THE LAST OF THE SILVER SCREEN COWBOYS – Garry Armstrong

A Nostalgic Spoof of Those Great Old Westerns

We watched “Rustler’s Rhapsody” again last night, this time with Rich Paschall who had never seen it before.

We love this movie. It’s an affectionate spoof of the B-Westerns of the 1940s starring Tom Berenger, Patrick Wayne, G.W. Baily (“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 owned three identical copies of it on DVD, one of which now belongs to Rich. It wasn’t going to be available for long, so we bought extras. Just in case.


rustler's rhapsody dvd cover

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 ’60s 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: Garry Armstrong

As a reporter for Channel 7 in Boston for 31 years, I was witness to most of the major events affecting the region. I met a lot of people ... politicians, actors, moguls, criminals and many regular folks caught up in extraordinary situations. Sometimes, I write about the people I've met and places I've been. Sometimes, I write about life, my family, my dogs and me. Or what might otherwise be called Life.

38 thoughts on “THE LAST OF THE SILVER SCREEN COWBOYS – Garry Armstrong”

  1. I’ve never seen this film,but I’ll try to run it down for a copy.I sounds like great fun,and I love Berenger’s work. Rex Allen was a neighbor of ours at one time, and his son gave my daughter a pet rat that she had for a few years before he escaped. We used to have a huge Christmas tree and let him have the run of it. He loved to eat all the stringed popcorn.One of my favorite Western actors was Walter Brennan. The first time he came to the house to meet with Stan Jones about a project, I was literally taken aback . He was a tall, handsome presence., looking nothing like he did in those films. I remember those days when you saw two films, a cartoon, and a newsreel at a Saturday matinee. Those “B” Westerns were always great fun.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Patricia, great anecdotes and I, also, recall with affection those old days at the movies where you got so much bang for a dime. My heroes have always been cowboys.
      You’ll LOVE “Rustler’s Rhapsody”. Please give us your reaction after you see it. Listen carefully to the music at the end and over the closing credits.

      Like

    1. Michelle, it was a joy introducing our friend to, “Rustler’s Rhapsody” last night. The film always lifts our spirits remembering childhood days at the movies watching our cowboy heroes. Michelle, urge you to find the film. Get some popcorn and a coke – sit back and relax. You’ll be singing along with the songs, especially the ones at the films end and over the closing credits. Listen CAREFULLY to the lyrics of “The Last Of The Silver Screen Cowboys”. Tom Berenger was in his prime – perfect casting for the classic good guy.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s a wonderful idea. I haven’t watched it in a long time. We have the Cowboy and Western channel and also on demand I will look for that one. It’s a good one I remember it. I like to sing along with the songs always 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

            1. I turn the music UP and keep my voice DOWN. I had a decent voice, but it got damaged yelling at kids and dogs and ex-husbands, so I’m pretty hoarse these days. If you don’t take care of your voice, it breaks. One of the ironies is I understood about caring for one’s voice. I’d studied both Speech (which is what my official degree is in) and have a full degree in Music, too. So I understood. But knowing is one thing. DOING it is another.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. OH yes you got that part right. It’s easier to say and know then to do. I’ve noticed that too! I think taking care of our bodies and doing what we should do is really hard given how life shows up and throws many curve balls at us. 🙂

                Like

    1. Leslie, so very true. We had a ball watching it again with our friend who’d never seen it before. We wound up post movie, talking about favorite cowboy movies and the music in those films. A swell evening.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As the former Caretaker at the Walking Box Ranch near Searchlight, Nevada, I spent years studying the reality of the Western movie myths…a reality for someone, who, like you, spent Friday evenings in the local movie palace watching a cowboy film, a short subject, a serial, and a second B film. What I learned at the old Walking Box was an appreciation for the real West which now outweighs my childhood love of the Myth of Marion Morrison.

    You might want to consider attending one of the Western Movie Festivals – Lone Pine, California, is the granddaddy. But there’s a plan to present one here in Carson City this fall. It will include people connected with westerns – stars, directors, etc. Last year the local film lady did a preview – a fine, unknown western, Westward the Women, directed by William Wellman (who also directed the first “Best Picture,” “Wings,” whose star was one owner of the Walking Box Ranch. The special guest was William Wellman, Jr. Since his father also one of the greatest of Westerns, “The Oxbow Incident,” and since Wiliam Wellman, Jr, will attend that showing, it will be worth considering. (The Carson Connection is via historic steam trains in our state RR Museum, and a fellow who rented such trains to filmmakers before the museum was established and so knows many of the filmmakers, like Wellman Jr.

    You may also want to find a copy of Roy Rogers’ “The Robinhood Trail,” which stars many of the old Western cowboys as themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ranger Don, we would so LOVE to attend one of the festivals. Really! I’m a BIG movie buff and self-proclaimed movie maven. I’d be like the kid in the candy store at your venue. We could write about the event and share with the many people who follow Marilyn’s blog.
      We have one major hurdle. Our retirees’ slim income doesn’t allow for plane fare to Nevada. Not even a maybe. If we got help – we would DEFINITELY attend the festival. Please let us know if you can help us. (I could share anecdotes about some of the movie stars, including Duke Wayne, I met as a TV News Reporter.
      Thanks, Buck-a-roo.
      (We have a dvd of Roy’s greatest hits including, “The Robinhood Trail”)

      Like

      1. In the same penurious retiree boat, I can’t offer much financial help, but I can offer good advice:

        Take the train! Senior discounts make that much more affordable, especially if you book in advance and avoid the busy times. Great way to SEE the West. Take any transcontinental train here – the Zephyr comes closest to Carson City – and you will be immersed in the mountains, the prairies, and the deserts immortalized in those films. Food is reasonable on the train, or you can stock up and snack in your seat.

        I can also offer the 25 cent tour of Carson City, which includes filming locations and the places Sam Clemens lived as he became Mark Twain. In fact, I live in the old NHL St. Charles Hotel, where young Sam is reputed to have lifted a few in our bar and which is one of those filming locations.

        Lone Pine has become pretty popular – meaning pricey – but since this will be the first year of the Carson City Festival lodging and the festival should be reasonable. Motels are not too pricey here – and can be very affordable, believe it or not, at South Lake Tahoe which is only about an hour’s bus ride away (or 30 minutes in a rental car).

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Don, thanks for understanding and the Advice. We’ll investigate train travel. See if we can do it. Would love the Carson City (Recall the Randy Scott “Carson City” flick) tour.

          Like

          1. I have checked out train travel before and it IS relatively cheap, especially compared to planes and you actually get to SEE the country through which you are passing. The problem is NOT trains. It’s the tracks which have not been maintained, so in most of these longer journies — and they ARE long — there are many places where you have to disembark, get on a bus, travel by bus (no assistance with transferring luggage or anything, either) to the next place where the tracks are in good enough condition to run the trains, reboard … and they will not guarantee that you can have the same seating arrangement either. Some trains, there’s at least a communal shower for a car with reclining seats — and we’re a bit old and crunchy for what they humorously call “sleeping” cars. We’d be better off in the recliners.

            Many trains don’t have shower facilities. I will check again. Maybe they’ve repaired some of the damaged tracks, though I’m not holding my breath. I know there’s one good run from Boston to Chicago — or it might be New York to Chicago (which is doable since New York is just a three hour run from here). But AFTER Chicago, the state of the tracks is very dicey. We wanted to take the train to Arizona. We have a really great friend in Phoenix and we’ve flown there twice and he’s visited here a few times, too. But after an exhaustive process, it would have taken 72 hours on the train with at least 5 separate bus breaks to go from broken track to the next section of track that was safe.

            How badly does this country need in infrastructure overhaul? Just trying to find a way to travel cross country by train gives you a really clear example of how bad things are. We knew anyway because we live amidst many rivers and so many of our bridges are nearing collapse. A few have crumbled and had to be closed and rebuilt. It is astonishing how hard it is to just get around this valley when a bridge is down for a couple of years as they slowly rebuild one lane, then the next lane. You wind up driving 20 miles out of the way to go just one town over — usually three or four miles by normal roads and bridges.

            And I remember when the roads were being BUILT in the 1950s! I thought it was like the Roman roads which are still in pretty decent shape. Not hardly!

            Like

            1. Amtrak has its moments, that’s for sure. I had one very bad experience, but generally find it a good way to travel – inexpensive, beautiful scenery, nice folks to speak with. Just make sure you remember to ask for the senior discount.

              Here’s my record:
              SF to Provo, 1986, no problems, beautiful country.

              Salt Lake City to Sacramento – the trip from hell, with a 2.5 DAY delay (Lesson: always get their reasonable travel insurance) but the staff was wonderful, even fed everyone for the last morning.

              San Luis Obispo to Vancouver, BC. No problems, beautiful trip through the Cascades and the NW Valleys.

              San Jose to SLO – delayed a few hours, but they gave a travel voucher for the entire fare.

              The BIG trip – SLO to Portland on the Starlight; Portland to Chicago via Glacier NP and the Mississippi; Chicago to Union Station in DC on the Capital Limited. Return: Capital Ltd to Chicago, SW Chief to LA via the pueblo country; Starlight to SLO along the longest stretch of coastal bluff RR in the world. There were some problems – and we did need a bus detour from Eugene to catch the Empire Builder. CSX has the bad tracks and the service was poor – but we made it on time. Otherwise spot on. Layover in Chicago gave time for a quick walk around and some wonderful Chicago food in the station.

              No track problems on the Burlington Northern rails (Chicago west on the Empire Builder and the SW Chief)- smooth, fast, only slow for scenery. The transcontinental trains put through passengers in coach cars which DO have showers. Those only going a few hours are put in cars without showers.

              I did try the sleeper on the BC trip – and I agree – coach seats are more comfortable. But bring a blanket and pillow and slippers.

              That trip around the USA – 11,000 miles – was a life highlight. So I’d say give it a look.

              Like

  3. LOVED this movie and we have several other Cowboy favorites! My history was the Roxy theater in Pacific Beach (San Diego) and they kept their .50 price until just a few years ago!!! (I just realized, there is no longer a cent symbol on a keyboard!! Sigh.)

    I have a great John Wayne Story. Maybe I’ll send it along a little later!

    Thanks for this post. Delightful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Choosing, look forward to your Duke Wayne story. You’re right about the evisceration of the cent symbol in movie tickets. It’s relic.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Due to your enthusiasm for this film, I bought myself a copy. I found that I had seen it sometime in the past (when is a mystery), but it was hysterical. Now I want me a root. 😉 ha! I hadn’t connected “Pat Wayne” with “John Wayne”, but the name should have given that away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Melanie, wish we had some roots here. Yes, Pat Wayne was a chip off the old block. Wish he had done more work.

      Like

  5. “Rustler’s Rhapsody” Holt crap!, haven’t watch that for a while. Now I’ll have to watch it with my buddy from LA who’s visiting me for a few days. His partner was a Hollywood publicist so he will appreciate it and laugh with us all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ben, “Rustler’s Rhapsody” is such a hoot! Andy Griffith’s evil cattle baron who also has a special affection for his ranch hands is so funny. “Poor Blackie. He was so special. He could touch. He could feel. he could love.”

      Like

          1. Marilyn, I have an old Johnny Mack Brown movie in our stream vid library. He’s the romantic lead opposite Joan Crawford in an early 30’s Metro flick. Brown played a few romantic leads before moving on to the cowboy genre.

            Like

  6. Looking at the pictures that accompanied the wonderful song, I was disappointed that they didn’t include one of the original cowboys, Harry Carey, Sr., who made a slew of oldies with John Ford when he was just starting to direct. As I believe I told you some time ago, I lived on the Harry Carey ranch for a couple of years when I was a child and knew the family for many,many years after. Dobe, Harry Carey, Jr. , followed in his father’s footsteps, doing Westerns with John Ford. When I was older, in my late teens, I rode with Harry on his new ranch near San Diego. He was a wonderful, kind man who loved to spend a lot of time reading. He still kept Sonny, the horse he rode in some films, plus a couple of others on his new place and told me,”Take any horse you want and explore the country.” He and Dobe, for some reason, always praised my riding skills. When my daughter,as an adult, ran into Dobe one day at a meeting, he told her and the others,”Your mother rode like an Indian, bareback and wide open.” Believe me, that wasn’t all the time, at least not when I was training a horse. The days on that old Harry Carey ranch will always be some of my most beloved memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never got quite that good on horseback. I wanted to,, but I didn’t have access to horses. There were stables, but they were expensive and my mother wasn’t paying money for riding lessons. Earning that kind of money is tough for a 10-year-old girl. I rode anyway, which is why I fell so often. I had NO idea what I was doing, but I did it anyway.

      I didn’t actually get any real training until I was in my late-20s and had sent my son to horse-riding camp. I realized that all my life I’d be trying to learn to ride and now my son, who was 8, could ride better than me. So I signed up for riding lessons. Later, when I married Garry, we BOTH signed up for riding lessons and he was a natural. We also discovered WHY you wear chaps and it isn’t to look sexy. It’s to keep from have big holes in your legs! I still have scars from the holes in my legs. I wish I still had my chaps. They had such a great horsey smell 😀

      Like

  7. While working my way through school (in Seattle’s only 5 star restaurant at the time) the wait staff was told to come in early one day to prepare for someone special coming for lunch. We were given a short training about how to treat the famous guest…things like how to run interference between the celebrity and possible star struck intruders, so our guest could dine in peace. We were not told who was coming but had previously waited on several local stars (Newscasters, the Sonics) and even had a visit from the Beach Boys. We were ready.
    While preparing for the lunch rush, I was barreling around a corner carrying a heavy tray laden with large glasses of ice water. I dutifully shouted “Corner”, like servers are trained to do in a busy restaurant, but ran headlong into a giant man, dumping the whole tray right into his, uh, lap-region. It wasn’t until this huge guy got right down on the floor with me, bless his heart, helping to pick up ice cubes and glasses (none broke, thank god) that I realized our celebrity guest of the day was the Duke himself.
    Mr. Wayne apologized even more than I did, patting my shoulder and reassuring me. He then called for the manager to come over so he could explain the whole thing was his fault, not mine!
    Sweet man (and the $100 tip a miracle for this working, single mom, student, waitress!!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a wonderful story. Garry will love it. He’s sleeping the day away today. We’ve been getting up early every day for a while and he has to give a talk tomorrow and has to be up early again, so I put him to bed for the day. The years are catching up with him.

      Like

    2. Choosing, what a GREAT anecdote. I think you top my Duke story. Thanks for the share, “Baby Sister”.

      Like

    1. You had to have watched a lot of B westerns as a kid to really “get” it. That is how I fell in love with horses and spent my life trying to find a way to have my own horse. Sadly, by the time we lived here — where we COULD have a horse because for a pittance you can rent a stall at one of the many stables in the area (you can also rent the horse with the stable and it isn’t even expensive unless you are retired, in which case EVERYTHING is expensive) … but by then, my back had been so badly damaged — from riding and falling and a few odd car accidents — I couldn’t ride. Well, that’s not true. I could. But if I fell again, the odds were very high I’d never get back up again.

      Even horse crazy me realized it was time to give it up, but I still miss horses. Especially since I now live in a place where there are more horse breeding farms than dairy farms! Oh the ironies of life.

      Liked by 1 person

Talk to me!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.