Ride, Boldly Ride: The Evolution of the American Western

Ride, Boldly Ride: The Evolution of the American Western

Ride, Boldly Ride: The Evolution of the American Western

Ride, Boldly Ride: The Evolution of the American Western

Synopsis

This comprehensive study of the Western covers its history from the early silent era to recent spins on the genre in films such as No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, True Grit, and Cowboys & Aliens. While providing fresh perspectives on landmarks such as Stagecoach, Red River, The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and The Wild Bunch, the authors also pay tribute to many under-appreciated Westerns. Ride, Boldly Ride explores major phases of the Western's development, including silent era oaters, A-production classics of the 1930s and early 1940s, and the more psychologically complex portrayals of the Westerner that emerged after World War II. The authors also examine various forms of genre-revival and genre-revisionism that have recurred over the past half-century, culminating especially in the masterworks of Clint Eastwood. They consider themes such as the inner life of the Western hero, the importance of the natural landscape, the roles played by women, the tension between myth and history, the depiction of the Native American, and the juxtaposing of comedy and tragedy. Written in clear, engaging prose, this is the only survey that encompasses the entire history of this long-lived and much-loved genre.

Excerpt

Most filmmakers tend to be devoted to movie history. Any new motion picture with serious intentions provides an opportunity for a director to respond to cinematic traditions, whether reverentially or critically. For example, the first major Western in which I was featured, A Fistful of Dollars, was a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, which was in turn a playful parody of Kurosawa’s own earlier samurai films. Like most members of the cinematic community, I have always taken plea sure in exploring connections and chains of influence like these.

I also recognize influences in my own work. I dedicated Unforgiven to a pair of filmmakers who had some effect on my early years of directing: Sergio Leone and Don Siegel. Growing up, I experienced many of the classic Western films by the likes of John Ford, Howard Hawks, William Wellman, and Anthony Mann—and watched quite a few of the not-sogreat Westerns to boot. When a Western movie is done right, with the passionate commitment of everyone involved, it rises above mere entertainment or spectacle.

The genre has outlasted the critics who have predicted its demise ever since D. W. Griffith directed his one-reel “oaters.” But the public’s recognition of the Western movie as a genuine art form was a long time coming, and it helped that the right people lent a hand in making that acknowledgement clear. Mary Lea Bandy is one of those individuals, and I got to know her when the Museum of Modern Art began programming screenings and retrospectives of my films, starting in the early . . .

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