post Kent McCray, Destination Tucson

July 25th, 2008

Filed under: Interviews & Articles — admin @ 8:04 pm

by Penny McQueen
April 7, 2007

The saga of John Cannon’s struggle to build an empire in the harsh Arizona territory was an abstract idea when Kent McCray, producer, was introduced to The High Chaparral. Still deep in production for Bonanza, Kent was asked to consider a new pilot, one that would become the most authentic western series on television. Kent explained, “The pilot script was being written by Denne Petticlerc at the same time we were shooting Bonanza.”

There was a three-part episode in the works for the venerable Bonanza, with a possible location at the historic Parker Ranch on Hawaii’s Big Island. As the home of the Hawaiian cowboy and covering 150,000 acres, the location promised impressive scenery including rugged volcanic ranges and lush green pastures. A scouting team of Bonanza creative talent prepared to leave Los Angeles for Hawaii: Bill Claxton, Director; David Dortort, Producer; Haskell Boggs, Cinematographer; Fenton Coe, representing NBC, and Kent McCray, Producer. Kent recalls, “Denne said he would have the pilot script for me on a given date, that was the day before we were to fly out to Hawaii. I finally got the pilot script at midnight. At five in the morning I was up getting ready to go to the airport. David Dortort called and said he wasn’t feeling well and was not going to go to Hawaii, but the rest of us should go as planned.”

Don Daves, left, David Dortort, center, Kent McCray, right

Don Daves, left, David Dortort, center, Kent McCray, right

The early morning flight and little sleep didn’t distract him. “I opened up my briefcase and took out the pilot script for Chaparral . I started to read it and was very excited about it. And as I finished a few pages I would pass it over to Bill Claxton. He would read it and pass it on to Haskell (Buzzy) Boggs, Buzzy in turn would pass it on to Fenton Coe. And by the time we arrived in Hawaii, we all said, what are we doing here? We should be preparing this wonderful script of High Chaparral!”
(Don Daves was an assistant director on The High Chaparral. David Dortort was the executive producer and creator of The High Chaparral. Kent McCray was the producer of The High Chaparral. Meet them at The High Chaparral Reunion 2007! )

After surveying the Parker ranch and other island locations, filming the Cartwrights in Hawaii was judged to be too costly. They returned to Los Angeles, anxious to work on the new pilot. Kent remembers, “The High Chaparral was a great script to begin with, there were very little changes we had to make, the big decision was to decide what would work for locations.” After scouting locations in and around Arizona the decision was made. Kent recalls, “During the trip to Tucson, I made an agreement with Bob Shelton, to erect the exterior of the Chaparral set at Old Tucson.” Always practical, the location appealed to him for two reasons. Cast and crew would shoot between Los Angeles and Arizona; the entire town set was convenient for production, as they could travel back and forth easily. But his second reason is reminiscent of the ranch itself, guards standing on the roof and around the fence line. “By having it on the Old Tucson location site, I knew it would be protected from any vandalism when we were not in and around Tucson.”

Traveling by way of the Hawaiian islands, Kent McCray found the perfect spot for The High Chaparral .

David Dortort, left, and Kent McCray, right, on location for The High Chaparral

David Dortort, left, and Kent McCray, right, on location for The High Chaparral

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