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Horizons West: Directing the Western from John Ford to Clint Eastwood (Film Classics S.) 2nd Edition
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Kitses has added a marvelous chapter on John Ford, which examines all Ford's westerns from Stagecoach (1939) to Cheyenne Autumn (1964). Kitses' comments are sensible and to the point. His discussion of The Searchers is very well done, and he raises excellent points about The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Also, he has written good analysis of Sergeant Rutledge and Two Rode Together, two late Westerns that few critics pay attention to.
Kitses has left the text of his original work alone, except for adding some to the Peckinpah chapter. While his comments on Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid are perceptive, the Peckinpah chapter is probably the weakest in the book. I am not sure if Kitses dislikes Peckinpah or if he disliked critics who like Peckinpah.
Kitses then adds two chapters, one of Sergio Leone and one on Clint Eastwood. The Leone chapter is okay but is far colder than the rest of the book. However, the chapter on Eastwood is terrific, one that strikes a fine balance between praise for his achievements and an awareness of the flaws in those achievements. This is perhaps some of the best serious analysis of Eastwood as a director that I have read.
Strongly recommended for all readers interested in Westerns.
After opening with generic comments regarding the practice and theory of directing the Western and an overview of the history and development of the genre, Kitses explores in some depth the westerns of six acknowledged masters of the Western movie. He uses the great John Ford as his stepping stone to future Western movie directors including Anthony Mann, Budd Boetticher, Sam Peckinpah, Sergio Leone, and, lastly, Clint Eastwood.
"Horizons West" reads like a college text which it likely is in some places. Students of the Western movie genre or just plain fans of Westerns should enjoy the rich detail provided by Kitses as he dissects each of the major efforts of the six directors in search of recurring themes, perspectives, controversies, and, in general, the stories behind the story. It is illuminating to explore how Ford matured and changed his perspectives over his career, how Peckinpah's career was constantly a battle with studio bosses, and how and why Leone and Eastwood drifted apart over the years. I always find it intriguing to discover which actors had originally been offered and rejected roles that later made someone else famous (such as James Coburn and Charles Bronson turning down Leone's Man-With-No-Name trilogy that skyrocketed Eastwood to fame).Read more ›