Pairing wine with movies! See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies, and many more, at Trailers From Hell. This week’s topic is Pulchritude on the Prairie, beauty in the backwater, good looks on the grassy plain. The TFH topic picker bravely fought off a case of Zoom fatigue to come up with three films featuring women at their core.
The 1951 Western, Westward the Women, is about a sort of mail order bride service in the old West, an Uber-wife by Conestoga wagons. 140 women are taken from Missouri to California in what was apparently not a “gold rush” but a… well, some other kind of rush. It’s worth noting that the gals were on the wagon train by their own choice, not in a mass kidnapping designed to get 140 men hitched.
There are perils, of course, along the way. Director William A. Wellman navigates the group through breakdowns, crimes, punishments and assorted other hardships which plague them. It’s rather like Planes, Trains and Automobiles before there were planes, trains and automobiles. Finally, they arrive at their destination, worse for wear and a few members light.
Also from Missouri, like these westward women, comes Stone Hill Winery’s great bottling made from the Norton grape. It was at one time America’s heritage wine grape. When my wife sniffed it, she said it smelled like history. Westward the Women kinda does, too. America’s wine industry moved west as well.
The “revisionist western,” 1954’s Johnny Guitar, strayed from your standard western themes. It prompted pundits to point out its veiled observations on McCarthyism and mob mentality. Francois Truffaut called it a “phony western,” although he admired it. Maybe “phony” means something else in French.
The Arizona setting looks authentic enough, although a lot of the shooting was on soundstages. They say Joan Crawford wouldn’t allow any closeups to be shot unless it was in the studio, where the lighting could be better controlled. Sterling Hayden said that during shooting he was battling Joan Crawford on the set during the day, and his second wife at night, which explains his lack of smiles in the movie. He couldn’t sing or play a note of guitar – in fact they altered that axe he lugs around so it wouldn’t make any noise.
Purple Cowboy Wines makes wine from grapes grown in the revisionist cowboy town of Paso Robles, California. Their Boss Lady, Terry Wheatley, is a cancer survivor and an all-around champion entrepreneur. Her Trail Boss Cabernet Sauvignon and Tough Enough to Wear Pink wines may be too good for the saloon, but they’re perfect for Johnny Guitar’s boss lady.
1957 gave us 40 Guns, a widescreen B&W film starring one of my favorite boss ladies of the old West, Barbara Stanwyck. She is predictably tough as nails, and rides herd over her hired guns, referred to in the title.
Samuel Fuller directed the movie and included in the widescreen feature a three-minute tracking shot and plenty of opportunities for actors to say, “Mr. Fuller, I’m ready for my close-up.” Words to fantasize by.
40 Guns is set in Arizona, so let’s get wine from the Grand Canyon State’s Arizona Stronghold Vineyards. Their Dala Merlot is spicy, full of bright fruit and ready for its close-up, too.