Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Western Showdown

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.

Celia Yeary
SHOWDOWN IN SOUTHFORK: eBook available at:
Print and eBook available at:


Tanya Hanson said...

HI Celia, what a fabulous post. And the pic is one of my favorites. We watched Tombstone just the other day.

I agree, High Noon showdown is stops. Next on my list are Tombstone and Open Range.

(BTW, Sam Elliott does it for me EVERY time.)

Mary Ricksen said...

High noon was a wonderful story. A man decides what makes him a man. I liked the Magnificent Seven, Yul Brenner just oozed sensuality.

Celia Yeary said...

Tanya-- Open Range was fantastic. I know it didn't get great reviews, mainly because Kevin Costner usually gets slammed for anything.I bought the CD and I love the music. I guess I just love any western. Thanks for your comment--Celia

Celia Yeary said...

Mary--the Magnificent Seven was particularly fine because it was a remake of the Seven Samuri--a Japanese film. Great, huh???
Yes, Yul Brenner--he was one of a kind. Celia

Karen Michelle Nutt said...

Tombstone is a great movie. The family took a trip to Tombstone and we had the kids watch the movie before we went. It made all the difference in the world. It helped to bring the past alive for them and they were excited to walk the same boardwalk and dusty road the Earps had walked. We couldn't believe how small the area was where they had the shootout. I'm surprised they weren't all killed.

Loretta C. Rogers said...

You've named some really great Westerns. I've watched all of them. I really liked Open Range. I think because we not only got to see the steely side of Costner's character, yet we saw his vulnerable side--the dark side that he kept pent-up and how the quiet courage of a woman changed that. Hey, I really like Sam Elliot, but Tom Selleck can park his shoes under mine bed anytime.

Kathy Otten said...

I loved Open Range,especially the whole thread about the tea set. It was a great shoot out too. But I think the best shoot out scene was in 3:10 to Yuma. Who those characters were and who they became was tied to the very last gunshot.

Celia Yeary said...

KAREN--Oh, I'd love to visit there. Good for you! Teaching your kids a little history, and making it real for them. I appreciate that you took the time to think it through--a compliment from a former teacher! Celia

Celia Yeary said...

LORETTA--AMEN TO ALL THREE! I'm always a little disappointed that Kevin Costner never gets recognized for his achievements--he most often gets criticized for his unique efforts. Playing "Charlie" in Open Range, I thought, was an award winner.Celia

Celia Yeary said...

KATHY--wow. I'm so happy to find more Open Range fans. You know, Kathy, I loved all that about the tea set, too. That showed more about Charlie's soft underbelly than anything. Dang, I'm going to find that movie and watch it again! 3:10 to Yuma--another great move that did not get much recognition. Loved it--the old 50's B&W version had a diffferent ending. Celia

liana laverentz said...

And don't forget The Magnificent Seven!

Liana Laverentz

Celia Yeary said...

LIANA--The Magnificent Seven--A real classic! Celia Yeary

LK Hunsaker said...

I don't watch a lot of westerns but I did like Tombstone a lot. And Butch and Sundance stayed with me forever. Maybe I'll have to check out Open Range. Love Kevin Costner (except I could not watch Waterword - could anyone?).

Celia Yeary said...

LORAINE--no one liked Water World. But Open Range has a lot of emotion, and when he, Charlie falls in love, well, it's pretty special.Celia

Keena Kincaid said...

I've never seen High Noon. Guess I'll have to add it to my list. However, I would say Tombstone is one of the best Westerns I've ever seen.

Your blog was interesting. I'd never thought of the difference between showdown and shoot-out but it makes sense.

Celia Yeary said...

Thanks, Keena--Tombstone was a great movie, even though Kurt Russell as wyatt Earp just didn't seem a good fit. But when I watched it, I forgot he was Kurt Russell! that's pretty good acting. Celia