For­get rid­ing off into the sun­set, sun set on them ages ago

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - THE GUIDE SEVEN DAYS TV -

WEST­ERN week on DStv’s TCM chan­nel didn’t hold much for me, but I did watch the 1948 oldie, Three God­fa­thers, which has been filmed sev­eral times since 1909.

Sen­ti­men­tal tosh, it cen­tres on three ban­dits who come across an or­phaned baby in the desert. Lead­ing the out­laws is that sta­ple of the West­erns of yore, John Wayne, looking more than a lit­tle em­bar­rassed in the cir­cum­stances.

The rea­son I watched it was purely nos­tal­gic. As a child in Pre­to­ria, I was al­lowed to join my friends at the neigh­bour­hood cin­ema on Satur­day af­ter­noons. Only West­erns were shown, so for three years I must have seen most of the horse op­eras filmed in the 1940s and early ’50s. Most were black-and- white B-pic­tures and other sec­ond­fea­ture flicks star­ring the then fash­ion­able Hopa­long Cassidy, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. My favourite in those days was for­mer Amer­i­can foot­baller Charles Star­rett play­ing the masked, black-clad Durango Kid, of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by Smi­ley Bur­nett for light re­lief.

I cer­tainly never saw Three God­fa­thers then. Per­haps the dis­trib­u­tors thought the Wayne movie was too grand for us in the sub­ur­ban purlieus of fusty, crusty Pre­to­ria. I don’t think I missed much at this late screen­ing – and gave up on West­ern week.

Again I was prompted to won­der how the DStv pro­gramme com­pil­ers pick their movies.

West­erns have never been a favourite of mine, but I do think the com­pil­ers could have cho­sen bet­ter prod­uct for West­ern week. If they had to have a John Wayne movie to high­light the se­ries, why didn’t they go for The Searchers, one of the best West­erns ever made? In­ci­den­tally, The Searchers is avail­able in a re­cently re­leased par­cel of Wayne films on DVD.

And then there is 1969’s True Grit (for which Wayne won an Os­car) and Rooster Cog­burn (1975) and The Shoo­tist (1976). Any of them would have been bet­ter than Three God­fa­thers.

I was never a great fan of Wayne’s, but Owen Wil­liams, the critic whom I suc­ceeded as arts ed­i­tor of the Cape Ar­gus in 1979, al­ways praised Wayne lav­ishly, but then we never did agree on much. He got stuck into me for crit­i­cis­ing an­other vet­eran, Gene Hack­man, whom I al­ways thought over­rated.

An­other clas­sic West­ern that the DStv com­pil­ers could have cho­sen for West­ern week in­clude Gun­fight at OK Cor­ral (1957), with a hot cast headed by Burt Lan­caster and Kirk Dou­glas.

Come to think of it, I don’t think there has been a de­cent West­ern since Kevin Cost­ner’s Dances With Wolves of 1990, though you might ar­gue that for a film set in the Amer­i­can Civil War it may not count as West­ern.

And how did you sur­vive royalty week on DStv? It, too, was more than I could bear, par­tic­u­larly the pro­gramme fo­cus­ing on the stuffy Prince Charles. I was re­minded of the French philoso­phers’ at­ti­tude at the time of the French Revo­lu­tion: it was felt that the aris­toc­racy was a use­less, or­na­men­tal class.

I was again re­minded of this while read­ing For­get Not, the best­selling au­to­bi­og­ra­phy of the Duchess of Ar­gyll which bears out the French crit­i­cism through­out.

Next I in­tend read­ing a re­cently ac­quired bi­og­ra­phy of Oliver Cromwell which, I hope, will bring a lit­tle bal­ance to my present out­look.

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