Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Gene Hackman), Best Director, and Best Film Editing. But when I think of all the reasons I continue loving this film, the number one element is David Webb Peoples’ script, which did not snag an award despite being nominated.
I could talk about how great the film’s dialog is. I could bring up its strangely digressive yet still propulsive structure. I could go on and on about its deeper themes and how it examines violence and the nature of legends.
But instead I’m going to discuss something far more ridiculous, something near and dear to my heart when it comes to this film. Unforgiven has the greatest character names I have ever come across in a movie. They aren't outlandish enough to call attention to themselves, yet they walk an impressive fine line between badass and silly. I feel the time has come to give them praise.
It’s not that the names are individually all that great. In fact, the first time you watch Unforgiven they might just roll off your brain and not matter at all. Having seen the film dozens of times, however, I hear a unique, slightly affected song play each and every time these characters refer to other characters by name. They are, when collected and examined as a group, some mighty awesome names.
Let’s start at the top: William Munny. Right off the bat we have a name that maybe doesn’t sound so strange, but when you look out how Munny is spelled as if a child wrote it, you really get at the heart of this dumb but dangerous character and his world.
Little Bill Daggett is obviously one of those ironic nicknames. Even if Gene Hackman weren’t super intimidating, the movie portrays him as a large figure. Munny even refers to him as “that big fella.” This isn’t the most exciting name of the bunch, but I like it in the context of all the others.
Ned Logan is a strange one, and not just because it accidentally recalls Wyld Stallyns frontman Ted Logan (don’t forget that he and Eastwood’s characters together make Bill and Ned). I wouldn’t think much was off if I met a Ned Logan in real life. The moment he becomes a cowboy played by Morgan Freeman, however, the name Ned Logan gains a whole new bit of character.
Of course, there’s English Bob. Or as he’s known overseas - Bob. There are probably a lot of movie characters with names that begin with “English” but this could be the most English of them all, which always makes me wonder if he’s just faking it.
W.W. Beauchamp is a favorite simply because of the way Little Bill starts calling him W.W. instead of Mr. Beauchamp once the two start getting friendly. He’s a coward playing around in the world of dangerous men. Both names fit this character, but W.W. really sings.
When it comes to the Schofield Kid, the cliche nature of the name indicates the Kid’s eagerness to write his own legend rather than actually earn one. It’s a perfect character name, especially since the term "kid," which highlights a wild nature in his mind, actually just reinforces how dumb and full of shit he is in ours.
And then there are the minor characters. The prostitutes get amazing names like Strawberry Alice, Silky, Faith, and Delilah. Strawberry Alice is the obvious winner here, though I’ve always been partial to Silky as far as names go. Their pimp has an even better one: Skinny Dubois. It’s the Dubois that makes it sing. It also should be noted that Little Bill’s overweight deputy is actually named Fatty. And I love love love the name of Ned’s wife: Sally Two Trees.
But my absolute favorite Unforgiven names belong to members of Will and Ned’s old gang, characters we don’t even get to meet. There’s Eagle Hendershot (who hated Will’s guts), Quincy (who was always watching Will, scared), and the magnificent Bonaparte (who didn’t like Will none, either). This leads us to the film’s absolute best name bar one: That Drover I Shot Through the Mouth and His Teeth Came Out the Back of His Head. That might not be his Christian name, but it sure as hell is his Black Metal one.
So there you go. If you’re looking for a rather lowbrow reason to watch or rewatch Unforgiven, this is it. Pop it in and prepare yourself for the beautiful song these amazing names supply