Western Film Genre

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade November 2001

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Avi Flombaum 01/01/02 Dr. Jucovy Film Think of a western "“ the lone cowboy and his quest for identity, the damsel in distress, the trusty steed, the beautiful landscapes, the innocent town, the gun-slinging villain, the deadly noontime duel, and the ride off into the sunset. These staples define the western. Two critical opinions on the significance of these staples are presented in Katherine Lawrie's essay "Cookie-Cutter or Connoisseur? Genre Theory and John Ford's Stagecoach" (Lawrie). The first is that of Robert Warshow who believes that the focus of any western should be on these elements alone. "Most contentiously, he [Warshow] mandates that the narrative focus upon the individual hero's plight to assert his identity, and diminishes the importance of secondary characters and issues, or any tendency toward "social drama" (Lawrie). The other theory, Katherine Lawrie's, states that varying the core, and including social themes in westerns creates interesting and moving films, which justifies the existence of the genre.

Two unarguable members of the western genre, Stagecoach and Shane, contain relationships and interactions that Warshow would seem to consider "non-western." They do not focus on the protagonist's quest for identity, but rather, seem to convey emotional themes and social commentary through personal relationships.

Stagecoach begins with a fifteen-minute introduction of characters, none of which is Ringo, the classic white clothed, cowboy. Already, the narrative is not focused on the cowboy, but on the other characters and their interactions. They act out in their relationships their representative social types. Cinematically, the montage prologue automatically builds the relationship between the characters. When the gambler sees Mrs. Mallory approaching, the camera takes great care to separate the gambler from his game, and then, Mrs. Mallory from her group of escorts. This technique forms the future bond between these characters.

The camera creates...