Friday, November 17, 2017

When True West Had A Resident Punk

November 17, 2017
   Doc Ingalls has a great look as an authentic Old West character and he shows up in a lot of my work, for example, right here:

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill Wagonmaster"

   Doc has also posed for some Out-There concepts as well, like this:

The Old West Has A New Look!

   Indeed, this was back in the year 2000 when we had another publication, in addition to True West, called Old West Journal. Here is an ad for it:

An ad for Old West Journal that ran in True West, July of 2000

   "Old West Journal" was the brainchild of myself and Marcus Huff. It was daring and edgy and doomed after only a couple issues. Jesse worked at Clantonville, the shabby headquarters of True West, back in the day, located on the other side of the wash from The Goatsucker Saloon in downtown Cave Creek. Here she is in our masthead:

True West Resident Punk: Jesse Adams

Gee, I wonder where she is today?

"Success is women you don't even know walking around your house."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Billy the Kid Going The Other Way

November 17, 2017
   I was getting beat up on Facebook about our proposed cover of Emilio Estevev in "Young Guns" and the real Kid. Buffs were berating Emilio's tie-down and so I called our Art Director, Dan "The Man" Harshberger, and when I told him the problem with the tie down he chortled and said, "He's got a tie down on both legs!" So, I asked him to reverse the images and take out the tie downs and here is how it looks going the other way:

Billy the Kid: Split Down The Middle"

   In addition to this, everyone is asking me about the new Billy the Kid photo that appeared in the New York Times. Is it really him? Here is my take on it:

"Rile up the natives, but Advise persons not to engage in killing."
—John Fusco

A Mesquite Tree Sunset Begets A Fools Errand

November 17, 2017
   I was sitting in the Triple B breezeway last night, enjoying a glass of Cabernet when I spied this view out the front gate. I would call this a "Mesquite Tree Sunset." By the way, the sun is setting on the opposite mountains, to the left of this and Continental Mountain, is in the east. A reflective sunset in more ways than one.

A Mesquite Tree Sunset

A Fool's Errand
   So, back to work. This morning I wanted to make a solid case for our search for the most authentic Westerns and I asked Professor Paul Andrew Hutton to write up 100 words on the accuracy of "The Alamo" (2004). Instead, he wrote this.

Western History Vs. Western Film
The Western, be it a novel or a film, always carries with it the burden of history. For much of our nation’s existence the West was the story of America. Frederick Jackson Turner, our greatest historian, wrote that the American character—and thus American exceptionalism—came from the settlement of the frontier from Jamestown to Wounded Knee. It is that history that provides the setting for every Western film: be it a historical epic like The Iron Horse, The Plainsman, They Died with Their Boots On, Broken Arrow, The Alamo, or Tombstone; a morality play such as Stagecoach, Shane, The Ox-Bow Incident, High Noon, Ride the High Country, or True Grit; or even a whimsical farce such as Destry, The Outlaws is Coming, Alias Jesse James, Sergeants Three, Blazing Saddles, or countless Gene Autry and Roy Rogers singing cowboy pictures. All are set in a seemingly mythical land and yet are grounded in a particular time and place—the American frontier.
To seek points of accuracy in the Western film is at best a delightful parlor game, and if taken too seriously it is a fool’s errand, for every movie is essentially a three act play. Once the first word of dialogue is written it is a work of fiction. Thus every Western film, just like every Western novel, is fiction, not history, entertainment not fact.  Many so-called Western documentaries, with invented dialogue, are also fiction masquerading as history. Westerns often go to great pains to be historically accurate in detail but then go off the rails in terms of story. I call this The Plainsman syndrome after one of my favorite films. In Cecil B. DeMille’s epic the wallpaper and a ceramic statue in General Custer’s office are correct (copied from a famous photo of Custer and his wife Libbie that is in the DeMille research collection at BYU), but almost everything else in the film is wildly inaccurate. DeMille even had to fight with the studio to be allowed to kill Gary Cooper’s Hickok at the end of the movie—the studio heads wanted a happy ending. In Young Guns the pistol used by Billy the Kid is accurate, and he then uses it to kill Jack Palance’s villainous Murphy at the film’s climax. This is a delightful if small accurate gun detail, a good piece of story development with the evil villains death, but some really bad history.  In Tombstone an elaborate dance of death is played out between Ringo and Holliday so that the dead outlaw can be properly laid out under a tree with an accurate head wound (a detail grasped by only a handful of viewers). The only problem is that Holliday did not kill Ringo. In the 2004 Alamo from Disney great stock is put in historical accuracy, and yet the set designer changed the scale of the set so that the famed chapel façade could be seen from most camera angles and the costume designer placed almost all the defenders in top hats and frock coats to distance the film from John Wayne’s buckskin-clad defenders in the 1960 The Alamo. It was as if every defender was a lawyer or businessman, not the farmers and frontiersmen that they actually were. Crockett is stripped of his signature coonskin cap as well. To make matters worse the Crockett character is repeatedly called David not Davy and it is even pointed out in dialogue that he prefers to be called David. In reality the famed backwoods politician was called Davy by contemporaries even though he signed his name David. In The Revenant Hugh Glass hunts down and kills the man who deserted him after the bear attack—once again a good story that satisfies the audience but totally inaccurate history. More often than not when a film claims in opening credits to be true to history it often goes wildly astray—two classic examples are Hour of the Gun and Little Big Man.
My favorite historical Westerns tend to be those that get at the heart of why we remain so fascinated with the West and why that story still resonates today. John Ford was the undisputed master of this. Thus my favorite Custer film is Fort Apache, in which the names and locale are changed but which perfectly explains the necessity of a false western legend to our national identity, and my favorite Wyatt Wyatt Earp film remains My Darling Clementine, in which almost every historical detail is wrong and yet the mythic power of the Tombstone saga is perfectly captured. These films go to the heart of James Warner Bellah’s oft-quoted line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance—“This is the West sir, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
I love historical Westerns—both films and novels. My first interest in history came about as a result of Disney’s Davy Crockett, and my fascination with the Apache Wars can be attributed to Elliott Arnold’s novel Blood Brother and the film based on it (Broken Arrow). My love of the Custer story, however, came from the famed Cassilly Adams saloon print that hung in the bar my parents frequented in San Angelo, Texas. I studied that painting for hours while they drank and when I finally saw They Died with Their Boots On I was confident that the painting and film were “correct in every detail” (a wonderful line about a history painting from John Ford’s Fort Apache). In the nineteenth century epic historical paintings toured the country, and along with Wild West shows and stage plays presented a version of frontier history for mass consumption. The conventions of these paintings and shows were later adopted by filmmakers. The cinematic image of Custer’s Last Stand comes directly from paintings (and in DeMille’s The Plainsman is essentially a living tableau of Alfred Waud’s famous Custer illustration). The visual imagery from nineteenth century canvas flowed easily into twentieth century celluloid. Be it a painting, a stage play, a novel or a film it was always a constructed version of history with often scant resemblance to fact. The goal is entertainment, not education. As a famous producer once quipped: if you want to send a message call Western Union!
The great legacy of these historical paintings, plays, novels and films about western history is that they have inspired generations of Americans—including this writer—to further explore the frontier story and to delve much deeper into our nation’s history. They are the starting point of many a lifetime of adventure in history.
—Paul Andrew Hutton

"Be careful what you ask for."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Red Sash Gang On The Set of "Tombstone"

November 16, 2017
   In June of 1993 I was fortunate enough to visit the movie set of "Tombstone" filming near Elgin, Arizona. It's near the site of other Westerns like "Red River," and Elgin is near Sonoita, which is about an hour west of the actual town of Tombstone. 

A Buckaroo all funked up to look like
an authentic photo.

   While there I photographed one of the Buckaroos who worked on the movie. This was not easy to do (see photo prohibition, below):

Buckaroo Logan Clark as one of the Red Sash Gang
on the set of "Tombstone" in June of 1993.

   I was the guest of Jeff Morey, who was the historical consultant on the film. At the time I was doing a radio show in Scottsdale and after I got off the air, I drove two hours to Tucson, where I picked up Jeff and then we drove down to Sonoita and on to the film site which is another hour and a half. We got there around two and the crew was filming the Earp party—the Vendetta Riders—attacking a remote cowboy camp. They were set up in a rugged draw.

Tombstone set photos: upper left, the cowboy camp,
top right, Jeff Morey and Thell Reed the armorer for the film, bottom, left, the set and, at right, two of the Vendetta Ride mounts with saddle pommel rifle straps.

   Here are a couple more shots I took of Logan and his mount. That is a "cowboy flag" flying above the camp. None of this sequence made it into the final film.

Buckaroo Logan Clark as one of the Red Sash Gang
on the set of "Tombstone" 

The Buckaroos were a group of mostly California guys who loved the Old West and went to great pains to gather authentic gear and weapons and clothing. Peter Sherayko, who also stars in the movie, got them the gig for $750 a week, "whether they worked or not," he said. Peter also added there were about 40 of them, and, " Most times they camped out other times they had a hotel room. They also got per diem of a couple hundred a week. Whiskey and women were their choice and there was plenty of both."

   When I was there they actually camped out on this remote site, while the stars and crew motored in each day from Tucson, where they were staying at the Holiday Inn. Living out on the land like this, the boys looked a little crusty, which also added flavor to the look of the film.

    Peter also told me that since Tombstone "we've done over a thousand shows. Films, TV, commercials, print, and stage. Most notably we had a hundred buckaroos working on "Deadwood." 

   "Many of them are independent, ie, not working for someone. Horse trainers, farriers, gunsmiths, artists, musicians, historians, saddle makers, leather workers etc. Their common interest is a love for the west and wanting to make shows historically correct. They are also horsemen and gunmen, so they know their stuff. As well as costuming. One of the reasons we created them is: when a company hires actors from central casting, they have to dress them, use a wranglers horse and a rented gun, without knowing the actor knows what he's doing. I made it easy for the production company. They get quality guys that know what they're doing for a cheaper overhaul price. For your answer, yes I created them."

—Peter Sherayko

   As soon as I walked on the set, an assistant pointed at the camera around my neck and barked, "No photos!" I raised my hands as if surrendering to the law, and shook my head. To my credit, I was good for almost the entire time I was there.

   And, of course, the photo I couldn't resist taking, was this one: 

Kevin Jarre's last set up.

   All of the above photos were taken after this one, which shows the director and writer of the screenplay, Kevin Jarre, on the right, who was even then in the process of losing his gig. After the admonition about no photos, Jeff, myself and my daughter Deena, 13, took up a position overlooking the film set.

Our view from the hillock. That's Buck Taylor, at right, on horseback.

   It was a fight scene that allegedly cost Jarre his director job, although there were other complaints about him being slow on his shot list, and other complaints.

   Anyway, it was a historic day, for me, and for the crew. After Jarre was fired, Kurt Russell allegedly directed the film with a stunt double director. The real story will appear in a forthcoming book, tentatviely titled, "Hell's Coming!!! And I'm Coming With It!": The Making of The Film Tombstone."

Film history buff John Farkis lives in Brighton, Michigan. He is the author of Not Thinkin’...Just Rememberin’: The Making of John Wayne’s The Alamo and Alamo Village: How a Texas Cattleman Brought Hollywood to the Old West. The Tombstone book is due out in Winter of 2018, just in time for the 25th anniversary. 

"It doesn't take much to get the budge on a dub like you."
—just one of the classic lines from Kevin Jarre's brilliant script

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

One Actor Shows Up In Three of Our Most Authentic Westerns

November 15, 2017
   Since we are doing authenticity in Westerns I have been rounding up all the contenders—looks like we'll have approximately two dozen films that have a major aspect of historic authenticity—and I was rather surprised that one actor appears in several of our nominated films.

   This young actor tells how he got his iconic part in "McCabe & Mrs. Miller," by showing up at the Lionsgate offices in Westwood and knocking on the door, and going inside to see Robert Altman standing there in his bathrobe (it was doubling as his apartment). The actor says, "He looked at me and he said, 'So we’re going to do this movie.' I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Did you read it?” I said, “Yeah.” “So you saw the part?” “Yeah.” “You want to play it?” “Yeah!” That was my audition! [Laughs.] But that’s Bob. That’s what he did. I mean, he perceived an essence pretty quickly, and he realized right off that the kid standing there inside his door had the right kind of innocence that would serve the role in the film. Because, you know, this is a kid who comes to town and gets shot, really, in cold blood. And it’s the dénouement of the film, and it was his way of really showing the savage, random violence that existed and was so much a part of life in that time and place."

   And, of course this same actor played Jim Younger in "The Long Riders" along with his brothers. He had this to say about acting in a movie with your brothers: "You know, when you step up and play a scene with your brothers, you can’t get away with anything. [Laughs.] They’ve known you forever! So all of that gets stripped away, and if there’s even a hint of B.S., you’re gonna get called on it. So it was a great experience in that way, and I think that the film still resonates, because there’s just something that you can’t fake about those kinds of relationships. When you see James and Stacy Keach on the screen together, they’re brothers! You see me and David and Robert, we’re brothers! You see Christopher and Nicholas Guest, or Randy and Dennis Quaid… I mean, there’s a wonderful texture to that, one that’s really unique, and I don’t think it’s been done quite as well since."

   This actor also played Buffalo Bill Cody, but perhaps his best role is of the first gunfighter:

Keith Carradine as Wild Bill Hickok in "Deadwood"

   As for his role as Wild Bill, Keith says, "What a role to have the chance to play, but especially as written by [David] Milch. It was extraordinary stuff. He wrote this kind of American Shakespeare. But I played my part for four episodes, and the rest is history!"

Keith has spent much of this month serving as the host of TCM’s month-long programming special Shane Plus A Hundred More Great Westerns, which continues through July 27. Check it out. A real, iconic Western stand up guy.

"I did the pilot episode [of Kung Fu] where I played [my brother David] at age 17. I was, in one sequence, as his character, and they obviously used that footage over and over again throughout the course of the series. [Laughs.] I would get residual checks for $30 all the way down to maybe $1.75 at one point."
—Keith Carradine

Son of A Gun: The Return of "Young Guns"

November 15, 2017
   Here's another sneak peek behind the curtain of our forthcoming Historically Accurate Westerns feature. One of our cover ideas was to take the real photo of Billy the Kid and mash it up against Emilio Estevev as the Kid, in the same pose. I remembered seeing the Emilio version in the Lincoln County Heritage Trust movie auditorium, in Lincoln, New Mexico, where they have it on the wall, framed. But when I tried to get someone there to take a photo of that picture, I hit a dead end.

   So, I went straight to the source and contacted the Man who created the whole franchise: two movies, so far, and a TV show in development (Morgan Creek is in preproduction on a series, "Young Guns," and they have 48 episodes scheduled for the shoot, so someone is serious). Anyway, John Fusco graciously had the photo reshot from an original poster in his barn and sent me a high res scan. We ended up with this Frankenstein-ish cover, which some on the staff hate, but I think it has some freakish charm:

Dan The Man's Billy the Kid Cover Mash-up

   I asked Mr. Fusco to give me the background of the film and the taking of the photograph and here is what he sent me:

By John Fusco

    When Young Guns was released in 1988, its Number One opening at the box office was tempered, for me, by a critical bashing that assumed the movie was a contrived Hollywood ploy to put the “Brat Pack on Horseback.” Nothing could have been further from the truth.
   I’ve been fairly obsessed with the historical Billy the Kid since I was a kid. It started with the famous tintype photo in a book on gunfighters; the image of Kid Antrim did not seem to square with the popular legends and the movie portrayals fueled by such myth. I wanted to know who the unvarnished Kid really was.
   Years later, soon after starting my filmmaking career, I drove the Billy the Kid Trail alone in a jeep (searching for Blazer’s Mill, etc), spending a good deal of time in Lincoln, New Mexico, quietly researching and absorbing sense of place, interviewing old-timers and spending nights holed up with 1880s newspapers and every serious text on the Kid I could find.
   When I wrote the script on spec (against the panicked advice of my agents, who claimed that the Western had been dead for 20 years), I approached it with an ample degree of imagination and liberty, but always following the historical signposts and mining the obscure nooks and crannies of true-life characters and unexplored conflict. The Murphy-Dolan faction versus John Tunstall, Irish-English conflict, attorney McSween and the Regulators—that was material I always thought was more compelling than the myth of the lone “left-handed gun” dressed in black and whistling sad ballads. 
   The fact that the young age of the Kid—and many other participants in the Lincoln Wars—lent itself to casting opportunities was just a bonus. The studio I sold the spec script to (much to the delight of my shocked agents) saw the marketing gold there, but it all started with me and a lifetime fascination with the history.
   Every young male star, from Sean Penn to Tom Cruise, wanted to saddle up for the movie. After we cast Emilio Estevez as Billy, the actor joined me for another research trip to Lincoln and an immersion period (during which he bought a mint 1881 Colt Lightning with his own cash, eschewing the prop guns). Emilio, too, became obsessed with the history.
   How that history became myth—even in the Kid’s lifetime—is dramatized some in both Young Guns I and II, and that’s something that meant a lot to me. Wherever I could get in verified quotes (“many a slip twixt the cup and the lip”) from the historical Kid, I did, weaving it into the dialogue. The day that we replicated the taking of the tintype photo, I got into a scrum with the studio. They said we were taking too long to get the tintype right. In fact, they didn’t see what the damn shot represented. For me, and Emilio, it exemplified the commitment to authenticity and those signposts; and that was a full-circle moment for me, as it was that Upham photo that started the obsession.
   If I was to write the script today, would I do it differently? I’m an 'old gun' now and value restraint and purity of authenticity a lot more. Audiences are also more demanding of historical ballast—and I greatly appreciate that. But then the strange Neo-Western that has became the iconic Young Guns would not exist, nor would the generations of fans who developed an interest in the Old West because of it.
   My proudest moment during the experience was hearing Dr. Paul Hutton reference Young Guns as one of the more historically-accurate portrayals of the Lincoln County War. That meant a ton to me.
   Recently, with the run of my Original Netflix series Marco Polo, historian John Man said something to me that I think could apply to Young Guns. Man said, "As long as you know the true history—which clearly you do—you can wring truth from the facts through dramatization that might not resonate as deeply otherwise."

"I'll make you famous."
—Emilio as Billy the Kid

Monday, November 13, 2017

Billy Tips His Hat to The Ladies

November 13, 2017
   Went home for lunch and finished a portrait that has been molding around my studio for twenty years at least (see water damage at lower left). 

Daily Whip Out: "Billy Tips His Hat to The Ladies"

"A man can't get rich if he takes proper care of his family."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Mickey Free Sees Red

November 13, 2017
   Worked on a slew of paintings over the weekend. This is one of them:   

Daily Whip Out: "Mickey Free Sees Red"

   This is about as close as I can get to the visage of the red-headed, scarred captivo who became an Apache.

   Here's another little painting I finished on Saturday:

Daily Whip Out: "Lt. Beale And The Camel Corp
Head Up Into The Cerbats"

"I worship books. They are the purest, most complete, most effective means for delivering knowledge and feeling."
—Richard Hell, former punk rocker with the Voidoids

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Inkling

November 12, 2017
   I was walking up Old Stage Road this morning with my hoodie up (55 degrees out. Brrrrrr!!!). The air was crisp and I noticed the Seven Sisters were crystal clear. (thank you cataract surgery!) I found myself doing what I often do on these daily walks, which is thanking the Universe for having another go at it all. So many of my good friends, like Elvis, have already left the building. The other thing I think about on these walks is whether I am ever going to get a clue about how to accomplish my goals. And by that, I mean:

The Inkling
   Yesterday, in a flurry of painting, I worked on a slew of different paintings, one after the other, throwing them on the floor behind me when I ran into an obstacle, or thought I had put enough wash on, then I would grab another half-finished effort from my reject pile and go again. At about four o'clock, I was so stunned by the amount of paint slung around and the multiple sheets stacked around my feet, I actually hauled them out to the breezeway and counted the pieces.

Daily Whip Outs: "38 Inklings Floored"

 Lots of dust, of course. Mickey Free is in there, as is Lt. Beale and his Camel Corp, plus Olive Oatman backgrounds for her upcoming starring role. Oh, and The Mexicali Stud, which has some resonance now with all the penises going rogue and brought to justice. I think I have a thing or to add to that conversation since I have one and have been known to use it on occasion.

   According to Webster's, an "inkling" is a "slight suspicion or vague notion" you might be on to something. As in, "I think I have an inkling on how to do a successful painting." I am also acutely aware that I don't have much time left. My partner Ken was recently bemoaning his fading physical prowess (he's in his mid-fifties) to which I responded: "You damn Baby! I'm staring down Eighty!"

"I will never be finished with it; but at some point it will be finished with me."

—David Fincher, movie director

   Of course, sometimes when we have an inkling, it's so vague as to be unimportant. Spotting the real thing has its own issues.

"A man who tells you he's no fool, has his suspicions."
—Old Vaquero Saying

   I have a distinct memory of leaving an End of Trail Art Show outside Albuquerque at four in the morning to drive home. I think this was in 2006 and I was cruising westbound along I-40 as the sun started coming up and I noticed it lit up a bank of ridges to the north as I approached Gallup, New Mexico. I kept looking over there trying to memorize the lighting effects on the tops of the ridges. When I got home I did a study of the memory, but never finished it. Until I spotted it in my reject pile yesterday:

Daily Whip Out: "Sunrise On The Res"

"Memory is like a long broken night."
—Graham Greene 

   Of course, when I say I have an inkling, it involves more than just painting good:

"It's the white stag, Fame, we're hunting." 
—Ezra Pound 

   True. But, for some reason this embarrasses me. I'm half-ashamed of "hunting fame." It seems so infantile, but it's the truth, so what else you got?

"We all want to be famous people, and the moment we want to be something we are no longer free." 

   Shit. So we are blessed if we have a passion for something and we are cursed if we try to seek it and be the best? So, are we better off just being in the present, the now?

"The now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past." 
—James Thurber 

   Oh, great. So, posting this stuff here on my blog and on social media, does it add up to anything?

"The loneliness social media aspires to repair is the loneliness of empty streets, Dairy Queens, the loneliness of high school. the loneliness of Mexican gardeners, the loneliness of lawns. The advantage of shopping online, Silicon Valley encourages us to believe is, that one need not contend with bodies, with business hours, with complete sentences. The loneliness social media aspires to repair becomes the loneliness social media creates and exports to the world as 'connection.'"

—Richard Rodriguez

   Okay, I'm depressed. Got anything else?

"A work of art should not show. It should not teach. It should just BE."
—Elia Kazan 

"Boredom—so often the mask of fear." 
—Monica Furlong 

"I have an inkling this is overkill."


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Ross Takes One From The Heart for "Shane"

November 11, 2017
   My partial list of historically accurate Westerns from yesterday, elicited some pretty strong comments from a whole lot of readers and movie lovers, but this one takes the cake:

Artist Thom Ross in his studio with Charlie Russell cutout

One From The Heart for "Shane"

   "Well, for me 'Shane' would top the Gooseberry List (I asked Thom what Western gives him the Gooseberries), and I'll tell you why....but first:

   "Schaffer's story was inspired by the Johnson County War and that comes thru very clearly (and more so, and earlier, in the movie then in the novel) asks The Great American Question of "whose land is this anyway?"

   "And, to be sure, Ryker (Emil Meyer & his men) are shown to BE bad, but not really evil (that arrives later in the slow-walk of Jack Palance's horse).

   "The very real fear that the homesteaders have towards Ryker and his men and how Ryker's men never miss an opportunity to harass the's all very real....especially the shooting of "Stonewall" Tory.  When Wilson guns poor Tory down in that muddy street it just hits POW.   That poor sap was really shot and killed by a very powerful bullet.  (When Peckinpaugh saw that he knew that the western was headed into deeper waters!)

   "But what IS interesting is that there is the scene where the family is coming back from the 4th of July dance.  Waiting at their gate is Ryker, his brother Morgan (John Dierkes) and Wilson (Jack Palalnce) and what happens next is very unusual: the director (George Stevens) allows Ryker to make a case for HIS vision of the land and he makes some good points in his favor.  This is HUGELY rare for the "bad guy" to be allowed to make an honest case for his rights as he sees them.  Maybe he really isn't all that bad......but the presence of Wilson shows just how close he is to BEING not only bad, but evil.

"Shane," 1951

   "Like several other movies the heroic gunfighter (in this case Shane) knows that his time is over....he even says so to Ryker right before the final shoot-out.  And in his last statement TO Ryker, Shane includes Ryker as a fellow anachronism.....a man who has outlived his own time in the same way that Shane has.

   "And the final gunfight itself is over very drawn out saloon shoot-em-up.  Ryker and Wilson are dispatched in a heart-beat.  Then there is that lull where Shane holsters his pistol, unaware of Morgan upstairs with the rifle.  And then in another intensely short burst of gunfire Shane dispatches Morgan.

Thom Ross with "Gunfighter"

   "And Marion, the mother/wife, is drawn to Shane in a very real human way.  When first seen she is dressed as a shirt and pants; but as the movie moves along she dresses more and more like woman....a woman almost "on the make".  As Shane gets set to ride into town to face Ryker, she even asks, "Shane, are you doing this for me?"  But when the two finally must part, she shakes his hand rather then jumping into his arms covered in tears.  It's beautiful because the love is obviously there, we don't need to see it.

   "And thru it all is Shane himself.  In the novel he is dressed EXACTLY like Wilson is!  But in the film, to avoid frightening the audience with a menacing, darkly clad Shane, he wears organic buckskins and a white hat that almost resembles a halo.....and Alan Ladd's near-angelic face......and all underscored by that great music of Victor Young.....this realistic western has myth all over it."


   "Now, on a more personal note.  I lived in Jackson (where Shane was filmed) from 1977 until 1986.  It was my adopted hometown and holds many cherished memories.  But as I have gotten older and those memories fade further and further away I now realize that I was that little boy (although I was 23 when I moved there, not 10 like Little Joey is in the film).  And then Shane enters the valley and straightens it all out before moving on. And when Shane leaves the valley I know now that it is ME, myself, now leaving the very same valley as an older, and maybe wiser, man!  So I KNOW that it is a young ME who calls out to the departing older ME....."Shane!  COME BACK!"....and I can't "come back" in any kind of permanent way anymore than Shane can. So when I watch the film now with that kind of personal interpretation to it...why, it slays me.  And though unlike Shane I have "come back" to Jackson Hole, it will never be the same.....and every time I leave it I become saddened and I guess I cry for myself.

   "So I see Shane as the movie that it was intended to be, and for the mythic qualities it has, but also, for me, as a kind of melancholy "home movie" about myself, my lost childhood, and my growing fact, the very last time we see Shane in the movie he is, indeed, riding thru the graveyard!

   "So now I am no longer able to judge these things unemotionally, "Shane" is now, far and away, my favorite western of all time and the greatest western ever made.  Chalk that one up to my heart."
—Thom Ross, artist, fellow Hat Nazi, and crazy amigo

Hat Nazi Annual Meeting, with, L to R: Rusty York,
Thom Ross and Paul Andrew Hutton.

"And you thought I was out there."