Saturday, Dec 2020

The late, great Mike Royko of the Chicago Tribune wrote a few columns on a favorite pastime of many Americans -- naming the greatest Westerns of all time.

In his column dated July 13, 1993, he says he and his 3 Westerns buddies each have one favorite: High Noon, Red River, The Searchers and True Grit. Royko then names what he calls "5 additional Greats": Shane, Stagecoach, the Shootist, The Gun Fighter, and The Wild Bunch. He goes on to name 5 films as "among good also rans": Will Penny, Ride the High Country, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Ulzana's Raid, and Valdez is Coming. In the column, a stranger asks the Westerns group why they haven't included Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven. The group says they do not consider it because of The Rule of 12. That is, if a Western has too much sex, violence or foul language to watch comfortably with a 12 year old, it shouldn't count.

In a follow-up column dated July 20, 1993, Royko responds to numerous readers who complained vehemently that he left The Magnificent Seven off his list. Royko caves in, says he agrees that it is one of the greatest, and claims he omitted it by honest mistake.

Then, several years later, in a March 19, 1997 piece, Royko considers the Top Ten list offered by author and Northwestern University historian Garry Wills in his book John Wayne's America. Will's list: The Searchers, Big Trail, Red River, Stagecoach, Rio Grande, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Pursued, The Gunfighter, and The Iron Horse (1924). In this column, Royko adds Viva Zapata to his list and deletes Red River . He says the great Red River must go because "the movie's many fine points were bogged down by the female lead, Joanne Dru, who was so clinging, manipulative, gooey, and intrusive that she should have been tossed to the Indians. And by the ridiculous notion that the delicate Montgomery Clift would get in a knock down fistfight with the Duke and hold his own. "The twit couldn't have arm-wrestled Dru." Also, here Royko abandons the Rule of 12, keeping The Wild Bunch in and now including Unforgiven.

--Ned

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