Thursday, July 07, 2011

Library Videos for July--the Western Evolution

Ride the High Country, starring Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea, with Mariette Hartley. Directed by Sam Peckinpah. 1962. Library Call Number: PN1995.9.W4R54 2006.
     Considered by some Peckinpah’s finest film, the story involves two aging lawmen sent into the mountains to escort gold from a mining site back to a banker in the town below. Their journey is complicated by love, sex, fistfights, a double-cross, and gunplay. Some of the themes of this movie were no doubt shockingly adult for 1962, while Western justice and honor are on full display and the usually iconic Scott and McCrea become real people.

The Cowboys, Starring John Wayne, Roscoe Lee Brown and Bruce Dern. Directed by Mark Rydell. 1972. Library Call Number: PN1995.9.W4C69 2007.
          After True Grit, Wayne departed several times from his more stereotypic roles. As aging rancher Wil Anderson, he finds his wranglers have gone to chase a gold strike, just when he needs them to drive his cattle to market. Faced with the loss of his ranch, he desperately hires 11 boys from the schoolhouse to make the drive, but they are tailed by rustlers who mean to steal the herd. This is a rare Wayne movie and the boys-to-men theme works to his advantage. Fine performances all around and tremendous Western scenery, make this an unheralded beauty.

Little Big Man, starring Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Chief Dan George. Directed by Arthur Penn. Library Call Number: PN1995.9.W4L57 2003.
     In Dustin Hoffman’s early tour-de force, he stars as 121 year-old Jack Crabb. Interviewed by a reporter in his nursing home, Crabb tells a tale of living with both the Cheyenne and the white man, as the West becomes settled, culminating in becoming the lone white survivor of the Little Big Horn. With Chief Dan George in his first movie role, lending tremendous weight as Old Lodge Skins, the Cheyenne who adopts the boy Jack Crabb, Jeff Corey as Wild Bill Hickock, and Richard Mulligan as the vain and arrogant Custer. Funny and heart-breaking, Penn’s work forced a new view of the stereotypical Western Indian. 
The Outlaw Josey Wales, starring Clint Eastwood, Chief Dan George and Sandra Locke. Directed by Clint Eastwood.1976. Library Call Number: PN1995.9.W4O88 2001.
          The epic story of an unrepentant Rebel border raider on the run in the post-Civil war era, Josey Wales is hunted by the Union from Missouri to Texas, giving the viewer a sweeping look at the canvas of the American West. Carpetbaggers, messianic soldiers, fur-traders, hard-luck saloon inhabitants, and Comancheros inhabit a vast landscape.  The movie has two sides: attention to detail, quality camera and cast, and a realistic portrayal of the Western environment; and then a fugitive gunfighter who can’t miss and somehow amasses an unlikely set of tag-alongs. Still, it’s a one-of-a-kind movie, hard to forget.

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