Hollywood, Westerns and the 1930s: The Lost Trail

By Peter Stanfield | Go to book overview

6
Dixie Cowboys
Representing the Nation

The 1939/40 Westerns were recognised by both the industry and its critics as having an ideological accent that enabled Hollywood to practise a limited and cautious form of propaganda for the defence of American ‘values’. In turn, this was offered as proof that the industry’s self–regulating body was not imposing monopolistic practices that censored the dissemination of films which addressed contemporary issues. All of the major studios participated in the 1939/40 cycle of Westerns, and for most of the studios these Westerns constituted their principal prestige pictures for that season.

Domestically and internationally beleaguered, Hollywood turned to the theme of ‘Americanism’, an ambiguous concept that allowed the studios to suggest that they were dealing with contentious political issues on the domestic front, while denying any stake in either an ‘America First’ or an interventionist platform. Writing in 1933, Leon Samson considered Americanism to be neither a tradition or a territory:

but a doctrine—what socialism is to a socialist … a solemn assent
to a handful of final notions—democracy, liberty, opportunity, to
all of which the American adheres rationalistically much as the
socialist adheres to his socialism—because it does him good,
because it gives him work, because, so he thinks, it guarantees him
happiness.1

In a rather feeble bid to keep markets open for their products, the theme of ‘Americanism’ enabled the studios to maintain that their products were internally focused and therefore politically neutral on international affairs.

-193-

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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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