The Western as a Film Genre

1449 Words 6 Pages
The Western as a Genre

John Ford’s Stagecoach (United Artists) has been hailed as the official Western Classic. Released in 1939 after the lull in production of Westerns caused by the advent of sound and The Great Depression during the mid 1930’s, it is considered one of the key films that helped revived the A-Western in the 1940’s prior to WWII. Stagecoach has the classic Western recipe. The main staple of that recipe in Stagecoach were authentically dressed cowboys and town folk, the dress determined who or what they were; transportation in the form of horses, wagons, or stagecoaches; an authentic location, Monument Valley for example; and varying clashes some between Indians and settlers and some between individuals and
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The demand couldn’t be filled by the American film industry so the theater owners turned in large part to the import of foreign films to keep the theaters in product. In 1907 the film industry took a risk by sending film troupes out west to film on location. This was an attempt to undermine the new influx of foreign made films, by giving the audience an experience that was extremely hard to copy. These authentically Western films became very popular and successful and by 1909 were being produced in California by the Bison Company. By 1910 the Western had become the first cinematic genre, and films were being produced on an industrial scale with the development of the detailed shooting script introduced by Thomas Ince of the Bison Company.
Over the next 10 years the cowboy character was distilled down through Bronco Billy to four simple traits: traditional cowboy costume, underlying honesty, relish for action, and free and easy lifestyle that always allows him to be available for adventure. During this time the industry developed the Indian character further, and surprisingly we find explorations into Indian life in some of these films and not just the setup of whites verses Indians. The theme of the films with Indians portrayed in a good light was rare, and if they had a romantic relationship with a “white” person, normally someone died, preventing the intermingling of the races following the trend of discrimination still found in the U.S.
Competition between
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