Hang ‘Em High: 110 Years of Western Movie Posters, 1911-2020

Some of the early movies such as The Great Train Robbery (1903) and The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906) cemented the Western as a visual getaway for audiences. From the silent era till now, Western movie posters graced many theatres throughout the history of the genre. Westerns peeked when they had weekly series in the 50s in the halcyon days of television. The last successful Western-related show was Bonanza, it waltzed into the sunset in 1973. Westerns were never the same in both television and in the movies. Samuel Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch in 1969 depicted the realistic slaughter of bullets ripping through flesh as blood splattered all over the frontier. The Western was unceremoniously gunned down in the early 70s. Only Clint Eastwood had a little success with it.

Hang ‘Em High celebrates over 100 years of Western posters, it celebrates the lore and innocence of those movies. Unlike the spaghetti Westerns where gore and Spanish backdrops standing in for Texas and Arizona dubbed with English actors, Hang ‘Em High glorifies the poster art form with beautiful depictions of heroes and villains. It was clear as day who were the good guys. I guess when it became murky who the good guys later on were and you settled down with your family in the biggest land grab in the 19th century as the Cartwrights did, the Western was bound to die. Mark Fertig collects the 500 greatest Western posters in one book for Fantagraphics. This is one book that you had no choice to call Hang ‘Em High.

Mark Fertig serves as chair of art and art history at a national liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. He writes regularly about film noir for a variety of websites, as well as the Film Noir Foundation’s magazine, Noir City. His award-winning film noir blog is wheredangerlives.blogspot.com.

Ever since the dawn of the 20th century, Hollywood has mythologized the American frontier ― an untamed, rough-and-tumble land where a man could go as far as his wits, grit, and six-shooters at his hip could take him. From Stagecoach to Red River to The Wild Bunch to Unforgiven to The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the Western genre has thrilled moviegoers with its dusty vistas, gruff heroes, brutal shootouts, moral quandaries, and metaphors for our modern times. And now, the movie posters of this quintessentially American genre are finally celebrated as the iconic fixtures of Americana they are.

Hang ‘Em High collects more than 500 of the greatest Western movie posters ever made ― each a dynamic masterpiece of graphic design. Collected in a luxurious oversized format and meticulously restored, these posters are presented in as sharp quality as they have ever been seen. Plus, this art book features the fascinating history of the Western, from its low-budget beginnings to its glorious peak as Hollywood’s most popular genre. Tom Mix, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, High Noon, The Magnificent Seven, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly ― the Western’s brightest stars and biggest blockbusters are all represented here by editor and film scholar Mark Fertig (Film Noir 101: The 101 Best Film Noir Posters From the 1940s-1950s). 

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