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Sunday, September 22, 2019

FORGOTTEN WESTERNS—JOHNNY CONCHO

FORGOTTEN WESTERNS
JOHNNY CONCHO
Never heard of Johnny Concho? If so, you're probably better off.  Coming off a year when he starred in four hit movies, Johnny Concho was Sinatra' s first Western.  The film was directed by Don McGuire and co-starred Keenan Wynn, William Conrad, and Phyllis Kirk.

Johnny Concho debuted in 1956, the same year Sinatra had a big hit wuth the title role in High Society. Sinatra had also appeared in four successful films the year before. 


However, despite the high profile popularity of his other audience pleasing flicks, the reaction to Johnny Concho was lukewarm at best. Nobody wanted to see Sinatra playing the role of a coward for almost the entire film. People wanted Sinatra the singer and dancer. It would take another decade before folks would pay money at the ticket booth to see Sinatra the actor.


The people of Cripple Creek fear the mean, petty and boastful Johnny Concho (a role Sinatra was born to play), but only because his brother is a notorious gunfighter. Johnny takes advantage of his position, bullying the townsfolk, until the arrival of a cowboy named Tallman (William Conrad). Tallman claims to have killed Johnny' s brother and, after exposing Johnny as a coward, takes over the town. Tallman, however, is more hated than Johnny. Johnny must now gain the courage to fight Tallman, earn the respect of Cripple Creek's townsfolk, and win the heart of Mary, the general store owner's daughter.


The movie was written by David Harmon, based on his story, The Man Who Owned the Town. Harmon was a prolific writer for numerous episodic television series, but Johnny Concho was his sole movie credit.  

Perhaps anticipating a more positive audience response to the film, Gold Medal published a paperback tie-in novelization with a photo of a horse-sitting Sinatra on the cover looking like a cowboy who could be knocked over by a fast moving tumbleweed. 


Noel Loomis, a well respected Western wordslinger and science fiction novelist, was given sole credit for the novelization on the  cover of the American publication. The British tie-in edition, however, used the same movie still of sinatra on the cover, but also gave credit to Johnny Concho screenwriter David Harmon alongside Loomis. 


During his career, Noel Loomis also wrote the scripts for episodes of Have Gun Will Travel, Bonanza, and Cheyenne. Those gigs led to him writing original tie-in novels for Have Gun Will Travel and Bonanza. It's too bad he didn't also get the chance to do an original Cheyenne tie-in novel.


 


3 comments:

  1. The Wikipedia entry for Loomis implies the book's a novelization of the script.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thx. It was a bit murky as I was coming across conflicting resources.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Further checking reveals the movie script by David Harmon was based on his story The Man Who Owned the Town. Loomis strictly handled the novelization chores. I updated the blog post...Thx...

    ReplyDelete

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