Read Sam Peckinpah: A Closer Look – Part 1 here
Sam Peckinpah found great success with The Wild Bunch in 1969. The man who had come from television, made his way into movies, directed a minor critical darling with Ride the High Country, an epic flop with Major Dundee, and then gotten back on his feet after the successful TV adaptation of the short novel Noon Wine had now hit the big time. Tapping into the violence of the era, the feelings of betrayal, especially by those in authority, and the general sense of a country spiraling out of control, The Wild Bunch hit the zeitgeist right on the money. And in terms of the movie’s success, that was literal cash money.
Peckinpah, a wounded romantic, had loosed his howl at the world and the world had howled back with him. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to his benefit. Audiences not only liked the Peckinpah who screamed in a bloody rage of bullets and gore, but the runaway success of The Wild Bunch made it seem as if that was the only Peckinpah. When Sam Peckinpah set out to tell other stories, audiences didn’t show up and it was to his (and our) loss.
The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970)
Sam Peckinpah followed up The Wild Bunch with The Ballad of Cable Hogue the very next year. The film stands as a counterpoint to The Wild Bunch, the balm to its burn. Where The Wild Bunch was about the sundering of society—using a story about the West getting modernized and moneyed interests taking hold of law enforcement to do so—The Ballad of Cable Hogue is about how people can come through the other side of that. It’s almost better to watch the two back-to-back to get both the problem and the solution from Peckinpah. Starring Jason Robards as the title character, Stella Stevens as hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold, Hildy, and David Warner as a preacher of questionable morals, Joshua, it was a departure from The Wild Bunch in virtually every way except the thematic ones.
Once again about the death of the West as modern civilization encroaches, Hogue isn’t an elegy like Ride the High Country or an angry scream like The Wild Bunch. Sam Peckinpah went in a wildly different direction in making Hogue a comedy. Partly ribald and romantic, partly dramatic, the film closest in tone is probably Arthur Penn’s Little Big Man (released toward the end of the same year). Where it differs is in the structure. Instead of Little Big Man’s picaresque model, with the lead going from encounter to encounter, The Ballad of Cable Hogue reverses that and has the encounters come to our lead.
The film opens on Cable wandering through the desert with his mule, searching for food. When he comes across a lizard, it gets shot out of his hand from a distance. His partners, Taggart and Bowen (Peckinpah regulars L. Q. Jones and Strother Martin), try to rob Cable who gets the drop on them. Unafraid because they know Cable to not be a man of violent convictions, they finish robbing him and take his belongings, forcing him to wander through the desert without water. After four days of meandering through windstorms without a drink, Cable first asks for God’s help, then demands it, kicking at the earth. When he finally falls to the ground in exhaustion he sees his boot is muddy and knows what it means: water. Cable drinks and thanks himself, instead.
A stagecoach eventually comes by, driven by Clete and Ben (Gene Evans and Slim Pickens). Cable finds out that on their 40-mile route between the towns of Dead Dog and Gila, there’s no spot to stop for water. Knowing that he has the only claim around that matters, Cable begins to see his fortunes take hold.
Peckinpah has, unlike his previous Westerns, pulled this world almost wholly into the allegorical. By this point, there’s no real indications of the times to come yet, and one of the only ways the audience knows that it is the end of the West is by knowing it’s a Sam Peckinpah picture. The location is a sketch. The desert it’s set in is the Mojave, though never named. The towns are entirely fictitious, though named as real Old West towns were. It’s the perfect setting for a man to bargain with God for his life and then thank himself when he comes out the other side.
Cable soon builds a rough outpost out of scrap lumber and makes a “watle” sign: 10 cents for people, 2 bits for horses. When a cowboy comes and tries to take a drink without paying, he goes to pull a gun on Cable who gets the man first using the man’s own rifle from his saddle holster. Cable has learned from when he was betrayed earlier. The gun comes in handy when his next visitor stops by, the reverend, Joshua. After making the reverend pay, the reverend shows his own gift which is the use and abuse of words and begins to make Cable think his claim will be stolen out from under him. Putting Joshua in charge of the watering hole and demanding a dime for each drink he takes, Cable heads into town to make his claim official.
Once in town Cable meets a woman he will soon come to know intimately: Hildy. Asking her for directions to the land office, Peckinpah’s camera focuses on her cleavage again and again in a series of zoom cuts used to comedically illustrate the mind of a crusty man fresh from the desert with more than business on his mind when a pretty lady crosses his path. For a man known for being able to shoot carnage like a blood-soaked ballet, it’s a departure in terms of effect. Cable heads to the land office and makes his purchase, surprising the man there who expects to sell hundreds of acres while Cable only has enough money for two. But as Cable points out, it’s the two that count.
After a fruitless attempt to sell the claim to the stagecoach office, Cable heads to the bank and tries to talk the bank owner into setting him up with a $35 grub stake. After hearing out the cantankerous Cable, the man gives him $100 instead and Cable heads out the door in a daze, cash in hand. Spotting Hildy letting a man out the back door of the saloon, he realizes what she does for a living and glances down at the Indian Chief on his money for advice. The Indian Chief grins back and soon Cable is knocking on Hildy’s door. Seeing the cash in his hand, she invites him in and bathes him to remove the lip-curling stink he has. After telling Cable her dream is to go to San Francisco to become the “ladiest damned lady you ever seen,” their time is cut short by a revival preacher preaching in a tent at the end of the street. Cable is reminded of Joshua and his snakelike ways, fearing he might work a deal without him. He flees the room, not paying Hildy as they hadn’t done anything, and she proceeds to throw things at him as he leaves town, causing a ruckus which knocks down the tent and gets the townsfolk in a fervor.
Arriving back at his stake with a wagonload of old lumber, Cable and Joshua proceed to build “Cable Springs”, a ramshackle stage stop where Cable serves guests “desert stew” (made of whatever local meat he can hunt up) and allows the watering of horses. While they work Joshua lays out his religious philosophies on life and Peckinpah wraps up his views on such matters.
In Ride the High Country, the men working for the bank encounter Mr. Knudsen who is a Bible-beating hypocrite and a man who hits his daughter. In The Wild Bunch the only sign of religion is the temperance movement members who get slaughtered in a roiling gun battle. This is the hard-living Peckinpah telling us such offers a boring life and no protection in the end. In The Ballad of Cable Hogue Joshua lays out his credo throughout the film and it’s nothing but self-serving claptrap gussied up with hifalutin language, all of it intended to lead to some form of sexual gratification. This, then, is the comical version of Knudsen’s violent hypocrisy. It’s all hypocrisy, Peckinpah tells us, and that might be the greatest sin to him. Hypocrisy, or to put it another way, the betrayal of codes—of one’s own, of one’s friends, of one’s honor and one’s commitments—is roundly derided in his work. From the hypocrisy of a two-faced former lawman turned carnival barker and cheat in Gil Westrum in Ride the High Country to the railroad man and his indifference to the wanton destruction his pursuit of the Wild Bunch causes despite being on the side of the law in that film, to the various religious personages peppered throughout, it’s all hypocrisy, and like the tent revival preacher in Cable Hogue, deserves to have the roof collapse over it.
Cable and Joshua take a trip into town to visit Hildy. In a final gag aimed right at the heart of Peckinpah’s take on religion and hypocrisy, Joshua reveals that his clerical collar turns around and has a necktie to give him a normal appearance in town—something Cable shakes his head at. Finally getting his evening with Hildy, Joshua wanders the streets until he comes across a grieving woman. Turning his collar back around, he attempts to…minister…to her until her husband comes home and he has to extract himself from the sticky situation he finds himself in.
After a long and fruitless attempt to find more water, the stage coach owner eventually gives in and sets up a contract with Cable to use his place. Ben gives Cable an American flag to put up after Cable strikes his bargain and Cable immediately sets to building a flag pole for it. This isn’t Peckinpah giving a hip-hip-hooray to the America he just took to the woodshed in The Wild Bunch a year before. This is Peckinpah illustrating what he believes America can be: a society of people who can come together and build something, as Cable has, and set about living without causing harm to each other. That’s Peckinpah’s hope and he’s hanging a flag above it to hammer it home for the audience in an unpatriotic time.
Hildy, after being kicked out of town, comes to stay with Cable and helps him make his stage stop into a stage home, cleaning up the property, getting a corral for horses, a coop for chickens, and generally adding a woman’s touch to the place. Hildy asks Cable if he’s bothered by what she was, and he says he isn’t because he was able to partake. He doesn’t begrudge anyone what they have to do to get through life. They have a happy home for a while until Joshua comes seeking Cable’s help in hiding out from another husband whose wife he was dallying with. Cable helps him, but Joshua’s presence breaks the spell—shown in a delightful, playful sequence set to a folk song duet between Stevens and Robard called “Butterfly Mornings” 1—he and Hildy found themselves living under. She rekindles her dream to become the lady she always wanted to be and decides to leave.
With Hildy gone, Cable continues working as more time passes, his only wants being to keep earning and eventually get revenge on Taggart and Bowen for leaving him to die in the first place. He gets his chance when they get out of the stagecoach one day and he offers them a drink of water. While they drink, Ben reveals that Cable doesn’t believe in banks when he hands him the month’s rent from the stage company. They formulate a plan and come back to rob the place. Cable gets the drop on them, however, and proceeds to make them strip to their long johns before setting out into the desert. When Taggart refuses Cable draws on him. Taggart learns his lesson about assuming on Cable’s cowardice when Cable lays him out, killing for the second time in the movie. Bowen begins to blubber and sets off until they hear a rattletrap noise and honking, and a motorcar comes zipping past. Cable is dumbfounded, and Bowen begs the people for help, but they only laugh and continue on their merry way.
Bowen tells Cable he’s seen such a thing before and it’s enough for Cable. He decides the West is no longer for him and to leave Cable Springs to Bowen. At that moment a green motorcar 2 appears over the horizon. A woman dressed in matching green finery gets out and Cable realizes it is Hildy and that she achieved what she set out to: become the ladiest damned lady he ever saw. She has returned to ask Cable to come with her and he agrees knowing his time is past. As he loads his belongings into the car, he accidently trips the brake and the car begins driving toward Bowen. Rushing to help his old partner despite their differences, Cable gets run over by the car. Joshua pulls up a moment later on a new motorcycle.
Cable’s bed is brought outside and he lays in it, dying. He asks Joshua to give him a funeral service, not over the top, but not too mean, either. Joshua begins what may be the only speech he’s ever meant in his life. He tells us about Cable and after a few more jokes exchanged between Cable and everyone he knows the film transitions to Joshua’s continued eulogy as we see everyone wearing black, gathered around Cable’s grave. In Peckinpah’s allegory, modernity has literally killed the West as represented by Cable Hogue. It has run him down in its ever-increasing progress.
But Joshua’s words carry with us, and Peckinpah uses them to sum up this odd man we’ve seen, a man Peckinpah might wish he was. Cable Hogue was a man, nothing more and nothing less. He had drives and interests but nothing so overwhelming he couldn’t divert himself for a little while. He was loyal to those he knew and to his idea of fair play. He learned from his mistakes, but never let his heart become hard. He loved without condition and didn’t judge people on their livelihoods. For Peckinpah, this idea, of what people could be, was his religion. It’s not fancy, and it’s not hard. It’s no wonder Peckinpah would go on to say this was the favorite film he had made.
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)
After The Ballad of Cable Hogue, which didn’t set the box office on fire by any means, Peckinpah was still able to coast on the goodwill of The Wild Bunch and had a film out every year until Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. There were no more Major Dundee-sized gaps.
First came the revenge drama, Straw Dogs, with Dustin Hoffman in 1971. Peckinpah had two in 1972 with a drama about a modern rodeo family, Junior Bonner, with Steve McQueen and the oddly upbeat adaptation of Jim Thompson’s brutal novel, The Getaway (also with McQueen). Straw Dogs and The Getaway achieved success as Peckinpah was seen as the king of blood and violence to audiences, while Junior Bonner, the family drama, did not.
Peckinpah was reportedly introduced to the script for Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid by one of his stars from Major Dundee, James Coburn, who wanted to play the man before the ampersand, Pat Garrett. Peckinpah read the script by Rudy Wurlitzer, the only credited writer, and then reworked it with him. The reworking made Wurlitzer unhappy (so much so he wrote a novel about it, Slow Fade, fictionalizing Sam Peckinpah as the drug-addled Wesley Hardin), but Peckinpah used it to give his final statement on the Western.
Ride the High Country, The Wild Bunch, The Ballad of Cable Hogue and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid can be seen to form an essay on Peckinpah’s take on the Western genre. Ride marks the thesis, The Wild Bunch and Hogue are the arguments and counterarguments, and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid forms a synthesis of his prior work. Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid also turns into a self-examination, each of the title characters used to explore different aspects of Peckinpah and his relationship to his work.
The film opens with a flash forward to Pat Garrett’s (James Coburn) 1908 assassination in Las Cruces in the New Mexico territory (mistakenly put as 1909 on the title card). Though the majority of the film is set during the 1880s, Peckinpah still found a way to open it at the tail end of the West. As Garrett falls from his wagon, Peckinpah intercuts it with a target shooting competition involving Billy the Kid (Kris Kristofferson) and his friends in 1881, and with the final cut takes us fully into the past.
While Billy and his friends continue shooting in Fort Sumner, Pat rides in and joins them. After the shooting’s done, they all drink and Pat reveals he’s taken on the position of sheriff and will be forced to make Billy leave the territory in a few days unless Billy leaves himself. Billy acknowledges what he tells him and blows it off. The film cuts to a few days later when Pat and a squad surround the house where Billy is holed up and begin firing on them. One of Billy’s gang dies and eventually Billy gives himself up. When he finds out that Pat’s there for a murder Billy committed years earlier, he can only laugh to himself about how far they’re reaching.
Billy is jailed and going to be hung. A gallows is built outside the window and always in frame. True to Peckinpah’s nature, the gallows is always surrounded by a gaggle of lookie-loos. Billy and Pat play cards and talk about life while Garrett’s deputy, Bob (Peckinpah regular, R.G. Armstrong), keeps threating Billy with his shotgun loaded with dimes and telling him he’ll go to hell, getting more vehement with each utterance. Pat calms Bob down but must leave for a while, a time during which Billy eventually breaks out using a gun hidden for him in the outhouse, shooting one guard before killing Bob with his own shotgun. There isn’t a whole lot of killing in Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (Peckinpah’s bloodiest remained The Wild Bunch which says a great deal about the lasting onus of public perceptions) but this gives any kill in that film a run for its money, with about ten squibs all letting go at once. Billy tells Bob he “can keep the change.” As Billy flees the town, a young man named “Alias” (Bob Dylan) follows him.
Garrett gets a new deputy, Alamosa Bill Kermit (played by looker, Jack Elam), and meets with Governor Lew Wallace 3 (Jason Robards). Wallace introduces Garrett to the Santa Fe Ring 4 who want to get rid of Billy as he is disrupting their plans for the territory. Garrett agrees but turns down their upfront offer of $500 against a full thousand to capture Billy.
Bill returns to Fort Sumner while Garrett meets Sheriff Colin Baker (Slim Pickens) and together they try to take down some of Billy’s gang. They do, but Baker is fatally hit during the fight and his wife cradles him as he dies in her arms. Garrett looks bewildered and lost by what’s going on and heads out to bed down by the river. As he sits resting, a barge comes downstream with a family aboard. The father shoots at liquor bottles his son tosses before the barge and Garret takes a potshot at a bottle himself. The father, thinking he’s being shot at, shoots at Garrett, who gets up and takes cover. They stare each other down for a while, but the barge soon passes on and out of the story.
The scene is a perfect encapsulation of what Garrett has been thinking and feeling: All the bloodshed in an effort to track down Billy the Kid is as pointless as two strangers aiming rifles at each other over a mistaken exchange of gunfire while shooting at bottles. Peckinpah, throughout the movie, has had Garrett and Billy represent two sides of the West, made most evident when they talk and lay out their philosophy. Garrett says that he feels the West is changing and that he wants to see the future of it, hence why he took on the sheriff’s job, while Billy wants to continue his rough-living ways. Both are right and both are wrong.
Garrett is right in that the West is changing. Groups like the Santa Fe Ring, representing powerful moneyed interests, are taking over the forming of society and the course of the law, and will keeping hiring people—whether, like Garrett, through legal means or with their bounty money, extra-judicial ones—and people like Billy aren’t long for this new world being built. Using a third version of his lawman lead character—after Steve Judd, the Joel McCrea character from Ride the High Country, humiliated by the world, but able to have one moment of dignity (even in service to the bank), and Deke Thornton, Robert Ryan’s former bandit left behind by the Wild Bunch in that movie and serving the railroad in hunting them—Peckinpah lays out his synthesis. The Garrett of the movie is friends with Billy making him like Deke Thornton, but is also able to get a lawman’s job on his own, like Steve Judd, and wants to act on it.
This synthesis character plays directly into what Peckinpah does with Billy, a more fun-loving member of his own gang, his own Wild Bunch, so to speak. While Billy is young and laughs a lot now, there’s every chance he could age into the hardened killers of the Wild Bunch (and, with quips like, “Keep the change,” after murdering someone with a shotgun full of dimes, every indication he’s well on his way). Yet there’s also something that represents the true West to Peckinpah in Billy: sure, he’s a crook and a murderer, the movie argues, but he doesn’t pretend to morality. The Santa Fe Ring is a corrupt organization that by dint of money gets to claim legitimacy and Peckinpah hates the hypocrisy of the idea. He hated it when he made the Wild Bunch and had the callous railroad man shrug at all the murdered townsfolk that resulted from his botched ambush, and he hated the same hypocrisy in the society he saw around himself.
In the year the movie came out, 1973, the Vietnam War was finally beginning to be drawn down. Public opinion was in the basement and getting lower. It was so bad congress was rushing bills through to prevent more US intervention. Yet, for all that, there was still an idea of America being the world’s heroes, our global negotiations still coasting on our cowboy status from World War II. In the meanwhile, the ‘70s was quickly becoming what would be known as the “‘Me’ decade” defined by a destructive moral navel-gazing amongst the middle-class segment of the population that had held America afloat throughout earlier decades. It was how the hippies of the ‘60s would become the Yuppies of the ‘80s. Watergate was heating up, with Nixon getting more and more erratic; it was roughly a year and three months after Pat Garrett was released that the president would step down. This isn’t to say it directly affected the movie outside of being another part of the general sense at the time that there were no adults at the wheel, a feeling that pervades Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. Peckinpah watched all of this with despair, fueled no doubt, by his drug and alcohol addictions and his sense of persecution regarding constant studio meddling, as well as being pigeonholed as the blood and guts king of the Western despite only making only one movie that truly fit the bill.
The film continues with Pat being joined by a man who works for the Santa Fe Ring named John W. Poe (John Beck)—one of the very same men who kills him in the movie’s opening sequence—before meeting a corrupt cattleman, John Chisum (Barry Sullivan). Billy follows his friends toward Mexico, accidentally coming across Pat’s deputy, Alamosa Bill. After a friendly meal, he and Bill face off at ten paces, Bill counting to eight and turning only to discover Billy never took a step and had him in sight the whole time. He dies, but Billy holds no real animosity towards him. In turn, when three members of Billy’s gang enter a local saloon, Pat toys with them before killing one and then telling Alias to tell Billy they had a friendly drink. There’s a sense that Pat and Billy are circling each other if only to put off the inevitable.
Eventually Pat discovers that Billy is back at Fort Sumner, staying with a landowner named Pete Maxwell. With Poe and another man in tow, he heads there, coming across Billy. Billy is sleeping with Pete Maxwell’s daughter so Garrett lets him finish and rests on a porch swing. When Billy is done and gets up to get food, Pat sneaks into the house and gets the drop on Billy, shooting him when he turns around. He then sees himself in the mirror and shoots that, too. Ultimately, he killed his friend for nothing. Shooting at bottles floating in front of barges held more honor. Pat goes back outside and sits on the porch until morning, letting the locals deal with Billy’s body. Roll credits.
It’s an elegy, for certain, but not for the West itself. Peckinpah doesn’t argue that the West was a better time, it’s that he appreciates people deciding for themselves over men in suits doing it for them. It’s the classic youth phrase from the ‘60s—Don’t trust anyone over thirty—writ large and splashed across the historical Southwest. Billy’s under thirty and you know what you get with him. Pat’s over it, and he helps, in his quest to still be relevant, to kill Billy and secure the land for the Santa Fe Ring, money men in suits who seek to tame the land to their benefit. And his reward? To be assassinated by those very same men when he’s outlived his purpose.
Like Billy, Peckinpah felt constantly on the run. He fought with just about everyone, his behavior exacerbated by the manic, narcotics-soaked lifestyle he lived. He was an outlaw in many ways, at least within the confines of cushy Hollywood during the rise of the counterculture. At the same time, there’s an element of Pat to Peckinpah, perhaps lamenting how he helped to bust the Western open, helped to make it a land of gory chaos, casting archetypes aside and knocking idols from their pedestals. Like Pat, he doesn’t like what he sees in the mirror, which is an image he himself helped create. And, like Pat, he realizes that what he did didn’t net him a reward. The Santa Fe Ring of Hollywood moguls and accountants came for him just the same as anybody else.
When it came time, Peckinpah and the studio went to war over Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid and, in the end, the studio won. The suits, led by James Aubrey 5, butchered Peckinpah’s release hoping audience interest in yet another Billy the Kid story and a Bob Dylan soundtrack would beat their interest in seeing Peckinpah take a final crack at the Western. It was a gamble they would lose as the movie did poorly both critically and at the box office. Only in the later DVD release did Peckinpah’s preview version, his cut, see the light of day and begin to get reappraised.
It is having this that allows to us to fully see Peckinpah as both the troubled man and flawed artist he was, putting himself and his beliefs onto the screen with each stab he took at making a Western. Even Major Dundee, the movie that got away from him and derailed his ‘60s career, has these elements. Sam Peckinpah made the art he wanted to see at the time, and he did it with gusto every time. While it’s easy to say that not everything he did may have worked, it’s impossible to argue he did any of it thoughtlessly. He used the Western to talk about manhood, about friendship, loyalty, the hypocrisy of the world, and to reflect on the country he was living in as it changed around him. He responded in the only way he knew how, by writing it down and pointing a camera at it, and we’re the better for it. Sam Peckinpah may not have changed the world, but he certainly changed the shooting and cutting of action movies, and he changed a genre—both in the stories told and the way we tell them—and there’s damn few who could claim the same. Like Steve Judd in Ride the High Country, Sam Peckinpah, artistically speaking, entered his house justified.
Several years ago, Warner Brothers put out a great DVD box set with all four movies discussed in this two-part article: Ride the High Country, The Wild Bunch, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. As of today,The Wild Bunch is readily available on Blu-ray while Ride the High Country and The Ballad of Cable Hogue are on Blu-ray as part of the Warner Archives Collection. Pat Garrett& Billy the Kid isn’t available on Blu-ray. All are available to rent or buy from various on-demand services.
- Folk songs inserted into movies seemed to be a staple of late ‘60s and early ‘70s movies as studios tried to appeal to younger audiences even as New Hollywood was marching into town. Similar songs can be found in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head” (by Hal Davis and Burt Bacharach) in 1969 and inThe Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean’s “Marmalade, Molasses and Honey” (by Maurice Jarre and Andy Williams) in 1972. The best is perhaps Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” for Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid in 1973.
- Hildy’s motorcar is a repainted version of the “Leslie Special”, the car made for Tony Curtis to drive in the 1965 Blake Edwards comedy, The Great Race.
- Lew Wallace, the governor of the New Mexico territory at the time, was quite an accomplished man. He was not only a decorated Major General from the Union army and on both the Lincoln assassination conspiracy and Andersonville prison camp committees, during his tenure as governor he wrote the best-selling novel, Ben-Hur: A Story of the Christ. It would go on to become the highest grossing American novel of the 19th century
- The Santa Fe Ring, a real-life organization consisting of land speculators and attorneys, was a powerful and corrupt Republican political group out West making fraudulent land deals and obtaining beef contracts from the US government for supplying the reservations and then giving the Indians cheap, spoiled meat.
- James Aubrey is the same executive who helped Kirk Kerkorian open up the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and hemorrhaged so much money he ended up having to sell the studio’s library. Thank him for essentially helping to stuff and mount the studio’s mascot, Leo.