December 30, 2006
Originally published October 1, 2004
I love westerns. I loved John Wayne in every movie I ever saw him in when he wore a cowboy hat. I STILL think Matt Dillon was the best got-dam marshal I ever saw on television. He didn't take any shit on the streets of Dodge City. (James Arness was ALSO the only person I ever saw tower over John Wayne when they were together on stage.) Richard Boone as Paladin was one spooky mo-fo. Even Steve McQueen did his bit as a bad-ass in Wanted: Dead or Alive. Yeah, Josh Randall was a dangerous man.
But some of my favorite actors in western movies and TV shows are the guys who played the villians and creeps. It takes TALENT to play a real scuzz-bucket and make people WANT to hate you. Here are my Top Ten:
#1-- Eli Wallach as "Tuco" in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
#2-- Bruce Dern-- in just about every western ever made. Did he have a natural shit-ass grin, or what?
#3-- Albert Salmi-- he's dead now, but I still remember his great line from the movie Something Big when he was asked, "Aren't we gonna bury him?" He spat a stream of tobacco juice and replied, "Naw. Somethin' will come out of the hills tonight and drag him off."
#4-- Jeremy Slate-- I'll bet I've seen him die a hundred times. He's good at it.
#5-- L.Q. Jones-- He plays an EXCELLENT rat-bastard.
#6-- Dennis Hopper--- yeah, he chewed the scenery in a few westerns.
#7-- Robert Duvall-- okay, he's a star and an Academy Award winner now, but he should have gotten that recognition when he played Lucky Ned Pepper in True Grit. "Rooster, you got ten minutes. If I don't see you heading over that ridge, I'll kill the girl. You KNOW I'll do it!"
#8-- Strother Martin-- he's dead now, too, but he played some really good characters.
(UPDATE: Yeah. "What we've got here is a FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE!")
#9-- Dub Taylor-- another dead one, but he was damned good.
#10-- Slim Pickens-- he's dead now, but he once was a rodeo star before he got into acting. He could be a colorful character or a real shitass. His lasting claim to fame probably is Dr. Strangelove, but I liked him in westerns.
I left Jack Elam off the list because I ran out of room.
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