Will Penny by Tom Gries (and Bob Thomas)
Ballantine U5134, Copyright 1968
"What do I know about love?"-Will Penny
There are times when someone will mention a western movie to me and I’d answer, “Oh, that one is on my top-ten list of favorite westerns.” But in reality I’ll say that to well over ten or even twenty movies, so lately I am careful about say things like “that’s my favorite this-and-that….” Which brings me to Will Penny and I’ll leave how high this western film is rated to others. But there was a novelization written for the film and now I have a new respect for books written after movies are filmed.
I usually don’t read film novelizations, but when I found this one I had to give it a go. The story of an old cowpoke that finds love while trying to protect a mother and her young boy is just as strong in words as it is on film. Lonely Will Penny battles with this new discovery of love and family, something he has never known or felt. There is the heartwarming friendship between the cowhands; Penny, Dutchy and Blue. The pages capture the freedom they share and the way of life they love. We can smell the fresh, cold mountain air and snuggle in the warmth of the mountain cabin. Thrown in the story are some crazy inbreed villains that provide some good western action; and I can’t help but enjoy reliving the story through the pages of the novel.
But of course the strength of the story is Will Penny finding something he never had or felt. Love. The love he found with Catherine and family bond discovered with Button. And yet he has to let it go, because to Will Penny love cannot survive in his world. He realizes that a time for a woman’s love and family has past for him. He has limitations now because of his age, and life would be harder and more uncertain. Will Penny don’t risk the chance, and walks away.
"A man can't change, not when he's lived one way most of fifty years. I came closer with you than I ever done, I wish it woulda happened long ago. It's too late for me."
All that was wonderful in the movie is captured in the novel. I may have enjoyed it so much because the movie was exceptional, I’ll never know since I saw the film first. But I do picture Charlton Heston as Will Penny and Joan Hackett as Catherine when I read it, and why not they were terrific. I certainly enjoyed this enough, to take a chance and read more novelizations of films. As for Tom Gries, the writer and director of the movie, he created a magnificent western film and a memorable western character in Will Penny.There is even a statue of the Will Penny character in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma.