Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Donnie Johnston: They don't make Westerns like they used to

The Western was a staple of Hollywood motion picture productions from the birth of the industry until the mid-1970s. In those early days, this genre appealed to Americans because our country was mostly rural and moviegoers could identify with rugged outdoor heroes. Then, after World War II, the country folks began moving to the city (or at least the suburbs) and by the 1970s the only rural life most kids experienced was once a year during a school field trip to the farm. Today, we are so far removed from that way of life that kids believe that milk comes from the breast of a wax-coated paper carton and cows are only something to look at across a board fence. But there was a time when every kid knew one end of a cow from the other and cowboys rode tall in the saddle, especially at the Saturday afternoon matinee movies. Those old black-and-white B-movies, of course, were made long before my time, but I occasionally watch Johnny Mack Brown, Bob Steele and Buck Jones ride off into the sunset with their trusty comedic saddle pals by their sides. The plots were always simple...Westerns began to grow up after World War II. Historians generally give “High Noon” (1952) credit for being the first adult Western but as far as I’m concerned, John Ford’s “Stagecoach” (1939) with its passenger character studies gets that honor.Then came the John Wayne cavalry trilogy (“Fort Apache,” “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” and “Rio Grande”) in the late 1940s. They were pretty grown up. Another late 1940s favorite of mine is “My Darling Clementine” in which Henry Fonda gave one of his best performances as Wyatt Earp.Amid the Cold War and political uncertainty, the Western fumbled its way through the 1950s. There were many cookie-cutter films (now in color), but they were balanced by outstanding movies such as “Shane,” “The Searchers,” “Cowboy” and “3:10 to Yuma.”The latter two movies featured Glenn Ford, who never seems to get his due as a Western actor...more

No comments: