Dynamic Duos: Shining a Spotlight on the Best Trailblazing Tag Teams
From saddlebags to six-shooters, boots to biscuits, facts are facts: two is simply better than one.
That math certainly applies to the world of Westerns, too. From co-stars whose connection tickled our funny bones to partnerships forged in the pursuit of justice and truth, tandems have really made a mark in Western culture over generations.
Ready to see which teams of two have truly withstood the test of time?
Maureen O’Hara & John Wayne
Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne gave new meaning to the word chemistry in the classic Western comedy McLintock!.
Released in 1963, audiences immediately fell for a rip-roaring script that played into the duo’s personalities—both onscreen and off. O’Hara portrayed a strong-willed and fiery Katherine Gilhooley McLintock, while Wayne embodied the rugged and larger-than-life character of George Washington “GW” McLintock.
A box-office success, McLintock! was more proof that two of Hollywood’s biggest stars had perfected their recipe for magic on the silver screen: equal parts elegance and wit, seasoned with a dash of charisma and masculine charm. That combination has always made for a complex on-screen relationship, and when it came to O’Hara and Wayne, it sure kept viewers captivated.
Decades later, Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne’s slapstick silliness and perfectly delivered lines continue to enchant, solidifying their status as one of the most indelible duos in film history.
Randolph Scott & Joel McCrea
Ride the High Country
A movie preserved in the National Film Registry, the 1962 release of the Western classic Ride the High Country set a high-water mark for films that still endure today.
Pitting Western legends Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea against each other, director Sam Peckinpah left no stone unturned as he ratcheted up the tension levels between the two throughout the film. Masterfully weighing both perspectives of good versus bad, honor versus survival, friend versus foe.
With both stars getting equal time on screen, rumor has it Peckinpah flipped a coin to decide which would receive top billing. Randolph Scott won the flip, and in a fitting homage to the masterpiece, he rode away from the silver screen for good after the film wrapped.
Scott and McCrea’s nuanced performances as aging men with opposing views made each emotional punch land—especially the final blow. If you can walk away from this one with dry eyes, a visit to the doctor might not be a bad idea.
Maureen O’Hara & James Stewart
The Rare Breed
A viewing of 1966’s The Rare Breed will leave you befuddled on at least one front: With this level of chemistry, what stopped Maureen O’Hara and James Stewart from gracing the silver screen together more often?
Hollywood’s most charming leading man blended beautifully with the wittiest woman in Westerns, but the stars only collaborated on two films throughout their storied careers. While we would have gladly taken a dozen or more, as fans, we’re grateful for what we did get out of these two dynamo performers.
Marked by their uncanny ability to be authentic on screen, the two stars shine in their second film together: A fictionalized account of how Hereford cattle came to the great state of Texas. Throw in a Scottish rancher, plus an early score by John Williams, and you’ve got a movie that is rare, indeed.
James Arness & Amanda Blake
Gunsmoke episode: “The Jailer”
Marshal Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty Russell: Arguably the greatest example of on-screen soulmates in Western history.
Played by James Arness and Amanda Blake respectively, their relationship captivated audiences, episode after episode. Matt Dillon, the strong and honorable lawman, shared a deep connection with Kitty Russell, the spirited and independent owner of the Long Branch Saloon.
An unspoken bond, filled with hints of romance and genuine affection, added a layer of emotional depth that helped Gunsmoke transcend other shows of its time. It also had audiences literally hollering at the screen, hoping for just one smooch between the two!
We never did get that kiss, but due in large part to the natural chemistry between Arness and Blake, the characters they brought to life in Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty will always be one of television’s most beloved set of star-crossed lovers.
Tom Selleck & Sam Elliott
The Shadow Riders
A movie made in the era of MTV and moonwalking (the dance!), The Shadow Riders may be relatively modern, but it carries a spirit and a story that is pure old-fashioned Western.
Based on the 1982 novel of the same name written by the brilliant Louis L’Amour, this post-Civil War story brought Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott to the screen as brothers for the second time in their careers. (The first is, of course, the beloved Western mini-series The Sacketts, which premiered in 1979.)
Pairing them together again was a move that made hearts around the world skip a beat—the type of cardiac interruption that comes from a strong dose of swagger. If their voices didn’t get you, the mustaches surely would.
While the eye candy might still draw viewers in today, it is the sheer strength of acting ability that makes The Shadow Riders a standout. Each born with enough talent to carry the movie on his own, Selleck and Elliot together make for an unstoppable force. Their performances are commanding but at the same time display a quiet intensity that is a hallmark of the south.