There’s a rash of cinema about cinema making the rounds these days — My Week With Marilyn, Hugo and The Artist. Talk of these new films — and it seems like everybody I run into has seen at least one of them — brings to mind my favorite movie about the movies, Hearts Of The West (1975).
Directed by Howard Zieff (whose first picture, 1973’s Slither, is one of the weirdest, loopiest, funniest films I’ve ever seen), Hearts Of The West declares its undying love of Hollywood, Westerns in particular, from the MGM lion to the final fadeout. Look at the one-sheet. That’s some cast: Jeff Bridges, Andy Griffith, Blythe Danner, Donald Pleasence and Alan Arkin. Not listed on the poster are the great 70s character actors Matt Clark, Alex Rocco and Richard B. Schull.
Looks like Bob Madison’s been thinking about the picture, too. He’s written a wonderful post on it for his blog, The Jade Sphinx. Read it. And if you haven’t seen Hearts Of The West, do. It’s available from Warner Archive.
An aside: In 1999, I wrote a radio campaign for a Raleigh neighborhood called Falls River. We were going with an old-time radio show approach and had the budget to hire the kind of talent you need to pull off such a thing. We got a few voice demo CDs from some places in New York and got to casting.
Making my way through the demos, I came across the name Richard B. Schull. I thought no way, and encouraged by my good friend and creative director Tomas Gardner, made a call and signed him on. No other male voices were ever considered. I made a quick pass through the three scripts, tweaking them to better suit his wonderful voice. The other voices, both women, were selected for how well they might play off Mr. Schull.
The entire cast was perfect. Real pros. My only direction was to get them to speed things up a bit so my lengthy script would fit within the 60 seconds.
Mr. Schull was really nice and let me be Johnny Fanboy and tell him how much I love Slither and Hearts Of The West. I didn’t go to New York. Instead, we did an ISDN patch, communicating through some sorta digital thing — otherwise, I woulda had our picture taken and begged him to let me take him to lunch.
The resulting spots were terrific. They’re still a highlight of my radio reel. Sadly, Mr. Schull passed away a few months later. It was a huge honor to work with him. I get goosebumps every time I see one of his films.