In the American film industries, westerns films form the dominant defining genre. They are a nostalgic representation of the wild American Frontier (the borderline between antiquity and civilizations). Accordingly, they form one of the most enduring, oldest and flexible genres in American mythical narrations. Having the most popular genre in Hollywood, western films begun in the early 20th century in 1960. The first film: The Great Train Robbery garnered attendance as the biggest hit in 1939 making Broncho Billy a star at that time. Red River Red Bravo, Seven Men from Now, Man of The West rank were also among the first westerns films created in the 1960s. This genre of films later became more popular in the 1950s and 1960s with many films being released at this time. Examples include the Wild Bunch in 1969, The Searches in 1956 and The High Noon in 1952. It is also through drama and literary pieces that westerns films were created (Haas et al). Additionally, the Japanese Samurai warriors and Americans influenced each other in creating this genre of film. It is through The Yojimbo of Japan for instance, that for A Fistfull of Dollars was created in 1964. The Magnificient seven served as a remake of Japans Akiro Kurosawa. During the cold war, westerners had a strong influence on European cinemas which had delved in this genre in great lengths.
Specific settings in this genre include isolated homesteads, lonely isolated forts, small frontier towns, ranch houses, isolated homesteads, saloon with bad girls, jail, the livery stable, and small-town main streets (Navitski et al). They may even include Native American characters, bounty hunters, bandits, outlaws, farmers, ranchers, lawmen and mounted cavalry soldiers. Iconic elements include saddles, buckskins and bandannas, hanging trees, canteens, stage coaches, cattle drivers and long-horned cattle, commercial sex workers with a heart of gold. Often, the cowboys are seen owning a pistol or a revolver. They have a favorite or loyal horse which they use as a means for transport. These films deploy a stock plot of crime where cowboys or heroes pursue a wrong doer with the intent of revenge and vengeance (Walker). The chase always culminates in a shootout or quick draw battle. Thematically, western films involve the conquest of wilderness and downplaying nature in the name of civilization and confiscation of territorial rights by the Native Americans.
Correspondingly, the societies in this films show organization and codes of honor. The codes of honor are personal at most times as individuals seek out personal justice or revenge; a contrast to contemporary films where justice is performed by impersonal channels such the law department or courtrooms. A divide between good versus evil, right versus wrong etc forms the route upon which the characters stage their mission. Identifiably, a common scene in western films involves a feud between cowboys, at noon, each holding pistols in the quest and readiness for revenge.
Young Guns by Christopher Cain film (1988)
In this Western film loosely based on actual people and events, the movies star, Billy is sought for a menial crime by the authorities. John Tunstall, a British ranch owner who hopes to prosper in the cattle business takes him in. Tunstall then employs a group of youths who act as regulators to watch and monitor his ranch. In exchange, he offers to teach them literacy skills while reforming them into better men. Unfortunately, conflict ensues between Tunstalls business and Lawrence Murphy his competitor. Murphy is a murderous and corrupt businessman whose pervasive connections make him powerful. One day while Murphy is out making a living, Murphys crew ambush and kill him. An atmosphere or rage bitterness and vengeance clouds Billy and his five men and they seek to revenge by bloodshed. They are deputized to serve arrest warrants in the killing. However, when Billy murders the suspects in revenge, his faithful pals become accessories in a plan to wipe out murphy and his conspirators. The five men are forever in a state of run: running away from bounty hunters and the authority.
The plot in the movie Young Guns did meet my expectations in relation to westerns genre films. A common scene in western films involves a feud two cowboys, at noon, each holding pistols in the quest for revenge and Billy, in retaliation, believing he is the one to get justice for the murder of Tunstell sets out on a revenge mission to wipe out his enemy. One of the main aspects representative of the western genres present in this movie is the presence and status of the Native American. Chavez, a mestizo, represents both the Indian and Spanish cultures to demonstrate the large immigration numbers. In the last scene, a shooting led by Murphys men depicts the prevalence of gun use in this film genre. Also, the characters are depicted wearing cowboy hats and boots while riding horses as they pursue their enemies. This film genre I am more willing to watch in the future because it provides me with the thrill of danger. Loyalty is evident amongst these cowboys. The characters, in the film for instance show loyalty to their leader by doing whatever it takes to get justice served.
The American westerns films is facing extinction in production as only one, The Lone Ranger has been released in four summers. This is because of generations changed in taste as black and white pictures were gradually eroded. Also, the emergence of more genres like marvel, comic and superheroes replaced the genre.
Haas, Elizabeth, Terry Christensen, and Peter J. Haas. Projecting politics: political messages in American films. Routledge, 2015.
Navitski, Rielle, and Nicolas Poppe, eds. Cosmopolitan Film Cultures in Latin America, 1896-1960. Indiana University Press, 2017.
Walker, Janet. Westerns: Films through history. Routledge, 2013.
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