The Western


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The Western

  1. 1. The western: A representation of the American society over the years. Faust Anthony Brugere Damien L2 LEA
  2. 2. Summary <ul><li>Introduction Page 3 </li></ul><ul><li>I) The Indians in the Western. Page 5 </li></ul><ul><li>II) American Founding Myths in the Western. Page 11 </li></ul><ul><li>III) The Western as a criticism of the « American Way of Life » Page 16 </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusion Page 18 </li></ul>
  3. 3. Introduction <ul><li>The Western is an american cinematic genre which deals with the life of pioneers in the Western America during the second half of the XIX century. </li></ul><ul><li>The Western has left an indelible mark on the world. Today, thanks to Hollywood, everyone knows the ingredients and the settings of the Western. </li></ul><ul><li>In everyone’s minds, part of the allure of the Western was its very simplicity. As Richard Schickel said, because &quot; everyone wore a six-shooter, complex moral conflicts could be plausibly resolved in clear, clean violent action &quot; </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>However, more than a popular genre, the Western is the expression of a special cultural background, the one of United States of America. </li></ul><ul><li>Indeed, the Western is the staging of the american ideology, and the basis of the american society as we know it today. </li></ul><ul><li> So how the Western, since its beggining, has been a representation of the ideas and basis of the american society until today? </li></ul>
  5. 5. I The Indians in the Western <ul><li>From 1930 until today, the Western has reflected an image of the indians which has changed over the times, according to the evolution of the american society. </li></ul><ul><li>How evolve the position and the representation of indians in the Western since the time of the Great Depression? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the reasons of these evolutions and their meanings about the american society? </li></ul>Winnetou by Harald Reinl (1963)
  6. 6. <ul><li>Since the beginning of the Western, and until the years 1950, the place of the Indian in the western was simple and clear: he represented the wild west, primitive, and was considered by pioneers as a race inferior. </li></ul><ul><li>He was an obstacle to the Conquest of the West, and one of the main theme of Western at that time was the destruction of Indians, to bring civilization on these territories. </li></ul><ul><li>One of the movies which illustrate the more this idea was “ The Covered Wagon ” by Jame Cruze (1923) which deals with a convoy of pioneers who cross the United States, fighting against forces of nature and Indians. </li></ul><ul><li>A few years later, after the Second World War and the Beginning of the Cold War, the presence of Indians in the Western was a way to introduce the american ideology. </li></ul><ul><li>Indeed a that time, the Indian, also known as Red Skin, referred to the Red, it means the Communists, the main enemy of the United States. </li></ul>The stalking moon- Robert Mulligan (1969)
  7. 7. <ul><li>The years 1950, were a turning point in the situation of Indians in Western. </li></ul><ul><li>One movie on particular show the beginning of a new point of view about Indians: “ Broken Arrow” by Delmer Daves (1950). </li></ul><ul><li>This movie deals with the friendship between an Indian chief, and a white man, who try to bring peace between the two people. They make a treaty of peace, but they will be betray… </li></ul><ul><li>Even if ten years before John Ford, with “ Fort Apache ” and “ She Wore a Yellow Ribbon ”, suggest an other view of Indians, Broken Arrow is often regarded as the first Western which had erased the values traditionally conveyed by Hollywood in the Westerns. </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>During an interview, Delmer Daves, the director said about his movie: “ I love Broken Arrow, because I had shown in this movie the Indian as an honorable and high-principled man, like a human-being and no like a bloodthirsty bully. […] Since that moment, Hollywood stopped showing Indians as savages.” (Delmer Daves in “Amis Americains” 1993) </li></ul>Delmer Daves (1904 – 1977)
  9. 9. <ul><li>After that turning point, many movies followed the idea of Broken Arrow. </li></ul><ul><li>Between them, we can point out: “ Devil’s Doorway&quot; (Anthony Mann - 1950), “ Across the wide Missouri ” (William Wellman – 1951), or “ Run of the arrow ” (Samuel Fuller – 1956). </li></ul><ul><li>These movies, throughout the story of a white man sharing Indians’ life, continue to bring a human view of native Americans. </li></ul><ul><li>Until today, and despite of the death of the Western genre, movies still borrow an Indian point of view. The most famous example in the last decades was “ Dances with wolves ” (Kevin Costner – 1990). </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>If during a moment, Indians in the western were the representation of the communist enemy, they quickly became the incarnation of blacks in the American society, and beg the question of racism in United States. </li></ul><ul><li>Indeed, more and more, the Western lose its epic side to suggest a question about contradictions in the American ideology. </li></ul><ul><li>Directors use the Western as a way to metaphors, where violence against Indians and Conquest of the West refers indirectly to black slavery and imperialist wars against communism. </li></ul><ul><li>About his movie “ Geronimo ”(1962), Arnold Laven wrote: “I hoped to show that the fight of Geronimo, to get justice for his people, is link to the fight of oppressed minorities in our actual world – more especially Blacks and Mexicans in our country. […]” </li></ul><ul><li>Finally, the American dream of justice and freedom had became in the Western, as in the American society, a civilization dominated by violence and racism. </li></ul>
  11. 11. II American Founding Myths in the Western. <ul><li>If Indians are very representatives of the American society in the Western, a lot of other elements refers to the basis and principles of the American ideology since its origins. </li></ul><ul><li> What are the main ideas of the American Myth showed in the Western, and how are they represented? </li></ul><ul><li> How these representations has followed the evolution of the American Society? </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>The American society has been found on two important principles: Justice and Freedom. </li></ul><ul><li>These ideas are represented in Western by two important characters: The Sheriff and the Cow-Boy. </li></ul><ul><li>The sheriff, often presented as the hero of the movie, is the representation of the justice. Included in a fight between good and evil, he defend weakest people against nasty ones. </li></ul><ul><li>One of the famous sheriff of the film industry was Will Kane, played by Garry Cooper, in “ High Noon ” (Fred Zinnemann – 1952) </li></ul>High Noon - 1952
  13. 13. <ul><li>The other recurrent character in the Western is, of course the cowboy. </li></ul><ul><li>He is the real personification of the idea of freedom granted by the United States, since its origins. </li></ul><ul><li>Living far from the rest of the civilization, he explores the far west, and is often considered as a forerunner of the conquest of the West. </li></ul><ul><li>Moreover, these two heroes, can be the reflection of the American myth of the “Self Made Man”. </li></ul><ul><li>Indeed, they often resolve bad situations alone. </li></ul>Duel between two cowboys in “The Big Country” (William Wyler – 1958)
  14. 14. <ul><li>Another basis of the origins of the United States is the religion, which is a theme, event though hided, often present in the Western. </li></ul><ul><li>Indeed, a lot of symbols referring to the Bible are obvious. </li></ul><ul><li>Firstly, the mountains, represent the highness, link to heaven, where God is watching mortals. </li></ul><ul><li>But the main element is the desert, which has the same value that in the Bible: Devil’s place. It’s an arid and empty area, where nothing can grow. </li></ul><ul><li>Moreover, it also represent the loneliness. </li></ul>Western landscapes: Seems to be taken from the Bible.
  15. 15. <ul><li>As we saw before, main Westerns are contemporary of the black protest movement , but they also take part to other movements after-war. </li></ul><ul><li>Indeed, from the years 1950, a wave of social movements battered the United States. </li></ul><ul><li>Between them, the women’s liberation movement is sometimes defended, indirectly, in the Westerns, through feminine figures, taking more and more importance in movies. </li></ul><ul><li>Anthony Mann, director of the famous movie “The man from Laramie” (1955) said: “Without women, Western would not run”. </li></ul><ul><li>The Western genre show an ambiguity between to different kind of women in its movies: The strong woman versus the weak one. </li></ul><ul><li>The weak woman is presented as a woman married, puritan, faithful, and mother. She represents an anchorage point for her husband. </li></ul><ul><li>On the contrary, the strong woman is able to be independent. She is characterized by instability, immorality. </li></ul><ul><li>Some director, as Anthony Mann in “The man from Laramie”, bear in their movies, the women’s lib, throughout a woman who wants to leave her husband. It refers to the women emancipation. </li></ul>
  16. 16. <ul><li>However, even if since its beginning the Western has used its popularity to convey American ideology, and to praise the American society and its evolutions, it became more and more a way to criticize the famous concept of “American Way of Life” </li></ul><ul><li>Cold War, War of Korea, Crisis of Cuba, situation in Vietnam, protest movements, political scandals: Since the years 1950, the “American Dream” became a nightmare. </li></ul><ul><li>These series of crisis had have an impact on the Western industry, which had became darker and more critical. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s no longer the representation of a myth, but a disturbing reality, of a doubtful society. </li></ul>III The Western as a criticism of the “American Way of Life”
  17. 17. <ul><li>But movies also suggest a thought about the American individual: his violence, individualism and his will to success. </li></ul><ul><li>Thus, the myth of the perfect man, play by the sheriff and the cow-boy, collapse. For example in “ Doc Holliday ” (Frank-Perry -1971), Wyatt Earp became a fascist sheriff. </li></ul><ul><li>In “ A Time for Dying ” (Budd Boetticher – 1969), teenagers attracted by violence are doomed to death. </li></ul><ul><li>About this analysis of a civilization crisis, Sam Peckinpah, a native american director said: “ I hope that my movies can be the reflection of the guilty conscience of United States ”. </li></ul><ul><li>But it’s finally the movie of Abraham Polonsky, “ Tell Them Willie Boy is Here ” (1969), which is the best criticize of the American society. He refers to the wave of contestation of the end of the years 1960 and the beginning of the years 1970. Throughout this movie, Polonsky echo to the generation of 1968 who reject the industrial society and advocate human and even sexual relationships. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Conclusion <ul><li>All over the years, the Western had known difficult period, and has been considered many time as dead. </li></ul><ul><li>However, it always managed to upraise, recently with movies as “ The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford ” (Andrew Dominik-2007) or “ Appaloosa ” (Ed Harris – 2008). </li></ul><ul><li>Probably the Western genre is linked forever to the History of the United States of America. </li></ul>
  19. 19. <ul><li>THE END. </li></ul><ul><li>Anthony Faust </li></ul><ul><li>Damien Brugere </li></ul><ul><li>L2 LEA. </li></ul><ul><li>May 2009. </li></ul>