Happy Labor Day all!
It’s a great day to sit back and watch classic westerns. I personally plan to climb into my classic western library and watch “3:10 to Yuma” as I eagerly await the opening of its remake September 9th.
A sister blogger mentioned this film as well as two other new westerns being released this year, signaling, we all fervently hope, a renewed interest in western novels.
I’m no longer a frequent theater goer. In truth, it’s been more than two years since I’ve been in a theater which indicates my opinion of most of today’s movie offerings. One reason for this long abstinence is I have no time. I have a mother in a nursing home, deadlines and far too much involvement in various organizations. Time is a precious commodity not to be wasted, and I see a dearth of good character-driven stories in theaters today.But “3:10 to Yuma” will draw me back. The movie is a remake of my second all-time favorite western by the same name. That film, starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin, is featured regularly on Starz’s Western Channel. If you’ve never watched it and you’re a western fan, you’ve missed a treat. Like “High Noon,” it’s in black and white. A lone guitar is its music backdrop. Tension is palpable.But unlike “High Noon,” it’s not entirely good against evil. Too many nuances. The hero isn’t embarking on a quest for noble reasons. He’s doing it for money. And the villain, well, you’ll have to watch.It IS a duel between two men. A good man, a farmer, who is desperate for cash in drought-strickened Bisbee Arizona (I confess to some bias here; my dad grew up there), agrees to put an outlaw on the 3:10 train to Yuma. Problem is the outlaw’s gang is determine to free him, no matter how many lives they must take. Glenn Ford, as the outlaw, is great. Although he’s a ruthless murderer, he has charm in abundance. At every turn, he is testing his captor. One reason I like the film so much is the starkness of the landscape, of the story itself. The end comes as a complete surprise.
In the new version, Russell Crowe has Glenn Ford’s part. I can’t see how he could possibly be better than Glenn Ford in the role, but then he IS Russell Crowe. And the last film I saw in the theater was “Master and Commander.” I think that tells you something about how much I like him.
I’ve seen some of the trailers for “3:10.” In the original film, Van Heflin’s sons were young and remained on the farm. Apparently in this version, the farmer’s son is older and follows him as he takes the outlaw to justice. Looks like terrific action. Terrific cinematic effects. I’m not so sure I like that. The power of the original movie was its simplicity.
But I do like the fact that it is a major motion picture, and that two other major productions are coming out this year. I’m praying it’ll spur new interest in our western heritage.
Having said all that, I thought I would list my top ten favorite western classics. My all time favorite is “The Big Country” with Charlton Heston, Jean Simmons and Gregory Peck. Unlike “3:10,” it’s a big sprawling epic of a western. The last scenes are classic.
My third favorite is, of course, “High Noon,” followed by “Red River,” “Duel In the Sun,” “The Magnicent Seven,” “Shane,” “The Unforgiven,” “Lonely Are The Brave, “The Last Wagon,” “How the West Was Won,” and “Hondo.”
What are your favorite all time classics? How do you rank them? And why?