A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from April 28, 2008
Spaghetti Western (Chili Western; Green Chile Western)

A “spaghetti western” is a western movie that is either filmed in Italy or financed by Italians. The term “spaghetti western” is first cited in print from 1967; many of the western films of that time were Italian financed and directed, but were produced in the Tabernas Desert of Almeria, Spain ("Texas Hollywood").

Mexico-filmed westerns were called “chili westerns,” even though chile con carne is not Mexican and is the official state dish of Texas.

New Mexico-filmed westerns are called “green chile westerns,” as the 2008 citation below tries to promote—even going so far as to state “Green Chile Western (first usage; Merriam-Webster, credit me!).”


Wikipedia: Spaghetti Western
Spaghetti Western is a nickname for a broad sub-genre of Western film that emerged in the mid-1960s, so named because most were produced by Italian studios, usually in coproduction with a Spanish partner, being the typical team an Italian director, Spanish technical staff and fifty-fifty Italian and Spanish actors sometimes surrounding a falling Hollywood star.

The films were primarily shot in the Andalucia region of Spain, and in particular the Tabernas Desert of Almería, because it resembles the American Southwest. (A few were shot on Sardinia.) Because of the desert setting and the readily available southern Spanish extras, a usual theme in Spaghetti Westerns is the Mexican Revolution, Mexican bandits, and the border region shared by Mexico and the US.

Originally Spaghetti Westerns had in common the Italian language, low budgets, and a recognizable highly fluid, violent, and minimalist cinematography that eschewed (some said “demythologized") many of the conventions of earlier Westerns — partly intentionally, partly as a result of the work being done in a different cultural background and with limited funds. The term was originally used disparagingly, but by the 1980s many of these films came to be held in high regard, particularly because it was hard to ignore the influence they had in redefining the entire idea of a western.

The best-known and perhaps archetypal Spaghetti Westerns were the Man With No Name trilogy (or the Dollars Trilogy) directed by Sergio Leone, starring then-TV actor Clint Eastwood and with musical scores composed by Ennio Morricone (all of whom are now synonymous with the genre): A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). Atypically for the genre, the last had a relatively high budget, over one million USD. His following film after the so-called “trilogy” was Once Upon a Time in the West, which is often lumped in with the previous three for its similar style and accompanying score by Morricone, differing by the absence of Clint Eastwood in the starring role. 

Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Main Entry: spaghetti western
Function: noun
Usage: often capitalized W
Date: 1969
: a western motion picture produced in Italy

(Oxford English Dictionary)
spaghetti Western, a ‘Western’ (WESTERN n. 4) or film set in the U.S. ‘old west’, but made in Italy or by Italians, esp. cheaply.
1969 M. PEI Words in Sheep’s Clothing (1970) iii. 22 ‘Spaghetti Western’ and ‘Sukiyaki Western’ are terms applied to cheap Westerns produced in Italy and Japan.
1973 J. SUSANN Once is not Enough i. 34 It started with the flop of Melba’s picture… When your kid is busted into pieces, you can’t worry about a spaghetti western.
1977 G. MARTON Alarum 56, I wanted to see a Spaghetti Western movie.

3 August 1967, Hayward (CA) Daily Review, “U.S. Actor Scores Big in ‘Spaghetti Western’” by William A. Raidy, pg. 33, cols. 1-2:
ROME, Italy—“Lee Van who?” you may ask and you are perfectly justified.

Lee Van Cleef is not at the moment a name on the tips of millions of American tongues. But it is almost as familiar as pasta on Italian tongues here in Rome since the release of what have come to be known as the spaghetti Westerns. (The newest one now showing in America is “For a Few Dollars More.")

13 September 1968, New York (NY) Times, “Film Studios All Over Italy Feasting on ‘Spaghetti Westerns’” by Renata Adler, pg. 41:
The spaghetti Western got its start in 1964, when a virtually unknown director, Sergio Leone, using the American pseudonym Bob Robertson, imported Clint Eastwood, who had been on American television, to star in “A Fistful of Dollars.”

7 April 1973, Pacific Stars and Stripes (Japan), pg. 14, col. 3:
“The Proud and Damned” is a chili western which waxes hot as a tamale below the border as the shoot-em-up trio of Chuck Conners, Cesar Romero and Jose Greco become involved in another revolution. Conners leads four young Texan sidekicks through Latin America where they rent out their gunning skills to the highest bidders.

November /December 1995 Film Comment:
Of the bizarre series of what Ripstein calls “Chili-Westerns,” the most notable exponent was the director Alberto Mariscal, who brought to them some of the same weird atmosphere that David Lynch unleashed on Leave It to Beaver-land.

México en el Tiempo # 38 september-october 2000
When the Spaghetti Westerns were made in Italy, Mexico didn’t waste any time coming up with the Chili Western. These were mostly directed by Rubén Galindo and the score was always written by Gustavo César Carrión.

Febio Fest 2004
Arturo Ripstein is one of the best known Mexican directors of our time. He got his start as a director´s assistant on Luis Bunuel´s film The Exterminating Angel (1962). His directorial début came in 1965 with the chili western Tiempo de morir, with a screenplay by Columbian writer Gabriel García Márquez - who was later to win the Nobel prize for literature.

New York (NY) Times
Hollywood Stakes Out a New Free-Trade Zone
By PERLA CIUK
Published: February 20, 2005
MEXICO CITY
CHILI westerns and movies about hookers and narcs dominated Mexican cinema during the 1980’s and half of the 90’s. This low-brow industry, combined with the decrepit state of movie theaters and the influx of home videos, pushed the middle class away from the big screen.

Film.com
Gunnin’ for the Green Chile Western
Jan 25, 2008 | D. Maass
Filmmakers (and politicians) will tell you they’re flocking to New Mexico for the economic benefits. In the last few years Gov. Bill Richards, perhaps to tap into Hollywood money for his now-defunct presidential campaign, rammed through a slew of film incentives and tax breaks for productions willing to pick locations in the Land of Enchantment.

My theory, however, is that Hollywood’s just sick of Canadian hospitality. For the last decade, British Columbia has established itself as the home of cheap sets. But, dammit, they’re all just too nice, eh?

Whatever the motivation—economic or cultural—films are moving to the Southwest, and as a result, moviegoers have seen a reinvigoration of the Western genre. And I’m not talking the John Ford/John Wayne God-Bless-the-American-Frontiersman schmaltz (think, Kevin Costner’s 2003 Open Range). Nah, pad’ner, 2006 and 2007 were full of Sergio Leon-caliber literary, genre-transcending and often experimental epic-Westerns. And sure enough, at least three of them picked up multiple Oscar nominations this week. I might even go so far as to argue that the Green Chile Western (first usage; Merriam-Webster, credit me!) has inherited the Spaghetti Western mantle. 

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Monday, April 28, 2008 • Permalink