Search the Community
Showing results for tags 'Oaters'.
Talking about improving The Magnificent Seven reminded me of some thoughts I had on the decline of the Western. Factors effecting the Decline of the Western Westerns and early cinema you could say almost say go hand in hand. 1903’s “Great Train Robbery “ was filmed while the West was still “Wild”. Harvey Logan “Kid Curry” (one of the last of the Wild Bunch) robbed his last train outside of Parachute, Colorado, in 1904. So Westerns in effect were contemporary cinema at the time they were first filmed. Even as progress spread rapidly on both coasts in the interior US West it reached only major towns and cities while isolated pockets remained off the grid for decades, even today there remain areas off the grid entirely. Most old timers I’ve interviewed concur that noticeable progress didn’t take effect until the post WWII era when tracked vehicles replaced horse and steam. (I actually knew a guy who grew up next to an "alumni" of Custer's Last Stand", his father was a teamster who drove a supply wagon in Eastern Montana). The artisans who were responsible for early Westerns lived in that contemporary twilight of the West Era. They, especially if they were born West of the Mississippi or had emigrated to the West from Europe, grew up rubbing shoulders with Native Americans, cowboys, prospectors, a hands on knowledge of how to work horses, they drove horse drawn vehicles, saw steam power, saw the last of the Transcontinental Railways (The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific RR) completed in 1909, used telegraph lines, kerosene lamps, barbed wire, saw the first motor cars, the first telephones networks, the first electric power grids. That knowledge of the West they applied to the films they made regardless of the scripts and overly melodramatic screenplays. This knowledge was passed down by those responsible for motion picture production and the companies that employed them (Thomas Edison's Manufacturing Company, American Mutoscope, Biograph Co., Republic Pictures, etc., etc.). Thomas Ince invented the studio system, he produced detailed scripts with new situations and characters for a vast number of classic westerns. Bison Company production studios (known as Inceville) purchased the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch and the Wild West Show to use their props and performers for assembly-line, mass-produced films. In the early 1910s, Francis Ford (John Ford’s older brother) was directing and starring in westerns in California for producer Ince, before joining Universal and Carl Laemmle in 1913. Time passed from the Silent Era to the Sound Era to the Color Era and so did the original knowledge and the hands on creativity learned over the years. The popularity of Westerns expanded and again evolved to television production reaching a peak in the late 1950‘s early 1960‘s. This continued until the early 1970’s. Its in the 70’s where the breakdown becomes evident in production numbers. Factors that seen to be involved would be the increasing injection of heavy handed politics into Western themes from the 1950‘s onward, public taste, the newer generations total lack of personal familiarity (or total rejection) with the culture of the past, the exposing light shown on the brutal historical record of manifest destiny, the disruption of the studio system and the stability it provided, and the loss of the handed down knowledge of how to make a Western that looks and plays like a Western when Westerns weren’t being made at the same time the old school filmmakers died off. But we are really not getting Westerns any longer Westerns as we knew them are DEAD, we are in the Neo Western Age.