Friday, September 26, 2014

Why I Love B-Westerns By Darryle Purcell

B-westerns bring out the good in all of us!
 Darryle Purcell

“Who’s your favorite cowboy?”
I remember debating that question with other children on the playgrounds, backyards and pastures during my youth in the 1950s. Depending on the year, the answers were Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard, Lash LaRue, Johnny Mack Brown, Tim McCoy, Tom Tyler, Tex Ritter, Hoppy and other great B-western heroes whose movies of the 1930s and ’40s were saturating early television. We often watched the films with our parents who had enjoyed them during their first runs in theaters. In the late ’50s and early ’60s, television series stars such as Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Boone, Will Hutchins, and James Drury were added to the discussion.
It was a great time to be a kid. And it wasn’t just us guys who got a kick out of these shows. I remember watching Annie Oakley save her little brother Tagg and Deputy Lofty Craig from some villainous situation or another every week on tv for a few years. They were truly fun adventure programs. Gail Davis’ Annie Oakley character lived by the same standard as the male cowboy heroes. In later years, major motion picture star Barbara Stanwyck rode herd on television’s The Big Valley.

These wonderful action stories contained very important morality lessons for the children of the 20th century. Thinking back, I believe the Saturday matinee westerns were probably the only sermons on good versus evil that some of the children of the Great Depression, and later, came in contact with. And, likewise, those of us from the late 1940s into the early ’60s all wanted to grow up and be strong, good and heroic. And although that didn’t work out for all of us, it was a good start on life. As we became adults and reality started to smack us around, most of us did our best to hold on to those western values.  
These movies and early television characters all shared their visions of the Code of
the West. They taught the beliefs of self-reliance, honesty and fair play. Every leading B-western star was a straight shooter who always told the truth, paid his debts, was kind to animals and courteous to the ladies. Only bad guys lied, stole, cursed, back-shot, and mistreated horses, women and children.
Good guys always fought fair, no matter what sleazy tricks the bad guys used. In the long run, bad guys were always brought to justice. Honesty and fair play was a reward in itself.
That’s why today I still love the old B-westerns. When I’ve read or heard too much bad news about war, crime and politics, I simply pop in a DVD and watch Ken Maynard round up the rustlers, Hoot Gibson take down the crooked banker or John Wayne and the Three Mesquiteers save the settlers from the clutches of an attorney’s evil land scheme. You can call it therapy; I think of it as pleasure. 
I’ve always followed local politics closely. The things I read about that just scream political cronyism or payoffs to members of small-town political machines could very well be re-imagined into a B-western script. Of course, in that situation Randolph Scott would ride into town and clean things up within 90 minutes.
Although great western films can still be seen on some cable stations as well as at
Internet sites, today’s children quite often debate their favorite video games or “reality” shows. I would love to see youths rediscover B-westerns like so many have with the classic films of Bogart and Chaplin. I think they would be amazed at the trick riding found in the 1930s Gibson and Maynard films, which contain no Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) special effects. When we watch these films, the stars of that bygone era live again, as does the message that justice always wins. 

With the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives book series, I believe the characters and their messages also live again. If asked, “Who’s your favorite cowboy?” today I have to answer, “All of them.” Obviously, I give a Hoot about the great old western films. And I believe that as more people are reintroduced to the genre, Hoppy days could be here again.

Read Darryle Purcell's enthralling Hollywood Cowboy Detectives series, a pulp novel inspired book series, featuring Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard, Tom Mix, and other great cowboy stars solving crimes and fighting fiendish villains in 1930s Hollywood.
Begin with Mystery at Movie Ranch, a delightful mashup of gangsters, gunmen, Nazis and Klansmen.

1 comment:

  1. It's a toss up for favorite B-weatern cowboy hero, between Lash LaRue and The Durango Kid. I loved them both when I was a "front row kid". However, Clayton Moore remains my real hero of the period. All those great serials, and he "was" The Lone Ranger, bar none.