Quotes by Zane Grey
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Zane Grey's Biography
Prolific American writer and pioneer of Western as a new literary genre. Zane Grey produced over sixty books during his career. He presented the West as a moral battle ground‚ in which his characters are redeemed through a final confrontation with their past or destroyed because of their inability to change. Grey's semioutlaw heroes were his most interesting creations‚ among them Lassiter in RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE (1912)‚ a gunman who has lost a girl he loved to a Mormon preacher‚ and Buck Duane‚ the agonized killer of LONE STAR RANGER (1915). Randolph Scott played a former outlaw in Fritz Lang's film Western Union (1941)‚ based on the novel. Grey's stories‚ set against the beautiful but harsh landscape of the West‚ have fascinated readers all over the world.

Zane Grey was born in Zanesville‚ Ohio. His father was a farmer and preacher‚ and mother Quaker‚ of Danish background. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in dentistry in 1896‚ Grey practiced in New York City until 1904. During these years he started to write. Grey's first book‚ BETTY ZANE‚ was turned down by several publishers. The colorful frontier story‚ based on his ancestor's journal‚ was privately printed in 1904. The book gained a critical success and Grey continued his family story in THE SPIRIT OF THE BORDER (1905).

In 1908 Grey made a journey to the West with Colonel C.J. ('Buffalo') Jones‚ who told him tales of adventure on the plains. The trip was a turning point in Grey's career. He began writing Western novels in the tradition of Owen Wister and produced the first‚ THE LAST OF THE PLAINSMEN‚ in 1908. In his writing Grey was encouraged by his wife‚ Lina Elise Roth; they married in 1905. She supported his aspirations to become a professional writer.

The publishing company Harpers brought out Riders of the Purple Sage in 1912. It sold two million copies‚ was filmed three times‚ and became Grey's best-known western. The central character is an enterprising woman‚ Jane Witherspoon‚ a rich Mormon. "Trouble between the Mormons and the Gentiles of the community would make her unhappy. She was Mormon-born‚ and she was a friend of to poor and unfortunate Gentiles. She wished only to go on doing good and being happy. And she thought of what that great ranch meant to her. She loved it all - the grove of cottonwoods‚ the old stone house‚ the amber-tinted water‚ and the droves of shaggy‚ dusty horses and mustangs‚ the sleek‚ clean-limbed‚ blooded racers‚ and the browsing herds of cattle and the lean‚ sun-browned riders of the sage." She finds protection for her ranch and herself from an mysterious hero‚ Lassiter‚ who hates Mormons for his own reasons. This formula‚ in which a tormented outlaw fights to protect the good and finds love‚ Grey used in many novels.

Much of Grey's knowledge of the West was based on research or trips in the regions he wrote about. He also interviewed authentic residents of the Wild West. In 1918 Grey moved to California‚ and lived there for the rest of his life. He built a large‚ Spanish-style house in Altadena‚ and continued to produce the usual 100 000 words each month.

Grey's non-fiction includes several tales of fishing. In TALES OF SWORDFISH AND TUNA (1927) Grey tells that he had exceptionally good luck in locating schools of large tuna. While not writing‚ Grey fished in the South Seas‚ or hunted along the Rogue River in Oregon‚ or spent time on Catalina Island. According to some sources‚ he fished up to 300 days of the year. Grey died on October 23‚ 1939‚ in Altadena. Several of Grey's novels have been published posthumously‚ among others THE REEF GIRL in 1977.

Grey's favorite subjects were settlers‚ cowboys‚ desperadoes‚ Indians‚ cattle drives‚ the advance of technology‚ family feuds‚ feuds between cattlemen and sheepherders‚ the bison hunting (The Thundering Herd)‚ the defeat of the American Indian - all the aspects of West that later generations of writers and filmmakers have utilized. His style has been called antiquated‚ but it had much emotional power: "Memory stirred to the sight of the familiar corner. He had been in several bad gun fights in this town‚ and the scene of one of them lay before him. The warmth and intimacy of old pleasant associations suffered a chill." (from Sunset Pass‚ 1931) THE ROARING U.P. TRAIL (1918) has been criticized for its melodramatic plot but acknowledged for its reliable historical description about the building of the transcontinental railroad.

THE VANISHING AMERICAN (1925) recycled the idea of the noble savage familiar from The Last of the Mohicans or from the works of Jean Jacques Rousseau. The social commentary on the treatment of American Indians on the reservation included also a love theme between the red man and white woman. George B. Seitz's movie version from 1925 was melodramatic but dramatized the progression of American Indian life‚ and their hopeless situation in a way that no film previously had attempted. "Promises from the white establishment reek hypocrisy: "We will help you live as white men live. We will teach you to farm‚ to turn the desert into green fields." Yet the start of the twentieth century finds the Indians living meagerly on inadequate reservations." (from Great Hollywood Westerns by Ted Sennett‚ 1990) In such short stories as 'The Great Slave‚' 'Yaqui‚ and 'Tigre' Grey showed his knowledge of Indian tribes and their history and the peon system of Mexican plantations. In 'Tappan's Burro‚' about a wandering gold prospector and his faithful burro‚ Grey masterfully described the beauty of desert plains‚ barren mountain country‚ and forest land.

From the beginning‚ Paramount used Grey's name as a draw. Wanderer of the Wasteland (1924)‚ a silent film directed by Irvin Willat‚ was the first screen western shot entirely in color. In the 1930s lowbudget Zane Grey movies were highly popular and profitable for Paramount. The Thundering Herd (1933)‚ which dealt with buffalo hunters and marauding Indians‚ is considered one of the best Zane Grey quickies. Footage from William K. Howard's film from 1925 was used in the scene of the stampede of wagons across a frozen lake. According to one estimation‚ about 100 Western films have been based on Grey's stories. Grey also wrote two screenplays‚ THE VANISHING PIONEER and RANGLE RIVER.

In the early phase of his career as a director‚ Henry Hathaway leant on Grey and the actor Randolph Scott‚ but by 1935 both Hathaway and Scott were on their way to bigger productions. Heritage of the Desert (1932) was Scott's first starring role. In Wild Horse Mesa (1932)‚ a tale of wild horse taming‚ Scott stopped Fred Kohler who trapped wild stallions with barbed wire. Under the Tonto Rim (1933) depicted a slow-witted cowboy who wins his manhood and the boss's daughter. In the romantic Western Man of the Forest (1933) Scott's pet lion helps him to escape from jail. To the Last Man (1933)‚ in which Shirley Temple made her debut‚ was a story of a family feud healed by young love . There is also a 'tastefully photographed' nude swimming sequence. The Last Round-Up (1934)‚ starring Randolph Scott‚ was based on Zane Gray's novel THE BORDER LEGION. It told a story about a gang of rustlers and their boss who sacrifices his life for two young lovers. Stock footage from the silent version and Border Legion (1930) were used in the film. Fritz Lang's Western Union (1941) was beautifully photographed by Edward Cronjager.

Some rights reserved Petri Liukkonen (author) & Ari Pesonen. Kuusankosken kaupunginkirjasto 2008