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Saturday Art: Essential Movies (Westerns)

As I mentioned last week in this diary, I’m doing a series of posts on movies that I’m calling Essential (and stealing the line from Turner Classic Movies). Once again, I must caveat that this is mainly a bunch of movies that I find myself able to watch multiple times. Some of the movies are on various lists of great films and others are on lists that might be Rotten Tomatoes.

Now I don’t watch any movie expecting even a remote resemblance with historical accuracy. I watch the movie, hoping for a good tale to be told. If there is some level of accuracy, then good for the writer and director, but mainly I’m looking to be entertained and most of these movies have entertained me many times.

I have to start a discussion of movie westerns with a few John Wayne movies. While I never cared for Wayne’s politics, he could take direction and usually managed to stay within known boundaries. My most favorite Wayne movie is The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (with Jimmy Stewart and Lee Marvin) where Wayne’s character Tom Doniphon uses the line:

Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim.

Other Wayne westerns I enjoy are Rio Grande (with Maureen O’Hara and Ben Johnson) and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. There’s The Undefeated with Rock Hudson and El Dorado with Robert Mitchum. Contrary to what John Travolta’s character in Get Shorty says, El Dorado isn’t quite the same movie as Rio Bravo but it is close. I just like the line up in El Dorado better. And for some comic relief for Wayne movies, there’s McLintock!, once again with Maureen O’Hara.  . . .

Next up is a few Clint Eastwood westerns of course. I guess I’d have to put Hang ‘Em High at the top of my Eastwood list closely followed by The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, For a Few Dollars More, and Two Mules for Sister Sara.

Henry Fonda has a few on the re-watchable westerns list for me. Fonda is often the voice of conscience or good as he is in The Oxbow Incident and My Darling Clementine. Other times he plays a bit of a scamp or con man in things like A Big Hand for the Little Lady (with a great supporting cast including Joane Woodward, Jason Robards, and Burgess Meredith), The Cheyenne Social Club (playing Jimmy Stewart’s best friend/saddle companion), and There Was a Crooked Man (with Kirk Douglas). Only one time does Fonda play a pure evil character and that was Once Upon a Time In the West along with Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, and Charles Bronson.

I’ll wrap this up with a few of the western comedies I like. Blazing Saddles of course has to lead the way. Note for movie watchers: If you want to win an occasional bar bet, ask folks where the line: “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges.” It is not from Blazing Saddles and most movie fans can easily tell you where it does come from (it’s not really a western).

Other western comedies I enjoy include a couple of James Garner classics, Support Your Local Sheriff and Support Your Local Gunfighter. Add in Cat Ballou (Jane Fonda, Lee Marvin), Texas Across the River (Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Alain Delon), and Sergeants Three (Martin Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis, Jr).

Although TV movies might not be most folks’ idea of great movies, there are a couple of westerns that came via TV that I’d like to mention. Specifically, The Shadow Riders (Tom Selleck, Katherine Ross, and Sam Elliott) and Purgatory (Sam Shepherd, Eric Roberts). Purgatory is one of those with an interesting premise for me. Plus, one of the actors is also a singer/songwriter who was a member of a ‘rock’ group put together specifically to attempt to recreate Crosby, Stills, and Nash (though that is probably way too obscure to even use as a bar bet for most folks).

There are a few other westerns I watch over again occasionally but I think this is a fair to middling list and representative. I know I’ve left off a lot of movies that others enjoy and even some that I watch again and again ut this post has to end sometime and this is the end.

And because I can:

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Small town Kentucky country boy lived all over the country. Currently in Ruskin, FL