Western RoundUp: Western Film Book Library – Part 4
I hope the new year is starting well for everyone!
With many of us across the country — indeed, the world! — still spending most of our time at home, this seemed like a good month to share some additional classic film book recommendations.
Below are a variety of titles I own on various aspects of Western movies. All of these books are currently available to order online.
The Western Films of Robert Mitchum: Hollywood’s Cowboy Rebel by Gene Freese is a new book just published by McFarland in 2020.
I was quite impressed with this substantive volume, which has relatively small print and runs 236 pages, including the index and bibliography.
Freese, who previously wrote the informative 2013 biography Jock Mahoney: The Life and Films of a Hollywood Stuntman, has a gift for researching, especially when one considers that most of those who made the films are no longer with us; the extensive quotes he found in old interviews are supplemented by new interviews by people such as Chris Mitchum, actor Don Collier, and stunt double Dave Cass.
The book covers each of Mitchum’s numerous Westerns individually, including the seven (!) Hopalong Cassidy films Mitchum appeared in during 1943, his very first year in the movie business. There’s a substantive background on the making of each film as well as appreciations of the movies and Mitchum’s performances.
The book is illustrated with black and white photographs. In my view it’s a “must-have” for fans of Mitchum and Westerns.
Last of the Cowboy Heroes: The Westerns of Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, and Audie Murphy by Robert Nott, published by McFarland in 2000, was my “go-to” reference on these films when I first really began to seriously watch these movies around the time the book was published.
While I had grown up watching many of McCrea’s Universal Westerns on local TV, there were still a number of his movies I’d never seen, and Scott and Murphy’s Westerns were mostly new to me.
Western historian Nott, who later wrote additional books focused solely on Scott and Budd Boetticher, devotes multiple chapters to each of the three Western stars, discussing the making of their films and analyzing the finished movies, along with providing plenty of biographical information and career overviews.
The book is well illustrated with numerous black and white photographs. I learned a lot from it and still return to it for reference.
When Hollywood Came to Town: A History of Moviemaking in Utah by James V. D’Arc is a gorgeous book that quickly became a favorite. While not exclusively devoted to Westerns, they naturally comprise a majority of the titles covered in this volume about location filming in the great outdoors of Utah.
The book is neatly organized by county and has beautiful spreads of high-quality photos printed on glossy paper, with plenty of informative text to go along with the attractive visuals.
The photos are presented in both black and white and full color. Here are a typical couple of pages:
D’Arc is a top historian; his commentary track for the 2003 DVD release of Brigham Young (1940) remains, in my view, one of the finest such tracks ever recorded.
When Hollywood Came to Town was first published in 2010; an updated edition with additional text and photos was published in 2019.
Lone Pine (Images of America) by Christopher Langley is a short paperback by one of the preeminent historians on Lone Pine, California. It was published in 2007 in Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America photo book series.
Lone Pine, California is where countless Westerns were filmed, as I’ve previously written about here on multiple occasions. Langley presents a concise yet thorough look at the area including its natural history, Native American history, the battle for water, and of course Lone Pine’s role in movie history.
The book is illustrated with black and white photographs from Lone Pine’s Museum of Western Film History, as well as from the Eastern California Museum located in Independence, California. (The latter museum will celebrate its centennial in 2028.) The book serves as a solid primer on the Lone Pine area, essential background for anyone who loves Westerns.
52Weeks, 52 Western Movies: Film Classics and Modern Masterpieces by Scott Harris, Paul Bishop, and Wyatt McCrea is an enjoyable paperback that provides fun reminisces for longtime Western fans and a great introduction for those new to the genre.
As its title suggests, the book covers a year’s worth of Westerns. Each short entry, typically a two-page spread, presents a variety of facts and insights regarding the film. In addition to the three named authors, who wrote a majority of the entries, there are additional contributions from Western experts including James Reasoner and the late Bill Crider.
The book covers many expected classics such as Red River (1948), The Searchers (1956), and Rio Bravo (1959), but it also focuses a spotlight on lesser-known gems such as Ramrod (1947), Four Faces West (1948), and Four Fast Guns (1960). I wrote about the latter film here recently in my post: Hidden Gems, Vol. 2.
In addition to the written content, this book, published in 2018, is beautifully designed; it’s filled with photos and posters printed on quality paper. The majority of the photos are in color. Here’s a sample spread celebrating the Westerns of Joel McCrea:
Tall in the Saddle: Great Lines from Classic Westerns by Peggy Thompson and Saeko Usukawa is another nicely produced little book, published in 1998 by Chronicle Books.
The quotes of Western dialogue that appear throughout the book are, in my view, a relatively small part of the fun; more important are the fine photos printed on glossy paper.
The book includes both color and black and white photos, with attention paid to both major classics and lesser-known Westerns such as Along Came Jones (1945), which is seen on the book’s cover, and Roughshod (1948), another title from my recent column on “Hidden Gems.” It’s an enjoyable book for Western fans to peruse and, like 52 Weeks, 52 Western Movies, provides those new to the genre with numerous ideas for future Western viewing.
My shelves are filled with even more books on Western film history, so it’s likely I’ll share another list a few months from now! In the meantime, for more ideas on Western film books, please visit my lists from July 2019, November 2019, and May 2020. Meanwhile, recommendations are always welcome in the comments.
– 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.