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Certainly, William S. Hart was the first Western Movie Superstar of them all! Hart was also born the year the Civil War ended. He later on learned and experienced many things about the real west, during his travels as a youth throughout the untamed places he visited. The strange thing to consider, if not, realize was that he became a trained and distinguished Shakespearean actor first, before embarking on a motion picture career full-time in 1914. Of course, there were other actors in silent films who become well known western players before Hart, but none of them held on to the vast amount of popularity Hart managed to achieve. The main reason for Hart's success and admiration came due to his stark realism and fastidious means of recreating western life that he really knew about. Hart approached his films with an adult posture that wasn't based around an artificial method of glamorization. His films were dead-serious in their storyline and characters. There were times his films had something of a documentary style and look that appeared as if they were authentic events. Perhaps his greatest contribution came with the various plot formulas he introduced to the western genre, such as the basic gunslinger who turns out good and gives a redeeming aspect to the storyline. This and other characteristics would later on be adapted by so many other actors and filmmakers for the western film.


So, you might ask why isn't Hart remembered so fondly or from the viewpoint of his innovated techniques? It's believed that by the time of the Golden Age of The Silent Movie, during the 1920's, the western film had turned into a major, spectacular adventure yarn, especially with such stars as Tom Mix and others who performed in a lively manner as to create more a myth about the western heros than the reality Hart strove to create. The onslaught of the glizty western movie, right into the "talking-picture" era spelled an end to Hart's methods and style of story telling. With the coming of Duke Wayne and John Ford, the western movie managed to achieve a high status and respect that was in some ways similar to what Hart always envisioned. Even though Duke was more prone to feel influenced by Harry Carey, there can be no doubt that Hart was always lingering somewhere to what would later make Duke the greatest of all Western Superstar the world as ever known.

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When I was a kid, some fifty years ago, we actually did hear of Hart. His name came up in discussions of the silent era and the history of westerns. In period pictures such as THE DARK AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS, he's mentioned in that "household name" light, the way John Wayne is now. But you're right. So much time has passed, my generation has forgotten much of what we were told. And virtually nobody from Hart's own time survives.

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It's John Wayne. There's no contest with anyone else who's ever lived. Regardless of who the OP was speaking with who didn't know him, John Wayne still makes annual polls of favorite movie stars. Year after year after year. In 2010 he was voted the Number 3 movie star, on the Harris Poll. He is always the only non-current actor who makes the list.

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"Who's the Greatest? William S. Hart! No really, without Bill Hart, Wayne and Eastwood's Western Characters/Persona's simply would not exist. It was Hart who originated the strong Silent loner Anti-hero type."


I've never seen a William S. Hart movie, but I have no doubt that he is the pioneer of the western genre, and certainly did originate the strong, silent type that we have seen personified by most western actors who came along since. But I don't quite buy the theory that Wayne and Eastwood's characters would not exist were it not for Hart. Wayne was what he was, and Eastwood is what he is. Their characterizations came from their own personality. I think we would have had them as they were with or without William S. Hart. But yes, I agree he paved the way.


Wayne was never the strong, silent type, by the way. Most, or all of his westerns are wordy, dialogue-filled dramas with lots of macho behavior and little action.

Eastwood, on the other hand was the strong, silent type who used spare dialogue and plenty of action to entertain his audience.


However, as has been pointed out, Wayne's sheer number of westerns in his body of work make him the ultimate western hero in films. So he has my vote.


But my 3 personal favorites in westerns are Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott and Tom Selleck.

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John Wayne:


Red River

The Searchers


Fort Apache

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

The Shootist

True Grit

Sons of Katie Elder

among many others. .


Clint Eastwood:




Spaghetti westerns


How is this even a contest? The ultimate western hero is Wayne.


Now Eastwood has it sewn up for police dramas with the Dirty Harry franchise..


Edited by: casablancalover on Apr 22, 2011 12:32 AM

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Well okay, this is an interetig question, because The Duke and Mr. Make-My-Day are from completely diffferent sides of the dessert. While I like both of them, I definitely think The Duke was more along the linesof "The Ultimate" cowboy hero, because he did such impressionable works of art on the screen for people of all ages. I mean Clint Eastwood did to an extent, but his movies reached a certain audiance Those would were attracted to them were of the older generation and mostly men, correct me if i'm wrong about the gender thing. he movies with Wayne were being enjoyed by all ages and not only by men. Maybe the reason I say that, is because I prefer wayne to Eastwood in many aspects, although Eastwood did have the more charismatic approach to being around women, where Wayne was more on the macho side and rough with his women, not that that was a bad thing. Heehee!


What preferred Eastwood inwas more along the lines of whe was younger and not quite the hero yet, like in The First Traing Saleslady. I mean he didn't have the biggest part, but he was TOO CUTE for words and the perfect match for Carol Channing at the time. He was her rough rder on a horse that is practically every girl's dream.


But then I go back to The Duke and when I span over all his movies, I just get this rough guy with a hard exterior, but a soft inside that was all gooey and mushy when a girl showed him the way it was, forget the fact that he killed all those bad guys in one blink of an eye without even trying and making it look like the easiest thing in the world. ;)


I don't know, I think my vote goes to The Duke, but that may just be me and my opinion silliness. Heehee!

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...oh! Ad I just met these extremely loverly people in Starbucks while typing on here that noticed I wso TCM and asked me about it. They were from the generation of the 50's, I think, and they are hardcore John Wayne fans, apparently. So we got into this cute little discussion about the difference between Mr. Eastwood and the Duke and they said it was a hard decision too, but then one of them told this awesome story about how his.....sister's husband's sister (golly I hope I got that right) met Mr. Wayne in the 60's and her twin boys were about 5 years old at the time and she asked if he could meet them, because they were BIG fans of his, so he naturally told her to go to the hotel he was staying at in their town. When they got there, the press was waiting down stairs for a big press release for one of his new movies he had just finished filming and he let the press wait for two more hours, while he played with those boys in the hotel room..How gentlemanly is that! Who has stories like that nowadays?! I mean, really! I was enthralled in this story while the nice gentleman told me about it.


That story really has nothing to do with how good of a western hero he was, but I just wanted to tell it o everyone. Heehee!

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Having read pages and pages of replies to this question, I've come to the conclusion that the overwhelming answer for most people is Wayne. But what I find interesting is that so many of the Wayne supporters have to add some little comment along the lines of "not even a contest" or " this isn't even close" or something to that effect. Ok, guys, you win. ......by the way, I still stand by my original answer. Clint Eastwood.

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I stand with Gary Cooper--If you could have asked John Wayne this question, he would have said Coop also.








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I'd have to go with the Matinee Western heroes like William Boyd, Tim Holt, Tom Tyler, and so on. My favorite was Lash LaRue and his sidekick Al Fuzzy St. John. They were some fun Westerns to watch growing up and just as much fun now.

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I'm not a Wayne fan, nor a fan of Clint's spaghetti westerns. But, from their output, and popularity, I'd have to admit that either one is a reasonable pick. But, neither is in any of my favorite westerns, which are:


*The Little Big Man*

*Blood on the Moon*

*One-Eyed Jacks*

*The Appaloosa*

*The Ox-Bow Incident*

*The Westerner*

*Destry Rides Again*

*Dead Man*

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