The American West in Film: Critical Approaches to the Western

The American West in Film: Critical Approaches to the Western

The American West in Film: Critical Approaches to the Western

The American West in Film: Critical Approaches to the Western

Synopsis

The author compares the recorded fantasies about the American West with the actual historical events. In the first part, he investigates the narrative structure of westerns. In Part 2, he studies authorship and characteristics in the directorial efforts of giants such as John Ford, Howard Hawks, Anthony Mann, and Sam Peckinpah. Third, Tuska examines the process of legendry used in connection with historical personalities such as Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, and General Custer. Finally, the author investigates Hollywood's misrepresentation of both women and Native Americans in western films. He debunks the theory that western films reflect what the American public purportedly was thinking at the time a particular movie was made. Rather, he asserts that westerns are palliatives that present the ideals of behavior and reality that writers and directors wish viewers to accept. Tuska's epilogue suggests considerable anger at the 'deliberate' misleading of realities. The 40 photographs (from 1879 to the late 1890s) vividly point out the difference between the real 'heroes' and screen reality in films from 1925-1970. Public and academic libraries, upper-division undergraduate level and above. Choice

Excerpt

The American West in Film is a book wholly devoted to the criticism of Western films from a number of different vantage points and employing a number of different critical methods. It is not a history of Western film production. That subject was addressed in THE FILMING OF THE WEST (Doubleday , 1976), a book which for a number of reasons I have withdrawn and intend to re-issue eventually in a revised and updated version. In film studies of somewhat more circumscribed scope, such as THE VANISHING LEGION: A HISTORY OF MASCOT PICTURES 1927-1935 (McFarland, 1982), I was able to combine film criticism with film history. This simply was not possible to do when it comes to a subject as exceedingly broad as the Western film. To combine the two would only produce a book so unwieldy that no publisher would be able to bring it out at a reasonable price.

A critic writing for the THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW complained that in THE FILMING OF THE WEST I did not deal at all with such issues as the way in which Native Americans or women have been treated in Western films. I did not do so because I did not feel I had sufficient space in that book to do them justice. The present undertaking, however, is concerned primarily with what was filmed, a critical survey of the fantasies, and very rarely the truths, about the American West recorded on film. These fantasies, I believe, are best contrasted with the historical realities of the American West and so I address the Western film in terms of structure, of auteurisme, of frontier legends, and of stereotypical contents, keeping historical reality at all times as the basic standard against which to measure the degrees of deviation and by this means to begin to understand the motivations behind the calculated distortions. Hence, in this book Native Americans and women have each been accorded a chapter.

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