Tuesday, October 11, 2005

My Favorite Genre: The Western
Part Two

I decided to limit my favorites to ten. Nice round number. Then I realized I was leaving several terrific movies off the list. But I’m going to stick to ten. Decision made. Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Yep. I also decided to would be only movies. Deadwood (Season One and Two) and Lonesome Dove (mini-series) are not on the list for that reason. Both are great. If you haven’t seen them, treat yourself. Here we go, pilgrim:

(in alphabetical order)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
This is just a flat-out fun movie. William Goldman’s script sings and there are numerous great moments and lines of dialogue. If you were an outlaw, you’d want to ride with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Katherine Ross has never looked lovelier. Plus Strother Martin has a wonderful character part.

Dances with Wolves
Kevin Costner as a Union officer who goes West and encounters the Sioux. Involving and breath taking. The Native Americans are the good guys and the US cavalry are the villains. An epic. Well told.

High Noon
Gary Cooper as the town marshal standing alone against four killers arriving in town for revenge. Watched this one countless times as a kid. Still enjoy it. Grace Kelly is Cooper’s bride and Katy Jurado is his former mistress (she’s also the former mistress of the head killer). Classic showdown.

The Magnificent Seven
Western remake of the Kurosawa film. This clicks. Seven gunfighters go to the aid of a Mexican village plagued by outlaws. Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, and Horst Buchholz are the seven. Eli Wallach plays Calvera, one of my favorite villains of all time. Classic musical score, too.

The Searchers
John Ford and John Wayne. Renegade Comanches murder the family of Wayne’s brother and kidnap Wayne’s niece. He vows to find her. And kill her since the Comanches have defiled her. This is Wayne’s best, most complex role and he’s a bad guy. Filled with classic moments and Ford’s stock company. The ending is perfect.

A gunfighter attempts to hang up his guns and settle down with a farming family. But his past (and expertise) catch up with him. Alan Ladd is Shane and Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, and Brandon De Wilde are the family. Jack Palance is the hired gun of the villains. Palance’s taunting and killing of Elisha Cook is a classic moment in a classic film.

A rip-roaring adventure with Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover and Kevin Costner leading the good guys and Brian Dennehy heading up the bad guys. The West the way it should have been. Co-written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan. Great fun.

The story of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday in the Arizona boomtown. Solid retelling of the oft-filmed story. Kurt Russell is Wyatt and Val Kilmer has never been better as the consumptive Doc. Sam Elliot and Bill Paxton are Wyatt’s brothers. Powers Boothe and Michael Biehn are the head bad guys and they’re riveting.

Dark, unrelenting. Three gunfighters ride out to kill two cowboys who “murdered” a whore and claim the bounty on them. A classic directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. Gene Hackman is the sheriff, Morgan Freeman is Eastwood’s partner, and Richard Harris is another gunfighter. All are terrific.

The Wild Bunch
Sam Peckinpah’s masterpiece. Outlaws on their last job who find a nobility within themselves that they didn’t know they had. Great complex characters and dialogue. Bloody and leathered. William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Warren Oates, Edmund O’Brien, and Ben Johnson have never been better. Strother Martin and L.Q. Jones are fantastic in supporting roles as members of the railroad posse. The walk to get Angel is classic movie-making.

Left out so many. Including: Angel and the Badman, Bend of the River, The Big Country, Crossfire Trail, The Far Country, Fort Apache, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, Gunfight at the OK Corral, Hidalgo, Lawman, The Man from Laramie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, My Darling Clementine, Open Range, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Posse, The Professionals, Red River, Ride the High Country, Rio Bravo, The Scalphunters, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Sons of Katie Elder, and 3:10 to Yuma.

Back to writing.

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