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: The Golden Age Western  ( 5640 )
cigar joe
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« : October 20, 2008, 05:58:23 PM »

One thing about Westerns that I've been contemplating about and trying to put a finger on is what exactly is different about todays Westerns. For some reason they don't seem the same as the Classics. You'll you read comments that various posters say about some of the few Westerns that come out comments like "they don't make them like they used to", or "they don't know how to make them anymore". Besides some of the obvious differences i.e. steady/shaky cam, cgi and blue screen, what else is making them seem different?

I think I've finally got it figured out and what it is is that is difference 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" for a Western  a feel that is the "correct feel" for a Western and certain traits that comprize the "correct deportment's" for a Western. Once you get those conventions correct then you can, within those conventions,  try and push the envelope in a creative way.

I just concentrated on the hat as a focal point, in the "A Treatsie On Just WTF Is Up With The Cowboy Hat" thread  because that is one of the first things I've noticed about modern Westerns the unusual amount of huge Stetson cowboy hats (I wouldn't be suprized in the least if Stetson or Resitol is paying for product placement in these films) which it seems are propped on the heads of contemporary actors no matter how stupid it makes them look.
The treatsie shows through historical photographs that not everyone in the west wore ten gallon style Stetsons in fact Stetsons weren't even around until a decade after the Civil War. 
 
Granted that during that time period for the Golden Age Western 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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« #1 : October 21, 2008, 01:05:37 AM »

Quote
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.

This is interesting, never thought of it before, but it does make sense.

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« #2 : November 02, 2008, 03:09:44 PM »

Great post, Joe. I agree with your entire post and have similar feelings towards modern Westerns. In terms of neo-noir, the Coens got it right with The Man Who Wasn't There. I think the biggest problem is that the apparent lack of power of the director in the modern era. Producers or executives, are usually creating projects, and these types are notorious for their lack of film knowledge. They're money people, not movie persons. The lack of creatvity in Hollywood could be solved if producers let directors have freedom to create worthy films; ah, but that involves chance and a word that every moneyman despises: risk. Until a small scale cinematic revolution occurs, expect the same from corporate-wood.

To break it down, here's how the Hollywood system works, or at least my interpretation: Producer hears about a book from one of the friends. Producer buys rights to book. Hires screenwriter to write treatment. Producer doesn't like treatment. Hires another screeenwriter for treatment. He likes this one. Hires screenwriter to write script, hates it. Pairs screenwriter with other screenwriter towrite script. They don't get on with one another. Producer chooses a new screenwriter. Finally producer has four or five scripts at this point and has a new set of problems...Where is the time for genre dissection?

The lack of personal vision is another huge reason why we see so much blandness. It's what happens when "Yes Men" write and direct films.



Claudia, we need you to appear in LOST COMMAND. It's gonna revolutionize the war genre..
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« #3 : November 02, 2008, 04:45:40 PM »

Almost makes you pine for the studio system.  :'(


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« #4 : November 02, 2008, 09:48:36 PM »

Almost makes you pine for the studio system.  :'(

At least those guys knew how to write.  O0 I think around 1980, Hollywood essentially became a modernized version of the old system and the genre picture has suffered greatly. I'm not saying every film has to be Pickpocket or La Dolce Vita, but I feel that a personal vision is essential for a  movie to be successful. Of course, there are examples that could prove me wrong but after 80 years of talkies, it's a necessity.



Claudia, we need you to appear in LOST COMMAND. It's gonna revolutionize the war genre..
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« #5 : November 10, 2008, 10:13:03 PM »

To me,it's the Directors.They are just not that interesting anymore.When I first saw a Leone film I had been watching all the usual junk food movies,The Spider Mans,The X-Men,The Will Smith flicks.All these amazing special effects.Leone blew it all away.He said more about a character in one series of close-up shots than I've learnes about characters in entire movies.

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« #6 : November 26, 2011, 09:09:31 PM »

In order for the western to have a future, it must look to the past. Audiences prefer a traditional approach to the western, as Kevin Costner and other directors discovered recently, but the old storylines have been played to death. The historical west is an undiscovered country for filmmakers, however. Sadly they never take the time to learn about it. There are many factual stories that have never been told on the screen. There is a certain way of thinking and of behavior that hasn't been captured for a long time, like assumed knowledge that is passed from one generation to the next until it stops being passed. In the factual west lies inventiveness and originality.


Richard


"I am not afraid to die like a man fighting but I would not like to be killed like a dog unarmed."
William H. Bonney to Gov. Lew Wallace, March 1879.
cigar joe
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« #7 : November 26, 2011, 09:33:11 PM »

In order for the western to have a future, it must look to the past. Audiences prefer a traditional approach to the western, as Kevin Costner and other directors discovered recently, but the old storylines have been played to death. The historical west is an undiscovered country for filmmakers, however. Sadly they never take the time to learn about it. There are many factual stories that have never been told on the screen. There is a certain way of thinking and of behavior that hasn't been captured for a long time, like assumed knowledge that is passed from one generation to the next until it stops being passed. In the factual west lies inventiveness and originality.


Richard

For that matter there are factual stories during Colonial Times that would make fascinating films, there is quite a bit out there untouched.


"When you feel that rope tighten on your neck you can feel the devil bite your ass"!
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« #8 : November 26, 2011, 10:05:04 PM »

You took the words right out of my mouth.
You know anybody that's got the coin?
My production company is ready to hit the ground running with Colonial Frontiers and Factual Westerns if only we had a financing partner.

We shoot within the borders of the USA, too.


Richard


"I am not afraid to die like a man fighting but I would not like to be killed like a dog unarmed."
William H. Bonney to Gov. Lew Wallace, March 1879.
cigar joe
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« #9 : November 27, 2011, 01:54:57 PM »

You took the words right out of my mouth.
You know anybody that's got the coin?
My production company is ready to hit the ground running with Colonial Frontiers and Factual Westerns if only we had a financing partner.

We shoot within the borders of the USA, too.


Richard

That's the problem "the coin".  I admit though that I've been impressed with what HBO has accomplished over the years, cinema as we knew it seems to have evolved into Saturday Morning Cartoons while HBO seems to have taken up the quality & mature subject vacuum.


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