Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, Vol 21, No 3 (2008)

God in the Saddle: Silent Western Films as Protestant Sermons

Terry Lindvall
Issued Date: 5 Mar 2009


In this paper, I argue that the Protestant middle-class was brought into the cult of silent moving pictures in large measure by the inclusion of religious themes and symbols in a genre of Western films. A remarkable series of films by Gilbert M. Anderson and William S. Hart followed a late nineteenth century literary trend of evangelical novels and, borrowing their moral and religious sensibilities, incorporated Protestant doctrines of sin, repentance, and grace into their engaging scenarios. As moving pictures had already invaded the church, moving picture theatres were now primed to persuade various Protestant congregations into converting into movie audiences. The sermons that compelled them to come in were these Western films of the 1910s, films that the French complained were too religious.

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DOI: 10.1558/jasr.v21i3.318


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