The Western

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					                                  An introduction to
                                  The Western

Presentation by Robert Martinez
Images as cited.                   
             Hard men, with a code to steer by, stand
               up, don’t run, count on no one but
               yourself. Men who never learned to
            deceive themselves. These are the men of
                      the American western.

                                                                           Randolph Scott
 The mythic western theme is persistent in
  American culture, thanks in large part to
the movies. It was, for a long time, how the
         rest of the world saw us.

    The Great Train Robbery
• 12-minute silent film in 1903 considered
           the first modern film.

                 We were all cowboys and gunslingers,
                 operating according to some unwritten
                  rules of the untamed American West.

             Coach Martinez
               5 years old,
              July 8, 1968

Photograph provided by author’s personal collection.
           As a little tyke, playing Cowboys & Indians
           made for a great afternoon. I always made
            my little brother be the Indian (so I could
                             shoot him.)

                                                 Coach Martinez and his little brother
Photograph from personal collection of author.                (1968.)
      I spent many a Saturday afternoon
      watching old western movie reruns on t.v.,
      especially since that’s about all that was
      on. Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger was
      my favorite.
                                                         The Lone Ranger
                   The masked lawman & his trusted
                    Indian companion Tonto were as
                 popular to kids as Superman & Batman.           
         Television programming in the 50s & 60s
        consisted of many western shows, such as
          Bonanza, Wagon Train, High Chaparral,
        The Rifleman, and Gunsmoke…but movies
                      were the best.

American westerns were the things of
dreams and adventure for young men
growing up in the U.S.A. But were the
   westerns really All-American?

        In truth, our filmmakers have often taken
         their leads from artists working in other
           countries. Japan’s Akira Kurosawa’s
       classis Samurai pictures became box office
       successes in America, remade as westerns.
The Seven Samurai (1954), was moved to
indigenous screens as The Magnificent
Seven, starring some of the biggest film
stars of the day including Steve McQueen,
Yul Brenner, Charles Bronson, and James

                    … Yojimbo (1961), catapulted Clint
                  Eastwood to fame as the “Man with No
                  Name,” in A Fistful of Dollars, in 1964.
                A Fistful of Dollars director was Sergio
                   Leone, the Italian responsible for
                   Eastwood’s “spaghetti western”
        So you could say that American westerns
        aren’t really so “American.” Or maybe it is,
         after all, America is a melting pot from all
                       over the world.
           Moviegoers the world over recognize the
          western as America’s defining movie genre
            (at least, until the ongoing saga of Star
                         John Wayne
          John Wayne was the ultimate western
          star. But why? No one seems to be able to
          sum up why, except for maybe one film
          director, Raoul Walsh, when he said,
          “Dammit, the S.O.B. looked like a
                                                              The Duke
          John Wayne, nicknamed the Duke, won his
          only Academy Award performance as
          Rooster Cogburn in True Grit (1969), of
          course, playing an old, cussing, shooting,
          U.S. Marshall.
        Western pictures had a way of influencing
          morals of right and wrong in American
        society. There was no doubt between good
         and evil. The bad guy almost always wore
        It’s probably no accident that the Westerns
               lost their popularity during the
          Counterculture of the 60s & 70s (Vietnam
          War and Watergate Scandal). Good guys
           weren’t always following the rules. That
                 just wasn’t very American.
       Cowboys were the hero’s of the Conformist
        generation. Even John Wayne received a
       large amount of criticism for his role in the
          Vietnam propaganda film, The Green
                Heck, America even elected one of the
                 Western’s most recognized stars as
                President of the United States – Ronald
Don’t you think that frightened a few Cold
War adversaries, after all, a pistol-packing
cowboy with control of a nuclear arsenal?

       American film audiences have lost interest.
        People being killed slowly, just one at a
         time, is a plot line that won’t hold our
        attention. America wants machine guns
             firing with lots of explosions.
As for me, I still love sitting in front of my
   television on a Saturday afternoon
watching my Westerns. Of course, my 10
year-old daughter hates them, especially
        the ones in black & white.

            My Picks
 The following are my picks for anyone
interested in becoming an expert in the
          western movie genre.

                              Walter Brennan

       Only two westerns have been Academy
       Award recipients: Cimarron (1931), then six
       decades later, Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven
       (1992.) Dances with Wolves is almost a
       western, winning Best Picture honors in
         The Unforgiven
In The Unforgiven, Eastwood, who also
directed, makes use of a popular western
movie theme, the lone man. The lone man,
isolated, trying to scratch a living from the
unyielding soil. A former gunfighter, he is
unfit for farming.

        The Unforgiven
The opportunity presents itself, to pick up
his gun again and make some money, the
    only way he knows how, money he
wouldn’t care about if he didn’t need it to
take care of his two motherless children.

        The Unforgiven
Eastwood moves comfortably on to
another western movie tradition, and takes
on a sidekick, Morgan Freeman. The
bonds that tie men together in the Western
are unbreakable. Death is the only

   The Magnificent Seven
   Mexican villagers scrape up enough
  money to hire seven gunmen to protect
their homes and families from evil bandits.

         Butch Cassidy &
         the Sundance Kid
Greatest adventure of western outlaws, there
is no better sidekick movie ever (plus lots of
laughs). These bank & trains robbers are
chased by U.S. lawmen all the way to South

      The ultimate western containing every western
      theme ever devised. A group of brothers
      journey west to settle down, but first they have
      to take on the corrupt land barons and lawmen.

                                                        High Noon
      Mega film star Gary Cooper plays the quiet,
      mild-mannered, but good-natured sheriff of
      a small town, left alone, to ward off a band
      of thugs. He knows he’s outnumbered,
      none of the townspeople will help him,
      they’re all afraid.
                                                            High Noon
          Cooper faces certain death, but he has a
          duty, and he’s not running from it. Clocks
          are ticking on walls everywhere in the
          movie, moving slowly toward 12 o’clock,
          when the train is due to arrive with the
                                                The Searchers
                                                The Searchers
      Best Western director, John Ford’s
      stories, are simply about the individual as
      the last line of defense, a man willing to
      take a stand, no matter how high the price.
      A good example is The Searchers, starring
      John Wayne.
          The Searchers
Disillusioned loner Ethan Edwards (John
Wayne), goes alone to search for Natalie
Woods, kidnapped as a little girl by the
Indians. This tough man brings her back to
civilization, to her family, and then, alone,
turns and walks away (the John Wayne
walk) into the sunset.
True Grit

  John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn


                                                                True Grit
       U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn is recruited to
       hunt down the killers of a young girl’s father.
       Unfortunately for him, she insists on going
       along on the difficult journey into the wild Indian
       territory. John Wayne wins his only academy
       award for Best Actor.
           The Cowboys
The only western when its alright for a grown
man to cry, because it can’t be helped. John
Wayne leads a group of youngsters in a long
 trail cattle drive battling the harsh elements
              and evil cattle rustlers.

  Homework for Extra Credit
Watch one of the movies discussed on
my must see list, and then write a one-
   page summary (typed) of why the
  movie made a “good” western, what
 kind of western themes were present.
The summary must also include a short
  summary of the plot and characters.
  Lastly, what did you enjoy about the