Richard e Hill - a Writer's Journal

The Best Western Movie I Never Saw

 The Best Western Movie I Never Saw

“Django, the “D” is silent.” The poetic licensed catch phrase promotional line from the Quentin Tarantino, Jamie Fox movie ---- but not the movie that I was referencing although I have not seen same. Doubt if the cowboys got the dry humor either because of the high illiteracy rate in the era circa the Civil War. Western movies were once a Hollywood staple and steady revenue stream ---- I enjoy the “shoot-em ups”; The Alan Ladd classic “Shane” is among my favorites.  Long on action but usually short on authenticity, westerns were a vehicle that transmogrified well to television.  Successful ones have had many iterations i e “The Alamo” and “Wyatt Earp” works.  23 February is the anniversary of “The Alamo”, the besieged mission converted into a fort to stop the Mexicans from reclaiming their disputed lands.  The more or less 257 men who died valiantly and vainly in the battle to delay “The Napoleon of the Southwest”, Generalissimo Santa Anna from advancing while Sam Houston raised funds and an army.  Where were the check writing “super P A Cs” when you really needed them?  Forty plus survivors comprised female relatives, Mexican citizens from Bexar, who feigned being held prisoner, couriers and slaves.

“Remember” the Alamo!” was the rallying battle cry. Forgotten in the aged dust covered annals are the 600 plus Mexican townspeople who stood shoulder to shoulder and died with the martyred settlers and adventurers. Further humiliated when Sam Houston returned with an avenging army to inimically slaughter thousands more. “Remember the Alamo?” ---- Apparently not.

The forgiving slanted pen strokes of revisionist history elevated the righteous, “run the outlaws and casinos out of town” Wyatt Earp and other miscreants to legendary hero status as well. Earp ran them out to take over their enterprises to expand “the Earp family business” as a string of gambling halls and whorehouses (six here in San Diego CA) would attest.


Obviously these were not the flicks I was referencing. The movie was, drum roll and the envelope please ---- “The Bass Reeves Legend”.  Did not see the movie because it has not been made (yet?). The closest Reeves came to immortality on the silver screen was the Deputy Marshall, bounty hunter in the Clint Eastwood classic, “Hang ‘em High” loosely based upon this real life Black (you knew that was coming, didn´t you?) fearless US Deputy Marshall, Bass Reeves (1838 – 1910).  The scene where the fictional lawman brings in a wagon load of desperados single-handled is prototypical Bass Reeves.


Merciless Isaac “Hanging Judge” Parker from the district that included Arkansas, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma was called the “hanging judge”, exacting the ultimate form of justice with 160 (156 men and 4 women) sentenced to death, 79 criminals actually were hanged.  His rendering of capital punishment was arguably equal opportunity justice --- this disposition included 27 Whites, 26 Blacks and 26 Mexicans and Indians.  He recruited the redoubtable bounty hunter Reeves to aid in bringing law and order to this desolate area containing the notorious outlaw haven, Oklahoma panhandle.  Considered a giant because the average height in mid nineteen century was 5 feet and 7 inches, 6 feet 2 inches plus Reeves lived a slave´s fantasy by taking his freedom by kicking his cruel master’s ass (aren’t all masters portrayed as cruel?). Although illiterate, he had eidetic memory; retaining information on warrants and wanted posters by having someone read relevant data to him.  His assignments were the most hardened fugitives and Black outlaws. Yes there were Black outlaws in gangs and individuals e g; Billy Buck, Curly Bill and Benjamin Hodges. Tall, nearly glabrous Reeves often reverted to disguises since his tall figure would be easy to recognize. He was the first Black to be appointed as a US Marshall and arrested over 3000 perpetrators in a 30 year career. An expert with either pistols or rifle and a fierce hand to hand combatant, who could beat men half his age until the day he died. He could bring in many suspects simultaneously as no one wanted to have this vaunted tracker stalking them; so many willingly surrendered, 14 were killed and he was NEVER wounded. The infamous female outlaw Belle Starr was a friend and would casually surrender and ride along unrestrained when a warrant for her was issued. Besides, many prisons were relatively easy to escape.

This is the greatest western movie or documentary that I have never seen and it is all true.



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