Growing up in Arkansas, in addition to having a gay father, I had a mother who was decidedly Southern, and not in the hayseed or hillbilly sense, but in the country-and-western sense. For much of my childhood, she was a cocktail waitress in a real honest to God honky tonk, she listened to Merle Haggard and Hank Williams like it was her job, and she looked the part, too. You can still find Glamour shots of her in Western gear hanging up in her mobile home. In fact, she tried to force that bullshit on me in my youth; for my 7th birthday, she bought me a pair of cowboy boots and a damned children’s duster, and if you think going to school in hand-me-downs a decade old is embarrassing, try walking into your elementary school looking like Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles. Every goddamn day was Halloween, and it was humiliating.
Moreover, walking into a room with a television (all of them) on a Saturday afternoon in my mother’s house, and you’d invariably find an old Western movie blaring in Technicolor. I despised them. They were boring and old and made my nose run. But, I have to admit, I always dug the ladies in those old Westerns. Back in the day, between the 1940s and 1960s, Westerns were like comic-book movies now: Everyone that was anyone had to have a Western on their resume, so most of the pinup women would throw on a cleavage-revealing dress with ruffles and ride off in the sunset with John Wayne or Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson or Clark Gable . And although that wasn’t exactly the Era of the Woman, Westerns often found ways to accommodate the star power of the top actresses by creating meaty roles as prostitutes, cowhands, gun-slinging love interests, and even Native Americans where no Native American blood existed. It was kind of cool.
Obviously, I don’t have recollection of them all, but I remember enough to put together a quick evening list of the super-hot women of those old-timey Westerns.
Marilyn Monroe, The River of No Return
Felicia Farr, 3:10 to Yuma
Jayne Mansfield, The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw
Natalie Wood, Searchers
Kim Novak, The White Buffalo
Yvonne De Carlo, Calamity Jane and Sea Bass
Linda Darnell, My Darling Clementine
Claire Trevor, Stagecoach
Maureen O’Hara, McLintock
Bridget Bardot, Shalako
Jean Seberg, Paint Your Wagon
Jane Fonda, Cat Ballou
Jane Russell, The Outlaw
Jennifer Jones, The Duel in the Sun
Claudia Cardinale, Once Upon A Time In The West