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Anne Billson | The western never died

3 February 2011 4:01 PM, PST | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Where did the western go? The cowboys and gunslingers of yore passed the baton to cops and detectives, hitmen and astronauts

True Grit is going great guns at the American box office, making it the Coen brothers' highest-grossing movie ever. Some might see this as a sign that the western is making a comeback. But, honestly, I don't think it ever really went away.

Observers have been predicting the genre's demise for a hundred years; Edward Buscombe, in The BFI Companion to the western, quotes a trade reviewer who in 1911 dismissed it as "a gold mine that had been worked to the limit". But by 1953 westerns were making up more than a quarter of Hollywood's output, and much of television's, too; my generation was weaned on The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke and Rawhide.

In the 1960s, that figure went into a slump from which it never recovered, though there were still »

- Anne Billson

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