Query



Let’s say I’m thinking of writing a western.  In actual fact, I am thinking of writing a western, an idea I’ve had for a long time now, a western based on a classic work of literature.  To say more would be to give it away.

If it is not too much trouble, I would greatly appreciate hearing your favorites, and why they are your favorites.  Why do they work, why are they better than others, what do they all have in common (besides taking place in the Old West), where do they diverge, and why.

I thank you in advance for your cooperation.


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Comments

71 Responses to “Query”
  1. ayrn says:

    Absolutely love True West by Sam Shepard, not so much because it is the epitome of westerns but because of what it means to me. I spent a lot of time studying the wild west in the west, leading me to ask the question: what really IS the west of myth anymore? Freedom? Freedom from responsibility? Freedom to exercise eccentricity? Freedom to exist in knowledge of one’s own inner demons, yet somehow rise above them? I think Mr. Shepard tapped into something very visceral and instrumental to the western ethos when he wrote that play: the ability to master one’s own destiny despite one’s personal limitations when faced with an essentially limitless frontier.

    • Todd says:

      I see by the IMDb that True West has been shot twice — once as a documentation of the landmark off-Broadway production with John Malkovich and Gary Sinise and once with Bruce Willis and, um, Chad Smith, whose work remains unknown to me. But I see that he parlayed his turn as Austin into a role in Dork of the Rings, where he played “Golfer.”

  2. Anonymous says:

    In my thoughts about “The western” I find it interesting as a late 19th century link between the end of “the West” and the beginning of its narrative in cinema. You can still glimpse in some early silents that the “West” is really close by in time and space still. In that respect, I feel it took a bit of distance in time necessary for “the Western” to kick in with a kind of necessary, mythic space for its tales.

    I would only rediscover it by accident, on tv. Maybe it’s that kind of viewing that I felt “the western” the narrative has to be constructed through routing various trails, movements through a specific kind of Americana landscape.(And even if Leone uses Yugoslavia or wherever, by then it’s taking that Western mythic space into “abstract” signs anyway) I like those films where the modern, urban world is encroaching into the story of the West, (usually the railroad coming in, but not always) and the mechanism of the Western is felt – not parodied, just sensed working. For example, seriously though B-movie, the film on “Annie Oakley” with Stanwyck, or many different “Buffalo Bill” tales – great.

    The TV B-movie heritage, the cheaper productions and serials, anything from the 40s on Republic with Roy Rogers and so on, were good trainers, illustrating how “the Western” is a situational set up. The actors get shaped as soon as they are in it – wearing the cowboy clothes, riding the horses, etc.. they just become part of a larger construction that has some wonderful nuances to it’s stories, and when that happens well, its “the Western”. I think those more B than not Westerns belongs to that idea of practically being theater, it requires the set, the costume, but it isn’t a “period peice”, it’s something modern as well, and these are the conditions which get to the point it almost performs the actors and demands certain situations to occur – or at least feels like that to the viewer.

    Versus say, when an intelligent, but more so “urban” drama is just dressed up as a Western, for example, the great “High Noon” or “Shane” or even “Liberty Valance”.

    So all those B-movies version kept my TV attention and not because of B-movie hilarity, but due to how some kind of “authentic” leaks through their constructions, the sets. And not to forget, the music, which is a really important point of Westerns if one looks to the heritage.

    It’s these kind of good b-movie atmospheres which I enjoy because they know the tropes so well – cattle trail, campfire, one-street town, saloon, bank with one bank vault, sticks of dynamite, train tracks, etc… and get so well re-packaged and transported into the Modern in later Sergio Leone pics, which I appreciate as cinema, but enjoy actually not as “Westerns” as much as those earlier B-movies.

    Still, in that regard, I can state one of my favorite there is “Once upon a time in the West”, because of the combination of factors, the epic wide-angle landscape cinema, music, historical index, characters, action, and what amounts to a very, very good movie harkening to an extended B-movie.

    I mention the cinema heritage on the lower-end of a B-movie “art”, because I feel the Western is a certain combination that shouldn’t be over-reached, it does have a certain psychology that should be allowed to occur through the use of its list of elements, rather than falling completely into what becomes basically an urban, psychological picture dressed out as a Western.

    FW

    • Todd says:

      I feel it took a bit of distance in time necessary for “the Western” to kick in with a kind of necessary, mythic space for its tales.

      As Unforgiven (and Liberty Valance) make clear, the mythical status of the Old West was underway even when the Old West was still the New West. Given this blank slate of real estate, the people of the Old West seem to already be aware that they were doing something special and heightened, and there were plenty of con-men and carpetbaggers ready to exploit that sense.

      Versus say, when an intelligent, but more so “urban” drama is just dressed up as a Western, for example, the great “High Noon” or “Shane” or even “Liberty Valance”.

      Or even the Dirty Harry movies, which are westerns dressed up in a “modern, urban” setting.

      • Anonymous says:

        Westerns in modern, urban settings

        I saw Eastern Promises last night, which is also a western — dressed up in Armani and moved to London.
        –Ed.

  3. eronanke says:

    I’m not a big fan of the western, but if you want big numbers and universal appeal, it’s all about Tombstone.

    Val Kilmer is electric and catches the eye immediately, but after several views, I really do enjoy everyone in the cast, especially a fabulously fabulous appearence by Billy Zane.

    I’ve also seen Wyatt Earp, but in my opinion, it is far less exciting than Tombstone.

    I’ve seen a fair number of ‘traditional’ and Spaghetti Westerns, but none have really spoken to me.

  4. teamwak says:

    Clint Eastwood and the Dollars trilogy are a very important part of my childhood, and I still rate Good, Bad, and the Ugly as one of my all time favourites. Leone was genius with his use of music and close-ups. They are stunning to watch; but each has a heart in there. In Fistful the scene at the end where the mexican family asks why did he do it, and he says he knew a family like them before; is amazing. In Few Dollars More it is the shoot-out with the watch timing the music. And in Ugly I think the whole Civil War part, with the bridge and the dying captain is heartbreaking.

    As a kid I never read comic books, but I thought The Man With No Name was almost a mythic superhero. His accuracy is certainly supernatural. Just about one of my all time favourite movie anythings is the end of GB&U from when Tuco (has Eli Wallach ever been better?) finds the graveyard with the gold. The music (The Extascy of Gold) plays as he runs aroun looking for the grave of Arch Stanton. Of course this scene ends with the three way shootout in the centre. *spoilers* Eastwoods shooting, as he first shoots Lee Van Cleef into the open grave, then his gun, follwed by his hat – all without breaking a step makes me cheer everytime! Supernatural accuracy! lol

    Forgive the long waffle but I forgot how much I love those films until I stated thinking about it.

    So all Eastwood, for sure. Unforgiven is a masterpiece, with the whole ending being amazing. Jossie Whales and Pale Rider have mood by the bucketfull.

    Non Eastwood, I thought High Noon and The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance are amazing. I suppose a theme is a grade A bad bastard baddie getting his comeupance. Always loved Tombstone too.

  5. rxgreene says:

    Deadwood brought an elegance of action and speech to the west. These were people carving out a niche, with their knives, guns and wits. There is an underlying desperation that drives each character, forcing them down the path they live.

    Better writers and thinkers than I have spoken for The Searchers.

    Destry Rides Again has Jimmy Stewart as a sheriff who would rather talk than shoot, and playing to his strength instead of relying on his guns helps him win the day.

    Tombstone is, sadly, the most “chick flick” of the westerns I love, and still thrives. Kurt Russell just wants a quiet life. He moved to the wrong town. The rage and the joy he shows when he delivers his threat at the train station give me goosebumps every time I see it.

    South of Heaven, West of Hell is slow. Glacial even. This movie should be shorter, but it still works, right down to the end fight between Vaughn and Yokum.

    The commonality to all these is that in spite of the main characters ability to walk away, being told to stop, they continue on their chosen path. Because it must be done, and they are the people to do it. Their frieds, family ask and beg them to stop – They will not and cannot.

    THEY MUST DO THIS.

    Sometimes with subtlety (Destry) others with guns blazing (Earp.) All must act. All cannot help but act. The differences are in how they reach their goals.

    I hope that helps.

    • Todd says:

      THEY MUST DO THIS.

      I saw the remake of 3:10 to Yuma last night. It’s wonderful, but it is said it would give Elmore Leonard conniptions (he wrote the story both versions are based on). Apparently in his short story, no one’s motivations are ever explained, men just do what they do and never talk about anything. The characters in the new movie jabber all the time, artfully so but still, about what they need and who they are and where they’re going and what they plan to do when they get there.

      • rxgreene says:

        I caught the original, Glenn ford was excellent in that. He just keeps talking; relaxed, friendly even, in the face of what is coming.

        I didn’t know if I wanted to see the new one, as the original set ups and payoffs were so elegantly played out. Given your description, I’ll have to check it out.

        I have noticed a trend towards wordiness where acting used to be – explaining that you are baking a pie instead of just baking the darned thing.

        I’ll have to look up that original short story – Leonard has a very clean, clear cut writing style.

  6. craigjclark says:

    I have quite a few favorites and most of them have the same thing in common: they are depictions of the death of the Old West. Some of them are allegorical (like Don Siegel’s The Shootist), some are existential (like Monte Hellman’s The Shooting), some are revisionist (like Arthur Penn’s The Missouri Breaks, which contains one of the earliest “crazy Brando” performances on record) and some are just plain apocalyptic (like Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch).

    Sergio Leone’s westerns exist in a class all by themselves, so I would remiss if I didn’t mention the Dollars trilogy (especially The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) and Once Upon a Time in the West. Sometimes it takes an outsider’s perspective to shed light on a subject and Leone’s take on the most American on genres is undeniably astute.

    If you want to see some unusual westerns, you should check out Sam Fuller’s Forty Guns, Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar and Fritz Lang’s Rancho Notorious, a trio of films with female protagonists (Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford and Marlene Dietrich, respectively) that all came out within a few years of each other. There aren’t too many westerns with strong female characters, so they might make for instructive viewing.

    There are other examples, some of which are blindingly obvious, but I don’t want to overwhelm you right off the bat.

    • teamwak says:

      I take it Blazin Saddles, and Madaline Khan singing “Tired! Tired of being desired!” slipped your memory>? 😉

      [Lili Von Schtupp offers Bart a gigantic sausage]
      Lili Von Shtupp: Would you like another schnitzengruben?
      Bart: No, thank you. Fifteen is my limit on schnitzengruben.
      Lili Von Shtupp: Well how about a little…
      [whispers in his ear]
      Bart: [shocked] Baby. I’m not from Havana.

    • Todd says:

      Of course, you are aware that Dollars was a remake of Yojimbo, which was Kurosawa’s tribute to John Ford. So Leone came the long way around the barn to make a western.

      • craigjclark says:

        Yojimbo was also an uncredited adaptation of the Dashiell Hammett detective novel Red Harvest, which means its story has been put through a veritable ringer over the years.

        • Todd says:

          That would explain the 30s update it was given in Walter Hill’s Last Man Standing.

          • craigjclark says:

            Indeed, it would. And Red Harvest was also the inspiration for the Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing.

            • Todd says:

              Hammett is the guy people keep forgetting is the basis of many Coen movies. And Cain, with his “civilians getting caught up in criminal enterprises” approach.

              • craigjclark says:

                As far as I can tell, just about every Coen Brothers film has a criminal act at its root, whether it be murder, kidnapping or fraud — and sometimes it’s all three. The only exception I can think of is The Hudsucker Proxy.

                • Todd says:

                  But Hudsucker does have an example of fraud at its center — corporate fraud. The board of Hudsucker puts Norville in charge of the company in order to perpetrate fraud on the stockholders.

                  Of course, “criminal act, murder, kidnapping or fraud” all fall under the cover of “deception,” and deception is the key to any dramatic conceit. As one dramatist wrote, a drama begins with a deception and when the deception is revealed the drama is complete.

  7. tamburlaine says:

    It’s not a film, but the show “Deadwood” was probably the greatest television I have ever seen in my life. I wish I could tell you I was exaggerating, but everything about it was perfect. Milch’s writing and McShane’s acting went together so well it blew my mind. It was Shakespeare in the Old West.

    Maybe that’s not the answer you’re looking for, but it may be worth it to watch the DVDs, if for no other reason but to see how terrific it is.

    • Todd says:

      Oh believe me, I am knee-deep in Deadwood at the moment, and yes, it is truly great television. I will probably be writing more about this great, landmark show at some point in the future.

      • tamburlaine says:

        I look forward to reading what you have to say, and replying (over)zealously… as usual. (For better or for worse?)

        And while you’re working on watching excellent TV shows, make sure you don’t pass up Arrested Development (duh!) and The Prisoner!

        Oh, and here’s a suggestion a little off the beaten path. One of my favorite movies is one that came out of Bollywood, but it is without a doubt a “Western,” and designed to be a kind of tribute/analogue to the Spaghetti Westerns being produced by Hollywood at the time. (It was called a “Curry Western”, hah.) It’s an excellent movie and something you should definitely put on your list: “Sholay”.

      • smithereen says:

        Oh, I hope you do write about Deadwood! I just watched the series this summer, and I would love to see you dig into the show.

        P.S. I loved Deadwood so much I’ve been trying to give Westerns another try as a genre (it’s never been a genre I was drawn to in the past) so this post is coming in very handy for me as a recs list. Thanks!

  8. dougo says:

    Is it Moby Dick? It’s Moby Dick, right?

  9. nom_de_grr says:

    I’m a big fan of The Outlaw Jesse Wales. Can’t talk now, but I’ll post a little more later.

    • Todd says:

      I assume you’re thinking of The Outlaw Josie Wales. It is one of my favorites as well, the first Eastwood movie that made me realize what a great director he is.

  10. memento_mori says:

    Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior is my favorite western. Even though it’s not really a western. But it kinda is! Not enough car chases in westerns…

  11. chadu says:

    (in no order)

    Silverado: Wonderful recapitulation of old-school Westerns, with kickass characters, script, and performances.

    Rooster Cogburn: John Wayne in an eyepatch and the goddess Kate.

    Pale Rider: Mysticism.

    Hang ‘Em High: Mysticism and revenge.

    Tombstone: Cool-ass dialogue and Val Kilmer.

    High Plains Drifter: Surrealness and revenge.

    The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The characters BURN on the screen.

    Dead Man: Depp. Dark humor.

    Stagecoach: Constrained circumstances.

    The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: Jimmy and Johnny. The good man balanced against the bad man.

    The Cheynne Social Club: Funny, sexy enough, banter between Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart is classic, finding courage, Shirley Jones as a madam.

    The Shootist: John Wayne’s best performance, hard times and facing certain death.

    Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: Kickass script, performances, humor.

    Warlock: great book, incredible cast, incredible performances.

    Unforgiven: Hard times, desperate men, and revenge.

    (Six-String Samurai): Insanity, violence and humor.

    (El Mariachi + Desperado): Insanity, violence and humor.

    I’m sure there are others, but that’s the quick picks.

    CU

    • Todd says:

      Warlock is a western?

        • Todd says:

          Wow, Richard Widmark just won’t leave me alone. Just in the past few weeks I’ve watched Pickup on South Street and Panic in the Streets — Mr. Big Forehead And Dead Fish Eyes is busily asserting himself as a force to be reckoned with.

          • chadu says:

            Yes, Oakley Hall’s Warlock.

            The book is notable for being one of Richard Farina and Thomas Pynchon’s faves at college.

            Is awesome.

            CU

          • craigjclark says:

            You never said, so what did you think of Panic in the Streets? And if you haven’t overdosed on Widmark yet, I’d say Jules Dassin’s Night and the City (while not a western) is pretty much essential viewing.

            • Todd says:

              I thought Panic in the Streets was wonderful, if not quite as epic as the title indicates — honestly, if you’re going to title a movie Panic in the Streets, I think there has to be a least one scene of actual panic in an actual street.

              The weird thing was the personal stuff between Widmark, his wife and son. He feels like a loser because of his low-paying government job, aches to take the short-end money for a cushy position somewhere, is afraid he’s losing his boy’s heart to the smoothie who lives across the street, all that stuff I found really affecting, even though it cut into the tension of the “got to find the killer” narrative.

              Anyway, it’s a crackerjack idea for a movie, mixing noir and medical drama, and seemed like it would make for a great season of 24, with terrorists standing in for gangsters.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Westerns

    My favorite is Red River. I’ve only seen it once, more than 20 years ago, so I can’t go into a lot of depth. The big things that stick with me: its expansiveness (it’s long, unfolds in many different landscapes, gives you a sense of time and the passing of seasons); the relationship, with a strangely sexual undercurrent, between John Wayne and Montgomery Clift’s characters; the music, which I think is crucial to Westerns, but that’s a discussion in itself; the way it was shot (black-and-white, with framing that reminded me of glass-plate photos by Sullivan and other early photographers of the American West); the sense of impending loss (of a way of life, of the land). The performances are amazing, particularly Wayne’s, since usually I’d rather watch a block of wood. When the screening I went to was over, I didn’t want it to end and almost stayed for a second show. I also remember crying, though now I couldn’t tell you why I found it so moving, since I don’t remember the details of the story very well at all.

    I see Westerns falling into two very old archetypes: the quest (like Red River) and the threatened community (High Noon, Shane).

    In the quest, the protagonist (often as part of a group) goes on a long journey, either to obtain something or get rid of something (and therefore obtain something more important) and is utterly transformed by the experience. This is not necessarily a happy outcome, but a necessary one. In Red River, the quest is a cattle drive: The cowboys have to move a huge herd of longhorns down from Montana (I think) to St. Louis (I think), and it’s their last chance. John Wayne’s world is about to end — if he doesn’t sell this herd, he’s out of business and he loses the only life he knows how to live. Montgomery Clift, who is sort of his foster son, has to grow up, although I think he’s already a veteran of the Civil War, and you’d think that would be enough growing up for anyone. Anyway, his underlying journey, as in most quest tales, is to become a man in some fuller sense.

    In the other archetype, probably more common in Westerns, a community (a family, a frontier town, a military outpost) is threatened by a malign outside force (a bad man, a group of bandits, marauding Indians). The protagonist, generally a reluctant hero who has to be dragooned into taking up the mantle (or tin star or gun) of heroic status, despite his obvious “hero” characteristics, also comes from outside this community, even if he actually lives there. He’s a loner. Sometimes the community doesn’t seem like much of a community or anything worth saving, until the hero essentially turns it into one. The Unforgiven, which I know is very uncool to love — but I do anyway — is the best modern example of this I can think of.

    The issue of how women fit (and don’t) in Westerns is a whole other subject…

    Also, I see you posted a still from Dead Man — I loved that one, too.

    –Ed.

    • Todd says:

      Re: Westerns

      John Wayne is a great actor, full of a hell of a lot more technique than anybody would give him credit for and, in the early part of his career anyway, a lot more androgynous than most men would care to admit. He is so beautiful and, let’s face it, sexy in Stagecoach that when you see his first big close-up as Johnny Ringo (pictured above) you can still hear, 70 years later, a nation of women swooning and their dates feeling very confused and excited.

      By The Unforgiven I assume you’re talking about Eastwood’s Unforgiven (without the article). In what bizare alternate universe is it uncool to love this this masterpiece?

      • Anonymous says:

        Unforgive me!

        Oh, I always add the article — don’t know why.
        And I guess I just live in a bizarre alternate universe.
        –Ed.

  13. medox says:

    Trigun

    A 26 episode anime about violence, love, and personal morality — the perfect Western mix.

    Plus it has a priest/assassin who carrying his arsenal in a giant cross he wears across his back.

      • medox says:

        Oh definitely. But also sad and beautiful sometimes as well. (Okay, I admit it, I cried on several separate occasions because of this show. Damn my capacity to feel!)

      • gdh says:

        Trigun is surprisingly good for a popular anime, though it still falls prey to a lot of the worst tropes of the medium (cheapo animation, cheesy super-weapons, abominable voice acting for secondary characters). And I didn’t like the ending. There’s a penultimate confrontation about 3 or 4 episodes from the end that’s just beautifully done, and then the actual ending falls flat in comparison. It doesn’t help that the “main” villain is overshadowed, out-sinistered and generally out-done by nearly every other villain you meet before him. Add a vague and unsatisfying story resolution on top of that, and you come away from the last episode feeling rather disappointed.

        If you want something similarly bizarre and unusual with a lot of Western inspiration, I’d suggest checking out Garth Ennis’s epic comic book graphic novel series PREACHER. It’s about Jesse Custer, a Texan ex-preacher with a messed-up past who’s on a mission to find and kill God with his ex-girlfriend Tulip and an Irish immigrant vampire named Cassidy. Jesse’s conscience/spiritual guide appears to him from time to time as a hallucination of John Wayne.

  14. Anonymous says:

    One Western, One Eastern and One Sci-Fi

    I might have missed it, but I can’t believe anyone’s mentioned “The Magnificent Seven”!! It’s is by far my all time favourite western, if not movie! It has action, drama, romance, heroism in the face of overwhelming odds, and better yet, redemption. It is a cinematic masterpiece, beautifully shot, with a wonderful score that compliments the footage at every turn.

    The cast are second to none, working well together. Even the rivalry between Brynner and McQueen added to the characters an edge that would prove impossible to simply act.

    And as members of the seven began to die, everyone became a target. Unlike most movies, we weren’t guaranteed that all the heroes were going to make it to the end. Watching this as a boy with my father for the first time is still a powerful memory for me. I guess it also goeas some way to explaining why no other western I’ve seen comes close to beating it.

    Similarly, I’ve since seenthe original, Seven Samurai, which is also a powerful piece of cinema! Worth watching if you’re reseaching this area, though to be honest, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen both. Few remakes/homages follow the original this closely!!

    Finally, a bit different, but the series Firefly is an increadible example of a western with a twist. It even has an episode dedicated to a train-job! It has horses, leather, pistols, rifles, and “injuns”, though they’re called “reavers”. The movie moved a bit away from the western roots, but the series is 100% pure western fun!!

    Denis.
    Also throwing in his votes for Deadwood, Brisco County Jr., and Young Guns, and quickly loosing credibility!!

    • Todd says:

      Re: One Western, One Eastern and One Sci-Fi

      I have indeed seen Seven Samurai many times and write about it here.

    • craigjclark says:

      Re: One Western, One Eastern and One Sci-Fi

      When you wrote “One Sci-Fi,” I thought you were referring to Battle Beyond the Stars, which is the space opera version of Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven. I haven’t seen it myself, but I know that Robert Vaughn pretty much plays the same role as he did in the earlier film.

  15. Anonymous says:

    The phrase “a western based on a classic work of literature” makes me nervous. Only because I sorta did the same things a while back, plus registered it and all. Of course, an LA bozo that read it accused me of ripping off “Apocalypse Now.” But I’m certain your script will have many more layers than mine possibly could.

    Mack Lewis
    pezmonkey@gmail.com

  16. curt_holman says:

    Ride the High Country

    My favorites probably inlcude McCabe and Mrs. Miller (which could be a prequel to HBO’s “Deadwood”), Stagecoach, High Noon, The Wild Bunch and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

    But the one that sticks out in my memory as the archetypal “Old School” Western, as opposed to a revisionist one like Unforgiven or “Deadwood” (or even Little Big Man) is Ride the Hide Country, which I strongly recommend. I’d have to see it again to be able to articulate its virtues, but I remember it as being something of an elegy for the Old West, not a condemnation of it.

  17. toliverchap says:

    subgenres

    Well, I think you have to decide if you are making a Western OR a revisionist Western? Is this story about an Unforgiven anti-hero type OR some lawman from the Establishment? OR an accountant wandering around the Pacific Northwest. I personally liked Deadman and Once Upon a Time in the West. I haven’t seen The Wildbunch but I hear it’s a good one. I did not like The Proposition and I wasn’t as impressed with Unforgiven as everone else seemed to be.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I’m surprised no one has yet mentioned (that I could see) Ghosts of Mars.

    Oh wait, I’m not surprised, most everyone hates that movie.

    Not me, though. I love John Carpenter.

    –Kent M. Beeson

  19. dougo says:

    I was thinking Hamlet would work pretty well, but apparently it’s already been done.

    • Todd says:

      Sometimes it feels like Hamlet has been staged as everything but a medieval revenge tragedy.

      • dougo says:

        That’s so three-centuries-ago.

        • Anonymous says:

          If it helps…

          My thoughts on westerns, very vague as they may be:

          1 – My favorite film of all time is a western
          2 – I’m not into westerns that much, most of them I find silly
          3 – My favorite film of all time is a western only on the face of it. Actually, it’s a gritty character study/drama.

          3:10 to Yuma – while the concept of it seems to have some potential, it is executed ridiculously. Don’t write something like that.

          Dancing With Wolves – I remember almost nothing about it except being extremely long and pretentious. Enough said.

          The Quick & the Dead – I remember EXACTLY nothing about it. Enough said.

          The Assassination of Jesse James. Now we’re getting into something. Could’ve been a real masterpiece, if only it wasn’t filled with so many damn boring (and let’s face it, surplus) parts. Otherwise, it very well delivers an elegiac tone. But it’s flawed, too, big time. The biggest mistake – who the heck IS Jesse James? I mean, for us, non-Americans, his name tells absolutely NOTHING. Suddenly, we’re forced to believe this man is some kind of an ICON. But WHY? What in the script proves that? NOTHING. Not only I found myself sympathetic entirely to Casey Affleck’s character, but I also found his acting at least 10 times more convincing than Pitt’s.

          Unforgiven – if you haven’t already guessed, this is the best film I’ve ever seen. I wish I had your skills to explain what is it that made it so… well, unforgettable. But I can’t. besides, my English sucks. I will only say this – I remember the day I saw it, as if it was yesterday. It was 1993, last year in high-school. I saw it with two friends at one of the biggest screens in my country. After we went out of the theater, I felt (literally) as if I had been hit with a hammer. My friends looked exactly the same. One of them said slowly: “This is by far the best western I’ve EVER seen”. I replied, “This is by far the best MOVIE I’ve EVER seen”. I said that, but what I was actually thinking, was, “I wanna make movies, that’s what I wanna do with my life”.

          So – unless it’s something direct-to-DVD/Cable, please, make one like Unforgiven.

          – Dob

          • Todd says:

            Re: If it helps…

            It will not surprise you to learn that the success of Unforgiven lies chiefly in the solid, flawless screenplay. Which was then well-directed by Mr. Eastwood, of course. Certainly Eastwood’s best western, although I’m also a big fan of Pale Rider and Outlaw Josey Wales.

            • Anonymous says:

              Re: If it helps…

              Allow me to disagree.
              I like ‘Pale Rider’ too, but it’s only a western as opposed to ‘Unforgiven’, which in my book is a pure drama disguised as a western.
              As for ‘Outlaw Josey Wales’ – I have it on DVD and for some reason I’m yet to watch it.
              Now the ‘disagreeing’ part – while I think Unforgiven’s script is one of genius, I deeply doubt someone else besides Eastwood could’ve translated it to screen in such remarkable way. I would call his directing minimalistic. Simple. Brilliant. Less is more. Etc.
              And I know for sure that if it wasn’t for Eastwood, the script would’ve died a slow death at Warner’s archives. (It was lying there for a decade).
              I also forgot to mention in my previous post something that occurred to me while watching A History Of Violence the other day. It’s a PURE western. Just extract its storyline from it and put it in a Western setting. It would work amazingly. The theme would work as well. In fact, it would make on hell of a western.

              • Anonymous says:

                Re: If it helps…

                the previous was from me again
                – Dob

              • Todd says:

                Re: If it helps…

                You are misinformed about the Unforgiven script — Eastwood bought it immediately after the writer sold it and didn’t shoot it for ten years, waiting for himself to become old enough to play the role.

                I agree that Eastwood can be a wonderful, elegant director, and his direction of Unforgiven is indeed all the things you say, but I am of the belief that the script would have worked under many different directorial styles. And I’m sure Eastwood would agree with me on this.

                • Anonymous says:

                  Re: If it helps…

                  Todd,

                  you’re probably right about David People’s script. I was just saying what I’ve read on the Internet (a la ’20 years it took for the script to get made’).

                  Anyway, all of this doesn’t really matter. Whether or not you’re working right now on your western, I wish you to write a truly memorable piece. I’m usually not big on THEME but this line happens to not only summarize UNFORGIVEN’s main theme but also represents its most memorable line of dialogue:

                  Little Bill Daggett: I don’t deserve this – to die like this. I was building a house.
                  Will Munny: Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.

                  Hope you’ll write something as good as this.

                  – Dob