A primer to the western genre, mostly novels and movies, but a little history too.
Novels
Clark, Walter Van Tilburg     
The ox-bow incident
Set in 1885, The Ox-Bow Incident is a searing and realistic portrait of frontier life and mob violence in the American West. First published in 1940, it focuses on the lynching of three innocent men and the tragedy that ensues when law and order are abandoned. The result is an emotionally powerful, vivid, and unforgettable re-creation of the Western novel, which Clark transmuted into a universal story about good and evil, individual and community, justice and human nature. As Wallace Stegner writes, [Clark's] theme was civilization, and he recorded, indelibly, its first steps in a new country.
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deWitt, Patrick     
The Sisters brothers
When a frontier baron known as the Commodore orders Charlie and Eli Sisters, his hired gunslingers, to track down and kill a prospector named Herman Kermit Warm, the brothers journey from Oregon to San Francisco, and eventually to Warm's claim in the Sierra foothills, running into a witch, a bear, a dead Indian, a parlor of drunken floozies, and a gang of murderous fur trappers.
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Grey, Zane     
Riders of the purple sage
For over a decade the notorious gunman Lassiter, an implacable enemy of the Mormons, has been searching for his siter who disappeared after being lured from her Illinois home...
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Guthrie, A B     
The big sky
Originally published more than fifty years ago, The Big Sky is the first of A. B. Guthries epic adventure novels of Americas vast frontier. The Big Sky introduces Boone Caudill, Jim Deakins, and Dick Summers, three of the most memorable characters in western American literature. Traveling the Missouri River from St. Louis to the Rockies, these frontiersmen live as trappers, traders, guides, and explorers. The story centers on Caudill, a young Kentuckian driven by a raging hunger for life and a longing for the blue sky and brown earth of big, wild places. Caught up in the freedom and savagery of the wilderness, Caudill becomes an untamed mountain man whom only the beautiful daughter of a Blackfoot chief dares to love. With The Big Sky, Guthrie gives us an unforgettable portrait of a spacious land and a unique way of life.
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Hall, Oakley M     
Separations
The Grand Canyon country of the 1880s is the setting of Oakley Hall's compelling new novel. As the plot unfolds, the West of the late nineteenth century is displayed in all its vastness and complexity. Hall carries us from the wild, perilous depths of the Canyon to the drawing rooms of San Francisco, from the desolate Mormon settlements and Indian camps of the Southwest to the haciendas of Old California. And he reveals once again his consummate power as a storyteller as he brings to life the fierce conflicts of the day - between rapacious mining and railroad barons eager to exploit the riches of the West and those who would preserve its beauty pristine; between Mormons and Gentiles; between land-hungry whites and beleaguered Indians; between men and the women they would love, and use. And the fiercest conflict of all - between man and nature.
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Hansen, Ron     
Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
A fictionalized portrait of the legendary outlaw Jesse James, his violent career, and his murderer, Robert Ford, in an epic tale of the Old West.
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Hilleman, Andrew     
World, chase me down : a novel
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L'Amour, Louis     
Hondo
He was etched by the desert's howling winds, a big, broad-shouldered man who knew the ways of the Apache and the ways of staying alive. She was a woman alone raising a young son on a remote Arizona ranch. And between Hondo Lane and Angie Lowe was the warrior Vittoro, whose people were preparing to rise against the white men. Now the pioneer woman, the gunman, and the Apache warrior are caught in a drama of love, war, and honor.
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McCarthy, Cormac     
Blood meridian, or, The evening redness in the West
Based on incidents that took place in the southwestern United States and Mexico around 1850, this novel chronicles the crimes of a band of desperados, with a particular focus on one, "the kid," a boy of fourteen.
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McMurtry, Larry     
Lonesome dove : a novel
A love story and an epic of the frontier, Lonesome Dove is the grandest novel ever written about the last, defiant wilderness of America. Richly authentic, beautifully written, Lonesome Dove is a book to make readers laugh, weep, dream and remember.
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McMurtry, Larry     
The Berrybender narratives
A single-volume anthology of the epic story of the Berrybender pioneer family follows the relocation of British aristocrats Lord and Lady Berrybender to 1830 Texas, where their idealistic plans are shaped by their daughter's relationship with frontiersman Jim Snow.
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Meyer, Philipp     
The son
Comanche Indian captive Eli McCullough must carve a place for himself in a world in which he does not fully belong -- a journey of adventure, tragedy, hardship, grit, and luck that reverberates in the lives of his progeny.
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Portis, Charles     
True grit : a novel
Charles Portis has long been acclaimed as one of America's foremost writers. True Grit is the basis for two movies, the 1969 classic starring John Wayne and the Academy Award® winning 2010 version starring Jeff Bridges and written and directed by the Coen brothers.
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Proulx, Annie     
Close range : Wyoming stories
Annie Proulx's masterful language and fierce love of Wyoming are evident in this collection of stories about loneliness, quick violence, and wrong kinds of love. In "The Mud Below," a rodeo rider's obsession marks the deepening fissures between his family life and self-imposed isolation. In "The Half-Skinned Steer," an elderly fool drives west to the ranch he grew up on for his brother's funeral, and dies a mile from home. In "Brokeback Mountain," the difficult affair between two cowboys survives everything but the world's violent intolerance.
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Schaefer, Jack     
Shane
In this classic story of the friendship between a farm boy and a gunman struggling to escape his dark past, a mysterious ex-gunfighter takes up his weapon again in order to save a family?s farm.
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Swarthout, Glendon Fred     
The shootist [large print]
This is the all-time classic novel chosen by the Western Writers of America as one of the best western novels ever wrttten. It is also the inspiration for John Wayne's last great starring role--the acclaimed 1976 film, The Shootist This special commemorative edition includes a brand new introduction by the author's son, Miles Swarthout, in which he talks about his father's work and the making of the legendary film.
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Williams, John     
Butcher's crossing [sound recording]
In the 1870s, Will Andrews, fired up by Emerson to seek "an original relation to nature," drops out of Harvard and heads west. He washes up in Butcher's Crossing, a small Kansas town full of restless men looking for ways to make money and ways to waste it. One of these men regales Will with tales of the immense buffalo herds hidden away in the Colorado Rockies and convinces him to join an expedition to track them down. At the end of a grueling journey, the men reach a place of paradisal richness, where they abandon themselves to an orgy of slaughter. So caught up in killing buffalo that they lose all sense of time, the men are overtaken by winter and snowed in. In the spring, half-insane with cabin fever, cold, and hunger, they stagger back to Butcher's Crossing to find a world as irremediably changed as they have been.
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Wister, Owen     
The Virginian : a horseman of the plains
The Virginian (1902) is Owen Wister's classic popular romance, and the most significant shaping influence on the Western genre. This edition includes Wister's neglected essay, The Evolution of the Cow-Puncher (1895) and an introduction highlighting the social, gender, and political implications of Wister's mythic West in the context of its actual economic history and Wister's patrician career.
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Zollinger, Norman     
Riders to Cibola [large print]
The loyalties of Mexican orphan and runaway Ignacio Ortiz are tested by the passions of his employers, the MacAndrews family, in a tale set in New Mexico at the end of its territorial period and the beginning of the modern West.
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History
    
Best of Covered wagon women
The diaries and letters of women who braved the overland trails during the great nineteenth-century westward migration are treasured documents in the study of the American West. These eight firsthand accounts are among the best ever written. They were selected for the power with which they portray the hardship, adventure, and boundless love for friends and family that characterized the overland experience. Some were written with the skilled pens of educated women. Others bear the marks of crude cabin learning, with archaic and imaginative spelling and a simplicity of expression. All convey the profound effect the westward trek had on these women.
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Aron, Stephen     
The American West : a very short introduction
Part geographical location, part time period, and part state of mind, the American West is a concept often invoked but rarely defined. Though popular culture has carved out a short and specific time and place for the region, author and longtime Californian Stephen Aron tracks "the West" fromthe building of the Cahokia Mounds around 900 AD to the post-World War II migration to California. His Very Short Introduction stretches the chronology, enlarges the geography, and varies the casting, providing a history of the American West that is longer, larger, and more complicated than popularculture has previously suggested. It is a history of how portions of North America became Wests, how parts of these became American, and how ultimately American Wests became the American West.Aron begins by describing the expansion of Indian North America in the centuries before and during its early encounters with Europeans. He then explores the origins of American westward expansion from the Seven Years' War to the 1830s, focusing on the western frontier at the time: the territorybetween the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. He traces the narrative - temporally and geographically - through the discovery of gold in California in the mid-nineteenth century and the subsequent rush to the Pacific Slope. He shows how the passage of the Newlands Reclamation Act in1902 brought an unprecedented level of federal control to the region, linking the West more closely to the rest of the United States, and how World War II brought a new rush of population (particularly to California), further raising the federal government's profile in the region and heightening theconnections between the West and the wider world. Authoritative, lucid, and ranging widely over issues of environment, people, and identity, this is the American West stripped of its myths. The complex convergence of peoples, polities, and cultures that has decisively shaped the history of the American West serves as the key interpretive threadthrough this Very Short Introduction.ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, andenthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
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Brown, Dee Alexander     
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee : an Indian history of the American West, the illustrated edition
Doumented account of the decimation of Native Americans in the last half of the 19th century, told from the Indian viewpoint.
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Brown, Dee Alexander     
The American West
This is an account of America's most famous drama. By centring solely on three subjects - Native Americans, settlers and ranchers - the author recreates these groups' struggles for their place in this new landscape and illuminates the history of the old West. Beginning with the demise of the Native Americans of the Plains, Brown depicts the onrush of the burgeoning cattle trade and the wave of immigrants who ultimately settled the land.
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Dolnick, Edward     
The rush : America's fevered quest for fortune, 1848-1853
Describes the adventurous prospectors who traversed the United States in 1848 in response to rumors of gold in the Sacramento Valley, detailing the rough and rowdy cities that popped up, seemingly out of thin air, to accommodate the treasure-seekers.
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Enss, Chris     
Wicked women : notorious, mischievous, and wayward ladies from the Old West
"This collection of short, action-filled stories of the Old West's most egregiously badly behaved female outlaws, gamblers, soiled doves, and other wicked women by award-winning Western history author Chris Enss offers a glimpse into Western Women's experience that's less sunbonnets and more six-shooters. During the late nineteenth century, while men were settling the new frontier and rushing off to the latest boom towns, women of easy virtue found wicked lives west of the Mississippi when they followed fortune hunters seeking gold and land in an unsettled territory. Prostitutes and female gamblers hoped to capitalize on the vices of the intrepid pioneers. Pulling together stories of ladies caught in the acts of mayhem, distraction, murder, and highway robbery, it will include famous names like Belle Starr and Big Nose Kate, as well as lesser known characters"--|cProvided by publisher.
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Fenster, Julie M     
Jefferson's America : the President, the purchase, and the explorers who transformed a nation
The surprising story of how Thomas Jefferson commanded an unrivaled age of American exploration, sending out waves of expeditions into the West after the Louisiana Purchase. In presiding over that era of discovery, Jefferson forged a great nation.
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Frankel, Glenn     
The searchers : the making of an American legend
In 1836 in East Texas, nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker was kidnapped by Comanches. She was raised by the tribe and eventually became the wife of a warrior. Twenty-four years after her capture, she was reclaimed by the U.S. cavalry and Texas Rangers and restored to her white family, to die in misery and obscurity. Cynthia Ann's story has been told and re-told over generations to become a foundational American tale. The myth gave rise to operas and one-act plays, and in the 1950s to a novel byAlan LeMay, which would be adapted into one of Hollywood's most legendary films, The Searchers , The Biggest, Roughest, Toughest... and Most Beautiful Picture Ever Made!" directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne.Glenn Frankel, beginning in Hollywood and then returning to the origins of the story, creates a rich and nuanced anatomy of a timeless film and a quintessentially American myth. The dominant story that has emerged departs dramatically from documented history: it is of the inevitable triumph of white civilization, underpinned by anxiety about the sullying of white women by "savages." What makes John Ford's film so powerful, and so important, Frankel argues, is that it both upholds that myth and undermines it, baring the ambiguities surrounding race, sexuality, and violence in the settling of the West and the making of America."
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Hill, William E     
The Oregon Trail, yesterday and today : a brief history and pictorial journey along the wagon tracks of pioneers
Offers a description of the history of the Oregon Trail - from past to present. This book features a blend of maps, guides, emigrant diaries, journals, and old drawings as well as photographs of important locations along the trail.
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Kreck, Dick     
Hell on Wheels : Wicked Towns along the Union Pacific Railroad
The Wild West was more than just cowboys. It was also the raucous and unfettered railroad settlements that lined the tracks. Overnight settlements, better known as "Hell on wheels," sprang up as the transcontinental railroad crossed Nebraska and Wyoming. They brought opportunity not only for legitimate businesses but also for gamblers, land speculators, prostitutes, and thugs. Kreck tells their stories, along with those of the heroic individuals who managed, finally, to create permanent towns in the interior West.
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Morgan, Robert     
Lions of the West : heroes and villains of the westward expansion
From Thomas Jefferson's birth in 1743 to the California Gold Rush in 1849, America's westward expansion comes to life in the hands of a writer fascinated by the way individual lives link up, illuminate one another, and collectively impact history.
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Morris, Larry E     
The perilous West : seven amazing explorers and the founding of the Oregon Trail
Although a host of adventurers stormed west in 1806 after Lewis and Clark s safe return, seven of them left unique legacies because of their monumental journeys, their lionhearted spirit in the face of hardship, and the way their paths intertwined time and again. The Perilous West tells this riveting story in depth for the first time, focusing on each of the seven explorers in turn Ramsay Crooks, Robert McClellan, John Hoback, Jacob Reznor, Edward Robinson, Pierre Dorion, and Marie Dorion. These seven counted the Tetons, Hells Canyon, and South Pass among their discoveries. More importantly, they forged the Oregon Trail a path destined to link the Atlantic coast with the Pacific, spurring national expansion as it carried trappers, soldiers, pioneers, missionaries, and gold-seekers westward. The Perilous West begins in 1806, when Crooks and McClellan meet Lewis and Clark, and the vast expanse from the Dakotas to the Pacific coast appears a commercial paradise. The story ends in 1814, when a band of French Canadian trappers rescue Marie Dorion, and even John Jacob Astor s well-financed enterprise has ended in violence and chaos, placing the protagonists squarely in the context of Thomas Jefferson s monumental opening of the West, which stalled with the War of 1812."
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Mort, John     
Read the high country : a guide to western books and films
Often overlooked or written off as a dying genre, the Western, in fact, holds great appeal for many readers today. While traditional Westerns have managed to retain a loyal cadre of fans, new followers have been drawn in by recent iterations of and new directions in the genre written by such authors as Larry McMurtry, Annie Proulx, Louise Erdrich, and Tabor Evans; as well as contemporary authors writing in the traditional vein, such as Elmer Kelton. Westerns are also thriving within the flourishing Christian fiction genre.
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Orsi, Jared     
Citizen explorer : the life of Zebulon Pike
It was November 1806. The explorers had gone without food for one day, then two. Their leader, not yet thirty, drove on, determined to ascend the great mountain. Waist deep in snow, he reluctantly turned back. But Zebulon Pike had not been defeated. His name remained on the unclimbed peak -and new adventures lay ahead of him and his republic.In Citizen Explorer, historian Jared Orsi provides the first modern biography of this soldier and explorer, who rivaled contemporaries Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Born in 1779, Pike joined the army and served in frontier posts in the Ohio River valley before embarking on a series ofastonishing expeditions. He sought the headwaters of the Mississippi and later the sources of the Arkansas and Red Rivers, which led him to Pike's Peak and capture by Spanish forces. Along the way, he met Aaron Burr and General James Wilkinson; Auguste and Pierre Couteau, patriarchs of St. Louis'smost powerful fur-trading family, who sought to make themselves indispensible to Jefferson's administration; as well as British fur-traders, Native Americans, and officers of the Spanish empire, all of whom resisted the expansion of the United States. Through Pike's life, Orsi examines how American nationalism thinned as it stretched west, from the Jeffersonian idealism on the Atlantic to a practical, materialist sensibility on the frontier. Surveying and gathering data, Pike sought to incorporate these distant territories into the republic, tooverlay the west with the American map grid; yet he became increasingly dependent for survival on people who had no attachment to the nation he served. He eventually died in that service, in a victorious battle in the War of 1812. Written from an environmental perspective, rich in cultural and political context, Citizen Explorer is a state-of-the-art biography of a remarkable man.
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Petersen, Keith     
John Mullan : the tumultuous life of a western road builder
John Mullan's celebrated road-a 625-mile link that connected the Missouri and Columbia Rivers-established the West Point graduate as an accomplished engineer. After completing the Northwest's first engineered highway at age thirty-two, he lived for nearly another half century, a period of dynamic change. When he died in 1909, automobiles were making their initial crossing along his route. The arterial aventually became a critical link in America's longest interstate freeway, 1-90. Yet despite frequent mentions in books about the nineteenth century Northwest, the soldier/explorer has remained little more than a caricature: a dashing young Army officer who comes West builds one of its most important thoroughfares, and then disappears from regional literature. Now, in lively prose, Idaho State Historian Keith Peterson takes a fresh look a Mullan, who road significantly impacted the development of the Northwest Mullan, whose road significantly impacted the development of the Northwest. Mullan's story includes business partnerships and personal relationships with some of the West's most intriguing characters: Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet, General William T. Sherman, Chico founded John Bidwell, Idaho gold discoverer Elias Pierce, Yakama Indian chief Owhi, and others. The first comprehensive portrayal of John Mullan's life, this deeply researched biography probes the explorer's complex personality, his rise to fame, and his fall from grace. Book jacket.
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Stark, Peter     
Astoria : John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's lost Pacific empire : a story of wealth, ambition, and survival
Documents the 1810 to 1813 expedition, financed by millionaire John Jacob Astor and encouraged by Thomas Jefferson, to establish Fort Astoria, a trading post on the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest.
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Movies
    
3:10 to Yuma (2007 version) [DVD]
Arizona in the late 1800s. Infamous outlaw Ben Wade and his vicious gang of thieves and murderers have plagued the Southern Railroad. When Wade is captured, Civil War veteran Dan Evans, struggling to survive on his drought-plagued ranch, volunteers to deliver him alive to the train that will take the killer to trial. On the trail, Evans and Wade, each from very different worlds, begin to earn each other's respect. But with Wade's outfit on their trail, and dangers at every turn, the mission soon becomes a violent, impossible journey toward each man's destiny.
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A fist full of westerns collection [DVD]
A collection of B-movie westerns. Most of these aren't necessarily good, but many are a lot of fun!
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High plains drifter [DVD]
A stranger is hired to protect a guilt-ridden Western town from three desperadoes.
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Hud [DVD]
Hud Bannon has always preferred drinking, fighting and womanizing to the very traditional ways of his father. Hud is a man who cares more for himself than he does his young nephew, his dad, or even their understanding housekeeper. When disease threatens the cattle on the Bannon Ranch, the conflict between Hud and his old-line father reaches an all time high.
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Meek's cutoff [DVD]
A wagon train of three families has hired mountain man Stephen Meek to guide them over the Cascade Mountains. Claiming to know a shortcut, Meek leads the group on an unmarked path across the high plain desert, only to become lost in the dry rock and sage. Over the coming days, the emigrants face the scourges of hunger, thirst, and their own lack of faith in each other's instincts for survival. When they encounter a Native American, they must choose between following their guide or an 'enemy.'
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Once upon a time in the West [DVD]
A man preparing to welcome his new wife to his home is killed, along with his entire family.
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Ox-bow incident [DVD]
An angry mob kills a man after a popular rancher is murdered.
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Randolph Scott western collection [DVD]
A collection of movies featuring one of the great stars of the western. Also check out "Ride the High Country" to see Scott play against his persona.
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Red River [DVD]
Thomas Dunson, a tyrannical Texas rancher, is driving his cattle to Red River when his adopted son, Matthew, turns against him.
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Ride the high country [DVD]
Two old friends have taken drastically different paths growing up. One is a small town sheriff, the other has become a burglar, bent on stealing the gold the other is shipping cross-country.
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Rio Grande [DVD]
John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara are embroiled in an epic battle with the Apaches and each other. Wayne leads his Cavalry troops to the Rio Grande to fight a warring tribe. His toughest battle lies ahead when his unorthodox plan to outwit the elusive Apaches leads to a possible court-martial. Locked in a bloody war, he must fight not only to save his family, but also to redeem his honor.
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She wore a yellow ribbon [DVD]
A desperately short-staffed cavalry outpost must try to stop an Indian invasion.
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Stagecoach (1939 version) [DVD]
A group of passengers with nothing in common is stuck inside a coach that is being attacked by bandits and Indians. On the National Film Registry. Special features include a documentary, featurette, and more.
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The furies [DVD]
In 1870s New Mexico Territory, megalomaniacal widowed ranch owner T.C. Jeffords butts heads with his daughter, Vance, a firebrand with serious daddy issues, over her dowry, choice of husband, and finally, ownership of the land itself.
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The Good, the bad and the ugly [DVD]
During the American Civil War, three men seek hidden loot. With greed as their sole motivation, they overcome anything that gets in their way--including each other. Very violent and drawn out western.
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The hateful eight [DVD]
A stagecoach hurtles through the wintry Wyoming landscape. Bounty hunter John Ruth and his fugitive Daisy race toward the town of Red Rock, where Ruth will bring Daisy to justice. Losing their lead on the blizzard, they seek refuge at Minnie's, a stagecoach stopover on a mountain pass. When they arrive at Minnie's, they are greeted not by the proprietor but by four unfamiliar faces. As the storm overtakes the mountainside stopover, our travelers come to learn they may not make it to Red Rock.
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The homesman [DVD]
When three women living on the edge of the American frontier are driven mad by harsh pioneer life, the task of saving them falls to the pious, independent-minded Mary Bee Cuddy. Transporting the women by covered wagon to Iowa, she soon realizes just how daunting the journey will be, and employs a low-life drifter, George Briggs to join her.
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The man who shot Liberty Valance [DVD]
The story of a man who becomes a legend and an important political figure by falsely claiming he shot a ruthless gunman (Liberty Valance).
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The outlaw Josey Wales [DVD]
After avenging his family's brutal murder by Union Forces in the Civil War, Missouri farmer Josey Wales is on the lam, pursued by a pack of killers. He travels westward alone, but a ragtag group of outcasts is drawn to him, and Wales can't leave his motley surrogate family unprotected.
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The searchers [DVD]
A Civil War veteran spends five years on the trail of a Comanche raiding party that kidnapped his dead brother's daughters. Breathtaking scenery gives a picture of frontier families separated by miles of emptiness.
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The wild bunch [DVD]
The brutal story of violent men who lived during the Mexican revolution in the year 1913. It portrays a band of magnificent losers in a dying lawless West.
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Unforgiven [DVD]
Two retired, down-on-their luck outlaws pick up their guns one last time to collect a bounty offered by the vengeful prostitutes of the remote Wyoming town of Big Whiskey.
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  Olympia Timberland Library Staff -- October 2016