What is a Western? Interview Series: Mexican Cinema and Hollywood Westerns

Autry curator Josh Garrett-Davis speaks with USC film historian Laura Isabel Serna about the intertwined history of the film industries in both Hollywood and Mexico, and the many ways people and pictures moved back and forth across the border. The conversation covers Tom Mix fans in Mexico, Pancho Villa onscreen, Mexican American extras, and connections between comedia ranchera and singing cowboy movies on the rancho grande.

This interview is part of a series exploring the significance of the Western genre and the ways in which popular culture shapes our understanding of the American West. 

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Video

What is a Western? Interview Series: Mexican Cinema and Hollywood Westerns

Interested in learning more about the television shows, films, and ideas discussed in the interview?  

To Read

Laura Isabel Serna, Making Cinelandia: American Films and Mexican Film Culture before the Golden Age (Duke University Press, 2014)

Laura Isabel Serna’s National Film Registry essay on La Venganza de Pancho Villa

Colin Gunckel, Mexico on Main Street: Transnational Film Culture in Los Angeles before World War II  (Rutgers University Press, 2015)

Rielle Navitski, Public Spectacles of Violence: Sensational Cinema and Journalism in Early Twentieth-Century Mexico and Brazil (Duke University Press, 2017)

Juan Sebastián Ospina León, Struggles for Recognition: Melodrama and Visiblity in Latin American Silent Film (University of California Press, 2021)

To Watch

El Tren Fantasma (1927): contains many Western tropes reimagined in a Mexican framework

Allá en el Rancho Grande (1936): one of the first and most influential films in the Comedia Ranchera genre, starring Tito Guizar

Los hermanos Del Hierro (1961): an example of the popular ‘Pony film’ genre that echoes the B Westerns of American cinema

Mi querido Tom Mix (1993): the story of a woman who falls in love with Tom Mix through his films and asks him to save her village from a gang of bandits

Why Worry? (1923): this film by Harold Lloyd satirizes the Mexican Revolution