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A Critical Reading Of The Western, Referring To Jim Kitses "Notes On The Western"

2839 words - 11 pages

By 1960, the production of Westerns in Hollywood had entered a decline from which it never recovered. Although for a time in the mid sixties the supply was augmented from an unexpected source, as the Italians found new ways to inject life into a dying genre. This was witnessed in the "spaghetti" westerns of Sergio Leone such as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly(1968), but this proved to be a short lived phenomenon, and by the seventies, Hollywood was struggling to produce a bare score of westerns per year. In the eighties, with production declining still, the death of the genre was produced on all sides. By the nineties, the western girded itself for one last stand, witnessed in the frontier western of Dances With Wolves(1991) and the revenge western Unforgiven(1995), which director Clint Eastwood attempted by sheer effort to get the genre back on its feet. However the predicted full scale revival failed to materialise. We can speculate on the reasons for this decline. Edward Buscombe, who has written profusely on the western, believes the decline of the studio system resulted in the decline of the staple Western form, the B film, during the 1950s. More recently he goes on to say, the change in production patterns means now catering for the changing demographics of the cinema audience, the majority of whom are now too young for a genre that always venerated age. The younger audience is attracted to other genres- horror, science fiction- that offer many traditional satisfactions of the western without the dated historical baggage that now seems increasingly irrelevant in the 21st century. The changing attitudes of society, especially in terms of sexuality and ethnic difference, have left the classic Western marooned in its nineteenth century values. The death of the Western genre mirrors the death of the west itself; the frontiers of America becoming more and more civilised and development ridding the West of the wide open spaces it was famed for. As the painter Frederic Remington commented in 1881, "I knew the railroad was coming. I saw the men already swarming into the land. I knew the derby hat, the smoking chimney, the cord- binder and the thirty day note were upon us in a restless surge. I knew the wild riders and vacant land were about to vanish forever."1 A genre that depicted a land that was long gone was bound to die out soon, although the myth of the west remains, and i believe permeates many so called non-westerns. In this essay I intend to analyse Jim Kitses essay on authorship and genre in the Western, hoping to prove that the flexibility of the genre means that the western will never really die, but manifest itself in other, more unrecognisable forms, such as the science fiction film. To help improve this, I will draw on other critical readings and look at The Magnificent Seven(1960), one of the great Westerns, itself a remake of Akira...

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