multimedia genre of stories set primarily in the American Old West
Western is a genre of fiction which tells stories set primarily in the latter half of the 19th century in the American Old West, often centering on the life of a nomadic cowboy or gunfighter armed with a revolver and a rifle who rides a horse. Cowboys and gunslingers typically wear Stetson hats, neckerchief bandannas, vests, spurs, cowboy boots, and buckskins (alternatively dusters). Recurring characters include the aforementioned cowboys, Native Americans, Spaniards, Mexicans, bandits, lawmen, bounty hunters, outlaws, gamblers, soldiers (especially mounted cavalry, such as buffalo soldiers), and settlers (farmers, ranchers, and townsfolk). The ambience is usually punctuated with a Western music score, including American and Spanish/Mexican folk music such as country, Native American music, New Mexico music, and rancheras.
Westerns often stress the harshness of the wilderness and frequently set the action in an arid, desolate landscape of deserts and mountains. Often, the vast landscape plays an important role, presenting a "mythic vision of the plains and deserts of the American West." Specific settings include ranches, small frontier towns, saloons, railways, wilderness, and isolated military forts of the Wild West.
Common plots include:
The construction of a railroad or a telegraph line on the wild frontier.
Ranchers protecting their family ranch from rustlers or large landowners, or who build a ranch empire.
Revenge stories, which hinge on the chase and pursuit by someone who has been wronged.
Stories about cavalry fighting Native Americans.
Outlaw gang plots.
Stories about a lawman or bounty hunter tracking down his quarry.Many Westerns use a stock plot of depicting a crime, then showing the pursuit of the wrongdoer, ending in revenge and retribution, which is often dispensed through a shootout or quick-draw duel.The Western has been recognized as the most popular Hollywood film genre of the early 20th century through the 1960s. Western films first became well-attended in the 1930s. John Ford's landmark Western film Stagecoach (1939) became one of the biggest hits of that year, and made John Wayne a mainstream movie star. The popularity of Westerns continued to grow in the 1940s, with the release of films such as The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), My Darling Clementine (1946), Fort Apache (1948), and Red River (1948). The 1950s have been described as the "Golden Age of the Western," and saw the release of films such as Broken Arrow (1950), High Noon (1952), Shane (1953), Wichita (1955), The Searchers (1956), and Rio Bravo (1959). Notable Western films released in the 1960s include Cat Ballou (1965), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), The Wild Bunch (1969), and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).Classic Westerns such as these have been the inspiration for various films about Western-type characters in contemporary settings, such as Junior Bonner (1972), set in the 1970s, and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005), set in the 21st century.
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