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Best Westerns

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You would be hard pressed to find a major star from the 40's, 50's and 60's who wasn't in a western and of course the 70's were full of Clint Eastwood and his 'spaghetti westerns'. But don't dismiss them because of what you think you might know about them- they are among the best. We have a huge assortment from which to choose so let us help you narrow it down a bit--- here is a recap of some of Moe and Mel's previously blogged faves.

My absolute favourite western of all time is the wonderful series Lonesome Dove. It is based on the 1985 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Larry McMurtry. The story focuses on the relationship of several retired Texas Rangers and their adventures driving a cattle herd from Texas to Montana. It has a huge cast including Robert Duvall (who has never been better), Tommy Lee Jones, Danny Glover, Diane Lane, Robert Urich, Rick Schroeder, Angelica Houston, and Chris Cooper. It was the first in the series of the books to be put onto film, but was so successful that all the titles were done over the next several years. Return to Lonesome Dove is next, then Streets of Laredo, and finally the prequel Dead Man's Walk. The only weak one in the lot is Streets, but it is still worth a look. These are all mini-series, not movies, so you are going to have to set aside some serious watching time, but it is worth it. Even if you are not usually a fan of westerns, watch at least the original Lonesome Dove. You'll thank me for it. I think I have talked myself into watching it again- this will make the 7th time! And I may just have to reread the books as well.

High Noon---Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly trying to get away from it all on their wedding day. Well, maybe a little bit more happens.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. With two quintessential western stars- Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne. Also with perennial favourite bad guy, Lee Marvin.

McCabe and Mrs. Miller---A gambler and a prostitute become business partners in a remote Old West mining town. From 1971 and directed by the wonderful Robert Altman---starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie.

Most Westerns are really morality plays that just happen to be set in the west. None are better at exploring the dark side of man's nature than The Oxbow Incident and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The first with Henry Fonda, and the later with Bogart.

Open Range- Robert Duvall again, and also another veteran of westerns, Kevin Costner. This was filmed in the Calgary area. Speaking of Costner, check out Silverado. I know this is on tv at least twice a month, especially as it has just had its 25th anniversary, but it's a good bet with a big cast, a more than solid story, and just rollicking good fun.

And if all this is just way more serious than you want, sit down for some good laughs from the delightfully irreverent mind of Mel Brooks---yes, I am talking Blazing Saddles.

 

Pierce Brosnan in a western? Are you kidding? In Seraphim Falls, he's nothing like his charming Remington Steele or 007 personae. In fact, he's believable as a craggy former army captain on the run from a man determined to catch him at all costs. Liam Neeson plays his tormentor, and Angelica Huston makes an enigmatic cameo appearance, and why not? Her grandfather made a great cameo in another great western, Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Seraphim Falls is a sort of "To build a Fire" meets "Mantracker," and that's just the beginning of the movie. Add the pacing of "Dead Man" and the humor of Leone, and that's the essence of this story of the folly of revenge.

Dead Man

Follow William Blake (Johnny Depp) through the wilderness with a group of no goods and a native guide. He just can't catch a break in this humorous and unconventional film from one of my favorite directors: Jim Jarmusch.

Englishman's Boy

Originally a made for tv short series, this is based on Alberta author Guy Vanderhaeg's novel. If you can stomach some violence, the story is worth it. Nicholas Campbell (Da Vinci's Inquest) plays the protagonist driven by events to the edge of his tolerance and it's his best acting.

For pete's sake, if you haven't seen any of Sergio Leone's "spagetti westerns" made famous by Clint Eastwood, do so. These are westerns for people who don't like westerns...The cinematography is beautiful and atmospheric and really defined Western cinema after it.

Don't miss: Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Clint is always excellent as the quiet hand of justice (and sometimes comedy) in his encounters with the law and outlaws.

Tried to whistle the theme song didn't ya...heh heh heh

"Git" your holds on now for the Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936). It's a real tear-jerker at times, starring Spanky of Our Gang and Henry Fonda.

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