My Top Ten Favorite Movie Moments
True West|February - March 2022
True West’s Firearms Editor applauds authenticity.
By Phil Spangenberger

Western movies are made for entertainment, and we must consider them strictly as such, and not as documentaries. And yet some oaters contain authentic moments, such as moving scenes that reveal a genuine feel for the period of the story, or perhaps showing the correct costuming, firearms, props and more. These additions help give a horse opera a more realistic feel of the Old Frontier. Despite some historical anachronisms, like using the wrong guns, clothing, saddlery and other errors, these are some of my favorite moments and imagery from Westerns of the 1920- 1970 era, the “Golden Age of Hollywood.”

1. The Big Trail (1930): Arguably the closest look at what a pre-Civil War wagon-train looked like that you’ll ever see. Spectacular scenery, the bustling wagon camp, lowering wagons and oxen teams over the cliff, are like period daguerreotypes in action. Interestingly, decades ago the Kansas State Historical Society uncovered some still photos from this film, and assumed they were period images of an 1840s wagon train.

2. Annie Oakley (1935): Exceptional 1880s costuming, and the movie gives the ambience of a 19th-century traveling Wild West Show. Moroni Olsen’s portrayal of Buffalo Bill Cody is the best ever.

3. Union Pacific (1939): Great over all look with authentic costuming (despite the incorrect six-guns). Exceptional background scenes, and the recreation of the meeting of the two railroads at Promontory Point, Utah, in 1869, looked like newsreel footage (if they’d had it in 1869).

4. Unconquered (1947): Wonderful costuming, 50 original flintlocks were used on screen, all-around authentic flavor to scenes. Special authentic details like occasions when Gary Cooper and other frontiersmen check the locks on their flintlock rifles and pistols, making sure there is priming powder in the pan.

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