3 September 2019 | boblipton
Western History, Hollywood Style
George Reeves wants to be a Pony Express rider. Fortunately for him, this was during the 10 months that the organization actually existed, and he's playing "Buffalo Bill" Cody. So you know that he's going to be one, and experience as much adventure as can be crammed into two-reel Technicolor short.
The movies gave a weird and warped view of the Old West, with everyone carrying a handgun and being white. In reality, about a third of cowboys were Mexicans and a quarter were Black, and guns were rare -- and frequently banned in towns by local laws. There weren't many people out West in those days. Once you got much west of the Mississippi the land was dry and inhospitable until you got to the Cascade Mountains. People went out west for jobs, usually in mines, and when the mines played out, they left.
That doesn't make for much in the way of adventure, and the market for adventure stories and idea of Manifest Destiny resulted in an inexhaustible market for Wild West Shows and Dime Novels about the great men who ran them -- often written by Ned Buntlne, the publicist for Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.
The impulse continued for a long time. Western shorts starring "Broncho Billy" Anderson gave way to features starring William S. Hart and a plethora of B western stars, all White, continuing through the 1970s on television. They're good works of fiction, but that's all they were.