The MoFo Top 100 Westerns: Countdown

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"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

Richard Farsnworth is an interesting character. When only a teenager he began his Hollywood career as a stunt man. He worked on about six dozen movies starting with the Marx Brothers A Day at the Races (1937) and including Gunga Din (1939), Gone with the Wind (1939), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), The Ten Commandments (1956), and Spartacus (1960). Being good with horses he was in a whole lot of Westerns from The Outlaw and Duel in the Sun to Red River and Fort Apache, from The Lusty Men and The Tin Star to Cat Ballou and Support Your Local Gunfighter, from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean to Blazing Saddles and High Plains Drifter. His last credit in the stunt department came in Claude Lelouch’s Another Man, Another Chance in 1977 when Farnsworth was fifty-seven. His face had appeared on screen many times in those decades, usually credited as Dick Farnsworth, but he didn’t get a significant speaking part until Alan J. Pakula’s Neo Western Comes a Horseman (1978) with Jane Fonda, James Caan, and Jason Robards. He was nominated for Oscar’s Best Supporting Actor, the year Christopher Walken won for The Deer Hunter. Thus began his second career as a bonafide actor. While he had many memorable supporting turns he only really starred in two films over the next twenty years. One was his last film, David Lynch’s The Straight Story, which saw him nominated as Best Actor. The other is The Grey Fox.

The Grey Fox is the true story of Bill Miner who had gotten a 33-year prison sentence in San Quentin for robbing a stagecoach. That was one of the few times he got caught, and his pleasant demeanor got him nicknames like The Gentleman Bandit and The Grey Fox. When he was released in 1901 he was sixty years old and he made his way into Canada, which is when the movie finds him. After being inspired by Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery Miner pulled what is believed to be the first train robbery in Canada. I’m not sure who has the greater life story, Farnsworth or Miner, but both come together perfectly in The Grey Fox which won seven of the thirteen Genie Awards it was nominated for including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actor for Farnsworth. The Grey Fox was on six MoFo ballots including a third place nod on way to 71 points.

In tone and vision these two entries could not be much further apart. If you’re not sure if you’ve seen El Topo before you most likely haven’t, because if you saw any ten minutes of it they would almost surely be burned in your brain. Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Acid Western is outrageous, profane, divine, beautiful, and horrific. It follows a gunman in black, played by the director himself, who is given a quest to defeat the four Gun Masters. But while there is gunplay, brutality, and blood – so much blood – there is also philosophy and more symbolism than you can shake a dwarf at. Perhaps the first true midnight movie it has enjoyed a cult-like appeal since it was released. Here in our countdown four souls voted for it, including three top ten nods with a second, a sixth, and a ninth place showing.

The Grey Fox made my list, sitting at number fourteen, my sixth choice to show. This movie was a cable TV mainstay back in the early ‘80s, and thank goodness. Even though it had much less action than the Westerns I gravitated to as a kid I found it almost hypnotically beautiful. There is some gorgeous cinematography of Western Canada throughout, but the credit of what drew me in definitely goes to Richard Farnsworth’s performance. Sometimes just his mere presence without speaking a word is remarkable. After being on sets for his entire adult life he must have seen literally every stripe of acting there is, from Clark Gable and John Wayne to Bob Hope and Marlon Brando. But Farnsworth’s gift is to appear 100% genuine all of the time. He had a wonderful second career those last twenty or so years of his life, and if you enjoyed him in movies like Misery or The Natural then his work here is a must-see. This movie did convince me that if I ever became an armed robber – and we all think about it from time to time, yes? – I would surely emulate the soft-spoken Grey Fox.

7. The Ballad of Cable Hogue (#83)
13. My Name is Nobody (#79)
14. The Grey Fox (#66)
16. Hombre (#88)
18. Pursued (#73)
25. Support Your Local Sheriff! (#89)

Never seen either The Grey Fox or El Topo.

Seen: 17/36 (*sigh*)
My list:  

Faildictions (yee-haw version 1.01):
64. Death Rides A Horse
63. Dark Command
Pre-1930 Countdown

Almost famous for having nailed Madonna once

Love Farnsworth and always wanted to see The Grey Fox but keep missing it somehow. One day for sure.

El Topo and Jodorowsky specifically never seem to be my jam so I've not watched his films. So, again, neither film made my list.
"Miss Jean Louise, Mr. Arthur Radley."

I haven't seen The Grey Fox but was aware of it (thanks to recent Western HoF, I think). When I finally watched El Topo about a year ago, I wasn't too impressed (I wouldn't go as far as @rauldc14 though). As it's among my better reviews (IMO), I'll just paste it below. It obviously didn't make my ballot.

El Topo review  

Seen 11(+2)/36

My List  

The Grey Fox was on my list of contenders but didn't quite make it.

Seen El Topo twice and I don't like it. There will probably be only one other movie on the countdown that I like less.

Once again, one I’ve seen but didn’t quite make my list - The Grey Fox.

Seen: 5/36
- Slow West (#95)
- The Big Gundown (#85)
- The Furies (#84)
- The Shooting (#71)
- The Grey Fox (#66)

My ballot:

Seen both, liked one, voted for neither.

The Grey Fox
, seen this in the Western III HoF:
Watched this in VHS-quality, it was pretty hard to find. But that didn't take away from enjoying some of the very nice landscape, railway, and moving train shots. There is also some nicely done editing with footage of The Great Train Robbery 1903.
The story and atmosphere are somewhat reminiscent of Robert Redford's recent film The Old Man & the Gun ( I wonder if that will make the countdown).
Although we kind of know how the story is going to unfold, it's always interesting to see the final chapters of infamous, heist figures. In this film I found the ending very well done. Great lead performance by Farnsworth, pacing is on the slow side but fitting to the story and the run-time is just fine. Very relaxing and enjoyable.

El Topo
, I seen this in the first Western HoF. I'm surprised it made the countdown, as it came in last in the HoF and the two reviews here pan it. I guess it has name recognition.
El Topo: Bizarre film...A huge amount of scenes with lots of extras, it must have cost a pretty penny to make. If I was the Executive Producer financing that film, I would have been very concerned with the film's ability to make a profit. Probably why Jodorowsky never could've pulled off his vision of Dune.

Clearly, there was lots of hard work put into the making of the film. The locations & sets & extras, were numerous. But the story to me was like pop art...brightly colored with a psychedelic vibe. I think the only person who truly understands what Jodorowsky was trying to do, is Jodorowsky.

Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
I used to think El Topo was trash but after more viewings I'm all the way up to "What?" On the other hand, The Grey Fox is a really good oater with one of Farnsworth's best performances but no points.

My List

11. Oklahoma!
20. The Ballad of Cable Hogue
22. Support Your Local Sheriff!
It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. - John Wooden
My IMDb page

I've never heard of The Grey Fox, but it sure looks interesting, and I do like The Straight Story. I've seen El Topo and it ranges from fascinating to disturbing in a blink of an eye. Overall, I'd say I liked it but I didn't vote for it. I did have Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid from earlier.

My List:
18. The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (#76)
19. The Naked Spur (#86)
20. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (#67)
24. Support Your Local Sheriff! (#89)
I may go back to hating you. It was more fun.

I was one of the three people who voted for The Frisco Kid. I'm pleasantly surprised someone else ranked it higher than I did, because I didn't expect it to get much love. It's not as popular as some other Wilder films, and namely one particular comedy western we'll definitely see on the Countdown later on, but it's still very entertaining.

Maverick was also on my list, quite high up. I probably placed it higher than it deserves, but I ranked my nominations primarily on my own personal enjoyment, rather than looking at them critically.

Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?
And we finally get one from my List! YAY

At first, Bad Day at Black Rock seemed familiar and something I'd like to see, but after a few of the crumbled rocks in me noggin got to scrambling about I do remember seeing this about 2 or 3 years ago. Remember enjoying this, but not a whole lot more. I do remember Tracy's arrival and the piecing together of the investigation was done very well.

Pat Garret & Billy the Kid was a big favorite in my younger daze when I was first getting into Peckinpah. Coburn is excellent as Pat Garret as the cold, calculating bounty hunter after his friend, Billy.
While it has been a number of years since my last watch I do believe I may not have seen the full Director's Cut. Which, I imagine, will negate some of the "jumps" in the pacing that I remember.

El Topo definitely sounds like a pre-toke film when I eventually check it out. And perhaps another toke around mid point as well. lol

And for the initiation into my List we begin with a discovered gem that I nominated as a Blind Grab into the Westerns III HoF which tied for Second Place. I had it at #11 on my List.

The Grey Fox

There are times that a blind grab brings forth a thoroughly enjoyable experience; which is why I continually thank @Holden Pike every time I mention this film since it was one of his recommendations in the Westerns Countdown Thread and its only right and only fair, no matter HOW redundantly repetitive I may be.

While the Gentleman Bandit is a bit of a trope when it comes to modern films, seeing a film based on an actual Gentleman Bandit and portrayed BY a gentleman himself was an utter delight.
A seasoned thief with a strategic mind and the patience to see things through - properly, Bill Miner was a person, and in this film, a character, I very easily got behind from the get go and cheered for, to the end.
A well made film who's pacing equaled the genteel demeanor of it's major character, and getting the job done when called upon. Resulting in a wonderful story, played out with some great actors, doing a splendid job across the board.

Will this be on my Voting List for the Countdown??

That's a plumb darn silly-ass question.
Course it is!

Movies Watched 21 out of 36 (58.33%)


11. The Grey Fox (#66)
They say: that after people make love there's a kind of melancholia, the petite mort, the little death. Well, I'm here to tell you, after a romantic night with yourself there's a very acute sensation of failed suicide. ~Dylan Moran