Some Famous Wild West Films From Hollywood Over the Decades
Western or cowboy films are in a special genre. These films have fascinated the entire world. They have dominated the world stage for over 100 years and for a long time they have been the staple diet of adventure buffs.
The western films cover a period known in American history called the ‘wild west’. This was a period for about a hundred years till the advent of the 20th century. The Wild West really caught on after the American civil war 1861-65 when the economics of society made many affluent men from the south become outlaws to make a living. Hundreds of films have been made on this theme right down to the 21st century latest release' The Return of Django"
Some western films and stars
If one were to pick any western film as one of the top genres of this period, personal bias is bound to creep in, however objective one might be. Thus in the selection made below one can be criticized. But as a start one of the olden days Hollywood film ‘Veracruz’ (1954) with Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper must take the cake. Here is a western that brings out all the good and bad of that period. The scenario is a lawless Mexico and Burt Lancaster turns in a stupendous performance, completely overshadowing Gary Cooper. The last gunfight is the piece de resistance of the film and brings an excellent denouement to the film.
Thinking of western one is easily reminded of Clint Eastwood and his spaghetti westerns. These films produced by Sergio Leone were actually shot in Spain, where sets depicting the wild American west were recreated. Three films with Eastwood blazed the trails. They were ‘Fistful of Dollars (1964)’, ‘for a few Dollar More’(1965), and the ‘The Good, Bad and Ugly(1966)’.
Fistful of Dollars
Fistful of dollars launched Clint Eastwood on the road to stardom. With extremely catchy music by Ennio Morricone, the film was a hit. The subsequent two films also made waves with the Good Bad and Ugly taking the icing. In this film, Eli Wallach and Lee Van Clef gave the performance of their lives. Eli Wallach, in particular, endeared himself to the masses as Tuku, the bad man who is not evil. The last gunfight between the trios highlighted by the excellent background score of Morricone is a treat that can be seen again and again.
The Legend of the Lone Ranger
Coming to personalities, the film ‘The Legend of the Lone Ranger’ stands out(1956). This film about a masked gunfighter on the side of the law sporting two six-shooters and using silver-tipped bullets is an absolute treat. With his sidekick Tonto the Red Indian and his horse Silver, the film enthralled audiences worldwide.
My Name is Nobody
Henry Fonda is another star who deserves mention for his role as a gunslinger. His ‘My name is Nobody’(1973) the story of an aging gunfighter along with Terrence Hill is worth mentioning. Fonda as the aging gunfighter past his prime turns in a masterly performance. His last gunfight along with Hill is something new and leaves the patrons eminently satisfied.
Johns Wayne’s ‘True Grit’(1969) just cannot be missed. He won an Oscar for his role as the one-eyed marshal who goes fighting with both guns blazing and the reins of the horse in his teeth. It’s a lovely film as the girl played by Kim Darby is helped by the Marshal to nab the killers of her father. John Wayne popularly called the Duke, was a permanent fixture in cowboy films, with the ‘The Horse Soldiers’(1959) and ‘The man who shot Liberty Valance’ (1962)standing out.
One can think of much more like Clint Eastwood's “The Outlaw Joséy Wales’ and the eternal classic’ McKenna’s Gold’ (1969)with Gregory Peck and Omar Sharif. In terms of sheer adventure, this film is hard to beat and Omar Sharif as the bad man turns in a performance of a lifetime.
The Gun Fight
One aspect of these films was the gunfight. Most western films centered on the gunfight and some of the gun fighting scenes are legendary. One cannot forget the gunfights of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Django, the Wild bunch and many more
One can continue with some more lovely films. Westerns are in a genre loved by all and sundry and thanks to American history many characters like ‘ Billy the kid’, the Texas Rangers, Wyatt Earp, Davy Croquette among others have emerged that enthrall the world and I suppose will continue to do so for generations to come. Whom do we thank? The Wild West for it?