Western Movies and Books

As does any genre, Westerns have their fans, from lukewarm to fanatic, or should I say rabid? At any rate, this is just my perspective on the genre and on my blog I’m expressing my own opinions.

Last weekend, I watched one of my favorite Westerns again. I’d mentioned it to my dad and describing it made me want to see it again. This time, though, I watched it with subtitles for the first time. My Name is Nobody is just plain silly and fun to watch. One of the interesting things about it is that the subtitles really aren’t necessary to enjoy the movie. Sure, they help fill in a few things, such as I thought Henry Fonda was a good guy, maybe a retired sheriff, and discovered instead he was a gunfighter. Little things like that. But they’re definitely not necessary to being able to follow the storyline, which is maybe why I like this movie so much.

This got me to thinking in general about Westerns.

There are very few Westerns I like. Try as i might, I can only come up with two titles. Most Westerns seem to be simple adaptions of the following algorithm:

     for * in $pointerToWesternBook do
          change $characterName
          change $horseName
          generate $randomNumber, 1, 6
          if $randomNumber > 3
               change $horseBreed
               change $horseColor
          end if
          generate $randomNumber, 1, 6
          if $randomNumber > 5
          end if
     end for
     print $newBook

I know that’s a gross simplification, but that’s just how most of the Westerns I checked out as a kid appeared to be. So for me, that’s how the majority of Westerns are written.

The two that I have really enjoyed reading are The Pony Soldiers by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Hanta Yo by Ruth Beebe Hill.

The Pony Soldiers is out of print and difficult to find. Searches for it will most likely point you to Apache Devil, also by Burroughs, but that is not the book I’m talking about. If you can find it, I recommend it. It’s a quick read.

Be warned, Hanta Yo is a big book and daunting at first glance. It’s well worth the read, IMHO, on several fronts: history, saga, and story flow, among others. Don’t be fooled by it’s physical appearance of being another War and Peace written on tissue-thin paper. It’s defintiely not like that at all and is far more readable. It also has a nice glossary in the back, at least my copy did, that helps with the various Sioux words used in the story.

As to Western movies, I honestly can’t think of anything other than the previously mentioned My Name is Nobody that I’ve ever wanted to watch again. It seems to me most recent “Westerns” such as Lone Ranger, Dead in Tombstone or the animated Rango are more movies set in the West than truly Westerns. They just don’t say “Western” to me like the old John Wayne movies, for example. Since the old John Wayne or Clint Eastwood movies don’t have the allure for me that My Name is Nobody has, I can’t help but wonder if that is because you don’t need the audio or if it means it’s the slapstick I enjoy and not the Western?

I kind of doubt that last. If that were the case, then I would be able to name a whole bunch of kung fu movies I should like simply because of that. But that’s a post for another day.


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