Which is the most accurate western TV/movie?

We are currently binging and enjoying Deadwood.

It led me to wonder what life must have really been like the the later 19th century American west.

I realize few shows of any vintage are likely to be entirely accurate, as real life is generally too slow and uneventful for entertainment. But which shows do you think most accurately portray which slices of life in the American west?

I’m thinking that if you watched the very earliest silent westerns, you’d probably get a fairly accurate look at how they actually dressed back then.

Maybe. A western will give you a good idea of what rodeo cowboys were wearing in the year the movie was made. (Especially the hats. The shift from 10 gallon hats to Stetsons happened in the 1930s, not the 1870s.)

“Little House on the Prairie”?

Right up there with Bonanza. :+1:

Well, not quite. Stetson started making hats after the Civil war. Before that, you had mostly shapeless wide brimmed wool felt hats, sometimes straw. Not bowlers, despite the very wrong and poorly researched article.

His first hat was the Boss of the Plains, which to us does not look a lot like a “cowboy hat”, but could be shaped by the wearer. It was not cheap and so Stetsons were not worn by the everyday common cowboy until after their heyday.

Photos of the cowboy era will show mostly those shapeless wide brimmed wool felt hats, which Twain called “wide-awake” hats.

I find Deadwood pretty damn realistic. Dirty, profane, sexist and racist. The whores are not shown to be Hollywood beauties. Few heroes. They did change the swearing since that period was mostly blasphemous profanity- Goddamn, etc. Not "cocksucker " or “fuck”. But as the showrunner said- they would sound too much like Yosemite Sam.

There wasn’t as much profanity in the Old West like there is on Deadwood. The swearing was a deliberate choice on the part of the producers. If all the characters said was, “gol darn it,” or “tarnation,” they would have ended up sounding like Yosemite Sam.

Edit - ninja’d!

The parts of Unforgiven that didn’t involve superhuman shooting ability.

AIUI, “Hell on Wheels” contains a pretty accurate depiction of, well, a hell on wheels.

The issue I’ve always had with TV and movie Westerns of the 50s and 60s especially are that everything is just too clean and tidy. Nobody is dirty or sweaty and everyone is perfectly dressed, and the towns look like something out of House Beautiful. I’ve often thought the first realistic depiction of what the old west really looked like were Sergio Leone’s “spaghetti westerns” with Clint Eastwood, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” in particular. Those films paved the way for grittier, more realistic fare later on.

Recently, “Hell on Wheels” probably nails it for TV.

The Long Riders always seemed :authentic" to me.

The Paramount show 1883 is pretty good. The people who outfitted the show Deadwood work on it.

Because they were treated to make them weather-resistant, and so “had no nap.”

Tombstone seemed very accurate, for that one event in time in that one place.

Much better than Star Trek’s version of the OK corral! :slight_smile:

Yeah TV Tropes even has a whole page of anachronisms in Little House on The Prairie


Cool! Is that true? Fun fact!

Isn’t that the one where he is a wanted man as they found a bullet in a dead man, a bullet from his unusual gun?

I’m enjoying 1883, and it may be fairly accurate. But I can’t imagine that any female on a wagon train could look even half as well made up and coiffed as Noemi does.

The commentary track for Silverado has a couple of western scholars and they do a good job pointing out what is and what isn’t accurate for the period.

One that was pointed out to me when I was doing Living History is those old-timey swinging saloon doors you see in every Western. That type of hinge wasn’t invented until much later.

I wonder how they became the default doors for saloons. All the tv shows avoided showing them in winter. Did Gunsmoke ever show the Longbranch with regular wintertime doors?

Maybe Meek’s Cutoff (2011).

Not a conventional western, slow and more like an art movie, but pretty accurate, I think.