When looking out on the desert horizon for the most significant heroes of the western film genre, there are a few figures standing tall. Next to the hulking figure of John Wayne is the legendary Clint Eastwood with a proud stance as he scans over the plains and the sierras over those he’s gunned down.
After all, Eastwood starred in some of the most important western movies of all time, including Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy as ‘The Man With No Name’ and also the likes of Hang ‘Em High, The Outlaw Josey Wales and Pale Rider, not to mention the glorious revisionist western Unforgiven, which Eastwood also directed.
While Eastwood is undoubtedly one of the true icons of the western movie genre, he’s not without his competitors when it comes to taking the gunslinger throne of the desert. As for directors, it’s hard to look beyond the works of John Ford, widely considered one of the most influential directors of all time.
Ford was known for shooting on location, which is, of course, central to the very nature of the western film genre. His use of wide shots was also influential in western movies, and his characters were often portrayed by cutting lonely figures against huge, sprawling landscapes with harsh terrain.
The Maine-born director holds the record for having won the ‘Best Director’ Academy Award four times from six nominations for his movies The Informer, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley and The Quiet Man, and it’s the third of those movies, his 1941 film, that is Clint Eastwood’s favourite of the lot.
When Eastwood was asked on the red carpet by the American Film Institute what his favourite films are, he replied: “I was raised, of course, in what they call the Golden Age of movies, and a lot of the early films – John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley, William A. Wellman’s The Ox-Bow Incident, and John Huston’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – all of those would fit in there.”
Eastwood’s pick for his favourite John Ford movie is an interesting one because it’s not a western movie but rather a drama set in Wales. Based on the 1939 novel of the same name, How Green Was My Valley stars Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp and Roddy McDowall.
The film tells of a hard-labouring Welsh mining family who live in the South Wales Valleys in the Victorian fields and charts the difficulties the family experiences as the way of life in the coalfields slowly fades from existence. It’s an interesting pick from Eastwood as we might expect him to have selected one of Ford’s westerns, but he can’t help but love his Welsh drama.
Check out the trailer for How Green Was My Valley below.