black and white

I think the old black and white movies have been getting a bad rap as of late, like they have no social value because of their lack of color.  I thought with the new millennium we would be beyond those barriers and look back on prejudice as so “20th century” but it seems that I’m wrong… especially when it comes to westerns.

 I don’t know why westerns aren’t as popular as they used to be, but then I guess you have a certain window of opportunity for any film based on the generations surrounding it.  Take one of my favorite westerns, Winchester ’73. 

Filmed in 1950, that era had only passed some 65-70 years prior, quite likely there were  survivors of that time still walking about.  Having the horse as a means of travel was  relatively fresh in peoples minds, as well as the use of the six shooter and domesticating wild Indians. Maybe we were more nostalgic for that back in the 50’s when westerns ruled the box office.  Now we get “Brokeback Mountain” which seems to diminish the real spirit of the West in my mind, though I have to admit I haven’t seen the movie.  The theme doesn’t lend itself to my way of thinking of how the west was won… not that there is anything wrong with that.

And maybe that is why we have the lack of interest or the variation of the theme.  There is no clear cut “good guy and bad guy” for us to engage our imaginations with.  No hero in the white hat, no villain wearing black.  James Stewart wasn’t a larger than life macho figure in Winchester ’73, he was an ordinary man trying to right a wrong.  Shelley Winters, (who actually doesn’t look too bad here) was the love interest and Stephan McNally was the bad seed.  Will Geer, (Grandpa from “The Waltons”) even does a believable turn as Wyatt Earp.  To me the movie doesn’t seem dated, it is the classic example of good verses evil set deep in 1880’s Americana.

I guess I like my world to be cut ‘n’ dry, right or wrong… black and white.  These days it is difficult to figure out where the “good guy” is that wants to “clean up the town”, who’ll face down evil one more time and then “hang up his guns” when the threat has past.  Just once I’d like to see his silhouette on horseback rising up with the setting sun, waving goodbye.  Then I’d know the world was safe again.

Call me a hopeless romantic, an idealist or simply naive… but I’d like to believe that good still triumphs over evil.  Old black and white westerns bring back the trusting, childlike manner in me… not that there is anything wrong with that.



11 Responses to “black and white”

  1. Sam Says:


    Like you I have an abiding love of the western genre. judgement was so much easier to reach when dictated by the colour of one’s hat! I watched Audie Murphy and Randolph Scott, Rock Hudson, and the Duke, all emoting with their six guns. Men were men (and women were glad of it). Virginia Mayo, Barbara Stanwyck, Susan Hayward and Maureen O Hara, they were great and did sterling work. The american dream was all that mattered, and the native american was simply, in the way of ‘progress’.
    I guess we all realize now how simplistic and unreal it all was, and how dishonest.
    I have watched Brokeback Mountain, and found it to be not a ‘cowboy’ film at all. Annie Proulx, (a grandmother,three times married and with numerous grown children) who wrote the short story, lives in Wyoming, and descibes her original thirty page short story as “a study of rural homophobia”, how societal pressure forces unreal conformity and the damage done by that.
    Calling it ‘the gay cowboy film’ is like calling Gone With the Wind a film about a girl thinking she loves an older man, or Inherit the Wind (a favourite of mine), is about a teacher who reads books. Brokeback Mountain has layer after layer of insight into what makes people tick, it doesn’t preach, it certainly doesnt try to force any opinoions upon the viewer. What it does is try to show how damaging the effects of lying can be. The two guys marry, have children, love their families, try to do ‘the right thing’, but…

    Your post sounds thoughtful and kind, and I certainly share it’s nostalgia for a simpler world. I hope you’ll watch Brokeback, hopefully two or three times, for there’s so much detail in there, and little to shock!

    I hope you will have time to respond to my ‘note’.

    Best wishes


  2. chrisfiore5 Says:

    Hello Sam,

    I appreciate your insight and comments.

    There are many films out there that just aren’t my cup of tea, I guess I wouldn’t fit the demographic for todays audiences.


  3. talkstocoyotes Says:

    “Now we get “Brokeback Mountain” which seems to diminish the real spirit of the West in my mind, though I have to admit I haven’t seen the movie.”

    Well, that sums up the value of your essay very neatly.

  4. chrisfiore5 Says:

    hey talkstocoyotes,

    perhaps so… but I thought I was talking about old black and white westerns and the spirit THEY contained.

    Brokeback Mountain may have been an unfair comparison, but it was the THEME I was alluding to. I admitted not seeing it.

    You have to give me credit for that…


  5. freevolition Says:

    From a fellow fan of the old b&w westerns…
    I have to admit that I have been visiting your blog occasionally and always find myself wondering about your age/generation. At first I thought you were quite young, perhaps about the age of my son, who is in his 30’s. But then as I continued reading I thought perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps you are a baby-boomer, such as myself. Especially after reading blog entries such as this one. 🙂

    One of my personal classic favorites (which I do believe is actually in color) is The Rare Breed. Another is Shenandoah. (Can you tell I’m a Jimmy Stewart fan?! 😉

    Brokeback Mountain… well, I haven’t watched it either. When I shell out money and invest my time to either go to a movie theater or to rent a flick, I prefer spending my dollars and my time on something that I have an interest in watching. Brokeback Mountain just didn’t happen to fall into that category.

  6. chrisfiore5 Says:

    Hi freevolition,

    thanks for the comment…

    I agree with you on the spending of your entertainment dollars and the choices therein. Too many times I have been duped into seeing a movie because the best (?) parts are shown in the previews and I leave feeling dis-enchanted by the entire franchise.

    As far as my age goes, thank you for inquiring… and keep guessing, I’ll tell you if you are right.


  7. sammy07 Says:

    Hi This really has nothing to do with this subject this is under, but Um, Who are you?

  8. chrisfiore5 Says:

    I’m just a singer in a rock ‘n’ roll band

  9. Cyndi Says:

    Hmmmm. It seems you opened a can of worms here, bro. I agree with freevolition, “Shenandoah” is also one of my all time favorites, although not really a western, it is a civil war movie, but very good nonetheless. And, hey, don’t forget “Shane!”

    I HAVE seen “Brokeback Mountain.” It was okay. I’m not homophobic, but still felt uncomfortable during the “passion” scenes. But I also have to admit I am also uncomfortable seeing them when it is a man and a woman on screen. Makes me feel like I’m spying on someone in their bedroom! But yes, it wasn’t really a bona fide western. Just took place in the west.

    I was going to mention your age, but won’t because of your answer to freevolition, so your secret is safe with me.

    Love ya.

  10. chrisfiore5 Says:

    can of worms? controversy? on this blog? nawww!

    I would just hate to prejudice my readers, thanks for the discretion…


  11. Rosemary Says:

    Dear Chris,
    I agree with you except for one thing. I do believe black and white films (or TV shows such as Bonanza, etc.) are still quite popular. It is Hollywood who decides to put their money into movies. If they would make a movie of our Military while they were Afghanistan on horseback throwing the Taliban out of power! Now THAT would be a movie I would pay to see! 😉

    Have a blessed day.

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