JW Coop (Columbia, 1971)

  An excellent picture   Cliff Robertson’s personal project JW Coop is one of the batch of 1970s Westerns (or semi-Westerns) which use the rodeo as a symbol of the decline of frontier values, and indeed the decay of American society more generally. We think in particular of Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show of the […]

The First Fast Draw by Louis L’Amour: Cullen Baker

  Not a nice man   The First Fast Draw was a Louis L’Amour novel that was published in 1959, coming between Radigan and Taggart. In my opinion it was not one of L’Amour’s best, for three main reasons: firstly because the hero is a less than savory character; secondly because of the preposterous basic […]

The Westerns of John Dehner

  What a voice! What a mustache!   John Dehner was one of the very best character actors in Westerns. He only led in one feature, topping the billing in Revolt at Fort Laramie in 1957,but he was present, and usually high up the cast list, in no fewer than 152 Westerns altogether, comprising 43 […]

The Fastest Gun Alive (MGM, 1956)

  No matter how fast you are, there’s always somebody faster   A movie that was in many ways the apogee (or the nadir if you prefer) of the Hollywood quick-on-the-draw hooey was MGM’s The Fastest Gun Alive.     The great Western actor Glenn Ford was at the top of his form in the […]

Bronco Buster (Universal, 1952)

  Another go-round   Rodeo was enjoying a boom in popularity after World War II and movies cashed in. 1952 was a landmark year in that story because The Lusty Men at RKO was a fine film, with director Nicholas Ray and star Robert Mitchum both at the top of their form. But at the […]

Quick on the draw

  The fastest gun in the West     Two men walk slowly toward each other in the dusty street, stop and fix each other with steely stares. Their hands hover over the butt of the holstered six-shooter on the hip (or in later Westerns lower down the thigh). Tension mounts. Bystanders move nervously aside. […]

Guns of the Timberland (WB, 1960)

  Timber! (yet again)       Good little Western novel (rather a ho-hum movie though)   Jaguar was a company founded by Alan Ladd in 1953. The huge success of Shane that year shot Ladd to the higher echelons of Western stardom, and he wanted to cash in – even though he was, in […]

Guns of the Timberlands by Louis L’Amour

  A good Western yarn   Guns of the Timberlands is an earlyish novel from Louis L’Amour, published in 1955, by Dell. In many ways it has the good old plucky homesteader vs. ruthless rancher plot, one of the oldest in the business, though with the twist that the hero is a small cattleman and […]

Rodeo and the Western

  Ride ‘em, cowboy!     There’s a big sub-genre of rodeo Westerns. From The Pendleton, Oregon Round-Up (1913) to Rodeo and Juliet (2015), from The Money Corral (1919) to Walk. Ride. Rodeo. (2017), Hollywood has always been keen on rodeo, especially the bucking bronc side of it. .     It’s understandable. Rodeo has […]

The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend (Fox, 1949)

  Western farce   Today, another consonant-rich alliterative title, The Beautiful Blonde of Bashful Bend. Writer Earl Felton’s original screen story was titled The Lady from Laredo, so that was along the same euphonic lines.   Writer/director/producer Preston Sturges’s last Hollywood film was his only Western, a farce (farce defined by Webster’s as “a light […]