Friday, Oct 2020

CouchCowboy is dedicated to showcasing classic American cinema Westerns. We love them and know you do too.

Why the affinity toward Western films? We hope to explore the many reasons in numerous, interesting ways throughout this web site. We all love Westerns because they are about our country and they are about us. As we sit on our couch or in the cinema viewing, we enjoy seeing the vast open spaces, forests, mountains and valleys of the West. And even if we don't like riding them, preferring to bet on them, who doesn't like horses? Furthermore, what fellow doesn't enjoy a good fistfight or Man-to-Man drunken saloon brawl? Who hasn't enjoyed camping out under the stars at least once?

After viewing a variety of Western films from the 1940's to the present, we corralled them into the the following categories: Classics, Must-Sees, Good Viewers, Rough Riders, and Camp. We like to consider our starting point the first great John Ford/ John Wayne Western Classic, Stagecoach. As you will see, there exists a multitude of Must-Sees, and Good Viewers. But even the films deemed as Rough Riders will be acknowledged: Remember Billy Crystal's City Slickers? (Many of us have tried to forget it.) However, here at CouchCowboy, we don't like to be genre purists: We hope to be as democratic as possible without being out-and-out 'Saddle Sycophants'. We will consider Camp if it is sufficiently odd, lively, and entertaining, but we will do our best to dismiss those without any redeeming value whatsoever. We will not consider the numerous "Horse-Operas" of the 30s, where the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black and guns constantly fired and horses always galloped. Similarly, we will avoid the Gene Autry singing cowboy movies of the 30's and 40's, and the Roy Rogers singing western of the 50s and such movies of their ilk. We would rather not go too much far 'below' Randolph Scott. Generally, we hope to avoid the extensive Western B-movie tradition.

CouchCowboy appreciates and supports the great Hollywood Western directors such as John Ford, Howard Hawks, Anthony Mann and Clint Eastwood. Also the great stars who rode tall in the saddle: John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck, Clint Eastwood, Henry Fonda, Walter Brennan, James Stewart, William Holden, and many others. In fact, CouchCowboy asks: could a (male) movie star really be a movie star in the 20th century without having notched a few good westerns on his gun belt? And what of the great female stars from the studio system and later? How did they or did they not fare in the Old West? Here at CouchCowboy we hope to examine and appreciate many of these issues in an enlightening, but lighthearted and entertaining way. We will examine Westerns seriously, but we hope to appreciate more than analyze. We want to enjoy and support the more complex Westerns which feature themes of moral ambiguity. Of course we are not adverse to fun and adventure, but we readily herald the complicated over the simplistic.

At CouchCowboy we hope to assume what is an immense responsibility with ultimate humility. We realize that in appreciating and promoting the great American Western, we are addressing the form which "film for film, pound for pound, has been the heavyweight champ for popular genres" (Kitses, 1998). We take note that the great American crime genre may run a close second. As ultimate movie lovers, we tip our cowboy hats to the films about crooks and hoods, and we may from time to time compare a cowboy or two here to a gangster or two there, but our attentions will remain in the old American West, mostly after the Civil War and before the turn of the century.

With a respectful nod toward the powerful collection of urban crime dramas, we at CouchCowboy assume the awesome and intimidating responsibility of heralding the leading American film genre, the Western. Some may view this web site as passé, chiming in with those many voices which spoken over the years of the certain demise of the Western. We accept this prophecy of doom with a wry grin and tip of our hat. We don't believe the Western will ever die, and if productions slow down or even fade out for a time in our post-modern era, we will simply champion, enjoy, and explore the vast and rich history of Westerns which exist, comprising hundreds of 20th century films. For even if they stop making Westerns, the Western will live. "If the Western is no longer the grand American film narrative, central, totalizing and hegemonic, it has already shown its resiliency and value as a set of codes which can speak with authority to a new millennium..." (Kitses, 1998) We don't propose to keep the Western alive here at CouchCowboy, for we know there is no such need. We only wish to sustain its appreciation. We openly welcome you to join us.

Enjoy the music, the scenery, the adventure. Relish the work of some of the finest directors and greatest actors whose talents have graced American film. Revel in recognizing the morals, clichés and stock characters of Western film: The drunken doctor, the vicious gunslinger, lonely frontiersman, the noble and frightened Indian, the whore with a heart of gold, the corrupt judge, the lost and wandering Civil War veteran, the lusty gold miner. Listen to the dialogue: direct, folksy and tough -- characteristically American. Appreciate the presentation of American history, for the Western "incarnates history, both America's and its own." (Kitses, 1998)

From time to time at CouchCowboy, as we invite debate and discourse on a variety of Westerns issues, we will ask, "What is a Western?" Often the answer seems simple: A Western is a story that takes place in the Old West. It's a good answer. Not the only one, to be sure, but a good one. The lure of the frontier, the urge to Go West is probably the central myth of the Western. The Western vindicates historian Frederick J. Turner's theory of American history, which continues to be valid: Western settlement is still being played out in the West as towns like Las Vegas and Phoenix dictate the form of the contemporary American city. In many ways, though it's been settled, the United States is still going West. We believe that the Western is essentially about the West, and so, about a little bit of all of us, in the past and today. Consider the most pervasive cliché of the Western: before the curtain closes, the hero rides off into the Sunset. Into the West.

--Ned

CouchCowboy is a potlikker creation of L.C. Huge' and W Brebrick - Since 2001

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