Western : Westerns based on true history

Westerns based on true history

Some of my favorite westerns are purely fictional (High Noon, The Searchers, True Grit), but I also love the true history of the old west/wild west. I understand that some fiction will be added to any movie, but if they can base it around a true story, that's a bonus for me.

For instance you've got the Wyatt Earp movies (My Darling Clementine, Tombstone, Wyatt Earp, Gunfight At The O.K. Corrall, Hour Of The Gun), the Jesse James movies (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Long Riders, Jesse James, I Shot Jesse James), and the Billy The Kid movies (Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid, Young Guns I & II, Billy The Kid, The Left Handed Gun). The series Deadwood also has a lot of real characters, at least partly based around real history.

Which are your favorite westerns based on true stories? What is the top ten?

Re: Westerns based on true history

Here is another Jesse James bio-pic plus my review that I posted to the CFB earlier this year.


Young Jesse James (1960) / William F. Claxton. Young, naïve Jess is ranching with his family and fiancé during the Civil War when some Yanks come around, hang his Pa, and beat Jesse up. Looking for revenge, he leaves home to join older brother Frank who is working with Quantrill's Raiders. At first, Jesse is mocked for his youth by members Zack and Pitts, then Col. Quantrill refuses to take him on. Refusing to leave and then fighting with Zack convinces Quantrill to give him a chance. He goes on a raiding party with his older kinsman, Cole Younger. His youth and impetuousness cause a breech between the two men. As Jesse gets more experience in war, he turns into a person who loves the killing. There was no reason on Earth why this movie should not have been a typical western programmer of the time, but it turns out to be more than that because of a literate script (by Orville H. Hampton and Jerry Sackheim, a couple of otherwise journeyman writers) and some committed acting by a cast of know-their-faces but not-their-names western regulars. Ray Stricklyn as Jesse James gives an earnest Method performance. Stricklyn, who was once tagged as a possible “next Montgomery Clift” (the kind of hyperbole that seems to kill careers), shows us why some may have been thinking that way. (Stricklyn had an interesting life with some downs and ups. His bio at this database is a good read.) Willard Parker as Cole Younger matches him all the way. Parker, who worked steadily in B-movies and TV for 30 years, was certainly typecast but shows what he can do in this film. Emile Meyer is the hard-bitten Quantrill, Robert Dix (son of silent star Richard Dix) is brother Frank, Jacklyn O'Donnell (who only appeared in one other feature) is Jesse’s gf, later his wife, and Mary Anders shows up in a lively cameo as a worldly Belle Starr. The film was shot in black-and-white Cinemascope but the program I watched (on the F/X Network) showed it in the 1.33 to 1 formatted-to-fit-your-TV ratio. This film is a surprisingly different experience from what one might suppose it would be.


mf

Trust me. I’m The Doctor.

Re: Westerns based on true history

Here I am again. Mentioning Belle Starr in my first post reminded me of:


Badman's Territory (1946) / Tim Whelan. A fun Randolph Scott western romp that has Scott, as a lawman, follow his brother’s kidnappers to a town that harbors outlaws so we run into the likes of Jesse and Frank James, the Dalton Gang, and Belle Starr. George “Gabby” Hayes is also along for the ride but out of his sidekick element. He, too, is an outlaw who drives the getaway buckboard for the Daltons. Lawrence Tierney, usually a modern urban gangster, cameos as Jesse James while ‘40s superhero star Tom Tyler (Captain Marvel, The Phantom) is brother Frank. Steve Brodie, a familiar face usually cast as a tough guy, is Bob Dalton. Stealing every scene she is in (which were not enough) is Isabel Jewell as Belle Starr. Even though the story turns more serious toward the end (which has a very abrupt and unsatisfying wrap-up), the doings are pretty light-hearted. This goes down easily.


mf

Trust me. I’m The Doctor.

Re: Westerns based on true history

A preliminary top 10 (more research required)

my darling clementine (1946)
pat garrett and billy the kid (1973)
the westerner (1940)
gunfight at the ok corral (1957)
the grey fox (1982-can)
the long riders (1980)
jesse james (1939)
cheyenne autumn (1964)
butch cassidy and the sundance kid (1969)
the left handed gun (1958)


Re: Westerns based on true history

Interesting. Which westerns are most true to historical people in your opinion Scotty-New-Mexico?

Re: big mouth

Big mouth doesn't understand the concept 'based on'

Re: big mouth

Sure. Both varieties are fine by me. I sometimes get mildly annoyed when I see people nitpicking endlessly on minor details in westerns, f.ex. in Tombstone which I really like.

At the same time I love history (and old west history), so it's nice to see movies that try to go for some historical accuracy, or at least cover famous people from history. Some obviously go so far from reality that it doesn't even resemble the events that happened, but the most important thing will always be that it's a good movie.

Re: big mouth

Sounds good to me.. and Chief running at the mouth might even agree.

Re: Westerns based on true history

They had Judge Roy Bean as a character on 'Lonesome Dove,' but I don't think 'LD' ever tried to be historically accurate.

- Oh, SOMEbody asides me is gonna RUE this here particular day...

Re: Westerns based on true history

What I have written up so far:

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Tombstone
My Darling Clementine
The Grey Fox
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The Westerner
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid
Calamity Jane
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
The Long Riders
Jesse James
The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean
I Shot Jesse James
Chisum
Cheyenne Autumn
Young Guns
Hour Of The Gun
Wyatt Earp
The Left Handed Gun
Geronimo: An American Legend
Young Guns II
Badman's Territory
Wild Bill
Billy the Kid
Young Jesse James
Deadwood

Re: Indian Wars

based on history..

broken arrow (1950) 6
little big horn (1951) 6
battle at apache pass (1952) 5
apache (1954) 6
sitting bull (1954) 4
taza, son of cochise (1954) 4
chief crazy horse (1955) 4
walk the proud land (1956) 5
geronimo (1962) 4
the great sioux massacre (1956) 4

Re: Westerns based on true history

A few more
Soldier Blue
Heaven's Gate. Probably others based on The Johnson County War.
Any Custer movie of which there are a few.
Quantrill's Raiders
The Jayhawkers! (Quantrill again)
Broken Arrow
How many based on The Lincoln County War?
I reckon the list could run into hundreds

Re: Westerns based on true history

Aye Broken Arrow is a fantastic film.

Re: Westerns based on true history

Some new ones I wrote down:

The Return of Frank James (1940)
Dirty Little Billy (1972)
Harry Tracy: The Last of the Wild Bunch (1982)
Soldier Blue (1970)
Little Big Horn (1951)

Re: Westerns based on true history

"Heaven's Gate" is , I think, supposed to be based on the Lincoln County War, or was it another war. It was another war JOHNSON county. Very LOOSELY based on it, but still based on a real historical incident.

Re: Westerns based on true history

I get pretty annoyed with films based on true events but incredibly liberal with the truth, sometimes just making up some $hit.

The Wyatt Earp films I've seen are guilty of that. My Darling Clementine is a great film, OK Corral decent but not great. It's been a while since I watched them now but I just remember in each of them there were some people dying who shouldn't have, or not dying who should have, or dying sooner or later than they should have, being killed by the wrong person I can't recall the specifics now. What I do recall is that the gunfight in OK Corral went on way too long, like a really drawn out action shoot 'em up scene. Talk about over doing it when the real gunfight ran its course in seconds.

Jesse James and Long Riders were not so guilty, if anything I think Long Riders just made everything more dramatic, adrenaline pumping.. but still quite respectably accurate. And I admired it as a prequel to my favourite film of all time The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (which was beautifully accurate. Such a wonderful re-telling). The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid with Robert Duvall was another decent one.. now The True Story of Jesse James however, ironically, is the most historically inaccurate portrayal of Jesse James I have seen. It was ridiculous, and given the title as well. A complete joke. Again I don't quite recall the specifics right now but I remember when I was watching it I was livid with the audacious misrepresentation and manipulation of the truth, and it was just a terrible film.

Staying true to true events in films claiming to be based on true events is a big deal for me. I have much respect for films like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Black Hawk Down for being so accurate, with such minimalist (if any) bull$hit. So yeah, the former of said films is my answer to your question. Like I said The Long Riders was good too.

Oh yeah and The Revenant, and Tom Horn although I don't remember it so well and intend to watch it again.
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