Jeff Arnold’s West

The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans



Alan Sharp died on February 8th after a long illness, aged 79.


A Scot, Sharp nevertheless had a notable feel for the American West and he wrote three interesting Westerns, The Hired Hand in 1971, Billy Two Hats in 1974 but in particular, Ulzana’s Raid in 1972.


The Hired Hand is a curious and slightly cult film directed by Peter Fonda. It had rather gimmicky photography (Vilmos Zsigmond) and the Bruce Langhorne score was odd but the acting was excellent, especially Fonda himself, Warren Oates as his saddle partner and Verna Bloom as a ground-down homesteading woman. It is a bleak story with a tang of the real West about it. Most of that had to do with Alan Sharp.


Billy Two Hats was Gregory Peck’s last oater and was a ‘matzo-ball western’ – or it was filmed in Israel anyway. But this is no inauthentic Eurowestern; it’s a classy, gritty, tight tale, very well written indeed and once again tough, hard and spare.


As for Ulzana’s Raid, this was a superb picture. It was Robert Aldrich’s best Western, one of Burt Lancaster’s (this and Valdez is Coming) and the writing is absolutely top notch.
Sharp’s writing reminds you of Elmore Leonard – it’s that good.


Farewell, Alan, and thank you.



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