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The Western Film Fair rides again in Winston-Salem July 14-17

by Mark Burger

For fans of vintage Westerns, it’s time once more to saddle up for the 33 rd annual Western Film Fair, which rides into town beginning Wednesday, July 14 at the Clarion Sundance Plaza Hotel (3050 University Parkway, Winston-Salem).

Presented by the Western Film Preservation Society, the Western Film Fair is a rootin’, tootin’, shootin’ salute to the Western films and heroes of yesteryear. The celebration will include daily screenings of more than 80 vintage 16mm Western films and TV shows; a dealers’ room filled with all sorts of movie memorabilia for sale (posters, lobby cards, magazine, soundtracks, books, DVDs, etc.); panel discussions and seminars with the event’s guest stars, and nightly entertainment, capped off by the Awards Night Banquet.

This year’s guest stars include actor John Saxon, a popular figure in a number of film genres: Westerns, of course (The Appaloosa with Marlon Brando, Joe Kidd with Clint Eastwood and Robert Duvall); action (opposite Bruce Lee in the 1973 martial-arts classic Enter the Dragon); and horror (the original Black Christmas, the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, Dario Argento’s Tenebrae).

Saxon has also appeared in dozens of TV shows during his career — including memorable guest stints on “Falcon Crest,” “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “Starsky and Hutch,” and along the way he’s picked up a Golden Globe Award, a Western Heritage Award, and a fairly sizable fan following.

Also scheduled to attend the Western Film Fair are: Rosemary Forsyth, whose big-screen credits include The War Lord (1965) and Gray Lady Down (1978), both opposite Charlton Heston, and the 1965 Western favorite Shenandoah, opposite James Stewart, Katharine Ross and Doug McClure, which marked her big-screen bow; Johnny

Washburn, remembered for the TV series “My Friend Flicka” and guest stints on “Wagon Train”; Donna Douglas, of “The Beverly Hillbillies” fame and Elvis Presley’s leading lady in the 1966 hit Frankie and Johnny; Bobby Diamond, of the TV series’ “Fury” and “The Many Lives of Dobie Gillis”; Randy Boone, of “The Virginian” and “Cimarron Strip”; actress/singer Grace Lee Whitney, well-remembered for her role as Yeoman Janice Rand on the original “Star Trek” TV series (a role she reprised in some of the subsequent big-screen Star Treks); and actor Sonny Shroyer, fondly remembered as the bumbling but lovable deputy Enos on “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

Hannah Dasher and Western Film Fair veteran Johnny Meeks are also scheduled to be on hand to provide some down-home live entertainment throughout the festivities.

Over the years, the Western genre has been declared dead, only to see its popularity return time and again, thanks to a Lonesome Dove on television or an Unforgiven on the big screen. As with any film genre, make a good one and others will follow.

The Western Film Fair is steeped in the nostalgia of the Western programmer, which proliferated in the 1930s and ’40s. Stars like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Charles Starrett and others were making as many as 10 movies a year (most of them around 60 minutes long), a lot of which became popular with young children at Saturday matinees.

The next generation was introduced to these films when they began airing on television in the 1950s and ’60s — during which time the Western also enjoyed a major resurgence on television and in feature films, such as Sergio Leone’s “spaghetti Westerns” (The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West) and the films of Sam Peckinpah (Ride the High Country, The Wild Bunch).

Even the most famous screen cowboy of them all, John Wayne, capped off the 1960s by galloping home with his only Academy Award as Best Actor for his performance in 1969’s True Grit — a true Western that, incidentally, is currently being remade by no less than the

Coen Brothers, with Jeff Bridges sliding into the saddle as the one-eyed marshal Rooster Cogburn.

Clearly, reports of the Western’s demise have been premature, as the ongoing success of the Western Film Fair attests.

The Western Film Fair will run through

Saturday, July 17. A single three-day pass costs $60, or $75 for couples. A daily pass is $20 per person ($5 after 5 p.m.).

For more information about the Western Film Fair, including a detailed schedule of events, visit the official website: westernfilmfair.tripod.com.

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