An Overview Major defining genre of American film industry Nostalgic look at days of the untamed American frontier One of the oldest, most enduring and flexible genres One of the most characteristically American genres
An Overview Telling stories set in the American West Nostalgic historical feel Has diminished in importance as the United States moves further away from the period depicted in these movies.
Setting and Time Set in the American West Almost always in the 19 th Century (1800’s) Often incorporate the Civil War into the film directly, or the background May extend further back into the colonial period Or forward into the mid-twentieth century May range geographically from Mexico to Canada
Some setting conventions Usually set against stunning American landscapes In some movies the landscapes are the stars as much as the actors Stress the harshness of the landscape, or juxtapose the beauty of it with the dirtiness of a town
Some possible locations Isolated forts Ranch houses Isolated homestead Saloon Jail
The Hero Typical traits Often semi–nomadic characters Sole possessions consist of clothing, a gun and maybe a horse Traditional Western Heroes local lawmen ranchers army officers cowboys territorial marshals skilled, fast-draw gunfighter
Iconography Stetsons Spurs Colt. 45’s Prostitutes Saloon Sheriff Faithful Steed Indians Some high technology of the era present, e.g. telegraph, printing press, railroad Occasionally these referred to as a development just arriving, showing the end of frontier lifestyle and the march of civilization
Common themes Conquest of the wilderness Depicts code of honor rather than law Social status through acts of violence, or generosity
Traditional Elements hostile elements (often Native Americans) guns and gun fights (sometimes on horseback), violence and human massacres horses trains (and train robberies) bank robberies and holdups runaway stage coachs shoot-outs and showdowns
Traditional Elements continued Outlaws and sheriffs Cattle drives and cattle rustling Stampedes Posses in pursuit Barroom brawls Breathtaking settings and open landscapes Distinctive western clothing (denim, jeans, boots, etc.)
Spaghetti Westerns Revival of the western genre in Italy (1960’s) Low budget films Locations chosen for their cheapness, and similarity to American mid-West (southern Spain was often chosen) More action and violence than Hollywood westerns Clint Eastwood started his career in these
Revisionist Westerns Questioned the role of native as a savage Questioned the hero versus villain theme Some gave women much larger roles
And Finally… “As far as I’m concerned, Americans don’t have any original art except western movies and jazz…” Clint Eastwood
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly 1966 Sergio Leone A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery.
True Grit 1969 Henry Hathaway A drunken, hard-nosed U.S. Marshal and a Texas Ranger help a stubborn young woman track down her father's murderer in Indian territory.
3:10 to Yuma 2007 James Mangold A small-time rancher agrees to hold a captured outlaw who's awaiting a train to go to court in Yuma. A battle of wills ensues as the outlaw tries to psych out the rancher.