“Western Movies”, by Victor Rui Dores


– Translated by Katharine F. Baker

I attended many a western movie at the cinema during my youth. And to this day I still get an occasional shiver of excitement from a good western on the small screen. That’s what happened recently when I (re)watched Nicholas Ray’s movie Johnny Guitar on the television channel RTP Memória.
As a matter of fact, the very first movie I ever saw (other than cartoons) was at age twelve: Rio Bravo, with the ubiquitous John Wayne. After that I enjoyed more cowboy films (almost all directed by John Ford) whose titles and plots I harbor in my memory to this day: Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and (with Henry Hathaway and George Marshall) How the West Was Won – as well as Rio Lobo, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Magnificent Seven, directed by others.
The cowboys were immaculate, elegant and smiling. They mounted horses, lassoed cattle and galloped off on cavalry charges. Along with galloping passions, almost always well matched by chaste fiancées or submissive wives, there was great chaos: fistfights, brawls, shootings, blood, and saloon interiors smashed up by movie villains.
The films were set in the era of the Wild West and its frontier towns. There were wagon trains, stagecoaches and railroads being attacked by bandits and other criminals. There were also kidnappings, dead and wounded, war whoops and arrows from Indians, and sure shots from trusty Winchester rifles. The hero, a “pale face,” was the good guy – and the Indian, a “redskin,” the bad one. We didn’t know then that Indians had been nearly exterminated by Americans, and were unaware of many other historical contexts. Moreover, the word “genocide” was not yet part of our vocabulary.
Along with movies, I devoured comic books, and among western ones my favorites were those of Buffalo Bill, Texas Jack and the Portuguese series Xerife [Sheriff]. I associated the John Wayne of film with each of those mythical comic book heroes.
In cowboy films there were other famous actors – like James Stewart, Kirk Douglas, Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and Burt Lancaster. And then came the elevation of Clint Eastwood and director Sergio Leone with the emergence of the so-called spaghetti western – a subgenre that refers to films that, besides a much smaller budget than Hollywood’s, were shot in Italian: A Fistful of Dollars, Once Upon a Time in the West, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
And enhancing these feature films were the most iconic soundtracks in the history of cinema, namely those composed by Ennio Morricone.
There are not many names of leading actresses in these films that I retain in my memory. But, already a scrawny teenager, I won’t forget the movie The Legend of Frenchie King, nor the stunning beauty of Brigitte Bardot and Claudia Cardinale, now respectable octogenarians.

Tempus fugit.

Translated from the crónica “Cóboiadas” by Victor Rui Dores, originally published on 22 November 2021 in Portuguese at: www.rtp.pt/acores/graciosa-online/coboiadas-_73889