Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Taking Elmore Leonard to the Movies

A while ago I wrote about growing up reading Elmore Leonard and his great Western stories. One of the best was 3:10 to Yuma, which has recently hit the headlines following an early September release as a movie starring Christian Bale, Russell Crowe and Peter Fonda. Leonard wrote the story in 1953 and got paid $90.00 for it. Two cents a word, in Dime Western Magazine. It was first made into a movie in 1957 with Glenn Ford and Van Heflin, but I’m told the new version is even better. I’ve tried to see it a couple of times but have missed out because of other priorities. Still, it’s top of my “must see” list. Russell Crowe is a great guy for relaunching genres. Look what he did for swords and sandals with Gladiator, for the ocean in Master and Commander, and it sounds like he’s doing it again, this time for the Western. The original version was beautifully shot but the new version is much deeper and broader. Like most great Westerns, 3:10 to Yuma is a classic morality tale with pioneers faced with high integrity decisions that set the pattern for others to follow. The West was a dangerous place where people were constantly being tested (not too different from today’s marketing arena). If you have the chance, go see it and let me know what you think. Russell Crowe is a favorite and Peter Fonda usually brings a vibrant kind of eccentricity to the screen.

I’m writing this from Dallas, Texas, and have been trying to think of other Elmore Leonard stories that have been turned into movies. Hombre with Paul Newman was outstanding, as was Joe Kidd with Clint Eastwood wonderfully playing Clint Eastwood as only he can do. I think the one I enjoyed most is Valdez Is Coming, which could be Burt Lancaster’s finest hour. Anyway, I’m sitting here in the Wild West room at the ZaZa and things couldn’t be more perfect.