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post ‘Chaparral’ Is Here To Stay, Dortort Assures Old Pueblo

August 25th, 2009

Filed under: Vintage Reprint Articles — admin @ 4:21 pm

David DortortVintage Reprint from Wednesday, June 10, 1970, Tucson Daily Citizen

“The High Chaparral,” NBC’s dramatic western adventure series which makes its location home at Old Tucson, is staying in Arizona, no ifs, ands or buts about it.

That is the word from the shows’s executive producer and originator, David Dortort, who scouted locations yesterday and addressed a noon meeting of Rotary International at the Pioneer International Hotel today.

“We have gone to considerable trouble and expense to move the interior sets for the show to Old Tucson,” Dortort said in an interview. “They are being used now and will be used more and more in the future.”

Excutive Producer David Dortort, left, and Producer Kent McCray, right, on location at The High Chaparral set in Tucson

Dortort estimates that 65 percent of the series will be shot at Old Tucson and at other southern Arizona sites. The setting up of the interiors on Old Tucson’s sound stage makes “cover” shots possible there, whereas in the past the cast and crew has had to shoot interiors only in Hollywood. (The remaining 35 per cent of the show will be filmed in California).

Seeking to lay to rest once and for all the rumor that the show, which pumps an estimated $2 million a year directly into the local economy and has been credited by Chamber of Commerce officials with attracting five million tourist dollars annually, might move to New Mexico, Dortort said, “Some people in the industry thought I was crazy a few years ago when I predicted that Arizona would be the new Hollywood. Now more and more people are realizing this is coming true. I’m going to push with all my strength to make Arizona the new Hollywood.”

Mark Slade

According to David Dortort, Mark Slade was a good actor, but at 30 years old it was, “difficult to write convincing scripts that had him playing a teenager.” Dortort planned to keep the character alive because of the affection they had for Mark.

To support his argument, Dortort ticked off the names of five major film productions that have done location shooting in and around Tucson in recent months and pointed out that the old Hollywood has been sold off in huge chunks and does not really exist anymore.

It was Dortort’s assurance to Old Tucson’s management that “The High Chaparral” could give a sound stage enough business that prompted construction of the present facility. Although not a stockholder in Old Tucson Development Co., Dortort serves as a consultant on its advisory board, which is made up of celebrities including Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and John Wayne.

Big news about the series, which finished its third season in the top 20 Nielsen-rated television shows nationally, is that Mark Slade, in the character of Blue Cannon, “simply grew out of the part” and will no longer appear regularly in the series after the last show of the reruns in early September, Dortort said.

“Mark Slade is a fine young man, a good actor, cooperative and hard working,” Dortort said. “But he’s 30 and it was getting increasingly difficult to write convincing scripts that had him playing a teenager.” Dortort said.

Dortort said Slade’s character, Blue, would be kept alive “because of the affection we have for Mark”, and that he may return to the series at a later date as a mature character. The script has Blue leaving the Cannon ranch to pursue art studies in the East.

A new character, Wind played by newcomer Rudy Ramos, 19, is being added to the series, and Dortort cautiously described his introduction.

“We’re going to try something novel: instead of the artificial stock characters on television, perhaps including some on our own show, we want to go back to the facts of history.

Rudy Ramos as Wind

Rudy Ramos as Wind was added to The High Chaparral cast to appeal to the teenage audience.

“After the Civil War, veterans of both sides of the conflict – men with their homes burned, their pasts destroyed – made their way west to the open land. They encountered Indian tribes where it was often a sign of hospitality to offer visitors a squaw.

“This shocked many of the men from the Eastern seaboard still locked in the Puritan ethic, which was no place as rigid as in its relationship between men and women. Half breeds were often the result of these casual relationships. “These children,” Dortort continued, “were brought up by the tribes as Indians, trained to hunt, fight, ride, be self-sufficient. Wind is one of these. He is obsessed with one terrible question: Who is his father?”

In the first show of the series fourth season, Wind finds out – it’s Buck Cannon, played by Cameron Mitchell. (This story is Mitchell’s first notice of his television fatherhood, Dortort said). Ramos, whose father is a Mexican and mother a Cherokee Indian from Oklahoma, will thrash through his character’s anguish of hatred for his father for having left his mother, his need for paternal love, and other generation gap problems. Dortort thinks today’s youth will identify with the character’s problems, “hang ups that have lasted long enough.”

The only other major shift in the story line will be a more important role for Don Collier, who plays Sam, the ranch foreman.

Dortort, whose “Bonanza” finished No. 1 among television shows in its 11th year, said “Violence has been exaggerated out of all proportions” and has scuttled many good scripts – and a major new series, “Chinook,” about American Indians, that he has had to abandon.


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