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The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford - Eroticdreambattle — LiveJournal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Tony Grist

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The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford [Jan. 8th, 2015|10:28 am]
Tony Grist
The old time westerns occupied a mythic space. And then- I think it started with Peckinpah- the film-makers decided it would be more interesting to try and get the historical setting right. There are no stetsons in this movie. The men mostly wear derbies, the police wear silly helmets like the Keystone Kops. The town where Jesse meets his end is a factory town.

All Westerns are about the end of the West- and that's because the moment of the Wild West was shorter than a lifespan. The people who survived it went on to have other lives. Bat Masterson became a sports journalist. Wyatt Earp refereed boxing matches, hung around movie sets.

Jesse is getting to be tired of being Jesse. It's lonely being a man that people fear.  So he takes off his gunbelt and turns his back on two guys he knows he can't trust. What transpires ain't murder so much as assisted suicide.  Is that really how it happened?  The guy in the historic photographs doesn't look like he did much thinking; there's a bit of ape in that face, a bit of rat and a whole lot of punk; he doesn't come across as self-aware. This could be the last myth that needs to be busted- the one we find it hardest to let go- that the gun men of the old west were interesting in themselves- that there was something going on behind the bony mask and cold, sociopathic stare.  Jesse James did a lot of robbing (but no giving to the poor) and killed 17 people along the way; it's a good story and an impressive statistic, but it doesn't make him Hamlet.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: michaleen
2015-01-08 12:03 pm (UTC)
There is much good you might say about a Confederate guerrilla turned peace-time criminal, but it's hard to imagine it being true. I see from Wiki that he rode with "Bloody Bill" Anderson during the Rebellion. Didn't know that.

I've lost patience with romanticizing the unconscionable, too. Maybe I've just gone off self-serving fantasies in general.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2015-01-08 05:53 pm (UTC)
The narrator says of James that he never stopped fighting the Civil War but, as one of the characters comments, he never stopped to ask people their political views before he shot them.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2015-01-09 10:54 am (UTC)
There were a lot of men that never stopped fighting. Such persistence is how they eventually won, for most intents and purposes.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2015-01-09 12:22 pm (UTC)
That's the thing about Civil Wars; they never really end.
The issues of our Civil War- in the 1600s- are still alive in British society. For instance, we still have a monarch and she and many of her adherents still believe in something very like "Divine Right".
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2015-01-09 02:03 pm (UTC)
A most astute observation.
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From: cmcmck
2015-01-08 12:23 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure James ever truly stopped being a 'South will rise again' paramilitary. Even Quantrill, Mosby and co knew when to stop.

Not a nice man at all. They'd call him a terrorist nowadays.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2015-01-08 05:57 pm (UTC)
The movie fudges things fromthe off set by casting Pitt- who has a mobile face and a ready smile- and doesn't look a bit like James.
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[User Picture]From: idahoswede
2015-01-08 12:38 pm (UTC)
Did you know that over 25% of "cowboys" were black and that a large percentage of the gunshot deaths and injuries in the Old West were caused by them accidentally shooting themselves?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2015-01-08 05:58 pm (UTC)
I knew that first fact and I'm not surprised about the second. :)
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[User Picture]From: kishenehn
2015-01-08 02:32 pm (UTC)
As a professional historian and a lifelong resident of the American west, I'm always intrigued by how oddly the "old west" myth continually gets re-interpreted, especially overseas. For many years, the Germans were particularly egregious in that regard ...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2015-01-08 06:03 pm (UTC)
I grew up in an decade when the most exciting things on TV were the westerns. I've never lost my taste for them, only these days I'm a little more clued up about the reality.
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From: athenais
2015-01-08 04:59 pm (UTC)
Wyatt Earp is buried (well, his ashes) about five miles from where I live. And he was always looking for the main chance, rarely honest and an inveterate gambler. Never understood how he got such a reputation as a good guy in the movies.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2015-01-08 06:09 pm (UTC)
I know the real Earp was a crooked sonofabitch but as the newspaperman says in the John Ford movie, "When the truth conflicts with the legend, print the legend."

And in Earp's case it's a cracking legend.
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