Sam Peckinpah would have been 81 today, had he not died of a stroke in 1984. Imagine the films he could have made if he were still alive ... or started making until he lost funding or grew too irritated with studios. Imagine the trouble he could have made.

I did not see a Sam Peckinpah movie until a few years ago, because I had heard they were all bloody and violent and misogynistic. So my first Peckinpah movie was Junior Bonner, the 1972 film that's considered the director's only non-violent, non-gory movie. Besides, I could not resist a film in which Robert Preston and Ida Lupino played Steve McQueen's parents. I was not disappointed: Junior Bonner is a lovely, wistful movie about the rodeo, and family, and the destructive effect of "progress" on a small Arizona town. McQueen is in his element as a fading rodeo cowboy, and Preston is charming as always.

The Wild Bunch
is now one of my favorite movies ever, but I recommend Junior Bonner as a great "small" film, as well as a good introduction to Peckinpah if you're hesitant to watch his films. It's also a good way to fall helplessly for Steve McQueen ... you've been warned.