Sunday, July 15, 2012

Westward Ho!

I am officially old. Girlfriend out of town and I spent a good chunk of my leisure time, yesterday, watching westerns on Encore's western channel. Watched episodes of Wagon Train with a young and virile Clint Eastwood; watched John Wayne and William Holden in The Horse Soldiers; set my DVR to capture The Ballad of Cable Hogue (in my opinion, one of Sam Peckinpah's best movies - not to mention Stella Stevens' and Jason Robards' - although I like him better in How the West Was Won)and the Sabata trilogy (starring Lee Van Cleef and Yul Brenner).

But i had the most fun watching something called 4 for Texas starring Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. This movie has many charms, prominent among them the decolletage of Anita Ekberg and the legs and everything else of Ursula Andress, but the thing that resonated with me was the performance of Edric Conner, a black man, co-starring as "Prince George," Dean Martin's coach driver and enforcer. The strapping Conner embodies his Prince with a screen dignity that is as rare as it is compelling. Prince George owns his coach and refuses to sell it to Martin - he is agreeable to renting it and his services, however, as he retains ownership of his rig and himself. It is forebear of the innate, self-contained nobility and virility Sidney Poitier will bring to the screen five years hence in movies like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and In the Heat of the Night - except there is mischievous glint in Conner's eye that we will not witness on screen again until the heyday of Eddie Murphy. I am not a fan of what Sinatra became, but in the early to middle sixties he was on the side of the angels when it came to showcasing black actors on screen.


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