COWBOYS AND CADILLACS: How Hollywood Looks at Texas by Don Graham

COWBOYS AND CADILLACS: How Hollywood Looks at Texas

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Film-professor Graham takes an easygoing, unsurprising look at the portrayal of Texas in dozens of movies--starting with the 1900 Edison newsreels covering the Galveston Flood disaster. First, after a brief appreciation of the Tom Mix embodiment of the Texan (""amiable, likeable types, not mythic gunfighters or grim, avenging angels"" à la William S. Hart), Graham traces the multi-decade history of two major genres: the Texas Ranger stories, with their Oedipal undercurrents and ""myth of Anglo supremacy""; and the cattle-drive stories, all offering the same ideology (""this was America's epic moment, this was America creating its historical and commercial destiny"")--though Red River and The Searchers went considerably beyond the formula. Next there's a brief chapter on Texas-history films, concentrating, of course, on Alamo stories--all of which disappoint, says Graham, because they ""can't take advantage of the cinematic qualities"" (open spaces, epic size) that ""make Texas an ideal Western movie state."" And subsequent sections focus on: the oil-man plot, from Mr. Potter of Texas (1922) to Giant, Written on the Wind, and TV's Dallas; the darker side of Texans, from boorish provincials to the bleak small-town-Texas film exemplified by The Last Picture Show; the portrayal of women in Texas movies; and the more sophisticated, ironic treatments of Texas in recent years--including the parody (partly unintentional) of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Graham's conclusion is far from earthshaking: ""The movies will only slowly begin to reflect a Texas different from the old tried-and-true stereotypes."" His prose is less than scintillating, with ""interesting"" the favorite adjective. But this survey is unpretentious, reasonably thoughtful, nicely organized, and cheerful in tone--with descriptions of a few amusingly terrible movies along the way.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Texas Monthly Press