Nothing about them was true.
You don’t need the list.
I’ll say “Mistreatment of Indians” and I’ll leave it at that.
“Go West, Young Man!” You know who said that?
Someone selling land in the West.
Or some freelance phrasemaker in their gainful employ.
Still, for me, there was something about those old-time westerns, with their reliable scenarios:
Was there trouble in “The Unreal West?”
Yer dern tootin’!
There was no law west of… wherever there was law. If you were a small rancher refusing to sell, a prospector who “struck it rich” and carelessly blabbed about it, or a crusading reporter in a town rife with corruption, things were likely to go bad for you.
But when the dust finally settled,
The “Good Guys” won out, and the “Bad Guys” got shot in the hand.
And hauled off to the calaboose.
Kind of refreshing, isn’t it?
Compared to today, which feels like the chaotic middle of a western.
And we can’t seem to get to the “turn.”
Besides the comforting outcome of old westerns – plus the “thrill-packed adventure of it all –
There was an indomitable spirit in westerns, reflecting, perhaps, something actually real.
In earlier days, this land was rugged and torturously demanding. But somebody – a lot of “somebodies”, most of them unknown to history – was determined to survive.
And ultimately prevail.
And they did it.
Mixing reality and fiction – though to what degree I am entirely uncertain –
I am watching Northwest Passage, starring Spencer Tracy. Tracy plays Robert Rogers, leader of “Rogers’ Rangers”, a colonial reconnaissance adjunct to the British army during the (pre-Revolutionary) “Seven Years War.” The assignments were dangerous, their outcomes harrowingly in doubt. But listen to this. One random example of the indomitable spirit I was talking about.
Deep in “Indian Territory” and cut off by the enemy French, the Rangers are stopped at a raging river. No boats. No bridges. No way of traversing the stymying terrain.
Do they give up?
Rogers suggests the idea of forming a “Human Chain” across the river. And when he is told it’s impossible, Rogers confidently retorts,
“It may never have been done. But that does not mean it can’t be.”
“And they all drowned in the river.”
No. They constructed a “Human Chain” and they crossed it.
Despite the admitted atrocities in “Winning the West”, regular people did stuff like that.
And I say, “Hats off!”
Not meaning to trivialize by comparison, but the amount of writing required for a single season of television episodes, the stress of maintaining a standard and delivering on time… what we – and others like us – did on a weekly basis was, in its way, similarly impossible.
But it did not mean that it couldn’t be done.
Maybe the message in those westerns kind of rubbed off on me.
Just a little.
Say, Buckaroos and Buckarettes, if you’re interested in checking some of them out, here’s a list of my favorite westerns. It is not a complete list. A film I hadn’t considered appears on TV and I go, “Yeah, that too.”
But it’s a start.
My Top Ten List of Favorite Westerns: (In no particular order, after the first eight.)
My Darling Clementine
The Man From Laramie
Okay, my “Top 11” list.
My “Top 12.”
Drums Along the Mohawk
My “Top 13.” But that’s it.
She Wore A Yellow…
I said that’s it!
(Note: There are also some good ones from “after”, like Unforgiven, Wyatt Earp and The Outlaw Josie Wales. And a TV movie called Open Range. But the new ones get cynical, and I prefer “Simplistic Illusion.”)