Cover

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Title page, Series page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-2

Many people have helped with this project. First, I would like to thank Richard Etulain, who invited me to write this volume for the University of Arizona Press’s Modern American West series. He provided encouragement and expert advice about the manuscript. I’d also like to thank the...

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Prologue. The Sagebrush Trail

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pp. 3-10

The Sagebrush Trail is a history of western movies but also a history of twentieth-century America. The book’s title is based on a 1933 film that starred John Wayne as an innocent man convicted of murder back east. He breaks out of jail and heads for the American West to find the real...

Part I. The Rise of Western Movies, 1900–1944

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1. The Great Train Robbery: Or How Early Western Movies Stole America’s Heart

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pp. 13-33

In 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner delivered a talk entitled “The Significance of the Frontier in American History” at a history conference in Chicago. The young scholar began with a quote from the bulletin of the superintendent of the U.S. census, announcing that the frontier was officially...

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2. Blazing the Trail: New Directors and the Rise of Feature Westerns

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pp. 34-64

Blazing the Trail, a two-reel western directed by Thomas Ince, was released on April 15, 1912. The plot is simple. Ethel Grandin’s character heads west and is captured by Indians. After many trials and tribulations, she is rescued by the hero, played by Francis Ford, the older brother of John...

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3. The Big Trail: Tracking Feature Westerns Through Depression and War

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pp. 65-91

The Fox Film Corporation had high hopes for The Big Trail, their epic western released in 1930. The “all talking” picture seemed to have all the ingredients for success. With a two-million-dollar budget, the spectacular film was shot on location throughout the West, using an experimental 70...

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4. Tumbling Tumbleweeds: Guns, Guitars, and B-Western Cowboys

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pp. 92-128

Audiences knew from the moment Tumbling Tumbleweeds began that this was no ordinary B-Western. Most moviegoers were accustomed to the shootouts and fistfights found in the action-packed films of Tom Mix and Ken Maynard. They had even heard a few cowboy songs in early B-Western...

Part II. Transitional Westerns on New Frontiers, 1945–1963

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5. The Searchers: Cowboys and Containmenton the Cold War Frontier

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pp. 131-164

The Searchers is one of the greatest westerns ever made. Directed brilliantly by John Ford, the movie was filmed in vivid Technicolor and panoramic VistaVision on locations that included Utah’s breathtaking Monument Valley, the majestic Colorado Rockies, and the rolling prairies...

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6. Shane: Western Heroes and the Culture of the Cold War

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pp. 165-192

Shane was released in 1953. The film starred Alan Ladd as a quiet gunslinger who rides into town and winds up protecting homesteaders from a cattle baron and his hired gun. “There never was a man like SHANE,” bragged a movie poster. “There never was a motion picture like SHANE...

Part III. “New Western” Horizons, 1964–1999

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7. A Fistful of Dollars: Spaghetti Westerns and Changing Times

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pp. 195-217

A movie poster for Clint Eastwood’s A Fistful of Dollars depicts a grizzled gunslinger who looks nothing like earlier cowboy heroes. He wears a beard and smokes a cigarillo. Dressed in a Mexican poncho and flat-top cowboy hat, his gun is drawn, and his menacing stare shows he is ready for business...

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8. The Wild Bunch: American Westerns on a Revisionist Trail

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pp. 218-257

Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 film, The Wild Bunch, offered moviegoers a new vision of the West that was in sync with the troubled times. By the end of the sixties, America was reeling from ubiquitous violence, growing polarization, and countless assaults on almost every imaginable American...

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9. True Grit: Traditional Westerns Ride Again!

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pp. 258-285

Henry Hathaway’s True Grit (1969) is a traditional western that stars veteran film cowboy John Wayne, as well as a revisionist tale that features newcomer Kim Darby. A movie poster captures the tension. In the center is a close-up of Wayne’s grizzled character sporting a big grin and eye patch...

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10. Silverado: The Mythic West at Century’s End

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pp. 286-328

Silverado. The very name of the 1985 movie evokes the mythic West. The exotic-sounding yet unspecified western locale implies potential for immense wealth and opportunity. Maybe even a new life in an exciting land.
A movie poster suggests the adventure to be found on the road to Silverado...

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Epilogue. Django Unchained

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pp. 329-338

Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained was released on Christmas Day 2012. A movie poster spotlighted the star, Jamie Foxx, standing front and center. Staring straight ahead with determination, he’s dressed in black and wearing a cowboy hat with a silver studded band. Ready for...

Notes

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pp. 339-362

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Index

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pp. 363-371

Note: This index takes a historical approach to movies. Given that the book covers almost 1,000 films, the index is highly selective. Only those films emphasized in the text are listed. Other movies may be found in the text or endnotes. Some of the more significant characters, actors, actresses, and directors are also included...