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Ready To Draw: 9 Showdowns Between Western Classics And Their Remakes

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by The Playlist Staff
July 2, 2013 1:12 PM
7 Comments
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"The Paleface" (1948) vs. "The Shakiest Gun in the West" (1966)
Premise: Not to be confused with the Buster Keaton classic "The Paleface," these two are about a dental school graduate who finds himself married to a female gunslinger and embroiled in some Wild West exploits involving gunrunning and Native Americans.
The old codger: Written as a satire of "The Virginian," the 1948 Paramount comedy "The Paleface" stars Bob Hope and Jane Russell with Iron Eyes Cody ("The Crying Indian").
The young gun: Poking fun at "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," the 1966 Universal remake of "The Paleface" stars Don Knotts and Barbara Rhoades with Jackie Coogan (child star and TV's Uncle Fester) and Pat Merita (we "Karate Kid" you not).
Who won the draw? After a few pratfalls and offensively corny one-liners, "The Shakiest Gun in the West" got two shots to the knock-knees thanks to "The Paleface," rendering the remake as good as dead considering Wild West healthcare but still kicking around by today’s standards. Losing the mixed metaphors, "The Paleface" is generally considered the better of the two, having been the most successful western parody up until "Blazing Saddles." The original cemented Bob Hope's film career and introduced the movie-going public to Jane Russell's funny side, beyond her two more prominent assets. On the other hand, we dare you not to laugh at a drunk Don Knotts. If you’re a student of comedy or just want to tickle your funny bone, both are must-sees. If you want a witty albeit insightful examination of life in the Old West, we recommend you mosey on elsewhere.

"Rio Bravo" (1958) vs. "El Dorado" (1966)
The premise: In the Wild West, John Wayne leads a ragtag team to defend a small town against the local bad guy.
The old codger: In "Rio Bravo," Sheriff (Wayne) enlists a drunk (Dean Martin) to keep a bad guy (whose brother is the big local baddie) in jail, adding old man Walter Brennan ("Dang nab it!") and young gunslinger Ricky Nelson to the crew along the way.
The young gun: In "El Dorado," a drunk sheriff (Robert Mitchum) enlists a gun-for-hire (Wayne) to help defend a local rancher's water supply, adding old man Arthur Hunnicutt and young gambler/knife-fighter James Caan along the way.
Who won the draw? With pistols cocked and aimed, "Rio Bravo" and "El Dorado" squinted, recognized each other and that was that. Shaking hands, they walked off into the sunset trash-talking "High Noon." From the get-go, "Rio Bravo" was meant to be Howard Hawks' answer to "High Noon," which Hawks called "phony" and Wayne dubbed "un-American." Leaving politics aside, the tightly written humor and action-packed "Rio Bravo" was such a hit that the same team (director Hawks, star Wayne, screenwriter Leigh Brackett) went to re-hash it eight years later and actually succeeded with audiences and critics alike. Unlike anything seen before or since, both films hold equal places in the hearts of the movie fans. If someone ever points a gun at your head for an answer, just think of where you stand in a Dean Martin vs. Robert Mitchum face-off. Taking the yellow-bellied road, we won't make a stance on the matter here, but will denounce the 1970 "Rio Lobo" as a purported third installment in a Hawks-Wayne trilogy of sort. Without the obligatory town drunk, "Rio Lobo" is exempted from the face-off.

Other young guns up for the fight but didn't make the cut include Clint Eastwood's "Pale Rider" (considered a loose adaptation of the 1952 manly tear-jerker “Shane”) and a 2000 TV adaptation of "High Noon." Before you charge down to the comment section, we didn't forget "The Alamo" and its 2004 remake, but felt that including the battle epic would be like bringing a posse to a duel, overwhelming and squeezed in, and therefore saved them to fight another day. Also, we'd be remiss if we didn’t mention Akira Kurosawa. Many directors have "borrowed" things like themes and story arcs from Kurosawa's films, but a few western directors flat-out copied, even stole, arguably three of his greatest films. "Seven Samurai" traded out their swords for guns in "The Magnificent Seven." "Rashomon" became the not-as-successful though more star-studded "The Outrage." Notoriously, Sergio Leone remade "Yojimbo" into "A Fistful of Dollars" without Kurosawa’s permission or even giving him a more-than-rightful credit on the finished product -- Kurosawa famously commented that it was “a fine movie, but it was MY movie.” Do the ends of spawning a whole new genre of western (spaghetti westerns) justify the means of stealing from a cinematic master? Feel free to include your thoughts on that along with any other adaptations or remakes you think deserve a place on this dueling roster in the comment section below. - Diana Drumm, Gabe Toro

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7 Comments

  • rajv | July 8, 2013 2:05 PMReply

    Kurosava did sue Sergio Leone and the lawsuit was ended with an out of court settlement. (Reference from the bluray commentary of 'Fistful of Dollars'). Great comparison between the movies. Although disagree with 3:10 to Yuma. Both original and the new one are equally good. I would say '3:10 to Yuma' was the best western of the past decade.

  • Jim Beaver | July 3, 2013 10:27 PMReply

    The original STAGECOACH is a great masterpiece, but I spare some love for the 1966 remake, perhaps influenced by the fact that I saw it first. It has flaws, but had the original never been seen, the '66 version would have gotten a good deal more respect, I surmise. I think the cast (including Alex Cord) is good, some of them (Robert Cummings, Van Heflin, Slim Pickens) quite good. And it's got a terrific score.

    RIO LOBO is definitely vastly inferior to its two predecessors. And I think RIO BRAVO is quite a bit better than EL DORADO, though I very much like the latter.

    It's largely that extra half hour that does in the remake of 3:10 TO YUMA. That turned out far better than I feared, with a superb supporting performance by Ben Foster in the role originally played by Richard Jaeckel. But stuffing that half hour of action stuff into it just bloated it. Good movie, but the original is a GREAT movie.

  • Neil | July 3, 2013 1:06 AMReply

    They should try mounting a remake of "Wild Wild West" again. The first remake sucked, but there has got to be a good film in there somewhere...

  • juicy | July 3, 2013 12:09 AMReply

    Didn't have to read further than the first showdown to know that this list is complete bull.

  • Todd | July 2, 2013 4:38 PMReply

    "Four Brothers" is a loose remake of "The Sons of Katie Elder". Neither was good, but the first half of "Katie Elder" was well executed.

  • cirkusfolk | July 2, 2013 3:53 PMReply

    Gibson's Maverick is terribly underrated.

  • MTurgeon | July 2, 2013 2:52 PMReply

    My Darling Clementine is the best movie about the OK Corral/Wyatt Earp I've seen.

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