What Is a Western?

An interview series exploring the Western genre in its many forms

Building on the Autry’s long-running film series, and on our diverse collections related to the Western, this interview series traverses all the frontiers and borderlands of the imagined West in popular culture. Hosted by associate curator Josh Garrett-Davis, author of What Is a Western? Region, Genre, Imagination, (winner of the "Outstanding Western Book” from the Center for the Study of the American West) the series asks experts to share their knowledge about the many sides to Western storytelling, imagery, and other media. We augment each interview with recommendations of media to watch, read, hear, and enjoy at home. Always seeking new stories, this series invites you to see the region and the genre in a whole new light.


Telling the Untold Stories of Contemporary Native America

Autry curator Josh Garrett-Davis interviews author of Super Indian and playwright of The New Adventures Super Indian Arigon Starr (Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma) about placing Native stories in the modern West and using humor to address important issues. She discusses her influences as playwright, musician, and graphic artist, along with her hopes that other Native artists will have the opportunity to tell some of their “50,000 untold stories.”

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Ranching, Rodeo, and Roy Rogers

Autry curator Josh Garrett-Davis interviews rodeo world champion Larry Mahan and film historians C. Courtney Joyner and Stuart Rosebrook about the realistic portrayal of twentieth-century rodeo and ranching life in movies, particularly in Roy Rogers’s final film, the newly restored Mackintosh and TJ.

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Western Film and Television Oral History Project 

Autry curator Josh Garrett-Davis interviews Maxine Hansen about the Western Film and Television Oral History Project, which documents first-hand accounts of the making of television and film Westerns, by the original cast and crew members.

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What Is a Western? Outstanding Book Award Lecture  

Autry Curator Josh Garrett-Davis accepts the “Outstanding Book Award” for his book What Is a Western? Region, Genre, Imagination, from the Center for the Study of the American West (CSAW) at West Texas A&M University. 

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Modern Borderlands

As part of a series exploring the significance of the Western genre and the ways in which the movies shape our understanding of the American West, Autry curator Josh Garrett-Davis interviews brothers Jake Allyn (co-writer and star) and Conor Allyn (director) about No Man’s Land, their contemporary Western that explores issues of immigration and violence in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.

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When Women Wrote Westerns

As part of a series exploring the significance of the Western genre and the ways in which the movies shape our understanding of the American West, Autry Curator Josh Garrett-Davis interviews Professor Rosanne Welch about the women screenwriters of Hollywood and their contributions to the Western genre.

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Singing Cowboys & Cowgirls

Autry curator Josh Garrett-Davis interviews The Farmer and Adele about the impact of Western Swing on the Grand Ole Opry, and its continuing legacy in the Nashville music scene today.

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Desert Terror

Autry curator Josh Garrett-Davis interviews Brad Sykes, author of Terror in the Desert: Dark Cinema of the American Southwest, about the genre of Western horror and its use of the desert landscape. 

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Picturing Indians

Autry Curator Josh Garrett-Davis interviews Liza Black (citizen of Cherokee Nation), author of Picturing Indians: Native Americans in Film, 1941–1960, about the work of Native Americans in Western movies, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

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Tropical Cowboys

Autry Curator Josh Garrett-Davis interviews Professor Ch. Didier Gondola about the story of the “tropical cowboys,” 1950s youth subcultures in the Belgian Congo who modeled themselves on cowboy movies that arrived from abroad.

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