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: "Westerns" aspects of a movie genre by Phillip French (1977 edition)  ( 1466 )
cigar joe
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« : December 26, 2005, 07:30:31 PM »

Checked this out of the library. He makes some good points later in the book, but right from the get go French makes this statement:

 "My concern here is entierly with American theatrical Westerns, mostly those made since 1950. The explanation for this is simple. First, I dislike TV horse operas (though a deal of what I say about westerns applies to them too). Westerns need a large screen and are best enjoyed in the company of a thoughtful and occasionaly noisy audience. Secondly I cannot abide European Westerns, whether German, Italian or British, and I don't like American Westerns filmed in Spain.....

Anyway here is a good point that he makes in Chapter 2.

"One could draw up a roster of about fifty actors who constitute the Western stock troupe, and between them their credits would include virtually every Western of any note (and a great many of no distiction) made over the past quater century.

HEROES: John Wayne, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Glen Ford as section one, followed by Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Kirk Douglas, Robert Taylor, Alan Ladd, Van Heflin, William Holden, Clint Eastwood.

VILLAINS: Lee Marvin, Richard Boone, Robert Ryan, Arthur Kennedy, Dan Duryea, Edmond Obrien, Neville Brand, John Dehner, Slim Pickens, Robert Wilke, Ian Macdonald, Claude Akins, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam, Royal Dano, Warren Oates, Anthony Quinn.

RANCHERS, SHERIFFS, DEPUTIES, SIDEKICKS, ASSORTED CITIZENRY: Charles Bickford, Millard Mitchell, Edgar Buchanan, Ward Bond, Chill Wills, John Ireland, Walter Brennan, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Noah Berry, John McIntyre, Jay C. Flippen, Andy devine, James Millican, Elisha Cook Jr., R.G. armstrong.

Taken along with the familiar plots and recurrent situations, these well-known, and increasingly well worn, faces serve to give the Western its quality of deja vue and reinforce the sence of ritual. The physical presence and the established properties of these actors have become part of the genres iconography, to be accepted literally or to be worked into new patterns or mined for fresh meanings. Alone or in conflict with each other they determine the tone of the picture, and most directors are intuitively aware of the way an actors image and attibutes can be manipulated and within what limits....

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This was true of the Spaghetti Westerns also, the familiar faces recur and gave the great SW's the same iconography. This I believe is one of the key reasons for the Western genre's demise that link that would have given that deja vue quality is almost broken now. And the actors that would provide the links are fast getting too old. The miniscule use made of Woddy Strode in The Quick & The Dead was pathetic, same with Jack Palance in Young Guns, it was only one actor and not enough old time western character actors and too much modern day lightweight brat packers. Eastwood barely used any of the old actors in all his American Westerns either.
This repertory of Western actors has been getting older over the years, and many of them were not in their first flush of youth two decades ago. In consequence their very endurance has given an increasing gravitas to the genre and has helped (or Compelled) the writting to take into it the subject of ageing. A curious by product of this has been a curious shaping of the role of younger actors: excluding them, forcing them to adopt a more elderly mien, placing them in positions of tutelage, or scarificing them on the alter of inexperience. (this was written 30 years ago, we who love Westerns are in deep doo doo, lol)

"When you feel that rope tighten on your neck you can feel the devil bite your ass"!
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