I write westerns. I adore watching them. This fondness for movies set in the U.S. West led me on a grand adventure in downtown Scottsdale, AZ. in the arts and culture area.
John Charlie LeSueur, a Western film critic who is a professor of film, was touting a big event about the American West in film and television: John Ford and his Western Movies at the Spirit of the West Museum.
I missed that lecture, “In Search of a Perfect Top Ten Western Film List,”.. but, I was intrigued enough by an advertisement for it to travel miles off my path to see it.
Its exterior took my breath away. The two-story building is a few years old, has won many awards, and has a rough but giant view. Even the concrete sidewalk had swirls and patterns. I couldn’t wait to see the exhibits. When I did, I thought, “Whoever put these excellent displays of Western artifacts together should receive awards, too?” Each featured the best of the best, from saddles to guns to clothing.
In the museum the day I visited, I was treated to a collection of Charlie Russell’s art of some of the women he’d painted. A few years ago, I lived and worked in Great Falls and owned a quaint Victorian white house just up the street on N. 4th Ave. from his home and museum and am very fond of his work.
I was excited. Being here was going to be as much fun as discovering which films the audience had chosen.
Would the list include The Wild Bunch, The Searchers, Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid? Had they seen film clips of Rancho Notorious, an unusual western with Marlene Dietrich?
Was James Mitchner’s Centennial TV series mentioned? I, for one, will never forget the figure of this big German standing in an open prairie shouting to the world, “I know what I’ll do here – I’ll plant potatoes – I’ll be Potatoes Brumbra.” The series was shot years ago \, the scenery and lighting are faded and are not up to today’s techniques, but the vast feeling of the West and the strength of its expansion from the trappers to the development of a city come through as a brave endeavor.
I am sorry I wasn’t at Charlie’s lecture to see if McCabe and Miss Miller, High Noon, or, one of today’s hits like Missing made the list the crowd chose. I asked one of hospitable docents if LeSeure had given them such a list – but, he hadn’t. and, I couldn’t find one on his web site.
From beginning to end, the museum was exquisite. I wish I could live just down the block from it, too, just like I once had the good fortune to live so close to Charlie Russell.