Posted in: Interviews, Westerns

Budd Boetticher and the Ranown Cycle: “What a director is supposed to do”

My first contact with Budd Boetticher was in 1987. I was a graduate student in film studies at the University of Oregon and I thought I was getting his agent’s phone number from the DGA. I found out very quickly that it was his home number when he answered personally. He was an affable man and very forgiving of the enthusiastic student who tried to lure him north from his home in Ramona, California for a retrospective of his films at the U of O in Eugene. “I don’t want to go to a tribute where no one is interested in my films,” he replied in his matter-of-fact, gruff/friendly manner. “Why don’t you come down and visit me here instead?” I did, numerous times, conducting hours of interviews with him between 1988 and 1992. I stayed in touch with him and his wife, Mary, until his death.

In the following excerpts he talks about his films with Randolph Scott and Burt Kennedy and touches on making Arruza. For more on Boetticher’s love affair with bullfighting and the amazing odyssey in Mexico while making Arruza, try to track down his autobiography When in Disgrace, a very entertaining read (and, sadly, out of print).

Spoiler alert: Be warned that Boetticher discusses key scenes and plot points of the films.

You never directed John Wayne in a film, but he played a major part in your life. He produced your breakthrough film The Bullfighter and the Lady and he was at least partially responsible for Seven Men From Now. How did you connect on Seven Men From Now?

Gail Russell and Randolph Scott in "Seven Men From Now"

I was doing pictures at what used to be Selznick studios, I forget what they called it when I was there, and Duke was doing a picture with Ford and he called me in. He said “Bood, I’ve got a script over here I want you to read,” so I came over and picked it up at lunch and I read thirty-five pages and I walked back on the set and he was sitting with a bunch of people and I said “Duke, I want to do the picture.” He said “Well Jesus Christ, you can’t read the whole damned script in an hour.” I said “I read thirty-five pages. This is brilliant! I’d like to meet the author.” He said “Budd Boetticher, Burt Kennedy,” and Burt stood up. We shook hands and I said “Mr. Kennedy, you are a brilliant, brilliant writer. I don’t have to read anymore. I’m so glad I met you.” He said “Oh, we met a long time ago. I played the rabble rouser in A Man From Texas [working title to Man From the Alamo].” He’d been an actor. And that’s what started us. All you had to do was read one of his scripts. Anybody who didn’t like Burt Kennedy’s writing was crazy. The best scene I’ve ever directed in my life, I directed word for word from his script, and that’s when Lee Marvin and Walter Reed and Gail Russell and Randy are in the covered wagon. Marvin says “You know, a funny thing, I knew a big tall good lookin’ fellow once,” and he starts making love to Gail Russell. That was great writing.

I always give Burt Kennedy credit for a lot of the wonderful things we did but the one thing I was most proud of. I always maintained, at least in my own mind, that gunslingers had to practice, like you toreador the cape without the bull, you’d better know how to work your implement because you haven’t got time to think about it when the bull’s in there. So I always felt that if a guy got off his horse and urinated in a desert, stepping on the reins of his horse, while he was urinating he probably practiced four or five times drawing his guns on a fast draw. You don’t just wait until someone wants to shoot you and then luck it out. So we set it up from the beginning of Seven Men From Now when Don Red Barry says “Why don’t you tell him. You was born there,” and Marvin whose been playing with his gun and twirling it around, the first time you see him really work with a gun, he holds the gun up and he says “I lived there, I wasn’t born there… Pow.” Now, all the way through the picture he was practicing. When he walks in the whorehouse, the bar, and the guy’s sitting there and he looks around and he draws the gun a couple of times and he kicks the chair out and he says “Where is everybody?” Now, when he knows he’s gonna outdraw Randy and he looks at his hands, and the guns aren’t there, and he couldn’t believe it, and he dies, damn! You cared. That’s the first time in his life he ever failed. I have won more money and never accepted it where somebody says to me “Boy I couldn’t believe Randolph Scott outdrew Marvin as fast as he was.” I said “He never drew.” They say “What do you mean he never drew?” I said “He never drew his gun.” He stood there and I said “Shoot anytime you’re ready, Randy,” and he pulled the trigger and the smoke came out. Now, you cut to Marvin and Marvin goes for his gun and Pow! You never saw him. It’s the old joke of the guy who says “I’m the fastest gun in the west,” and the fellow says “Prove it to me.” The guy says “You want to see it again?” He never drew because he’s not going to outdraw because Marvin was really fast. Marvin would have been a hell of a gunslinger. But by god he thought he did.

Lee Marvin and his gun in "Seven Men From Now"
Lee Marvin and his gun in "Seven Men From Now" - “I lived there, I wasn't born there... Pow.”

The Tall T was the second picture you ever made with Randolph Scott. Now he and Harry Brown had their own production company, Scott-Brown, and they had been making pictures for a number of years. After Seven Men From Now, did Randolph Scott approach you or Harry Joe Brown?

Harry Joe Brown did because of Randy. Randy said “I don’t want anyone else to direct this.”So they came and said“Will you make another picture with Randolph Scott?”and I said “I’d love it!”And then we made another picture and after the third picture, Randy came to me and said “I have very serious situation to discuss with you. I have one more picture to do at Warner Brothers and I don’t know what to do!.”And that’s when I went to Warner Brothers and said “I don’t care how little I’m going to make, I want to direct the picture.” And that was Westbound.

And that was the only one of those films that you didn’t have control over the production?

Oh, I had complete control over the filming, but not over the script. The script was already ready to go, and it reverted right back to the old Randolph Scott westerns. Which were not that good. Now with the real Scott pictures, Burt and Randy and Harry Joe and I had complete control and we all thought alike. It was a pleasure because I had the best cameramen, who were my friends, and I had a producer I really liked because he didn’t bother me, Harry Joe Brown, and I don’t think there was ever a finer gentleman in the picture business than Randolph Scott. And where John Wayne had a completely different attitude with young actors who were in his pictures, Randy would say “I sure like that young fellow,” like James Coburn, “let’s give him more lyrics.” In every picture I made with him, with the exception of Westbound, we made a star because Randy and Burt and I wanted to make a star. And look at the list: Lee Marvin, Richard Boone, Craig Stevens, Pernell Roberts, James Coburn, Claude Akins. Every picture. I mean I could write a whole book just about Randolph Scott. But everybody felt that way about him. Burt wrote five of the seven screenplays, and he was a great, great, writer and is a wonderful director and one of my dearest friends. We wrote and directed as two great friends who work together instead of a writer and director who didn’t get along and trying to take control of the picture. It was just a difference, we had artistic control and fortunately we were artists. A very simple answer why they were better pictures.

Randolph Scott was a producer as well as the star, but it sounds like he never exerted creative pressure on you.

Yeah, and I don’t think we ever had an argument in all those pictures. If he thought I was wrong about something he would just be very quiet and walk away and I would wonder what was the matter and I was so fond of him that I’d say “Wait a minute, let’s try… Randy, do you have an idea on this?” “Well I thought maybe that if we did and this…” and he was usually right about it. But usually it only pertained to what he thought about his character. He never said “I think that Richard Boone should say this and do that.” He never did that. He’d say “I think that maybe if I stop there as if I was gonna take a drink and then I’d change my mind there might be a little beat in there that..” I’d say “That’s great. Let’s do it.”

How did you go about script preparation?

"Comanche Station" - Randolph Scott and Claude Akins
"Comanche Station" - Randolph Scott and Claude Akins

With Burt it was easy. I would read his scripts and die laughing and be excited and call him and say “Jesus Christ, this is really wonderful.” That’s our preparation.I got a great script and I shot it and I added to it.That’s what a director is supposed to do. If you take a good script and you can’t make it better, you’re not a very good director. The writer has done everything he possibly can do to make it a good script.Now, he delivers it to you, it should be to the best of his ability. You’ve got weeks after that even before you’ve got to shoot, supposedly, where you can take a good piece of work and say “Gee, I can improve it a little bit here, a little bit here, a little bit there,” but that’s what directors should do. We didn’t all get together like they do today and have meetings and say “What do you think we ought to do next?” We knew what we were going to do. We made those Scott pictures in 18 days. Three weeks, six days a week. There are too many people today involved in making a motion picture. Everybody has a different contribution, and you can’t do it that way. A fellow might have a great idea for a sequence but the sequence may not fit the movie. And his lovely couple of days shooting that look great on film in the rushes, they don’t fit in the picture. Today I’ve been on sets of top directors and they say cut and they all have a meeting. And they say “What do you think we ought to do?” and they say “I don’t know, what do you think we ought to do?” and they discuss it and then they decide. Jesus, how can you make pictures like that?

How would you say you improved the Burt Kennedy scripts?

We put a lot of humor in there. Burt and I never argued. Look at the writers, what they’re doing, what they want. They want the approval to go and say “You can’t change that line,” sit on the set. They’d last with me a day. What do you mean, sit on the set and tell you “No, you’re changing my lines?” Let them direct if they want to get that kind of power. The reason most of the humor wasn’t in there is because we were both so confident that we would laugh together on the set. They’d never seen Randolph Scott lose his dignity, like when pouring liquor in a wound and jumping up and down and admitting that it burned. That was an ad-lib. In The Tall T, remember when Randy comes out of the hut and hits his head? That was an accident. Then I made Boone laugh and it’s veryfunny and people love it. But Randy came out and he’s, you know, 6’4” and he really banged his head and what we didn’t save was the one when he was really groggy. He comes out and hits his head and I cut to Richard Boone and he started to laugh and it worked. That’s the kind of thing that you do. All the funny stuff, that’s not in the script. In the first place if you write your jokes in the script, by the time you’ve memorized and read it, it’s an old joke. So we would sit there and Burt would say “Why don’t we do this? That’s good.” “That’s great but why don’t we do this?” Also there’s another thing. What I always do, and I think a director should always do it, you get the script then you cast it. Then you and the writer, or you alone if you’re the writer-director, sit down and, if you’re lucky enough to have Marlon Brando at the height of his career, your actor mumbles a lot more, and if it’s Tony Quinn he rants and raves and picks his nose, that’s Tony Quinn. You rewrite. But Burt was always involved. Burt wrote and I rewrote and he rewrote me and we never put it on paper. We ad-libbed the whole Buchanan Rides Alone picture. He didn’t even get screen credit.

To show you what experience and other encounters does, here’s another funny thing about The Tall T. I know that a bull doesn’t like water. The way they found this out years ago, the first bullrings in the world were really informal bullrings, what we call the zocalo in Mexico. They were public circles in Spain where eight or ten or six or five streets ran in and in the middle of that enclosure, which now they’ve blocked off with bales of hay and carts and things and the front row seats in 1800 were the balconies in the homes surrounding the circle, always in the middle was a fountain and when the bullfighters got in real trouble, and I’ve been in that position, and the bull hooked your cape or muleta out of the way, you dive into the fountain. The bull didn’t want to go in there. That’s why the Brahma bull is in The Tall T. The stunt man came to me and I said “All you have to do, and the bull’s gonna come after you, all you have to do is dive in there and go to the bottom of the water trough.” He said “Are you kidding?” I said “No, he’s not going to get you.” And he didn’t and it was wonderful. He didn’t believe it. The bull even stepped in after him and suddenly got his nose wet and thought “I don’t want to drown.” And those are the things that you use with experience in other things.

Were there any problems on the set?

"The Tall T" - Randolph Scott and Arthur Hunnicut
"The Tall T" - Randolph Scott and Arthur Hunnicut

I had Arthur Hunnicutt, who was so drunk during the filming of the opening of The Tall T that we did that dolly shot across the street with Randy twenty eight times. Next time you see it, look at Randy’s face. He’s trying not to laugh because Arthur Hunnicutt is ad-libbing. And we couldn’t find any liquor, we couldn’t find where the hell he was getting a drink. One of my assistants, Joe Kenny, suddenly realized that he was sucking on oranges all day long, and we discovered what he would do. He would take a hypodermic needle and fill the oranges full of vodka. You have things like that and you go absolutely crazy, because drunks are brilliant. Talk about hiding your bottle, like in The Lost Weekend in the chandelier and forgetting where you put it, these guys, to get a drink, they’re amazing.

Charles Lang wrote the next two films, Decision at Sundown and Buchanan Rides Alone which are very different from the Burt Kennedy films.

They were very different and they weren’t as good. And they were too complicated. In Decision at Sundown, he had mental problems that he really didn’t have in Burt’s pictures. It was a picture that they had bought. It wasn’t aRandolph Scott character. It was the story of a town, the story of a lot of people. It was like Westbound, it was the old fashionedRandolph Scott picture, it wasn’t one man who had a job to do, who had a problem to overcome. It wasn’t the kind of pictures that Burt and I made together. The scripts weren’t as good.

And you said that you ad-libbed Buchanan Rides Alone?

Charlie Lang was under tremendous pressure and I knew that I had the ability to fix it. He was going through a divorce, a very sad divorce. I went to Mexico and left Charlie the treatment that we had written called The Name’s Buchanan. I was late in coming home and I drove directly from Mexico City to Tucson and I got there four or five days before the picture was to start. Lucien was supposed to get there the day before the picture was to start and he walked into breakfast four days before and threw the script out. He said, “Have you read this?,” and I said “What do you mean read it? I wrote it.” He said “You didn’t write this piece of shit.” I started to read it and with all the tension that Charlie was under, he had made that script as if we had given him a baseball picture and all of the sudden we were doing an underwater film. I mean, it was completely different than the stuff that we had given him. But, he made his money, he’s a great, great friend of mine now and you just have to understand these things. A lot of people get drunk when they have a situation like that and can’t work and Charlie just wasn’t paying attention to what he was supposed to do. His loyalty to me was to write a script and he wrote one, but he didn’t read the one we gave him. So that’s what happened there. And I called Burt and said “Burt, we’re really in trouble,” so we ad-libbed the whole damn thing. The only way that that script got into script form was the script clerk, the script girl would write down what we did, not what we were going to do.

It’s a very funny film.

Everybody had a different story going. I think that’s why Craig Stevens makes such a hit, because every time they’d cut to him you thought “My god, here’s a man who’s calm and collected and we can relax a minute.” They were all running in different directions and the story was everywhere. But I love the death scene when we put the guy up in the tree to keep the animals from eating him, like the Indians did. Remember the burial sequence? I loved that. “Don’t just stand there, get a shovel.” That was Burt at his best. Here we were on the bridge and all these bastards who were so terrible were all dead except the stupid brother, Peter Whitney. Craig Stevens had just offered half the town to Randy and Randy had left him with this debacle and it seemed like such a wonderful thing to say to this brother, “Well, don’t just stand there, bury these schmucks.” And the audience, there was a pause and then everybody just burst out laughing. I’ve never seen a Western where everybody burst out laughing.

How did you become the producer on your final two films with Randolph Scott, Ride Lonesome and Comanche Station.?

Harry Joe Brown was a darling guy and I’ll tell you a very funny story about him.When we were making Buchanan we were supposed to finish on Friday at four o’clock in the afternoon, and on Thursday I was filming aroundtwo o’clock in the afternoon, and I had about 250 service men and their wives and children on the set and we were working our tails off on the bridge and we were really ad-libbingthe picture. Harry Joe Brown came running up to me and said “When are you going to finish?” I said “About four or five o’clock.” He said “Today?”I said “Hell no, tomorrow like we’re supposed to.”He said“You’ve gotta finish today. I made a mistake, the airplane is here.” And you asked me why I wanted to produce the last pictures? Can you imagine?So I said “Harry Joe, what I think we ought to do is, we’ll finish tomorrow and check everybody out of the hotels at night and we’ll sleep in our seats on the plane tonight”I mean it was terrible, what a mistake. Here’s this big DC-4 sitting at the airport and we’ve got a whole other 48 hours to go. But Harry Joe, because he was such an ambitious guy and I really liked him, Harry Joe would go out with good directors like George Marshall and, while George Marshall would be having lunch, Harry Joe would go out and put everybody in the wrong costumes and shoot second units. So Randy would come riding over the hill in a red shirt and we’d cut back to the close-up and he’s in black. I didn’t want anybody screwing around with these two pictures, so Harry Joe was executive producer and he had two things that he could do, he could come on the set and tell me the rushes were great, or he could have a cup of coffee. That wasn’t being tough, because I really loved him. Columbia wanted to cut him out completely.That’s how tough the studio is: “You don’t need Harry Joe Brown.” We said “Harry Joe Brown has given you the better part of his life at Columbia, of course you need Harry Joe Brown.” They said “Well what’s he going to do?” We said “He’s the executive producer and he’s going to get his same salary and I’ll produce the picture.” We didn’t change a thing because we had done the same thing on all the other pictures, all of a sudden our name was up there as producer. No, I never produced the pictures. Harry Joe did the job but I still made the pictures with Burt and with Randy and Harry Joe gave us what we wanted. A producer should help you get the cast, he should make you suggestions about the script, he should handle the financing so that you get enough of what you need. But we didn’t have any official bothering or second units during lunch or problems.

All three of the journey films, Seven Men From Now, Ride Lonesome, and Comanche Station, are shot in Lone Pine, California, and they have a very distinctive cinematic landscape.

I probably shot in Lone Pine in color more than anybody. They used to make pictures there in black and white, Roy Rogers films and stuff like that. You had everything there. You had rivers on one side of the road to San Francisco, you had mountains on the other, you had rocks, you had desert, everything. Can you imagine the desert in Ride Lonesome was fifteen minutes from those rocks, just on the other side of the road. They call them the Alabams. You can’t lose that way. When you make a picture in 18 days, which everybody should be taught to do, you don’t have time to fool around and get in an airplane and go to another city. And we had the same thing in Arizona when we made Buchanan Ride Alone and I think a couple of others. We had the city there and we had the desert and the cacti and the various thing you need in the west. And we could still find the river where we buried Lafe up in the tree. You have to find all these things.

The landscape is not just background but very much another character in Ride Lonesome and Comanche Station.

"Comanche Station" - Randolph Scott at home in Lone Pine
"Comanche Station" - Randolph Scott at home in Lone Pine

Well, it is. Ride Lonesome and Comanche Station both start off with very long shots where you see how infinitesimal the cowboy was in those days up against all these rocks and all these mountains. Lucien Ballard and I got up one morning at 4 o’clock and I told Lucien that I wanted to see Randolph Scott this big [puts his fingers together very small] in all these rocks. So we got a stretch out and rode as far as we could to the bottom of this lava mountain. Then got out and went on two pack mules and we went as far as the mules could climb. Then Lucien and I got off and it was beginning to get light and we climbed and climbed and climbed and climb to pick the first shot of the first day of shooting, which was tomorrow. We finally got to the top where I wanted to be and I looked out and I could see that where the sun in a while would come up, it was getting just a little pink. I looked at my watch and I said“Luce, this is the first shot with a 25 lens at a quarter after seven tomorrow morning.” He said “Wait a minute,” and he walked about ten feet and he dug a hole in the sand and there was a spike. He said “Come over here and see which one of these shots you want best. Raoul Walsh and I made this ten years ago.” And I said “I want mine.” So there’s nothing really new in the world. You know everybody said to me, “Why in the world didn’t you ever go to Monument Valley to make a picture? It’s so beautiful there.” I said “That was Jack Ford’s, you know, and nobody could have done it better.” Why should I go there and shoot the same rocks that he shot in all of his beautiful pictures, and a couple of bad ones? What I tried to do is do the same thing with Lone Pine, which I think we accomplished.When you’re there in the Alabams which were all lava formations from eons ago, a man was very insignificant and that’s what they were in those days. They didn’t have all those psychological problems that today’s director thinks the western fellow should have. They were very ignorant, uneducated guys. They didn’t say “The reason I’m like this is because my mother was a prostitute in Dubuque and she was befriended by someone who threw acid in her face and I’ve always hated men ever since.” You know that’s a lot of crap. They didn’t think like that.

Ride Lonesome is the only one of the Randolph Scott films where Scott and the antagonist come to the showdown, to where neither of them will turn back, and then they live. Randolph Scott goes off with his mission accomplished, and he’s off to start a new life and break all ties from this last one, and Pernell Roberts goes off to start something very much in the way that Randolph Scott and Maureen O’Sullivan do in the end of The Tall T.

The interesting thing is that wasn’t in the original script. Pernell Roberts and James Coburn were to be killed. And I called the studio, Sam Briskin, and I said “Sam, I don’t want to kill these guys.” It’s half-way through the picture. And he said “Well, you have to, they’re the villains.” I said “ No, I don’t have to, they’re charming, the people are going to love them.” Especially after the scene that Coburn says to him about the friendship, “Gee, I didn’t know that”. I mean you love this simple guy and that was Jim’s first picture and look what happened with him. And of course Pernell went right into his big series and nobody was more charming than Pernell was. So I argued and argued and argued, and this is very interesting, and I didn’t put it in the book. I said “Sam, I’ll shoot it both ways. I’ll shoot it where they go free, and we’ll ad lib the ending,” which we did, “and I’ll shoot it when we kill them.”Well the darnedest thing happened. We had arranged, because the sun was going down, for all the transportation to be ready. Just by sheer accident, it happened to be in the way where we wanted to shoot. It was the last day of filming and it took them about two hours to get all the transportation, the busses and the trucks, moved. By that time the sun had gone down and we never got to do it. (laughs quietly to himself) So I took it back to the studio having failed to shoot the death scene and they liked what we did so much that they didn’t argue about it.

You’ve described the relationships between Randolph Scott and villains as a love story between two men.

Well it is. The man is the All-American sheriff. He does good and he’s a clean, loving guy and he’s a helluva fast draw, and he can punch and he can ride a horse and he can do all the things that the villain can do, but the villain thinks back and he says “Damn it, we live sixty miles apart and if I’d have lived next door to him we’d have been partners and here we are trying to kill each other, but I really admire that guy.” Never before in a motion picture western did you ever see the hero kill the villain and sit down on a rock because he wanted to throw up because he really hated to do it. And I think that’s a love affair.

Death in your films is brutal and violent, but it’s not explicit.

What do you mean by not explicit?

In The Tall T, when Skip Homeier gets his face shot off, I mean that’s really what happens. It’s not shown, you don’t show the gory details, but the impact of that is no less startling.

That’s why it’s stronger than if you see it. Sam Peckinpah showed it to you in slow motion with big hunks of liver flying through the air. I didn’t want that. When I was 15 years old I saw my first burlesque show and it was much more exciting before the girl took off all her clothes. If you see the horror that they show you in today’s pictures you’re shocked but you haven’t been allowed to imagine what it would look like, and I think it’s much better.

The films that you and Anthony Mann made are the only ones from that period that I can think of where death is not clean and simple.

I don’t think that any death is clean and simple, but it’s sure as hell final and Tony’s and my deaths were sure as hell final. But the nice thing about my deaths in movies was that somebody cared, even the guy who did it. Karen Steele really cared and when you left the theater with Legs Diamond, who was a despicable character, when the lights came on and you pull back in the rain and the thing was over, 90% of the audience, they were crying. “Aw, that poor bastard.” Poor bastard, hell! Now if I made a picture and Eva Braun was the leading lady, I’d make you cry when they kill Hitler, until the lights come on. And that’s good direction, that’s what your supposed to do. It’s according to whose eyes do you see it through. To make a horrible character, and Diamond was one of the worst, an enjoyable guy, all you saw was the charm of the guy all the way through the picture. The terrible things that he did he did, but you laughed. I mean when he stuck the gun in Dutch Schultz’s, or who was really supposed to be Dutch Schultz, his mouth, that’s a horrible thing to do, but we played it for humor. You thought “Isn’t that cute” when he came up in the dumbwaiter with the machine gun, “Wasn’t he cute?” That was Robin Hood, but he wasn’t Robin Hood.

What compelled you to spend the next decade risking your career and finally your life to make the documentary Arruza?

I went to Mexico to do Arruza because I wanted to do something I knew nobody else in the world could do. Somebody asked me once, in Italy, “How could you as an established director of category, go to a foreign country, lose your wife, your money, possibly your reputation, and nearly your life, to film the story of a friend?” And I said “Young man, wouldn’t it have been a wonderful thing if the director of The Agony and the Ecstasy had had Michelangelo instead of Charlton Heston?” I had my own private genius, the best in the world. “Carlos do this, do this, do this, do this.” And he did it. Close. Nobody was doubling. And that’s a wonderful thing. That’s why I made Arruza, and it nearly cost me my life. I made Arruza exactly the way I wanted to make it. The last line in The New York Times review is: “This may very well be one of the last great examples of classic filmmaking.” I mean, Jesus, what more do you want than that? But the reason that I made Arruza, and with my own money and the help of John Sturges at the end, was because I had to. Nobody wanted to invest in it. And I wanted to make a documentary drama type picture so that the people could see what it’s all about, rather than having Robert Stack, whom I adore, or Gilbert Roland, whom I loathe, do the bullfighting in the close ups and my friends do it in the long shots. It’s such a jump you can’t even get to a medium shot because you know it isn’t real.

Budd Boetticher shows the scars of his bullfighting adventures

What is it about bullfighting that so compels you?

Well it’s very strange about bullfighting. The only animal I’ve ever killed in my life, including a bird or a snake, is a bull, and if you went swimming with me you would understand what they can do to you because I’ve got all kind of holes in my legs and my stomach from this. I was attracted to that from the drama of it, which I never try to sell in the United States. I don’t go into the bloodless bullfights, you know they want us to go everywhere with our horses, but here there’s a wonderful sexual attraction that women have for men who are involved with death. Ken Purdy’s great book The New Matadors is about racing, Formula One racing. Manolete was one of the ugliest men you ever saw in your life and they beat a path to his door. Arruza’s only attraction was in the ring. He wasn’t that attractive, but here was a man in a medieval costume fighting an animal that was bred to kill him. Even in conflict to that, the race cars are not created by God, they are not trying to kill you so it really isn’t right that way. But here people have said to me so many times, and I take the time to explain, “Well what do you do to make those bulls so mad?” You open the door and they want to kill everything in sight as long as they are separated. Now the biggest help to my life in bullfighting, that I got from bullfighting, is if you survive that and realize that you go out daily and flirt with death, and of course you kill the bull a lot cleaner than most of the steaks that Cleveland Amory eats, which he never bothered to find out about–there’s a real horse’s ass–once you survive these things, producers don’t frighten you too much in Hollywood.

Seven Men From Now is available on DVD from Paramount.

The Tall T, Decision at Sundown, Buchanan Rides Alone, Ride Lonesome and Comanche Station are collected in the box set The Films of Budd Boetticher from Sony.

The Cimarron Kid and The Man From the Alamo are collected on the set Classic Western Round-Up Volume 2 from Universal.

© 2008 Sean Axmaker