Westerns – the Great American Movie Genre. Yes, the Italian cinema has its Spaghetti Western – Cameriere, more Sangiovese, please! But we’re talking real, honest-to-John-Wayne American westerns here. The kind with a big, wide-open-spaces theme by somebody like Elmer Bernstein, Alfred Newman, orLerner and Loewe. Morricone magic is better served with the aforementioned grape of Chianti – and movies where the dubbed dialog doesn’t quite match up with the actors’ mouths.
The soundtrack of “The Horse Soldiers” rides in on the strains of “Dixie” and out to “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” You not only get a western, you get a Civil War movie, too. And John Wayne’s in both of them.
Heck, you even get John Ford directing at no extra charge, and a story that was ripped from the headlines of the Vicksburg Post, circa 1863. A western? In Mississippi? That’s right, pilgrim. Mississippi was once The West. The Duke plays the railroad-builder-turned-Yankee-Colonel who is sent into Mississippi on a mission to blow up a railroad. Now that’s iron horse irony for you.
Besides Wayne and Ford, you get character actors like Ken Curtis, Denver Pyle and Strother Martin. That’s the hick trifecta, right there – a dialogue coach’s dream, a speech therapist’s nightmare. Every time I see one of those guys in a western, I wonder if they talk like that in real life. I also wonder: do method actors in a Civil War picture drink Muscadine to get into the role?
It may be my imagination playing tricks on me, but I think this movie has more horses in it than I’ve ever seen in one film before. It makes me wonder if actors get paid more for saddle sores. We should probably check with a bow-legged actor for the answer.
None of the horses got listed in the credits, but they should have. Without them, you wouldn’t have much of a western. Not much of a cavalry movie, either, come to think of it. With no horses, the cavalry would have come to the rescue on foot. That would just about put them out of the rescuing business and in the cleaning-up-after-the-trouble business.
Horse walks into a bar. Bartender says, “Why the long face?” Horse says, “Can you make me a War Horse?” Bartender says, “Sorry, I’m not on the draft board. How about a nice Central Coast Pinot instead?”
Wild Horse Winery, just south of Paso Robles, advises us to “Live Naturally, Enjoy Wildly.” Their 2006 Cheval Sauvage not only means “wild horse” in French, it’s the kind of masculine Pinot Noir John Wayne might share with his brave steed after a tough day of breaking the Confederacy.
Hoof a look at these:
Iron Horse Vineyards – A Sonoma County winery known for its sparkling wines, their Iron Horse Chinese Cuvée was produced for the Chinese year of the dragon. They are looking forward to 2014 – the year of the horse.
Black Stallion Winery – An old equestrian center is the home for the Napa Valley outfit in the Oak Knoll District.
14 Hands – The measure of a small horse, 14 Hands is also the home of some pretty tasty wines from eastern Washington state.