The new cowboy tradition
The new cowboy tradition made its way into the big world in two directions: Western films and heavily undervalued Western novels, which for many foreigners were the same as detectives today. Their occurrence was caused by the invention of the “new” American West. We will not discuss it here, I will only cite as an example the leader of the British mining union, a militant member of the Methodist church, after whose death in 1930 he left some money and a huge collection of Zein Gray’s novels. Incidentally, according to Gray’s novel The Riders of the Purple Sage (Riders of the Purple Sage) in the interval between 1918 and 1941, four films were shot. As for the cinema, we know that the genre of westerns was firmly established around 1909. Considering the specifics of mass show business, it is not too surprising that the celluloid cowboy evolved into two main subspecies: the romantic, strong, shy and silent man of action, embodied on the screen by US Hart, Gary Cooper and John Wayne, and the cowboy showman Buffalo Bill’s warehouse is certainly heroic, but more showing different tricks and therefore, usually associated with a certain horse. Undoubtedly, the prototype of this type of cowboys and the most successful of them was Tom Mix. Let me once again mention in passing that the literary roots of westerns with a pretense, unlike westerns in the spirit of Huth Gibson, clearly go to popular sentimental fiction of the XIX century. This is quite obvious in The Covered Wagon (1923), the first Hollywood epic that appeared after the Griffit films, and already quite clearly in the Diligence, which is based on the Maupassian Pyszka.
We will not resort here to the presentation of the development of the western genre in cinema, nor will we trace, even briefly, the transformation of this “horse opera” into a kind of national epic, which it initially was not at all. D. U. Griffith was clearly not too keen on Westerns, but “Covered Wagon”, of course, was something more than an example of an entertainment genre: for example, it was accompanied by extremely thorough preparatory work. And in the 1930s, when the Europeans turned to the topic of a classic western, interpreting it in an anti-capitalist spirit, in the case of, for example, Sutter’s Gold, Hollywood made a retaliatory move, inviting the author of the Covered Wagon to work on a more patriotic version of the same plot that came out in 1936.
I would like, on the contrary, by the end of this overview lecture to draw your attention to such a curious fact as the reinvention of the cowboy tradition in our time as the official myth of Reagan America. This business is very recent. For example, oddly enough, the image of a cowboy became the engine of sales only from the 1960s: the Marlborough country opened up a huge potential in self-identification of American men with drovers of cows, who, of course, were more and more perceived not as shepherds, but as lovers of firearms . Who do you think said: “I have always acted alone, like a cowboy … a lonely cowboy, riding into a village or town … He acts, that’s all”? It was Henry Kissinger talking to Oriana Fallaci in 1972. Could it have been imagined before the 1970s that subordinates compare their superior with the drover? Here is a quote from 1979, which illustrates bringing this myth to the point of absurdity: the West. This is not only vans and wormwood. This is an image of real and proud men. With a sense of freedom and independence that we all would like to touch. Now Ralph Lauren has expressed it all in Chaps, his new men’s cologne. Chaps – cologne, which also naturally goes to a man, like a ragged leather jacket or jeans. Chaps. This is the West. West, which is inside you.