Drama · Western

The Last Film of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable

American playwright Arthur Miller once wrote a screenplay for his wife, Marilyn Monroe, called The Misfits (1961). It’s a somber, take-no-prisoners story, set in the bleak landscape surrounding Reno, Nevada. “Nevada is the Leave-It State,” explains Thelma Ritter in the film, meaning it’s the place to leave your spouse, your money and your nuclear fall-out. (Nevada… Continue reading The Last Film of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable

Fan Letter · Western

To Katharine Hepburn, from a Reluctant Admirer

Dear Katharine Hepburn: It took us (as in, yours truly) a long time to acknowledge your talent. You see, you struck us as patrician and not a little self-important. We thought your manner and accent were affected, and we didn’t feel your performances exuded warmth. (Example: The Philadelphia Story.) Admittedly, we had not seen many… Continue reading To Katharine Hepburn, from a Reluctant Admirer


The Virginian and the Unintentional Villain

Often, in Hollywood films, The Villain is a highly-motivated character. He or she knows what they want and they pursue it doggedly. For example, look at the 1946 western, The Virginian. Brian Donlevy stars as a crooked Wyoming rancher who spends his time siphoning cattle from other ranchers’ herds. Donlevy’s character isn’t a poor, desperate… Continue reading The Virginian and the Unintentional Villain


The Restored Dean Martin

In our childhood, we had disdain for Westerns. All that aimless shooting and hiding behind rocks and kicking up dust seemed, to us, the Most Boring Thing In The World. But one day we were asked to watch the 1959 Western, Rio Bravo. We felt we couldn’t refuse without causing offence, so we begrudgingly complied. We loved… Continue reading The Restored Dean Martin


Ruth Roman, Klondike Crime Boss

“Nobody ever did anything for nothing.” This is the cynical view of The Far Country, a 1954 Western starring James Stewart and Ruth Roman. It’s a Western with a twist. Instead of men driving cattle across a dusty landscape, men drive cattle across the chilly tundra. It’s also a cautionary tale about monopolies that thrive by squeezing out the little guy.… Continue reading Ruth Roman, Klondike Crime Boss

Drama · Western

A Big Country that Ain’t Big Enough

In the early 1960s, the world became uncomfortably familiar with the term “Mutual Assured Destruction” (MAD). MAD was a Cold War peace strategy that prevented countries with nuclear arms from getting too trigger happy. So Country A would think twice about launching nuclear weapons because they knew Country B would retaliate with the same amount of nuclear firepower. See? This ensured… Continue reading A Big Country that Ain’t Big Enough

Drama · Western

William Wellman and the Accusatory Close-Up

*Spoiler Alert The trouble with creating a masterpiece is sometimes people don’t automatically see it as such. One example is The Ox-Bow Incident, a 1943 western directed by William Wellman. This film was released during some of the darkest days of WWII and, as a result, it was a box office disappointment. Audiences were in no mood to… Continue reading William Wellman and the Accusatory Close-Up

Adventure · Western

A Word About Fräulein Maria

Nine years before Hollywood unleashed the world’s greatest schmaltz-fest known as The Sound of Music, German filmmakers released a biopic of the famous von Trapp family. Die Trapp-Familie (1956) is a more down-to-earth telling of the Fräulein-Maria-vs.-the-von-Trapps story. It set the basic template for the later Hollywood version, although neither film is an exact re-telling of actual events. (One could argue the… Continue reading A Word About Fräulein Maria

Comedy · Musical · Western

The Algonquin Table of the Old West

You would have a skewed view of life if you only watched musicals. For example, look at the recently-restored Rodgers and Hammerstein western-comedy musical, Oklahoma! (1955). This film is about a group of farmers and ranchers in turn-of-the-20th-century Oklahoma, who hold a box lunch social to raise money for the schoolhouse roof. This film makes it look like these… Continue reading The Algonquin Table of the Old West

Comedy · Western

Buster Keaton: Animal Rights Activist

Have you ever wondered what would happen if a herd of cattle were suddenly turned loose in a major city? Really? You’ve never wondered about that? Well, if you have pondered this, then you must see the 1925 Buster Keaton comedy-western, Go West. You’ll be delighted with a glorious scene where Keaton frees 1,000 head of cattle from a train in downtown… Continue reading Buster Keaton: Animal Rights Activist