THE BIG COUNTRY (1958)
Gregory Peck stars in this western epic about a sea captain who comes west to marry, soon finding himself embroiled in a range war. Great supporting cast including Jean Simmons, Charlton Heston, Charles Bickford, Carroll Baker, Chuck Connors and Burl Ives (winner, Best Supporting Actor). Visually stunning.
GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL (1957)
Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas. Another retelling of the O.K. Corral, helped along by bravado performances and an unforgettable score by Dimitri Tiomkin. (Music is an essential element to the success of the western, as evidenced by The Magnificent Seven and True Grit.
From a Louis L’Amour’s story, John Wayne found the personification of his screen image in this tale of a cavalry scout who rescues, and is rescued in return by, a lone pioneer woman and her young son. A true classic.
HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962)
Made in Cinerama, this star-studded epic depiction of the forming of our land is completely engaging – and breathtaking visually if you have a really, really big screen!
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960)
Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach. Derived from the Kurosawa "eastern," The Seven Samurai, it concerns seven gunmen defending a poor Mexican village against bandits. Every part perfectly cast and Elmer Bernstein's music is outstanding. Filmmaker John Carpenter states in the film’s “making of” featurette, “Is it the greatest western of all time – no. Is it the most transforming western of all time – no. Is it the most fun – yes!” I must agree.
MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946)
Full of director John Ford details and the descriptive photography of Joseph P. MacDonald, this is a first class (if highly fictional) telling of the legend of Wyatt Earp and the O.K. Corral. The style, the look, the performances from Henry Fonda, Victor Mature and Walter Brennan – who menacingly tells his cowardly son, “When ya pull a gun, kill a man,” everything about this film is exceptional. It’s a perfect film.
RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (1962)
This nearly flawless film depicts the ending of a way of life for two westerners, one a lawman, the other his outlaw friend (Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott). Directed by Sam Peckinpah before his films became filled with extremely violent images. He was a masterful storyteller.
RIO BRAVO (1959)
John Wayne did four films with Rio in the title. This is the one to see. Wayne and director Howard Hawks did the film in response to High Noon. Duke had turned that role down because he believed it showed the town’s people in a bad light, portraying them all as cowards. Here, several members of the community want to help him face insurmountable odds. Dean Martin is terrific as his one-time deputy, now the town drunk. Great score. Great color. Great film.
THE SEARCHERS (1956)
John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Natalie Wood. Considered by many critics to be one of the finest films ever, it tells the story of Ethan Edwards returning home several years after the Civil War. Soon his brother's family is murdered by a Comanche raiding party who kidnap his young niece. Years later, Wayne's character rightly fears the girl is now one of the chief's wives. Will the Injun-hating Ethan kill her rather than see her become a "squaw"? In this reviewer's opinion, this is John Ford's most complex western and certainly the most majestic visually. The perfect western.
Alan Ladd, Jack Palance. A morality play set in the Old West. Great cinematography, sound, score and editing highlight one of the best westerns ever made. The final gun battle is a textbook example of sound and picture editing. The haunting ending will bring a tear to the eye.
SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949)
Speaking of great color, the word glorious springs to mind with this western adventure shot in Monument Valley. John Wayne plays a retiring cavalry soldier in this the quintessential army post film. Mr. Ford did three of them (Fort Apache, Rio Grande and this one). Along with the stunning color, the cinematography is so prominent that it actually makes the landscape a main character. And actor/equestrian Ben Johnson on a horse, being chased by Indians, now that’s movies!
THE SHOOTIST (1976)
John Wayne gives his last and perhaps best performance playing J.B. Books, a dying gunslinger. PG (contains a few obscenities and profanities – no misuse of God's name by Mr. Wayne; some bloody violence). Admittedly, a gunfighter shouldn't be your idea of a role model, but I bring this film to your attention for its intelligent script. In spite of its few objectionables, it is tame compared to recent westerns. And it validates the Duke as not just an actor, but a very good actor. - Use TVG
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF (1969)
James Garner stars as a stranger with a hidden past who becomes the town law officer in this very funny western spoof. Rated G. Also stars Walter Brennan, Jack Elam and Bruce Dern.
As John Ford’s camera introduces us to John Wayne’s Ringo Kid, the filmmaker is saying Wayne is a screen presence here to stay. And he was right. As for the film itself, nearly every other western to come would borrow from this masterpiece.
STARS IN MY CROWN (1950)
One of my favorite films, with Joel McCrea as an 1800s minister dealing with the problems of his church members. A gentle, episodic tale for the whole family. It is a fine example of how our daily walk can eventually affect the lives of others.
TRUE GRIT (1969)
John Wayne, Kim Darby, Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall. Hampered only by Campbell's unskilled acting abilities, True Grit stands tall as rousing western fare. Wayne’s rugged, one-eyed Rooster Cogburn was possibly his most energetic, definitive performance and worthy of that year's Best Actor Oscar. Caution: though rated G, it contains some violence and a couple obscenities, but far tamer than the new version with Jeff Bridges. The Special Collector’s Edition contains several bonus features, including a commentary track and several features spotlighting the Duke. - Use TVG.
TRUE GRIT (2010)
Remake. Fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross's (Hailee Steinfeld) father has been shot in cold blood by the coward Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), and she is determined to bring him to justice. Enlisting the help of trigger-happy, drunken U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), she sets out -- over Rooster’s objections -- to hunt down Chaney. Well, those of you who know me are well aware that I am a John Wayne loyalist, so messing with his Oscar winner caused a raised eyebrow when I first learned of what might be sacrilege. And when I mentioned the Coen brothers were remaking True Grit to some Texas boys during a visit to San Antonio, well, they expressed their feelings succinctly, in one word (think barnyard). But I must admit, it’s actually a very good film, except for Rooster profaning God’s name four times. PG-13. Use TVG. PREVIEW REVIEW