Tuesday Movie Trivia – Unforgiven (1992)

Movie TriviaCowboySpirit.com – Unforgiven was, in a sense, filmed between the two heights of Clint Eastwood’s career and helped lead to the second pinnacle of his directorial and acting achievements. Today Unforgiven is often referenced as one of Clint Eastwood’s top western movies for its unique plot and stirring themes. In fact, Unforgiven almost functions as an elegy for the western movies that originally brought Eastwood to prominence.

Unforgiven Little Known Facts

Unforgiven won four Academy Awards, for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Gene Hackman), Best Director, Best Film Editing, and Best Picture, and was nominated for a further five statuettes – an impressive showing for western movies in Hollywood.

Unforgiven grossed $101.1 million at the box office during its US run and was shot on an estimated budget of $14.4 million.

Unforgiven is one of three western movies to win the Best Picture Oscar; the other two are Dances with Wolves and Cimarron.

The entire film was shot in 39 days, with production multitasking such as stunt work practice occurring during construction of the main sets.

In many scenes the rain is man made, but the snow scenes are natural. The snow was worked into the script after an unexpected snowfall.

Clint Eastwood reportedly prohibited motor vehicles on the set of Big Whisky to assure an authentic period environment.

Unforgiven Behind the Scenes Trivia

Gene Hackman originally rejected his role; Clint Eastwood convinced him to reconsider after buying the rights to the script.

Clint Eastwood wrote the main theme for Unforgiven himself, with arrangement assistance from Lennie Niehaus who wrote the score.

Production designer Henry Bumstead also worked with Clint Eastwood on High Plains Drifter.

Francis Ford Coppola originally held the rights to the script but never moved on making the film.

Sonia Chernius, Clint Eastwood’s script reader and story editor, had suggested that Eastwood re-sell the script to Unforgiven as she did not think that it was up to his standards.

Clint Eastwood dedicated the film to Sergio Leone and Don Siegel.

Tom Mix, the First Old West Superstar

Cowboy SpiritCowboySpirit.com – Portrayals of the men and women of the Old West have led to stardom for many actors and actresses. Marquee names such as Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, and Olivia de Haviland began the ascent to the top of the box office in western movies, but even these early stars were late to the game when measured by the fame of the first Old West superstar, Tom Mix.

The Old West in Silent Film

In a career that spanned 26 years, Tom Mix was cast in 291 movies. Mix was for a time a working cowboy, which may have helped him land his first role in The Cowboy Millionaire. His second title, Ranch Life in the Great Southwest, was a semi-biographical piece that launched Mix to fame as “The King of Cowboys.”

Mix became an Old West action hero at a time when most western movie plot lines made it clear who was the hero and who the villain. Mix’s white cowboy hat quickly became his key trademark, alongside a ruggedly handsome face. His early career also occurred before there were many regulations on actor safety, and Mix was frequently injured performing his own stunts.

Old West Talkies Come to Hollywood

By the early 1930s Mix commanded a weekly salary of $20,000 with the Sells-Floto Circus, as he cut back on film appearances. This decision may have been prompted by his injuries. However, the Great Depression helped Universal Pictures see Mix to a change of heart; he soon began filming talkies with the firm. All nine of Mix’s audio movies were done with the studio, but he bowed out after accumulating further injuries.

Mix’s final project for the big screen was a serial called The Miracle Rider, which unfolded over 15 episodes. The Miracle Rider debuted in 1935. Afterwards, Mix returned to circus and travel engagements in the US and Europe.

Tragically, Mix passed away in 1940 in a one-vehicle accident when he came upon a bridge in Arizona that had been washed away in a flash flood. The gully where the accident occurred is named “Tom Mix Wash” to this day and is marked by a memorial reading in part “Mix…served to better fix memories of the Old West in the minds of living men.” Fans can also honor Mix’s memory and career at the Tom Mix Museum in Dewey, Oklahoma.

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Tuesday Movie Trivia – Red River (1948)

Movie TriviaCowboySpirit.com –  Red River, filmed in 1948, is one of the classic John Wayne western movies. Along with screen stars Walter Brennan and Joanne Dru, Wayne’s character braves treachery on the cattle trail in a plot line that has been likened to Mutiny on the Bounty with saddles and stirrups. However, Red River is still worth the watching and is readily available on DVD.

Red River Little Known Facts

Red River was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Film Editing and Best Writing, but lost in both categories.

Red River placed third at the box office for the year in which it was released, bested by slim margins by The Road to Rio and Easter Parade.


Ireland’s struggles with alcoholism drastically reduced his role as Cherry Valance. Reportedly Cary Grant was considered as a replacement.

There are two distinct versions of the film; in one, Walter Brennan acts as narrator, while in the other the pages of a book make the transitions.

Red River Behind the Scenes Trivia


Even after shooting wrapped, Wayne could still regularly be seen sporting a belt buckle with the Dunson brand.

The release of the film was delayed by two years following the initial filming due to legal claims by Howard Hughes that the story infringed on his own film, The Outlaw.

Due to the scarcity of the Texas Longhorn, which had nearly gone extinct, the filmmakers had to use staging tactics similar to those other western movies used to show herds of the equally endangered buffalo.

Careful viewers will notice that during the stampede scenes all of the cowboys are riding the same horse; individual shots of the actors were taken and cut in.

The song “Settle Down” was reworked into “My Rifle, My Pony, and Me” for 1959’s Rio Bravo.

Tuesday Movie Trivia – The Big Trail (1930)

Movie TriviaCowboySpirit.com –  The Big Trail was John Wayne’s first starring appearance, and set a precedent for the rest of his career as he continued to play the hero facing unforeseen obstacles in the Old West. Many of these obstacles – the buffalo hunt, raging rivers, and snowstorms – were familiar to western movies, though few western movies to that time had included such a variety of adventure for the hero. The role cemented John Wayne’s career as an icon in western movies.

The Big Trail Little Known Facts

John Wayne might not have had the opportunity to play Breck Coleman; Gary Cooper had been offered the part, but his studio Paramount Pictures was not willing to loan him to Fox Studios for the film.

After Gary Cooper had to decline the part of Breck Coleman, John Wayne was cast when executives saw him unloading a truck. He was working in a prop department at the time.

The Big Trail was preserved in the U.S. National Film Registry in 2006.

The television premiere of The Big Trail was in West Germany, in 1977.

Ward Bond had previously played football at the University of Southern California. John Wayne attended the same college.

The Big Trail had an estimated budget of $2 million, and filmed in a total of five states.

The Big Trail Behind the Scenes Trivia

Highly unusual for western movies, five different versions of The Big Trail were shot using two different film stocks and in three languages, with different casts for the French, Spanish, and German language versions.

The two English versions of The Big Trail were shot using standard 35mm and the 70mm wide screen Grandeur film process. The Big Trail turned out to be the only completed film that used the Grandeur process.

Since two different film stocks were used, the cast had to repeat each scene twice with a brief break for the cameras to be changed.

Though many of the backdrops in the film look iconic for western movies, The Big Trail was one of the only movies ever shot at Hurricane Bluffs in Zion National Park or at the Moise-National Buffalo Range in Montana.

The Big Trail was one of the first serious western movies to be filmed in the early days of movie sound.

Tuesday Movie Trivia – Man From Snowy River (1982)

Movie TriviaCowboySpirit.com – The Man from Snowy River is the rarity in western movies that is based on a poem, in this case a poem of the same title written in 1890 by Banjo Patterson. It is also one of few western movies widely known in the U.S. to take place in Australia. Critics of western movies, including Roger Ebert, noted on the film’s release that Australia was an appropriate place for a western movie revival as few such films were being made at the time and the American frontier had all but disappeared. Starring Kirk Douglas, Tom Burlinson, and Sigrid Thornton, The Man from Snowy River is now widely available on DVD.

The Man from Snowy River Little Known Facts

The film was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, but came in behind Gandhi.

Although the movie was a success in the U.S., grossing an estimated $3.5 million, it was an even bigger success in Australia, taking in $17.2 million at the box office.

The Man from Snowy River is one of few western movies selected for preservation by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

The Snowy River as Patterson had known it had ceased to flow by the time the movie was made, as a 1960s dam project dried up the once massive waterway. A fraction of the river’s original flow was recently restored.

The Man from Snowy River Behind the Scenes Trivia

Burt Lancaster and Robert Mitchum were initially considered for the roles of Harrison and Spur; Douglas ultimately portrayed both characters.

Burlinson himself performed the dangerous stunt of riding his horse over the side of the mountain in the film, notable as he had no riding experience prior to being cast.

In the scene where Jim falls off the colt, careful viewers can see cowboys herding the stampede of ‘wild’ brumbies headed toward him.

The title song of the film was reworked and played at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.

The inclusion of the song The Waltzing Matilda and references to a character named Matilda are odes to other work by Patterson.

Viewers who do not wait until the end of the credit roll miss an amazing sequence of a herd of horses galloping over the hills of the Outback.

Tell CowboySpirit whether you liked The Man from Snowy River in the comments section below!

Tuesday Movie Trivia – A Thunder of Drums (1961)

Movie TriviaCowboySpirit.com – A Thunder of Drums was released in 1961 and did not capture the attention of audiences in quite the way as its director, Joseph M. Newman, and backing studio MGM likely hoped. Critics at the time derided the juxtaposition of romantic and Indian conflict as a trope that was better handled in other western movies. Though some of the criticism holds true today, A Thunder of Drums is still a worthwhile watch for fans of western movies.

A Thunder of Drums Little Known Facts

Most of the filming was completed at Vasquez Rocks in California and on location in Tucson, Arizona.

Alternate titles for the movie included Apache Thunder (Belgium), Fort Comanche (Spain), Massacre at Dawn (Germany), and The Seven Hundred of Fort Canby (Italy).

Though Joseph Newman mostly worked in other genres, he did direct earlier western movies including Fort Massacre, which had a very similar theme to A Thunder of Drums.

Duane Eddy, a music star, had turns in a handful of 1960s western movies after A Thunder of Drums, including The Wild Westerners and the anachronistic revisionist The Savage Seven.

A Thunder of Drums was nominated for a Golden Laurel for Top Action Drama, but ultimately placed fifth. El Cid, Sergeants 3, The Comancheros, and One-Eyed Jacks placed ahead of it.

A Thunder of Drums Behind the Scenes Trivia

James Warner Bellah wrote the original story on which the film was based; many of his other stories were also adapted into western movies, notably and repeatedly by John Ford. The plot line written by Bellah and adopted into Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is noticeably similar to A Thunder of Drums.

A Thunder of Drums marks the first big screen appearance for Richard Chamberlain.

The film did not fare well at the box office, and lost $42,000 according to its backing studio.

George Hamilton, Richard Chamberlain, Luana Patten, and Duane Eddy were cast to try to attract younger audiences back to western movies.

Charles Bronson accepted his role in A Thunder of Drums directly following his success with the early classic of western movies, The Magnificent Seven.

We want to hear from you, Cowboy Spirit readers. Have you seen a Thunder of Drums, and did you enjoy it?

Tuesday Movie Trivia – The Paleface (1948)

Movie TriviaCowboySpirit.com – Quality comedic western movies can be few and far between, which might be why The Paleface has continued to entertain audiences more than sixty years after its initial release. In the film, Jane Russell plays Calamity Jane, who must marry a hapless dentist as played by Bob Hope in order to continue investigating the sale of guns to Indians. The unlikely pairing of these two stars worked well and propelled the film to great success, though the same can not be said of its sequel The Son of Paleface, released four years later.

The Paleface Little Known Facts

The Paleface won an Oscar for Best Music, Original Song for “Buttons and Bows,” written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.

Despite the popularity of western movies and parodies thereof, The Paleface remained the highest grossing comedic western until it was displaced in 1974 by Blazing Saddles.

A promotional radio adaptation with Bob Hope and Jane Russell voicing the same roles was broadcast by The Screen Guild Theater in 1949, followed by another 30 minute adaptation in 1950 and a 60 minute adaptation in 1951.

One of the tag lines for the movie was “Like Merry Xmas and Happy New Year, they belong together!”

Though they share a name, the 1947 Paleface is not related to the 1922 version, which became a classic in silent western movies.

The Paleface Behind the Scenes Trivia

The Paleface was not Jane Russell’s first turn in western movies, though it made her a more recognizable star; in 1943 she was in the western classic The Outlaw.

Barbara Stanwyck, who had done such western movies as Union Pacific, was initially considered for the Calamity Jane role.

The screenwriter Frank Tashlin was upset with the treatment of his script by director Norman McLeod; Tashlin had meant the script to be a parody of The Virginian.

The Paleface was one of the five highest grossing movies of 1948.

This was Bob Hope’s first full color film, and the highest grossing movie in which he had starred up until that time.

The 1968 movie The Shakiest Gun in the West is a remake of The Paleface.

Buttons and Bows was initially set to be recorded by the Robert Mitchell Boychoir, but was ultimately recorded by Bob Hope himself; the single was released in advance of the film and may have ultimately supported the movie’s success.

Tuesday Movie Trivia – The Covered Wagon (1923)

Movie TriviaCowboySpirit.com – Regarded as the first true epic in western movies, the 1923 film The Covered Wagon was a silent film with a 98 minute runtime. Though in some respects the plot was typical for the age, centering on a young woman’s choice between two eligible males, The Covered Wagon provided a realistic treatment of the hardships of the trail.

The Covered Wagon Little Known Facts

Will Rogers wrote and starred in the parody of The Covered Wagon that was filmed in 1924, Two Wagons Both Covered.

The film was officially dedicated “To the memory of Theodore Roosevelt.”

The breathless taglines for the movie included “Indian Attacks, Prairie Fires, Fording of Swollen Streams, a Great Buffalo Hunt, Dramatic Situations Galore—All Go to Make Up The Covered Wagon” and “The cowards never started: The weak died on the way.”

Star J. Warren Kerrigan had appeared in many leading roles prior to the outbreak of World War I, when a disparaging remark about his refusal to enlist nearly cost him his career. The Covered Wagon brought him back to the heights of stardom, but less than a year after its release he retired.

The Covered Wagon Behind the Scenes Trivia

Paramount claimed that one-tenth of all living Indians from the Arapaho, Bannock, Shoshone, Crow, and Navaho tribes appeared as extras in the film.

The herds of buffalo in the film are an early special effect. The cameraman used miniatures on a complex system of moving chains to create the illusion.

About five hundred live buffalo were found and used for the hunt scene, with true cowboys taking care of the herding.

The intrepid cameramen wanted a close up of a live buffalo bull, and the cowboys obliged; however, once the bull was let loose, it went for a remuda of horses. The panicked buffalo was shot by a cowboy actor named Old Ed Jones. The crew ate the resulting buffalo meat according to a pamphlet promoting the movie released by Paramount.

Despite the fact that the near extinction of buffalo caused the necessity of using special effects to create herds, a total seven buffalo were shot and killed during production.

Many of the covered wagons used in filming were authentic, borrowed from families who still had the wagons of earlier generations in storage, another aspect of the film that makes it unique among western movies.

Tuesday Movie Trivia – The Searchers (1956)

Movie TriviaCowboySpirit.com – The Searchers was one of John Wayne’s finest performances in western movies, with a plot that is incredibly subtle even as it appears to be straightforward. The Searchers was influential for many future directors including Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg. Spielberg filmed a “remake” of the movie in his backyard, with a backdrop of Monument Valley painted on a bed sheet. Also starring Jeffrey Hunter and Vera Miles, The Searchers is not to be missed.

The Searchers Little Known Facts

The Searchers was preserved by the National Film Preservation Board (USA) in the National Film Registry in 1989.

The only award for which The Searchers was nominated at the time of its release was an Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures for John Ford, nominated by the Directors Guild of America. He lost to George Stevens who won for Giant, another of the year’s great western movies.

Uncommonly for western movies of the 1950s, The Searchers filmed at multiple locations from Colorado to as far afield as Alberta, Canada.

Hank Worden’s character, Mose Harper, was based on a real-life man named Mad Mose, an Indian fighter.

Those involved with the film would often have to pick Natalie Wood up from high school; when it was the turn of John Wayne or Jeffrey Hunter to do so, her high school classmates caused near-uproars of excitement.

John Wayne named his son, Ethan, in tribute to the role he played in this film.

The Searchers Behind the Scenes Trivia

The estimated budget for the movie was $3.75 million.

Worden was concurrently working on his role in The Indian Fighter while The Searchers was in production; many of the scenes in Monument Valley were filmed with a body double for Worden.

Many viewers are taken aback by Ethan’s hatred of the Indians, but many also miss that in the raid on the Edwards’ home Debbie seeks shelter by a grave marker indicating that Ethan’s mother was killed by Commanches.

The film has been ranked among the top western movies ever made by Entertainment Weekly and The American Film Institute.

The male dancers seen before the wedding are not extras; they are stuntmen used during the film, including three who doubled for Wayne.

Despite competition with numerous other western movies The Searchers was a hit at the box office, tying for 11th that year with Rebel Without a Cause.

Tuesday Movie Trivia – Hearts of the West (1975)

Movie TriviaCowboySpirit.com – Hearts of the West was one of few comedic western movies to emerge from the cynical 1970s, when western movies of any sub-genre were growing likely to scare off producers. However, with Jeff Bridges playing the role of a young man stumbling into and out of trouble that would flummox many another Old West aficionado, Hearts of the West became something of a sleeper hit that fans of western movies may still find humorous and relevant today.

Hearts of the West Little Known Facts

Andy Griffith rarely played villainous roles, possibly due to stereotyping from the Andy Griffith Show, but in western movies like Hearts of the West and Murder in Coweta County he broke the stereotype.

Hearts of the West was debuted at the New York Film Festival in October 1975.

The tagline for the movie advertised Jeff Bridge’s character, Lewis Tater, as “the Iowa farm boy who blazed a trail across the barren wastes of Hollywood and Vine.”

The film was released under the alternate title of “Hollywood Cowboy” in Denmark, Finland, and France.

As was seen with many classic western movies that had a cult following, Hearts of the West was for a long time difficult to find for would-be home viewers. However, a recently re-mastered digital edition on DVD is now widely available for order online.

Hearts of the West Behind the Scenes Trivia

The character of A.J. Neitz, played by Donald Pleasence, is named in tribute of the iconic director of early western movies Alvin J. Neitz.

The movie was filmed primarily at Vasquez Rocks Area Natural Park in Agua Dulce, California, which in addition to serving as a regular backdrop for Star Trek was also the filming site for recent comedic western movies including Wild Wild West and Casa de mi Padre.

Hearts of the West was named one of the top ten films of 1975 by the National Board of Review.

The Writers Guild of America nominated Hearts of the West for “Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen.”

Alan Arkin won a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor for his turn as Bert Kessler.

We want to hear from you, Cowboy Spirit fans! Have you seen Hearts of the West, and what did you think of the film?