Title: The Indian and the Cowboy

Periodical: The Moving Picture World

Date: December 17, 1910

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The Indian and the Cowboy.

(By ONE WHO DOES NOT LIKE TKEM.)

The only cowboys I have ever seen, scooted across the ranch of Fourth avenue, New York City. They belonged to the Buffalo Bill show. They loafed about the entrance of the Madison Square Garden, and varied this uninteresting performance by absorbing drinks at the saloon opposite. "If you ask me I will tell you" that I became aware of the latter circumstance because I casually went into said saloon for a little light refreshment myself. There it was that I saw the only cowboys I have ever seen, or, for that matter, ever want to see.

It must be nearly two years since I incurred obloquy by referring to Indian and Cowboy pictures photographed in "the peaceful wilds of New Jersey." When this classic phrase was first printed, I got myself disliked for voicing a feeling that is common in the film world and amongst the general public that there are too many of these Indian and Cowboy pictures. Even if Indian life were all we are asked to believe it is; even if Cowboy life were the ideal state of things that the pictures seem to show them to be, then we should have too many of these subjects. But as Indian life neither to-day nor yester-day is or was what Longfellow would have us believe it to be, and as Cowboy life is not, cannot and never will be at all romantic or picturesque, I again submit that there are far, far too many of these pictures. I am writing, of course, in the interests of the manufacturers whom I want to see sell many more pictures. Also, in the interests of the public, who are tired of this plethora of Indian and Cowboy subjects. Don't tell me that these things are made for small people. Don't tell me that small people like them. Don't make any excuses. The subjects are put out in sheer ignorance of the condition of things within the general public. The public, amongst whom I have made as many inquiries as any other man in my position can possibly make, looks upon these Indian and Cowboy subjects with a mixture of amusement and toleration. They are weary of them although they endure them.

By "the public" I mean educated, intelligent people — adults and juvenile. To-day the small boy of ten or twelve is infinitely the mental superior of the small boy of ten or twelve of twenty or thirty years ago. You are not going to fool him with these Deadwood Dick, Red Eagle, Cowboy themes! He knows better. He can read the newspapers. He is obliged to go to school. The swift progress of modern life leaves him with few illusions. The "West" has no glamor for him. So, while he may laugh at and appear interested in their Indian-Cowboy themes, you don't fool him. He tolerates them. In his eye there is neither glamor nor heroism in Indian or Cowboy life. Indeed, if he could express his young mind as freely as I am expressing mine, he would probably say that Indians and Cowboys are nasty, dirty, uncomfortable, unpleasant people of whose society he is not particularly anxious to take advantage.

What the intelligent small boy of ten or twelve thinks, but cannot say, is thought and said by millions of adults, who frequent these moving picture theaters. I have not heard millions talk, but I have heard scores of people who are staunch patrons of the moving picture theater, object to the pictures of Indian and Cowboy themes which are still shown on the screen. I am not American, as the editors of certain house organs are fond of telling their limited circle of readers (I never said I was by the way) but I am happy in the friendship of many educated American-born people all over the country, and I am quoting them when I say that the persistence and insistence of the manufacturers in these Indian and Cowboy themes is a serious danger to the business. People could do with less of them. There is little or no variety in Indian life as Fenimore Cooper depicted it, as Mayne Reid depicted it, and as it is shown on the screen. As Longfellow showed it in his poem of "Hiawatha," it probably never existed. Hiawatha is pure poetry, if not poesy. At any rate it is highly imaginative.

So with the gentle Cowboy. Even as he is shown in the very best moving picture, there is nothing particularly attractive about this gentleman. Certainly he rides a horse very well, masters the bucking broncho, chases cattle and all the rest of it, but for the life of me, I cannot and never could make out what there is particularly pleasant, agreeable or heroic in the life of these children of the ranch. But, then, I am city bred. So for that matter are most of us nowadays, and that is why I suppose I and we do not appreciate these crude picture presentments of the ugly life of the Indian and the Cowboy. I say ugly and I repeat ugly. Even at its best, according to modern ideas, Cowboy and Indian life must have been very unpleasant. Myself I would rather live in an apartment on Riverside Drive, any day, in preference to existing amongst the Cowboys. I like comfort, cleanliness, elegance, and refinement; so do most people. But none of these things are shown in these Indian or Cowboy films. They are just ugly, dull, stupid, unpleasant and not at all ennobling themes.

To the plea that exchanges call for these subjects, there is the obvious retort that exchanges must be very unintelligent or stupid people. The like remark applies to the exhibitor. We are without evidence that the public insist upon these things. Of course, if children demand them, it is very difficult to resist supplying that demand, but surely a business such as this, cannot expect to indefinitely prosper by simply satisfying the demands of children. We want to attract and retain the support of educated adults. We are, I think, rather repelling that support by these stupid Indian and Cowboy themes. That is why I am writing this article; to suggest to the makers of these pictures the wisdom, if not of cutting them out altogether, of diminishing their output. There is such a wealth of more suitable, much more dignified, much more agreeable subjects than these Indian and Cowboy nonsense that I am astonished at the apathy of the film makers in this matter.

Title: The Indian and the Cowboy

Periodical: The Moving Picture World

Date: December 17, 1910

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