Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Reminiscing the old Western Movies and TV Shows

In earliest childhood I developed an affinity for cowboy movies. The cowboys I idolized were pure of heart. They only fought when necessary and rarely shot to kill a man. Hopalong Cassidy and Gene Autry stood out for me. Roy Rogers was overly glitzy and did not match my notion of a real cowboy. Hoppy often took time during one of his adventures to have an inspirational talk with the kid in the movie. It was quite a thrill to see him, Windy and Lucky, riding in from the Bar 20 Ranch, getting involved in righting a wrong. 

As my early heroes faded there was no shortage of new ones. Gary Cooper in High Noon. Gregory Peck in The Gunfighter. Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda as Frank and Jesse James.

Westerns had grown more complex. In my opinion, the greatest western of them all was the radio and early television versions of Gunsmoke. William Conrad and Parley Baer as Matt Dillon and Chester Goode were totally believable as the tough marshal and deputy team in uncompromising tales of old Dodge City. I was disappointed in James Arness in the TV version, as being too young and smooth, but at least the early shows were faithful to the radio scripts. It gradually evolved into a soap opera. 

Gunsmoke has been touted as the ultimate in westerns for so long that the true quality of the others has been dismissed, even by fans of the other films and series. There were "adult" westerns before High Noon and Gunsmoke. They just never had the hype that made them so commercially successful. 

Then there are the spaghetti westerns. Most of them are crude and not so well told. I don't even like Once Upon a Time in the West. But, The Good the Bad and the Ugly rests atop the heap as one of the best westerns I have seen. 

I watch the reruns, daily, and pick out the bit players and lesser stars these days, often surprised at who they turn out to be. I have gained new respect for many of these actors and have learned the names of some I never even noticed when the shows were new.

I am a fierce gun control advocate, but I will love these gun toting good guys and outlaws as long as I live.

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