The Reel Cowboy

Essays on the Myth in Movies and Literature


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About the Book

Movies and books have romanticized the life of the cowboy. To most, the heroes of countless Westerns fall into one of three categories: the strong, silent, asexual deliverer of damsels in distress; the slick and gaudy guitar-strummer; and the virile, violent drifter. In truth, real cowboys had little in common with the fictionalized characters of literature and the silver screen.
The “reel” cowboys of yesteryear are recalled in Part One of this work. The make-believe West of Gene Autry, Buck Jones, Harry Carey, and many others is contrasted with the real American West. Part Two discusses the many movies based on the writings of Western writers. The works of Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, Max Brand, Luke Short, Ernest Haycox and many others have been transformed to the silver screen, often with great success. Next examined are the movies based upon three writers of the great Northwest: James Oliver Curwood, Jack London and Rex Beach. A concluding section looks at cinema cowboys on the so-called “sawdust trail.” Will Rogers, Tom Mix, Jack Hoxie were among those reel cowboys who performed in circuses and Wild West shows.

About the Author(s)

The late Buck Rainey wrote scores of articles for Western and serial fanzines and several books. He lived in Tishomingo, Oklahoma.

Bibliographic Details

Buck Rainey
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 319
Bibliographic Info: 17 photos, filmographies, notes, index
Copyright Date: 2014 [1996]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9365-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1593-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     vi
Introduction     ix

Part I. The Reel Cowboy     1
1. The Reel Cowboy’s Drift from Realism     2

Part II. Western Literature as Hollywood Filmed It     37
2. Zane Grey     38
3. Other Writers of the West     69

Part III. Cinematic Trails of the Snow Country     169
4. James Oliver Curwood     170
5. Jack London     220
6. Rex Beach     239

Part IV. Cowboys Under the Big Top     259
7. Cinema Cowboys Hit the Sawdust Trail     260

Notes     283
Index     289

Book Reviews & Awards

“illuminating and very interesting comparisons…much interesting information”—Past Times; “lively, easily-readable, and humorous”—Christian Library Journal; “an intriguing character study…written intelligently, and with a real appreciation for the genre”—; “a much needed history of our cowboy heroes”—Western Clippings.