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The Western as a Film Genre Essay

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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 communities… This recipe had been used many times over by the time Stagecoach is filmed in 1939.
The development of the Western genre originally had its beginnings in biographies of frontiersmen and novels written about the western frontier in the late 1800’s based on myth and Manifest Destiny. When the film industry decided to turn its lenses onto the cowboy in 1903 with The Great Train Robbery there was a plethora of literature on the subject both in non-fiction and fiction. The Western also found roots in the ‘Wild West’ stage productions and rodeos of the time. Within the early areas of American literature and stage productions the legend and fear of the west being a savage untamed wilderness was set in the minds of the American people. The productions and rodeos added action and frivolity to the Western film genre.
The American film industry’s early attempts at the narrative Western were limited and in the early years were produced mainly in the east. During this early time in the film industry the...


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...he years from a classic plot to including aliens, but the basic recipe is the same. A lone cowboy on the edge of society, placed in some predicament that causes him to have to use the violence he has the capability to use, but doesn’t like using to get himself or others out of the predicament.




Works Cited

Sturges, J. (Director) (1960). The magnificent seven [Theater].

Ford, J. (Director) (1939). Stagecoach [Theater].

Porter, E. (Director) (1903). The great train robbery [Theater].

Hughes, H. (Director) (1943). The outlaw [Theater].

Friedman, L., Desser, D., Kozloff, S., Nichimson, M., & Prince, S. (2014). An introduction to film genres. New York, London: W.W. Norton & Company.

Lewis, J. (2008). American film a history. New York, London: W.W. Norton & Company.

Buscombe, E. (1988). The bfi companion to the western. New York : Atheneum.



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