Archive for November 6th, 2013

josey 5

by Dean Treadway

Two renowned westerns hit American movie screens in the bicentennial summer of 1976: Don Siegel’s funereal vehicle The Shootist, starring John Wayne in his final role as J.B. Books, a famed gunslinger taking up short-term residence in Carson City, Nevada after being diagnosed with terminal cancer (of which Wayne also was suffering, and would succumb to only a short time later); and The Outlaw Josey Wales, Clint Eastwood’s second outing as a western director (after his 1973 hit, the ghostly High Plains Drifter, and nearly two decades after his establishment as a genre icon portraying Rowdy Yates in TV‘s Rawhide and–most importantly–his career-defining Man with No Name in Sergio Leone‘s 60s trilogy). Closely grouped together as they were, with Wayne’s film oozing finality and Eastwood’s heralding a character with newly-minted legend status (and with both films‘ leads being relentlessly hunted by nasty grubs looking to cash in on their heads), it’s easy to see the relationship between the two films as a sort of passing of the torch. The Shootist still feels like a more traditional oater, brightly lit and studded with roles for old Hollywood stars like James Stewart, Richard Boone, Lauren Bacall and Henry Morgan. The Outlaw Josey Wales, meanwhile, is foreboding and dark (being shot by that Prince of Darkness Bruce Surtees), while also featuring a supreme array of 70s character actors. Josey Wales also feels like it’s staking new claims on behalf of two constituents that usually didn’t get their fair due in westerns: Native Americans and women. (more…)

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