Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The greatest Western movie posters of all time (WARNING: scenes of violence and lashings of testosterone right from the start)

(...and sexual and racial stereotypes. There are very few women in it. Or black actors. This may upset some readers. My heart bleeds.)

Ty Hardin died earlier this month, aged 87. If you're below the age of 60, or if you didn't waste your childhood watching television, you might not be familiar with the name. If you're anything like me, you'll instantly recall him as Bronco Lane in the TV series, Bronco, which ran from 1958 to 1962. One of the first things my parents did after arriving in London in the late '50s was to rent a television set from Rediffusion (television hadn't been introduced in Norway by that time). For the next five years, I feasted on a western diet - Cheyenne, Maverick, Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Wells Fargo,  The Rifleman, Bonanza, Rawhide, Wyatt Earp, The Lone Ranger, Laramie, Have Gun Will Travel, Davy Crockett... there was even a British-made series, Four Feather Falls, featuring puppets...

If there wasn't a TV western, the BBC or ITV would show an old Hollywood western to ensure we got our daily fix. How they managed to fit that lot in when there were only two channels, both of which didn't broadcast anything entertaining until the evenings on weekdays, and which shut down at midnight, is a a mystery.

Eventually, the stampede of horse operas put people off paying to watch cowboy movies at the cinema. Sergio Leone revived the genre by injecting lashings of violence, amorality and dodgy dubbing in the mid-'60s, and his star, Clint Eastwood, helped keep the western alive for the next two decades by refining the Leone formula, while the rest of Hollywood pitched in occasionally with notable films such as The Wild Bunch, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, True Grit and The Shootist - but most 1970s big budget westerns were laments for the passing of the Old West, and, in a way, for the passing of the genre itself, and of the traditional virtues - honour, courage, steadfastness, loyalty - which it once celebrated. At least half of the TCM channel's output seems to consist of black and white "oaters", but - I'm ashamed to admit - I rarely watch them. I'm not sure why: perhaps because, as with horror films, I once ODed on them.

Whatever the reason for my lack of interest in the films themselves these days, I derive an enormous amount of pleasure from the posters. This selection isn't based on the quality of the films - just on the power of the artwork to evoke what made us fall in love with westerns in the first place.
Yes, Straw Dogs was set in Cornwall in the '70s - but it was essentially a Sam Peckinpah western:
Here are three posters featuring the Big Feller:
Here's Clint, preparing to welcome guests in the traditional manner:
Here, in a poster reflecting French priorities, Clint enjoys a beverage after taking care of his visitors:
Bottoms Up! I'll leave you with this magnificently atmospheric poster for 1980's The Long Riders :


  1. Can we hear it for Chuck Connors, please, "a man among men, his name spelt terror".

    Broco was regularly hit over the head with a chair or a whisky bottle but never suffered a headache. He was also forever being shot with a Colt 45. This was invariably described as no more than "a flesh wound". I understand that if a Mini doing 30 m.p.h. is hit in the engine block by the bullet from a Colt 45 it is stopped dead.

    1. If "Geronimo" spells "terror", I will have to question everything I've ever been taught. You're right, though - fabulous poster!

      What you're leaving out of the Bronco equation is that, if he'd been hit by a Mini going at 30 mph, he'd have been unharmed but the car would have a write-off.

  2. A wonderful walk down memory lane. I remember all of these films with great affection [haven't see "War Drum"].

    The reason the Western is dying is contained in all the characters featured in the posters. Or, as someone said : "Take care of Eastwood. He's the last Gary Cooper we've got." Did anybody ever see Johnny Depp as Tonto? Or "Brokeback Mountain" ? Bloody nerve.

    Defending the British corner I have two cavils. In the UK the title reads " 3:10 to Yuma has Been Delayed" and there is no mention of "Carry on Cowboy" [1965] with S.James [Johnny Finger], J.Sims [Belle Armitage] and J.Dale [Marshall Knut]. Great dialogue. Sample:

    Belle [looking at Finger's gun]: "My, you've got a big one!"
    Finger : "I'm from Texas, ma'am. We've all got big ones down there."

  3. There was also a TV western called 'Whiplash' which was a Brit/Aussie hybrid starring Peter Graves.Watching it as a kid I thought it was set somewhere in Texas or Wyoming,but it may have been Western Australia.
    Hattie Jacques was not in it.