Movies and television programs are very much a matter of opinion. What some like, others despise. The same holds true for actors. Portrayals of cowboys on the big (and small) screen range from authentic to absurd, and the actors assigned those roles come off as believable or bogus, and sometimes downright laughable.
Like most movie fans, I have my favorites. I lean toward actors who are absorbed into the role, rather than movie stars who are essentially playing themselves in cowboy costumes. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order. (Not included are many, many fine players who appear mostly in supporting roles or small parts.) I’m sure some—most—of you will disagree with my choices. Others will wonder about those left out. That’s fine. You can make your own list.
Robert Duvall. Tommy Lee Jones. Ben Johnson. Clint Eastwood. Tom Selleck. Paul Newman. Henry Fonda. Robert Redford. Thomas Hayden Church. Ed Harris. Jeff Bridges. Alan Ladd. Sam Elliott.
And, finally, Latigo Brown.
Excuse the crass commercialism, but Latigo Brown is the hero of my latest novel, Silver Screen Cowboy. Like me, Latigo Brown is often uncomfortable, sometimes downright dismissive, of the unrealistic ways cowboys are portrayed on screen. Despite his surprising path from ranch and rodeo cowboy to movie star back in the golden days of Westerns and the remuneration and renown that come with it, some of the things he is asked to do on screen chafe like a bur under a saddle blanket.
Give Silver Screen Cowboya read. Could be that Latigo Brown will make it onto your list of favorite silver screen cowboys. Even if you’ve only seen him in your mind.