Western Film Book Library – Part 2
Last summer I shared a few of the favorite books on Westerns in my library. Some of the books I wrote about encouraged my love of Westerns from an early age, while other titles were fairly recent.
At the time I promised there would be a “Part 2,” and here it is, just in time for Christmas shopping for the Western film fans on your list…or perhaps for yourself!
While I’ve owned some of the older titles on this list for decades, I was able to track others down thanks to used book dealers. The more recently described below are easily available online.
Last time I around I mentioned the influence of The Western Films of John Ford by J.A. Place. Another early Ford book I loved was the simply titled John Ford, by Joseph McBride and Michael Wilmington. It was originally published in 1974; my paperback dates from the following year.
John Ford doesn’t confine itself to Westerns, but it was McBride and Wilmington’s descriptions of films such as Stagecoach and Wagon Master which helped spark my interest in seeing them. With films considerably less available to me as a kid of the ’70s than they are today, very often my first acquaintance with many movies was through the written word, rather than on the screen. The positive aspect of this was that my combined reading and watching made for many especially rich viewing experiences.
Last year I had the thrill of meeting Joseph McBride and having him sign my copy of this book, over 40 years after I first read it!
Another important early read for me was John Wayne and the Movies by Allen Eyles; my copy dates from 1976.
This book has well-chosen photos and in some cases more extensive analysis than a comparable book in Citadel’s The Films of… series of the same era. I remember reading about Angel and the Badman (1947) and thinking it sounded wonderful — and indeed, it would eventually become one of my favorite Wayne movies!
Filming the West of Zane Grey was a find a couple of years ago in the gift shop of the Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine, California. It’s by the esteemed historian Ed Hulse, who often appears at the Lone Pine Film Festival, and was published by the museum in 2007.
I’ve found this book an invaluable resource, as so many Zane Grey stories were made and remade over many decades, beginning in the silent era. The stories were often re-filmed under the same name — for instance, The Border Legion was filmed in 1918, 1924, and 1940 — so the book has helped enormously in my understanding of the history of each title. Some of the entries are fairly short, while others discuss the film more extensively; all entries feature cast and other production information. The book also features excellent illustrations!
Hopalong Cassidy: On the Page, On the Screen by Francis M. Nevins was a Christmas gift for my husband a couple of years ago, but with my growing interest in the topic I’ve been turning to it frequently myself!
Hopalong Cassidy was originally published in 2008; our copy is a 2016 reprint from the Museum of Western Film History. It’s a thick, heavy softcover, over 500 pages in length. The book delves into the history of Hopalong Cassidy creator Clarence Mulford and the Hoppy books before turning to the series’ long history in movies and television. The author offers both production history and critical insights in the first half of the book; the second section of the book consists of individual entries for each film. There are also useful appendixes including “Hopalong Cassidy on Radio” and “Hopalong Cassidy Television.”
My favorite section is a chapter in which various Western experts, including Ed Hulse and Boyd Magers, each describe their Top 10 favorite Hoppy titles. It just doesn’t get any better for me than experts who love the genre and the series writing at some length about what makes some of these films their favorites.
Tim Holt by David Rothel was originally published in 1994. It recent years it has been republished in softcover.
This book on the beloved “B” Western star has nearly 300 glossy pages filled with family photos, an extensive look at his films, and interviews with family and colleagues including his sister, actress Jennifer Holt, and several costars including Richard Martin and Nan Leslie, who discusses her romance with Tim.
The end of the book has reprints of comic book covers and movie magazine articles, which are great fun for a fan who wasn’t around at the time the articles originally appeared!
Singing in the Saddle: The History of the Singing Cowboy was written in 2002 by Douglas B. Green, also known as “Ranger Doug” in the Western singing group Riders in the Sky.
The book has nearly 400 glossy pages chronicling Western music, including its history on radio and then extensively discussing singing cowboys on film. Single chapters are devoted to the biggest stars, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, but there’s also a good deal of information on Tex Ritter, Dick Foran, Ray Whitley, and more.
It’s a densely written “deep dive” into the subject which is invaluable to those who are interested in the topic, and it’s also got great photos.
Each year the Museum of Western Film History publishes an annual, originally titled Lone Pine in the Movies; more recent editions are titled Lone Pine and the Movies.
These books are available at Amazon and are well worth the investment. Historians such as Ed Hulse, Richard Bann, and many more cover a wide variety of topics, with a special (though not exclusive) emphasis on Westerns filmed in Lone Pine.
Subject matter of the last few years includes “Tim Holt: RKO Star Goes to Lone Pine,” “On the Oregon Trail: Tracking the Lost John Wayne Film,” “George Sherman: The Republic Years,” “The Real McCoy: U.S Military History According to Tim McCoy‘s Movies,” and “Lovely Ladies of Lone Pine: Grace Bradley Boyd.”
The annuals are both enjoyable reads and valuable history; I look forward to picking up the latest publication each year at the Lone Pine Film Festival, and this year I made a special effort to collect all the back issues missing from my collection!
This is such a rich topic that I may well return to it again in the future. As always, additional suggestions in the comments are most welcome.
– Laura Grieve for Classic Movie Hub
Laura can be found at her blog, Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings, where she’s been writing about movies since 2005, and on Twitter at @LaurasMiscMovie. A lifelong film fan, Laura loves the classics including Disney, Film Noir, Musicals, and Westerns. She regularly covers Southern California classic film festivals. Laura will scribe on all things western at the ‘Western RoundUp’ for CMH.