Picks and Pans Review: Thunder in the Dust
by John R. Hamilton; text by John Calvin Batchelor
The definitive collection of stills from movie Westerns remains to be published, but there's plenty of enjoyment in this volume nonetheless. It is built around the location photographs taken by Hamilton during the filming of such movies as The Searchers, Hombre, Cheyenne Autumn and Silverado. John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck and Richard Widmark are among the familiar faces on the Hollywood frontier, and there are shots of such interlopers as Brigitte Bardot (in Viva Maria) and Frank Sinatra (in Sergeants 3), too. Hamilton also includes an arresting portrait of the peerless director John Ford leaning on a camp chair in the middle of his beloved Monument Valley. And there are lots of glorious Western sunsets and herds of charging cattle and stampeding horses. Batchelor, a novelist (The Birth of the People's Republic of Antarctica, American Falls), provides a bright, warm introduction that doesn't ignore the traditional Western's racism toward Indians but remains respectful toward the notions of good guys, bad guys and seeing what lies yonder over the next hill. While much of his text consists of snatches of dialogue from such films as Fort Apache and Shane, his own contributions are also fun to read, as in this description of a movie cowboy's goal in life: "He truly means to create the best of all possible worlds, where a man can trap, hunt, fish, ramble, scuffle, gamble, drink, whore, laugh, sleep like a bear cub under Heaven, and if he must, marry, too." (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $29.95)
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