Film

The Meaning of the Western

Remember Shane, Bonanza and The Lone Ranger? In novel, film and television, westerns once ruled the range. Until the 1960s westerns were the most popular fiction genre and remained popular until the 1970s. In his book The Searchers the western historian Glenn Frankel tells us that western novels “consistently outsold all genres, including the closest competitor, the detective story—whose protagonist was, after all, just another version of the Western hero”. Frankel notes that “of the 300 million paperbacks sold in 1956, one third were westerns”. Western films were similarly popular. As Frankel reports, “Westerns by the mid-1950s accounted for one…

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