Monday, October 25, 2021

Western Movies Helped Define America

The mortal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and the wounding of director Joel Souza on the set of “Rust,” an independent western movie, by Alec Baldwin is a tragedy too profound for words.


Westerns have been part of storytelling cinema since “The Great Train Robbery” was filmed in 1903. The 12 minute flick includes a final scene with a revolver pointed toward and directly fired at the camera, much the same way Baldwin enacted the accidental fatal scene the “Rust” company was shooting (https://youtu.be/SqBNHH6KJyI). 


The western genre has been universally accepted as a stand-in for the American experience, both good and bad. 


My father spent his young adult years in Danzig (Gdansk) when it was a heavily German enclave before the Second World War. I have no doubt he saw American westerns there. 


He loved watching westerns, movies or network shows like “Gunsmoke,” on television. As we approached home at the end of a day visiting family or friends he would serenade my brother, sister and me with a hearty rendition of Gene Autry singing, “Home, Home on the Range.”


I’m still a devotee of westerns. Not in any order but here is a list of westerns you should see if you have not already:


Heart of the West


The Westerner


Shane


Will Penny


Lonely Are the Brave


My Darling Clementine


Fort Apache


She Wore a Yellow Ribbon


The Searchers


Red River


Stagecoach (John Wayne version)


The Rider


The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance


The Ox-Bow Incident


Unforgiven (Burt Lancaster version)


Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood version)


Lonely Are the Brave


Will Penny


Drums Along the Mohawk


Last of the Mohicans (Randolph Scott version)


Last of the Mohicans (Daniel Day Lewis version)


The Gunfighter


Destry Rides Again


Friendly Persuasion


Along Came Jones


The Horse Soldiers


The Gold Rush (watch this one with the kids as it is a Charlie Chaplin silent classic)


Blazing Saddles


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