This thread got me to thinking about how many Westerns were on TV and the movies when I was growing up in the 60s. It seems we never missed an episode of Gunsmoke or Bonanza. I remember my father would take his index finger and jam it into my ribs and say POW! at the opening gunfight sequence of Gunsmoke. We would always be pleasantly surprized when a Bonanza offering involved Hoss and Little Joe getting into some kind of trouble. The messages were always simple, usually involving some moral truism and, even though violence was usually an integral part of the story, they always seemed to leave you feeling good. So what happened? Have we become to sophisticated to enjoy such simplicity? Too politically correct to believe that there are simple moral truths? I think the Mel Brooks' movie Blazing Saddles was the final nail in the coffin of the Western movie genre. I still enjoy that movie, very funny indeed, but I wouldn't mind seeing some serious Westerns again. [ May 04, 2003: Message edited by: Michael Morris ]
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction. - Ernst F. Schumacher
Hmmm... I grew up as westerns were dying down, really, so I saw few of the classics, and wasn't particularly interested at the time. The last of the big western stars was Clint Eastwood, and I didn't see most of his mid-seventies movies when they were released because I was deemed too young to view them safely. By the time I could see them, they were gone. So I don't have many fond memories to fall back on; the western genre was pretty much already dead when I got there as far as I was concerned. Having said that, there have been a few good westerns since their near-complete absence in the early/mid eighties. High points were Silverado, Lonesome Dove, and Unforgiven. (Sorry Dan, I never saw Pale Rider.) You've also got Quigley Down Under, Man From Snowy River, Tombstone, Dances With Wolves, Maverick, Young Guns, and assorted sequels to these. I'm sure I've left others out. But yeah, threre's much less since the seventies than there was before, and there's been little of note in the last few years. So what happened? Have we become to sophisticated to enjoy such simplicity? Too politically correct to believe that there are simple moral truths? Basically, yeah I think so. The decline of traditional westerns may be loosely related to the aftereffects of Viet Nam and Watergate, with general public disillusionment and a diminished acceptance of good vs. evil stories. The top Western actor of the seventies, Clint Eastwood, was usually in much more morally ambiguous roles than were common in previous decades. However this new antihero formula seems to have been fairly successful, so while Viet Nam and Watergate may account for the shift away from white hats vs. black hats, it doesn't explain what happened after that. My guess is that the genre had just been overdone, and people grew tired of it. The popularity of Star Wars led to a blitz of sci-fi films which may have cut into the Western market a fair amount, and Clint could do well in Dirty Harry films at least as much as westerns, and he gradually diversified a bit from there. There have been a few mini-revivals of the western genre since then (as noted above), but I doubt it will ever be as popular as it once was. [ May 06, 2003: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]
"I'm not back." - Bill Harding, Twister
Joined: Jan 30, 2002
I think you've pretty well got it all right Jim. Bringing up all those Clint Eastwood movies made me remember his role as Rowdy Yates in Rawhide. Man, those dudes (really shouldn't call 'em dudes huh?) were real heros. DOH! Now I've got the Rawhide theme stuck in my head with The Good, the Bad and the Ugly theme in the background.
Joined: Jul 02, 2002
Originally posted by Jim Yingst: (Sorry Dan, I never saw Pale Rider.)
Pale Rider was not a typical western. The bad guys in this movie were a mining company that was owned by a man that had a son that was similar to Saddam's son, Uday. Clint played the role of a preacher/gunfighter. The following is a quote from www.clinteastwood.net.
A cadre of men employed by powerful strip-miner Coy LaHood (Richard Dysart) rides into a small mining encampment and begins shooting up the place. One of the terrorists kills the dog of young Megan Wheeler's (Sydney Penny). As Megan buries her pet, she says a prayer, begging the Lord to send someone to defend them. Later Megan sits with her widowed mother (Carrie Snodgress) and reads from the Bible: "And I saw, and behold, a pale horse, and its rider's name was death, and hell followed him." Then a lone horseman (Clint Eastwood), dressed as a preacher, rides into camp to help the struggling miners fight off LaHood. The supernatural elements of the story are incidental and handled in a restrained, subtle manner that does not distract from the story but enhances it, bringing another dimension to the oft-told tale. Eastwood the director has delivered a thought-provoking, well-crafted western.
In addition to being a great western, it also contained a lot of subtle humor.
Joined: Jan 30, 2002
I vaguely remember Pale Rider. As I recall it was an excellant movie. Do you guys remember The Outlaw Josie Wells? Also an Eastwood flick. I think that was the last movie that the great Chief Dan George starred in. He was great in Little Big Man. His final prayer in that movie sticks in my mind especially the part where he says "Thank you God, for my blindness." How many of us would actually be thankful for such an infliction and be able to see the goodness we might gain from it? [ May 06, 2003: Message edited by: Michael Morris ]
Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Sounds cool, Dan - thanks. I figured there was probably some sort of connection between "pale rider" and the rider of a pale horse. I'll have to check it out... Pale Rider was not a typical western. Then again, in various ways, neither are Unforgiven, Dances With Wolves, Man From Snowy River, Quigley Down Under, Lonesome Dove, or Blazing Saddles. (Others as well I imagine.) When a genre was been done that many times, there's little incentive now to make something "typical". [ May 06, 2003: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]
Eastwood seems to like this supernatural hero thing as he did the same kind of movie in "High Plains Drifter," although in that movie he is an avenging angel. I actually didn't care much for either movie. I liked, "Hang 'em High". But really the 40's and 50's were when the best westerns were made.