Steve Eighinger

What happened to all of the westerns?

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 12, 2019 10:10 am

Maybe it's another sign of old age, I'm not sure.

What I am sure of, however, is that I miss Westerns. I'm not sure when the decline of this movie and TV genre actually started, but my odds of seeing a new Western movie or TV program anytime soon is about the same as the Cleveland Indians winning the 2019 World Series.

Growing up, there was a plethora of Western-themed programs on network TV each week, ranging from "Sugarfoot" to "Cheyenne" to "Rawhide." (For the astute cowboy fan, I'm sure you remember that a very, very young Clint Eastwood was one of the "Rawhide" regulars.)

Movie theaters also rolled out one Western after another in the 1960s and 1970s. John Wayne was still going strong and Eastwood was on the cusp of creating his own legend with the arrival of those "spaghetti Westerns" like "The Good, Bad and the Ugly" that were filmed in Italy.

As I have grown older, the Western dominance of the movie theaters has been replaced by the tsunami of superhero films. Is it just me, or does a new superhero appear at the box office about every other week. Who's up next? Batman, Ant-Man or Spiderman?

I have nothing against Batman, Ant-Man or Spiderman, but every so often I find myself longing for Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

I realize my cinematic thoughts, wishes and desires are outdated, but that does not stop my yearning for a new-age Lone Ranger and Tonto.

With that in mind, here are my 10 favorite Western movies, which I hope to see at least another 10 times each before I'm called to that big OK Corral in the sky:

1. "They Died with Their Boots On" (1941): Friends of mine know how much I enjoy the old Errol Flynn movies, and this might be the best of them all. Sure, there are plenty of holes in his portrayal of Gen. George Armstrong Custer, but what action, what music and what a sad, sad ending. I know what's coming every time and still need to grab a tissue.

2. "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969): "Think ya used enough dynamite there, Butch?" Arguably the most classic line from a classic film.

3. "The Outlaw Josey Wales" (1976): This film was actually based on the true story of a man named Bill Wilson.

4. All other Clint Eastwood Westerns: Seriously, I could watch his films all day, every day.

5. All other Errol Flynn Westerns: "Dodge City," "San Antonio" and "Santa Fe" lead the way, in all their black-and-whiter glory.

6. "Rio Lobo" (1970): A John Wayne classic, and the final film directed by the legendary Howard Hawks.

7. "Rio Bravo" (1959): Also a Howard Hawks film, this one with an incredible cast of John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, John Russell and Claude Akins.

8. "The Wild Bunch" (1969): Called a revisionist Western because it was set in 1913, when the Old West was giving way to the New West. Action aplenty and a powerhouse cast led by William Holden.

9. "Stagecoach" (1939): A young John Wayne is quite enjoyable. The 1986 remake was pretty good, too.

10. "The Alamo" (1960): John Wayne as Davy Crockett, Richard Widmark as Jim Bowie and Richard Boone as Sam Houston just three of the heavyweights in this epic Western.