The Code of the Western


29 March 2019 || Commentary Magazine

In 1903, Edison Films released Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery, a 12-minute-long silent film that portrayed the robbing by bandits on horseback of a passenger train in the American West.

Not only was it one of the first movies to tell a sequential story through the use of editing, but it was also the first genre film—and the genre it inaugurated, transplanted by Porter to the screen from novels and the stage, remains popular more than a century later.

Indeed, one of the finest movies of 2018, Ethan and Joel Coen’s The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, was a Western, albeit one that was originally intended for online streaming via Netflix. The Old West is dead, but the Western still lives.

An important reason for the survival of the Western is that it has proved to be unusually adaptable to changing times and sensibilities. Younger filmmakers continue to find fresh ways to make their traditional plots reflect modern attitudes and concerns, and younger viewers continue to embrace the genre with the same relish as did their parents and grandparents.

Original Link: The Code of the Western

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James Porteous

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