Why Spaghetti Westerns Should Simply Be Westerns: An Analysis Of The Western Genre Using Examples From "The Searchers" And "For A Few Dollars More"

1930 words - 8 pages

Why Spaghetti Westerns Should Be Simply WesternsIt is argued that true Westerns all conform to the same mold of the prewar Westerns: A lonely hero who wanders the West looking to settle down, but is never able to give up the violent life he has led. John Cawelti says the Western takes place on the border between two lands, between two eras, and with a hero who remains divided between two value systems (Altman, 220). Schatz describes the Western world as one of a precarious balance in which forces of civilization and savagery are locked in a struggle for supremacy (p. 47). I do not believe this description allows for the inclusion of many Westerns created before the First World War, beginning with The Great Train Robbery (1903), and after the Second World War. In fact, despite The Great Train Robbery's widespread acceptance as the first Western, it is considered to be a mix of the travel genre, and the railway subgenre (Altman, 34). His definition only truly suits the movies made during the height of the Western genre between the 1930's and the 1950's (p. 46). I will be focusing on two films that are known to be quite illustrative of their respective Western niches: The Searchers (1956) and For a Few Dollars More (1965). I intend to show that an American Western by an American director may be differently styled, but in no sense more of a Western than one from an Italian director with a very different adaptation of the genre.The Western hero exists on the periphery of both the community and the wilderness and never loses touch with either. The hero is motivated to uphold civilization by his own code of honor. This often leads him to acts of vengeance (Schatz, 51). The Searchers stars John Wayne who plays the role of Ethan who has recently returned home from the Civil War and is looking to put his past behind him. He is only able to accomplish this for one night, because the next day while out looking for the culprits who vandalized a neighbor's ranch, his brother and sister-in-law, along with their son were killed; their two daughters were kidnapped. In The Searchers, there is an unspoken but clearly recognizable connection between Ethan's brother's wife, Martha, and himself. The very first scene of the movie shows Martha anxiously opening the door to welcome Ethan home. When he reaches the house he greets his brother with nothing more than a handshake, but then turns to Martha and stares into her eyes and goes to kiss her. The drawn out pause before Ethan kisses Martha is accompanied by romantic music and the look they give each other reminded me of the look you see in Screwball Comedies when you know the two actors no longer hate each other, and can do nothing more than immediately embrace. I was sure they were about to kiss on the lips, as I'm sure anyone else who sees the movie would too. In Westerns, relationships between the protagonists and women are typically secondary, but here it's Ethan's sole motivation to venture for five years in...

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