Thursday, February 28, 2019


The Doctor's Bag

The blog about Medicine and Surgery in the Old West 

By Keith Souter aka CLAY MORE

The health of President Abraham Lincoln, one of the most revered leaders in history, has attracted much attention and speculation over the years.  During the Civil War a reporter described him as 'a tall, lank, lean man considerably over six feet in height with stooping shoulders, long pendulous arms terminating in hands of extraordinary dimensions which, however, were far exceeded by his feet.' 

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th President of the United States

His mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln (1784-1818),  had a similar build and was tall and slender. It was said that Abraham Lincoln inherited his build from her. Only portraits of her exist.

Abraham Lincoln is sad to have suffered from bouts of depression, but otherwise he is said to have had great energy and generally good health. 

One of the great debates about President' Lincoln's health is whether or not he had Marfan syndrome. Interestingly, some of the evidence comes from photographs. Not just the ones that give a clear image, but also those where his feet or his head seemed blurred. 

The Marfan Syndrome debate
In 1962 a Cincinnati physician, Dr A.M. Gordon suggested that the president's appearance was suggestive of Marfan syndrome. 

Marfan syndrome is a disorder of the body's connective tissues, a group of tissues that maintain the structure of the body and support internal organs and other tissues. it was first described by Dr Antoine-Bernard Marfan in 1896.

Typical characteristics of Marfan syndrome include:
  • being tall 
  • abnormally long and slender limbs, fingers and toes (arachnodactyly) 
  • heart defects 
  • lens dislocation – where the lens of the eye falls into an abnormal position 
Marfan syndrome is hereditary, which means it can be passed to a child from a parent who's affected.

The gene defect leads to abnormal production of a protein called fibrillin, resulting in parts of the body being able to stretch abnormally when placed under any kind of stress.

The defective fibrillin gene also causes some bones to grow longer than they should. A person with Marfan syndrome may grow tall because their arms and legs grow for longer than normal.

In 1964 a Californian cardiologist, Dr Harold Schwartz described the case of a 7 year old child that he had diagnosed with Marfan syndrome. Her ancestry could be traced back to Lincoln's great, great grandfather, Mordecai Lincoln ll.

Drs Gordon and Schwarz supported the view that Abraham Lincoln probably did have Marfan syndrome. However, this was debated against by Dr J Willard Montgomery, on the grounds that his health was so good and it was unlikely that he had any heart problems, as are common in Marfan syndrome. 

Th debate continues, as other medical possibilities, which are outside the scope of this post (otherwise it would extend to several posts) have been considered. But it is interesting to follow this first possibility further

The matter of the pulse

The pulse has been recognised as being a fundamental and measurable sign of health or illness by every culture in the world. The earliest references to it are to be found in the Ebers papyrus and the Edwin Smith papyrus, two texts on medicine and surgery from Ancient Egypt. There are specific hieroglyphs for measuring the pulse at the wrist, and instructions on assessing it by using a water clock made from an earthenware vessel with a hole in the bottom through which water escaped drop by drop.

The hieroglyph in the Edwin Smith papyrus, showing the image on the right, counting seeds from a container

The Egyptian clock. the pulse was counted by correlating it with the drops escaping from the bottom

Although the Egyptians used a water clock and the Romans developed hour-glasses to try to measure the pulse, it was not until the Renaissance that a more practical method was developed. Interestingly, this came about through the work of the genius, Galileo Galilei, who designed a clock with a pendulum. He called this a ‘pulsogium.’ He developed the idea from a principle he discovered in 1583 by timing the oscillations of a chandelier on the altar of the Cathedral of Pisa against his own pulse.

Over the next century pulse clocks of greater sophistication were developed by Santorio Santorio and Christian Huygen, but it was not until the eighteenth century that watches capable of measuring minutes and seconds could be adapted to the purpose. In 1707 Sir John Floyer, a Staffordsire physician invented a small pulse watch and published a landmark book entitled ‘The Physician’s Pulse Watch.’We still use that technique to feel the pulse of life.

Abnormalities of the pulse
 Physicians over the centuries worked out that differences in rate, rhythm and character of the pulse were indicative of various anomalies of the heart. 

One very specific heart anomaly, which is commonly  in Marfan syndrome is called aortic insufficiency. It occurs when the aortic valve in the heart, one of four heart valves, does not close completely during heart beats. It effectively leaks. Over time, this can lead impaired circulation of blood and the person may get breathless on exertion and when  lying down. 

There are many, many signs that have been associated with the curious pulse that occurs in aortic insufficiency. In the past it was considered a significant contribution to medicine if a doctor had a sign named after him. Aortic insufficiency had an unusually large number of such signs.

Corrigan's pulse
This was the name of the 'collapsing pulse' that characterises aortic insufficiency. It was named after Sir Dominic Corrigan (1802-1880), a Dublin born physician. It was also called the cannonball, collapsing, pistol-shot, trip-hammer or water-hammer pulse - or most poetically,  the vascular dance. A visibly pulsation can be seen in the carotid arteries in the neck.
Sir Dominic Corrigan (1802-1880)

The vascular dance and President Lincoln

A manifestation of the vascular dance of aortic insufficiency is the way that the user leg bounces when the legs are crossed at the knee. 

In 1972 Dr Harold Schwartz published  an article about an anecdote about a photograph in the possession of the National Library of Medicine.  Lincoln said when it was taken that his left foot  seemed blurry in the photograph. Noah Brooks, a  journalist who was interviewing him suggested it was because the president was seeing his arteries pulse when the legs were crossed.  Lincoln tested it and exclaimed "That's it! That's it! No that's curious, isn't it?"

The long exposure of the camera, due to the increased shutter time, would catch the leg movements and blur the image of the foot.

Schwartz suggested that this should be called the Lincoln-Brook sign, an indicator of aortic insufficiency. 

Interestingly, in later life Lincoln was noted to nod his head-on every heartbeat and on some photographs with the  increased shutter time, his head appeared blurred. This phenomenon is  actually called de Musset's sign.  It was named not after a doctor, but a patient, the French  poet Alfred de Musset, who died from syphilitic aortic insufficiency. 

Alfred de Musset (1810-1857)

Without testing Abraham Lincoln's DNA the debate will go on. Blood-stained artefacts from the president might give sufficient DNA to determine whether or not he had a gene that could give rise to Marfan syndrome, or to one of the other possibilities. That, of course, raises many questions (some ethical) as to whether such analysis should be done. Until then, the blurred photograph phenomenon is interesting. 


If you are interested in reading more about medicine and surgery in the frontier days,  then you may find The Doctor's bag useful. It is a collection of my past blog posts, published by Sundown Press.

The novel about Dr George Goodfellow, the Tombstone surgeon to the gunfighters

The novel about Ned Buntline, the King of the Dime Novelists

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

IT'S MINING TIME #history #ColoradoHistory

post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

Pikes Peak - photo property of author
The 'Pike's Peak or Bust' gold rush began one hundred sixty years ago, when gold was found near Cherry Creek, in the now Denver Metro area. (Actually the gold was found in 1858, but the rush began in 1859). Now for those unfamiliar with Colorado's topography, Pikes Peak is actually around seventy miles south of the area where the gold was found.

So why "Pikes Peak or Bust'? Well, the peak sits the eastern most in the mountain chain that runs through Colorado. Additionally, it is a stand alone fourteener peak. The nearest at its elevation or higher is over seventy miles away. In other words, its the landmark you see first as you're heading west.

Mines on Battle Mountain in the Cripple Creek Mining District
USGS photograph
And by 1900 Colorado was providing more gold than any other area, including Alaska, most of it coming from the Cripple Creek/Victor mining district. (They're still pulling gold out of that mountain) But there was/is more than just gold in those mountains and the plains. Colorado, thanks to the area around Leadville, also produced large amounts of silver. The state also has provided the world with marble, zinc, lead, molybdenum, uranium, nahcolite (which produces baking soda and soda ash) in addition to gemstones.

If anyone had watched the weather channel show "Prospectors" you would know about the gemstone mining in the state. Here's a brief look: Prospectors Episode

Colorado also has diamonds, which have been mined up near the Wyoming boarder. Add to this coal mining which has occurred almost since Colorado was settled and you have a wealth of mining and mining history. Colorado Springs in the 1800s had fifty active coal mines in the area. Of course, Fremont county had numerous coal mines as did the southern part of the state where the Ludlow Massacre occurred.

The pulling of  'treasure' from the ground created stories of wealth, life, death, strikes and massacres. These stories are mined by myself and others for the books, papers, and novellas we write. One novella "Never Had a Chance" came from a piece I read in the Sandra Dallas book.

If you wish to discover more, here are some books that have great pieces of information:

Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps - Sandra Dallas
The Portland: Colorado's Richest Gold Mine - Joe Vanderwalker
The Great Pike's Peak Gold Rush - Robert L. Brown
Killing for Coal: America's Deadliest Labor War - Thomas G Andrews
Hardrock Man: Whispers from the Cripple Creek Underground - Sylece Andromeda
The Trail of Gold and Silver: Mining in Colorado 1859-2009 - Duane A Smith

So do you want to do some mining?

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

Tuesday, February 19, 2019


When the cold weather starts up (and seems to continue forever!), I’m all too ready to just hunker down and get out of the Oklahoma wind—the older I get, the more I feel that way. But one thing I’ve discovered: If you have plenty of food (for both humans and the dog), running water, and firewood, it’s not terrible. Well, until you have to go out for MORE food!

In Oklahoma, we don’t normally get a lot of snow, but we do get some. The worst problem is the ice. It seems, here in Oklahoma City, we sit on the very cusp of the jet stream—and I can’t say how many times we’re told, “It COULD be just rain, but if the temps drop even one degree, it’ll be FREEZING rain and ice.”

I can’t even imagine how the men and women we write about in our novels survived those long, cold winters. They must have been chopping firewood every day, year-round, except when the freezing rains hit in the winter. With books so scarce, I’m sure the ones that were available must have been memorized by those who read.

Thank goodness we live in a day and age when we are able to read as much as we want—online (if the electricity stays on!) or the old-fashioned way—a paperback book in hand. I do a lot of reading for my work at Prairie Rose Publications, but I have books I read “for pleasure” when I get a chance—and in the winter months it seems I get a lot more time for that than in the summer. This is how I keep cabin fever at bay when the weather is too awful to venture out.


Here are some of my picks I read while I was waiting for spring to roll around. How about you? What do you do to stave off cabin fever in those winter months? Read any wonderful books lately? Please share! I’m always looking for more reading material!


This revised and updated edition contains the most important writings of Charles Eastman (Ohiyesa), the first Native American author to live simultaneously in both the traditional world of the Santee Sioux and the modern civilization of the white man. Dr. Eastman also attended the injured at the Battle of Wounded Knee. Ohiyesa's works represent a complete explanation of the philosophy and moral code of the Plains Indian. Ohiyesa's message speaks to every person who seeks a spiritual way in the midst of a society increasingly dominated by materialism and industrial technology. Sun Dance chief, James Trosper writes, It is a small miracle that these important spiritual teachings have been preserved for us. This new edition contains 10 sepia photographs from Eastman's life and a thought-provoking foreword by Raymond Wilson.

There are a LOT of books of writings by Charles Eastman—very thought provoking and just downright wonderful, in my opinion.

Another excellent book—not really a romance, but a true western, is by my friend Robert Randisi—THE GHOST WITH BLUE EYES. It’s a story of how one mistake can make a person sink to the depths of a whiskey bottle, and what it takes to make him climb back out of it.

HERE’S THE AMAZON BLURB: Lancaster hangs up his six-shooter and grabs a bottle after accidentally killing a young girl in a gunfight, but when another girl needs his help, he will fight to regain his soul and his honor in order to save her.

Okay, not a western, but a ROMANCE-- THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE is book 1 in the "Highland Pleasures" series, or what is known as The Mackenzies. This is an excellent tale by Jennifer Ashley, a shorter piece, and it has a hero you will not likely forget. Ian Mackenzie is afflicted by something—because of the time period this story takes place in, we don’t really know what it is, but it could be autism, could Asperger’s Syndrome—and he is very different. This is the first in a series and I would like to read the others!

I must confess, I did some re-reading of some old favorites, as well. GOLDEN NIGHTS by Christine Monson…speaking of “different” heroes—and heroines—Christine Monson’s characters are always intriguing and no matter how many times you read her stories, the next time you read it again you will find something you didn’t see before.

Here’s the Amazon blurb: Abandoned by her weakling husband on their wedding night, beautiful socialite Suzanne Maintree sets out to track him down in the wilds of Colorado, but is quite distracted by her guide, a handsome English adventurer.

By the way, this blurb doesn’t do this book justice at all. It’s like saying your grandma’s homemade chicken and dumplin’s and cornbread was “good”—there’s so much more to this story!

I could go on and on, but how about a MOVIE to break the cabin fever monotony? Have you ever seen this one? PURGATORY is one you will want to watch. Refuge is a small town in the west where no one carries weapons. There’s no jail, and neither the sheriff nor his deputy even carry a gun. It’s an odd assortment of citizens, who know the rules, and to kill someone else for whatever reason means their mortal soul. It’s not gory, but does have some supernatural elements that are very well done. Stars Sam Shepard, Eric Roberts, Donnie Wahlberg, Randy Quaid, and JD Souther, among others.

I will leave you with an excerpt from FIRE EYES that takes place (appropriately!) in my heroine’s cabin. FIRE EYES is part of a 6-book boxed set, UNDER A WESTERN SKY! I’m so proud to have my story in this set with 6 different authors (Agnes Alexander, Celia Yeary, Kaye Spencer, Patti Sherry-Crews, Tracy Garrett and Cheryl Pierson). The best part is, it’s only .99 right now!

THE SET UP: Jessica Monroe is living alone with her adopted daughter in the eastern part of Indian Territory. Her husband has been murdered by Andrew Fallon’s border raiders. Now, the Choctaws have brought her a U.S. Deputy Marshal who has been badly wounded by the same band of outlaws, in the hope that she will be able to save his life. Here’s what happens:

“You waitin’ on a…invitation?” A faint smile touched his battered mouth. “I’m fresh out.”

Jessica reached for the tin star. Her fingers closed around the uneven edges of it. No. She couldn’t wait any longer. “What’s your name?” Her voice came out jagged, like the metal she touched.

His bruised eyes slitted as he studied her a moment. “Turner. Kaedon Turner.”

Jessica sighed. “Well, Kaedon Turner, you’ve probably been a lot better places in your life than this. Take a deep breath, and try not to move.”

He gave a wry chuckle, letting his eyes drift completely closed. “Do it fast. I’ll be okay.”

She nodded, even though she knew he couldn’t see her. “Ready?”

“Go ahead.”

Even knowing what was coming, his voice sounded smoother than hers, she thought. She wrapped her hand tightly around the metal and pulled up fast, as he’d asked.

As the metal slid through his flesh, Kaed’s left hand moved convulsively, his fingers gripping the quilt. He was unable to hold back the soft hint of an agonized groan as he turned away from her. He swore as the thick steel pin cleared his skin, freeing the chambray shirt and cotton undershirt beneath it, blood spraying as his teeth closed solidly over his bottom lip.

Jessica lifted the material away, biting back her own curse as she surveyed the damage they’d done to him. His chest was a mass of purple bruises, uneven gashes, and burns. Her stomach turned over. She was not squeamish. But this—

It was just like what they’d done to Billy, before they’d killed him. Billy, the last man the Choctaws had dumped on her porch. Billy Monroe, the man she’d come to loathe during their one brief year of marriage.

She took a washrag from the nightstand and wet it in the nearby basin. Wordlessly, she placed her cool palm against Kaedon Turner’s stubbled, bruised cheek, turning his head toward her so she could clean his face and neck.

She knew instinctively he was the kind of man who would never stand for this if it wasn’t necessary. The kind of man who was unaccustomed to a woman’s comforting caress. The kind of man who would never complain, no matter how badly wounded he was.

“Fallon.” His voice was rough.

Jessica stopped her movements and watched him. “What about him?”

His brows drew together, as if he were trying to formulate what he wanted to say. “Is he…dead?”

What should she tell him?

The truth.

“I—don’t know.”

“Damn it.”

“You were losing a lot of blood out there,” Jessica said, determined to turn his thoughts from Fallon to the present. She ran the wet cloth lightly across the long split in his right cheek.

His breathing was controlled, even. “I took a bullet.” He said it quietly, almost conversationally.

Jessica stopped moving. “Where?”

Here’s the BUY LINK for AMAZON:

Friday, February 15, 2019

Western Comics Spotlight: GUNHAWKS

 Troy D. Smith

For Marvel Comics' 80th anniversary, the company is doing special one-shots briefly resurrecting some of their lesser known titles from years past with an all-new story. I believe this is going to be a monthly feature, because last month was the 1970s war comic WAR IS HELL, and this month it is the 1970s western title GUNHAWKS. I have heard future months will feature some of their horror, sci fi, and romance titles from previous decades.

GUNHAWKS was a different sort of western which originally ran for only seven issues, in 1972-73. The full title was RENO JONES AND KID CASSIDY: GUNHAWKS. It was written by Gary Friedrich and drawn by Syd Shores. Warning- spoilers ahead for the 1970s series.

Cassidy was the son of a Georgia plantation owner, and Jones was a slave whose mother was the cook in the big house. The same age, they grew up together as friends -and when the Civil War started Reno was conflicted. Cassidy marched away with the Confederate Army, and many of the male slaves joined the Union Army. Reno felt loyalty to the Cassidy family because its patriarch had paid his slaves wages and allowed them to come and go at will. Unwilling to fight against either side, he stayed behind to help the old man look after the plantation.

When the Yankees came they killed all the men defending the plantation except for Reno, whom they left for dead. They abducted his girlfriend and fellow slave Rachel. Filled with a desire for vengeance, he joins the Confederate Army to kill Yankees.

(I could write a whole essay just about the historical problems with this story and its connection to the Lost Cause Ideology... and in the book I am currently writing about the history of race in comic books in the 1970s I do. For our purposes here, I am just laying out the plot.)

At the end of the war Kid Cassidy and Reno Jones are joyfully reunited when they both return to the ruined plantation. They decide to start a new life out West, and head to Kansas to become buffalo hunters. They are constantly confronted with difficulties due to prejudice against Reno. When they are attacked by rival buffalo hunters who want to steal their take and kill one, Reno finds Rachel's locket in the dead man's possession. They hunt down the others, and learn from them that they occasionally work for another transplanted Southerner, a former Confederate colonel who is still using black people as slave labor, abducting them and sometimes selling them. Rachel had been in his possession, but had been abducted in a recent Cheyenne raid on the farm. Reno organizes an uprising among the "slaves," who kill the colonel.

Soon the two heroes are caught in the middle between the Cheyennes and a Custer-like cavalry officer prone to large-scale slaughter of women and children. They are separated, with Cassidy taken captive by the Indians and Reno imprisoned by the army. Cassidy learns that Rachel is among the survivors of the village, but does not want Reno to know she is still alive because she has been taken as wife by the band's leader, Gray Fox, and does not want her beloved to ever learn of her shame. Reno eventually gains his own freedom and arrives at the Cheyenne village to rescue Cassidy, with the cavalry hot on his heels. The Indians retreat, and Reno sees Rachel among them. When he tries to go after her, Cassidy -having sworn to protect Rachel's secret -stops him. He refuses to give an explanation for doing so, and Reno angrily draws his pistol and threatens to kill him -just as the cavalry arrive.

Reno fires but deliberately misses. Simultaneously, however, Gray Fox -who had doubled back, still in possession of Rachel -takes aim at the hated cavalry colonel and fires. Fearing he may accidentally hit Reno, Rachel tries to knock aside his rifle -and he accidentally shoots and kills Kid Cassidy instead. The colonel demands Reno be arrested for murder, even though one of his men had seen the puff of smoke from Gray Fox's rifle in the trees. Reno manages to escape, stricken with grief. Gray Fox finds him and attempts to kill him so as to no longer have a rival for Rachel's affection. During the fight, in which Reno kills the Cheyenne leader, Rachel runs away yet again.

The death of Kid Cassidy and the subsequent events I described take place in issue #6. With issue #7 the series is renamed RENO JONES, GUNHAWK. Reno had really been the primary protagonist anyhow, with Cassidy playing a supporting role, which is not what one might have expected in a 1972 comic. Issue #7 finds Reno trying to track down his beloved, but now a fugitive with bounty hunters tracking him. That issue ends with him captured and in jail awaiting hanging. There was no notification of the book's cancellation, just a message at the end that Reno's fate would soon be revealed in a team-up with the Rawhide Kid.

And it was... it just took a quarter of a century.

Reno Jones played a central role in the 1999 miniseries (collected as a graphic novel) BLAZE OF GLORY by John Ostrander and Leonardo Manco. This book was mentioned in my 2013 interview with John Ostrander at this very blog, You can read that interview HERE.

It seems that Reno had escaped execution and roamed the West looking for Rachel, befriending along the way other western heroes such as the Rawhide Kid and the Two-Gun Kid. Many years later, having abandoned his quest for a woman who did not want him, he has married someone else and started a family and is living in the Exoduster town of Wonderment, Montana (with his wife Mary and a son he named Cassidy). A local land baron wants the African American community gone, and hires a group of hooded racist enforcers called the Nightriders to slaughter the town. Reno sends word to his friends for help, and all the major Marvel western heroes show up for a dramatic stand against the Nightriders (with several of the heroes perishing in the process).

In an unexpected twist, the leader of the Nightriders is none other than Kid Cassidy. He had survived the gunshot which he believed came from his disloyal best friend, and as a result was consumed with hatred for not just Reno but black people in general. This time Reno kills him for real.

All right, that catches you up on the legacy of the Gunhawks. There will be no spoilers for the new one, just a description and set-up. You can buy the new one at amazon and other sites, but be forewarned that a single issue of a comic book is now four bucks.

The new iteration has nothing in common with the original except for the genre and the title. It is an all-new story with new characters. It is drawn by Luca Pizzari and written by David and Maria Lapham, who are best known for their classic gritty crime series STRAY BULLETS.

The new "Gunhawk" is Dean Donnelly, recently married sheriff of Clearwater, Arizona in 1914. The town did not know his secret, though- that before coming there to be sheriff he had been a ruthless mercenary in the employ of Mexican usurper Victoriano Huerta against Pancho Villa and other rebels. This single-issue comic is the story of how his past catches up to him.

The book also includes a brief editorial about the important place the western genre has held in the history of Marvel Comics, and how it has been making a comeback in comics the past few years. If you're like me, you are always happy to see a new western from any comics publisher.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Remembering Jack Palance by Kaye Spencer #westernfictioneers #hollywood #classicwesterns

As I develop the characters in the stories I write, I invariably attribute a Hollywood celebrity’s appearance, mannerisms, and persona related to particular roles they’ve played to my characters. I'm careful, however, to leave enough imagination wiggle room for the reader to create their own mental image of my characters...

...except for the supporting villain in my western historical romance, THE COMANCHERO’S BRIDE. I deliberately created this villainous character in the image of a well-known Hollywood villain of his time,  Jack Palance.
Jack Palance - Publicity photo for film 'Man in the Attic'
By 20th Century Fox - ebay, Public Domain,
 Since 2019 marks one hundred years since his birth, let’s take a brief look at his life and his acting career. I have used information from these websites: Jack Palance biography at | Jack Palance page at   | Jack Palance biography Website

Pertinent information

  • Born: February 18, 1919
  • Died: November 10, 2006
  • Married twice – three children
  • Birth name:Vladimir Ivanovich Palahniuk of Ukranian descent and born in Lattimer Mines, Pennsylvania, which was coal country. His father an anthracite miner, who died of black lung disease.
  • received a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina
  • dropped out be a professional boxer as Jack Brazzo
  • served as an Army Air Force bomber pilot in WWII
  • after military service, he returned to college to study journalism at Stanford University
  • worked as a sportswriter for the San Francisco Chronicle

Jack Palance in The Godchild 1974
Public Domain,
Examples of his acting career

Stage (Broadway)

  • 1947 – 1st stage performance in “The Big Two” – his role was a Russian soldier
  • 1947 – understudy for Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski in Broadway's “A Streetcar Named Desire” (he eventually assumed this role)

Anecdote:  While an understudy to Marlon Brando … Brando, who was into athletics, rigged up a punching bag in the theater’s boiler room and invited Jack to work out with him. One night, Jack threw a hard punch that missed the bag and landed square on Brando’s nose. The star had to be hospitalized and understudy Palance created his own big break by going on for Brando. Jack’s reviews as Stanley Kowalski helped get him a 20th Century-Fox contract.

A few notable movies (early in his acting career, he was billed as Walter Jack Palance)

  • 1950 – 1st movie: Panic in the Streets (with Richard Widmark) – his role was as a plague-carrying fugitive  – Widmark said, “...the toughest guy I ever met. He was the only actor I've ever been physically afraid of.”
  • 1951 Halls of Montezuma (again with Richard Widmark) – his role was a boxing Marine
  • 1952 Sudden Fear – his role was a rich and famous playwright who plots to murder his wife (Joan Crawford) and run off with girlfriend (Gloria Grahame)
  • 1953 Second Chance with Robert Mitchum
  • 1953 Shane – his role was “...finest villain of the decade, that of creepy, sadistic gunslinger Jack Wilson”
Jack Palance in 'Shane'
Google Search, Google, Palance&tbs=sur:fc#imgrc=ID_BbZMGHHdvIM:

  • 1956 Attack – his first lead role – WWII action film with Lee Marvin, Eddie Albert, Buddy Ebsen
  • 1960s and early 1970s movies found him in filming in Europe with much success
  • 1966 The Professionals with Burt Lancaster
  • 1970 Monte Walsh with Lee Marvin
  • 1972 Chato's Land with Charles Bronson
  • 1988 Young Guns with the Hollywood “brat pack”
  • 1989 Batman with Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton
  • 1989 Tango and Cash with Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell
  • 1991 City Slickers with Billy Crystal
  • 1994 Cops and Robbersons
  • 1999 Treasure Island as Long John Silver

Jack Palance CBS Television
CBS Television, Jack Palance 1975, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

Oscar Nominations and Win for Supporting Actor

  • Nominated: Sudden Fear
  • Nominated: Shane
  • Won: City Slickers
A few of his television appearances
  • Studio One in Hollywood
  • The Gulf Playhouse
  • The Motorola Television Hour
  • Zane Grey Theater
  • Playhouse 90: Rquiem for a Heavyweight as a down-and-out boxer (Emmy nomination)
  • The Greatest Show on Earth
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • Bronk – series in which he was the title character Lt. Alex Bronkov
  • Host of Ripley's Believe It or Not!

General Trivia

  • Owned a California cattle ranch, exhibited his landscape paintings (poem on the back of each), and was a published poet (The Forest of Love 1966)
  • Fell asleep in his square during a taping of The Hollywood Squares television program (1965)
  • Awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960
  • Inducted in Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum 1992
  • Turned down role of General Chang (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country 1991) due to scheduling conflicts (part went to Christopher Plummer)
  • Wanted the Kid Shelleen role in Cat Ballou (1965) for which Lee Marvin received an Oscar
  • Played Dracula, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, and Ebenezer Scrooge
  • Has been described as having ‘an imposing glare, intimidating stance, and kill-shark smile’
  • Recorded a country music album in 1969, “Palance” – he wrote the song “The Meanest Guy that Ever Lived”, which is included on the album
'Blackjack County Chains' performed on the Porter Waggoner show in 1970

 Many of you will recall his famous one-handed push up during his Oscar acceptance speech.

Now, for the excerpt from THE COMANCHERO’S BRIDE when we meet “Jack”:

Grayson leaned back in his chair. “They need to see me as a man of action. A man who can get things done. A man who takes charge. I have to head-up the rescue crusade myself, and you’ll write about it, firsthand, emphasizing my discomfort and desperation to save her, which makes Elizabeth’s peril all the more real and heart-rending to the readers.”

“This is going to cost you more, Gray.” Doyle swirled the whiskey in his glass. “I create and destroy careers from comfortable accommodations, not from the midst of inconveniences that go hand-in-hand with chasing an outlaw from here to Mexico.”

“There’s a mighty big piece of country in between here and the Rio Grande.”

Grayson and Doyle turned as one person to stare at the man standing beside their table. Grayson sized him up in a glance and didn’t like what he saw. The stranger was tall, grizzled and unkempt, clad in weather-worn, dirty buckskins, and he sported a battered, sweat-stained hat cocked at an angle over shoulder-length gray scraggly hair. He carried a faded military haversack slung across his body. His rifle, muzzle pointed down, rested in the crook of his right arm, which lifted his right shoulder higher than the left with a rounded, misshapen hump. He had the look of a mountain man, mean, rough-hewn, and hard as granite, but his defining feature was his puckered eye that drew the left side of his face into a disturbing grin. The eye itself was canted in the socket, a milky white-blue orb that sometimes seemed to focus and other times to look right past a person.

Although the man was starkly out of place in the swank surroundings, he didn’t seem to notice, or, more importantly, didn’t care. Grayson saw the concierge watching from the doorway, his expression strained and demeanor nervous at this stranger’s presence, inappropriately attired as he was for this establishment and that he openly carried a rifle. Grayson made a mental note to slip a hefty tip to the concierge to buy his cooperation.

“Who are you?” Grayson demanded.

“I’m the tracker yer lookin’ to hire. Name’s Jack.”


“Jack’s good enough.”

Grayson reassessed the man coolly, his initial unfavorable impression changing. This crude-cast stranger might just be the sort of man he needed.

“Have a seat.” Although Grayson nodded to the concierge that all was well and the small man visibly relaxed, although he maintained his watchful position at the doorway.

Grayson offered bourbon, and a chair across the table, but Jack declined both with a slight head shake then took a chair that put his back to the wall and beside Grayson. Grayson exchanged a quick glance with Doyle.

“What’s your price?”

“Depends on the job.”


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Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

Writing through history one romance upon a time

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