Sand Creek Massacre update, SoCal fires, P-64, & Christmas

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


The next blog is tentatively scheduled for late March, and will feature Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway and Errol & Olivia updates. My apologies for moving the LK top 50 film list from this blog but there is still too much study that must be completed before my opinion on these films can go live.

’Tis the time of peace on earth
and goodwill to all

Christmas, like Thanksgiving, are now quiet gatherings with my family. It is a day to count our blessings and cherish each other as we pray for peace on earth and equality for all on the day that represents the birth of Jesus. Pailin and I will welcome in the New Year at the Thai Temple in North Hollywood on the evening of the thirty-first.

Pailin created this Christmas image of us for social media. The photo is from 2016 and it was from the last Christmas party we have hosted. It was mostly in the backyard until everyone moved inside after nightfall. That day was nippy, as was this Christmas. Both wouldn’t have been so cold if the wind hadn’t increased as each hour passed. … Just for the record I’m freezing when temperatures drop into the low 60s (no comment is needed). The last thing that I want to do is live in a winter wonderland. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2016)

I talk to the little boys and girls who live next door. A large hedge along my 80-foot driveway separates us but clipping and removing branches that die during heat spells creates openings wherein we can see each other (and this includes a little boy who lives two doors farther south). They are Latino, but unlike some of their parents they are bi-lingual and speak terrific English. But if not, we’d still be friends. … I walk a lot, often to various stores, and see them in their front yards and when they walk with their parents. I’m almost always around, I have a car they like a lot, they also like my shaggy hair (compliments of yours truly) as theirs is neatly clipped. It matters not if they only had a handful of English for we’d still be able to communicate.

We talk almost daily, and it is enjoyable for us, as we are curious about each other. They had their Christmas tree at least a week and a half before the twenty-fifth. They wanted to know if I had mine. “No.” “When are you going to get it?” “I’m not.” “Why?” “I don’t have any children like you.” “Doesn’t your girlfriend want a Christmas tree?” I chuckled. “She’s my wife, and she’s okay without one. Actually, I haven’t had a tree since my little girl grew up.” “Oh.” There was disappointment in his voice. His simple “Oh” touched me and my memories drifted back to Christmas days long gone but not forgotten.

This card is a major update to a Christmas card that I created in 1992. There were three printed words inside the card: “life … love … peace …” These words are still with me today. May they be with you today, tomorrow, and forever … LK. (image © Louis Kraft 1992, 2018)

I’ve missed giving talks …

Probably the major piece of my life that Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway forced me to walk away from years back were giving talks. They almost always got me on the road, and I love to travel. More important was/is the thrill of doing one-time presentations before audiences while not knowing what was going to come out of my mouth.

LK talking about “Cheyenne Indian Agent Edward Wynkoop’s 1867 Fight to Prevent War” at the Chávez History Library (Santa Fe, N. Mex.) on 15sept2004. BTW, this talk dealt with the destruction of the Southern Cheyenne-Dog Man-Sioux village on the Pawnee Fork in Kansas. It is a key piece in the Sand Creek manuscript Epilogue, which shows “the tragic end of a lifeway.” I shouldn’t say the following, but heck these blogs are for LK publicity (and hopefully offer a little entertainment). … The Chávez houses the Louis Kraft Collection of his work, photos, and correspondence (AC 402 and ACP 010 for the photo archive). Tomas Jaehn created it at the beginning of this century. He has moved on to become the Director,
Special Collections/CSWR University of New Mexico Libraries as well as becoming a great pal of LK. (photo © Louis Kraft 2004)

I’m prepared, always, but I refuse to read or use slides. I know what I’m going to talk about and I do work on it, but the only thing that I attempt to memorize are quotes.

Sometimes quotes walk out the door of my memory at the most inopportune moments. Paraphrasing usually saves the day, but not always. A number of years back I was talking about Errol Flynn’s performance as George Armstrong Custer in They Died with Their Boots On (Warner Bros., 1941) and comparing the fictional Custer with the real Custer. My favorite scene in the eight films that Flynn made with Olivia de Havilland was at the end of Boots. Olivia, as Elizabeth (Libbie) Custer, helps Flynn pack before he marches to his destiny at the Little Big Horn in Montana Territory on June 25, 1876. During the talk (in Hardin, Montana, in 2011) I used some of the dialogue between them in this scene and of course went blank when I got to my favorite line that Flynn’s Custer said to Olivia’s Libbie—”Walking through life with you, ma’am, has been a very graceful thing.” There’s one thing when you perform live, and that is you keep going. I did but in a different way, I asked the audience for the line and one of the fellows in the front row or near the front row knew it. Think it might have been Gary Leonard, an Indian wars historian from England, whom I met a year later when Custer and the Cheyenne won an award in Oklahoma City, and who has since become a good friend.

Back on focus

Due to the massive undertaking of the Sand Creek story (not to mention The Discovery, 2016, which I wrote to pay for an operation that I didn’t know about until after the fact—money I didn’t have), everything went on hold. As mentioned above, talks were no longer on my schedule. Ditto articles, plays, and believe it or not this year’s blogs (my last one was posted in May).

Talk about a disappearing act. …

LK and Pailin on the evening of 22nov2018 (Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday). We are in the dining room at Tujunga House but due to the glare of lights in widows and mirrors (yes, mirrors—that’s a mirror behind Pailin and not an entry to the dining room) what is behind us is not behind us. Make sense? No? I didn’t think so. … See, I’m not a total outcast; I have a social life with my small family. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2018)

At times it is easy to create an outline or a proposal, but in the Sand Creek manuscript there was a massive problem and it wasn’t the research (but in my case the research doesn’t end until no more changes can be made, and this isn’t a joke). It was the massiveness of the players from all points of view. After mining the facts the question became how do I pull all their stories together seamlessly in a linear way and make it work with the larger picture of what was affecting their lives? This is a hell of a lot easier said than done, and certainly when the scope of the manuscript is huge. For those of you who don’t know I have done everything possible to be in the players point-of-view (POV, a film term) when dealing with them. The reason is simple, I want to show what they did and what they said for this will allow the reader to make their decisions about the Cheyennes and Arapahos, the whites who married into the tribes, their offspring, the whites who coveted Indian land, and those who spoke out against the massacre of people who thought that they were removed from the 1864 Cheyenne war in Colorado Territory.

I know, it’s a mouthful but an exploration that has become a big part of my life. Honestly, I’m one lucky cowboy to have it in my life.

Fire, fire, and more fire, … and which blog goes live

Fire has become the new normal in California and in other western states. Unfortunately it is not going away. The year 2017 was the worst fire year in California history, but 2018 surpassed it by late spring. By fall 2018 destroyed the 2017 figures.

This Los Angeles Times photo (12nov2018) isn’t as dramatic as the multitude of photos that pictured lines and lines of destroyed vehicles that did not escape from Paradise in the Camp fire, but it has massive importance. The San Fernando Valley (SFV) has a population of 1.75 million. If the Woolsey fire had continued east through Calabasas, Bell Canyon, and West Hills the number of destroyed vehicles would have been in the 10s of thousands. I know, this sounds like a ridiculous disaster movie plot, but someday it could become reality. This is the second year in a row when raging fires invaded the SFV. In 2017 fire struck the northeastern and eastern sides of the Valley (and both of those were within five miles of my house), and every effort was put in place to stop them.

Certainly the Woolsey fire in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties (November 2018) has affected me and many other people (and most of them much-much-much worse than me and for many of them their lives will never be as before). … So has my breathing clinic, my Sand Creek manuscript, and my film blog, which preempted this Sand Creek blog, only to get preempted in return (fair is fair). Even though the work on Sand Creek has been ongoing for what seems like a lifetime (read never-ending) things change. …

The Woolsey fire, its devastation, is an example of daily life in California.*

There is a mostly-unpublished fact that has recently come to light
(regarding Northern California). The Camp fire, which wiped
out the town of Paradise (November 2018) and quickly
became the worst and deadliest fire in the Golden
State’s history has a statistic that is frightening.
Between 2003 and 2018 this portion of
Northern California had permits to
build 24,000+ houses. During
this time fire has destroyed
20,000+ homes.

* See https://www.louiskraftwriter.com/2018/01/01/louis-kraft-socal-fires-earthquakes-sand-creek-massacre-an-errol-flynn-tidbit/ for details about the 2017 SoCal fires.

The nightmare is ongoing. A study just released pointed out that over 1.1 million buildings are at fire risk in California, according to the Los Angeles Times (“A million buildings facing fire risk stir cries for action,” 22dec2018; see the map at left and drag it onto your desktop to expand it), that is “roughly 1 in 10 buildings.” The largest number of these buildings are in Los Angeles County: 114,000, “including tens of thousands of Westside and San Fernando Valley houses in the Santa Monica, Santa Susana and San Gabriel mountains”. … The Times went on to state: “The findings follow a fire season of unprecedented destruction—more than 20,000 homes lost, more than 100 people killed—that showed what damage can be done if Californians fail to address a widespread risk.”

The real SoCal

California rainfall season is from October 1 until September 31. For the rainfall season ending on 31sept2018 for Los Angeles the rainfall was 4.74 inches.* … Regardless if SoCal has a lucky year of rainfall as we did between 1oct16 and 31sept17, which was about 18 inches (an anomaly), SoCal suffered through the worse year on record for fire destruction in California in 2017. …

* As of December 26 the rainfall for the season that began on October 1, 2018, is 4.26 inches (three months into the year and we have almost reached last season’s entire output). Fingers are crossed.

Even though the destruction during recent fire seasons has increased this century everyone thought that 2017 was an anomaly. It wasn’t. By late spring 2018 the fire season (which now almost feels like it is year round) surpassed 2017. That year two fires came within five miles of Tujunga House (one from the east and one from the north).* What do you take if you must run? Pailin and I know what documentation is mandatory, and we have more than most people for Pailin has gone through multiple processes to obtain permanent residency, obtain a Social Security number, driver’s license, and of major importance pass the required testing to obtain a certificate that she is one of the top massage therapists in California (it is illegal to work in the state if you don’t have this license and raids are ongoing).

* I would need a large U-haul to get my research to safety (not a comforting thought) or a year to digitize it (not going to happen), and this doesn’t include a lot of artifacts, posters, photos, and books).

As of 17nov2018 over 98,000 acres have burned in the Woolsey fire. … The Griffith Park fire started on the morning of 9nov2018 where Victory Boulevard crosses over the 134 freeway just east of I-5 at the southern entrance to the Los Angeles Zoo and the Autry Museum of the American West. The brush fire was totally extinguished by the next morning with only 30 burnt acres. Luckily there were no Santa Ana winds on the east side of the San Fernando Valley for the cities of Glendale (east and northern border) and Burbank (to the north and northeast) while the town of North Hollywood was northwest (about seven miles to Tujunga House), … all highly populated areas. (To view a larger rendition of the map drag it to your desktop and open it.)

On 7nov18 fires again struck SoCal with an intent to destroy and kill (a day after the Camp fire in Northern California destroyed most of the town of Paradise (population of approximately 26,000). …What has happened during the Camp fire in Butte County (where the town of Paradise once stood) has been an ongoing nightmare. As of 17nov2018 9,800 homes have been destroyed, the death count currently is 71 (this number is now over 100, but it includes some deaths in SoCal) with 1,001 people still missing (this figure has dropped, but they’ll never find all of the missing). I don’t know what you see outside of California but I see it all. The story of Sand Creek and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians is a tragedy; so is the story of the people who once lived in Paradise. Some died in their homes, others died in their cars as they attempted to flee, while even more died after deserting their cars in a last-gasp effort to survive.

This image of Llamas on a beach in Malibu, Calif., on 9nov18 (© Wally Skalij for the Los Angeles Times) is worth 10,000 words for it shows the horror that has become a yearly occurrence in California. The two llamas, Thunder and Luke (called alpacas in a later edition of the Times), and the horse, Gidget, are west of the Santa Monica Mountains and they are as far west as they can go for just beyond them is the Pacific Ocean. They symbolize not only the destruction of property but also the massive loss of animal life (wild and not). Luckily Thunder and Luke were evacuated to Ojai, a gorgeous valley/small city north of the city of Ventura (Ventura County), and Gidget to a stable in Glendale (a city in LA County; I-5 is its western border and the Ca. 134 freeway cuts through it as it begins to climb the mountain on its way to Pasadena).

My time is short, and the fires in California have again become the fires from hell. I don’t have time to keep writing about this ongoing disaster, so perhaps this social media post will give you some indication of the immensity of the threat: Woolsey fire as related to Los Angeles county on 12nov18. The fire that has ravaged Ventura and Los Angeles Counties was contained around November 19. Some 300,000 people were evacuated in California since these fires broke out in early November; 177,000 lived in Los Angeles County. It could have been worse—much worse—if the Woolsey fire had completed its invasion of the San Fernando Valley, it had the possibility of forcing an additional 1.75 million evacuations.* So what’s the big deal? This example should give you an idea. One of my physician’s office is on Ventura Blvd. in Encino. It is a 10 mile drive. To arrive at a nine o’clock appointment on time I need to be on the road by seven-twenty.

* If the SFV was a city it would be the fifth largest in the USA (only NYC, LA, Chicago, and Houston would be larger).

When the Santa Ana winds strike their speeds can quickly grow from 40 mph to 60 to 75 and more. The firefighters, some of whom at times worked 36 hours straight, had to deal with not only the power of the Santa Anas but also the sudden change of direction.

Many people lost everything but their lives. Everything. Already many know that they can’t rebuild for what they had originally paid for their homes is peanuts in today’s market and unfortunately many could not keep increasing their fire insurance.

My house before moving to Tujunga House was in Thousand Oaks. A very safe and gorgeous city in Ventura County (just north of LA County). It was on a hill, had a courtyard, swimming pool (swimming is my favorite individual exercise; I’ve been a fish since elementary school), and a half-block walk into the Santa Monica Mountains. The house survived as the fire was farther south.

An LK reality

Art of LK and his pistol-packing lady that I began several years after I began pitching the idea of bringing Johnny’s novel to the stage (see the paragraph to the left of this image). I’m a chameleon but this is an image that reappears in my life time and again. … Pailin? She is my lady for all time, and as such she is with me in all my incarcerations. She backs me at all times no matter deep I immerse myself in my projects, no matter how far I drop out of society. She is with me and I am with her. (art © Louis Kraft 2015-2018)

My life is what it is, and it has been this for way for a long time. My world is simple: Protecting three women, surviving, and living to see my Sand Creek manuscript published. This doesn’t sound like much but for me it’s a big deal.

The LK reality is the book projects and the people in my life. Relax for this blog will focus on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway past, present, and future. Long time comin’. … But first I need to get a little personal with the recent past, present, and future. Not that long back I had pitched two friends on me writing a play based on East of the Border, a novel by Johnny D. Boggs, wherein James Butler (Wild Bill) Hickok tours the theatre circuit in the East with Buffalo Bill Cody and Texas Jack Omohundro. Wild Bill feels awkward treading the theatrical boards, is bored, hates what he is doing, and is often drunk. He discovers that when he fires his revolver too close to extras playing dead Indians that they leap to life when the blank firing burns them. He loves this. Type casting for LK? Probably. I’ve wanted to play Wild Bill since the first time I read Johnny’s novel.

LK, a former friend, and John Goodwin at a Galaxy Press event in Hollywood, Calif., in June 2010. I designed two of the hats (center and left), the buckskin coat, and moccasins years back.

This desire goes back years, and as I’ve said in previous blogs Lisa Smith, Johnny’s wife, said it would make a great play. Still Johnny had been silent (probably because he didn’t want me to adapt his book for the stage). The other key person in this triangle was Tom Eubanks. He had directed all of the Ned Wynkoop one-man shows in Kansas, California, Colorado, and Oklahoma. He, also, wasn’t interested. Eventually I gave up on what I thought would make a good play, and better a great character for LK to play. They probably thought I’d embarrass myself. … I never get embarrassed, and certainly not when I’m wearing a wide-brimmed hat, buckskins, moccasins, and packing an 1860 Colt. Are you kidding?

See https://www.louiskraftwriter.com/2016/09/17/the-tom-eubanks-louis-kraft-ned-wynkoop-errol-flynn-connection/ for images of the Wynkoop one-man shows and Cheyenne Blood, plus more on Tom Eubanks.

I believe in reaching for the stars, … and if I get lucky and my wish/prayers become reality to reach for another impossible dream—that is many more years with my ladies and perhaps yet another book, and another, and another, … and another. Yep! I’m a greedy ol’ dog.

Since the end of May it has been an ongoing string of Sand Creek edits, dealing with the peer reviews, adding new information, checking and double checking citations, searching for key information that I need in the manuscript, reaching out for help with other experts on my subject (which, believe it or not I’ve been living with since the 1980s). This is always a good time for it is totally creative. It’s also a scramble as the manuscript must now come together and flow smoothly between people and events as the story races toward conclusion.

My great friend George Carmichael took this image while we enjoyed the Pacific Ocean in northern San Diego County in March 2001. I met George at a fiction class at UCLA in 1990. We were both writing western novels: His was traditional, mine was modern day on the Navajo Reservation. We didn’t see eye-to-eye, but somehow became great friends until the end of his life on 2apr2014. He was an engineer turned published fictional short story writer while I focused on becoming a novelist. Although I have two published novels I’m proud of (The Final Showdown, 1992, and The Discovery, w/Robert S. Goodman, 2016), I reached an intersection in the road, yanked the wheel to the left, and became a writer of nonfiction. (photo © Louis Kraft 2001)

Sound like fiction? Maybe. Sound like a film plot? Perhaps. … For LK it is nonfiction with many intricate pieces that must merge in a linear fashion and not jerk all over the place. … Been there and done that. But that doesn’t count for the scope of this manuscript is massive and I must connect all the players and events in a manner that makes the reader turn pages.

That’s right—turn pages. I believe that nonfiction is just like fiction, plays, film, articles, talks, and blogs. It must grab the reader’s (or viewer’s) interest at the beginning and hold it until the end. Will I succeed at this? You’ll have to read Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway to learn the answer.

Ladies and gents, the question of the Sand Creek manuscript being published in my lifetime is now passé. I’m one tired and skinny cowboy but I get up between four and five with a big grin on my face almost seven days each week.

A big grin, for my tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar in a glass of water and then a cup or three of coffee begins my days of exploration and confirmation and word-crafting and polishing. … This is a golden time for LK and it gets better as the days pass, for this is just the beginning. See below.

The reality of this time

I don’t want to say that it was bad. At the same time I don’t want to say that it was good.

As I floated for months in a no-man’s zone that hovered between success and failure I was totally alive as each day merged into the next and the next and the next. One edit became the next edit and then the next, with each a challenge all its own. I’m social, very social, and get along with all people (two exceptions being racists and sexual predators that hit on me and other people; perhaps I should add habitual liars to the list). I’m also a loner. Although I want a special person in my life at all times I can thrive in a solitary environment. … Although I have many people that are a major part of my literary/creative world (these people are my best friends), and I spend a lot of time with them via the phone, email, social media, as well as in person whenever I get lucky. When it gets down to the writing it is me, my computer, pens, and paper. Zero days pass without work, and this drives me to the next day and the one after. I live and breathe my work.

This is my lady praying at Tujunga House on 9sept2018. We have two different upbringings, two different cultures, two different languages, and two different religions. When we met we took our time and slowly got to know each other, to respect each other, to trust each other, to explore each other’s lives, and to love each other. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft, 2018)

I am with my lady 100 percent of the time day in and day out no matter what our work schedules are. One hundred percent of the time. If someone badmouths her or hints that I should cheat because they have an open relationship I don’t run to the bathroom and vomit. Still you do not want to
hear my opinion of these slimballs for it isn’t printable in this blog or elsewhere. AND I don’t talk about them with friends either. For me
people like this aren’t worthy of mentioning. They are dirt, they mean nothing, and I remove them from my life.

Add racism to the formula, and I can say one thing and it is important—I grew up in a racially-tolerant family at a time when racism was rampant in the USA. Over the years all of us have seen a massive amount of progress to alleviate this hateful and harmful blot on the world. Unfortunately something evil took center stage in 2015 and people embraced a man who has no respect for humankind or women or the truth. This opened a door and racists crashed through it. It is the here and now, but like all evil that has thrown a dark shadow over the world in the past it will be pushed to the side and a humanitarian light will once again shine.

LK (right), Linda Kraft (left, d. 2006), and our mother Doris (center, d. 1980) in 1955 at the Van Nuys trailer park, our first permanent home in Los Angeles after parking the trailer in rural backyards for a long period of time. The car was a 1950 Hudson Commodore and it pulled the 35-foot trailer in the background to California. My dad owned the car from when he bought it in 1950 until 1998, a year before his death (and I had many happy memories driving it). (photo © Louis Kraft 1955)

My first best friend was a Latino (in a time when the word wasn’t used). I was seven and he was five or six. I was Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett and he was my sidekick (actually, he was also Davy Crockett for we were equals, even at that age and time) as we climbed the man-made mountain on the west side of the trailer park where we lived in Van Nuys, California, in 1955. We climbed it and slid down into the wonder of the Los Angeles River that flowed on the other side of what would become the infamous Ca. 405 freeway. We were explorers as we followed the flow of the river on the sandbanks below the trees that lined the water flow. It was a mystical time. Others—not many—also skirted the river; some adults and others younger. Not once were Jesse and I ever threatened. Try to do this in our 2018 world and Jesse Carrera and I would have become easy targets.

A Little about how I write and the Sand Creek peer reviews

Although I write my books from proposals and outlines there are no preconceived directions, and it doesn’t matter what the writing medium is, for I go where the research and the words lead me.

For the record I over-write everything and I don’t care what my subject or genre is. The reason is simple: The more facts, anecdotes, quotes, events, people’s actions the better for when it is time to cut, edit, add, polish, and bring the words together the better chance I have of creating the manuscript that I envision. … At same time I’m totally aware of the contracted word count.

Pailin on the bluffs to the west of the Sand Creek village at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site (NHS) on 3oct2014. Our wonderful friends John and Linda Monnett, whom we had been staying with, drove us there that day. This is one of my favorite images of Pailin, as she is an explorer and as at home in the field as I am. She’s also like me in that she is a little goofball. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft, 2014)

I had begun editing the manuscript in June 2018 in the hope to deliver a polished manuscript by 15sept2018—an impossible deadline, and especially so when I received the two peer reviews in early August. As expected they were professional, well done, and with a lot of good comments and questions. As it turned out neither said a word about the huge word count and both highly recommended publication.

One of the reviewers had the following to say about the Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway manuscript: “Kraft … purposefully devotes nearly two-thirds of his manuscript to that time before conflict [meaning before the Sand Creek Massacre]. That portion of the work is delightfully original and a marvelous setup to the final third of the book, when for the Southern Cheyennes their world changed forever.”

LK with Scott Gillette, chief of interpretation at the Sand Creek Massacre NHS administration building in Eads, Colo., on 3oct2014. Scott has always been open and friendly to me, and he has time and again aided my research. Thank you, Scott. … Oh yeah, they sell Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft, 2014)

He went on to say, “Kraft has a fine way with words. … There are any number of Sand Creek histories, some good, some atrocious. Kraft’s point is not to refight the episode but to use it as a defining moment in the telling of a multi-generational history of the Southern Cheyennes, from their earliest appearances through Sand Creek and slightly beyond to the coming of the reservation era. No other Sand Creek history contextualizes this story as he does. Equally if not more important, this reader is unaware of any comparably detailed history of the Southern Cheyennes told within the same broad timeframe that Kraft embraces. That alone makes this work a gem.” Finally this reviewer said something that blew me away: “Kraft knows this story and its primary and secondary sources intimately. He utilizes his sources soundly, challenges in his notes various source shortcomings, contradictions, and nuances; notes where sources have been misused by others; and in all fashions a story destined to be deemed, I believe, definitive on the subject.”

Whew! …

Heady words, kind words, and I didn’t expect them. I hope that they prove out to be true. Time will tell.

I had miles to walk and thousands upon thousands of words to cut while fine-tuning the story line and polishing.

A return to the Woolsey fire destruction

Some of the following words and views were pulled from recent LK postings on
other social media (actually those posts were created for this blog).

I can’t walk away from the Woolsey fire and its destruction of film history. Robert Florczak, my friend and also an Errol Flynn historian, in July 2016, took me to Lasky Mesa, a massive mountainous and valley area (in the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve), an easy 35 minute drive from my house on Victory Boulevard). I met Robert at his apartment on that day, and he drove. After parking in the lot where Victory Boulevard dead-ends at to the eastern entry to the Open Space Preserve you have perhaps a two-mile hike around and over hills as you work your way to an open area surrounded by hills and in the distance mountains—Lasky Mesa. Dirt roads and paths meander through the area and down into small canyons. That July there was a lot of dried grass up to my knees.

On 13jul2016 LK stood where Errol Flynn’s Seventh Cavalry rode to their death in They Died with Their Boots On (Warner Bros., 1941). (photo © Louis Kraft 2016) … For the record three of the eight Flynn-de Havilland films were westerns, and all had back stories that will be dealt with in detail in Errol & Olivia.

This mostly-ignored hilly area has been seen in many major films from the Golden Age of Cinema. This includes Errol Flynn’s glorious death as George Armstrong Custer (They Died with Their Boots On) that was shot in fall 1941. That day Robert was working on confirming the tree near where Errol Flynn and Alan Hale sat upon their horses as the coach with Flynn’s then wife Nora Eddington approached at the end of Adventures of Don Juan (Warner Bros., 1948), … as well as the tree from a famous scene from Gone with the Wind (Selznick International Pictures/MGM, 1939). I have this film on DVD but have not seen it in decades (and never in one complete screening) as the film bores me. However, for Errol & Olivia (and sooner than I now expect) it will become a film that I study in detail while I decide what I’ll say about Olivia de Havilland’s performance.

LK & RF on Lasky Mesa on 9jul2016. Before capturing the image that Robert suggested that we pose for, … as if we were going crazy in John Huston’s 1948 Warner Bros. classic film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. I had never seen it but had seen photos of Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, among others, and have read about it; I need to see it. (photo Robert Florczak and © Robert Florczak & Louis Kraft 2016)

RF and LK were in trouble by the time we finished our research on Lasky Mesa. Between us we had a lot of water but the heat soared to 105-106 degrees (as we knew it would). By about three in the afternoon we headed back to the parking lot where Robert’s SUV was parked. One problem. We had a long walk in front of us. Would we make it was not only on our minds but something we discussed, including if one of us dropped the other would drag him to safety. As you can see in the photo we had been walking down but would soon turn to the left and begin to climb a hill only to continue to meander to the right and left as we descended, climbed, and worked our way back to his vehicle. At the time of the image we had stopped to catch our breath and Robert proposed this portrait of us. After we looked at it we agreed that it would never see the light of day.

Oops!

Recently I received this image on social media. I guess all bets are off. … For the record this is what historians really look like when they are in the field.

Lasky Mesa is north (or east) of the Ca. 101 freeway as it slices northwest and skirts the Pacific Ocean. Soon after one can exit the 101 and drive west on Kanan Dume Road toward the Santa Monica Mountains until it reaches the Pacific Ocean. To the north of the road as it begins to enter the mountains is/was the Paramount Ranch (a back lot for a major film studio in Los Angeles during days gone by).

Fire devastation beyond human tragedy

But by no means has this been only humankind’s loss. The devastation has been beyond belief throughout California over the last few years, and not just to the families that have lost everything (many of whom won’t be able to rebuild as the cost has become prohibitive), but also for the loss of the trees and grasses and plants that are native to Southern California (actually all of California). And I cannot forget the wild life, many of whom have been forced to share their land with invading humans. I’m certain that this has not been an easy adaptation for them.

Lizards

I have pet lizards. I call them pets as I talk to them and often they listen, but they aren’t pets. I walk carefully when they are present as I don’t want to frighten them for they are wild. … I don’t know their view of me, but I consider them friends.

I took this photo of Tujunga House at 4:41 am on 6feb2018. It is a photo, not art, and it is full frame. There was an early morning fog and I took advantage of it and captured some great images. The foreground light was provided by a telephone pole that is just south of the driveway. The front yard is a good portion of the lizards’ homeland, and it is a wonder to watch them enjoy their environment. (photo © Louis Kraft 2018)

I don’t feed the lizards, but Pailin and I have created a home for them on the north side of the driveway with two pieces of granite near a huge bougainvillea in a plantable area that I cleared except for one white rosebush. The lizards discovered that the granite provided shelter from the elements and they have made the area their home. Tujunga House is surrounded by mostly desert vegetation. I don’t water often, but when I do it is for my lemon trees, bamboo, and roses (Pailin makes rose tea). Every so often I’ll water a plant that needs it, only to give one of the lizards a shower. It darts away, stops, turns and stares at me, almost as if saying, “What the hell are you doing?” … They know that we keep two monsters (a Vette and an M-B), and when they come to life and growl the lizards get off the driveway to where they will be safe and watch until the beasts come to a halt or leave their land. …

How many lizards died in the Woolsey fire? I could never venture a guess, but I know that it was way-too-many.

P-64

Here I’m also talking about an animal that is my favorite as it is so sleek and graceful (more so than wolves or horses or coyotes or doberman pinchers, my other favorite animals). They are sometimes called panthers, but much-more often pumas. They are mountain lions that live in Los Angeles (city and county). When caught, and they are never harmed, they receive a GPS collar, tagged, and given a name designated with a “P-” and a number. They are then returned to their habitat, tracked, observed, but never fed or pampered. If sick, and cameras are set up in areas they frequent, and their condition is captured, they are medically treated and returned to their homeland that ranges through the Santa Monica Mountains that separate downtown Los Angeles, the Westside, and the beaches from the San Fernando Valley (SFV) and the Ca. 101 freeway that connects downtown Los Angeles with the SFV (population of 1.75 million) to Agoura Hills, Malibu, Westlake, Thousand Oaks, Oxnard, Ventura, and onward to Santa Barbara and beyond.

Above is P-64 in the photo (courtesy: National Park Service). He was captured in February 2018 in the Simi Hills, Ventura County (northwest of LA County) and fitted with his collar and tag in his ear. This image shows him exiting a blind culvert that is in total darkness as it zigzags under the Ca. 101 freeway. The day after he was set free he became the second puma to be captured on film crossing the 101 freeway (I don’t believe that it was this image). Since that time he crossed not only the 101 but also the Ca. 118 freeway that slices through the northern portion of the SFV and into Simi Valley. It is not known how many times he crossed these freeways risking death by dodging speeding autos during night hours (unfortunately numerous mountain lions have lost their lives doing this), but he was tracked doing it forty-one times since he received his collar.

P-64 was a pathfinder and adventurer in that he expanded his habitat while trapped inside civilization. This was how it always was for him; the only life he ever knew. Then fire, fire, and more fire that increased time and again over recent years. But this time it wasn’t beyond the next hill—it was all around him. On November 26, and again on the twenty-eighth his GPS tracked him. But Jeff Sikich, a wildlife biologist who tracked the four-year old, said he was caught between the avalanche of blaring sirens, an army of firefighters, and frantic humans, and moved back into the burnt area near Oak Park and the Simi Hills in Ventura County. Glen Williams and I discussed P-64 in detail on December 10 and decided he was terrified and chose the best of his two options.

I believe that this is Jeff Sikich displaying two of P-64’s paws. Sikich located him near a streambed on December 3, 2018, about two or three days after he died. He wasn’t burned by flames but was forced to cross hot embers. The burns were severe, which would have hindered his hunting. It has been surmised that the burns might have led to infection. (photo courtesy: National Park Service)

The pumas have adapted to the massive encroachment upon their homeland. They cross freeways and range north and east and west of the San Fernando Valley. Some are in the San Gabriel Mountains that are on the northern side of the San Gabriel Valley (the next valley to the east of the SFV, where I wrote for software companies for 12 years). Mountain lions are predators and they do live off the land. Thus one must be careful when in their territory.

Our mountain lions are famous and often the Los Angeles Times prints articles of births, status, activity, and accomplishments of those we have come to know (and in my case, and friend Julie McHam) care about. Unfortunately the Times also shares their end of life.

Another piece of Hollywood lost to flames

This is one of the photos that Glen Williams shot at the Paramount Ranch on 25may2012. (photo © Louis Kraft & Glen Williams 2012)

To the north of Kanan Dume Road as it moves west from the Ca. 101 freeway and toward the Santa Monica Mountains is/was the Paramount Ranch (Paramount Pictures was a major film studio in Hollywood during the glory days long gone; so many mergers and purchases have happened I don’t know who owns it now). I worked at the studio in the ’70s and early ’80s; Nice place to work. My bro Glen Williams and I did a photo shoot at the western town on the Paramount Ranch (just building fronts for all interiors would be shot on sound stages) in May 2012. A good day for LK. In the dark ages I earned money as a model. Hated it! But the money paid bills. This modeling with Glen (as was other great excursions with him) was for companionship, as well as photos that might be used for publicity or for artwork. … Sadly the Paramount Ranch no longer exists. It had provided locations for films and now it is a piece of California history.* Just thinking about this brings tears to my eyes.

* Friend Dennis Clark saw in his local newspaper that the western town would be rebuilt within the next 24 months. My fingers are crossed that the article he read is accurate. If yes, Glen, ol’ bro, we need to do a Paramount Ranch photo shoot 2. If yes, I want our ladies to join us and make it a foursome.

Wynkoop and the Sand Creek manuscript

Errol Flynn’s portrayal of George Armstrong Custer (They Died with Their Boots On, Warner Bros., 1941) brought me to Custer, a lot of articles, talks, and Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains (see Custer and the Cheyenne wins the Jay D. Smith award for its contribution to the study of Custeriana), Upton and Sons, Publishers, 1995).

LK with Chuck Rankin at the Western History Association convention in Oakland, Calif., on 15oct211. Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek premiered at this event. The poster in the background is now displayed at Tujunga House. (photo © Louis Kraft and Chuck Rankin, 2011)

Mr. Custer brought me to the Cheyennes and a fellow named Ned Wynkoop. When I started writing and talking about Wynkoop in the 1980s (and he had a lot to do with Colorado Territory history in the 1860s) I never dreamed that he would lead me to a major player in my writing life that I didn’t meet until the beginning of this century—Charles (Chuck) Rankin, the former editor-in-Chief of University of Oklahoma Press (OU Press). Chuck played a big part in the development of Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2005). We spent many years talking about Wynkoop as we developed a proposal that would work for both of us. When we got together in Oklahoma City in 2006 he said to me that the beginning of a manuscript draft I sent him was a little light in content. “… And I’m 15,000 words over my contracted limit,” I replied. “Why don’t we spilt the manuscript into two books?” “Let’s think about this,” he said. During the next month or two he agreed to increase the manuscript from the contracted 90,000 words to 125,000 words.

Shortly before Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011) went into production Chuck asked me if I’d like to write a book about the Sand Creek Massacre. I told him, “No. I write about people and not war.” Chuck refused to walk away and over the next year or so we talked in person, on the phone, and via email. We worked on a proposal that was suitable to both of us. The contracted word count was 125,000-135,000, and I needed the higher number (and more) as the scope was huge to show and not tell what happened.

That was then … this is now

In April of this year I was informed that for the Sand Creek manuscript to be published in 2019 I needed to submit a completed draft for peer review, deal with the peer reviews, and deliver a polished manuscript no later than 15sept2018. As I didn’t have a completed rough first draft … on May 31 I delivered an incomplete but huge draft for review. I don’t gamble with cards or money but I do gamble with my projects. This was a big-time LK gamble for one and certainly two thumbs-down reviews would end my relationship with OU Press.

LK image shot by Pailin on 4aug2018 by request of the OU Press Publicity Department. There were exteriors with a hat and interiors w/o a hat. This photo I like (as I’m happy) but it is slightly out of focus (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2018)

It was an impossible task, and one I knew would never happen. … Still I dug in and pressed forward. In early August I received the two peer reviews. Both were positive and provided first-class comments (which required additional words), and more important neither mentioned that my incomplete manuscript was huge or that I should trim the word count (which was then 204,000+).

Hey Kraft, this mess is your creation.

I know. … and as I said above the more words, events, and character development I have the better it is to cut, add, edit, rewrite, and polish. In other words I am now in LK heaven (or perhaps LK hell). My days and nights merged—became one. Sleep was a delicacy that I no longer had. Days passed and September 15 loomed. Delivering a polished manuscript that was close to the required contracted word limit vanished. Current OU Press Editor-in-Chief Adam Kane upped the word count to 150,000. This was impossible and I told him I needed 160,000 words or more.

On September 14 I emailed Adam and told him that I would not make the 15th deadline (meaning there would be no publication of the book in 2019). A big loss as I don’t want to be like Errol Flynn and have my last book published after my death, a scenario that walks with me more often than desired. Back to the positive, missing that deadline was a godsend.

September 15 came and went, and I pounded the keyboard. A hundred words gone, a thousand words gone, five thousand words gone, and more and more. As I knew it would, the manuscript tightened and flowed.

An example of a long-gone Laser Disc cover of The Time Machine (MGM, 1960) signed by Rod Taylor and supporting player Alan Young. The film  was extraordinary in 1960 but it hasn’t survived time well, mainly because special effects have seen lightyears of improvement since the ’60s. Taylor’s performance was decent, but this film is not close to being in my upcoming top 50 LK films blog (tentatively scheduled for late March 2019), which will also feature Valley CORF (Tarzana, Calif.), a breathing, balance, and strength clinic that has done wonders for LK. … There is a good chance that Taylor will have three films on the list.

It was almost as if I was Rod Taylor in his star-making film The Time Machine (MGM, 1960) as I sat in front of my computer for the days flashed forward at lightening speed and words changed, sometimes to grow while often many disappeared in an ongoing merge of days, weeks, months.

This was my now while it was also my then. A vast desert of sweltering heat that I’ve walked time and again. Familiarity beckons confidence. Been there! Done that! … and I know the outcome. We’re talking about my freelance writing, but we’re also talking about my twenty-plus years writing for the software world. ZOOOOOMMMMMM!!!! I’m Rod Taylor riding his time machine … NO! I’m LK sitting tall in my chair as my fingers dance over the keyboard and my monitor flashes the changes in real time. I’m alive in my world. …

My world! …

Two hundred four thousand plus words fade into history for it has become 197,000, 191,000, 185,000, 179,000, 173,000, 168,000, 165,000 … and counting.

Today’s Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

The “was” brought me into the “now.” On 15nov18 I delivered my “last” rough Sand Creek draft to Adam Kane. Actually by an email mistake, but that didn’t matter as I had anticipated making the delivery on November 16, which would have been the same draft minus a few files that were meant LK’s eyes only.

I will deliver the maps to cartographer Bill Nelson and Adam on January 7, 2019, and my polished Sand Creek draft to Adam on the fourteenth.

I have been collecting possible events and locations for the maps as I have worked my way through my manuscript polish. At the moment there are a fair amount of choices but most will be eliminated as space is limited. I don’t want to tell you what the selections are but those chosen will be based upon what I consider primary locations and actions during the flow of the text.

As stated elsewhere in this blog I do everything possible to show and not tell in my books. I can’t begin to tell you how important this is—at least to me. When Chuck and I created the 37-page proposal for the Sand Creek manuscript “show and don’t tell” was forever front and center. This takes more words but the extra words are worth their weight in gold a thousand times over when the book is published. This is as it should always be. Words are mandatory but it is the showing that must grab the readers and never let go. If done correctly the reader will turn pages, and more than they anticipate. From my POV this is how all books should be written. … Honestly, any book that puts you or me to sleep after two or three pages is a piece of crap and I don’t give a bleep about its reviews or awards or how many books have sold. In some cases all are valid and well earned. However, sometimes they are not. If you live in LA you would know that we suffer through a film/TV awards season that begins in the early fall and doesn’t end until the last Oscar is presented the following year (next year’s presentation is on 24feb2019). The amount of money spent stuffing “created” contenders down our throats on a daily basis is obscene. You don’t want to hear my views on this for they aren’t printable. It’s a part of the world, … just not my part. Pardon my English, but ass-licking or paying big bucks to win an award is something I refuse to do.

Maps

Until the Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek I had created the maps for my previous books. Believe it or not over the years I improved my skill at creating them.

This map from Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2005) was reprinted in Lt. Col. Paul Fardink’s (USA-Ret.) article, “Lieutenant Charles B. Gatewood: Premier Cavalry Soldier of the American West,” in On Point: The Journal of Army History, winter 2014. Paul had interviewed me for the article and had wanted it at the end of his prose. The editor disagreed and moved it into the flow of the text and it worked out fine for Paul and myself. Paul’s article is terrific and I’m proud to be part of it. (map © Louis Kraft 2004)

Two of my maps have been reprinted. The Custer and the Cheyenne (1995) map that illustrated Custer’s attack on Black Kettle’s village on 27nov1868 appeared in Sandy Barnard’s A Hoosier Quaker Goes to War: The Life & Death of Major Joel H. Elliott, 7th Cavalry, 2010). The lone map from Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apace Wars Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2005) illustrated Gatewood’s search for Chiricahua Apaches Geronimo (war leader and mystic) and Naiche (the last hereditary chief of the tribe) and the remnants of their people in Sonora, Mexico, in July-August 1886, and then talked them into returning to the United States and surrendering for the last time.

Chuck Rankin wanted me to use a cartographer for the Wynkoop book and this request began my association with Bill Nelson, whom I hired to create the maps from my rough drafts. The entire creation and review process was a total pleasure, and his maps are first class.

Adam had requested rough drafts of the Sand Creek maps, and all was a go with me supplying them to him and Bill Nelson (who I again contracted) by the end of December, which I have since moved out to January 7, 2019. … On 10dec2018 Adam told me, “We are fans of Bill’s work here so look forward to seeing the new ones for this latest book.”

I’m not going to tell you how I’m prepping the new maps, or what’s going to be in them but if all goes well they will include some locations/actions usually not seen on maps.

This was the rough draft that I submitted to Wild West for my feature on the Chiricahua Apache war leader Geronimo (“Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude,” October 2015). Not to brag but some of the locations had never before been placed on a map. A lot of work, and although the magazine’s cartographer created the final map from my draft Editor Greg Lalire and WW, both of whom have always been kind to me, paid me for this draft. (map © Louis Kraft 2015)

I have been selecting possible locations and actions for the map drafts as I work my way through what will be my polished draft of the Sand Creek manuscript. I had pitched a third map to deal with the Sand Creek village at the time of the massacre. All of the printed maps that deal with the massacre are incomplete at best and misleading at worse. I’m not going to reprint any of them or create a new map based upon them. There is current information that I am not privy to, and if I cannot learn the details that are available but not shared there will be no Sand Creek village map in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. … Not my choice, but I’m not going to print a map based information that I don’t consider valid. If this becomes reality—and I pray not—there will be no third map unless I have a replacement map that I’m not yet completely sold on (but on the plus side it might dip into Old Mexico).

How can this be Louis? Simple; about 8,000 words deal with the massacre, making it a small piece of my Sand Creek story. Not to worry for the SC massacre section is explosive and graphic. The goal here has always been to grab the readers and not let go (we’ll see if I succeeded when the book is published). Still, I want a map with the most up-to-date information about the Sand Creek village circles if indeed they are known, and I don’t think that they are. If so, they are a well-hidden secret. For the record I know the names of 15 Cheyenne chiefs who were present on that tragic day. I have been told that there were 20 Cheyenne chiefs present with no names or documentary proof that I’ve seen. I would love to have this information and the order of the chiefs’ village circles (if it exists).

Photo at right shows 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.)

Major information that is currently denied LK that must be in the Sand Creek book

I have information from Dee Cordry, who is writing a book that deals with a lot of people I deal with in my manuscript. I’m sorry, but I must remain vague here to protect Dee’s manuscript as well my mine, but what he shared is absolutely mandatory to see print, and Adam Kane totally agrees.Phot

This information when published by Dee and myself will destroy ongoing errors that have been propagated for decades and often reprinted without citations or ones that are error-riddled at best or created simply to disguise what doesn’t exist/never existed or worse create a lie based upon a writer’s premise (which some writers refuse to change regardless of where their research leads).

An example of lies in the real world

Many years back, but soon after Custer and the Cheyenne was published, a preeminent Little Bighorn/Custer historian called me and said he was writing a review of my Custer/Cheyenne book. He read about a quarter of his review (which, when published was over a page and a half in an 8″ x 11″ publication). Great stuff and I loved his words. He got me to talk about the young Cheyenne woman Mo-nahs-e-tah (phonetic spelling of her name); a major mistake by LK, and for all of you who write books when someone calls and states that he/she is writing a review about your work think carefully about who they are and what their motivation is for calling you. If there is just hint of a scam slam your phone down on the receiver. Do it! If you don’t you may regret what follows. … I did.

A year or so later this historian/cum-reviewer and I both spoke at a symposium in SoCal. I called the host and told him that if the historian attacked me verbally that I would retaliate. The historian kept his mouth shut and we actually enjoyed spending time together and talking.

This photo was taken on Christmas day, 2018. Do I look “snarky”? Perhaps, … or maybe I’m simply “cocky.” (photo © Louis Kraft 2018)

Two things that need to be said

Ladies and gents, I want to make something absolutely clear right now—people and archives play major roles in all of my published work. I am forever grateful for their contributions.

I have pointed out errors in books published over the last 50 years. Some of them are heinous but have been reprinted time and again (and often without any documentation). One of my peer reviewers tore into me big time for pointing out published errors; he even stated that I was “snarky.” Snarky? Maybe he’s correct. I don’t care for I’m sick and tired of seeing old errors repeated ad nauseam. This reviewer rightfully stated that I needed to temper my comments (hopefully I’ve been able to follow his suggestion). At this point in time much of my proof of erroneous documentation has been purged from the manuscript. In its place I have inserted notes that mention the errors without pointing the finger at published works, and simply warning readers to be wary of documents that use the previously published errors.* Hopefully historians and readers who read these words heed them.

* Of course a few instances existed where this was impossible to do. I guess I’m still “snarky.” Sorry.

LK writing and life in his world

I don’t view myself as a liar, for sometimes I need a break from almost continuous seven-day weeks for what seems like forever. The blogs are fun for me, while being time intensive. More important they are research for my nonfiction or that memoir I usually ignore when I talk about my writing projects. If ever I finish the memoir, and it is doable as I have a ton of research in house, I will never see it published. Errol Flynn never saw his final book published (My Wicked, Wicked Ways, Putnam and Sons, 1959), and no one was able to sue him for telling what I believe were truthful words about some of the people he knew well. … Let’s carry the LK memoir one step forward. It is completed and placed with a publisher. At that time I will make certain that we are in sync when it can be published, and that time will be right after I’m dancing with angels. Am I joking or am I serious? Be patient for time will give you an answer.

Throughout our early life together I moved Pailin’s car out of our long driveway so that I could use my car; that is moving her car onto the street, moving my car onto the street, moving her car back onto the driveway, and then walking to my car on the street. She suggested parking her car under a carport that we didn’t use as it had been blocked by a fence I installed about 2009 and a huge orange tree that had died about 2013. A great idea! In December 2015 I removed the steel fence, chopped down the tree, removed its root system, filled in the hole, pounded the earth, before the Vette pressed down the earth. This photo was taken in the late afternoon on December 9 after quitting work. (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

On 24jun2018 my life took another detour. That Sunday the sole of one of my yard-work moccasins came loose and caught on the small red stones I installed in 2015 for the drive to Pailin’s carport (the Vette lives in the garage), and I took a flying dive forward. There was a pole in front of me—I had to protect the pacemaker—and twisted to my left to avoid a head-on collision or worse, nailing the pacemaker. While knowing that the impact wouldn’t be pretty I had to make a perfect landing. Acting and swashbuckling training provided what I needed to know—that is, how to fall. Still, my flying body was like a biplane crash-landing during WWI. Add deep-deep gashes, huge bruises, and burns along the left side of my body. But it was a good day for my noggin’ didn’t slide along the stones and neither did the pacemaker. Nevertheless I saw my heart specialist pronto. The moccasins were exiled to the black trashcan.

This has been my life for years now, and yet I’m alive. They say that the good die young. If so, what am I? … Evil? Maybe, but I don’t think so. Still, there are some people that will agree with this. For the record there’re not my friends.

I’ve discussed cracked skulls and trips to the emergency room, I’ve detailed the perfect storm that resulted in me continuing walk our earth, and I’m not repeating this here. (If interested see: Louis Kraft perfect storm and the Sand Creek Massacre).

I’m not going to tell about this book, except to say that it is one of the best books I’ve ever written. The reviews have been kind. If you want to see some background on the book, along with a few of the reviews, see: Books 2/The Discovery tab. Believe it or not, a number of the reviews state that it would make a good film or mini-series. This said, beware if you decide to read it for there is extreme violence, as well as sexual intimacy, and a darkness that at times is overwhelming, and would give the story an extreme “R” rating if ever produced as a film (perhaps stronger depending upon the script and director). A good friend, Tom Eubanks, read about 30 pages and stopped. He told me he knew where book was going. All I can say is that he was clueless, for the two leading players are on the book cover and he never met the newborn as an adult, and that is where the medical, judicial, intense character-study thriller begins. Begins. … BTW, the title is misleading while being dead on target. (art and book cover design © Louis Kraft 2016)

This said, my time has been questionable ever since I made a habit of cracking the back of my skull open. Other than a partnership on The Discovery with Robert S. Goodman that began at the time I needed to pay for a surgery that I didn’t know about until after the fact (oh yeah LK has gone from someone with wads of cash in his pockets to someone who picks up bottles on the street). This began in 2012 by my choice. At that time I endured a practice that was totally illegal, totally unethical, and yet a manager I saw only three times in my life not only backed the policy he salivated while supporting it. I doubt that I will ever write about it (although it is well documented; perhaps I should add it to my archive in Santa Fe). Alas, today truth in the USA is a dangerous thing to share. Money almost always wins out.

Regardless, I decided to never again write for the software world, and at that time I was pulling in six figures.

For the record, I believe that writers must move between different genres and push themselves to the limit as they explore and improve their craft.

The Discovery was a detour and at the same time the most important one in my writing life

Bob Goodman has been my physician for almost 30 years, and he along with another five specialists keep me living a good physical life. In 2002 Bob saw something that if not fixed would have led to my death in 2003 or perhaps early 2004. I owe him a lot. Add that I like him a lot, and when he approached me to partner with him to write his terrific story idea (folks, his premise was magnificent). More, as it was an historical piece that spanned over 20 years between the early 1950s and the early 1970s with a huge cast of players (read the Sand Creek story for scope and cast list), and I knew that it could give me what I needed for my nonfiction manuscript—learning how to make a story with many people whose actions are all over the place work in a linear progression. At this time the Sand Creek manuscript didn’t flow forward smoothly. Read that it was hackneyed at best; I’m sorry but that wasn’t acceptable.

A work in progress of LK and Bob Goodman (even though it carries a 2017 copyright). He hasn’t seen it yet. I had hoped to complete it this year and give it to him. Nope! Story of my life: A day late and a dollar short. … I will finish this painting hopefully in 2019 for I will be seeing him then. (art © Louis Kraft 2017)

The Discovery gave me what I needed to pull Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a LIfeway together and become reality. Hell, I’ve been a professional writer for decades and I was having trouble. I still had a massive amount of word crafting of facts and time in front of me to make the tragic end of the Cheyenne and Arapahos’ lifeway move forward in an acceptable manner. But now I was in the driver’s seat. God love you, Bob! I cherish our relationship and our partnership.

The other influences on my writing life

Technical writing had been a terrific experience. It is fast, demanding, and the deadlines are deadly. DEADLY. … When I worked in the film world you worked eight hours. After that it was time and a half and then after 10 hours more dollar bills flowed out of a fountain. On feature films I didn’t experience that much overtime but in TV it was a different story. On the last day of a medical TV pilot (read an hour and a half and shot in 15 or 17 days; can’t remember) the limited shoot (my guess at this late date as I didn’t keep the “call sheets,” which gave you a start time each day and what was being filmed that day) was get what was absolutely necessary and discard the un-shot script pages. That last day and night we worked 23 hours. My eyes turned into dollar signs. Often there were previews; I never saw one for this pilot, never saw the pilot on TV, and it never became a TV show. Not the first time or the last time.

Since we’re dealing with film and TV and that other money-maker I hated but did when I needed money—modeling, let’s touch base with the entertainment world in the 1970s and 1980s.

LK art of Bob Ellenstein. His son, David, also an actor and director, saw it in a blog years back, contacted me, and asked if he could have a copy. Of course; I sent him copies set to print as an 8×10″ and various versions for the internet. It was good catching up with him (he was a little boy when I spent a lot of time with Bob and his mother Lois at their home on the Westside of LA). Bob and Lois also had an in-house bookstore, and they were able to get me all of the classic works published on the pirate Francis Drake in the early 1970s including many that were simply primary-source documents. You can bet that both nonfiction and fictional works dealing with Mr. Drake are a comin’. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Actually more important is me clarifying what I learned from Bob (Robert) Ellenstein, an actor/director I met in college when he was the professional guest directing professor during my senior year at CSUN. Actually I learned it after graduation when I studied acting with him. This time, beginning in summer 1969 and continuing for a number of years led to a friendship between us that extended long after I stopped studying acting under his guidance. … At one point Bob told the small acting class that I took with him in the early ’70s (between eight and ten people), “Whatever you do, make sure you can live with it.” This was the absolute best advice I have ever received in my life. The absolute best! … And I have lived by it ever since.

This doesn’t mean that I’m a good person; it means that I have never done anything that I could not live with. Put another way, I have never sold my soul or body for money or advancement.

The year 2020 is front and center as long as LK doesn’t mess it up

Although I’ve spent a fair amount of time dealing with writing extra words above I’m totally aware of my contracted word counts. This guarantees that I’ll never place myself in a situation wherein I’m below the word count, need more, but am clueless where to dig for more facts and events simply as a filler as this not a good way to complete a manuscript.

But this isn’t the problem. Actually, it shouldn’t be a problem for when I buy into a project it is for 100 percent. Simply, this means that I’m not just the writer. I have a vision for my print projects, and I do everything possible to insure that the final product is as close to what I originally envisioned. This means that I am present throughout the production process with my input. Sometimes this isn’t appreciated. Too bad. It is my project and my input will happen. What I say, do, or insist upon is not egotistical. Not at all—it is simply to improve what is published.

I originally created this art of Ned Wynkoop for an article of mine (“Ned Wynkoop’s Lonely Walk Between the Races”) in Custer and His Times, Book Five (2008). It has appeared in I think three (perhaps four) additional publications including two (three?) magazines. Originally it was an oval portrait but has also been landscape. This image was last printed in Symphony in the Flint Hills: Field Journal, Volume V (2013), and it provided me with my best payday with this portrait. (art © Louis Kraft 2007)

Often I submit my photos/art for publication. It brings in money (sometimes four or five times when I get lucky and an image is resold). This is good for it helps pay bills. Sometimes my art is used to reduce the cost of the image in university press books wherein I am responsible for assembling all the photos and art for the publication. I negotiate with artists and owners of historical images (often offering a book in exchange for using their art/images). I think that this is fair for I save money, they get a copy of the first edition of the book as well as the publicity.

Regarding using my images in publications, at times I’ve been pinged as some people don’t like writers creating art for their words. Honestly, I don’t understand the reasoning behind this and have refused to respond to these comments.

In the past I have publicized photos and art in consideration for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. The process has been ongoing for years, and I have been negotiating for a good part of this time with artists, private collections, as well as National Historic Sites.

Jerry Greene and Mr. Scott’s book (OU Press, 2004) is one of the better books published dealing with the massacre. The cover is a cropped version of Robert Lindneux’s Sand Creek Massacre art. The painting is landscape, so almost every book cover that features it has been cropped on one or both sides. This isn’t a problem when it is used in magazine articles. Jerry is a good friend whom I enjoy hanging out with whenever opportunity presents itself.

At the moment I am considering pushing two pieces of art for the cover, but I know as 2019 races toward summer that this number will increase. One thing is certain, the cliché art that has appeared on way-too-many Sand Creek books (some of which have nothing to do with the massacre) will not appear on my dust jacket—including Robert Lindneux’s painting (left), which is housed at History Colorado.

Want to read a terrific book dealing with the Cheyenne wars, read Jerry Greene’s Washita: The U.S. Army and the Southern Cheyennes, 1867-1869 (OU Press, 2004). While the book and dust jacket design were in production (I saw a proof of the cover art). Anita Donofrio, who kindly volunteered to do sound and lighting for an over-sold-out Wynkoop one-man show at the former Colorado Historical Society that year invited me to stay with her and her son (a totally delightful young man) the following week while I did research. She was/is a good friend of Jerry’s. I told her that if she invited him to dinner one night I’d cook. My reason: I wanted to meet him, and that evening, which went deep into the night, created a friendship.

Regarding LK’s cooking—don’t snicker. I’m a terrific cook, and have been for decades. … Gents, here’s a tip worth its weight in gold: The way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach (and I can prove this).

The here is now, … or is it put up or shut up?

I deliver my polished draft of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway to Adam in two weeks. If this draft passes review—fingers are always crossed—it is all uphill from here. Meaning: LK will have a Cheshire Cat grin on his face until 2020.*

* Lewis Carroll created this cat and its mischievous grin in his book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865).

This Sun Microsystems badge was the only one I ever bothered to grab, and I had no clue at this late date why I did this. In 2005, when the company purchased Seebeyond Technology Corp., they had over 40,000 employees worldwide. by late 2008 that figure had dropped to 24,000 employees. Poor management had doomed the company, whose stock plummeted to obscene levels when in January 2009 69 percent of the former Seebeyond employees then in Monrovia, Calif., were laid off. Often they talk about loyalty in sports or the lack of. Take a quick look at the technical world and you’ll see that they make the sports world look like amateurs when it comes to eliminating personnel.I participate in all of my projects in every way possible. At times—and this is a major understatement—production teams from art directors to editors and everyone in between would love to lock me in a cell until the book is published. … And I’ve heard the comments (or read them) to know that this is a true statement. They’re professionals, and most of them are very good at what they do.

I participate in all of my projects in every way possible. At times—and this is a major understatement—production teams from art directors to editors and everyone in between would love to lock me in a cell until the book is published. … And I’ve heard the comments (or read them) to know that this is a true statement. They’re professionals, and most of them are very good at what they do.

Alas, so am I, and I have done what they do. I’ve designed books, dust jackets, newsletters (wherein I was the editor and designer), created art, maps, and know that I must pay close attention to what is happening during every step of the production process or things can and might happen that are bad (or worse), and this isn’t on the production team. It’s on me. My name is on the book or article, and that means one thing: If there are errors (anything from a note that is no longer accurate or apropos, inaccurate captions, quoted text blind-edited, whatever) there is only one person to blame—LK. I’ve missed changed captions, notes that no longer deal with what they supposedly confirm, and I cringe when I realize that a quote has been altered. This list is ongoing, including index entries that vanish, even though I thought they were important.

My manuscripts receive two copyedits and they usually take about a month each (but that was back when I wrote for software companies and often had two-plus hours of drive time and overtime almost every day). This is no longer the case. Although the Sand Creek manuscript has a larger word count I think that the copyedits will take only a month each to complete.

LK acceptance of the Wrangler Award for “When Wynkoop was Sheriff” (Wild West, April 2011) at the Western Heritage Awards banquet in Oklahoma City in April 2012. Yeah, Kraft does dress up sometimes. On this evening I was wearing Cheyenne beaded moccasins. For the record, Cheyennes wore low moccasins (unlike the Apaches and the high moccasins shown above). To cover and protect their legs the Cheyennes wore leggings, which are described in detail in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway.

I want to say something here and it is of major importance. … I love my editors and copyeditors. Actually I consider myself one lucky SOB as I have been associated with OU Press and the University of Nebraska Press for they create first-class publications and are the two best Indian wars publishers in the world. In the world!

Unfortunately I think they and their production teams cringe when an LK manuscript arrives on their desks. Folks, I’m a historian, but I’ve also a teller of stories. This means I want character development. This isn’t easy in nonfiction. In the past I’ve had to fight to keep my character development. For example in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011), his wife Louise is alone in their hotel room at La Fonda in Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory, when rats enter the room. She steps onto a chair and is still standing on it when Ned enters the room. Of course the rats scattered when he opened the door and he didn’t see them. He chides her, she gets angry and tells him to sit down. He does, and the rats return. Wynkoop leaps onto his chair, yanks out his Colt and begins shooting at the rats. This brings the hotel manager, who quickly moves them to another room. … The scene shows character, but the copyeditor cut it. I reinserted the scene and told her that it stays.

This image of LK was taken on the old Route 66 that sliced through a good portion of the USA back in days long gone. Alas, so are the towns, and some are little more than skeletons of what once was. My bro Glen Williams took this photo in front of a long-abandoned gas station in fall 2011 on the day after he and I delivered an LK archival package to Tomas Jahen (then of the Chávez History Library) and his family in Williams, Az. I really like Glen’s photo as it captured the destruction of a past that will soon vanish if not recorded. Ladies and gents, history will quickly fade into nothing if not recorded—Lost to time. Our grandparents, parents, and children (and that is all the personal history I have) will vanish without a trace if I don’t write about their lives. This is personal, and so is a memoir. (photo © Louis Kraft & Glen Williams 2011)

Many nonfiction books are stuffed with fact upon fact upon fact stringed together in—please forgive me good nonfiction writers for I’m not talking about you—long sterile sentences and paragraphs that can put me to sleep in two pages. I often must suffer through these, … these, … these, … what are they—Oh yeah, pages! Often they offer nothing that I need but I don’t know that until I read the last page. Wasted time? No, for I must know the answer. To borrow from the long departed TV show (which should have been left in peace) The X Files, “The Truth is Out There,” and I need to know it.

Long answer short. Good times are on the horizon for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is about to move into production (if accepted), a process I love for it is a collaboration of many people working together to make the published book as good as possible. There are many steps, many reviews, many changes, and many suggestions to make the final product of value to those who read it. For me it is a thrilling time.

In closing Global Warming is here to stay

… and it will only get worse if action is not taken during our lifetimes.

It is unbelievable how many nay-sayers there are to this statement. Conspiracy stories abound. I know people who insist that the fires in California and elsewhere in the American West, the hurricanes that assault the East Coast, the Southern Coast, the Caribbean, and Texas, as well as the typhoons in other portions of the world are nothing more that disasters created by the “government.” “The government? Who? Trump?” “No, the government. The Clintons, Obamas, and Bushes.” … Beachfront property in SoCal is losing the war with the Pacific Ocean as the waves increase in velocity and pound the cement barriers that protect these over-priced houses in LA and San Diego Counties. Eventually the sea will destroy them, and the process has already begun.

This image of Pailin and LK doesn’t belong here. This said, I have no images of Climate Control for its future is still unknown. The LK/PSK future is known, and this end of Christmas 2018 photo shows this. We are together and we are one until the end of our time of walking Mother Earth. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2018)

Those that deny the changes of weather conditions, the melting of icepacks, spout vehemently that it is all fake news. Some have even told me that the violence and mass murders across the USA never happened. They claim that it is “government” false news to spread hatred and violence and that these “fictions” are filmed performances using actors. They claim that the reason is to reduce the population and eliminate the middle class. … I agree that the USA is becoming a world of the super rich and the poor (who will soon become homeless—at least in LA, the homeless capital of the USA).

What about the recent report on global warning by the Federal Government? “Fake news!” … Maybe I’m old fashioned, maybe I’m not in line with today’s world, but I have a lot of trouble with slogans—such as Fake News. Don’t believe me see the Los Angeles Times 24nov2018 article “Climate report warns of bleak future”.


Since May and my last blog the following seven months have been a blur.
At times I didn’t know if I was sleeping or awake. I was focused solely on the
Sand Creek manuscript and the health of the ladies in my life. That’s it; that’s all that mattered. I became Rod Taylor as he sped between centuries in H. G. Wells’ novel turned into the classic 1960 film
The Time Machine (which would have blasted the 2002
adaption to kingdom come if it had the special effects capabilities available
during the first decade of the 21st century). Beginning in 2011 I have
been on a joyride without end, a joyride that at times descended
into the depths of Hell, but is not yet complete and won’t be
until 2020 when the book is printed.

There is one LK truism for the upcoming year—There will be more blogs.
The question is when?

Louis Kraft’s top 12 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


This blog is dedicated to my great friend,
Robert Florczak,
who is writing a book on Errol Flynn
that will become an instant classic when published.


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?

I never wrote a list in my life until a few years back. A fellow named Hans Florczak (formerly known as Robert Florczak) 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 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.

(art and cover design © Louis Kraft 2016)

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 Robert/Hans and his Annette

Hans is a good friend, but he moves to Deutschland in July. 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 (my bro for all time, and 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 see Hans again? 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 made my top 50 (or will it be a top 60?) film list (which will be the topic for an upcoming blog). The struggle with 50 or 60 films is because certain films, which should be on this list will be dropped if only 50. 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 belongs in my upcoming list, and I will figure out a way to include it.

* 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 now (thanks Robert, … I mean Hans), and I hope that some of you do too.

Annette and Robert Florczak at brother Richard Florczak’s great restaurant—Flame Pizzeria—in Reseda, California, on 24jun2017. A good night as I said goodbye to them along with a gathering of their friends. His beautiful Annette is so sweet and kind; Robert is one lucky man. … I sat with Adam Bendorf and his family and the producer of Robert’s last album and his lady. Good conversation all around, and best I got know Adam’s wife (Anna) and his oldest daughter, who sat next to me. For the record, Adam and I used to watch Flynn films at Robert’s apartment when he lived in Van Nuys and then have a round-robin discussion about the film we just viewed. Good times that I dearly miss. I took this picture of them just before I left, and we shared some good thoughts, one’s I’ll not forget. (photo by Louis Kraft; © Annette & Robert Florczak and Louis Kraft 2017)

I also know that Hans will not much care for the following list. … A few years back I sent him a 50-film list and he told me that he hadn’t seen most of the films on it. What goes around comes around as I hadn’t seen all 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 (Hans/Robert & LK) have seen. If you haven’t viewed every film how can you make a top 50 (or top 60) 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 (top 12).*

* Upcoming blogs will focus on other film lists including a top-50 (or perhaps 60) 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 12 Errol Flynn films

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

    Escape Me Never, directed by Peter Godfrey and w/Ida Lupino, Eleanor Parker, and Gig Young (1947).

    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 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)

    The 1940 1-sheet for The Sea Hawk (in LK personal collection)

    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 (below) and Four’s a Crowd (which was in this list, but was bumped by That Forsyte Woman, 1949, 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 outside of 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 this still gives me two other films (one would definitely be Four’s a Crowd and most-likely Silver River, 1948). 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)

    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). 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 about 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. … Robert Florczak took this image on a great day almost a year ago when I believe we braved 100-degree weather and he showed me some locations for several great films. (photo © Louis Kraft and Robert Florczak 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.*

    * 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.

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

    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)

    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.

    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.

    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 six films are in numerical order.

    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)

    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. (this is a cropped image of a 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). … 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. 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.

    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)

    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. 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.

  10. 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.

  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)

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

    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. 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 is 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).

The pirate Francis Drake and Louis Kraft

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


Recently I proposed several ideas of what I might deal with in
my next blog on social media. A good friend of mine quickly asked me to
highlight the pirate named Francis Drake (and she had a great reason why; you’ll
meet her below). … This lady’s request confirmed my desire to do something
that has been with me for a long time and was long overdue.

Alas, and like most of my blogs, this post includes some personal stuff. This is never intended but always happens (I know the reason why, and probably you do too). … Here I’m also talking about Francis Drake; a man that if you don’t know him—you should, as he was centuries before his time.

Centuries!

The LK introduction to the pirate Drake

Francis Drake had many names, but perhaps the most important—or fearful—was what the Spaniards once called him, El Draque. To them he was the dragon, for he time and again appeared out of nowhere to steal their gold and silver, and worse put a dent in their domination over the New World in the 16th century.

I discovered him in the fifth grade, actually the first school in my life wherein I would spend more than one year in the same school. This short two year period would give me the first friends who, although not for all time, would become a good memory of my youth. Ladies and gents I love and cherish my time as I walk between our past and my current life. I’m one lucky cowboy—Ouch! I think here a better word might be pirate as I explore the past while walking into my future.

Believe it or not it was three or four years before Errol Flynn’s death when I saw his great 1940 film The Sea Hawk for the first time on TV. This film, along with Flynn’s 1941 They Died with Their Boots On (when he played George Armstrong Custer), would impact my life more than I could ever have imagined if I had tried. I was still a year or more away from the fifth grade so I hadn’t heard of Drake yet. …

LK on 31oct1958 at my first and only permanent home during my school years (Reseda, California). I believe that this image (right) is the first of me holding a sword. A proud moment for me. Within three years I would be studying the sword with the legendary American Olympian, Ralph Faulkner, who went on to double stars in American film, choreograph cinematic duels, and teach fencing in Hollywood, California, for perhaps half a century. My mother created the costume for me in this image. Unfortunately we didn’t have a morion (a helmet worn during the 16th century) or other armor that Drake might have worn. My costume was closer to pirate attire during the two golden ages of piracy in the Caribbean; late 17th century/early 18th century. My favorite pirate during this time period was Henry Morgan, but it would be years before I discovered him. (photo © Louis Kraft 1958)

I had begun buying books on Flynn before his death, and I bought his memoir My Wicked, Wicked Ways when it was published (available in LA in late 1959 or early 1960). When my mother saw it she asked: “Where did you get this?” “I bought it.” No more questions were needed as my first job was in elementary school—I had a seven-day-a-week newspaper route (not to mention that I made the rounds picking up glass bottles, and they were worth cash at the local market; oh yeah—Way back then!). Good money in those days. “Okay,” she said, “but I don’t want you talking to any of your friends about this book.” I readily agreed.

This joint image is a colorization of a publicity photo of Flynn from The Sea Hawk (Warner Bros., 1940) and this artwork by Clark Hulings appeared on the cover of F. Van Wyck Mason’s novel about Drake’s 1585-86 “West Indies” voyage, Golden Admiral. I believe that this was the first paperback publication of Mason’s novel (1960s), and Hulings’ art shames the U.S. and Australian hardbound book covers. I really like Hulings’ painting and hope to use it if I complete my planned books on Drake.

I actually didn’t make the Drake-Flynn/Geoffrey Thorpe (who EF played in The Sea Hawk) connection until sometime in high school when I began to read real books about Drake. … The Warner Bros. screenwriters Howard Koch and Seton I. Miller (and they were top-notch), wrote the screenplay for The Sea Hawk. It was based upon a story that Miller drafted called The Beggars of the Sea. I’ve never seen Miller’s draft, but it apparently detailed Francis Drake’s early exploits on the Spanish Main and the Caribbean Sea. If you are familiar with Drake and you have seen The Sea Hawk this is a no-brainer connection.

The USA one-sheet for The Sea Hawk (1940).

The film’s title is from Rafael Sabatini’s great novel about an Elizabethan who became a Barbary slave but who eventually became a feared Tunis pirate in the early seventeenth century. A great plot and story by Sabatini and a book that I enjoy every time I read it. Sabatini’s book would become a silent film, but one I’ve never seen. Warners, who owned the rights to the novel and (perhaps) the silent film, opted to go with a fictionalized Drake story. As Warner Bros. constantly did during the Golden Age of Film, they steered clear of being sued. Read that they changed names and facts to protect the innocent—mainly, yours truly, Warner Bros.

Some of you know that I’m writing a book about Errol Flynn; actually I’m writing three books about Flynn. They are all a comin’, and sooner than you might think. For the record, I have a list of what I think are the ten best films Flynn ever made (see Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view for this list). Four of those films are extraordinary and The Sea Hawk and They Died with Their Boots On are two of them (perhaps someday I’ll write a blog that explains why). Actually this list was expanded to twelve—it should have been thirteen and included Four’s a Crowd (see Louis Kraft’s top 12 Errol Flynn films … a personal view).

Racism in the 1580s and in LK’s life

Yeah, racism existed in Drake’s time and it still does in our time. Usually when I talk about this subject I concentrate on race, but today I’m going to focus more on ethnicity. I was born a Catholic (you had better sit down before you read the rest of this paragraph). I would eventually become a Lutheran (who Drake was) and then a Methodist (who Ned Wynkoop was), but none of these choices by me had anything to with who I have written about or will write about. I’m me, and changes happen. I’m a citizen of the world and I’m free to choose how I worship God. For the record all of my choices throughout my life have been Jesus, my life and savior, God, and Christianity. This is what I worship and I will do so as long as I walk our world. … I have been pounded way too often because I have also cherished and cherish Mary, the mother of Jesus … Moreover I have been attacked for I am able to accept people who worship their God, be it Buddha, Maheo (the Cheyenne God), Ussen (the Apache God), or any other religion (and that included a screenplay that I wrote that dealt with an interracial relationship between a Persian woman and an American in Los Angeles at the time of the fall of the shaw of Iran in the 1970s). If you have trouble with this; it’s on you and not me.

This art of LK meeting the Virgin Mary is based upon a great photo taken my friend Glen Williams at Mission San Fernando Rey de España (city of San Fernando in Los Angeles County) in May 2012. This lady is with me today, tomorrow, and always, … and I don’t give a damn about what you think. (art © Louis Kraft 2017)

Let’s make this clear right now: Mary will always be with me regardless if I pray to my God in the Catholic or Protestant religions. Always. Now and forever. I am strong and I can survive whatever criticism that might come my way (there are stories here, but they are too personal to share). If you don’t agree or like this, again that’s on you (and it is for you to do what you believe is right for you).

I speak with God and Jesus every day. Your decision of what you do is yours and it will not affect my life or my religious beliefs in any way. Nor will I ever curse you as you don’t worship your God as I do mine.

Back to the Dragon …

Both Drake and Flynn were adventurers. Both made an impact on their chosen professions. Most important both stepped outside the racial times of their day (although this last point I didn’t realize until years later when I was actually writing and selling freelance words).

By the mid-1970s I was still an actor but I had begun to write with a purpose. A harrowing experience during a summer of dinner theater in Texas had landed me a screenwriting agent. It had also landed me an acting manager. Although the push was to get me acting work, the manager, and his name was Richard Steele-Reed (alas, no longer with us), was well aware of the writing direction that had begun to take hold of my life. He suggested that we write a novel together; that is I write it and he function as an editor during the process. I liked the idea.

This art by an unknown artist that dates to the 1960s and the world of discovery and piracy. It was a baseball card, and from an unknown card set. This may, or may not, have been Francis Drake’s early entry to the New World after the disastrous John Hawkins’s slave-trading expedition of the late 1560s. Here Drake would show his true colors as he partnered with escaped African slaves that married into the indigenous tribes of people who lived in the area prior to the appearance of Columbus at the end of the 15th century. … As for the image: The men are obviously Cimarrons (more about them below), but the vessel is too large to be Drake’s Swan, which, without digging, I believe was his ship during his early 1570s sailings to the New World.

My choice for a novel: Francis Drake’s early solo voyages after the massive John Hawkins trading disaster to the Indies in 1567, wherein his slaving venture (and Drake was one of his ship captains) from Africa to the Spanish colonial cities looked to amass a huge profit. By the way, the Spanish outlawed this, but it didn’t stop the trading and selling of human cargo. There was a hurricane and Hawkins’s fleet put into the protected harbor of San Juan de Ulúa (current Vera Cruz, Mexico) to repair damage before attempting to cross the Atlantic and return to England. Bad timing placed the Spanish fleet arriving there at this time. The English fleet, and Drake commanded a small vessel called the Judith, was formidable and Hawkins worked out a truce with the Spanish viceroy. … But treachery followed and all but two English ships were sunk. The two to get out of the harbor and flee were Drake’s Judith, and he took some heat for not waiting for Hawkins, who escaped on (if my memory is good) his damaged flagship, the Minion. English seamen that were captured had a future of prison and the Spanish Inquisition (some would luckily survive the ordeal).

This is a detail of  a newly authenticated portrait of Francis Drake. It is on loan and currently displayed at Buckland Abbey, Drake’s home that he bought 11 miles from Plymouth in Devon, England, after his return from the circumnavigation of the world in 1580. Drake’s first wife, Mary Newman, got to enjoy their magnificent new home but not for long as she died the following year. Four years later Drake married Elizabeth Sydenham. This art, which definitely captures Drake’s features is, unfortunately, not dated (and worse the artist is unknown). It predates his 1585-86 expedition to the Spanish Main and his 1587 raid on Cadiz, Spain. And it perhaps predates his triumphant return to London after the circumnavigation. If so, this pushes the date of the painting to the of end of his successful 1572-73 West Indies raid or after he served as the the navel commander for Walter Devereux, First Earl of Essex, in July 1575. The painting has brilliant colors and is alive. I love it.

This was key for both the times, which then was in the midst of a religious war that would heat up, and was also combined with the fight to control the New World, or the Americas. Currently Spain and Portugal had divided this land (what would become Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean Sea, although the Spanish had made a foothold in what would become the American Southwest and Florida) between themselves and were doing everything possible to protect what they considered their private domain. The English were interlopers (and very aware of the wealth the New World contained) and Spain realized the threat.

Drake, who was a Lutheran, now viewed Spain as his deadly enemy. Turning pirate, he launched his personal war with Spain’s New World empire. … And this was the premise of my co-authored novel with Steele-Reed. It dealt with his first exploratory voyages as he befriended Cimarrons, mixed-blood escaped African slaves who joined and married the indigenous people (that is the people who lived in the Americas prior to Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the New World) that struggled to remain free from Spanish domination. Partnering with the Cimarrons Drake learned how Spain shipped gold and silver overland via mule trains to the eastern coast of what would become Central America. He planned, he plotted, and at the same time he became a small thorn in mighty Spain’s personal domain when he attacked mostly undermanned shipping that could not avoid or repel a piratical attack at that time.

This image was taken during LK’s first time aboard Drake’s Golden Hinde II in August 1976 (San Francisco, California). I’m on (I think) the aft deck, and I’m certainly talking to my crew. There’s nothing better than living in the moment even though in this instance the moment isn’t mine. … I guess that I should share something here; when I walk in an historical person’s shoes I do whatever I can to live their moments. I want to know what they felt, and more why they did what they did. I’m a firm believer in cause and effect, and I need this to write about them in their view. (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

This incomplete Drake draft is not in the Louis Kraft Collection in Santa Fe; it is still with me and awaiting my return to it. It is one of two Kraft planned books on Drake. The other will be nonfiction. Like Wynkoop and Sand Creek I don’t share my nonfiction plot lines until the books are published (this reason should be obvious, but if not I do not want to give the story away for one major reason—I’m slower than any historian that I know and I don’t want them to publish their book that is based upon my idea before I do).

I write about extraordinary men: Ned Wynkoop, Black Kettle, Charles Gatewood, and Errol Flynn. I also write about a magnificent woman: Olivia de Havilland, who plays a major role in Errol & Olivia. … More important, in the not-too-distant future Drake and Kit Carson will join my writing world that Flynn will soon dominate. It’s a comin’ folks, it’s a comin’. Trust me.

Who was Francis Drake?

And more importantly how do I walk with the pirate Drake and present him in words; both fictionally and in reality? I know. Actually I’ve known for decades. He is in line with above-mentioned writing subjects. By that I mean Drake stepped beyond racial prejudice and hatred and dealt with his fellow man (often his hated enemy) in a humane way. The enemy were killing his brethren, and often butchering them, torturing them, and ripping their bodies to pieces. He dealt with that, he lived with that, but when in control—that is with Spanish prisoners—he didn’t reciprocate. Conversely, he treated them as human beings.

This is Rod Taylor playing the Francis Drake in the 1963 film Seven Sea to Calais. He was brilliant as Drake (but the film never comes close to equaling his performance), and if he had decided to walk in Flynn’s steps and become a swashbuckler—and of course improved his sword skills—we would have had a great successor to Flynn’s glory years. Taylor did not, and alas we have still not seen an actor who could have followed Flynn’s swashbucklings steps. At this late date perhaps we—that is me—will never see someone who can fill Flynn’s legacy. … I’m good with this; oh baby am I good with this. It should have been Rod Taylor. That did not happen, and everyone since Rod’s time have been total failures. … It is what it is and I’m good with this. Bottom point? This just shows you just how great Flynn’s screen presence really was (and that included performing in numerous film genres).

Perhaps not in 1573, one of Drake’s most magnificent years, for he did capture and secure a Spanish treasure caravan. It would make his fortune, put his name in circulation, lead to his short association with Essex in 1575 (mentioned below the above Drake portrait currently displayed at Buckland Abbey), and more important lead to his introduction to Thomas Doughty, an aristocrat. Actually Drake’s participation was small. Sailing the Falcon (a frigate), he commanded the fleet that transported John Norrey’s army to Rathlin Island, off the coast of Ireland. On July 25 Drake used the canons on the Falcon to batter the castle’s stone walls until they crumbled. At that point Norreys began the assault as Drake sailed the coast to ensure that no Scottish ships attempted to send reinforcements. That day the fortress with 200 soldiers surrendered, and the following day the English rounded up 400 civilians who had fled to hide in caves when the English appeared. Men, women, and children, and many of them Scots who had been sent to the island because it was thought to be a safe haven. The English put them to the sword (just a saying, meaning they murdered all 600). The “Rathlin Island Massacre,” as this infamous event is now known, shows that the Spanish were not the only ones who dealt harshly with the enemy. It is unknown what Drake’s reaction was when he learned of the massacre, but his participation in this heinous event led to a friendship with Doughty (who served as Sir Christopher Hatton’s personal secretary), and this would eventually lead to his introduction to Queen Elizabeth I of England.

This is the Golden Hinde II, as it appeared in the Robert Shaw, Genevieve Bujold, James Earl Jones, and Peter Boyle film Swashbuckler (Universal Pictures, 1976). If I remember correctly Universal paid $1,000,000 to rent the Golden Hinde II. Unfortunately there were no battles at sea (guess the production only had enough money to rent one vessel). Here Shaw’s pirate ship (The Blarney Cock) is bombarding a stone execution gibbet that is just above the Jamaican town of ??? (can’t remember; Port Royal?) before making a daring rescue of Jones, who was about to be hung.

Better, it would lead to his proposal to attack the Spanish settlements on the western coast of the Americas (advertised as a trading voyage to the Nile). This would lead to riches beyond belief for him, his crew, his queen, and the investors in the piratical raid. This included his circumnavigation of the globe*, which led to his knighthood in 1581. This voyage, if studied, is mind-boggling. Yes, it is that magnificent, and again it demonstrates in bold letters Drake’s daring as well of his view of humankind and Spain. His relationship with indigenous people continued as he circled the globe. At times he wined and dined his Spanish captives aboard the Golden Hinde; (after transporting the treasure from the Cacafuego, see below italicized note, which took five days, Drake released the ship and its crew on the evening of March 5) treating them with humanity and respect, something that wasn’t expected during the second half of the 16th century.

The Golden Hinde II under full sail.

* Drake did not initially plan to sail around the globe. Instead he hoped to return to England by discovering the western entrance to the (still thought to exist) Northwest Passage and sail this unchartered waterway back to the Atlantic Ocean. Reason: He knew that his raids along the western coast of the Americas, and this included the March 1, 1579, capture of the Spanish treasure ship Nuestra Señora de la Concepción (also called Cacafuego) off the coast of what would become Ecuador, guaranteed that a Spanish fleet would be waiting for him to return to the Strait of Magellan, the 373-mile water passage below southern-most portion of mainland South America and north of Tierra de Fuego. When Drake realized that the Northwest Passage didn’t exist he had but one choice to return home—sail west into the Pacific Ocean.

Yep, Francis Drake, a lowly born Englishman, became a member of the realm. He was a self-made man, and by that I mean a person who dared to step outside the stated doctrines of his life and times, and stand firm for his country, religion, culture, and freedom.

“I vote for Drake! Please?”

How could I refuse the lady’s request? … And especially since Drake has been with me for a long time. “My friend, El Draque (the Dragon) it is.”

This is MaryLou Backus. She is a beautiful and slender person that I am lucky to know. We are close on many subjects from the American Indians and into our world of today. When I had raised the question of perhaps writing a blog about Francis Drake she immediately replied yes. (art of MaryLou © Louis Kraft 2017)

When I had raised the question of who I should next highlight in my next blog on social media a long-distance friend spoke up quickly with the words in this heading. Her request was quick (actually she was the only person to reply on the first day of the post).

Back to this lady, and I haven’t shared her name except in the image to the right. She is MaryLou Backus. … She and I have much in common even though we have never met. Better, she is a lady after my heart. Unbelievably her family believes that that they are directly related to Francis Drake, who, to repeat myself, lived in a time of extreme racial and religious prejudice, as well as hatred and butchery. He refused to murder other human beings. … And he was a pirate. …

I’m still with MaryLou. She is an absolutely gorgeous lady who luckily I’ll meet sometime in our future. Social media linked us in our joint interest in the American Indian wars. When I proposed this blog to her, MaryLou had this to say: “Wonderful! I grew up on tales of him [Drake] having been an ancestor. I have no idea if it’s true, but of course it created a fascination.” I can’t walk away from MaryLou’s hope. Not today; not ever! I wish that I could join her and claim that Mr. Drake was also my relative. I can’t. Her claim is real; it’s alive, and I’m certain that the back story to what she has heard has the possibility of being true. My view? Wow! MaryLou, you are so lucky to have the pirate Drake perhaps being your relative.

… And there’s more to MaryLou’s extraordinary reminiscence of her family’s living history and connection to the pirate Drake who would become Sir Francis. This remembrance of MaryLou must not be forgotten, and here’s another reason why. … “And somebody was supposed to have some old doubloons squirreled away,” she told me. “As a kid, I always dreamed of finding them in somebody’s attic. Ha!” Good stuff.

Knighted and a national hero

When Drake returned from his circumnavigation and was knighted, he had no idea that his service, which ranged from piracy to loyalty to his country, had not yet ended.

This is the April 1581 Nicholas Hilliard miniature of Drake. It is a portrait of Drake the year after he completed the circumnavigation of the globe in 1580. It is in the National Maritime Museum on the Thames River in Greenwich across from London proper. Also in this museum complex is the Queen’s House. In 2009 I visited Olivia de Havilland at her home for the second time upon her invitation. I don’t fly to Paris without a full agenda to wrap three weekends around two weeks. My then special lady (Diane Moon) wanted to also see London (cool for me, as I wanted to see some of the classic paintings of Drake in person). I would have liked to have traveled to Plymouth to do research and see Buckland Abby but that would have added another week as I would have had to do some serious Drake and Devon research. Heck, I got to spend time on the Golden Hinde II for the third time as it is now docked in London (and I assume that it is still berthed on the Thames River). Believe it or not, my lady and I had the ship to ourselves during this visit (it pays to be an early bird); some good research material at the shop that handled visits aboard this oh-so famous replica vessel. … I’ve missed flights, and on this trip I almost missed two—that’s right—two Eurorail trips (from Paris to London and London back to France). Diane was okay with the first mess up as we threw our bags onto the train and boarded it seconds—yes, seconds—before the doors closed and we were thrown to the floor as the train jerked forward, but when we almost missed the train back to France she was livid. The reason was simple: We would have missed our return flight to the USA. … Back to the story, we took a Thames boat ride to Greenwich and explored the National Maritime Museum (a wonder!). We saw Hilliard’s miniature and other decent art of Drake, but not the 1591 jewel portrait of him. It was supposed to be at the museum. I asked, and was told that it was in the Queen’s House (a part of the museum complex). We hustled to the house (perhaps a 300-yard distance from the National Maritime Museum), but it closed at five and it was now a few minutes after five. For the record this was not Elizabeth I of England’s house but James I’s (the Scot who succeeded Elizabeth on the English throne as she left no heirs) wife’s house, and it was built a little over 10 years after Elizabeth’s death. My friend and historian Eric Niderost (who is also a professor in Northern California) shared this information with me, and I am forever grateful. … Diane and I couldn’t talk our way into the building. Devastating! We took our boat ride back to Big Ben and then the subways to our hotel. After dinner she said to me, “We have time tomorrow morning. Let’s go to the Queen’s House.” This was based upon the misinformation that had I shared with her of when Eurorail would take us back to France (yeah, sometimes Kraft isn’t the smartest pirate wandering our modern world). Another roundtrip on the Thames and me seeing the Drake jewel portrait became my second highlight of the trip; seeing Livvie, as Flynn called Olivia de Havilland, for the third time was definitely number one. … A print of this great 1581 Drake portrait is in the personal LK collection, as is the magnificent 1591 jewell portrait.

The Spanish threat of death to all heretics continued; that is death to all that did not accept  Catholicism. Drake enjoyed a short but peaceful time in his homeland, but he lost his first wife (I don’t know how she died). Several years later he married a second time. Life was good, but the Spanish threat refused to go away. Ever the pirate the now patriot Drake helmed a massive invasion of the New World. He would attack and seize major cities, including Cartagena (Columbia’s northern coast of the Caribbean Sea, current South America). While in control of the city he sent an African emissary to negotiate with the Spanish only to watch a Spanish officer murder his negotiator. Drake could not accept this and demanded that the officer who committed the crime be delivered to him. This was done and Drake had the murderer executed. The Spanish threat of death to all heretics continued. Elizabeth and many in England felt vulnerable to invasion. Spies reported King Philip II of Spain was amassing a huge armada in Cadiz.

I have shared larger copies of this image elsewhere on social media but never before on my blog. I am at the helm of Drake’s Golden Hinde II on 10jul2009, which means that I was in a live-world heaven. Originally the helm had a whipstaff for the wheel didn’t exist in Drake’s day. I’m on the half deck of the Golden Hinde II. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

Francis Drake (the British pirate) and Francis Drake (the British knight) was a man for all time. … For the record he would have easily walked with frontiersman Ned Wynkoop, Cheyenne chief Black Kettle, and actor Errol Flynn as they all stepped beyond racism. As already stated Drake lived during a time of extreme religious prejudice, a time of absolute butchery of the foe (let’s not forget the American frontier or the modern world of warfare). I have not yet figured out how Drake could step beyond his times and accept people who were of different color and in the case of the Spanish prayed to a God that, although similar to his, preached the elimination—that is the murder—of everyone that did not accept and pray to Jesus as viewed through the Catholic Church. This was a harsh time wherein “infidels,” that is those that did not cherish and praise Jesus Christ exactly as those who accepted Catholicism as worshiped in the Spanish empire were evil and needed to burn at the stake. I can’t begin to imagine the Inquisition or the horror of this kind of death.

This artwork of Sir Francis Drake (1594) is a copy of the magnificent 1591 jewel portrait of him (a copy of the jewel portrait is in his cabin on the Golden Hinde II, currently docked in London, and the original painting is in the Queen’s House in Greenwich). This unknown artist’s rendition is rough—at best (actually, it isn’t very good).

During the attempted Spanish Armada invasion of England in 1588 Drake again played a major role, although he also acted as he had in the past, mainly as a pirate acting on his own hook. I hate authority and love this. Regardless of how we view his actions at this climatic time in England’s history he was a patriot.

Francis Drake was born a protestant, and he would die a protestant. He was born into a world of racism, and his entire life would exist in a harsh climate of religious hatred and brutal murder of those who prayed to a different Jesus Christ and God.

But Francs Drake was different. He was a pirate, and later a knight of the realm. He and those he loved were always at risk of death if the Spanish conquest of England won out. It didn’t, and he and his family survived. Francis Drake would never know Ned Wynkoop, Black Kettle, or Errol Flynn, and they most likely never considered his life, and yet all of them are tied between the ages and time in that they accepted people of a different race, color, and religion as just people.

This is something that everyone currently walking our world should do. Lordy, if all of us could just do this, what a better world we would have. Think of it … a world without racial or religious prejudice and hate, … a world without conquest and genocide, … a world wherein a woman and a man are equal.

Yep, I dream for a future that I’ll never see.

The Tom Eubanks, Louis Kraft, Ned Wynkoop, & Errol Flynn connection

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


I want to say upfront that my friend Tom Eubanks is the most talented person that I’ve ever known. Moreover, he has unlimited focus and energy to bring all his projects to fruition. He’s a terrific friend and to date my only director since I quit working in theater/film/TV/commercials etc. in the mid-1980s.

This blog deals with our initial literary connection, theatrical relationship,
and to where it hopefully leads us next.

Enter Tom Eubanks stage right

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Although this image of LK dates to later than 1990, it pretty much represents my clean-cut look at that time when I wasn’t wearing boots and wide-brimmed hats. George Carmichael took this image on a beach in northern San Diego County. (photo © Louis Kraft 2001)

In spring 1990 my then wife and I bought a terrific house in Thousand Oaks, California (in Ventura County, the county north of Los Angeles).

At that time I had been selling magazine articles and giving talks mostly about race relations and the Cheyenne Indian wars of the 1860s but also baseball (current and history). I also wrote for a telecommunications software company.

Even though I freelanced nonfiction I studied fiction at UCLA at night taught by a visiting professional. … I met George Carmichael at UCLA. He was a retired aerospace engineer who sold magazine articles and had an unending curiosity in the world. We remained close friends until his death on 2apr2014. After the class ended George and I continued to study with the UCLA writer at her Westwood office/home. As at UCLA, she oversaw the discussions and critiqued the work.

Actually, some of the wanna-be novelists at this time seemed to be from other planets (but not George). One of the Westwood writers was drafting a story about Jesus Christ, who was the quarterback of a high school football team. He was serious. … How do you keep a straight face while frantically trying to figure out how to say something constructive? Not easy to do.

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The Thousand Oaks house played a role in the publicity for The Final Showdown (see below).

After the move to Thousand Oaks a novelist that I no longer associate with suggested that I become a member of the Ventura County Writers Club and join one of the fiction groups of five, six, or seven that met weekly. I did. At these meetings the writers read from their current project and their peers reviewed their words—sometimes with insight but more often than not with chatter that was useless. Sometimes this was difficult to do, for way too often the people in these groups were not professional and never would be (and this included most of the would-be writers that I had seen at UCLA and Westwood). That said, there were some talented people present and they knew how to review constructively.

It was at these Ventura County writer meetings that I met Tom Eubanks. He was opinionated (and at first we didn’t connect), and it was shortly after I joined the group that I also learned of his theatrical training and interest.

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As I don’t have any photos of Tom that date to the 1990s I decided to use this image of him that I took on 13aug2016. (photo © Tom Eubanks & Louis Kraft 2016)

I believe that at this time he had already directed a number of stage productions. One night our words crossed swords over a play that he directed (and I think that he liked), The Owl and the Pussycat. Some years back I had been assigned to work on it at the Melrose Theatre Company, a professional theater group in Hollywood that I became a member of in the 1970s. I didn’t like Bill Manhoff’s The Owl and the Pussycat. Most likely because I was probably the worst Felix ever. The play focused on Doris (the pussycat) and Felix (the owl), and had some great scenes but I never came close to connecting with the character. For me, he was a pure “nothing” (Barbra Streisand and George Segal played the roles in the 1970 film version; I’ve always liked Barbra’s singing and acting, but didn’t like this film). This was not a great beginning to a potential Eubanks-Kraft friendship.

A lady in the Ventura group read the opening chapter from her novel as her character watched the panorama of spectacle and debauchery in pre-history England as it unfolded on the plain below the tree from which she saw all that happened. When I asked her the name of her major character, she didn’t know what I was talking about. I rephrased the question: “Who was the person in the tree?” “An extra.” It was my turn to be confused. “What?” “She is nobody and doesn’t need a name,” came the reply. “But everything that happened in your story has been seen through her eyes. She reacted to what she saw and is the focus of the scene. So far she is your only character, and …” “No!” “Why?” “You’ll never see her again.” … This woman was beyond help.

Nevertheless, it didn’t take me long to realize that Tom was almost always right on with his comments. He had a quick wit, was funny, and always contributed constructive comments that could benefit the writer on the hot seat if she or he listened. Better yet, a friendship began to develop.

The Final Showdown

That same year of 1990 I attended a Western Writers of America (WWA) convention in Portland, Oregon (unfortunately I didn’t bring a camera to fully 95 percent of the first two-thirds of my life and there are few images. At that time I had a literary agent (not my first for earlier I had had three screenwriting agents, and the first one—Ed Menerth (1976-1982)—took me under his wing after I submitted a fictionalized screenplay based upon my surviving a harrowing summer of dinner theater in Lubbock, Texas, in 1976.

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A publicity photo from the Hayloft Dinner Theatre in 1976. I was  performing in the generation-gap What Did We Do Wrong in the evenings while rehearsing Eat Your Heart Out during the days (and this photo is from one of the daytime rehearsals), which was about an actor who waited tables while struggling to survive in Hollywood. That’s Robin LaValley, an LA actress in the background. I don’t remember if the leaping onto the chair was in the script or not but it was always a balancing act. This was one of at least two plays wherein I dueled with imaginary swords on stage. … With luck, one more time. (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

Actually, I was lucky to get out of the Lone Star State without being tarred and feathered, or worse (I had lived and worked with racism and violence in Texas and Oklahoma in 1970 but the 1976 racism was worse).

Back to the 1990 WWA convention. One late night that June my then agent Cherry Weiner, Walker and Company editor Jackie Johnson, I sat in the Oregon hotel lobby sipping drinks and chatting.

I pitched a story that took place during the lead-up to the Medicine Lodge Peace Council in 1867 Kansas, the council, and the aftermath. While most of the characters actually lived (Cheyennes Black Kettle, Stone Forehead, and Bull Bear; Kiowa Satanta; reporter Henry Morton Stanley; Captain Albert Barnitz (Seventh U.S. Cavalry); and Indian agent Ned Wynkoop; the three leads were fictional. It had action, was romantic, and it dealt with Cheyenne-white race relations.

Two or three months later my agent called me. “Have you drafted three chapters?”

“What are you talking about?”

“The story that you pitched Jackie Johnson. She wants to see three chapters.”

Sometimes I’ve got a few screws loose in my brain. “I didn’t realize that she was interested.”

“She is. Get on it!”

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LK and editor Jackie Johnson chatting at the 1991 Western Writers of America convention. (photo © Louis Kraft 1991)

It took me a couple of months to draft the requested chapters, and as I wrote I presented at the weekly meetings of the fiction group. Tom, and others, helped me immensely. I received a contract on those three chapters.

The lead players in The Final Showdown

I based the three fictional leads on real people. Ex-soldier Ned Morgan, who had been at the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado Territory, was based on Wynkoop* (while never calling the real Wynkoop “Ned” and referring to him as “The Tall Chief Wynkoop,” which I steer clear of in my nonfiction writing); I used the famed Northern Cheyenne war leader Roman Nose as an inspiration for The Wolf’s Head; and a lady friend I once knew for Elsa Wells (she read and liked the book, but never realized that I had pulled from her inner being to create Elsa). … Here’s a warning to my lady friends: Be careful with what you share with me as you might become inspiration for one of my fictional female characters, and often they are on the adventurous side.

* The real Wynkoop was not at the Sand Creek Massacre.

This placed Tom front and center with Wynkoop from almost the beginning as I moved between various media time and again as I struggled to figure out who he was. Tom would eventually see some of my articles about the soldier turned Indian agent but never heard any of my talks that dealt with him.

25feb13_finalShowdown300By fall 1991 The Final Showdown was at the publisher’s in New York City. Everything should have been good.

Unfortunately it wasn’t for my marriage was limping toward its end. My time in Thousand Oaks ended a month or two before the divorce was final in early April 1992, and it marked the beginning of the end of my membership with the Ventura writing group. When I moved my belongings to an apartment in Tarzana, a town in the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles city and county), Tom Eubanks played a major role in getting my handful of belongings back to LA and safety.

Instead of this disaster marking the end of my friendship with Tom, it marked the beginning.

Before the divorce was final the publisher had submitted the book to the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle, and a staff writer called me at Infonet (now British Telecom Infonet) in El Segundo, California, to interview me. He wanted to come to the Thousand Oaks house. I told him that I worked as a technical writer in the South Bay, which is south of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and that I had a two-hour drive each way (all true), and that I’d prefer a phone interview. He was good with this, called back twice, and we spoke for perhaps three hours.

Before hanging up the last time we spoke the reporter told me that a photographer would visit me at my home. “Why does it have to be at my home?” I asked. “You must live in Ventura County; if you don’t, there won’t be an article,” he snapped. “Do you live in Ventura County?” “Of course!” I gave him my former address and we set a time for the photo shoot the following Saturday.

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LK in the courtyard entry to the Thousand Oaks house in April 1992. Photo used by permission of the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle.

I called my ex-wife, explained the situation, and asked if the paper’s photographer could take photos at the Thousand Oaks house. “Yes,” she said, “as long as you don’t come inside.”

When the photographer arrived at my former home I met him in the front yard. After leading him into the courtyard and suggesting an archway opening that I thought would make a great photo, he agreed, set up his lights, and snapped away. He then suggested that we go inside and shoot photos of me at my computer. (Oh horror or horrors!) “That’s a terrible idea,” I said (yes, I did prep for what I could not let happen). “Why?” “Do you take photos of all the authors your paper writes about sitting at their computers?” “Yes.” “Well, damn, by now that is cliché.” He agreed and I began to breathe again.

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The cover page for the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle “Variety” section. LK is sitting near the top of the hill to the west of the 101 Freeway. This is the image that saved the interview.

I suggested a hill on the west side of the California 101 Freeway after exiting at Lynn Road. He agreed, we drove to the hill, climbed it, and luckily we got the images he needed. … I later called my ex-wife and thanked her, and that call was from my heart.

Tom’s Plays and the passage of time

As said above, my move to Tarzana ended my days as a member of the Ventura County writers group as it was just too far to drive, and especially as my days at Infonet began at 6:00 AM. Of great importance my relationship with Tom didn’t end. He began inviting me to see his plays at the Ohai Art Center Theatre in the Ohai Valley (Ventura County, Calif.), and our friendship grew. He had a wide range of plays that he directed, from the famous (such as Equis) to the not-so-famous (can’t think of an example) to plays he wrote. Yes, Tom is a terrific writer; fiction and plays, and over the years the number of plays that he has written has grown considerably. I’ve seen a lot of them, and they are damned good. I’ve not asked, but I hope that other directors have staged some of his plays.

I met Tom’s wife, Judy, in those wild early years of the 1990s and from the moment that we first met I’ve always enjoyed spending time with her. Tom has three daughters, Cassie, Alex, and Hannah (who’ve I’ve known since she was an infant). … I have more to say about Tom, for not only is he a bright fellow who does a great job of bringing his writing and plays to fruition, he’s open, friendly, generous, and funny with a very quick wit, but probably best of all he is a wonderful husband and father. Judy and his daughters are lucky to have him.

The years passed and I enjoyed our friendship at his home in Casitas Springs and at Tujunga House (which became my home in January 1993).

A trip to Yuma & its importance

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Cover art © Louis Kraft 1999)

I’ve been to Yuma, Arizona, twice, and this section deals with the first trip.

In 2000 Gatewood & Geronimo was published, and I delivered a number of talks. One was in Yuma.

All I can say about this place is that it’s hotter than Hell during the summer months. On this first trip I spoke about 1st Lieutenant Charles Gatewood finding Geronimo in Mexico and talking him, Naiche, the last hereditary Chiricahua Apache chief, and the people with them into ending the last Apache war. The book had just been published and the two maps were an assembly of dots and totally useless. I was told that in the blue line the maps were fine. I replied that this was bullshit (I had seen too many blue lines to doubt my view sight unseen), and I must have been correct for the publisher recalled all the books (and it had been printed in hardback and paper at the same time; a costly mistake). BTW, I never saw this blue line until years later when it was sent to me, and it proved that I was right in 2000—the maps were a disaster and no one at the press had checked the blue line. I quickly forwarded it to the Louis Kraft Collection in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but I don’t know if the archive kept it or trashed it (hopefully the former).

I had been thinking about writing a one-man play and had already outlined one on George Armstrong Custer. But during the drive home from the talk in Yuma I began thinking about Ned Wynkoop, who had gone from being a racist to someone who accepted Cheyenne and Arapaho people as human beings. Ladies & gents, I hate to say it but this is still a major problem in the USA 150+ years after Wynkoop decided to live by his conscience and damn all who disagreed with his choice.

For the record this is my choice. A good person is a good person, and I don’t
give a bleep what his or her color is, where they were
born, or what their race or
religion is. We are all human
beings living on earth by the grace of God.

This didn’t happen until Wynkoop, as a major in the First Colorado Volunteer Cavalry, attempted to end the 1864 Cheyenne war when he without orders and at great risk to himself and his men, rode to a tributary of the Smoky Hill River in Kansas to discuss ending the war with Cheyennes and Arapahos.

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While traveling to the still unseen Cheyenne and Arapaho village on a tributary of the Smoky Hill in western Kansas Wynkoop’s small command was confronted by a battle line of perhaps 700 Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors on 10sept1864. Original art © Louis Kraft 2015, and first published in “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War,” August 2015 Wild West magazine.

As stated in the image caption above Wynkoop was confronted by a battle line. No violence happened at the confrontation and later that day he met in council with Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs in a grove of trees (he never saw the huge village of 2,000 people). Although threatened and at times in a desperate situation he would eventually receive four children prisoners and was able to talk seven Indian leaders into traveling with him to Denver, Colorado Territory, to discuss ending the war with Territorial Governor John Evans (the council eventually took place at Camp Weld, just south of Denver).

Wynkoop and the Indian leaders thought that peace had come to the land. They were wrong. Wynkoop was removed from command at Fort Lyon (Colorado Territory), and Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle and Arapaho Chief Left Hand moved their villages from the post and to Sand Creek, about 40 miles to the northeast. Wynkoop traveled to Kansas, where he expected to be cashiered out of the military for being absent from his post in time of war (without orders he met the Indians on the Smoky Hill and brought them to Denver). Three days after Wynkoop set out for Kansas Colorado Volunteers attacked Black Kettle and Left Hand’s villages—villages that thought that they were under the protection of the U.S. military until it decided to end or continue the war.

What happened on that tragic November 29, 1864, day rips me apart every time I think about it.

On that drive home from Yuma I conceived a one-man play on Wynkoop and the Sand Creek tragedy. I called Leo Oliva, a Kansas historian and friend who played a major role in the Fort Larned Old Guard, an organization that deals with the history of the Fort Larned National Historic Site (NHS), and pitched the idea. For years Leo had been instrumental in bringing me to Kansas, and nothing had changed. He loved the proposal and said, “How about next April.” Although thrilled I had to say, “No,” as I didn’t have an outline, a play, or a director. “How about April 2002?” I offered. … It was a go.

I pitched the idea to Tom and he liked it.

Wynkoop one-man shows in Kansas, California, Colorado, and Oklahoma

As said above not many photos were taken but by the early 2000s a change was a comin’.

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The image I sent Leo Oliva. (photo © Louis Kraft 2001)

Taking a one-man show on the road is not a cup of tea; it is 14-or-more-hour days as a set needs to be created, lights need to be set, and technical rehearsals need to happen. If anything can go wrong, I guarantee that it will.

As 2001 neared its end Leo Oliva requested a publicity photo of me as Wynkoop. This was impossible as the hat and costume were still being made. However, that November I spent some time in Nevada and had some photos taken at the Valley of Fire State Park, northeast of Las Vegas.

I printed it and sent it to Leo, and it was subsequently printed on the cover of the Fort Larned Old Guard newsletter, Outpost, promoting An Evening with Ned Wynkoop.

Of course it garnered me a complaint from California historian Eric Niderost. “Wynkoop didn’t dress like that!!!” he snarled.

“No shit, Sherlock!” Publicity with a photo is always better than publicity without a photo.

As soon as I had the costume (a wife of a former superintendent of Fort Larned created it for me) and hat I took some photos at Tujunga House and sent them to Leo Olvia, but I don’t believe any were used in the publicity.

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I’ve always liked this image that was taken in front of a shed that no longer exists at Tujunga House. Baron Hats (Burbank, Calif.) made the hat for me (it is based upon the hat that Wynkoop wore in a 1867 woodcut that appeared in Harper’s Weekly in May of that year). They make a lot of the hats used in films, and since this hat they have made all of my hats. I didn’t include this image in the package that I had sent to Leo Oliva. (photo © Louis Kraft 2002)

Kansas

I first traveled to Fort Larned, Kansas, in 1990 for The Final Showdown research. On that trip I met (now) chief historian George Elmore, who has been my friend since we met. I can’t begin to tell you how much he has done to help my Indian wars writing over the years.

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I think that this picture is the only photo I have of George Elmore (right), Leo Olvia (left) and me together. We are walking on the Fort Larned parade ground. The photo, by National Park Service ranger Ellen Jones, dates to the morning of 28apr2012 when I was a banquet speaker at the annual Fort Larned Old Guard conference.

For the record I don’t get stage fright (acting or talks), and I guess that this comes with the number of performances and talks over the years. If true, the talks, which have been prepped are script-less, and by that I mean that although I know what I’m going to talk about I don’t memorize while at the same time I work at getting a flow to the talk (the only things I memorize, that is try to memorize, are quotes). Glitches happen, and over the years I’ve learned how to deal with them as best as possible.

But the one-man show would be different. Both Tom’s and my ass were on the line. If the worst happened I’d be standing alone on stage while Tom ran for the closest exit. Luckily this scenario has never happened as each time Tom has pulled off a miracle: Getting a set built, lights set, and when people volunteered or were assigned to run lights and sound weren’t technical and were placed in a difficult situation he coached them until they were able to pull off the impossible.

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LK enjoying Fort Larned while dressed as Ned Wynkoop in early May 2002. (photo © Louis Kraft 2002)

The day before Tom arrived I dressed in the Wynkoop costume and my then girlfriend and I hung out at the fort (doing a little living history) and took a series of publicity photos.

The city of Larned had a huge and first class proscenium theater (it seated at least 2000), but although we requested skilled light and sound technicians we were given two people—kind and giving ladies—that were clueless. Read long-long hours (from roughly eight each morning until after midnight) of getting the lights angled and set, and after learning how to run the complicated light and sound board Tom had to teach the ladies how to perform their cues. … George, Leo, and a number of Fort Larned’s maintenance crew built platforms to Tom’s specifications, built a stool which also substituted as a horse, built a podium, and rounded up the requested log, desk, and chair, and delivered everything to the theater on the morning after Tom’s arrival.

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I had recently used a very tight cropping of this photo elsewhere on social media. The reception had been surprisingly good and I decided to use the uncropped image here to hopefully mellow my rambling. (photo © Louis Kraft 2002)

Pure hell for LK, for as the hours passed (I think that we had three days to pull it off), I didn’t have a technical or dress rehearsal. I was on the stage at all times, and basically functioning as my own stand-in. As showtime neared, and I didn’t have any rehearsal other than getting familiar with the set and mumbling my lines under my breath, only to again and again stand or sit in a specific location for technical issues.

My apologies for complaining
but Tom and I had put in a lot work in California just to get
ready to travel to Kansas. The time was short. Tom, with the generous
support of George Elmore, Leo Oliva, and others connected with Fort Larned,
pulled off nothing short of a miracle to create a set, angle lights (Tom), and set
the sound and light cues (Tom). From then on everything was related to the technical
end of getting the two volunteers to learn how to run the lights and sound.
I needed at least one complete rehearsal on the real set and
there hadn’t been any since arriving in Kansas.

I did have my dress rehearsal just hours before showtime.

I was miked as the show was presented in a huge auditorium. … During my only run-through of the play the mike fell from the costume and slid across the stage. The rehearsal continued without the mike while not missing a beat, but I was well aware of what could happen. Luckily when we had an audience everything went soothly on stage (and I presume in the sound and light booth).

California

Soon after we were both back in California (I had driven while he had flown to Kansas) Tom asked if I’d like to take Wynkoop to Ohai. You bet, for I had always wanted to act on the Ohai Art Center Theatre stage.

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This photo of LK as Wynkoop sitting at his desk was taken at the Ojai Art Center Theatre by the Ojai Valley News in May 2002, and is used by permission.

Tom, who was the artistic director, slipped An Evening with Ned Wynkoop between major productions. He used an incomplete set (partially seen in the above photo) and had platforms built to his set-design specifications. As in Kansas a log represented an Indian village, a podium New York City, and so on. Again we had proscenium stage but much more actor friendly (120 seats, 150 seats?). Much more intimate, which I prefer. An Evening with Ned Wynkoop played in Ojai in June 2002.

Colorado

Next up was Colorado, and I rewrote the play—now called Ned Wynkoop: A Matter of Conscience—to focus a little more on the horrific 1864 attack on the Cheyenne-Arapaho village, a tragedy that has still not healed for these people. The former Colorado Historical Society* (CHS) had a huge auditorium and they guaranteed to fill all 400 seats.

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LK as Wynkoop seeing the remains of the Sand Creek dead for the first time months after the 29nov1864 butchery. Pal Johnny D. Boggs (a writer, editor, and photographer) took this image at a December 2008 dress rehearsal in Oklahoma. I have no images from the performance in Colorado. I believe that it was in Colorado when Tom lit this scene in red for the first time. … At the end of the Sand Creek scene I knelt down at stage right as close as I could get to the audience to look at what was left of a Cheyenne girl and as Wynkoop said: “I couldn’t believe what I saw. This wasn’t the savagery of animals—what stared at me was the creativity of civilized man. This was the work of my compatriots, … of white men. … What I saw could have been Louise—could have been my children.” (LK: Louise was Wynkoop’s wife.)

Again, it would be another challenge taking the show on the road, but a friend, Anita Donotello, whom I had met in El Segundo, California, when I spoke at one of Dick Upton’s symposiums (miss them), volunteered to run the lights and sound. Doable as she had moved to Colorado. She was right there with us every step of the way; doing everything, including driving us everywhere and functioning as Tom’s go-to assistant. After the show ended and Tom flew home I stayed at her house for another week while I did Wynkoop research at the Society and at the Denver Public Library. As I had worked out a deal to remain in the terrific hotel room that the Society had provided Tom and me, I had some leverage with Anita. I told her that I’d gladly accept her invitation if she invited Indian wars historian Jerry Greene over for a dinner that I’d cook. I didn’t know Jerry, wanted to know him, and knew that they were friends. I got my way and the four of us, which included Anita’s son Nicholas, enjoyed our evening together.

Again I think that we had three days (but it might have been two) to create the set and deal with the technical aspects. This trip wasn’t as frantic as Kansas as Robyn Jacobs, the CHS Adult Public Program Coordinator, was on top of everything (and she had a budget). She had even ordered metal frames to build a multi-leveled stage. Tom had come up with a great log to represent the Cheyenne village but an inspector or Society bigwig saw it and demanded that it go because of the threat of termites. I don’t know what Tom said, but the log stayed.

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Near the end of the play events in Wynkoop’s life began to haunt him when he was ordered to Indian Territory to collect his Indian wards at an area designated by the military. As he traveled through deep snow in November 1868 he sensed another massacre. Suddenly he thought he saw Isabelle Eubanks, a three-year old girl he received from the Cheyennes in 1864. He yanked the wagon to a halt and ran to comfort her, but couldn’t for she changed into the Cheyenne girl who had been raped again and again by soldiers at the Pawnee Fork in 1867 Kansas. … It couldn’t be, for both were dead. Alone, he needed to make a decision and allowed his conscience win out. Photo by Johnny D. Boggs in 2008.

Better, Tom and I had time to enjoy great breakfasts at the hotel, one lunch during our first day in town, and a great dinner after the show closed.

Sometime during our time in Denver I had proposed adding a scene for fun when Wynkoop, as the lead in The Drunkard (which garnered him great reviews in Denver), struggled trying not to take a drink at a climatic moment in the play. We rehearsed it and Anita (or Annie as Jerry calls her) was good with the last minute insertion. Both the technical rehearsal and the dress rehearsal went smoothly the morning of the performance. After notes Tom and I retired to our hotel room to relax.

Due to the low hanging lights that Tom had to use to light the stage I could see the audience. This wasn’t a problem as I couldn’t make out details, and even the faces of those in the first three rows were little more than blurs. This has always been a blessing for me and certainly has helped me keep my concentration, which is of major importance.

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I based this illustration on one of the photos that Johnny D. Boggs took of me in Oklahoma. … And, yes, it illustrates that moment when LK/Wynkoop took deadly aim at a CHS patron that was sitting at stage right because the Society decided not to turn away walk-ins on the night of the performance. Am not complaining, for I loved this audience. (art © Louis Kraft 2008)

The show ran smoothly and I had an absolute blast playing to 440 people (40 over the seating limit). Some of the overflow sat in the side aisles and the rest stage right, which was fine as I played to them too. One problem occurred when I yanked out the 1860 Army Colt and pointed it with deadly intent. Instead of aiming at an invisible enemy I now had a CHS patron in my line of fire. Oops! A quick jerk of the wrist and the revolver pointed upstage right. … For the record I swept right by the Wynkoop drunk scene without missing a beat. Afterwards Anita teased me, saying something like: “It’ll make the next show.” All I could do was shrug and agree. … It didn’t matter for I had had one hell of a good time.

Mike Koury (Order of the Indian Wars & The Old Army Press) has been a terrific friend since we both spoke at an Indian wars conference in SoCal in February 1987. He said he planned on seeing the show, and it was great seeing him afterwards.

Tom and I ate a great dinner at a restaurant on the walk back to the hotel (we passed the restaurant twice each day, and this dinner was planned). A good time as we chatted and enjoyed our food and drinks. I hated that the evening was coming to an end, but then I’ve always had good times with Mr. Eubanks.

* Sometime in late 2011 or 2012 the Colorado Historical Society became History Colorado and moved into a spectacular modern building a block away.

Oklahoma

A few years passed and I gave a talk about Ned Wynkoop and Cheyenne race relations at a 2007 Western History Association convention in Oklahoma City. The session was Indian wars-based and the three speakers enjoyed a standing-room only audience with another 12 or more people lining the back wall or struggling to listen and see from the doorway.

Afterwards, Dave Schafer, then chief of interpretation and operations for the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, and his wife Valerie (who also worked for the Park Service) along with Richard Zahn and Drew Hughes (NPS rangers) in Oklahoma caught up with me after the session ended.

lk_te_BoggsPrayArt_websiteDave and the others liked the talk and wanted to know if I’d like to present at the Washita Battlefield. Of course I would, but as we walked my mind raced. I wanted the talk but I also wanted to do an updated version of the Wynkoop one-man show. I pitched both and Dave bought both. I’d perform Ned Wynkoop: Long Road to Washita on two days and talk about him on the last day of the festivities that marked the 140th anniversary of the battle that resulted in Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle and his wife Medicine Woman Later’s deaths on 27nov1868 when Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh U.S. Cavalry attacked and destroyed his village in what is now southwest Oklahoma.

The image (right) is based upon a photo that Johnny D. Boggs took during one of the final dress rehearsals for Ned Wynkoop: Long Road to Washita in December 2008. That’s director Tom Eubanks on his knees begging LK to remember his lines. I like this description but, alas, ’tis not true. He was discussing the prayer at the end of the play, and as you can see my nose was red. Yep, LK was doing some crying. Tom was showing me how I could improve the scene.

George Elmore kindly lent me an 1860-period revolver for the performances, and saved me the hassle of dealing with the airlines, which is no fun.

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Tom Eubanks (left) and LK going over Tom’s notes after one of the dress rehearsals in December 2008. Photo by Johnny D. Boggs.

Tom and I had two performances in a huge proscenium theater in the Cheyenne High School, and there were no problems for the school provided technicians that knew what they were doing.

A great time for me for I cemented my friendship with some Cheyennes, including Minowa lk_asnw_okdec08_sc1_boggsuse_wsLittlehawk (who would later become a godsend when she helped me with the Cheyenne words I used in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, OU Press, 2011) and Dr. Henrietta Mann (one of the founders of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribal College in Weatherford, Oklahoma).

LK as Wynkoop (left) seeing the butchered remains of the Cheyenne and Arapaho people at Sand Creek months after the tragic event. It was evident that children were shot in the top of their heads, that sexual organs had been hacked off bodies for trophies, and, although Wynkoop probably did not see the body, a soldier had cut an unborn baby from its dead mother’s womb. This is my favorite image from the Johnny D. Boggs December 2008 photo shoot.

In the pictured scene (above) LK as Wynkoop described what he saw:
“Bodies littered the ground. All were at hideous angles, … naked, …
frozen in time. I dismounted and walked toward the carnage. … What I saw
ripped at my guts and I had to struggle not to vomit. Wolves had come
and feasted, but their hunger didn’t obscure what had come before.”
The performances went smoothly on the first two days of the event, but for me the final day turned into pure Cheyenne heaven (unfortunately Tom had to drive to Oklahoma City, to catch a flight back to SoCal before the second performance, which was in the evening). I met Henri (Dr. Mann) after the first performance, and after my talk in the morning on the last day of the event we spent a lot of time together, and it cemented a friendship to this day.

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Other friends attended the last day of the event, Cheyenne Ivan Hankla (a wonderful man who opened his heart to me, but unfortunately this would be the last time I would ever see him in person) and Kiowa James Coverdale. I had met both of them at a major Fort Larned event years before and we had kept a long-distance friendship over the years.

LK with Southern Cheyenne Ivan Hankla (left) and his nephew Jake in Ivan’s fully functional lodge during the last day of the Washita Battlefield NHS’s 140th anniversary of the destruction of Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village. … It’s been too long since I’ve visited the Washita Battlefield (the last time was in 2012 when I flew to Oklahoma City for the Wrangler Awards), and methinks I need to pitch a talk for 2017. (photo © Leroy Livesay 2008; note that before Leroy’s death on 21mar2014 he gave me full permission to use his photos)

Cheyenne Blood

Tom and I had discussed doing a play dealing with the same subject matter that we had used in the one-man shows by 2007 and perhaps a little earlier. I had come up with a script with a cast of 1000s but most of the characters would have been played by actors that would play multiple roles. It wasn’t very good and never had a second draft.

cheyBloodPosterTom came up with the idea of a two-character play, and this appealed to me. There had been two leading women in the initial draft: Louise Wynkoop and Monahsetah (photnetically pronounced “Mo-Nahs-e-Tah,” per my request of Dr. Henrietta Mann when we spent time together at the Washita in December 2008). By this time I knew that it would be a two-character play and It made sense to make the second character a Cheyenne (I think that we were both in agreement on this). Obviously Black Kettle would have been a good choice. Tom suggested Monahsetah, who was perhaps 17 in 1868. I liked the idea, mainly because there isn’t much known about her, and if George Armstrong Custer hadn’t been drawn to her when he viewed the captive Washita prisoners in 1868 she may have been lost to history. Due to her father’s closeness to Black Kettle, he (Cheyenne council chief Little Rock) and she often traveled with Black Kettle’s band and set up their village circle near his. As Little Rock and Wynkoop knew each other and seemed to get along, this meant that there was a good chance that Wynkoop knew her.

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Tanya Thomas as Monahsetah and LK as Wynkoop during the drinking bit from The Drunkard. Obviously Monahsetah never saw the play but Tom added her to the scene and her presence added to the audience’s enjoyment of the bit that was played for laughs. Photo by Dean Zatkowsky (2009).

Also, and this was important, for other than Monahsetah’s contribution to Custer’s peaceful roundup of still-warring Cheyennes in 1869 Texas she was, and still is, little more than a heavenly shadow that his heart-felt words brought to life when he wrote about her in the 1870s.* Her absence from the history that she lived through allowed us to have her present but watching from afar or simply just representing a Cheyenne woman when not actually performing as herself. As it worked out, audiences accepted Tanya Thomas’s performance as Monahsetah at all times.

* Custer’s My Life on the Plains is still in print, as is Elizabeth Bacon Custer’s Following the Guidon, in which she shares her view of the young Cheyenne woman who spent time with her husband in the field and who obviously liked him. For secondary books see LK’s Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains (Upton and Sons, 1995) and Peter Harrison’s Monahsetah: The Life of a Custer Captive (The English Westerners Society, 2014). There is biography by a supposed relative called Princess Monahsetah: The Concealed Wife of General Custer (2008) that is little more than bad fiction and should be avoided.

I finally had a draft of Cheyenne Blood early in 2009, and rehearsals began in March at the Petit Playhouse in Heritage Square.

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A tense moment during the ride to Denver. Tanya Thomas as Monahsetah and LK as Ned Wynkoop react to what is going on around them. This did not happen in reality, however, the seven Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs did ride in a wagon to Denver. Wynkoop was mounted on his horse during the September 1864 trip. Photo by Dean Zatkowsky (2009).

Cheyenne Blood was a difficult play to learn, and I should admit up front that I’m terrible at learning lines. During one of the rehearsals I couldn’t remember a line or two and ad libbed what Wynkoop would have said.

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LK as Wynkoop breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience. The Petite Playhouse was intimate and I enjoyed this no end during the run of Cheyenne Blood. In the one-man shows we had also broken the fourth wall but here if I knelt down on the edge of the stage I could have touched a person in the audience. Photo by Dean Zatkowsky (2009).

Tom stopped the rehearsal and said: “You didn’t say the correct lines.” There was more, but not for your viewing pleasure. “What I just said are now the lines,” I said. “Huh?” he replied. “I just rewrote my script. Did you write the new words down?” Tom grumbled, and I looked at the script to put the lines back in my head so we could continue with the rehearsal. I think that Tanya silently enjoyed the exchange.

Actually Tom and I had many exchanges over lots of thoughts and views that had nothing to do with getting Cheyenne Blood ready for its premier. All fun and games as we toyed with each other with words, … and Tanya quietly chuckled. At one point she said something like: “You two are a hoot.”

It’s fun to work with people you like and trust.

Without a doubt Tanya Thomas is the best actress that I’ve ever been fortunate to act with on stage. This is a big compliment. I enjoyed every minute of the time that Tanya, Tom, and I spent together during the production.

The Elite Theatre Company’s new home

The Elite Theatre Company (ETC) moved from its original location at the intimate Petit Theatre in Heritage Square where it had been since its inception in 1994 to its new home at Oxnard’s Channel Islands Fisherman’s Wharf in 2013.

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The Elite Theatre Company’s art for the premier of The Art of Something.

Pailin meets Mr. Eubanks

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I took this image of Pailin and Tom before the final dress rehearsal for The Art of Something. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Tom Eubanks, and Louis Kraft 2014)

Pailin and I made the drive to the Elite Theatre Company’s new home on 24apr2014. The theatre complex is housed in a two-story wooden Cape Cod-style building with two proscenium stages and is a joy to behold.

On this evening Pailin met Tom for the first time and obtained a first-hand introduction to the theater world that is in my blood and will be until the end. As a bonus she saw a play performed on stage for the first time in the USA. And best, I knew that it would a good experience for her since would see a story that Tom wrote and directed.

On the night of the final dress rehearsal for Tom’s The Art of Something at the new venue Pailin also met Tom’s wife Judy and daughter Hannah.

Since that first day and evening when I met Pailin at a dinner party at Tujunga House in June 2013 (it was supposed to be two couples and myself but one of the ladies pushed me to allow one of her friends to attend and then she pushed Pailin that she needed to make it a party of six) when she was quiet but totally attentive to what was going on around her, I have come to know that this is a major part of her inner being. … And it was the same when she saw The Art of Something on that night over two years ago but which still feels like last week.

Yes it had been a good night for Pailin when she met Tom and part of his family, but it had also been good for me to again hang out with him if only for a short while after a way-too-long passage of time.

“To be or not to be”* Wild Bill Hickok

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LK as Wild Bill Hickok. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

I can’t remember when, but years back Johnny D. Boggs sent me his novel about Wild Bill Hickok joining Buffalo Bill Cody and Jack Omohundro on a theatrical tour of the East called East of the Border. Hickok quickly realized that acting wasn’t for him. Bored, he drank too much and allowed his disgust with the situation show. Eventually he realized that if he fired his revolver loaded with a blank too close to a dead Indian on the stage the extra playing the corpse jerked spasmodically while he screeched out in pain. This tickled Hickok’s fancy (I assume that this was Mr. Boggs’s invention) and continued to do it to the dismay of Buffalo Bill and the extras. … It tickled my fancy too—but then I guess I may have enjoyed knowing Mr. Hickok if given the chance—and I decided that I wanted play the scout-gunman-gambler on stage.

* Although I quoted William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (written in 1601 or 1602 and first performed in 1602) I’m not depressed or considering ending my life. Just the opposite, I’m thrilled to move into my future. … I’m just having a little fun with the Bard’s words at Wild Bill’s expense.

Now came the hard part; getting Johnny to buy in on his novel being turned into a play. I approached him on this numerous times over the years and he never replied. In 2012 when I attended a WWA convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I again approached Johnny. No reply, but Lisa Smith, his wife and my friend, said: “That’s a great idea.”

Of course I wanted Tom to direct East of the Border if Johnny had agreed to me writing a play based upon his book, but this was beginning to be little more than wishful thinking. Worse, Tom was also lukewarm to the idea until I gave him a couple of books when I saw a play that he had directed called Men of Tortuga at the Elite Theatre in May 2016 (one 38-minute scene with two actors—Ron Rezac and Adam Womack—sitting at a table was riveting and had me on the edge of my seat).

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LK as LK (or Wild Bill) relaxing at home in September 2015 (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

To this point in time I still wanted to play Wild Bill Hickok on stage and thought that Johnny’s novel would be the perfect vehicle to bring my desire to fruition.

Back to the books that I gave Tom; one was Boggs’s East of the Border. Tom read it, called me, and we discussed what he thought needed to happen to make the novel work on stage (mainly condensing the story, removing the repetition, and focusing on three or four characters). This would have certainly been doable if Boggs would only buy into the idea.

Since Cheyenne Blood I’ve wanted to return to the stage, and thought it would be fun to play Hickok as he was burned out and certainly out of his element play-acting on stage. Alcoholism and a sadistic sense of fun would have made him a wonderful stretch for me.

After my phone conversation with Tom ended and I hung up I knew what I wanted to do … what I really wanted to do.

In the Midst of All that is Good

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The Elite Theatre Company’s art for the premier of In the Midst of All that is Good.

On Saturday 13aug2016 I saw a great play written by Tom Eubanks. I’ve seen a lot of the plays that he has directed or written and directed since 1990, but this one was special.

I had hoped to create this blog that dealt with Tom’s and my friendship, our working relationship, In the Midst of All that is Good, and Wild Bill Hickok before the play closed at the Elite Theatre on 21aug2016 to give it additional publicity. Good attempt by me, but there just wasn’t enough time as I also had to pound the midnight oil as I push to complete my manuscript, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, which may be the most important book that I ever write (and this currently includes a great ongoing communication with Gary Roberts, who has written numerous books and documents about the tragedy), as well as deal with yet another operation (my nineteenth).

LK and Tom Eubanks at the Elite Theatre on the evening that I saw In the Midst of All that is Good. Obviously religion has played a large role in Tom’s life. Over the years he has prayed for me and I have for him. (photo © Louis Kraft & Tom Eubanks 2016)

 

 

Tom has written and directed a lot of plays that have been extraordinary, but this play is by far my favorite.

According to Tom (whose father, Sam Eubanks, is an evangelical pastor), he spent, “most of my early life planted in a pew.”

His early life started a spark that pushed him “to get a few things off my chest,” and write In the Midst of All that is Good. I think he told me that it took him a year to write and fine tune with comments from six friends that he mentioned by name in the program. I’m certain that after casting was set and rehearsals began that the play continued to evolve. I couldn’t take my eyes off Josh Carmichael, who was totally natural while at all times a threat to everyone else on stage as he raised questions and protected his livelihood. Jeff Ham also shined, as did David Fruechting, who was terribly sick during the performance that I saw and had been in the emergency room the previous night. If I hadn’t known, I would never have guessed. Hannah, Tom’s youngest daughter, played a key role in the play; she’s fifteen and was terrific, as was Alex Czajka, who as a young actor was totally believable as her deaf brother. Finally, Johnny Avila, as an almost flashback to the days of love-ins and hippies, reminded me of my brother’s best friend and our baseball teammate for 10 years until a mere flick of time ended Lee’s life in a flash.

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In the above photo: Josh Carmichael (Vic) points his gun at Jeff Ham (Reverend Bob) while his children Hannah Eubanks (Maddie) and Alex Czajka (Carson, who is deaf in the play) nervously react to the threat behind their father). David Fruechting (Lloyd, Reverend Bob’s disgraced and long-retired father) is about to jump Vic from behind. Johnny Avila (Dennis, Vic’s brother-in-law and partner isn’t shown in the image). Photo courtesy of the Elite Theatre Company.

See the theater’s website for upcoming plays: http://www.elitetheatre.org/.


Adios Wild Bill … enter Errol Flynn stage left

During our time together at the Elite Theatre that August 13 night Tom and I had time to chat. Early on I told him that I wanted to discuss something (and I’m certain that he thought it would be Mr. Hickok). … When we finally had the chance to talk I went for broke and threw a curveball at Tom a la Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

I knew one thing moving forward, adios Mr. Hickok. … And honestly I didn’t know what to expect when I made the pitch.

I think that the role that I enjoyed playing the most on stage was Charley in Eat Your Heart Out. I played Charley at the Hayloft Dinner Theater in Lubbock, Texas (1976), and in Inglewood, California (1977). I luckily landed a great part in a great play. Eat Your Heart Out is about an actor trying to land acting work while waiting tables.

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Errol Flynn circa 1940-1941. LK personal collection.

There are four other actors in Eat Your Heart Out: Two women and two men who play various roles, and this is how I pitched a play on Errol Flynn to Tom but with a second historical figure on stage with him (can’t name him, sorry).

While proposing a play dealing with Flynn I also pitched using additional actors to play various roles but was vague if it would be two or three men and two or three women on stage with Flynn and the mystery man. I lean toward Flynn/other person plus six for a total of eight actors but know that Tom prefers a total of six actors. There could also be a compromise and have three actors (Flynn, one male, and one female) that play one character, and two men and two women who play various roles (for a total of seven).

Obviously identifying the characters is of utmost importance, and if truth be told they have already been selected. Don’t ask, for I ain’t a sharin’ their names. Once each player’s relevance to the play is in place an outline is mandatory to insure that this is true and that the actors that play various roles will have time to change costumes and characters. Unfortunately all of the details must remain secretive until the play is in production.

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See … LK can clean up as this photo by Steve Buffington proves. More important, I know Errol Flynn. (photo © Louis Kraft & Steve Buffington 2010)

History repeats itself: Like Leo Oliva in 2000, Tom asked if I could have the play written by next year (due to some changes that might happen with the Elite Theatre Company’s future scheduling). I told him “no,” as I needed to complete the delivery draft of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway first. Once the Sand Creek book is in production at OU Press I’ll be on Errol & Olivia* full time and it will be perfect timing for doing a play on Mr. Flynn.

* For the record I plan on writing three books about Errol Flynn, but will space them between Indian wars books that deal with race relations (that is if I’m able to successfully pitch my next Indian wars subjects to OU Press).