Patti Abbott posted her thoughts on western movies the other day and to date she's received forty eight replies. That's why I read her every day. She's always entertaining and interesting. But forty-eight replies to western movies--who woulda thunk it?
The last time I posted some of my own thoughts on the subject I got several off line letters calling me a crank, mostly because I'm not much of a fan of either John Wayne or John Ford.
As for Wayne he was a great presence but not much of an actor with the exceptions (to me) of The Searchers (and again you have to balance his great presence against the nuances a better actor could have brought to the role) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
I like a number of Ford's pictures but his frontier Army stuff has always struck me as juvenile. It's Boy's Adventure, the Kipling romance of the military at its most treacly. Wayne's gray hair at the end of "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" still doesn't make it a movie for adults. Read any serious history of the Army in the frontier west and you'll see what hokum it is. Plus all the phony Irish horseshit. Spare me.
I guess because I grew up watching so many noirs I early on liked the movies in which the characters seemed real. I remember being stunned by seeing Winchester 73, The Naked Spur and The Devil's Doorway.I was eleven and twelve. These were people I recognized from my everyday life. And their rage and sorrow and violence I was all too familiar with.. By the time I was fourteen or fifteen Anthony Mann was my western god. Later in the same decade I saw all the Budd Boetticher-Randolph Scott westerns. They didn't have the same emotional power of Mann's films but they did have a laconic lonely truth. And they hold up. We just watched Seven Men From Now last week. The performances by Scott and Lee Marvin are as vital as ever and Boetticher's use of landscape is a perfect metaphor for the story he's telling.
No big argument, just my opinion. Hey, I can't help it if Anthony Mann is a god, one who managed to find the savage dark side of the wistful James Stewart. That accomplishment alone should put Mann in the pantheon.