Hollywood, Westerns and the 1930s: The Lost Trail

By Peter Stanfield | Go to book overview

5
Democratic Art
Westerns 1939–1941

For critics and reviewers, the renaissance of the Western at the end of the decade was greeted as a return to a more democratic and American form of picture making. In particular, the plaudits garnered by Stagecoach (1939) suggest that reviewers had wearied of the ‘sophisticated’ subjects that they perceived had come to dominate American cinema from the mid to late 1930s. The Moving Picture Daily review encapsulated this idea in its nostalgia for a pre–self–conscious cinema, which lay at the heart of why it liked Ford’s film:

This, ladies and gentlemen of the box office, is a Western after
your own hearts, the kind with which Tom Mix, Bill Hart and
Broncho Billy Anderson used to please all the people all the
time, but beneficiary of all improvements the art–industry has
accumulated since those pioneer delineators of the American
pioneers rode the screen. This is, without question, the biggest
and best such Western Hollywood has turned out since the screen
became self–conscious.1

This point was echoed by the National Board of Review that rated the film ‘exceptional’. Stagecoach ‘brings things that are eternally delightful back out of the youth of the movies, with a freshness and vigor of something newly created’.2 The Film Daily review emphasised the ‘humanising’ aspect of the screenplay and performances against Hollywood dramas of characters who live a charmed and otherworldly life among the urban elite:

-148-

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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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