I enjoy watching classic Westerns, the romantic portrayal of the Wild West, the standard story line: cowboy meets cowgirl, there is trouble, and he saves the day then they ride off into the sunset together. Who doesn’t want a happily-ever-after like that? Having grown up riding horses in the beautiful vastness of Texas, it wasn’t a stretch to dream of riding off into the sunset with a cowboy in a white hat, and watching my dream play out over and over again in Western movies made it seem as if it could really come true.
Created in America, based on folk tales and “morality plays,” the Western genre has helped define American culture. These films are more than entertainment; they perpetuate the ideas of individualism and reiterate a romantic archetype of the Old West that so many are fascinated with. The Western is an ideal model in film creation because while the usual conflict between good vs. evil, and the depth of its characters, remain consistent, it is also very pliable in that the same story told and retold in variation continues to draw audiences looking for familiar plots but with a new twist. Because the basic framework is consistent and the moviegoer’s expectations are fixed, critics argue that the Western more than other genres can draw in the audience and make people feel a connection with main characters. The star of the film The Virginian, James Drury, describes this style of motion pictures as capable of giving viewers the feelings that “we were there, we were in the saddle, we held the smoking Colt .45 in our hand or the girl in our arms, that the barbed wire was cutting into our flesh.”
The film industry began in the United States in 1895 and the first moving picture or kinetoscope was actually a Western titled The Great Train Robbery, which premiered in 1903. The Western endured due to the ability to reinvent itself through both story line and scope, as even lower- budget B-Westerns consistently remained popular; to make up for the shorter film length, B-Westerns included more action.
But what about that guy in the white hat? Hollywood created leading male characters who were “expert ranchers, charged up San Juan Hill with the Rough Riders, chased Geronimo, and performed other heroic feats” giving us all the fantastic qualities unique only to cowboys. Furthermore, the first cowboy heroes were identifiable by white hats, “a big Stetson hat, a dark wide-open shirt with a large white bandanna, wide gloves, fancy corduroy chaps and boots, and two guns” as opposed to the evil nemesis in the black hat.
Check out a pioneer in silent Westerns, Broncho Billy Anderson in, “Broncho Billy and the Schoolmistress” (1912).
 Yoggy, Gary A., ed. Back in the Saddle: Essays on Western Film and Television Actors. (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 1998): v.
 Drury, James, qtd. in Garry A. Yoggy, ed. Back in the Saddle: Essays on Western Film and Television Actors. (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 1998): 2.
 Ibid., 3.
 Loy, R. Philip, “Buck Jones: An Old-Time Cowboy” qtd. in Garry A. Yoggy, ed. Back in the Saddle: Essays on Western Film and Television Actors. (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 1998): 43.
 Roth, Lane, and Tom W. Hoffer, “G.M. ‘Broncho Billy’ Anderson: The First Movie Cowboy Hero” qtd. in Garry A. Yoggy, ed. Back in the Saddle: Essays on Western Film and Television Actors. (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 1998): 12.