“The Midwest is to nostalgia,” the novelist Ward Just once wrote, “as Verdun is to military science.” And as the Midwest is to nostalgia, so is the West to dreaming — not just American dreaming, either. Think of the enormous popularity in Europe of the German novelist Karl May‘s books featuring the Native American characters Winnetou and Old Shatterhand, or the enormous popularity everywhere of the spaghetti western.
The dreaming has taken so many forms: gold rushes and homesteading and cattle drives and range wars and cavalry charges. The immensity of those open spaces has acted like a lit fuse on the imagination. Especially the movie imagination, and the geographical location of Hollywood is the least of it. No film genre is more American than the western; that’s a given. Neither, perhaps, is any film genre more filmic than the western.