What was the Old West? How did Westerns emerge as a quintessential American art form? What are the greatest Westerns and what accounts for their enduring appeal—in America and around the world? In this Conversation, Paul Cantor explains how the Western rose to prominence—and the philosophical, political, and cultural themes that the greatest Westerns address. Cantor shares an extended interpretation of the films of John Ford and particularly Ford’s two masterworks, The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. He also explains how Ford’s work and other Westerns influenced Akiro Kurosawa’s Japanese Samurai films. Cantor and Kristol also discuss how the Italian Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone influenced Clint Eastwood and other more recent American films. Here we see how an American art form spread around the world and later returned to reshape American culture. This is a must-listen Conversation for anyone interested in American culture and popular culture around the globe.

You can also watch this conversation at ConversationsWithBillKristol.org.

Subscribe to Conversations With Bill Kristol in Apple Podcasts (and leave a 5-star review, please!), or by RSS feed. For all our podcasts in one place, subscribe to the Ricochet Audio Network Superfeed in Apple Podcasts or by RSS feed.

There are 4 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Taras Coolidge

    Cantor remarks on how short a time it was from the real gunfight at the OK Corral to the first Western movie.

    In reality there were Western novels (and pseudo-biographies) published at least from mid-century, if not earlier, contemporaneous with the actual settlement of the frontier.

    They weren’t movies only because the movies hadn’t been invented yet.

    P.S.: Cantor later goes into the live “Wild West” shows of the late 19th Century.

    • #1
    • March 8, 2020, at 10:17 AM PDT
    • Like
  2. Taras Coolidge

    In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, the villain is played by Lee Marvin; Jack Palance played the villain in Shane.

    Jimmy Stewart’s character in Liberty Valance returns to town for the funeral of John Wayne’s character.

    • #2
    • March 8, 2020, at 6:47 PM PDT
    • Like
  3. Taras Coolidge

    Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai are hired to protect a village from bandits, not a feudal lord.

    The Meiji Restoration was not a reaction to disorder but, in a sense, to too much order: Japan, with stagnating military technology generations out of date, was humiliated by the U.S. Navy.

    • #3
    • March 8, 2020, at 6:57 PM PDT
    • Like
  4. Taras Coolidge

    In the nihilistic Western, Unforgiven, prostitutes hire Clint Eastwood’s character to kill the cowboy who scarred the face of one of them, not who killed one of them.

    Significantly, the Westerns rewarded with Academy Awards in recent decades — Unforgiven and Dances with Wolves — are anti-American, presenting the “Winning of the West” in a negative light.

    But why were millions of people moving into this supposedly hellish West? Answer: Progressives are accustomed to think of ordinary people as being too stupid and morally backward to know what’s good for them; which is why the progressives must rule them for their own good.

    • #4
    • March 8, 2020, at 7:16 PM PDT
    • 1 like