit on a chair. I had to work on my iMac standing—and then no longer than five minutes (but even then I was at risk of not getting back to bed, my only sanctuary).

LK’s special doctor and a bed
On the thirteenth I met with the physician who had stuck with me throughout my skin ordeal, and who I have nothing but praise for as he has listened to me as he fought to figure out what is going on. We had already discussed perhaps me moving to the UCLA Medical Center to continue the testing. On this day he talked about obscure diseases that were hit or miss at best. I had another shot  but there would be no pills. He moved me to a non-steroidal cream. As he said, “It was a shot in the dark.” I couldn’t lose.

I took this image of my new office on 29feb2020. The room also serves as a work space for my delivery to the Chávez History Library later this year, as does the living room and my real office. A huge project that the hernia has put on hold. Oh, that’s a cavalry saber on the wall; you don’t duel with cavalry sabers because it is impossible to do so. (photo © Louis Kraft 2020)

The bed became so important that as soon as there was a hint of trouble I used a cane to wobble to it, for no matter painful the hernia became once I was flat on my back the pain would slowly subside. … But until that time (15 minutes? 20 minutes?), I couldn’t touch the area or push the hernia back into my body.

About two weeks before the hernia surgery I stupidly sat at the iMac as the work was so detailed I couldn’t do it standing. Like an idiot I ignored the pain as I frantically tried to finish the task. … As soon as I stood the pain blew out of control and I struggled to inch my way to the bed. I made it to the room and moved past a wooden cabinet (to the left of the above photo). That was it. I could no longer place my right foot on the floor and the cane couldn’t support my awkward balance with all my weight on it. I couldn’t reach back and grab the cabinet and I still had two large steps to get to the bed. It was daytime. I was alone, although the cell phone was in my pocket. I couldn’t move back or forward, and this left me one choice—dive for the bed. I’ve always been a good athlete, but not worth much at the moment. There was one catch; I had to land on my back. “No guts, no glory.” I dove for the bed, flipping as soon as I was in the air. I landed on my back on the bed, but not all of me. My knees were at the edge of the bed and my calves hung to the floor. The pain increased tenfold. Using my hands I slowly pulled myself onto the bed. Over a half hour passed before the pain subsided.

I needed an “after” photo for this blog to show that I no longer look like the “Kraft-Hyde” that I hope never to see again. Today (5apr2020) we enjoyed ourselves in the front yard of Tujunga House while she shot a few images. (photo © Louis Kraft and Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2020)

I shared my heroic performance with my bro, Glen Williams, and he asked if Pailin had been home to film it. I told him that she hadn’t been home, and he said, “Too bad, for it could have gone viral on YouTube.” That was a first class idea. That night when she returned home I told what had happened and of Glen’s suggestion to film it for YouTube. “No,” she replied. “I think it’s a great idea and I want to reenact it tomorrow.” “No.” “I think that it would be a fun thing to do.” “NO!” … I’m not always the boss.

The second procedure found no internal bleeding. The pre-opt for the surgery showed that my red blood count was up to 13. Yes! The inguinal hernia surgery was successful, but was not robotic as anticipated. Scar tissue from a surgery in 2003 prevented this, and it became an old fashioned cut and slice performance. Unfortunately I wasn’t awake, for I would have requested a “Z” (I really don’t have a Zorro complex). Alas, I have pain, but then I won’t be fully recovered until mid-June (meaning no exercise, no yardwork, no heavy lifting, no bending … no bending? Give me a break!).

Best of all: to date the cream has worked wonders on my face. I’m certain that my physician will be as pleased as I am when I see him on April 6.

As the great New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra used to say, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” My heart surgeon, a technician from Boston Scientific (the company that manufactured my pacemaker and the device that sits next to my desk and monitors my heart 24/7), were in the room where I awoke from the hernia surgery testing my pacemaker.*

* This is a story I’ll save for the future.

I’m in my prime

I would  be remiss if I didn’t end this blog with Val Kilmer’s great quote from Tombstone (1993) when he played Doc Holliday, a thin, consumptive, alcoholic who played a large role in the 1881 shootout at the OK Corral and the vendetta waged by Wyatt Earp afterwards.

A card of Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday that artist-actor Buck Taylor, who played Jack Johnson in Tombstone, sent me years back. (art © Buck Taylor)

Shortly after Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) and Doc have arrived in Tombstone and Wyatt has set himself up as a faro dealer, Curly Bill Brocius (Powers Boothe) and Ike Clanton (Stephen Lang) confront him at a gaming table, pushing for a confrontation.

Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn) steps up to Doc, who is drunk, shortly after Earp has said that he’s retired: “And you must be Doc Holliday.”

 Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer): “That’s the rumor.”

Johnny Ringo: “You retired too?”

Doc Holliday: “Not me. I’m in my prime.”

And so am I.

Through all this Pailin has been my nurse, my private driver, and an angel.
What more could I want?

Errol Flynn, Kit Carson, & a dark Louis Kraft future

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


My past is my future, and my future is mine.
It has arrived and it is time to share.

Music plays a big part in my life …

“From the Indian reservation to the governmental school … and
there are drums beyond the mountain … Indian drums that you can hear.
There are drums beyond the mountain … and they’re getting mighty near. Lone
Pine and Sequoria, Handsome Lake and Sitting Bull, … Crazy Horse the
legend, those who bit off Custer’s soul, … they are dead
but they are living with the great Geronimo. …”

Johnny Cash’s “Bitter Tears,” is one of the best albums ever produced. Except for the song, “Custer,” which is pure fiction and much-much worse, Johnny’s entire album, other than “Custer,” is brilliant.

“Drums” by P. La Farge and performed by Johnny Cash is dated (I originally enjoyed this song on his great album, “Bitter Tears,” which is totally from the American Indian POV on 33 1/3 RPM but only have it now on CD w/o a copyright date). I like Johnny’s music but I’m not his best fan. This said, his “Bitter Tears” album is extraordinary, and is easily near the top of my favorite 10 albums of all time (challenging John Lennon, Michael Parks, Alan Jackson, Patsy Cline, Norah Jones, Laura Branigan, and John Anderson for the leading spots).

If ever I sang in public—God forbid!—this is the song that would lead off my music set. A forthcoming blog will again deal with “the song remembers when,” and you can bet that Cash’s “Bitter Tears” album, along with more on Johnny’s legacy, will be featured in my second blog that focuses on music.

This is me, music, my daily working life, and yes, music plays a big role in my daily life.

The LK writing future begins today

As of today my entire writing future is no longer as it once was. I love my past writing life, but now I’m walking into what will eventually become my second writing past. I know, this sentence tells you nothing. Well hell; I mean good, for we’re making progress here.

You may think that you know me, but you don’t. I share a lot, and perhaps more than most people that you know, but you don’t know me. No one knows me completely, for I’m a very private person. This is totally based upon my past, for it has been one long string of tragedy, failures, and dreams that never happen. It’s my life, and I love it for without it I wouldn’t be me. I wouldn’t be the LK living in at the end of 2019 with all my special memories and special people. Here I’m talking about my huge network of writer-historian-artistic friends as well as all the people I cherish worldwide, for without any of you I would have no life and no future.

This is my first portrait of Ned Wynkoop. I based it on the woodcut that appeared in the May 11, 1867, issue of Harper’s Weekly, which has been in my private collection for decades. It was originally published in Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Military Campaign on the Southern Plains (Upton and Sons, Publishers, 1995). (art © Louis Kraft 1990)

The only way you will ever know me is if I dare to complete that memoir that I’ve talked about off and on over the years. If I dare to complete this project, I will approach it as I do with all of my nonfiction work—attempt to tell the truth wherever that documentation trail leads. I think that Errol Flynn did a magnificent job—with help—of telling the truth in My Wicked, Wicked Ways (Putnum,1959). Perhaps so, but if he had lived to see his book’s publication he would have had his ass sued from here to kingdom come.

Lesson leaned: if you write a truthful memoir, make sure you are dead before it is published. For the record I have spent a good part of my Indian wars nonfiction life writing about two gentlemen who harbored the typical prejudices of life on the frontier (1860s & 1880s), but were able to realize that Cheyennes and Arapahos (1860s) and Apaches (1880s) were human beings. This, ladies and gentlemen, was, and is, a two-way street.

I created this portrait of Gatewood specifically for Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2005). (art © Louis Kraft 2004). It has since been printed in a magazine and as a post card.

I can’t begin to tell you how many Cheyennes, Arapahos, Apaches, and other American Indians did to accept the invading white man and co-exist peacefully with him. These two white men were Wynkoop and Charles B. Gatewood. Both attempted to write memoirs of their time with the Cheyenne and Arapahos (Wynkoop) and the Apaches (Gatewood). Neither completed a rough draft, and yet they—along with many others on the frontier whose memory changed with time (and remember that they didn’t have all the documentation that I have at my fingertips) have been attacked, for their views don’t coincide with modern-day historians whose tunnel vision is so extreme that they refuse to adjust their preconceived visions of their premises. … Memories change over time. Theirs did, mine does, and so it is with you.

All my work on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is finished!

… And this is good.

This is a major statement, for this project has been a massive undertaking.

LK and OU Press editor-in-chief Chuck Rankin at the Western History Association convention in Newport Beach, California, on 17oct2014. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

Honestly, I can’t begin to tell how much I have cursed former University of Oklahoma Press editor-in-chief Chuck Rankin over the years, for not walking away when I told him I didn’t want to write a book about the Cheyennes and Arapahos and the heinous attack on their Colorado Territory village on November 29, 1864—an attack that should have never happened for representatives of the U.S. military had guaranteed their safety if they camped there. This said, Chuck is a marvelous person, one I call friend, and since the beginning of this century he has been the key player behind my last three nonfiction Indian wars books. This is no small statement, and I can only wonder where my writing trail would have led if not for him.

Chuck led the way, and opened the door to my relationship with the University of Oklahoma Press; making me one lucky writer, for OU Press is the best publisher of Indian and Indian wars books in the world. Here I really need to talk about my ongoing association with the entire editorial, marketing, and production staff, as well as their copyeditors (which are outsourced). I had requested photos from current editor-in-chief Adam Kane and managing editor Steven Baker (who I have enjoyed working with since Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek), but they’re shy. So was Chuck, but he didn’t learn to duck when I or Pailin pointed a camera or phone at him.

I have completed all of my work on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, and Steven Baker is the key reason why. I can’t begin to tell you how patient, understanding, and hard working he is. Steven has had my back during the entire production process (photos and art, three maps, two copyedits, two book proofs, the detailed index, and the dust jacket), and he has done everything to make the book as good as possible. The publication date is March 12, 2020; its preorder listing is on Amazon (and elsewhere), and it includes the dust jacket blurb that is right on target for what the book is about (to see it, click: Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway on Amazon).

OUCH!!!!

The above sounds like it was a slam dunk. Not even close, for I can’t remember the last day I had off until this Christmas, which I did take off—and it was special.

But, this book was special too …
At the beginning of the project I constantly struggled with my decision to sign the contract. And even more so as the days, weeks, months, and years flashed by with no end in sight. Eventually I grew into the project, accepted it, and looked forward to what the next day would bring. I needed to walk with as many of the participants in the lead up to the murder of people at Sand Creek in Colorado Territory in 1864 as possible. More important, I had to separate myself and attempt to view their words and actions in their point of view. I also had to place myself within the village on that fatal day. I had to see the scramble to survive, the sexual butchery, and more—the aftermath that led to end of the Cheyenne and Arapahos’s freedom, religion, language, and lifeway. Little more than prisoners of war they would do what the white man dictated, or face the consequences.

All my books live on in my life, but Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway has become the centerpiece of my writing life. If I became homeless and could only have one piece from my writing life with me, it would be this book.

My work on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is over

But it isn’t, for I never stop learning and there’s always add-on work (alas, there is another piece of my life that will impact my future).

Some of what is coming:

  • An ongoing relationship with Editor Stuart Rosebrook and True West magazine in 2020 and beyond. It will include articles related to the Sand Creek story, as well as articles dealing with my writing past and hopefully future.
    • This began in earnest this December when I delivered the first article on Cheyenne chief Black Kettle.
  • Upcoming talks with Gordon Yellowman, and LK solo.
    • At the moment, Gordon and I have a confirmed talk at the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site in Cheyenne, Oklahoma, on November 8, 2020. I will talk about Cheyenne chief Black Kettle. I’ll also talk about the attack on the Sand Creek village while the Called Out People flee for their lives at the University of New Mexico in October.
  • A massive delivery to the Louis Kraft Collection at the Chávez History Library, Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe. It is mandatory for I cite it often in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. A lot of work has already been put into preparing for this delivery, but I’m not close to selecting everything that will be making the trip.

LK standing in front of the exterior entry to the Chávez History Library on July 4, 2006. (photo Louis Kraft © 2006)

    • It will include my writing, research, correspondence, photos, and art from my writing since the last delivery, plus information from my past that I had not yet provided.
    • It will also include writing from my past that I completed but never sold such as proposals and manuscripts, as well as artifacts that I own, but now believe belong in a museum for everyone to view and experience (and not be kept in a private collection).
      • We’re talking about Indian wars, and the Golden Age of the Cinema artifacts.
    • Finally, I may include research, correspondence, and drafts from projects that I haven’t completed, and perhaps now never will.

Let’s take another music break

There’s a lot of music in my life. Much of it’s world music from the Andes to Spain, Cuba, Mexico, China, Thailand, and beyond—and this includes the massive amount wonderful American Indian instrumentals and vocals. Of course there’s soundtracks, some classical, and you can bet your bottom dollar on rock ‘n roll and country and a little bit of blues.

Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)                           

The crops are all in and the peaches are rotten,
The oranges are packed in the creosote dumps.
They’re flyin’ them back to the Mexican border,
To save all their money then wade back again.
My father’s own father, he waded that river:
Others before him had done just the same.
They died in the hills and they died in the valleys;
Some went to heaven without any name.

This great album also featured a song that I played at my brother’s funeral in March 1990 (“Highwayman”). Lee was a rebel, and so have been these four singers. All five have influenced my life more that I could ever share.

Four singers have stood out: Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson. Instead of beginning as a member of a band (such as John Lennon with the Beatles), they formed a band long after they attained solo success as The Highwaymen. I luckily saw Waylon perform live at the famed Palomino Club in North Hollywood when he was young, and Willie when he was old, but not ancient, at the Hollywood Bowl. Alas, I never saw Johnny or Kris perform, and worse never saw The Highwaymen live.

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita;
Adios mi amigos; Jesus y Maria.
You won’t have a name when you ride the big airplane.
All they will call you, will be: “Deportee.”

Some of us are illegal and others not wanted;
Our work contract’s out and we have to move on.
Six hundred miles to the Mexican border.
They chase us like rustlers, like outlaws, like thieves.

Obviously “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” is one of my favorite songs. Many artists have sung it, but my favorite version is by The Highwaymen with Johnny taking the lead.

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita;
Adios mi amigos; Jesus y Maria.
You won’t have a name when you ride the big airplane.
All they will call you, will be: “Deportee.”

Woody Guthrie wrote the song in response to a plane crash in California on January 28, 1948 (music by Martin Hoffman), in which racist newspaper and radio reporting of the tragic event refused to name the deceased and grouped all of them as “deportees.”

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos canyon;
A fireball of thunder, it shook all the hills.
Who are all of these dear friends, scattered like dry leaves?
The radio said they were just “Deportees.”

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita;
Adios mi amigos; Jesus y Maria.
You won’t have a name when you ride the big airplane.
All they will call you, will be: “Deportee.”

This is one of the saddest songs I have ever listened to, and it affects me every time I hear it, for it reminds me of how callus, inhuman, racist, and hateful our homeland has become since that dark flash of time in 1948 that is now long gone.

Woody Guthrie (right) was a singer-songwriter before his time. He documented what he saw and what disturbed him. This is something that all of us should do—document our world, current and past. … I try to do this. 

One other small impact to what’s coming

Something is going down in my life, and I don’t know what it is. Actually, no one does. What follows is optimistic. Heck, I’m always optimistic. I had been enjoying myself by stating that I needed to live to 130 to complete all of my projects, and that was probably a true statement. But times have changed, and that has led to a revised and much-shortened blog. There are two books that I have a realistic chance of completing first or polished drafts of in 2020. There are two follow-up manuscripts to these books that require more research, and that will begin in 2020. … My future is out there, and it will impact what I just stated.

Errol Flynn is the perfect lead-in to my writing future

Why? The answer is simple: he is the leading player in my writing future. This said, I don’t want to mislead you for as in the past I mix and match all my work. Flynn and Olivia de Havilland have had a presence in my talks and published work since the mid-1990s. It hasn’t been large, but it exists. Come 2020, everything changes in my priorities. This doesn’t mean that I’m turning my back on the Sand Creek saga, or the major players (such as Black Kettle, Little Raven, Ned Wynkoop, and so on) for I’m not. It also doesn’t mean that I’m walking away from the Indian wars, for I’m not.

Why Mr. Flynn?

For the record, two of EF’s films influenced my entire writing future, but I was clueless when a teenager. What can I say? Life if great! (LK art of EF as George Armstrong Custer in They Died with their Boos On (1941),  © Louis Kraft 2013)

Simply put, I had set out to write a trilogy about his life. This grew to four with two partnered and the elimination of my third proposed solo manuscript. The year 2019 has been unlike any I’ve experienced in the past. Something happened, and it is impacting my life.

My brain functions; it keeps me alive, and I love it. I’m one lucky cowboy.

But you know me—I need to get personal before the main event

Let’s begin with that there is a lot going on in my life that you aren’t privy to. Most likely you’ll never be privy due to my being obscure (and this is an understatement). Bottom line, I’m a tease. It’s fun in the here and now, but a drag when long distance (and again, an understatement). It’s just me; sorry.

Times are tough, but it’s a lot more. This needs to be broken into subheadings (but they don’t deal with the understatements), for all of them are major to me. Let’s start with the land I love.

SoCal and Los Angeles

Ladies and gents I could write a book about my homeland. It would be nonfiction, and I would both praise and damn it. I’m going to start with a few positives that are out of this world:

  • Los Angeles is the melting pot of the USA
    • More people of different race and more languages are spoken in Los Angeles than any other city in the USA
  • The culture at my fingertips is astronomical
  • The diversity of restaurants are beyond belief (ditto the grocery stores)
  • Our weather is to dream for temperature wise
  • There are major archives that host subjects that have been and are key to my writing past and future

This image of Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Mountains was taken by Luis Sinco on 26dec2019 and printed in the Los Angeles Times on 27dec2019. (© Los Angeles Times 2019)

That’s right, I live in a writer’s wonderland (some might say, “a winter wonderland”). Go ahead and chuckle, but you can’t deny that this is why some of you rip LA time and again—jealousy.

The bad—that is, the very bad

Let’s begin this with I was accused of being a traitor for considering leaving the USA a year or two back. It ended a friendship. I’m good with this. Nothing more need be said, other than my exploration for where I and my loved ones could perhaps continue to live without joining the living dead that walk the streets of LA is constantly with me.

Know that I will never become a homeless person.

I’m not just talking about LA and SoCal but all of California. We now have four designations of people:

  • The rich class
  • The middle class, many of whom are now approaching the lower class
  • The lower class, many of whom are now approaching the homeless class
  • The homeless class
    I’m not going to say much about the homeless class, other than some (many more than “some”) have jobs, but they can no longer afford to own a home or to rent lodging.

LA Times columnist Steve Lopez keeps me updated

Steve (the dot and line image of him–left–reminds me of the woodcuts that I own and use from the 19th century in my writing, and I think that it’s terrific, and The Times prints it with all of his articles). He is one of numerous great columnists that the The Times employs, and let me tell you that they are worth the cost of the paper (Front page; plus California, Business, and Calendar sections), and without knowing, all of them must have staffs that supply much needed information (I need to feature them in future blogs, for their work is exceptional). This said, Steve walks the streets of Los Angeles, and he knows many of the people he writes about personally. He is a gentleman that I would like to know and hang out with. (art of Lopez © Los Angeles Times)

On 15dec2019 Steve continued his ongoing expose on the homeless situation in Los Angeles. It is both outrageous and heartbreaking. Some of Steve’s words and facts are all that need be said (they are from his front page column).

Steve began his December 15 column with: “Sometimes I wish I hadn’t seen the body up close, or the small pool of blood that dribbled out of the man’s mouth and onto a West Los Angeles sidewalk. I also wish I hadn’t seen the dead man’s open, empty eyes when he was turned over for examination by the coroner investigator.”

He was talking about a 61-year old man he knew, a married man, and father of five, who had some mental problems. This man, who shouldn’t be dismissed as little more than nobodies as the “deportees” were in Woody Guthrie’s magnificent song (above), lived. He walked the streets of LA, he was a human being, and he should not have had his end happen this way.

Several years back the residents of Los Angeles voted to increase taxes to aid and home the homeless. Not much has happened, but as Steve shockingly reports: Alvin Robinson was the 680th homeless death on the streets of LA this year (two more would die on the day of his death). As of his column of the fifteenth, 962 homeless people have died in Los Angeles County. Going back to 2013, the death count is over 5,620. These statistics are not acceptable. Los Angeles city and county needs to do something, or this epidemic is going to explode into a living nightmare of hell.

The good—that is, the very good (I’m being snarky)

It seems like the rest of the USA bitches that SoCal has no seasons. We have seasons, but they aren’t as traumatic as a good portion of the rest of our homeland. We don’t have snow and freezing temperatures six months out of the year. Let me tell you how much I hear friends—good friends—who complain about a snowstorm in April but who hate SoCal for our weather. The weather varies depending upon where we live, and now scientists in a recent report have guaranteed what all of us have experienced during the last three or four years is here to stay. That is raging firestorms, drought, freezing and snowbound winters, tornados, and hurricanes—all of which are pounding the hell out of Mother Earth.

House insurance is tripling in Los Angeles County in 2020;
making me one step closer to being a traitor to my country.
That’s right, I’m never going to get over that F—ing accusation.

I guess the above isn’t very good, but since all of us want a future I can say only one thing: If this is our future it is all we have (unless we change it). I wish it wasn’t so, but at the same time I’m thrilled to be alive. For me, this is “very good.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the dark side

The 2019 fire season was again hell in SoCal.

This photo appeared in the Los Angeles Times on 29oct2019. The image was captured on the 28th; that was the day that Pailin couldn’t get out of the San Fernando Valley (see the text directly below this photo). I don’t know if you know, but the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles are a series of mountain ranges and valleys. The SFV has been threatened from the north, east, south, and west for the last three years. I don’t need to repeat what might happen if these fires aren’t stopped. In 2018 over 1100 LA County firefighters earned $100,000 in overtime; the number of firefighters with this amount of overtime pay is going to increase in 2019. The threat is no joke, and it makes the infamous California earthquakes second-class citizens. (photo © Los Angeles Times 2019)

The recent rain storms perhaps saved Santa Barbara, and certainly one of the famed Spanish missions that range across the state. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, west of the San Fernando Valley, where I live, suffered $550 million in damage this summer but the buildings luckily survived. As always the SFV was attacked from various directions and twice fires blazed within five miles of my house (the northern side of the valley and Warner Bros. on the south side) and on another occasion within six miles.

This last was the (you choose the name) the Sepulveda Pass or the 405 freeway or the Getty Museum fire. The 405 separates the SFV from the Westside of Los Angeles (Westwood, UCLA, Brentwood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Venice).

I took this image (right) of my beautiful wife on 11Dec2019 when we drank cups of good coffee at the Mercedes-Benz of Encino dealership. This is a first-class establishment, and we enjoy our time there. (photo by LK and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2019)

Pailin is a contractor and all of her work is on the Westside. On 28oct2019, when the blaze began (and all the southbound lanes in the Sepulveda Pass and the 405 freeway shut down), she spent over three and a half hours trying to get out of the valley and failed. If a major fire invades the SFV (and the threat has been constant the last three years), which has 1.7+ million residents (this is a .4 increase from the previous number of people I had reported), let me tell you hundreds of thousands of people will not escape the inferno.

The Books

Errol & Olivia

This book has been in the works for a long time. All I can say here is, bless all of my Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland fans for your patience. More important, your time has arrived, and that is that E&O will be my next published nonfiction book.* However you feel about this, it is at least a thousand times more important to me.

* I currently have 60,000+ words (some polished) and plan on a total of 125,000 words.

There’s still more writing, more polishing, and more research (research never ends). Hopefully when the book is published you will like it. I can promise you one thing, and that is that this book will not be like any book you have ever read about Errol Flynn or Olivia de Havilland in the past.Although I have shared this, the book will deal with their life and times during the eight films they made together at Warner Bros. between 1935 and 1941. I prefer to use art of them on the book cover, but if I can’t obtain the rights to use a painting or illustration that includes both of them that is appropriate for the dust jacket, I will use a photo (this will be easy to do, for I already know which series of images I’m going to pull from, but if this is the case I won’t share it until the cover design is final). One thing is certain, one of these photos from this portion of their time together will be in the book, for there are numerous images that are magnificent.

As with all my Indian wars nonfiction, this book will contain notes that point the reader to the location of the primary source research. There is a reason for this, and it is twofold. It allows anyone—a writer-historian or anyone else who has an interest in EF & OdeH—to view the material. This information should not be secretive, nor should it be hidden from the public.

On the dark side, way too often “would-be” historians create
their own facts and quotations while citing obscure historic documentation
that they think will not be viewed for no one has it or can obtain it. Vagueness
is not golden. You do not want to know my view of these slimeballs.

What has been printed is way too often in error

Hey folks, there are a lot of errors in print. Some are by writers who believed what they found in primary documentation or from books whose authors they trusted. I certainly am one of these writers. In the past I used quotes that were cited from documents in the National Archives (the cited material and how it was listed was pristine, but I didn’t have the original material to check and trusted the author (whose book I still have and like a lot). I’m a little ahead of myself here, but this is okay.

This image probably is confusing, and certainly for being placed here. Those of you who know me well, know that I have a very deep connection with film. These films feature Rod Taylor as the pirate Francis Drake and Jon Hall as the frontiersman Kit Carson. Both films are slightly above being B-films, but both, for the most part, represent the sole representation of these key players in British and American history on film. Both, if produced by a major American film studio could have been much better. They weren’t; my loss (and perhaps yours also). More below but only on one of these gentlemen.

In the mid-1990s I had written a Kit Carson article for either Arizona Highways or Persimmon Hill. The publication used peer reviewers who were subject-matter experts (this is how it should always be), and my article was rejected as the historical quotes were incorrect. I compared the quotes I submitted in the article with the quoted material from the book (mentioned above) and the words I submitted were spot-on. I had not erred, but I now knew that the author of the book or one of his editors blind edited the quotations (and left the reader in the dark). This was a lesson I never forgot. If I change text—let’s say from a lower case letter to upper case or rewrite a word or two—they are always in brackets. Copyeditors often silently delete my brackets. They don’t realize that during copyedits I read each and every word and check everything against what I submitted. When required I re-add the brackets, and in each instance tell them exactly why I did this, and that they are not going to delete the brackets.

In the past I have missed some blind edits and when I see them (often years later)
I scream at the heavens (and my language isn’t printable here).

Charles Higham made a lot of money by creatively creating false facts about major film stars. When I questioned Olivia de Havilland about what he wrote about her and sister Joan Fontaine, all she shared was “he is an unscrupulous man.” I have this quote in a letter from her, and it will be delivered to the Louis Kraft Collection in the near future.

There are other errors that often see print. Often they are created by lazy writers who do little research, but others are created by wannabe historians to sell books. Their false facts are heinous, and I’m being kind here. Unfortunately, there are way too many of these cretins that create fiction—that is facts and quotes—while falsifying obscure sources. I chuckle over this, for often I have their “obscure sources” in-house and you can take it to the bank that I check each and every note in their travesties that cites documentation that I have.

I’m certain that their point-of-view is that you can’t be arrested and put on trial for defaming the dead in the USA, which is true. Let’s look at this another way: these wannabe’s think that defaming the dead is their key to mega bucks. Snarky Kraft has a dark view of writers who defame the dead while creating false histories that are based upon their fallacious—that is their intended and deceptive—lies.

Worse, some of these deceptions are being reproduced in articles, books, and online. Hell, if it has been printed, it must be true. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I have been pinged for pointing out egregious errors in my Indian wars writing, and if it happens again—so be it.

How can errors be corrected if they are ignored?

How I approach documenting facts

Simple: by dealing with them when I am aware of them. Alas, often changes happen after I have seen whatever version of the edits that I will see. When this happens … Well, hell, you do not want to hear my view, for it isn’t printable. Unfortunately, my vocabulary is at times X-rated (those of you who know me, mostly consider me a kind-hearted soul who wouldn’t hurt an insect). The truth be known, ask my first wife, my daughter, Cindy Tengan, Diane Moon, Pailin, or others who know me intimately, and they’ll tell you that when upset LK is someone to avoid.

This LK art is based upon an early 1970s photo negative that was degraded to the point that it could never be restored. The photo was taken in my parent’s house and I didn’t want to lose it. I created the art  based upon the negative in the 2013 timeframe, and although it doesn’t date to the last half of first decade of this century it presents a good look at my former attitude—that is: shoot first and ask questions later. (art ©  Louis Kraft 2013)

This is not me being kind to me, for way too often in the past I found it difficult to control my outrage.

Here’s an example, but years have passed and I have mellowed with time. I needed to buy a new landline phone because mine had broken. “How?” the sales person wanted to know. “It just broke,” I replied. My then long-time lady friend Diane Moon was with me, and she spoke up. “He threw the phone at the wall and bashed it to pieces.”

As I just said, I have mellowed with time.
It’s long over a decade since I’ve killed a phone.

If I ever complete that memoir, and it is printed, I hope that you won’t faint. Sorry, but that’s just part of life. The truth is always much better than fiction when writing about people’s lives and the events in them. As a nonfiction writer, I have a responsibility to tell the truth as I have discovered it.

**********

Errol & Olivia will go in directions you may not expect,
but will add to their working time together, and will hopefully present
more insight into their professional and personal lives.

Book covers are of major importance …

… and I have played a major role in every one of mine since Upton and Sons published Custer and the Cheyenne in 1995. It’s a non-brainer, for a good cover can increase book sales.

This art appeared on DVDs and other media (I have a poster of it) and I like it or it wouldn’t appear here. Still, it is not close the 1976 United Artists Classic poster for the revival showing of their classic film in Los Angeles that year, which has better art, mimics the 1938 original poster while also being superior to the initial release art. Regardless of my view of The Adventures of Robin Hood, it is their iconic film for all time. Alas, it wasn’t close to their best film (or films) together. Still, it is must viewing for anyone who has an interest in Flynn or de Havilland’s film careers. (LK collection)

I want art of Mr. Flynn and Miss de Havilland on the cover of Errol & Olivia. To date I only have a cover from a long-dead magazine that I like. This said, there is a lot of great illustration art on film posters from days long gone. American, French, Spanish, German (some of the German art of the late 1940s is to die for), … This is perhaps a good way to go, but it will include two must-needed things (other than negotiating with the copyright owner, and that is: 1) Can the poster art be altered, and 2) What is the use fee?

Let’s discuss the poster art at the right. To make it work as a dust jacket cover is simple: 1) Remove the cover text within the shield and replace it with the book title and author credit, and 2) Remove the acting credits at the bottom right of the poster (Errol and Olivia’s credits must remain at the upper left—to balance the image while informing potential readers what the book is about).

Decisions, decisions, decisions.
I have time, but not much for I’m going to fly
through the completion of the first draft of Errol & Olivia.

But what if I can’t obtain the rights to use a painting or illustration that includes both of Errol and Olivia that is appropriate for a dust jacket? No problem, for I will use a photo from a very key point in their time together. The photos from this time are absolutely magnificent, but I’ve already said this above.

A first draft of Errol & Olivia in 2020 … Oops! How about 2021?

Oh yeah, this is going to happen. More important, ladies and gents, this isn’t a wild LK dream. But alas, this first draft of the manuscript will not be by the end of 2020—it is now by the end of 2021. The reason is simple; the year 2020 is going to busy and at this moment my goal is to deliver all I’ve promised through next fall, some of which is mentioned above. This said, with the publication of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway in spring 2020, the demands upon my writing life is going to expand. Working seven days a week has been my past and it certainly is going to be in my future. It includes stolen time with Pailin and my family. Although trips are work, they are also R&R, and they give me additional time with Pailin and my daughter—they are special time for me, and I love it.

But this isn’t the end of Mr. Flynn

During the year 2020 I will officially begin my research on a second nonfiction book on him. Some of it is already in house, but there is much to do. I’m certain that I’ve discussed the project in the past. If so, shame on me, for it should be a surprise. As with all my biographical efforts I prefer to focus on a piece of time, and again this will be the case. For those of you who have interest in this man, who was not only a good actor and writer, but perhaps the most un-racial person I’ve ever studied and written about, it will be worth the wait.

Another piece to LK’s writing future is also in the here and now

Originally it was a genre novel that dealt with race relations during the 1863-1864 Navajo campaign. As always in my fiction, the story was character-driven and dealt with the human element.

I can’t remember who took this image but he kindly sent me a low resolution of it. The photo was taken at the Little Big Horn Associates convention in Oklahoma City on 18jun2011, when Custer and the Cheyenne received the Jay D. Smith award for its contribution to Custeriana. A good night for LK.

It had been contracted in the early 1990s, but then the contract was broken. If this hadn’t had happened I would have never become a writer of nonfiction Indian wars books.

Never.

This is/was probably the luckiest unplanned change in my writing life, and I am forever grateful to Dick Upton of Upton and Sons, Publishers, for he had been pitching me to write a nonfiction book on George Armstrong Custer. I had been turning him down, but after the novel when belly up I called Dick. Probably one of the most important phone calls I ever made. I only have a few words to say about this—Bless you Dick, and your wonderful wife Frankie, for without you I would not have enjoyed the last 26 years of my writing life. Click the link to see my thoughts on Dick and Frankie when Custer and the Cheyenne won the Jay D. Smith award in 2011.

Navajo Blood

I’ve always liked my title for the contracted novel mentioned above. After the polished draft was accepted, the publisher (which was unfortunately nearing the end of life), dropped their western line. This story, which I’ve always liked, was exiled to a filing cabinet until this year. Like The Final Showdown (Walker and Company, 1992), it deals with real historical events and people who lived through them, and again has major fictional characters.

Kit Carson meeting with General James Carleton (left in art). For my purposes it is before the 1863-64 Navajo campaign and Carson is just receiving his orders. This was a task he didn’t want, and he has been damned for it, but by people who don’t know who he was or what he attempted to do to end a war he wanted no part of. For all the racist crap about Carson, consider this: he spoke seven languages and had three wives (Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Spanish). A racist? I don’t think so. This image is a detail from a painting on display at the Bosque Redondo Memorial (Fort Summer, N.Mex.). If you have never been there, I highly recommend it.

Mixing and matching of real and fictional players is something I like doing. In this case we’re talking about Kit Carson, his wife Josefa, and their children, as well as General James Carleton, and officers under Carson’s command during the 1863-1864 Navajo campaign, and major Navajo chiefs Manuelito and Barboncito. There are three leading players in the story: an aging fictional Navajo warrior (Pedro Hueros), his granddaughter (Margarita), and Carson. These three people converge on each other, and once they meet their paths lead toward tragedy—albeit not what you expect. It is a story about human beings forced into times that they want no part of, but must experience.

Tucson, June 2019, was R&R while opening doors to my writing future.
I’ve well-documented my meeting with Stuart Rosebrook and True West magazine,
but I have ignored a chance meeting while leaving the Western Writers of
America (WWA) convention’s hotel with Cherry Wiener (my agent
for
The Final Showdown, and a lady that I have always had a
good relationship with since our parting a long time gone).

If I walked to my left from this overlook I would be looking at the western side of Navajo Fortress Rock. (Photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

While in Tucson this past June I brought a number of the chapters the Navajo Blood manuscript with me to mark them up with how I wanted to update it—mainly 1) More character development, 2) More culture, 3) More dialogue, 4) More action, and 5) Writing the story as I do now, while not forgetting how I wrote it in the past. This is all doable due to adding an extra 35,000 words to the genre novel’s 65,000-word draft and turning it into an historical novel. This will begin in earnest hopefully in 2021, which makes this endeavor a sister piece to E&O. I don’t want to say that they’re joined at the hip, but they are the two major projects in my current life.

This is Navajo Fortress Rock. It is in Canyon del Muerto (the canyon of death), which is one of three canyons that are jointly known as Canyon de Chelly (pronounced “de Shay”). This is the only American national monument not on USA land—it is in Arizona on the Navajo Reservation. This view is from the north, and the only way to see it from this angle is to hire a Navajo tour guide with a four-wheel drive vehicle. It is a key set piece for Navajo Blood. (Photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

The plot is detailed and moves between Carson’s dilemma, that is Carleton’s demand to end the Diné’s—as the Navajos call themselves—freedom, and Pedro and Margarita’s struggle to survive at this time of woe. As the story progresses you’ll become aware that the final confrontation between the Diné and Carson’s army will take place at Canyon de Chelly, but this isn’t the ending. The story’s climax takes place at Fort Canby, after the Navajos have begun to surrender by the hundreds. It brings tears to my eyes every time I review it, but I can’t share this. The book has to be published for you to experience what happened at Fort Canby. Know that I’m cocky SOB, and have full confidence in this story seeing print.

Untitled Kit Carson/Indian nonfiction book

The announcements in this blog may have been expected, or perhaps not. But now I’ve reached my nonfiction Indian wars future—and Kit Carson and his relationship with Indians is it. Over the last few decades he has garnered a lot of bad press. I disagree with all of it. … All of it! Anyone who explores this un-racial man’s life will agree with me.

I have work to do—that is research—but it will happen, and his relationship with American Indians will dominate this portion of my writing future. I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am to really begin walking with him and the Indians in his life.

This nonfiction book idea has been with me for a long time, but I still need more primary source material to make it become reality. The goal is to complete this research in 2021 (I know, the next two years are a mouthful, but I’m always ambitious). At this moment all I can tell you is that the research will dictate the scope of the manuscript. I know what I’d like it to be, I know what I think it should be, but I must have the research to confirm what happened. … And some of it is so obscure that at this time I’m in the dark.

As soon as I have the research in-house and have a good idea of what the book will be I’ll talk with OU Press. At the moment there is a little uncertainty of my future with them, for the two terrific editors-in-chief that I have dealt with (Chuck Rankin and Adam Kane) will be gone. Still, OU Press is “the” publisher of American Indians and American Indian wars books in the world. They are my first choice. At the same time I know that other nonfiction publishers will jump after hearing the story idea. As the X-Files used to proclaim: “The future is out there.”

The above is all that is a comin’ at this time

I have hinted at the reason for this above
(and that a lot of future writing has been purged from this blog).

In June 2019 I enjoyed a work and R&R trip to Tucson, Arizona, a city I fell in love with in the 1970s. I can’t begin to tell you how much time I’ve spent there, but it is easily over six months throughout the years. … This past June something happened. I don’t know what, and neither do any of my doctors or their tests. Whatever happened, the attacks are constant and happen twice a month. Shots and drugs stop the fire, but nothing has ended it. This month I filled out the paperwork, which will hopefully garner me more paperwork to see if I can—that is will my drug insurance accept the extremely high cost, and more important that I can afford it (I know this answer now, and it is no). This drug, which may put an end to this misery, is going to remain unnamed (at least now). The year 2019 has been pure hell with drug and medical costs. My drug cost is well over $4,000. Pailin’s and my entire health care cost for 2019 is over $18,000, and this doesn’t include $6,000 USA dollars spent outside the country. …

During one of the episodes I chose not to initiate another
round of shots and drugs and the fire did not go away.

The impact has already begun …

… and it is ongoing. But I do believe that I will see Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway published. I want to hold the book in my hand. This is an extreme statement and hopefully little more than nervousness on my part. Earlier this fall I saw an allergist twice. He performed over 260 needle tests during my two visits three weeks apart. After the second, he said: “I don’t know what’s wrong, but what you have I have never seen before. I can’t help you. Good luck.”

What you are looking at is a photo that Pailin took on the morning of 4oct2019. My face had creamed, burned, and has begun to peel. This is the first night-day of my problem. My face will now puff out and a triangular bulge under my eyes will move to my temples. Also, my back will become a rectangle of bumps, but they will only itch. The redness on my face will grow to a burn that is so extreme that I won’t sleep. The only way to avoid this is to get a shot and a huge package of prescription pills that will stop the process momentarily. After the pills end, I will have perhaps three, four, or at the most six days until the process again begins. With drugs, this is a twice-a-month happening. Honestly, it is hell without an end.  (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2019)

Just seven months ago i could walk 14 miles a week (and did). Now walking a quarter mile is extreme foolishness. I’m not going to go into any details but a lot of normal physical pieces of daily life are involved. Do not ask, for all I intend to share will be below.

In November I began to bleed internally. On December 23, when I presented my condition to the doctor who had been handling my case in the hope of obtaining yet another shot and drugs so that I would look presentable on Christmas, it ended in a “no.” The reason was simple: there had been no improvement over the months and now my condition had begun to change in a way he couldn’t deal with medically.

That December 23 initiated the beginning of my future, and one that is darker than before. I walked into another of my doctor’s offices, one who has played a big part in my health for decades. He knew what was going on, but wasn’t involved, and immediately began a series of tests. But like when I was cracking my skull open a few years back, something that led directly to an emergency surgery (and not just stapling my head back together), but giving me a new life in August 2017. These tests were an eye opener. Mainly my red blood count was extremely low, my balance non-existent, and my breathing belly-up (last May I passed all my breathing tests with flying colors, but on December 23 I failed every breathing test I took).

Pailin and I took this photo at Tujunga House on 18oct2019, two days before her niece and only relative in the USA (Sabrina) and Carlos (who is from El Salvador) married at Wat Thai of Los Angeles. We were in the wedding, but I wore my suit pants (Carlos wore the Thai pants in the ceremony) and Pailin looked as she did in this image. I had luckily dodged my transformation into a monster and this was a good time. (photo Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2019)

The testing is ongoing, and I’m prepared for each and every step of the process. I’m always proactive with my physicians. … My last medical appointment this year was on December 27. I walked into the office with a five-page document, which listed the medications and my changing physical status since last I saw him in early fall. We then discussed the reason for my visit, which was for a series of tests that we perform three to four times each year (and they aren’t related to my current situation). While we went through the process he raised the idea of my current physician in charge perhaps sending me to either the USC or the UCLA medical school to see if they have done any testing similar to what I’m experiencing.*

* Good friend and George Armstrong Custer and Little Bighorn battle expert and author Fred Wagner recently provided me with another lead that I intend to look into—that perhaps a parasite is the culprit.

After we completed my last test (an ultrasound; my third last week), he asked about my writing. I told him that I completed the detailed Sand Creek index in November, my reviews of the two book proofs in December, as well as signing off on the dust jacket, while adding that I had submitted my first article to True West on December 22. He shook his head and smiled. “I can’t believe that you did all of that in your condition,” he said. “My brain functions,” I replied, “and I love what I do.” He smiled again. “Good for you.”

Oh yeah, I’ve always been one lucky cowboy.

What is the future?

I don’t know what’s in front of me, other than I’ll cherish each and every moment of it. One thing is certain, and that is finances and health will be key in the upcoming years. I’m looking forward to whatever it will be.

If it is a race against time, I’ll have everything that I want—
my small family, my friends, my writing, and myself.

Louis Kraft Sand Creek Massacre, Errol & Olivia, and Navajo Blood updates

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


LK is burned out, a skeleton that
functions on reflex. This came about from weeks,
months, and now pushing three years of working almost
seven days a week on the Sand Creek project. It
is now 11jun2019 and I have much that must
still happen for Sand Creek and the Tragic
End of a Lifeway to see the light of day
in 2020. Everything is business, but
key is that LK must provide
OU Press everything it
requires for the book
to be published.
Everything.

This is on me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But before I share my progress I want to give you a hint of what follows it.

I was going to use the above image without the words later in this blog but then changed my mind. It dates to 1982 after I returned to SoCal after playing Miles Hendon during a 1981-1982 135-performance tour in Northern California of The Prince and the Pauper (based upon Mark Twain’s novel and Errol Flynn’s 1937 film). I choreographed the duel in the play and had a living blast during the tour. This image was taken while I worked out with actors that knew how to handle the sword for five one-act plays that were grouped together. We performed them in late spring or early summer. I performed in three of them and wrote one. … A battle of the sexes wherein the hero—yours truly—was done in by a lady who knew how to handle a blade, but was no competition for hero Kraft, who toyed with her before disarming her and forcing her to the ground. She was on her back, unarmed, and at the hero’s mercy as the play ended. But all wasn’t as it seemed to be. While Kraft bowed and enjoyed the audience’s applause and cheering one well-placed punch turned victory into defeat—to the delight of everyone who saw The Fencing Lesson. Well-choreographed slashing blades enacted with sexual innuendo while lightly played for laughs was perhaps one of my better writing/acting efforts … until the lady regained her feet and proceeded to bash the hell out of me with relentless fists that ended the play with a standing ovation—for her. (photo © Louis Kraft 1982)

This blog is much more than a Sand Creek book update

Much-much more. … For it marks the beginning of my writing future. The time has arrived and some of it may shock you, but what follows—like my Indian wars books—has been in place for many years. By that I mean that the research has been ongoing for decades. Decades. This does not mean that I’m turning my back on the American Indian wars, for I’m not … I’m simply changing my focus while continuing to do what I’ve done for a very long time. It feels like it has been a lifetime coming but with Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway racing toward publication the time has arrived.

You know that I’m cryptic at times and certainly secretive. Alas, that still is in place. … This blog will deal with three books, and some important surprises.

There is no reason be silent in regards to the three books

  • Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (but you knew it was on this list).
  • Errol & Olivia, which is a dual biography of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland during the making of the eight films they did together.
    • Research continues on two additional nonfiction books on Flynn.

This change is not a move away from my Indian wars/race passion to the world of film (my other passion), but a continuation while I branch out into areas that have been on my plate for what feels like an eternity.

  • Navajo Blood, a novel that deals with dark-dark times in the Southwest during the years 1863 and 1864 and will have a mix of real Diné (as the Navajos call themselves) such as Chiefs Manuelito and Barboncito; as well as frontiersman turned soldier Kit Carson, among others; and fictional players, two of whom are key to the entire story.
    • This novel isn’t a one-and-done effort with Mr. Carson.

What follows is my future.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway status

Ohhh baby is time flying past at lightning speed.

My last manuscript status on these blogs was on the last day of December 2018. Time simply disappears when you’re having fun. I often feel as if I’m swimming off the SoCal coast in the Pacific Ocean, and this is good as I’ve been a fish ever since the first or second grade. But not really for although I’m making deliveries that are mandatory for the Sand Creek manuscript to see print I think that OU Press views my progress as I race toward the finish line closer to “a snail’s pace.”

We have Great White sharks off the coast of Los Angeles, and as temperatures warm more and more are seen. This year schools of four and five have been photographed cruising above the surface and just beyond the breakers from helicopters. One can only wonder how many of their brethren are forever searching for their next meal hidden from sight. I refuse to become shark bait screaming as I sink into the murky depths of the Pacific only to have chunks and pieces of a once-cocky writer who is no more float to the surface and gently flow to shore. … This image is an LK vision of Costa Rica’s west coast. It looks like a wonderful place to walk naked along the beach. Oops! Ignore that. … I wonder if Great Whites swim that far south. (art © Louis Kraft 2019)

I will deliver.

Manuscript delivery
I made the final manuscript delivery in mid-January. OU Press Editor-in-Chief Adam Kane and Production Manager Steven Baker (who I worked with on Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek) have told me that the story flows, is readable, and will do well when published. Adam also told me that the book would sell even if there were no photos or art.

I took this image of Cheyenne Chiefs Lawrence Hart (standing center right) and Gordon Yellowman (praying at right) while they blessed the Cheyenne-Dog Man-Lakota village that Maj. Gen. Winfield Hancock destroyed, and in my opinion without cause, in April 1867. Just one of many heinous crimes performed by the U.S. government and their cronies during the entire 1860s when the United States swept westward with the lone goal of securing every acre of land that held value and to hell with any American Indian that dared to say, “Stop! This is my land.” I don’t know if you’ll ever read Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. If you don’t read the book but see it somewhere look at the last paragraph as it shows you exactly why I signed on for this project without end. The lady with the blanket around her shoulders at center-left is Gordon’s wife Connie. I met her at this two-three day event and spent a lot of time with her. Good times for LK as I enjoyed her company while appreciating what she shared with me. The only other person in this image that I know is George Elmore (left in the sergeant’s uniform). We met in 1990 while I was researching The Final Showdown (1992) and he gave me and my daughter a private tour of the Fort Larned NHS, a lot of which made it into the novel. Both he and Gordon have influenced my life, not to mention having played key roles in the completion of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. (photo ©  Louis Kraft 1999)

To get to this point in time has never been a one-man show. There have been a lot of people who have unselfishly shared their knowledge, their time, and their patience with me. They have ranged from writer-historians to National Historic Site personnel to archivists to American Indians to friends whose interest is the same as mine to the staff at the University of Oklahoma Press, for without all of them there would be no book. I’m not listing them here but perhaps when I write the blog that announces the publication of the book I’ll focus on them (more below).

Images
The manuscript has 34 contracted images and all have been delivered to OU Press (the last two in late May). I’ve always known what I thought I wanted, but time and due to simply not finding specific photos or art more often than not made unexpected searches mandatory. As with my research on the manuscript many people and organizations played key roles in me actually completing this list. It goes without saying that at times this search was agonizing.

This is a colorization of a detail of a woodcut in the LK personal collection that I had used a grayscale of in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. It is of Bull Bear (left) and Black Kettle on 28sept1864. I had considered using the entire woodcut in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway but early on decided against this. (Detail colorization © Louis Kraft 2013)

As always for me it is the process, and in the case of photographs, art, and woodcuts it included hot trails that eventually turned ice cold. When this happened I was always disappointed, but that never lasted long. As I’ve always had backup selections identified, and if they weren’t in-house I began new searches.

Working on photos that needed restoration has been an ongoing task of major proportions. Ditto obtaining photos and art from archives as well as individuals. Regrettably some of the archives’ responses have been at a turtle’s pace. Some have come through and some fell by the wayside as I ran out of time and scrambled to obtain other images. Still many people and organizations stepped up to the plate (a baseball term) in my quest to locate, obtain, and when necessary purchase the images and, if required, the use fees. To each and every one of you thank you from the bottom of my heart.

As announced, and I think at the end of last year, I will not share any image that will appear in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway until it is published. This is firm.

Maps
My cartographer needs to be mentioned; his name is Bill Nelson. I hired him to create two maps for Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (2011) from my rough drafts. If you’ve seen the book you know that his work sparkles. One of the Wynkoop maps is displayed below. I again hired Bill for this book, but this time I reworked the two Wynkoop maps to create drafts for him, and he has finished them and they will shine. I hope to deliver my draft of the third and final map to him later this week. Like my original drafts for Wynkoop this map will be rough. Although it now has a firm-no move deadline of August 5 that I think will be fine.

Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek map © Louis Kraft 2010.

OU Press Managing Editor Steven Baker was, and still is, nervous over the last map ever seeing the light of day, much less making this final deadline. Based upon the ongoing problems I have encountered to create a rough draft of it I am hopeful that it will be of benefit to those who read Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Steven has every right to be a little on edge. I know the reasons, I know them intimately, but I have no intension of sharing them for it would unleash a tirade that none of us want. Now is the perfect time for me to keep my bleepin’ mouth shut. … I needed to calm Steven somewhat, and I had already presented the option of dropping the map from the book, which he shied away from without addressing. I didn’t question his silence. … Bill and I will make our deadline.

Is Kraft cocky? At this point in time, yes. I’ve been in this position so many times over the years (and I’m not talking about just the freelance world) that it’s just another day in the LK world of chaos. My knees aren’t shaking, I’m not walking around in a cold sweat, and I don’t stare with wide-open eyes at the ceiling when I should be sleeping. I have reached the point of deliver or shut up. I’ve been here many times and it is simply taking it one step at a time. I am confident while at the same time know that if I fail now and the book isn’t published that the sun will still rise tomorrow. This is my world, and I’m in my element.

Steven, trust me.

Copyedit
Kerin Tate is my copyeditor for the Sand Creek manuscript. Adam and Steven both highly recommended her. On May 30 she emailed me to inform me that she liked the manuscript, word usage, notes, and was making good progress with minimal changes. Since then we’ve had more contact and all is good. I’m thrilled to be working with her. We’ve agreed that she’d deliver her copyedit to me June 24. Previous to this, Steven had agreed to an extension of my review/edit of the copyedit to August 5, due to events, happenings, and Pailin’s and my now annual Fourth of July open house/party that includes her birthday. Kerin’s delivery is perfect for me and will become my total focus on July 6 (although I will begin working on it after she delivers it).

Years back when I asked a George Armstrong Custer historian (alas, long dancing with angels) if he could have improved his work he replied without batting an eye, “No. My work’s perfect.” Let’s just say no LK comment about his “perfect” work. … I believe that it was in spring 2013 when I spoke at an annual Order of the Indian Wars spring event in Centennial, a suburb (?) of Denver, Colorado. While in the lunch line with friend/historian/writer/radio show host/performer Deb Goodrich—yeah, this lady is multi-talented and I didn’t list all that she does—asked me what I thought about my work. “If I could work on my published writing again,” I said, “I could improve all of it.” This was how I felt then and what I believe today. … History and writing about it is an ongoing process that is in constant change and never ends.

LK w/Deb Goodrich during the evening party after the Order of the Indian Wars Annual Symposium in Centennial, Colo., ended on 20apr2013. I had given a talk about “Ned Wynkoop’s Last Stand” during the event. It is based upon a photo by Frank Bodden. (art © Louis Kraft 2019)

My goal—always—is to bring the leading players to life, make the events jump off the page, and have my readers curse me for they can’t put down the book and the hour is creeping up on midnight. My copyeditors for Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (2005) and the Wynkoop book played key roles in making this happen. My hope is that Kerin’s copyedit will improve the Sand Creek manuscript while not damaging facts or corrupting Cheyenne words that are correct.

The blog that announces the Sand Creek book publication will also … Gulp … “say it ain’t so,” LK

… but it is so as I hope to feature as many of you that have helped me as possible in that blog. And here, please don’t be like former editor-in-chief of OU Press Chuck Rankin, for if not for him there would be no Sand Creek manuscript or book. My friend prefers to move in the shadows. He couldn’t get away with that with me as I have too many images of him. At the moment many of you are under the radar, and that simply means I would like one or two or three images. Do you have photos of “you” that you could share? If yes, I want them. Here I’m talking about you, and many of you are new to the LK world. Honestly, I really want to publicize your efforts and kindness in the creation of the Sand Creek manuscript and book. As they say … “a photo is worth a thousand words,” so please be generous.

As Sand Creek charges into history LK’s writing future comes into focus

Over the years I have certainly publicized upcoming book projects, and I’m certain that for most of you this has been little more than a lot of hot air. From your point of view, maybe; from mine, reality. What follows is a list, and it is in my current working order. As always, research and more research is behind everything that I write.

Errol & Olivia
Although I didn’t know it Errol Flynn would influence my life more than any other historical person, and it began while I was in elementary school. Flynn introduced me to the American Indian wars, piracy, swords, acting, and most important an openness to people of all races. While still an actor I began to research his life in earnest, and in 1996 decided to write a book about him.

This photo of LK and Olivia was taken on 3jul2009 at her home in Paris. It was an absolutely wonderful day and evening. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

My contact with Ms. Olivia de Havilland led to my decision to make it a joint biography beginning with their arrival in Hollywood, being cast in Captain Blood (Warner Bros.-First National Pictures, 1935), their life and times during the eight films they made together between 1935 and 1941 (three of which were westerns). It will include an extended epilogue (similar to Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway). Easily 90 percent of the research is complete, but with this said the research is ongoing. As soon as I complete everything that is required of me during the production of the Sand Creek story this will become my number one project. … No more detours

  • Errol Flynn book number 2 (could be book 3)
    By the way, the second book on Flynn will be the best nonfiction book I write. Certainly this research is underway, but a lot more needs to be completed. This will begin in earnest as soon as the Sand Creek copyediting, my reviews of the designed  book pages, I’m good with the dust jacket design and copy, and I’ve created the index.
  • Errol Flynn book number 3 (could be book 2)
    That’s right, I have three books planned on Flynn and there’s still a chance that I could partner on this book (but in a completely different way); if true, Mr. Flynn will dominate a good portion of the rest of my nonfiction-writing life.

Navajo Blood
This novel deals with an old Diné warrior and his granddaughter during the 1863-1864 timeframe of the Kit Carson Navajo campaign. I have a polished draft, but recently decided that additional information needs to be added to the manuscript. The goal is to stay true to history while making the characters (real and fictional) come to life. My pitches will begin this year.

  • Untitled Kit Carson nonfiction book
    Primary source research is certainly underway for creating a book about Kit Carson; some of it is already in-house but I need more. If I’m able to locate what I need—and this is mandatory—I’m certain that I’ll be able to complete this manuscript without any of the problems I encountered while piecing all the parts of the Sand Creek story into a readable book. A focused continuation of the research will begin in fall 2020.
    * I haven’t begun to draft a proposal or verbally discuss it with editors yet but this will begin as soon as I have all the required research in-house, and I know exactly what I intend to use. … If I can’t find what I believe exists I will extend the scope of the story. For the record I have all the published books on Kit that are worth a damn and way-too-many that aren’t. … As soon as I’m satisfied with my primary source material I will draft an in-depth proposal. As with my previous nonfiction work this book will not be like any others in print.

LK Memoir
I’ve hinted at this for a long time, and both the research and the writing in various forms has been ongoing. Just look at the blogs for they represent some of my digging into the past, but, alas, I have shied away from the incidents/events that if published or made public at this time would cause me to ward off an invasion on Tujunga House by hooded assassins bent upon shutting my mouth for all time. It will be juicy, funny, fast-paced, and truthful (with documentation to back up what I state, something that you usually don’t see in memoirs).

The pirate Francis Drake … fiction and nonfiction
I have an incomplete fictional draft of Drake’s early piratical days that has a lot of promise.

As you can see, LK has been wielding a blade for sometime. (photo © Louis Kraft 1958)

I also have all primary and secondary sources on Drake published since the beginning of the 19th century (and much of the primary source material dates to the 16th century). Looking at the above writing projects this might sound like wishful thinking on my part. For the record Mr. Drake was light years ahead of his time, which was dominated by racial and religious prejudice and hatred. … What can I say other than I’m an optimist. For some of my views on El Draque, see The pirate Francis Drake and LK.

Various fiction projects
This ranges from Chinese fishermen in Monterey, California, during the 19th century … to modern-day Anasazi cannibalism in New Mexico … to bootlegging on the Navajo reservation … to a continuation of the two leading fictional characters introduced in The Final Showdown (1992) and their relationship with the Cheyenne Indians during the latter part of the 1860s.

Decades ago while doing research in the Monterey Peninsula, California, I discovered a photo shop/lab in Pacific Grove and spent the afternoon talking to the gentleman, who if my memory is good was a photographer/owner of it. He specialized in the Asian (mostly Chinese) presence on the California coast in the 19th and 20th centuries. Many of the photos he showed me that day I have since seen printed in books. Hopefully he is still with us, and if not hopefully his quest to preserve and share history from that time continues to live on. That day and afternoon has never left me and I have gathered as much reference material as possible (mostly academic) over the passing years knowing that some day I hope to write about the Chinese experience on the California coast. The California Historical Society call number for this public domain image is FN-22407.

All are outlined, in draft form, scripted, or partially written. I have played down fiction, but this doesn’t mean that it isn’t a medium that I would have any problem returning to full-time.

A slight change of subject, but it is related to LK writing fiction. And it is one that hovers in the shadows of my life on a daily basis. Mainly, will Pailin and I continue to be able to survive in Los Angeles? The cost of living is high, and I hate to say it but it increases almost monthly. California has become the land of the rich.

David Horsey is my favorite political cartoonist, and in this simple image he nailed the Pacific Coast (California, Oregon, and Washington) real estate market. … Simply put middle- and lower-class Angelenos are being taxed out of existence. We’re paying millions and billions for 1) Statewide gasoline taxes (by far the highest in the USA) to improve the roads (I invite you to LA to experience our roads, for it will make you feel as if your driving off-road in a third-world country). I don’t want to discuss this joke other than to say that in LA city hall is removing lanes from pot-holed (and in some cases repaved) streets with the magnificent logic that if they increase drive-time to work—let’s  say from 30 minutes to 45 or more minutes in bumper-to-bumper traffic to drive two or three miles to reach a freeway, which isn’t moving, they’ll force everyone to use public transportation. The farce doesn’t stop here for we are about two years away from being charged $4.00/day to drive into certain areas in Los Angeles County, including the Westside of Los Angeles (Westwood, Santa Monica, Venice, Brentwood, and West LA). Pailin drives there six times per week. Do you realize how many buses she would have to ride, how many subways (southeast to Hollywood and farther east to transfer to one going south to then connect with a westbound subway that will travel much farther west than from where she started her day, which won’t get her close to any of her destinations) twice daily (she has to return home)? Not to mention that she gets off at night. 2) For the homeless, which in LA increases by the year and on the week of June 3rd the LA Times announced that it is now just a few hundred short of 60,000 with somewhere around 20,000 housed. $1.2 B in the last three years. Where is all this money going? 3) Over the years the Los Angeles County School Board (the second largest in the country) has been dysfunctional, and the district is one of the worst in education achievement in the USA. Management at the top of the school board earn more than the governor of the Golden State, which I suppose gives you a good idea where some of this money ends up. There have been two tax increases in the last two or three years, but in 2019 greed took center stage yet again. On Tuesday, June 4, we voted down a new tax for the school board. This one would have levied a $0.16 tax on every square foot of building space in Los Angeles County. Yep, on every house, apartment building, condo, gas station, grocery story, movie theater, office building, factory, car dealership, hospital, ad nauseam. Put simply, that is an additional $160 tax dollars per 1,000 square feet of building space. I think it would be safe to say that the cost of everything in Los Angeles would go up. Horsey’s cartoon is right on target for a problem that is worse today than when he created it. A neighbor’s 800 square foot house sold for $650,000 earlier this year. About 20 people live in a 1200 square foot house including a converted one-car garage nearby (the adults all work and the young children all go to school except for one little girl). For the record the two bedrooms and living room have been divided into cubicles similar to what you would see in software office buildings. The Times article also pointed out that a lot of those living in their vehicles—that is homeless people—are working but can no longer afford housing. (art © Horsey and the Seattle Times 2018)

To repeat myself California has become the land of the rich, the poor, and the vanishing race once called the middle-class. Supposedly if California seceded from the United States it would become I believe the sixth largest economy in the world. This is not a joke and it is something we have to deal with every two or three years when rich clowns (read billionaires) spend a lot of money to make this reality. In two previous attempts to create the new country of California, it had been divided into three states and then six states.

I know the answer and without knowing it so do you (but you won’t admit it).

Due to the turmoil that seems to be a daily occurrence in the Golden State I have logged many hours trying to remain in the USA while also exploring becoming an expatriate.

In 2018 a person I considered a friend called me a renegade to our country, damning me as he didn’t agree with my views on our country’s current policies (which for the most part I avoid sharing, and wasn’t discussing when he slammed me).

For the record LK fits in wherever he goes. Here I’m dancing with Not (left, Pailin’s sister) and Pailin as we approach Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, a Temple in Lampang, Thailand. (photo by Daranee Kosin and © Daranee Kosin, Not Subanna, Pailin Subanna-Kraft, & Louis Kraft 2014)

Being short of cash didn’t count—just looking into living offshore turned me into a traitor or worse. Regardless of which is true, I guarantee that one thing won’t happen. I’ll never become a homeless person. I know a lot of them personally, and my heart sheds tears every time I talk with them as I can’t help their situation. See Horsey’s cartoon, above, for housing is one of the major culprits (along with LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, who talks a good story while sitting on his ass and dreaming of becoming president of the USA).

LK’s office in Uttaradit, Thailand. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

The point I’m trying to make is that if Pailin and I are forced to relocate to Thailand or New Mexico or Costa Rica or Arizona or Spain or elsewhere these and other story ideas will find a life of their own as my fingers dance over the keyboard and my fictional world explodes with life.

I know, the above is a shocking mouthful. … So is ‘Stayin’ Alive.’

High Noon (1952) Elmo Williams’ Oscar, UNM, Tomas Jaehn, and Errol & Olivia 

Let’s start with Tomas Jaehn, formerly of the Chávez History Library, Santa Fe, who in the early part of this century created the Louis Kraft Collection AC 402 & AC 010 for photographs.

LK with Tomas Jaehn after a talk on “Edward Wynkoop’s 1867 Fight to Prevent War” at the Chavez History Library, Santa Fe, N.Mex., on 15sept2004. (photo © Louis Kraft & Tomas Jaehn 2004)

The last two deliveries to the LK Collection have not been catalogued and the archive has not been updated. I’ve begun to prepare next delivery that will happen after Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is published. It will consist of two books, including The Discovery (2016), magazine articles, and talks, along with personal correspondence and additional photos and art. Access to the archive is by appointment only. Contact Heather McClure at 505.476.5090, heather.mcclure@state.nm.us. This delivery will happen at an undetermined time when I travel to New Mexico. … And it will be huge, including a lot that I have not announced.

LK and Olivia de Havilland talking about her life, Mr. Flynn, and important subjects that both of us brought up at her home in Paris on 3jul2009. During both of my visits to France our conversations were lively and full of information that also included world events and USA politics. Without hearing her view of Mr. Trump I know exactly what it is. She is a lady, does not use foul words, so if she ever shares it with me it will be printable. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

For the record once Errol & Olivia is published the Kraft Collection will also contain research, drafts, correspondence, and other material related to the creation of the book including the Kraft-Olivia de Havilland correspondence over approximately twenty years. Some of OdeH’s letters were hand-written while others were typed, and I assume by her then secretary but signed by her (meaning that I perhaps have more of her autographs than everyone else put together if we don’t count sports stars). During my two visits to Olivia’s home in Paris, France, she had two different secretaries. Both were young American ladies. To learn a little more about Livvie, as Errol Flynn called her, see Olivia de Havilland, a world treasure.

In 2006 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Beverly Hills, Calif.) announced that it would honor Olivia that June.

Some people I thought were friends came out of the woodwork and demanded that I obtain tickets to the event for them. I told them that I was not going to ask for tickets for myself and I wouldn’t for them. Whoa baby, did I ever unleash a swarm of hatred directed at me via phone and email. The words were scathing; actually they were much worse. I ignored them, but those relationships didn’t survive. … Oh, there was still some connection with a few of the people but it never revived the past. One Flynn expert, and we had shared a lot of information over the years, became the most venomous toward me when I refused to help him obtain a ticket.

For the record OdeH invited LK to attend her gala, and it was some event.

The Flynn expert succeeded in obtaining a ticket and also attended. Surprisingly we spent a good part of the evening together. We even sat together while Olivia was honored on stage by the late Robert Osborne (former host of Turner Classic Movies). We enjoyed each other’s company that night, but we never spoke again. He died a few years later and his incomplete manuscript was never published (and I have insider information on why; this is something that I’ll never share without permission). No comments here; none whatsoever. He is gone, and so is why he failed so see his Flynn manuscript(s) through to publication.

Back to Tomas Jaehn

Tomas is now Director, Special Collections/CSWR, University of New Mexico Libraries. We see each other whenever he is in LA or I’m in Santa Fe. Always good times. During his last visit to Tujunga House in summer 2018 we talked about a lot of subjects including an upcoming event at UNM.

Standing in front of a cutout of Gary Cooper as former marshal Will Kane in the classic 1952 film, High Noon, Tomas Jaehn holds Editor Elmo Williams’ Oscar for the film. With him is Topiz, a UNM student employee who Tomas “asked to watch the Oscar during the event.” (photo © Tomas Jahen 2018)

Tomas is good at having fun with words. When he sent me the above image he called it an attachment of an ‘Albuwood’ or ‘Hollyquerque’ ‘pic.'” Love it!

The second showing happened on 1nov18, and Tomas had this to say: “Second showing of the Oscar was a blast. Folks loved it and commented on ‘how heavy that thing is.’ (A phrase that I hear every time I watch the Oscar events).”

Tomas also mentioned that UNM has Michael Blake’s papers. Novelist/screenwriter Blake became a good long-distance friend of mine for many years. He won an Oscar for his script Dances with Wolves (1990). This film has been on my film list and it has been off. There is a chance that it might be on again (but at the moment is still off). I need to watch it a few more times, if for nothing else than to enjoy Wes Studi* and Graham Greene’s performances. If yes, I’ll talk about Michael. See the section “Michael Blake, a special person and writer” (the second section) in The Louis Kraft writing world differs from other writers’ worlds for some of my views of him and of our relationship. Damn do I miss him.

* Wes Studi news flash!

On June 4 the Los Angeles Times (Calendar section, pE3) announced that Wes Studi would be awarded a special Oscar for his contribution to film over his career. Wow! The Times mentioned Last of the Mohicans (1992), Geronimo: An American Legend (1993) (see 1st fifth of a Louis Kraft 50-film list), Hostiles (2017), and Dances with Wolves (1990), among some of his other films.

A scene during Hostiles wherein Jonathan Majors is a member of the military detail that is escorting Sioux war chief Wes Studi from the south to the north so that he can see his homeland one final time. For those of you who haven’t seen the film, like the LK/Goodman novel this film’s title is misleading in that you must see the story through to its conclusion to know what the story is really about. LK personal collection.

These awards used to be presented during the live telecast at the beginning of each year but no longer. To save myself time I’m quoting the article: “The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Monday that it will present its annual honorary Governors Awards to director David Lynch, actor Wes Studi and director Lina Wertmüller, while actress Geena Davis will receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.” The Oscars will be presented at the Governors Awards ceremony on October 27, and although not mentioned I assume at the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, California.

Finally Mr. Flynn & Ms. de Havilland or more precisely …

I love the art for this magazine cover from January/February 1979 (unfortunately the journal no longer exists). I know who the staff artist is/was but have no contact information. This art would work nicely for the dust jacket of Errol & Olivia. … Research continues. If you know who or what institution/company owns the copyright of this art please contact me.

Errol & Olivia.

For all of you who have been patient, for all of you who have liked my talks and articles that dealt with them, your time of waiting is nearing an end. Although research on Errol & Olivia has been ongoing writing has been almost nonexistent the last half dozen years. I’m sorry but that is just a fact of life as I had to deal with completing Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway to my satisfaction. It will turn a portion of the current literature upside down. … You know what? So will Errol & Olivia. No joke.

You probably think that this is just another LK piece of prose to keep you hanging on. No. Trust me, and I would never say this unless I meant it.

This photo was taken on the same day as the image at the top of this blog. I don’t remember the actress’s name (and unfortunately I didn’t write it on the back of the 8x10s (someday I’ll pull my book of days from the 1982 taxes; I’m certain wrote about her there). We were beginning to rehearse the routines that would be in the swashbuckling one-acts. She was good with the blade and I liked working with her. Alas, she had a conflict with the evenings when we’d rehearse and perform and dropped out soon after this photo was taken (my loss). LK knows the sword, beginning while in junior high school when I studied with U.S. fencing Olympian and film dueling choreographer and stunt double legend Ralph Faulkner at his Hollywood Blvd. studio. I later was asked to join the CSUN fencing team during my first year at the university (I fought competition sabre), and later studied swashbuckling (stage combat), which is always done little protective gear (mainly knee and elbow pads). It is perfectly safe—yeah, right Kraft, as long as you don’t loose an eye. Trust me, it’s safe, for it is just like dance and every offensive movement with the blade has a unique number, while the duelist on defense has a corresponding number to parry (block) the attack. (photo © Louis Kraft 1982)

For those of you who don’t know, the American Classic Film: The Journal of America’s Film Heritage cover art is of EF and OdeH’s first film together, Captain Blood. It became a major hit and turned Flynn into a superstar over night (the term didn’t exist in 1935) and de Havilland into a star.

Captain Blood was the first of nine Flynn swashbucklers; four of which would become classic films and the best four examples of the swashbuckling film genre to this day.

To repeat what I said in the American Classic Screen cover image above:

“If you know who or what institution/company owns
the copyright of this art please contact me.”

If the owner/copyright holder allows me to use the EF & OdeH Captain Blood art by then journal staff artist John Tibbetts (1978), you will receive my eternal gratitude along with a first edition of Errol & Olivia when it is published.

If you supply me with the owner/copyright holder of Mr. Tibbetts’
art and I fail to obtain the required permission I need you
will still receive a first edition of Errol & Olivia.

(For the record I already own the cover art for the second Flynn book.)

The goal is to be back to writing Errol & Olivia full time sometime in early 2020. Heck, that’s just around the corner. As I have a little over 60,000 words and am shooting for 125,000 words, I’m roughly halfway to a first rough draft. I’m not joking about Errol & Olivia being different for it won’t be like any joint biography that you’ve ever read and you can take that to the bank. ‘Course if you bet on this and win a goldmine don’t forget that your ol’ pal Kraft, who gave you insider information, would appreciate some of your winnings.

Three LK “long walks” in 2013 and 2015

These three years represent a sad time for me as I walked away from
what has been a major part of my life for decades.

The end of a big part of my life that wasn’t a loss

LK answering questions after speaking about “Errol Flynn, George Armstrong Custer, and a Lady called Livvie,” before the Custer Battlefield Historical and Museum Association, in a Hardin, Montana, movie theater on 25jun2011. (photo © Louis Kraft 2011)

In 2012 I stopped writing for the software world. It was forced but I was good with what happened (other than the lying manner of the presentation). Don’t get me wrong for I have had a lot of great memories, and have certainly known a lot of wonderful people from all over the world, in a fast-paced industry that took no prisoners. Put simply, you delivered on deadline or you might walk the plank. Heck, that’s not completely true, for sometimes even if you did deliver you might still end up walking the plank.*

* Walking the plank is a piratical term. When a corsair captain and his crew decided to eliminate a member of their brethren or a prisoner, at times the unfortunate person was forced to walk on a plank that extended from the side of the ship until they stepped off it and dropped into the sea or ocean, only to sink into the depths until they met Davy Jones and his locker and became his slave throughout eternity.

This impacted my life in a major way, as I knew it would, for I had made the decision to not rejoin a world wherein I made six figures per year. … It wouldn’t take long before I felt the crunch on my wallet. Still, I refused to do an about-face and rejoin the self-imposed world of slave labor (again, Yahoo! and Oracle were not and never were a part of this equation when I wrote for them).

No longer a cold-hearted gun for hire, I was free. Free at last to spend all my time writing about what was important to me.

2013: Adios cowboy; no more talks
But things would happen. Suddenly, and without warning, I needed to pay half of an operation that I didn’t know about until after the fact. By this time I knew that there would be no more talks. Some talks paid a lot of money and all expenses (and I certainly enjoyed my connection with these organizations) while many groups that I wanted to speak for paid peanuts (meaning that when I spoke for them my loss could be $1,000; no big deal in the past). There were talks I wanted to deliver in 2013 and I gave them regardless of how much it cost. Good times, times that I dearly miss to this day.

2013: Adios cowboy; no more research at a great archive
This year also marked the end of my research at the USC Warner Bros. Archives in Los Angeles, California. By this time I was in a position wherein I didn’t need to return to the archives as I had enough primary source material to complete Errol & Olivia. Still, if you know me the research is always ongoing right up until publication (and usually lasts much longer as articles and talks follow). However, this ending was never permanent as I intend to do a lot more writing about Mr. Flynn. … More, I’m always big at going back and checking what I have for accuracy along with seeing if I might have missed anything.

2015: Adios cowboy; no more magazine articles
Another part of my life came to an end two years later. I never lost money here, and often I made additional fees based upon the photos/art/woodcuts I supplied and once in a while earned cash from my rough drafts of maps. This also included reselling photos, woodcuts, and my art to other publications. But the days of pushing these sales also came to a halt with me walking away from writing for magazines.

The reason was simple

Time. I needed time to complete two books.

Cover art and book design for The Discovery © Louis Kraft 2016.

A medical-legal thriller that I partnered with Bob Goodman, one of my physicians, who had a great premise that dipped into the depths of hell. I began the project as a consultant making good money, which quickly paid for the operation. I marked the hell out of his incomplete manuscript, provided edits and instructions on how to fix the text in detailed review copy, and in person during many meetings. My job completed I walked away from the intrusion and returned to the Sand Creek manuscript. My manuscript included finding primary source material while taking multiple types of people, their goals and biases, and merging a miasma of people and attitudes into a story that flowed easily between race and desire and selected actions by key players.

There was one problem, my Sand Creek manuscript suffered from the same malaise as the Goodman manuscript—it was all over the place with no focus, no sense of scope, and worse there was an endless listing of information that was useless in its current state. Honestly, both manuscripts were pieces of crap. … Then Bob Goodman presented a proposal to me that I was going to refuse—become his partner and write the book—until I realized that both manuscripts had the same defect that would destroy them. Simply put: If I could fix the thriller I would have a blueprint on how to fix the Sand Creek manuscript, which, unlike The Discovery that extended over two decades, was well over a century.

Talks, articles, & the USC Warner Bros. Archives are no longer on forced hiatus

Oh yeah, a time of joy is about to return to Tujunga House. I’ve begun to pitch two things that I love but had exiled to “Neverland” and will later this year or early next year I’ll return to a magnificent archive. It will take time to resurrect my past from its long slumber but the process has begun.

Potential Talks
Washita Battlefield NHS (Cheyenne, Oklahoma)
Beginning a little over a year ago I introduced myself to Kevin Mohr, chief of interpretation and operations at the Washita Battlefield NHS. It would be the first of many talks and emails as we discussed the Sand Creek manuscript and Custer’s attack on Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village on the Washita River on 27nov1868 and its impact on the Cheyenne and Arapaho lifeways. I can’t begin to tell you how open and friendly Kevin has been with his input to my needs (if you read the book you’ll know what I’m talking about), but again “mums” the word on what you will see on these blogs before the book is published. I love teasing—just ask Pailin—but I’m not playing Mr. Tease here.

Former Sand Creek Massacre NHS ranger Craig Moore leading a tour of the upper portion of the Washita Battlefield on 6dec2008. I joined it, and to his displeasure spoke up during the tour when he passed certain areas without discussing them. Of major importance was the mound that Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer used as his observation post during the fight, which still partially exists. I refused to accept this silence, halted the moving program and informed everyone of Custer and his actions to protect non-combatants that he viewed as disobedience of his orders. This was not the beginning of a sparkling relationship, still years later Craig kindly attempted to help me locate information that had since been buried by Oklahoma law and blocked from viewing by historians. … This Washita Battlefield NHS extended symposium was a big event for me as I both played Wynkoop on stage and spoke about him during it. (photo by Leroy Livesay and given to Louis Kraft with full permission to use it)

Some of you know a little and some of you know a lot of about the lead-up to that tragic November 27 day, what happened, and the aftermath. Some of you don’t know anything about this time. Whichever camp you’re in I’ve decided that I now want you to read the book with no more giveaways by me. I want you to experience it for the first time and not mumble as you turn pages that Kraft already told me all this.

Without giving too much away this portion of the book is of major importance to the Cheyennes and the Arapahos.

LK and Cheyenne Chief Gordon Yellowman after a day of talks/presentations ended at the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site two-day symposium on 7dec2011. We met in 1999, and since have crossed paths numerous times, the last being this year. With the publication of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway in 2020 we will be linked throughout time. I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am. (photo by Joel Shockley for the National Park Service).

A Ned Wynkoop one-man show has had two performances at the Washita and I’ve given two talks there. Obviously I want to return to this special land. In my opinion it, along with the Sand Creek Massacre NHS (Eads, Colorado) and the Cheyenne-Dog Man-Lakota village site (35 miles west of the Fort Larned NHS, Larned, Kansas), are three key sites in Cheyenne history. There are certainly many others including the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana; the Battle of Summit Springs (near present-day Sterling, Colorado) where Cheyenne Dog Man Chief Tall Bull died on 11july1869; and the Battle of Beecher Island where the great Cheyenne war leader Roman Nose died on 17sept1868 (the last two sites I’ve not seen). … In May of this year Kevin opened the door to me returning to the Washita to present a talk combined with a book signing. I’ve already mentioned two ideas to him, and for the record I won’t be talking about the battle. Hopefully we can make this happen in 2020.

Tomas Jaehn, University of New Mexico
Those of you who know about my writing/talking history may be familiar with Tomas.

From left: Pailin, LK, and Tomas Jaehn in the Tujunga House dining room on 2aug2018. Good-good times, and I wish that Tomas could have had a longer stay. Regardless of what happens with an LK talk at UNM one thing is certain, I’ll see Tomas and his family in 2020. (photo by Pailin and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Tomas Jaehn, & Louis Kraft 2018)

What follows is repetitious, and that’s okay for he’s become a great friend over the years, and one I always enjoy discussing any subject in our worlds. He is responsible for creating the Louis Kraft Collection in 2002. I’ve spoken there twice. Believe it or not we both put a lot of effort into an attempt to bring the Ned Wynkoop one-man play to Santa Fe. I should talk about this sometime, but not here. … Tomas has since moved on to a cool position at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque (see above). Well, I guess you know where this is going. We have been tentatively going back and forth about an LK talk at UNM. Although below it may appear that I’m being too picky on where I want to place a Sand Creek Massacre article, this isn’t the case. The reason is simple: For me to show what happened on those two tragic days I need more words than most publications will allow and I don’t what to shortchange this important subject. … If Tomas and I can agree on what I intend to say (and it will be explicit) along with a date that is good for both of us after the book is published this is a talk that I want to give in Albuquerque.

Articles
Stuart Rosebrook, True West Magazine editor
Stuart and I connected on LinkedIn in 2018 but I don’t know if we’ve ever met. In May we shared a number of emails, which alerted him to the upcoming Sand Creek book publication and of my desire to again write for magazines, which caught his interest. Since then we’ve had a long talk on the phone to discuss this, writing for True West, and we weren’t talking about a one-time article but continuing into the future. Stuart was immediately interested in an article on the Sand Creek Massacre but I told him no, that I needed a lot more words than the 1500 maximum word count for the magazine.

In the coming days we’ll spend more time talking about LK story ideas that might be usable. Trust me, I have plenty of ideas bouncing around in my head. Most are related to the Sand Creek story, but there are others from the other side of my writing world that may grab his interest. Time will tell.


For the record I think that the best place for a Sand Creek Massacre feature might be in American History or MHQ (The Quarterly Journal of Military History). I’ve written for both and have had good experiences in the past. These pitches are in the works.

At right is the cover for the February 2008 issue of American History. The cover story was a comparison of Errol Flynn’s George Armstrong Custer in the Warner Bros. 1941 film, They Died with Their Boots On, and the real George Armstrong Custer. To date I consider it the best article that I’ve ever written. In 2008 it became the best-selling issue of the magazine (I don’t know if this is still true). For the record I campaigned to have Flynn also on the cover. This was one battle I lost, but ended up pleased with the art director’s choice. Here’s a few words to those of you interested in Mr. Flynn, Mr. Custer, or both of them, obtain the magazine (if possible) for the article may be of great interest to you.

Archives
Jonathon Auxier, USC Warner Bros. Archives
Beginning around 1995 the USC Warner Bros. Archives (Los Angeles, California) has been a mandatory destination of mine. I can’t write another word without saying the following: I have researched in a lot of first class archives over the years but none of them have come close to comparing to the USC Warner Bros. Archives. Over this time many have helped me at this magnificent archive, including Randi Hockett (director), Haden Guest (Curator), Noelle Carter (Director), Sandra Joy Lee (Director; I can’t remember her married name), and Jonathon Auxier (Curator). There were others but I can’t remember their names.

Jonathon was day in, day out light years above all of the archivists and directors at the USC Warner Bros. Archives. He always had a positive attitude, was extremely knowledgable and this is an understatement (in an archive that was so large that it had to be overwhelming to everyone that worked there, not to mention the by-appointment only researchers), and even better for I can’t tell you how many times he went the extra mile for me.

This is Jonathon Auxier near the end of our lunch at Le Pain Quotidien on Riverside Drive in Burbank, California, on 26apr2019. Good times as we talked about the past and our futures. A number of years back he left the archives for a terrific position at Warner Bros. (photo © Jonathon Auxier and Louis Kraft 2019)

One example will show just how knowledgeable Jonathon was and how willing he was to go that extra mile. There was a key event in the Errol Flynn-Olivia de Havilland relationship during their time with Warner Bros. I knew it happened but couldn’t find anything related to it at the archive. I explained exactly what I needed to Jonathon. He dug in and within days found the information I coveted. It became the spine for a talk I did about them perhaps 14 years ago or perhaps less as I’m not certain when Jonathan began working at the archives. No matter for the talk was a hit; so much so that I decided never to share this subject again. I immediately added the information to the Errol & Olivia manuscript. While polishing it I carelessly had a draft lying around when a Flynn friend who thought he knew a lot more than he actually did visited. He was a person who bought into whatever he read, proven or not (unless it was negative or debunked) and propagated clichés. While I was preparing dinner he saw it and began to thumb through the printed draft, but luckily asked what he was looking at. This brought me running to the rescue. I brushed it off as me playing with thoughts and words and nothing more. He bought what I said and the subject was closed. Over the years Jonathon has found other pieces of information that I needed but couldn’t find.

Back in those days it used to take me on average of between 20 and 25 research days to get through one box that dealt with a particular film. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) had two boxes and it felt like forever to get through both boxes.

Jonathon has became a friend, mostly long distance although not many miles separate us, and this year we have made an effort to bring our friendship into the here and now. Good for me, and hopefully for him.

I will continue to use other archives for Flynn/de Havilland and Carson/Indians,
but I see no need to share them at this time.

Just so you know I’m singing an Alan Jackson song as I dance into my future.
Or will it be John Lennon, or Michael Parks, or Patsy Cline, or Rhiannon
Giddens, or Waylon Jennings, or Tex Ritter, or Laura Brannigan,
or John Anderson, or Willie Nelson, or Rihanna, or Elvis
Presley, or Rita Coolidge, or Kris Kristofferson,
or Norah Jones, or Bob Dylan,
or Yoko Ono?

1st sixth of a Louis Kraft 60-film list

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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 60-film list has been split
into six installments due to time limitations.

None of the choices made the first sixth of this 60-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 University of Oklahoma Press marketing department. 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 six pieces. The second installment will appear as soon as possible.

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 will be Olivia de Havilland’s The Snake Pit (20th Century Fox, 1948 ) 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 60-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 four additional film blogs have been posted first. Simply this means that two really good films will never be selected as numbers 59 or 60 are firmly in place, and they’re never 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 (20th Century Fox, 1958) on 15may2014. And … AND … she sat between Errol Flynn fan Robert Florczak 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 didn’t mean much).

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.

As is well known, 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.

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 Kitsch), but a lifeless and sexless Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), and I’m being 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?

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,but most likely it’ll never make a Kraft film list.

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.

I also want to mention an extraordinary film, War for the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox, 2017). It is science fiction but much more—much-much more.

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

It is a story of survival and racism, and when we get to the 60 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’ 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.

My view on Hollywood kissing itself on its ass for a third of the year every year isn’t printable

Steven Spielberg photo by Patrick T. Fallon for the Los Angeles Times (it appeared in the California section of the paper on 3mar19, pB8).

If those in power used the money that they waste in Los Angeles every year 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.

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.

Andy Serkis deserved to be nominated for his performance. Yes, his performance was that good, and so were some of the other ape characters in the film. … Better, War for the Planet of the Apes 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 ad 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 sixth of LK’s Top 60 films

Most of the films in the top 10 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.

When I finally complete the entire list of 60 films 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 these 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, has many characters that grabbed my interest and made me care about them, and shows 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 reservation. 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.

    Shelia Tousey was, along with Chief Ted Thin Elk, John Trudell (who, in real life, was an activist for Indian rights), Sarah Brave, Julius Drum, and Graham Greene, perfect casting. She played a university-educated school teacher with children who had returned to the reservation to “help” her people, which also included being raped before the film begins. She is pretty, in control, but there wasn’t a forced relationship between her and Kilmer. Still, and although they were at odds and confrontational throughout most of the film, 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 reservation. 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 personal 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 personal 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 personal 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 being so alive that 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 that the reality now controlling her life 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 ends 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 the Free over the centuries. No matter what my or your opinion is of the USA, 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 Newman’s cinematic life, and yet I do as it is vibrant, in trouble, taking wrong-turns, caring, disappointed, and in 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 (left) 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.

    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.

    Dodd/Kunkurra is Rickman’s token Aborigine man servant and is dressed appropriately for his position. Unfortunately 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. 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.

    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.

    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.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 hip 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 a 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.

    Left: 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.

    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.

    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.

    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 a premier of Last of the Mohicans in 1993 (but I don’t know where). LK personal collection.

    Day-Lewis and Stowe are one of the best film duos in the last 40 years. This said, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, who played George and Libbie Custer in They Died with Their Boots On (Warner Bros., 1941), are my top film duo for all time, and will forever remain so.

  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, when he enjoyed himself 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 closeness to the Golden Age of Cinema and the inception of what film would become by the end of the 1960s/beginning of the 1970s. LK personal collection.

    A production shot during filming with the cast listening to Hitchcock. 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.

    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 tigers her from Shambala Preserve, an animal sanctuary created in the early 1970s in Acton, California, were used in a Tom Skerritt TV film, Maneaters [as spelled] are Loose (Mona Productions, 1978), 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 (20th Century Fox, 1970), a black comedy about the Vietnam war, and never looked back.

    Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren in one of their many scenes after the birds begin to attack people. 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. 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 Tab Murphy 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 2013 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 somewhere around 2010 or 2011 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 see 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, 18 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 the University of Oklahoma 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 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.

    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 of 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!

    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.

    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 tells him. “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 …. “What happened was inevitable,” Hershey tells him. “The way it happened was unconscionable.”

  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 Indian 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 (on 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 Aaron, no Ruth, and no film, … no two LK books:
    Gatewood & Geronimo (2000) and
    Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (2005).

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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 in the Los Angele Times 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. 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!!! Perhaps some of these heroes serving jail time should see the remainder of their sentences commuted.

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

I have favorite animals. Just five: Mountain lions (pumas), horses, wolves, coyotes, 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 LA 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.

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 (left) 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 although it is 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).

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.

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.

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. Joan McGirr, 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 the University of Oklahoma 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, since 1987. 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 some of Barbara 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 for more reasons than one. (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 few 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 its 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 these words in this blog. See the film, … and when Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is published read the book. Here’s a big hint: Barbara’s quote is the final two sentences in the book.

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 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. That’s right, he wanted “easy prey.” 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 was (and 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. Higham, a film biographer, printed despicable lies about two of his subjects (see below), for the simple reason that he wanted to sell books. Other biographers and historians in modern times have mimicked Higham’s practice of creating false facts that bleed red for the same reason, to pocket as many greenbacks as possible. There’s one difference, these hacks of recent times (that is post 1980) stoop so low with their fictional creations that they are little more than cockroaches that run rampant in their readers’ minds as they spread filth that has no basis in reality.

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’s 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. I’m back to the writer that evolved from 1960s to the 1980s. 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?” I asked. 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. This author’s name was W. C. Jameson.

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,” or “lying Donald.” 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 (Charley) Bent. Their father was trader William Bent, who plays a fairly large role in my Sand Creek 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 into 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 Eubanks being five when the Cheyennes gave her to Wynkoop on September 12, 1864 (a date that is erroneously 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. During an horrendous string of a few days mostly along the Platte River Route she, along with many other whites, survived while seeing her family murdered and hacked to pieces. 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 the art director turned it into a terrific duotone.

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). But sometimes it also included that his memory failed him, or worse a publisher changed facts or names.

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. 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 2013-2020

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 in 2019.
  • 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 dormitory rooms (two rooms that shared a bathroom).

High school 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 sandlot 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 girlfriend Kitty Moore (and she was one of the most gorgeous ladies I’ve ever known) 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 (Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe). For more information about Wonderboat see Louis Kraft’s top 13 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 (wrapped between two weekends) 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 before my nine days in Herndon. During the evenings after code-based software demos she became my tour guide, dinner companion, and more. On one day when we got off early she 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). Greg and I have been friends for decades.

This editor, Jeanne Dodge-Allen, played an important part in my life—ranging from friend, lover, and a nightmare beyond belief. If I ever write my memoir she’ll be in it.

While Primedia’s headquarters 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 remaining in the lodging provided for me over the weekend and not flying home until Sunday. That Saturday Jeanne and I took the subway system from Herndon to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and we worked together on Indian wars research. She was petite while perfectly formed, with a great mind that connected with mine, but also soft and caring. Everything seemed perfect. I thought. Unfortunately she had a dual-personality that I didn’t know about until later. She had told me about the “good ol’ boys” at headquarters, and what they were supposedly doing to her. The truth? What she told me, even if only partially true, was horrifying. I’ll never know. Shortly after I flew back to Los Angeles I became one of the “good ol’ boys.” I think that this was all in her head, but that doesn’t matter. She began calling my home phone but her voice was no longer soft and friendly. It had turned demonic and threatening. Eventually I received and unmarked package. Inside was an oversized mailing envelope with one word written on it in bold red ink: SHAME (there was long dark 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

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)

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.

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.

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

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.

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:

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.

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).

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.

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

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)

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)

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. …

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.

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

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.

Val Kilmer, Graham Greene, Shelia Tousey, Ted Thin Elk, John Trudell, Fred Ward, and Shepard are the key players in Thunderheart, a 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.

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.

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.

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.

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)

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.

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.

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 Diane Moon, my 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 my daughter and ex-wife, 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 my ex-wife 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.

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)

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 Vogtschmidt, 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.

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 the manuscript nears production I plan on sharing it along with other paintings for the book cover (to date only Chief Yellowman’s art on the list, and honestly I don’t think that this is going to change) 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.

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

Knowing that my neurologist wouldn’t see the results for two or three days I took the elevator up to my cardiologist’s office and told him the Brain EEG results. His nurse did an EKG (my 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.

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.

I had heart problems, but my cardiologist was totally in the dark.

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 cardiologist said. “Do not drive.” He also told me the name of my surgeon. My surgeon?

Why didn’t he call me as soon as he had the results?

As Pailin was en route to West LA, I called my daughter and ex-wife. 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) hovering around 240 and sometimes reaching 250 or more. 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 I met Dr. Dave Kim, who would be my heart surgeon. He showed me the printout of the 24-hour heart study. … My heart rate was skipping three and four and five 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 the 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.

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)

I had met with my heart surgeon (Dr. Dave Kim) 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.

Dr. Kim has become my heart specialist. On September 14 I’ll enroll in a heart monitoring clinic at his office. Once set up, the clinic will be able to monitor my heart 24/7 when I’m at home.

My neurologist (Peter-Brian Andersson), 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.

Louis Kraft’s top 13 Errol Flynn films … a personal view

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


The lead-in is long. It is also important, as it introduces you
to why I am capable of writing a film list.

I discovered film early in life and loved it, to the point that I wanted to be an actor. I studied acting in junior high school, high school, college, and then years after in professional theater groups. I worked in the industry for fifteen years (theater, film, TV, commercials, and print).

This image of LK was taken at Tujunga House on 5jan2017. I’m listening to something that I didn’t buy into … The story of my life, … and maybe yours. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

… But it didn’t go in the direction I wanted it to go in and I walked away “cold turkey,” just like quitting smoking, … and I didn’t gain a pound.

  • I study film (at least four times a week). What? Why? Simple, I can’t tell you how much I learn about a storyline, plotting, dialogue, character development, scope, and on and on.*


    * A few years back I functioned as a consultant to a person who wanted to write a novel (and what I told him also applied to how I view film). I’m not going to share his writing problems, but they were large. I provided a detailed redline of his manuscript pages and each review included pages upon pages by me that told him what he had to do to improve his story and prose (and this included many face-to-face consultations). … I wasn’t seeing any improvement and asked him if he read a lot. “Yes!” “Fiction?” “Yes.” … “Here’s what you need to start doing,” I told him. “When you read a book, what do you like about it? This would include what excited you, what made you cry, what made you turn the page, and so on. What didn’t you like about the book? Did it bore you? How and why? Did you put the book down and never return to it?” Moving forward. … “Could you improve the book that you were reading? If yes, how? … These are notes that you need to take, and you need to study them, for they will give you an insight on how to write fiction.” … 
    As I said, I study film and I study everything I read (and I do research each citation—you learn a lot about lies and fiction here).

  • Film has always been with me, and I have always studied it (and from many angles) … but there is one thing that I cannot accept and that is film or nonfiction or fiction rewriting history.*


    * Proven facts: Ned Wynkoop did not participate in the 1864 massacre and butchery of Cheyenne and Arapaho men, women, and children in Colorado Territory; George Armstrong Custer did not survive the 1876 battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana Territory; and Errol Flynn did not spy for Nazi Germany.

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

What follows is totally personal.

I write for me

… and I always have. This blog is for me, and it isn’t unusual for everything I write is for me. … Books, talks, plays, articles, blogs. My friends, regardless of what you think of this lead-in, everything I write is because I care about the subject matter. My hope is that you have an interest in it and read some of my words. … If not, I have just struck out.

LK hitting a home run for the Warriors, a team I filled in for when they didn’t have enough players on any given game. I played third base for them, and in this image I slashed a hooking line drive to left-center field that resulted in a home run. My team was the Cool Aid Kids, and I played for them from spring 1980 until March 1990 (and our seasons were year-round). (photo © Louis Kraft 1989)

Baseball has always been a part of my life (but not so much during the last twenty-seven years). It was when I was a kid, it was when I was a young adult, and it again entered my life in1980 (after my mother’s death). … Sorry. I’m vague, way too vague. I know this as my friends ping me all the time.

Baseball. There’s one major thing about baseball, and I love it. If you don’t come to the plate and bat you can’t strike out, … if you don’t come to the plate and bat you can’t hit a home run. I love hitting home runs. … This ended forever on March 6, 1990, the day my brother died.

A film list?

(art and cover design © Louis Kraft 2016)

I never wrote a list in my life until a few years back. A former friend insisted that I do a list of 10 Elvis Presley songs. I did this but then he got greedy and wanted Presley’s top 10 songs from the 1950s ’60s, and ’70s. At the moment I have 10 from the ’50s (but two are Christmas songs and one is religious), for the ’60s I currently have 40 songs (cutting this list down to 10 is a waste of my time for I’ll never be able to complete the hack job), but, alas, I only have one firm song from the ’70s. This shouts out loud and clear that Elvis’s creativity came to an end early in that decade. At least for me.

For the record, Elvis’s lone song from the ’70s* is heard while a yacht (the Newborn) is anchored off Santa Catalina Island (Los Angeles, California) in The Discovery. It is a medical thriller. The cover asks: “Can a birth 21 years in the past destroy a man’s life?” It can destroy a lot more than one life. The novel is a character study of people under extreme stress.** (Warning: It contains stark violence and is erotic.) I know, disgraceful, as I’m plugging one of my books … in a film-list blog.

* Burning Love (1972).

** One of the reasons I decided to partner on The Discovery was because I needed to play around with a number of leading and supporting players in a story that was a mixed-up mess over two decades. I’m a biographer, and Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is a much bigger mess to smoothly move between the historical people who drive the story to conclusion. I easily spend eight hours doing research to two hours writing nonfiction. Facts, facts, and more facts; mix them up with who is currently driving the story, and don’t fall on your face for believing errors (on purpose or not) in previously published works.

This is my sister, Linda Kraft, about an hour before she became Mrs. Greg Morgon in Long Beach, California, on 3dec1988. I took the wedding photos and had access to candids like this image. (photo © Louis Kraft 1988)

The following is for me and hopefully you

My sister Linda Kraft-Morgon (she was an LA County Sheriff and an investigator for the LA County District Attorney’s Office) had huge law enforcement connections with Germany, and she and her husband, Greg Morgon (he retired as a lieutenant from the LA County Sheriff’s Department) visited often and their German associates visited them in SoCal. … Will I ever travel to Germany? Doubtful. … There might be a research trip to England for the pirate Drake (which is almost spitting-distance close to Germany, and I love Eurorail), but if I don’t move to the southern coast of either Spain (research heaven!) or France a fair guess is that I will never return to Europe. … However, I did write an epic tragedy about Germany* (and, as almost always, my theme was racial and anti-war).

Jürgen Prochnow played the U-Boat commander in the great German anti-war film Das Boot (The Boat). In 1982 I played Miles Hendon in a 135-performance tour of The Prince and the Pauper in Northern California, and I choreographed the duel. When Das Boot opened in San Francisco I saw it without knowing anything about the plot. The film featured a lone U-Boat patrol. When the tour ended I fired Ed Menerth, my screenwriting agent. I had completed Wonder Boat in early 1981. He had told me, “I love it,” but he also told me that he couldn’t sell it as it was about racism, WWII, was a tragedy, and the hero was a U-Boat commander. … BTW, great performance by Prochnow. Oh, Das Boot will make my top 60 film list (which will be the topic for upcoming blogs). I’m struggling with how to create such a list because certain films, which perhaps should be included, won’t be on it. One is John Ford’s The Searchers (1956). Ford’s American Indians are mostly faceless “savages.” My view on this? You don’t want to hear it, and certainly not if you love Ford’s work. However, John Wayne’s racist performance in The Searchers is magnificent, and because of his performance, and only because of his performance, this film should be included in my upcoming list. Will it make the list? Doubtful.

* My best ever screenplay (agented, but not sold) dealt with the destruction of Germany during WWII as seen through the eyes of a U-Boat commander who wasn’t a Nazi (most U-Boat commanders refused to join the Nazi party but fought for their country with honor and with conscience). The title was Wonder Boat, and although the screenplay dealt with the various phases of the war and the U-Boat commander’s relationship with a Jewish woman (that’s right, a Jewish woman) the title referred to a U-Boat that was being developed, but the German high command’s hope that a fleet of these “boats” could prevent the inevitable never happened. The war ended before the first “Wonder Boat” launched for a combat mission. There is a copy of this script in the Louis Kraft Collection (Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, Santa Fe, New Mexico). … I still have all of my research. If finances go south, and I experience a forced exit from the USA, this story is a top contender to become a novel.

Let’s talk about something that means absolutely nothing

Huh? Sorry, but I’m back to the reason for writing this blog—film lists. … I know—who cares? Heck, I do and I hope that some of you do too.

I also know that some of you will not much care for the following list. … A few years back I had shared a 50 film list with someone who claimed to know film but admitted to me that he hadn’t seen most of the films on it. What goes around comes around as I hadn’t seen a lot of the films on his 50 film list. Love it, for it shows that even though we are talking about film … we’re also dealing with oranges and apples in what we had seen. If you haven’t viewed every film how can you make a top 50 or top 60 film list? (I can certainly do a list on Flynn as I have seen all of his films wherein he had leading roles except Murder at Monte Carlo (1935), a British film that was never released in the USA (and unfortunately may be a lost film); and Hello God (1951), an anti-war film, in which EF had the original negative destroyed as he thought that the subject matter, and perhaps the quality of the film, might hurt his career. I believe that the patched together film has screened in Europe (and supposedly a number of reels have been discovered and are being restored). My view: I certainly hope so.

The above makes it clear that opinions on any artistic creations (fiction, nonfiction, plays, films, TV, song and music, poetry, and art) can never be totally valid.

Top film lists and what they are

I’ve always been able to create a top 10 Errol Flynn film list (since my first Elvis list). It has made certain people grind their teeth and complain (to the point that I don’t think that they have any teeth left, … just the nubs). Actually there are always Flynn films that are on the cusp of my list and could bump a current film and make the list. For some time I have avoided this by creating a follow-up Flynn list that included films 11-20. This is ridiculous and I don’t like it. Thus, the following will only include one Flynn list—the top 13.*

* Upcoming blogs will focus on other film lists including a top 60 films without Flynn, and top 10 film lists of the following: 1) Drama, 2) Comedy, 3) Thrillers, 4) Action, 5) War, 6) Westerns, 7) Race, and 8) Swashbucklers. Dramas, Thrillers, Westerns, and films that deal with Race have plenty of contenders; the other categories are difficult to fill. Obviously sequels are coming.

Finally on to the main event, … Mr. Flynn.

Top 13 Errol Flynn films

The top six films are alphabetical and are not in order (for the record if I could only keep six Flynn films they would be Adventures of Don Juan, They Died with Their Boots On, The Sea Hawk, Gentleman Jim, Four’s a Crowd, and The Sun Also Rises). 

  1. Adventures of Don Juan, director Vincent Sherman, and w/Viveca Lindfors, Robert Douglas, Alan Hale, Jerry Austin, Romney Brent, Ann Rutherford, Raymond Burr, and Douglas Kennedy (1948)

    I think that it was Stan Maxwell, a good Flynn source and a better friend, who supplied Mr. Sherman’s address and phone number. This bit of information led to letters, phone calls, eventually a day meeting with Vincent wherein our conversation focused on Flynn and Don Juan. Afterwards, Vincent graciously answered follow-up questions that I had. All this information is locked away in a secure location, as are all of my other communications and transcriptions of interviews until I need them, including a couple of decades of contact with Olivia de Havilland (by the way, she is now Dame Olivia de Havilland). (photo in LK personal collection)

    As Adventures of Don Juan is alphabetically first I need to say something immediately: Flynn’s Juan de Maraña, Gentleman Jim Corbett, Mike Campbell, and George Armstrong Custer are my favorite performances by him. Flynn had his own personal choices and one was Corbett (I will deal with them in upcoming books). In regards to Don Juan, Flynn liked and respected John Barrymore, the great stage actor who became a major silent film star. My grandfather (Eugene Small) saw Barrymore star in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I had been told that he was amazed with Barrymore’s transformation from good to evil on the New York stage. One problem here: I can’t find any proof that Barrymore played the dual roles on stage, even though everyone on my mother’s side claimed that my grandfather did. He did play Robert Louis Stevenson’s famed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on film (1920), and my guess is that this is what he saw. Since my family is long gone (other than a cherished cousin that I haven’t seen in person since she was about eight years old), and she is wonderful but I’m a recluse or worse. My life revolves around Pailin and two others whom will remain unnamed. This is my life. Actually it was my father’s life during his last nine years after my brother’s death. There was a family across the street, along with three and a half people that were major to his life at that time (me, my brother’s best girlfriend of all time, the fellow who lived next door, and another person who can’t be named).

    Oops! I’m supposed to be on Flynn’s Don Juan. Guess what? Mr. Flynn apparently liked Mr. Barrymore’s silent portrayal as Juan. This meant one thing, he wanted to follow in the “Great Profile’s” footsteps, as he counted himself lucky to know and befriend this great actor. Yes, Flynn, who often trashed himself playing heroes, wanted to play the great Don on film.

    This is actually a tight shot of Flynn crossing blades and soon daggers with Douglas (who instantly became Flynn’s major swashbuckling nemesis even though he wasn’t very good swinging a rapier). This image, which is numbered, was taken by a staff photographer assigned to the film. … But what happened here? A good portion of the image is out of focus, there is a head in the foreground (an extra, someone watching the action?). This image—and with all its problems is magnificent even though Queen Margaret (Lindfors), King Philip III (Romney), and Don Sebastian (Austin) are out of focus—as it shows Flynn and Douglas in mortal combat. One will survive (and yes, the film is a tragedy). Douglas has yanked out his dagger and within seconds so will Flynn to parry the thrust. At this point in time the duel steps into another world of swashbuckling reality. (this torn, crinkled, and numbered image is in LK’s personal collection)

    And did he! When filming began in October 1947 Flynn not only understood who he was, but also what the public expected of him on film. His performance as Juan is sad; it’s full of charm and charisma that only he could deliver; full of a life lost and yet not forgotten; it is also full of laughs that are based distinctly upon his screen persona (yes, Flynn had no problem laughing at himself). The film Adventures of Don Juan belongs to Flynn and to no one else. He was able to combine his screen presence with his ongoing life and come up with a middle zone that presented who he was on film and in real life. Flynn’s Don Juan is heroic while also being tragic. In my opinion this was Errol Flynn’s best performance on film. This includes every other film in this list, and a major reason why each of these movies made the list was because of Flynn’s performances in them.

    It has been oft-stated that Flynn had to have short takes during the dueling scenes. If you have ever swung a blade and fought competition (and I have), let me tell you that you are feeling it after a 30-second exchange. Yes, Flynn’s smoking certainly impacted his stamina, but you know what? It is what is on film that counts—and all of Flynn’s dueling in Adventures of Don Juan is the best that I’ve seen on film. (The Sea Hawk’s final duel is second).

  2. Escape Me Never, directed by Peter Godfrey and w/Ida Lupino, Eleanor Parker, and Gig Young (1947).
    This publicity image of Flynn and Lupino was published as a full-page color image in a 1947 movie magazine. While in junior high school and waiting for my mother to pick me up after a fencing lesson with the great Ralph Faulkner I spent my time in a large used book store next to his studio on Hollywood Blvd. The bookstore (sorry, but it is long gone and I don’t remember the name) had shelves and shelves of movie magazines from the 1940s and 1950s. I sat on the floor and turned pages. Magazines that featured Flynn I bought (I had money as I worked). A few years later I met a girl one year younger than I (Judy Groh) at a friend’s party at his parents’ house. We hit it off and she became my first girlfriend. In those days everything in my life was innocent. Back to Flynn, … I showed her this image. She laughed and laughed and laughed. She pointed at Flynn’s hair and laughed some more. This image is simply WBs publicity—it is tender and yet has a hint of eroticism. I don’t know when the image was shot (I haven’t researched this film yet) but I think that the image was taken after Escape Me Never was filmed for Flynn didn’t look like this in the film (if I’m wrong, it was taken before filming began). (photo in LK’s personal collection, and it is not a scan of the 1947 magazine image, which I still have).


    I hated this film, absolutely hated this film when young. The last time I had seen it was perhaps thirty years before it was finally released as a Warner Bros. Archive print-on-demand film. The production value, as critics complained, could have been better and it was just as I remembered. But when I saw it recently I was overwhelmed by the flow of the plot, and more important, Flynn’s subdued performance as a composer. Flynn was hurt and angered by the reviews of his novel, Showdown (1946), at the time he filmed Escape Me Never, and worse this film would be pounded by critics, and this affected him in more ways than one. I don’t blame him for he provided one of his better film performances as a man torn between two women, as a man who wants to do right but finds himself weak, as a man who finally realizes who he is and what is important to him. As for Showdown, I’ve read it at least six times and it has been a page-turner on each reading. … Flynn and Lupino were friends, although I’m not certain when their friendship began, and it registers in Escape Me Never. For the record, and this should be known, actors and actresses usually perform better together when they are friends and/or are in a relationship. I’m not implying anything here, for as far as I know Ida and EF were friends and I believe good friends (but that was all). Also for the record, a man and a woman can be friends, good friends, and it has nothing to do with sexual intimacy.

    Sebastian Dubrok (Flynn) holds Picolo (as far as I know not credited; also, whenever possible producers try to hire twins) while a minister (Frank Reicher) marries him and Gemma Smith (Lupino). (photo in LK’s personal collection)

    All of the above said, this film is about a woman (Lupino) who totally loves her man (Flynn). He loves her too, but his classical compositions have gone no where and his focus is on success and not his small family, which also includes her infant son, Picolo. They are poor and from the wrong side of the family. Without giving anything away, Flynn is a musical genius. Enter Parker, and she has what Lupino doesn’t have. He is also weak. More, and as you and I know, reaching for the stars is a difficult thing to do. You succeed or you fail. When you fail, that is you or I (and I only speak here from my point of view) the results can be disastrous. This was a view of life that Flynn wanted to explore, and in my opinion he succeeded here. This film holds my interest from the first reel until the end, and it moves me in ways that none of his other films have ever done. As an added bonus the great composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who scored seven of Flynn’s films (including 1935’s Captain Blood; 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood; my favorite, 1939’s The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex; and 1940’s The Sea Hawk), created this absolutely marvelous score, which also included an incomplete ballet (Primavera).

  3. Gentleman Jim, directed by Raoul Walsh and w/Alexis Smith, Jack Carson, Alan Hale, Ward Bond, and William Frawley (1942)
    This is a video cover for Gentleman Jim. It is accurate, and is a pretty damn good representation of him in this this film. Warners, and not only for this film, but others, totally misrepresented what Flynn looked like in numerous films. This heinous stuff, and shame on Warners Bros., as Flynn didn’t have a mustache in this film even though their publicity sold him with a mustache (we’re talking major promotion here, including the 1942 USA one-sheet). Flynn wanted to play James J. Corbett, who would become the first heavy-weight boxing champion of the modern era. To this point in time boxing was flat-footed with charges at their opponents in the ring. Corbett would change that as he used his feet to avoid punches and counter-punched. The film is a light-hearted romp as Flynn’s cocky attitude upsets the rich as he strives to be accepted in society while rising in the boxing world (a lot of which was outlawed as the nineteenth century neared its end). The film is funny, fast paced and Flynn’s Gentleman Jim is a delight to watch. He trained with Mushy Callahan (a former welterweight champion) and was coached by sports writer and Corbett expert Ed Cochrane. Smith, a society woman, presented the perfect foil to Flynn’s attempts to climb in society. BTW Smith and Flynn were friends, and they make a dynamite combination in this film. Bond shined as heavyweight champ John L. Sullivan, who against betting odds, Corbett defeated at the climax of the film. Their scene together when Bond appears at Flynn’s celebration party is touching. Flynn, for the most part, was not doubled in the ring and the fight scenes really stand out. Luckily for Flynn Jack L. Warner was absent from the Warner Bros. lot during most of the filming and this allowed him to get away with murder while working on this film. Flynn constantly had his own idea of what lines were best for his characters, and often he changed lines during script development and during filming. When on set and shooting this is called “ad-libbing.” He was often called lazy for not learning his lines. Perhaps that happened at times, but not always and Flynn often had a hand in his dialogue. His reason for the changes was that he felt they improved his character. All of this will be documented in my books on Flynn. Flynn’s performance in this film was a revolution when viewing his acting capabilities, and better he pushes everything he knows about acting to the next level. … Jim Corbett is Flynn’s cockiest, assured, and most athletic persona on film.
  4. The 1940 1-sheet for The Sea Hawk (in LK personal collection)

    The Sea Hawk, directed by Michael Curtiz and w/Brenda Marshall, Claude Rains, Flora Robson, Alan Hale, Henry Daniell, Una O’Connor, and Gilbert Roland (1940)

    I’ve talked about The Sea Hawk for years, and I’ve made the comparisons to the pirate Drake’s life (see The pirate Francis Drake and Louis Kraft). I’m not going to repeat any of this here.

    All I’m am going to say is that by 1939 Errol Flynn had discovered who he was as a film actor. From this time forward he had control over his performances, and many of them—not all, but most—dwarfed every film role he performed in 1938 or earlier except for The Dawn Patrol and Four’s a Crowd (below). This golden decade (actually eleven years) of Flynn’s acting (1939-1949) had a number of misses (that is average films for multiple reasons) but this eleven-year period contained most of his great acting performances (the only role beyond this timeframe was his portrayal as Mike Campbell in The Sun Also Rises, 1957). … I know, that for many this is pure heresy. It isn’t. If I extend this list to 15, you can bet that Captain Blood (1935) would make the cut (if for nothing else than the great slave auction at the beginning of the film), and of course The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). But remember the key here is Flynn’s performances, the creative quality of the film, and not if the film was a mega hit, for this is something that I don’t care about.

    This duel with Gilbert Roland ends peaceably at the beginning of the film when Flynn takes the Spanish vessel that transports Spanish ambassador Claude Raines to Elizabeth I’s English court. But later in the film, Roland would have the upper hand on Flynn. For the record, Roland would also have leading roles in film, including That Lady with OdeH (1955). In this first duel in The Sea Hawk Flynn displays how much his sword capabilities have advanced since The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). (photo in LK personal collection)

    We need to talk about Brenda Marshall here. She made one other film with Flynn, the decent comedy, Footsteps in the Dark (1941). She is okay in the comedy, and, (again more heresy), she is absolutely fine as the Spanish lady in waiting who views Flynn as a pirate. Their scene in an English rose garden after Flynn has received a verbal rebuff from Queen Elizabeth I in front of the court is simple and touching. Robson was light-years better than Bette Davis’s psychotic and almost spastic mess of a queen in 1939’s The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. BTW, Flynn was fine in Elizabeth and Essex, and Olivia de Havilland absolutely shined as Lady Penelope Gray, a small role that was part of her punishment for daring to pursue being cast in Gone with the Wind (1939).

    This scene was after Robson (Elizabeth I) verbally punished Flynn for attacking the King of Spain’s ship that transported his ambassador (Rains) and his niece (Marshall) to England. What Marshall doesn’t know here is that Flynn has since had a private interview with Robson and she has bought into his next piratical expedition to the New World. … It matters not, for this might be my favorite love scene of all time (and to this point in time Flynn is little more than a pirate that Marshall wants no contact with although she is happy that he wasn’t punished, that is sent to the Tower of London). Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s love theme for this scene is to die for; it is marvelous. (photo in LK personal collection)

    By 1940 Flynn was no longer the novice star of Captain Blood or the blooming mega-star of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) but a full-blown leading man who defined what a swashbuckling leading actor could do in a major pirate film. The Sea Hawk is Flynn’s film from start to finish and he is in total control whenever he is on screen, and it matters not if he confronts Robson’s Elizabeth or Marshall’s lady who spurns his advances or the evil Daniel whom Flynn will eliminate in an extraordinary duel at the end of the film. Flynn’s Geoffrey Thorpe is magnificent from the first time you see him before he launches an attack on a Spanish galleon.

  5. They Died With Their Boots On, directed by Raoul Walsh and w/Olivia de Havilland, Arthur Kennedy, Hattie McDaniel, Charley Grapewin, Sidney Greenstreet, Gene Lockhart, Stanley Ridges, and Anthony Quinn (1941).

    The February 2008 American History cover. I wrote the cover story for this issue, and at that point in time it was the magazine’s all-time best selling issue (don’t know if this is still true). As I have made clear over the years this film has had a major impact on my life. I’ve written four articles about the film and I’ve spoken about it in Texas, Missouri, Montana, and California twice (I need to add Oklahoma to the list, as I think that they may buy into the idea). The best article was a cover story for American History in 2008. For the record, this film is fiction and yet it is so close to reality at times that it is scary. Warner Bros. had a long track record for shying away from facts and real historical people for the simple truth that they feared being sued.The errors in the film are massive but when you look at how closely some of it is to reality while being disguised there is a lot that holds up nicely. However, when it came to the battle of the Little Bighorn the writers and Walsh chose to deal with mythic legend and an heroic end with Flynn holding his saber defiantly. The film end happens in a valley as Crazy Horse (Quinn) has set up a trap and attacks the soldiers. No, no, and more no. Custer divided his force into four independent commands and the battle began when Major Marcus Reno (he isn’t in the film; actually none of Custer’s Seventh U.S. Cavalry officers are in it) crossed the Little Bighorn River (also not in the film) and moved to attack the southern end of the massive village.

    LK standing where Flynn-Custer’s small command marched to the Little Bighorn (13jul16). The west entrance to Lasky Mesa, a massive mountainous and valley area (in the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve), is on Victory Blvd. in Woodland Hills (a town in Los Angeles) in the San Fernando Valley. I’ve seen it printed that it is a seventy-mile drive from Universal Studios and worse that it took a day to get to the location from Warner Bros. (which is on the east side of the SFV). (photo © Louis Kraft 2016)

    For the record I live three miles from Universal Studios and six miles from Warner Bros. I can make the drive to Lasky Mesa on surface streets in less than an hour. Even with dealing with some dirt roads in 1941 this would have been a fairly easy “drive to” from the studio on a daily basis that September. … There are places in Lasky Mesa where a river could have flowed and if WB wanted to film Custer’s end on terrain similar to where it happened in southeast Montana Territory it could have been done. But, … there’s always a but; the film was over budget. … This photo was shot almost a year ago when the temperature hovered around 100 degrees. On that day a person I knew showed me some locations for several great films. (photo © Louis Kraft 2016) … For the record, a lot of what has been published about this film in recent times is pure fantasy. Director Raoul Walsh, who directed Flynn for the first time in TDWTBO when EF made it clear to WBs that he would never again work with director Michael Curtiz, only to see their relationship end before the 1950s began. In my personal opinion the Walsh-directed Flynn films were much better than most of the Curtiz-directed Flynn films. … And better the Flynn persona would grow and change, and there would now be a dark side, but not yet.

    A publicity shot of Olivia and Flynn as they travel to the American frontier. (photo in LK personal collection)

    And the uniting of Flynn and de Havilland one last time—although neither of them knew this at the time—is a pure pleasure to watch as they work together and age in the film. They had been through a lot over the last six+ years both professionally and personally, and they certainly had their ups and downs in their relationship with each other. All this gave them a backstory that they could, and did, use as Mr. and Mrs. Custer. Their last scene in the film (but not the last scene they filmed together), was just before he marches toward the Little Bighorn River (again, there is no river in sight in the film) and destiny is so simple as she helps him prepare to go on campaign (a routine that they must have done every time he left on campaign) and yet is so poignant.*

    LK with Olivia de Havilland at her home on 3jul2009; the third time that  I was with her. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

    * Max Steiner did the music for the film, mixing period music with his composition. However, the love theme that he created for George and Libbie (the correct spelling of Elizabeth Custer’s nickname) is mixed with bugle calls as the command prepares to march to Montana Territory and with Garry Owen (which was actually the theme song of the Seventh U.S. Cavalry as chosen by Custer) as they say goodbye and he exits to destiny. This is by far my favorite scene of Olivia and Flynn together.

    I did open up a can or worms the first time I visited Livvie in her Paris home (2004). We talked a lot about this film and it being their last together (this was just something that happened as both were considered to costar in upcoming Warner Bros. films but it never happened as soon after she took the studio to court over her contract). At the beginning the TDWTBO conversation, she told me that “no,” she didn’t feel any different shooting this scene as opposed to others, but by the time it had gone deep into the night she came back to it for the third or fourth time. Surprisingly now it was suddenly different, for now she came up with a premonition … a premonition she now totally believes (and has since stated on camera).

  6. Uncertain Glory, directed by Raoul Walsh and w/Paul Lukas, Jean Sullivan, Lucile Watson, and Faye Emerson (1944)

    Let’s begin by saying that Flynn’s portrayal as French criminal Jean Picard is one of my favorite performances by him of all time (and this has always been so). It’s restrained, and yet he allows the old Flynn persona to appear every now and again. The charm is present and so is the humor, and yet this film is a tragedy from the beginning. Worse, you care for the criminal Flynn from the get go and he is only alive as he has escaped the guillotine when German planes bombed France during WWII and destroyed the prison where he was about to be executed. He is a con-artist who’s only out for himself.

    This Uncertain Glory (1944) video cover represents a tragic love story that should have had a happy ending. Jean Sullivan (above) delivered a very delicate and open performance. I found her different from most of the female leads in Flynn’s films, and honestly quite refreshing. Unfortunately she didn’t become a star, and I don’t know why. … Looking at this image, I have no clue if she had blue eyes (the film is in B&W). Looking at this same image I know damn well that Flynn’s eyes weren’t this color. … How many “artists” got this wrong? … I’d probably need a full page to document this error, which I’ve seen way-too-many times.

    You know where the film is heading and yet you don’t want it to get there—at least I don’t. I want a happy ending as the story has redemption written all over it. … Actually it comes down to a question of how valuable is our life if we could trade it and save 100 innocent people from death. … What would I do? What would you do? What will Flynn’s character do? The film is a drama, and there is no action, and yet I’m on the edge of my seat every time that I watch this film.

    The bottom seven films are in numerical order
    —maybe & maybe not—

    I know that some people will consider me little more than an unfaithful cretin as major Flynn films, such as Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) didn’t make my list, and for multiple reasons. But again, I choose from a lot of criteria, and the following six films meet my criteria. I’m not going to discuss why these three great films didn’t make my list (and all three are great), and that Flynn did with de Havilland, … and trust me that they will be discussed in Errol & Olivia. But if you’d like to know more (about two of these films that didn’t make the list), see Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view.

    Although I won’t discuss top film lists in Errol & Olivia, I will deal with all eight of their films in detail. What I say may surprise you and perhaps even shock you. … Hey folks, this is a comin’. Alas, Errol & Olivia will only deal with Olivia’s and Errol’s introduction to Hollywood, their life and times during their films together, and a very long epilogue. Trust me, for every hour it takes me to complete this manuscript will create a new understanding for you of these magnificent human beings who happened to be damned-good film actors. It will change a lot of what you currently thought you knew about them, correct egregious errors, and better it will be a book that I hope you read time and again. I know, the preceding statement is egotistical, but a writer must have an attitude when he dares to challenge fiction sold as nonfiction.

  7. Virginia City, directed by Michael Curtiz, and w/Miriam Hopkins, Randolph Scott, Alan Hale, Guinn (Big Boy) Williams, and Humphrey Bogart (1940)

    Flynn with Miriam Hopkins. (photo in the LK personal collection)

    Over and over and over again I have heard complaints why de Havilland didn’t play the lead role in this film. There are at least two reasons why, and one is that there is no way she could have danced in a saloon and made the audience buy it. Actually the anger is even larger, as de Havilland’s fans refused to accept Hopkins’ performance. Why? Some said, “Because she was older than Flynn.” Who cares! I don’t! Hopkins played a dance-hall siren who enticed every miner, drunk, and soldier in Virginia City, Nevada, which was a Southern stronghold during the American Civil War. … And best Flynn was infatuated with her singing and dancing too. This film required a raw sexuality that Hopkins provided, for if there was no Flynn-Hopkins draw to each other this film had no chance of working (and to place a target on my back, it would have had zero chance with de Havilland). At this late date I have one major regret here, and that is that Flynn and Miriam Hopkins didn’t work together again. (Those of you who hate this comment, sharpen your daggers and sabers but remember that I’m damned good with both.) I do know that by this time film audiences wanted Flynn’s costar to be de Havilland (but let me tell you that a lot more goes into this than meets the eye).

    Virginia City has everything I want in a western, and this basically starts with that there aren’t any “bad guys” other than a supporting character played by Humphrey Bogart, who was still a few years shy of super-stardom. This film, this western, deals with the Civil War on the western frontier. … As I have always claimed in my nonfiction writing, “there are two sides to every story,” and it is certainly true in this film. Virginia City had a great cast, and that included Hopkins and Scott—two actors I wish that Flynn could have worked with again in the future. It was never to be. Our loss.

    Can we call TDWTBO a western? I think so. If yes, what is Flynn’s second best western. The LK view: Virginia City with Dodge City a distant third.

  8. Objective Burma, directed by Raoul Walsh and w/Henry Hull, George Tobias, and William Prince (1945)

    After the raid on the radar station Flynn split his command. They had a set meeting place. Flynn and those with have just reached this destination. (photo in LK personal collection)

    More than any other film, this non-heroic picture gives us Flynn at war but not with his usual screen persona. He is reserved, and focused on completing a task: Parachuting into Japanese- controlled Burma during WWII and destroying a radar station. As Flynn and his men slowly inch toward their target the atmosphere is tense, and understandably so as everyone is aware that one mistake, just one slip-up, could mean disaster as there was no backup.

    Detail of an image of Errol Flynn and Henry Hull during a lunch break during the filming of Objective Burma. Let me add something here, and it is totally opinion. When working on film I ate with people that I liked. I certainly can’t talk for anyone else, but this is what I did. (photo in LK personal collection)

    The dense jungle that they cut their way through is alive with the sounds of nature, and it helps build tension. Some of Flynn’s command are typical cliché characters, but for me this was okay as you get to know them, their hopes, their desires. Without giving too much away, the film is just half over when the attack force reaches its target.

    A reporter (Hull) accompanies the mission; older than everyone else he struggles to keep up, but his performance is decent as he vents his views on what he sees. More, it presents a Flynn who shows an emotion that I don’t think he ever shared in any of his other films (the closest might be The Sun Also Rises, 1957), and the sadness that affects him when he watches something happen rips my guts up every time I see the scene. I first saw this film on TV in the late 1960s or very early 1970s at my then-acting manager’s house in Hollywood. His name was Coy Bronson, and in the 1950s and early 1960s he worked with and knew some the then-film greats. I knew that he had worked with Montgomery Clift and I was interested to hear what he had to say. Nothing. He clammed up and said it was none of my business. If I dare to share what I saw and learned during my time with him in an upcoming memoir you will be shocked. On the night of my first viewing of Flynn’s Objective Burma we had gone out to dinner before watching the film in his living room as we sipped drinks. Bronson didn’t know Flynn but had a very negative attitude toward the film. My guess then (and now) was that he still had anger when his acting career didn’t take off. At this time he managed Samuel French’s Hollywood office (they were then leading play publisher in the USA; don’t know about now) and directed plays at the Pasadena Playhouse (Charley’s Aunt was one that I saw).

  9. The Dawn Patrol, directed by Edmund Goulding and w/Basil Rathbone, David Niven, Donald Crisp, and Melville Cooper (1938)

    (1938 poster in LK personal collection)

    Joanne Woodward, an Oscar winner, felt that Flynn’s performance as Captain Courtney was perhaps the closest he came to playing himself on film. I totally agree with her (see the best documentary that I’ve seen on Flynn’s life and film career for more of Joanne’s comments about him; The Adventures of Errol Flynn, 2005). I think that I should say that until modern times (and that is decades after Robert Redford’s poorly executed film The Great Waldo Pepper (1976), I haven’t liked any WWI arial films until I saw two modern films: Flyboys w/James Franco, Jennifer Decker, Jean Reno, and Martin Henderson (2006); and The Red Baron with w/Matthias Schweighofer and Lena Headey (2008, but not released in the USA until 2010). Flynn’s film is definitely dated, but this statement is totally based upon what could be created on film in 1938.  … Do not doubt it, Flynn and Niven were close friends moving into the beginning of the 1940s, and this definitely gave both of their performances in Dawn Patrol extra spark and a relationship that was totally believable on film. I don’t know what happened between them, but something did for in the 1940s there is no mention of the end of their relationship, but it did end. Flynn and Niven are totally alive in all their scenes. More, they are rebels who don’t like being controlled by authority (Rathbone’s Major Brand). They are not James Dean (thank goodness!), but they are rebels and act and react to what is in their souls during this heinous time of WWI when human life didn’t mean much (hell, this is little more than a small piece of humankind and civilization). This is basically a character study of pilots in an extreme situation wherein they had a job to perform but with a life expectancy that wasn’t long. Flynn shines as Captain Courtney.

  10. Four’s a Crowd, directed by Michael Curtiz and w/Olivia de Havilland, Rosalind Russell, Patric Knowles, Walter Connolly, and Melville Cooper (1938)

    LK painting of Olivia and Errol talking with Four’s a Crowd director Michael Curtiz. (art © Louis Kraft 2013 & updated 2020)

    This film will be featured in Errol & Olivia for their scenes together sparkle with fun and excitement, from the first time they meet at the Jamaica Room’s opening. Olivia is Lorri Dillingwell, and her grandfather John P. Dillingwell (a totally delightful Connolly) is a very rich man. Jean Christy (Russell) is an ace reporter at Patterson Buckley’s (Knowles in by far his best role in the three films he did with Flynn) failing newspaper. There’s one problem, Knowles intends to shut down the paper, which Russell doesn’t want to happen. She approaches Flynn’s Bob Lansford, who had been managing editor at Knowles’ paper until he was fired, but is now a hot shot public relations counselor. They decide to attend the club’s opening, but for different reasons. He wants to use Olivia to land Connolly as a client while Rosalind wants Knowles to reinstate Flynn as managing of the paper, as she thinks that he is the only person who can save it from crashing and burning. When Flynn and Russell join Olivia and Knowles at their table—something that Knowles does not want—Flynn turns on the charm and Olivia flirts with a bad-girl sexuality as she gobbles up his advances in ways that more than hint at what could be in their future. An outraged Knowles wants to derail what is happening before him but Olivia and Flynn refuse to allow him to interrupt. Four’s a Crowd is about who is going to end up with who, while Flynn pushes to land Connelly, whom he quickly turns into the most hated man in America with headlines in Knowles’ newspaper. Flynn and Olivia keep the sparks flying, which is a joy to watch until the end of the film when the couples get mixed up and we see who ends up with who.

    Flynn at the beginning of the film. (photo in LK personal collection)

  11. Dodge City, directed by Michael Curtiz, and w/Olivia de Havilland, Bruce Cabot, Allan Hale, Guinn (Big Boy) Williams, Frank McHugh, Victor Jory, and Ann Sheridan (1939)I’ve spent a lot of time with Dodge City elsewhere in these blogs, as I really like this film. What I like most—other than Flynn’s introduction to a genre that he felt totally miscast in—was Olivia de Havilland’s absolutely negative attitude that she brought to the film. She was angry, and rightfully so, for how Warner Bros. dissed her after her breakout performance in Gone with the Wind (1939), which included her first Oscar nomination. Better, she allowed her anger to direct her performance (and not her time on set, which happened during The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex).


    Publicity photo for Dodge City. (photo in LK personal collection)

    My view: She was a total delight in Dodge City. Back to Flynn. He was clueless to who migrated to the American frontier in the 1860s. Clueless! Do you know how many Irishmen were on the American frontier? Flynn didn’t. The character he played was Irish. He wasn’t a lone Irishman; he was one of thousands. Oh yeah, and you can take this comment to the bank. Dodge City spreads over time and during it we see a life growth in Flynn’s character. Better, the film moves forward in a logical plot that must reach resolution. The film sparkles in each act except for the climax. Here, the villains are disposed of way-too-easily (and I’m being kind with this statement). These words led to a Virginia CityDodge City flip while writing this blog (actually Virginia City was higher on the list and Dodge City dropped lower).

  12. That Forsyte Woman, directed by Compton Bennett and with Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Robert Young, and Janet Leigh (1949)

    Flynn getting rough with wife Greer Garson. (photo in LK personal collection)

    To begin with this film bridges the gap between Gentleman Jim and The Sun Also Rises (see above and  below) in multiple ways: 1) Period-piece plot construction, 2) Ensemble-cast performances, and 3) A real grasp of time and place. But it also had one additional element that was first displayed in Silver River with Ann Sheridan, 1948, and later in The Sun Also Rises, and that is a Flynn, totally foreign to what his fans expected of his films (there were other films at the end of his career that also provided this—most notably Too Much, Too Soon, 1957, when Flynn played John Barrymore). Like The Sun Also Rises, this film’s leading characters all work well with each other and their performances (along with a first-class supporting cast, read minor supporting players, all capture the culture and class-separation during the ending decades of the 19th century. This achievement was a combination of casting, directing, editing, and the result is extraordinary. The film is based upon John Galsworthy’s The Man of Property, the first of a trilogy of books that are now known as The Forsyte Saga. Flynn is this man of property and one of his treasured possessions is his-long pursued wife (Garson). What Flynn had created in Silver River he pushes to the next level. He’s ruthless, he’s jealous, he’s possessive, he’s in love, but he doesn’t know how to experience or show love, … much less make a relationship work. He’s clueless! But this is because he is a man of his times. Flynn’s performance is riveting, and so is Garson’s, Pidgeon’s, Young’s, and Leigh’s, and these five actors are first class in this film.

    A candid of Flynn and Robert Young, who is absolutely marvelous in this film. (photo in LK personal collection)

    As you can guess by now, That Forsyte Woman is a tragedy but I don’t want to share any of the details of the film for if you haven’t seen it you need to experience it first hand. Like many people who love Flynn’s film acting I didn’t much care for this film, actually early on I dismissed it. At this point in time someone should hit me in the head with a baseball bat for my prejudice against the film. All I can say is that I was an idiot when younger. Flynn’s performance is pristine! It was F—ing Oscar worthy. Shame on the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences! This film, like The Sun Also Rises, is a mix and match of human beings at one point in time and place. They are who they are, and because of who they are, they react to situations predictably. Without giving away the plot I can’t expose what happens, but trust me for if you view this film with an open mind (in regards to Flynn) it is one that will grab your attention from beginning to end. Not many films do this for me.

  13. The Sun Also Rises, directed by Henry King and w/Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner, Mel Ferrer, Eddie Albert, Juliette Gréco, and Robert Evans (1957)
    According to Patrice Wymore, Flynn’s third and final wife, she told him that he didn’t have to be drunk to play a drunk. She also hinted that he didn’t want to do the film as he would have fourth billing, but that she talked him into taking the part. For the record, this film is based upon Ernest Hemingway’s novel of a lost generation after WWI and it bores me to tears every time I read it. Reviews pinged the film as all the leading players were too old to play the roles. You know what? I don’t care. … Power, an actor who I usually find terribly leaden in his screen performances, plays a writer who is impotent due to wounds suffered during the war. But his life is about to change when Ferrer becomes an unwelcome visitor in his office. Power refuses to join him for a night in Paris, France, as he has a date with a woman and he doesn’t know. This is Gréco, who calls herself a working woman. BTW, Gréco’s part is small but it just oozes with sexuality during every minute she’s on screen. … The “date” moves from day into the Paris nightlife. Power is thrown for a loop when he stumbles upon Ferrer (good stuff as Gréco turns an introduction into chaos), but it gets worse when he sees Gardner (who he has had a past life with), and even though it has no where to go she can’t take her eyes off him.

    This is a detail from a scene that Eddie Albert is also in. Flynn (left) is getting his shoes shined (something he does more than once in the film. He is with Gardner and Power. (photo in LK personal collection)

    Power is sick of the entire situation, but has an out for his friend (Albert) and he have plans to travel to Pamplona, Spain, to see the bullfights.This is just the beginning of a character study of four men and Gardner, who is a flittering bird that can’t control herself while still caring for Power. Surprise of surprises—Ferrer told Gardner of Power’s destination, and she, Ferrer (who has already lost Gardner’s affections) and her broke, drunk, and on again and off again “fiancé” whom she’ll never marry (Flynn) are already Pamplona. This is an ensemble cast that works well together. They are at all times full of life, regardless if they are pleased or angry or experiencing the world of bullfighting in Henry King’s gorgeous-looking film.*

    * For the record, when in elementary school, I saw this film as a second part of a double bill; I didn’t know who the heck Flynn was at that time but loved his performance.

    In February 2000 Ferrer kindly answered some of my questions about Flynn when they worked together. Don’t think I’ll share any of them here, other than to say that everything he said about Flynn during the filming of The Sun Also Rises was positive. They will eventually see print in an upcoming book.

    This photo is from  a scene near the end of the film. From left: Mel Ferrer, Errol Flynn, Ava Gardner, and Eddie Albert. (photo in LK personal collection)

    The running of the bulls is delightful fun when Flynn and Albert get caught in it. Their rapport on film is a standout in The Sun Also Rises. But the problems in place since the beginning of the film grow in Pamplona, and Flynn, who is love with Gardner but sick of Ferrer hanging around, and finally of an-up-and-coming bullfighter (Evans) who Gardner chooses for her next lover. … Although the focus is on Flynn films, I want to say that this cast worked well together and had well-defined characters without nary an unbelievable moment (the only exception being Evans, but he is okay).

    Flynn photographed by Bruce Davidson as used on the rear dust jacket cover for the first edition of Flynn’s My Wicked, Wicked Ways (image © Esquire, Inc. 1958)

    Flynn gave a magnificent performance and I don’t give a hoot if he was drunk or sober when he was on camera. He was charming, funny, drunk, sarcastic, hurt, and at the same time his performance was terribly touching. There is a scene near the end of the film between Flynn (sitting on a bed) and Power (standing). They are basically saying goodbye (even though there are a couple of more scenes of them together), but there is much more here for when Power exits the room and the camera holds on Flynn we see a man who has lived life but has nothing. This reminds me of the great image of Flynn on the first edition of his memoir (My Wicked, Wicked Ways, 1959). Is Flynn an image for all of us as our lives near conclusion? At times I think yes (at least for me*). … In my opinion this was by far his best performance during the decade of the 1950s.

    * For those of you who think I have a negative attitude on life I want to share the following. … On May 31 I told my pulmonary specialist that I planned to live to 130. He chuckled and said that he did too.

Finally … 

Errol Flynn was a great film actor. He was natural at a time of over-acting. More, he was a human who could easily fit into our modern world of a mix of colors and race, for one simple reason—he wasn’t racially prejudiced and accepted people of all races as equal (and I can prove this).

Olivia de Havilland celebrates her 100th birthday + an example of bunk

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


Olivia de Havilland is a gorgeous, sexy, funny, bright, and very intelligent human being.
I know that this is true for I saw what I just said in person.

eoImage_whiteAboveTrust me, the above by LK is a comin’.

When Olivia turned 100 a lot of people sent me links that they found on the internet (I hadn’t searched for any—no reason required by me other than to say I dreaded reading them). This wonderful person and good actress and great hostess’s long anticipated birthday linked me up with Olivia Duke, who works in the entertainment industry and lives locally. She had posted an amazing amount of OdeH information on one of her social media sites, and luckily had seen a talk that I had delivered at the Burbank Historical Society (Calif.) a number of years back (Louis Kraft talk on Errol Flynn’s George Armstrong Custer), and contacted me.

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One year later, 1941, Olivia played Elizabeth Bacon Custer in They Died with Their Boots On. I’m not alone when I say that both she and Flynn were brilliant as Mr. and Mrs. George Armstrong Custer. Their performances in this film were by far the best in the eight films they made together.

Others sent me links, such as friend Stan Maxwell. … A good friend of mine from the software industry, Sherry Weng, added a link that she had found on my Facebook page. There have been comments, which are always good, but alas the article posted on the internet that I’m about to comment on was/is loaded with errors and comments that are based—I’m certain—on a minimal amount of research (perhaps reading one or two or three articles without doing any real research). In the future I plan on dealing with this type of writing in both the Indian wars and the Golden Age of Cinema (and when that happens I will cite everything that I state). Actually the timing was good, as I needed a break from a very important blog (perhaps the most important that I ever write) that will be posted later this month.

You should read the link that Sherry shared with me (100 years of Olivia de Havilland handling sexism, her sister, and Scarlett O’Hara ) before continuing with this blog.

WARNING
If you like what you read in the posted article,
you won’t like what follows.

The link above is to an article that a fellow named Bob Mondello wrote. When I first read it I was appalled. I read it again and jotted notes. They follow.

First off I want to say that Mondello’s article is typical of what is often printed in magazines, newspapers, or online (and here I’m specifically focused on the Golden Age of Cinema, which includes Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn). Many of these articles are little more than mine fields of errors and inventive fiction. If you have any doubts with what follows, do your own research. If you do, you will see that what I say is true, and more important that I’m not attacking a fellow writer due to jealousy or for any reason other than pointing out falsifications due to a lack of research (as I don’t believe Mondello attempted to deceive the reading public). Regardless of what is touched upon below, Mondello’s article will continue to live on the internet and add to the continuous flow of misrepresentations of people and events.

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From left: Hattie McDaniel, Olivia de Havilland, and Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939). Olivia was nominated for her first Oscar: Hattie and Vivien won Oscars for their performances, and Olivia returned home that night empty-handed. (photo in Louis Kraft personal collection)

Mondello claims that Gone with the Wind is the most popular film of all time. I thought this was true at one time but no longer so. Recently a person I know proved to me that this is still true during a recent excursion to Lasky Mesa at the far-west side of the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles, Calif.). We walked for miles up hills and down hills and over long stretches of flat land as he showed me some of the locations for Errol Flynn’s George Armstrong Custer’s Little Bighorn film locations where he died gallantly in They Died with Their Boots On (1941). From what I saw, temperature wise, it was supposed to be in the mid-80s that day. Ouch! It hovered just below the century mark. Thank God for lots of water. We also looked at some of the locations for the 1936 Flynn/de Havilland film, The Charge of the Light Brigade. On this day my guide found two locations he had been looking for from Gone with the Wind (1939) and Flynn’s great Adventures of Don Juan (1948). Other than pick up shots at the studio later that day this scene at the end of Don Juan was of Flynn’s and Alan Hale’s last scene together—ever!

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LK on Lasky Mesa in the hills at the west end of the San Fernando Valley. I am standing in front of the area where Errol Flynn as George Armstrong Custer led the Seventh U.S. Cavalry to their deaths at the battle of the Little Bighorn in They Died with Their Boots On (1941). (photo © Louis Kraft 2016)

Back to Gone with the Wind: We’re talking about ticket sales here and not box office gross receipts. Recently Pailin and I saw The Legend of Tarzan (2016) at a first showing at an AMC theater. Price: $6.49/ticket. if we had gone at any other time: $19.49/ticket. Money totals, regardless of attempting to guess what .25 cent or .50 cent tickets might equal in today’s inflated pricing, means nothing. If you want to know what the most popular film was, count the sold tickets. (And actually here this is a corrupted figure, for Gone with the Wind wasn’t selling seats in many of the countries that now fork out millions of dollars to see American films.) … For the record I don’t like Gone with the Wind, but ticket sales speak for themselves, and when you realize that this film was released at the end of 1939, this is one amazing accomplishment.

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LK enjoys Champagne with Olivia while we celebrated her birthday in her Paris garden on 3jul2009 and discussed her life and my writing projects. Although social, the entire day and evening was spent by me attempting to learn about this very special lady. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

The author states that OdeH (pardon me, but this is what I sometimes call her in my research and communication with other historians) was “apparently feeling that 49 films, two best actress Oscars, and a best-selling memoir were accomplishment enough for one career.” Mondello certainly doesn’t attribute this to de Havilland (and I know why, for this isn’t something that she would say). For example, Olivia has been working on an autobiography since before I came in contact with her (1996) and as far as I know she hasn’t completed the manuscript (I could say something here that is very relative but can’t for it will be in the introduction to Errol & Olivia, which will finally become my major book project after Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is in production. That said, her autobiography is of major importance to her. (I know this for we have discussed it and she has queried me for information about her life more than once). BTW, I’m not privy to the reasons why Olivia has not completed her manuscript.

Back to Mondello: I believe that his quote (in the above paragraph) is similar to much that appears in printed biography. Reason: Biographers and would-be biographers all-too often throw out statements of “supposed” fact that in reality are little more than the author’s creation and opinion, and often this is in place to sell a premise that isn’t based upon fact.

Again quoting Mondelllo: “Friday in Paris, she celebrates her 100th birthday …” Without batting an eye I agree with this. In fact, she spent her birthday with her family and close friends.

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One sheet from the video release of the film decades ago. Mondello, for some reason, ignores Captain Blood and jumps to The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). I don’t have a clue why except that so-called Flynn experts have labeled this film the pinnacle of Flynn’s film career. I totally disagree, and it doesn’t even make my top 12 list of Flynn films. Certainly Olivia and Flynn were better in Four’s a Crowd (1938), Dodge City (1939), and They Died with Their Boots On (1941) in their films together. (poster in Louis Kraft personal collection)

Mondello then states: “She got her start on-screen as a sweet Hermia in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, graduated to being a sweet ingénue in a slew of forgettable comedies, and then someone had that bright idea of casting her opposite Errol Flynn. He was a swashbuckler, and standing opposite him, de Havilland got feisty.” I guess this ragged piece of baloney goes hand-in-hand with the adage: “If it is in print, it must be true.”

Ladies and gents, if you believe this, I have some beachfront property in Arizona that I’ll sell you at a cheap price. Trust me, for someday an earthquake will send California into the deep blue to live in legend with Davy Jones’ locker and many of you living on east side of what used to be the Colorado River will enjoy the occasional thrill of seeing a surfer or swimmer attacked by a Great White shark.

I need to reprint a portion of Mondello’s above quote: “… a slew of forgettable comedies” before she was cast with Flynn who “was a swashbuckler.” These two phrases totally discredit the entire article without reading it. Yes, they are that bad.

OdeH made two films after A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Alibi Ike (1935) with Joe E. Brown (which I have) and The Irish in Us (1935) with James Cagney and Pat O’Brien (which I’ve never seen). Two films, actually with big stars, and I certainly wouldn’t call them a “slew” of films. She was basically an unknown (or, if you will a starlet). Flynn, to date had two American films to his credit: 1) He played a corpse on film (with a total of less than a minute of screen time in The Case of the Curious Bride (1935), and 2) In Don’t Bet on Blondes (1935) he looked great in a little over five minutes of screen time in two scenes.

Was he a swashbuckler? Duh! I don’t think so.

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This is the January-February 1979 cover for a long-gone magazine that was decent. The art is nice, and I wouldn’t mind having the original. (magazine in Louis Kraft personal collection)

The Warner Bros. script for Captain Blood was based upon a portion of Rafael Sabatini’s great story of piracy about a doctor turned slave turned pirate, Captain Blood: The Odyssey (published 1922), hadn’t been cast yet, much less filmed. Heck Errol Flynn hadn’t held a sword yet. He was a swashbuckler? Give me a break.

Warner Bros. wanted the British star, Robert Donat, to play Blood, after his recent film hit, The Count of Monte Cristo (1934), and Donat’s only film shot in Hollywood. It wasn’t to be as Donat turned down the role and returned to England. This began a frenzy of casting as Warner Bros. frantically looked for their Peter Blood and Arabella Bishop. There were many screen tests and one by one major stars and smaller players were eliminated. Two, who looked great together in their tests remained in the running, but both had no marquee value for a major film. For the record Flynn made it clear that Jack Warner dared to gamble on him (and Warner confirmed this). Flynn and de Havilland landed the roles. When Captain Blood premiered in New York City in December 1935, over night Flynn became a superstar (BTW, the word/term didn’t exist then) and de Havilland became a star.

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A lobby card from the 1938 release of The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Mondello follows the above with stating that The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) made Olivia a star. Hello! As stated above the major hit, Captain Blood, made her a star, and the follow-up hit with Flynn, The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936) reconfirmed that she was a star. And what about the three historical films that she did without Flynn before The Adventures of Robin Hood. They didn’t count?

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Douglas Fairbanks Jr. sits with Vivien Leigh, and Olivia during the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards ceremony in 1940. Although Olivia didn’t receive her first Oscar on that night she seemed to be enjoying herself (although she later admitted that losing to Hattie McDaniel hurt). (photo in Louis Kraft personal collection)

From here, Mondello’s fictions grow, just like Pinocchio’s nose. “Happily, a rival studio asked if it could borrow her as a foil for its ditz—Vivien Leigh, who had just been cast as vain, self-centered Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. …” Huh? This is one of the biggest pieces of BS posted in our modern era of print in regards to this great film based on Margaret Mitchell’s massive best-selling book of the same name, and fans continue to buy into the various fictitious versions of this hook, line, and sinker.

If you didn’t know it, while producer David O. Selznick searched for his Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler Warner Bros. offered the package of Bette Davis and Errol Flynn. This offer, which included both stars and not just one of them, was refused. For me to address Olivia’s fight to land the role of Melanie Hamilton would cost at least 5,000 words (I deal with this in Errol & Olivia), but the bottom line is that Jack Warner refused to allow de Havilland to try out for the part of Melanie. When she landed the role behind Jack Warner’s back, believe me that a lot a SSSS hit the fan. Warner eventually relented and allowed de Havilland to play the role, and he received James Stewart in return.

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Original art by Susan M. Goulet of Olivia de Havilland as Lady Penelope Gray in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex in LK’s personal collection. When I presented Olivia a print of the art at her home in Paris she knew exactly who she portrayed in the image. BTW, a few years back I posted this art in a blog about Ms. de Havilland and offered a (two + hours) “swashbuckling” lesson. Two ladies correctly named who Olivia played in the image but both didn’t live near California and weren’t able to claim their awards. Here, swashbuckling is a term sometimes used for stage (and film) combat. Original art in Louis Kraft personal collection.

Next Mondello asserts that “Off-screen, though, de Havilland was now able to be more assertive.” Huh? In 1939 de Havilland would be relegated to a minor player in the Flynn/Bette Davis film, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, which was nominated for five Oscars. For the record, de Havilland, who had major tantrums on the set, was very good in her ten or 15 minutes in the film (a part that did exist in Maxwell Anderson’s major Broadway hit but was expanded for the film, Elizabeth the Queen, 1930). … And from my point of view she was the best thing in the film. Like her performance in Dodge City (1939), and also with Flynn, she used her anger to improve her performance.

As far as the suspensions go, OdeH had been placed on suspension often, but it wasn’t “on a six-month-suspension.” Her suspensions were for when she refused to play a specific role, and the suspension was for the time-period that the character she refused to play would have been on call to perform the part. Two months per film? Three months per film? No, for her roles usually required much less time to complete. Why? Using Flynn for an example: Most often he filmed on almost every day. Let’s say a three-month film schedule. Conversely, OdeH, in one of Flynn’s films, might only work 20 days (or less), which means that her suspension was related to the number of days that she missed when she could have, or should have, worked.

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LK presenting Olivia de Havilland to former girlfriend Diane Moon on the night that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored her in June 2006. They hit it off, and she would travel to Paris with me three years later to again spend time with Livvie (as Errol Flynn and others affectionately called Olivia). (photo in Louis Kraft personal collection)

OdeH’s suspension time was supposedly a combination of all the roles in which she refused to perform, and is the time that Warner Bros. claimed that she still owned them to complete her seven-year contract. Personally I don’t understand the math here, for upon refusing to perform in a film WB immediately placed her on suspension.

Olivia de Havilland disagreed with Warner Bros. and argued in court that her contract was based upon linear years. WB stood firm—she owed them for all the remaining time that she didn’t work. At this time Warner Bros. circulated a letter that demanded that de Havilland not work in film or on stage in the United States—they blacklisted her. When the case finally went to court in the mid-1940s de Havilland won, and gained her freedom. Every actor that makes millions of dollars today owes her and her courage a hearty thank you.

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Photo of Olivia de Havilland when she arrived at the shindig that the Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences hosted in her honor in June 2006. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

Free from Warner Bros. de Havilland began to freelance, and yes she did hit the heights of her film career. At this time Mondello proclaims that “But by Hollywood standards, she was now an old lady of 33 [meaning in 1949]. Roles came less frequently back then to actresses as they approached their 40s …” The age of 33 is approaching 40 and is old? To Each His Own (1946), the title of the first of Olivia’s major films after she escaped being an indentured slave at Warner Bros., easily places this absurd statement in context—she was thirty at the time. Of course this film had nothing to do with her winning her freedom, but it definitely dealt with her still being a young woman playing an older woman.

Unfortunately the writer of the article ignored the personal changes in de Havilland in the mid-1940s and then the major changes in her life during the 1950s. Mainly, what had changed and was important in her life. Yes, she turned her back on Hollywood, but it was for a life that she then craved—a life with her (in this case) second family in France (which included her son from her first marriage). Film work did continue, but it was when she wanted it, and more often than not it was in Europe.

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A Spanish mini-poster of They Died with Their Boots On (1941), one of LK’s favorite films of all time. (poster in Louis Kraft personal collection)

I know that everything that Mondello said about OdeH and sister Joan (Fontaine) is pure hokum (read that this writer had no clue of what he was writing about when he wrote the article). I know some of what I’m talking about here first hand, and it ain’t for the internet. Let me just say that I keep promises. Without a doubt the anger that has been publicized between Olivia and Joan was real. Actually, other than one major incident in the early 1940s and then something else many years later, OdeH refused to discuss her sister with me. One time when I asked about Joan’s autobiography, A Bed of Roses, Olivia dismissed it as little more than lies. Every side has their point of view. I’ve heard Olivia’s but unfortunately not Joan’s other than in her autobiography. I’m certain the that truth lies somewhere between the two sisters who both enjoyed unbelievable success as actresses.

I think that the above covers what I have to say about Mondello’s less than sparkling article. … I hope that when Errol & Olivia is published that it will clear up once and for all time some of the blatant errors and misstatements in the above article, many other articles, and a handful of books that should have never been published.

Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft, the connection and a view

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


For starters I should state that film has played an important role my life.

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Errol Flynn as Don Juan in the final duel in Adventures of Don Juan (1948). In my opinion Flynn’s sword fight to the death with Robert Douglas as the Duke de Lorca is by far the best duel captured on film. I’ve heard the criticism, such as all the takes had to be short as Flynn was out of breath. You know what? That criticism isn’t valid, for all that counts is what we see in the film. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

The actor Errol Flynn influenced my life in many ways and for an assortment of reasons. Looking back the most important reason was that he has been the most un-racial person that I have ever studied. In this blog I’m going to talk about my discovery of Flynn and his influence on me while discussing some of his performances on film (and this will include a few comments that will surprise and perhaps shock).

Know that my views don’t jive with popular opinions that have
been oft-repeated by writers and the media that do little original thinking
and buy into what is over and over again stuffed down their throats.

My opinion of reviews and reviewers is not sparkling

Reviews are opinions; some are based on bias while others are based upon sales or what the media has proclaimed and stuffed down our throats. … Also know that many reviewers base their opinions on what they saw on film or read in a book or viewed on a canvas (these reviewers should be praised and not considered brethren to cretins that have an agenda).

Film acting is a lot different than acting on stage. AND it must be natural, and let me tell you that sometimes this is very difficult to do—especially when you’ve got 35, 40, 70 people staring at you and you are now into your tenth closeup take for a scene and the producer is on set bitching about being over budget and screaming at the director why the idiot actor—you—can’t play the scene right.

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A publicity shot of Tim Matheson and Catherine Hicks from the short-lived TV show, Tucker’s Witch. (LK personal collection)

I saw this happen while working on Tucker’s Witch (1982-1983), which I thought was a decent TV show if it had had a chance to succeed. Already it had been canceled in its first season but the contract stated 12 episodes and we were then shooting episode number 11 or 12. The actor was a TV star with some film hits, charming, natural, and competent but now a producer had pulled the rug out from under him. The actor struggled, and bless him for he kept his composure as much as possible in a situation that should have never happened as he fought to perform as demanded by someone who should have kept his mouth shut and who should have allowed the actor and director do their jobs.

What the hell! Money is privilege and it rules.

As are reviews, valid or not. Believe me, they can make one feel good and they can also make one feel like slime that should be flushed down the toilet.

Money can “win” elections, or should I say “buy” elections? Reviews do more—much more—to individuals as they can hurt and destroy or build up and create. For the record reviews are sometimes biased. By that I mean that they can fry a performer (let’s say Richard Gere) or praise a performer (let’s say Bruce Springsteen) over and over again. When this happens it is based upon the reviewer’s bias. Here I’m talking about a Los Angeles Times film critic that eventually became the Times music critic. He’s not with us anymore. Ain’t that a shame.

The early days & a Tex Ritter influence

Film and I joined hands back when I was somewhere around four or five years old, and this time dates all the way back to Yonkers, New York. I lived with my father, mother, and infant sister in a wooden house that my mother had grown up in (my father and mother had bought it from her parents). Yonkers—at least where we lived—was in the hills and not far from the Hudson River.

LK&TexRitter_1950&1961_collage_wsWe had a small TV in a large wooden cabinet and the screen was green. I was often glued to Tex Ritter one-hour B-westerns that played all the time (as well as Buck Jones, who I liked; Wild Bill Elliott; Johnny Mack Brown; Gene Autry; Roy Rogers; and many others). Tex was a singing cowboy (as was Jimmy Wakely, Autry, Rogers, and others including John Wayne who made no impact on me for I don’t have any memories of him). Tex rode a white horse (White Flash) and caught bad guys (Autry and Rogers also did this, but often cars were in their films and I found that phony). I guess that it also helped that I liked Tex’s singing (Rogers’ songs were nondescript and Autry’s singing did absolutely nothing for me).

Before long my family migrated to California in a 1950 Hudson Commodore that my father had bought new in ’50. It pulled a 35-foot trailer. My father and mother loved the road and took every opportunity to explore the USA. This trip was no different than earlier trips that they had taken across the United States. It was my second to California for in 1949 my father, mother, and I visited it in a red 1949 Chevrolet convertible. I guess that the Chevy under performed as my father sold it in 1950 to buy the Hudson. He never owned another General Motors vehicle.

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I have a great photo of the Hudson and trailer in the background with my mother, dinky sister, and small me during the exodus to California (but I can’t find it). … Thus this collage. The Hornet was on a rural road in Northridge, California, in 1974. This area is now wall-to-wall houses (a shame). The Camaro was at the beach in northern San Diego County.

When I bought a new Camaro in 1998 my father told me that I’d regret it; I didn’t and the car averaged 24,000 miles per year until I sold it to buy a Vette in 2007. My father, who had been fragile since 1996 or 1997, refused to ride in the Camaro and didn’t live to see the first Vette (if I had been able to get him into the Vette I’m certain that he would have loved it for he liked cars that gripped the road and went fast). … I can’t remember the 1949 trip, but the 1954 trip took perhaps 60 days (there were no freeways, but we weren’t burnin’ rubber as we zig-zagged across the USA). In California we moved around hooking up the trailer in backyards with horses and goats and pigs and chickens and sometimes cattle in the very rural San Fernando Valley (most of which is in the city of Los Angeles and all of it is in the county of Los Angeles) before we settled in a trailer park in Van Nuys.

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Tex Ritter on White Flash. This image represents the first job description I ever had, that is I wanted to ride a white horse and shoot bad guys like Tex did. (LK personal collection)

About this time my mother asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I told her that I wanted to ride a white horse like Tex and shoot bad guys. She shook her head. “Tex is an actor. The bad men he shoots don’t die for they are actors too.” It was at that moment I decided that I wanted to be an actor.

During my early years I attended at least eight elementary schools, and perhaps more (the only two grades wherein I spent two years in the same school were the fifth and sixth grades). Sometime, probably in the fifth grade, I saw my first Errol Flynn film.

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I believe that this is the 1948 German one-sheet for Flynn’s 1940 film The Sea Hawk. I had originally liked this poster, but my view has changed over the years.

It was the 1940 Warner Bros. production of The Sea Hawk. I had already become a gunslinger (actually this had begun in Yonkers). There’s film of this, but my sister took it after our father died. After she died her husband dumped truckloads of stuff in my backyard but the old films from the New York years were not included. I guess that they hit the trashcan as he decided to start his life over and jettison his past. By now I was good with my cap guns. The pirate Flynn added swords to my repertoire (The Sea Hawk would add much more to my life, but that would be decades in the future).

Junior high school gave me three things: Better sports competition (although Dennis Kreiger, who would again meet up with me in high school and then our early college years was the perfect adversary in the fifth and sixth grades), acting classes with performances on stage, and best of all learning to duel with Ralph Faulkner. Faulkner had become the amateur world sabre champion in 1928 and competed as a member the U.S. Olympic fencing squad in 1932. Although he had come to Hollywood to become an actor (and he had silent film credits) his legacy was his long career in film as a stunt double and choreographer of film duels, which had directly led to him opening a fencing academy on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. I actually took a third place in a foil competition at his studio while in junior high school, and I competed against adults.

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This art is based upon a 1974 photo. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

There were no swords in high school, but in college I took fencing in my first year. I became a favorite of Muriel Bower, the coach, and she asked if I wanted to join the fencing team. I said that I would but only if I fought sabre. She agreed and I trained. … But we didn’t see eye-to-eye. You see I was a theater major, and this made my normal school day 7:00 AM until 10:30 PM or later during the week and often this included performances on weekends (backstage and when lucky on stage). This problem would haunt me over my professional life in the entertainment industry when I needed a job to earn extra cash. …. If it had been real life instead of a major 1966 multi-university competition at UCLA in which in real life I could have killed Bobby Crawford (Johnny Crawford’s brother; Johnny was famous for his part as The Rifleman’s son on TV and as the singer of decent pop tunes at the time such as “Cindy’s Birthday” and “Rumors”). I was still learning sabre and I only fought sabre in the competition. I held my own but I didn’t win. There is a running sabre move wherein the attacking duelist runs by his opponent and slashes at his shoulder or head as he passes. I hadn’t learned how to parry it yet (actually Bowers hadn’t even discussed this move with me). In an earlier duel that day an opponent scored a hit when I failed to parry (block) the attack. In my duel with Bobby Crawford, who at that time was one of the best sabre duelists in SoCal, when he began to charge with the cut that I didn’t know how to parry I dropped down to one knee as his sabre was raised to strike. As he launched his slashing attack I thrust with all my might and struck him in the chest. The impact was so great that it bent my sabre blade into an “S-shape.” The contact was forceful and he stumbled backwards four or five feet while his blade nicked me on my thrusting arm. Point Crawford as I hadn’t parried his attack. I was up in an instant and rushed to Crawford to ask if he was all right. He said that he was. He wasn’t, and this I knew for his chest would turn black and blue and he would feel the hit for some time. Hell, my sabre blade was in an “S” shape from the impact and totally unusable. If this had been a real-life sword fight Mr. Crawford would have died on that day.

College gave me actor Jeff Corey and actor-director Robert Ellenstein. They set in motion my quest to eventually earn money as an actor (see below).

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Errol Flynn’s great film, The Sea Hawk (1940), took its title from Rafael Sabatini’s magnificent novel of the same name, which Warner Bros. owned the film rights. But that’s all it took. You see, Sabatini’s novel dealt with an Englishman sold into slavery in Tunis who rises to become a famed Barbary pirate that preys upon English vessels. Sabatini’s story was loosely based upon an Englishman and seaman named John Ward, who was starving at the beginning of the 17th century, and who moved to Tunis and became a pirate lord (the famed Captain John Smith of Virginia fame was the last Englishman to spend time with Ward). … This image is of Flynn as Captain Geoffrey Thorpe, a pirate (BTW the term “privateer” didn’t come into existence until about 1640) who sailed with the blessing of Good Queen Bess (Elizabeth I of England). The other image is my favorite romanticized painting of Sir Francis Drake (I have talked about the Drake connection to The Sea Hawk elsewhere).

Bob Ellenstein would play a major part in my world for five or six years after I graduated college. At times it seemed as if I lived at his house on the Westside of Los Angeles. I studied acting with him and he played perhaps the most important player in my life at that time. We did a lot together, including my introduction to an acting vogue at that time called psycho drama, which probed into an actor’s inner being. Coffee, breakfasts, and lunches at Bob’s home, plus talks, lots of talks, which, believe it not, included the pirate Francis Drake who to this day plays a major role in my research (often I leave him off my upcoming book lists but you should know that he is forever present with me).

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Three images of LK with a blade at different times. I’ve recently discovered other images with swords but they will take time to restore (if ever I decide to spend the time).

Years later I would study stage combat or “swashbuckling” from two people who approached this from different perspectives. This training would lead to me choreographing duels and dueling on stage.

Yes, Errol Flynn impacted my life (but much–much more than you can guess from the above).

Flynn was a natural actor when stage acting ruled film. Most of the so-called “great” actors over-acted and chewed up scenery. Many of these performances simply do not hold up. When viewing film from a time long gone one must consider the life and times of the film industry (just like one must consider the racial and social mores when studying the Indian wars). More important, one must consider and accept (and this is key) the technical world in which films from another era were created.

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Believe it or not, Flynn’s Escape Me Never (1947) is an outsider film that has the largest chance of making it into the LK top 13 Flynn film list. If this is true it means that the 1930s mega successes for Flynn (Captain Blood, 1935; The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1936; and The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938) won’t make the list. I know, pure heresy, but with my top Flynn films I’m talking about Mr. Flynn’s performances (and not big bucks). I’ll spend a little more time with Flynn’s Escape Me Never below. Here Flynn is with Eleanor Parker and Gig Young. (LK personal collection)

All this said, good acting survives time (and bad acting doesn’t). In Errol Flynn’s case other life ingredients would play havoc with his life, and because of this his life was extraordinary and worthy of study. Unfortunately long after Flynn’s death writers have written words that cannot be validated because they are out and out lies and this has continued into the twenty-first century. Unscrupulous historians who are little more than mud-slingers that create quotes, print facts that never happened, and often use notes that can never be confirmed because the cited documentation cannot be found. On this last sometimes obscure documentation is used and then totally falsified in the belief that readers won’t have it and if not they won’t make any attempt to find it. … There’s always a “YIKES” to this type of history writing for every so often another historian has the cited and oh-so obscure documentation.

Bullshit is bullshit and lies are lies and fiction is fiction and none of them are valid when writing biography, and trust me for just like my nonfiction Indian wars books I’ll document errors (regardless if they were created on purpose or not). The reason is simple, for these errors should have never seen print and must be corrected.

Damn, that’s a good lead-in to an Errol Flynn blog. Unfortunately my dear friends it isn’t the lead-in to this blog for the following words won’t be accusatory. Actually all I want to do is mention my list of the top 13 Errol Flynn films and three of them are part of the eight that they filmed together. All eight of their films together will be discussed in detail in Errol & Olivia, as well as films that that they didn’t make together.

eoImage_whiteAboveJust so you know Errol & Olivia deals with their life and times and will include additional films over approximately 15 years that they didn’t make together. The book will be a dual-biography and the word count will be at least 135,000, and most likely longer. It will be a biography like none other that I have written in the past and although I have two additional books planned on Flynn they will not be like Errol & Olivia.

For the record, and I think that those of you that have an interest in Mr. Flynn or Ms. de Havilland, the following is of great importance. I have a novel that will be published in 2016 (The Discovery) and my work on it is almost complete. I do write about the American Indian wars (my interest is in people that risk their lives to step beyond racial prejudice and attempt to prevent or end war). Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway might be the most important book that I ever write. After the Sand Creek manuscript goes into production Errol & Olivia will become my major project until published. This is a major fact and you can take it to the bank.

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LK art of Ned Wynkoop as he sees the Cheyenne and Arapaho battle line in September 1864. He and his small command faced death but he later that day, with words, convinced the Indians in council that they should secure peace. This rendering of Wynkoop first saw print in the August 2014 Wild West magazine. It may be used in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Every person that I write about in biography form was unique and dared to challenge his (or in Ms. de Havilland’s case, her) world. Errol Flynn was unique and he challenged his world again and again. Just like the Indian wars people that I write about, Errol Flynn had ups and downs and because of this he found himself under attack time and again. Like Ned Wynkoop & Black Kettle and Charles Gatewood & Geronimo from the Indian wars, Errol Flynn fought to survive in his world. All of them, including Flynn, stood out, and people from their times and thereafter did whatever was necessary to bury them. There are connecting links, and in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek I connected Wynkoop to Flynn. And it wasn’t that big of a stretch, and I didn’t need to use the race card. Wynkoop changed from a man who thought that Indians were close to animals. Events in his life changed this view and he dared to fight the press, the military, and the U.S. government to secure a fair deal for the Cheyennes and Arapahos. … Olivia de Havilland fits right into this category, for what she accomplished during her lifetime, and certainly in the 1940s when she dared to risk her film career and challenge Warner Bros. for treating their contracted actors as little more than indentured slaves, she became not just a strong person who dared to challenge a major company that had no qualms with destroying her but a legendary film icon for all time.

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This photo of Flynn dates to 1940-1941, and it is my favorite of him. That said, he probably hated it, for his physical image again and again garnered him less than satisfactory reviews, reviews that either stated he was a “pretty” boy and nothing else or hinted at this. He cared about his work and these criticisms hurt him immensely. (LK personal collection)

Flynn didn’t do this. But just look at his life: He wasn’t in the military and didn’t have to deal with the brutal murders and sexual mutilation of human beings. Why? Simple, for Errol Flynn people were people. As his eldest daughter once said: “He didn’t care what race you were. If he liked you he liked you.” Errol Flynn was the most un-racial person I have known or studied.

Alas, this blog is going to move away from man’s inhumanity to man, away from heinous crimes (and I’m talking about the Indian wars here), and simply talk about Errol Flynn the actor.

LK’s top thirteen Errol Flynn films

This film list has grown. See Louis Kraft’s top 12 Errol Flynn films … a personal view. … The list has been updated.

(top four/alphabetical and firm)

1.   Adventures of Don Juan (1948)

2.   Gentleman Jim (1942)

3.   The Sea Hawk (1940)

4.   They Died With Their Boots On (1941)

(bottom six/alphabetical and not firm)

5.   Uncertain Glory (1944)

6.   The Dawn Patrol (1938)

7. Virginia City (1940)

8.   Four’s a Crowd (1938)

9.   Objective Burma (1945)

10.   Dodge City (1939)

11. Escape Me Never (1947)

12. The Sun Also Rises (1957)

13. That Forsyte Woman (1949)

I won’t be discussing the films on the list or this blog would turn into a book. That said, I will mention a few of the above titles. I’ll also spend a little time with Captain Blood; The Adventures of Robin Hood; Escape Me Never; Crossed Swords; and Too Much, Too Soon; among others.

Not to worry for what I say here won’t give away Errol & Olivia for there is only enough space to deal with a few points—important points—but if they make it into Errol & Olivia they will be expanded upon in directions that you won’t be able to guess from what you read in this blog.

Well-constructed words can always hide bias

As stated above I’m not big on reviews of anything, and even though I just presented you with a list I hate lists. They mean absolutely nothing. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen lists that have been printed and much of the time I run to the bathroom to vomit. These lists were often created by people that I once considered friends, but turned out to be little more than charlatans. Most of them have egos so large that the wooden boy in Walt Disney’s classic 1940 cartoon, Pinocchio’s nose is minuscule when compared to their regurgitated baloney or worse. Often I see or hear their crap printed or stated ad nauseam (and it doesn’t matter if they merely reprinted what they had heard about films decades long in the ancient past or spouted the virtues of art that is so cliché that it is beyond comment. Did the person who created the list put any effort into creating their list? No! Absolutely not, for the simple reason that their brains no longer function.

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The perfect example of a film that I cannot stomach is Gone with the Wind (1939), a film that Olivia de Havilland risked her entire film career at Warner Bros. to obtain the role of Melanie after she was told that the studio wouldn’t allow her to work in the film. In this image you see Hattie McDaniel as Mammy (left), who deserved her best female supporting Oscar; OdeH as Melanie Hamilton; and Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O’Hara; who Clark Gable as Rhett Butler should have shot in the first reel of the film (of course then there wouldn’t have been a film). My view on this film: I hated it and was bored beyond belief, and even though I own it on DVD (mainly because I wanted the one-hour OdeH interview), I have yet to see this film from start to finish. (LK personal collection)

Of course you know that it’s risky to pick a film that was a huge bust at the box office, and most people who create lists steer clear of films that don’t make a lot of money. Although this isn’t always the case, often best film lists stick with films that were block-busters, Oscar winners, or were so artsy-fartsy that I’ve never been able to get through a complete viewing of them. Read 10 minutes, or if I have time to burn, 15 minutes before I close the boring slop. Goodbye! The plot hasn’t caught my interest and the actors’ performances have scored a zero with me. If the film in question had been a stage performance I would have been screaming “Get the hook!”*

*This is a not-too-kind expression from times past that means slipping a hook that is attached to a pole around a performer’s neck and then yanking them offstage.

I’ve got to care about story and performances. If I don’t, viewing a film is a waste of my time, … and I don’t give a bleep about how great a critic with his thumb stuck somewhere claims the film is or how a certain performance is one for the ages. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Oscar-winning performances in the past and I’ve suffered through the film as I’ve wasted good money to see it in a theater. … While talking about the Academy Awards and other major acting awards I hope you realize that millions upon millions of dollars are spent every year to buy these awards. The awards season that begins late in the year and climaxes with the Oscars in February of the following year has been for years (nay decades) a three-ring circus with often the largest pocketbooks bringing home the bulk of the statues. My view of these TV extravaganzas? A joke. The last time I watched part of one was when I was recovering from a surgery a number of years ago. Glen Williams, my great friend was staying with me, and about two plus hours before the conclusion (and I have no idea what actors or films danced home with the gold that they had purchased) we turned off the television and enjoyed a good Mexican meal at a local restaurant.

It’s too bad that pro football players, pro basketball players, and
major league baseball players can’t spend millions of dollars each year
to buy Most Valuable Player awards. Heck, they earn enough in
salary and endorsements. This seems like a no-brainer to me.

The swashbuckler

In 1938 Errol Flynn became connected with Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., when writers began saying that he had donned the swashbuckling armor and boots and followed in the silent film legend’s footsteps. As it turned out Flynn would go on to make nine swashbuckling films. Four of those films would secure his legacy as the swashbuckler for all time. I hate to say this but since Flynn’s death in 1959 no actor has come close to challenging his mark on this genre of film. None.

(For a little more on Flynn and screen dueling see: Errol Flynn, swords, Ned Wynkoop, & of course Kraft opinion.)

I love this poster of The Adventures of Robin Hood (but I’ve got a poster I like even more framed and on a wall). This poster was created for a video release of the film and I couldn’t believe it when I was lucky enough to obtain a one-sheet of it locally. (LK personal collection)

There are valid reasons why Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood aren’t on my list of 13 Flynn films, but they are not for this blog. Both films are in the scope of Errol & Olivia and trust me I will spend a lot of time with both them, and a good portion of what I present will be positive. As with my Indian wars books I don’t whitewash the major person or people or their actions. Errol & Olivia will not only focus on Flynn and de Havilland and their life and times but also the eight films that they made together.

Four of Flynn’s swashbucklers are classics: Captain Blood (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Sea Hawk (1940), and Adventures of Don Juan (1948). In the last three Flynn excelled in the dueling scenes. In one other film, The Prince and the Pauper (1937) Flynn’s duel with an evil captain of the guard (Alan Hale) who intended to kill the prince who was poised to be named king of England as his father (Henry VIII) had died near the end of the film is superb. It clearly demonstrated what was to come.

Unfortunately Flynn’s four swashbucklers in the 1950s don’t compare to his earlier efforts. The most popular reason that I’ve often seen is that Flynn had aged. He had, but he hadn’t lost his grace and skill, … simply his stamina and physical strength. What really impacted his dueling in these films: Against All Flags (1952), The Master of Ballantrae (1953), Crossed Swords (1954), and The Warriors (1955) were the lackluster staging (that is: choreography), film angles, and editing of the duels.

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I think that Against All Flags is at the absolute bottom of the nine swashbuckling Flynn films. Don’t doubt that it was a Universal production, which meant low budget. One of the half sheets for the film is absolutely gorgeous. This Spanish one sheet is well-done and I like it. (LK personal collection)

The sword masters that created these duels and rehearsed them with the actors and stunt men couldn’t compare to the great master Fred Cravens (and his crew) that Flynn worked with in the 1930s and 1940s. I have a caveat here. Early in The Master of Ballantrae Flynn duels with his brother (Anthony Steel). This duel is fast-paced and well-done by everyone involved in front and behind the camera (and this includes the editors). By the time that Flynn shot The Warriors his dueling days had passed him by and he said as much in his magnificent memoir My Wicked, Wicked Ways (which is strange for he seemed capable enough in Crossed Swords). By the way, the British title for Flynn’s last swashbuckler, The Dark Avenger, was a much better title than The Warriors. I actually like this film much better than Against All Flags. Alas, Flynn’s duel in a tavern with a French captain (Christopher Lee) was mostly performed by a stunt double. Still the choreography was better than the slap-dash staged fights in Against All Flags, which had the look and feel of a B-film. The best thing about Against All Flags were the one-sheet and half-sheet advertising posters, which were quite good (as opposed to the American posters for The Warriors that did nothing to sell Flynn or the film).

Dancing between reality and a public image

In 1984 I worked on a miniseries called Robert Kennedy and His Times, shown on TV in 1985 (for a little background on it see an earlier blog: How race has affected my life & writing), with Errol’s Flynn’s first daughter, Deidre Flynn. At that time another miniseries was shooting called My Wicked, Wicked Ways: The Legend of Errol Flynn, which was supposedly based upon Flynn’s memoir (which is one of the best books that I have ever read) with Duncan Regehr as Flynn. He sounded like Ronald Coleman, looked nothing like Flynn, and worst of all had absolutely no charisma (he could have been playing Daffy Duck with a British accent).

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LK connecting with Pat Wymore Flynn on June 6, 2006, when the Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts and Sciences honored Olivia de Havilland (Beverly Hills, California). Deidre Flynn is center in the image. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

The production company had asked Deidre to be an advisor for the Flynn miniseries. She had read the screenplay and gave them a resounding response of “No!” She had no clue that I knew a lot about her father (believe it or not my research of him had begun shortly before his death when I was in elementary school). That said, we talked slightly about her dad. She told me that the screenplay was a piece of crap and that she wanted nothing to do with the production. I saw the miniseries when it first aired (and once again a dozen or so years later), and it was a bleeping joke! And I am being kind here. Only two performances were decent—Barbara Hershey as Lili Damita and Hal Linden as Jack Warner (and I’ve never heard Warner’s voice). Everything and everyone else was terrible or worse. If Olivia de Havilland saw Lee Purcell attempt to play her I’m certain that Livvie would have made a couple of runs to the bathroom to vomit. I was embarrassed for her and at that time I never dreamed that sometime in the future I would spend prime time with her. … Enough of talking about a miniseries that should have never been produced.

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The cover of Higham’s piece of Errol Flynn fiction says it all on the book’s dust jacket.

A few years before the Flynn miniseries aired Charles Higham saw the publication of Errol Flynn: The Untold Story (Doubleday & Company, 1980). I bought it, as I have every book on Flynn that I can get my hands on, and read it. With notations that were so vague they were immediately suspect, Higham would have us believe that Mr. Flynn was both a bisexual and a Nazi spy. The fictional rantings should have been ridiculed; instead they were accepted by the media (which always jumps onto anything that might defame a human being). Oh, and I should mention this: You cannot defame the dead in the United States (at least you couldn’t in the 1980s). Not so in Canada, where the book was also published. If I remember what Deidre told me correctly, she and her sister filed a complaint about Charles Higham in Canada. I don’t believe that he ever dared to reenter Canada again. … Mr. Higham has since moved on to wherever people who fictionalize and distort history go, and I do hope that the flames are sizzling. His travesty of a book single-handedly destroyed Flynn’s reputation and for so doing awarded him massive book sales. Olivia de Havilland called Higham “despicable.” Believe it or not there are other Flynn writers and more than a handful of Western historians that think that there is nothing wrong with what Higham did—rewrite history at the cost of truth and reality. These cretins cite primary source material that is often so obscure that they are certain that no one can find the cited works even if they looked. Guess what: I have research material in every room of my house except for a bathroom and the dining room. Some of these cretins (I should use stronger words here, but I’m trying to keep a civil tongue) cite real documentation (thinking that no one has it or will look for it) with quotations that don’t exist except in their books of lies. When they don’t do this, they misinterpret what the primary source material states (again, always obscure in documentation that is hard to obtain). Their thinking here is that they have cited authentic documentation and it is beyond challenging. … In a word: BULLSHIT!

I’m sorry about the repetition of the above, but this is important.
Facts must always be questioned and confirmed. Alas, this
is so important that I return to it below.

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Susan Goulet art of a famed EF publicity photo (© Susan Goulet 2004). I’m not sure if she has the color of his eyes correct. She had created a wonderful portrait of OdeH and I had given Olivia a print of it in 2004 (I kept the original art). She loved it. This image is a copy of the original art in the LK personal collection. Most likely it will eventually end up in the Louis Kraft Collection.

I do know one thing: Mr. Flynn worked hard at being an actor, took an interest during pre-production and production although at times after the farce of a rape trial in 1943 he decided to give the public what they expected of him. This turned out to be a two-headed dragon for not only did he present himself as the lecher that the Los Angeles criminal justice system attempted to paint him as (read: behind closed doors political shenanigans then in vogue) but also that it marked the beginning of a huge downward life spiral that he mistakenly thought he could reverse whenever he wanted.

He couldn’t.

I’m not going to talk about what I see as the real Errol Flynn in this blog (this I’ll save for Errol & Olivia and the two follow-up books on EF). All I’ll say here is that the general population’s view of him as a man, a human being, a father, and as an actor and writer is incorrect.

Over the years Errol Flynn saw his Warner Bros. salary and say in his films grow. By the mid-1940s he had worked into his contracts that he could choose some of his films (his Thompson Productions produced three films) and as his phallic image grew (to his disgust) so did his efforts to break his heroic image. In doing this he easily demonstrated his acting range, but it cost him popularity at the box office.

Finally, and this is related to the above paragraph, Jack Warner would have never invested the amount of money he did over the years in Errol Flynn if he wasn’t sold on Flynn’s creative talents.

Views of a few of Flynn’s films

I’m just going to meander here as I talk about a handful of Errol Flynn’s films that are for the most part not considered among his great films.

Escape Me Never (1947)

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Ida Lupino and Errol Flynn work at hustling for money as they travel across the southern Alps in Escape Me Never. Their off-screen friendship gave their on-screen relationship an extra dimension. Over the years Ida would be one of Flynn’s greatest supporters. He was lucky to count her as a friend. (LK personal collection)

Flynn and his three co-stars (Ida Lupino, Eleanor Parker, and Gig Young) played off each other nicely. … Flynn and Young are composers in Italy. Gig’s lady (Parker) is rich while Flynn’s (Lupino and her infant son) are not. Flynn is a budding genius with an ego to match (which is understandable); he also has a roving eye for the ladies. I hated this film when young and I still hated it when I had last seen it about 30 years ago. Reviewers have always pinged the film on its lack of authentic shots of the canals of Venice as well as the backgrounds of the Alps (and the problem of the phony canals and background images of the alps were obvious the first time I that saw the film when a teenager) but Flynn’s performance was a major discovery for me when I again viewed it this past summer. His acting ability had grown in leaps and bounds in the 1940s and is right on in this film; that is right on in everything except for lecherous glances at women. There are perhaps a handful, and honestly I believe that these were director decisions (like The Adventures of Robin Hood direction discussed below). Looking back it is too bad that Errol and Ida only acted together in this film.

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A publicity shot of Ida & Flynn at the beginning of Escape Me Never. (LK personal collection)

For all of you Peter Blood (Captain Blood), Geoffrey Vickers (The Charge of the Light Brigade), and Robin Hood (The Adventures of Robin Hood) fans I’m going to shock you, so please sit down and hold on tightly. If a Flynn performance and film gets bumped from the bottom six of my favorite EF films most likely it will be by Mr. Flynn and his performance in Escape me Never. I know; heresy. Hey, I’m a former actor, a resurrected actor, and if lucky I’ll again be an actor. I’ve already stated what goes into making a film that grabs my interest. I need to state here that I’m talking about Errol Flynn the actor. I’m proud to say (other than the few director-pushed instances of over acting while eyeing a pretty woman) that EF’s internal system was functioning and his natural instincts were right on target. Perhaps working with people he liked helped, but for my money he was a hundred-fold better actor in the 1940s than he was in the 1930s.

That Forsyte Woman (1949)

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Errol Flynn and Greer Garson in a scene that is hard to watch in That Forsyte Woman. (LK personal collection)

This film was the first under another Flynn contract that allowed him to act in one film per year filmed at a studio other than Warner Bros. This stiff Victorian drama carried Flynn’s performances in Cry Wolf (1947) and the western Silver River (1948) to the next step of being as far away from the adventurous hero as he could possibly get. His performance was controlled and right in tune with the time period. Those who saw the film and expected to see Errol Flynn the hero must have been shocked by the time they exited the theater in 1949. That said, Flynn’s performance shows without a doubt that he really was a magnificent actor. If we can believe his words, and I do, this was one of his favorite performances (if memory serves me, Gentleman Jim Corbett, see the film list above, was another of his favorite roles). Greer Garson, Flynn’s co-star in the film, had heard a lot of trash talk about him prior to filming. After working with him she had nothing but praise for the actor and man.

Ladies and gentlemen, Errol Flynn had taken what he had learned during the 1930s, had crafted during the 1940s, and at the end of that decade put it all together. Regardless of what you think Flynn’s Soames Forsyte, it was perhaps the performance of his entire cinema career. I need to have a top 13 Flynn film list, and this film is on my list.

Here’s a quick thought for you
In 1940 Errol Flynn earned about eight times what
Olivia de Havilland earned. Why? They both became
stars when Captain Blood premiered in December 1935
but the level of stardom was evident by the end of the last
reel on that historic New York City night. … I can’t give
away Errol & Olivia but put the above sentences
together and you should be able to figure
out what happened as both of them
moved forward with their
professional careers.

Crossed Swords (1954)

This is the film that could have been if it had only been a Warner Bros. production. It had the great cinematographer Jack Cardiff (who had shot The Master of Ballantrae, which had been released the previous year, and who would be Flynn’s choice to shoot and direct his ill-fated William Tell). Flynn looked great (and much better than he did in Against All Flags, 1952, and The Master of Ballantrae) and his physical prowess hadn’t deteriorated (actually it looked better than in the two earlier swashbucklers) to what it would be in The Warriors (1955). Perhaps the Flynn-Barry Mahon teaming with an Italian production company was responsible for the result, which could have been much better. Worse, the production team couldn’t provide a decent script, a decent director, complete scenes (many could have used extra cuts and angles added to improve the final product), better action (some is quite poor) or decent actors (I’m not certain of what I think of Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida’s on-screen relationship other than it is definitely better than previously reported. … Alas, some of the acting other than Gina and EF is amateurish).

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The lines are on the DVD cover, which wasn’t too professionally produced.

My DVD was created using an Italian print of the film (Il Maestro Don Giovanni, which would translate to Master Don Juan, leading one to wonder who Flynn played in the Italian release of the film). The color is decent and not faded but not great. The entire film has had an English-language sound track added to an original Italian release print for the DVD. I’m certain that most, if not all, of the Italian actors were dubbed, but the sound (dialogue, sound effects, and film score) is not good. It is obvious that the editors attempted to get the words as close as possible to the actors’ mouth movements, but this meant that now Flynn’s words are slightly off, and it is definitely his voice. My guess is that the complete track was pulled from an English-language release.

For the most part Flynn (as Renzo), who was decent in the film, doesn’t seem to connect with the rest of the cast. My guess—and that’s all it is—was the language barrier while shooting the film, especially for the Italian-speaking actors connecting with Flynn. Cardiff and others behind the camera spoke English but I think that Flynn was the only actor saying his lines in English. Honestly, Flynn was a professional and I don’t think he had any problems with language during the filming.

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Errol Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida are about to surrender to their fates (as is her father, who is in the scene but off camera in this still). This image shows Flynn’s typical involvement in a scene as well as his physical appearance. (LK personal collection)

Cesare Danova, who played Raniero, Flynn’s staunch friend in their misadventures with the fairer sex, immigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1950s to play the title character in Don Giovanni (AKA Don Juan), which was released in 1955. He would go on to have a long career in American film and TV. My memory doesn’t shout out that he was dubbed in his American performances, but I could be wrong early in his U.S. films. Lollobrigida also began appearing in big American films in the 1950s. … The duel at the end of Crossed Swords was by far Flynn’s best climatic fight against the villain in all of his 1950s swashbucklers. And this is a massive understatement by LK. Flynn performed most of the final duel and his movements were fluid and well-done. His sword work was good and damn-near great (and there was very little stunt-doubling of Flynn in the final duel). Flynn’s swordplay far out-shined everything else he did in the 1950s. The only sword work that compares with his work in Crossed Swords was his short duel with Anthony Steel at the beginning of The Master of Ballantrae.

Again, this is the film that could have been if it had only been a Warner Bros. production.

BTW, swashbucklers co-produced in Europe with leading
English-speaking actors were often less than satisfactory well into the l960s.

Three more EF films and a return to Mr. Ellenstein

Errol Flynn made three films in which two were released in 1957 (The Big Boodle, The Sun Also Rises) and one in 1958 (Too Much, Too Soon). These films, all of which were American-produced after his long self-imposed exile in Europe. They contain, in my humble opinion, his best acting in the 1950s. This Errol Flynn was no longer the romantic hero who wins regardless if he lives or dies by the last reel of the film. Instead these performances were by a man who had lived life and had sunken to the depths of despair and yet had survived. These films presented a man who could no longer swing a blade or ride a horse and knows it as he nears the end of life. They are alive with sadness for an audience that knew what came before and yet they show a man who, if not quite a fighter to the end he does what he can to present as good an image as possible considering his situation.

Only Flynn’s Ned Sherwood in The Big Boodle is active and puts up a fight as he struggles to stay alive while clearing his name of a crime he didn’t commit.

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This image is based upon a b&w image in the LK Collection. Robert Ellenstein was one of the most important people in my life. See Bob’s comment about the acting and film world (below), as it gave my life focus at every step. I’m certain that he followed his simple rule as he lived his life and career. … I’ve known a lot of people who were not as they presented themselves. They had agendas that perhaps could be labeled as “heinous.” If yes, these people, if still alive, should be in prison. Bob Ellenstein was not one of these people. He was an extraordinary human being. And better he set my life on the course that it follows to this day. My father, my brother, and my mother influenced my life, and so did Robert Ellenstein. He was one of the most magnificent people that I have ever known during my entire life. Bob, thank you from the bottom of my heart. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

I want to say a bit (probably a lot more than a bit) about actor and director Robert Ellenstein (who died in 2010). In the 1960s I was a theater major at what became California State University, Northridge (CSUN). The on-staff acting professor and I didn’t connect and I learned little from her. Luckily the university decided to bring in professionals to tutor the students. Jeff Corey, who had been blacklisted for 12 years in Hollywood during the communist witch hunts of the early 1950s, used his lost years to good advantage and began teaching acting. He became my acting coach while Bob Ellenstein became my directing coach. Bob and I connected and after I graduated college he became my acting coach, confidant, and good friend (as did his wonderful wife Lois). I can’t tell you how many happy and learning hours I spent with Bob and to a lesser degree with Lois.

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Errol Flynn as John Barrymore. Often it has been said that Flynn played Flynn in Too Much, Too Soon. I don’t know enough about John Barrymore’s life to know if this is true, but I intend to find out. For the record Flynn talked about how he played “Jack” Barrymore. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Bob Ellenstein played a key supporting role in Flynn’s Too Much, Too Soon, and of course I asked him about what it was like to work with Flynn (to this point in time I hadn’t seen the film). Bob’s lawyer entered the picture after Flynn’s John Barrymore had died. The answer was not what I wanted to hear: “My scenes were shot on days that he didn’t work. I never met the man.”

As the years passed and as Bob and I became close we shared more and more about our lives and as we did he guided me. … Acting is a lifelong study for a person must come in total contact with his or her being. That sounds simplistic; it is not. It is hard work. At one point Bob said to me while talking about the acting and film world, “Whatever you do, make sure that you can live with it.” I took this to heart. For the record I have never done anything that I can’t live with, and let me tell you that I have been presented with many unsavory propositions that would make you sick. I have never given in for the cost was way too expensive for my living soul.

An image of Mr. Flynn & yet another attack

On the late afternoon and evening of October 17, 2015, I was lucky to spend prime time with people from my past—people that shouldn’t be in my past, but friends that are still part of my life. It was a reunion, and honestly, if it wasn’t for a good friend of mine named Pete Senoff I probably would have passed, Thanks Pete, for it turned into a special time.

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From left: LK, Dennis Kreiger, and Ken Small at our high school reunion at the Sheraton Agoura Hills Hotel on 17oct2015. A good time for LK. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft)

Dennis Kreiger and Ken Small went to the last two years of elementary school with me, the three years of high school, and Dennis spent at least a couple of years with me in college. Ken became a police officer in Los Angeles and eventually a chief of police in Florida and then in Huntington Beach, California. Dennis had a successful tennis business in Encino, California, for decades. They are two of the good guys out of my past and present. I don’t know if they knew who they would become, but I didn’t know my future. Early on I did well with writing and essays but it didn’t mean anything to me.

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Former friend Dennis Riley, who was then a photographer’s mate in the U.S. Navy, shot this publicity photo in June 1969 at my parent’s house in Reseda, California, shortly after I completed my American Indian anthropology class, graduated from college, and began pursuing a career in acting. Oh yeah, broad-brimmed hats and I go way back. (photo © Louis Kraft 1969)

In my last semester in college I talked my way into an upper division anthropology class (with absolutely zero anthropology background). The professor gave in and I enjoyed myself in a class that dealt with American Indians that ranged from Alaska south into Central or South America. We had a term paper and I wrote about a young Apache’s journey into manhood. The professor set up a meeting between us. “Your paper is fiction,” she said. “It was supposed to be nonfiction.” “The instructions didn’t say that,” I replied. Her eyes looked up to the heavens. She shook her head, perhaps in the hope that I would go poof and disappear. I didn’t. Finally she chuckled and smiled. … I did quite well in that class. Still, I’m certain that if another hustler approached her without any anthropological background he would have fled for his life as she let loose with unbridled determination to never again deal with an outsider to the study of humankind.

Even when I wrote a screenplay about a shocking 1976 summer of acting in dinner theater (me), drugs (not me), racial prejudice, and bald-faced hatred wherein I was thrilled to escape the Lone Star state in one piece I still didn’t have a clue of what my future might hold. … Actually it had been preordained and was in place at least as early as 1970, and that experience was more horrifying, but as usual it didn’t register in my brain. Moreover, I still hadn’t realized what type of person Errol Flynn really was. This would still take me another decade or two to learn.

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I once wrote an article entitled “The Image of Errol Flynn” (Films of the Golden Age, Spring 2000), and even though I had made it clear the article dealt with Flynn in the 1940s letters to the editor attacked me for not including Flynn in the 1950s. Often editors will ask writers of articles to respond to letters to the editor. I should say that I hate letters to the editor for often they are written by people that don’t know what they are talking about. In this case I simply said to the editor that there was no reason to reply as the ridiculous statement was out of scope of the article. … This hasn’t always been the case with some of my articles published in Wild West. These comments have often been flavored by racism or hatred toward me, but often I haven’t had to reply as I have viewed the comments an open invitation to attack. The editor, Greg Lalire, is first class and a good friend, but at times he walks a fine line between reality and insanity. More than once he has taken care of the problem offline (that is not in print or online). I love this! In 2014 an attack struck from a place that it shouldn’t have (and those reasons won’t be exposed until I go on an offensive that will initiate a war, a war a number of magnificent historians want me to start). Will I? Honestly, I don’t know. Guts Kraft, you need to trust your instincts and expose the lies and deception!

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LK enjoying champagne with Olivia de Havilland (“OdeH” as I often call her and “Livvie” as Errol Flynn often called her) at her home in Paris, France, in July 2009. The lady is alive, funny, informative (when she wants to be but secretive when she thinks it is best), bright, charming, and oh-so-sexy. Livvie is alive and I hope that she outlives me. For the record, she has been burned by unscrupulous writer-historians and agrees with my views on Errol Flynn. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

What I have just stated above has also been true with so-called historians that write about Errol Flynn. They view him as open season, and fabricate facts and quotes while often citing obscure documentation that is hard to obtain at this late date. Worse, their facts and quotes are at times fiction (or, if you will, lies), with their lone goal to mislead their readers. You do not want to hear my opinion of these people, and I am using the word “people” here very loosely for these hacks aren’t “people.” I’m not going to call them what I know they are in this blog. Most likely I’ll never call them what they are, but I have every intention of exposing their fraudulent writing that has been created to destroy a human being’s life and reputation long after the fact without valid proof. As far as I’m concerned this is a heinous crime.

Back to the swashbuckling image

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A classic magazine cover; alas, they don’t make them like this anymore. This isn’t quite true, for Wild West magazine is moving to art for their covers (and this is something that I like).

Beginning with the release of Captain Blood (based upon the first portion of Rafael Sabatini’s novel, Captain Blood: The Odyssey, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1922) in New York City in December 1935 Errol Flynn became an overnight sensation—a superstar* if you will—and his co-star Olivia de Havilland became a star (but not as bright as she would have liked). Warner Bros. realized that they had struck gold with the Flynn and de Havilland combination and began looking for another epic to cast them in; it would be The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), inspired perhaps by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s epic poem of vainglorious defeat. Again the film was adventurous as it mixed a little history with a lot of fiction. Unfortunately a love triangle bogged the story down. Nevertheless Warner Bros. confirmed what they already knew—the combination of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland in an epic romance meant big bucks at the box office. But for some unknown reason Warners ignored what they knew and began casting Flynn in films that were little better than melodramas in scope and delivery. Except for The Prince and the Pauper, but here Flynn was little more than a supporting player with a magnificent duel at the end of the film. By the end of 1937 Warner Bros. had finally realized their error of splitting Flynn and de Havilland apart. After almost making a major casting flub (casting James Cagney as Robin Hood), someone woke up and suddenly Errol and Olivia were once again cast together in a major motion picture. Filming on The Adventures of Robin Hood began in fall 1937.

* The word “superstar” was first used in relation to a great cricket team in the 1830s. Almost a century passed before it was used to describe great hockey players between the years 1910 and 1920. More decades would pass until the word hit its stride as we now know it today, but that wasn’t until long after Errol Flynn’s time.

One thing stood out in the 1930s and it is still true today—Errol Flynn appeared very natural on film. It, for the most part, looked like he wasn’t acting, and in a time when many actors came from the stage and their performances looked like acting, Flynn didn’t overact. At times the critics would chew on him for his naturalness, and judging by comments that he made over the years this hurt and bothered him.

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This is an original lobby card from the 1938 release of The Adventures of Robin Hood. (LK personal collection)

Oh, there were times when he did overact, such as in a scene in The Adventures of Robin Hood where his eyes go from left to right (or was it right to left?) in a closeup as he supposedly took in lay of the land (as to where Sir Guy of Gisbourne’s (Basil Rathbone) soldiers were waiting to jump him. I’d bet my life that this ridiculous closeup was insisted upon by the director. Actually one of two directors: William Keighley and Michael Curtiz, as I believe both had a hand in the major episode sequence in which the cut that I’m talking about is located in the film. I’ll have to go back to the script and match the closeup number with the call sheets to see when the shot was made.

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Published art based upon a studio still of the Rathbone and Flynn final duel in The Adventures of Robin Hood. I think that it is pretty good work by the artist that created it. (LK personal collection)

With the release of The Adventures of Robin Hood Flynn’s stature rose to new heights. I above discussed a shot that bothered me; there are others. That said, Flynn is magnificent as Robin Hood. His physicality and athletic ability is present at all times as is his capability with the sword. … My problem here is major, for no one can handle broadswords as presented in The Adventures of Robin Hood and I know this for I have swung a broadsword that was made of material that was considerably lighter than steel. It isn’t easy and there is absolutely no way that anyone can swing a broadsword as shown in Flynn’s 1938 film. That said, Flynn’s handling of the sword in that film was extraordinary (albeit they are rapier cuts and slices and thrusts). Basil Rathbone loudly proclaimed that he had studied the sword and “could have killed Mr. Flynn whenever I wanted.” (I hope that this quote is close; if not, it is a paraphrase). You want to know something? If in reality it was a duel to the death between Rathbone and Flynn, my money’s on Flynn. Reason: Rathbone was swinging the blade by the numbers. If what I just said is true, Rathbone was a student fighting with technique while Flynn fought to survive (and he had plenty of survival skills that dated back to his days in New Guinea … not to mention his dueling lessons that dated to Captain Blood). Again, and without batting an eye, my money’s on Flynn.

Alas, it will take three books to deal with Flynn’s swashbuckling and western and war and human experience films. If it becomes obvious that I won’t meet my goal of three full-fledged nonfiction books on his life I have every intention of writing a lightweight volume or two (similar to Tony Thomas’s superior film histories and genre-specific tomes w/photos books). This is easy for me. All the research is in place and I’ve got tons of images. This could be accomplished in half a year per volume (my average nonfiction book takes at least five to seven years to write when it is a major project). … If something happens and suddenly time becomes short I will move to plan B.

Mounting up with Mr. Flynn

In My Wicked, Wicked Ways Flynn called himself “the rich man’s Roy Rogers.” I didn’t check to see if I have the quote correct or if I have paraphrased it here. I’m not certain if he was talking about later in the cycle of his eight westerns or not.

A surprise named Dodge City

If memory serves me, and I didn’t dig for this blog (that said, I know Flynn), Mr. Flynn questioned being cast in a western film when he became aware that Warner Bros. was preparing a western to fit his screen persona (Dodge City, 1939).

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A relaxed and smiling Errol Flynn on the first or second day of Dodge City location filming. (photo in LK personal collection)

Of course he hadn’t done any research on the western expansion as the United Stated pushed to make the country extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. He didn’t think that an Australian accent was present on the western frontier. Actually all accents were present on the western frontier and Mr. Flynn fit the mold of the adventurers that went a-westering to find fame and fortune. Trust me when I say the following, … Errol Flynn was more believable than the multitudes of “cowboy” actors that have been little more than clichés since the beginning of film. I’m certain that he would have enjoyed hearing this during his lifetime. He didn’t. If I meet him in the hereafter I’ll tell him this.

Like my knowledge of the sword I know the western experience. Actually a hundredfold more than the sword. I know race relations, I know the people that ventured West, I know the American Indians (certainly the Cheyennes, Arapahos, Apaches, and Navajos), and I know the people that attempted to end racial war (I’m upfront and center with this topic).

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This art was created from a recent photo of Pailin Subanna-Kraft and LK. She’s my pistol-packing lady and I’m Mr. Hickok. BTW, the hair was mine as I needed useful photos with long hair. It was recently clipped for an event but don’t rule out the return of long tresses for now that it is gone I miss it. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Although I don’t write about the gunmen, I know a hell of a lot about James Butler (Wild Bill) Hickok (who, if I get lucky, I’ll someday play on stage), John Wesley Hardin, and Doc Holliday. Errol Flynn would have fit in with all of these people, and if he lived in the 1860s or 1880s he would have been a survivor. His performances in western films, except for his next to last, Montana (1950), are all acceptable. Three are exceptional (Dodge City; Virginia City, 1940; and They Died with Their Boots On, 1941), two are acceptable (San Antonio, 1945, and Rocky Mountain, 1950), and one I cannot comment about (Silver River, 1948) as I haven’t seen it in decades. … While still on the subject of who I’d like to play on stage, add Errol Flynn to the list. In the case of Hickok and Flynn I need to convince my director and producer to buy into the project (which I’d write). The Flynn project would be original but the Hickok project would be based upon a great novel, East of the Border, by Johnny Boggs (and in this case I also need Boggs to buy into the project).

“Must See, Must Read”
Five intriguing books and five films about the Indian Wars
by Louis Kraft*
Wild West (August 2014)
They Died With Their Boots On (1941, on DVD, Warner Home Video): If Errol Flynn hadn’t played George Armstrong Custer, there would have been no Kraft writing about the Indian wars. Long years past through present day, critics of this film have pounded it for its historical inaccuracy. Although true, let me invite you to actually research it—which I’ve done since the mid-1990s in preparation of multiple books on Errol Flynn (the first to be called Errol & Olivia). The thrust has been simple: In 1941 Warner Bros. feared being sued, and historical players and facts changed to fiction. Even though the film is fiction, it is so close to truths that have been disguised and altered that it’s scary. I can’t list them here, but trust me, for ’tis true. Don’t buy it? Do your own research. … Errol Flynn’s performance as George Armstrong Custer is magnificent, for he captured the spirit of the man; and Olivia de Havilland is perfect as Libbie Custer. It is arguably Flynn’s best performance, and by far their best performances in the eight films they did together.”
* This column is ongoing in Wild West (by contributors to the magazine).
Usually five books and five films have mini reviews. I made my comments personally related to my writing career. This issue also included two other LK articles.
One, a feature, “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War,” was, I believe, the best
article that I have written about Ned Wynkoop.
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Errol Flynn as George Armstrong Custer in They Died with Their Boots On just before he sets out for Montana Territory and destiny, and the real Custer 11 years before his death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. For the record Custer set out from Fort Abraham Lincoln in Dakota Territory on his final Indian campaign on May 17, 1876. He didn’t engage Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians on the Little Bighorn River until June 25, 1876. This fact is here for, believe it or not, people have stated to me numerous times that Custer fought his final battle a day or two after setting out. (both images are in the LK personal collection)

Already this blog is fairly long and I don’t want to expend another four thousand or more words here. If you’ve read my Flynn articles you know what I think about They Died with Their Boots On (my best Boots article appeared in the June 2008 issue of American History). There had been a pitch to True West to write short articles on all eight of Flynn’s western films (which had been accepted at the time of the pitch in June 2012) but then, suddenly, as I prepared to deliver the first article the idea was dropped by the magazine. My view of the change without notice: Bullshit, which I made known. Because of this I’m on True West’s “S–list” and have no intention of again pitching them with another story idea. They can pitch me and if the story idea is acceptable to me I’ll write it for them (ditto, Wild West), but I have no intention of pitching True West until this less-than-savory event is resolved to my satisfaction. Wild West is another story, but it, too has something that we need to resolve. … Add that book writing is my major concern and honestly I don’t give a damn if I ever write another magazine article. Hell, I’m never going to write for Oracle or Yahoo! again (and they paid me a hell of a lot of money)—why should writing for True West or Wild West be any different (and they pay peanuts)?

Hey, that’s life. … At least that is my life at this date in time.

For the record Errol Flynn looks like he was born astride a horse. This was evident in Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and in all of his westerns (except for Montana).

The goal has been to hopefully catch your interest in Errol Flynn, but not to write a book within a blog.