The Landscape of Hollywood Westerns

Ecocriticism in an American Film Genre

Films located in the American West and the Western as a cinematic genre have endured throughout the history of moviemaking. Today, this tradition of battles between good versus evil, populists versus profiteers, and man versus nature may have been largely assimilated and transformed into action adventures with car chases replacing mounted posses, yet the genre remains popular with audiences. In studies of the Hollywood Western, the importance of landscape itself, the idyllic or treacherous environment portrayed in these films, often receives supporting-role status. Without the land, however, American national mythmaking would not exist.

The essays in this volume scrutinize the special place of nature and landscape in films—including silent, documentary, and feature length film—that are specifically American and Western. The films discussed here go beyond the stereotypical sagebrush setting. Although many of the films closely fit the standard conventions of the Western, others demonstrate the fluidity of the genre. The wildness of the western environment as a central fact of the American mythos encompasses far more than a brief period of national history or a specific geographical location.

Deborah A. Carmichael is associate editor of Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies. She has published on film exhibition history, Depression-era film, and documentaries.

Praise and Reviews:

"The saga of the Western motion picture continues to attract scores of readers and this book will appeal to film enthusiasts who seek out new information about a mythic period that seems embedded in the psyche of countless Americans."— Robert Fyne, Kean University

"This volume encourages teachers and students, the professional and non-professional, to reconsider the Hollywood Western as a valid and respectable subject on ecological and environmental concerns."— Michael K. Schoenecke, Texas Tech University

"A superb anthology that scrutinizes the importance of nature and countryside in popular feature-length photodramas. Represents some new ideas about the Hollywood Western, a genre that traces its roots back to 1903."—Film & History