were great fun to do at that particular time,’ he now recalls. ‘After I did three of them I felt it was time to move on and do something different. I don’t think it would be good for me or anybody to go back and do those kind of satiric forms unless it was something new and special. I like the more traditional western, but when we did the Leone films in the 60s, that genre was in a dormant state. So his highly stylised westerns came as a breath of fresh air. When I came back to the States, I was offered a part in McKenna’s Gold, 3 huge production. But I turned it down and went for Hang ’em High, which was a much smaller film but which analyzed the pros and cons of capital punishment, an issue that ooncemed people on a deeper level.’
When the spaghetti westerns had run their course there seemed little new that could be done with the genre. The wildly irreverent Blazing Saddles was probably the most commercially successful western of the 19705. By now only John Wayne continued to produce regular oaters with his final performance as the cancer-ridden gunfighter in The Shootist marking an elegiac summation of his entire career and almost a farewell to the western itself. Now Eastwood remains the last apostle of the rugged individualistic westerner contributing his own baroque western in the Leone style, High Plains Drifter, and the brilliant gothic vengeance saga The Outlaw Josey Wales.
In recent years the western seems to have been consigned to Boot Hill. Television relentlessly piped the western into people’s homes and stemmed their inclination to see a shoot-out on the big screen. Then even television production ceased, submerged by cop shows, glossy soaps and sit-coms. Whilst the western may have been dead it certainly wasn’t forgotten; images of lone cops stalking their prey and the questionable vigilante hero of Death Wish were the new urban cowboys. Science fiction epics like Star Wars and Outland were little more than westerns in disguise. Now the need to conceal is no more and the pattern appears to be changing. Veterans Kirk Douglas and James Coburn were recently teamed for a cable
project entitled Draw! and whilst the spoof on singing cowboys, Rustler’s Rhapsody, was a flop earlier this year, a new western from Lawrence Kasdan (director of The Big Chill) entitled Silverado has just topped the $30 million mark in America. Even Bill Forsyth is said to be engaged on a project entitled Housekeeping set in the early pioneering days. Eastwood has recently completed directing an episode on the new Steven Spielberg television series Amazing Stories but amongst the future projects on his agenda is, as you might have guessed, another western. Spurred on by Pale Rider the return of the western may just be the comeback of the 19805. With acknowledgement to Michael Henny
The List 4— l 7 October 7