Thursday, January 06, 2011
Comments on "Ten Essential Westerns"
Here are the comments on 10 essentials Westerns for fans turned on by new 'True Grit' so far, followed by mine:
I agree that Stage Coach should be at or near the top of the list. Red River must be added to that same general position, and in my opinion, is the perhaps one of the two or three most technically correct movies of the West ever. I also think All the Pretty Horses was superb in strict tehnicality. When the two characters stood outside of the Balle looking in and discussing whether they should wear their hats inside was so Western correct. Although Quigley Down Under can't be Western, the most beautiful scene of true unity was filmed in that movie when Tom Selleck was going for help and there was a scene at dusk through dust with that horse collected that was just gorgeous. I am also a big fan of the Snowy River stuff where riders can still ride and not pound the horses' backs like sacks of potatoes. Other than the Selleck, Duvall, Elliot, Tommy Lee Jones stuff of the last 20 years the riding makes me sick. I could go on, but the greatest movie of the modern age as for strict horsemanship was probably Giant. Remember the scene out in front of the house when Rock put his little grandson on the horse with him? The cowboys in the backdrop riding around were from the Means family of the Valentine area . . .go back and watch that. Those guys were truly cowboys and were having a heck of a time . . . Anyway . .
SWilmeth called me on the phone to add another two cents to this like I have the time to do that! Anyway, he had two more cents (like that is the gospel!) and they are there are two more movies where horsemanship and horses need to be elevated in memory. The first was the Gary Cooper movie we think was . . . Dallas (does that sound right?) where he rode a total of five or six horses. The horses were typical California style finished horses all pretty small, but in S's view "great little horses" that Mr. Cooper or his double rode really well. I liked the clothes Gary wore. Stuff that fit and didn't hang to the ground. You know what I mean? The second movie was Big Country and the stars of the movie were the double for Jean Simmons when she rode across the flat to confront Gregory Peck when he was picking around the old house on the Big Muddy. The other stars were the double for Charlston Hestin and the little paint horse he rode. That in my mind was the cutest horse in movie history! S wonders if it was a Visalia Stock Saddle with those long tapaderos hanging down both sides. Could'a been in that era and it was filmed in the Simi Valley California country. Anyway, I gotta' go. You make up your own mind if S. has a leg to stand on!
Lonesome Dove,Tombstone, Jesse James, She wore a yellow ribbon ( a cavalry movie , but a good one with John Wayne and Ben Johnson),Jerimiah Johnson( a pre-cowboy western) are some I would put on the list. My favorite movie is of course"The Rounders" with Glenn Ford,Henry Fonda and Chill Wills.
I’m sure Mr. Butler’s list takes into consideration direction, production, acting, cinematography, etc.
My friend Steve Wilmeth seems to focus on certain scenes in a movie, especially those involving horses. For sure, a funny looking hat or the inability to ride ruins a movie for me. Speaking of horse scenes, the Movie Tom Horn starring Steve McQueen has one of the best. It’s when he rides into the stock pens with his rifle across his left arm, lays down the law to those present saying “and that’s my final word on the matter”, and then backs that horse out of the corral and down the alley without ever losing sight of his opponents. My favorite horse scene though, has to be the bucking horse scene in Monte Walsh. I don’t know how they filmed that scene but it is terrific. It also has a definite meaning in the story. I have also been lucky enough to meet and visit with Archie West, who the author used as his model for the character Monte Walsh.
Chris has an interesting list too. One not mentioned so far is Will Penny starring Charlton Heston. Realistic in attire, equipment, horses and cattle and has the line “See you in the fall if I see you at all” which then was said at one time or the other by every cowboy at NMSU in 1968. Also starring are Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens, Bruce Dern and Lee Majors. Heston has been quoted as saying this was his favorite film. It just so happens the movie is based on an episode of Sam Peckinpah’s 1960 televison series The Westerner. Imagine that.
Peckinpah was a drinking buddy of Max Evans, and Chris mentions The Rounders is his favorite western film. Evans, the author of The Rounders, saw his manuscript rejected 11 times before he found a publisher who would go with it. It was the beginning of the modern western, made Max Evans, and is still in print 50 years later. I liked it enough I named an award after it. I gave “The Rounders Award” to those outside the industry who “lived, promoted or articulated the western way of life.” The first recipient was Max Evans, and I also presented it to such luminaries as Elmer Kelton, Michael Martin Murphey and Baxter Black. For a modern western film based on Evans’ work I would highly recommend the autobiographical Hi-Lo Country, a 1998 film starring Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup and Penelope Cruz.
I’m running out of time, so one final note. Shane is on Butler’s list and Monte Walsh is on mine. Both were based on books of the same title by Jack Schaefer who was a resident of Silver City, NM.
More on Stagecoach and Red River later, especially if more folks comment about their favorite western movies. I know we are missing some, so help us out.