Saturday, June 15, 2013

Best cast in a TV or Film Western

I think this idea came from my introduction to The Rockford Files a week or so ago.  Somehow, this show had escaped, but I can change that now, thanks to the magic of Netflix.  From there, my mind jumped to the question of TV Stars - legitimate, big-time, TV stars.  Of course, that's not necessarily an objective question.  Spurred by the query of whether James Garner was one of these stars, my mind immediately thought of Peter Falk (Columbo is all he needs), Michael Landon (for 30 years he was a star, or co-star, in 3 legitimate hits - Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, and Highway to Heaven), and Robert Urich (who may be the odd man out, since he only truly had one successful show, Spenser for Hire, but he was on a string of series, every single year, from 1975 with S.W.A.T. to 1993 with It Had to Be You, and even after that he could always be found on TV).

Anyway, from there I started thinking about some of my favorite westerns, and the insanely good casts in these.  Consider (at #3):

Young Guns

You can read it, but just consider - Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Kiefer Sutherland, not to mention Terence Stamp and John Wayne's son, Patrick, in a cameo role.  Great film.  Great cast.

Then, at #2:

The Magnificent Seven

The source material for this film is well chosen - Akira Kurosawa's brilliant film, Seven Samurai - but the casting for this movie was incredible.  The leads were well-known box office draws at the time, Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, and that would probably be enough.  But a couple of actors who would become stars were also part of this film, James Coburn and Charles Bronson (both of whom had been working steadily in TV for a number of years, but probably would have numbered this as one of their big breaks).  then there was the man who would be the "Man from U.N.C.L.E." Robert Vaughn.  And, lest we forget, the great Eli Wallach played the villain in this movie.  Great, great film with an amazing cast.

But there is one western which has a more stellar cast, and holds a deeper place in my entertainment heart, than the Magnificent Seven, and that is Lonesome Dove.

There were some "heavy hitters" in the other two films noted above. But Lonesome Dove, a brilliant TV mini-series adaptation of Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer prize-winning novel, is weighted down with talent and the hardware to back it up.

First, the Academy Award winners - Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Anjelica Huston, & Chris Cooper
Then there are the rest - Diane Lane, Robert Urich, Rick Schroder, D.B. Sweeney, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Frederic Forrest, and William Sanderson.

That's an amazing cast.  And it's an amazing 6 hours of film that never feels lagging.

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