SueSueApplegate

The Noir Western

18 posts in this topic

image.jpg1_zpsp7l547jv.jpg

Beginning in the mid-1940s, the bleak, brooding mood of film noir began seeping into that most optimistic of film genres, the western. Story lines took on a darker tone and western films adopted classic noir elements of moral ambiguity, complex anti-heroes and explicit violence. This “noir western” helped set the standard for the darker science fiction, action and superhero films of today, as well as for acclaimed TV series such as HBO's Deadwood and AMC's Breaking Bad.

 

Join us in welcoming David Meuel, the author of the new book, The Noir Western: Darkness on the Range 1943-1962 (McFarland, 2015) to The Silver Screen Oasis for a discussion of this intriguing development in film during the mid-20th Century. The dates are Friday July 24 and Saturday July 25 (which, incidentally, has also been designated the 11th Annual Day of the Cowboy).

 

Since TCM's "Summer of Darkness" project screens films noir every Friday in June and July this summer, 12,000 students have signed up for the online film noir course taught by Richard Edwards from Ball State University on Canvas, and the free course has sparked much renewed interest in the genre. Perhaps a series on Meuel's The Noir Western: Darkness on the Range 1943-1962 might be the next logical step in further focusing on film noir.

 

This past April, Meuel was a featured speaker at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco for its film series, Dark Horse: Film Noir Westerns.

03b52cbf-5f94-40f0-b2af-0a913d84c24d_zps

A lifelong student of films, he is also the author of Women in the Films of John Ford (McFarland, 2014), an in-depth examination of a fascinating, but often overlooked, facet of the iconic director’s work. Meuel lives in Menlo Park, California, and has also published two volumes of poetry.

 

Links:

Immortal Ephemera:

Review of Women in the Films of John Ford:

http://immortalephemera.com/53655/women-in-the-films-of-john-ford/

Review of The Noir Western: Darkness on the Range, 1943-1962: http://immortalephemera.com/57851/tcm-preview-april-2015/

 

 

Barnes and Noble link to The Noir Western: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-noir-western-david-meuel/1120828019?ean=9780786494521

 

The Evening Class Blogspot has an excerpt from The Noir Western: http://theeveningclass.blogspot.com/2015/04/book-excerpt-noir-western-darkness-on.html

 

The National Day of the Cowboy: http://nationaldayofthecowboy.com/wordpress/

 

Christy Putnam's review of Women in the Films of John Ford: http://www.examiner.com/review/women-the-films-of-john-ford

 

TCM and Ball State's Online Film Noir Course: https://www.canvas.net/browse/bsu/tcm/courses/film-noir

 

David Meuel's author page: http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3ADavid%20Meuel

 

And here's a special note from Moira Finnie:

 

David Meuel is an astute and engaging writer. If interested, you can see David Meuel's take on Shirley Temple, the TCM Star of the Month, in his quite original interpretation of her role in Wee Willie Winkie (1937) at the link below. This piece was drawn from his first book Women in The Films of John Ford (McFarland, 2014). The article also features more of David's non-cinematic writing too:

http://moirasthread.blogspot.com/2012/06/innocent-turned-imperialist-shirley.html?q=david+meuel

 

Our upcoming guest discusses Two Myths about John Ford in a youtube posting here:

 

 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am very much looking forward to David's discussion. Western noir is one of my favorite genre hybrids.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's definitely an overlooked Noir Western. From the Anthony Mann and John Alton team as well; one of Mann's earliest film in the Western genre, it's also, by far, one of the most racially progressive Westerns of the genre I think.

DevilsDoorwayPoster2.jpg

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Top Billed, I'm looking forward to David's visit, too!

BrianBlake, David devotes a whole chapter and many intermittent comments to Anthony Mann, and Devil's Doorway is part of it!

 

image.jpg1_zpsvose5dxn.jpg

 

The emergence of the noir western was definitely a part of the continuing development and evolution of the western genre.

 

Hope to see you both there!

 

The Silver Screen Oasis announcement concerning David Meuel's Q & A to discuss THE NOIR WESTERN: http://silverscreenoasis.com/oasis3/viewtopic.php?f=90&t=6897

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi thanks for posting.  I love noir westerns, especially Pursued (1947).  What time on July 24 and 25 will Mr. Meuel be guest at The Silver Screen Oasis?  Any special sign up instructions required?  I work during the day Friday but will try to join in Saturday if I can.  Thanks.  

 

Join us in welcoming David Meuel, the author of the new book, The Noir Western:

Darkness on the Range 1943-1962 (McFarland, 2015) to The Silver Screen Oasis for
a discussion of this intriguing development in film during the mid-20th Century.
The dates are Friday July 24 and Saturday July 25 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dear NattyGann37,

 

Thank you for your interest in The Noir Western: Darkness on the Range, 1943-1962, and author David Meuel.

 

You can register at The Silver Screen Oasis here: http://silverscreenoasis.com/oasis3/index.php

 

Just click on the Register link at the top of the page.

 

David Meuel's Q & A can be accessed on the current Guest Star Forum: http://silverscreenoasis.com/oasis3/viewtopic.php?f=119&t=6898

 

Hope to see you there!

 

Sue X 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So many great questions (and responses by the guest author) over at the Silver Screen Oasis today. I'm thoroughly enjoying the discussion about western noir!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And Top Billed, we are glad you stopped by!

 

Thanks for asking some great questions yourself. :-)

 

I felt that we were very lucky to have him come by for a visit.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The question to ask about "western noir" is whether westerns and noirs are compatible or incompatible as far as concerns their depiction of morality. This is really the crux, it has nothing at all to do with their visuals.

Was the old west moral or amoral? Start there.

In some westerns, men are slain --hewn down--like so much lumber (gunfights, holdups, showdowns) and mostly without compunction. But in some other westerns, you can see that there is a strict code about whether a man can killed. And some westerns often have strong Biblical themes. Its a complex area.

Then look at noirs. Another apparently 'lawless' landscape. Yet the background in noir films is one where American justice is very 'strict and swift'. It was the heyday of the electric chair. Morality in an extreme degree. Noir protagonists are often running scared from the law; just as often though, a noir protagonist blithely ignores the sword of justice dangling over his neck.

So do the various moral settings for the two genres integrate or conflict?

Has anyone ever asked this kind of thing around here?

p.s. This same dilemma is also the reason why noirs can not just be grandfathered in under the concept of 'murder stories'. Different timeperiods; different literatures; different cinemas all reveal various ways of handling the morality of murder.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

List of Noir Westerns so far

There may be more......

Pursued (1947)

Blood On The Moon (1948)

Station West (1948)

Lust for Gold (1949)

The Gunfighter (1950)

The Furies (1950)

The Devil's Doorway (1950)

Rawhide (1951)

The Secret of Convict Lake (1951)

The Outcasts Of Poker Flat (1952)

The Halliday Brand (1957)

Man Of The West (1958)

The Great Silence (1968)

Welcome To Hard Times (1967)

Track Of The Cat (1954)

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, cigarjoe said:

List of Noir Westerns so far

There may be more......

Pursued (1947)

Blood On The Moon (1948)

Station West (1948)

Lust for Gold (1949)

The Gunfighter (1950)

The Furies (1950)

The Devil's Doorway (1950)

Rawhide (1951)

The Secret of Convict Lake (1951)

The Outcasts Of Poker Flat (1952)

The Halliday Brand (1957)

Man Of The West (1958)

The Great Silence (1968)

Welcome To Hard Times (1967)

Track Of The Cat (1954)

Any particular favorites from this group, Joe?

By the way, you mentioned THE DEVIL'S DOORWAY...and there are a few more westerns that Robert Taylor made at MGM which have noir elements in them...AMBUSH (1950); THE LAST HUNT (1956); and THE LAW AND JAKE WADE (1958). 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Add

McCabe & Mrs Miller (1971)

Keoma (1976)

Westerns for the most part don't have the noir stylistics, they are of those sun baked desert set Film Soleil "Noirs" with dark storylines. 

Westerns would be even more subjective to individual tastes. 

One of those Mitchum Westerns has something akin to Noir stylistics with a nice sequence shot by kerosene lantern, but I can't remember which is which. The Secret of Convict Lake is pretty dark too visually but I've never seen a good copy of it.

The Last Hunt is pretty bleak but not a fave.

I like Rawhide, The Law And Jake WadeMan of the WestWelcome to Hard Times, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Keoma, and probably the darkest Western of all the Fargo-esque The Great Silence

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, cigarjoe said:

Add

McCabe & Mrs Miller (1971)

Keoma (1976)

Westerns for the most part don't have the noir stylistics, they are of those sun baked desert set Film Soleil "Noirs" with dark storylines. 

Westerns would be even more subjective to individual tastes. 

One of those Mitchum Westerns has something akin to Noir stylistics with a nice sequence shot by kerosene lantern, but I can't remember which is which. The Secret of Convict Lake is pretty dark too visually but I've never seen a good copy of it.

The Last Hunt is pretty bleak but not a fave.

I like Rawhide, The Law And Jake WadeMan of the WestWelcome to Hard Times, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Keoma, and probably the darkest Western of all the Fargo-esque The Great Silence

Fox restored THE SECRET OF CONVICT LAKE not long ago. Someone's posted it on YouTube. I'd agree it has noir elements, especially the part involving the stolen loot. Since THE BADLANDERS (1958) is a reworking of THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950) that one would qualify as a western noir. Same for COLORADO TERRITORY (1949) which is a reworking of HIGH SIERRA (1941).

I think the Mitchum film you have in mind is BLOOD ON THE MOON (1948).

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

'Tension' (in a movie's storyline) is simply a fundamental of narrative structure and found in myriads of films and also stageplays. It's age-old.

Is it this red-herring, which is luring so many movie-goers into the trap of "hybrid genre-lization"?

You can certainly have tense flicks which aren't noir. Most cinema lines up exactly that way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another observation why noir and western must differ is found again (as above) in the two very different outdoor environments. The west is not ambiguous or surreal or ambivalent as the 'urban warrens' of noir plots are.

You can't just stroll through Arizona or Nevada, lost in your own thoughts, as you can in a downtown. In a desert, you must look to your survival and tend to your body's needs for food and water; you must take steps to persevere, or the land itself will kill you. You can't stay immobile, or ignore it.

(To pluck from a recent example: Gregory Peck in [the desert-setting of] 'The Purple Plain' had to re-discover his will to live or there would have been no movie. His character would have perished.)

The west is a very concrete. realistic, and specific environment; it is clear and direct; whereas the dark (noir) cities lend themselves to perplexity for the noir protagonist, adds to his disconnect, his disorientation, and his abstraction. He 'flounders' through the man-made mazes, struggling with metaphysical dilemmas; not simple physical ones.

These are clearly two different kinds of movie-making. And I wager that any title in the list of alleged western-noirs above could be better stated (after scrutiny) to simply contain 'tension' rather than 'noir'.

Thass muh rulin'! ;)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
28 minutes ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

'Tension' (in a movie's storyline) is simply a fundamental of narrative structure and found in myriads of films and also stageplays. It's age-old.

Is it this red-herring, which is luring so many movie-goers into the trap of "hybrid genre-lization"?

You can certainly have tense flicks which aren't noir. Most cinema lines up exactly that way.

I find TENSION to be kind of boring. In fact I don't think MGM was very good at film noir. Another one I'm not crazy about is SCENE OF THE CRIME, also made the same year by MGM. This studio was much better at turning out lighter, musical comedy fare. They had to keep up with the other studios and do some noir, some war films and some westerns but their works in these other genres were often quite insubstantial. Despite the polished production values, a lot of these more serious films from MGM seem hollow.

Richard Basehart manages to make it watchable but the story as a whole is uninspired and quite dull in my opinion. TENSION suggests there might be a lot of suspense, but it's only ever about tension as a dramatic concept. The plot doesn't build to a satisfying real pay off, nor do the characters and situations appear very connected to the harder issues that we see in noir or crime dramas produced by other studios at this time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Another observation why noir and western must differ is found again (as above) in the two very different outdoor environments. The west is not ambiguous or surreal or ambivalent as the 'urban warrens' of noir plots are.

You can't just stroll through Arizona or Nevada, lost in your own thoughts, as you can in a downtown. In a desert, you must look to your survival and tend to your body's needs for food and water; you must take steps to persevere, or the land itself will kill you. You can't stay immobile, or ignore it.

(To pluck from a recent example: Gregory Peck in [the desert-setting of] 'The Purple Plain' had to re-discover his will to live or there would have been no movie. His character would have perished.)

The west is a very concrete. realistic, and specific environment; it is clear and direct; whereas the dark (noir) cities lend themselves to perplexity for the noir protagonist, adds to his disconnect, his disorientation, and his abstraction. He 'flounders' through the man-made mazes, struggling with metaphysical dilemmas; not simple physical ones.

These are clearly two different kinds of movie-making. And I wager that any title in the list of alleged western-noirs above could be better stated (after scrutiny) to simply contain 'tension' rather than 'noir'.

Thass muh rulin'! ;)

Now you are starting to catch on to what we are saying. Modern Westerns are Film Soleils, they are those light filled, sun baked, Neo Noirs. 

In a typical Urban Noir it's what you can't see in the dark shadows that can kill you. In a Film Soleil Noir (which usually takes place in the Western Deserts or a tropical local) everything you see can kill you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us