Friday, August 31, 2012

GENE AUTRY (1907-1998)


Born: September 29th, 1907 (Texas)

Died: October 2nd, 1998 (lymphoma)

Marriages: Ina Mae Spivey (1932-1980 Her death), Jackie Autry (1981-His death).

Children: No children.

Awards: Nominated for the Best Music Oscar in Ridin' on a Rainbow (1941). He received two Golden Boots; One in 1983 and the other in 1995. In 1980, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and in 1972 he was Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. He is also the only performer with five stars on the Walk of Fame: Motion Pictures, Radio, Television, Recording & Live Performance.

Interesting Fact: He served in the military during WWII and was the only officer allowed to wear cowboy boots.

My Favorite Movie: Though I have never seen one of his pictures from start to finish, I remember him for his musical cameos in some of the films of are day. The most notable one, for me, is Sleepless in Seattle (1993).

Gene Autry's voice has lived on more than other singers of his time. This came about from his combination of Cowboy & Christmas music. Autry was discovered by acting legend Will Rogers, while he was singing on the job at a telegraph office. Rogers encouraged him to get into show business, and Autry took his advice in the late twenties through radio. He quickly climbed the charts, and then starred in a couple of serial westerns. It wasn't long until he had his own name on the billing and from 1937-1942, he became the most popular western star at the box office. With WWII, he went into the military and was replaced by his friend and once co-star, Roy Rogers. After the war, his popularity returned and he began to record his Christmas music, including "Here Comes Santa Claus" which was written by him and Oakley Haldeman in 1946.
It was about this time that he created a code for the cowboy that his fans could live by:
The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.
He must always tell the truth.
He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.
He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
He must help people in distress.
He must be a good worker.
He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.
He must respect women, parents, and his nation's laws.
The Cowboy is a patriot.
In 1964, Autry retired from show business to return to his fruitful work as a businessman. His legend never died though, and he never changed from the soft kind man with a golden voice.
Trailer of Riders in the Sky (1949).
Gene Autry on Whats My Line?
Gene Autry and his horse "Champion"

Thursday, August 30, 2012

WILLIAM BOYD (1895-1972)


Born: June 5th, 1895 (Hendrysburg, Ohio)

Died: September 12th, 1972 (Parkinson's)

Marriage: Laura Maynard (1917-1921), Ruth Miller (1921-1924), Elinor Fair (1926-1929), Dorothy Sebastian (1930-1936) & Grace Bradley (1937-His death).

Children: He had a son with his third wife that died at nine months.

Awards: He has a star on the Walk of Fame and received a Golden Boot in 1993. In 1995, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

Interesting Fact: He was supposedly offered the role as Moses in Cecil B. DeMille's production of The Ten Commandments (1956). He would turn down the role on the grounds that his followers would be unable to see him as anything else than Hopalong Cassidy.

My Favorite Movie: I must admit that I have never seen a full film of his performances, though I have seen a large portion of his work that I enjoyed. He was like an early MacGyver.


He was my mothers favorite cowboy star. His career began with Cecil B. DeMille, but was greatly jeopardized when an actor with a similar name, William Stage Boyd, was on the news from a scandal. His career was rebooted when he appeared on the screen as Hopalong Cassidy in 1935. His character didn't drink, smoke or cuss and became an inspiring hero for many young boys. His fame continued to flourish as he made over sixty films and had a hit TV show. In 1953, he retired to his ranch in Palm Desert, California. He passed away less than ten years later from Parkinson's disease.  

William Boyd's horse "Topper"

Additional sites:

ANDY DEVINE (1905-1977) 200TH POST


Born: October 7th, 1905 (Kingman, Arizona)

Died: February 18th, 1977 (leukemia)

Marriage: Dorthy Devine (1933-His death)

Children: Tad Devine & Denny Devine

Awards: Though he was never nominated for an Oscar, he had two stars on the Walk of Fame for Radio & Television and was nominated posthumously in 1988 for a Golden Boot and in 2011 for a British Soap Award.

Interesting Fact: Andy could ride a team of six horses, making him a perfect pick for his role in Stagecoach (1939).

My Favorite Movie: Stagecoach (1939). Whenever you watch someone riding a team of horses on the screen they rarely make a sound. Devine's performance surprised me as he yelled out at the horses with mixed in dialogue.


Andy's talents, as an actor, were first viewed on the silent screen. With the invention of sound, he became greatly concerned about his raspy, high pitched voice. Little did anyone know that it would become his fans favorite characteristic. His popularity grew when he was placed as the sidekick to cowboy heroes like: Roy Rogers & Guy Madison. His upbringing in Arizona had given him the cowboy experience that came natural on the screen. His talent went beyond westerns as he had a great knack for any type of comedy and also vocal performances in animation. He was a well-rounded actor, and I don't mean just physically.

An old Kellog's comercial.

Additional Sites:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

HARRY CAREY SR. (1878-1947)


Born: January 16th, 1878 (Bronx, New York)

Died: September 21st, 1947 (lung cancer)

Marriage: He was first married to a Fern Foster, but no one seems to be sure on the date they married or divorced. He later married Olive Carey (1920-His death).

Children: Ellen Carey & Harry Carey Jr.

Awards: Nominated for the Oscar of Best Supporting Actor in, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). After his death he was awarded a star on the Walk of Fame and in 1976, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame. He also was awarded a Golden Boot in 1991.

Interesting Fact: The film, 3 Godfathers (1948), was made in his honor by John Ford. The two had worked together on a similar picture during the silent years and had a strong partnership and friendship.

My Favorite Movie: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). One thing to note about his performance is that he received a nomination for an Oscar in a year when the Academy had it's hands full with so many other great pictures. My father just loves the scene when Stewart looks up in almost defeat and Cary smiles back at him.


Harry Carey was a stout-hearted yet gentle man whose talent as an actor is viewable in over two-hundred films. John Ford called him the "bright star of the early western sky." His work in Hollywood started in the silent days and his transition into sound was also successful. He was the leading man of many early westerns and struck up a great friendship with John Ford who was his director in over twenty films. His son, Harry Carey Jr., became a successful actor as well and also starred in Ford's westerns. What made his work as a cowboy so interesting is that he was born on the east coast. Later in life he became the wise yet silent sage who had seen tougher days. His voice was strong and his face was striking. What a great actor!

Sunday, August 26, 2012


For this last week of westerns, I'm going to put the spotlight on some of the real cowboys of Hollywood. Their involvement in the entertainment industry created a following that continues to exist today. Many of these actors grew their popularity through television, radio and even created music.

If I miss one of your favorites, I apologize ahead of time. I am severely limited by my own experience and have yet to see one of your favorites. You may also notice Andy Devine in the collage below. He may not be a real cowboy but his acting career was dominated by westerns. Besides, I think he's amazing. I hope you enjoy!


In recollection of this last week I have gleaned a few things about westerns, directing & characters. Most of all, it has taught me about one of the greatest men of Hollywood, John Ford. As I prepared for this week and also throughout it, I have been using two video sources for my references: Directed by John Ford (1971) & American Westerns: John Ford / John Wayne: The Filmmaker & The Legend. The second video can be found on the second disc of special features to Stagecoach (1939).

Some of the quotes I presented, came from these two films and there is a good reason for it. First of all, I found the Internet frighteningly inaccurate and unreliable when it came to researching purposes. Sites like: Wikipedia & IMDB were close to the actual truth, but would often differ from each other. When I discovered a site dedicated to Ford I was even more disturbed by its incorrect facts.

The other reason, is in the form of a question: Whose to say that what is written is what happened or even said? Both of the films, I listed above, included original footage and interviews of the men and women of Ford's stock company. I saw and heard the words come from their own mouths and tried, with my suffering grammar, to write it out.

I would emphatically recommend the viewing of these documentaries. Not only did I learn of Ford's world, I learned about the characters within it. Explanations of certain scenes and dialogue were revealed and I gained a greater appreciation of his work and talent.

In closing, I wish to say one more thing about this gifted man called Ford. I have come to find how simple his stories are, yet how life-changing they can be. Ford, through his genius, was capable of taking a complex story with an epic background and teach you a little something about who you are and what you are supposed to be. He did this by demanding the talents of actors and actresses, cameramen and screen writers who would come to honor him. Everyone was kept on their toes though they didn't even know they were actually dancing. Ford took all of this, all of it, and jammed into over an hour of film to teach the world his lessons on life. And what are those lessons?.. You'll just have to find out.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

JOHN FORD (1960-1970)

Summary: Ford's last big hurrah would be in the sixties. Studios began to decline in offering him projects as they viewed him only cappable of making westerns. His health began to decline and work became limited for him. The world around him was changing and his characters were not as desired as they were in the past. Throughout these challenges he pulled off a couple of hits before passing away in 1973.

Popular Western Films: Sergeant Rutledge (1960), Two Rode Together (1961), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), Cheyenne Autumn (1964)

Interesting Fact: He was the first to be given the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award. John Wayne was the one to present it to him. Ford passed away six months later.

Western Awards: He won three Bronze Wranglers, one for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), another for How the West Was Won (1962) and the last was for Cheyenne Autumn (1964). During the sixties he also was nominated four different times for a Laurel Award and won third place twice.

John Wayne: "Jack Ford gives us, in his work, that part of legend and history that might have been lost forever to the American people."

With the beginning of the sixties, Ford directed Sergeant Rutledge (1960), a picture about an African American soldier who is accused of rape and murder. The theme is somewhat comparable to a film made a couple years later by Robert Mulligan, To Kill a Mocking Bird (1962). The picture was not as successful as the studio had hoped and Ford was without work for a little while.

Without any projects, Ford went to go see his friend Wayne on the set of his first film as director, The Alamo (1960). When Ford arrived, he sat down in the directors chair. This action caused a little frustration in Wayne and his crew. In desperation they decided to set him off in another part of the set to direct some chase scenes that were never to be used in the final cut.

While at the set, Ford met Richard Widmark who would later star in three of Ford's final westerns. One picture, in particular, would also have Jimmy Stewart's introduction in a Ford film, Two Rode Together (1961). But as he gained more stars, sadness surrounded him at the sudden passing of his life-long friend, Ward Bond.

In 1962, Ford would make what is considered to be the last great western of the Golden Age of movies, The Man who Shot Liberty Valance. In the film, you see the end of the West that we related too. This became a direct reflection to the end of an age in America that we were accustomed too. Within one year after its production, Marilyn Monroe was mysteriously found dead and Kennedy was mysteriously assassinated. This also has a slight connection on who really killed Liberty Valance.

This film would also solidify something that Ford had silently expressed in all of his pictures. "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." In reality, he was'nt saying that myths are more important than truth, but that the masses approve of the fictional story rather than the actual facts. Another notable feature of the film is the character played by Wayne could be compared to Ford. Both were alcoholics and both were concerned that they had outlived their use in society.

One other theme that was underlying in his other pictures is presented more honestly in this picture. Throughout Ford's films he gives you an example of what a MAN should be. Think of all his past pictures whether western or modern, and pick out the figure of a man that he caresses within the story. Through this particular film, he gives you two sides of a man, Stewart's & Wayne's. One as the rough and tough figure, which is the only thing standing between civilization and anarchy. The other is a man who chooses to stand up to lawlessness, though he doesn't know if he has it in him.

Ford would go on to direct a small part in How the West Was Won (1962) and film his last western with also the use of Monument Valley one final time in Cheyenne Autumn (1964). His health was decreasing rapidly as he reached his seventies. The America he had grown up in had changed and so had movies. But don't let that depress you any.

Ford had become a legend, but not the kind you see on a Wheaties box or a ballot form. He had become the kind of legend that sits you down, one on one, and tells you a story that changes you, but you don't know how. For some reason his story leaves you with more than courage and moral honesty, but a sense of responsibility that you usually learn from your own father.

With just over one hundred films under his name and six Oscars on his mantel, Ford would leave this earth on the 31st of August in 1973. His pictures of America would, in turn, reshape America and inspire generations of another age. His work could be compared to that of the pioneers, who not only trudged through the wilderness but sought to make it civilized. He is one of the greatest legends of Hollywood and when the legend becomes truth, print the legend.

Friday, August 24, 2012

JOHN FORD (1950-1960)

Summary: Ford was challenged by the politics of this decade and chose to remain neutral. He would never be able to repeat the success of his early films in the forties, but came out with a number of huge hits. The story he had hoped to direct for years, "The Quiet Man" (1952), became a box-office success and made more money than any other of his pictures. In the fifties, he also brought us the most popular and defining western of all-time, "The Searchers" (1956).

Popular Western Films: "Wagon Master" (1950), "Rio Grande" (1950), "The Searchers" (1956) & "The Horse Soldiers" (1959).

Interesting Fact: By this time in his career, he had won more Oscars than any other director, to date, with a total of six. Two of them were awarded for his filming on WWII.

Western Awards: "The Searchers" (1956) & "The Horse Soldiers" (1959) both won him an award from the Directors Guild of America.

"My Name is John Ford and I make westerns."

The beginning of the fifties would be a little rough for Ford. The Red scare was on the war path and the people of Hollywood were picking sides. For a man who had served his country only a few years before, he remained silently neutral for the most part. Once, in a very tense moment, he had successfully fought off the request of a loyalty oath among directors.

At this same time, Ford would finish off his Calvary trilogy with his final installment, "Rio Grande" (1950). This film would bring some new life to Ford's stock company. Patrick Wayne, son of John Wayne, was to debut in this film and would also star in some of Ford's other pictures. It would also introduce Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne as a pair to the screen. Their chemistry was so fresh and original that they became an instant success. Hollywood had never seen a couple of such nature and they would later star in four other pictures.

Suddenly, Wayne has risen to greater heights than Ford, and the two friends would switch places in a small way. In the late 1930's, Ford pulled Wayne out of poverty row and into the leading men spotlight. Wayne would now return the favor by aiding Ford during a time of need. One of the first things that Wayne did was talk Republic Pictures into allowing Ford to finally direct a film he had been waiting on for a long time, "The Quiet Man" (1952).

Though not a western, "The Quiet Man" would once again reunite the Ford's famous crew under "Pappy's" direction. Wayne brought along his family and the picture became a who's who of Ford's friends. Another addition to the cast would be Ford's older brother, Frank, who was responsible for bringing John to Hollywood and also showed him the ropes until he could move on. Though this was not his last film, Frank would pass away one year later at the age of seventy-two. In all, "The Quiet Man" was a fulfilment of John Ford's dream and gave him a chance to finally return to his Irish heritage. The film was also an astounding success and won him his last Oscar.

Following this triumph, Ford returned to Monument Valley and made his darkest western ever, "The Searchers" (1956). The story is about a man returning to civilization after a Civil War, only to be thrust into a violent search for his missing niece. It has been said that this picture was a reflection of the lost innocence America was experiencing during this time. The character of Ethan Edwards resembled everything hopeless, yet everything great about America. His last film, of the fifties, would be "The Horse Soldiers" (1959). The picture would star Wayne and William Holden and would be another success for Ford.

Ford's drinking began to catch up with him in his mid-sixties, and his health began to decline. He had also become slightly forgotten, though the effects of his films would carry on and inspire new talent in generations to come. He had finally been allowed to direct his favorite picture, and had a new kind of character in Ethan Edwards. Even with his failing health and drooping popularity, he would go on to make even more monumental films in the decade to come.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

JOHN FORD (1940-1950)

Summary: The 1940's were John Ford's golden years. He consistently made one hit after another and in multiple genres. His stories stressed began to show a theme on the power of the family unit in the community. During the war he made documentaries for the military and then returned once again to a successful career. For the first time since the twenties, he was able to make one western after another.

Popular Western Films: "My Darling Clementine" (1946), "Fort Apache" (1948), "3 Godfathers" (1948)"She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949).

Interesting Fact: Ford became very rich by this time and had purchased a 106' ketch he renamed the Araner. Unannounced to his crew of friends, Ford would use his boating trips as light reconnaissance in order to keep an eye of the Japanese fleet prior to WWII.

Western Awards: For "My Darling Clementine" (1948) he received the silver ribbon from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists. On that same year, he was given the Best Director award from the Locarno International Film Festival for "Fort Apache" (1948).

"Occasionly you get some luck in pictures, more occasionly you have bad luck. If something happens that wasn't premeditated... photograph it." 

1940 was another great year for John Ford. He ended the thirties on a high note and entered the forties off the scale. He became a frequent winner at the Oscar's and his awards were piling up. But with the possibility of a world war on the horizon, he found himself working for the military. Since he was a child he had wanted to be in the Navy and in 1934 he was commissioned as a Lieutenant Commander in the US Naval Reserves.

It was after the making of "How Green Was My Valley (1941), that he was set to organize the Field Photographic Unit. His orders were to document the Navy's involvement in WWII. Through this work he was able to film the Battle of Midway as it happened and in turn won an Oscar for his work. In 1945, as the war was coming to a close, Ford reluctantly returned to making movies. The film that would be his returning debut was the war classic "They Were Expendable" (1945). The war had effected Ford and you can see traces of it in this film. The picture would also star Wayne and restart their work together.

The film was not as successful as had been expected, for America had slowly drifted away from being interested in the sacrifices of war. With this failure, he returned to westerns and his move turned out to be an effective decision. With his return to Monument Valley, Ford pulled out one hit after another once again. His success was not by accident. Each story gave you multiple dimensions, while one moment you are in awe of the backdrop and then suddenly you are zoomed into the individual lives of each character. His people were real and they had emotions, their stories would have been effective in any setting, but no one had achieved it as well as Ford in a western.

With his film "Fort Apache" (1948), Ford revealed an interesting concept to Americans. For a man who had seen death and destruction, he came to realize that we become more interested in the myth than the reality. This would be a constant theme throughout his films, and it wasn't until "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962) that he portrayed it plainly in dialogue.

1947 had brought some sadness to John Ford, for his former friend and colleague, Harry Carey Sr., had passed away. In honor of his memory he filmed "The 3 Godfathers" (1948), and included his late friends son, Harry Carey Jr. as a lead in the picture. This was a remake of a Carey Sr. & Ford film made back in the silent days. With its success, Carey Jr. then became a part of the Ford "Stock Company" and continued on in Ford's future pictures.

With "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" (1949), he fulfilled the second portion of his western trilogy including "Fort Apache" (1948) & "Rio Grande" (1950). But the film had an even bigger outcome than Ford had expected. With Wayne's amazing performance in "Red River" (1948), Ford made his character even older in his 1949 film. The hero played by Wayne was so powerful and effective that he would forever be seen as the ultimate American hero from that moment on.

Ford was now nearing his sixties, and kept on going. The forties had been good to him, though he had been wounded in the war. With the end of a golden decade, he prepared for the next one. With it came change that was unexpected, yet he continued to bring out some spectacular films.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

JOHN FORD (1930-1940)

Summary: This was the most pivital decade in Ford's career. Without westerns, he proved himself worthy of being a great director. He won his first Oscar and began the creation of his "Stock Company". In 1939 he catapulted the western genre out of it obscurity and into demand with his creation of "Stagecoach" (1939).

Popular Western Films: "Stagecoach" (1939) & "Drums Along the Mohawk" (1939)

Interesting Fact: When John Wayne became slightly famous after his performance in The Big Trail (1930), Ford was supposedly hurt that he was'nt the one to bring him to popularity. After the film's release, Ford would not speak to Wayne, and Wayne didn't speak back either. It was not until five years later that Ford asked for Wayne and suddenly he was back with the gang. Wayne never asked what had happened and Ford never brought it up. Ford did get his chance to bring Wayne to the top, however, with "Stagecoach" (1939).

Western Awards: For "Stagecoach" (1939) he was nominated for the Best Director Oscar and received a NYFCC Award.

“I try to make it a rule that to make a big picture, which was a hit, and the next one do a cheap picture. Relax... three or four weeks while you're preparing for another story. And usually, of course to my mind, the little picture is always better."

Ford and westerns didn't happen much in this decade. Studios had chosen to move away from them a few years earlier and were also busy working on a new technology, talking pictures. Though he didn't return to westerns, until the very end of the thirties, this decade would become his most important.

In 1930, Ford discovered a monumental movie star on Broadway, Spencer Tracy. Ford was so impressed with his performances that he starred him in his new film "Up the River" (1930). Another new star to play in the same picture was an up and coming Humphry Bogart. Though neither performer became a staple for Ford, this film launched both of them into their successful careers.

Ford was now making a name for himself and continually adding on new stars to his collection. One performer that would have been perfect for his westerns was the humorous Will Rogers. Ford and Rogers worked together for a few films, like the successful "Judge Priest" (1934). They would have continued to make more pictures but, unfortunately, Rogers died in a tragic airplane accident in 1935, cutting their friendship short and ending a career that would have changed humor forever.

On the same year of Rogers death, Ford would win his first Oscar for the work he did in "The Informer". The film was highly successful and placed him near the top of the directors list. He would also win another crew member for his future classics, the very Irish Victor McLaglen. One year later Ford began working with John Carradine in The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936). This cynical looking actor also joined Ford's ranks and was the perfect mysterious character he needed for two of his popular films in 1939.

Then came the big year of 1939. This would be the year that would change Hollywood forever, and there has never been a year to rival it. Directors like Victor Fleming and Frank Capra made super-epic films, leaving all the other pictures to feed off the leftovers. Ford was not left completely in the dust though, as the three films he made became instant classics. But as time went on, audiences had forgotten these pictures and very few have heard of them today.

Two of the three pictures he made were westerns: "Stagecoach" & "Drums Along the Mohawk". As a personal note, I just watched "Stagecoach" last night for the first time. It is both epic and entertaining. It had everything the west has to offer in it: Indians, gun fights, Calvary, Marshals, outlaws & whisky. The camera moves at a high speed with the action and the shots are wide and clear. This would be his first use of Monument Valley and each camera angle was positioned beautifully. Ford had a certain eye for this which is interesting for a man with failing sight.

At the end of the 1930's, Ford had successfully brought westerns back to popularity in one swoop. As a result, the studios began to share a faith in them once more. He also pulled his friend, John Wayne, out of his B-movie rut and into supreme stardom. Ford also embraced the new technology of color by showcasing it in "Drums Along the Mohawk". In all, Ford finally had the chance to show what he was made of and came out a champion. The next couple years would continue to be as successful if not more.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

JOHN FORD (1920-1930)

Summary: John Feeney moved to Los Angeles for work with his already succesful brother of a director, Francis Ford. He quickly moved from the smaller jobs, including actor, on up to director and debuted with The Tornado in 1917. From 1917 through 1920, he made roughly thirty-six films. When he completed Cameo Kirby (1923), he changed his name from Jack Ford to John Ford. In 1926, he made a western called 3 Bad Men. It would be another thirteen years until he would make another western.

Popular Western Films: The Tornado (1917), The Soul Herder (1917), Bucking Broadway (1917), Just Pals (1920), The Iron Horse (1924), 3 Bad Men (1926).

Interesting Fact: According to Ford, his first directing job was given to him by Carl Laemmle, the boss of Universal, who said, "Give Jack Ford the job—he yells good."

Western Awards: None.

"It is easier to get an actor to be a cowboy than to get a cowboy to be an actor."

As I mentioned before, this week is dedicated to the greatest director of the West, John Martin Feeney (John Ford). Since the beginning of his career he has produced westerns and for some reason they came natural to him. That would seem strange for a youngster raised in Maine, but no one questioned his ability.

In his early years he experienced an extreme amount of change. He was twenty when arrived in California and was married six years later to Mary McBryde Smith in 1920. Ten months later his first child is born, Patrick Michael Roper Ford. Keeping on the topic of family, he was the tenth child in his own and was now employed by his brother Frank, who was thirteen years his senior.

In directing, he had began a strong friendship with the legendary western actor, Harry Carey Sr.. Carey and Ford would go on to be in over twenty films together and the tradition was passed over to his son Harry Carey Jr. In 1928 Ford began work with another long-time friend, John Wayne. Their friendship was cut short and they were not reunited until the magnificent Stagecoach (1939) film.

In the latter end of the twenties the studios stopped investing in westerns and Ford moved on to create other films. To add to this change talkies were introduced to the studios and Ford was tight on the ground floor. Around this time, Ford was introduced to a film called Sunrise (1928). This picture, directed by F. W. Murnau, had a great influence on Ford as a director. All-in-all this era gave Ford a chance to roll up his sleeves and work his tail off.

Monday, August 20, 2012


I have spent much thought on what to do for this week's theme on westerns. To hold true to my pattern I wanted to post on some of the popular film directors of the west. Then I began to think it shameful to place John Ford with other directors who happened to make westerns. Ford was the western film director. His use of the Monument Valley was a standard in many of his films. In fact, Orson Wells commented that if a director were to use the same location he would be accused of plagiarism.

Then I began to think on doing posts about Ford's "Stock Company." This is the term used to define his arsenal of actors and actresses that found themselves in his films one after the other. As I looked at the list it was much more extensive that I had expected. So I thought to simplify it by picking a few of them, but it still didn't feel right.

Then suddenly I began to study Ford's life itself and I have chosen to create posts on the era's of John Ford. His career can easily be placed into sizable sections. Starting with his silent shorts and on through to his technicolor talkies, each decade was something new for Ford. I hope to learn more on this great director throughout this challenge and portray his life simply before you.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Raised in: Born in Winterset, Iowa, his family moved when he was a boy to California. At Glendale High he played on the football team. Chances for a scholarship at USC and an athletic career vanished when he suffered a body surfing accident. To pay for his schooling he got work at the studios.

Western Awards: From 1961 to 1964 he received an Oscar nomination, four consecutive Golden Laurel Awards and three Bronze Wranglers for his westerns. These films were The Alamo (1961), The Comancheros (1962), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1963) and McLintock! (1964). It was in True Grit (1969) that he won his first Best Actor Oscar along with a Golden Globe, Golden Laurel Award and a Bronze Wrangler. On Chisum (1970) he received a final Golden Laurel Award. In 1996 and again in 2007 he was awarded The Golden Boot Award.

Interesting Western Fact: Wayne, along with his friend Louis Johnson, owned a purebred Hereford cattle ranch in Arizona that spanned over thirty-nine miles.

My Favorite Western: Big Jake (1971). There are a few aspects to this film that make it a personal favorite. One is the name of the title. Sharing the same name I found my name even more interesting as I watched this when I was young. Another thing I like is the pairing up of Wayne and a couple of his kids. The chemistry is already there.

John Wayne: I want to play a real man in all my films, and I define manhood simply: men should be tough, fair, and courageous, never petty, never looking for a fight, but never backing down from one either.

Before I talk about Wayne as a western movie star, I would like to say something about the collage picture above. As I began the concept of having all his western in one picture, I quickly became overwhelmed. Did you know he made over eighty westerns? Interestingly enough, most of them were prior to 1940. Each of those early films, however, where duplicated in story line, while the only thing changing was his characters name. Anyways, as I gathered all the pictures of my favorite westerns together, the collage program I use would not allow me to have more than thirty pictures. This is my explanation for why a few of the classics may be missing above.

Wayne and the West are inseparable terms. In fact, many try and avoid listing his films as favorites, in order to avoid the cliches. He is not only the definition of a cowboy, he is the definition of a man. Surprisingly enough, he has stated that most of his western mannerisms did not come natural to him. In truth, he actually thought many of them up; such as the squinted eye, waddle walk and even his drawl.

His character was always more of a hero than a saint. He took care of business, though he stepped on a couple toes in the process. He was always breaking the rules but never pushing the envelope. His presence demanded your attention, even if his dialogue didn't. His words were pointed and often witty and these same lines would forever be imitated. His humilty spoke louder than his fists making him one of the most admired men in our age. Wayne was the first American of the western screen. He brought with him the flag, the idea, and the feeling of what it meant to live in this country.

A few scenes and comments from The Alamo (1961).

Here he is winning his first and only Oscar. Try watching this
without tearing up. My favorite part is when you see him holding
his wifes hand, moments before it was announced.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Raised: He was born in Helena, Montana, to parents who were English immigrants. Life in his youth was spent on their ranch before he was sent off for school in England. When his father moved to Los Angeles, he chose to move with them and look for work as an illustrator. For extra cash he played as an extra in silent films.

Western Awards: For his performance in High Noon (1952), he received the Best Actor Academy Award, a Golden Globe & a Photoplay Award. In Friendly Persuasion (1956), he received a Golden Globe. In the film The Hanging Tree (1959) he received a Laurel Award.

Interesting Western Fact: At the age of thirteen he was in a car accident that injured his hip. For therapy the doctors recommended that he ride horses at his parents ranch.

My Favorite Western: Along Came Jones (1945). There are very few actors who can play a fool as well as Cooper. This film is refreshingly witty and suspenseful. You never know what he will do next. One item worth noting is in the middle of the film. He drops his gun and then swoops down and picks it up while staying in the saddle. I don't care who you are, that takes doing.

Melody Jones: If there's anything in the world I like, it's getting saved from being shot.

Cooper is one of the most legendary movie stars for the west. Since the silent days he could be seen on the saddle in a tall hat. His accent and height created the perfect hero, yet it is his slow and thoughtful lines that make you admire him. He always played the only man in town defending justice and somehow he always pulled through just fine. His characters were also deep in thought and you never knew what to expect. He was performances were always simple yet know one could duplicate it.

Another thing which I find worth mentioning is his wardrobe. Cooper was known for his professional and debonair look. In society he wore the best, yet it seemed that the best wore Cooper. On the screen, especially in westerns, he is in complete grubs. Such outfits never looked more refined then on him. I also found a website on him comparing his western career with John Wayne, here is the link. It's a shame that cancer took him so young. I wish that such a character as Cooper existed in our day.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Raised: Born in Grand Island, Nebraska, his father was advertising-printing jobber. As a six-foot shy teenager, he left for school at the University of Minnesota to major in journalism. When he returned home he got involved with the Omaha Community Playhouse. There he worked with Marlon Brando's mother, Dodie Brando.

Western Awards: He was nominated for an Emmy on his performance in the television movie The Red Pony (1973).

Interesting Western Fact: During the filming of Mister Roberts (1955), Fonda refused direction of John Ford. In response to this, Ford sucker punched him and was removed from directing the film. This event ended a twenty year friendship, that created many western classics.

My Favorite Western: Drums Along the Mohawk (1939). Fonda did this picture the same year as the classic Young Mr. Lincoln. Both films were directed by John Ford and have stood the test of time. What I love about this film is its portrayal of the struggling pioneer and its patriotism.

Gil: If I can get in the clear, there isn't an Indian living that can catch me.

Fonda is one of those who could express his lines through his whole body. When he does talk, he takes his lines nice and slow. Anthony Quin said of Fonda, that he performed from his soul and not just his face. Each character he played embodied these characteristics and yet each one was different than the other. His mid-western accent was one of the first clues for studios to place him in westerns. Also at times he could add a certain raspy texture during intense moments that mesmerized the audience.

One other interesting fact that I didn't mention above is on The Ox-Bow Incident (1943). If you've seen this film you know that its about a lawless hanging. When Fonda was a young boy his father took him to the lynching of an African-American. His father didn't tell him where they were going or explain the event as they did it. He let his son decide how he felt and this event forever solidified in the young heart of Fonda. Can you imagine the emotions he felt during the making of this film later in his life.

The classic scene from The Ox-Bow Incident (1943).

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Raised: He was born and raised in Indiana, Pennsylvania. His father owned a hardware store in town and Stewart was expected to take over the business. In his youth he played on the football team and ran track. While attending Princeton, he was invited to join a theater company called The Triangle Club. Here he began his acting career and also began a friendship with fellow western star, Henry Fonda.

Western Awards: In 1962 he won third place on a Laurel Award for Two Rode Together. The next year he received a Bronze Wrangler Award, along with the cast, for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Interesting Western Fact: In 1950, Stewart wanted to go back to westerns after a few flops. With his westerns and mysteries, he became even more popular and within four years, he was the highest grossing movie star, replacing John Wayne.

My Favorite Western: Shenandoah (1965). Though technically not an original western with cowboys and Indians, it has the element of the west and is titled under the same genre. This film is a favorite of my family and we often find ourselves quoting it. The story is fascinating and has a good balance of playful humor and gripping drama.

Charlie Anderson: Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvest it. We cook the harvest. It wouldn't be here and we wouldn't be eating it if we hadn't done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we're about to eat, amen.

Stewart's tall stature and drawling voice made him a perfect candidate for westerns. Though he was successful in almost every other genre, fans still viewed him as a western movie star. His character was often polite, yet aggressive when injustice faced him. Sometimes you weren't sure if he had it in him to beat the odds. Interestingly enough his last film would be a western, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991). Though it was animated, his talented voice made the film an instant classic.

Scene from Shenandoah.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Raised: Born in La Jolla, California he spent the majority of his life around San Diego. While at the University of California in Berkly, he was introduced to the theatre and became interested in acting.

Western Awards: In 1979, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. There are also a few awards given in years that coincide with westerns he was in. These awards were given through organizations like the Golden Apples Awards, Golden Globes Awards and the Laurel Awards.

Interesting Western Fact: Due to his large build, he would do most of his own stunts, including fight scenes, without a stunt double. In Yellow Sky (1948), however, he fell from his horse and broke his ankle in three places.

My Favorite Western: The Big Country (1958). This is an interesting western. Contrary to all past movies on the west, this story centers around a so-called city slicker. He is the one to change the fate of the land and he does it with a courage no one has ever seen before.

James McKay: There's some things a man has to prove to himself alone... not to anyone else.
Patricia Terrill: Not even to the woman he loves.
James McKay: Least of all her... if she loves him.

Not all of Peck's westerns are classics, but a couple of them are good enough to title him as a western actor. At one point in his career he decided to star in films that meant something to him. That should say something about the westerns he did in later on. His character was usually heroic and peaceful with a large stature. He moved slowly and always looked like he was thinking about something.

Commentary of The Big Country.

Scene from The Gunfighter (1950)

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Usually this week is dedicated to a movie star in each of my favorite films for the month. As you can see though, John Wayne is in most of them. Now in my defense, I wish to mention that my fathers name is Wayne. So as a kid, these films were watched more than others. So if I wish to catch a larger range of westerns, I'll need to reach out to some of the other famous stars as well. I'm thinking of crating a movie star post centered around the westerns they were in.

Another thing which I have hoped for in the future is focusing on supporting actors. Westerns, in general, have a herd of these men and woman who were used repeatedly as a cowhand or hired gunman. The titles themselves create an even more interesting challenge. Something that I would like to find on other sites is a list of famous cooks, cattle pusher, sheriffs, deputies and so on. I wish to acknowledge that if I do create such a list it may not include every single one. This would be for the simple fact that I haven't seen every western or even remember all of the one that I have seen.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

BIG JAKE (1971)

Studio: Batjac Productions

Producer: Michael Wayne

Director: George Sherman

Music: Elmer Bernstein

Release Date: 26 May 1971

Awards: None.

Origination: The screenplay was written by the famous couple, Harry Julian Fink and Rita M. Fink. The original title was The Million Dollar Kidnapping.

Interesting Fact: This was the final film where Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne starred together. Also the grandson in this film is the actual son of John Wayne, Ethan Wayne.

Jake McCandles: You can call me Father, you can call me Jacob, you can call me Jake. You can call me a dirty son-of-a-b****, but if you EVER call me Daddy again, I'll finish this fight.

This movie sure brings back many memories that I had as a boy. I always liked my first name, but this movie made it sound tougher. Probably what makes this movie so enjoyable is the pairing of real life father and son John & Pat in this film. It makes each cutting remark from Dad even more realistic as does the sons responses. This film was a little darker than the westerns of the past, but the soft humor of Wayne rounded it out.

I must say that the performance of Richard Boone as a villain was frighteningly well done. Wayne and Boone had been in a few other films together but never as polar opposites like this. Another addition that is note worthy is Bruce Cabot's as Sam the Indian. He brought a more realistic touch to this era, when the west was changing.

This had always been my favorite western, until it was replaced by The Big Country (1958) recently. Wayne always seemed in charge and if things ever got too tough he would just yell, "Dog!." What a fantastic classic!


Friday, August 10, 2012


Studio: Paramount Pictures

Producer: Willis Goldbeck & John Ford

Director: John Ford

Music: Cyril J. Mockridge & Alfred Newman

Release Date: April 22, 1962

Awards: Nominated for Best Costume Design in behalf of Edith Head. It was also nominated three times for a Laurel Award and won one once. It has won a Bronze Wrangler and was placed in the National Film Registry in 2007.

Origination: The screenplay was based on a short story written by Dorothy M. Johnson.

Interesting Fact: The musical theme that was used for the sadness of Lincoln in Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), was played at the beginning of this film when you view the burnt down home of John Wayne's character.

Maxwell Scott: This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

I love this film for it's mysterious plot and also its expression on courage and honor. Stewart and Wayne played perfectly off of each other in their first film together. Though each of them were seasoned actors by this time they gave each other enough room to be the lead character. It's a pity that they weren't in more films together.

Now as a kid, the part played by Lee Marvin use to give me nightmares. What makes his performance even more impressive is when it's contrasted with Donovan's Reef (1963), one year later with Wayne again. One was a villainous sadist and the other as a free loading sailor with a dry sense of humor.

One last thing that I'd like to comment on is the talents of Edith Head seen in this film. Her work hadn't been unnoticed by the Academy as she was nominated for an Oscar which is mentioned above. Though she did many westerns, this one sticks out to me as a fresher look than the others.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

SHANE (1953)

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Producer: George Stevens

Director: George Stevens

Music: Victor Young

Release Date: April 23, 1953

Awards: It received the Best Cinematography Oscar and was nominated for five other Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Brandon De Wilde), Best Supporting Actor (Jack Palance), Best Director, Best Picture & Best Writing. It was also nominated twice for a BAFTA Award, once for a DGA Award and also a WGA Award. It won two NBR Awards and was placed in the National Film Registry in 1993.

Origination: Based on the 1940 novel Shane written by Jack Schaefer.

Interesting Fact: Jean Arthur came out of retirement to be in this film as a personal favor. This then became her final film.

Joey: Shane! Come back!

I had heard that this was a popular classic among western fans, so when I found it on sale I purchased it and watched it that night. It became an immediate favorite since the beginning and in the end I placed it in my top ten westerns. First of all the background is breath-taking. I could have cared less on what was happening in the scene when a majestic mountain was towering in the distance. The message, itself, expressed the uselessness of violence through the eyes of a little boy. The scenes of fighting and gun play were not presented in it's glorious and sometimes humorous fashion. Instead you view a young boy chewing on candy in the background as his eyes grow wider.

Another thing that I appreciate is that Jean Arthur came back into acting one last time for this film. I could see that she had aged a bit, but she hadn't lost any of her talent. It also has some of my favorite supporting stars like Jack Palance, John Dierkes & Edgar Buchanan. This film makes you want to go out and buy some land in the mountains.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

EL DORADO (1966)

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Producer: Howard Hawks

Director: Howard Hawks

Music: Nelson Riddle

Release Date: June 7th, 1967

Awards: None.

Origination: It is not hard to see the comparison with this film and Howard Hawks Rio Bravo (1959). In fact, this is considered the second part of a western trilogy, with Rio Lobo (1970) as the third installment. The story itself was based off of the novel titled The Stars in Their Courses by Harry Brown.

Interesting Fact: The paintings illustrated in the opening introduction where painted by Olaf Wieghorst. Olaf also played as the gunsmith, Swede Larsen, in the film.

Mississippi: I hit the sign, and the sign hit him.
: Well, that's great.
: He was limping when he left!
Cole: He was limping when he got here!

As I mentioned above, this is an obvious remake of Rio Bravo. What I like about this picture is it seems to have more humor and a better storyline. My favorite character in the film is Mississippi, played by James Caan. I, myself, have a long name and I've often been asked to repeat it. It's also refreshing to see a character that can't use a gun in a western. By this time Wayne knew he had cancer, yet he didn't slow down at all. I could watch this one over and over.



Studio: Paramount Pictures

Producer: Paul Nathan & Hal B. Wallis

Director: Henry Hathaway

Music: Elmer Bernstein

Release Date: July 1st, 1965

Awards: It won a Bronze Wrangler Award.

Origination: Based on a book titled Life of the Marlows.

Interesting Fact: Production of the film was postponed for a few months upon the discovery that Wayne had lung cancer. One other note worthy fact is that the carriage hearst used in the film now resides in front of the Haunted Mansion at Disney World.

Bud Elder: I don't want to be rich and respectable. I want to be just like the rest of you

This film should be seen by every family of boys. From the positions held of the numbered siblings to the boyhood brawls, it captures the life of brothers growing up, better than any other I've seen. I, myself, was the last of my family and I felt much like Bud in this film. I still do to this day. Putting aside the relationships of the characters, the cast is a power keg of talent. Martin & Wayne were in a few films together and this one if my favorite of theirs. As a western it has one of the best shoot outs ever written. My two favorite side actors are John Doucette & George Kennedy.



Instead of listing my number one film at first, I've decided to go backwards and and post on my top film last. Now the list below may be depressing to some western fans out their, but there is a reason a few popular films may be missing. I would love to list films like High Noon (1952), The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) and others, but with all honestly I can't. This is not because I don't like them, but for the simple fact that I haven't even seen them yet.

Another film which I've also not seen is Stagecoach (1939). With all the research I have done on old films, this one continuously pops up as the number one western. Even members of the Wayne family have confessed this as their favorite film on the West. It's been said that it has all of the elements of a western and has never been matched since.

So here they are, my top ten favorite westerns:

#10: They Died with their Boots On (1941)

Though Errol Flynn was more of a romantic actor, he held his own in many an epic film. This one stands out to me more than other westerns for its historical background. When I watched it for the first time, it was like Batman Begins, I kept saying to myself, "This isn't a western." Then suddenly at the end you know whats going to happen and you just wish this once that it wouldn't.

#9: The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948)

Whoever thought that Bogart could only do romance and gangster films is proved terribly wrong in this film. Not only can he do western, he can pull off a demented soul better than most. I just happened to catch this one on TMC and was glued since the beginning. I later found it on sale for $5 at Wal-mart and snatched it up. This film is also a favorite for the fact that it stars Walter Huston. His performance in this film won him an Oscar over Bogart. Walter won the Oscar along side his son who directed the film, John Huston. This was the first ever father-son victory at the Oscars.

#8: The Searchers (1956)

This is an obvious classic of western films. The struggle and eventual triumph portrayed by Wayne is as inspiring as it is saddening. One thing that may have not been noticed by the naked eye is Ford's focus on the family. Ford, himself, grew up in a troubled home and as a film director he tried to emphasize the power that the family can have on an individual. In the begging shots of this film we see the reunion of a family after the war. At the end, the theme returns as the family is once again reunited together. What a powerful story!

#7: True Grit (1969)

Who would of thought that the only Oscar Wayne would win was when he played a fat one-eyed Marshal. Maybe since it was so different from his other characters that it took everyone by surprise. This is one of the films that I watched over and over as a kid. It took me awhile to put together the fact that the Ranger was John Campbell the singer. I feel that the remake has done a fine job of paying tribute to this film and yet kept it's own stamp of individuality. This is a true classic.

#6: The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)

Martin and Wayne where in a few westerns together and you would of never thought a team-up like this would have worked out so well. Once when Wayne appeared on Martin's show, Wayne asked if he would join him in other films. Martin quickly replied that he couldn't, since he found it difficult to read the cue cards while riding a horse. All-in-all this is a beautiful story of the aspect of each child in a family and the roles they play in life.

#5: Shane (1953)

I just watched this film for the first time last week. I found it in the $5 bin at Wal-mart. I was told by a friend of mine that this was their favorite western. I never watched it as a kid and I had thought that I had seen all there was to see about the West as portrayed by Hollywood. Man, was I in for a surprise. Shane is the perfect hero who is idealized by an honest small boy. Through the boy's eyes you see violence in its truly ugly form and the struggle Shane has to avoid it. This is a must see!

#4: El Dorado (1966)

This storyline has been done once before in Rio Bravo (1959). I like the Robert Mitchum version over the Dean Martin one. With Wayne & Mitchum as the leads this film is a very popular classic. I also enjoy the addition of James Caan. My wife couldn't believe he was the same guy in Elf. Another thing I like about this film is Mississippi's long name. With a long name myself, I find the scenes, in which he is asked to recite it, very accurate.

#3: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

This film has two of my favorite cowboys; John Wayne & Jimmy Stewart. Though Stewart is a struggling lawyer instead of sturdy gunslinger like Wayne you find the opposites entertaining. This film teaches courage and devotion. An incident surrounding this film is something I wish to mention. Stewart received his first roast from Ford during this picture, as Ford was known for his searching questions that he would then turn on his victim in front of the whole cast. In this particular moment, Stewart admitted that the character, played by Woody Strode, looked a little "Uncle Remusey." With that, Ford stopped production and announced Stewart as Anti-Negro to the cast. Wayne, who was often the brunt of such pranks, beamed from ear to ear at that moment.

#2: Big Jake (1971)

This film used to always be my favorite western. This was partly for the fact that I share the same first name as the main character. I also love the pairing of John and Pat as father and son on the screen. One of my favorite lines, comes from the scene where Pat calls him Daddy. This film also has a great historical aspect of the end to the west with the invention of the horseless carriage. The villains are treacherous and the hero is questionable, just the way I like it. All-in-all I have became even more proud of my name as I watched this film as a kid.

#1: The Big Country (1958)

The first time I watched this film, I was blown away! This film teaches so much about life in general that it has become one of my favorite inspirational films as well. Here you have the classic Gregory Peck, with his usual quite character set in the wild frontier of Texas in between an even wilder war of families. It's up to him to solve the problems in a peaceful way and yet still keep his honor. This picture also taught me a thing or two about humility & pride and what it means to be a real man. If you haven't seen this movie you must!

Well there you have it, my top ten westerns. I hope to hear from any readers out there about your favorite films of the west and I encourage you to advise me to watch ones that you've treasured.