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 void and began their own traditions, especially with singing cowboy movies. Cecil B. DeMille’s The Plainsman (1936) and John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939), however, resurrected large-budget Westerns not seen since the days of James Cruze’s The Covered Wagon (1923). The classic Western tradition that began in the 1930s continued until the early 1960s. The height of the classic era was probably the 1950s with such films as High Noon (1952) and Shane (1953). The films of this era, while of immense variety, shared basic assumptions about the myth of the West and about American culture and values. As with all Westerns, they commented on contemporary concerns through mythical narratives.
   According to John G. Cawelti (1999), “The classic Western projected contemporary tensions and conflicts of values into a mythical past where they could be balanced against one another and resolved in an increasingly ambiguous moment of violent action” (97). For American culture during this period, “the Western served as an unofficial myth of America’s situation in the world” (Cawelti 1999, 98). These movies particularly emphasized the role of the gunfighter, whether an individual or an official lawman, who purified through regenerative violence a town or community corrupted by the domination of outlaws. This archetypal conflict reflected the United States’new role as the major superpower in conflict with the Soviet menace during the cold war. As the later problems posed by the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement came to preoccupy Americans’ worries, the classic Western began its long decline. However, because classic Westerns dominated the movies for so long, antimyth Westerns inevitably came along after the 1960s and called into question the values of these older films.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • CLASSIC WESTERN FORMULAS —    The Great Train Robbery (1903), along with early popular novels such as Owen Wister’s The Virginian (1902), quickly established the basic formulas for classic Westerns. Since the beginning, cinema Westerns, like popular Western novels, have… …   Westerns in Cinema

  • WESTERNS, ARTISTIC VALUE —    For most of the history of cinema, Westerns have been considered the lowest of low culture. For many older critics, even the few great films of John Fordfall far below the mark of what one might consider high art. These critics dismiss… …   Westerns in Cinema

  • SPAGHETTI WESTERNS —    By the 1960s cinema Westerns were becoming so popular worldwide, especially in Europe, that the supply was having difficulty meeting the demand. Cinecitta Studios, among others, had been specializing in cheaply made, quickly produced action… …   Westerns in Cinema

  • B WESTERNS —    B Western, a term now losing currency, technically refers to low budget films shown as the second part of double features, becoming popular in the 1930s and the 1940s. But the term has also been used to refer to any low budget film, including… …   Westerns in Cinema

  • ANTIMYTH WESTERNS —    Concurrent with the 1960s’revolution of cultural values, cinema Westerns began to challenge assumptions upon which classic Westerns were based. Perhaps the most obvious result was the deterritorialization of the classic Western by Italian… …   Westerns in Cinema

  • FORMALIST WESTERNS —    Formalist Westerns, a type of alternative Western that began appearing after the 1970s, ultimately derive from the spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone and others. The term originates from Richard Slotkin, who identifies Clint Eastwood’s Joe… …   Westerns in Cinema

  • NEOREALIST WESTERNS —    Neorealist Westerns are a kind of alternative Westernthat began appearing after the 1970s. While paying extreme fidelity to historical reality, neorealist Westerns develop from revisionist interpretations of Western history and, thus, expose… …   Westerns in Cinema

  • MYTHOLOGICAL HISTORICISM AND ALTERNATIVE WESTERNS —    No matter how much a director of alternative Westernsmay want to counter images, themes, and even cliches of classic Westerns, the cultural accoutrements of a century long film tradition remains. Armando Pratt refers to this fact as… …   Westerns in Cinema

  • CULTURAL VALUE AND SIGNIFICANCE OF WESTERNS —    While many Hollywood Westerns are little more than whimsical stories of legitimated violence, serious Westerns attempt to examine social issues in ways that no other medium can. An underlying assumption of all serious study of Westerns is that …   Westerns in Cinema

  • GENRE FILMS AND WESTERNS —    The classic Western differs from other popular genre films in several ways. It differs because of the symbolic landscape in which the Western takes place and because of its influence on the character and actions of the hero. Detective or… …   Westerns in Cinema

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.