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June 1994


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David Desser <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 9 Jun 1994 14:54:16 -0500
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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
Don--Good points, indeed, abovt "direct experience" versus "surface
structure." Again, I could recommend GUNFIGHTER NATION by Richard Slotkin
for the dime novels written by and about contemporary "Western" heroes,
including Alan Pinkerton, for instance.  "Authenticity" is not, however, a
standard of value in viewing a film, necessarily (not that you implied it
David Desser,UIUC Cinema Studies
2109 FLB/707 S. Mathews, Urbana, IL  61801