You can celebrate the occasion by viewing a movie or miniseries showcasing the charismatic star.
Given Tom Selleck’s close association with the Western lifestyle, it’s a bit surprising that he’s actually played a cowboy in only a handful of film and TV productions. But he rode tall in the saddle on each occasion. If you want to celebrate his birthday — he was born January 29, 1945, in Detroit — considering streaming one or more of these selections.
The Sacketts (1979)
Selleck earned his spurs in this leisurely paced but dramatically satisfying two-part miniseries based on two novels — The Daybreakers and Sackett — by the great Louis L’Amour. Three Tennessee brothers — Tell (Sam Elliott), Orrin (Selleck) and Jeff Sackett (Jeff Osterhage) — head West after the Civil War, hoping to make their fortune and, if they’re lucky, avoid trouble. But trouble goes looking for them when they become embroiled in a land dispute between Mexicans and Anglos in Santa Fe. The terrific supporting cast includes such notables as Glenn Ford, Ben Johnson, Gilbert Roland, Jack Elam and Slim Pickens.
The Shadow Riders (1982)
Three years after The Sacketts aired, Selleck reunited with Sam Elliott, Jeff Osterhage and Ben Johnson for a second (but unrelated) Louis L’Amour adaptation. Two brothers (Selleck, Elliott) break their rascally uncle (Johnson) out of prison to help them find their kidnapped siblings, who have been taken prisoner by a slave-trading ex-Confederate officer (Geoffrey Lewis). The action is reasonably fast and furious under the direction of veteran Western filmmaker Andrew V. McLaglen (McClintock!).
Quigley Down Under (1990)
Selleck’s only theatrically released western, directed by Simon Wincer (Lonesome Dove), imaginatively transplants the conventions of a Wild West yarn to an Australian setting. Matthew Quigley (Selleck), a sharpshooting good guy, makes the mistake of answering a help-wanted ad by a truth-twisting bad guy (Alan Rickman of Die Hard), a wicked rancher who wants to annihilate Aboriginal people with fair claim on the villain’s land. When Quigley refuses to co-operate, the rancher’s men take our hero and a half-crazed heroine (Laura San Giancomo) out into the Outback, and leave them to die. Not surprisingly, Quigley doesn’t take kindly to this.
Last Stand at Saber River (1997)
Arguably the very best western on Selleck’s resume, this unabashedly old-fashioned and enjoyably exciting drama (based on a novel by Elmore Leonard) finds the charismatic star perfectly cast as an ex-Confederate cavalryman who seeks a new life with his strong-willed wife (Suzy Amis) and their two children (Haley Joel Osment — who’d later find fame in The Sixth Sense — and Rachel Duncan) on an Arizona homestead. Unfortunately, two Union-sympathizing brothers (played by real-life siblings Keith and David Carradine) have their own designs on the land.
Crossfire Trail (2001)
With director Simon Wincer once again serving as his trail boss, Selleck saddled up for one more Louis L’Amour adaptation, this time playing a gruff but noble drifter who makes good on his promise to a dying man that he’ll look after the luckless fellow’s widow (Virginia Madsen) and Wyoming ranch. Selleck is as effortlessly authoritative as always, but the big surprise here is seeing Mark Harmon (NCIS) cast against type as a two-faced, back-shooting land-grabber
Monte Walsh (2003)
Selleck and Simon Wincer teamed successfully for a third time to make this affectingly melancholy Western, based on a novel by Jack Schaefer (Shane), about a middle-aged cowboy who knows his way of life is drawing to close — but can’t figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Selleck gives one of his finest performances in the title role, and he’s never been more engaging than he is here in scenes opposite the lovely prostitute (Isabella Rossellini) who loves the incorrigible cowpoke. Better still, the final scene is guaranteed to leave you smiling, if not laughing out loud.