Charles on “Steve”

August 31, 2008

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Most superheroes have a distinct difference with their alter egos.  Clark Kent is a wimpy coward, Bruce Wayne is an irresponsible playboy, and so on.  Not Steve Something.  He and Durango are nearly identical, except for the color of their clothes and horses.  This often leads to the complaint that Steve doesn’t need Durango, that he could accomplish most of the tasks that confront him without all the hassle of dressing up and wearing a mask.

Here is what Charles Starrett had to say about the matter:  “The superhero is Durango, of course, but Steve, he wasn’t a buffoon.  Steve had to be played as a hero, as a capable man, as a fighting man believing in justice, believing in goodness and all the nice things that we saw in a straight character just doing a straight western.  Durango was what you might call a superhero who puts the fear of God in the hearts of bad men, and everyone else.  He was so good, so concise in everything that he did, in his movements, perhaps even in the staccato of his voice.  I mean, you do this or if you don’t then you know what the consequences are going to be.  Steve, I felt, should not be a weak character unless you were playing for comedy.  He had to be strong too, to make the superhero look even better.  I think that is perhaps why the whole series lasted so long.”

I think Charles point here is two-fold.  1) Durango is so strong, is such a superhero, that even if Steve is a strong hero, he is nothing compared to Durango.  2) Steve’s strength only makes Durango look stronger.

I’m not sure I agree.  I would say that the B-Western is intolerant of any subtlety in characterization.  Everything is painted in either black or white, weak or strong.  So the options for Steve were to be good and strong and wear the white hat OR to be cowardly and weak and “played for comedy.”

Charles’ choice here, then, is a no-brainer.

(quote take from the introduction of Bob Carman and Dan Scapperotti’s fine book “The Adventures of The Durango Kid, starring Charles Starrett”, 1983.)

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