There are a lot of Westerns I haven’t seen. How The West Was Won. The Searchers. Shane. Red River Valley. I could go on, but that’s a different list. Inspired by IGN’s Top 25 list, which they compiled in anticipation of the release of Red Dead Redemption (I am campaigning for a PS3), here are the Top 20 Westerns I have seen, in something resembling numeric order order.

20. Bells of San Fernando

19. The Quick and the Dead

18. The Long Riders

17. Run Man Run (Corri uomo corri)

16. The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean

15. The Wild Bunch

14. The Claim

13. The Ballad of Little Joe

12. The Outlaw Josey Wales

11. Straight To Hell

10. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

9. Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid

8. El Dorado

7. Once Upon A Time In The West

6. Open Range

5. Lonesome Dove

4. The Magnificent Seven

3. Stage Coach

2. Rio Bravo

1. Silverado

I originally intended to include some commentary with each title, but I think for now I’ll let the list stand on its own. Any thoughts on my list? Fierce disagreements? Lists of your own?


Note from Annika: Will wrote up this review about a year ago, when we started losing steam with this project. I meant to publish it then, but somehow it got lost in the shuffle.

Below the Border promised us a tale of “The Rough Riders.” Not to be confused with Teddy Roosevelt’s charge on San Juan Hill, The Rough Riders were the stars of a short-running series of B-Westerns.

“C’mon Rough Riders, let’s ride again!” shouts one of them jubilantly as the chase is joined. Hard not to grin.

Below The Border stands out in that it has one of the most difficult to follow plots–mainly because there were several characters who COULD have been the lead, but weren’t, and several characters who SEEMED to be one thing, were something else… actually, it’s clever that way, but this is the first of the Rough Rider films we’ve watched at 200 Westerns. Maybe if we knew Buck, Tim and Sandy by sight, we wouldn’t have wondered who these guys were, and what was going on…

Below The Border is almost like a heist or caper film, in that three men under assumed names infiltrate a small rustling outfit and pretend not to know each other, only to turn the tables on the rapscallions.

Young rancher Joe is the foreman of a ranch on the Mexican side of the border. He’s in love with his boss’s daughter–and everyone likes Joe. Scully, the seedy barkeep, oozes malevolence, so we know he’s bad.

Buck (travelling as John Robbins) rides into town in a stagecoach and doesn’t foil a robbery. Not only does he not stop the robbery, he actually tells the outlaws where the less-than-convincing “senorita” has her father’s Jewels hidden (insert family jewel joke here). This should be shocking–except Annika and I didn’t know that John Robbins was Buck, or that Buck was a US Marshall until we remembered that the text on the DVD envelope told us “one of the Rough Riders must infiltrate an outlaw gang,” so then we put it together.

In town, Sandy is a saddlebum turned broom-pusher, and is soon getting into a fight with cattle-trader Tim–only they are BOTH Rough Riders. Phew. It’s how they communicate without suspicion, with the massive and burly Tim getting Sandy into a headlock so they can whisper to each other.

Soon enough, the three undercover do-gooders are shooting bad guys and riding horses and all that normal good-guy stuff. There are a couple of standout moments–the best being a gunfight along a border-fence (in the 1870s?). One of the Rough Riders–Tim, I think–stalks along the Mexican side of the fence while the outlaw gunman walks along the other side as they approach each other for a standard fast-draw gun-down… it’s nicely staged, a unique location, and setting it at night adds to a sort of gloomy feeling that you rarely get in screen gunfights of that era.

Another nice touch is Buck’s refusal to drink whisky (“In my line of work I like to stay sharp”) or smoke–but he does chew gum. Before his big shootout he unfolds a stick of gum and casually tosses the paper aside in a similar movement to a smoker tossing away a match–that got a laugh out of me.

Raymond Hatton easily fills the comic role. I liked him more in Come On, Rangers, but he’s solid. Physical comedy isn’t his forte, so a few slapstick bits involving a bar-rag fall flat, but his weathered scowl can provide a laugh just be squinting.

Tim McCoy is more of a traditional white hat, tall and strong and noble–and he didn’t get a lot to do in this feature, but I’m sure we’ll be revisiting the franchise later. McCoy was obviously meant to be a western star–he ran off to work on a ranch in Wyoming when he was just a kid after seeing a Wild West show. Served in World War I and II, mustering out a Colonel in the Army Air Corps. He was fluent in Indian Sign language, was made an honorary Arapaho and had one of the fastest draws ever recorded on film at that time–filmed on 35mm at 24 frames per second, it only took six frames for his pistol to clear the holster and fire.

1942 was a bad year for the Rough Riders–it was their last. Which is too bad, as the series had a good set-up: Buck Jones (as Marshall Buck Roberts), Tim McCoy (as Marshall Tim McCall) and Raymond Hatton (as Marshall Sandy Hopkins) ride from town to town, righting wrongs as US Marshalls. Nine Rough Riders films in all, six of them in 1942–they were very popular and it looked like the Rough Riders would keep riding for a long time–but co-lead Buck Jones died in a tragic fire at the Coconut Grove nightclub in Boston.

The basics:

Below the Border (1942)
The Rough Riders, three friends who work on bringing justice to the West, are embarking on their new case involving a murderous criminal with eyes on a family’s fortune in jewels. Each of the Rough Riders poses as complete strangers to each other, in order to better investigate the case. When one of the Rangers goes under cover in the criminal’s gang, he finds himself in great danger and in need of his fellow Riders.

Amazon – Below the Border
Amazon – Video On Demand – Below the Border
Amazon – Cowboy Classics 100 MoviePack

Here’s a clip of the opening three minutes or so:

My very generous mother-in-law renewed our Autry Museum membership for us last week, an early birthday present for Sam. I took the kids there this afternoon.

As you can see, he hates it. Worst present ever.

Grace slept through much of our visit, but I did get this photograph, which is basically the greatest photograph in history.

I love taking Sam to The Autry. His favorite part is the outdoor area where there is panning for golds (on weekends) and a replica stage coach to play in. He also loves the play horse. He can climb on all by himself, even though he is so small. (Well, I think he is huge. But he is only just about to turn four.) Some days he wants to visit the little family gallery, which shows the life of a Chinese family in California, with a little restaurant area, rooms from their home, and lots of interactive stuff. He didn’t feel like it today, but he did want to go in one of the exhibits upstairs–the new one, Home Lands, which is about women in the west. Because he is quite a rambunctious boy, I did not get to look at as much as I would have liked, but it was the first time he has asked to see a special exhibit and certainly the most attention he’s ever given one. He especially liked the Ford Fairlane on display (which had something to do with professional women drivers, but I was too busy trying to convince Sam he couldn’t get in the car to read the information with the display).

Every time we visit, we go to the Golden Spur, which is the cafeteria. Sam gets a bag of Miss Vickie’s jalapeno potato chips and I get the High Plains Drifter (their veggie burger).

We also visited the gift shop where I got this book on sale (with our membership I got an additional 10% off, so with tax the total was under $7):

This summer my mom and I are taking the kids to Santa Rosa to meet my Grandpa, and I’m hoping we can see some of the gold rush country while we’re there.


I found this picture at The Official Roy Rogers – Dale Evans Website, which is a fun read. (I have to say, though, that I am deeply disappointed that the Roy Rogers Museum moved from Victorville, California–just a few hours from Los Angeles–to Branson, Missouri, where I am unlikely to find myself anytime soon.)

I love that beautiful smile on Dale’s face! Roy’s funny pose must be how he told Trigger to rear.

Roy Rogers is back–In Time!

Well, not really, but Come On, Rangers came out in ’38 and our last Double-R feature was from ’41. The joke is forced, yes, but so is all of the humor in this oater. (Rimshot!)

Roy Rogers plays Roy Rogers (convenient, that), a singing captain of the Texas Rangers. It seems the Civil War has come to a close and Texas has been readmitted into the Union–and the Governor is shutting down the Texas Rangers. Roy and his pal Jeff (Raymond Hatton, who doesn’t look fresh creased and pomaded like all the other cowboys in these movies, so I like him plenty) are skeptical about the US Cavalry being sent into Texas to enforce the law.

Led by Colonel Forbes (J. Farrell MacDonald), the Cavalry means well but has no experience as a police force; all the outlaws come pouring in, including the dreaded “white horse gang.” Well, I think we all know that the Rangers are gonna be re-instated to get the guys what got Roy’s brother Ken (Lane Chandler), and that the cute daughter of the Colonel, Janice (Lynne Roberts, here a breathtaking 19-year-old and billed as Mary Hart) is gonna fall for Roy instead of that well-meaning but stuffy Cavalry Lieutenant–oh, and Roy is gonna sing a passel of songs.

A lot is made of the Cavalry being ineffective cops which I find funny, because at this point in history the Texas Rangers were still a paramilitary organization that fought a particularly vicious running conflict with the Comanche and routinely rode across the border into Mexico to hang horse thieves (and people accused of such, Mexican people).

This is even illustrated in a sequence where the Cavalry refuses to give chase to horse thieves, and Roy & Jeff (Roy has enlisted in the Cavalry to be close to Janice and Jeff has hung around as a scout) are aghast. The gist being that “The Rangers wouldn’t let anything as small as a border get in their way of chasing down horse thieves!”

I enjoyed Come On, Rangers! (it needs an exclamation point) more than Bad Man Of Deadwood. The plot was still unnecessarily convoluted, and there were a few extraneous characters that just padded out the (admittedly brief) running time. Roy Rogers had a fine singing voice and a magnetic screen presence–it’s fitting that he chose the stage name Rogers as a tribute to the charismatic Will Rogers.

The BEST part of the movie takes place when Roy and the Cavalry ride to his brother’s ranch to find Ken and his family dead–wait, no, that part wasn’t the best (a good sequence though and I admit I was surprised that the film killed off–even off-screen–a woman)–and the barn is on fire, a whinnying horse inside.

Well Roy is a hero, so he rushes through the fire to save a beautiful horse- and I say to Annika: “Aw man, if that is Trigger and they become best pals, I am going to love this movie forever!”

Well guess what he names the horse?

Trigger was the R2-D2 of the Roy Rogers westerns, he had character and was even given set-pieces. In this flick, when Roy is captured by the outlaws at one point Trigger escapes and there is a “thrilling” chase sequence where Trigger outwits and outruns the outlaw chasing him–it’s kinda awesome.

Trigger’s show biz career started off with the awesome The Adventures of Robin Hood- named Golden Cloud, trigger was Maid Marion (Olivia de Havilland)’s horse! It wasn’t until 1943’s Silver Spurs that Trigger would get his own credit in the pic’s opening scrawl…