This text employs the Western as a vital medium for examining the many tensions - political, racial, sexual, social and religious - which have beset modern America from "Stagecoach" and the Depression's last years to the decline of the genre in the 1970s. The book focuses on a group of great Westerns, showing how they engaged covertly with such issues as miscegenation, labour-management relations, generational discord, codes of masculinity, the Cold War, McCarthyism, Vietnam, increasing individual social alienation, and explains why a celebratory genre veered, during a generation of unprecedented power and prosperity, from sagas of national achievement to bleak, virtually asocial visions of life in the United States.
Michael Coyne is a writer and film historian. He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Mirror for pre-war America - "Stagecoach" and the Western, 1939-1941; puritan paradigms - "My Darling Clementine" and "Duel in the Sun"; "The Lonely Crowd", Catholicism and consensus on the prairie - "Red River", "Fort Apache" and "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon"; dysfunctional family structures in classic westerns, 1950-1961 - "The Gunfighter", "Shane", "The Searchers" and "The Last Sunset"; politics and codes of masculinity in late 1950s star westerns - "The Big Country" and "Warlock"; "No More West to Win" - "How the West Was Won" and the elegiac westerns of 1962; a genre in flux, a nation in turmoil - the Vietnamization of the western in mid-1960s America; receding frontiers, narrowing options - "The Wild Bunch" and the western in Richard Nixon's America; legends revisited, legends revised in "Bicentennial Westerns" - "Buffalo Bill and the Indians", "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and "The Shootist".