is a man of limited free time. As the owner of Cenac Marine Services
and Main Iron Works, Cenac is often tied up with the heavy demands of shipbuilding and maritime work. But when he’s home at his Houma-area Golden Ranch Farms
Benny Cenac tries to make time for one of his favorite hobbies: watching Old Western movies.
The Western frontier may be a long way from the Atchafalaya River Basin, but Cenac still loves the enthralling worlds of gun-slinging cowboys, sheriffs on horseback, and the great outdoors. Throughout the mid-20th century, actors like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Jimmy Stewart captivated audiences with their adaptations of American adventure against backdrops of harsh wilderness and desolate landscapes. Even if the setting and timing of the pictures were unfamiliar, underlying themes of “good vs. evil” and “finding one’s way home” continue to resonate with viewers across the world.
“It doesn’t get any more American than cowboys and the Wild West,” Benny said when asked about his beloved film genre. “Now, when I watch those movies, it reminds me of how excited I would get when I was younger. When John Wayne is on screen, it just takes me back to when I was a kid and I used to act out the scenes with my friends and family—taking turns as the sheriff or cowboy.” John Wayne is hands down Cenac’s favorite on-screen cowboy. In his over five-decade-long career, Wayne starred in 162 Western movies, often playing the morally just hero. He specialized in the role of the town lawman or heroic vagabond who defends pillars of justice against rotating “bad guys.” Benny Cenac, Businessman, and One of His Favorite Old Western Movies: High Noon
For the cowboys and townspeople who live in these films’ depictions of the Western frontier, life is risky and daring. Thus, law and order falls into the hands of few upstanding citizens. The heroes in these films always ensure that in the end, justice wins. “Some people say that the movies are silly because they’re so predictable, but that’s what I love about them,” Cenac argues. “No matter what, the good guys win and there’s something very calming, very fulfilling about that.”
This formula drives the plot in 1952’s High Noon, one of Cenac’s favorite Old Westerns starring Gary Cooper as Will Kane, another brave and laconic leading man. When newly married town marshal Will Kane is challenged to a shootout against a recently-freed outlaw, Kane must nobly face his challenge and attempt to restore order to Hadleyville, his small town in New Mexico. Marshal Kane, married to Amy Fowler (played by Grace Kelly) had planned to retire and run a store in another town, but Frank Miller, the outlaw, was released from prison and is expected to arrive on the noon train to seek his revenge. Kane represents the lawful good in the climactic duel and, against the pleas of his newlywed Amy, accepts his challenge to defend Hadleyville against the gang of criminals. The film captures all the essential themes of grandeur that define the Old Westerns genre: romance, danger, macho men, and heroism. The film has been highly praised for taking place almost exactly in real time.
Gary Cooper, like John Wayne, was no stranger to the lawman role. Known for his understated performances, he played over 80 leading roles in Western films with his convincing take on the stoic cowboy. He started his career playing in silent movies, but his standout performances in war films skyrocketed him to Hollywood success. After achieving name-recognition, he continued to develop his film repertoire playing Western heroes. His acting style has been compared to that of Hollywood successor, Clint Eastwood, a household name not only for Old Western movies but for his later action and dramatic films. Eastwood’s Western titles span from the mid-60s to the late 80s—evidently pointing to American audiences’ longstanding appetite for Old Westerns.
Still one of businessman Benny Cenac’s favorite Hollywood actors to this day, Clint Eastwood built on the continued momentum of his role as “The Man with No Name” in a 1960s trilogy of Spaghetti Westerns, a subgenre of 60’s Westerns produced and directed by Italians. Before becoming a director, himself, Eastwood worked to capture nuance in his Western hero roles. His hero characters were often multifaceted, alone and struggling with their sense of self when not focused on protecting their communities. “I liked how Clint Eastwood was never completely a good guy,” Cenac says of the famed actor. “His characters always do what’s right for his community, but you can tell he has struggles of his own. He’s more human that way.”
After years of watching and re-watching these classic movies, their allure is still not lost on Benny Cenac. Although Cenac is far more likely to encounter an alligator or a black bear than a rogue outlaw on his Golden Ranch Farms, he’s forever guided by the everlasting principles of justice and heroism that underscore the Old Westerners genre.