Which young woman wouldn’t like James Stewart to stroll into her store with a delivery in a small town where there’s no one to keep law and order and men have to be men in the archetypal glamorous fighting for honour and justice way that this hero embodies?
The wide open country is a dangerous place with Apache attacks and murderous lawless settlers. James Stewart is attacked, threatened, lassoed and dragged through the dust, his wagons burnt and his mules shot dead and that’s in the first few minutes.
Distinctly untraumatised, he persists, having revenge in mind for his brother’s death and that sort of instant love in his heart that we can’t help wanting to work out well with the young woman he met at the store.
I’ve seen it before and I lie back to enjoy the confident hero’s drawling laconic bravery.
When they say we need a winner to lead the Labour Party, and they generally mean by that not a woman and certainly not one who is only 40 years old, is this what they want? A cowboy with a quick draw to command respect and save us all?
I was brought up with these strong brave heroes, and it didn’t really help to make relationships with the opposite sex easy when they were all modelling themselves on men on horses who said very little, didn’t commit or settle down and rode off into the sunset.
But haven’t things changed?
Who has endless bullets in his six shooter and who’s the traitor in the posse?
The mainstream media are the baddies in the black hats. Someone’s selling arms to the Apache. The dramatic music is playing and we hope our hero can save the day.
It turns out the traitor was the one pretending loyalty, James is galloping over the rocky terrain and the proud Apache are on the skyline. Selling them guns makes the bad one guilty as hell but James lets him go so an arrow finishes him off.
Maybe the girl might pass through Laramie, but James as ever rides away and Cathy O’Donnell has to be content with that. And the election for Labour leader in the UK, hoping to be elected to lead a future government, has one man and three women to choose between. Can a woman be the one although the hero in the stories is almost always male?

Mary Fletcher

Volume 34 no 4 March/April 2020 p 34

15 thoughts on “‘The Man from Laramie’ (1955) directed by Anthony Mann

  1. James Stewart, my hero! I am not sure what ‘The Man From Laramie’ is doing in an art magazine, but with these times everything is possible (and appreciated, by the way).

    1. Thank you for your response, I do not know if we are under house arrest or not. I appreciate your view. I do think the Government is tyrannical; if you are writing from the US in my opinion is not even a question. After many years in the US, I departed as tyranny has addled most people’s minds. As Hitler succeeded doing in the Weimer Republic. While politics often determine the forms and expression and content of art, the NAE is wary of being identified as a political publication. I do not from where you write, if I did I could make a more direct response to you. It seems “The Man from Laramie” is a story of our times as well as in 1955.

    2. Film is an art form. I think it’s THE art form of our era- it’s like the cathedrals were in the Middle Ages – many workers involved, most of whom remain anonymous- appealing to a very wide audience- film, especially in a cinema- is all enveloping as an experience – immersive. It costs very little to watch a film and it often makes a very powerful impression.

    1. Yes, Mr. Guthrie, films or movies are indeed moving images. You have a platform here with your magazine – use it!
      Artists and art critics need to speak out on the ongoing house arrest we are locked under and make a move on it with our own creative moving images and thinking. Will the man from Laramie come and avenge us, save us from the tyranny of our governments who in the name of Corona have stopped traffic, heartbeats, life and freedom as we know it?

  2. Well as it turned out Keir Starmer was elected leader of UK’s Labour Party – not Rebecca Long Bailey who I wanted to follow Jeremy Corbyn. There were many fb posts from people who just could not ‘see’ her as a leader or Prime Minister. It’s unconscious sexism in many cases I believe.

    1. Hi Mary,
      I enjoyed reading your review.
      The western as an art form has many facets; we have the cowboys and the Indians, the good guys against the bad guys, the bank robberies, the shootouts and the violence, but also the gender roles, which are very marked and distinct in representing male vs. female.
      There’s no unconscious sexism in politics, it’s very openly sexist – men still dominate the political platform. In the end it’s the cowboys who have to win, no matter whom they have to stampede in the process.
      The landscapes in the backgrounds of westerns and the strength of character of the cowboys are what people believed was America, what made it once great. These films created an imaginary of life that people identified with. It is this imagery that people are left with, more so than any painting can create.

    1. Excuse me Derek, but didn’t you say, ” the NAE is wary of being identified as a political publication.” here below in the comments? Why would Trump be the “ultimate cowboy”?

  3. The NAE has many voices. I do not control or anyone else all that is said or published in the NAE. In fact, I think uniquely we print and post all letters to the editor, as received, I sent a letter to the editor (comments on our web site) asking a question, which I think is a good question.

    1. “Could it be said that Trump is the ultimate Cowboy?” is a political question.

  4. If there have been around 2700 westerns made between 1930-1954, imagine how many films can be made on stories surrounding the Coronvid-19? And we are only at the beginning of this saga. The major films studios must all be in ferment, screenwriters have already started their story lines, lawyers are preparing the contracts and investors are scanning the opportunities.
    Who will be the heroes to save the day? Coming to a cinema near you…

  5. Help, help! Cannot the man from Laramie save us from Matt Hancock, our Health Secretary, in the UK? This morning on public radio he said to the interviewer: “Don’t you DARE ask when the lock-down will end!” Is asking when our lock-down will end, such an impolite question, after nearly 4 weeks locked up in our houses, with no sight of freedom on the horizon? “The government won’t release exit plan because public can’t be TRUSTED with it”; is this how a constitutional monarchy is run? Are we all untrustworthy individuals; is that what we are?
    Desperation has taken over and is reflected in my painting; I’m working on a series of “walls” as the walls of my house enclose the canvases that I still have left to paint. We can view walls from various perspectives, as protection from the outside and from the elements, as enclosures that annihilate contact and imprison us so that we are socially distanced from others (term I have grown to detest), or as surfaces to paint and to create on.

  6. The art world as we know it will be BC (all the mass of art work before the coronavirus) and AD (what is left after the devastation), with 2020 considered the start of a new era. No one knows yet how much this virus will change our world, but one of the first places where we will see change is in the artworld. I am waiting on tentherhooks and hoping it will bring about a revolution to the business of art. We need a new hero to save the day.

    1. The Flight of wealth to the top and the abject poverty of the poor and the hollowing out of the American middle class has crippled the country. Trump a well-oiled celebrity uniquely read the situation and against all predictions won the Presidency. Trump called Washington a swamp. He was correct but he added his own muck to the pool. Cultural reform is needed and it does not seem that the body politic is capable of significant reform.
      This writer does not know how to draw a line between art and culture. Enlightened patronage seems to be lacking. This process we call the art world. Intuitions are present in museums, academia, and market history is the ultimate decider of quality or relevance. Culture wars continue and what dog will eat what dog remains a morbid and intriguing point of social consideration. And casino capitalism continues on the back of artists, Art, after all, started as a practice of early humanity and the mystery is still with us. So Art basically has not lost its purpose.
      Aside from Politics, the question is of culture.
      American art was secretly hijacked in the Cold war. Can it escape the underwriting? This I see as the question for the near future

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