Cincinnati Babyhead

Speaks his mind on music & movies!

CB’s Favorite Performances : Ben Johnson – Sam The Lion

Some performances just sneak up on you and Ben Johnson’s work as Sam the Lion did just that. If there was ever perfect casting this was it. Sam is one of my favorite screen characters, He is just so goddamn real. I never met the man but I’d say Ben was pretty close to the bone as Sam. He just spoke the words and you believed him.

On the first cut below you can feel the let down the boys have at being called to task. Sam calls it straight, no bullshit. Johnson just says it and means it. Powerful stuff. I believe everything he says in this film. He’s not in it long but he leaves his stamp on the audience and the other characters. The last scene is just magic and Ben and Larry McMurtry’s dialogue are made for each other.

I’m sure other actors could have done a good job with this character but for my money Ben Johnson made Sam The Lion come alive. Hard for me not to think he wasn’t a real person.

A few more Lions in the world wouldn’t hurt. CB would have liked to put a line in the water with Sam and smoke a rolled cigarette. Great work by a CB favorite.

“If she was here I’d probably be just as crazy now as I was then in about five minutes”

“I’ve been around that trashy behavior all my life. I’m gettin tired of puttin up with it”

“A few football teams have had some luck with taklin. Keeps the other team from scorin”.

59 comments on “CB’s Favorite Performances : Ben Johnson – Sam The Lion

  1. Francisco Bravo Cabrera
    April 4, 2021

    Did not see that, but definitely motivated to take a look. Great idea and a lovely post CB. Thanks for the suggestion!
    FBC.

    Liked by 1 person

    • cincinnatibabyhead
      April 4, 2021

      You know how certain work stays with us Francisco, Bens work has stayed with me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Francisco Bravo Cabrera
        April 4, 2021

        Yeah, I know, it’s interesting. I have to check that movie out, for sure…

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        April 4, 2021

        I watched ‘Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia’ last night. I was thinking of you when Warren Oates butchered ‘Guantanamera’. He was low rent lounge singer.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Francisco Bravo Cabrera
        April 4, 2021

        Hehehe…I think throughout the years lots of people have butchered it CB! I haven’t seen that one either, but now it’s on the list. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, Another Blogger
    April 4, 2021

    Great movie. I haven’t seen it in ages. I’m going to watch it again. I think part of its power comes from being filmed in black and white.

    Liked by 2 people

    • cincinnatibabyhead
      April 4, 2021

      The B&W did the trick all right. Liked so much about the film. Sam the Lion was the glue for me. There’s a great speech at the end by Burstyn’s character where she breaks down talking about Sam. Beautiful.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. msjadeli
    April 4, 2021

    Been awhile since seeing that one. Really good scenes to highlight. He’s a hell of an actor.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. BuriedOnMars
    April 5, 2021

    Great movie CB! Well acted all around but Ben was one of the standouts, for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • cincinnatibabyhead
      April 5, 2021

      I had this done when you did your piece on the film.. You had Cloris featured on her performance and I agreed. So many in the film. Ben’s Sam has stuck with me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. keepsmealive
    April 5, 2021

    Gravitas.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. hotfox63
    April 6, 2021

    I like “The Last Picture Show”. A good story as you hear it umpteen times; a small US town like many others, the youth without great prospects. The film plays a few years after World War II. In a way nothing has changed. Or rather for the worse.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. greenpete58
    April 6, 2021

    Like Mitchum, a total natural who never studied acting (that I’m aware of). And Neil’s right, this movie deserved to be made in black-and-white.

    Liked by 1 person

    • cincinnatibabyhead
      April 6, 2021

      I dont think Ben took lessons (Maybe why I like him so much) plus no one in film could ride a horse like Johnson. He was the best.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. J.
    April 7, 2021

    I haven’t seen this (now that’s a huge gap in my film watching over the years!), but I’ll need to bump it up the list.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jim S.
    April 7, 2021

    Late to the party on this one. I hadn’t read the piece just saw Johnson’s name and thought, wasn’t he in “Last Picture Show?” What a great movie. Man, those Seventies movies were the shit. Where would this show up today? HBO if you’re lucky and nobody would even notice it. Or maybe the local repertory theater. Gotta make way for Avengers part 27,000.

    Liked by 1 person

    • cincinnatibabyhead
      April 7, 2021

      Ya those 70s films were good. I try to watch some of the main stream Hollywood fare today but I dont get very far. I do find the odd one. Ben was the real deal. I read John Ford’s biography. He bullied most people. Not Johnson.

      Like

      • Jim S.
        April 8, 2021

        Is it John Ford who made all the movies our West? Or Howard Hawks? Or both?

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        April 8, 2021

        Both. Dont know much about Hawkes but Ford was a super interesting guy. Johnson was a stuntman on one of his early westerns, story goes that there was a runaway stage coach with a bunch of horses. Ben chased it down and got it under control. Not an easy task. Ford was i impressed. He was a macho bastard.

        Like

      • Jim S.
        April 8, 2021

        John Huston was like that too, I think. A dying breed? Ford’s ‘Quiet Man’ is one of my favorites and I’m not necessarily a big Duke fan. But that flick is a blast.

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        April 8, 2021

        Interesting (to me) stuff Doc. Ford made Duke kinda father/son thing. Im with ya on Wayne. A few things he did I really liked. There were all sorts of rumors (substantial) that Ford was connected to the IRA. You know I like dusters but I find some of these real cornball. The cinematography and other things are tops. Guys like Scorsese rave about them. If you ever get bored and want a good read check out ‘Print the Legend’. Lots of stuff you would like. Sort of like music history , this is film history.
        Best Huston story is him and Bogie were the only two that didnt get sick on the set of ‘African Queen’. They didnt drink the water just the booze.

        Like

      • Jim S.
        April 8, 2021

        Sounds like a good read. When in doubt make a Western. The Bogie/Huston thing sounds like the kind of mischief Doc and CB would have gotten into back in the day.

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        April 8, 2021

        No kidding. I was thinking of Bogie and Huston when I was watching the Burn’s ‘Hemmingway’ doc. Hem had to leave Africa because he got the shits. Not Bogie, Doc, John and CB.
        Back to Ben. I think he was pretty straight laced but a man’s man for sure. He worked with some hard asses. He just about didnt do ‘Last Pic’ because of some of the language.

        Like

      • Jim S.
        April 8, 2021

        I just started watching ‘Hemingway’ and am on the first episode. Another guy running around the world trying to prove his manliness. Maybe because his mother made him wear a dress.

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        April 8, 2021

        I like Burns and Novacks work but I dont have a lot of if interest in the subject matter. I did complete the 3 parts. Repetitious on old Ernies messed up life. Makes me glad I’m CB.

        Like

      • Jim S.
        April 8, 2021

        Really? Boy, I was bigtime into Hemingway not only as a writer but his lifestyle. In the same way that you read about Ford’s life, I’ve read about Hemingway’s. (Remember – I’m a celebrated novelist myself having sold at least 10 copies.)
        I read quite a few of his books including “Death in the Afternoon.” (Didn’t much like.) Coincidentally, I’ve also been to a bullfight in Madrid. I find that whole ‘Paris in the 20’s” bohemian artist thing fascinating. If I had to pick one era to go back in time to it would be that. Either that or the Flintstones so I could have big ribs delivered to my feet-driven car.

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        April 8, 2021

        With the Ford bio it was more about the work (with some shenanigan’s on the side) and the making of the films. The creative side. One thing I did pick up from the doc was when Hemingway got stuck he had a thing he used “Write one true sentence”. I like that a lot. Writing is so much more of a private thing. Which novel would you suggest? I have read a few and Im 50/50 on them. I have his short stories that I’m going to pull out. Ive heard nothing but good things from some people that i kinda agree with on books.
        Im into the “Bronto Burgers” myself.

        Like

      • Jim S.
        April 8, 2021

        Start with his first novel, “The Sun Also Rises” if you haven’t already read it. “A Moveable Feast” is not a novel, it’s about his life in Paris but I liked it quite a bit. You saw he took his newspaper writing rules and used them.
        I told you about that Madrid trip. We took the kids and went to France/Spain a couple years back. We stayed on a street where Hemingway and Joyce both lived. Joyce was working on “Ulysses.” I was thrilled with the whole idea. BTW, I had also read about Shakespeare and Company, the bookstore where they all hung out and who published “Ulysses.” It was cool to see an old black-and-white video of Sylvia Beach, the proprietress. I want to be part of that like CB wants to go two-fisted drinking with Huston and Bogie.

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        April 8, 2021

        Thanks Doc. What a cool thing to do with the family (At least you didnt go shoot Dumbo).
        I’m still trying to get the image of the Doc I know wearing a beret and hanging with the literary intelligentsia half pissed. You can meet me at the jazz club down the street later. I hear Sidney Bechet is playing with Django and Stephane.

        Like

      • Jim S.
        April 8, 2021

        I wore a beret and a striped shirt and carried a baguette with me everywhere I went. The ladies were impressed!
        I had promised the kids a trip to Europe when they graduated. Somehow Spain and France came up. So yeah, in Madrid we saw a bullfight, we ate at the oldest restaurant in Spain, ate tapas and saw flamenco. Fortunately my son had studied Spanish ‘coz outside the hotels nobody speaks a word of English.

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        April 8, 2021

        That is fricken funny! The “baguette” is the best. You would look like a real Homer.
        Like I said “A cool trip”. Those kids take care of us.

        Like

  10. badfinger20 (Max)
    April 11, 2021

    It’s been too long (80s) since I saw it. Now it’s on our list. I’ve known a few ranchers and horse people like that character. I worked at Tanya Tucker’s old ranch for a while…seeing and hearing him took me back. Great guys but no BS slips by… He didn’t sound like he had a script…just natural.

    Liked by 1 person

    • cincinnatibabyhead
      April 12, 2021

      Great comment Max. Very cool. You nailed it. Ben was so natural and real. Plus he was pretty close to the bone being a real cowboy himself so he knew the life that McMurtry was writing about.
      Perfect casting .

      Liked by 1 person

      • badfinger20 (Max)
        April 12, 2021

        I just looked him up more…wow…yea there is a reason he sounded so authentic…he was!

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        April 12, 2021

        Very interesting guy. Not to many people in the business stood up to John Ford. Ben did. I love watching him ride in the films. McMurtry must have been pleased when they cast Johnson. I love his work in so many films. This was such a good performance.

        Liked by 1 person

      • badfinger20 (Max)
        April 12, 2021

        We are about to fire the movie up…

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        April 12, 2021

        Enjoy. Let me know what you think. B&W, Hank in the soundtrack, so many good performances.

        Liked by 1 person

      • badfinger20 (Max)
        April 12, 2021

        Doing it now…they just shot a little pool…thanks dude!

        Liked by 1 person

      • badfinger20 (Max)
        April 12, 2021

        CB… I only remembered pieces of it. Man that could be any small town around. Billy at the end just finished it off nice and proper. You feel trapped with them in that town and you know most will never get out. I completely forgot about Leachman.

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        April 12, 2021

        Great writing and bang on. Im from a small town and just the loss of any kind of business shakes the town.. It was all down hill after Sam died. Did the B&W help the feel for you? Cloris is great along with so many others.

        Liked by 1 person

      • badfinger20 (Max)
        April 12, 2021

        I’m from one also…two stoplights and many mom and pop places…we had a “pop’s” pool hall.
        The Black and White did help a lot. I forgot I was watching a 70s film and was thinking early fifties…I had to remind myself… so that worked. You are right…when Sam died the town went with him.

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        April 12, 2021

        My town didnt rate “stop light”. My aunt owned the pool hall. She banned her own son from it for using “To much profanity” (My aunt swore like a trooper)
        Im repeating myself on how much I liked the film and Johnson. B&W was a great choice.
        Ive been reading McMurtry in chronological order. Great stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

      • badfinger20 (Max)
        April 12, 2021

        Wow…you did live in a small one. That is so funny she banned her son…
        I didn’t know that book was part of a trilogy…

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        April 12, 2021

        He deserved to be banned.
        I didnt know that about the trilogy until a few years ago. I just talked to my uncle (still lives back there) a couple days ago. He was telling me his grandson (second cousin) just took a bunch of breeding bulls to auction. Amazing what kind of money those animals bring in. That life has to be in your bones.

        Liked by 1 person

      • badfinger20 (Max)
        April 12, 2021

        Ok…hey if he deserved it then cool.

        It has to be CB…that is a hard life…one of my worse memories at that ranch was them running cattle in a narrow fence row…and then closing a trap on a calf and I had to sit on the calf while it was trapped… while the other guys got some tools and they castrated it…to say I had sympathy is an understatement.

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        April 12, 2021

        Ranch/farm life is a brutal business. I respect what those guys and gals do but not for me. I feel your “sympathy”. When it is all said and done, after the hard work and costs, you walk away with a profit (hopefully)

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        April 12, 2021

        You’re making me want to watch it again.

        Like

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This entry was posted on April 4, 2021 by in 1971 film, Academy Award Winner, Ben Johnson, Larry McMurtry, Sam The Lion and tagged .

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