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Hollywood Producers Contracted For Six-horse Hitch On Two Occasions, But Their

This article first appeared in issue 18, and was written by Dianne Watkins. The full title appeared as: Hollywood producers contracted for Six-Horse Hitch on two occasions, but their own problems prevented production .

Six-Horse Hitch, Janice Holt Giles'epic western novel, was almost a movie. It is one of Mrs. Giles' finest novels. As usual, it was rich in detail, evidence of her seldom matched capacity for research, and it was told in the flowing prose which had gained her national prominence in her earlier novels.

The novel never became a movie, for reasons Dianne Watkins shows in the following article.

And that meant that the world wide premier at the Columbian Theatre, a certain Oscar for Charles Marshall for exhibitor of the year, with movie stars all over the Square.

But it ought to have happened, except for that one little factor: the money. -Ed.

By Dianne Watkins

Janice began working on S-HH on New Year's Day, 1968. An avid researcher for her historical novels, she wrote Libby that she had just read Jack Schaefer's First Blood, which had attracted her attention because it was about a stage driver. As Schaefer was a productive author of western novels, Janice assumed he also did meticulous research and knew every detail about the period. "But," Mrs. Giles wrote her daughter Libby, "he had his stage driver gather up the reins of a six-horse hitch in his left hand, and with his right hand crack his long whip over the heads of the leaders. This is an impossibility. Later in the novel, Schaeffer has his driver tromp hard on the brake, with his left foot! Another impossibility. A stage driver always sat on the right and all brakes were on the right of the driver. He would have had to be a contortionist to use the brake with his left foot. Obviously, Schaefer never drove even so much as a one-horse buggy, (as I have done many times), but worse, didn't check any sources, or even look closely at photographs of the stages."

Janice completed S-HH on September 14, 1968. On September 19, 1969, Ollie Swan, her literary agent, sent her a copy of a letter in which he had responded to an offer for motion picture rights, representing Edward Meyers, who had co-produced The Man in the Glass Booth. By November, the contract had been signed as well as news on November 13 that the book had been bought by Fawcett Gold Medal Books for publication in paperback. In June 1970, Janice received a plaque for excellence by Western Writers of America at their annual convention in North Platte, Nebraska, which stated: Western Writers of America congratulates Janice Holt Giles, SPUR NOMINEE - 1969 for Six-Horse Hitch, fine writing of the American West.

Ollie Swan phoned Janice on the morning of October 2, 1970 to inform her that Reader's Digest had taken Six-Horse Hitch for their Spring 1971 condensed book club edition. It was a very lucrative contract. Unfortunately, Meyers was unable to go forward with his plans for producing the movie but Reader's Digest would publish German, Spanish, French, Swedish, and Australian translations of the book.

Janice shared with Ollie Swan that she had a lot of fan mail forwarded to her about the Reader's Digest condensed version of the book, "But, alas," she said "the artists did the map backward and I have at least three letters from westerners who complained that my map was not accurate! Naturally, since they had to go from west to east and upside down, too! I was heartsick about it, but since it was no fault of mine, I was never once consulted, never saw any proofs, I simply asked these readers to get the regular edition from their library and see the beautiful map, accurate by scale. It wasn't simply a reversal of the plates, for that would have made the names on the maps backwards but the map not only runs from west to east but it has the tributary rivers to the north of the Platte instead of the south of it. It has the Oregon Trail branching off south of the stage line!"

In July 1974, Warner paperbacks picked up Six-Horse Hitch as one of nine in Janice's American Frontier series they planned to reprint. In August, Janice received an inquiry from Carroll Case , Thousand Oaks, California, inquiring about Six-Horse Hitch movie rights. Case was co-owner and producer of Racket Squad and Public Defender and included in his credits a co-production of Two Mules for Sister Sara with Clint Eastwood and Shirley MacLaine for Universal. Case contracted to produce the movie but by November had lost his source of financing so the movie was not to be.

Janice wrote her agent, 'Well, I never really counted on it, so I'm not disappointed." Ironically, Six-Horse Hitch, Janice's last work of fiction, secured her prosperity in the Reader's Digest contracts.

This story was posted on 1997-12-24 12:01:01
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1997-12-24 - Photo Staff. AUTHOR DIANNE WATKINS' biography of Janice & Henry Giles is at the printer's now, but she's been quite busy in Tampa, Florida, helping surgeon daughter Daphne with the care of Dianne's two grandchildren, her 'Higher Callings.' This item first appeared in Issue 18 of the print edition of Columbia! Magazine.
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1997-12-24 - Photo Staff. Six Horse HitchThis item first appeared in Issue 18 of the print edition of Columbia! Magazine.
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