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Mary Cleveland Ramsay

MARY CLEVELAND RAMSAY
(1928-2005)


... What is lovely never dies,
But passes into other loveliness,
Star-dust, sea-foam, flower, or wingéd air.

—THOMAS BAILEY ALDRICH

Our beloved Mary passed away at her home on October 19. She leaves her children, Lerin, Piers, and Hilary, along with their families: Mark and Rina, Diane, Maya, and Blaire, Nancille and Chris.

Mary first came to New Mexico to study art at the University of New Mexico. She graduated with a Masters degree and later moved to California. She returned to Placitas in 1968. She loved the people, cultures, and magic of New Mexico with all her heart. She was a dear friend to many, a loving mother, and a nurturing grandmother. She will be missed by all who knew her.

Marty Clifton uses horsemanship to clinche acting parts

Marty Clifton uses horsemanship to cinche acting parts in New Mexico-made movies

Dennis Foulkrod and Marty Clifton

(l. to r.) Placitans Dennis Foulkrod and Marty Clifton look the part for Western filmmakers

Placitas cowboy acts natural in the movies

—TY BELKNAP
Casting directors can see by Marty Clifton’s outfit that he is a cowboy. That's why they’ve been hiring him and his horse. His fellow Placitans Dennis Foulkrod and Tom Rostowski can also be seen as extras in several New Mexico movie productions.

It’s not just that Marty looks the part—he really is a cowboy, and has been for most of his life. He has a photo that appeared in Life magazine in the 1950s of himself at age fourteen operating a branding iron on Ball Ranch. He got away from it during his college years and while he worked in California during the sixties, but after returning to New Mexico for a career with PNM he always had horses. “I never was seriously involved with rodeos, but I got my cowboying fix during seasonal roundups,” he said.

During the last four or five years, Marty has helped out at the Alamo Ranch up on the Rio Puerco, where he and his horse, Squirt, herded up to a thousand head of cattle. It was here that some of the cowboys were approached by an Italian fashion magazine to provide horses and appear in the background of a fashion shoot. He said, “That got me thinking about appearing as an extra in the movie industry that was moving into the state. It seemed like I could get the experience I wanted and the work would be easier than working on a ranch.”

In 2004 he tried out for a Disney Wild West show. Although he didn’t get the job, Marty said that he got a feel for what they were looking for. “I was really impressed with the tremendous riders who tried out, especially the Indians. They could grab a horse’s mane, mount up with a standing jump, and ride bareback at a full gallop.”

Later that year, he answered a call for extras on the ten-hour DreamWorks Television production of Into the West, which was filmed on several locations in New Mexico. Casting directors gave a general description of the type, age, and look needed in the film, and three hundred people tried out. The prospects filled out a form that asked for personal measurements and eye color, plus “Can you ride?” Extras are generally paid about $6 an hour. Riders are paid $8 an hour plus $100 a day for their horse.

That’s not a lot of money, but Marty says that people are starting to depend on it. Whole families and vans full of Native Americans come to casting calls in hopes of many hours of work. There are currently six major movie productions taking place throughout the state. Producers are finding New Mexico an attractive alternative to Hollywood because of lower costs, loan and tax incentives, as well as the beautiful scenery and availability of several permanent Western movie sets.

When Marty got the call to work on Into the West, they told him to “stop shaving and look as scraggly as possible” when he showed up at the Bonanza Ranch in the pre-dawn hours of December 2004. “It was pitch dark when two hundred extras signed in and were assigned roles. We were all sent to a first-rate costume trailer and then to makeup for the application of mostly dirt and facial hair. Then they fed us breakfast and loaded us into buses for a ride to the set, which was out in the middle of nowhere,” he said.

During the four months of filming, extras found out that the work wasn’t all that easy. There were days when battle scenes were filmed all day long, running full-out on foot or horseback across the battlefield, shooting guns in cold weather and in the midst of cannon fire. “We were just a step below stuntmen,” Marty explained.

“They told us how to point and shoot safely and they didn’t put up with any screwing around. If our horses couldn’t handle the action we were switched to a wrangler horse.”

Right after the completion of Into the West, Marty found work in Taming the Wild West: The Legend of Jedediah Smith, part of which which was filmed in the Rio Rancho bosque. Then he and his wife Catherine both appeared in Wildfire.

Marty’s new career is on hold while he recovers from knee surgery. Although his enthusiasm is understated—in typical cowboy fashion—it seems clear that he is looking forward to more movie work, in addition to ranching and retirement.

 

 

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