The Era of Silent Westerns~Will Rogers

I have a fondness for silent westerns, the old-fashioned stars excelled at those pioneering cowboy films and made all manner of them including western comedies like this clip from an old 1922 Will Rogers film titled “The Ropin’ Fool”

I found the scenes in the above excerpt very helpful when I was doing trick roping for a few years, and it is always fascinating to see what the westerns were like in the early days, and how the later ones grew and changed–but still retained some of the classic patterns developed by the early directors and actors.  The earliest western film was made in 1903, so by the time “The Ropin’ Fool” came out they had had almost 10 years of experience. Not long at all considering they were building everything entirely from the ground up!

Have you ever watched a silent film? What’s the earliest western film you’ve seen?

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Western Note Card Giveaway!

ManlyWesternStationaryAs a part of the Legends of Western Cinema Week I’m hosting a giveaway for a set of 3 note cards from The Western Desk shop! Enter below and be sure to tell your friends!

And The Winner is Sarah! Congratulations!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Dark Command (1940) Western Film Review

Dark CommandDark Command is the tale of a manly, quote spoutin’, Texan with a strong sense of justice and a desire to fight evil men and stand up for what’s right.

It stars two of the rising western actors in 1940: John Wayne and Roy Rogers, and is filled with other lovable actors such as Claire Trevor, Porter Hall, Walter Pigeon, Marjorie Main, and the good ol’ singing cowboy sidekick Gabby Hayes. Gabby and John Wayne had actually been acting together for years, and are so fun to see together in this A budget film after watching a lot of their B westerns from the 30’s (which are quite amusing!).

Based on a book, Dark Command is a good old-fashioned western story about Bob Seton (J. Wayne) who arrives in Lawrence, Kansas with the man he is working for: Andrew the dentist (Gabby Hayes).

DC #2The first day in town Bob meets the pretty Mary McCloud, who he is drawn to, and her suitor William Cantrell.

Lawrence is rampant with murders and a campaign is underway to elect a marshal. Bob and Cantrell become rivals for the office as well as the girl. A fistfight over the issue of free speech gets Bob acquainted with Mary’s brother Fletcher (Roy Rogers).  Things start to get challenging as Fletcher gets into a mess of trouble and Bob is thrown into a tough moral choice of loosing the girl he loves or doing his duty regardless of her and her family and the loss of all their respect.

#3As if that weren’t enough, Bob is thrown into more challenging choices and has to take action against his friends. Add in a national war, murder, gun runners, guerillas, a bank run, and plenty of bad guys and you have a story that was nominated for two Academy Awards.

I enjoyed this film for several reasons. First it is a classic old western that is a story about morals, character, and good triumphing over evil.

Roy Rogers & Claire TrevorSecondly, it was great fun for me (being a Roy Rogers fan) to see him play a different type of man than the usual flawless, clean, singing cowboy. He shows just what he can do when he gets a chance at an A-western.

Another great thing about it is the dialogue, and of course John Wayne’s delivery of his lines. The western character he portrays, Bob Seton, is not quite like his later stereotypes, but it is one of my favorite films of his and makes a fun 90 minutes.

John WayneThere are a couple great scenes that really stand out and make this film worthwhile. One is a scene between Bob and Mary where he is handed a staggering test that calls for integrity and courage. The other is a scene where he meets with his enemy to try to be his friend and give him the advice he needs to hear and every chance to redeem himself and do what is right. He looks out for his fellow man like every lawman ought to, and takes a personal interest in their character and the way their lives are going, and doesn’t shy away at at the hard conversations. And yes, I’m being vague here on purpose, because who wants the best scenes spoiled?

#13Tensions simmer steadily and little bits of humor are sprinkled thought to add to the fun as chases and gunfire round out the film.

The folks in this story are well developed and it brings them strikingly to life, leaving you rooting for them and sympathizing with their struggles and disappointments.

It is a tale of courage. Courage in the gritty, tough, moral challenges of life and in the battle for right and justice.

This film is in public domain, and there are many poor copies on the market and available for free.  If you are looking for a clear and good quality copy of the film I recommend this one. This review is written for The Legends of Western Cinema Week hosted by A Lantern In Her Hand and Meanwhile in Rivendale.

#4Have you seen Dark Command? What do you think of Wayne’s early films? Do you have a favorite?

Posted in John Wayne, Western Films | 6 Comments

The Western Desk Is On Instagram!


For all you instagrammers: The Western Desk is now on Instagram! My page is @thewesterndesk and will be filled with photos pertaining to all things western, and all things to do with my work as an artist!

Hop on over to my account and give it a follow or just leave me a comment and introduce yourself!

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New Stationary Product Release!


My individually hand-drawn saddle note-cards are now available in a new version: a hand-stamped set of 5, all packaged up and ready to stock your desk!


These cards have a wonderful surface for writing with pencil or pen; it’s a smooth paper with no glossy finish to smear your ink!


Each card is made of quality paper that will not bleed through. For all you fountain pen writers: I’ve written on them with my wide-nibbed fountain pen (which distributes quite a fair amount of ink) and have no problems at all with even the slightest trace of ink seeping through.

Back In The Saddle Again Card Details

~Set of 5 note-cards and envelopes
~Hand Stamped
~Original Artwork
~Ivory colored with saddle in black ink
~4 7/8″ x 3 1/2″
~Works excellent for both pencil and pen
~Quality paper, ink will not bleed through

These cards are available exclusively in my shop HERE

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The Virginian Episode Review~Deadeye Dick

Deadeye Dick

Season 5, 1966


Marjorie Hammond, a 16 year-old on her first trip out west, arrives in Medicine Bow Wyoming with her Mother. She is constantly immersing her mind in cheap western romance novels and, as a result, thinks of nothing other than emotional drama and is out looking for a handsome cowboy to rescue her from danger and sweep her off her feet.

Deadeye Dick

Within minutes after stepping off the train she meets the Virginian (who calms her spooked horse) and she decides he’s the one.

What follows is a considerable tangle as the Virginian (who doesn’t like her) realizes what she is up to, AND is handed the job stopping her before she does something foolish~ by none other than the girl’s own mother!


Adding to the complications are a neighbor boy, Bob Foley, who falls for Marjorie, and one of those ubiquitous western bank robberies that strikes Medicine Bow. The trouble is, Marjorie is present when the bank is robbed and is the only witness who can identify the thieves.


The robbers who didn’t get caught are out to kidnap her before the court trial opens, and keep her from appearing to testify against their pal…and there I stop. To find out the rest you’ll have to see it yourself.



  • James Drury~The Virginian
  • Trampas~Doug McClure
  • Charles Bickford~Mr. Granger
  • Don Quine~Stacy Granger
  • Sarah Lane~Elisabeth Granger
  • Alice Rawlings~Marjorie Hammond
  • June Vincent~Lucille Hammond
  • Patricia Donahue~Aunt Libby
  • William Schallert~Tom Foley
  • David Macklin~Bob Foley
  • Holly Bane~Bank Robber
  • Chuck Courtney~Blake
  • Ross Elliot~Sheriff Abbot
  • and…Simon Scott, William Phipps, Dennis McCarthy, Ollie O’Toole, and Walter Woof King

This episode is not one of my favorites, not that it’s terrible, but it’s nothing exceptional or noteworthy. It is the same old story of a dreamy young girl who has a crush on an man who doesn’t care for her. While that story pops up in numerous western TV shows, Little House On The Prairie specialized in many of those plots regularly and probably wins the prize for having the most.  Said plots are generally silly and repetitious at the best. This one was better than most and made a good connection between between a girl’s choice of literature/what she immerses herself in, and her imagination, emotions, common sense, and perception of reality and the real world. But still it wasn’t anything really great. Oh, and there are a few mistakes/goofs in this episode…

The thing that I found so interesting about this episode had nothing to do with the story and everything to do with the storytelling. It struck me how much difference a director makes, even in a TV show. I have watched a LOT of Virginian episodes with many different directors and I find it fascinating how the director has such a profound influence on the quality of the storytelling.


A good director can take a script, and with their storytelling skills and ability to communicate their vision to the actors and bring out the best in them, can make even a weak script amount to something. Whereas a poor director can make even a grand script flop.

When Deadeye Dick started and I saw the director’s name, Ida Lupino, I got interested. The Virginian had many directors every season; both great and poor, but Ida Lupino was one of those who knew her craft and was known for getting quality acting out of the folks on set. In watching the episode and paying attention to the storytelling and acting (even with the mediocre story) it was interesting to watch the regular cast that I know so well by now, and to contrast their acting to the other shows they made with the different directors. There is a noticeable difference, but it has taken me a while to pick up on it and learn the directors’ individual names and styles.


The other fun thing about this show was, as always, Trampas and the Virginian’s interaction and how they played off each others’ characters. It’s no wonder that they were the only two of the original cast that stayed for all 9 seasons, as their camaraderie is one of the things that makes the show what it was. No matter if they were in town, at a dance, working at Shiloh, riding the range, tracking outlaws, or at the bunkhouse they made a great team.

There is a lot of grand scenery and beautiful wide-open spaces in this show. So many of the westerns in the 50’s used studios for many of the exterior shots, and it’s so nice to see real range land and mountains in The Virginian!

Have you seen Deadeye Dick? What are your thoughts? Do you have a favorite episode on season 5 of The Virginian?

Posted in James Drury, Western TV Shows | Leave a comment

Working On New Ideas…

Pencil & Paper

This past week I’ve been busy working on the details for some exciting new changes to my western stationary.

Depending on what details work out in the finished product and how quickly it goes, the new updated note cards may be available in a week or so!

Now a question to you folks: Do any of you have a preference what color of ink the sketch on the front of the note card is drawn with?  Would you be interested in me adding a dark coffee-brown option, or do you like the black ink best? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Posted in An Artist's Musings | 2 Comments

Roy Rogers 1944~ “Lights of Old Santa Fé” 95 Second Teaser Trailer

For all of you Roy Rogers fans here is a little teaser trailer from one of Roy’s best films: Lights of Old Santa Fè! It not only has a great selection of songs, but this film also has The Sons Of The Pioneers, Dale Evans, and Gabby Hayes at their best!


Lights Of Old Santa Fe In 90 Seconds from The Western Desk on Vimeo.

Have you seen it? What’s your favorite Roy Rogers film? Let me know in the comments!


Posted in Roy Rogers | 2 Comments

Review~Cow Country by Will James


Will James is one of the most important western authors, he captured the feel, culture, work, and everyday life of the cowboy like very few men have. His works are historically significant to America as well as being enjoyable to read.

This book; Cow Country, was originally published in 1927, and is a collection of 8 stories. Like most of his books, it is technically considered fiction, although most of it is true accounts with the names and dialogue changed.

The topic these stories revolve around is the changing of the west during the first 19 or so years of the 20th century. Like all his books, it is fantastically illustrated by Will James himself, and the masterful way he had of drawing range horses, saddle-hardened cowboys, and the action of animals is far superior, in my opinion, to the famous works of Frederick Remington. When I first started my own drawing, Will James was the man I hoped to become equal to in the realm of art. Originally I purchased his books solely for the illustrations~the text made no difference at all to me!

Each of these stories was fun to read (though a couple of them were duplicates of stories in other books of his) but the story Two Old Timers was the one that the men came alive in, and that I came to know and care for the characters deeply by the end of the story. His writing makes the reader sympathize greatly with the two older cowboys who are searching for the contentment and joy they had on the idolized “disappearing” open-range country of their youth. His understanding of the way a man’s mind works led to some insightful comments on the way a man looks back at the history of his life. And I found that fascinating. Unlike many authors of the time he does not glorify the past, or the old ways, simply because they were “the good old days”, though you can tell the author does fondly look back on and personally favor them. The picture he paints and feelings portrayed are genuine. The stories fun and well told.

If you are expecting the typical western novel with a fast-moving main plot, heroines in distress, and gunfights you will be disappointed~and this book is not for you. It reads like a man talks, each story has the feel of a cowboy on a porch telling tales of the range country in a laid-back and relaxed manner. I’ve known an old horseman who talks just like this book, telling stories of horses he’d known, the way a tenderfoot was introduced to riding, and the way things have changed in 70 years ~ all while leaning on a fence staring across the fields. This book is like having that sort of a conversation. Nothing fancy or action filled, but simple, heart-felt, poignant stories of life in the American west a century ago.


Posted in Western Books | 2 Comments

On a Man Keeping His Word~Quote From The Comancheros


A few lines from one of the best scenes in The Comancheros: it’s when Texas Ranger Jake (John Wayne) is riding with his prisoner Paul Regret out on the plains after Regret just saved dozens of innocent lives, and Regret is asking Jake to release him after he’d proved himself trustworthy. It’s a great scene because of the fun interaction between the characters as they develop in the story, but also because of the seriousness with which Jake regards keeping his word:

Regret: After what happened back at Scofield’s–you making me a godfather– don’t you think you’re carrying this thing a little too far. (motions to handcuffs)

Jake: I feel bad about it Monsieur, if it’s up to me it would be different.

Regret: Who else is it up to?

Jake: Huh?

Regret: Well, it’s just you and I.

Jake: Well, I’ve thought on it a lot–gave myself a lot of argument, but I just can’t do it. ‘Let him make a run for it’ I say to myself.

Regret: And then what would you say?

Jake: And then I say to myself, ‘You can’t let him run, you swore an oath when they put that badge on ya.’

Regret: And that’s important to you?

Jake: I said I swore an oath.

Regret: Words. (scornfully)

Jake: Monsieur, words are what men live by. Words they say and mean.  You must have had a real careless upbringing.

Oh, and by the way folks, today is John Wayne’s birthday.  Do you have a favorite film or quote of his?

Posted in John Wayne, Quotes | 2 Comments