A NOSTALGIC SPOOF: THE LAST OF THE SILVER SCREEN COWBOYS – Garry & Marilyn Armstrong

A Nostalgic Spoof of a Beloved Movie Genre

We watched “Rustler’s Rhapsody” again last night. I love this movie. It’s an affectionate spoof of the B-Westerns of the 1940s starring Tom Berenger, Patrick Wayne, G.W. Baily (currently with “Major Crimes” on which Berenger has a recurring guest role), Andy Griffith and Fernando Rey.

The women include Sela Ward, a solid dramatic actress perhaps best remembered as Dr. Richard Kimble’s slain wife in the movie version of “The Fugitive”. There’s also Marilu Henner who riffs on all the “Miss Kitty/Miss Lily” saloon ladies of our favorite TV westerns.

Andy Griffith and Fernando Rey both play power-mad cattle barons. Fernando usually plays an international drug czar and you probably remember him in “The French Connection”. He is slimy sinister personified. Rey and Griffith make a very odd couple. Check out the scene where they argue about who gets to do the countdown for killing the hero. They are hilarious, but Andy Griffith steals the show.

We love the movie so much we own two identical copies of it on DVD. It wasn’t going to be available for long, so Marilyn bought a copy for us, another for our best friends … and an extra. Just in case.


rustler's rhapsody dvd cover

NOTE: As it turns out, “Rustler’s Rhapsody” is available. Again. Who knows for how long? If you are interested, Amazon has the DVD and the download.


Tom Berenger is The Hero who shoots the bad guys in the hand. Pat Wayne is the other good guy, but he used to be a lawyer, so be warned. Casting Pat Wayne was an inspiration. “Rustler’s Rhapsody” could easily be an homage to his Dad’s ‘poverty row’ westerns of the 1930s. Pat even nails Duke’s acting range of that period.

My heroes have always been cowboys, even the stalwarts of those budget-challenged B movies. I had the good fortune to spend time with two legends of the genre. Buster Crabbe and Jack “Jock” Mahoney.

Crabbe, most famous for his “Flash Gordon” days, contends he had more fun playing the lead in the oaters where the line between good and bad is always clear and you get to wear nice costumes. He considers his westerns as “small classics” not B movies. (Crabbe continued his career into the late 60’s when producer A.C. Lyles revived the B cowboy movie with over the hill actors including Johnny Mack Brown, Rod Cameron, Bob Steele, Hoot Gibson and Richard Arlen among others).

Jack “Jock” Mahoney, known to many as TV’s “Range Rider,” is a former stuntman who graduated to supporting roles as nimble villains and finally established a following at Universal-International, playing literate good guys in lean, well-written westerns. Mahoney clearly is proud of his work in the B movies. I remember the smile on his face as he recalled the fun of being recognized as a cowboy hero.

I think all the cowboy actors I’ve met (Including John Wayne) would heartily approve of “Rustler’s Rhapsody”. It’s an affectionate tribute to their work.

This is the song they play at the end of the movie when the credits are rolling. I love the song and the memories it brings because I’m of the generation that went to the movies and watched those B movies as part of the afternoon doubleheader at the Carlton or Laurelton, the second or third-run movies houses where you could see two movies and a cartoon for a dime. Eleven cents if you were considered an adult. Which turned out to be any child older than 10, but they still made you sit in the kid’s section — which I firmly believed (and still believe) was unconstitutional.

Warner Brothers, 1982. “Last Of The Silver Screen Cowboys” by Rex Allen Jr. and Rex Allen Sr. Be sure to listen for Roy Rogers in the final commentary and chorus!

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. Retired! Yay!

21 thoughts on “A NOSTALGIC SPOOF: THE LAST OF THE SILVER SCREEN COWBOYS – Garry & Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. Really, Garry wrote this. You can sorta tell. It’s just his style and all that background movie information is just SO Garry. And you know what? This really IS what America still needs. Those guys believed in this country. They were Good Guys. The best. I think we need to watch a western today. Maybe two.

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  2. Possibly my favorite contribution to “Serendipity”. Thanks, Marilyn for co-authoring and the splendid production.
    This resonates with all the little buckaroos of my generation who always wanted to grow up to be the good guys.

    Resonates more strongly TODAY – than ever.

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    1. It’s funny, but it’s also touching. It’s a very loving spoof. And the song is wonderful. We listen to it a few times whenever it comes up. This is the full version. The movie clips it off at the end.

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  3. I didn’t know this film and am now sorry I missed it. We are not cowboy film types, but when I saw the bloke standing in the saddle I knew it was my thing, so might try for it. I remember “B” movies. My mum would take me to the cinema and the programme seemed to run all afternoon, so according when you arrived, you might be in the middle of a film and left when you caught up with everything. B films were good actually, and even if they were not good, you can have a laugh at them today. Thanks for bringing that one Gary – and Marilyn.

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    1. These kind of movies were the heart and soul of what American kids watched. Popcorn and cowboys and good guys with white hats. Bad guys with black hats. You always knew the good from the bad and you NEVER rooted for the bad guys. It really IS a very good little movie. If you can find a copy or you get Prime Video on you TV, it’s definitely worth watching. And Patrick Wayne — the Duke’s son — was REALLY handsome.

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  4. I forgot to mention Jock Mahoney. I must have been a real kid, about 8 years old, when I saw The Lone Rider series with Dick West as sidekick for the first time. I loved that guy above all of them, and those fringes on his jacket.

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    1. I grew up seeing these guys at the old movie houses in black and white. I really loved them. The horses. The clothing. If there were really time travel, I think that’s where I go to live. On a ranch in the west with a lot of horses and a scarlet setting sun.

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  5. My dad has a lot of DVDs and he loved Westerns so has a big collection of them. I’ll have to look through them as your post made it sound like fun. Plus who could resist seeing Andy Griffith as a villain. It must have been fun for him as he almost always plays the good guy

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    1. He played a REALLY evil guy in “A Face in the Crowd” and he was incredible. In this one, he’s more of a funny bad guy. The guy could act. He just liked comedy more than he like drama, but he had the acting ability to do drama … when he chose. This movie, though is just fun and nostalgia. What’s not to love?

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  6. I’ve never seen it, but now I’ll have to see if I can find it for streaming (I don’t have a DVD player, believe it or not). My favorite cowboy movie spoof has always been Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles,” although truth be told, I like “Young Frankenstein” better. But of course, that’s not a spoof of a cowboy movie.

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