Along about the middle of a movie called Kid Blue, a tall, rumpled man in a filthy black cowboy hat and an even filthier white suit rises from a rusty bed-spring where, presumably, he spends a good deal of his time, runs down the main street of a Texas town, is passed by a band of Indians on horseback, turns right at the end of the street and disappears forever. The man is the town drunk, and the actor playing the drunk is our own Edwin (Bud) Shrake.
"That was my big scene," says Shrake. "They shot it 18 times because the Indians kept messing up. My other scene was where Ben Johnson hits me on the head with a pistol and knocks me over some barrels."
Shrake wrote the story beginning on page 40 about the movie business and its long flirtation with sporting themes. He also wrote the screenplay for Kid Blue, which was one of three U.S. films presented at last year's New York Film Festival. In the 10 years since he came to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED from the Dallas Morning News Shrake has covered everything from pro football to backgammon, and in his spare time has written four of his five novels and 4½ screenplays. The half, an adaptation of Robert Roper's novel, Royo County, is now in Shrake's typewriter and is growing day by day.
"A screenplay is only about 120 pages long and nearly all that is dialogue," says Shrake. "It's a lot easier than a novel, which has difficult transitions and long narrative parts and so much typing. There's always a time in writing a novel, usually about the middle, when you don't see any way you are going to finish it. Or any reason why you should, because you know nobody's going to read it anyway."
It is Shrake's opinion that it is almost impossible to make a good movie, and anybody who does is plain lucky. "Truffaut, Fellini and Bergman are about the only ones who pull it off regularly," he says, "and that's because they have complete control. Normally you write the screenplay, then you argue with the director and the producer. Then you go into production and there are 100 people involved and each one has at least a slightly different idea of what's supposed to be going on. Then there's the editing. And always, somewhere along the line, even if everything is going well, there is somebody, usually from the business office, who not only has real power and his own idea, but is a stupid creep as well."
Unlike his friend Marvin Schwartz, the producer of Kid Blue, who changed his name to Brother Jonathan and went to Africa, Shrake perseveres. J. W. Coop, a rodeo film he wrote with Gary Cartwright and which then was altered by Producer-Director Cliff Robertson, was released in 1972. Kid Blue has opened to raves in London. Rip, the tale of a Texas Ranger and a safecracker, has been optioned by MGM, and Strange Peaches, Shrake's fourth novel, has been adapted for film.
In his article this week Shrake quotes rodeo champion Larry Mahan as saying J. W. Coop "was a phony." Shrake agrees. He says he would like to try another sporting subject sometime, and if it means he gets to put on a dirty white suit and-play the town drunk again, well, it beats typing.
SHRAKE: ON MOVIES AND IN THEM