Tag Archives: John Ford

Listeria – Western Locales

12 Aug

The latest edition of American Cowboy lists twelve destinations in the American West that every cowboy must visit. Well, I’m not a cowboy. I don’t wear a cowboy hat, boots or Wrangler jeans. I don’t ride horses. At one time, my dad owned the top ranked herd of Angus in Tennessee, but I only went to the production sales to eat and watch the spectacle. Despite all of those non-cowboy things, I love the American West, and, of the twelve locations in the magazine, these are my favorites.

Grand Canyon National Park – I believe this is something that every American should see at least once in their lifetime.West 2010 313

The magazine says that people should visit Prescott, Arizona while they are in the area. I couldn’t agree more. Prescott has one of the coolest town squares I have ever seen. Wait, I guess I should call it a plaza.

Monument Valley – By far, my favorite place in the American West. It may be my favorite place in the world. It is the land of the Navajo. It is the land of John Ford. It is also the banner at the top of this blog.West 2010 258

The magazine suggests that people should also go to Canyon de Chelly. It is also in the Navajo Nation and is a place that should not be passed up. Although, be sure to go into the canyon with a Navajo guide.West 2010 213

Black Hills – This is the Holy Land of the Sioux, and the United States took it for the gold in the ground. Now, there is Mount Rushmore and a mountain being carved to represent Crazy Horse. The rest of the hills are covered with old mining towns, the most famous of which is Deadwood. No one should leave Deadwood without walking through Mt. Moriah Cemetery and leaving an offering at the grave of Wild Bill Hickok.

Yellowstone National Park – It is filled with natural wonders – geysers, hot springs, buffalo and more things than can be mentioned. This is another place that every American should see at least once, and they should enter from the original entrance to the north. If you are going to do it, then do it like they did in the old days.Montana 2012 and Other Stuff 275

Those are a few of the places to see in the West. There are only hundreds of more that could be listed.

Categorically

30 Jul

We just finished walking around the neighborhood. As we did, I noticed a man through a window. He was working at his desk, and I began to wonder what he was working on. Was he writing the next great novel? Was he writing a letter? Was he blogging? At the moment, I am sitting by a window, and people are probably looking in and wondering what I am doing.

I like to think that people like what they read here. It’s a hodgepodge of stuff, but it comes right out of my head. Sometimes, It’s travel. Sometimes, it’s music. Sometimes, its stories from the past. All the time, it’s something that is stuck in my mind and needs to get out.

I am not sure what needs to get out tonight, so I will just go down the list of categories on this blog and type this first thing that fits.Scattergories

Academics – School starts back soon. That means inservice.

Agriculture – The other day, I got gas at the Farmer’s Co-Op.

Art – There is a guy named Art who works at Beauty Boutique, Necole’s store.

Biography – The last one I read wasn’t very good, It was about Ward Bond, John Ford and John Wayne. It should have been good.

Books – I just finished The Eye of God by James Rollins. It is the further adventures of Grayson Pierce.

Childhood Memories – Tonight, I mentioned that my parents had a Weeping Willow in their front yard, and I used to play under it.

Comedy – Nothing is funny, at the moment.

Community – I was named to the local Planning Commission. This afternoon was my first meeting.

Crime – Tonight, I found out that a guy I once knew tried to kidnap his wife and lock her in a closet. Hopefully, he will get what’s coming to him.

Did You Know? – I forgot about this category. It needs to be revisited.

Dining – Tonight, we had a home cooked meal of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and green peas.

Dreams – Lately, my dreams have been less than memorable.

Government – Necole went to the DMV this morning. There is no reason they should be that slow.

History – I am getting my lecture voice warmed up.

Movies – We watched Batman Begins, and I realized that the guy who plays Joffrey on Game of Thrones was in it.

Music – We have a couple of concerts coming up – Don Williams and The Eagles.

Nature – There’s a great article about sugar in the latest National Geographic. Everyone should read it.

Photography – In a few days, we are getting more wedding photos made.

Rambling Ruminations – I think that is what this post is all about.

Relationships – I’m married.

Religion – I would like to write about it more, but a few things are better left unsaid.

Sports – College football is about to start, and my team, the University of Tennessee, is in the Southeastern Conference. However, you’ll never hear me chant S-E-C. I cheer for one team and hope the other ones lose every week.

Stupid Stuff – It’s an accurate description of this post.

Television – I’m waiting for Justified to crank back up.

Therapy – I used to go. I don’t anymore.

Travel – We just returned from California and will be heading to Arizona soon.

Writing – Am I the only person who doesn’t mess with those writing prompts?

Is Rod Serling as Frustrated as Me?

27 Apr

Why are builders called contractors? Their job involves construction, not contraction. It seems to me that they should be called constructors.

That’s the kind of crap that’s running through my mind. I had this great post playing in my brain about last night’s B.B. King concert, but that one is going to be put on hold. This has been a frustrating evening, and the things that frustrated me have affected the B.B. King post in a couple of ways. First, it got my mind off track. Second, it made me start typing too late to give the subject justice.

Instead, we have a post about frustration. The other day, I bought Fort Apache on Blu-Ray. It’s the John Ford movie starring John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple and John Agar, who ended up being her real life husband.Fort Apache Two

It’s a fictional portrayal of George Custer and the defeat that he suffered. I’ve always thought it was weird that they placed a fictional cavalry against the Apache when they could have portrayed a real cavalry against the people they really fought.

The portrayal of a fictional story instead of a historical one is not what frustrated me. That came from the Blu-Ray player that suddenly froze up. My parents have a movie room that is designed to provide a great movie watching experience. Tonight, it provided a frustrating time of trying to figure out what was wrong with it. My dad had me call the guy that put the room together for them. On a Friday night. During his time off.

Finally, I texted my nephew who can fix anything. He sent back a simple reply – unplug it. That did the trick. Then, I was frustrated because I didn’t think of that.

We watched the movie, and I went home to get some work done. Part of that work involved emailing some pictures to my insurance agent. I won’t bore you with the details of insurance, but I will bore you with the details of my frustration. My school account would not email the images. I tried over and over. It’s a Gmail account, so I figured it could do anything. Apparently, it can’t.

That’s when I swapped over to my personal email. Hell, it wouldn’t even download the pictures. After that, I went back to my work email to send the pictures one at a time. Each email took forever. At the top of the screen it said:

Sending…

Still Working…

I don’t know how long it took each email to go through because I finally walked off. When I got back, they had been sent. Well, I guess they had been sent. They could be in The Twilight Zone for all I know.Twilight Zone

Sometimes, I think the world is becoming one big Twilight Zone. Look at the crazy things that happen. Some of it is serious, and some of it is downright ridiculous. Through it all, Rod Serling is standing out of sight talking about the signpost up ahead.

Imagining the West

5 Jun

When the United States completed the Louisiana Purchase, a question arose among politicians and citizens around the country. What exactly did Thomas Jefferson buy? Some of it was known, but, frankly, a lot of it was a mystery. Like today, mysteries led to wild rumors and speculation. Some thought that the land was filled with mammoth. Others theorized that giants walked the land. Even the reports of Lewis and Clark did not quell the wild stories about the land that they traveled through.

This began a long fascination with the western landscape among Americans. While some ventured into the region, the vast majority was content with staying in their comfort zone and leaving the visions of the West to their imaginations. While they read dime novels exaggerating the exploits of the people in the West, they were also fed exaggerations of the images of the West.

It is easy to see how someone in the 1800s could incorrectly imagine the West as they read a book that was designed to be as adventurous as possible. The visuals were left up to them, and they only knew what the writer wanted them to know. However, the 1900s brought the invention of films. Now, the story could unfold in front of their eyes. No more imagining. They could see the real West.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the way it happened. The first “westerns” were filmed at Thomas Edison’s studio in New Jersey. I’m not even sure it was in western New Jersey. When the motion picture industry moved to Los Angeles, things did not get much better because movies were filmed close by. In other words, a story that was based in Texas was filmed in California. As people watched, they began to assume that Texas, and the West in general, looked like the place they were seeing on the screen.

Last night, all of this came into focus for me as I watched television with some friends. Longmire, a new show about a modern-day sheriff in Wyoming, premiered on A&E, and I had been looking forward to it. To my disappointment, it was a weak attempt to copy th success of Justified, but I digress. My friends, who have never been to Wyoming, were talking about the scenery and how beautiful it was. I have been trying to convince them to take a trip to the West instead of their usual beach excursion, and they began to get excited about going to Wyoming and seeing this beautiful place.

Wyoming is beautiful. It is one of my favorite states. However, if my friends want to see the landscapes of Longmire, then they will need to go to northern New Mexico, the filming location. I thought it looked familiar because I was just there. Anyway, I had to explain that westerns are not always filmed where the story takes place and that it has confused audiences for decades. I wondered how many people will watch the show and think that Wyoming looks like New Mexico.

Today, another example of filming that confused the audience popped up on my television. The Searchers, starring John Wayne as Ethan Edwards, is one of my favorite movies. It follows a loner who goes on a decade-long trek to find his niece who was abducted by Comanche. I could write about this movie all night but need to focus on the scenery in which the action takes place. The director, John Ford, used his favorite filming location, Monument Valley, because of its grand vistas. In fact, I used a photograph of Monument Valley for the banner above.

The problem is that the story takes place in Texas while Monument Valley sits in Utah. Through the years, I wonder how many people think Texas, an iconic locale for western stories, looks like that. I can promise that it doesn’t.

People have always imagined the West differently. In the 1800s, misconception was understandable because technology and transportation did not offer easy opportunities to see it. During most of the 1900s, a trip into the West was also difficult for many. However, today, with interstates and internet, there is not excuse for imagining the West incorrectly. I urge everyone, if provided with the opportunity, to travel through it and see for yourselves.

Wyoming does not look like New Mexico, and Texas does not look like Utah. However, each of those places and all of the rest have a beauty all their own. Don’t be fooled by the movies and television because the West is more magnificent than they can show and you can imagine. Plus, it will all be in the right places.

Your Assignment…Should You Choose to Accept

27 Jan

This semester I have the good fortune of teaching my favorite class, a history of the American West. This is my major area of study, and I get a kick out of talking about all of the things I have researched and written about. However, it needs to be fun for the students as well. I believe that many historians do a wonderful job of making an interesting topic as boring as possible, and I attempt the opposite. History is fun for me, and I want the students to have the same experience.

Several years ago, I developed something that the students call the “Movie Assignment”. They watch a movie based within the time period we are discussing and compare it to actual events. The scenery and action of the films provide them with a visual clue of what may have been like, and the story often gives them an idea of life itself. Obviously, not all movies are appropriate for this type of activity. Pearl Harbor may have been the dumbest plot ever written. Therefore, World War II class did not get the option to watch it. They got movies with deeper meanings and more of a foundation in reality.

In the American West, students have the pleasure of watching films from my favorite genre. Except, there is a different aspect to the assignment. Western settings have long been used to offer more contemporary lessons. Think of it as the Mt. Olympus of the United States. It is the place with myths are made, and flawed heroes face decisions with no correct answers. To get the students on the right path, I recently assigned each of them a movie to watch. We haven’t discussed what they should look for because I want them to watch the movies for enjoyment first. This post lists the movies and why I chose them. If you get the chance to watch them, then perhaps these are things you can look for.

1. Rango– I know, it’s a cartoon. However, it pays homage to westerns throughout the decades. Watching closely, you can pick up small details that bring to mind the great western movies and western actors. Besides, how can a movie be bad when “The Man With No Name” shows up as the Spirit of the West. I only that the original “Man With No Name” could have been used to voice the character.

2. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – “This is the West, sir. When legend becomes fact, print the legend.” One of the great lines in western history and an statement that describes how difficult it is for historians to dig through the legend to get to the fact. This film is filled with symbolism, as each character represents an aspect of the “taming of the frontier” experience.

3. Fort Apache – The second John Ford/John Wayne movie on the list (TMWSLV was the first), this is one of the first movies to show Native Americans in a positive light. It takes real battles of the Indian Wars and combines them into a fictional one. In the process, it shows the misguided policies of the United States toward native peoples. This could be relavent for a lot of times in history – Indian Wars, Vietnam War, Gulf War.

4. The Searchers – The third John Ford/ John Wayne installment (I promise that they don’t make up the entire list) is an epic about a man searching for his niece, who was kidnapped by Indians. It shows his maniacal racism toward these people and how it increases throughout the film. Most of the underlying currents were missed by the audiences of the time, but they come to light as the years pass.

5. The Magnificent Seven – A remake of the Japanese film, The Seven Samurai, this movie was had a compliation cast of stars in an action packed adventure. However, many don’t realize that the original Japanese film was a western placed in a different time and place. So, a western copied a foreign film that copied a western storyline. This shows that the themes of the western genre are actually universal.

6. Dances With Wolves – The Kevin Costner movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture. did you know it’s more popular “remake” lost the same award? Avatar has made more money than any movie in history, but it should be renamed to Dances With Aliens. It’s the same storyline. Watch them back to back and see what I mean. This shows that the western never disappeared. It simply got better graphics and tuend into Sci-Fi. For example, Gene Roddenberry was a writer for Wagon Train when he pitched Star Trek as “Wagon Train to the stars”. And , can’t you picture the black-hatted darth vader as a cattle baron building his empire on the backs of settlers (before the later movies became some convuluted political statement)? Also, when Luke returns to find his uncle’s homestead burning, it reflects Ethan Edwards returning to find his brother’s homestead burning in The Searchers.

7. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid – Sam Peckipah uses this movie to depict his idea of the destruction of the American west. Look at all of the western character actors that are killed or shown in stages of degeneration. Peckinpah’s version of western history is inaccurate, but his portrayal of the disappearing frontier is poignant. Plus, Slim Pickens dies with Bob Dylan singing “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”. The best dying scene ever.

8. The Outlaw Josey Wales – There should be a law that says everyone has to watch this movie once a year. Josey sees his life ripped apart by the ravages of war. In response, he becomes a gunfighter to reap revenge on those who killed his family. Along the way, he picks up a surrogate family of people who have seen their lives destroyed by violence and hardship. It turns out that the “loner” isn’t alone after all. Filmed in the mid-1970s, the Civil War and its aftermath can easily be seen as the Vietnam War.

9. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee – An attempt to depict the plight of Native Americans as they saw their lifestyle and land taken away. It is a noble attempt. Unfortunately, there are a lot of inaccuracies. The Native American story needs to be told and can be told in an accurate and informative way. This movie, in an attempt to tell the other side of the story, goes to far the other direction. As in all conflicts and clashes of cultures, there are good and bad people on both sides. Portraying that inaccurately takes the meaning away from all of them. On top of that, the portrayal of the Battle of Little Big Horn is shameful.

10. High Noon – This movie is not exciting at all. And, I cringed each time I see the sheriff ask for help. However, there is a reason he does. This movie places real life events in another setting as the sheriff represents those victimized by the House on Un-American Activities Committee that was led by Joseph McCarthy. Audiences of the time would never watcha movie about a supposed communist, but they would watch a movie about a sheriff in trouble.

11. Jeremiah Johnson – Based on an actual mountain man, Robert Redford shows the harshness of life as a Rocky Mountains trapper. There are accuracies and inaccuracies, but the overall story is true to the experience. The scenery is fantastic and the dialogue is witty and appropriate. Under the current, you find the story of a man who tries to run away from civilization only to find that it is never far away.

12. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – A western about the Civil War in New Mexico that was filmed in Europe. What else can I say? When it came out, many movie critics panned it because everyone knows that the Civil War took place in the east. Wrong. It is based on a reall mission to capture what is now New Mexico. This movie shows how westerns influenced film makers in other countries and how they, in turn, influenced the genre and the view on the region’s history. Also, the musical score is the best of any western ever. And, an American didn’t compose it. Weird for those people who believe the west is all about independence and the American ideal. It wasn’t about that at all.

So, there is the list for my students. Can you think of any other movies I should have used instead? Do you think my students will stumble upon this in their research. If they ever get away from Wikipedia that is.