It’s impossible not to hear the iconic voice of Sam Elliott as he discusses the highs and lows of the Western genre, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Since his debut in 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, there’s never been another soul on film like Sam Elliott. Few actors enjoy the sort of immortal bravado that Elliott not only brings, but embodies. With a remarkable Hollywood career spanning over five decades, the legendary actor has seen many fads and genres of the industry come and go.
One such industry, unfortunately for the actor and his fans, was/is the American art form of “The Western”. Speaking to Do You Remember? in 2018, Sam Elliott was quick to lament the end of an era that meant so much to him – and still does to this day.
“There was a particular time in Hollywood where the western was the bread and butter for everybody in town,” Elliott began for the trade. “In the early days, there was a bunch of really good western actors that were all you needed to make a good western.”
For decades, “there were horses all around town. And wagons,” the genre’s icon adds. “And now all that stuff has moved on.”
Today, as Elliott laments, “most of that stuff can only be found today in Texas, or New Mexico. It’s just a whole industry that’s disappeared,” he says of the Western.
Sam Elliott’s List of Favorite Westerns is Concise
Thankfully for us Outsiders and Western fans, the genre is seeing a modern resurgence thanks to Paramount’s mega-hit, Yellowstone. Yet we’re still only seeing the occasional film or television series. We’re a far, far cry from the literal dozens of Westerns a year back in the genre’s heyday. And it’s a time that Elliott remembers well.
“There’s a simplicity to that form that has always spoken to me,” the Western icon continues for Do You Remember?.
Through it all, Elliott says there was “a pretty well-defined morality to the characters: the good, the bad … not a lot of gray area” – and that’s exactly what drew him in.
“It’s either one or the other in the stuff that’s spoken to me,” he says of his own work in the genre.
Western fans will see instant similarities, too, between the actor’s list of “appeals” and his all-time-favorites of the genre. So which films does the one and only Sam Elliott tote as his favorite Westerns ever?
“The Searchers would be up there,” he reveals.
The other two? Red River and Shane.