Cultural Traditions and Mythology of the Western Hero
Louis L’Amour is arguably one of the best writers and he actually wrote quite a number of books most of which capture the cultural traditions and mythology of the western cultures, certain aspects are always feared in his stories that he eventually turns into movies .For instance, its common to see in his movies some rugged frontiers, cowboys being featured, lawmen and women willing to shoot each other, bounty hunters allover. L’Amour’s numerous novels and even the hundreds of short stories were always considered to be resourceful contribution to development of the landscape and collection of Western literature. The most interesting thing about his works in literature is they are always turned into movies hence capturing the traditions and ways of life of the western indigenous communities in a better and vivid way .Just like many writers ,his works particularly the literary stories have been turned into very captivating movies. A perfect example is what Warner Bros. did to some of his books .They basically put together some materials in his collection of books and came up with movies.
In the movie Conagher of 1991, the husband of Evie Teale (a role played by Katharine Ross) has been taken on trial to undisclosed location .it becomes apparent and its now up to the widowed mother to basically try and defend her family of two against bandits and Indians. While attempting to fulfill that responsibility, she happens to meet some lonely handsome cowboy by the name Conn Conagher (a role played by Sam Elliott), the cowboy eventually falls for Evie moments after finding some of her very touching and sorrowful romantic love notes and writings amidst some tumbleweeds. When you critically analyze this classic “Conagher”, you notice that it’s not necessarily trying in any way to be similar to other popular L’Amour films. This is basically something different and out of the box kind of concept that is basically aimed at deliberately looking a bit different compared to other movies he has done. This is basically drama that is carefully and creatively laced with a sad mood, melancholy characters, dark and well thought out cinematography, with abundance of brutal action sequences. The movie is characterized with a few incidences of shootouts, typical of cow boy movies.
According to Andreychuk the movie has a climax that in fact, ends with a very awkward and not so interesting choreographed brawl in some funny looking saloon with very little light. That could have been deliberate to basically bring the effect and the feeling of classic western movies, which I somehow think the movie manages to bring. Another classic feel that is captured and presented to the viewer is that other than the usual exaggerated focus on the action, the film focuses more on the development of the characters and also a lot of emphasis is put on the development of character’s feelings and emotions, This is evident in the way the Elvie the widow is depicted in the movie. Katherine Ross who plays Elvie does that role in a very plays the part with a lot of quiet reserve, She tries too hard to come across as some one who is really pained and in a sad mood but occasionally I find her line readings coming across as bit flat. The conagher cowboy role played by Elliott is well done and as always he plays well whatever role he is normally given particularly that of a cowboy. This movie can be very resourceful to anyone learning or trying tom mater the art of movie production in quite a number of aspects .First of all there is that aspect of the movie appearing like it really cost very little to produce which is a common aspect or feel that classic movies use to show the simplicity of the indigenous western cultures .Most aspects of the movie “Conagher” makes one feel the nostalgia of traditional western lifestyles.
For most of the big fan L’Amour or generally fans of western literature and movies, this conagher movie does satisfy their needs .L’Amour’s Conagher can be very helpful in many ways .One easily use it to develop their own movie addressing some of the western culture aspects if he or she keenly follows the other movies done by him for instance Catlow and The Sacketts which seem to revolve around the same themes and ideas. Funny enough, his film called Conagher covers many of the themes that western cultures revolve around for instance a bit of violence ,cowboys, characters who are troubled and are from humble backgrounds and one ground scheming about others. Contrary to what critiques of the movie say about it being grainy, scratchy and dark, I find it alright in as far as presenting the western culture is concerned. In a nutshell I would say the movie is interesting in the sense that it gives the viewers an insight in the ways of life of classic western cultures. A very common aspect in most of L’Amour’s movies .His characters always seem to have come from a very rough and tired background in which any world in which a funny glance or smile could make one get clobbered thoroughly. Nobody seems to be interested in being kind to the other one or even tries to be understanding. None of them seems to be apologetic. They all seem to have scores they are trying to settle with one another, they fight and kill one another and they act very honorable about it.
When one is interested in developing a movie especially movies that portray the western cultural traditions and mythology of the western hero a lot can be learned from L’Amour’s movie conagher. Movies that show the western cultures, traditions and mythology have simple plots and therefore when you watch and analyze these movies or films, they are simple when it comes to their execution, but very entertaining as a genre. I would definitely chose or recommend them for anyone who is interested in knowing the western cultures and mythology or even for the sake of comparative analysis .Most of them are family kind of movies, they are devoid of blue movie concepts.
It is always argued that Perhaps no genre of film or movie is more inherently western or American, nor basically mythologized, than those from Western. The western mythology is probably one of the most original genres in the film industry, beginning in the throwback silent era, the Western classic cowboy culture and the western here myth has been reinvented and revived many times not just by western producers and writers but also foreign script writers and directors. According to Connors &Craddock one of the most recognized and respected figure of western cultures and American films is John Wayne nicknamed the duke and not forgetting some other cinematic maniacs and icons like Clint Eastwood, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott, Rory Calhoun, and also some other heroes who are not that popular but equally significant like departed Roy Rogers, Johnny Brown, Gene Autrey, and many others. Another aspect that is always overlooked when studying the cultural traditions and mythology of the western heroes is the fact that the villains who feature in these movies too were icons, for instance Lee Van Cleef, Robert Armstrong, and Skip Homeier not forgetting Jack Elam. There is an almost ubiquitous luminary who must get a mention when ever studies to do with western films particularly the American movies are talked about and most often cast is Ward Bond .This is very familiar face in many Westerns movies.
We are all aware of how the west does their things; Hollywood for instance has created a mythos and history of producing classic concepts whose seductions can not be resisted even among the very knowledgeable directors and filmmakers. A perfect example of this is the fiery spirited woman from back east , the tall stranger, the weak-minded villain, and many others like the shootout in the street, the saucy saloon girl, accurately describe and capture the western cultural; mythology in a very vivid way. Most of these stories and ideas are caricatures which are often biased if not meant to distort certain beliefs of how the west used to be, but the funny thing is that they have sort of become very popular and entertaining to the extend of being believed to be real particularly in the imaginations of people who view them from far flung places and have never had any form of conduct with the west, this in many ways has made people to even imagine that the true history is faulty. Some of these ideas had to be incorporated in the syllabus of many educational systems for them to be believed to be simply creative elements of the American mythology in actual sense.
Just like it happened to a Korean film director, Im Kwon-taek, who became one of the most respected film makers the director and script writer in western are supposed to stick to traditional theme and accurately capture them in their films. Aspects like choice in subject matter, preferred genres, cinematography, and storytelling style are some of the strongest selling points of Im. No person can explain accurately the colors of a good artist that can only build up and develop with the passage of some considerable time as Im Kwon-taek can. Even those leading the recent much publicized international boom of Korean films like PARK Chan-wook, HONG Sangsoo, PARK Chan-wook or even KIM Ki-duk can’t have such big implications. With a good and surprisingly long experienced career of over a half a century or so, IM Kwon-taek has become a household name and also as a source of Korean film identity, his name sort of represents the whole Korean film itself. Although he already has been honored with so many awards and accolades, it was only in the mid 90s his interesting and captivating film style started getting respect from people world over.
A keen look at some of the other studies that relate to western cultural traditions and mythology shows that, mythology has sort of evolved together with the genre. When you look at some of the early films, Native Americans were depicted as marauding warriors, boardwalk drunks and renegades. In the year 1950 there was an acknowledgement by most of the films concerning the true history of the western cultural films and mythological movies being subverted .one particular case was in the movie Cheyenne Autumn which powerfully dealt with the American government’s treachery in the resettlement of the tribes from the plains that had been vanquished. This happened at a time when the western films were losing popularity in America.
When most of the American movies started to lose their popularity, first of all they were becoming too gritty according to many industry pundits and also the line between the good guys and the bad ones had started becoming a bit blurred. The interesting thing is that most of the very good western classics sort of emerged around this time unfortunately by the time we were getting into sixties, some of the western cultural and mythological films started to lose their popularity. A certain Italian filmmaker by the name Sergio Leone showed interest in the services of some young American star who he then hired to basically take a leading role in one of the best western movies that was aimed at boosting and reviving the Western film industry. Leon made a few Italian movies which he thought were to rival the already dying indigenous and cultural western movies .These few movies that he made came to be known as spaghetti Westerns fortunately they sort of made the likes of Clint Eastwood a well respected figure in Western iconography, other than just doing this mythical and cultural films most film makers also helped in precipitating a renaissance that saw the American film industry get revived and change a lot. Eastwood went ahead to form a production house called Malpaso production which saw him continue to make more western themed films. Slowly by slowly other film makers merged like Sam Peckinpah who came with new perspectives and ways of doing the western films which reflected the new forms and styles of making the Western classics.
While they were still mythological in nature and character in some instances, these films were pretty much psychological, and morally ambivalent. Some of them became unflinchingly brutal and violent and riddled with the dust and grit of the frontier.Eastwood kept on pushing by doing more movies which eventually paid off and the Westerns started becoming more recognized as one of the genre that was to be considered to be of worthy and artistic value by other serious and respected filmmakers. By then a wave of new generation kind of movies by Americans claimed that they also wanted to see the authentic tall cultural and mythical stories that their folks enjoyed, a move that saw many Americans flocked cinema halls to enjoy the likes of “Silverado”. The latest evolution of the classic and cultural mythology reflects the common and popular contemporary occurrences and sensibilities about brutality, violence and social justice, unfortunately it still distorts the realities that existed or happened which are part and parcel of the of the historical era.
Look at how cavalry atrocities tend to always be depicted today with a lot of brutal accuracy, and yet the Native American attacks and raids or even the torturous cruelties rarely get to be shown, the truth of the matter is a composite of the two aspects. The sensibilities of this age would be seen as strange by many of the frontier particularly in the 19th century. Some of the movies and films I have highlighted in this paper are historically relevant and accurate not just as part of the popularly imagined West. Personally I seem to thoroughly enjoy myself whenever I watch those cultural and mythical western films particularly those that revolve around the western hero. I enjoy art in what ever form it is in. The good thing with western films is they pay homage to the traditions of both the Hollywood Western and the other new school dubbed Spaghetti Western. I have not been lucky to see any great older films that are great and can be regarded nostalgic as those classics that the older generation used to enjoy. I like movies or films that depict the western cultural and mythical life particularly that of the western hero is one of the best ever genres. Nothing excites than the authentic depiction or portrayals of frontier ways of life, this could be partly because of the fact that am a big fun of Louis L’Amour who basically put together traditional heroic stories in words and later on turned them into motion pictures in a very authentic way.