Western RoundUp: Western Film Book Library – Part 5
Once or twice a year I’ve enjoyed sharing some of my “Western Film Book Library” here at the Western RoundUp.
I’ve had some wonderful responses as readers have let me know that these columns helped inspire them to track down books for their own collections. With that in mind, this month I’m presenting a new list of film books I’ve enjoyed!
For past Western Film Book Library columns, please check out the links at the end of this post.
Arizona’s Little Hollywood: Sedona and Northern Arizona’s Forgotten Film History 1923-1973 by Joe McNeill
Arizona’s Little Hollywood: Sedona and Northern Arizona’s Forgotten Flim History 1923-1973by Joe McNeill was published by Northedge & Sons in 2010.
Although the book has been out for over a decade, I didn’t discover it until I chanced to find it in Lone Pine’s Museum of Western Film History gift shop earlier this year.
I consider this book one of the most significant additions to my film library in the last few years, and that’s saying something! It’s 678 glossy pages of relatively small type, extensively detailing the Northern Arizona filming of over five dozen films – all but a couple being Westerns.
As seen below via these sample pages, the book is beautifully illustrated with glossy photographs:
The book is a fascinating history of many favorite films; it’s so dense that I haven’t digested it all yet, but it was a tremendous help as my husband and I visited Western movie locations in Sedona this past May. I highly recommend this book.
Gene Autry Westerns by Boyd Magers
While Autry‘s not my favorite “B” Western star, there’s no denying his importance to the genre, including his foresight in making sure that his films were preserved in good condition. (The same sadly cannot be said of Roy Rogers‘ Republic Westerns.) Western fans also owe Autry a debt of gratitude for his establishment of the Autry Museum of the American West, which I wrote about here in 2019.
Author Boyd Magers is a key Western film historian; in 2019 I recommended a pair of books he co-wrote on Western film actresses. Magers’ name on this book made it a “must buy” for me.
As seen on this sample page, this 456-page book is beautifully detailed. Each film has a credits list for cast and crew, lists of songs and locations, cast biographies, reviewer comments, and detailed information on the making of each film. This will be an extremely useful reference for me going forward, and I suspect it will also interest me in seeing a greater number of Autry’s films.
Gene Autry Westerns was published in 2007 by Empire Publishing of Madison, North Carolina.
On Location in Lone Pine by Dave Holland
This book was a gift from my father years ago and was what my husband and I used to track down Western film locations when we first began visiting the Alabama Hills about 15 years ago.
The book’s numerous detailed maps and photographs helped us find locations for films such as Yellow Sky (1948), Rawhide (1951), and 7 Men From Now (1956) years before we began attending the Lone Pine Film Festival and going on location tours with experienced guides.
Along the way, Holland also shares extensive history on movies shot in Lone Pine. It’s a key resource for anyone interested in movie locations in general and Lone Pine specifically.
Anthony Mann, New and Expanded Edition by Jeanine Basinger
Anthony Mann is a study of the director by pre-eminent film historian Jeanine Basinger, published by Wesleyan University Press. I have the New and Expanded Edition published in 2007; the book was originally published in 1979.
The book covers Mann‘s entire life and career, but as Western film fans will be aware, many of Mann’s greatest films were Westerns.
Two chapters in the book, “Mann of the West” and “Mann and Stewart: Out of the West,” focus specifically on the director’s Westerns. A partial list of the classic Western titles discussed includes Devil’s Doorway (1950), The Furies (1950), Winchester ’73 (1950), Bend of the River (1950), The Naked Spur (1953), The Man From Laramie (1955), and The Tin Star (1957).
Basinger is, in my opinion, an extremely engaging writer who always causes me to jot down lists of films I want to see thanks to her descriptions. She examines the films from numerous angles, including themes, character analysis, cinematography, and editing; her writing is simultaneously sophisticated and accessible.
Joel McCrea: A Film History by Tony Thomas
In my experiences with Thomas’s books dating all the way back to my pre-teen years, his books are more error-prone than most; my understanding is that some of the author’s past errors were cleaned up for this new edition. Minor things have still crept in, such as 1937’s Internes Can’t Take Money being referred to in multiple places as Interns Can’t Take Money, but in my opinion, these types of issues are not significant enough to detract from the book’s value.
Also like Thomas’s other books, this volume excels from the standpoint of photographs; some are new to this volume, thanks to the McCrea family and other sources. The book also presents engaging descriptions of the movies, many of which, of course, are Westerns. It was this exact type of book which was key to helping develop my interest in classic films. Wyatt McCrea’s warm introduction is another big plus.
Fans of Joel McCrea may also be interested to know that in 2016 Riverwood Press published a companion volume on McCrea’s wife, Frances Dee: A Film History, by Western film historian Ed Hulse. Like the book on Joel McCrea, it has a foreword by Wyatt McCrea and is exquisitely illustrated.
Fans of McCrea and Dee will definitely want both of these volumes on their bookshelf.
As always, recommendations for additional books on Westerns are always very 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.