Wednesday, July 17, 2024


Hi everyone! I'm back to talk about MORE western movies--faves, and not-so-faves. This is Part 2 of this blog series, so if you missed Part 1 last month, I hope you'll look it up and see what we were talking about in June!

Last month, we talked about The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Purgatory, The Magnificent Seven, and El Dorado--all favorites! And...the not-so-favorite, which was The Searchers.But gosh, there’s a lot more ground to cover! I know a lot of you mentioned Tombstone, with Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Michael Biehn, and Sam Elliot. What’s not to love, in this re-telling of one of the most famous gunfights that ever happened—the OK Corral. Kurt Russell is just simply wonderful as Wyatt Earp, and he and Val Kilmer have spectacular chemistry together in this movie. I don’t think there’s ever been a better Doc Holliday than Val Kilmer’s portrayal. The casting was wonderful in this movie, and though it’s a story we are already familiar with, the actors involved bring it to life in a fresh, exciting way that has stood the test of time. One of my favorites, and when I’m scrolling on TV, I cannot ever pass it up. Another favorite, though much different than most westerns, is Cowboys and Aliens. Now, some may disagree with this one, and at first, I wasn’t so sure about it, but by the end of the movie, I was loving it. Even my husband, a die-hard western fan, enjoyed this one and recorded it to watch it again. (Color me SHOCKED!) Cowboys and Aliens boasts and all-star cast including Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Adam Beach, and Olivia Wilde.

Because they do it so much better than I do, here’s the Google synopsis of the film:

Bearing a mysterious metal shackle on his wrist, an amnesiac gunslinger (Daniel Craig) wanders into a frontier town called Absolution. He quickly finds that strangers are unwelcome, and no one does anything without the approval of tyrannical Col. Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). But when Absolution faces a threat from beyond Earth, the stranger finds that he is its only hope of salvation. He unites townspeople, outlaws and Apache warriors against the alien forces in an epic battle for survival.

There is so much more to this movie, though—the development of the interpersonal relationships is one theme that, of course, can’t be allowed enough space in the synopsis to go into, but this is really worthy of watching, and in our house, watching more than once.

One of my favorites for many years is the original True Grit with John Wayne, Kim Darby, Dennis Hopper, and Glen Campbell. The original movie stays very true to the book by Charles Portis—and in my opinion, that book was a real masterpiece. I will say the same for the movie, even though Glen Campbell was not the best actor that ever graced the screen. But the other characters, and the scenery, as well as the close detail to the actual book, overcame Campbell’s (at times) wooden acting abilities.

True Grit is the story of Mattie Ross, a young teenage girl, who shoulders the responsibility of going after her father’s killer and seeing him brought in to face what he’s done. She is definitely no-nonsense and determined to see justice done.

After hired hand Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey) murders the father of 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Kim Darby), she seeks vengeance and hires U.S. Marshal "Rooster" Cogburn (John Wayne), a man of "true grit," to track Chaney into Indian Territory. As the two begin their pursuit, a Texas Ranger, La Boeuf (Glen Campbell), joins the manhunt in hopes of capturing Chaney for the murder of a Texas senator and collecting a substantial reward. The three clash on their quest of bringing to justice the same man.

My not-so-favorite candidate this week is Once Upon a Time in the West. I know, I know. It was very artsy and very well-received and highly acclaimed. But…it just went on and on and on forever. I honestly tried to watch this about three times and never could make it completely through in one sitting. It bored me to tears, and just seemed to go on forever. Stars include Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Jason Robards and Claudia Cardinale.

What’s your favorite “outside the box” western? I mentioned Cowboys & Aliens this week, and last week I talked about Purgatory. I love these kinds of stories. Anyone else got one to talk about? If not—just talk about one of your favorite westerns. And remember it doesn’t have to be famous, just one YOU liked.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

On This Day in the Old West: July 12

Fever! Before the germ theory became popular in the late 1800s, people had no idea what caused the various deadly fevers that swept through towns and cities, sometimes taking thousands of lives. On July 12, 1878, a bad bout of yellow fever began in New Orleans. It would eventually lead to the deaths of some 4,000 citizens—and would spur an effort that saw a new way of managing water and waste which would do away with much of the contagion that bred such disease.

Streets before the 20th Century were filthy places to walk. The pedestrians of a city would be confronted with offensive sights and smells, and often forced to walk through it as well. The streets of New Orleans were no exception: after the Civil War, New Orleans was one of the largest, smelliest, and deadliest cities in America. Its streets, 80% of which were still unpaved in 1880, were littered with refuse, including garbage, food waste, and both human and animal excrement. Dirty, stagnant water lay everywhere. And although the Department of Public Works was responsible for maintaining drainage, the lack of elevation in the city meant that the water had nowhere to go. Workers “cleaned” the gutters and canals by shoveling the muck into the streets—where it just washed back with the first rain.

Most big cities of this time had developed sewage systems, but New Orleans still relied on privies and gutters (even the rare indoor plumbing had to connect to a privy or gutter for disposal). Well water in the city was polluted and the city water from the New Orleans Waterworks Co. came straight from the Mississippi River. Drinking water came from cisterns. Any of these sources of water could transmit diseases such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and yellow fever. Mosquitoes, later discovered to be the actual vectors of disease transmission, found New Orleans the perfect breeding ground.

New Orleans was “a city of epidemics,” especially of yellow fever, which returned practically every year after 1825. Fever epidemics were thought to be caused by “miasma,” humid air acting on filthy, undrained soil. This led to “solutions” such as burning tar or other strong-smelling substances and shooting cannons into the air to “purify” it. Many also felt that disease was brought into the city by immigrants aboard the many ships in port, which led to strong anti-immigrant sentiment and a belief that locals were immune to the disease.

After the Civil War, the nation as a whole made great strides in sanitation but change came slowly in New Orleans. Climate and topography made improvements expensive and the public seemingly had no concern for public sanitation. One report said that “insalubrity was flatly denied, or disbelieved.” It wasn’t until the epidemic of 1978, which swept up the Mississippi River Valley as far as Memphis, that New Orleans was shocked out of its lethargy.

Upriver towns and neighboring Gulf Coast cities like Mobile barred all travel to and from New Orleans at the first hint of disease. The economic impact of quarantine finally moved the businesses of the city to take action. The Board of Health and The Howard Association, both formed to deal with earlier bouts of yellow fever, had for years been trying to educate citizens about their home city’s shameful sanitation conditions. Now, these organizations were joined by businessmen and social leaders, and changes were finally put into effect. Some large businesses (like D.H. Holmes and the Charles Hotel) built their own sewer lines to the river. Other prominent citizens created their own organizations to study the problem and recommend a solution. These didn’t last long, but one that did, the Auxiliary Sanitary Association, improved drainage canals, donated garbage barges to the city, and repaired city-owned equipment. One of its most successful efforts was a system of gutter flushing that cleaned up many New Orleans streets.

Throughout the 1880s, there were few deaths from yellow fever and people stopped voting for sanitation measures to be improved. It wasn’t until the fever struck again in 1897 that people were frightened enough to approve funds for a drainage and sewage system which would permanently clean up the city. When yellow fever broke out again in 1905, the city was armed with the new knowledge of mosquito vectors and ordered citizens to get rid of standing water and cover their cisterns. A quarantine kept people in their homes until the fever ran its course. This marked the last break-out of yellow fever on the North American continent. “America’s most plague-ridden city” had finally cleaned up its act.


J.E.S. Hays

A version of the article I used as reference was originally written by John Magill in The Historic New Orleans Collection Quarterly. It was later enhanced with new research by Emily Perkins, curatorial cataloguer. The Historic New Orleans Collection, May 12, 2020.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Western Movie Taglines Blog Series - July Movie Taglines #movietaglines #westernmovies

My 2024 blogging series, Western Movie Taglines, began in January when I explained what a tagline is and gave examples of good non-western movie taglines followed by several disappointing taglines from western movies.

In February, I shared 15 western movie taglines that were clever or witty, real groaners, or just plain silly. March through September, I will share 10 movie taglines each month. October through December will be the Top 40 Countdown of Best Western Movie Taglines.

I compiled a list of 250 westerns and their taglines. From that 250, I plucked out the best 125 to share between February and December. These 125 taglines range from good to outstanding as far as doing justice to their corresponding movies.

The Top 40 taglines are the ones that capture and sum up the heart of the movie in such a fabulous way that we're amazed at how a handful of words can be that powerful or theme-descriptive. Also in December, I will 1) share taglines I've written for two western movies and one early-settling of the American frontier movie that deserved better taglines and, 2) offer a downloadable document of the 250 movies and taglines that I compiled.

Onward to the July Western Movie Taglines—

The Broken Star (1956)
It hits like a bullet between the eyes!
The raw ripping story of the renegade Sheriff of Boce Grande…
Who murdered and plundered in the name of the law!

“Your land…Your women…Your lives…I’ll take anything I want – and if my badge doesn’t convince you, my gun will!”

Catlow (1971)
The Mexican cavalry wanted him murdered.
The Apache nation wanted him massacred.
Texas rangers wanted him mangled.
And his only hope was a Marshal, who wanted him hanged.

Centennial (1978)
It is their story.
It is your story.
It is the story of America.

Far and Away (1992)
He left behind everything he knew for the only thing he ever wanted.

What they needed was a country big enough for their dreams.

The Far Country (1955)
From Alaska’s first violent days of gold-rich glory comes the story of the stranger with a gun!

…with wilderness danger the challenge
…yellow dust the lure
…and the fanciest woman in Dawson his pleasure!

the Stranger with the Gun,
driven by restless longings,
challenging the Klondike’s snow and sin and greed,
where gold was the lure
and the fanciest woman in Dawson, his for the taking!

Grey Owl (1999)
He fought to change the world.

In Old Sacramento (1946)
Where life was short…and love was bold!

The Professionals (1966)
Rough, Tough, and Ready

Rough Night in Jericho (1967)
Their desires…their hatred...their violence exploded in one furious night!

Two Mules for Sister Sara (1969)
…the deadliest man alive…takes on a whole army with two guns and a fistful of dynamite!

Links to the previous western movie taglines by month:

See you in August with the next ten western movie taglines.

Kaye Spencer