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July 05, 2008

Top Westerns

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Anne Thompson is rightly indignant at a new (and very square) Best Western Movies list issued by the Western Writers of America, and proposes a much more satisfying Top Ten list of her own. Anne also points out a fascinating diary of the making of "48 HRS" by one of the film's screenwriters, Larry Gross. Start here.

Semi-related: Back here I wrote a blogposting about Westerns, and celebrated the first version of "3:10 to Yuma."



posted by Michael at July 5, 2008


The best western that nobody talks about is Terror In A Texas Town, written under an assumed name by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo and directed by Joseph H. "Gun Crazy" Lewis. It's a noir western from 1958, smack in the middle of what Paul Schrader called noir's "Manic Phase", and believe me they don't come any more manic than this one. Sebastian Cabot plays the bad guy, Ned Young plays the really bad guy, and Sterling Hayden sports the worst Swedish accent ever put on film. Along with Gun Crazy and the Big Combo it's one of Lewis's three masterpieces - in the opinion of this reviewer.

Joe Bob says check it out.

Posted by: Brian on July 5, 2008 5:59 PM

Stuff White People Like: Making lists and arguing about them.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on July 5, 2008 6:08 PM

3:10 to Yuma is on Turner Movie Classics today. It might already be on in your time zone. I've never seen it, but such a fuss was made over the re-make that I am going to settle in and watch it.

Posted by: Sister Mary Martha on July 5, 2008 6:21 PM

She better smile when she knocks "Tombstone."
It's a great Western. Watch the side characters closely next time you watch it. There's some great acting and feeling brought to the screen. In fact, the number of great performances by the side characters make it a great movie, not just a great Western. Tombstone could've just gotten by on the star power of the main characters, but someone took time to cast it with the perfect players, and they delivered a classic.


Posted by: sN on July 5, 2008 9:47 PM

Another Sister is posting here?! What are the odds?

Any top ten Westerns list without Once Upon a Time in the West isn't worth anything.

Posted by: Sister Wolf on July 5, 2008 10:01 PM

Ford and Hawks work was so powerful that I guess the list makers thought their list would be overweighted if they gave those two giants due credit. Or maybe not. Maybe they just prefer hip/subversive to old and square.

Posted by: ricpic on July 6, 2008 6:43 AM

Gotta love lists. This topic, however, is like that Fall of the Roman Empire thing a few weeks back: just too vast. We're not talking about mere art here...we're talking about Westerns! Even to nominate the top ten posse-members or least stilted Comanche sends the brain spinning. Can't I just name my top bit-player? (I'm leaning to Dan Duryea.)

Okay, Western. Can't be that lethargic and miscast "allegory" called High Noon. Revisionist dreck like Dances with Wolves is out of the question.

As far as the greats go: Clementine is too beautiful, Red River too seriously dramatic. Shane, Ride the High Country, The Wild Bunch are so fine. Once Upon a Time in the West brought all the good stuff back at a time when revisionism and neglect of the genre were at their worst: I love that rich, slow-cooked stufato of a movie.

But one Western does stand out for me. It's pure. It's got the Duke. It's completely ON-beat. It's...


Posted by: Robert Townshend on July 6, 2008 7:53 AM

I glanced at the WWA list a few days ago, saw that neither "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" nor "Rio Bravo" were in the top ten, and didn't even bother looking at the rest. Brian's post sure makes me want to check out "Terror in a Texas Town".

Posted by: Michael P on July 6, 2008 10:36 AM

As Robert Townsend says, the subject is too vast for a list of 10 to cover. So, in the spirit of blowhardism, and since I love making lists, I'm going to go wild and name 20 fave westerns.

In very rough order of preference:

McCabe & Mrs. Miller
The Wild Bunch
Rio Bravo
My Darling Clementine
Ride the High Country
Man of the West
Wagon Master
Day of the Outlaw
Winchester '73
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
The Naked Spur
3 Bad Men
Red River
The Tall T
Seven Men from Now
The Man from Laramie
Ride Lonesome
The Big Sky (is this really a western? maybe not)
Stars in My Crown

Oops...that's 21. I like this genre.

Posted by: Ron on July 7, 2008 11:11 AM

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