"The Thrill Of It All!"
by Alan G. Barbour
[subtitled "A Pictorial History of the B-Western from the Great Train Robbery and Other Silent Classics to the Color Films of the Genre's Last Days of Glory in the 50's"]
200 pages, Collier Books, New York, first edition, 1971.
Although I didn't actually live through the original era of the American B-Western [generally gauged as running from the early 1920s thru the mid-'50s], I still have fond, fond memories of enjoying the exciting '40s and '50s "horse operas" every Saturday morning at my Aunt Hope's house in Patagonia, AZ circa 1975-78. A Phoenix station called KPHO [the legendary channel 5!] would play about 3 of these movies, back to back, and I would sit spellbound... great times spent with Hoppy and Mesquite, Buck Jones, Johnny Mack Brown and Lash LaRue [just to name a precious few!]
Looking back, I think that I connected with these movies not only because of their endearing simplicity, their marvelous western scenery [Lone Pine, CA!], and their vigorous, sometimes truly remakable stunt-work, but also because of their rollicking and jolly attitude: their blissful and downright libertarian world-view. In the world of these "shoot-em-ups" [as my Dad always labeled them] the chief villian was always some kind of a collectivist control-freak-- drawing our free-wheeling hero reluctantly into action, usually in defense of a small business concern of some kind. [And did that rancher, store-keeper, or newspaper editor always seem to have a pretty and conveniently motherless daughter to serve as innocent and pure eye-candy? A beautiful silk-bloused cow-lass who would never be kissed but only hugged cautiously?? Yup... almost always... lol]
Only years later would I question the strange set-up of this bizzarre-- yet pleasing-- alternate universe... and by then I could fully enjoy-- as fully as few other 21 year olds could have-- the devastatingly perfect satire of the 1985 classic film RUSTLER'S RHAPSODY! [Favorite line: "Boss... I'm tired of gettin' shot in the hand!"... lol ] For the pre-adolescent time at hand, however, I was hooked.
Yessir, the B-western will always be a part of me... for better or worse.
Well... One day, while "sleuthing through the stacks" at The Sierra Vista Public Library, I discovered this invaluable tome, still considered the the most comprehensive single book on the subject. Within minutes I was lost in it's 200 amazing photo-filled pages... expertly captioned with fun information about every memorable cinematic "White Hat" player [and a bunch of the "Black Hats," too!]
For anyone who has ANY recollections of these movies, this book is no less than a joyous treasure trove! Surely and sadly out of print now, it can still be found at public libraries like mine [God love them!] or from many electronic book sellers. I have seen copies on line for as little as 5 bucks!
The book itself is made up almost entirely of photos-- both publicity stills and classic movie posters like the one above.... but what a photo document they make! Really, there is only about two pages of well written and informative text per "chapter," so this stands as a truly archival photo history of a unique and un-justly neglected part of American entertainment history.
If it isn't everything you need to see and read about the American B-western, then God help you, partner-- you're as much of a fanatic as Albie The Good is! :)
In any case, if i just described you, dig up a copy pronto! You will NOT be sorry.