From the very beginnings of cinema in America the Western has been a central genre. The hazardous lives of the settlers, their conflict with Native Americans (the Indians), the lawless frontier towns, outlaws and cattle rustlers, all found their way into the new medium of film. Folk heroes and heroines, such as Jesse and Frank James, Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley, were all eagerly seized on by filmmakers. From the popular to the more literary, writers such as Zane Grey, Owen Wister and James Fennimore Cooper were plundered for storylines. The Western became popular worldwide because it offered escape, adventure, stunning landscapes and romance; also themes that resonated such as survival, law and order, defence of family, and dreams of a new and better world. David Carter's book starts with an introduction to the real American West and its famous historical figures, and traces the development of the genre from popular literature, through the early silent films, the sound era, the Golden Age of classic Westerns, TV and 'spaghetti westerns', to the self-reflexive and revisionist Westerns of recent decades. It provides a basic work of reference for all the major directors and noteworthy films of the genre. The great Hollywood directors are all here, such as John Ford, Howard Hawks, Raoul Walsh, Michael Curtiz, Sam Peckinpah and Henry Hathaway, and great stars including John Wayne, James Stewart, Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Russell and Clint Eastwood.

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