For those of you who think you
know "Sam, the actor", here's a film quiz to test your knowledge. If you obtain a
score of 17 to 20, I salute you as a bona-fide Shepard movie fan. (This quiz includes questions
from both cinema and TV films)
1. Name the film in which he co-stars with Penelope Cruz.
2. In what film is he killed in a car bombing?
3. What TV film earned him an Emmy nomination?
4. Which of his films featured the music suite
"The Carnival of the Animals" by French composer Saint-Saens?
In what film is he bitten by a badger?
6. Name the film in which he says -
"Anybody that goes up in the damn thing is gonna be Spam in a can".
7. In what film does he visit the Louvre?
8. Which film did he star in that was previously a
9. In what film does he play Dad to seven sons?
10. Name the film in which he plays a veterinarian.
11. In what film does he ride a motorcycle?
12. In "Brothers" he plays a Vietnam vet. Name the film
in which he plays a very disturbing and dangerous Vietnam vet.
13. Spud is his character's name. Can you name the film?
14. Name the film based on a Beth Henley play.
15. In real life we know he's a playwright, but in
what film does he play a writer of hard-boiled detective stories?
16. Name the film that was based on a biography
called "Shadowlands" by William Arnold.
17. Name in the film in which Eva Marie Saint plays his mother.
18. In what film is his character a train robber?
19. He directed Sean Penn in one of his plays but can you name the
film in which Sean Penn directed him?
20. Name the film that tells a true 1993 war story in Somalia.
* * * * *
I'm told that Jessica Lange was forced to publicly
admit the loss of her children's father in a message read by Susan Sarandon.
Last week a "Feud: Bette and Joan" Emmy FYC event was held and Lange was
scheduled to appear. Sarandon read a message from her co-star which stated:
"I’m very sorry that I’m unable to be here tonight, and
be a part of this event. I loved working on this project, the story we told,
and most of all, playing Joan Crawford. And, of course, having the
opportunity to work with Ryan and Susan and our incredible cast of actors
and crew. It was a wonderful experience, and I’m very proud of it. I wish I
could be there, but we’ve had a great loss in our family, and I’m unable totravelat this time."
Since she's been nominated for another Emmy, will she travel
to Los Angeles for the Emmy Awards set for Sunday, September 17? Unless she
makes some proper response to the death of Sam Shepard before that date, I
assume she will not attend.
August 16, 2017
a little difficult to pinpoint exactly what Don Shewey does for a living.
There's no Wikipedia page for him. When I first read his biographical book on
Sam many moons ago, I assumed he was a journalist. Later I saw him as a
gay theater critic and presently he's become known as a psychotherapist and
massage therapist in NYC. The above photo shows him with his first meeting with
Sam in 2003 when he was doing an interview for American Theater magazine. I'm
not sure what Shewey's connection is to cinema. In any event, I found this blog
written a few days ago and was shocked to read what he wrote about Sam as an
"In films Shepard reliably represented the many faces of
craggy masculinity. It’s no disrespect to say he wasn’t a great actor – he
was an economical performer and an iconic presence, which suited most of his
film roles. His most memorable performance, for me, was playing the ghost of
Hamlet’s father in Michael Almereyda’s 2000 film. I weep just thinking about
the way he pulled Ethan Hawke into his arms and growled into his ear
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but I am aghast
that Mr. Shewey is so unfamiliar with Sam's films or that he would even mention
Hamlet as most memorable. Must be into Shakespeare.
* * * * *
"This farmer, he didn't know when he first saw her...
or what it was about her that caught his eye.
Maybe it was the way the wind blew through her hair."
There's this wonderful old interview with Sam at
youtube.com in which he shares what it was like filming Days of
Heaven. The video runs about 12 minutes and Sam gives a fascinating view of
the filmmaker and the reasons why the film became a classic. I know you'll enjoy
From Mark Broadman, True West magazine:
"The late playwright Sam Shepard is well known to Western
fans for the laconic cowboy figures he played on the big screen. Frank James in
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward
Robert Ford. Butch Cassidy in Blackthorn.
Wild Bill Hickok in Purgatory. Pea Eye in
Streets of Laredo. He came by it naturally. Shepard was cowboying in
California in his teens. He competed in rodeo many times over the years. He even
compared it to his primary job, saying rodeo has more real drama than a hundred
Well, Mr. Broadman missed a few more cowboy roles in Sam's
filmography. He forgot Bill Buck in Bandidas,
Howard Spence inDon't Come Knocking, Snort Yarnell
in The Good Old Boys, and Eddie inFool for Love.
Sam's love of horses began in his childhood and he gave this little
history on how he became a cowboy:
"I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley out there towards that
semi-desert country in California where all the racetracks and the lay-up farms
were. I grew up with Thoroughbreds, working at Santa Anita Park racetrack as a
hot walker when I was a kid and working in a lot of those lay-up farms... So
that's kind of where my initial interest in thoroughbreds came from - just
watching those horses go around that track."
"I got into team roping through the movies. The stuntmen
taught me how to team rope. Back in the '70s I was team roping quite a lot, and
from there I went into cowboy polo, which is a kind of slam-bang affair in an
arena with padded chaps and all that stuff. And then from there I went to polo,
and along the way I ran into these cutting-horse guys and got started with
"I've been breeding horses since 1988. I could afford it
because the movie things came along and gave me an opportunity to buy some
mares, and they did pretty good."
Purgatory and Fool for Love
Jesse James, The Good Old Boys, Laredo and Bandidas
Blackthorn and Don't Come Knocking
* * * * *
From actor Val Kilmer (who starred in 3 films with Sam):
"I keep thinking about dear old Sam... I'd always needed
to be able to at least half way decently rope a horse, as you need to do on
occasion when you own 6,000 acres and 50 some horses at one point. And he
LOVED roping. It was as if roping was magic and he could do it and everyone
loved it when he did it."
"When we did our first film together (Thunderheart),
I immediately bought a plastic yearling skull model with two metal spikes
out the neck of the skull one stabs into a bail of hay to practice roping.
And I tore my little actor fingers off roping that black plastic calf head
until I was over 50% at least. I can't tell you how happy he was to see the
improvement over the weeks and months out there in the Badlands of South
Dakota. He would grin. Which he didn't do that often. Not back then. When we
became actual friends, he'd smile and grin often."
August 13, 2017
From William Glover, reviewing THE ONE INSIDE:
"Genius is rarely generous, or kind. Sam Shepard’s plays are often sad and
violent, explosive and hilarious. His cowboy looks and remote demeanor onscreen
radiate intensity. So his final book, The One
Inside comes as a revelation. The stories in this slim, partly
autobiographical book crackle with erudition. And they are as open and
unpredictable as the western landscape that permeates Shepard’s dreams...
Autobiographical fiction often demands that the reader pardon the famous
shortcomings of the author. But here we get to experience the genius of his
vision without being asked to let him off the hook. As a result, I suspect many
readers, reminded of him by his passing, will, on the strength of this volume,
return to his other works with a more generous eye."
* * * * *
Much of Sam's writing in the last few years was done at the Santa Fe Institute
among other scholars. He felt the atmosphere was conducive to being more
disciplined in his commitment to daily writing. Here he hobnobs with president
David Krakauer (center) and fellow writer Cormac McCarthy (left).
* * * * *
This is a film poster for Don't Come Knocking
that I had never seen before. WOW! Awesome doesn't fully describe it
with its Edward Hopper appeal. The role of Howard Spence is pure Shepard,
written for him and ultimately fulfilled director/writer Wim Wenders' dream as
he declared, "To have Sam in front of the camera is one of my oldest desires as
a filmmaker." Despite all its artist achievement and great performances from the
entire cast, critics and audiences alike were not happy with the film's
meandering script. Just press the mute button and enjoy the scenery.
* * * * *
I've been reading some old magazine articles on Sam and came
across the October 2011 issue of Interview magazine. Michael Almereyda
writes about Shepard being "a kind of mystical cult figure for teenagers who
happen upon plays like Cowboy Mouth or Buried Child or Fool for Love, only to
later discover that the Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright is also an actor."
Absolutely untrue! Teenagers do not have their heads in avant-garde theater
works. They're teenagers. They go to the movies. They first meet Shepard on the
big screen and then they discover much later that he won a Pulitzer Prize in
Drama. When will the theater world accept that the majority of Americans
first recognize Shepard from the world of cinema?
* * * * *
It's been 2 1/2 weeks since the death of Sam Shepard and there has been no
word from the family as to the status of his body? Has he been cremated with his
ashes scattered over the Western plains? Was there a private funeral?
Is there already a burial site? Or
will there be a public memorial? Every culture has some kind of
ceremonial farewell, especially to a great man.
August 12, 2017
The first written work by Shepard that I read decades ago was
"Motel Chronicles". I had read all of J.D. Salinger's books (and later read the
memoirs by Margaret Salinger and Joyce Maynard) and for some reason, Sam's style
echoed Salinger's stream of consciousness writing, at least for me. Maybe I
connected with Sam because he was just nine days older than me and I was also a
loner. Maybe I connected because I had the same angst toward my father. In the
end, I think I jumped on board because he was a movie star. But I have to add,
"when they made him, they threw away the mold." Here's a snippet from the book:
"The Rialto Theatre was dark and musky in the middle of
the day and I entered the world of the movie so completely that the theatre
became part of its landscape. The trip to get popcorn up the black aisle
with the sound track booming and the kids squealing in their seats was all
part of the plot. I was in the cave of King Solomon at the candy counter.
The "Ju-Ju-Bees" were jewels. The ushers were jungle trees. Cheetahs roamed
through the bathroom. I breathed African dust for days afterwards in a town
of solid white folk."
One more snippet:
The cover of "Motel Chronicles" features a photograph by
Bruce Weber. I always wanted to purchase Weber's book on Sam when it was listed
on Ebay but it was always a bit too pricey for me.
One of my favorite photographers is the legendary Annie
Leibovitz and she presently has an exhibition sponsored by the LUMA Foundation
in Arles, France. The showing, which runs from May 28 - September 24, 2017,
features "The Early Years", which consists of over 8,000 photographs taken
between 1968 and 1983. There may be more than one of Sam but we know the photo
below is included. I had never seen it before.
From Loretta Greco, Magic Theatre:
"Sam refused to play the wise sage. He remained
beautifully broken, from his first plays in 1964 to his last book of fiction
in 2017—still combing the open road for visages of his lost father, the
bygone West of his youth, and America’s forgotten promises. I last saw Sam
in Healdsburg at the end of March, just before he headed home to his
Kentucky farm. We discussed Diebenkorn’s work and pondered the origin of the
Beatles’ 'Blackbird.' Before the afternoon was over, he dictated a
dedication for Magic’s 50th anniversary for Ed Harris to present. Sam asked
to hear it out loud. His sister, Roxanne, read it back patiently several
times. Sam listened intently, making small, careful revisions."
The first thing that intrigues me is the discussion of the
Beatles' song "Blackbird". I had never heard of it until I noted that it was
sung at Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist's funeral last month. At that time I
looked up the history of the 1968 lyrics and discovered it was written about the
civil rights struggle. At the Academy Awards ceremony in 2016, Dave Grohl
performed this song to accompany the "in memoriam" segment so it seems quite
appropriate for memorials, perhaps one for Sam. Very beautiful lyrics.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free
Into the light of the dark black night...
The second thing I picked up in Greco's statement was the
fact that Sam was in Healdsburg, CA in March. That's where his son Jesse and his
family live. Perhaps that was one of his last stops before he retired to
Kentucky. Here is a terrific photo of Sam and Jesse, probably taken 10 to 15
August 11, 2017
little patriarchal history: Samuel Shepard Rogers II was born on February
20, 1917 in McHenry, Illinois. He was a bomber pilot during World War II. Two of
his brothers and a sister served our country as well. Sam's great-grandmother on
his father's side, Mary Howe Rogers, was known as the founder of the public
library in Crystal Lake, Illinois as well as an early kindergarten school
teacher in the late 1800s. Sam's father died after being hit by a car outside a
bar on March 24, 1984 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Can you see the strong resemblance to both Sam and son Walker?
Here's a photo of Sam taken from the 1961 yearbook for Duarte
High School in California.
August 10, 2017
many of these tributes for Sam, much has been said about his Oscar nomination
for The Right Stuff, but I'd like to point out that he received other
nominations as well. His performance in the A&E original movie, Dash & Lilly, (1999) earned him both a
Globe and Emmy nomination for Best Performance by an Actor. Directed by Kathy
Bates, the drama told the
story of the tumultuous and passionate love affair between
Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman, played by Judy Davis. Sam was also
recognized for his work in the ABC TV film Ruffian(2007) with a SAG nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor. He
starred as horse trainer Frank Whiteley. That Sam Shepard understood the sport
is no doubt among the reasons why he was able to get Whiteley down perfectly.
* * * * *
From actor Peter Coyote:
"We both lived in Mill Valley
together, and while we were never close, we shared a lot of interests, practiced
roping together a few times, and I was good friends with his wife Olan (who he
was married to during his peak creative years) and his son Jesse, whose writing
I encouraged with the gift of a portable typewriter I'd used pre-computer.
Despite not being more than casual pals, Sam cast me as Austin, one of the two
leads in the world premiere of True West,
and a Hollywood agent in the audience signed and represented me for the next 8
or 9 years... I imagine he's chatting with my sister [Elizabeth West] who
preceded him by a few days. They'll both be back as the rain."
I came to know Coyote over 20 years ago when he was looking
for feedback on his first book, Sleeping Where I Fall. He is the dearest
man. We began an online friendship and eventually we met up in Boston. He liked
the idea of an official
web site so I created one for him and thus began Coymoon Creations, a
combination of "Coyote" and his Polanski film, Bitter Moon. That first
True West production took place on July 10, 1980 at San Francisco's Magic
Theatre with Peter starring as Austin and Jim Haynie as Lee.
From Owen Gleiberman, Variety:
"In 1978 Shepard was tapped to co-star in a major motion
picture: Terrence Malick’s second feature,Days of
Heaven, in which he was cast in the role of a wealthy, dying farmer
in the Texas Panhandle in 1916 who is lured into the scheme of a pair of
traveling rogues (Richard Gere and Brooke Adams). The movie was like a
magic-hour version of a Biblical parable, and Shepard’s performance was wry,
taciturn, sorrowful, and sexy in a gentlemanly way. As an actor, he was more
than skillful enough to get by, but in Days of Heaven he had something
more than skill. He had an aura."
"A lot of it was his look. Tall, rock-steady, almost
pre-verbal, with his hair swept back and two slightly uneven front teeth that
suggested the authenticity of a much older era, he could have been a preacher or
a country lawyer from an age that was decades before media. He looked like a
startlingly handsome man out of a 19th-century photograph."
I like what Mr. Gleiberman is pointing out but I have
to correct him. Shepard's hair was not "swept back". It had a rather shaggy,
unmanageable look as seen in these photos.
Terrence Malick's film was such a masterpiece from the
cinematography right down to the soundtrack. My husband and six children all
love it as well. This movie scene of Linda Manz during the locust infestation
could be mistaken for a Vermeer painting.
* * * * *
Strumming... First, a young playwright in NYC; second,
a scene from Netflix's "Bloodline" series; third, with his wife O-Lan; and
fourth, with his 'buddy' Patti Smith.
August 9, 2017
From Sean Murphy, Pop Matters:
"Like Wilde, he was blessed with talent and charm (not to
mince words, he was a beautiful man), and he somehow managed to incorporate
virtually every cliché of Americana, distilling it into his own, unique
persona. Semi-tortured artist, channeling our pathologies via works that
were, on arrival, sui generis? Yes. Prototypical rugged individual, who
mostly shunned the hackneyed trappings of fame, preserving both his
integrity and his soul? Yes. Man’s man comfortable in the outdoors, and
adept at working with either animals or his bare hands? (Quick: think of how
many playwrights you’d actually be able to hunt with, get shitfaced with,
talk books and music with, and with whom you’d hope to have by your side if
your car broke down in the middle of nowhere.)"
From Liz Smith, New York Social Diary:
"He was so inescapably and iconically American — a poet,
a cowboy, a truth seeker, a builder and destroyer of myths. He was
tumultuous and intensely private... As an actor, his presence was electric,
invigorating and often oddly comforting — granite wrapped in fine linen."
From Wilborn Hampton, Huffington Post:
"When he was diagnosed a couple of years ago with the
illness known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and that would finally take his life,
he told only a small circle of friends and family. Although part of the
reason for keeping the news secret was his insistence or keeping his private
life private, another was that he wanted to finish his last book without the
encumbrance of well-wishers."
"As the disease took its toll, he found it difficult to hold a pen or even
peck at the typewriter. His lifelong friend Patti Smith and his daughter
Hannah helped him finish the book, The One
Inside, which was published earlier this year. It was one of his
most autobiographical and in it he wrote briefly about his own anguish when
a central character discovers his limbs won’t move."