Western legend and The Wild Bunch star L.Q. Jones recently passed away, which has gotten people interested in the director that made the actor famous. Alongside such other notable actors as Warren Oates, Kris Kristofferson, and Steve McQueen, L.Q. Jones a member of an informal group of actors that has colloquially been referred to as “Peckinpah’s Posse”. These actors all worked with acclaimed director Sam Peckinpah on multiple films. The director not only contributed a great deal to film history with works such as The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs, but he also led a pretty interesting life. Join Facts Verse as we take a look at the insane true story of “Bloody” Sam Peckinpah.
The Director of The Wild Bunch Was Truly Wild
The Wild Bunch may viewed as a classic Western nowadays, but there’s a time when the film was incredibly controversial. The film directed by Sam Peckinpah, and released in 1969. Though the film a Western, it’s themes meant to hint at the horrors of the ongoing Vietnam War. Because of this, the film featured what deemed to be some incredibly shocking violence for the time. The Wild Bunch wasn’t Sam’s first film, but it his first major hit and it has undeniably become the movie that has defined the legendary director’s career first and foremost. After all, it was the film that resulted in the director earning his nickname of “Bloody” Sam Peckinpah.
Many consider Sam Peckinpah to be the last great Western director of his kind. Though there was a great deal that set Sam apart from those who came before him. In addition to the graphic violence that Sam was willing to show in his films. There was also the matter of fact that the director’s production style was a whole new breed when compared to the Old Hollywood styles of directors such as John Ford. John Ford’s final Western film released in 1962. Which left the ensuing decade open for someone to swoop in and make a name for themselves as the new pioneer of the genre. Sam proved to be just the man for the job!
It’s not for nothing that Sam Peckinpah’s directorial debut released into theaters just two months after the release of the aforementioned The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance featured the aged icons of John Wayne and James Stewart. And Sam’s directorial debut featured some aged Western icons of it’s own. Sam’s first directorial effort was a Western feature by the name of Ride the High Country. And it featured Old Hollywood Western stars Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea in the leads.
Ride the High Country Featured Many Members of “Peckinpah’s Posse”
Other stars featured in Ride the High Country included the now-recently deceased L.Q. Jones, as well as Warren Oates. L.Q. Jones had previously worked with Sam on the director’s short-lived Western television series. Which went by the name of The Westerner and predated his entrance into the world of cinema. Both L.Q. Jones and Warren Oates would go on to work with Sam multiple times. With both of the actors appearing in The Wild Bunch. Both L.Q. Jones and Warren Oates are considered members of an informal group of actors that went by the colloquial name of “Peckinpah’s Posse”. Other members of Peckinpah’s Posse include Kris Kristofferson, Steve McQueen, and Dr. Strangelove’s Slim Pickens.
Ride the High Country received well by critics and went on to nominated for three Academy Awards. However, a studio executive that screened it claimed that it was the worst American-made feature that he had ever seen. This was likely less because the studio executive didn’t like the film and more because he didn’t like Sam Peckinpah. Shortly after the picture done shooting, Sam fired from his position at MGM, where the movie had filmed. The movie then put into post-production without the director at the helm. Though Sam was allegedly able to keep in contact with the film’s editor and have some input on the final product under the radar. It seems that the only aspect of post-production that Sam Peckinpah not able to control on his first film was the music. Which is generally regarded as the worst part.
Though Ride the High Country was Sam Peckinpah’s directorial debut. He had hired to direct a feature previously by the name of The Deadly Companions. Sam was allegedly unhappy with the quality of the script of the film. And subsequently set about rewriting it on his own. The producer of the picture told Sam that he’s not interested in the director’s rewrites. Which prompted Sam to have a bad attitude when filming started. Before the filming finished, Sam was fired from the picture and wasn’t given any directorial credit. It seems that Sam came into the world of cinema with integrity that wouldn’t budge. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Sam Had a Good Deal of Frontier Heart
Sam Peckinpah was a Western filmmaker that seemed to have a good deal of frontier heart at his core. This heart embedded in the actor as a result of his upbringing, which occurred in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. Sam’s family had a mountain in the High Sierras all to themselves. And this mountain still goes by the name of Peckinpah Mountain to this day. Sam’s grandfather used the many trees found on the mountain to develop a fortune in the lumber industry. That same grandfather also had a ranch. When young Sam wasn’t riding his horse on Peckinpah Mountain, he was socializing with the cowboys on his grandfather’s ranch. This gave the young boy an ear for perfect Western vernacular at an early age. And he would use this to his full advantage when he became a writer.
Though Sam’s grandfather was a pioneer, his father was a lawyer. Sam’s father insistent on his son following in his footsteps, and taken aback when Sam suggested that he start up a career as a writer instead. Sam’s insistence ended up winning out over his father’s, and the young man would go on to study drama during his college years. Beforehand, however, Sam joined the Marines for a short period of time. Sam’s time with the Marines furthered his masculine sensibilities, as it was also during this time that the future director picked up the bad habits of imbibing liquor and pursing ladies of the night. Alcoholism would plague Sam for the remainder of his life, and would also make it incredibly hard for the director to get along with his coworkers, whether they were actors or producers.
Sam started in Hollywood as an assistant and eventually worked his way up to a writer, utilizing his ear for Western vernacular on the series Gunsmoke. It was Sam’s gig writing for the television adaptation of Gunsmoke that eventually led to him getting the opportunity to create his own Western television series. This television series went by the name of The Westerner. Although it incredibly short-lived with only 13 episodes being produced before it’s end. The show proved influential and also brought the talents of writer and director Sam Peckinpah to more eyes than ever before. The series featured future Peckinpah’s Posse members L.Q. Jones, Warren Oates, and Slim Pickens in small roles.
Sam Was a Director with Lots of Integrity
Following 1962’s Ride the High Country and preceding 1969’s The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah helmed the feature Major Dundee. As already his modus operandi at the time, Sam attempted to excise as much control as possible over the feature before the producers eventually forced to pull the reins in and finish the picture on their own volition. According to the producers, Sam put far too much work into the film. Not only did he overanalyze every aspect of production, but he also overshot. The film was going a significant amount over the allotted budget, which forced the producers’ hands in removing the director from the picture. Yet again, Sam removed from one of his directorial efforts before the film made it to the editing room.
Following both Ride the High Country and Major Dundee, Sam Peckinpah had developed a reputation of being incredibly hard to work with. It’s a miracle that allowed Sam to get The Wild Bunch made. And the director once again had some trouble getting his vision to the screen. Thankfully, Sam ended up getting the best of producers who wished to tone down The Wild Bunch as a result of it’s violence. The film ended up released the way that Sam intended for it , and it also ended up a major success. Finally, Sam was able to prove to producers that he knew what he was doing. The director would continue to have the occasional problem with producers over his ensuing career. But he commanded a great deal more respect after The Wild Bunch than he did before it.
Following The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah went on to create such brilliant and controversial masterpieces as Straw Dogs and The Getaway. Straw Dogs starred Dustin Hoffman, while The Getaway starred Steve McQueen. Between the two films, The Getaway was a bigger commercial success and Straw Dogs was a good deal more controversial. However, both films featured more violence and grit than any viewer was likely to find elsewhere at the time.
The End of “Bloody” Sam Peckinpah
Sam Peckinpah has come to considered one of the most influential directors of his era. And it’s not just because he pushed the boundaries when it came to the amount of violence that allowed to shown on the screen. “Bloody” Sam Peckinpah ended up falling by the wayside in his Hollywood career before his death. With the Hollywood landscape changing to favor the polished blockbuster visions of filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas in the 1980s. Sam passed away in 1984 after suffering from heart problems for numerous years.
“Bloody” Sam Peckinpah pushed the boundaries when it came to the amount of violence that filmmakers could show on cinema screens. But he also helped the medium of film progress in more subtle ways. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that Sam Peckinpah fired amidst the production of multiple pictures before getting the chance to direct his classic Western film The Wild Bunch. And that he worked with actors such as L.Q. Jones and Warren Oates on numerous occasions? As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!