Elements of popular culture, such as literature and films, are major industries. If scholars are to fully understand how popular culture evolves and functions, techniques for dealing with the impact of business need to be factored into the analysis.
Using the history of the cowboy story from 1820 to 1970 as an extended example, Alf H. Walle combines popular culture scholarship with marketing theory to provide a hybrid analysis. Wall examines major authors and genres of Western American literature and film; he also explores why certain respected authors were unable to significantly impact the cowboy story even though their innovations were embraced by later generations. Finally Wall provides a hybrid analysis combining business and popular culture theory in an overarching analysis.
Suggesting that better understanding of conflicts between Anglo and Latin America can come from the study of their contrasting popular fictions, the author compares the traditional attachment in Latin America to government by a strong man—a caudillo—to the diametrically opposed expansionist frontier ideology of the United States—the cowboy—who makes space safe for Anglo colonization.
Though the United States emerged from World War II with superpower status and quickly entered a period of economic prosperity, the stresses and contradictions of the Cold War nevertheless cast a shadow over American life. The same period marked the heyday of the western film. Cowboys as Cold Warriors shows that this was no coincidence. It examines many of the significant westerns released between 1946 and 1962, analyzing how they responded to and influenced the cultural climate of the country. Author Stanley Corkin discusses a dozen films in detail, connecting them to each other and to numerous others. He considers how these cultural productions both embellished the myth of the American frontier and reflected the era in which they were made.
Films discussed include: My Darling Clementine, Red River, Duel in the Sun, Pursued, Fort Apache, Broken Arrow, The Gunfighter, High Noon, Shane, The Searchers, Gunfight at the OK Corral, The Magnificent Seven, The Alamo, Lonely Are the Brave, Ride the High Country, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
Imperial Affects is the first sustained account of American action-based cinema as melodrama. From the earliest war films through the Hollywood Western and the late-century action cinema, imperialist violence and mobility have been produced as sites of both visceral pleasure and moral virtue. Suffering and omnipotence operate as twinned affects in this context, inviting identification with an American national subject constituted as both victimized and invincible—a powerful and persistent conjunction traced here across a century of cinema.
Films located in the American West and the Western as a cinematic genre have endured throughout the history of moviemaking. Today, this tradition of battles between good versus evil, populists versus profiteers, and man versus nature may have been largely assimilated and transformed into action adventures with car chases replacing mounted posses, yet the genre remains popular with audiences. In studies of the Hollywood Western, the importance of landscape itself, the idyllic or treacherous environment portrayed in these films, often receives supporting-role status. Without the land, however, American national mythmaking would not exist.
The essays in this volume scrutinize the special place of nature and landscape in films—including silent, documentary, and feature length film—that are specifically American and Western. The films discussed here go beyond the stereotypical sagebrush setting. Although many of the films closely fit the standard conventions of the Western, others demonstrate the fluidity of the genre. The wildness of the western environment as a central fact of the American mythos encompasses far more than a brief period of national history or a specific geographical location.
The Sagebrush Trail is a history of Western movies but also a history of twentieth-century America. Richard Aquila’s fast-paced narrative covers both the silent and sound eras, and includes classic westerns such as Stagecoach, A Fistful of Dollars, and Unforgiven, as well as B-Westerns that starred film cowboys like Tom Mix, Gene Autry, and Hopalong Cassidy.
The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 traces the birth and growth of Westerns from 1900 through the end of World War II. Part 2 focuses on a transitional period in Western movie history during the two decades following World War II. Finally, part 3 shows how Western movies reflected the rapid political, social, and cultural changes that transformed America in the 1960s and the last decades of the twentieth century.
The Sagebrush Trail explains how Westerns evolved throughout the twentieth century in response to changing times, and it provides new evidence and fresh interpretations about both Westerns and American history. These films offer perspectives on the past that historians might otherwise miss. They reveal how Americans reacted to political and social movements, war, and cultural change. The result is the definitive story of Western movies, which contributes to our understanding of not just movie history but also the mythic West and American history. Because of its subject matter and unique approach that blends movies and history, The Sagebrush Trail should appeal to anyone interested in Western movies, pop culture, the American West, and recent American history and culture.
The mythic West beckons but eludes. Yet glimpses of its utopian potential can always be found, even if just for a few hours in the realm of Western movies. There on the silver screen, the mythic West continues to ride tall in the saddle along a “sagebrush trail” that reveals valuable clues about American life and thought.
At once informative, comic, and plaintive, Seeing Red—Hollywood’s Pixeled Skins is an anthology of critical reviews that reexamines the ways in which American Indians have traditionally been portrayed in film. From George B. Seitz’s 1925 The Vanishing American to Rick Schroder’s 2004 Black Cloud, these 36 reviews by prominent scholars of American Indian Studies are accessible, personal, intimate, and oftentimes autobiographic. Seeing Red—Hollywood’s Pixeled Skins offers indispensible perspectives from American Indian cultures to foreground the dramatic, frequently ridiculous difference between the experiences of Native peoples and their depiction in film. By pointing out and poking fun at the dominant ideologies and perpetuation of stereotypes of Native Americans in Hollywood, the book gives readers the ability to recognize both good filmmaking and the dangers of misrepresenting aboriginal peoples. The anthology offers a method to historicize and contextualize cinematic representations spanning the blatantly racist, to the well-intentioned, to more recent independent productions. Seeing Red is a unique collaboration by scholars in American Indian Studies that draws on the stereotypical representations of the past to suggest ways of seeing American Indians and indigenous peoples more clearly in the twenty-first century.
Academics have generally dismissed Hollywood's cowboy and Indian movies - one of its defining successful genres - as specious, one-dimensional, and crassly commercial. In Shooting Cowboys and Indians, Andrew Brodie Smith challenges this simplistic characterization of the genre, illustrating the complex and sometimes contentious process by which business interests commercialized images of the West.
Tracing the western from its hazy silent-picture origins in the 1890s to the advent of talking pictures in the 1920s, Smith examines the ways in which silent westerns contributed to the overall development of the film industry.
Focusing on such early important production companies as Selig Polyscope, New York Motion Picture, and Essanay, Smith revises current thinking about the birth of Hollywood and the establishment of Los Angeles as the nexus of filmmaking in the United States. Smith also reveals the role silent westerns played in the creation of the white male screen hero that dominated American popular culture in the twentieth century.
Illustrated with dozens of historic photos and movie stills, this engaging and substantive story will appeal to scholars interested in Western history, film history, and film studies as well as general readers hoping to learn more about this little-known chapter in popular filmmaking.
"Lenihan's fine study
[brings] new levels of scholarship and sophistication to the study of
western films.... Should prove useful in the classroom, both for social
history and film history courses. It will introduce readers to a new way
to view some of the old horse operas that they had once taken for granted
as fluffy entertainment."
-- Western American Literature
'"The best of the recent
books to deal with Westerns produced since World War II --- in fact, probably
the best recent study of the Western."
-- Journal of the West
"Recommended for the
student of film and the hardcore film buff. The rest of you will be surprised,
delighted, perhaps even angered by some of the conclusions Lenihan has
-- Film World
The Six-Gun Mystique Sequel
John G. Cawelti University of Wisconsin Press, 1999 Library of Congress P96.W48C393 1999 | Dewey Decimal 700.4278
The Six-Gun Mystique Sequel is a revised and considerably expanded edition of The Six-Gun Mystique, a pioneering study of the Western as a popular genre that has been widely influential since its original publication in 1970.
In this expanded version, Cawelti revises his analysis of the structural characteristics of the Western novel and film, synthesizing much of the rich discussion of the Western genre that has appeared since The Six-Gun Mystique's original publication. To this structural analysis he adds a new account of the genre's history and its relationship to the myths of the West that have played such an influential role in American history. The Six-Gun Mystique Sequel concludes with an exploration of the continuing influence of Western themes and symbols on many aspects of postmodern American culture, and an assessment of the critical tradition that has developed around the Western genre. The appendices of the book are also revised and expanded to include useful lists of the most important Western novels and films, as well as the best critical and historical studies of different aspects of the genre.
The Western film is inextricably tied to American culture: untamed landscapes, fiercely independent characters, and an unwavering distinction between good and evil. Yet Westerns began in the early twentieth century as far more fluid works of comedy, adventure, and historical explorations of the frontier landscape. Nanna Verhoeff examines here the earliest films made in the Western genre and proposes the thought-provoking argument that these little-studied films demand new ways of considering Westerns and the history of cinema.
Verhoeff analyzes the earliest American and European Westerns—made between 1894 and 1915—and finds them to be an international repository for anxieties about modernity and identity, not the instructional morality tales we assume them to be. She draws on an array of archival materials—photography, paintings, Wild West shows, popular ethnographic studies, and pulp literature—to locate these early Westerns more precisely in their original social and cultural contexts. These early films—which coincided with the “closing” of the West and rises in rates of immigration, railroad travel, and urbanization—drove the transformation of film, Verhoeff argues, from just another new technology into the dominant cultural vehicle for dealing with issues of national and personal nostalgia, as well as uncertainty in the face of modernity. From these fragmentary early films Verhoeff extracts a rich historical analysis that radically reorients our view of the first two decades of cinema history in America and provocatively connects the evolution of Westerns to our transition today into a new media culture.
The West in Early Cinema challenges established history and criticism of the Western film and will be an invaluable resource for the film scholar and John Wayne fan alike.
Ranging from the novels of James Fenimore Cooper to Louis L'Amour, and from classic films like Stagecoach to spaghetti Westerns like A Fistful of Dollars, Mitchell shows how Westerns helped assuage a series of crises in American culture. This landmark study shows that the Western owes its perennial appeal not to unchanging conventions but to the deftness with which it responds to the obsessions and fears of its audience. And no obsession, Lee Mitchell argues, has figured more prominently in the Western than what it means to be a man.
"Elegantly written. . . . provocative . . . characterized by [Mitchell's] own tendency to shoot from the hip."—J. Hoberman, London Review of Books
"[Mitchell's] book would be worth reading just for the way he relates Benjamin Spock's Baby and Child to the postwar Western."—The Observer
"Integrating a careful handling of historical context with a keen eye for textual nuances, Mitchell reconstructs the Western's aesthetic tradition of the 19th century."—Aaron M. Wehner, San Francisco Review