CIVIL RIGHTS WESTERNS
- As in all historical cinema, Westerns concern themselves more with cultural issues contemporary with their audiences than with issues relating to the historical setting itself. Thus throughout their history, cinema Westerns have struggled with racism. As the American culture itself began serious examination of civil rights for African Americans, so did Westerns of the 1960s. In the 1950s African American racial issues were treated by recasting them as a Native American versus white struggles. Such films as John Ford’s Sergeant Rutledge (1960) and Ralph Nelson’s Duel at Diablo (1966) began serious treatment of American racial tensions using actors Woody Strode and Sidney Poitier as sympathetic African American characters, but the most significant civil rights Westerns of the 1960s and 1970s were comedies. John Sturges’s Sergeants 3 (1962) stars Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop—the Rat Pack. The fifth member of the Rat Pack was Sammy Davis Jr., an African American whose mere presence in the film as a comic equal to the white characters made a powerful cultural statement. However, the most significant advance toward integrating African Americans into Westerns as equals resulted from Cleavon Little’s brilliant comic performance of an African American sheriff in Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles (1974). From that point on, the civil rights issue of full integration into the casts of cinema Westerns was settled.
Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. Paul Varner. 2012.
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AFRICAN AMERICANS IN WESTERNS — While African Americans populated much of the historical West, they were largely neglected or relegated to submissive roles in Western cinema for most of the 20th century. The early silents of D. W. Griffith portrayed African Americans as… … Westerns in Cinema
ALTERNATIVE WESTERNS — The Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement, the American Indian movement, and other historical events of the 1960s and 1970s brought paradigmatic changes in American culture that affected every form of art and… … Westerns in Cinema
CLASSIC WESTERNS — After the silent era ended, Westerns had trouble making the transition to sound because they depended on action, not talk. It did not seem that sound could add anything to Westerns, and people wanted to watch the talkies. B Westerns filled the … Westerns in Cinema
FORD, John — (1894–1973) Born John Martin Feeney in Maine, John Ford began his career in film by working bit parts in the films of his brother (Francis Ford) and others. Among his earliest bit parts was that of a Klansman in D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a … Westerns in Cinema
TOONES, Fred — (1906–1962) Fred Toones was an African American actor in B Westerns of the pre civil rights era. Due to the racist culture of the time, he was cast exclusively as the comic Negro in menial, service type roles, always deferring to white… … Westerns in Cinema
BEST, Willie — (1913–1962) Born in Mississippi, Willie Best was an African American actor in Westerns of the pre–civil rights era. As with Fred Toones and Stepin Fetchit, Best was cast exclusively as the comic Negro in several films. He was often billed as… … Westerns in Cinema
COMIC NEGRO — Early silent and classic era Westerns reflected the culture’s typical racist attitudes. A common stock character was the comic Negro, a term reflecting the inherent racism of these films. Invariably these characters were servants, “menial”… … Westerns in Cinema
DANDRIDGE, Ruby — (1900–1987) Ruby Dandridge was an African American actress of the pre–civil rights era who primarily played comic Negro roles. She was the mother of the much more famous screen star of the 1950s, Dorothy Dandridge. Ruby Dandridge usually… … Westerns in Cinema
literature — /lit euhr euh cheuhr, choor , li treuh /, n. 1. writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays. 2.… … Universalium
Zapata Western — Zapata Westerns, nickname given to a subgenre of the so called Italian Spaghetti Westerns which dealt with overtly political themes in the mid to late 1960s. They were named after Emiliano Zapata, the famous Mexican revolutionary from the Mexican … Wikipedia