This summer brings the 50th anniversary of the first major America-hating Western movie, Lonely Are the Brave. Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, a Hollywood Marxist "blacklisted" during the 1950s, turned upside down the genre previously known for praising the American spirit.
In the movie Kirk Douglas plays Jack Burns, a roaming ranch hand who hates private property with signs like "no hunting, no hiking, no admission, no trespassing, private property, closed area, start moving, go away, get lost, drop dead! Do you know what I mean?"
Yes we do, because Lonely Are the Brave is heavy-handed. Burns cuts the power company's barbed-wire fences and shoots down a helicopter, but is eventually run over by a truck carrying a load of toilets. Lonely Are the Brave set the tone for Westerns of the 1960s and 1970s that commonly portrayed Amerikkka as a toilet bowl of violence, racism, and hatred.
Maybe that's why University of Colorado film teacher Alex Cox recently declared in The New York Times, "There is no greater Western."
Oh? Here are a few to start with from the decade and a half before 1962: Bend of the River, The Far Country, The Man from Laramie, The Naked Spur, Winchester 73, Buchanan Rides Alone, Comanche Station, Ride Lonesome, The Tall T, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Rio Grande, The Searchers, High Noon, Shane, The Hanging Tree, The Magnificent Seven. Or for something more recent, try the television mini-series Lonesome Dove.