Williams: Gun belts and bullets
One Man’s Rant
It’s no secret that I love movies and TV series set in the Old West. I was, therefore, emotionally aflutter when I discovered that our cable programming included a 24/7 Western channel.
Every movie on that channel contains a flurry of gun shots, of course. And almost all of them offer Indian war whoops and cavalry commanders shouting “Charge!” The cavalry frequently chases a few Indians across the TV screen from left to right. As frequently, large bands of Indians chase a few cavalry troopers across the TV screen in the other direction from right to left. More than a few feature a cattle drive, lots of dust and drovers encouraging everyone in the crowd to move ahead smartly with a variety of guttural noises and whistles.
There’s usually a saloon scene with a piano player tinkling out “Oh my darling Clementine.” (Don’t those people ever get tired of that tune?) And, many times, we see two cowboys attempt to face down each other. The loser is the greasy one, with sweat stains on his hat and shirt, and oh, and he’s the one with the bad teeth. Some of these altercations ignite as a result of too much testosterone over dance hall girls. Others are simply boys proving to other boys who’s faster with the gun. Oftentimes, we see all-out saloon brawls with flying fists, chairs, bottles and other assorted décor items.
To say that these Sweaty Westerns are relatively predictable would be a magnificent understatement. But none of that deters me from watching anything with six-shooters, horses and bad teeth in the script.
Once in a while, a movie appears that was made after 1963. But not often. I recently saw Victor Mature appear as an Indian. After all these years, I still can’t get images of Vic in biblical-era garments out of my head. He starred in “Samson and Delilah” in 1949 and in “The Robe” in 1953 in preparation for his dramatic portrayal of “Chief Crazy Horse” in 1955. I don’t think any of these productions gave him a decent suit of clothes.
I’ve also seen Ricardo Montalban and Charles Bronson in Indian gear. Remember Ricardo, the king of “Crushed Corinthian leather” from his Chrysler car ads? Sal Mineo even donned the loin cloth and war paint, for God’s sake! But no one was more shocking in the role of an Apache warrior than Rock Hudson who as “Taza, Son of Cochise,” lowered his voice and refused to use grammatical contractions in his authentic Indian-type dialog. I was entertained by Hudson’s performances in his movies with Doris Day; but let’s get serious, seeing him run around shirtless with a dark tan, a headband and a feather poking out of it fell somewhat short of my minimal expectations.
Another oft-witnessed star on my Western cable channel is Audie Murphy. He was an impressive individual as the most decorated soldier in World War II, but standing at 5-foot-5, it takes a healthy dose of Kool-Aid for his tough-guy roles in the movies to be convincing. In one scene, I nearly spilled my popcorn when he beat the hell out of a ruffian almost twice his size.
Another unlikely gun-totin’ hombre won me five dollars on a bet from my wife. She didn’t believe that scruffy cowpoke in “Charro!” was Elvis Presley.
Now it isn’t only the gun belts, bullets, spurs and horses that entertain me, it’s finding out who the next one will be to end up in feathers and breeches.
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