‘Though he spoke most of his movie dialogue in a slow Western drawl, actor Slim Pickens was a pure-bred California boy. An expert rider from the age of four, Pickens was performing in rodeos at 12. Three years later, he quit school to become a full-time equestrian and bull wrangler, eventually becoming the highest-paid rodeo clown in show business. In films since 1950’s Rocky Mountain, Pickens specialized in Westerns, appearing as the comic sidekick of Republic cowboy star Rex Allen. By the end of the 1950s, Pickens had gained so much extra poundage that he practically grew out of his nickname. Generally cast in boisterous comedy roles, Pickens was also an effectively odious villain in 1966’s An Eye for an Eye, starting the film off with a jolt by shooting a baby in its crib. The most famous of Pickens’ performances is as an air force major in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. The scene of Pickens riding atop a falling nuclear bomb is one of the most enduring images in cinematic history.
‘Pickens credited Dr. Strangelove as a turning point in his career. Previously he was “Hey you” on sets and afterward he was addressed as “Mr. Pickens.” Pickens once said, “After Dr. Strangelove the roles, the dressing rooms, and the checks all started gettin’ bigger.” Pickens said he was amazed at the difference a single movie could make. However, working with Kubrick proved too difficult, especially the more than 100 takes of the H-bomb riding scene. In the late 1970s, Pickens was offered the part of Dick Hallorann in Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining, but Pickens stipulated that he would appear in the film only if Kubrick was required to shoot Pickens’ scenes in fewer than 100 takes. Instead, Pickens’ agent showed the script to Don Schwartz, the agent of Scatman Crothers, and Crothers accepted the role.
‘Other notable Pickens roles include The Cowboys (1972) with John Wayne, Blazing Saddles (1974), Poor Pretty Eddy (1975), Rancho Deluxe (1975), The Getaway with Steve McQueen, Tom Horn (1980), also with McQueen, An Eye for an Eye (1966) and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) in a small but universally admired, unforgettable performance. He also had a small role in Steven Spielberg’s 1941 (1979) in scenes with Toshirō Mifune and Christopher Lee. In 1978, Pickens lent his voice to theme park Silver Dollar City as a character named Rube Dugan, for a ride called “Rube Dugan’s Diving Bell”, The diving bell was a simulation ride that took passengers on a journey to the bottom of Lake Silver and back. The ride was in operation from 1978 to 1984. He also provided the voice of B.O.B., a robot in the 1979 Disney science fiction thriller The Black Hole.
‘In his later years, Pickens appeared in numerous television guest shots, episodes of the series The Wide Country, The Legend of Jesse James, The Fugitive and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. He was a credited semi-regular in the second season of the show Outlaws as “Slim”. He appeared in a recurring episodes of Alias Smith and Jones, The Lone Ranger, Daniel Boone, The Virginian, Bonanza and Kung Fu. He starred in regular roles in The Legend of Custer, Bonanza, Hee Haw, B. J. and the Bear with Greg Evigan, and Filthy Rich. He played the owner of station WJM, Wild Jack Monroe, on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. One of Pickens’ most memorable television roles was an episode of Hawaii Five-O where he played the patriarch of a family of serial killers. Pickens’ final film role was playing the werewolf sheriff Sam Newfield in The Howling (1981). He died on December 8, 1983, after surgery for a brain tumor.’ — collaged
Slim Pickens @ IMDb
Slim Pickens @ Find a Grave
Joe Biden ‘My Image of the Military Commander Was Slim Pickens’
‘The Colt Revolver in the American West’
Slim Pickens @ Film Bug
Slim Pickens tribute page @ Facebook
‘The Ten Greatest Character Actors’
‘The Ten Best Screen Cowboys’
‘A Beginner’s Guide to the Peckinpah Actors’
‘Slim Pickens: Teaching a horse to buck’
Slim Pickens obituary
Terry Southern on Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove
Peter Sellers was going to play all four parts originally including the Texan bombardier. I understand you coached Sellers on his accent?
Terry Southern: The financing of the film was based almost one hundred percent on the notion that Sellers would play multiple roles. About a week before shooting, he sent us a telegram saying he could not play a Texan, because he said it was one accent he was never able to do. Kubrick asked me to make a tape of a typical Texan accent. When Sellers arrived on the set, he plugged into this Swiss tape recorder with huge, monster earphones and listened to the tape I made. He looked ridiculous, but he mastered the accent in about 10 minutes. Then Sellers sprained his ankle and couldn’t make the moves going up and down the ladder in the bomb bay. He was out of that part. The doctor told him he couldn’t do it. Then, it was a question of replacing him. Stanley had set such store by his acting that he felt he couldn’t just replace him with just another actor. He wanted an authentic John Wayne. The part had been written with Wayne as model.
Did Kubrick ever try to get Wayne to play the role?
TS: Wayne was approached and dismissed it immediately. Stanley hadn’t been in the States for some time, so he didn’t know anything about television programs. He wanted to know if I knew of any suitable actors on TV. I said there was this very authentic big guy who played on “Bonanza” named Dan Blocker. Big Hoss. Without seeing him, Kubrick sent off a script to his agent. Kubrick got an immediate reply: “It is too pinko for Mr. Blocker.” Stanley then remembered Slim Pickens from One Eyed Jacks, which he almost directed for Marlon Brando, until Brando acted in such a weird way that he forced Stanley out.
When Pickens was hired and came to London, wasn’t that the first time he had ever been out of the States?
TS: Yes, in fact it was the first time he had ever been anywhere outside the rodeo circuit as a clown or the backlots of Hollywood. Stanley was very concerned about him in London for the first time and asked me to greet him. I got some Wild Turkey from the production office and went down to the sound stage to meet him. It was only ten in the morning so I asked Slim if it was too early for a drink. He said, “it’s never too early for a drink.” So I poured out some Wild Turkey in a glass and asked him if he got settled in his room. “Hell, it doesn’t take much to make me happy. Just a pair of loose shoes, a tight pussy and a warm place to shit.” One of Kubrick’s assistants, a very public school type, couldn’t believe his ears, but went “ho ho ho” anyway.
Finally, I took Slim over to the actual set where we were shooting. I left him alone for a few minutes to talk to Stanley. While we were standing there talking, Stanley went, “Look there’s James Earl Jones on a collision course with Slim. Better go over and introduce them.” James Earl Jones knew that Pickens had just worked with Brando. Jones was impressed and asked Pickens how the experience of working with Brando went. “Well, I worked with Marlon Brando for six months and in that time, I never saw him do one thing that wasn’t all man and all white.” Slim didn’t even realize what he was saying. I glanced at James Earl Jones and he didn’t crack. Slim replacing Sellers worked out well because unbeknownst to me at the time, the actor that was playing the co-pilot was taller and stockier than Sellers. Whereas Slim was about the same size [as the co-pilot] and more convincingly fulfilled the intention of this larger-than-life Texan.
15 of Slim Pickens’ 93 roles
Rex Allen Old Overland Trail (1953)
‘Old Overland Trail is a spectacularly bad example of one of Republic’s Bill Witney directed Rex Allen “trail”westerns. Witney made a series of “trail” westerns with Allen including Iron Mountain Trail and South Pacific Trail. His Roy Rogers westerns were called “old” westerns because that word was often in the title. Although very bad, Old Overland Trial can be quite entertaining from a movie making and nostalgia perspective. There is a young Mr. Spock with long hair and regular ears (actually you can’t tell) playing the bad Indian. And of course there is Slim Pickens who plays Allen’s sidekick of the same name, arguably the best (and certainly the most talented) of all western sidekicks.’ — IMDb
Marlon Brando One-Eyed Jacks (1961)
‘This is a western like no other, combining the mythological scope of that most American of genres with the searing naturalism of a performance by Marlon Brando—all suffused with Freudian overtones and masculine anxiety. In his only directing stint, Brando captures rugged coastal and desert landscapes in gorgeous widescreen, Technicolor images, and elicits from his fellow actors (including Karl Malden and Pina Pellicer) nuanced depictions of conflicted characters. Though the production was overwhelmed by its director’s perfectionism and plagued by setbacks and studio reediting, One-Eyed Jacks stands as one of Brando’s great achievements, thanks above all to his tortured turn as Rio, a bank robber bent on revenge against his former partner in crime. Brooding and romantic, Rio is the last and perhaps the most tender of the iconic outsiders that the great actor imbued with such intensity throughout his career.’ — The Criterion Collection
the entire film
Stanley Kubrick Dr. Strangelove (1963)
‘Legend has it that Slim Pickens didn’t know that Dr Strangelove was a satire. Supposedly, Stanley Kubrick went to extreme lengths to conceal this fact from Pickens, such as giving him the script under the novel’s original title (Red Alert) and only giving him the script for the sequences aboard his B-52 bomber. Peter Sellers originally was going to play a fourth role as Kong, but couldn’t get the Texas accent down and decided to let someone else have the role. Kubrick wanted an ultra-patriotic, commie-hating hawk in the Major Kong role for the irony, and after learning he couldn’t get John Wayne, went with Pickens. He was afraid the film’s mocking treatment of the US Air Force would anger Pickens and cause him to refuse the role, and also was afraid his knowledge of the movie’s actual theme would “taint” his performance, lessening the unitentional humor of watching Pickens play Major Kong with all seriousness.’ — snopes.com
Sam Peckinpah Major Dundee (1965)
Wiley (Slim Pickens): If you’re lookin’ for hard-ridin’, Injun-fightin’ whiskey drinkin’ mulepackers, then by *God* you’ve got one!
Maj. Amos Dundee : What in the hell am I supposed to do with you?
Sgt. Gomez : He’s the biggest drunk, but the best mule packer in the Territory, sir.
Maj. Amos Dundee : What’s your name?
Wiley : Wiley.
Maj. Amos Dundee : All right, Wiley. Make your mark.
Wiley : Whiskey?
Maj. Amos Dundee : All you can drink…
[Wiley signs the contract]
Maj. Amos Dundee : …when you’ve earned it. Sergeant, take him to a cell and dry him out.
[Sergeant Gomez escorts Wiley out of the room]
Wiley : Well! I ain’t never seen anything like this before!
Irving Kershner The Flim-Flam Man (1967)
‘The Flim-Flam Man starring George C. Scott opens with the blast of a train whistle, signaling the heady onset of a journey into a kind of fairy-tale American past: a gilded spot on the time-space continuum where, somehow, con artists are loveable rogues, young men are naughty-but-nice Tom Sawyer types, sheriffs are gullible but basically soft-hearted, and only cheats can be cheated. The Flim-Flam Man is a clutter of confrontations of the title character with assorted rubes, the most amusing of whom is Slim Pickens as a slack-jawed clod. Michael Sarrazin plays a dumb and wide-eyed army deserter who strings along with Mr. Scott, and Sue Lyon is a toothsome bit of jailbait who snags the boy in this authentic redneck town.’ — NYT
Sam Peckinpah The Getaway (1972)
‘In The Getaway director Sam Peckinpah has crafted one of the tightest, cleanest, most physically compelling films to tweak your fancy in a long while. Doc (Steve McQueen) and Carol (Ali McGraw) , whose mastery of cars, equipment, trains and guns extends to buildings, wend their way successfully through the Laughlin’s dangerous corridors. They blast the last remaining antagonist and bail out of a window only to run directly into one of cinema’s most delightful reprobates—a prototype of cussed orneriness and intransigent independence—leather-faced, affable cowboy-of-all-trades, Slim Pickens, in The Getaway, a junk dealer scrounging in alleys and ruins for scraps of “building materials” which he apparently peddles in Mexico. Doc and Carol dash up, .45 brandished, and easily convince him to drive them across the border. But not before Peckinpah and Pickens treat us to a bracing display of the infectious nature of excitement. Adrenalized by the promise of adventure, especially one outside the law, and wide-eyed with the unexpected thrill of it all, Pickens throws his pickup into gear, leaves his wine-befuddled assistant reeling in the dust, and launches the clattering truck into thin air by driving straight off an unseen abutment.’ — Parallax View
Vacor Ratkiller Commercial (1973)
‘Kirk Kirkpatrick wrote this commercial while a copywriter at Brewer (Y&R;) Advertising in Kansas City. Tim Hammil was the art director, and the legendary Slim Pickens was the star. The rat is not real but the Colt 45 is. This commercial won all the big awards of the day: Clio, One Show, Andy, and of course, the Kansas City Art Directors Club.’ — vacior
Sam Peckinpah Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973)
‘There is one indelible sequence that remains with me from this film, almost haunts me really. Not haunts in the sense of scaring me or making me terrified, but leaving me in awe of how powerful an image can be. Amazingly, it’s not even an event that bears much significance in the central game of cat-and-mouse between the two titled characters. It is the walk to his death by Sheriff Colin Baker, played by veteran actor Slim Pickens. Mortally wounded while assisting Pat Garrett in a shootout, it as if Baker knows that that this will be the end. Mounting all of his strength, he begins to slowly stumble away from the site of the shooting, walking into the the colorful horizon toward a stream. Nearby, his wife sees him taking his final steps and lets out a wail, but nothing can stop the determined Baker on his death march.’ — Goodfellas Movie Blog
Slim Pickens’ famous death scene
Mel Brooks Blazing Saddles (1974)
‘Mel Brooks scored his first commercial hit with this raucous Western spoof starring the late Cleavon Little as the newly hired (and conspicuously black) sheriff of Rock Ridge. Sheriff Bart teams up with deputy Jim (Gene Wilder) to foil the railroad-building scheme of the nefarious Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) and his bumbling assistant, played with a brilliant flair by the great Slim Pickens. The simple plot is just an excuse for a steady stream of gags, many of them unabashedly tasteless, that Brooks and his wacky cast pull off with side-splitting success. The humor is so juvenile and crude that you just have to surrender to it; highlights abound, from the lunkheaded Alex Karras as the ox-riding Mongo to Madeline Kahn’s uproarious send-up of Marlene Dietrich as saloon songstress Lili Von Shtupp.’ — Jeff Shannon
Frank Perry Rancho Deluxe (1975)
‘There’s nothing so hapless as a movie made in the wrong style, especially when the director doggedly insists on that style to the bitter end. That’s apparently what Frank Perry did with the sound track on “Rancho Deluxe”; how else to explain dialog that’s said as if it had just been heard and was now being repeated? The tones of voice in this movie are the weirdest damn things; they’re so distracting that the action what there is of it gets misplaced. Nobody in the movie sounds as if he comes from anywhere near Montana except for Slim Pickens, and he can only talk like Slim Pickens anyway. Everyone else speaks in strangely constructed sentences that sound written with little ear for human speech. Most of the words are pronounced with such painful completeness that dialog rhythms get lost and it’s sometimes necessary to mentally repeat the words to figure out what was said. As I suggested, it’s a weird sensation.’ — Roger Ebert
Richard Robinson Poor Pretty Eddy (1975)
‘Any prior experience the film-makers brought to Poor Pretty Eddie was limited mostly to work on adult films. According to the DVD’s extensive liner notes, they secured backing from Michael Thevis, a notorious Atlanta-based businessman commonly known as “The King of Pornography”. The movie’s script is loosely based on the Jean Genet play The Balcony. Upon its release in 1975, reviews were not kind. One Georgia-based film writer concluded: “Upon leaving the theater, I quite honestly felt nauseous.” Over the course of its 10-year run at drive-ins and so-called grindhouse theaters, the film was distributed under several different titles and existed in at least two different versions. Made on a relatively small budget, it is known for having an atypical narrative and direction style, which combines horror, exploitation and surreal drama. It has subsequently become popular in cult and B movie circles.’ — Wikipedia
Steven Spielberg 1941 (1979)
‘The reverential tone Steven Spielberg has taken lately with World War II as evident in Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan (in addition to the 1987 boys’ adventure Empire Of The Sun) is nowhere to be found in this largely panned yet outrageously entertaining screwball comedy that would have done Blake Edwards proud. An able cast of comedic talent headlined by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd with up-and-coming SCTV alumnus John Candy and recent Animal House veteran Tim Matheson supported ably by character actors Ned Beatty, Robert Stack, Treat Williams, and Lorraine Gary and all-time good ol’ boy Slim Pickens on one side…and veteran Hammer Films horror star Christopher Lee slumming with Akira Kurosawa’s number-one samurai Toshiro Mifune and the crew of a Japanese submarine with faulty navigational equipment on the other.’ — Brent A. Anthonisen
Compilation: Slim Pickens’ best scenes in ‘1941’
Gary Nelson The Black Hole (1979)
‘THE BLACK HOLE is a film in 3 unevenly distributed parts. Part 1 is a 1950s cinematic throwback, and it’s awesome. Part 2 is a typical late ’70s, early ’80s Star Wars copycat, and Part 3 proves that someone saw 2001, but didn’t think anyone else did. The film is caught between the way films used to be made and the way they will be made. Despite coming out post-Star Wars, the filmmakers decided to use a lot of old school model/camera techniques. Matte paintings are everywhere. I give Disney credit for drawing from their animated features for the robots VINCENT and BOB, who are voiced by Slim Pickens and Roddy McDowell respectively. VINCENT sounds most amusingly like an old prospector. (Or like Slim Pickens. Your call.) VICNENT AND BOB are like real-life animated sidekicks come to life; they might not burst into song, but they are wholly integrated into the film.’ — Atomic Anxiety
Jerry Schatzberg Honeysuckle Rose (1980)
‘Honeysuckle Rose is a movie that has little going for it other than Willie Nelson, Slim Pickens, and a fine soundtrack, including “On the Road Again,” which was written for this flick. Buck Bonham (Nelson) is a country singer/songwriter with a loyal following in his native Texas and the neighboring Western states. As Buck wonders if he should press on with his musical career or call it quits, his close friend and longtime guitarist Garland Ramsey (Slim Pickens) announces he’s retiring. The highlight of the movie is the concluding sequence which begins with Nelson and Pickens in Mexico wrestling over a pistol, (Pickens is trying to kill his best friend for fooling around with his daughter), drinking copious amounts of tequila, and driving the band’s bus (a school bus decorated as the Texas Lone Star flag) back to the States in time for Pickens’s annual music festival.’ — Heck of a Guy
Joe Dante The Howling (1981)
‘Slim Pickens’ only credited role in a horror film was that of Sheriff Sam Newfield in Joe Dante’s 1981 film The Howling. The character was named after director Sam Newfield, who directed the 1942 film The Mad Monster. Pickens died of a brain tumor in Modesto, California on December 8th, 1983.’ — Head Hunter
p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, The opposite of Warhol, ha ha, nice. ** Sypha, Hi. There’s clearly some reason why the Warhol Foundation is keeping his films away from Blu-rays and streaming, but I’m not sure what it is. Still haven’t made it out to the new Tarantino. I need to get a move on. ** _Black_Acrylic, It’s a goodie. Wow, you’re ready to put The Call #3 to bed? Sweet. Super down for that. If doing a ‘welcome to …’ post is of use or interest, I’m obviously way game. God, the Johnson shenanigans yesterday … you guys need a revolution pronto. ** James Nulick, Hi, James. I admire anti-publicity authors. I think if I thought I could have gotten away with that before it was too late, I would have tried. All’s well here, thanks. Still waiting for Zac to finish finessing the script’s French translation. I plan to have it in our producer’s hands by the end of next week. Then, once he’s read it, and assuming he’s still on board, the fund raising will be what it’s all about for a while. The novels going really well, assuming, that is, it doesn’t crash and burn. If it doesn’t, I think it’ll be finished by the end of the year at the latest. How’s yours? Love, me. ** Steve Erickson, Well, yeah, I guess that’s not a surprise about how those channels divvy out their talent. The Ex were, and surely still are, amazing live. That I can attest to too, although I haven’t seen them live in decades. ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff. Enjoying a bit of a getaway, are you? Ouch. But, otherwise, it sounds like dreaminess. Watch out for the hurricane or whatever it is maybe? I’ve read a few essays by Gracq, yeah, and remember thinking they were very ace. Haven’t read a collection of them. The novel is steaming ahead. I’m pretty excited about it. The finish line seems to be in sight, but it’s the kind of thing where it is possible I could wake up one day and realise it’s not going to work. Sure hope not. But for now I’m very in the zone and using most of every day to work on it. Thank you for asking, man. ** Misanthrope, Me too, I took actually quite a number of poetry classes and workshops in college and in my brief year at university. Learned a ton. Kind of learned what I needed to there, I guess. Poetry workshops are cool because poetry is an inherently radical form. If something works, it can take any form a poet wants. From what I know from people who’ve had fiction writing workshops, it’s very, very rare situation where a teacher/workshop leader and one’s fellow aspiring attendees don’t think fiction needs to be one particular thing. I’ve never regretted avoiding them like the plague. Thanks for the props about the blog’s writing help. No bigger compliment. Good day to you, bud. ** Armando, Hi. I can and will ask Zac, but I don’t think he knows any more about French film producers than I do. We’ve only worked with ours, and that happened fast, and we didn’t investigate other possibilities. I can ask our producer if he’s accepting submissions right now when he’s back from vacation, but I’m not sure that he works that way. I guess what I meant was that there may be another way to try to get your film made that will give you a better chance than trying to get it made over here in France where you aren’t a citizen or resident or knowledgeable about film production and funding and so on. Are there not indie film producers in Mexico? I think there must be. It would be much more feasible if you had a co-producer there or somewhere and came to France looking for a co-producer than trying to get a full-on producer for a first film by a non-French filmmaker. Today? Work on my novel and … not sure what else. You, yours? ** Okay. Something came over me and I decided to devote a day to the particular joyful presence that only Slim Pickens could provide. See you tomorrow.