Northern (genre)

The Northern or Northwestern is a genre in various arts that tell stories set primarily in the later half of the 19th century in the north of North America, primarily in Canada but also in Alaska. It is similar to the Western genre, but many elements are different, as appropriate to its setting. It is common for the central character to be a Mountie instead of a cowboy or sheriff. Other common characters include fur trappers and traders, lumberjacks, prospectors, First Nations people, settlers, and townsfolk.

International interest in the region and the genre was fuelled by the Klondike Gold Rush (1896–99) and subsequent works surrounding it, fiction and non-fiction. The genre was extremely popular in the interwar years of the 20th century. Northerns are still produced, but popularity waned in the late 1950s.

O'Malley-of-the-Mounted-1921-Poster
Poster for the film O'Malley of the Mounted (1921)

Characteristics

Nwmp 1900
The North-West Mounted Police, and later the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, were often the heroes of Northern fiction
Yukon Donjek Valley 001
The Yukon (occasionally near the Alaskan border) was a common setting for Northern fiction.

Northerns are similar to westerns but are set in the frozen north of North America; that is, Canada or Alaska.[1] Of the two, Canada was the most common setting, although many tropes could apply to both. Popular locations within Canada are the Yukon, the Barren Grounds, and area around Hudson Bay.[2] Generic names used for this general setting included the "Far North", the "Northlands", the "North Woods", and the "Great Woods".

Common settings include boreal forests, isolated cabins, and mining towns.[3] Snow featured to such an extent that Northern films were sometimes termed "snow pictures".[3] Animals were a common feature too. Dogs and dog sleds were popularized by The Call of the Wild and White Fang. Scenes involving attacks by bears date back to The Klondyke Nugget.[3]

The primary antagonist in a Northern can be the wilderness, the weather and other natural elements, which the protagonists must endure, overcome and survive.[4][5]

Northerns often explore the 'Matter of Canada' (the national mythos of Canada, after the Matter of Rome).[6] Common elements of which are the Black Donnelly murders (February 1880), the North-West Rebellion (1885), the Klondike Gold Rush (1896–99), the pursuit of Albert Johnson (January 1932), the October Crisis (October 1970), and persistent national anxiety about potential annexation by the United States.[6]

The Western idea of lawlessness set in American towns was not a part of the Canadian Northern, though individual lawbreakers or uprisings by Canadians feature in works such as Quebec (1951), Riel (1979), and Northwest Mounted Police (1940). In Northerns and wider crime fiction, the general Canadian preference is for law enforcement to be performed by the state rather than vigilantes or private investigators.[6] Likewise, Northerns rarely feature the heroic outlaws often found in Westerns.[6] On the subject, David Skene-Melvin writes "Canada never had a Wild West because the Mounties got there first,"[6] while Margaret Atwood writes "No outlaws or lawless men for Canada; if one appears, the Mounties always get their man."[7]

Law and order in Northerns set in Canada is most often represented by the Mounties, either the North-West Mounted Police or Royal Canadian Mounted Police depending on era. Like snow, Mounties are a common enough feature to become a synonym for the genre, with Northern films sometimes called "Mountie films".[8] Their popularity was not confined to film; by 1930, 75 volumes of written Mountie fiction had been published, not including juvenile fiction and material published in magazines.[5] Where a protagonist in a Western is often part of both civilization and the wild (whether native or criminal), Mounties in Northerns are entirely a part of civilization.[5] The nature of fictional Mounties can vary depending on the nationality of the author.[5] Mounties as written by British authors are often younger members of upper class British families serving the British Empire in the colonies. American-authored Mounties are often little different from US Marshalls and project the values of Westerns in that they place their individual sense of justice and conscience above their duty to the law. Canadian-authored Mounties represent, and are self-abnegating champions of, the Canadian establishment and its laws. Further, their authority does not come from either their social class or physical abilities; such a Mountie "upholds the law by moral rather than physical force".[5] A common story outline for Northerns involving Mounties is a pursuit, confrontation and capture: the Mountie's pursuit of a fugitive takes place across the Canadian wilderness and may be resolved non-violently.[5]

According to Pierre Berton "the French-Canadian was to the northerns what the Mexican was to the westerns — an exotic primitive, adaptable as a chameleon to play a hero or a heavy."[9] French-Canadians were a ubiquitous element of the genre. As characters, French-Canadians are typically depicted as rustic and uneducated. These characters were usually divided into two broad types: the heroic, happy-go-lucky bon-vivant and the villainous, lecherous killer. Some later examples merged the two stereotypes into a charming, roguish anti-villain.[9] Common visual elements were a tuque, a sash and a pipe.[9] All were present in the first appearance in film, in A Woman's Way (1908).[9] Female French-Canadian characters also followed the "tempestuous" stereotype of female Mexican characters. Mexican actress Lupe Vélez, in line with her identity as "The Mexican Spitfire", played the title character in Tiger Rose (1929) in this mode; as did Renée Adorée in The Eternal Struggle (1923) and Nikki Duval in Quebec (1951).[9]

A common anachronism in Northerns was the tyranny and absolute power of the Hudson's Bay Company and its officers, even into the modern period.[9] This was repeated not just in fiction but by reviewers and critics too.[9] The concept of La Longue Traverse, or the Journey of Death, comes from The Call of the North (1914) and was popular in later films. In this, the Hudson's Bay Company executes convicts by forcing them into the wilderness without equipment or supplies.[9] In 1921, the Hudson's Bay Company successfully sued the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation for the villainous portrayal of their Company in the latters' remake The Call of the North.[9]

Alaska Natives or Métis are featured in some depictions.

Besides being set in Canadian Prairies, the stories often contrast the American frontier with the Canadian frontier in several ways. In films such as Pony Soldier and Saskatchewan the North-West Mounted Police display reason, compassion and a sense of fair play in their dealings with Aboriginal people (First Nations) as opposed to hotheaded American visitors (often criminals), lawmen or the American Army who seem to prefer extermination with violence.

History

David Skene-Melvin classes the "second period" of Canadian crime literature (1880–1920), as "the heyday of the 'Northern' and the literary exploration of Canada's remote and romantic frontiers."[6] He refers to Joseph Edmund Collins as an important figure in this period because, despite his work being of low quality, he was the first Canadian author to address some aspects of the 'Matter of Canada' in his novels, such as The Story of Louis Riel: The Rebel Chief (1885) and Annette, the Métis Spy (1886).[6] Northerns continued to be written after 1920 but Canadian authors largely moved to other genres after World War 1 as they moved away from a frontier and colonial ethos.[6]

The Klondike Gold Rush during the 1890s in Canada and Alaska brought a lot of wider, international attention to the far north of North America.[2] Adventure novels from veterans of the gold rush—such as Jack London's The Call of the Wild (1903), Rex Beach's The Spoilers (1906) and Robert W. Service's The Trail of Ninety-Eight (1909)—became best sellers.[2] These inspired more adventure fiction which grew in popularity throughout the first half of the twentieth century.[2] The genre was extremely popular in the inter-war years,[2][3] with a "Mountie craze" hitting its peak during the mid-1920s.[9]

A large amount of Northern fiction is the work of non-Canadians. Nevertheless, Skene-Melvin writes "Just as the Western is widely regarded as emblematic of American culture, it can be argued that the Northern is the only truly indigenous Canadian art form, even if most of its exponents have been foreigners."[6]

One of the earliest international examples of the genre is the British play The Klondyke Nugget, which was first performed in 1898.[3] Its author, Samuel Franklin Cody initially wrote it as a Western but changed the location to capitalize on the contemporary gold rush.[3]

Charlie Chaplin's 1925 film The Gold Rush is a comedy that parodies some of the cliches of the Northern genre.[3] The Looney Tunes character Blacque Jacque Shellacque, who first appeared in the 1959 short Bonanza Bunny, is another parody.[4]

While the Hollywood Western began to change in the post-World War 2 era and the Western myth was eventually debunked, Hollywood Northerns remained unchanged until they stopped being produced in the late 1950s and the underlying mythology was never examined.[9]

Examples of Northerns

Heart of the Klondike - Chilkoot Pass
Poster for the play Heart of the Klondike (c. 1897)
McKenna of the Mounted poster
Poster for the film McKenna of the Mounted (1932)
Sergeant Preston of the Yukon
Photo of Richard Simmons as Sergeant Preston and Yukon King from the television series Sergeant Preston of the Yukon.

Folklore of Canada (Canadian oral stories)

Poetry

Pulp magazines

  • North-West Stories (May 1925–Summer 1937), became North-West Romances (Fall 1937–Spring 1953)
  • Complete Northwest Magazine (September 1935–April 1940)
  • Real Northwest Stories

Comics

Books

Collections

  • Rugged Alaska Stories (1950), by Frank Richardson Pierce
  • Best Mounted Police Stories (1978), edited by Dick Harrison
  • The Northerners (1990), edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin H. Greenberg
  • Stories of the Far North (1998), edited by Jon Tuska
  • Scarlet Riders (1998), edited by Don Hutchison

Photographies

  • Northern, a collection of photographies by Anthony Jourdain

Radio

Serials

Television

Movies

References

  1. ^ Beverly, Edward Joseph (2008). "Preface". Chasing the Sun: A Reader's Guide to Novels Set in the American West. Sunstone Press. p. 11. ISBN 9780865346031. Some book reviewers, however, contend that the one thing all Western settings have in common is aridity, and wouldn't consider novels set in Missouri or along the Pacific Coast or in the other non-arid regions to be Western fiction. Some include stories set in Canada and Alaska; others differentiate these as 'Northerns.'
  2. ^ a b c d e Pronzini, Bill (2017). "The Bull Moose and Other Scourges of the Frozen North". Six-Gun in Cheek. Courier Dover. ISBN 9780486820347. Northerns—tales set in the rough-and-tumble frontier days of Alaska, the Yukon, the Canadian Barrens, the Hudsons's Bay region—were a popular adjunct to the Western story during the first half of this century.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Solomon, Matthew (2015). The Gold Rush. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137516114. Chaplin's decision to have The Gold Rush take place during the 1897–8 Klondike Gold Rush placed it squarely within the well established Northern genre, which spanned theatre, literature and film, encompassing stories about trappers, adventurers, lumberjacks, miners, Mounties, Eskimos, and others-even animals-in the Far North.
  4. ^ a b Hutchison, Don (1998). "Introduction: Scarlet Fiction". The Scarlet Riders. Mosaic Press. ISBN 9780889626478.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Harrison, Dick (1978). "Introduction". Best Mounted Police Stories. University of Alberta. ISBN 9780888640543.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Skene-Melvin, David (2014). "Canadian Crime Writing in English". In Sloniowski, Jeannette; Rose, Marilyn (eds.). Detecting Canada. Wilfrid Laurier University Press. ISBN 9781554589289.
  7. ^ Atwood, Margaret (1972). Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature.
  8. ^ "Canada". International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities. Routledge. 2007. ISBN 9781134317066. 'Mounties' (RCMP officers) have been widely mythologized and lampooned in Anglophone popular culture, from the dozens of early Hollywood Mountie films or 'Northerns' (McGuire of the Mounted, Rose Marie) and popular television series Sergeant Preston of the Yukon and Due South, to the cinematic spoof Dudley Do-Right [...]
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Berton, Pierre (1997). "Hollywood's Canada". In Cameron, Elspeth (ed.). Canadian Culture. Canadian Scholars’ Press. ISBN 9781551300900.

Further reading

  • Berton, Pierre (1975). Hollywood's Canada: the Americanization of our National Image. McClelland and Stewart. ISBN 9780771012235.
  • MacLulich, Thomas Donald (1988). Between Europe and America: The Canadian Tradition in Fiction. ECW Press. ISBN 9780920763957.
  • Drew, Bernard Alger (1990). Lawmen in Scarlet: An Annotated Guide to Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Print and Performance. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810823303.
  • Dawson, Michael (1998). The Mountie from Dime Novel to Disney. Between The Lines. ISBN 9781896357164.
  • Strange, Carolyn; Loo, Tina Merrill (2004). True Crime, True North: The Golden Age of Canadian Pulp Magazines. Raincoast Books. ISBN 9781551926896.
  • MacKenzie, Scott; Westerståhl Stenport, Anna (2015). Films on Ice: Cinemas of the Arctic. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748694174.
  • Baker, Richard G. (24 Jun 2015). "'Nothing But Hill and Hollow': The Canadian Border as American Frontier in the Hollywood Northern". Comparative American Studies. 13 (1–2): 107–121. doi:10.1179/1477570015Z.000000000102.

External links

Balto

Balto (1919 – March 14, 1933) was a Siberian husky and sled dog who led his team on the final leg of the 1925 serum run to Nome, in which diphtheria antitoxin was transported from Anchorage, Alaska, to Nenana, Alaska, by train and then to Nome by dog sled to combat an outbreak of the disease. Balto was named after the Sami explorer Samuel Balto. Balto rested at the Cleveland Zoo until his death on March 14, 1933, at the age of 14. After he died, his body was stuffed and kept in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, where it remains today.

Call of the Yukon

Call of the Yukon is a 1938 American action/adventure film produced and released by Republic Pictures, directed by John T. Coyle and B. Reeves Eason and starring Richard Arlen and Beverly Roberts. The film features extensive Alaskan location shooting by Norman Dawn who shot several films there. The film is based on the 1926 novel Swift Lightning A Story Of Wildlife Adventure In The Frozen North by Northern genre writer James Oliver Curwood. The film's working titles were Thunder in Alaska and Swift Lightning.

Challenge of the Yukon

Challenge of the Yukon is an American radio adventure series that began on Detroit's WXYZ and is an example of a Northern genre story. The series was first heard on January 3, 1939 (previously incorrectly stated as February 3, 1938). The title changed from Challenge of the Yukon to Sergeant Preston of the Yukon in September 1950, and remained under that name through the end of the series and into television.

Christoffel Jacobsz van der Laemen

Christoffel Jacobsz van der Laemen or Christoffel van der Laemen (1607 – c. 1651) was a Flemish painter who specialized in merry company scenes with elegant figures.

His favorite themes were card and backgammon players, brothel scenes, the prodigal son, dancing, music making and scenes of food and drink set in elegant rooms, inns and gardens.

Cinema of Canada

The cinema of Canada or Canadian cinema refers to the filmmaking industry in Canada. Canada is home to several film studios centres, primarily located in its three largest metropolitan centres: Toronto, Ontario, Montreal, Quebec and Vancouver, British Columbia. Industries and communities tend to be regional and niche in nature. Approximately 1,000 Anglophone-Canadian and 600 Francophone-Canadian feature-length films have been produced, or partially produced, by the Canadian film industry since 1911.

Notable filmmakers from English Canada include James Cameron, David Cronenberg, Guy Maddin, Atom Egoyan, Patricia Rozema, Sarah Polley, Deepa Mehta, Thom Fitzgerald, John Greyson, Clement Virgo, Allan King, Michael McGowan, and Michael Snow. Notable filmmakers from French Canada include Claude Jutra, Gilles Carle, Denys Arcand, Jean Beaudin, Robert Lepage, Denis Villeneuve, Jean-Marc Vallée, Léa Pool, Xavier Dolan, Philippe Falardeau, and Michel Brault.

The cinema of English-speaking Canada is heavily intertwined with the cinema of the neighbouring United States: though there is a distinctly Canadian cinematic tradition, there are also Canadian films that have no obvious Canadian identity (examples include Porky's and Meatballs), Canadian-American co-productions filmed in Canada (including My Big Fat Greek Wedding and the Saw series); American films filmed in Canada (including the Night at the Museum and Final Destination films, among hundreds of others); and American films with Canadian directors and/or actors. Canadian directors who are best known for their American-produced films include Norman Jewison, Jason Reitman, Paul Haggis, and James Cameron; Cameron, in particular, wrote and directed the two highest-grossing films of all time, Avatar and Titanic, respectively.

Canadian actors who achieved success in Hollywood include Mary Pickford, Norma Shearer, Christopher Plummer, Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey, Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, and Ryan Reynolds, among hundreds of others.

Corporal Rod Webb

Corporal Rod Webb and his faithful dog Chinook were the major characters in a series of films made by the American studio Monogram Pictures between 1949 and 1954. Webb was played by the actor Kirby Grant in eight films, while in two others (Trail of the Yukon and Snow Dog) Grant played the almost identical character of Bob McDonald, accompanied as usual by Chinook.

Corporal Webb was an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and enjoyed a series of adventures tracking down criminals in Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Chinook was his German Shepherd companion who, in spite of his name, had no connection to the Chinook breed of dog.

The series was based on the Northlands novels of James Oliver Curwood, and is part of the Northern genre of popular culture. The series bore similarities to a number of other films and shows, particularly to an earlier radio series Challenge of the Yukon and to the later television series Sergeant Preston of the Yukon.

David Teniers the Younger

David Teniers the Younger or David Teniers II (15 December 1610 – 25 April 1690) was a Flemish painter, printmaker, draughtsman, miniaturist painter, staffage painter, copyist and art curator. He was an extremely versatile artist known for his prolific output. He was an innovator in a wide range of genres such as history, genre, landscape, portrait and still life. He is now best remembered as the leading Flemish genre painter of his day. Teniers is particularly known for developing the peasant genre, the tavern scene, pictures of collections and scenes with alchemists and physicians.

He was court painter and the curator of the collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, the art loving Governor General of the Habsburg Netherlands. He created a printed catalogue of the collections of the Archduke. He was the founder of the Antwerp Academy, where young artists were trained to draw and sculpt in the hope of reviving Flemish art after its decline following the death of the leading Flemish artists Rubens and Anthony van Dyck in the early 1640s. He influenced the next generation of Northern genre painters as well as French Rococo painters such as Antoine Watteau.

King of the Royal Mounted

King of the Royal Mounted is an American comics series created in 1935 by Stephen Slesinger, based on popular Western writer Zane Grey's byline and marketed as Zane Grey's King of the Royal Mounted. The series' protagonist is Dave King, a Canadian Mountie who always gets his man and who, over the course of the series, is promoted from Corporal to Sergeant. King has appeared in newspaper strips, comics, Big Little Books, and other ancillary items.

Zane Grey's son Romer and Slesinger collaborated on many of the stories, and the artwork was produced by Allen Dean, Charles Flanders, and Jim Gary in Slesinger's New York studio. A movie serial was produced in 1942.

List of films set in Alaska

This is a list of films set in Alaska, whether in part or in full. This North American setting is part of the Northern genre. It includes movies in which location shooting occurred both inside and outside of Alaska. Following the main list is a list of films which were filmed in Alaska, but set elsewhere.

The following films were filmed in Alaska, but set elsewhere

Eskimo (1933)

Never Cry Wolf (1983)

White Fang (1991)

Perils of the Royal Mounted

Perils of the Royal Mounted (1942) was the 18th serial released by Columbia Pictures. It starred Robert Kellard (aka Robert Stevens) as the hero, Sgt. Mack MacLane of the Royal Mounties, and Kenneth MacDonald as Mort Ramsome, the head villain. It also co-starred Nell O'Day, Iron Eyes Cody, Kermit Maynard and I. Stanford Jolley.

Scarlet Riders

Scarlet Riders is a collection of Northern short stories originally published in pulp magazines. The book's subtitle is "Pulp Fiction Tales of The Mounties". It was edited by Don Hutchison who also provides an introduction covering pulp magazines and the Northern genre as well the writers and stories themselves.

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends is the blanket title for an American animated television series that originally aired from November 19, 1959, to June 27, 1964, on the ABC and NBC television networks. The current blanket title was imposed for home video releases over 40 years after the series originally aired and was never used when the show was televised; television airings of the show were broadcast under the titles of Rocky and His Friends from 1959 to 1961, The Bullwinkle Show from 1961 to 1964, and The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (or The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle or The Adventures of Bullwinkle and Rocky) in syndication. Produced by Jay Ward Productions, the series is structured as a variety show, with the main feature being the serialized adventures of the two title characters, the anthropomorphic flying squirrel Rocky and moose Bullwinkle. The main adversaries in most of their adventures are the two Russian-like spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, both working for the dictator Fearless Leader. Supporting segments include Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties (a parody of old-time melodrama), Peabody's Improbable History (a dog named Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman traveling through time), and Fractured Fairy Tales (classic fairy tales retold in comic fashion), among others.Rocky and Bullwinkle is known for quality writing and wry humor. Mixing puns, cultural and topical satire, and self-referential humor, it appealed to adults as well as children. It was also one of the first cartoons whose animation was outsourced; storyboards were shipped to Gamma Productions, a Mexican studio also employed by Total Television. The art has a choppy, unpolished look and the animation is extremely limited even by television animation standards at the time, yet the series has long been held in high esteem by those who have seen it; some critics described the series as a well-written radio program with pictures.The show was shuffled around several times (airing in afternoon, prime time, and Saturday morning timeslots), but was influential to other animated series from The Simpsons to Rocko's Modern Life. Segments from the series were later recycled in the Hoppity Hooper show.

There have been numerous feature film adaptations of the series' various segments, such as the 2000 film The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, which blended live-action and computer animation; and the 1999 live-action film Dudley Do-Right. Both films received poor reviews and were financially unsuccessful. By contrast, an animated feature film adaptation of the "Peabody's Improbable History" segment, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, was released to positive reviews in 2014. A rebooted animated series also based on "Peabody's Improbable History", The Mr. Peabody & Sherman Show, debuted on Netflix in October 2015.Another reboot animated series based on the main segment, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle premiered on Amazon Video on May 11, 2018.

In 2013, Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show were ranked the sixth Greatest TV Cartoon of All Time by TV Guide.

The Mountie (film)

The Mountie (U.S.: The Way of the West; U.K.: The Ranger; France: Lawman) is a 2011 Canadian Western film directed by S. Wyeth Clarkson, co-written by Clarkson, Charles Johnston, and Grant Sauvé. Though drawing on elements of Canadian northern genre fiction, the film was pitched as a neo-spaghetti Western by Clarkson to its star, Andrew Walker. Walker plays a disgraced North-West Mounted Police officer dispatched in 1894 to survey the Yukon for a new garrison, where he encounters a small group of Russian settlers in a town in desperate need of law and order. The cast includes Earl Pastko as Olaf, a Russian Orthodox priest of dubious character, Jessica Paré as Amethyst, Olaf's scarred daughter, as well as George Buza, Tony Munch, Matthew G. Taylor, and John Wildman.

Several scenes are bridged by Robert Service poems read by Kestrel Martin, who portrays Cleora, Amethyst's young sister. The poems include "The Men That Don't Fit In", "Clancy of the Mounted Police," and "The Land of Beyond".

Trail of the Yukon

Trail of the Yukon is a 1949 American western film directed by William Beaudine and starring Kirby Grant, Suzanne Dalbert and Bill Edwards. It was based on a novel by James Oliver Curwood about a North-West Mounted Police officer and his faithful German Shepherd dog Chinook. It is part of the Northern genre. The film was popular, and inspired Monogram to make a series of nine further films starring Grant and Chinook.

Western (genre)

Western is a genre of various arts which tell 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, 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 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 was the most popular Hollywood genre from the early 20th century to the 1960s.

Western films first became well-attended in the 1930s. John Ford's landmark Western adventure Stagecoach became one of the biggest hits in 1939 and it made John Wayne a mainstream screen star. The popularity of Westerns continued in the 1940s, with the release of classics such as Red River (1948). Westerns were very popular throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the most acclaimed Westerns were released during this time, including High Noon (1952), Shane (1953), The Searchers (1956), Cat Ballou (1965), 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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