Inside a small matinee theater at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, a baritone voice narrates a brief history of western films for the pleasure of visitors. The voice belongs to actor Sam Elliott, who will be inducted into the Museum’s Hall of Great Western Performers during the 46th Western Heritage Awards ceremony April 21, 2007. He’ll receive the coveted Wrangler Award, a stunning bronze sculpture of a cowboy astride his horse.
Although Elliott is a versatile actor with a list of high profile roles to his credit, it is for his persona as a rugged cowboy that the museum recognizes his incredible talent. His first credited film role was in the 1969 classic “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” It was not the big screen, however, but a TNT television film “Conagher,” based on a book by western novel icon Louis L’Amour, that put Elliott on the road to cowboy fame. He was cast in numerous television roles in the 1970s and 1980s including “The Quick and the Dead,” “Houston: The Legend of Texas,” “The Shadow Riders,” “The Sacketts” and “I Will Fight No More Forever.” As interest in the genre declined, Elliott continued making solid westerns in such parts as Virgil Earp in what has become a hallmark of sorts for modern-day westerns, “Tombstone.” And if you’re wondering why Elliot always looks at home in the saddle in all of these westerns, it’s because he is a real life horseman.