(David) Sam(uel) Peckinpah

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

(David) Sam(uel) Peckinpah 1925–

American director, screenwriter, and actor.

Peckinpah is regarded by some as the most innovative director of Westerns since John Ford. His films are noted for seemingly gratuitous bloodshed, often filmed in slow motion. This is balanced by Peckinpah's strong personal vision: his work is often concerned with the plight of the loner and the instinct for survival. His best films are honest, lyrical evocations of the Western myth at odds with the aging of the hero and the progress of technology.

Peckinpah first gained prominence in the fifties as a television writer and director. Among other series, he worked on Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, and The Westerner. His first films, The Deadly Companions and Ride the High Country (also known as Guns in the Afternoon), were released in 1961 and created excitement in the film industry because of their strong moralizing and beautiful cinematography. These films helped Peckinpah gain the director's position for Major Dundee, which was substantially cut and re-edited by the producers.

Studio interference has played a major part in Peckinpah's career. Ride the High Country was released as a second feature for drive-in fare despite the fine reviews it received. Peckinpah tried to have his name removed from the credits of Major Dundee because of the studio's editing. Norman Jewison replaced him as director of The Cincinnati Kid after a few days of shooting because of disagreements between Peckinpah and the producers. These difficulties have continued in some of Peckinpah's more recent films, most notably Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Problems such as these forced Peckinpah to abandon filmmaking in the mid-sixties and to write and direct for television.

Peckinpah returned to films in 1969 with The Wild Bunch . The film has generated a great deal of controversy because of its graphic violence, but many critics believe that the violence expresses a moral viewpoint that audiences have...

(The entire section is 480 words.)