So, by now you probably know that I’m a big Western fan. Have been so since I was a little girl. I can’t really say what triggered my love for the genre but I suspect that a combination of the first western I recall seeing and the way it was presented have a great deal to do with it.
As many of you might know, my parents managed to “save” a whole stack of Super 8 movies from the junk yard back when the video store came up. Ah, the treasures I found there (so many classics but that’s a post for another day). BUT…The War Wagon was one of them (on 4 reels). And this is the first one I recall seeing. And somewhere during these early years of movies, John Wayne became my first movie star hero (even though my school friends had no idea who he was). And my love for Westerns was born.
Being the host of the Great Western Blogathon I was wondering which one I should write about but I just couldn’t decide. So, here are a few of the Westerns that are my favourites (* indicates additional post so feel free to click the title) or that hold a special sentiment for me (and even getting this down to just a few was really difficult):
The War Wagon (1967)*: it goes without saying that this one started not only my passion for the genre but for movie watching in general. John Wayne is Taw Jackson who, on his release from prison, wants his ranch back from the man who put him behind bars. With some additional help, he also plans to rob the same man of some gold he is transporting in a heavily armoured wagon…the War Wagon. To this day I pretty much know the dialogue word for word. Back as a little girl I watched this so often and had my parents beg me to see what else they had in their reel collection. Not a chance…well, when I eventually did watch something else I found…
Big Jake (1971)*: and wondered why I’d never given it a go before. I even loved it more than The War Wagon. Yes, I’d say when I was way younger, this became my favourite Western. And….as you can guess, I know a large portion of the dialogue too, although being a little older then and having discovered other movies too, I didn’t watch it until the film had almost burnt through. This one is a family affair having John Wayne, Patrick Wayne and Ethan Wayne all playing family. John Wayne is Jacob McCandles, who’s grandson is kidnapped and a ransom requested. Being a “harsh and unpleasant person” as his estranged wife (Maureen O’Hara) puts it, he is the perfect fit to bring the poor child back. This one is worth watching just for this line by Jacob McCandles when his adult son calls him daddy…”You can call me father, you can call me Jacob, you can call me Jake. You can call me a dirty son-of-a-bitch, but if you ever call me daddy again, I’ll finish this fight.”
The Five Man Army (Un esercito di 5 uomini) (1969): A western with a different feel and back-story to those I was used to. Different, because it was a spaghetti western. There was something I always enjoyed about this one even though it might not necessarily be the best movie out there. I can’t say what it was about this one – maybe back then it was just refreshing to have a different feel. We have a group of bandits, led by Peter Graves who carefully plan a train robbery (gold of course) on behalf of some Mexican rebels with the goal of having the gold fund the Mexican Revolution. And…I must tell you that this is the only role I’ve ever seen Bud Spencer in.
Other notable Western mentions from my parents’ Super 8 stash (oh I consider myself so lucky to have experienced them in this form): The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing*, Vera Cruz*, The Scalphunters*, Duel in the Sun* and The Revengers*.
Then came the time of DVDs (and by this time I had a student job). We never had a television (and no video cassettes) by choice so other than the movies on Super 8, I didn’t see many new films. The odd one at the cinema but nothing much notable. Well, not in the western genre.
The Magnificent Seven (1960)*: How awesome that I now had the means to buy my own movies and due to having heard so much about this one, it became one of the first in my collection (The Cowboys being my first ever DVD I purchased). And I fell even more in love with the Western genre. How could you not after having watched 7 men give their everything to save a small Mexican village from oppressive bandits? On first viewing though I had to chuckle as I clearly remember trying to figure out who the 7 were with my dad purely from having heard of the movie. Neither of us had seen it. Back then there was no internet and “all” I had was Quinlan’s Movie Stars book….well, I looked and looked to eventually piece them together…I got Eli Wallach totally wrong through…he was the villain not one of the 7. That got cleared up very quickly when I finally got to watch what is now one of my favourites.
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)*: Wow…not much more I can say to this one. Absolutely brilliant. The acting, the soundtrack, the visuals…what a movie. And dare I admit that I only saw it for the first time in 2010? It has the man with the harmonica (Charles Bronson) team up with Cheyenne (Jason Robards) to protect the beautiful widow Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale) from one of the biggest villains I’ve come across. And I’m sure you all know the theme tune to this one. And that opening sequence…that’s got to be some of the best movie making…the sounds, the textures…just everything. If there’s one western you watch, this is it!
Yellow Sky (1948)*: now for my all-time favourite Western. I only managed to get hold of this one in 2012. And…for shallow reasons at the time…you see, I had this love-hate relationship with Lewt in Duel in the Sun. Well, maybe not Lewt but Gregory Peck and naturally I wanted to see some other westerns with him in. Thanks to the internet and online shopping, Yellow Sky came my way. It has Gregory Peck playing “Stretch” the leader of a gang who are on the run after having robbed a bank. They land up in a ghost town where “Mike” and her (yes, her) grandpa are the only inhabitants. They suspect that these two are secretly mining gold and try to get to it too. I won’t give away too much here as it really is worth watching. And for those of you who don’t like “black and white” movies…trust me, this one is so colourful.
Notable mentions from my DVD collection (well, the super 8 ones are also on DVD now but I won’t re-mention them 🙂 ): Open Range*, The Cowboys, High Noon*, The Quick and the Dead, Broken Trail*, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, True Grit* (both versions) and Slow West.
Well, that’s about it for now. So many westerns, so little time. But hey, we all find those we are meant to watch.