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Westerns - TV Movies, Mini-series & Specials

Big Guns Talk: The Story of the Western (TNT/1997) - Narrated by James Garner, this two-hour made-for TV movie examined such themes as gunfighters, Indians, frontier women, the showdown, and the hangman's noose.

Broken Trial (AMC/2006) - Set in 1898, Print Ritter Robert Duvall) and his estranged nephew Tom Harte (Thomas Haden Church) struggle to deliver a herd of horses, care for five abandoned Chinese girls and a frontier prostitute who were escaping sexual slavery, and elude a band of men who want to reclaim the girls and steal the money earned by the sale of the horses.  

Buffalo Girls (1995) - Filmed in New Mexico and England, this TV-Movie adaptation of Larry McMurtry's novel followed the friendship between Calamity Jane (Anjelica Houston), a frontier sharpshooter and Dora (Melanie Griffith), a bordello owner as they lived and loved during the American West of the mid 1870s. Broadcast 4/30/95 and 5/1/95. (4-Hours)

Buffalo Soldiers (TNT/1997) - Made for TV-movie starring Danny Glover as the leader of an all-black regiment of cavalry troopers dubbed "The Buffalo Soldiers." As they chase a group of Indians through the New Mexico Territory, they are confronted with the question posed by Victorio, an Apache warrior who asked "Why do you murder my people for those (Whites) who made you less than cattle?" (120 Minutes)

Centennial (NBC/1978-79) - Based on James A. Michener's novel "Centennial," this sweeping miniseries (aired from October 1978 through February 1979) chronicled the historical events revolving around a region of the Rocky Mountains later to be called Centennial, Colorado. The earlier episodes set in 1795 told the story of French trapper Pasquinel (Robert Conrad) and Scottish trader Alexander McKeag (Richard Chamberlain). (25 Hours)

How the West Was Lost (DIS/1993) - Taped in 25 states, Mexico and Canada, this six-part Discovery Channel p.o.v. documentary told the Indian side of American History from Revolutionary times to the present interspersed with comments from descendants from such proud Tribes as the Cherokee and Iroquois Nations. Narrated by Peter Thomas. (60 Minutes)

How the West Was Won (ABC/1977) - Led by mountain man Zeb Macahan (James Arness), the series followed the saga of the Macahans, a Virginia family setting out West in search of a new life/homestead at the beginning of the 1860s. After Zeb's brother Timothy and his wife, Kate are killed, Zeb adopted their family who included Aunt Molly Culthane (Fionnula Flanagan); Luke Macahan (Bruce Boxleitner; Laura Macahan (Kathryn Holcomb); Josh Macahan (William Kirby Cullen) and Jessie Macahan (Vicki Schreck). The 1977 miniseries and sequel series was based loosely on the movie How The West Was Won (1963) directed by John Ford. (60/120 Minutes)

Into the West  (TNT 2005) - An epic miniseries about the White expansion of the American West as seen through the eyes of Jacob Wheeler (Matthew Settle) and a Native American Indian named Loved by the Buffalos who must face the onslaught of European immigrants and the demise of his own culture. In the midst of all this turmoil, Jacob marries Loved By the Buffalo's sister Thunder Heart Woman.

Kenny Rogers as The Gambler (CBS/1980-94)- Inspired by his popular country western song entitled "The Gambler," Kenny Rogers starred as a veteran frontier cardsharp who helped out a fledgling gambler (Bruce Boxleitner) with a knack for getting into trouble. This successful made-for-TV movie spawned Kenny Rogers as the Gambler, Part II- The Adventure Continues (1983), featuring the fastest female gun in the West (Linda Evans); Kenny Rogers as the Gambler, Part III-The Legend Continues (1987) where the Gambler interacted with such historical notables as Sitting Bull (George American Horse) and Buffalo Bill (Jeffrey Jones); The Luck of the Draw-The Gambler Returns (1991) which featured the biggest card game in history and cameos from such classic TV western characters as Lucas McCain, a.k.a. "The Rifleman" (Chuck Connors), Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine), Bat Masterson (Gene Barry), and Bart Maverick (Jack Kelly); and The Gambler V: Playing For Keeps (1994) with Kenny Rogers returning as cardsharp Brady Hawkes who searches for his 19-year-old son who quit a New England prep school to join the Hole in the Wall Gang. (120 Minutes)

Lonesome Dove (CBS/1989) - Based on the novel "Lonesome Dove" written by Larry McMurtry, this was the story Augustus McCrae (Robert Duvall) and Woodrow Call (Tommy Lee Jones), two former Texas rangers who decide to move cattle from the south to Montana. The miniseries spawned a sequel Return to Lonesome Dove (1993). and the TV series LONESOME DOVE: THE SERIES about Newt Call, a young man in search of his fortune who settled in the town of Curtis Wells in the Dakota Territory of the 1870s

Monte Walsh (TV-Movie 2003) - Based on the novel by Jack Schaefer, Tom Selleck starred at Monte Walsh, the last of a dying breed of cowboys who were loosing their livelihood to the introduction of the railroad. Faced with a changing frontier and comments like "You can't be a cowboy forever," Monte holds steadfast to his cowboy roots and insists "I won't do anything I can't do from a horse." Keith Carradine, William Devane, James Gammon and Barry Corbin co-starred as Monte's cowboy compatriots. Isabella Rossellini appeared as Martine, a prostitute and the love of Monte's life. Broadcast on the TNT network, the movie was directed by Simon Wincer (the director of Lonesome Dove). Teleplay by Michael Brandman, Robert B. Parker, David Z. Goodman and Lukas Heller.

Purgatory (TNT/1999) - This supernatural made-for-cable western movie starred Sam Shepherd as the town sheriff who maintains the peace in the frontier town of Refuge without the aid of a gun. When a gang of outlaws and their cruel leader Blackjack (Eric Roberts) stumble upon the quaint town of Refuge, they feel they are in control until the group's youngest member recognizes the sheriff as Wild Bill Hickok and the town doctor (Randy Quaid) as Doc Holiday. Trouble is, they're both dead. The rowdy criminals soon discover they have been traveling a spiritual crossroads for gunfighters and find themselves in the mythical land known as Purgatory.

The Slowest Gun in the West (CBS/1960) - A satirical one-hour comedy western TV Movie special starring Jack Benny and Phil Silvers that aired on the CBS network on May 7, 1960.  Desperate to restore law and order to their town, the people of Primrose, Arizona come up with a winning strategy: hire a coward named Fletcher Bissell III (aka The Silver Dollar Kid, played by Silvers) as their new sheriff and hope that no self respecting bad man would want to ruin his reputation as being the man who gunned down the slowest gun in the west. To get rid of the sheriff, the outlaws hire their own cowardly gunfighter named Chicken Finsterwald (Benny), who liked to shoot people in the back. Also featured on the show were veteran western heavies Ted DeCorsia, Jack Elam, and Lee van Cleef.

True Women (CBS/1997) - Based on the novel True Women (G.P. Putnam, 1994) by Janice Woods Windle, this two-part made-for-TV miniseries followed the Windle's family saga of Sarah Ashby McClure (Dana Delany), the wife of a Texas Ranger; her sister Euphemia Ashby King (Annabeth Gish); and her childhood friend Georgia Lawshe Woods (Angelina Jolie), a southern belle who lead a sheltered plantation life threatened with unrest. The story chronicled the years from Texas Revolution in 1835 through the Indian uprisings, the Civil War and Reconstruction, to the early stages of the women's suffrage movement. The novel takes its title from a report made to the 1868 Texas Reconstruction Convention on the floor of the Texas Capitol that read: "We believe that the good sense of every true woman in the land teaches her that granting them the power to vote is a direct open insult to their sex by the implication that they are so unwomanly as to desire the privilege." (4 hours)

Wild Bill (1995) - Jeff Bridges starred in this western movie retelling of the legendary frontier lawman James "Wild Bill" Butler Hickok (1837-1876) as he battled Indians, faced down gunman in the streets of Hays and Abilene Kansas and eventually met his fate at the hands of Jack McCall who shot Hickok in the back while he was playing cards. 

When the West Was Fun: A Western Reunion (1979) - This program was the first reunion of all the popular western cowboys seen on TV and the Movies. It aired in June of 1979. Set in a western saloon, the special reunited some of the best remembered TV cowboys including The Lone Ranger (Clayton Moore), Bart Maverick (Jack Kelly), The Rifleman (Chuck Connors), The Virginian (James Drury), Buffalo Bill, Jr. (Dick Jones), The Lawman (John Russell), The Range Rider (Jock Mahoney), and Neville Brand, Slim Pickens, Bill Williams, Doug McClure among others. The Buick sponsored special was hosted by Glenn Ford who dedicated the 60-minute program to John Wayne saying "This one's for you, Duke." John Wayne was hospitalized at the time.


 

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