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June 1994


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 9 Jun 1994 09:28:47 -0600
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I haven't seen MAVERICK yet (but probably will eventually), but in re:
the conversations about history and the western, it's often been observed
that Westerns echo the times in which they were made (as per remarks on
Leone, et al.), and that certainly seems valid for many, if not all,
Westerns (not to mention other genres).  STAGECOACH, for example, does
offer Ford's "little person" populism and is a commentary on the
Depression (Gatewood, the Banker and real villain of the film) mouths the
pure Republican Party platform from the 1930s ("America for the Americans!
Keep government out of business!  We need a businessman in charge!  The
national debt is shocking!"--hmm, was that 1930s or 1980s?).
What hasn't been looked at closely, as far as I know, is how direct memory and
experience affect the portrayal of historical periods or events.  For instance,
Hoot Gibson and W.S. Hart had experience in the "old" West that they brought
to their silent films.  (Even Tom Mix did as well, as I recall.)  The next
generation of "mainstream" western directors (Ford, Hawks, others) tend to
come from outside tradition, as much as they tried to recapture it.  Post-
WWII films from SHANE and HIGH NOON on tend to allegorize or become
increasingly self-refential, until we come to attempts to recapture the
surface structure of an older generation's filmgoing experience, not what
those films represented, as in SILVERADO.  Does this seem to make any sense?
--Don Larsson