Bärbel Schlimbach

“Once Upon a Time in the West”: Cross-Cultural Appropriations of Western Films”

Bärbel Schlimbach

In my paper, I want to investigate the mutual influences between European and American Western films. The Western is often seen as “the” typical American film genre dealing with the settling of the West and the creation of an American identity. But the fascination for Westerns and the West was never limited to the United States and my paper wants to take a closer look at the fruitful cross-cultural appropriations of the genre. “Westerns deal in cultural currency” (15) as Mark Cronlund Anderson phrased it and I want to investigate how typical features of the genre are used to (de-)construct representations of “the West”. After the declining popularity of the genre in theUS during the 1960s, the so-called Spaghetti Western gave the genre new impetus by appropriating some of the typical features and employing some American actors while simultaneously introducing new conventions. Many of theseinnovations can be found in later “re-inventions” of the genre in the US, a development which is often labelled as evolvement of neo-Western or post-Western. These films create “new Wests” which are “a state of mind, not a geographical place but a mythic space” (Varner VIII) and include voices which were silenced in traditional Westerns, although the genre is still mainly focused on white, male perspectives. I like to trace these mutual influences and developments in selected films like Once upon a Time in the West, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Unforgiven or The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.

Anderson, Mark Cronlund. Cowboy Imperialism and Hollywood Film. New York: Peter Lang, 2007.
Klein, Thomas, Ivvo Ritzer and Peter W. Schulze, eds. Crossing Frontiers: Intercultural Perspectives on the Western. Marburg: Schüren, 2012.
Varner, Paul, ed. New Wests and Post-Wests: Literature and Film of the American West. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2013.
White, John. Westerns. New York: Routledge, 2011.

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Key words:   Western, cultural appropriation, American West, post-Wests

Name: Bärbel Schlimbach

Academic title: M.A.

Country:  Germany

University:  Saarland University


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