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Western movie

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The Western movie is one of the classic American film genres. Westerns are films devoted to telling tales of the American West[?] (see Westward Expansion in History of the United States). While the western has been popular throughout the history of movies, as the United States progresses farther away from the period depicted, the western has begun to diminish in importance.

The genre was born in literature with Owen Wister[?]'s The Virginian[?] (1902), and was a distinct literary genre before the rise of motion pictures. But a genre in which description and dialogue are lean, and the landscape spectacular, is clearly better suited to a visual medium. Western movies, usually filmed on location in desolate corners of Arizona, Utah, Wyoming or Colorado, made the landscape not just a vivid backdrop but essentially a character in the movie.

Cowboys play a prominent role in Western movies, and often fights with American Indians are depicted. When the mistreatment of the Native American nations became more well known in the late 20th Century, the roles were often reversed, with the Natives being the sympathetic characters. Other recurring themes of westerns include treks travelling west, and groups of bandits terrorizing small towns.

In film, the western traces its roots back to The Great Train Robbery, a short silent film directed by Edwin S. Porter[?] and released in 1903. In the United States, the western has had an extremely rich history that spans many genres (comedy, drama, tragedy, parody, musical, etc.) The golden age of the western film is epitomised by the work of two directors: John Ford (who often used John Wayne for lead roles) and Howard Hawks.

During the 1960s and 1970s, there was a considerable revival with the "Spaghetti Westerns" or "Italo-Westerns", most notably those directed by Sergio Leone. These tended to be fairly low-budget affairs, shot in locations principally chosen for the cheapness of shooting film, and are characterised by high-action and violent content. Clint Eastwood became famous starring in these films, although they were also to provide a showcase for other such considerable talents as Lee van Cleef, James Coburn, and Klaus Kinski.

The western genre has been parodied on a number of occasions, famous examples being Support Your Local Sheriff[?], and Mel Brooks' classic Blazing Saddles, perhaps the final word on the subject.

The Saturday Afternoon Movie[?] was a pre-TV phenomenon in the US which often featured western series. "Singing cowboys[?]" were common (Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Rex Allen[?], each with a co-starring horse). Other B-movie series were Lash Larue[?] and the Durango Kid[?].

Notable figures in the Western

Notable Westerns

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