Why has Hollywood left Oklahoma out of the Wild West saga. There is a ton of stories on Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas and other localities that can't hold a candle compared to the real frontier history of Oklahoma. Can someone pleas explain this to me? They always got some Oklahoma cowboy to add authenticity to quite a few of those old Hollywood westerns.
Ignorance is a good excuse! I used to think that it was because newspapers in Indian Territory/Oklahoma Territory were few and far between, but the more I search on Ancestry.com which has a huge nationwide newspaper database, the more I realize that Indian Territory was frequently in the newspapers of many states as far away as New England on the eastcoast and Washington state on the west. If anyone has any other ideas, we'd love to hear em:-)
On the Trail
editor, Oklahombres Journal
Could it be because most people don't really consider Oklahoma and the IT to be in the "West?" What people considered to be the "West" obviously changed as the country grew (at one time Illinois was thought of as the "West"), but even today I'd bet that many would define the "West" as beginning somewhere, say, in central Texas and western Kansas. The classic Hollywood westerns were also helped by exotic-looking landscapes--look what John Ford did with Monument Valley. The Oklahoma countryside probably didn't seem foreign enough to many early directors.
Just a thought.
I've often pondered this. Since the popularity of the western genre has diminished with most of Hollywood there seems to be a hypersensitivity to the bottom line where westerns are concerned. Few seem willing to part from projects based around either popular western myth or well-established authors.
Oklahoma's wonderful history suffers from the sad fact that little of it was popularized by the mythmakers who plied their trade in the dime novel and penny thrillers that elevated cads such as Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid to hero status. This is doubly saddening because the likes of Heck Thomas, Uncle Bud Ledbetter, and Bass Reeves are real heroes whose feats dwarf most popular mythology and are far more deserving subjects than James Butler Hickok or John Henry Holliday.
So unfortunately with few exceptions we suffer through yet another remake of the Alamo and the like. If I see one more movie about Wyatt Earp I'm just going to weep. And if what I read about Frank T. Hopkins is true it seems the new movie Hidalgo is just more of the same.
My thinking is that it is going to take the "Made for TV" moviemakers to get some of these genuine western heroes into the public view. "You Know My Name" worked well because I was able to use it to introduce several people I know with some real history. "Rough Riders" was good as well because, despite some poetic license, it introduced a lot of generally unknown history to the public. As an aside I was especially disappointed that mention of the Oklahoma volunteers to the Rough Riders was missing. It was a perfect opportunity to get Chris Madsen better known.
I think it will be incumbent for us who are aware of Oklahoma's frontier history to help educate others. We must be just as rabid as the Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid fanatics. The only difference is that we will be helping to spread the truth about the real "Wild West," not one Hollywood invented. The public needs to know about lawmen such as Bass Reeves, George Thornton, Heck Thomas, Sam Sixkiller, and Rufus Cannon.
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