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Classic Western Directors: 3 Filmmakers Who Stand Out

By    |   Friday, 01 May 2015 09:46 AM

Classic western movies have given filmgoers unforgettable characters, and directors committed to the genre stand out for their superb recreations of the Old West.

Here are three film directors who stand out for their work creating classic westerns:

John Ford

Ford, who died in 1973, was a versatile director known for his robust body of work, from dramatic period pieces like “The Grapes of Wrath” to romantic character studies like “The Quiet Man.” Yet he’ll always be remembered for his westerns. Biography.com explained, “Adept at all genres, he frequently explored his Irish roots but achieved his greatest renown for poetic visions of the American West, depicting its rugged heroes, pioneering families, and sense of male camaraderie.” 

In total, he won four Academy Awards, directed over 100 films, and created a bevy of classic westerns, including “The Searchers,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “Young Mr. Lincoln,” “How Green Was My Valley,” and “Wagon Master.”

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Many of Ford’s contemporaries considered him to be the best western director working. When legendary filmmaker Orson Welles was asked to name his favorite directors, he stated, “I prefer the old masters; by which I mean John Ford, John Ford, and John Ford." 

Sergio Leone

Born in Rome, Italy, in 1929, this influential director has been credited with spawning an entire sub-genre of westerns. According to fistfulofleone.com, “’A Fistful of Dollars’ created the spaghetti western genre which encompassed more than 200 films, sharing the features of being created in Italy, frequently being filmed in Spain, featuring self-assured killers with no names, scores by Ennio Morricone, and of course the shootout.”  

Leone, who died in 1989, created many of the genre’s most pivotal innovations, including introducing Clint Eastwood to worldwide audiences by casting the relatively unknown actor in his “Dollars Trilogy,” which consisted of western classics “A Fistful of Dollars,” “For a Few Dollars More,” and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”

Other notable Leone films include “Duck, You Sucker,” “Once Upon a Time in the West,” “Once Upon a Time in America,” which garnered a BAFTA nomination for Best Direction. This lengthy canon of great films made him a truly unforgettable western director.

Clint Eastwood

First a successful actor, Eastwood later stepped behind the camera and helmed numerous award-winning films, including westerns such as “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” “Pale Rider,” and “Unforgiven.”

“Unforgiven” was one of the most successful and critically-acclaimed westerns of its time. Amovieaweek.com elaborated, “This is a film about perspective and how it is relevant in terms of morality. It is deeply thematic yet also entertaining, making it one of our greatest pictures. Here is one of the best American Westerns.” 

It won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and cemented Eastwood’s status as an A-list filmmaker and a truly classic western film director.

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Classic western movies have given filmgoers unforgettable characters, and directors committed to the genre stand out for their superb recreations of the Old West. Here are three film directors who stand out for their work creating classic westerns.
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