THUMBS UP … Westerns are Hitting the Theatre Trail!

200px-310_to_yuma_poster.jpgThat’s good news for all of us who love westerns.  I’ve seen 3:10 to Yuma and loved it, despite it’s rather cringe-in-your-seat violence.  I will admit to never having seen the original in its entirety, but I really thought the acting in this remake was superb. Then again, maybe it was my hunger for a good western on the big screen that swayed my judgement a little.  Who could argue with the acting talents of Russell Crowe and Christian Bale?  

The200px-assassination_poster.jpg newest movie to hit the big screen this week is The Assassination of Jesse James by the  Coward Robert Ford.  Jesse James by far, led a very tumultuous, intriguing life.  He lived from 1847 until 1882 and was the most famous member of James-Younger gang.  The desperado was most famous for his train robberies and 15 murders.

Some Jesse James facts:200px-jesse_james.jpg 

His father, Robert James was a Baptist minister and a farmer from Kentucky. He helped found the William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. He died in California prospecting for gold when Jesse was three years old.

Jesse James was shot by Union militia when he attempted an attack on them one month after the war’s end. Badly injured, Jesse was nursed back to health by his first cousin, Zerelda, “Zee” Mimms and they began a long courtship that ultimately led to marriage. 

Jesse didn’t become famous until he shot a cashier in 1869, when he and his brother Frank, robbed a bank in Gallatin, Missouri.  The murder was an act of revenge, mistakenly 180px-jessejames_headline_1873.jpgbelieving the cashier was Samuel Cox, a militia man who’d killed  “Bloody Bill Anderson” during the civil war.  The James’ brothers escape from that robbery and murder marked them as notorious outlaws. 

The James brothers, along with Cole Younger and his brothers, Bob and Jim, Clell Miller and others in the gang, continued a string of robberies from Iowa to Texas and from Kansas to West Virginia. They hammed it up in front of large crowds as they robbed banks and stagecoaches but they rarely robbed the bystanders. The gang turned to robbing trains in 1873 and only twice did Jesse rob passengers. His antics heralded Jesse James as a Robin Hood bandit.

With his gang depleted by arrests and deaths Jesse thought he had only two men left whom he could trust: brothers Bob and Charley Ford, but he didn’t know that Bob Ford had been conducting secret negotiations with the Missouri governor to bring him in.  By now, the railroads and express corporations offered a $10,000 reward for Jesse James.  In April 1882, as James prepared for another robbery, he climbed a chair to dust a picture and was shot in the back of the head by Bob Ford. 

It Is Rumored:

That Ford didn’t really kill Jesse James. It was someone else in that house living with his wife, in an elaborate plot to allow him to escape from justice.

That a man named J. Frank Dalton claimed to be the real Jesse James. He died in Granbury, Texas at the age of 103 in 1951.

The body of Jesse James was exhumed in 1995 and tests done had proven that they’d gotten the right man.

Brad Pitt as Jesse?

Brad fits the profile of a good-looking blonde Jesse around the same age. th-fcstil_0168bradlegends.jpg Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a fan of Brad’s ever since Legends of the Fall, but I worry that the movie might make Jesse out to be a hero, instead of the heartless killer that he was.  Even back then, the dime novels and news accountings for the South, immortalized him in a positive light. When doing research about the movie I learned that originally it was to be a character study of Jesse James, but then the 180px-jesse_james_dime_novel.jpgdirectors decided to make it more an action picture. They claim it’s dark and I hope that’s the case.  Jesse James was not just a bandit, but a heartless killer and hardly the “Robin Hood” they depicted him to be – he never gave back to the poor. I know I’ll be in line to see the movie coming out this week with hopes that they portray him accurately.


1. High Noon – (1952) (Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Lloyd Bridges)
  2.The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – (1948) (Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston)
  3. Shane– (1953) (Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin)
  4. The Magnificent Seven – (1960) (Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson)
  5. Virginia City – (1940) (Errol Flynn, Randolph Scott, Miriam Hopkins)
  6.Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – (1969) (Paul Newman, Robert Redford)
  7. The Wild Bunch– (1969) (William Holden, Ernest Borgnine)
  8. Stagecoach– (1939) (John Wayne, Claire Trevor, John Carradine)
  9.The Shootist – (1976) (John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, James Stewart)
10. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly– (1966) (Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach)
11. The Searchers – (1956) (John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter)
12.Rio Grande– (1950) (John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara)
13. A Man Called Horse – (1970 (Richard Harris, Judith Anderson)
14. The Outlaw Josey Wales – (1976) (Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke)
15. Little Big Man– (1970) (Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Chief Dan George)
16. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – (1962) (John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles)
17. Unforgiven– (1992) (Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman)
18. Once Upon a Time in the West – (1969 (Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson)
19. Dances with Wolves – (1990) (Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene)
20. High Plains Drifter – (1973) (Clint Eastwood, Verna Bloom)

How many of these are on your all time favorite list?  Does the star make the western or does the western make the star?  And do you think these two new movies will compare to the classics?

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28 thoughts on “THUMBS UP … Westerns are Hitting the Theatre Trail!”

  1. Great blog, Charlene. I’ve seen all but four of the movies on the list. Choosing the one I like best is like picking from a box of gourmet chocolates. High Noon is the ultimate classic. I loved the quirkiness of Little Big Man and the wonderful fun of Butch Cassidy.
    I agree with you about Jesse James–he wasn’t a nice man. Let’s hope these new movies are the first of a new wave.
    A bit of trivia–I volunteer at the zoo in Salt Lake City. The wolf in Dances with Wolves, was at our zoo for a long time and recently died. What a beautiful animal he was.

  2. Charlene, You left out one of the best ever, Tombstone which I just love and can watch over and over again. Great list and I adore westerns.

  3. My favorite westerns would have to be (in no sort of order, just as I think of them)

    Open Trail with Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall, McClintock with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara (silly but I love it),
    Legends of the Fall
    Tombstone-Val Kilmer made this movie-I watch it just for him
    Outlaw Josey Wales
    Lonesome Dove
    The Sacketts/Shadowriders

    One western book that I always wanted to see made into a movie was Louis L’Amour’s Ride the River about Echo Sackett. I read that book when I was thirteen and can still remember most of it today.

  4. Hi Terry- That’s the mark of a good book – that you remember most of it for years and years. I never read L’Amour’s books. I hope to one day, when I find the time to read again. Someone said it on this site recently that the only downfall to writing is that we don’t have time to read like we used to. And we’re all here because we love to read.

    Hi Ruth – Seems you and Terry both loved Tombstone. No, it wasn’t on the list. The list was comprised by best acting, story, audience appeal, etc. by those in the movie industry. I’ve seen almost all these movies. High Noon is my favorite so I was glad to see it hit #1. I love anything with Gary Cooper. And I loved The Magnificent Seven and Dances With Wolves.

  5. Hi Andrea – If you like Christian Bale, you HAVE to see 3:10 to Yuma. A great performance and he’s very hunky in this movie. 🙂

    Hi Elizabeth — Oh, how neat that they had the wolf from Dances. Did he respond to the people? I often wondered how they’d trained a wolf to act. And how neat that you volunteer at a zoo!!

  6. I saw 3:10 to Yuma and Christian Bale WAS the movie for me. His character moved me.

    I have over the years watched a lot of these movies, but I’m not sure I have a favorite. I like Long Riders, The Cowboys, Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid, and The Magnificent Seven.

    Good blog. It’s fun finding movies to watch and hearing which ones others like.

  7. Hi Paty – I agree about Christian Bale. Very hunky as a cowboy. He played off Russell Crowe perfectly. I liked him in Batman and he was great in the Illusionist or was it the other magician movie out that year? I always confuse the titles, but I remember the performances.

  8. Charlene, I loved 3:10 to Yuma! It was gritty and realistic. And it pounded home that everyone has a bit of good and bad in ’em. Just depends on the circumstances. I thought Russell Crowe and Christain Bale did outstanding acting. I’m really looking forward to seeing The Assassination of Jesse James. I’m sure he was bad but I’ll also be looking for a bit of good in him. Maybe he won’t kick the dog or something. History is so full of mystery and makes me wish I could talk to these people and ask questions.

    I had eleven favorites on the top twenty list. Some of mine didn’t make it, but that’s okay. Just because they’re not on the list doesn’t mean they aren’t good ones. 🙂 My list would be a mile long. Great post!

  9. Linda – I agree. Sometimes we don’t know what’s really fact or fiction. Even historians speculate because often they don’t know for certain. I honestly don’t know if Jesse had too many redeeming qualities. But because he often didn’t rob the passengers on the stagecoaches and trains, he was touted as a “robin hood” type. Though he did kill innocent people. Just goes to show how media, even back then, can sway judgment. I suspect the filmmakers will add some humanization to him, to make the audience a little sympathetic. Still, I have no problem watching Brad Pitt for 2 hours, no matter what.I’m sure there will be lots of women viewers!

  10. Great as it is, it’s hard for me to watch Dances with Wolves because of Two Socks getting shot. He was a lovely wolf companion…same as I can’t revisit Man from Snowy River when they shoot the mountain horse. (Yeah, yeah, I know the critters didn’t really die…Just another of my many quirks LOL.) Wonderful post, Charlene, and a five-star list of movies! I just watched a special on Jesse…he rode with Bloody Bill at 16 in “defense of the South” and learned to kill. According to this show, the fact that he wasn’t wearing an “official military uniform” he could take off after the war, blurred his moral compass when the war was over. He kept on on pounding on railroads and banks whom he thought were Northern interests. His stepfather Reuben Samuel who raised him was also tortured by Union soldiers and this supposedly had a giantly negative effect on him, too.

  11. Hi Tanya – I knew you’d know lots of good stuff about Jesse James! He sure did lead a fascinating life. I really can’t wait to see the movie. My hubby is one of the lucky men – he has a wife – who buys the tix in advance to see a western with him. I like football and baseball too! And I KNOW you do too. Go Angels and Trojans! So many of our husbands should be glad we like those shoot-em-ups that most women cringe at. Ladies, do you all agree?

  12. I’ve been buried in deadline hell, but I’m going to take a night off and see 3:10 to Yuma tomorrow. It’s my birthday, and I’m going to treat myself since it’s been ages since I’ve been to the movies. I’m as excited as a kid–and now I have Jesse James to look forward to as well.

    Interesting post about him, Charlene!

  13. Nice post, Charlene. I really enjoyed the historical background on Jesse James. Oh, I like Western movies, too. Many of my favorites are on the Top 20 Westerns list, however, a movie I just love is “Paint Your Wagon” (1969) with Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin. I must have seen that movie a 100 times — and I would watch it again! I haven’t decide if I’ll see the two new Westerns out now.

  14. Hi Pam — Happy Birthday! Let us know how you liked the movie.

    Hi Fronnie — You know, I forgot about Paint Your Wagon. I think it’s a fun story and I love seeing two men who DON’T sing, sing their way thru. Another one, a comedy, so I guess it doesn’t count as a serious western, is Support Your Local Sheriff and Support Your Local Gunfighter. James Garner … oh, I do love him as a cowboy, comedy or not.

  15. My hubby is home recuperating with a broken rib, so yesterday we watched Once Upon A Time in the West all afternoon. (It’s a lo-o-o-ong movie.) The close ups of Henry Fonda, Jason Robards and Charles Bronson are awesome. No one mentions Jason Robards when they mention that movie, but he was an awesome cowboy in his day.

    My favorites from the list would have to be: The Outlaw Josie Wales, A Man Called Horse and High Plains Drifter. Lonesome Dove is still my all-time favorite.

    (Confession: Don’t throw rocks or tell my brother – I’m not a huge John Wayne fan.)

  16. Yes indeedie, my hubby loves Westerns…and John Wayne, Cheryl LOL. And I totally forgot Paint Your Wagon! I love the song, They Call the Wind Mariah…and it begs the question LOL why polygamy never means the woman gets two husbands LOL. …Happy birthday, Pam.

  17. Hi Cher – Hope your hubby heals quickly. And I won’t tell your brother, though I do like the DUKE. I also liked HOW THE WEST WAS WON, but wasn’t that a TV MINI-SERIES? Anyone remember?

    Hi again Tanya – that song haunts me. Every time I hear it, I can’t get it out of my head. And lordy, what would we do with 2 husbands!!

  18. Oh, I’m totally happy with just one LOL but I am all for equal rights!

    You ladies need to know I am finding Petticoats and Pistols semi-addictive =). I’m spending more time here than with my fantasy football league!

    I’m actually at the computer now to finish the final scene of a thing I’m working on so I can send it to my wonderful critique partner! But got sidetracked by P and P! Thanks, it’s such fun.

  19. HAPPY bday Pam!
    Missed seeing #2 Treasure Sierra Madre projected on our art museum’s wall as a outdoor theater presentation.
    My favorites: Butch Cassidy ’69, Man Called Horse ’70, Little Big Man ’70, Man Who Shot Liberty Valance ’62, especially theme music! Dances with Wolves ’90 and add Tombstone, The Sacketts/Shadowriders & Silverado.

    Charlene- enjoyed revisiting the two “Support Your…” recently, they were a hoot and James Garner is yummy in anything, but especially Maverick and Murphy’s Romance. He aged well- loved him in The Notebook. Agree with your other comments, including get well wishes to CSJ’s hubby.

  20. In answer to your question about the wolf, Charlene, Dakota was a youngster when he made the film–not sure how they trained him but he was probably raised by humans. He grew to be all wolf, and the keepers had to be careful around him because he had no fear of them. He and his mate (both neutered) had an enclosed, wooded hillside to live on. When she died during a surgical procedure, he was devastated. You could hear him howling all over the zoo, just heartbreaking. A couple of weeks later a new female arrived and he was happy again. He lived to a ripe old wolf age.

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