STOCK FOOTAGE

   Western filmmakers have often taken film footage from archival stock to insert into new films, thereby saving themselves from shooting expensive cattle stampedes, massive Indian battles, and panoramic location shots. B Westerns, especially, were prone to extensive use of stock footage. Grand National and Republic Westerns of the 1930s and 1940s were often built around available footage with new action filmed on a three-day schedule. Tex Ritter’s films produced by Edward Finney were filled out almost entirely around stock footage. For example, Finney copied the complete Indian attack sequences from Thomas Ince’s The Deserter (1916) and inserted them into Roll Wagons Roll (1940). But even higher-budget Westerns replay old Indian battles. The dramatic fight to the death at the ford of a river between Indians and cavalry in The Great Man’s Lady(1942) was reused in the later Fox films Pony Soldier (1952) and Siege at Red River (1954). Mel Brooks’s 1974 Western spoof, Blazing Saddles, which makes fun of every possible Western cliche, illustrates well the sometimes clumsy art of integrating stock footage into low-budget Westerns, inserting huge panoramic scenes of such standards as wagon trains that obviously came from older films.
   Spectacular stunts, particularly of Yakima Canutt, often found life in multiple films. One unsophisticated method of using inserted stock footage involves having the hero, who has worn a certain dark costume in the entire film, suddenly change to a white shirt just before the big chase scene. The change is necessary because the stunt rider in the stock footage wore white. Warner Brothers took footage of trick riding from Ken Maynard’s silent films and inserted it in early John Wayne films because of Wayne’s lesser riding skills. “The historical resonance of a ‘B’ film could be (and was) cheaply enlarged by splicing in footage from a silent or early sound epic—often with only the most perfunctory efforts at matching the lighting, costuming, or speed of the original. Thus the visualized landscapeof the ‘B’Western was, to a considerable extent, made out of pieces of other movies rather than out of scenes newly observed or constructed to create a particular historical setting” (Slotkin 1992, 272).

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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