The Hero’s Trail

Myth and Art in the American Western, 1903–1953

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About the Book

The great American Westerns can be profoundly meaningful when read metaphorically. More than mere shoot ’em up entertainment, they are an essential part of a vibrant, evolving national mythology. Like other versions of the archetypal Hero’s Journey, these films are filled with insights about life, love, nature, society, ethics, beauty and what it means to be human, and are key to understanding American culture.
Part film guide, part historical survey, this book explores the mythic and artistic elements in 52 great Westerns—some orthodox, some subversive—from the genre’s first half-century. Each film is given detailed critical analysis, from the earliest silent movies to Golden Age classics like Red River (1948), High Noon (1952) and Shane (1953).

About the Author(s)

Peter C. Mowrey is a composer, arranger, pianist, and professor of music living in northeast Ohio.

Bibliographic Details

Peter C. Mowrey
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 404
Bibliographic Info: 138 photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8238-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4427-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  vi
Preface: On the Ethics of Writing a Book About Westerns  1
Notes on Language and Cast/Credit Charts  3
Introduction  7
Part One: The Silents
The Great Train Robbery (1903) 22
The Battle of Elderbush Gulch (1913) 28
The Squaw Man (1914) 33
The Bargain (1914) 39
Knight of the Trail (1915) 44
Keno Bates, Liar (1915) 48
Hell’s Hinges (1916) 51
The Heart of Texas Ryan (1917) 56
The Covered Wagon (1923) 59
The Iron Horse (1924) 63
The Vanishing American (1925) 71
Tumbleweeds (1925) 78
3 Bad Men (1926) 86
Part Two: The Talkies
In Old Arizona (1928) 94
The Virginian (1929) 99
Hell’s Heroes (1929) 104
The Big Trail (1930) 111
Billy the Kid (1930) 117
Cimarron (1931) 122
Viva Villa! (1934) 128
Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) 136
The Plainsman (1936) 141
Jesse James (1939) 149
Part Three: The Golden Age
Stagecoach (1939) 156
Dodge City (1939) 167
Union Pacific (1939) 174
Frontier Marshal (1939) 179
Destry Rides Again (1939) 184
The Westerner (1940) 193
Melody Ranch (1940) 201
They Died with Their Boots On (1941) 204
The ­Ox-Bow Incident (1943) 209
My Darling Clementine (1946) 217
Duel in the Sun (1946) 225
Angel and the Badman (1947) 232
Pursued (1947) 238
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) 244
Fort Apache (1948) 247
Red River (1948) 254
Yellow Sky (1948) 265
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) 273
Wagon Master (1950) 280
The Gunfighter (1950) 286
Winchester ’73 (1950) 296
Broken Arrow (1950) 304
Devil’s Doorway (1950) 312
Rawhide (1951) 318
Along the Great Divide (1951) 325
Bend of the River (1952) 330
High Noon (1952) 338
The Naked Spur (1953) 349
Shane (1953) 358
Conclusion  366
Appendix: A Western Viewing List, 1903–1953  369
Notes  373
Bibliography  377
Index  381