Holly George-Warren

Cowboy: How Hollywood Invented the Wild West

"Holly George-Warren shatters Hollywood legends with genuine frontier pioneers--African-American cowboys, legendary cowgirls and more."
--Publishers Weekly, 10/​14/​02


"Holly George-Warren ('How the West Was Worn') offers a loving well-illustrated tribute to the Western and its lore, from dime novels to Stetson hats. As the author points out, the connection between the Hollywood Western and reality was often a bit tenuous. Cowgirls, singing cowboys, and matinees idols may have ruled the box office, but directors like John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Anthony Mann brought myth-making, spectacle, and hard-edged realism to the genre. Westerns peaked in popularity in the 1950s and 1960s …George-Warren provides a glimpse of what we have lost, and public library patrons are likely to enjoy the nostalgic text and pictures."
--Stephen Rees, Library Journal, 11/​1/​02


"'Cowboy' by Holly George-Warren [is] a colorful and expertly annotated scrapbook of vintage photographs, publicity stills, movie posters, and other memorabilia that shows exactly how the real cowboys of the American frontier were translated into the imaginary ones we see on the silver screen. As early as 1911, the author points out, a motion picture trade paper was dismissing the western as 'a gold mine that had been worked to the limit.' Yet John Ford, whose first western was a two-reeler released in 1917, continued to turn out classics for half a century. And George-Warren allows us to see Clint Eastwood's 'Unforgiven' (1992) as not only a masterpiece of the genre but also as an ironic homage to the spaghetti westerns that rescued his faltering career some 30 years earlier and, arguably, the greatest performance of his long career in cowboy roles. 'Cowboy' offers some surprising glimpses of what might seem like familiar terrain. During the 1930s, for example, Herbert Jeffries, a jazz vocalist at the Club Alabam in Los Angeles, was recruited to star as a singing cowboy in a series of all-black musical westerns that debuted with 'Harlem on the Prairie.' And she reminds us that women, who were represented among the real-life cowpunchers and sharpshooters of the Old West, were not overlooked in the movie versions; Barbara Stanwyck, the iconic hard-boiled dame of film noir, started her career in the mid-1930s in the role of Annie Oakley and returned to the Old West as the matriarch of a San Joaquin Valley ranch on 'The Big Valley' in the late '60s."
--Jonathan Kirsch, Los Angeles Times
Book Review,
1/​5/​03


"The creation of one of America's enduring mythical heroes rises to fascinating heights in 'Cowboy: How Hollywood Invented the Wild West.' Author Holly George-Warren provides a brief historical look at the real-life cowboys who populated the West and tells how the entertainment industry turned their mundane lifestyle into something noble and exciting. The myth-making began with dime novels penned by authors such as Edward Ellis and Ned Butline, who also wrote an embellished account of the exploits of William 'Buffalo Bill' Cody.... In the 1880s, artists such as Frederic Remington and Charles Russell produced drawings for national magazines that cast cowboys in a dramatic and often romanticized light. But George-Warren credits Owen Wister's 1902 novel 'The Virginian' with creating the salient image of the cowboy as a gallant yet sensitive loner who must uphold his own strict code of honor whatever the cost. The most familiar faces in George-Warren's nostalgic portrait of the cowboy myth belongs to the actors who have starred in movie and television Westerns. All the giants are included, from Tom Mix and William Hart to Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, John Wayne, Barbara Stanwyck, Dale Evans, and Clint Eastwood. George-Warren observes that America's cowboy as hero mythology is rooted in the difficult years immediately following the Civil War. Whether our heroes today arrive on horseback or fire engines, it's still a comfort to know there are still people who wear white hats--if only in our imagination."
--Guy Keeler, The Fresno Bee, 11/​04/​02


"George-Warren's book, a 224-page marvel, traces the evolution of the Hollywood Western from its wild-West Pageant roots through the earliest silent-screen cowboys, then take up the Frontier Gothic style of the Depression years; the cowhand-as-crooner musicals popularized by Gene Autry and Roy Rogers; and the demise and tentative resurgence of frontier cinema in times more recent. The illustrations are a fascinating lot, ranging from panoramic vistas to such personalized rarities as Roy Rogers' endorsement of a popular brand of breakfast cereal."
--Mike Price, Fort Worth Business Press, 12/​13/​02


"Lovers of 'The Wild Bunch' and 'Gunsmoke' will have a boot-stompin' good time with Holly George-Warren's Cowboy: How Hollywood Invented the Wild West. Looking at early novels that dished sensational stories about the shoot-'em-up, rough-ridin' ways of the West, celluloid epics that celebrated the image of the wholesome, white-hatted cowboy, and TV serials whose handsome heartthrobs trotted through the dusty streets of Kansas cowtowns, George-Warren demonstrates how the myth of ht range eveolved in the media, shrewdly exploring the gap between the image and the reality of the wild frontier. They're all here--the gunslingers, the outlaws, and the pioneers, the hard-working cowpokes and their starlet sidekicks. With chapters on screen idols like Clint Eastwood, Gary Cooper, and the Duke, and on the portrayal of African-Americans in the West, 'Cowboy'--full of classic photos and fun Western graphics--reveals the truth behind the legend of America's first real heroes."
--Julie Hale, Bookpage, 10/​02


"This book is a treasure and long overdue. From the silent movies of Tom Mix to Clint Eastwood's 'Unforgiven', the author cleverly mixes Hollywood legend with historical accuracy in an entertaining read. Careful study is given to the 'Spaghetti Westerns' of the 1990s...Heavily illustrated, this book is a fabulous collection of Hollywood Westerns."
--Linda Wommack, True West, 4/​03


"Holly George-Warren's extremely well-researched book is a history of the cowboy--from the real-life 'Golden Age' early days through its glorification and exaggeration, first by flamboyantly penned dime novels through the itimes of Wild West road shows...And then, Hollywood took over...Over the decades...Hollywood continually produced 'oaters' that featured stars such as Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Gary Cooper, even Humphrey Bogart, and of course the Duke, John Wayne. Holly George-Warren's 'Cowboy' touches on most of them, adding many little-known details for trivia buffs, like the names of the horses of those B-movie cowboy stars."
--Garry Cooper, Canadian Cowboy Country, 8/​03


"The swaggering, Stetson-hatted heroes of yore are paid tribute in Cowboy: How Hollywood Invented the Wild West."
--Time Out New York, Nov. 14, 2002

Selected Works

Biography
"One of the Top 15 Most Anticipated Books of 2014." - flavorwire.com, December 2013
"Every celebrity could use a biographer like Holly George-Warren" -- The New York Times, April 2007
Illustrated Nonfiction
“Girls with gumption and a "can do" spirit will get a big kick out of Holly George-Warren’s The Cowgirl Way, which provides a fascinating history of the Wild West and cowgirls, from big names like Annie Oakley to lesser-known gals of the 21st century. Chapters are interspersed with photos, quotes and memorabilia that nicely complement the text. And though the book's target audience is tweens (ages 10 and up), teens and adults will also enjoy George-Warren’s meticulously researched history of American cowgirls.” – Bookpage
"a spirited romp through colorful cowboy fashion explained in detail and illustrated with brilliant color photos."
--Farrah Weinstein, The New York Post, Dec. 23, 2001
Nonfiction
The behind-the-scenes story of the 1969 Woodstock Festival, co-written with festival producer Michael Lang.
"a boot-stompin' good time...shrewdly exploring the gap between the image and the reality of the wild frontier."
--Bookpage, 10/02
Photography, History, Non-fiction, Music, Pop-Culture
365 rare images compassing the band's 43-year history, with comprehensive and insightful captions.
Rock history, photography
The essential illustrated book on Punk: from the Stooges to Television to the Clash to Black Flag
Illustrated Children's Nonfiction
"Fans of any age will enjoy this paean to roots music." -- Horn Book, March 2006
"Recommended!"
--The New York Times Book Review, June 2001