I once read an article maybe 20 years ago about Russian Jews escaping the Bolsheviks in the early 1900's. Some of them settled in New Jersey. They got into the film making business where it was already thriving thanks to the likes of Thomas Edison and others. As a reaction to communism that they witnessed first hand, they focused on what they considered was good and noble in their new country. They chose to make Westerns. This medium could best express those ideals.
The way things are going, it is only a matter of time before Wokeness and the Cancel Culture targets Westerns.
Here then are the Westerns you should watch before Netflix, TNT and Amazon Prime make them disappear:
The top three Westerns of all time:
Official Trailer. Spoiler alert, too much is revealed.
1. The Searchers. AFI considers it the greatest Western ever made. I concur. It is also considered by many in the top 100 of all movies ever made, not just Westerns. John Wayne stars as a returning Civil War veteran with a checkered past. His niece (Natalie Wood) is abducted by Indians. He spends years searching for her. Directed by the great John Ford in Monument Valley, but it takes place in Texas. The story is loosely based on the true story of Cynthia Ann Parker. The opening scene is shot from inside a cabin, through the door, showing John Wayne returning for the first time after many years. The last shot is him returning to the open door after his search for his niece is over. He stops short of the cabin. You sense he can't take part of the rejoicing going on. He has been through too much including the loss of an unspoken love and most of his family. A changed man, he turns around and heads for the vastness of desert. We don't know if he returns. Wayne's range in acting here is probably his best. The cast includes Ford's favorite character actors. It's Wayne and Ford at their best. The Duke named his son after the character he plays, Ethan. Enough said.
By the way, if you are open to reincarnation, then you are not alone. Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, Henry Ford, Walt Whitman, George Patton and Norman Mailer, to name just a few, all believed in reincarnation. Look at the two gentleman at the top of the page. The one on the left you know. The one on the right is Sitting Bull. Chief Sitting Bull killed many soldiers and took up acting in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. He died in 1890. In 1907, John Wayne is born in Iowa. He takes up acting and kills lots of Indians in the movies. Don't ask me what that means. Now look at those two faces. Go within, as Obi Wan would say, 'What does the Force tell you?" It tells me they are one and the same.What a strange irony and reversal of lives.
2. Shane. Stars Alan Ladd as an anachronism, a gunfighter whose time has passed. He befriends a family making it in the wilderness and defends them when a hired gun (Jack Palance) appears. He becomes a part of life that he envies and even entertains the notion that maybe he too can lead this life. But in reality he can never truly be a part of it. One of the best things about this movie is that almost every other shot is of the Grand Teton range. For those of you who know Schaumberg's Landing on the Snake River, it shows up numerous times. Shane crosses it twice on his horse as he goes to face the gunfighter called Wilson. He's dressed up in his gunfighter deer skin fringed outfit, with a gun belt that only an accomplished gun fighter would dare strap on. And that horse, beautiful, with four white socks, doing a canter in a low shot from the camera leading the way in front, and finally, as he rides, the great music by Victor Young, builds the tension. All of it combines to mean one thing, you don't want to be there when this guy gets off his horse. He means business.
FYI: Alan Ladd was about as big as Tom Cruise, 5'4". Through camera angles down low and the use of apple crates, he appears bigger. But it wasn't just that, he had a presence about him that made him seem just a little bit taller.
The Magnificent Seven | Film Symphony | Barcelona 2014. Fantastic, the guy in the cowboy hat stands up and does the trumpet solo.
Or watch Magnificent Seven excerpts from the movie as you listen to Bernstein's score.
3. The Magnificent Seven. All star cast in 1960, Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, James Coburn, Charles Bronson and Robert Vaughn are five of the seven. Steve McQueen, a neophyte movie actor, steals the movie from Brynner in the opening scene when he goes off script and shakes two shot gun shells. Brynner was not happy about that ad lib. The movie is a remake of the 4 hour The Seven Samurai directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring the great Toshiro Mifune. The seven in both movies defend farmers from a gang of outlaws. They do it because of the code of the west and bushido. In the end, the wise old man from the village in both movies say only the farmers have won because they are like the earth and you are like the wind blowing the locusts away that feed on their crops. The Magnificent Seven benefits from a spectacular musical score by Elmer Bernstein. Click on one of the links above to hear that score as you continue reading. Kurosawa loved this remake by the way.
There is a recent remake. See these movies here before you see that. It's over-the-top with the level of violence. Only Denzel Washington matches the star power of a McQueen and the other four. Worst of all, the great Bernstein theme is only in the closing credits. What were they thinking!!!???
Okay, and now the rest in no particular order. We'll start with actors and historical figures.
Gary Cooper's early Westerns set to the song 'Whoopee-ti-yi-yo Git Along Little Dogies' by Girls of the Golden West.
4. Gary Cooper. Grew up in Montana and played a cowboy extra in Hollywood until his big break. So he might be the only cowboy on the list. You wouldn't be wrong if you chose High Noon for this list, which I guess I just sort of did. But I am going with The Westerner made in 1940 and won three Oscars. He plays Cole Harden and goes up against Judge Roy Bean. My favorite scene is when he asks a lady for a lock of her hair but it's not for the reason she thinks. You get to see the charming and humble side of Gary Cooper. If you want to see him when he was just starting out, watch The Virginian from 1929. It's another classic.
Mark Prophet once said Gary Cooper, Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart held the Alpha Flame for Hollywood. It's quite obvious when you watch Cooper and Gable, if you can get past their incredible good looks. Bogart and Gable made some westerns but they were forgettable and not worthy of this list.
John Wayne was offered High Noon but turned it down because the screenwriter was a communist. He was on McCarthy's list. Yes, I know before you get your tail feathers up, listen to the otherside of the story. If you are woke already, then never mind. The KGB had been infiltrating America for a very long time, trying to subvert the greatest threat to communism. Ask those Russian Jews, they know. Hollywood was definitely a target.
Just how serious was this? In the 1980's I sold books for Summit University Press in the Washington D.C. area. One time I was on the phone with Elizabeth Clare Prophet, she told me my greatest opposition I faced was from the KGB. As you might expect, this came out of left field and a complete shock to me. I made the calls and prayers even though I wasn't quite sure how many different ways this opposition manifested.
So, even then the KGB was still a threat. In the 50's, they were at their height. Their greatest ally was Joe McCarthy. By going over the top, using smear tactics and creating a spectacle, the whole thing backfired. The term 'McCarthyism' was born and the KGB and communists were pretty much safe from that moment on. Gary Cooper was called before Congress. As you might expect he defended the screenwriter.
Here's the thing about High Noon and why I don't put it on the top ten list. It's a dichotomy wrapped in a conundrum. Here you have a communist writer's perspective on humanity and the need for absolute control over the masses. If you remember, everyone in that town would not help the sheriff. Not a flattering picture of people who live in a Republic and enjoy freedom but one perfectly consistent with one who believes in socialism and communism. On the other hand, this scenario offers the perfect opportunity to show the American Western Spirit in the sheriff who stays rather than leave on his honeymoon with Grace Kelly. He does the right thing against all odds.
John Wayne accepts the Oscar for Gary Cooper in High Noon
Coop and the Duke were good friends but never appeared in a movie together. It's interesting in the clip here that Wayne says he needs to talk to his agent about not getting the High Noon role.
5. Jimmy Stewart. Many people would pick The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance although I don't know why. For me, it's Destry Rides Again. Mr. Stewart plays a Sheriff who doesn't wear a gun and comes off as an affable sort of fellow. He outsmarts the bad guys until he has to prove he knows how to shoot too.
The other reason to watch this: Marlena Dietrich as a woman who works in a saloon and is torn between her connection to the bad guys and her growing love of Destry. At one point Destry says to her, "I'll bet you've got kind of a lovely face under all that paint, huh? Why don't you wipe it off someday and have a good look - and figure out how you can live up to it." What a great line. The look on her face after he said that is just precious. It registerd. At the end of the movie, she wipes off her lipstick so she can kiss Destry as she dies in his arms after taking a bullet meant for him, saving his life.
You might ask why isn't Jimmy Stewart isn't on that list of those who held the Alpha flame for Hollywood. I don't know.
The reserved Wyatt Earp is unexpectedly invited to dance with Clementine. His brothers ride by in a buggy and are totally shocked.
In John Ford's classic, "My Darling Clementine."
6. Wyatt Earp (Three movies). Earp was born (1848) in Monmouth, Ill. about an hour south of the Quad Cities. Surely, I don't have to explain where or what the Quad Cities are? I know this because I went to Monmouth College in my freshman and sophomore years. So Wyatt Earp has always interested me.
Three movies fit the bill here. Kevin Costner's Wyatt Earp, Kurt Russell's Tombstone and Henry Fonda's My Darling Clementine. People tend to like Tombstone the best. I like the more historical version of Wyatt Earp. The three who play Doc Holiday give great performances, Dennis Quaid, Val Kilmer and Victor Mature. All three movies are very good. One note, John Ford who directed My Darling Clementine was a friend of Wyatt Earp and was a pole bearer at his funeral. The other movies are probably more accurate. But John Ford probably knew first hand what happened and this is the way he chose to film it. Afterall, he is John Ford, the greatest Western director ever.
FYI: According to Brad Steiger, Wyatt Earp did not clean up Tombstone. A former Texas Ranger by the name of Texas John Slaughter did. He had an ace in the hole, he was protected by his guardian angel.
"I've got a guardian angel who protects me," he would assure well-meaning friends when they sought to caution him about his reckless and daring life-style. "My angel keeps these owl hoots and gunslicks from even denting me. He has told me that I'll die in bed when I'm good and ready, and not by the hand of some no good outlaw."
True to his word, he died in bed in 1922. His guardian angel was always there to protect him. When Texas John heard a buzzing noise he knew danger was up ahead. One other time, his guardian angel actually appeared to him. Some of the characters who faced Earp in the OK Corral also threatened Texas John, but he was always ready for them. Wyatt lived a long life too, later he was part of the Gold Rush in Alaska and the Yukon. He outlived Texas John by seven years. Here's the story of Texas John Slaughter at Rense.com.
7. Wild Bill Hickock Got to have the second most popular lawman from the old west on this list. Also born in Illinois, over an hour's drive straight east of the Quad Cities in Troy Grove. Unfortunately, the movies about him don't deserve to be here. Wild Bill starring Jeff Bridges is good but there are too many flashbacks disrupting the continuity. The thing about High Noon is that it is told in real time sort of speak. It hightens the drama. The movie also comes off as too modern. The Plainsman is pretty good but Cecil B. DeMille (yes, that Cecil B. DeMille) didn't let the facts get in the way of a good story. On the plus side, Gary Cooper plays Wild Bill. The movie does pretty much follow the facts regarding his death in a Deadwood Saloon, shot in the back by Jack McCall. The No. 10 Saloon is still there by the way.
8. Clint Eastwood. You can't have this kind of list and not include Eastwood's movies. Take your pick: Pale Rider, The Unforgiven, Hang 'Em High and more. Pale Rider is a remake of Shane. Worth seeing, good but not great. The Unforgiven is a bit grim but well acted and an interesting story line. Hang 'Em High is classic Clint.
Very few actors in Hollywood can get away with not being woke, politically correct or liberal, but Clint Eastwood has built up a persona embodying the Western Spirit and has gained the respect as a top flight director. He is untouchable and
9. More John Wayne. Red River and Stagecoach. Red River probably belongs on a list of top ten Westerns. About a cattle drive from Texas to a rail line up north. Wayne's character is similar to the one in The Searchers. Stars Montgomery Clift too. Stagecoach is right up there with the best westerns. Great plot.
10. Glenn Ford. I'll tell you why he's here. He once had a hypnotic regression and found out in one of his recent embodiments he was a cattle drive trail boss. He had finished delivering the cattle and was traveling south by himself. He was taking a shortcut from Wyoming to Fort Collins. He was bushwacked along the way and shot in the back. Murdered. So here we have a real cowboy in a past life making numerous Westerns. My favorite is The Fastest Gun Alive. Others will choose 3:10 to Yuma or Cowboy.
11. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Paul Newman and Robert Redford need we say more? I was in college at Waseda Univ. Tokyo in my Junior year (This would be considered name dropping in Japan.) when this movie came out. I watched it with a friend of mine. Remember that detective in the white straw hat that was relentless in pursuing Butch and Sundance? Well, my friend Jim turns to me during the movie and says, 'see that guy in the straw hat? He was my great, great, Uncle and lived in Wibaux, Montana. His name was Lefors.' A few months later we took a trip to the southern Islands of Japan, mostly hitch hiking. Some young guys wanted us to paint some English slogans on their black car. They gave us some sort of white paint, so we painted quotes from the movie, like "Who are those guys?" and "I can't do that, can you do that?" all over their car. They loved it.
12. The Big Country An epic Western film directed by William Wyler in 1958. Maybe the first movie with a huge all star cast. It stars Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, Charlton Heston, Burl Ives, Chuck Connors and Charles Bickford. This is one of the few films that Heston has a supporting role. The Rifleman (Chuck Connors) plays a bad guy. What's up with that?
13. Silverado. This is here because a lot people expect it to be here. Has lots of great scenes. Kevin Costner has a breakthrough role. Two guns never looked better on an actor. Scott Glenn (or could it be Genn Scott, you know who I mean) is always good. Then there is Danny Glover and his Henry Rifle. But Kevin Kline as a gunfighter??? I don't think so.
Jeremiah Johnson (1972) - Mountain life is no joke.
14. Jeremiah Johnson Technically not really a western but a mountain man movie. Directed by an exceptional director Sidney Pollack and stars Robert Redford. They made several very good movies together. Shot mostly in Utah where Redford eventually bought land. But the real Johnson was called John Liver Eating Johnston, and frequented South and Southwest Montana and NW Wyoming. He loved the mountains from Red Lodge to Cody. In real life, he eventually becomes a sheriff in Red Lodge and twice, in the town that is now known as Billings. So he is a man of the west and deserves to be here.
Liver Eatin' Johnston had many individual battles with Indians but not with the Crow as portrayed in the movie. It was with the Sioux. As in the movie, these battles were the stuff of legends. The man was known for his temper as well. Johnston was a legitimate candidate for the moniker "the toughest man of the west." His name probably comes from a knife fight with a Souix warrior. He didn't actually eat part of the man's liver but he probably had no interest in dispelling the rumor. Fear in an enemy can be an ally. If you're an Indian and you saw this man coming at you who at over 6' and weighing 280 lbs with a wild look and bad temper, has killed many Indians single handedly and who might want to eat your liver, then you have two choices, run or conquer your fear. Let's just say, that Liver Eatin' Johnson lived a long life. He moved to a veteran's hospital in 1899 in L.A. where he died in 1900. He is now buried in Cody, Wy. More on Johnston here: John Liver Eating Johnston
Great movie. The absolute toughness of the real Johnson comes across in Redford's portrayal. The songs are a bit dated even distracting. Indians are portrayed as noble warriors so this might survive the woke censors.
Glen Campbell plays the theme from The Lone Ranger, "The William Tell Overture." If you look closely, Glen Campbell is playing a blue 12 string guitar.
It is not easy playing the William Tell Overture on a guitar but on a 12 string? Whoa!!! Impressive! FYI: He used to be a studio muscian with the Wrecking Crew,
the best studio band ever. They were the band for countless hits in the 60's. Some of those Beach Boy songs were great thanks to Campbell and the Wrecking Crew.
15. Warner Brothers Westerns They weren't movies but 1/2 hour or one hour TV shows. For those of us brought up in the 50's and early 60's, they all had valuable moral messages. Shows like Wanted Dead or Alive (Steve McQueen), Cheyenne (Clint Walker), The Rifleman (Chuck Connors), The Lone Ranger (Clayton Moore) and numerous others are still being replayed on some of the western TV channels. They will be targeted too. Their righteous messages are too dangerous for the woke culture.
Canceling the Path of Initiation
Wokeness, Critical Race Theory, Cancel Culture, Identity Politics, The 1619 Project, BLM, Antifa, Open Society and Polical Correctness all have one thing in common, the net effect is to keep you from reaching your true potential. You may have heard this somewhere, earth is a schoolroom. There are tests we are given that are dictated by our karma. We pass those and we move up the spiritual ladder. It's called the Path of Initiation. If you do not know history, or right from wrong or who you are, then you will fail on the Path upward.
These sinister groups want to revise history or just plain cancel it, even though "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." They want whites to admit to something they never did. In other words you're a bad person, a sinner. Sound familiar? Kids are taught it's OK to change your gender or become a homosexual. They use pseudo-science as a cudgel. Many of the popes and priests of long ago wanted to keep the people down. They used religion to do so. Or rather mis-used religion. Today the high priests are scientists, social scientists, educators and woke dilettantes. They misuse science, history and so-called social injustice to keep the people ignornant of the truth, to keep them down just as in the dark ages. If you aren't aware of it, then darknes of those past ages will be upon you before you know it. You may be woke but you won't be awake.
And of course they want to destroy the Constitution in favor of communism and socialism. Communism seeks to bring everyone down to the lowest common denominator. Westerns teach us we can rise up and be the hero.
All of these things are an anathema to those with the Western Spirit. These Westerns imbued us with the desire to know right from wrong, the value of freedom and to challenge evil no matter the odds. Evil has reared it's ugly head across the land. It will be coming after Westerns and anyone in possession of a pair of 1851 Navy Colt pistols like the pair James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickock wore. So don't turn your back on the McCall's of this world.
Coop and the Duke are gone, but their legacy lives on, on the screen and, if you're awake, in you. Vaya Con Dios!
by William House