THE CHEROKEE BUFFALO
c/o Life Time Movie Book
on Grenade Curran
Co-authored by Kurt Dowdle
He was not just an actor; he wanted to know about life.
The movie, “There Was a Crooked Man” was shot on location in Joshua National Park outside of Palm Springs. It was hot and we were outside most of the time in the heat. He liked his favorite drink called “Cactus Cooler.” (sweet lemon-grapefruit drink). I went and got it for him and brought it to the location. That became his #1 drink in the heat of the desert.
I was working in the production-wardrobe department. I had many good conversations with Henry on a personal basis. I shared with him some of my hobbies and got him started in understanding about the Ancient Indians that lived here in Western America and how to look for the ruin sites and dwelling places.
We borrowed a company staff car on a Sunday and went out looking in an area where a local person had directed us to where Indians used to live. Quickly we found a canyon ravine. As we went down and made a curve, I spotted a site ahead of us and he didn’t see it. As we both stood there, I asked him, “Where do you think ancient people would build a campsite?” He gave me his opinion and what he thought where it would be. It was fairly good but not the right place. I explained why and the direction of the sun which he understood. We continued to walk down the dried creek bed we stopped for a pause and I said, “What do you see Henry?” He looked and said, “That looks like a fireplace campsite.” I said, “That is right.” “Which side of this creek canyon was it?” He said, “Oh I see. The sun shades this side into the west and bakes the east side of the canyon.” We walked forward and in no time we found old burnt wood that was neither fresh nor fossilized yet. The site was about 200 years old. There were old artifacts lying about. He was so pleased to see and hear about the history of the Ancient Indians in that area and finding their site.
The next day Monday while shooting some of the prison yard scenes, Henry came through the 20 foot prison wall from outside from his dressing room trailer. He walked straight into the set and interrupted the director. He said, “Joseph, I want you to come with me.” He turned to Kirk Douglas standing near by and said, “You too, come with me.” The two followed him. Henry saw me standing at the side of the prison wall and said, “Grenade, you come too.” The crew and actors were all stunned as the 4 of us exited the prison yard set. We walked through the walls to the outside, through a path through the cactus patch. We entered the trailer, and there laid out on towels on the stove burners were the artifacts he had collected and laid out. The director and Kirk were stunned and thrilled at what he had found. This led into an archeological discuss of the area and its history.
He told me other things that he had been told on many other great epic western movie locations but no one had told him where or how to go and see them until now. We discussed many other subject matters and became good friends.
We finished shooting the whole movie. The ending sequence that day in the prison yard, outside the warden’s office, after the director said, “Cut, Print, Great job,” indicating the last final shot of the movie, Henry said, “Grenade.” He turned to me and unhooked his gold watch fob and chain off his prison warden’s suit. He said, “Here, I want you to have this.”
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