Why the Western Remains ‘One of Our Most Powerful Cinematic Inventions’
From The Searchers to The Power of the Dog, Troubled Protagonists Offer an American Vision of Death and Defeat
Robert Warshow, a tall, wry, chain-smoking New Yorker and an editor at Commentary magazine in the early 1950s, was obsessed with movies, comic books, and other forms of popular culture and treated them as serious subjects for intellectual discourse. He dropped dead of a heart attack in 1955 at age 37, but before he did, he wrote “The Westerner,” a groundbreaking essay that forever changed the way we think about cowboy movies.
Warshow’s core insight: the Western hero was not a solitary yet indomitable figure but rather a tainted and failed …