There was a time when the names of Hopalong Cassidy, Red Ryder and The Lone Ranger meant something. A time when, if words failed and reason ceased, justice was a right hook to tyranny and the sign of a silver bullet made evil-doers cower.
There was also a time, before the reign of television, when the knights of the west ruled not only the imaginations of America’s youth, but the silver screen as well. Forget George Clooney and Brad Pitt, their appeal to fans and box office draw are nothing compared to those heroes of yesteryear. If they truly were knights, shining examples of truth, justice and loyalty, then their leader had to be the “King of the Cowboys” himself, Roy Rogers.
Roy, in his heyday, wasn’t only the biggest name in movies, he was the movies. For 12 years running, Roy, along with his trusty steed Trigger, were the ones moviegoers went to see. Roy single handedly out-sold the big stars of the day, having a brand new movie in theatres almost every month (he sometimes had eight new movies premier in one year!). Roy not only proved himself to be the quintessential cowboy, he was also the model for what was to become the everyman hero to which all male movie stars strive to copy today.
That model of hero is as much a staple in action movies as is the car chase and big explosion. He is usually a regular Joe, minding his own business, when he is pressed into service by the films’ leading lady or by gaining knowledge of some diabolical plot, hatched by the main villain. Action ensues while the hero is regularly beat down, dragged out and pushed to his limits, all with the clock ticking down to doomsday. Then, as hope seems lost and moviegoers are clinging to the edges of their seats, our hero finds his strength, rises triumphant and defeats the bad guy. In the end he gets the girl and rides off into the sunset to live in piece and harmony (at least until part two of the series when the once vanquished baddie rises from the ashes to stir up more trouble).Some people call the action and adventure genre mindless drivel, formulaic garbage unsuitable for viewing. They may be right in some cases. Not all movies are gems, regardless of the category to which they fall. These movies however, with the reluctant, sometimes young (anti) hero, exciting action and over the top computer generated effects are what people pay to see. They want to sit in the dark eating popcorn, cheering the hero and booing the villain. They want to escape to a galaxy far, far away and fantasize about leaping tall buildings in a single bound.
For this, we owe a debt of gratitude to the silver screen cowboy. Without him, there would be no John McClane, Luke Skywalker or even Capt. Jack Sparrow. He existed before the Matrix was reloaded and DeLoreans were time machines. It was an era in which the good guys wore white hats and the bad wore black.If you enjoy the modern blockbuster, do yourself a favor and watch a good western. You will understand and better appreciate the style in which all action movies copy and learn where real movie heroes come from.
So saddle up, grab your reins and move ‘em out, Roy and the gang are waiting. Happy Trails!
Your thoughts? Do you have your own review to share? - Visit us on The Forum