¶ … Western and Hollywood: The Art of Show Business
The Western helped spawn the American myth -- the legend of the frontier spirit, where civilization met the road and the individual was put to the test: either he would be a man of honor, or a criminal. The Western hero, guys like Wayne and Cooper and Roy Rogers before them, participated in the mythos and were awarded with stardom in the "genus stardom" of Hollywood, where stars and starlets were groomed and given to the public for consumption: they represented the public's image of itself -- Lana Turner representing their sexiness, Wayne representing their machismo (Damico 240).
Hollywood as art and as industry, used the Western to boost the box office in the early days of cinema -- but by the time John Ford made Stagecoach, the big Western film had lost its luster and unless a big star was attached, studios weren't backing them. Ford had to go to an alternate for funding for Stagecoach, but the film was a huge hit and it re-launched the Western genre in Hollywood -- a genre that lasted for a number of decades,...
Not only was the Western good for business, but it was also part of American folklore and its artistic value added something to the American consciousness, infusing in it the rough-and-tumble sort of viewpoint that would support the American doctrines of Manifest Destiny and New Expansionism. The frontier spirit was the American spirit thanks to Westerns.
As "show" business, the Western was about spectacle. The classic scene of the Western hero having a shoot-out in the barroom or in the deserted street, mano-a-mano, was as essential as the "show" could get. The "show" was about daring and bravado, about masculinity and "grit" -- much of it demonstrated by John Wayne, the classic face of the cowboys and Indians Western as well as the sheriff and gangs Western. Wayne reflected the "everyman" in the American public, which is why Ford fought so hard to cast him in Stagecoach, a film in which the good vs. evil paradigm served as a vehicle for romance, action, and adventure -- a perfect "escapist" film for audiences in 1939. As Kitses notes, Wayne emerged as the new archetype of the Western genre and stood…
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