Western novels and movies thrive on some kind of shoot-out or showdown, in which one or more men will die. The term is also loosely used to describe a poker tournament, a golf tournament, and even a football game. Each year, the University of Texas plays the University of Oklahoma, but the game is played halfway between Austin, Texas and Norman, Oklahoma—in the Cottonbowl in Dallas. Title of the game: RED RIVER RIVALRY, but the first name was Red River Shoot-Out, then Red River Showdown. Now, probably to be politically correct, it carries a new name.
Webster’s Dictionary definition: “A showdown is a decisive confrontation or contest.” In this case, often no one dies, but simply wins. The term “shoot-out” is synonymous, but in this case, someone always dies.
A famous true showdown, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, occurred in 1881 in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. The location was not a corral at all, but a 15x20 foot space between Fly’s Lodging House and the MacDonald Assay House. The final stages of the gunfight took place at the end of Fremont Street. The local newspaper headlined: “A Desperate Fight Between Officers of the Law and Cowboys.” The officers consisted of Wyatt Earp, his two brothers, and Doc Holliday.
Many Western movies revolve around the premise of a showdown. At times, the meeting occurs between only two men, reminiscent of the duel or sword fight. Most movies, though, tell the story of two sides, each having a sidekick or a group to back up the main characters.
Gunfight at the OK Corral lives on as one of the best shootouts in history.
Movie-makers filmed hundreds of Westerns. Here’s a list of the best from the Top Ten Best Western Shoot-outs:
1. Unforgiven-Clint Eastwood
2. Open Range-Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall
3. Tombstone-Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer
4. The Shootist-John Wayne
5. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly-Clint Eastwood
6. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid-Paul Newman and Robert Redford
7. High Noon-Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly
8. The Wild Bunch-William Holden and Ernest Borgnine
9. Once Upon a Time in the West-Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda
10. The Quick and the Dead- Gene Hackman, Sharon Stone, Russell Crowe, and Leonardo DeCaprio
If I made a list, High Noon would be #1. In this tale, one man stands alone, because not one other citizen had the nerve to stand up to the approaching murderous gang. Not only did Gary Cooper face his extreme fear of dealing with the outlaws alone, he faced losing his bride, played by Grace Kelly, on their wedding day because she did not condone violence. If you’re so young that you’ve never watched High Noon, find the DVD and indulge yourself. The music alone is worth the time.
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ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS-a Cactus Rose—
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