The Westerners (2009) – By James L. Neibaur

Writer C. Courtney Joyner is probably best known for his horror screenplays, including such films as TOMB OF TERROR (2004) and PUPPET MASTER VS. DEMONIC TOYS (2004).  

But Joyner’s contributions to periodicals and film books have offered several excellent essays on western films, and this latest effort, THE WESTERNERS (McFarland and co.) might be represent his best work in the field. 

The movie western is central to the development of cinema, and Joyner has compiled insightful interviews with such noted figures of the genre as actors Glenn Ford, Warren Oates, and Harry Carey Jr.;  directors such as Andrew McLaglen and Burt Kennedy; and other noteworthy people from A.C Lyles and Elmore Leonard to Jack Elam and Julie Adams.

The book is not only interesting for those of us who appreciate American western films, but it is also packed with fascinating anecdotes for the casual movie fan.  Glenn Ford’s memories of his friendships with everyone from Ann Miller and Penny Singleton to Charles Ruggles and Edgar Buchanan are heartfelt and moving.  His forthright comments on the many directors with whom he worked give the reader a real appreciation for another era of Hollywood filmmaking.  Virginia Mayo not only weighs in with great memories of her many western appearances, but also recalls films outside the genre, including some of the more difficult scenes she played opposite James Cagney in the classic WHITE HEAT (1949). 

The insights of directors Burt Kennedy and Andrew McLaglen, for instance, give us interesting information as to their approach to the screenplay, and working with different actors.  A.C. Lyles, who rose from menial tasks to a top level position at Paramount Pictures produced some of that studio’s most noted westerns.  Writer Elmore Leonard has interesting things to say about the difference between writing for publication, movies, and television.

But despite the wealth of knowledge and experience among those featured in this book, the material would not be as interesting or significant if not for Joyner’s own method of interviewing.  His questions are what prompt each individual to tap into his or her memories and offer readers so many great facts and memories.

For anyone with an interest or appreciation of western cinema, THE WESTERNERS is a most highly recommended book.

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