Tuesday, April 27, 2010

J.P.S. Brown, an ongoing interview with the author of Jim Kane

Pt. 2 of an on-going interview with author J.P.S. Brown. Questions 1-4 were posted previously and can be found in the archives on 4/18/10 We pick up with questions 5-10

5) Could he make the same journey today ( in 2010) successfully?

I don’t believe anyone could get him to go back to the Sierra. He’s had it. I figure that he had about a 75 percent chance of making it back to his home in Tucson alive before he wrote the book. Now, he would probably have about a 90 percent chance of losing his life and having his book stuffed in a place where the sun don’t shine.

6)I understand you once wrote a novel entirely from a horses point of view. What was it called and where did the inspiration come from?

The book was called I, Horse. My William Morris agent who had given me lavish praise for my work was so put out with I, Horse, that he quit me. So, I rewrote the book in third person about a top horse of mine that inspired the book and called it Steeldust. It was published by Walker and Co., New York as Steeldust and Steeldust II: The Flight.

The only reason I could see that Walker split the book in half and published the halves a year apart was so it could sell one book for the price of two.

Horses have been on this earth in more or less their modern form for about 40,000,000 years and all they have had to help them survive has been their grace and speed. Man has been here I guess in his present form for about 5,000 years. Horses haven’t poisoned the earth or their fellow beings in any way, haven’t ruined anything, except when used as a tool by men, have not murdered, and have not dealt in betrayal, or for that matter not dealt in any of the sins that man rationalizes to be necessary for his survival.

I figured a horse’s language to be a sort of poetic plain talk, but I finally abandoned the idea when I realized that my idea of a horse’s talk was too “literary.” I kept running into the problem of liking my choice and use of words more than I did my subject. I had always hated that kind of “literary” writing that showed off high-toned language ad nausea and realized that the only reason I wanted to do the book that way was to see what I could do with words about the great horse that inspired the work.

7) It's on the record that you hated the movie "Pocket Change" and "that it made you want to puke and hurt somebody". The film was based on your novel "Jim Kane" which was based factually on aspects of your life. Paul Newman played the central character based on you. Was it Newman or the studios fault, or both, for the silly characterization we see in that film.

I got along good with Paul and I thought we respected each other. I think he was trying to portray me, but if that is true, he sure missed it. I fell out with his company before the production began, so if I had wanted it to be better, it’s my own fault for not staying with it.

However, to stay with the company was just too big a sacrifice for me. I had cattle and a ranch in Mexico and I wanted it done down there. I got them to promise me they would do it there.

When I saw their first screenplay I was alone in a hotel room. It was so bad I kicked a chair through a window and crippled myself for about a month. They didn’t get it then and they couldn’t ever get it after several script conferences that I attended before production began.

Paul never attended those conferences and I am told that during the production he kept shouting at the producers to get Joe Brown involved. However, I had made it very clear to them that I hated their dishonesty and their lying, phony, Hollywood ways and they had all they wanted of me for all time already, because when I told them off I waited until I had them all together.

In order to make the movie in Mexico, they had to show the script to the government censor in Mexico City. When the censor read it, he declined to give them permission to make it in Mexico. In the book I showed Mexicans the way I saw them, with love and respect. Pocket Money depicts them as overbearing greasers.

Then, I was called on the carpet by the Mexican Consul in Nogales and told to hand in my Mexican work visa, because the censors believed that the screenplay must closely follow the book I couldn’t go back to my ranch and livestock until the matter was resolved. The Consul was my friend, so she had me produce five copies of Jim Kane for the censors to review. After five months I was allowed to return to my business in Mexico.

I should have known that I would have no influence on the production company. In the beginning, we spent two weeks in Mexico looking for locations. My town Navojoa had to brush the landing strip by hand so that the Newman-Foreman Productions Falcon jet could land and take off there. The town turned all out for us and gave us a fiesta. Paul didn’t go with us.

Marty Ritt had been hired to be the movie’s director at that time. One day, as we drove through town all ten of us crowded into two cars, Marty piped up, “Don’t worry, Joe, we’re going to put fire and life into your book.”

I was already getting the picture of the kind of movie they would make. I said, “No, Marty. You’re not going to put anything into my book. My book is what it is and you can’t put one thing into it. My book has a good, sound reputation. Let’s see what you do with your movie.”

I could write a whole lot more about this, but I’d rather tell stories about truth and honor which would not grace that Newman-Foreman production company at all. To his everlasting credit, Paul stuck to his acting and stayed clear out of his company’s dirty business. I’ve never seen a movie company that was any better, except Ron Howard’s.

8)Tom Russell comments on his album "Hotwalker" that we don't need these phony heroes ( like athletes, actors & politicians, fake tough guys ) when we have real heroes living amongst us. We would have to put you in the class of real heroes I believe. Would you be uncomfortable with that?

I’m a Marine. All real heroes are dead. I still have to try hard to stay alive and be a man.

9) What kind of man was Lee Marvin? Can you tell us any stories about him from the times you spent together?

Lee was a warm and kind friend. He had a distinguished career as a Marine rifleman in the Pacific during WWII. I met him on the set of Pocket Money on the only day I visited its set. He and I and Paul got together to visit behind the camera. We were having a very funny and lively conversation, when all of a sudden I looked over at Lee and he was sitting up in his canvas chair with his name on it, sound asleep.
The producers told him a lot of stories about me, as they came away from my presence, I guess, with their hair standing on end and their complexions ghostly. When anyone asked Lee about me, he always said, the g.d. Hollywood's talk about Joe Brown in subdued tones, much as they would mention a terrorist who might mark them for death. Joe’s without a doubt the wildest SOB I’ve ever known.

10)How are Oscar Russo ( your old partners nephew) and your good friend Adan Martinez ( who you've called the best tracker and outdoors men you ever saw) doing these days ?

Oscar still retains the El Limon and Guazaremos sections of the old ranch that was founded by my partner Rafael Russo’s Sicilian immigrant grandfather. He is the only member if the family who still wants to keep the ranch, but he doesn’t know much about ranching and he won’t stay up in the Sierra for long. He only visits it to count his diminishing herd of Black Angus cattle that aren’t fitted for life in the Sierra. He and I have tried to get together to go to the Sierra, because I have to show him the place where Rafael used to pan for gold for spending money for mariachis and beer he required when he drove his father’s cattle out of the Sierra to market. I’m the only one left who knows where it is. Also, I want to see what became of the remnant of Rafael’s cattle that were very well suited for survival as natives of the Sierra. Those cattle are sure to have gone wild just as all their ancestors did, become wild as wolves to survive and thrive and multiply. Oscar doesn’t even know they still have to exist in that vast country. I want to go up there one time and bring some of them out before I die.

Adan Martiniz brought his family out of the Sierra and moved to Hermosillo, Sonora when killings over the drug traffic began about 1974. He and his sons own several five ton trucks with which they haul needed goods to Mulatos, their hometown in the Sierra. He still runs cattle on his part of the Mulatos Ejido, or communal ranch. I’ve visited him in Hermosillo. He and his family are healthy, his sons that were so tiny when they were little are all big and strapping and miraculously alive and making a good living with the trucks.

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