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 ( 

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


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