Saturday, January 23, 2021

Land-Locked Pirates In The Sierra Madre

 November 25, 2021

   Just watched "News of The World." Disappointing. One of the main problems with current Westerns is they look too drab. Everyone looks like they are fresh out of a homeless shelter and all the interiors are underlit and shabby. Some of this is authentic, of course, but it has been taken too far, in my estimation. The one exception to the rule is "Tombstone" (1993) which—thanks to Kevin Jarre listening to the advice of Jeff Morey—portrayed the Cowboys as "land-locked pirates." Thus, Curly Bill (Powers Boothe at his very best) shined. Big. Time. 

   And, by contrast, one of the reasons "Wyatt Earp" is inferior is because the same said Cowboys are dressed in the traditional browns and grays, supposedly because Kevin Costner had been upstaged by The Sherrif of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" (1991) and he didn't want a repeat. 

   Anyway, here's another angle into the pirate analogy:

Daily Whip Out:

"Land-Locked Pirates In The Sierra Madre"

(With apologies to Ed Mell for the canyon poach)


   There's something here to be inspired about: flashy serapes, big old spurs, flapping sombreros, bigger-than-life characterizations. Call it pirate flair. Something creative at least. The last thing Westerns need right now, is to look tired and old. Lean on the flair, add a pinch of Steam Punk, anything to give it new life. You can still have the settlements out in the sticks looking bedraggled, but have some contrast, on the train, in the depot, at the opera. As it is now, everything is too one-note.

   Someone asked me what I think of "Yellowstone" and here is my take on it. Bonanza meets Dallas meets The Godfather.

  Speaking of Tombstone, thanks to Jeff Morey, the historical consultant on the film I got to visit the set on June 9, 1993. What I saw impressed me: great hats and costuming (the best I have ever seen) all chosen by Kevin Jarre.

   Kevin Jarre's script is the best Wyatt Earp script in terms of historical references (virtually every scene has a historical reference). The script is also the most erudite Western ever, channeling the bible, Shakespeare, latin and Stephen-Stinking-Foster. The script also shows how gray the lines were between the cowboys and the Earps. For example, in one scene, Wyatt rides into the cowboy's camp looking for his stolen horse. This is taken right from the historical record. Earp did, in fact, have a horse stolen by Billy Clanton and Wyatt rode to Charleston looking for it, ran into the young Clanton who basically told the gambler he hoped he had more horses to steal. In Jarre's script, he has Earp saying to Billy Clanton (Thomas Hayden Church) "Look kid, I know what it's like, I was a kid, too. Even stole a horse once."

   This is also straight from the historical record where a young Wyatt was arrested for stealing a horse and he jumped bail. In Kevin Costner's three-hour-long opus Wyatt Earp Costner takes 20 minutes to tell this story and Jarre nailed the entire back story in one line of dialogue!

   At the end of this sequence, Curly Bill (Powers Booth) arrives and commands Billy to give back Earp's horse. The outlaw leader and Wyatt then ride off together and have a conversation where Earp asks Curly to go easy on Tombstone because his brother Virgil is now the City Marshal. After some bantering, Curly Bill says, "We're gonna get along fine." None of this made it into the final film.

   Thus endeth my notes.

"The more things change, the more they remain the same."

—Old Vaquero Saying


  1. Anonymous8:09 PM

    Remember though, as Sheriff John Behan pointed out: "Have you seen how everyone dresses? Awful toney for a mining town". Tombstone 1881 was very prosperous with the silver mines and they would dress nicer and flashier. Texas after the Civil War? Not so much.

  2. Justin Bell11:54 PM

    Enjoy your blog and sure do wish they made better westerns these days. I just finished watching the sisters brothers and thought it was actually pretty good. Have you caught that one? Take care, Justin Bell


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