Southern Methodist University

Collection of western film scripts

A Guide to the Collection


Creator: DeGolyer Library
Title: Collection of western film scripts
Dates: 1929-1981
Abstract: This collection is comprised of 76 scripts from motion picture westerns produced in the United States between 1929 and 1981.
Accession No: MSS 76
Extent: 4 boxes (76 volumes)
Language: Material is in English
Repository DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Historical Note

The western has been one of the most prolific genres in American filmmaking, despite repeated shifts in popularity and content. Whether as nostalgic longing for a romanticized past or a critical reevaluation thereof, westerns continue to offer a characteristic blend of myth and history through which this quintessential American genre has influenced filmmakers worldwide.

Westerns are typically set in the transmississippi West during the second half of the nineteenth century, but might reach as far back as the colonial era or forward into the twentieth century, and geographically into Mexico, Canada, or Alaska. Most plotlines revolve around such staple characters of the "Wild West" as cowboys, Indians, settlers, outlaws, sheriffs, and the cavalry.

A great number of Hollywood stars (e.g. Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn, James Stewart) appeared in westerns during their career, but no actor was as closely identified with the genre as John Wayne, whose career spanned five decades and nearly ninety westerns. Wayne was the biggest male box office star in the United States between 1950 and 1965, working with such influential directors as John Ford and Howard Hawks on many classic westerns. Anthony Mann, Raoul Walsh, and Delmer Daves also directed several well-regarded westerns prior to the 1960s. Influential directors since the 1960s include Sam Peckinpah, Sergio Leone, and Clint Eastwood.

Inexpensive, formulaic "B" westerns, also known as series westerns, were produced in large numbers during the 1930s and 1940s. Even in the 1950s, however, when western films with a revisionist or political agenda began to emerge at the same time as television production heightened, action-packed but formulaic plotlines continued to dominate low-budget features.

Revisionist westerns set out to address the violence and racial prejudice at the core of the westward expansion of the United States, a trend that carried on into the 1960s and 1970s with director Sam Peckinpah’s ruminations about violence and changing times, or Italian director Sergio Leone’s cynical spaghetti westerns. After the spectacular failure of Michael Cimino’s high-budget Heaven’s Gate (1980), many declared the western dead, but the genre yet again proved its resilience in the 1990s – though that most recent run of westerns is beyond the scope of this collection.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The collection includes 76 scripts (screenplays) from 73 U.S. westerns. The scripts range from the 1929 adaptation of Owen Wister’s popular western novel The Virginian, starring Gary Cooper, to several drafts of the 1981 The Border. Individual scripts are from various stages of production, ranging from first drafts to second or third revised final drafts. Most titles in the collection are from 1940s and 1950s "B" westerns, but there are also a few scripts from well-known westerns such as Anthony Mann’s The Man from Laramie (1954), which starred James Stewart, or Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1970), which featured James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is organized into one series and arranged alphabetically by film title. Note that the dates in brackets refer to the script and not the completed film; early drafts may precede the film by one or more years.


Access to Collection:

Collection is open for research use.

Publication Rights:

Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library.

Copyright Statement:

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following terms in the Southern Methodist University Libraries' online catalog. Researchers desiring related materials may search the catalog using these terms.
Western films -- United States.
West (U.S.) -- In motion pictures.
Film scripts.

Related Materials

Collection of western film pressbooks, 1935-1983 (A1986.1372x)

Collection of western film posters (Ag1986.0597x)

Collection of Gunsmoke television scripts (A1986.1369)

George A. Custer in film collection (Ag1986.0565x)

Gene Autry in film collection (Ag1986.0600x)

Larry McMurtry in film collection (Ag1986.0569x)

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Collection of western film scripts, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.

Acquisition Information

Purchase, 1986; A1986.1387.

Finding aid written by

Anna Banhegyi, 2008.

Encoded by

Lara Corazalla, 2009.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1:

The collection is arranged alphabetically by film title.
Box Folder
1 1 Apache Trail (1941)
2 Belle Starr (1941)
3 Belle Starr (1977)
4 The Border (April 11, 1980)
Third draft
Box Folder
1 5 The Border (Aug. 1980)
Revised final draft
Box Folder
1 6 The Border (Jan. 1981)
Second revised final draft
Box Folder
1 7 Broken Arrow
Final Draft
Revised final draft
Box Folder
1 8 The Cimarron Kid (1951)
9 Desperadoes of Dodge City (1948)
10 Four Guns to the Border (1954)
11 The Gay Caballero (1930)
12 Goin’ South (1977)
13 The Golden West (1932)
14 The Good Guys and the Bad Guys (1968)
15 The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1969)
16 The Great Sioux Uprising (1952)
17 Gun Fury (1953)
18 Gunfight in Abilene (1966)
19 Gunman from Bodie (1941)
Box Folder
2 1 Hawmps (1975)
2 Heaven’s Gate (1979)
3 Hidden Danger (1948)
4 The Honkers (1971)
5 In Old Oklahoma (1941)
6 Inferno (1953)
7 Jesse James Jr. (1942)
8 Kansas Pacific (1953)
9 Kansas Raiders (1950)
10 King of the Forest Rangers (1942)
11 The Lady from Cheyenne (1940)
12 The Last Hard Men (1975)
13 Law of the Canyon (1946)
14 Law of the Range (1941)
15 Law of the West (1940)
16 The Law vs. Billy the Kid (1954)
17 Lawless Breed (1946)
18 Lawless Code (1949)
19 Leadville (1940)
20 Lights of Old Santa Fe (1944)
21 The Looters (1954)
22 Mackenna’s Gold (1967)
23 The Magnificent Seven Ride (1972)
Box Folder
3 1 The Man from Laramie (1954)
2 The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1972)
3 Missouri Outlaw (1941)
4 North to Alaska (1959)
5 Oklahoma Outlaws (1938)
6 100 Hundred Rifles (1968)
7 The Oregon Trail (1975)
8 The Outcasts of Poker Flat (1951)
9 Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1970)
10 The Proud Ones (1955)
11 Quantrill’s Raiders (1957)
12 Rainbow over the Rockies (1946)
13 Ranger of Cherokee Strip (1949)
14 The Return of Jesse James (1950)
15 Return of the Rangers (1943)
16 The Reward (1964)
17 The Ride to Hangman’s Tree (1966)
18 Rio Conchos (1963)
19 Rolling Thunder (1977)
20 Romance of the Rio Grande (1940)
21 Rooster Cogburn (1974)
22 The Rounders (1961)
Box Folder
4 1 Saddle Tramp (1950)
2 Sam Bass and Calamity Jane (1948)
3 Silver Valley (1927)
4 The Tall Men (1955)
5 Ten Wanted Men (1954)
6 The Virginian (1929)
7 Warlock (1958)
8 Waterhole #3 (1966)
9 Western Union (1940)
10 Will Penny (1966)
11 Wyoming Mail (1950)