Friday, March 4, 2011

Great Western Performers

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


  1. Hi Amber,

    I am like you--I love me some Tome Selleck, and he truly is THE cowboy I think of when I think of Louis L'Amour. Love Sam Elliott, too. Also, I agree, when I think of True Grit, I think of John Wayne. For me, those old western actors, John Wayne, and YES JIMMY STEWART!!! are just some of the greatest entertainers there ever were. Their roles can never be recreated. Some things can't be improved on. I used to work at the Nat'l. Cowboy & West. Heritage Museum a few years back. Loved it. Got to see and meet quite a few stars, and it was just wonderful to be surrounded by all those beautiful pieces of artwork every day all day long. Always looked forward to that ceremony. Thanks so much for a wonderful post. Are you from Oklahoma?

  2. Hi, Amber! You are speaking to my heart : )

    Historical Western Romance is my favorite genre. I love westerns of all kinds. Being a Southerner, I also love Civil War romances and stories set in the South. However, for me, nothing beats a western in its purest form. By that, I mean a stalwart cowboy and his lady, the land, and the life. When a cowboy truly loves, he loves with all his heart, forever. His woman is as cherished as his values, his “cowboy code of honor”. Not always in words, but in deep, deep feelings. Feelings as true as the blue of a Texas bluebonnet.

    I love, love, love my cowboys and men of the Old West! The love of my life is Sam Elliott : )Sam has no peer as a Western star. Also, his voice alone would make all the seams come loose in your clothes! One of my favorite words is “courtly”, which to me means respectful and mannerly. Who could resist a courtly cowboy, hat in hand, when he says “thank you, Ma’am”? A lady journalist who was once lucky enough to interview Sam Elliott described him as “courtly”. I knew that : ) Tom Selleck also makes a mighty fine man of the West. He and Sam Elliott are great friends and started out in show business around the same time, often competing for the same parts. Tom stated in an interview that when Sam would win the part over Tom, he would call Tom and apologize. Nice fellas!

    Tim Daly. "The Outsider". Tim Daly. I have watched this movie more times than I can count, and it hasn't cooled down yet. Tim Daly : )

    Gary Cooper. Grace Kelly. "High Noon". The wonderful theme song sung by Tex Ritter!

    Robert Fuller & Robert Horton; James Drury & Doug Mcclure (from “The Virginian”); Peter Breck, Lee Majors, Richard Long (the Barkley brothers from “The Big Valley); The Cartwrights–especially Guy Williams as cousin Will Cartwright (he also had the title role as TV’s Zorro and Professor John Robinson in “Lost in Space”); James Garner as “Maverick” or just James Garner; James Arness, Ken Curtis, Dennis Weaver from “Gunsmoke”; Clint Walker as “Cheyenne”; Lee Horsley from “Paradise”. Robert Conrad in “The Wild, Wild West”–the original “steampunk”! I love them all, and there are just too many more to mention.

    However, one of the greatest TV Men of the West was Stuart Whitman as Marshal Jim Crown in “Cimarron Strip”. In my opinion, this is one of the best westerns ever put on the screen. The episodes which pitted Stuart Whitman against Richard Boone, whose character called Marshall Crown by the name “Tricky Jim” were outstanding! If you can ever find a sexier lawman than Stuart Whitman, please let me know! Those looks, those eyes, that strut and that voice!

    Richard Boone--"Paladin"! We lived in Nevada when I was in the first grade, and my mother worked in a gift shop. She met lots of celebrities, including Richard Boone. I still have the calling card with the identifying graphic of the chess piece for the “Have Gun— Will Travel” series. Mr. Boone autographed it for Mom! He was extremely masculine, compelling and charming! He was an excellent actor, very serious about his craft.

    I also adore John Wayne. Not a perfect man, but my goodness, what a man! From what I’ve seen, read, and heard from his films, and articles and interviews, he was the real deal. I love his older, iconic cowboy image. The scene from True Grit where he takes the horses reins in his mouth, and charges forward, blasting away with two pistols is forever burned in my brain. If you watch John Wayne in his early films, you will see a very sexy, charming, “look ‘em in the eye” kind of guy. What a physique! If he focused his undivided attention on a woman, I think she would have been in big, big trouble! No wonder they called him “Duke” : )

  3. AMBER LEIGH--I loved this post. There's little I like better in the world of entertainment than a good cowboy.
    A very young Clint Eastwood as Roddy McDowell in TV's "Rawhide" kept me glued to the television. Yes, he made mistakes and argued, but man....could he sit a horse and look good.
    Kevin Costner is not everyone's favorite, but I adore him. Everything he does gives me chills--it's the eyes. "Open Range" from a few years ago is branded in my memory--the scenes and the music--and Kevin paired with my Number One best cowboy.
    Yep! Number one is Robert Duval. He's not handsome, he's not tall, but he has some unique aura that sends chills down my back.

    Here in San Marcos in the huge Alkek Library on Texas State campus, the 8th and top floor has a permanent gallery of Lonesome Dove paraphenalia. The original book Larry McMurtry wrote, and the orginal script when others took it and made a TV series--one of the best of all time next to "Roots."
    The actual clothes the characters wore are preserved in glass cases, along with a gallery full of black and white photos of movie scenes.
    Absolutely fascinating, and very special.
    You've made my day, Amber.
    I also love to read other visitors remarks--Virginia could have written an entire post herself! Very well done. Celia

  4. @Cheryl - So cool that you worked at the Heritage Museum! I don't live in Oklahoma but my aunt does and I'm planning a pilgrimage :)

    @Virgina - You could probably take me to school on western heroes, lol! My grandfather is really into westerns and all I can remember watching at his house was John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart and Sam Elliott. It's an inherited taste, in my case :)

    @Celia - I know what you mean about Robert Duvall - there's something about him. For me it has a lot to do with his voice and the slow drawl that goes with it!

  5. All great names. I love Sam Elliott and agree that his voice is THE voice of my mental cowboy image. As a big Louis L'Amour fan, I had no idea he wroter the Shadow Riders for Selleck et al. It worked, didn't it? Jimmy Stewart in THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, Clint Eastwood in anything (LOL), Clint Walker in YELLOWSTONE KELLY, and so forth, all remind me why I love westerns and love writing them. I'll just say Virginia has a good list going. Thanks, Amber, for the great post.

  6. Great blog! Sam Elliot, yes! love Sam as a cowboy, and in Roadhouse, and the Mask, everything he does is sexy. Tom Selleck is great too. Loved him in Quiggly Down Under. Those dimples add that touch of mischeif and charm that makes you forgive most any wrong. And Kevin Costner. One of my all time favorite actors. Open Range is one of my favorite westerns. There are so many endearing little bits of humainity in it I could talk about them all day. Kevin is great at that quiet, unassuming beta hero, that I can't get enough of.

  7. What a wonderful post and comments! I grew up in a western-loving household. When my mom and her brother and sister and cousins were kids, they loved to ride "stick horses" and play at being cowboys. At that time, the late thirties into the early forties, my family lived "in the country", so there were woods, a river, critters, and all kinds of other fascinations for young imaginations. Every Saturday, my grandfather would take the family to town to watch the picture show, which was often a western. Mom was very dramatic and theatrical, also very funny, so she loved the movies! One of my mother's heroes was The Lone Ranger--she adored Clayton Moore. The Lone Ranger is an American icon--part of our culture forever immortalized by the image of a good guy in a mask. If you have never seen a photo of Clayton Moore without the mask, check him out. He was extremely handsome and athletic, becoming a circus acrobat by the age of eight! In his early career, he worked as a model and a stuntman. Didn't he look fine in that "Lone Ranger Blue"? He took the role of The Lone Ranger to heart, and he had a great respect for Jay Silverheels, who played Tonto on the show. Clayton Moore lived the persona of his character for four decades, striving to keep the ideals of The Lone Ranger alive for the public. "Who WAS that masked man, anyway?" "Why, he's the Lone Ranger!"

    "Hi Yo Silver, Away!"

    A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty "Hi Yo Silver!" The Lone Ranger. "Hi Yo Silver, away!" With his faithful Indian companion Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains, led the fight for law and order in the early west. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Lone Ranger rides again!

    "The Lone Ranger's Creed"

    1. I believe that to have a friend, a man must be one.

    2. That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.

    3. That God put the firewood there, but that every man must gather and light it himself.

    4. In being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.

    5. That a man should make the most of what equipment he has.

    6. That "this government, of the people, by the people, and for the people," shall live always.

    7. That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.

    8. That sooner or later... somewhere... somehow... we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.

    9. That all things change, but the truth, and the truth alone lives on forever.

    10. I believe in my Creator, my country, my fellow man.

  8. Amber I had to laugh, I'm showing my age...when I hear the name Tom Selleck I don't think of Friends I think of the TV series, Magnum pi, lol! Sam Elliot is my favorite cowboy actor.

  9. Definitely Tom! And Sam Elliott. There were very few of the older cowboys that felt like cowboys to me. James Arness and Doug McClure were the other two I liked.

    Fun post Amber.

  10. Two words: Sam Elliott.

    Great post oxoxox


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