“The Cowboys” and the Encyclopaedia Britannica

Gregory McNamee writes in his Encyclopaedia Britannica blog about the great John Wayne western, The Cowboys. McNamee calls the movie a contrarian film, not because of the poor treatment Long Hair, played by Bruce Dern, gives to Wil Anderson, Wayne’s character, but because Anderson dies from the wounds then the story fits into the antihero film ethic of the early 70’s he calls contrarian. It could be, but did anyone really even notice any antihero bias back when the film came out? Anderson had to … [Read more...]

Where did all the Westerns go?

“Where did all the Westerns go?” Bob Kuhn asked in his blog. And it jerked me awake, right out of my fog. I thought long and hard but couldn’t answer him. It’s a serious question, and not just a whim. We’re about the same age, both you and Bob and me. Maybe I’m a little older, but I suppose we’ll see. He’s looking back and I guess I am too, to days so long ago that we shared with you. I saw the old photos, me in hat and boots, a pop gun by my side, bad hombres I’d … [Read more...]

Stagecoach – the bell cow of Western movies

They showed it at the Bob Hope Theater, not the Ritz or the Fox from the old days, and as part of the Classic Cinema Series in Stockton, the town that the TV show “Big Valley” made famous. But it was John Ford’s Stagecoach that opened the door to Westerns on the big screen and later the small one. Stagecoach was the first successful western after the advent of the talkies. It seems that movie makers had a problem tracking the sound in westerns and it took a genius like Ford to solve the … [Read more...]

“Out of the Past” – Robert Mitchum Westerns

A great article by Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film Critic, on Robert Mitchum and his western movies appeared recently. A parallel column in LA Weekly gives more insight to the remarkable career of this great actor. Of all the film icons from that era of Hollywood, Mitchum is at the top of my list. A new UCLA Film & Television Archive series "Tracking the Cat: Robert Mitchum in the West" recently ran at the Hammer Museum. For western fans and Mitchum fans in LA it was a can't miss … [Read more...]

The world-shaking power of a Western

In an Autry Libraries blog posted July 5, 2011, the role of one of the greatest western movies ever made, HIGH NOON, starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, is highlighted as helping in the fall of Poland, a fall that precipitated the end of the communist bloc. It’s a remarkable story that clearly points out the power of a well-told western tale even in Poland, a land far removed from New Mexico Territory and the town of Hadleyville. The human values that appealed to an American audience in the … [Read more...]