When the Western Waned

Still in the Saddle: The Hollywood Western CoverAndrew Patrick Nelson’s thoughtful book, Still in the Saddle: The Hollywood Western, 1969-1980, makes the central point that most of the Westerns now regarded as creative breakthroughs (The Wild Bunch, McCabe and Mrs. Miller) were financial failures, especially when juxtaposed with “traditional” John Wayne Westerns such as True Grit and Big Jake. This being the case, why was the genre clearly on a morphine drip by 1980? Nelson says that “the Western was too far removed from ‘daily experience’; its situation in the historical past, ambivalence about technology, and emphasis on community were at odds with the dynamism, technophilia and individualism of the day.”

Given this misalliance, and the resulting strangling of a noble genre, a better title might have been borrowed from Raymond Chandler: The Long Goodbye.

Scott Eyman, author of John Wayne: The Life and Legend

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