Collection of western film posters and advertising
A Guide to the Collection
The western has been one of the most prolific genres in American filmmaking, despite repeated shifts in popularity and content. It has been debated, buried, resurrected, redefined, and spoofed at various junctures, yet it never disappeared. So whether as nostalgic longing for a romanticized past or a critical reevaluation thereof, westerns continue to offer a characteristic blend of myth and history through which this quintessential American genre has influenced filmmakers worldwide.
Westerns are typically set in the transmississippi West during the second half of the nineteenth century, but might reach as far back as the colonial era or forward into the twentieth century, and geographically into Mexico, Canada, or Alaska. Most plotlines revolve around such staple characters of the "Wild West" as cowboys, Indians, settlers, outlaws, sheriffs, and the cavalry.
Inexpensive, formulaic "B" westerns, also known as series westerns, were produced in large numbers during the 1930s and 1940s. Even in the 1950s, however, when western films with a revisionist or political agenda began to emerge at the same time as television production heightened, action-packed but formulaic plotlines continued to dominate low-budget features.
A great number of Hollywood stars (e.g. Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn, James Stewart) appeared in westerns during their career, but no actor was as closely identified with the genre as John Wayne, whose career spanned five decades and nearly ninety westerns. Wayne was the biggest male box office star in the United States between 1950 and 1965, working with such influential directors as John Ford and Howard Hawks on many classic westerns. Anthony Mann, Raoul Walsh, and Delmer Daves also directed several well-regarded westerns prior to the 1960s. Influential directors since the 1960s, which is beyond the scope of this collection, include Sam Peckinpah, Sergio Leone, and Clint Eastwood.
The 83 motion picture posters in the collection promoted western films produced in the United States, predominantly in the 1950s. In addition, there are 46 pamphlets, pressbooks, campaign manuals and advertising, some from Belgium and France related to American Westerns.Most of the posters are from low budget, sometimes obscure productions, though there are a few titles by such celebrated western directors as Raoul Walsh, Delmer Daves, and Anthony Mann. Among these better known films are The Badlanders (1958), starring Alan Ladd and Ernest Borgnine, which was Delmer Daves’ noir-western adaptation of The Asphalt Jungle (1950); Distant Drums (1951) with Gary Cooper, which featured Seminole warriors played by actual Seminole Indians; Walsh’s The King and Four Queens (1956) starring Clark Gable; Mann’s The Last Frontier (1955) starring Victor Mature; and the 1949 Randolph Scott vehicle, Fighting Man of the Plains.
The earliest films in the collection are a "B" western from 1932 entitled Single Handed Sanders, and the fourth adaptation of Owen Wister’s classic western novel The Virginian in 1946, starring Joel McCrea. All other posters are from the 1950s, up to and including the year 1960. The latest item in the collection is a Spanish poster for the John Wayne movie The Alamo (1960).
Access to Collection:
Collection is open for research use.
Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library.
It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.
Collection of western film posters, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.
Purchase, 1986, 2004, 2015, 2016.
Original purchase included 22 posters, both westerns and non-westerns. 13 western film posters were added by purchase in 2004. The 5 non-western posters were pulled and rehoused in 2008. The Spanish poster for "El Alamo" (The Alamo, 1960) was originally accessioned in 1986 and added to the collection in 2008. New materials added in 2016.
Anna Banhegyi, 2008.
Lara Corazalla, 2009.
Detailed Description of the Collection