Southwest-Northwest

In the area called the Four Corners (Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona), are the lands associated with the Ancient Puebloan people and their modern descendants. As the pueblos declined, nomadic tribes, including the Navaho and the Apache, moved into the region to create a volatile mix. Modern Puebloans have been especially protective of their subterranean traditions and Hollywood has not been invited to tell their stories.

The primary movie mythology of the American Southwest has to do with the activity along the border with Mexico during the 19th century. At the beginning of that time, the large area from Texas to California belonged to Mexico. That situation changed in 1836 with the disastrous battle at the Alamo between Texan rebels and the Mexican army. The conclusion came later that year when Sam Houston defeated the Mexicans at San Jacinto (say Ya-sinto). Texas took its place on the map of the United States shortly afterward, but it was more than 70 years later that New Mexico and then Arizona became the last two states to join the lower 48. I have driven by the monument on the San Jacinto battlefield countless times, but never found the occasion to stop and read the plaque or see the exhibits. Maybe I had a premonition that when it became necessary, I could Google the information I needed.  I will include Alamo films under Movies of the Southwest (below).

The classic Westerns made by John Ford, usually filmed at Monument Valley on the Utah/Arizona border, were often played against the backdrop of the Apache Wars. These and many other movies, including The Magnificent Seven, The Wild Bunch, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, were set along the border between Mexico and the U.S.  See John Ford’s Classic Westerns and The Geronimo Movies (also below).

My two trips to the Pacific Northwest resulted in only a surface knowledge of the indigenous cultures that thrived on these shores without European contact until almost 200 years after the Spaniards arrived in Central America. There is an obscure semi-documentary, called In the Land of the War Canoes (1914), set just over the United States border on Vancouver Island. See Canada.

There are only a few Hollywood movies about Alaska, usually filmed elsewhere. The Far Country (1954) stars James Stewart and plays like a standard Western. The Spoilers has been remade many times – two of the versions star Gary Cooper and John Wayne in 1930 and 1942 respectively. North to Alaska (1960) features John Wayne in a comic tribute to Alaska on becoming the 49th state in 1959. I have heard it said that Alaska was going to have the honor of being the 50th state, but a clerical error in Washington gave the prize to Hawaii. None of the movies mentioned in this paragraph involved encounters with aboriginal people of the North. See Northern Ice.

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