This term, first used by Fenin and Everson as well as Richard Slotkin, refers specifically to the large number of films based on outlaw stories, such as those of Jesse James, produced in the 1930s and 1940s. This “new deal” period, grounded in progressive ideology, portrayed outlaws as victims of overwhelming economic forces or perhaps as saviors of the common people from robber baron kinds of evil. Jesse James (1939) and I Shot Jesse James (1949) are typical examples of this style, as is the The Outlaw (1943), based on the Billy the Kid legend. Later alternative Westerns, such as American Outlaws (2001), often return to cult-of-the-outlaw ideologies.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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