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Feature: Primetime

Broken Trail

Western tv revival

Robert Duvall and Thomas Haden Church star in a revival of that much-neglected television genre, the Western

Westerns used to be a staple of American television in the 1950s and ’60s, before riding into the sunset in the ’70s. Aside from a few successful programs, including the mini-series Lonesome Dove and the profanity-ridden series Deadwood, they have remained out-of-favor with the public ever since. So it’s an interesting decision by AMC to produce Broken Trail as their first original movie, which spotlights the waning days of America’s west at the close of the 19th Century. Robert Duvall portrays Print Ritter who along with his nephew Tom Harte (Thomas Haden Church) undertake an arduous 1,000 mile horse drive, where their paths cross with a corrupt trafficker who is taking five innocent Chinese girls to a mining camp, where they will be forced to serve as prostitutes. Ritter and Harte rescue the women, but in doing so jeopardize the horse drive and put their lives in danger.

Of the seeming demise of the Western, Duvall acknowledges, “People say, ‘When will they make another western?’ The studios say, ‘We can’t make them because they don’t sell,’ but when they do come out, people love them very much. The one film that I’m the most identified with, and which is the bible for most cowboys, is Lonesome Dove. Manlio Rocchetti, who is the makeup man on Broken Trail and was on Lonesome Dove, liked this script better. And I think that our cast of actors is better; I’m not saying it’s going to be a better movie, but at least we have a standard to go to, and we’ve tried hard. I always say the English have Shakespeare, the French have Molière, the Russians have Chekhov, and the Western is uniquely ours.”

by Judy Sloane

Read the full feature in
TV Zone #204

Photo © AMC
Feature © Visual Imagination 2006. Not for reproduction

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TV Zone #204
August 2006
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