What is the Corral about?

Well, simply, it is a place to round-up ideas, thoughts, comments and anything else you may like to hear about. My original intention was to have a forum but the time to manage such a gathering is really beyond me at this stage. But via email I can gather up your input and get it into the Corral.

So, would you like to make comment?

What is your favorite western story, either as a book or a movie?

Want to tell us why?

What are you currently reading, watching or listening to (regardless if it is a Western or not)?

What do you want to see in future Western stories (grit or romance, maybe both, gunplay or justice, grim reality or happy endings)?

Anything you would like to see in one of my stories?



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Steve Myall’s website Western Fiction Review is flagged on my web browser as a favourite. Each weekend I go for a visit to catch up on the latest in book reviews, interviews, and sometimes a retro look at a long ago published Western novel. It is one of those dangerous sites where I can easily lose time with ease, but hey, how pleasurable that loss is! 

Why I tend to lose so much time at Steve’s site is that once in, there are so many options to pursue via the extensive links he has sourced, which provides for an Aladdin’s Cave of other Western wonders. And one of these treasures is a link to, 50 Westerns from the 50s.

This site is the prodigy child of Toby Roan, who like Steve Myall, has managed to pull together a resource of immense riches and knowledge. However, while Steve concentrates on the Western novel, Toby has turned his attention to the Western movie.

Now, from time to time I come across a view that the two mediums (or is that media, I could never tell?) of word and picture, should never come together in the same breath, as they are so very different. Such an attitude would seem to imply that they are so different as to be incompatible, and while I do agree that each is distinctive, they also have much in common. Both tell a story, and a movie still has to come from a script, with many Western scripts being adapted from popular novels. I also try not to get to fussed about any culture clashes that may occur in regard to style, as I just love all stuff Western and don’t much care if it is mixed up. In fact it just seems to add to the wonder, and that especially includes those old Western movies made back some 50, 60 or now 70 years ago or more.

I pick up most of these classic movies via the TCM cable channel, and am frequently surprised at the gems that I had no knowledge of whatsoever. But then, when I go digging for some more information on what I’ve just seen, 50 Westerns from the 50s is a great place to start.      

A really interesting ‘new’ film director that I came across recently is Raoul Walsh when reading about the 1958 British/American Western comedy The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw on Toby’s site. I had seen this movie as a kid, when first released in Australia, and enjoyed it for what it was, a comic romp in the tradition of the Carry On series. It was nothing too serious and mostly forgettable, except for Jayne Mansfield who left a big impression on a lot of ten year old boys, at that time. However, the director of this movie, who was an American by the name of Raoul Walsh, sounded familiar. It is a distinctive name and his photograph, complete with eye patch, was, well, swashbuckling.
He is quoted by Toby as having said of his career as a director:
“I made some hits, I made some near-hits and I made a lot of turkeys. You make a lot of pictures. It’s like raising children. Some go out and make good, and some don’t. And you don’t want to play any favorite. Let it go, you know.”
Now that’s what I call a practical approach to the creative arts! And yes this actor turned director did make some pretty variable stuff over his career, but he also made some gems during a long period that crossed from the silent era to the talkies, to colour, and on to the wide screen. Movies like What Price Glory (1926) a silent movie on the US Marine Corps in World War I. The Yellow Ticket (1931) with Lionel Barrymore, Laurence Oliver and Boris Karloff. Then there was High Sierra (1941) with Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino, from an adapted screenplay co-written by John Huston, Bogie’s drinking partner; and a favourite of mine They Drive By Night (1940) also with Bogart and George Raft. 

I had no idea that movies like High Sierra and They Drive By Night had been made by Raoul Walsh, until I went in search of his work. I just knew that they were great movies with great storylines and great actors. But directors are key pulling together that story together in a style that guides the actors and the action, and then finally edits the scenes into the finished film. But why do some movies work out to be hits and others turkeys? Hard to say, but looking at Raoul Walsh’s many, many efforts, I would have to say that it may have been because he was willing to take risks by varying his style – and not all risk brings a reward. He was a man who seemed to have no intention of sticking to his knitting – whatever that may have been – gangster movies, war films, comedies, Westerns, or whatever?

Of his Western movies, the one I would love to see is The Big Trail (1930). Raoul says that this was the movie where he found and cast John Wayne in his first lead, when he observed the young 6’4” college-man on the lot lifting furniture that was being prepared for a scene. The Big Trail is still billed as an epic movie, not just in story and content, but also in style. It was shot in both 35mm and 70mm as an early widescreen movie, and from what I can make out each version was actually quite a different movie. Like a number of Walsh’s movies the 70mm version has been lost, but the 35mm version has been restored and is available on DVD, however, not in my part of the world.

Raoul Walsh went on to make a number of Western such They Died With Their Boots On (1941) with Errol Flynn; Silver River (1948), also with Flynn; Colorado Territory (1949) with Joel McCrea; Gun Fury (1953) a 3-D movie with Rock Hudson, Donna Reed, and Lee Marvin; The Lawless Breed (1953) also with Rock Hudson on the life of John Wesley Hardin; The Tall Men (1955) with Clark Gable, Jane Russell and Robert Ryan; and his final film A Distant Trumpet (1964) with Troy Donahue and Suzanne Pleshette on the US Cavalry in 1883, but which from all accounts, unfortunately, is a lack luster affair.

But before I finish there is one important movie that needs to be mentioned in the Raoul Walsh canon. It was made in 1914 and is a biographical drama on the life of Pancho Villa called The Life of General Villa. Raoul Walsh played the young Pancho, while Villa played himself as the older general. Only fragments of the movie are known to exist, which was said to include actual battles from the Mexican Revolution. On YouTube you can sees these snippets in a Spanish doco on the lost film and it is certainly an interesting piece of Hollywood history of which I knew nothing. It also gives Raoul Walsh almost mythical status, and I think that is well deserved. He was a man who was way ahead of his time and I for one, am still trying to catch up.  

Lee Clinton
May 2013

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