Thursday, December 01, 2016

Company of Heroes - Harry Carey, Jr.

Company of Heroes is Harry Carey Jr. writing about his experiences as an actor in John Ford's various films. Carey includes some of stuff about his life in there, alludes to his problems with alcohol, his time on "Spin and Marty" for "The Mickey Mouse Club".

But mostly it's about his interactions with John Ford, who, as described here, reminds me of some of the stuff I've read about Hemingway. Ford - or "Uncle Jack", as he insisted Carey and most of the other actors call him - could be extremely kind and considerate at times, and other times he was a complete ass, just abusive. Carey relates one story where Ford made them keep reshooting this final shot over and over, and kept insisting it was because Carey was fucking up repeatedly, even though there was no way you could tell he was doing anything wrong, and there was no way for Carey to actually follow the instructions Ford was giving. But Ford would pull that kind of stuff on everyone, including John Wayne, and pissed off most of them at one point or the other. Ward Bond might have been the exception, if only because he simply refused to give any shits what Ford said about him.

Carey doesn't have a smooth writing style. The book is roughly grouped into chapters on each of the films he did with John Ford, but Carey will go into stretches talking about anything tangentially related. Like stories about some of the stuntmen, or parties, or whatever. It's slightly awkward because oftentimes one story will end with the end of a paragraph, and Carey just starts in on another with the next paragraph, and there's no real transition of connecting tissue, except maybe that both involved someone in that movie. So it's clunky, but kind of charming, someone just rambling on about old times. How much it would interest you would probably come down to how much you care about John Ford and his movies.

I would liked to have known what caused the split between Carey's father (and actor himself) and Ford. Not that I imagine it would take much. Ford seems pretty easily pushed into, "you're dead to me" territory. Carey talks in the book about how Ben Johnson seemed to wind up there for 13 years after he and Ford got heated at dinner after shooting one night. But the cause of the trouble between Ford and Carey Sr never really gets explained, maybe because Carey Jr. didn't know. And it wasn't that Ford and Carey Sr. were unfriendly exactly, they just wouldn't work together any more.

'Farther north, near a town called Canoga Park, are huge elephant-sized outcroppings of rock. This was called Iverson's Ranch. Many people tried hard to save, but it's just a memory now, too. All the low-budget Westerns were made at Iverson's. Even my dad worked there. If you rent an old John Wayne tape, you'll see Iverson's for sure. Many times, you'd be in the middle of a dialogue scene and gunshots would ruin the take. They'd be coming from another company just over the hill. Sometimes there would be three shows shooting there on the same day.'

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