Sunday, February 4, 2018

LET'S GO TO THE MOVIES! By Cheri Kay Clifton

I bet some of you were as surprised as I to see promos for the new western movie, Hostiles, released this month.  I ask you, when’s the last time a true western frontier film has been produced? Certainly not many in the last few years. I’m not sure I’ll make it to the “silver screen” to see it, but there’s always DVD rental later.

Seeing the trailer prompted me to think back on a bygone era when western films were so popular and it conjured up a nostalgic feeling for recalling some of my favorites.  Granted, hundreds of 20th century cinematic westerns Hollywood made were for pure entertainment, often at the expense of factual and historical accuracy. Still others were commended for their realistic portrayal of life on the frontier and because of that, didn’t do as well at the box office.

Out of the plethora of westerns I’ve seen and liked, I’ve listed ten in no particular order of preference other than the first one, Dances with Wolves, which remains my favorite.  (In doing a Google search, I also found many classics I hadn’t seen but would have liked to. I may soon add them to my collection of DVD’s!)

So, here’s a ride down memory lane. Sit back in the saddle with a handful of popcorn and let me know what you think, which ones you liked as well your favorites not on the list. 

 1.      DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990) directed by and starring Kevin Costner. It won the Oscar for Best Picture.  

2.      HIGH NOON (1952) starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. The movie was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" in 1989, the NFR's first year of existence.

3.      SHANE (1953) starring Alan Ladd. I remember the scene of young Joey chasing after him and yelling, “Come back, Shane!”

4.      HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962) starring many well-known actors including, to name a few, Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Gregory Peck, James Stewart, and directed by John Ford. The picture was one of the last "old-fashioned" epic films made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to enjoy great success. Set between 1839 and 1889 and covering several decades of Westward expansion in the nineteenth century - including the Gold Rush, the Civil War, and the building of the railroads, it follows four generations of a family as they move westward.

5.      BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969) starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford as the notorious bank and train robbers whose exploits were made famous in the Oscar-winning film.

6.      LONESOME DOVE (1989) starring Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones. Yes, I know this was a TV mini-series, but I considered it one of the best. It was a four-part adaptation of the 1985 novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry which I enjoyed reading as well.

7.      UNFORGIVEN (1992) directed by and starring Clint Eastwood as the lead actor, Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman. Many may remember Eastwood’s start in the TV western, Rawhide. From there, he rose to international fame in numerous western movies, (some referred to as spaghetti westerns made in Europe, typically by an Italian producer and director and very popular in the ‘60’s), the famed Dirty Harry series of movies as well as many more award-winning movies that he directed as well.

8.      THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (1992) starring Daniel Day-Lewis. An epic historical drama, set in 1757 during the French and Indian War and based on James Fenimore Cooper's 1826 novel. 

9.      TRUE GRIT (1969) starring John Wayne, who won an Oscar for his performance, Glen Campbell, Robert Duval.

10.   STAGECOACH (1939) starring John Wayne. I added this movie even though I have not seen it; however, reading about it, I plan on adding it to my DVD collection. This significant film which was made before I was born launched the “Duke’s” acting career. The movie was directed by the legendary director, John Ford and set in Monument Valley, Utah. Monument Valley became known as, “John Wayne country.” He made four more movies there in his lifetime, “Fort Apache” (1948), “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” (1949), “Rio Grande” (1950), and “The Searchers” (1956). In 2008, The American Film Institute voted “The Searchers” the “Greatest Western of All Time.


  1. I love those westerns and was hopeful for Hostiles but read more about it and there is no way I could go to it because of the violence. It seems like they managed westerns back then without being cruel to the audience (and the beginning of Hostiles would be the minute I walked out because I just can't take that sort of brutality-- honest to the old west that it was). I recently saw Rio Grande again on TV and it stands up so well. So does Tombstone, another of my favorites. I wish we could get more westerns made today but like they were. Maybe not enough will buy them :(

  2. Rain, if we did see a resurgence of TV and movie westerns, then we also might see our historical western books gain in popularity as well. Not likely, but one can always hope! LOL

  3. I, too, noticed how violent and horrid The Hostiles is. I never waste time on these.
    But oh, you have touched on topic dear to my heart..and others will say the same thing. Many of us grew up with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, but they shouldn't be grouped with great movies.
    I really liked "Dances with Wolves."
    I LOVED: High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh my Darling..etc.)
    Lonesome Dove (crazy about Robert Duvall)
    The Last of the Mohicans--(also crazy about Daniel Day Lewis.)
    You did not mention RED RIVER, but I think it deserves a high ranking.
    Thanks for the stroll down memory lane!

    1. Thanks for riding down memory lane, Celia. I don't think I've seen Red River, but it's now on my must see list!

  4. Great recap of such grand favorites. I'm re-watching the Centennial series now.

    1. Oh, yes, I remember Centennial TV series! Wouldn't mind re-watching that too!

  5. I saw most of the movies. You probably know that so many, many people involved with "Stagecoach" developed cancer that it's been speculated that they filmed where there was still radiation from bomb testing. I also loved McClintock and each of the Louis L'Amour books made into movies. I also loved Quigley Down Under even though it was about Australia--the leads were Americans.

    1. Caroline, I did not know about the association between actors getting cancer and the location for filming the movie, Stagecoach. Yes, so many good Louis L'Amour movies!

  6. As a "kid" I spent some time in Europe and that included Spain. While the family was staying at this beautiful hotel, I noticed an actor who graced one of my must-watch TV westerns. I got so excited. Then I discovered that I recognized about six of these men.

    Okay I was a kid, I was cute, I was very polite, and I could get away with things. I walked over to the table and said I recognized several of them and asked what they were doing. They laughed and said making westerns. I thought they were joking. They said that there were several places in Spain that the terrain very closely matched our sandy, rocky, Wild West. They asked me to join them for coffee and I did. They actually invited me to join them on the set but I couldn't - we were visiting family friends living in Spain. They said it was so much fun working in Spain. Most of the crew were Spaniards, the others were American, the director was Italian, the producers were American, and they all took siestas. They made more money in a few weeks doing "spaghetti" westerns then they could at home working two long seasons on TV. Apparently the Europeans liked our westerns more than we did. If they did well in Europe, they were brought to the USA. Go figure.

    Anyway, it was an evening that I'll never forget. They were all characters who played supporting rolls on our TV westerns. No one was extremely famous, but I promise they were all very nice. Most had worked with people like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, etc. I have a feeling that a few of the tales that they spun were a little bigger than the actual events. :-)

    To pick out a favorite movie... Impossible. Now I watch and roll my eyes. Their facts were anything but factual. But it was a TV western that was filmed in a studio against the backdrop taken from Wyoming that I fell madly in love with Wyoming. How could anyone not love that wide open land and the rigid mountains that eclipse it.

    1. What a wonderful childhood story, Elizabeth! I would have been excited too, having from the time I was a little girl loving all things western!

  7. Of course, I loved all these western movies, but my all time favorite is Tombstone. The movie "Last of the Mohicans" was not very close to Cooper's book, but actually the movie was better and, well, Daniel Day Lewis was amazing as Hawkeye.
    All the best...

    1. Yes, Tombstone was a great movie. Thanks for stopping in and the best to you, too, Sarah!


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