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It was mania wrought by the plague of gold, a crippling infirmity that afflicts humans alone. These Syrian children survived attacks that left them burned beyond belief. One program thousands of miles from home is offering them life-changing treatment. W inter was on its way in northwestern Syria when Hana Al Saloom awoke around 6 a.

There was a chill in the air. Her 5-year-old daughter, Aysha, was asleep near a gas heater, as her brothers and sisters slept in other rooms. Hana blinked. The blast knocked her down. Then screams. She swiveled on her knees. She looked around. Everything was on fire. It was as if her house had exploded. The impact must have caused the gas heater to blow up too. The flames spread fast. Hana raced outside with her older children. He had reached into the flames to pull her out.

His legs and hands were seared. But Aysha was injured the worst. Neighbors rushed to put out the fire on her body — and all around them. Her skin was smoldering.

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A neighbor rushed Aysha and her dad to a hospital. Her wavy hair dances around her bright eyes. There she is in a white blouse. There she is in a purple plaid dress. There she is with pigtails, sitting on a swing, wearing a white, blue and red polka-dotted tutu. Aysha Al Saloom, 8, at the apartment in Irvine, California, where she lives with her mother. Aysha will spend several years here while she undergoes surgeries for her burn wounds.

Her mouth hung open, her eyes slightly cracked, her neck as reddish-pink as a bloody raw steak. Her face looked as if someone had slathered it with a mud mask. Pasty in some places, blackened in others. But her skin, Hana says, was still there, even if it had turned a different shade.

Badly hurt and on the brink of death, that is how Hana remembered her daughter on the day she was burned. After Aysha was whisked away to Turkey for medical care on the day of the accident, an uncle who accompanied her sent a photo of her face wrapped in white bandages. Instead, the uncle would call regularly with updates from Turkey. She was going to be OK. Doctors focused on her lungs especially, which were damaged from the smoke. Hana prayed and cried, waiting for Aysha to be well enough to come home.

Finally, that day came. Hana waited, and when she saw the car coming down the road, she ran out of her house in time to see her little girl step out. She remembers that Aysha wore jeans and a red and white striped dress. Her hair had been shaved off. But it was her face that shocked Hana the most. She did not know that the burned layer of skin had fallen away in sheaths, and that the new skin that replaced it was a combination of grafts, recent growth and irregular-shaped scars.

Aysha did not look like the little girl her mother remembered, but Hana had no doubt she was her daughter. She grabbed Aysha and carried her inside of the house. She sat down, weeping. Hana recalls how Aysha was welcomed back to parts of the community, but the children who used to play with her refused. In May , they boarded a plane and arrived in California. For the last 10 months, Aysha has lived in Southern California, traveling with a chaperone several days a week — an hour each way from an apartment in Irvine — to the hospital in Pasadena for checkups and surgeries, all to treat the burns and scars that run across her arms, chest, neck and face.

She is one of six Syrian children who have come to the U. Given the immigration hurdles and expenses for travel, living and medical care, it would be almost impossible for most Syrian families to travel to the U. She has been active in humanitarian projects since the war in Syria began. State Department has remained supportive of temporary visas to bring burned Syrian children and their families to the U.

The boys are all being treated for their burns at the nearby Shriners Hospitals for Children. All four children and their families live together in one apartment in Galveston. Twenty-five more burned Syrian children are currently on waiting lists to come to the U. Currently they do not have enough funding to bring all of the children who need help. There have been half a million deaths and at least two million injuries since the start of the Syrian Civil War in , and the young Syrian patients who show up at Shriners come with gnarled hands, missing eyes and knotty scars, as well as obstructed breathing, hearing and vision.

Some can barely swallow. Their injuries are the direct result of air strikes and, in some cases, chemical weapons attacks. A longtime Syrian-American activist within the Arab-American community, Moujtahed worked on developing the partnership with Shriners as well as getting support from politicians.

Those who survive their burns have a really tough, heavy pain, not only from their burns, but also psychologically. Norbury recalls the injuries of one Syrian boy he treated recently. It looked like he was balancing a baseball on the back of his hand. But she still has more surgeries to go. When Aysha is not in the hospital, she plays alone, or studies with a year-old Syrian girl, Hamama, who is also receiving treatment at Shriners and lives with Aysha and her mom in the Irvine apartment. Hamama lost her parents, along with key parts of her memory, when her village was attacked.

She cannot recall her past, the accident, or even her family members who died. Hamama Almansoor, 17, in the Irvine, California, apartment where she lives while being treated at Shriners Hospital for Children. They occasionally go to the shopping mall, or out to eat. Aysha collects dolls, watches Disney cartoons, and loves Skittles. But mostly she longs to attend school in a building outside with other children, even if they stare or laugh at her. It is too risky. Doctors have prohibited her from attending school outside because they worry the sun and environment could harm her already fragile skin and nervous system.

Hana homeschools Aysha, who tries to stay in good spirits, even though she wishes she had other kids her age to play with. When she does go outside for brief periods, she worries about what people think of her. Once, Aysha spotted a woman pushing a stroller. She noticed a toy fall from the stroller to the ground. Aysha thought of picking up the toy to give to the baby. Aysha shows a photo of herself from before she was injured in a missile attack. On the television, a shark tries to catch a dolphin.

Hana wears a gray head scarf and a red trench coat, which she has buttoned. She gives Aysha rosewater. She is often so focused on her daughter, she forgets about herself. Hana left five other children behind in Syria. Though Hana and Aysha video chat with their family members back in Turkey and Syria regularly, they know that they will likely not see them again for at least another two years. That is how long the doctors expect it to take to complete the needed surgeries. Abdullah and Anwar on the merry-go-round at the local theme park in Galveston.

A doctor examines Abdullah, while his mother looks on, at the Shriners Hospitals for Children. W hen Aysha was a baby, her family resided in the close-knit village of Heesh, where she and her husband lived off the land, raising animals and growing their own food. They made cheese and traded it for other products. Their agrarian life was peaceful, Hana says, until the military came in and ordered everyone in the village to leave. Heesh would become a bloody battleground as opposition fighters and Assad-regime forces clashed — artillery, rockets and mortars dropping over the hamlet, driving out residents and killing those left behind.

Hana remembers gripping Aysha in her arms, carrying a bag of just a few clothing items, and making the two-week trek from Heesh to the border of Turkey on foot, with her husband and six kids. If we make it out alive, we are alive. They spent four years in the camps. Aysha learned to crawl, and walk, between the tents.

Since their entire village and extended family members had relocated there too, Aysha knew many people. She would spend her days going from canopy to canopy, hiding and hunting for food. You keep her! The family eventually learned that the fighting had subsided and they could return to Heesh, but when they made the long journey back to the village, they found a heap of rubble, broken glass, burned toys, cracked concrete, dust, dirt and crumbled storefronts. The ceiling had collapsed. The living room was a hill of rocks. Like the rest of the village, they rebuilt their home, one concrete slab after another.

Less than a year later, it was not fully intact, but they had repaired it enough to live within its walls again. The doctor begins to make marks on her ears with a marker. Doctors know the patients may never look the same as before, but they hope to help them live a more normal life by improving their burn injuries and deformities step by step, until they look and feel closer to the kids they are inside. The ones who skip down halls, sing YouTube songs, and grab for toys like other kids their age — without fear of frightening others.

At 10 a. Hama tells Aysha to open her mouth. The syringe is filled to the tip with the bright pink liquid. Aysha breathes deeply, gathering the courage to drink it down. She drinks it down with a grimace and wipes her lips. Minutes later, Aysha is groggy. Her mom leans in close. Aysha says nothing, her eyes droop. A few minutes later, the nurses wheel Aysha out of the room, down the hall, as Hana watches from behind.

Aysha is trying to call out. Her voice is so faint. Hana hears her. Hana rushes to her side once more. When priceless texts began disappearing from a seventh-century hilltop abbey, the police were mystified. They were even more befuddled when they finally caught the culprit. T ourists are a most common sight at the abbey of Mont Sainte-Odile in the summer. So, when a somewhat hefty, tall man walked down the marble stairs leading to the first floor of the guesthouse, hardly anyone noticed.

His backpack contained a Bible, which is normal in a place where people come for religious pilgrimages, but this Bible was more than years old. Along with it, the man carried a 15th-century incunabulum, works by Cicero and the eighth-century theologian Alcuin, and three more dusty, priceless books. He picked six books from one of the oak bookcases standing against the walls, and walked right out through the Saint-Pierre chapel, briefly glancing at the marble tomb of Saint Odile — the revered saint who founded this mountaintop abbey in the seventh century — on his way out.

Now, the square-jawed, long-legged man sauntered through a swarm of tourists near the parapet enclosing the religious site. It was a warm, sunny day in August , and he had just stolen from one of the holiest sites in Alsace, a historical region in northeastern France. On countless occasions, he had soaked up the views of the hillsides, blanketed with pines, and the sprawling Rhine Valley. He made himself a promise not to steal from the library anymore, he would later tell police investigators.

A small, vaulted room, it had once been known as Calvary, a place where canons and nuns meditated on the Passion of Christ. In the midth century, a canon had turned it into a library, amassing more than 3, books donated by seminaries and monasteries from the region. In the s, an amateur historian started drawing an inventory and had found ancient editions of works by Aristotle, Homer, and the Roman playwright Terence. Especially valuable were 10 incunabula — rare books printed before , during the earliest years of the printing press.

Sermons by Augustine, bound in sow skin, from Three Latin Bibles, printed in Basel and Strasbourg. Works by the Roman poet Virgil, printed in in Nuremberg. A Bible commentary by Peter Lombard, a 12th-century Italian scholar. Now one was missing. On the lower shelf where they were supposed to line up, there was an empty space. Buntz scurried out of the room.

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She bumped into Charles Diss, 61, the director of Mont Sainte-Odile, a short man with an affable face and protruding ears. Diss was rattled. The library was accessible to some of the 60 employees, as well as to groups of 30 worshippers taking turns in adoration of the Eucharist, a tradition going back to the years following World War I. All photos by the author. Buntz and Diss drove the weaving road downhill to file a complaint with the local police station. For a moment, they thought that things would be left at that.

The door was often left unlocked, after all. It appeared that only one book had been stolen, or simply borrowed by a fervent but dreamy pilgrim, and not returned. No additional security measures were taken. But when Buntz entered the library one day in November, just a few months later, the remaining incunabula were gone. The empty shelf stared grimly at her like an open wound. The gendarmes began an investigation and soon roamed the area. He had walked back to the car two hours later, carrying two bags full of nine heavy incunabula, according to previously undisclosed police records.


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The lock on the library door was replaced with a sturdier one, and access to the room restricted. For months, there was no further pilfering. It was a relief. Life continued. In the fall of , Diss, the head of the site for 23 years, was succeeded by Alain Donius, a bespectacled, disheveled priest of No one told him about the thefts. The matter was considered closed. W hile the monks breathed easy, the thief enjoyed his new books. At night, in his tiny flat in Illkirch-Graffenstaden, in the suburbs of Strasbourg, year-old bachelor Stanislas Gosse tapped into his knowledge of Latin to read the stolen texts.

There was a 19th-century volume reproducing plates from the Hortus Deliciarum , a 12th-century encyclopedia that had been lost in a fire. Flipping through the pages, one saw the seeds of Christianity sprout and unfold. Miniatures showed Jonah crawling out of the jaws of the monster, a giant fish with its head a glowing red. The Three Kings followed the Star of Bethlehem, and a bearded King David sat on his throne musing, a harp tucked between his hands. Did reading these books produce the same joy Gosse felt playing the organ at church?

He had found them covered with dust and bird droppings. He had found himself a mission. He would save the texts from decay and oblivion. Inside the library at the monastery. In ninth grade, his Latin teacher, a bibliophile, had taken his class to the library of the Grand Seminary of Strasbourg, where the spines of 5, ancient books glowed under the artificial light in countless shades of dull yellow, pearl-gray and purplish red.

Equally bewitching was Mont Sainte-Odile. Gosse was 3 years old when he had first laid eyes on the secluded mount and scampered around the Pagan Wall enclosing it, a kilometer long wall made of large stones covered with moss. His father, a military officer, took him there often, and as an adult Gosse visited the site every year. He was raised Catholic, and Alain Donius, the priest who became the head of Sainte-Odile in , had taught him catechism as a boy.

When Gosse first peered inside the library in , he was enchanted. He would come back. In August , he walked up the stairs to the library and found the door open. He came back a few days later, riding his bicycle in the summer heat. He made his way to the library.

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His hand felt for a latch through the loose chicken wire covering the bookcase doors. He picked six books, including a 15th-century Bible, and one incunabulum. Later, Gosse went to the national library in Strasbourg to read about what he had appropriated. He found the library door open.

Gosse, who declined to be interviewed for this story, described the thefts to the investigators with a wealth of details, but the interrogation records fail to mention how he felt perpetrating them. By his own account, he left around midnight, driving away in the cold night.

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For several months, it seems, Gosse was content with the books he had collected. In the summer of , however, he went back again. This time, he found the door closed and locked. Would it stop him? He returned the next day with a hand drill. How thick was the door, he wondered, and could he pick the lock? After drilling a 3-millimeter hole, he gave up. He was no professional thief, after all.

He had to find another way in. This time, it hit her like a blow. Hundreds of books were missing.

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Library rack with books locked away at the monastery. The door and the windows showed no signs of forced entry. Some mysterious force had found a way into the very heart of the holy site. Unless it was an inside job. One of the two priests, perhaps? One of the 10 nuns? One of the employees? Could it possibly have been the work of Donius, the new director? After all, not everyone had welcomed him with open arms.

Everyone was a suspect. Access to the library had already been restricted to a handful of people. Dietrich had changed the lock for a stronger one. Buntz had even relinquished her key, to prove her good faith. Would they ever be found? Had they already been thrown into the Rhine, or sold to art smugglers in the Netherlands or Belgium? This was the lead pursued by the investigators, and art dealers across Europe had been asked to keep an eye out for specific books. They could only hope for a miracle. O n May 19, near 7 p. He brought ropes, three suitcases, gray plastic bags and a flashlight.

Once inside the main courtyard, he headed straight to the second floor of the Sainte-Odile aisle of the guesthouse. He tied the ropes to a wooden beam above a trapdoor in the floor and climbed down into a dark, windowless room of about 10 feet by 10 feet with a short 7-foot ceiling. Through an opening in the wall, he slipped into a second, narrow room.

A dim light filtered through cracks in the lower part of a wall. The thief gently slid two wooden panels open, revealing rows of neatly lined up books on two shelves inside a cupboard. He took the books off, then one shelf, before sneaking inside the library. At the library in Strasbourg, he had found what he had been looking for in an article from a local history journal that mentioned a secret passage, unknown to anyone currently working at the abbey, except Dietrich, the janitor. It had probably once been used as a hiding place for the monks or as an ossuary — a place to store bones.

Gosse selected a few books, wrapped them in plastic bags, then crawled back inside the cupboard. In the second room, he flipped a wooden crate, climbed on it and hauled the bags through the hatch onto the attic. He climbed up the rope, moved the books to a nearby table to clear the hatch, and climbed back down. He repeated the operation eight times throughout the evening.

By the time he was done, more than a hundred books were stacked up in the attic. Around 2 a. View from Mont Sainte-Odile down to the Rhine plain. He came back the following evening. They had poked around the library for hours, eventually chancing upon the secret passage.

They saw the suitcases Gosse had left and were waiting for him to come back. Around 9 p. The gendarmes wrestled him to the floor. He barely said a word. At his apartment, they found about 1, books wrapped in plastic bags. On most of the books, Gosse had glued a custom ex libris bookplate stamp bearing his name in Gothic letters, as well as a drawing of a heart. He confessed to the thefts. He offered to donate them to the library he had so heartily pillaged.

He apologized to the director, who gave him absolution. A slap on the wrist, his lawyer says. He was even able to keep teaching. Close to 20 years after the thefts, the investigators still speak about Gosse with awe. He was no ordinary thief, after all. He stole out of passion, and the books were safely returned to the library in 22 boxes it took two volunteers six months to sort them out. Former colleagues at the engineering school where Gosse still teaches are more guarded. What kind of example had he set for the students? They described an aloof, reclusive man with no appetite for social activities whatsoever.

He is now 48, single, and lives with his mother. They exchange a quick salute and walk on. Fifty years ago, a left-wing radical planted bombs across New York, launching a desperate manhunt—and an explosive new strain of political extremism. T hroughout much of , Sam Melville, an unemployed year-old with an estranged wife and 5-year-old son, frequently sat at his desk in a squalid apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, contemplating how he could destroy America. Two years earlier, Melville had left behind a well-paying job as a draftsman, a spacious apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and his family.

His father, a former member of the Communist Labor Party, whom Melville once greatly admired, had recently given up the socialist cause, remarried, and opened a hamburger stand in an upscale section of Long Island. Fearing that he might follow his father on a similar path led Melville down an existential rabbit hole. In and around his neighborhood that year, he took part in marches and sit-ins, but by , as his anger toward the government grew, he secretly set off a series of bombs across Manhattan.

To many in the counterculture underground, he was their equivalent of a masked avenger. There was no way some doped-up college kid was making them. You can be all those things and still not want to blow up buildings. The aftermath of the Weather Underground bomb factory explosion in the basement of the West Village townhouse, March 6, Three people died in the blast. Yet in the flashpoint of just four months, Sam Melville and a small group of followers took the American radical left on a hard turn into armed struggle.

Melville was one of the first to turn to this kind of violence, but the country would soon witness the kidnapping of Patty Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army, the bombings of the Pentagon and NYPD headquarters by the Weather Underground, and more. What else would make a person act that way other than knowing they damaged their family?

The one thing nobody can debate is the haphazard manner in which Sam Melville went about bombing Marine Midland. Though his intention was to destroy property and not people, he did not take into account the presence of an evening staff in the building when he set the device for a 10 p. When more than a dozen employees were taken to the hospital — all with minor injuries — it forced him to rethink his future plans of attack. Army and Selective Services inside. The device went off at 2 a. There were no injuries. Melville and his cell soon learned that damaging federal property could elicit a furious response.

The next day, the FBI went to an apartment Melville had moved out of months earlier, and later they tracked him down at the apartment on East 4th Street where he and Alpert were living. He told them his name was David McCurdy — the pseudonym he had used to rent a nearby apartment where he had set up an explosives workshop — and denied knowing who Sam Melville was.

Unfazed by this close call, the collective went to work plotting their most ambitious statement on American tyranny yet: a trio of simultaneous bomb blasts across the city on Veterans Day. Meanwhile, Melville opted for his version of laying low: skipping town and going on a bombing spree of U. Army facilities across the Midwest. Melville also participated in a guerilla warfare workshop in North Dakota, hosted by the black nationalist H. Rap Brown. From the inside, black people have been fighting a revolution for years. And finally, white Americans too are striking blows for liberation.

Another blast was planned to follow at the Lexington Armory on 26th Street, with Melville delivering the bomb himself with help from George Demmerle, a newer member Melville had befriended on the Lower East Side. Demmerle, an overly rambunctious radical who not only was a member of the Crazies but also held rank as the only Caucasian member of the Black Panthers, greatly impressed Melville. Had they found his bomb factory? He had to mobilize. The revolution was in full swing. N ot long after the explosive on Centre Street, Demmerle and Melville made their way uptown, to 26th Street.

The plan was to chuck the timed bombs onto the large Army trucks parked in front of the 69th Regiment Armory, knowing they would later be brought inside the building. But as Melville approached, he noticed something different than the numerous times they had cased the building. Figuring the action would have to wait for another day, Melville was just about to turn away when he was bombarded from all angles by FBI agents pointing pistols and ordering him to freeze. Just like Melville, Demmerle was a man who had left his wife and child looking for purpose in life, but instead of becoming a self-appointed revolutionary, he found it as a low-level mole for the government, beginning in But to Melville, Demmerle was just another comrade in the struggle.

Jane Alpert exiting the courthouse with John D. Hughey III, another member of the Weather Underground Collective, after pleading guilty to a conspiracy to bomb federal buildings along with Samuel Melville, January 15, How the hell am I going to get out of jail, jackass? A month after his outburst in court, Melville pulled another act of desperation. After racing down two flights of stairs, he was apprehended. On May 8, , Melville pled guilty to three charges: conspiring to and destroying federal property, and assaulting the marshal. He was sentenced to a consecutive run of 31 years.

Hughey ended up serving two years, while Alpert absconded. While harbored by members of the Weather Underground, she circulated the feminist manifesto Mother Right to much praise and criticism from the radical left, before surrendering in Photo courtesy Joshua Melville. There, abusive guards were the norm, as were ludicrously sparse rations such as a single bar of soap every other month and one roll of toilet paper given out only once a month.

The lone bright spot for Melville was finding prisoners to connect with from the Black Panthers and a likeminded Puerto Rican civil rights group called the Young Lords. Over the course of the next year, Melville sent out a storm of letters decrying the conditions at Attica to lawyers, outside supporters and the New York Commissioner of Corrections, Russell Oswald, while also publishing a handmade newsletter distributed to prisoners on the sly called The Iced Pig. For many both inside and outside of prison walls, this new awareness of incarceration conditions came from George Jackson, the San Quentin inmate who authored the best-selling book Soledad Brother.

When word got out that Jackson had been shot dead during a bungled uprising on August 21, , it set off a brooding fury in Attica. In an act of solidarity, Melville led a multiracial phalanx of prisoners wearing black armbands into the mess hall for a very solemn hunger strike. One guard was singled out for a beating so bad he died a few days later. Over the next four days, negotiations were volleyed in and out of the prison walls by journalists, senators and the well-known civil rights lawyer William Kunstler. At the end of the sudden and bloody debacle, nine guards and 29 inmates were dead, with Melville reportedly being one of the first to get picked off.

Legend says Melville was in mid-throw of a Molotov cocktail when he was gunned down. As much as that would make for a great dramatic ending to this made-for-TV story, evidence brought up in a civil suit during the s revealed this to be a mistruth, as no such item was found near his body. Photo courtesy New York State Library. For an almost year stretch starting in , a group that initially called themselves the Sam Melville Unit carried out a series of bank robberies and bombings across the Eastern Seaboard and the Midwest.

Last year, former New York City Police commissioner Bernard Kerik summoned the name of the Melville-inspired group when arguing that the left-wing protest group Antifa should be considered a domestic terrorist group. Arching back in his chair to lend further significance to his statement, he puffs on his cigar and continues.

But our latest Narratively story isn't available online. Instead, we printed the entire thing on a tote bag, and it's available only to Narratively Patrons. Then a few times a year we'll send fun surprises for you to tote around, from books we love to literary zines and much more. Protagonists ride between dusty towns and cattle ranches on their trusty steeds. Western films were enormously popular in the silent film era With the advent of sound in , the major Hollywood studios rapidly abandoned Westerns, [10] leaving the genre to smaller studios and producers.

These smaller organizations churned out countless low-budget features and serials in the s. By the late s, the Western film was widely regarded as a "pulp" genre in Hollywood, but its popularity was dramatically revived in by major studio productions such as Dodge City starring Errol Flynn , Jesse James with Tyrone Power , Union Pacific with Joel McCrea , Destry Rides Again featuring James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich , and the release of John Ford's landmark Western adventure Stagecoach , which became one of the biggest hits of the year.

Released through United Artists, Stagecoach made John Wayne a mainstream screen star in the wake of a decade of headlining B westerns. Wayne had been introduced to the screen ten years earlier as the leading man in director Raoul Walsh 's widescreen The Big Trail , which failed at the box office, due in part to exhibitors' inability to switch over to widescreen during the Depression. After the Western's renewed commercial successes in the late s, the popularity of the Western continued to rise until its peak in the s, when the number of Western films produced outnumbered all other genres combined.

Western films often depict conflicts with Native Americans. While early Eurocentric Westerns frequently portray the "Injuns" as dishonorable villains, the later and more culturally neutral Westerns gave Native Americans a more sympathetic treatment. Other recurring themes of Westerns include Western treks e.

The Big Trail or perilous journeys e. Stagecoach or groups of bandits terrorising small towns such as in The Magnificent Seven. Or revisionist westerns like I Walk the Line depict sheriffs dueling. Early Westerns were mostly filmed in the studio, just like other early Hollywood films, but when location shooting became more common from the s, producers of Westerns used desolate corners of Arizona , California , Colorado , Kansas , Montana , Nevada , New Mexico , Oklahoma , Texas , Utah , or Wyoming.

These settings gave filmmakers the ability to depict vast plains, looming mountains and epic canyons. Productions were also filmed on location at movie ranches. Often, the vast landscape becomes more than a vivid backdrop; it becomes a character in the film. After the early s, various wide screen formats such as Cinemascope and VistaVision used the expanded width of the screen to display spectacular Western landscapes.

John Ford 's use of Monument Valley as an expressive landscape in his films from Stagecoach to Cheyenne Autumn "present us with a mythic vision of the plains and deserts of the American West, embodied most memorably in Monument Valley, with its buttes and mesas that tower above the men on horseback, whether they be settlers, soldiers, or Native Americans". Author and screenwriter Frank Gruber described seven plots for Westerns: [12] [13]. Gruber said that good writers used dialogue and plot development to develop these basic plots into believable stories.

In the s and s, the Western was reinvented with the revisionist Western. Fenin and William K. Everson point out that the "Edison company had played with Western material for several years prior to The Great Train Robbery. So popular was the genre that he soon faced competition from Tom Mix and William S. The film is filled with bizarre characters and occurrences, use of maimed and dwarf performers, and heavy doses of Christian symbolism and Eastern philosophy. Rosenbaum describes the Acid Western as "formulating a chilling, savage frontier poetry to justify its hallucinated agenda"; ultimately, he says, the Acid Western expresses a counterculture sensibility to critique and replace capitalism with alternative forms of exchange.

Charro Westerns , often featuring musical stars as well as action, have been a standard feature of Mexican cinema since the s. In the s and s, these were typically films about horsemen in rural Mexican society, displaying a set of cultural concerns very different from the Hollywood meta-narrative, but the overlap between 'charro' movies and westerns became more apparent in the s and s. This subgenre is imitative in style in order to mock, comment on, or trivialize the Western genre's established traits, subjects, auteurs' styles, or some other target by means of humorous, satiric, or ironic imitation or parody.

A prime example of Comedy Western includes The Paleface , which makes a satirical effort to "send-up Owen Wister's novel The Virginian and all the cliches of the Western from the fearless hero to the final shootout on main street. The result was The Paleface which features a cowardly hero known as "Painless" Peter Potter Bob Hope , an inept dentist who often entertains the notion that he's a crack sharpshooter and accomplished Indian fighter".

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Also known as Neo-Westerns, these films have contemporary U. For the most part, they still take place in the American West and reveal the progression of the Old West mentality into the late 20th and early 21st centuries. This subgenre often features Old West-type characters struggling with displacement in a "civilized" world that rejects their outdated brand of justice. Pakula 's Comes a Horseman ; J.

Likewise, the television series Breaking Bad , which takes place in modern times, features many examples of Western archetypes. According to creator Vince Gilligan , "After the first Breaking Bad episode, it started to dawn on me that we could be making a contemporary western. So you see scenes that are like gunfighters squaring off, like Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef —we have Walt and others like that. The precursor to these [ citation needed ] was the radio series Tales of the Texas Rangers — , with Joel McCrea , a contemporary detective drama set in Texas, featuring many of the characteristics of traditional Westerns.

Zachariah featured appearances and music supplied by rock groups from the s, including the James Gang [23] and Country Joe and the Fish as "The Cracker Band. The epic western is a subgenre of the western that emphasizes the story of the American Old West on a grand scale. One of the grandest films in this genre is Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West , which shows many operatic conflicts centered on control of a town while utilizing wide scale shots on Monument Valley locations against a broad running time.

Euro Westerns are Western genre films made in Western Europe. The term can sometimes, but not necessarily, include the Spaghetti Western subgenre see below. Several Euro-Western films, nicknamed Sauerkraut Westerns [25] because they were made in Germany and shot in Yugoslavia , were derived from stories by novelist Karl May and were film adaptations of May's work. Fantasy Westerns mixed in fantasy settings and themes, and may include fantasy mythology as background. An example is Distant Drums starring Gary Cooper.

A developing subgenre, [ citation needed ] with roots in films such as Curse of the Undead and Billy the Kid vs. Dracula , which depicts the legendary outlaw Billy the Kid fighting against the notorious vampire. Undead Nightmare , an expansion to Red Dead Redemption is an example of a video game in this genre, telling the tale of a zombie outbreak in the Old West.

Bone Tomahawk one of the most recent entries in the genre received wide critical acclaim for its chilling tale of cannibalism but, like many other movies in the genre, it wasn't a commercial success. Thazhvaram , the Malayalam film directed by Bharathan and written by noted writer M.

Vasudevan Nair , is perhaps the most resemblant of the Spaghetti Westerns in terms of production and cinematic techniques. Kodama Simham , a Telugu action film starring Chiranjeevi and Mohan Babu was one more addition to the Indo Western genre and fared well at the box office. Takkari Donga , starring Telugu Maheshbabu, was applauded by critics but an average runner at box office. Quick Gun Murugun , an Indian comedy film which spoofs Indian Western movies, is based on a character created for television promos at the time of the launch of the music network Channel [V] in , which had cult following.

While many of these mash-ups e. Osterns , also known as "Red Western"s, are produced in Eastern Europe. They were popular in Communist Eastern European countries and were a particular favorite of Joseph Stalin , and usually portrayed the American Indians sympathetically, as oppressed people fighting for their rights, in contrast to American Westerns of the time, which frequently portrayed the Indians as villains. Osterns frequently featured Gypsies or Turkic people in the role of the Indians, due to the shortage of authentic Indians in Eastern Europe.

He became honorary chief of the Sioux tribe, when he visited the United States in the s and the television crew accompanying him showed the tribe one of his films. American actor and singer Dean Reed , an expatriate who lived in East Germany , also starred in several Ostern films. The most rare of the Western subgenres, pornographic Westerns use the Old West as a background for stories primarily focused on erotica. Sweet Savage starred Aldo Ray , a veteran actor who had appeared in traditional Westerns, in a non-sex role. Among videogames, Custer's Revenge is an infamous example, considered to be one of the worst video games of all time.

After the early s, many American filmmakers began to question and change many traditional elements of Westerns, and to make Revisionist Westerns that encouraged audiences to question the simple hero-versus-villain dualism and the morality of using violence to test one's character or to prove oneself right. One major revision was the increasingly positive representation of Native Americans , who had been treated as "savages" in earlier films.

A few earlier Revisionist Westerns gave women more powerful roles, such as Westward the Women starring Robert Taylor. Another earlier work encompassed all these features, The Last Wagon In it, Richard Widmark played a white man raised by Comanches and persecuted by whites , with Felicia Farr and Susan Kohner playing young women forced into leadership roles. The science fiction Western places science fiction elements within a traditional Western setting. John Jakes 's "Six Gun Planet" takes place on a future planet colonized by people consciously seeking to recreate the Old West with cowboys riding robot horses Fallout: New Vegas is an example of a video game that follows this format, with futuristic technology and genetic mutations placed among the western themes and desert sprawl of the Mojave Wasteland.

The Space Western or Space Frontier is a subgenre of science fiction which uses the themes and tropes of Westerns within science fiction stories. Subtle influences may include exploration of new, lawless frontiers , while more overt influences may feature literal cowboys in outer space who use ray guns and ride robotic horses.

Another example is the Japanese anime series Cowboy Bebop. The classic western genre has also been a major influence on science fiction films such as the original Star Wars movie of , with 's Solo: A Star Wars Story more directly featuring western tropes. During the s and s, a revival of the Western emerged in Italy with the " Spaghetti Westerns " also known as "Italo-Westerns". The most famous of them is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Spaghetti Westerns were characterized by the presence of more action and violence than the Hollywood Westerns. Also, the protagonists usually acted out of more selfish motives money or revenge being the most common than in the classical westerns.

The Western films directed by Sergio Leone were felt by some to have a different tone than the Hollywood Westerns. Eastwood, previously the lead in the television series Rawhide , unexpectedly found himself catapulted into the forefront of the film industry by Leone's A Fistful of Dollars. The Weird Western subgenre blends elements of a classic Western with other elements. The Wild Wild West television series, television movies, and film adaptation blend the Western with steampunk. The Jonah Hex franchise also blends the Western with superhero elements.

The film Western Religion , by writer and director James O'Brien , introduces the devil into a traditional wild west setting.


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The Old Man Logan graphic novel combines the elements of superhero and post-apocalyptic fiction with western. In the s academic and critical attention to cinema as a legitimate art form emerged. With the increased attention, film theory was developed to attempt to understand the significance of film. From this environment emerged in conjunction with the literary movement an enclave of critical studies called genre studies.

This was primarily a semantic and structuralist approach to understanding how similar films convey meaning. One of the results of genre studies is that some [ who? For example, a very typical Western plot is that an eastern lawman heads west, where he matches wits and trades bullets with a gang of outlaws and thugs, and is aided by a local lawman who is well-meaning but largely ineffective until a critical moment when he redeems himself by saving the hero's life.

This description can be used to describe any number of Westerns, but also other films such as Die Hard itself a loose reworking of High Noon and Akira Kurosawa 's Seven Samurai , which are frequently cited examples of films that do not take place in the American West but have many themes and characteristics common to Westerns. Likewise, films set in the American Old West may not necessarily be considered "Westerns. Being period drama pieces, both the Western and samurai genre influenced each other in style and themes throughout the years.

Despite the Cold War , the Western was a strong influence on Eastern Bloc cinema, which had its own take on the genre, the so-called " Red Western " or "Ostern". Generally these took two forms: either straight Westerns shot in the Eastern Bloc, or action films involving the Russian Revolution and civil war and the Basmachi rebellion.

An offshoot of the Western genre is the "post-apocalyptic" Western, in which a future society, struggling to rebuild after a major catastrophe, is portrayed in a manner very similar to the 19th-century frontier. Many elements of space travel series and films borrow extensively from the conventions of the Western genre. This is particularly the case in the space Western subgenre of science fiction.

Gene Roddenberry , the creator of the Star Trek series, pitched his show as " Wagon Train to the stars" early on, but admitted later that this was more about getting it produced in a time that loved Western-themed TV series than about its actual content. More recently, the space opera series Firefly used an explicitly Western theme for its portrayal of frontier worlds. Anime shows like Cowboy Bebop , Trigun and Outlaw Star have been similar mixes of science fiction and Western elements.

The science fiction Western can be seen as a subgenre of either Westerns or science fiction. Elements of Western films can be found also in some films belonging essentially to other genres. For example, Kelly's Heroes is a war film, but action and characters are Western-like. The character played by Humphrey Bogart in film noir films such as Casablanca and To Have and Have Not —an individual bound only by his own private code of honor—has a lot in common with the classic Western hero.

In turn, the Western has also explored noir elements, as with the films Pursued and Sugar Creek. In many of Robert A. Heinlein 's books, the settlement of other planets is depicted in ways explicitly modeled on American settlement of the West. For example, in his Tunnel in the Sky settlers set out to the planet "New Canaan", via an interstellar teleporter portal across the galaxy, in Conestoga wagons , their captain sporting mustaches and a little goatee and riding a Palomino horse—with Heinlein explaining that the colonists would need to survive on their own for some years, so horses are more practical than machines.

Stephen King 's The Dark Tower is a series of seven books that meshes themes of Westerns, high fantasy , science fiction and horror. The protagonist Roland Deschain is a gunslinger whose image and personality are largely inspired by the " Man with No Name " from Sergio Leone 's films. In addition, the superhero fantasy genre has been described as having been derived from the cowboy hero, only powered up to omnipotence in a primarily urban setting. The Western genre has been parodied on a number of occasions, famous examples being Support Your Local Sheriff!

George Lucas 's Star Wars films use many elements of a Western, and Lucas has said he intended for Star Wars to revitalize cinematic mythology, a part the Western once held. The Jedi , who take their name from Jidaigeki , are modeled after samurai, showing the influence of Kurosawa. The character Han Solo dressed like an archetypal gunslinger, and the Mos Eisley cantina is much like an Old West saloon. Meanwhile, films such as The Big Lebowski , which plucked actor Sam Elliott out of the Old West and into a Los Angeles bowling alley, and Midnight Cowboy , about a Southern-boy-turned-gigolo in New York who disappoints a client when he doesn't measure up to Gary Cooper , transplanted Western themes into modern settings for both purposes of parody and homage.

Western fiction is a genre of literature set in the American Old West , most commonly between the years of and The genre's popularity peaked in the s, due in part to the shuttering of many pulp magazines, the popularity of televised Westerns , and the rise of the spy novel. Readership began to drop off in the mid- to late s and reached a new low in the s.

Most bookstores, outside of a few Western states, now only carry a small number of Western novels and short story collections. Literary forms that share similar themes include stories of the American frontier , the gaucho literature of Argentina , and tales of the settlement of the Australian Outback. Television Westerns are a subgenre of the Western. When television became popular in the late s and s, TV Westerns quickly became an audience favorite.

As demand for the Western increased, new stories and stars were introduced. The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp was the first Western television series written for adults, [39] premiering four days before Gunsmoke on September 6, The peak year for television Westerns was , with 26 such shows airing during primetime. Future entries in the genre would incorporate elements from other genera, such as crime drama and mystery whodunit elements. In the s and s, hour-long Westerns and slickly packaged made-for-TV movie Westerns were introduced, such as: Lonesome Dove and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.