The Gunfight

November 7, 2012

My dad and I loved cowboy movies. We’d sit and watch them for hours. Most of them were dreadfull. The Gene Autrey, Roy Rogers singing cowboy films were awful. But Howard Hawks and John Ford made great movies. And then there were the TV westerns. Bonanza and Gunsmoke were the most popular TV programs on television. Have Gun Will Travel, Bounty Hunter, Maverick were all terrific stuff.

This story/prose poem is one in a series published in a book called “Making Movies”. You can download it for FREE. Makes a nice Christmas Gift.



Around a table four men playing poker

one is a squat man close to the earth

a farmer curly red hair invisible eyebrows divided by a scar

shirt sleeves rolled up

two buttons of his shirt undone

suspenders and trousers a suit jacket hung

limply over his chair

to his right a small thin man spider wearing spectacles

bank teller holds his cards close

close to his eyes to make sure they aren’t counterfeit

to his right the gambler dressed to win

three piece suit white silk shirt shoe string tie black curly hair

a smile hidden in a wrinkled mouth

the fourth is a blacksmith shirt stained sweat arms burned

from the elbows down hands awkwardly large

anyone care for breakfast kitty the owner of the saloon smiles

behind a deep purple dress with flat mirror buttons

i’d rather refill my pocket the blacksmith good naturedly grins

how about a couple of eggs with eyes bacon with sides

coffee with cream the gambler smiles

what have you got the gambler asks

pair of aces the bank clerk greedily grins

beats me the farmer replies

ménage a trios the gambler grins while strangling his tie

don’t you ever lose the farmer complains

no one can be so lucky and not own the stars

calm down bill the blacksmith says

restraining a yawn swallowing his eyes

dealing out a new round the gambler places the deck on the table

teller and smith nibble at their cards

the farmer rises pointing at the gambler

with a gun

sitting calmly the gambler holds his cards with five fingers

another finger beneath the table

fondling the trigger of his gun

two bullets splinter the table and the farmer’s brain

the farmer’s eyes are open round in surprise

hand drops gun fires into the floor

falls back into his chair

blood spits out of his head onto his shirt

it’s a new shirt

the farmer gasps and dies.

SET DESIGNER: All the indoor scenes, the saloon, the house, the farm, were shot in a warehouse in Toronto. I think the place had been used to store furs or something animal… you could still smell whatever it was. Sam had to live there while we were shooting. He had to; it was his furniture that we were using as props. I don’t know how he stood the smell. He told us that at night he could hear creatures scurrying across the rafters. He wasn’t sure whether they were mice or ghosts….

SAMUEL BREMMER: To save money we decided to make a western. Everyone wore old clothes they’d found in attics or picked up in the ‘Sally Ann’. They were close to the clothes that people wore in the 1800’s. Fashions for the poor don’t change much over time. And the men, except for Anthony, didn’t shave. We shot many of the outdoor scenes in an old abandoned farm near Pembroke, built, I think, about the time the story is supposed to have taken place. We used some of the locals and the crew as extras. And of course with horses you don’t have to worry about the date of the model…

MUSIC DIRECTOR: We had some trouble with the background noise. We didn’t notice it until we started to edit, but all the indoor scenes sounded dead, hollow. Solving this was more difficult than it might seem. I had to go out and record outdoor scenes. I went into the middle of the woods. I used some very sensitive recording equipment and discovered to my dismay that it picked up the sound of my breathing. So i had to re-record by leaving the machine by itself for a few hours. And then later i discovered that part of it was ruined by the sound of an airplane. So i had to do it all over again. The third time i was again frustrated. The recorder picked up the sound of a tree falling in the woods…

SCREENWRITER: In the original script there was much more dialogue… which Sam managed to eliminate in many ways… either by eliminating it all together or by making it almost inaudible behind the breathing of horses, or the sound of running water or by having more than one person speak at the same time. Sam explained these changes to me by saying that we were not putting on a play. Film is visual, he said. I asked him why he didn’t do the whole thing in pantomine. He didn’t like that. Maybe that’s why we haven’t worked together since….

SAMUEL BREMMER: I am nothing but a bag of voices… if they leave then I am…

SAMUEL BREMMER: I was very pleased with the farmer’s death. I played the part of the farmer myself, not only to save money but also I think because i liked the fantasy of being killed. And then of course surviving one’s own death….


rain falls down

a river pouring out of a cloud

a man on a horse approaches a farm house and dismounts

knocks at the door a woman in grey opens

the door light flows out into the rain

through the kitchen window is seen the rider holding his hat

the woman turning away face in her hands

veil of darkness rain and silence rain and silence

out the back door the rider leaves heading toward the barn

rain pours down ditches swell rain barrel overflows

SAMUEL BREMMER: There was no rain in the original screenplay. We shot all the indoor scenes first in Toronto while keeping an eye on the weather conditions in Pembroke. Then it occurred to me that the rain could be a fundamental part of the picture. This meant of course that we had to re-write and re-shoot some scenes. And then we had to rush up to Pembroke and hope it wouldn’t stop raining. I sent one of the crew ahead of us just to shoot the rain falling. Luckily for us, because shortly after we began to shoot the scenes on the farm the rain stopped. Looking back i think the rain shaped the film. As if the gods were smiling down upon us…

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