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The American West On Film - Myth And Reality by Richard A. Maynard





No figure has dominated American romantic folklore like the legendary cowboy. Daring, noble, ethical, romantic, he permeates our popular media to this very day. He personifies our national self-image—the conqueror of wilder-ness, savagery, and villainy. He is America's knight-errant with a Colt 45.


Our fascination with this mythical figure and the great plains he is alleged to have conquered has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual history of the American West. The national hero-worship of the Westerner is based on needs within American society which causes us to reproduce the cowboy legend generation after generation through our popular mass media. Western novels and films are ingrained traditions of American culture, and we need to understand why they exist and how they help shape our national personality..


The purpose of this anthology and the films that should accompany it is to examine the roots of the Western legend and their implications. It begins by outlining the reality of Western history, which is essentially drab and unromantic. Once the true Western past is understood, the myth which engulfs it is analyzed. Hence the bulk of this volume concentrates on the fabric of the legend itself. It includes extracts from popular Western literature, as well as literary and historical analyses of such material. Most of the data, however, deals with movies. Screenplay extracts, still-photographs from Westerns, promotional copy, contemporary reviews, as well as criticism from leading film scholars, are presented to provide as broad an examination of the Western myth as possible.


Our national preoccupation with the cowboy legend reflects an American tradition of militant individualism, violence, White supremacy, and an often contradictory code of right and wrong. Recent treatments of Western lore tend to have become more humane, but the mystique of the cowboy's West still dominates our culture, demonstrated by the continuing popularity of the West-ern movie. This work, like others in the Film Attitudes and Issues series, is designed to show that an analysis of our mass media—particularly films—can be a useful reflector of American society in general.


Original publication date:  1974

Language:  English

Pages:  144




































The American West On Film - Myth And Reality by Richard A. Maynard [PDF eBook]

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