Monday, January 16, 2012

Texas (the movie)

Texas, a 1941 black and white Columbia Pictures production, stars 23-year-old William Holden and 25-year-old Glenn Ford as two appealing friends who experience a series of escapades before settling into roles on different sides of the law.  Claire Trevor stars as the love interest of both men.  Edgar Buchanan plays a dentist, and the manner in which he practices his profession makes me very glad I live in the 21st century!

The plot of Texas involves how to move cattle from there to Kansas without them being intercepted by rustlers; a crawler at the beginning of the movie sets the scene as Abilene in 1866, which is where Danny and Todd, the characters played by Holden and Ford, respectively, first appear.  Similarities to ASJ abound:  After the opening credits, there’s a scene in which a man says, “A little previous, ain’t ya?”, echoing almost word for word the same question asked by the station agent (Robert B. Williams) in Return to Devil’s Hole.

When Danny and Todd can’t afford to pay a court fine, a respectable citizen of Abilene offers to pay it for them, just as Amy Martin (Shirley Knight in The Ten Days that Shook Kid Curry) does in Ashford. There is a boxing match between Danny and a professional boxer, which bears little resemblance to the fight between Kid and Jim Stokely (Monte Markham in Something to Get Hung About).

Then, reversing the sequence of events in The Ten Days that Shook Kid Curry, when Danny and Todd are subsequently being chased by a posse, they decide to separate and meet up later, just as Heyes and Curry do.  At one point in the second half of the movie, the dentist sings Buffalo Gals and the boys sing along, reminding me of Michelle Monet (Claudine Longet in Journey from San Juan) except that in Texas, the singing by Edgar Buchanan was actually fun to watch and hear.

The relationship between the two main characters reminded me of the bond between Heyes and Curry but the chemistry that was evident between Pete Duel and Ben Murphy was not so noticeable in this film and the banter was not as sharp.  Nevertheless, Texas was a very enjoyable ninety-three minute film.

Pete Seeger sings Buffalo Gals:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Outlaw Tales of Wyoming

What better way to celebrate the New Year than to review a book about Wyoming outlaws?  Alas, even though Charles Morgan (played by Peter Breck in The Great Shell Game), who was a member of a gang of horse thieves and not a con man as posited in the ASJ episode, and Frank Canton (played by Ed Nelson in What Happened at the XST?), who went to Texas on behalf of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association to hire gunmen for their war against small ranchers and wasn't the sheriff of Buffalo as the ASJ episode characterized him, are included in Outlaw Tales of Wyoming, Hannibal Heyes and Jedediah "Kid" Curry are not.  It really wouldn't have been too difficult to mention those two notorious outlaws, now would it???

Written by R. Michael Wilson and subtitled True Stories of the Cowboy State's Most Infamous Crooks, Culprits, and Cutthroats, this short, 125 page book contains fourteen chapters, twelve of which are about individual outlaws or outlaw gangs.  Two other chapters describe the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) and the Johnson County War, which played roles in the plots of Bushwhack!, What Happened at the XST? and Witness to a Lynching.  Photos and drawings of all the outlaws chronicled in Outlaw Tales of Wyoming are included, as is an extensive bibliography.

Each chapter begins with a short introduction that explains the location and time period where the crimes occurred.  It then proceeds to describe the upbringing of the outlaws and how, and sometimes why, the men--none of the criminals in Outlaw Tales of Wyoming are women--committed their crimes.  All the chapters end with an accounting of the fate of the outlaws.  Suffice it to say, none except the leaders of the WSGA escaped justice.

Outlaw Tales of Wyoming (ISBN 978-0-7627-4506-7) is a fascinating look at the period of Wyoming history in the second half of the 19th century.  Most of the men presented in this book were pretty bad men, some were very bad.  So I guess it's just as well that those two pretty good bad men, Heyes and Curry, are not included in this collection of outlaws after all.