Back By popular demand: Our Great American Western book and movie recommendations

Last week, in Library of America’s most recent LOA Live program, The Great American Western on Page and Screen, four distinguished film writers—former LOA Editor in Chief Geoffrey O’Brien, Terrence Rafferty, Gene Seymour, and *Imogen Sara Smith*—explored a genre that has captivated them for decades in both its print and film manifestations.

Not surprisingly, given the breadth of knowledge shared by these four writers, recommendations for movies and books flew faster than bullets in a four-way shootout—prompting viewers both during and after the program to ask whether we could document all of the titles cited for future reference.

Accordingly, we now offer two lists: The personal favorites panelists were asked to provide at the end of the discussion, followed by a larger group of titles that were mentioned earlier in the talk. All films are indicated by year of release and director, and are American productions unless otherwise noted. We wish you a lot of enjoyable viewing, and reading, out yonder!

Original poster art for three of the movies cited by Library of America’s Great American Western panelists: Man From Del Rio (1956), Forty Guns (1957), and Meek’s Cutoff (2010).


Geoffrey O’Brien
Flaming Star (1960, dir. Don Siegel)
The Wonderful Country (1959, dir. Robert Parrish)

Terrence Rafferty
The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970, dir. Sam Peckinpah)
Hour of the Gun (1967, dir. John Sturges)

Gene Seymour
Novel: Little Big Man (1964) by Thomas Berger—“one of the great unsung American novels of the last half-century”
Movie: El Diablo (1990, dir. Peter Markle)

Imogen Sara Smith
Blood on the Moon (1948, dir. Robert Wise)
The Last Wagon (1956, dir. Delmer Daves)
“The Ethical Romantic,” 2003 Bertrand Tavernier essay on Delmer Daves


Geoffrey O’Brien
Man from Del Rio (1956, dir. Harry Horner)
Run of the Arrow (1957, dir. Samuel Fuller)
Wagon Master (1950, dir. John Ford; Geoffrey’s favorite Ford film)

Terrence Rafferty
Warlock (1958) by Oakley Hall

Short stories turned into movies:
Elmore Leonard’s Movies:
My Darling Clementine (1946, dir. John Ford)***
Near Dark (1987, dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
Tribute to a Bad Man (1956, dir. Robert Wise)
The Wild Bunch (1969, dir. Sam Peckinpah)

Gene Seymour
The Searchers (1954) by Alan Le May

First Cow (2020 film, dir. Kelly Reichardt)
My Darling Clementine (1946, dir. John Ford)***
The Sisters Brothers (USA/France, 2018, dir. Jacques Audiard)
Tilai (Burkina Faso, 1990, dir. Idrissa Ouédraogo)
Warlock (1959, dir. Edward Dmytryk)

Imogen Sara Smith
The Searchers (1954) by Alan Le May
Warlock (1958) by Oakley Hall (“my favorite Western novel”)

Forty Guns (1957, dir. Samuel Fuller; “one of the great female-centric Westerns”)
The Furies (1950, dir. Anthony Mann)
I Shot Jesse James (1949, dir. Samuel Fuller)
Johnny Guitar (1954, dir. Nicholas Ray)
Meek’s Cutoff (2010, dir. Kelly Reichardt)
My Darling Clementine (1946, dir. John Ford)***
The Searchers (1956, dir. John Ford)
Western (Germany/Austria/Bulgaria, 2017, dir. Valeska Grisebach)
Woman They Almost Lynched (1953, dir. Allan Dwan)

*Terrence, Gene, and Imogen all cited My Darling Clementine as their favorite Ford Western.

The Searchers by Alan Le May and Warlock by Oakley Hall are both included in the Library of America anthology The Western: Four Classic Novels of the 1940s & 50s, edited by Ron Hansen.

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