Westerns is the classic account of the emergence, growth and flowering of one of the most perennially popular film genres. When it was first published thirty years ago it was welcomed by reviewers in Europe and the United States as a major work. In this new edition, fully revised and updated, with a new introduction, both movie buffs and general readers have the opportunity to engage again with one of the sharpest film critics of our time. The book focuses on the political, historical and cultural forces that shaped the western, dealing especially with the thirty years after World War II. It considers the treatment of Indians and Blacks, women and children, the role of violence, landscape and pokerplaying, and it advances the theory that most westerns of those years fit into four principal categories that reflect the styles and ideologies of four leading politicians of the era: John F. Kennedy, Barry Goldwater, Lyndon Johnson and William Buckley. Since the book was first revised in 1977, there has been, as the author predicted there would be, a steady decline in the number of westerns made for TV and the cinema, but the genre remains highly influential and reflects the social and psychological currents in American life. In the 1990s Academy Awards for best movie went to Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves and Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven , the first time that westerns were so houred since Cimarron won an Oscar in 1930. French takes in these and other films, such as Heaven's Gate , the costly failure that brought down the studio that produced it, and brings the story of the western into the twenty-first century as the genre that was renewed in Cold Mountain , Open Range , Hidalgo and The Alamo .
Philip French was born in Liverpool in 1933. After serving with the Parachute Regiment in the Middle East he read law at Oxford, where he edited 'The Isis', and studied journalism at Indiana University. He was a senior producer for BBC radio from 1959 to 1990, and has been The Observer's film critic since 1978. He has written regularly for numerous newspapers and magazines including The Financial Times, London Magazine, The Times, the New Statesman, The Spectator and Sight & Sound. His books as author or editor include 'Age of Austerity 1945-51' (1963), 'The Movie Moguls' (1969), 'Three Honest Men: Edmund Wilson, F.R. Leavis, Lionel Trilling' (1980), 'Malle on Malle' (1992), 'The Faber Book of Movie Verse' (1993), 'Wild Strawberries' (1995) and 'Cult Movies' (1999). Philip French was a member of the jury at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival and a Booker Prize judge in 1988.