The life of farmers and ranchers has never been easy. When Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp organized the first Farm Aid concert to help struggling farm families in 1985, the total debt of farmers had experienced its peak of $440 billion just a few years earlier. Today, even before COVID-19 ravaged the meat industry and the country's entire food infrastructure, the total debt had already hit a staggering $425 billion. When the pandemic came knocking, government payments such as trade bailouts and federal relief programs accounted for 36% of net farm income, the eighth highest percentage share since The Great Depression.
In "Yellowstone," the fight to keep control of the Dutton family ranch is still raging, long after the ancestors of John Dutton (Kevin Costner) first laid claim to the Yellowstone Ranch in Montana. That story was told in the prequel series, "1883." Catching up on the family saga 40 years later, "1923" stars Harrison Ford as Jacob Dutton, a Montana Land Commissioner with struggles of his own. During the 1920s and '30s, banks were growing weary of extending credit to farmers and ranchers, and foreclosures were at an all-time high (via The Journal of Economic History).
To make matters worse, in the first episode of "1923," sheep and cattle are struggling to find enough grass to feed on, forcing Jacob to organize a massive cattle drive to higher altitudes where more grazing is possible. The situation already feels fairly dire, even with the challenges of Prohibition and The Great Depression looming large on the horizon.
Ford has previously sported a cowboy hat in "American Graffiti," played a bank robber in the comedy western "The Frisco Kid," and a cattle man in "Cowboys & Aliens." But "1923" is the first time he's played a real cowboy. Just don't call him one.
Jacob Dutton Is A Rancher, Not A Cowboy!
In an interview with Uproxx, Harrison Ford was quick to say, "I don't know what a 'cowboy' is!" After doing lots of press for "1923," a show he is obviously passionate about, the term "cowboy" has probably been a bit overused. When Jacob Dutton, the great-great uncle of John Dutton, is introduced in "1923," he's much more than just a cowboy. He's an aging man who is trying to lead a simple life as a rancher as the world grows more complex around him. Ford is definitely having a little fun with the semantics of the word "cowboy," but from his comments, it's clear that he wants to accurately depict the real people of the times. He explained:
"The guys who work on ranches are 'cowboys.' They work with cows. And many of them are boys! But he's a rancher, and a rancher is financially responsible as well as everything else for the outcomes. The pressures on Jacob Dutton at this point are considerable. The economic pressures. Banks are not loaning to cattle ranchers, having suffered losses. The business has not become as efficient as it needs to be just to generate consistent profits."
Ford, now 80, owns a ranch in Jackson, Wyoming, and seems to relate to the hardships that ranchers have had to endure over the generations. Not one to rest on his laurels, he even helped herd cattle in subzero temperatures while filming "1923" in Montana. Ford is more than just an actor, and Jacob Dutton is more than just a cowboy. He has to be a rancher, a businessman, and an officer of the state tasked with overseeing the local cattle industry for the Montana Livestock Commission. Life is becoming more complicated for the Dutton family and the world isn't slowing down.
The Struggle To Stay The Same In A Changing World
When "1923" begins, there's already a central conflict that Jacob has to head off at the pass. Settlers from Ireland and Scotland have come to Montana, bringing in sheep herders like Banner Creighton (Jerome Flynn) that are forced to fight for the land's quickly depleting resources. Some of Creighton's flock have been slaughtered, leading him to accuse a group of Irish farmers of the crime, which leads to a fight in the street (a classic trope of the Western) that Jacob has to break up. That's just one problem faced early on. For now, Jacob can only deal with what's in front of him, but Harrison Ford was quick to point out that the country is about to experience a bottleneck where the old ways of doing things collide with a new way of life.
"There are a lot of things coming that are unknown. There's electrification. There's cars in the street instead of horses," Ford told Uproxx. In one fell swoop, Ford went on to encapsulate how his character's actions will help cement the Dutton family legacy:
"Jacob Dutton looks around and he's seeing the threat to his way of life, to the simplicity. He's challenged by all of it. All of it becomes his responsibility to extend the opportunities he's had to his family for generations to come. You want that ranch, you got to keep that ranch in the family. You got to hold onto it, and there's a lot of pressure on it."
Find out how Jacob Dutton and everyone at Yellowstone Ranch stand up to that pressure when the next episode of "1923" premieres on Paramount+.
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The post Don't Call Harrison Ford's 1923 Character A 'Cowboy' appeared first on /Film.