Tag Archives: Wild West

MAVERICK (1994): MOVIE REVIEW

MASCOT COWBOY 2FRONTIERADO IS COMING UP ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 3rd! As always the Frontierado holiday (now celebrated on 6 continents) is about the myth of the Wild West, not the grinding reality. It’s just like the way medieval festivals celebrate the era’s romantic aspects, not “the violence inherent in the system” (for my fellow Monty Python fans).

MaverickMAVERICK (1994) – Richard Donner directed and Mel Gibson starred in this excellent tribute to the 1950s and 1980s Maverick television series. The original series starred James Garner as slick-talking gambler/ gunslinger Bret Maverick AND, in old-age makeup, as “Pappy” Beauregard Maverick, the gambler and con-man patriarch of that family of rogues.  (No relation to the real-life Maverick family of Texas, for whom “maverick” cattle were named.)

Maverick was just as often comedic as dramatic and nicely anticipated the many deconstructions of Old West mythology that were to come in the decades ahead. Sometimes the program was daringly farcical as in episodes like Gun-Shy, a spoof of Gunsmoke, and Three Queens Full, a Bonanza parody set on the Sub-Rosa Ranch (as opposed to Bonanza‘s PONDErosa). The storyline featured Maverick encountering a Ben Cartwright-styled rancher and his three less-than-straight sons, hence the episode’s title.

The original series centered on Garner’s Bret Maverick (and later other Maverick family members) vying in cardplaying and con-games with assorted rival gamblers, gunslingers and con-men. Elaborate schemes and multiple double-crosses often kept viewers guessing who would come out on top til the very end, since Bret sometimes ended up on the losing side. 

The constant betrayals and double-crosses were part of the charm of the television series and were perfectly captured by the 1994 big-screen adaptation of Maverick. This thoroughly enjoyable film is often dismissed as just another of the pointless movie adaptations of tv shows that began to flood theaters back then, but that is far from the truth.

Maverick 2Mel Gibson portrays Bret Maverick since by 1994 James Garner was too old for the role. Jodie Foster co-stars as rival gambler Annabelle Bransford and the iconic James Garner provides memorable support as a lawman. 

NECESSARY SPOILER: Many people that I’ve discussed this movie with said they avoided it or stopped watching it once they realized Garner was not portraying a member of the Maverick family. In reality – as we learn near the very end – he IS. He may have been too old to play Bret this time around but he reprised his role of Pappy Beauregard from the original series. Pappy is just POSING as a lawman and his son Bret obligingly plays along without blowing his Pappy’s cover. Continue reading

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DANITES – GUNSLINGING “KNIGHTS” OF THE OLD WEST

FRONTIERADO IS COMING UP ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 3rd!

Berenger Avenging AngelThe Frontierado Holiday is about the myth of the Old West, not the grinding reality. The Danites – the gunslinging Knights of the Mormon faith – are an underutilized and underappreciated element of Old West fiction.

The opportunities for action presented to a Danite could start as early as the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri. After that there’s the Illinois Mormon War in the 1840s which ended in the Siege of Nauvoo.

Following that conflict the Mormon Exodus to the West began, with “Deseret” (later called Utah) as the ultimate destination. Danites – like Christian Knights of long ago protecting Pilgrims headed for their “Holy Land” – safeguarded Mormon travelers from attacks by hooded anti-Mormon gangs, from armed outlaws and from various Native American tribes along the way.  

Berenger Avenging Angel 2In Deseret itself there were conflicts with Mexican raiders after the end of America’s war with Mexico (1846-1848). Danites would also be called upon to battle various Native American tribes in Deseret, in the role of oppressors rather than oppressed much of the time.

They would also fight Navajo armies to stop them from seizing Paiute Indians as slaves. (The anti-slavery aspect of Mormonism is often overlooked.) Plus the Danites faced the task of driving off armed bands of prospectors wanting the gold and other precious metals of the area.

There was also the Utah War with the Mormons fighting the United States Army from 1857-1858. On top of that add rumored armed conflicts among competing factions of Mormon leaders with the Danites caught in the middle like Mafia gunmen serving their respective “Dons” as it were.

NOTE: This blog post is interested only in the neglected potential of Danites as mythic heroes and/or villains in western sagas. I know that in real life the Mormon Church downplays or distances themselves from the Danites because of the violence often associated with them. Continue reading

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LINCOLN COUNTY WAR: THE GANGS

New Mexico map

Frontierado is Friday, August 4th!

The various range wars of the Old West were not truly “wars,” of course but were more like modern-day gangster conflicts with very rare examples of outright good guys or outright bad guys. Frontierado is about the myth of the American West, not the reality, though, so think in terms of Renaissance Festivals. 

THE LINCOLN COUNTY WAR – Billy the Kid’s involvement in this range war has made this the most internationally famous of them all, so I chose it for this premier look at gangs fighting on both sides of the conflict. For fans of the original Young Guns movie I’ll lead off with the Regulators.   

THE REGULATORS

Side: Tunstall-McSween Faction 

Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid

Comment: Like many of the units fighting in the Lincoln County War the Regulators were “deputized” by law enforcement personnel in the pocket of their faction’s leaders. This provided an arguable veneer of legality to the group’s actions. Dick Brewer led the Regulators until he was killed by Buckshot Roberts, then Frank McNabb led them and, after his death Josiah Scurlock took over.   

Prominent Members: Billy the Kid, Tommy O’Folliard, Charlie Bowdre, Jim “Frenchy” French, Dirty Steve Stephens, Tiger Sam Smith and the Coe Brothers. 

SEVEN RIVERS WARRIORS

Side: Dolan-Murphy Faction Continue reading

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OVERLOOKED SPAGHETTI WESTERN HEROES

Jeffrey Hunter as The Christmas Kid

Jeffrey Hunter as The Christmas Kid

Frontierado is coming up on Friday August 4th!

In the past Balladeer’s Blog has examined some of the big names among the fictional gunslingers of Spaghetti Westerns. I’ve covered the original Django, Sartana, the Holy Ghost, Dynamite Joe, Harmonica and even Tony Anthony’s character the Stranger. Here are a few of the lesser lights from Eurowesterns.

Christmas Kid 2THE CHRISTMAS KID

Film: The Christmas Kid (1966)

The Story: Jeffrey Hunter portrayed this memorable gunslinger, who got his nickname from the date of his birth, December 25th. His nickname was always bitter-sweet, however, since his mother died giving birth to him on Christmas.

The Kid is a pacifist in fictional Jaspen, AZ during a copper rush. Our hero reluctantly takes up a gun and at first seems like he might be corrupted by the faction led by the crooked town boss (Louis Hayward) but eventually his girlfriend Marie dies as the violence escalates. The Christmas Kid redoubles his efforts against Hayward. Good but not a great film.

The Kid deserved more than one screen appearance but the forced Jesus parallels make this movie as UN-intentionally funny as the Holy Ghost Spaghetti Westerns (“Looks like this is your Last Supper.”). Continue reading

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FRONTIERADO POKER: A REFRESHER

"You're not goin' nowhere, ya bottom-dealin' Hombre," the gambler-gunfighter exclaimed, "We've got us a few apparent paradoxes and their effect upon contemporary religious thought to discuss!"

“You’re not goin’ nowhere, ya bottom-dealin’ Hombre,” the gambler-gunfighter exclaimed, “We’ve got us a few apparent paradoxes and their effect upon contemporary religious thought to discuss!”

The Frontierado holiday is coming up fast – on Friday, August 4th in fact. Today we’ll revisit the rules of Frontierado Poker for newbies to the holiday.

Here are the rules for Frontierado  Poker, the game that is Continue reading

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DUSTY DELIA: FEMALE STAGECOACH DRIVER

FRONTIERADO IS COMING UP ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 4th!

Delia Haskett RawsonDELIA B HASKETT – “Dusty Delia” Haskett was the first woman to transport the U.S. mail via stagecoach. Delia was born in December of 1861 in Ukiah, California to businessman Samuel Haskett and schoolteacher Miranda Haskett.

Among the businesses run by Delia’s father were a blacksmith shop, the Ukiah Hotel and a stagecoach route for Wells Fargo. As the young lady grew up she was forever pleading with her father to let her become a stagecoach driver for the Ukiah to Willits route.

While periodically keeping up the pressure on her father, Delia lived the life of the ultimate tomboy, mastering the arts of trick-riding, lariat-trickery and – of course – gunplay. In 1876, when Haskett was just 14 years old, one of Samuel’s regular drivers was struck down with disease and could not drive his route.

With no other drivers on hand, Delia at last got her wish as her father agreed to let her take the ill driver’s dangerous afternoon to 3:00 AM route. In addition to other cargo, Haskett was transporting the United States Mail, too. Continue reading

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FEMALE MARSHALS OF THE OLD WEST

FRONTIERADO IS COMING UP ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 4th!

As always, Frontierado is a holiday dedicated to the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality. Here is a look at a handful of ladies who served as gunslinging Marshals.

Ada CarnuttADA CURNUTT

Around 1889 or 1890 Ada Curnutt moved to Oklahoma (formerly Indian Territory) with her sister and her brother-in-law. By some accounts Ada chose to head west to get out from under the influence of her Methodist Minister father and equally devout mother.

When she was 20 years old, Curnutt started working as a Clerk of the Court in Norman, OK. Finding a desk job too dull for her, Ada soon became a Deputy Marshal for United States Marshal William Grimes. Her duties included serving writs and warrants, escorting dangerous prisoners from one jurisdiction to another and, of course, making arrests.    Continue reading

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