Here’s an unusual instance in which this series must prove that its subject is an American master. Frederic Remington (1861- 1909) was and remains an exceptionally popular artist, known for his realistically detailed canvases of life in the Old West, but as narrator Gregory Peck asks, ”Was he a mere illustrator or a great painter?”
Watching the documentary The Truth of Other Days, you’d have to conclude that Remington was a combination of Peck’s choices: a great illustrator. We see lots of the heroic, unabashedly sentimental pictures of cowboys and Indians Remington painted for magazines like Collier’s and Harper’s Weekly. Brian Dippie, a professor at Canada’s University of Victoria, notes, ”He gave editors exactly what they wanted: fresh material and a fresh way of looking at it” — not exactly a description of a groundbreaking artist.
Ultimately, Remington’s work comes across as first-rate pulp entertainment, and this lively hour includes a terrific sequence that demonstrates the way many scenes in John Ford’s classic 1949 Western, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, echo images in particular Remington paintings. B