‘Jeremiah Johnson’ Hollywood’s Most Beautiful – and Saddest – Western

Jeremiah Johnson

Directed by Sydney Pollack

Written by Edward Anhalt and John Milius

1972,

The Western, at its creative and commercial peak – the late 1960s-early 1970s – proved itself an astoundingly pliable genre. It could be molded to deal with topical subject matter like racism (Skin Game, 1971), feminism (The Ballad of Josie, 1967), the excesses of capitalism (Oklahoma Crude, 1973). It could be bent into religious allegories (High Plains Drifter, 1973), or an equally allegorical address of the country’s most controversial war (Ulzana’s Raid, 1972). Westerns could be used to deconstruct America’s most self-congratulatory myths (Doc, 1971), and address historical slights and omissions (Little Big Man, 1970). They could provide heady social commentary (Hombre, 1967), or simple adventure and excitement (The Professionals, 1966). They could be funny (The Hallelujah Trail, 1965), unremittingly grim (Hour of the Gun, 1967), surreal (Greaser’s Palace, 1972), even be stretched into the shape of rock musical (Zachariah, 1971) or monster movie (Valley of Gwangi, 1969).

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