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Author Topic: The Seven Western Plots  (Read 3904 times)
cigar joe
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« on: February 24, 2007, 01:26:43 PM »

I cut and pasted this from IMDb Westerns Message Boards we can have some fun with it here. The poster mentions 7 but only lists 6.

Prolific author Frank Gruber had them on a large chart in his office and offered a big cash prize for Plot #8 - which nobody ever won.
They appeared in a book by Jon Tuska - Th American West In Film;A Critical Approach to the Western. You can find this on Amazon.
From memory, the list has titles for each plot and a brief explanation.
 
They are listed like this-

EMPIRE BUILDING
Opening the west - Wells Fargo, Union Pacific, Western Union, Cimarron, Wagonmaster, The Big Sky.

REVENGE
You shot, massacred, kidnapped my father/wife/brother/sister
Pale Rider, The Revengers, Hannie Caulder, The Searchers.

THE GUNFIGHT
Films that exist for a climactic showdown - Shane, High Noon, a million others

HISTORICAL
Events and figures like Sam Houston, Daniel Boone, Jim Bowie
The Alamo, Kansas Raiders, Red Badge of Courage,

THE BIG RANCH
The Big Country, Duel In The Sun, Bonanza, Big Valley, Empire.

COWBOYS AND INDIANS
« Last Edit: February 24, 2007, 01:28:59 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2007, 02:08:36 PM »

steriotyping north american indians

crooked white colonel, a trader, sells liquor and guns them
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Juan Miranda
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« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2007, 04:46:35 PM »

Let's compare them with the seven basic plots (Western or otherwise):

Overcoming the Monster

Examples: Perseus, Theseus, Beowulf, Dracula

Leone's first western fits into this plot quite neatly. In a twisted way, Joe's "Cowboys Vs. Indians" catagory could fit in here too. The "Indian" become the Caliban native of Prospero's colonial experience in THE TEMPEST. Hence the brute of countless Westerns.


Rags to Riches

Examples: Cinderella, Aladdin, Jane Eyre, David Copperfield 

I guess the most obvious Leone example would be OUATITW, fittingly enough, as Cinderella is always cited as the origin of this storyline, and Leone's film is his first with a woman as the main character. Kinda compares with "Empire building".

The Quest

Examples: The Illiad, Pilgrimís Progress

The most obvious Western is THE SEARCHERS. With Leone, GBU. In some ways FAFDM fits in here too. Conforms with "Revenge"


Voyage & Return

Examples: The Odyssey, Alice in Wonderland, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Orpheus

Seems to be missing from Joe's list. Not a western, but OUATIA could fit in here. A recent "western" example would be THE PROPOSITION. Just to confuse things, THE SEARCHERS could fit in here too.

Comedy

Easy enough, Hawks El Dorado triptych, Destry Rides Again, Cat Ballou, My Name is Nobody etc. Again we seem to be departing from Joe's list.


Tragedy

Examples: Macbeth, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Carmen, Bonnie & Clyde, Jules et Jim, Anna Karenina, Julius Caesar

In the Western, Pat Garret and Billy the Kid, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Wild Bunch

Rebirth

Examples: Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, The Snow Queen, A Christmas Carol, The Secret Garden, Peer Gynt

Bizarrly enough, DYS kinda fits in here, and all those Westerns about the man who hung up his gun, only to strap it on again once more.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2007, 04:47:39 PM by Juan Miranda » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2007, 09:35:34 AM »

Which one of these does GBU fit into? The gunfight? Is there a greed-based western plot?
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Tim
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« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2007, 03:50:10 PM »

  I think it'd be fun to try and come up with westerns that don't apply to the different groups that cigar joe  posted.  Any ones come to mind right away?  I'm struggling to come up with one. 
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marmota-b
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« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2007, 11:51:09 PM »

Well... I was thinking about my long time favourite Lemonade Joe. It's obviously a comedy. But it doesn't fit much to the other categories...

Lemonade Joe brings me to one new category - let's call it "Separated Family". The Comedy of Errors is a perfect example. Maybe also Oliver Twist could partly fit into this category. Any westerns?

Another category/theme I saw mentioned somewhere is the labyrinth. Could there by any westerns like that?
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« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2007, 07:14:46 AM »

I think these kinds of categories should be distinctively Western. Revenge plots are archetypal and appear in all genres. However, Empire Building  and Trouble With Indians are specific to the Western, based (albeit loosely) on historical events. Other historical models that have been repeatedly used are The Johnson County War (sheepmen vs. cattlemen, but other groups are possible) and Tombstone (2 or more factions vying for control of a town). You can also find multiple examples of Cattle Drives and there are many films based on the exploits of a colorful bandit.
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dave jenkins
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« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2007, 07:27:12 AM »


The Quest

Examples: The Illiad, Pilgrimís Progress

The most obvious Western is THE SEARCHERS. With Leone, GBU. In some ways FAFDM fits in here too. Conforms with "Revenge"


Voyage & Return

Examples: The Odyssey, Alice in Wonderland, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Orpheus

Seems to be missing from Joe's list. Not a western, but OUATIA could fit in here. A recent "western" example would be THE PROPOSITION. Just to confuse things, THE SEARCHERS could fit in here too.

It seems to me unnecessary to have BOTH a quest category and a voyage & return one. Both are quests and whether the hero returns to the actual site of his departure is a mere detail (and anyway, a "return" can be metaphorical). Also, manyquest stories include killing a monster or monsters (Perseus, the Odyssey).

In the 50s Northrup Frye did work on a theory of archetypes and developed 4 basic narrative modes: Comedy, Tragedy, Romance (i.e. heroic adventure) and Satire/Irony (i.e. anti-Romance). I think 4 categories are all you really need, anything more and you're just elevating certain details needlessly.
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marmota-b
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« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2007, 07:34:39 AM »

I think these kinds of categories should be distinctively Western.

Well, it was mainly because I remembered Lemonade Joe. That one doesn't fit perfectly to any of the plots CJ mentioned. Thought there's a part with revenge. But it might fit into the one where two parties are trying to control a town.
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