At a time when Ant and Dec have just been voted Best Presenters, its time to face up to the generation gap once and for all. Ant and Dec? Harmless enough, I suppose, but oh so BLAND. Role models? Examples to the young? Rubbish. What the young need today, apart from a clip around the ear and all their electronic gew-gaws burning are proper heroes, and not suited Geordies who call women “guys”.
I count myself lucky. I DID have real heroes up there on the silver screen who didn’t ponce about in a Bieberish fashion on t’ telly singing about lerve. Oh no. Besides, at the time, music-wise, all we had was Dickie Valentine. Dickie! Valentine! No, my heroes rushed about the place at a flat gallop most of the time in a land called “The West”. When not hurtling around on horseback, they faced down utter rotters in black hats, outwitted whole tribes of Indians and when push came to shove, shot the guns out of *black hatters’ hands.
From the hip.
Not that romance didn’t rear its sloppy head from time to time. My heroes rescued helpless ladies with strangely pointed chests from the black hatters and evil savages who didn’t appreciate railway locomotives and had names like “Rutting Elk” or “He-Who-Smash-Yer-Face-In”. Said ladies were terribly grateful, but my heroes, despite having an eye for a decent pointy chest, invariably rode off into the sunset just before the credits.
And what credits! Randolph Scott, Glenn Ford, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, James Stewart….But as the Western developed, so did the plots and direction, which is where I started to lose interest. Actually, my hero worship took its first knock quite early in the person of one Audie Murphy who was a little tiny war hero who may well have killed loads of folk with his real gun, but I could never imagine him getting the drop on any full-sized black hatter with a phoney one. (Murphy was even smaller than Alan Ladd who, when on location, slept in a shoe box).
But I knew it was make-belief and after Randolph Scott rode into town for the last time, I was sustained by the towering right–wing presence of John Wayne who outlasted most in doing what a man had to do.
The change really happened when Clint Eastwood did his Man With No Name thing. Here was a hero who was just as sneaky as the black hatters. Then there were the special effects departments (egged on by directors like Sam Pekinpah) which were capable of reproducing the effects a .44 slug has on soft tissue. As often as possible.
So it all got too real. The Old West was shown up for what it really was – a brief, brutal episode populated by pockmarked knock- kneed, cross-eyed thugs, not unlike many night time town centres today.
Still, I miss the unreality, preferably in b+w, of scenes like the one from “Reckoning at Rimrock” wherein Randolph [RANDOLPH!] Scott is being tended by the local black hatter’s daughter all tricked up and pointy, him having been shot in the shoulder. “How bad is it?” asks pointy lady. “Aw, nothin’ a purdy face caint cure” grits Randy, smiling heroically.
*It should be noted that whilst Wyatt Earp, a goody, wore all black, including his hat, this was a fashion choice and not an indication of moral proclivity.