I have been on a Western cinema binge recently. These are some of the same television dramas and movies that I watched decades ago, but they never fail to captivate.

There are common themes throughout the genre and several of these hold true for real estate in the modern day. Here are a few of my observations on the parallels between the old Westerns and modern real estate:

  • Moving slowly and saying little are two of the strongest negotiation tactics.
  • Folks from far out east still come to the Arizona Territory for land riches.
  • The higher up on the hill you live, the wealthier you need to be.
  • Generational water rights have always been hotly contested in the West.
  • Covert land speculators and corrupt politicians are often indistinguishable.
  • River silt and dry creek beds are the best locations for gold prospecting.
  • Land that is inherited without being earned will be squandered by the next generation.
  • If you want to make money in land, build ahead of the train tracks and transportation corridors.
  • Access to loans is most plentiful when you manage money wisely, scarce when you don’t.
  • Spanish names for tracts of land like Ladera Vista and Sincuidados sound much more romantic than their English translations.
  • The local sheriff is often underappreciated until he is called in to settle a land dispute.
  • There is always one heir who will attempt to cash out the cherished family homestead to speculators at a discounted price for a quick sale.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover. The saloon bartender might just own all of the overnight rentals in town.

Checked off from my short list recently was John Wayne’s El Dorado (1966). The film was shot on location in southern Arizona at Old Tucson Studios. The plot involves Wayne coming to the aid of an old friend and sheriff (Robert Mitchum). The pair defends a family and their water rights against an encroaching rancher (Ed Asner). It reminded me of how the same messages in these 50-year old classics remain today in the 48th state.

Arizona western films like Junior Bonner (1972) featuring Steve McQueen are dusted with real estate sub-plots. McQueen portrays the elder of two Bonner sons who returns to his Prescott home bruised from years on the rodeo circuit. He discovers that his brother, a budding land developer, has bulldozed the family homestead to build ranch homes and a fight ensues.

I’m settling in tonight to watch the Coen Brothers’ 2010 remake of True Grit once again. I think that Jeff Bridges’ portrayal of Rooster Cogburn measurably upstaged John Wayne’s 1969 characterization of the boozed-up, trigger-happy bounty hunter. It is a rare feat to unseat one of the Western goliaths in a refurbished role, so I tip my hat to Mr. Bridges.

And remember, whiskey always sterilizes a gunshot wound.


I feel the other element of a western is the land, which is very important in this movie. I mean the land is another character in the piece, actually. – Tom Selleck, American TV actor and film producer