Sunday, October 09, 2005

My Favorite Genre: The Western
Part One

The western has been my favorite genre since I can remember. It has definitely fallen out of favor. I know this, I write horror stories and thrillers after all. But, in my heart, it is the adventure of the West (the Hollywood West to be more accurate) that I truly enjoy. In another time and place, I would’ve written Westerns (I did as a kid). I know the conventions and the clich├ęs and the outright historical lies. On the other hand, as times get more confusing and complex, I find refuge in the old Western tale. That doesn’t mean that all Westerns are simple white hats vs. bad hats scenarios. They’re not. Just take one peek at the great Deadwood series on HBO. Still, for the most part, things seem more clear-cut and straightforward in the Western. That doesn’t mean I’m thrilled with every Western. You couldn’t force me to sit through a Roy Rogers or Gene Autry western or any Spaghetti Western that doesn’t have The Man with No Name in it.

Plus the actors who played in some of my favorite Western films seemed larger-than-life and more heroic (and Gods knows we need all the heroes today that we can find – at least I do). The villains were more menacing and colorful; the landscape more awesome.

Some favorite Western male actors (definitely not all and not in any particular order and they weren’t always the good guy): Gary Cooper, John Wayne, James Stewart, Burt Lancaster, Clint Eastwood, Randolph Scott, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, Henry Fonda, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Tom Selleck, Sam Elliot, Glenn Ford, Robert Mitchum, and Clint Walker.

Favorite female actors: Maureen O’Hara, Grace Kelly, Barbara Stanwyck, Katy Jurado, Shelley Winters, Jean Arthur, Vera Miles, Inger Stevens, and Katherine Ross.

Villains (when the good guys faced these guys you knew they were in trouble): Richard Boone, Lee Marvin, Jack Palance, Ernest Borgnine, Eli Wallach, Arthur Kennedy, Richard Widmark, Telly Savalas, Powers Boothe, and Bruce Dern.

Then there were the great character actors in the Western. Once upon a time, maybe their names weren’t known but their faces were: Walter Brennan, Warren Oates, Strother Martin, Ben Johnson, Ward Bond, Edmund O’Brien, Woody Strode, Jack Elam, Robert Ryan, L.Q. Jones, Dennis Hopper, Lee Van Cleef, Elisha Cook, Edgar Buchanan, and John Carradine.

I’m sure I’ve left some wonderful actors out. Yep, I’m sure. In a few days, I’ll list my favorite Western films. The ones I can watch again and again.
I’ll conclude with the line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

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