by Jim Gibbons
Whether you’re watching a cattle drive crew cook some baked beans over a campfire or a shootout in front of a saloon, odds are you’re going to see a striking ’stache somewhere in that scene peeking out from under the brim of a Stetson. For our final Movember Mustache Movie Madness column during the international men’s health fundraiser where hombres grow mustaches for a month to benefit the Livestrong and Prostate Cancer Foundations, let’s focus on some of the most memorable mustaches to mosey across the big screen.
Robert Redford as Henry Longabaugh, a.k.a. the “Sundance Kid,” in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”
Unarguably one of Hollywood’s handsomest leading men, people forget that Redford’s good looks were aided by a thick mustache in his breakthrough role. And, while we’re on the topic of truisms, let’s take a look at that manly mustache. This ’stache not only starred in an undisputed western classic, were it not for this below-the-nose mo-growth, there wouldn’t be a Sundance Film Festival. While on screen the Sundance Kid’s ’stache ended up soaked in blood after going out in a blaze of glory, it formed the fuzzy foundation of a career that would help shape the movie industry for years to come.
Nicolas Cage as H.I. McDunnough in “Raising Arizona”
Ok, ok, ok… so, it’s not a mustache from a traditional western, but before the Coen Brothers put together a modern western masterpiece with “No Country For Old Men,” they made the sand-drenched cult comedy classic “Raising Arizona.” Once again, not your classic cowboy ’stache, but it is involved in a General Store (a.k.a. mini-mart) robbery and throws down in a showdown with one bad hombre (a.k.a. chopper-bound bounty hunter)—that’s some pretty good western whisker cred!
Matt Damon as LaBoeuf in “True Grit”
On to another wickedly good western from Los Bros Coen, Damon’s LaBoeuf the Texas Ranger was certainly a different kind of cowboy than co-star Jeff Bridges’ salty Rooster Cogburn, and not just when it came to his more manicured mustache in comparison to Cogburn’s unruly beard. Decked out in cowhide and on the trail of a murderous hired hand, LaBouef may have had some bad luck, but was definitely one tough cowpoke with the face fur to back it up. Not a bad shot either! LaBoeuf’s lengthy ’stache certainly helped gauge wind speed when taking aim at a distant target with his rifle.
Bruno Kirby as Ed Furillo in “City Slickers”
Not just any man can tame the Wild West, but if it takes a true man to acknowledge his shortcomings and rise to a challenge, then Kirby in “City Slickers” is an example of where the latter becomes the former. Going from soft city slicker to capable cowboy is a tried and true tradition of the western, a journey Kirby helped exemplify in this celebrated comedy. And if you’re gonna ride with Curly Washburn, you better bring some machismo to the table —a mustache will help!
Sam Elliot as Virgil Earp in “Tombstone,” Brigadier General John Buford in “Gettysburg” and The Stranger in “The Big Lebowski”
Last, and the complete opposite of least, comes not only one of the finest mustaches from the cowboy genre, but—I dare say—the greatest mustache in movie history: Sam Elliot’s epic ’stache! Need a stern, mustachioed Earp brother? Better get Sam. How about a historic Civil War figure? That ’stache would have been right at home in the War for the Union. When the mustache-lovin’ Coen Brothers needed a quintessential cowboy to narrate “The Big Lebowski” and dole out of some sage wisdom over a mug sarsaparilla, who’d they hire? Sam freakin’ Elliott—obviously. I mean, the guy even played a Marlboro Man analog in “Thank You For Smoking” for crying out loud! But really, what can I say about that magnificently manly mustache that it doesn’t say for itself? Just gaze into those wondrous whiskers and that manly visage, contemplate your place in the universe and ask yourself what you can do to be a better man.
Jim Gibbons is an assistant editor at Dark Horse Comics and a third year Movember participant. You can follow his mustache growth progress and donate to his Movember efforts at http://mobro.co/jimgibbons, and follow him on Twitter at @EnemyOfPeanuts.