Gunfighter gaps : Discourses of the frontier in Hollywood movies of the 1930s and 1970s.

TAN, Lynette T.Y. (1997). Gunfighter gaps : Discourses of the frontier in Hollywood movies of the 1930s and 1970s. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom)..

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Abstract

In 1990 and 1992, the Academy Award for the Best Motion Picture of the year was won by movies belonging to the Western genre: Dances With Wolves, and Unforgiven. Recent work on the Western claims that these achievements and the flood of new Westerns dating from the late 1980s up to the present signal a renaissance of the genre within the film industry, and among critics and the public. The notion of a revival has attached to it the idea of a preceding lapse, when a movie genre is "out of fashion". The lapse experienced by the Western beginning in the mid-1970s has a clear parallel in the late 1920s, when the trade press announced the demise of the genre. The aim of this thesis is to argue that these periods of lull in the popularity of the Western are tied to historical events that directly undermined the ideological base of American thought and culture. A principal aspect of that ideological base is the American Myth of the Frontier. In the 1930s the myth was challenged by the Great Depression, and in the 1960s and 1970s, the Civil Rights Movement, Women's Liberation and Vietnam. In the latter era, an entire generation of young men, raised in the 'Golden era' of the Western when the frontier myth gained its widest currency, were inspired to charge into battle 9,000 miles from America's shores for a victory that was sanctioned by the past. The tragic consequences of that war exacerbated the failure of that national narrative of triumph, and as the most dominant vehicle of frontier mythology, the Western correspondingly encountered an obstacle to its popular reception. This present volume locates expressions of popular culture as barometers of the performance of myth. It has, as its subject, an account of the route via which the Myth of the Frontier was repaired, by focusing primarily on the gaps prior to the myth's re-emergence. The gaps identified are episodes when myth loses its dehistoricizing function, when the frontier becomes a moment in the past that has no relevance for the present. An examination of how historical memory is disabled through the movies reveals the pervasiveness and continued significance of the frontier myth to America's self-image.Prior histories of the Western observe moments of the genre's resurgence, but this thesis adds to the field of criticism in its exploration of the possible reasons underlying the restoration of its popularity. This is achieved through an analysis of the various genres to which the frontier myth migrates after the 'A' Western ceases to be an outlet for its discourse. The Gangster film, 'B' Western and Vietnam War movie are such surfaces of emergence. Part of the originality of this work, for example, is the research on the 'B' Westerns directed by Joseph Kane and starring Gene Autry. The gaps in the history of the Western are thus viewed positively as having the utility for comprehending the relationship between the Western genre and the frontier myth. After the introductory chapters which discuss the concepts of genre, myth and the Western, this thesis analyses the centrality of the historical events that challenged expressions of frontier mythology in the two periods identified and the process through which that history is mediated, reconstructed and finally replaced.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: Thesis (Ph.D.)--Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom), 1997.
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2018 17:22
Last Modified: 10 Apr 2018 17:22
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/20422

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