The Evolution of the Western: American Mythology
Time: 10:30 - 13:00
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: HF301
Duration: 2 sessions (over 2 weeks)
What is the course about?
The Western adventure was the most popular genre in cinemas before television took it hostage. ‘Spaghetti' westerns brought it back until Clint Eastwood himself killed it off in Unforgiven (1992). Yet it endures. The recent Power of the Dog (2021), a Western with enough atmosphere to fill two saddlebags, travels in unexpected directions no classic Western ever could. Benedict Cumberbatch channels his inner ‘Liberty Valance’ as one mean, lone cowboy. We still love Westerns and will cover the key classic Westerns and directors e.g., Shane (1953 George Stevens), Hud (1962 Martin Ritt), The Magnificent Seven (1960 John Sturges).
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
The Major studios abandoned the genre to Poverty Row producers making cheap B-movies in the 1930s after a few expensive flops such as The Big Trail (1930 Raoul Walsh). Many highly-regarded Westerns seriously critique American culture, such as High Noon (1952 Fred Zinnemann). Once upon a time Quentin Tarantino described Sergio Leone’s ‘Dollars Trilogy’ of spaghetti westerns as “the greatest achievement in the history of cinema.”
The pleasure in viewing contemporary Westerns is seeing how much they purposely distance themselves from classic Westerns while portraying America’s unique past with more realism and historical accuracy.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- Define the generic conventions of the Western
- Demonstrate familiarity with the history of the Western genre
- Identify a range of key Westerns.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
Suitable for all levels, this course requires only an enthusiasm to learn more about the value of cinema, to discuss films, share ideas and listen to the views of others. It provides an introduction to the subject but will also be valuable for those wishing to build on existing knowledge.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
Opening lecture, viewing film extracts throughout with tutor-led discussion in the whole group and in small groups/breakout rooms. No prior preparation necessary. High-quality digital 'handouts' for further research.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
No other costs. Please bring pad or device for note taking.
Recommended (but not required) reading:
• Buscombe, Edward/Christopher Brookeman. The BFI Companion to the Western (A. Deutsch, 1988)
• Everson, William K. A Pictorial History of the Western Film (New York: Citadel Press, 1969)
• Kitses, Jim. Horizons West: The Western from John Ford to Clint Eastwood (BFI, 2007).
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Look for other film courses at www.citylit.ac.uk/culture, history & writing/Film Studies.
John Wischmeyer (MA in Film Theory) set up, ran and programmed his own cinema in West London and has since taught film studies at the former Gainsborough studio, the BFI and City Lit since 1999, Hitchcock’s centenary year. John has covered a wide range film topics under the banner ‘Cinema Investigates America’ and has a particular interest in and considerable knowledge of Hitchcock, Hollywood studios, American independent cinema and film noir, film technique and style.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.