Hollywood's West: The American Frontier in Film, Television, and History

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American historians such as Frederick Jackson Turner have argued that the West has been the region that most clearly defines American democracy and the national ethos. Throughout the twentieth century, the "frontier thesis" influenced film and television producers who used the West as a backdrop for an array of dramatic explorations of America's history and the evolution of its culture and values. The common themes found in Westerns distinguish the genre as a quintessentially American form of dramatic art. In Hollywood's West, Peter C. Rollins, John E. O'Connor, and the nation's leading film scholars analyze popular conceptions of the frontier as a fundamental element of American history and culture. This volume examines classic Western films and programs that span nearly a century, from Cimarron (1931) to Turner Network Television's recent made-for-TV movies. Many of the films discussed here are considered among the greatest cinematic landmarks of all time. The essays highlight the ways in which Westerns have both shaped and reflected the dominant social and political concerns of their respective eras. While Cimarron challenged audiences with an innovative, complex narrative, other Westerns of the early sound era such as The Great Meadow (1931) frequently presented nostalgic visions of a simpler frontier era as a temporary diversion from the hardships of the Great Depression. Westerns of the 1950s reveal the profound uncertainty cast by the cold war, whereas later Westerns display heightened violence and cynicism, products of a society marred by wars, assassinations, riots, and political scandals. The volume concludes with a comprehensive filmography and an informative bibliography of scholarly writings on the Western genre. This collection will prove useful to film scholars, historians, and both devoted and casual fans of the Western genre. Hollywood's West makes a significant contribution to the understanding of both the historic American frontier and its innumerable popular representations.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Framed by a solid introduction and, at the back end of it, an excellent filmography and a first-rate bibliography, Hollywood's West: The American Frontier in Film, Television, and History offers both canonical and revisionist insights into the Western. The editors plunge into their introduction with all the vigor of a Sooner land rush, attending to Western history, art, and scholarship at breakneck speed." —Armando Jose Prats, Great Plains Quarterly" —

"An excellent contribution to the study of screen Westerns."—ISLE" —

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813191966
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 1/23/2009
  • Series: Film and History Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 392
  • Sales rank: 1,533,304
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter C. Rollins is Regents Professor Emeritus of English and American Film Studies at Oklahoma State University and is the former editor of the journal Film & HistoryJohn E. O'Connor is professor emeritus of the Federal Department of History at New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University.
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Table of Contents

Introduction : the west, western, and American character 1
Ch. 1 The new western history in 1931 : RKO and the challenge of Cimarron 37
Ch. 2 Tradition, parody, and adaptation : Jed Buell's unconventional west 65
Ch. 3 The lone ranger : adult legacies of a Juvenile Western 81
Ch. 4 Wee Willie Winkie goes west : the influence of the British Empire Genre on Ford's Cavalry Trilogy 99
Ch. 5 Beyond the river : women and the role of the feminine in Howard Hawks's Red River 115
Ch. 6 The "ache for home" : assimilation and separatism in Anthony Mann's Devil's doorway 126
Ch. 7 Giant helps America recognize the cost of discrimination : a lesson of World War II 160
Ch. 8 Rewriting High noon : transformations in American popular political culture during the Cold War, 1952-1968 175
Ch. 9 Almost angels, almost feminists : women in the professionals 198
Ch. 10 Cowboys and comedy : the simultaneous deconstruction and reinforcement of generic conventions in the western parody 218
Ch. 11 Historical discourse and American identity in westerns since the Reagan era 239
Ch. 12 Challenging legends, complicating border lines : the concept of "Frontera" in John Sayles's Lone Star 261
Ch. 13 Turner network television's made-for-TV western films : engaging audiences through genre and themes 281
Filmography 300
Bibliography 322
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