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January 4, 2006

Westerns Worth Watching!

January 4, 2006 | By | 10 Comments

I enjoy posting about movies on this blog because of the great comments from you-all, my fellow movie-lovers. One of the leading movie commenters on this blog is Pat Patterson, who wrote today with recommendations for alternatives to a-certain-movie-about-cowboys. As a completely unreformed childhood reader of Zane Grey, I’m going to have to add these to the “must-see/re-see” list.

So without further ado, I give you Pat’s list of Westerns Worth Watching:

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The Searchers-Wayne’s character pretty much exhibits most of the Biblical sins. He refuses to acknowledge the end of the war by obeying a legitimate order. He is a racist, a misogynist, a thief and even a would-be adulterer. Yet when he rises above these evils, he surprisingly receives neither grace nor redemption. He ultimately did the right thing selflessly.

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The Outlaw Josey Wales-The flipside of The Searchers in that Josey is a brutal murderer but achieves redemption by making a family out of all the elements that Wayne’s character was intent on destroying.

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High Noon-The struggle between duty and matrimony (I have to admit when I saw this one in the theater I thought Cooper was nuts for not leaving with Grace Kelly).

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Red River-Another Wayne film where his character had become embittered by loss and leads a surrogate family simply by theft and brute force. He becomes more of a man by surrendering some of his authority and being reconciled with his adopted son.

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Tom Horn-Not a great film, but certainly one of the best McQueen did in the few years he had left. Horn was a murderer for hire, working for cattle interests to keep homesteaders off open range. A more contemporary film would have shown Horn as simply a thug, but in the guise of a Western he becomes the iconic loner framed against the setting sun. This film, I think, forces the viewer to judge whether to admire a sympathetic and familiar figure that is revealed to be the antithesis of the honorable and honest cowboy.

Thanks Pat!

Any others we need to add to the list?

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Comments

  1. I would add the mini-series “Lonesome Dove.” Lots of rough stuff, but the best western I’ve ever seen.

  2. I actually have an autographed copy of a first addition of The Outlaw Josie Wells. The story of the author of the book is very interesting. I came to know his son through an odd set of circumstances and he gave me the book.

    But Josey only became a killer after his family was massacred. He went out in bitter vengence. Seemed to find redemption in the end.

    He was a good guy with issues lol

    Great movie!

  3. The Unforgiven – another Clint Eastwood film with Morgan Freeman. I didn’t like it the first time I watched it – but it grew on me.

    Dances With Wolves – great movie!

    Tombstone – Val Kilmer did a fantastic Doc Holiday. ‘I’m your huckleberry’. I have a thing for Doc Holiday (long story). Doc Holiday in explaining to Wyatt Earp what makes a man like Ringo says, ‘A man like Ringo has got a great big hole, right in the middle of himself. And he can never steal enough, or kill enough, or cause enough pain to fill it up. And so he walks the earth, forever seeking retribution … for being born.’ Of course, he understands Ringo, because he is the same. I believe Doc Holiday spent his adult life trying to committ suicide by outlaw (what we call nowadays as ‘suicide by cop’).

    Open Range – classic good vs evil and good wins in the end. My husband says it has one of the best shoot-outs he’s ever seen in a western (and he should know). I also liked that the heroine/love interest was not a 20 year old perfect woman. She was middle-aged and showed some wear. She was smart, brave and supportive. She saw through the tough, closed exterior of Kevin Costner’s character. They didn’t try to make the character’s modern and politically correct by modern standards.

    I also like Deadwood – but I doubt it fits into the moral lessons category. It’s brutally realistic and although there are some definitly good and bad guys – some of the good guys are bad at times and some of the bad guys show kindnesses at times. They are very human and very flawed. Women in those circumstances were virtual slaves and had little choice but prostitution. I think that is probably the type of people who were attracked to the Indian Territories during the gold rush when it was illegal to set up camps there. They were a rough crowd in a rough place. It makes no pretense at political correctness and is based on the lives of real characters who lived there during that time period. For some reason, I think the language of the time is interesting. A crude mixture of romantic Victorian speaking style mixed with vulgarities. If you think about it, all their reading material at the time was written in that flowery Victorian manner – so it’s logical they would speak that way.

    Can you tell we watch westerns! lol

  4. You know what a movie lover my husband is, so you know he would have some to add. I just read the list to him as he is getting ready for work. He enthusiastically agreed with High Noon and Red River. He said, “Well, right off the top of my head, I would certainly add Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and, of course, Silverado.” He will probably think of some others when he gets out of the shower!

  5. Heidi Brennan

    Okay, as a cowgirl at heart (I loved Annie Oakley and Roy Rogers as a little kid, and went on to enjoy all the great tv westerns of the 60s), I must comment.

    I agree with all of the above EXCEPT Dances With Wolves. Sorry, while it is wonderful visually, it falls quickly into the political correctness of liberal environmentalism, noble savage romanticism, and native Americans as gender egalitarians. I remember seeing it with my husband in the theater and both of us bursting out laughing when Kevin Costner’s character talks with the Chief and father of his intended wife at the end of the movie, like that’s how betrothals were managed between their cultures. The kicker was when KC says to daddy: “We are planning on having a family.” Planning? Hello, like people planned families then? Like, a man would discuss this with anybody, let alone his future father-in-law, esp. of a different culture? I don’t think a man would discuss this today with his future father-in-law!

    Okay, that’s my rant. Here are my further suggestions: Shane – a classic book as well as movie and Jeremiah Johnson (made in 1970’s starring Robert Redford – very gritty and different). Also, The Man From Snowy River, and its sequel, Australian made, great family movie, with the most breath-taking horsemanship of any western I have seen, which would excite any horse lovers in your family.Those Aussies CAN RIDE!

    BTW, someone should make a serious movie about Annie Oakley – her life was fascinating. She wasn’t just the best woman marksman of her time, she was simply the best marksman. She married her competition and he became her manager. They were married for 52 years until his death. They were never able to have children, but much of her personal wealth was used to support an orphanage in No. Carolina, since she herself was temporarily raised in one due to her family’s extreme poverty while growing up. She learned to shoot in order to help feed them. Her life is an inspiration.

  6. I humbly submit

    Stagecoach

    Shane

    Rio Bravo

    The Wild Bunch

  7. da

    In the genre known as “anime” (Japanese animation) there are couple of really really really good “Western” series named “Trigun” and “Cowboy Bebop” I highly suggest you see them. They are amazing, of course this is provided you don’t mind seeing cartoons… heheheh

  8. Pat Patterson

    Ah, no anime for the same reason that I didn’t mention Seven Samurai or Yojimbo. Guys(or girls) on horses squinting against the sun only. Never liked Shane a lot because I kept expecting Ladd to punch a bad guy in the knee cap. Jeremiah Johnson was as much a Western as The Green Berets and a disservice to the original Liver Eater. But I had forgotten about The Wild Bunch and Tombstone, also Hondo and The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance. Yikes I forgot about the not so subtle relationship between the characters Lee Marvin and Strother Martin(a premature BM).

  9. Dan

    Why wasn’t SHANE on the list? The final action, the gunfight between Shane and the evil nemisis could be the finest gunfight in the history of Hollywood. And that’s saying something.

    It isn’t any wonder that the Western has gone out of vogue in Hollywood, too much clarity, too many stark, unpleasant choices, too much self-reliance, too much gun play, too much of an emphasis upon martial virtues. The current idea of a Western, well, UNFORGIVEN comes to mind, and of course, the current abomination….

  10. progressive conservative

    You guys should check out Brokeback Mountain. Great movie and if you don’t believe me try to read some of the reviews. I promise. You won’t be disappointed.

    Of course, you might have to wait a little longer for the DVD than what some of you expected;)

    I’m not sure I will ever be able to understand where your fear of this comes from.

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