When I learned that The Cowboys was coming out as a movie, I read the book. Throughout the story I could imagine how The Duke would portray Wil Anderson in the movie. Heck, I'd seen most of his movies, and I thought I had him cold.
Then I saw the movie, and John Wayne screwed it up! He didn't do it like he did in the movie I saw in my head while reading the book. Very few of the scenes in his rather short appearance lived up to my expectations.
The Cowboys became my best teaching example of how the visions we see in our heads while reading are often more real and vivid than what appears on the screen.
Don't get me wrong. The Cowboys is an excellent movie, and John Wayne's portrayal of Wil Anderson was certainly masterful. It's just that it fell short of my expectations--or were my expectations too high?
Andersen hires a black cook, Jebidiah Nightlinger, to feed the troupe and, after a few short days of learning the "ropes" of cattle herding, they set off on their mission. Along the way, there are some great scenes, especially the night the boys discover the sour mash that Mr. Nightlinger has hidden in his chuckwagon and the scene where the cowboys meet up with a travelling group of prostitutes. Bruce Dern as the evil rustler, Asa Watts, is outstanding as the movie's villan. Dern has that great way of contorting his face and eyes to create that genuiunely creepy style of acting that he's displayed throughout much of his career. In the scene where he captures one of the young cowboys and pumps him for information about the cattle drive, it appears that the young man really is terrified of Dern.
By now, the reader of this review probably knows that (for one of the few times in his acting career) John Wayne dies in "The Cowboys". Without going into a lot of plot-revealing details, let me suffice to say that his death does not go unpunished. The boys deliver the cattle to market and become men along the way.Read more ›