Hollywood, Westerns and the 1930s: The Lost Trail

By Peter Stanfield | Go to book overview

Introduction

The task of the narrator is not an easy one, he said. He appears to
be required to choose his tale from among the many that are
possible. But of course that is not the case. The case is rather to
make many of the one. Always the teller must be at pains to devise
against his listener’s claim—perhaps spoken, perhaps not—that he
has heard the tale before. He sets forth the categories into which
the listener will wish to fit the narrative as he hears it. But he
understands that the narrative is itself in fact no category but is
rather the category of all categories for there is nothing which falls
outside its purview. All is telling. Do not doubt it.

(Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing1)

‘Like in a dime novel, we eliminate the old gent, you marry the
girl and get the ranch’.

(dialogue, West of the Divide, Monogram/Lone Star, 1933)

Like McCarthy’s narrator, my task is not an easy one. Among the possible narratives that have already accounted for the WesternCivilisation Over Savagery, Frontier Myth, American Exceptionalism, Social History, Heroic Pioneers, Cowboy as Existential Hero, Rugged Individualism, Restoration of Masculinity, and Ahistorical Social Mirror—I want to tell another story, one which restores the cultural vitality and historical dynamism that have been largely absent from those narratives’ accounts of the Western in the 1930s. Beneath previous accounts of Westerns lies a buried story which is more closely embedded in the lived experience of American daily life in the 1930s. This book aims to recover the immediate context in which Westerns were produced, exhibited and viewed in the 1930s, and thereby fully to historicise them within their production and consumption contexts.

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Hollywood, Westerns and the 1930s: The Lost Trail
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The First Cycle of Sound Westerns 15
  • 2 - Series Westerns, Will Rogers and the Emergence of the Singing Cowboy 1931–1935 56
  • 3 - Series Westerns Masking the Modern 78
  • 4 - Class–A Western Features 1935–1938 117
  • 5 - Democratic Art Westerns 1939–1941 148
  • 6 - Dixie Cowboys Representing the Nation 193
  • Conclusion 225
  • Notes 228
  • Bibliography 248
  • Index 255
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