Kelly Reichardt has directed two films set in the 19th century American West, Meek’s Cutoff (2010) and First Cow (2019). To explore how she differs from the traditional Western genre, we compare her films with Oregon-set Bend of the River (1952) and cow film Red River (1948). Join Editor-in-Chief Alex Heeney, Executive Editor Orla Smith, and Associate Editor Brett Pardy as along the way we also look at modern Westerns, the surprisingly long career of Stephen Meek, and somehow manage to link the genre to a site favourite who has never directed a Western.
The classic westerns on this episode
Red River is a 1948 film directed by Howard Hawks. The film follows the clash between cattle rancher Thomas Dunson (John Wayne) and his adopted son, Matthew Garth (Montgomery Clift) over how to take their cattle to market.
Bend of the River is a 1952 film directed by Anthony Mann. Set in 1886, Jimmy Stewart plays Glyn McLyntock, a former border raider looking for redemption in the new Oregon settlements.
Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff (2010) is based on the true story of Stephen Meek’s (Bruce Greenwood) Oregon Trail wagon party which disastrously took a new route. Michelle Williams stars as Emily Tetherow, who realizes something must be done about their untrustworthy guide.
Show notes and recommended reading
- Pre-order our newest ebook on Kelly Reichardt, featuring First Cow and Meek’s Cutoff available May 8
- Read Orla’s essay on how Andrew Haigh and Kelly Reichardt are deromanticizing the west in Lean on Pete, Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy, and Certain Women
- Listen to our podcast episode on Lean on Pete
- Preview or purchase our ebook on Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete
- Listen to our podcast episode on 1917, and why Alex sees it as 2019’s Lean on Pete.
- Read Elena Lazic’s interview with the director of The Rider, Chloé Zhao
- Read Alex’s essay on Joachim Trier’s Oslo, August 31st
- The intro and outro music for this episode is Jeff Grace’s score for Meek’s Cutoff