Oscar Movies: Outlaw Josey Wales–Eastwood’s Great, Violent Revenge Western

In the 1970s and 1980s, after the decline and death of John Wayne, the star and director Clint Eastwood was the only actor in Hollywood to keep the venerable Western alive.

Eastwood’s fifth film as a director and eighth Western as a star, the movie chronicles the hero’s violent journey westward after the Civil War.

Burdened by memories of his family’s slaughter by Red Leg soldier Terrill (Bill McKinney), the Confederate Josey Wales (Eastwood) refuses to join his captain Fletcher (John Vernon) and the rest of his peers in surrendering to a U.S. Army regiment.

Labeled dangerous outlaw after a bloody battle with that regiment, Josey is pursued by U.S. cavalry soldiers led by the unwilling Fletcher and the murderous Terrill, as well as by bounty hunters.

Despite his wish to remain a lone fugitive, Josey gathers a crew of companions that includes Cherokee Lone Watie (Chief Dan George), the pretty Laura Lee (Sondra Locke) and her vigorous Grandma Sarah (Paula Trueman), settlers on their way to a ranch near Santa Rio.

The few Santa Rio residents of this ghost town welcome Wales, but his romance with Laura Lee are soon interrupted by Terrill’s arrival.

A skillfully violent man of few words, the coolly lethal Wales resembles Eastwood’s previous Western heroes in Sergio Leone’s trilogy, A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966).

This bloody ultra-violent revenge saga benefits immensely from the sharp images of Bruce Surtees.

“The Outlaw Josey Wales” would be Eastwood’s last western before 1985’s Pale Rider. Although it did not garner similar critical praise when it was released, Eastwood considers The Outlaw Josey Wales to be as good as his 1992 Oscar-winning Western, Unforgiven

 

Oscar Nominations: 1

Original Score: Jerry Fielding

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Original Score Oscar was Jerry Goldsmith for The Omen.

 

Credits

 

MPAA: PG.

Running time: 118 minutes

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Written by Philip Kaufman and Sonia Chernus

DVD: Mar 30, 1999