Tag Archives: The Outlaw Josey Wales

Movie Wisdom – Sheb Wooley Edition

23 Jan

In the olden days, albums were sold on television. They would play snippets of a few songs and scroll song titles over the screen. The performer would appear and lip synch a few words. Those commercials fascinated me, and I begged my parents to send a check to the address on the screen.

One of those ads was for a singer named Ben Colder, the country music version of Weird Al Yankovic. He sung parodies of country music’s biggest hits. My parents agreed to buy a few albums, but they never bought anything for me by Ben Colder. It is still a disappointment.

Years later, I learned that Ben Colder was not really Ben Colder. He was Sheb Wooley, and he had done a lot more things than sing parody songs.Sheb Wooley

Sheb Wooley was a true Renaissance Man. He had a huge hit in the 1950s with “The Purple People Eater” and acted in a bunch of movies. However, he was not just in a bunch of movies. He was in a bunch of great movies. Sheb Wooley was one of those character actors who popped up everywhere.

To make up for the fact that I never got a Ben Colder record, we will examine the movies of Sheb Wooley to see if we can find a few bits of wisdom. As before, the quotes must come from movies that I have seen.

From High Noon

People gotta talk themselves into law and order before they do anything about it. Maybe because down deep they don’t care.

It takes more than big, broad shoulders to make a man.

It takes a pretty smart man to know when to back away.

From Johnny Guitar

A man who can’t hold on to a glass should drink like a baby from a bottle.

There’s only two things in this world that a ‘real man’ needs: a cup of coffee and a good smoke.

From Giant

Money isn’t everything.

Well, there’s one thing you got to say for cattle… boy, you put your brand on one of them, you’re gonna know where it’s at!

From Rio Bravo

Sorry don’t get it done.

From The War Wagon

That’s what I’ve always said the world needs… more simple understanding to bring people together!

From The Outlaw Josey Wales

Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. ‘Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That’s just the way it is.

It’s sad that governments are chiefed by the double tongues.

Buzzards gotta eat, same as worms.

Dyin’ ain’t much of a livin’, boy.

Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.

From Silverado

Some people think because they’re stronger, or meaner, that they can push you around. I’ve seen a lot of that. But it’s only true if you let it be. The world is what you make of it.

A grown man can’t have a little boy with him everywhere he goes.

The world is what you make of it, friend. If it doesn’t fit, you make alterations.

From Hoosiers

If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re gonna be winners.

Sun don’t shine on the same dog’s ass everyday.

There you have it. The world according to Sheb Wooley movies.

Into the Sunset

1 Apr

It’s a cliché of the western movie genre. The hero has lived through some adventure, and, when it’s over, he gets on his horse and rides into the sunset. I have watched that scene dozens of times, and it fascinates me every time.

What happens when they disappear over the horizon? What happens after the “The End” placard covers the screen? Does the hero take time off before finding another adventure? Does he die of wounds suffered during the movie? Does he live happily ever after in some frontier town?

All of those questions go through my mind because I have to know the rest of the story. It doesn’t matter how bad the movie is. I still want to know what happens after the credits roll. However, something else goes through my mind, as well. The “into the sunset” scene isn’t always the same.

One of the greatest “into the sunset” scenes doesn’t even have a horse. In The Searchers, Ethan Edwards spends years attempting to rescue his niece from her Comanche captors. When he returns with her, everyone goes into the house except for him. He turns and walks into the desert as the door closes behind him.The Searchers

Where did Edwards go? Did he leave because most of his family was dead? Did he wander because there was no purpose in his life? All of the wars were over. Or, did he think back over the past years before turning around and coming back?

John Wayne walked away in The Searchers, but Clint Eastwood could be the king of “into the sunset” rides. In The Outlaw Josey Wales, he is bleeding as he rides away. Does he live? If so, then does he go back to the friends that he has gained throughout the movie? Or, does he disappear from history?

Sometimes, he completely disappears because we really don’t know what he is. In Pale Rider, Eastwood evaporates from the scene. Is he some kind of spirit or is he just a mysterious gunman?

Those were great, but my favorite Eastwood ending comes from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Blondie leaves Tuco with a noose around his neck and gold at his feet. After an impossible rifle shot to save Tuco, Blondie rides away to one of the greatest movie scores of all time.

A more recent western has an “into the sunset” scene at the end. The difference is the adventure that precedes it. In Cowboys and Aliens, James Bond defeats aliens with the help of Indiana Jones. Oh, Boyd Crowder helps out, too. This time the hero is truly a loner. His wife is dead. His alien love interest is dead. He is considered dead. Heck, the dog doesn’t even go with him. In this one, the hero probably went somewhere and cried.

The cool thing about “into the sunset” scenes is that they are no longer reserved for westerns only. Remember what happened at the end of The Dark Knight? He agrees to be the fall guy and live life as a villain. Then, he hops on his jacked out motorcycle and rides into a tunnel. There is no sunset, but there is a cool speech and some kind of light up ahead. I hope it’s not a train.The Dark Knight

Everybody knows what happened to him after that because we have sequels now. There should not have been a sequel to this one. Wondering what happened to Batman was a lot better than knowing that he faked his death and ended up with Catwoman.

Ok, so John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, James Bond and Batman all have had great scenes to end movies. However my favorite “into the sunset” scene comes from a movie that isn’t very good. At the end of Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, Don Johnson, as Marlboro, goes back to his roots and enters a rodeo. At the same time, Mickey Rourke, as Harley, rides his motorcycle into the sunset with an 80s vixen on the back and Black Eyed Susan playing in the background.Harley Ending

Why is that my favorite? Because it’s the only one that seems like a happy ending. He’s not alone. He’s not wounded. And, there is no doubt that something good is going to happen further down the road.

Thank God for Gas Pumps

24 Sep

All of us bloggers like to look at our stats. At least, I assume all of us bloggers like to look at our stats. I know that I do, anyway. It’s not like I look at them all of the time. Wait, I do look at them often, but that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is to point out an anomalous point in the stats. I have pointed it out before but feel the need to point it out again.

One of my earlier posts, The Problem With Gas Pumps, completely dominates this blog. In fact, it makes up 17% of the total page views in the SBI universe and outnumbers the next 30 posts combined. Undoubtedly, some of its popularity is due to the excellent writing exemplified by the post. However, I believe most of the popularity comes from the fact that it includes this picture:

This picture drives more page views than a topless picture of a princess.

Don’t believe that gas pumps dominate? Here are the top 15 search terms for Surrounded by Imbeciles.

1. gas pumps

2. gas pump

3. gasoline pump

4. pictures of gas pumps

5. josey wales

6. gasoline pumps

7. dumas brothel

8. mount rushmore conspiracy theories

9. outlaw josey wales

10. pump gas

11. picture of gas pumps

12. the outlaw josey wales

13. images of gas pumps

14. gas pump image

15. picture of a gas pump

The only things that bust the monopoly are people looking for old prostitutes; people looking for hidden meanings in stone-faced presidents; and, people who are fans of Clint Eastwood’s best movie.

Bloggin’ ain’t much of a livin’ boy.

In honor of The Problem With Gas Pumps and to gratuitously promote other posts, I present the ten posts that are eating the most dust.

Victorian Brothelese – There are the whores that people are looking for.

Greetings and Salutations – You can always count on the About page.

Dirty Deeds and Thunder Chief – My ode to lyrics that people mess up.

Movie Wisdom – Burt Reynolds Edition – Watch some Burt Reynolds movies. It will make you smarter.

A Requiem for Josey Wales – “To Hell with them fellas. Buzzards gotta eat, same as worms.”

The Good, the Bad, and the Presidential – There is more bad than good in this post.

It’s a Conspiracy – If you think things aren’t as they seem, then read this post.

John Wayne and Edgar Allan Poe – What? You didn’t know poetry could be learned from a John Wayne movie?

Memories of a Day in September – My thoughts on the anniversary of 9/11.

A Totally Not Funny Account of My Trip to New Orleans – It’ll make you cry.

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.

A Requiem for Josey Wales

28 Nov

In 1976, Clint Eastwood directed and starred in “The Outlaw Josey Wales”, which could be considered the last great film of the Western heyday. Obviously, “Dances With Wolves” and “Unforgiven” won Academy Awards in later years, but they came after the popularity of the genre had passed. “The Outlaw Josey Wales” marks the end of an era when Hollywood saw the Western as a major aspect of its production. The next year saw the release of “Star Wars” and the advent of modern Science Fiction. There would be new heroes to fill the minds of kids, and the quick draw cowboy would become a thing of the past. Few of the Science Fiction lovers realized that space and post-apocalyptic earth were mere replacements for the plains and deserts of the American West, and they were watching Western stories with special effects. But, that is another story for another day.

“The Outlaw Josey Wales” is a favorite of many Western lovers for its hero/outlaw who operates in solitude and kills anyone who gets in his way. As Lone Watie, who rides with Josey, says, “I notice when you get to dislikin’ somebody they ain’t around for long neither.” However, this is a misconception of the movie and the meaning behind it. Westerns have been the perfect genre to portray the issues of our world. “High Noon” was about the Red Scare and actions of Joseph McCarthy. “The Searchers” is an exploration into racism. “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” is about the destruction of the West by American society. “The Outlaw Josey Wales” is about the evils of war.

In the beginning, Josey Wales is a simple farmer who witnesses his family being killed in an attack on his land. The Civil War is raging, and gangs under the guise of military action are terrorizing the border of Missouri and Kansas. Josey joins marauders from Missouri to gain revenge on his attackers, Redlegs of Kansas. When the war ends, Josey finds himself an outlaw simply because he was on the losing side. The rest of the movie is an epic chase as Josey is chased by his enemies through Indian Territory and Texas.

This is where the misconception of the movie begins. First, Josey does not kill for the sale of killing. He fights to protect himself and to protect others. He shoots men who are attempting to rape a Native American woman and kills Comancheros who have attacked pioneers from Kansas. Josey also finds himself face-to-face with Ten Bears, a Comanche chief. Instead of fighting, Josey states that “men can live together without butchering one another.” Second, Josey Wales is not the lonely rider of the plains. He rides with marauders during the war, and, as the movie continues, he finds allies along the way:

Jamie – the young man who fought with Josey during the war and died along the trail.

Lone Watie – the Cherokee elder who saw his way of life destroyed just as Josey had.

Little Moonlight – the Native American woman whose life was filled with abuse.

Grandma Sarah and Laura Lee- the pioneers from Kansas attacked by Comancheros.

Rose, Travis, Ten Spot, Kelly and Chato – the only residents of a dead mining town who help rebuild the ranch of Grandma Sarah’s son, who was probably one of the men who attacked Josey’s farm.

“The Outlaw Josey Wales” is not about a lone gunslinger. It is about a man whose life was destroyed by war. His family was taken away, but he found a new family whose lives had also been affected negatively. People who faced tragedy created a new community of happiness and hope on a ranch far away from the pain that drove them there. Unfortunately, Josey’s peace did not last long as his trackers finally arrived. But, the man who thought he was alone learned that he never really was. Captain Terrill, Josey’s archenemy states, “You’re all alone now. Wales.” Lone Watie sticks his rifle out of a window and declares, “Well, he’s not exactly alone.”

At the end of the movie, Josey has killed his enemy but been shot in the process. After lamenting the destruction of war, he rides away bleeding and slightly slumped in the saddle. Did Josey return to the ranch and the love of his new family? Did he ride off into the sunset never to be seen again? Did he die from his wounds? That is left to the imagination, but it really doesn’t matter. In the end, Josey realized that he wasn’t the only victim of war and that he was never really alone.