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Author Topic: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns  (Read 96148 times)
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« Reply #15 on: August 28, 2008, 08:28:08 AM »

Ok lets next examine the difference between images Posed vs Candid vs Action.

The vast majority of historic photographic images of the West are posed shots, especially those of individuals, rarer are the Candid images of everyday life,  action shots are pretty much non existant as photos, many of Western photo images of town streets contain action ghosts or at best blurred areas where a rider or wagon passed through the scene.

For action scenes most of images are from artists and illustartors.



This is a good example of a typical posed image of a group of cattle rustlers in New Mexico who in the 1870's sat for their portrait, its from Time-Life's book "The Outlaws". Look at their teetering hats, perched far back on their noggins, nobody outdoors whould ever wear them like that. A light breeze would blow them off, just riding at a a trot on a horse would also.

Obviously the photographer posed them that way. The man on the right has either a Stetson or MW (Montgomery Ward) hat, from the wide brim and the tall crown. In his hand is a long barrel at least (7 inch) Remington revolver,  the man in the center may also be sporting a Stetson or MW, he has a definite flat crown and a wide hat band either of ribbon or leather. His hand is on the walnut stock of a Winchester he has a plaid shirt with a definite collar. Man on right has a narrower brimmed hat its not a Stetson or MW it could possibly be a slouch, but from that posed angle we can't really make a determination. This man also has a long barrel Remington. His shirt has no collar. None of them is wearing a bandana. I cropped off the bottom of the image for posting,  but I can tell you they are all wearing their boots Texican style, pants tucked in.



Here is a detail of a possed photo of Jesse James and his gang, the detail is just of Jesse, it is taken in the field, ouside of one of their Missouri cave hideouts circa the 1870's. It show how confident Jesse was in his own back yard audacious enough to have a photographer take the gangs photo.

Jesse has on a wide brimmed hat its tipped way back on his head as are the hats of the rest of the gang as directed by the photographer. Whether his hat is a plainsman or a Stetson/MW can't be determined. His pullover three button shirt has a collar, he's wearing a small cravat,  his left arm is leaning against the barrel of a Winchester possibly a 73 model.  Around his waste he wears a cartridge belt for the Winchester and a gun holster/belt with cartridges for his revolver. He looks like he has cordroy pants, only Jesse of the group has his boots Texican style, all the others have their pants over their boots. None of the rest of the gang have bandanas but all have Winchesters & revolvers.

Here is a shot that captures a moment of local intrigue. Flanked by grim Cadwell, Kansas townfolk, ex Marshal Henry Brown 6. &  Deputy 8. share leg shackles while two accomplices 9 & 13 share handcuffs. They were caught trying to rob the town bank in 1884. Brown was shot by a mob as he tried to flee and the rest of his accomplices were lynched.  This is a quick moment frozen in time posed yet also quite candid.



Man 1 has on a slouch hat, man 2 has on a Man With No Name style flat brimmed slouch if I've ever seen one!, he also is wearing something around his neck  Man 3 has a cowboy creased Stetson or MW style hat. Man 4 has a tall beehive. Man 5 another Stetson or a MW. Marshal Henry Brown 6 has a wide brimmed plainsman or a Stetson/MW its tipped back on his head, he's handcuffed from behind, and wears his pants over his boots. Man 7 is wearing a Stetson/MW. Deputy Ben Wheeler 8, has a slouch hat,  and he's wearing a bandana, that he probably used in the hold up. Man 9 an accomplice has a Stetson with a slight "cowboy" crease. Men 10 & 11 possibly "cowboy" creased slouches. Man 12 a "cowboy" creased Stetson or MW. Accomplice bank robber 13 has a cap looks like an "Elmer Fudd" farmer/hunting cap with ear flaps, ., he is ewaring his boots Texican style.






« Last Edit: September 08, 2008, 10:48:16 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: September 07, 2008, 09:36:20 AM »

Depictions of action in the Old Wild West are confined to pulp illustrations and fine art depictions.  Many action depictions are found in Harpers Weekly, The Police Gazette, Currier & Ives prints and in the works of Western artists Fredrick Remington, Charlie Russel, Edgar Paxson.



This illustration (from the Bettman Archive NY in the Time Life Book "The Gunfighters") originally published in the Police Gazette depicts Billy The Kid blasting a drifter who waved a pistol at him.

We see a shanty saloon,  a two plank bar,  a knocked over case gin bottle, and four shot glasses. A keg of rye whisky is in the bottom left hand corner, a number of shots have been already fired and are indicated by the spilling liquid behind the drifter

Billy carries two guns, wears a wide brimmed hat possibly a plainsman or a Stetson/MW, the drifter has three guns , and a knife.  The two men to the right of Billy are wearing wide brimmed hats also. The drifter and the man to the right of Billy have shirts with collars the one to the right of Billy has part of a bandana showing. The drifter looks like he has on a gaudy "Wild West" show type shirt with a cowboy shirt pocket.



Above is a detail of a Charlie Russel  painting entitled "When Guns Speak, Death Settles Disputes",
 
We see a gunfight ,pistols blazing under a starry night outside of the Long Horn Saloon and the Red Butte Hotel, it could be an action shot from any Western film.

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« Reply #17 on: September 09, 2008, 11:22:18 AM »

So we come now to look at the Cinematic West and its depiction from 1903's "Great Train Robbery" to the present.

1898's Cripple Creek Bar Room and 1903's "Great Train Robbery" were contemporary with the exploits of the Wild Bunch/ Hole In The Wall Gang.  Below A scene from Edison's Cripple Creek Bar Room  film (1898) shows a Western bar room with denizens not unlike most of the town folk we see in our authentic photographic images of the West.




Left to right, man at far left in Stetson/MW, man sitting on table wears slouch, man leaning on door has a derby, next man wears Stetson/MW, and next to him a man in a top hat. The actors were from & studio was in New Jersey

Below a Montana Territory Bar sometime Pre 1889 (from Time life book "The Outlaws") Comparing the two if anything the Montana Saloon is more opulent.




Here we see a group of poker players on the left,  the two on the immediate left of the table have narrow brim hats man standing to right has a Stetson/MW man sitting  has a front cowboy crease. Bartender has on a narrow brim hat. The three pool players to the right wear narrow brim hats as does the spectator behind them.


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« Reply #18 on: October 02, 2008, 01:53:16 PM »

So the early depictions were spot on seemingly, and its understandable since they were rather contemporary. 

By 1913 there were about 60 studios now operating on the West coast. The early films of William S. Hart and Bronco Billy Anderson show a somewhat realistic portrayal of the West.

It was actor Tom Mix's films that brought the more flamboyant look to the West and the grown up boy scout character, in the Wild West Show costume. Mix began a trend that would metastasize into the "B" Western and by extention to the TV Westerns of Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rodgers, The Lone Ranger, etc., etc.

Below is William S. Hart, two guns, arm gauntlets, Stetson (from Jay Hymans "The Life & Times Of The Western Movie")



And in a scene from the film "Hells Hinges" which again shows a saloon interior with dirt floor and a real variety of dress and hats, Sombrero's, Stetsons, and Slouch hats



Typical costumes of the B western actors consisted of emphasising everything Western with an almost Art Deco style, oversized Stetsons, embroidered shirts with smile cut pockets and vests with plenty of flash, silver conchos, studs, arm gauntlets & fringed gloves, silver studded gunbelt occasionally wearing two gunbelts, large bandannas, overly embroidered boots. Basically Cowboy as Showman.

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« Reply #19 on: October 15, 2008, 10:20:07 PM »

From Jay Hyams "The Life And Times Of The Western Movie" 

"The heroes of B Westerns rarely fired guns (some, like Hoot Gibson, didn't usually wear them- Gibson had to borrow a firearm from a pal when one was needed). They usually roped the villain rather than shooting him, but when they did resort to gunplay these heroes did not need to aim their revolvers. Nor were they forced to rely on gunpowder-or so it seemed-preferring to fling the bullet out of their gun with a fast downward slashing movement. They trusted in their virtue to guide the projectile-not to the villain's heart but to his gunhand, cleanly knocking away his weapon without breaking the skin.

As time passed the difference between the B Westerns and other Western films became more pronounced. Tom Mix was joined by Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard, and a host of others who eventually included such heroes as Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, and Hopalong Cassidy. With the comming of sound a new breed of star arrived the happy go lucky singing cowboys."....

"Before television finally laid them to rest, B Westerns had evolved a fantasy world, with airplanes, trains, cars, horses, sixshooters, cowboy hats, and business suits all united by the joyous cowboy tunes"

Part of the gist of this treatise is touched upon by Hyams in that last sentence.

Just as B Westerns evolved a fantasy Western world so did mainstream Hollywood. The Epic Westerns of the 30's and 40's recreated the history of the American West in melodramatic grander.


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« Reply #20 on: October 20, 2008, 08:14:46 AM »


The Golden Age Of the Western:

OK check out the figures below,  the major film production period of the the Western is the stretch between 1935 to 1953 a total of 2168 feature Westerns were made and if we use the 100 min/feature ( some films were 90 minutes some 120 so this 100min figure  seemed like a good compromise)average that comes to 3613 hrs of Western depictions. Starting in 1950 Westerns began appearing on TV the years 1955 to 1963 being the high volume years and the year 1959 being the high water mark.

The Combined film and TV Westerns output comprises what we should start referring to as the "Golden Age of The Western" where the culture was innundated with Western images.  For almost every year between 1939 and 1973 there was 150+ hours of Western film and TV images per year, influencing the way the West was perceived. Add on top of that the books, magazines, and comic books available to the public and you could say the American culture was awash in Westerns.

The period between 1964 and 1976 had the addition of the Euro-Spaghetti Western productions which I don't have year by year figures for, but since they were not released here in great numbers we will not deal with them yet;


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« Reply #21 on: October 20, 2008, 08:18:42 AM »

Western Production figures by year are hard to find here are some highlighted years from Fagen's "The Encyclopedia of Westerns" these are one & two reel films.

1911 (43)
1915 (99)
1925 (205)

From  Films and TV Movie Listings by Genre, I would take these 1926-1929 figures with a grain of salt
I don't think it has the numbers for serials it may be only "A" films but even those seem too low
(I'll fix this when I can find a second source)

http://www.filmsandtv.com/genre.php?gs=1960Western

1926 (2)
1927 (0)
1928 (2)
1929 (1)


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« Reply #22 on: October 20, 2008, 08:20:13 AM »

From an online source:  http://b-westerns.com/graphs.htm

Western Releases By Year 1930 - 1954
Includes A and B westerns, western shorts, and western-themed serials

1930 (82)
1931 (90)
1932 (112)
1933 (97)
1934 (79)
1935 (148)
1936 (133)
1937 (134)
1938 (117)        starting 1939 # features x by avg 100 minutes/60 min =  total hrs ___________
1939 (118)   x  100/60 = 196.7                                                                                                        \
1940 (129)   x  100/60 = 215                                                                                                             \
1941 (126)   x  100/60 = 210                                                                                                               ]
1942 (121)   x  100/60 = 201                                                                                                               ]
1943 (104)   x  100/60 = 173.3                                                                                                            ]
1944 (97)     x  100/60 = 161.6                                                                                                            ]
1945 (81)     x  100/60 = 135                                                                                                               ] 
1946 (99)     x  100/60 = 165                                                                                                               ] 
1947 (99)     x  100/60 = 165                                                                                                               ]
1948 (112)   x  100/60 = 186.6                                                                                                            ]
1949 (117)   x  100/60 = 195                                                                                                               ]
1950 (134)   x  100/60 = 233.3               9     hrs TV Western    total hrs =  242.3                              ]
1951 (103)   x  100/60 = 171.6             48.5                                                 220.1                              ]
1952 (106)   x  100/60 = 176.6             48.5                                                 225.1                              ]
1953 (90)     x  100/60 = 150                28.5                                                 178.5                               \
1954 (68)     x  100/60 = 113.3             63                                                    176.3                                \   
                                                                                                                                                                \____
The following 1955-1959 list is possibly incomplete                                                                                          \____                                                                           
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Western_films:_1955-1959                                                                       ____ GOLDEN AGE
                                                                                                                                                                 ____/
1955 (45)     x  100/60 =  75               205.5                                                 280.5                                 /
1956 (58)     x  100/60 =  96.6            237.5                                                 312.5                                /
1957 (58)     x  100/60 =  96.6            382                                                    478.6                               / 
1958 (43)     x  100/60 =  71.6            813                                                    884.6                              ]
1959 (35)     x  100/60 =  58.3            820.5                                                 878.8                              ]
                                                                                                                                                             ]
Movie Listings by Genre  Westerns of the 60-70-80-90-00's                                                                ]                                                               
                                                                                                                                                             ]
http://www.filmsandtv.com/genre.php?gs=1960Western                                                                    ]
                                                                                                                                                             ]
This has a few of Leone's Westerns, Django, The Mercenary and some of the other                           ]
Spaghetti Westerns so mostly its Hollywood titles and a few made for TV films .                                 ]
                                                                                                                                                              ]
1960 (11)     x  100/60 =  18.3            719.5                                                 737.8                               ]
1961 (6)       x  100/60 =  10               630                                                    640                                  ]
1962 (6)       x  100/60 =  10               402                                                    412                                  ]
1963 (3)       x  100/60 =    5               220                                                    225                                  ]
1964 (7)       x  100/60 =  11.6            159                                                    170.6                               ]
1965 (12)     x  100/60 =  20               275                                                    295                                  ]
1966 (20)     x  100/60 =  33.3            343                                                    376.3                               ]
1967 (20)     x  100/60 =  33.3            312.5                                                 345.8                               ] 
1968 (21)     x  100/60 =  35               238                                                    273                                  ]
1969 (22)     x  100/60 =  36.6            197                                                    233.6                               ]
                                                                                                                                                              ]
1970 (19)     x  100/60 =  31.6            150                                                    181.6                               ]
1971 (22)     x  100/60 =  36.6            153                                                    184.6                              /
1972 (24)     x  100/60 =  40               107.5                                                 147.5______________/
1973 (12)     x  100/60 =  20                 58                                                      78
1974 (5)       x  100/60 =    8.3            108.5                                                 116.8
1975 (8 )      x  100/60 =  13.3              60                                                      73.3
1976 (15)     x  100/60 =  25                 76                                                    101
1977 (3)       x  100/60 =    5                 22                                                      27
1978 (4)       x  100/60 =    6.6              22                                                      28.6
1979 (7)       x  100/60 =   11.6             30                                                      41.6


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« Reply #23 on: October 20, 2008, 08:23:01 AM »

Continued.

1980 (7)       x  100/60 =   11.6             22                                                      33.6
1981 (2)       x  100/60 =     3.3             73                                                      76.3
1982 (4)       x  100/60 =     6.6             22                                                      28.6
1983 (2)       x  100/60 =     3.3               1                                                        4.3
1984 (0)       x  100/60 =     0                  0                                                        0
1985 (4)       x  100/60 =     6.6               6                                                      12.6
1986 (7)       x  100/60 =    11.6              0                                                      11.6
1987 (6)       x  100/60 =    10                 0                                                      10
1988 (4)       x  100/60 =      6.6              0                                                        6.6
1989 (2)       x  100/60 =      3.3            56.4                                                   59.7

1990 (5)       x  100/60 =      8.3            42                                                      50.3
1991 (6)       x  100/60 =     10              13                                                      23
1992 (1)       x  100/60 =       1.6           13                                                      14.6
1993 (3)       x  100/60 =       5              64.5                                                   69.5
1994 (11)     x  100/60 =     18.3         119.7                                                 138
1995 (4)       x  100/60 =       6.3           62                                                      68.3
1996 (4)       x  100/60 =       6.3           36                                                      42.3
1997 (2)       x  100/60 =       3.3           36                                                      39.3
1998 (2)       x  100/60 =       3.3           68                                                      71.3
1999 (5)       x  100/60 =       8.3                                                                       8.3

For the 2000's I don't have a way of easily getting a comprehensive list of all the possible Westerns produced so the list below is probably incomplete.

2000 (4)       x  100/60 =       6.3                                                                       6.3
2001 (4)       x  100/60 =       6.3                                                                       6.3
2002 (1)       x  100/60 =       1.6                                                                       1.6
2003 (4)       x  100/60 =       6.3                                                                       6.3
2004 (0)       x  100/60 =       0                                                                          0
2005 (3)       x  100/60 =       5                                                                          5
2006 (0)       x  100/60 =       0               3                                                         3
2007 (6)       x  100/60 =     10                                                                        10
2008 (2)       x  100/60 =       3.3                                                                      3.3

So my contention and the point of this whole little exercise is that Westerns that were made in the 1939-1973 "Golden Age of The Western" (both in film & TV) have a certain pallet, part of it is a look that we who lived through that period or those of us that are Western Aficionados or just have seen a lot of Westerns recognise as being the "correct look"  a feel that is the "correct feel" and certain traits that comprize the "correct deportment's" for a Western. I just concentrated on the hat as a focal point, showing that not everyone in the west wore ten gallon style Stetsons which it seems are propped on the heads of contemporary actors no matter how stupid it makes them look.  Once you get those conventions correct then you can, within those conventions,  try and push the envelope in a creative way.

Granted that during that time period there was a gradual flexability in character motivations between 1939 and and the early 1960's, look at the controversy surrounding the psychological Westerns and notably "High Noon". Later a more jarring one with comming of the anti hero in the Spaghetti Westerns, but the conventional look stayed generally within the same boundaries. We also had a more realistic depiction of violence ratcheted up over that period.

Our stable of actors that could make a convincing lead in a Western are limited.  In the Golden Age the lead actor had a weary weathered leathery look and was usually in his thirties or older and was show to be wise beyond his years.  The actors in their twenties played the young hot heads or the naive and inexperienced kids who usually made a fatal mistake and got blown away early. Now a days the scheme is turned on its head,  its the young adults and teens who are showed to be more knowledgeable than their elders, it may be playing to today's audience demographics but it doesn't ring true.

On top of all that you had a stable of conventional character actors who made a career of just appearing in film Westerns and in TV Westerns who also contributed to that same "correct look" over the transitional change from cowboy as boyscout to cowboy as antihero in the span of their lives.

Forget the hewing close to historical accuracy BS, or trying to hard to get the archaic speech patterns correct, the more modern directors attempt to make a Western too true to the actual historical West the farther they get away from the classic Western and its look.

Watching a Western should be like slipping into a comfortable old pair of shoes.

Its almost like trying to make a modern Film Noir,  it just doesn't look quite right. The difference with Film Noir and Neo Noir is for more obvious and readily understandable reasons, in Neo Noir everything looks to crisp, clear and new, you don't have that contemporary for the time post WWII rundown shabby outdoor locations and can't get new stockfootage to match the old look, nor do you have,  the steam locomotives the rolling stock, etc., etc., Noir was contemporary with the historical time it was shot and you are not shooting in Black & White on top of all that. 

For Westerns it shouldn't be THAT hard to get that classic look and old pair of shoes feeling correct, its just costuming, and the classic landscapes can be revisited and give an instantaneous cachet to a project and there are still a lot of great untapped landscapes out there available that are way more accessible in this day and age than in the past.

Its the classic Western character actors that we are loosing that would also provide an instant bridge and a continuing continuity to the past if they are used in more than just cameos, you need 1/2 of the cast to be Golden Age veterans, right now actors who where in their 30's in the 60's are in their 70's, so the realistic pool currently that we have is actors who were working the terminal period of the Golden Age of The Western the 1970's, actors like Warren Beatty, the Carradine brothers, The Quaid Brothers, Kurt Russel, Jeff Bridges, Michael J.  Pollard, Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Franco Nero, Tomas Milian, Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, and others.




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« Reply #24 on: November 04, 2008, 02:02:40 PM »

Two shots of Tom Mix.





Notice of course the huge Wild West Show Stetsons.

« Last Edit: November 10, 2008, 06:01:29 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #25 on: November 20, 2008, 02:15:28 PM »

Loved the graph depicting the golden age of the western.

Really interesting to note how in 2004 not a single western was made. Just a shame.

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« Reply #26 on: August 25, 2010, 04:03:09 PM »

Loved the graph depicting the golden age of the western.

Really interesting to note how in 2004 not a single western was made. Just a shame.

1984 also  Wink

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« Reply #27 on: October 23, 2013, 09:07:45 AM »

Cracked's 5 ridiculous myths everyone believes about Wild West:

http://www.cracked.com/article_20372_5-ridiculous-myths-everyone-believes-about-wild-west.html

Point 2 is about hats  Wink

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« Reply #28 on: October 23, 2013, 01:55:34 PM »

nice

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