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Unbridling the Western Film Auteur

Contemporary, Transnational and Intertextual Explorations

Edited By Emma Hamilton and Alistair Rolls

According to Jim Kitses (1969), the Western originally offered American directors a rich canvas to express a singular authorial vision of the American past and its significance. The Western’s recognizable conventions and symbols, rich filmic heritage, and connections to pulp fiction created a widely spoken «language» for self-expression and supplemented each filmmaker’s power to express their vision of American society. This volume seeks to re-examine the significance of auteur theory for the Western by analysing the auteur director «unbridled» by traditional definitions or national contexts.

This book renders a complex portrait of the Western auteur by considering the genre in a transnational context. It proposes that narrow views of auteurism should be reconsidered in favour of broader definitions that see meaning created, both intentionally and unintentionally, by a director; by other artistic contributors, including actors and the audience; or through the intersection with other theoretical concepts such as re-allegorization. In so doing, it illuminates the Western as a vehicle for expressing complex ideas of national and transnational identity.


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2. The Star Auteur: Jimmy Stewart Out West (Alex Davis)


Alex Davis 2 The Star Auteur: Jimmy Stewart Out West Abstract The notion of the auteur as director has persisted throughout much of cinema studies scholarship, but all the more perplexingly within the Western genre. Important figures like John Ford, Anthony Mann, Delmer Davis, and others, laid claim to authoring Westerns but the attention paid to this often ignores the important image of their films: the cowboy. This chapter examines the notion of star as auteur by examining Jimmy Stewart’s portrayal of the cowboy in his collaborations with Anthony Mann, George Marshall and John Ford. Within these films, it is Stewart’s performance that dictates the socio-political signifi- cances of the work, rather than a directorial signature. This chapter will trace the many associations a historical spectator of Stewart’s films would have in order to draw out the different political import of each. It forms both an original history of Stewart’s career via his contributions to the Western film genre as well as an extended consideration of the author-performer.  In 1962, How the West Was Won, a multi-part epic spanning fifty years, featuring nearly thirty stars, and directed by three of the most acclaimed directors of Westerns in American film history exploded across the country’s screens. The camera glided across a gorgeous mountain scape as Spencer Tracy set the scene, introducing us to the original, rugged settler of the West: the Mountain Man. Out of the mountains emerged the representative of these few white men who dared to leave the East...

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