Confronting Modern America in the Western Film
Author: John H. Lenihan
What the postwar Western tells us about America
Paper – $25
Publication Date
Paperback: 01/01/1985
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About the Book

Western movies have seldom been considered a reliable documentation of the nineteenth-century frontier. But they are historically significant for what they tell us about twentieth-century America--particularly that period of time in which and for which they were made. John H. Lenihan examines the ways in which Western films since 1945 have reflected American attitudes on such major issues as the Cold War, racism, individualism, and social conformity.

As Leniham shows, it is precisely because motion pictures are produced for a mass audience that they are far more representative of a society’s thinking than the work of intellectuals. Indeed, the movie industry fashions a product that is compatible with interests and beliefs shared by much of the public at a given time. Lenihan documents how Westerns mirrored the American self-image by their preoccupation with fundamental notions of individualism and social progress and by their narrative expressions of disillusionment.

About the Author

John H. Lenihan is an assistant professor of history at Texas A&M University.


"Brings new levels of scholarship and sophistication to the study of Western films. It will introduce readers to a new way to view some of the old horse operas that they had once taken for granted as fluffy entertainment."--Western American Literature

"The best of the recent books to deal with Westerns produced since World War II--in fact, probably the best recent study of the Western."--Journal of the West

"Recommended for the student of film and the hardcore film buff. The rest of you will be surprised, delighted, perhaps even angered by some of the conclusions Lenihan has come to."--Film World


“This is the fullest treatment of this aspect of the postwar Western available and it is done with such thoroughness and lucidity that it will not have to be done again.”--John G. Cawelti, author of Mystery, Violence, and Popular Culture