Date Published: 2015-04-14

Bowie Knives in Film


Bowie Knives
Bowie Knives
By Adelia Ladson

Bowie Knives Alan Ladd protrayed Jim Bowie in “The Iron Mistress.”
Bowie Knives Alan Ladd protrayed Jim Bowie in “The Iron Mistress.”
First popularized by Jim Bowie in the early 19th century because he was “the bearded bloke who took a knife to a gunfight”, the Bowie Knife has found a prominent place in film history. Who can forget that famous line said by Crocodile Dundee, “That’s not a knife. That’s a knife!”, as he pulls out his constant companion on a would-be mugger in New York City. There’s no doubt that no knife looks as big and impressive on the big screen as a bowie.

There are differences in opinion on the actual chronological history of this knife, also called an Arkansas Toothpick, but one thing is certain, its basic design has definitely stood the tests of time. Decades of hunters and survivalists have found the bowie to be the perfect tool for the wilderness. It has been defined by Arkansas culturalist and researcher as, “It must be long enough to use as a sword, sharp enough to use as a razor, wide enough to use as a paddle and heavy enough to use as a hatchet.” If you want a knife that unquestionably illustrates these qualifications, check out the Massive Big Foot Bowie Knife.

Col. Bowie definitely was given his due on the big screen, as well, because dating back to 1915’s “Martyrs of the Alamo” he has been portrayed in numerous films. The most recognized being “The Iron Mistress” with Alan Ladd and The 1960’s “The Alamo” with Richard Widmark. The Western Alamo Bowie Knife is an officially licensed replica of the bowie knife that was carried by Widmark in the “The Alamo” film.

Bowie Knives Sylvester Stallone, seen here as John Rambo, has used the bowie in several of his movies.
Bowie Knives Sylvester Stallone, seen here as John Rambo, has used the bowie in several of his movies.
Sly would have never survived First Blood parts I, II, or III without his bowie knife or The Expendables I, II or III either, for that matter. The survival knives that Rambo used in the first two movies were made by the late Jimmy Lile, an Arkansas knifemaker and noted knifesmith, Gil Hibben, crafted the bowie used in the third movie. This famous knife was perfectly made for film because it was a larger than life design that is nearly the length of Stallone’s torso. Since the partnership worked so well between the action actor and knifemaker, Hibben was tasked to make the knives used in the Expendables franchise, as well. The Gil Hibben Expendables Bowie Knife is truly an awe-inspiring knife. Of course, this knife designer has a career expanding almost 60 years and has attracted other movie stars to his knives including John Wayne, Elvis Presley and Steve McQueen. Hibben Knives are incredible both in construction and design. Not to be outdone, Arnold Schwarzenegger also brought his bowie knife to a gunfight in his action flick, “Commando.”

The film industry’s liberal use of the Alamo defender’s famous weapon comes down to one repeated theme: strength and size. Whether it was John Rambo or John Matrix this knife was built for battle and the image of these knife-wielding characters have stuck in popular imagination. The sure feeling of power that holding the sturdy handle of

a bowie knife gives or the confidence that it is big enough to get the job done is what makes it come right out of screen legend and into the hands of countless people across the world. Aside from just being impressive looking, the bowie knife has many practical uses including skinning game, splitting firewood and cutting rope that make it an excellent tool for hunting and camping and secures it in history as much more than a film star.




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