by Troy Snow
I’m watching The Outlaw Josey Wales on AMC. I remember seeing it when it first came out. in 1976. It was the best Western I had every seen, presenting a realism and narrative that was really astounding.
Because it followed the Western motifs but turned them inside out. The Union men were the bad guys and the rebels were the good guys. It started with the solitary man of violence we are used to, especially with Clint Eastwood. By the end, he had created a community of people who were mostly at peace.
And the humor and insight, especially presented by the wonderful Chief Dan George, is great, even 34 years later.
Many of the Westerns in the years just before The Outlaw Josey Wales were based on humor – Butch Cassidy, Cat Ballou and Support Your Local Sheriff. This one brought back the mythic qualities of the narrative. It follows a hero as he goes on a journey.
He changes the people around him and they change him, so that by the end, the entire world is different. BUt the journey is so much fun, especially the dialogue, something not usually noted in Westerns.
Eastwood was at his best in these sorts of stories. A reluctant hero, muttering under his breath as he does the right thing. His direction again and again uses old style Western topes – the hero silhouetted against the open door, the elixir salesman – but twists them into new versions.
Just a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.