This study recovers the context in which Westerns were produced, exhibited and viewed in the 1930s. By examining why the American film industry produced Westerns in the 1930s and by locating these films within the history of Hollywood's production cycles and trends, Peter Stanfield reveals the limitations of previous studies. Instead of constructing a canon of isolated film "classics", his research makes it clear that the hitherto marginalised "B" or "series" Western was central to the genre's history in this period. The work explains the effect that Hollywood's shift to synchronized sound had on the Western, and discusses the studios' huge financial investment in the epic Westerns of the early years of the 1930s. It traces the subsequent decline and resurgence in Western production in the mid-1930s, and examines the deluge of A-feature Westerns produced in the 1939-1940 cycle, including "Stagecoach", "Dodge City", "Jesse James", "Destry Rides Again", "Union Pacific" and "The Oklahoma Kid".
Challenging many of the conventional critical assumptions about the Western, including the firmly held opinion that it was principally aimed at male viewers, the book highlights the significance of female audiences, the role of independent exhibitors, and of censorship in shaping film production. This book tells the "lost" story of the 1930s Western.
Peter Stanfield is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Kent. His main area of interest is the cultural history of American film, with a particular focus on film genres and cycles, and popular music and film. His current research is concentrated on and around post-war film cycles, in particular boxing movies, Mickey Spillane adaptations, Mark Hellinger Productions, Eagle-Lion crime films, the series of Audie Murphy westerns, and the psychologisation of the western hero.