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How the West Was Won (1962)

Duration2h 44m
RatingsUK: U, USA: G, Denmark: 15
Source of storyApparently inspired by a series of articles with photos in Life magazine.
DirectorJohn Ford, Henry Hathaway, George Marshall, Richard Thorpe
Writers/ScriptJames R. Webb
StarringCarroll Baker, Lee J. Cobb, Henry Fonda, Karl Malden, Gregory Peck, George Peppard, Robert Preston, Debbie Reynolds, James Stewart, Eli Wallach, John Wayne, Richard Widmark,
RatingsIMDb: 7.0/10 by 23,000 people.  Rotten Tomatoes: 87% by 23 reviewers. Review2view: 7/10.

Summary: Back in the 1830s in America the Prescot family father, mother and two adult daughters, Eve and Lilith set off for the west, firstly on the Erie Canal, and then by a raft of their own construction on the Ohio River. During a camping stop they meet mountain man Linus Rawlings, to whom Eve is attracted. Later Linus is bushwhacked by a criminal gang and left for dead, but he survives and rescues the family who are about to be murdered by the same gang. The event brings Linus and Eve together, but later the parents are killed when their raft is overturned in rapids. Linus and Eve settle down and have two sons. Lilith goes on to be a music hall entertainer and connects with gambler Cleve. When she inherits a gold mine the two take passage on a wagon train to California. The train is attacked by Indians. Meanwhile Eve’s son Zeb, has take part in the Civil War and goes on to join the cavalry to protect the railroad constructors from Indians. Lilith’s gold mine is useless, and she goes on to sing on a river boat and meets Cleve again. Zeb leaves the army and goes onto become a sheriff.

Content: No sex or nudity. There is a sort of in joke as Debbie Reynolds as Lilith is disrobing in the music hall dressing room, and removes items of underwear, for there only to be further layers beneath. The film is really a number of stunning major scenes connected by bits of narrative, sometimes narrated, mainly for the benefit of the Cinerama system, which required three cameras, and when shown three projectors. There is the raft in the rapids, the wagon train being attacked by Indians, the buffalo herd stampeding through the railway camp and the gunfight on the moving train. There is a bit of Civil War battle, apparently taken from another film.

A View: This is a very long film which when shown in cinemas had an interval. We can now see it on our TVs due to a reconstruction which more or less has removed the joins. It made money and here and where the cinemas were suitable equipped, showed for years. Despite the fact that it creaks a bit the major event are absolutely breath-taking, particularly when you consider that this was all prior to CGI. Indeed during the shootout on the moving train one of the stunt men was sufficiently seriously injured for him to be incapacitated for five years.

So, even if you are not a western enthusiast, essential viewing for all film buffs. There are now westerns which have become part of movie history. Some which have been reviewed on this site include: The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Wild Bunch and Once Upon a Time in the West.

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels


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