Portrayals of Texans in Western Films

by Ben Leavitt, Graduate Assistant

This call sheet for Three Young Texans indicates resources necessary for a day of filming at California’s famed Iverson Movie Ranch—including three wranglers, eight horses and eighty-five hot lunches.

The Texas Collection maintains more than a half dozen screenplays either written by Texans or set in Texas. Many of these screenplays were used in the production of Western films, and from them we can get a good idea of the archetypal Texan. Generations of Americans were fascinated by the “Wild West”—how did they perceive the inhabitants of the Lone Star State when watching Westerns of the 1950s and 1960s?

Written by Gerald Drayson Adams and set along the Rio Grande in the early 1870s, Three Young Texans (1954) features cowboys with names like Johnny Colt, Tony Ballew, and Jeff Blair. Johnny’s character is “ruggedly handsome” and “intensely devoted to his boyhood pals,” while Tony “goes in for bright colored shirts and neckerchiefs.” Jeff, for his part, is “a big man both physically and mentally,” and “is friendly, easy-going and always ready to help a neighbor.”

Opposite Johnny, Tony, and Jeff is only one major female character: Rusty Blair. Played by actress Mitzi Gaynor, Rusty is nearly as much a cowboy as her male counterparts. Her character description notes that, “On the ranch she rides and ropes and gets her face dirty with the rest of the cow hands,” but “when she goes to a dance she’s a knockout and undisputed belle of the Rio Grande Valley.”

Bandolero!, along with a number of other famous Westerns,was filmed at the Alamo Village movie set in Brackettville, Texas.

Three Young Texans, unsurprisingly, also features the law and the lawbreaker. Sheriff Dan Carter “is a soft-spoken, fair-minded man to the law-abiding citizens, but a relentless nemesis to the lawless breed that infest the border.” Carter consequently spends his time chasing down men like Apache Joe, “the leader of the notorious Apache Gang of desperadoes.”

Bandolero! (1968)—written by James Lee Barrett—is notable less for its characters and more for the celebrities who portrayed them. Actors James Stewart and Dean Martin starred alongside each other as outlaw brothers caught between Texas law enforcement and Mexican bandits, or bandoleros.

Three Young Texans and Bandolero! are only two of the Texas-inspired Western screenplays preserved by the Texas Collection. The archive also maintains screenplays for The Comancheros (#3997), Deaf Smith (#3998), and Bonnie and Clyde (#3999).

Bibliography:

Blumenthal, Ralph. “The Alamo of the Big Screen Tries to Skirt the Fate of the Original.” The New York Times, March 26, 2004.

Gerald Drayson Adams Screenplay collection, Accession#4000, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

James Lee Barrett Screenplay collection, Accession#4001, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

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