A free screening of Buffalo Bill, the 1944 epic Technicolor Western starring South Pasadenan, Joel McCrea (1905-1990), will be presented on Thursday, August 31 at 7 p.m. in the Library Community Room. The classic western features an All Star cast that includes Anthony Quinn, Maureen O’ Hara, Linda Darnell, and Edgar Buchanan. The compelling, well-acted film is set against the backdrop of the bloody battles between white settlers and Native Americans.
Buffalo Bill tells the exciting, fictionalized story of the famous scout turned showman, William F. Cody. Outspoken and greatly skilled in guns and hunting, Cody also faces deep personal struggles, including his troubled marriage to a senator’s daughter, played by the fiery O’Hara. Buffalo Bill is accused of fraud and faces the cost of balancing his friendships with both the settlers and the Natives.
Directed by the legendary William A. Wellman known for directing more than 80 feature films, including Wings, the winner of the first Academy Award for Best Picture in 1927. Wellman also directed The Public Enemy, the first version of A Star is Born, Beau Geste starring Gary Cooper, and The High and the Mighty with John Wayne.
Joel Albert McCrea was born Nov. 5, 1905, in South Pasadena, the son of Lou Whipple and Thomas P. McCrea. Joel’s Western heritage was strong: Lou’s father, Major Albert Whipple had journeyed westward in a covered wagon in 1849 and Thomas’s father, Major John McCrea, escorted a stagecoach. Joel had a brother, John, and a sister, Lois. As a boy in South Pasadena, Joel enjoyed a normal childhood playing with his brother, sister, and cousins and “doing family stuff.” He moved with his family to Hollywood when he was 9. Interestingly, McCrea’s future wife was born only five blocks away from his South Pasadena home, but they didn’t meet until both were starting their movie careers.
McCrea eventually went on to blaze a remarkable trail, appearing in 90 feature films over a 50 year period including such memorable films as Foreign Correspondent, Sullivan’s Travels and The Virginian. By the time McCrea retired, after 80 starring roles during Hollywood’s Golden Age, he was declared “The Last of the Great Cowboy Film Heroes.” As an actor McCrea was known for his strength, realism, and dependability. Although he appeared in comedies, thrillers, adventures, and romances, westerns became his forte. McCrea was one of the very few actors who started as a lowly extra in the film business and rose to leading roles. McCrea also became a real life cowboy who owned a huge working ranch in the Santa Rose Valley of Ventura County that covered a full third of the northern area of what is now Thousand Oaks.
To most ordinary folks, McCrea is remembered best from his epic Westerns like Buffalo Bill; his authentic, easy-going manner and ease in the saddle made him a favorite in the genre. As producer Harry Sherman once put it, “Joel is the greatest natural Western star since the old days of Tom Mix and William S. Hart. He has an authentic background and he is one of the finest natural horsemen I’ve ever seen…just a guy who knows how to sit on a horse with grace and authority.” Real cowboys agreed with the Hollywood bigwigs when they elected McCrea to the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City in 1958.
Master of Ceremonies for the Library Film Night will be the illustrious Cowboy Poet, Larry Maurice. The event will also feature a panel discussion with Wyatt McCrea, one of Joel’s grandsons and the Executive Director of the Joel and Frances McCrea Ranch Foundation in Thousand Oaks. Bill Wellman, Jr., the son of the director and a celebrated actor in his own right, will also serve on the panel, along with Petrine Day Mitchum, an award winning filmmaker whose short films have appeared on Saturday Night Live!. Petrine is the lead author of Hollywood Hoofbeats, The Fascinating Story of Horses in Movies and Television.
The event will also showcase some original paintings by Emerson Terry of African American Cowboys. Mr. Terry is 92 years-old and one of the first African-Americans to graduate from the Art Center College of Design when it was in LA. After college, Emerson worked for Douglas Aircraft; Revell, General Dynamic, and as Treasurer of the Society of Illustrators, during which time he created artwork for the U.S. Air Force Art Program. Mr. Terry will offer a few remarks about his art after being introduced by his daughter, Riea Terry.
Actor William Wellman Jr. started off in featured parts in films directed by his father. Bill’s TV career kicked in as the 1960s approached with a number of rugged guest roles on the established westerns Have Gun, Will Travel, Rawhide, Laramie and Gunsmoke. Bill’s career has enjoyed longevity and he is credited with nearly 200 movies and television shows, as well as writing and producing efforts. He is the author of Wild Bill Wellman: Hollywood Rebel.
The Film Night is presented by the South Pasadena Public Library, the Friends of the South Pasadena Public library, the Friends of the Rialto Theatre, the Joel and Frances McCrea Ranch Foundation, and Poets and Writers, Inc. with funding from the James Irvine Foundation. Special thanks to 210eastsound, Riea Terry and the Friends Hospitality Committee.
The Library Community Room is located at 1115 El Centro Street. No tickets or reservations are necessary. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and refreshments will be served. The Community Room is only about a block away from the South Pasadena Farmers Market and the Metro Gold Line Station and free parking will be available at the Mission-Meridian Parking Garage, located at 805 Meridian Avenue. Autographed copies of books will be available for purchase.