theses on unpopular culture from a man with a mouse
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
The Legend of Walks Far Raquel
Raquel Welch had a bee in her bonnet regarding her 1979 television acting debut The Legend Of Walks Far Woman; she wanted people to see it. But NBC Entertainment president Brandon Tartikoff saw no commercial potential, and shelved it when it was delivered to the network. This was especially disappointing to Welch who fought hard to get the film made and who co-produced it under the Raquel Welch Productions banner.
The novel Walks Far Woman by Colin Stuart tells a tale based on the life of his great grandmother. From this novel, Evan Hunter (author of The Blackboard Jungle and The Birds screenplay) fashioned the teleplay of Walks Far, a Blackfoot woman forced to leave her tribe after killing to avenge her husband's death. She meets up with, and joins, a Sioux tribe where she is accepted until banished (again) for killing her violent Sioux husband. It was 1979 when Raquel Welch, Bradford Dillman, Nick Mancuso, director Mel Damski and the rest of production team descended upon Montana (including Billings, Red Lodge and Hardin) to film this epic Western that followed the story of Walks Far from 1874 until her death in 1953.
The Legend Of Walks Far Woman was filmed as a three-hour television movie and, except for the stars, all actors were either Native or Mexican Americans. The lifestyle of the Indians - wild and free on the prairies - is the backdrop and the film doesn't shy away from brutality and doesn't pander to American Indian stereotypes, portraying them with failings and virtues. By the film's end, Welch ages to 103 with Del Armstrong and Hallie Smith-Simmons applying her makeup.
For three years, the film sat collecting dust but Welch and her lawyers never gave up. In 1982, it was edited to two and a half hours and given a time slot on May 30. Before it had a chance to air though the last reel was ditched and an end with 20 seconds of the 103 year old Walks Far added with a voiceover to fill in the gaps. The resulting film is disjointed and the ending just ridiculous. The greatest asset is the locale and Raquel Welch's performance which begins haltingly but warms up nicely. (A weird anomaly is hearing the characters speak about speaking the Indian language when they are clearly speaking English.)
The version that aired was, much to Tartikoff's chagrin, a ratings success. According to reports of the time, Tartikoff appeared before the nation's TV critics in Burbank the day after the movie aired and described receiving a 7 a.m. call from NBC's New York offices. It was a call giving me the overnight ratings shares for the top three markets Tartikoff said and for The Legend of Walks Far Woman, they were something like 36, 24 and 36. I said "Great -- she got her measurements."
Welch probably does not approve of the truncated version of the film although it's high ratings probably made her happy. In 1983, she also won a won a Bronze Wrangler at the Western Heritage Awards and a Nosotros Golden Eagle (for Hispanic achievements in the entertainment industry) for her role. The Legend Of Walks Far Woman was released on VHS tape in several countries. It has never been released on DVD in the United States although Australia and Spain seem to have copies floating around. It's hard to tell whether these are bootlegs or official releases.
FREE DOWNLOAD: I have a digital copy of The Legend Of Walks Far Woman. It's 115 minutes and even with all the edits, it would behoove any fan of Raquel Welch to drop me an email. I will then send you link from which you can download it.