Last year in Oklahoma City at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, the Hall of Great Western Performers honored its latest inductee, actor Tom Selleck. When most people think of cowboys, the likes of Gary Cooper or John Wayne (also members of the Hall of Great Western Performers) come to mind. For me, however, nothing says cowboy more than Tom Selleck and his mustache. Maybe because while watching Friends in the late '90's while swooning over Selleck's turn as Monica Gellar's main squeeze, I vividly remember my mother saying, "Now that is a cowboy." And rightly so. Not only has Tom classified the quintessential cowboy on-screen; he lives it on a 60-acre ranch where he raises horses and avocados. Ah, I bet you had no idea avocados were that sexy. Alas!
When I heard that Selleck had become a member of the Hall of Great Western Performers, it got me thinking. How much of an inspirational bearing do these men and women have on those who read and write westerns? When Louis L'Amour wrote The Daybreakers and The Sacketts, its doubtful he had Selleck in mind - unlike The Shadow Riders, which he wrote specifically for Selleck, Sam Elliott, and Jeff Osterhage. Neither did Larry McMurtry write the original screenplay Lonesome Dove using Robert Duvall or Tommy Lee Jones as muses. Instead, it was the likes of Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, and Henry Fonda (all members of the Hall of Great Western Performers) he wanted for the parts of Augustus McCrae, W.F. Call, and Jake Spoon. It wasn't until the screenplay was adapted into a novel by McCurtry, which went on the win a Pulizer Prize for Fiction in 1986, did Duvall and Jones become hisleading men.
Though one of my DH's favorite actors, Jeff Bridges, no doubt made the lead role in True Grit his own with an Oscar nod last month, it's The Duke himself who is on my mind while watching the western remake. It's difficult for me to believe that writers and readers of western fiction (romance, especially) don't harken back to the likes of those great western performers like Selleck, Clint Eastwood, Gregory Peck, and Jimmy Stewart. Sorry, but there's just something about Jimmy! Mwah!
So readers, it's your turn! Which western performers have inspired you? Do any of them define the word "cowboy" like Selleck and Stewart do for me? (And for a complete listing from the Hall of Great Western Performers, here's a link. Enjoy!)
Amber Leigh Williams
"Williams has brought the romantic back to romance!"
BLACKEST HEART ~ 1st Place More Than Magic Novella
FOREVER AMORE ~ LASR Best Book of 2009 Nominee