Masters of Western

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1.
Sergio Leone
Sergio Leone was virtually born into the cinema - he was the son of Roberto Roberti (A.K.A. Vincenzo Leone), one of Italy's cinema pioneers, and actress Bice Valerian. Leone entered films in his late teens, working as an assistant director to both Italian directors and U.S. directors working in Italy (usually making Biblical and Roman epics...
 
4.
Clint Eastwood
Perhaps the icon of macho movie stars, and a living legend, Clint Eastwood has become a standard in international cinema. Born May 31, 1930 in San Francisco, the elder of two children in a middle-class family, Eastwood finished high school at the comparatively late age of 19 and worked odd jobs for several years before enrolling at Los Angeles City College...
 
5.
Burt Reynolds
Enduring, strong-featured, and genial star of US cinema, Burt Reynolds started off in TV westerns in the 1960s and then carved his name into 1970/1980s popular culture as a male sex symbol (posing nearly naked for "Cosmopolitan" magazine) and on-screen as both a rugged action figure and then as a wisecracking...
 
6.
Henry Fonda
Henry Jaynes Fonda was born in Grand Island, Nebraska, to Elma Herberta (Jaynes) and William Brace Fonda, who worked in advertising and printing. His recent ancestry included Dutch, English, and Scottish. Fonda started his acting debut with the Omaha Community Playhouse, a local amateur theater troupe directed by Dorothy Brando...
 
7.
Peter Fonda
Actor, Easy Rider
Peter Henry Fonda was born in New York City, to legendary screen star Henry Fonda and New York socialite Frances Seymour Brokaw. He is the brother of actress Jane Fonda and the father of actress Bridget Fonda. His ancestry includes Dutch, English, Scottish, and distant French and Italian...
 
8.
Jeff Bridges
Jeffrey Leon Bridges was born on December 4, 1949 in Los Angeles, California, the son of well-known film and TV star Lloyd Bridges and his long-time wife Dorothy Dean Bridges (née Simpson). He grew up amid the happening Hollywood scene with big brother Beau Bridges. Both boys popped up, without billing...
 
9.
Sam Elliott
Actor, Hulk
Tall, thin, wiry Sam Elliott is the classic picture of the American cowboy. Elliott began his acting career on the stage and his film debut was in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Although his future wife, Katharine Ross co-starred in the film, the two did not meet until they filmed The Legacy Together. Over the years there would be few opportunities to act in feature westerns...
 
10.
John Wayne
John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison in Iowa, to Mary Alberta (Brown) and Clyde Leonard Morrison, a pharmacist. He was of English, Ulster-Scots, and Irish ancestry. Clyde developed a lung condition that required him to move his family from Iowa to the warmer climate of southern California, where they tried ranching in the Mojave Desert...
 
11.
James Stewart
James Maitland Stewart was born on 20 May 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania, to Elizabeth Ruth (Johnson) and Alexander Maitland Stewart, who owned a hardware store. He was of Scottish, Ulster-Scots, and some English, descent. Stewart was educated at a local prep school, Mercersburg Academy, where he was a keen athlete (football and track)...
 
12.
Gary Cooper
Actor, High Noon
"Dad was a true Westerner, and I take after him", Gary Cooper told people who wanted to know more about his life before Hollywood. Dad was Charles Henry Cooper, who left his native England at 19, became a lawyer and later a Montana State Supreme Court justice. In 1906, when Gary was 5, his dad bought the Seven-Bar-Nine...
 
13.
Burt Lancaster
Burt Lancaster, one of five children, was born in Manhattan, to Elizabeth (Roberts) and James Henry Lancaster, a postal worker. All of his grandparents were immigrants from Northern Ireland. He was a tough street kid who took an early interest in gymnastics. He joined the circus as an acrobat and worked there until he was injured...
 
14.
Randolph Scott
Handsome leading man who developed into one of Hollywood's greatest and most popular western stars. Born to George and Lucy Crane Scott during a visit to Virginia, Scott was raised in Charlotte, North Carolina in a wealthy family. He attended Georgia Institute of Technology but, after being injured playing football...
 
15.
Glenn Ford
Actor, Superman
Legendary actor Glenn Ford was born Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford in Sainte-Christine-d'Auvergne, Quebec, Canada, to Hannah Wood (Mitchell) and Newton Ford, a railroad executive. His family moved to Santa Monica, California when he was eight years old. His acting career began with plays at high school, followed by acting in West Coast, a traveling theater company...
 
16.
William Holden
William Holden was born William Franklin Beedle, Jr. in O'Fallon, Illinois, to Mary Blanche (Ball), a schoolteacher, and William Franklin Beedle, Sr., an industrial chemist. He came from a wealthy family (the Beedles) that moved to Pasadena, California, when he was three. In 1937, while studying chemistry at Pasadena Junior College...
 
17.
Ward Bond
Gruff, burly American character actor. Born in 1903 in Benkelman, Nebraska (confirmed by Social Security records; sources stating 1905 or Denver, Colorado are in error.) Bond grew up in Denver, the son of a lumberyard worker. He attended the University of Southern California, where he got work as an...
 
18.
Audie Murphy
Audie Murphy became a national hero during World War II as the most decorated combat soldier of the war. Among his 33 awards was the Medal of Honor, the highest award for bravery that a soldier can receive. In addition, he was also decorated for bravery by the governments of France and Belgium, and was credited with killing over 240 German soldiers and wounding and capturing many more...
 
19.
John Russell
Actor, Lawman
Handsome, rugged American leading man John Russell (whose credits are often confused with those of child actor Johnny Russell) attended the University of California, where he was a student athlete. Serving in the US Marine Corps in WW II, he earned a battlefield commission and decorations for valor at Guadalcanal...
 
20.
Peter Brown
Actor, Lawman
Peter Brown got into acting when he was in the army by organizing a theater group on base to occupy his spare time while stationed in Alaska. After his discharge he enrolled in the acting program at UCLA, and starting in the mid-1950s found employment in many of the western films and series being turned...
 
21.
Rock Hudson
Actor, Giant
Rock Hudson was born Roy Harold Scherer, Jr. in Winnetka, Illinois, to Katherine (Wood), a telephone operator, and Roy Harold Scherer, an auto mechanic. He was of German, Swiss-German, English, and Irish descent. His parents divorced when he was eight years old. He failed to obtain parts in school plays because he couldn't remember lines...
 
22.
Dean Martin
If there had to be an image for cool, the man to fit it would be Dean Martin. Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti in Steubenville, Ohio, to Angela (Barra) and Gaetano Alfonso Crocetti, a barber. His father was an Italian immigrant, and his mother was of Italian descent. He spoke only Italian until age five...
 
23.
Walter Brennan
In many ways the most successful and familiar character actor of American sound films and the only actor to date to win three Oscars for Best Supporting Actor, Walter Brennan attended college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studying engineering. While in school he became interested in acting and performed in school plays...
 
24.
Alan Ladd
Actor, Shane
Alan Walbridge Ladd was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, the only child of Ina Raleigh (aka Selina Rowley) and Alan Ladd, a freelance accountant. His mother was English, from County Durham, and his paternal grandparents were Canadian. His father died when he was four. At age five, he burned his apartment playing with matches...
 
25.
Neville Brand
Actor, Laredo
Neville Brand joined the US Army in 1939, bent on a career in the military. It was while he was in the army that he made his acting debut, in Army training films, and this experience apparently changed the direction of his life. Once a civilian again, he used his GI Bill education assistance to study drama with the American Theater Wing and then appeared in several Broadway plays...
 
26.
Robert Ryan
Distinguished U.S. actor and longtime civil rights campaigner Robert Bushnell Ryan was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Mable Arbutus (Bushnell), a secretary, and Timothy Aloysius Ryan, whose wealthy family owned a real estate firm. His father was of Irish ancestry, and his mother was of English and Irish descent...
 
27.
Jeffrey Hunter
He made his Hollywood debut in Fourteen Hours (1950). Hunter and fellow actor Dale Robertson were partners in an organization called World Wide Adventures, Inc. The company specialized in documentary travel such as The Living Swamp filmed in Georgia. He died in 1969 after brain surgery following a stroke and accidental fall.
 
28.
James Arness
American leading man famed as the star of one of the longest-running shows in U.S. television history, Gunsmoke. Born of Norwegian heritage (the family name, Aurness, had formerly been Aursness) in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Rolf and Ruth Duesler Aurness. His father was a traveling salesman of medical supplies and his mother later became a newspaper columnist...
 
29.
Richard Boone
Actor, Medic
Richard Allen Boone was born in Los Angeles, California, to Cecile Lillian (Beckerman) and Kirk Etna Boone, a wealthy corporate lawyer. His maternal grandparents were Russian Jewish immigrants, while his father was descended from a brother of frontiersmen Daniel Boone and Squire Boone. Richard was a college student...
 
30.
James Garner
Amiable and handsome James Garner had obtained success in both films and television, often playing variations of the charming anti-hero/con-man persona he first developed in Maverick, the offbeat western TV series that shot him to stardom in the late 1950s. James Garner was born James Scott Bumgarner in Norman...
 
31.
Clint Walker
Actor, Cheyenne
Clint Walker was born Norman Eugene Walker in Hartford, southwestern Illinois, to Gladys Huldah (Schwanda), a Czech immigrant, and Paul Arnold Walker, who was from Arkansas. Walker almost single-handedly started the western craze on TV in the 1950s as Cheyenne Bodie in Cheyenne. Growing up in the Depression era meant taking work wherever you could get it...
 
32.
Charlton Heston
Actor, Ben-Hur
With features chiseled in stone, and renowned for playing a long list of historical figures, particularly in Biblical epics, the tall, well built and ruggedly handsome Charlton Heston was one of Hollywood's greatest leading men and remained active in front of movie cameras for over sixty years. As a Hollywood star...
 
33.
Lee Van Cleef
One of the great movie villains, Clarence Leroy Van Cleef, Jr. was born in Somerville, New Jersey, to Marion Lavinia (Van Fleet) and Clarence LeRoy Van Cleef, Sr. His parents were both of Dutch ancestry. Van Cleef started out as an accountant. He served in the U.S. Navy aboard minesweepers and subchasers during World War II...
 
34.
Jack Elam
Colorful American character actor equally adept at vicious killers or grizzled sidekicks. As a child he worked in the cotton fields. He attended Santa Monica Junior College in California and subsequently became an accountant and, at one time, manager of the Bel Air Hotel. Elam got his first movie job by trading his accounting services for a role...
 
35.
Harry Carey
Harry Carey, the silent film star and later B-movie cowboy and A-list character actor, was--like Clint Eastwood's "Bronco Billy"--a self-made Westerner. Born on January 16, 1878, in Bronx, NY, Henry DeWitt Carey II was the son of a prominent lawyer who was the president of a sewing machine company...
 
36.
Harry Carey Jr.
Harry Carey, Jr., had been reliable character actor for decades, mostly in Westerns, before he retired. He is the son of the actor Harry Carey and the actress Olive Carey. He was born on his parents' 1000-acre ranch near Saugus, in the northwestern part of Los Angeles County, which is now next door to Santa Clarita...
 
37.
Eli Wallach
One of Hollywood's finest character / "Method" actors, Eli Wallach was in demand for over 60 years (first film/TV role was 1949) on stage and screen, and has worked alongside the world's biggest stars, including Clark Gable, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Marilyn Monroe, Yul Brynner, Peter O'Toole, and Al Pacino, to name but a few...
 
38.
Gian Maria Volontè
Born in Milan in 1933, he studies in Rome at the "National Dramatic Arts Academy" were reaches the degree in 1957. He starts working in teather and television, where he is soon noticed as one of the most promising actors of his generation. After a few short appearance in movies, he reaches notoriety with the character of Ramón Rojo in Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars...
 
39.
Gene Hackman
Actor, Unforgiven
Eugene Allen Hackman was born in San Bernardino, California, the son of Anna Lyda Elizabeth (Gray) and Eugene Ezra Hackman, who operated a newspaper printing press. He is of Pennsylvania Dutch (German), English, and Scottish ancestry, partly by way of Canada, where his mother was born. After several moves...
 
40.
Lee Marvin
Actor, M Squad
Prematurely white-haired character star who began as a supporting player of generally vicious demeanor, then metamorphosed into a star of both action and drama projects, Lee Marvin was born in New York City to Lamont Waltman Marvin, an advertising executive, and his wife Courtenay Washington Davidge...
 
41.
Ben Johnson
Born in Oklahoma, Ben Johnson was a ranch hand and rodeo performer when, in 1940, Howard Hughes hired him to take a load of horses to California. He decided to stick around (the pay was good), and for some years was a stunt man, horse wrangler, and double for such stars as John Wayne, Gary Cooper and James Stewart...
 
42.
Bruce Cabot
Actor, King Kong
Hollywood stalwart Bruce Cabot's main claim to fame, other than rescuing Fay Wray from King Kong, is that he tested for the lead role of The Ringo Kid in John Ford's Western masterpiece Stagecoach. John Wayne got the role and became the most durable star in Hollywood history...
 
43.
Joel McCrea
One of the great stars of American Westerns, and a very popular leading man in non-Westerns as well. He was born and raised in the surroundings of Hollywood and as a boy became interested in the movies that were being made all around. He studied acting at Pomona College and got some stage experience at the Pasadena Community Playhouse...
 
44.
Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen was an American actor. Called "The King of Cool", his "anti-hero" persona, developed at the height of the counterculture of the 1960s, made him a top box-office draw of the 1960s and 1970s. McQueen received an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Sand Pebbles. His other popular films include The Cincinnati Kid...
 
45.
Charles Bronson
The archetypal screen tough guy with weatherbeaten features--one film critic described his rugged looks as "a Clark Gable who had been left out in the sun too long"--Charles Bronson was born Charles Buchinsky, one of 15 children of struggling parents in Pennsylvania. His mother, Mary (Valinsky)...
 
46.
Yul Brynner
Exotic leading man of American films, famed as much for his completely bald head as for his performances, Yul Brynner masked much of his life in mystery and outright lies designed to tease people he considered gullible. It was not until the publication of the books "Yul: The Man Who Would Be King" and...
 
47.
James Coburn
Lanky, charismatic and versatile actor with an amazing grin that put everyone at ease, James Coburn studied acting at UCLA, and then moved to New York to study under noted acting coach Stella Adler. After being noticed in several stage productions, Coburn appeared in a handful of minor westerns before being cast as the knife-throwing...
 
48.
Karl Malden
Born to a Czech mother and a Serbian father in Chicago as Mladen Sekulovich, on March 22, 1912, Karl Malden did not speak English until he was in kindergarten. After graduating from high school in the nearby steel town of Gary, Indiana, Malden worked in the industry for three years until 1934, when he left to attend the Arkansas State Teacher's College...
 
49.
Ernest Borgnine
Ernest Borgnine was born Ermes Effron Borgnino on January 24, 1917 in Hamden, Connecticut. His parents were Anna (Boselli), who had emigrated from Carpi (MO), Italy, and Camillo Borgnino, who had emigrated from Ottiglio (AL), Italy. As an only child, Ernest enjoyed most sports, especially boxing, but took no real interest in acting...
 
50.
John Ford
Director, The Searchers
John Ford is, arguably, The Great American Director. When Orson Welles, who repeatedly screened Ford's Stagecoach as a crash course in filmmaking before helming his first film, Citizen Kane, was asked who his three favorite directors were, he answered, "John Ford, John Ford, and John Ford." Along with D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille...
 
51.
Fred Zinnemann
Director, High Noon
Initially grew up wanting to be a violinist, but while at the University of Vienna decided to study law. While doing so, he became increasingly interested in American film and decided that was what he wanted to do. He became involved in European filmaking for a short time before going to America to study film.
 
52.
Sam Peckinpah
"If they move", commands stern-eyed William Holden, "kill 'em". So begins The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah's bloody, high-body-count eulogy to the mythologized Old West. "Pouring new wine into the bottle of the Western, Peckinpah explodes the bottle", observed critic Pauline Kael. That exploding bottle...
 
54.
Robert Aldrich
Director, The Dirty Dozen
Robert Aldrich entered the film industry in 1941 when he got a job as a production clerk at RKO Pictures. He soon worked his way up to script clerk, then became an assistant director, a production manager and an associate producer. He began writing and directing for TV series in the early 1950s, and directed his first feature in 1953 (Big Leaguer)...
 
55.
Warren Oates
Warren Oates was an American character actor of the 1960s and 1970s and early 1980s whose distinctive style and intensity brought him to offbeat leading roles. Oates was born in Depoy, a very small Kentucky town. He was the son of Sarah Alice (Mercer) and Bayless Earle Oates, a general store owner...
 
56.
Anthony Quinn
Anthony Quinn was a Mexican-born American actor, painter and writer. He starred in numerous critically acclaimed and commercially successful films, including La Strada, The Guns of Navarone, Zorba the Greek, Guns for San Sebastian, Lawrence of Arabia, The Message and Lion of the Desert. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor twice: for Viva Zapata! in 1952 and Lust for Life in 1956...
 
57.
James Best
American character actor and teacher. Born Jewel Guy in Powderly, Kentucky, on July 26, 1926, he was orphaned at three and adopted by Armen and Essa Best, who re-named him James K. Best and raised him in Corydon, Indiana. Following high school he worked briefly as a metalworker before joining the Army during World War II in July 1944...
 
58.
Roy Rogers
Roy Rogers (born Leonard Slye) moved to California in 1930, aged 18. He played in such musical groups as The Hollywood Hillbillies, Rocky Mountaineers, Texas Outlaws, and his own group, the International Cowboys. In 1934 he formed a group with Bob Nolan called Sons of the Pioneers. While in that group he was known as Leonard Slye...
 
59.
Gene Autry
After high school Gene Autry worked as a laborer for the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad in Oklahoma. Next he was a telegrapher. In 1928 he began singing on a local radio station, and three years later he had his own show and was making his first recordings. Three years after that he made his film...
 
60.
George 'Gabby' Hayes
Actor, Blue Steel
American character actor, the most famous of Western-movie sidekicks of the 1930s and 1940s. He was born May 7, 1885, the third of seven children, in the Hayes Hotel (owned by his father) in the tiny hamlet of Stannards, New York, on the outskirts of Wellsville, New York. Hayes was the son of hotelier and oil-production manager Clark Hayes...
 
61.
Leo Gordon
Big, burly, character actor, one of the toughest of screen heavies, Leo Gordon's powerful physique, combined with his deep, menacing voice, was guaranteed to strike fear into the heart of even the bravest screen hero. Director Don Siegel, who used Gordon in his prison film Riot in Cell Block 11, once said that "Leo Gordon was the scariest man I have ever met"...
 
62.
Bill McKinney
Bill McKinney, the movie and television character actor who was one of the great on-screen villains, was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee on September 12, 1931. He had an unsettled life as a child, moving 12 times before joining the Navy at the age of 19 during the Korean War. Once, when his family moved from Tennessee to Georgia...
 
63.
Olivia de Havilland
Olivia Mary de Havilland was born July 1, 1916, in Tokyo, Japan, to British parents Lilian Augusta (Ruse), a former actress, and Walter Augustus de Havilland, an English professor and patent attorney. Her sister, Joan, later to become famous as Joan Fontaine, was born the following year. Her surname comes from her paternal grandfather...
 
64.
Robert Redford
Charles Robert Redford, Jr. was born on August 18, 1936, in Santa Monica, California, to Martha (Hart), from Texas, and Charles Robert Redford, an accountant for Standard Oil, who was originally from Connecticut. He is of English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry. Robert's mother died in 1955, the year after he graduated from high school...
 
65.
Robert Duvall
Veteran actor and director Robert Selden Duvall was born on January 5, 1931, in San Diego, CA, to Mildred Virginia (Hart), an amateur actress, and William Howard Duvall, a career military officer who later became an admiral. Duvall majored in drama at Principia College (Elsah, IL), then served a two-year hitch in the army after graduating in 1953...
 
66.
Paul Newman
Paul Newman won numerous awards, including an Academy Award for his performance in the 1986 film The Color of Money, a BAFTA Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Cannes Film Festival Award, an Emmy Award, and many honorary awards. Despite being colorblind, he won several national championships as a driver in Sports Car Club of America road racing...
 
67.
Kirk Douglas
Actor, Spartacus
Kirk Douglas is an American actor, producer, director, and author. After an impoverished childhood with immigrant parents and six sisters, he had his film debut in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) with Barbara Stanwyck. Douglas soon developed into a leading box-office star throughout the 1950s and 1960s...