January 29 (1945) is the birthday of Thomas William “Tom” Selleck, the well-known actor and producer.
He is probably best known for his role in the TV detective series “Magnum, P.I.”, which ran from 1980 to 1988. But I like him in Westerns, and one of my favorites of his is “Crossfire Trail”, based on a Louis L’Amour story.
Selleck was born in Detroit, but his family moved to Southern California when he was just a boy. He graduated from Ulysses S. Grant High School in Los Angeles in 1962.
He attended the University of Southern California on a basketball scholarship. He was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity and the Trojan Knights. He majored in business administration, but a drama coach suggested he give acting a try. So he studied acting at the Beverly Hills Playhouse.
From 1967 to 1973 he served in the 160th Infantry Regiment, a part of the California National Guard.
He first appeared on television while a college senior in 1965, a spot on “The Dating Game”. He repeated that in 1967. He started making commercials, for companies like Pepsi-Cola.
He began getting bit parts in small movies, TV series and mini-series, and TV movies. He had a recurring role as a private detective in the 1970s in “The Rockford Files”, which had James Garner as the star private eye.
His big break came in 1980 when he snagged the lead role as Thomas Magnum in the series “Magnum, P.I.”. The series was set in Hawaii and was hugely successful.
He played in many movies and TV shows, but I especially like him for his roles in Westerns. Selleck is a big man, 6’4”, and his size and visage give him command presence on screen. He made well-known Westerns like “The Sacketts” (1979) and “The Shadow Riders” (1982). He considered the 1990 Western “Quigley Down Under”, which takes place in Australia, to be one of his best roles and films. There was also “Last Stand at Saber River” (1997) and “Monte Walsh” (2003).
But my favorite Western of his was “Crossfire Trail” (2001). The film was based on a Louis L’Amour novel of the same name. The film has all the usual elements of a Western: a heroic man of action, a beautiful woman, a conniving rich man, a brutal hired gun, horses, gunfights, shootouts, etc. But very impressive was the scenery.
The story supposedly takes place in Wyoming. Someone mentions the Wind River Mountains in the film, which is not surprising since those mountains were some of L’Amour’s favorites. But the scenery is spectacular. If a story supposedly takes place in Wyoming or Montana but is so magnificent it takes your breath away, the movie was probably shot in Alberta. And that’s exactly where “Crossfire Trail” was filmed.
Selleck and a buddy are riding into the back country of Wyoming because Selleck’s character promised a dying man he would look after the man’s wife and ranch. At about 8:06 into the movie they top a ridge and look down on the ranch for the first time. The setting is gorgeous. Selleck’s buddy says, “Well, it ain’t heaven, but it’s near enough.” Perfect. I’ve always wondered if that line belonged to L’Amour or to the screenwriter. (I may have to research that finally.)
The photos you see below I snatched from my TV while watching the movie again. Not the best quality of course, but I think you can get the idea.
Here’s a link to the IMDb information on “Crossfire Trail”: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0218127/
In 2010 Selleck was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers in the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.