Hollywood, Westerns and the 1930s: The Lost Trail

By Peter Stanfield | Go to book overview

Conclusion

At the conclusion of this study, readers with a bias towards the canon of ‘great’ Westerns will have found few, if any, new titles to add to their lists of Hollywood’s crowning achievements. By examining how Hollywood and its subsidiary forms of discourse ‘positioned’ and understood the Western, I have, however, radically revised the ground for further study of the genre. By shifting debate away from the overarching paradigm of the frontier myth, and by analysing Westerns from the perspective of their production and consumption contexts, I have offered a more historically grounded and culturally responsive understanding of the genre than has hitherto been undertaken.

I have based the study on an empirical investigation to understand why Hollywood produced Westerns and to frame a new method for approaching textual readings of the films. These readings have repositioned critical orthodoxies as a result of respecting the parameters established and sanctioned by both the industry and its initial consumers, the press, fan magazines, censorship boards and industry correspondence.

Most critical writings on Westerns and society assume that there are grounds for reading of the films allegorically. I have retrieved this general approach but have allowed the material studied to determine what these readings might have been for a contemporary audience. While an audience is hypothetically free to read whatever it cares to within a particular film or group of films, this study has argued that Hollywood and its media satellites offered historical and cultural boundaries by which those readings were most likely to be set. Thus, late 1930s Westerns were deliberately ‘double–coded’: received both as ‘harmless entertainment’ and as engaged on a political, social and cultural front. This engagement might be with the escalating conflict

-225-

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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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