Eastwood’s Position Concerning the Western and the Western Protagonist

In my post about Coogan’s Bluff i mentioned briefly the motivation for choosing the western protagonist. To back up my position that the Western is popular with both movie-makers and movie-watchers here is a short quote from Clint Eastwood concerning what he believes makes the Western so resilient.

I guess because of the simplicity of the times. Now everything’s so complicated, so mired down in bureaucracy that people can’t fathom a way of sorting it out. In the West, even though you could get killed, it seems more manageable, like a lone individual might be able to works things out some way. In our society today, the idea of one person making a difference one way or the other is remote.1

Essentially it is the dream of sorting things out and having a strong individual do it. Although in the mythic world of the West the western protagonist could exist without too much friction, in the world of today, like in Coogan’s Bluff, the existence of a loner clearing up problems is problematic.

1. Kenneth Turan ‘A Fistful of Memories: Interview with Clint Eastwood’ in Jim Kitses and Gregg Rickman (ed), The Western Reader, New York: Limelight Editions (1998), pp. 245-249. p.249.

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Important Symbolism In A Fistful of Dollars

A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

This film is a landmark for several reasons, one that is impressive is how it re-evaluated and examined the western genre. An important symbolic happening in the film is the machine gun attack on the mexican army. The machine gun itself symbolizes, in this movie, the death of the ‘honourable’ combat that is a staple in many classic westerns. One-on-One shoot outs are replaced by instant mass carnage caused by mechanical guns that seemingly remove the last vestages of honour war and combat contains (Earlier Westerns tend to argue that shooting someone in the back or by surprise is a dishonourable act). A Fistful of Dollars indicates the switch in Westerns from honourable isolated individuals fighting for causes to mass-carnage where individuals attempt to play both sides off each other for profit. This movie, and the symbol of the new machine gun, indicates a darker more disturbing attitude to the heritage of the Western film genre and the myth of the West.