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Two wagon caravans converge at what is now Kansas City, and combine for the westward push to Oregon. On their quest the pilgrims will experience desert heat, mountain snow, hunger, and indian attack. To complicate matters further, a love triangle develops, as pretty Molly must chose between Sam, a brute, and Will, the dashing captain of the other caravan. Can Will overcome the skeleton in his closet and win Molly's heart? Written by
Thomas McWilliams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To get enough covered wagons for the film, a call went out in California to families that still had their ancestors' covered wagon which had brought them out west - these were gathered so wagons used were authentic - perhaps repaired a bit. See more »
THE COVERED WAGON (Paramount, 1923), directed by James Cruze, is a western, a large scale western, in fact, was reportedly one that became the inspiration of future western epics of similar theme and nature, consisting of hero, heroin, villain, two old scouts for comedy flavor, Indians, cattle, and a large assortment of movie extras for authentic feel to the pioneering days in American history.
From the novel by Emerson Hough and adapted by Jack Cunningham, the curtain rises presenting the traditional opening credits prior to the introducing inter-titles of what's to be shown: "The blood of America is the blood of pioneers - the blood of lion-hearted men and women who carved a splendid civilization out an uncharted wilderness. With dauntless courage facing unknown perils, the men and women of the "forties" flung the boundaries of the nation. Westward and still westward, beyond the Mississippi, beyond the prairies, beyond the Rockies - until they bounded the United States of America with two oceans." "Westport Landings, 1848, since called Kansas. In May of that year, a great covered wagon caravan gathers together from every section or the Ohio and Missouri valleys, eager to brave the two thousand miles of hardship that lay between Westport and Oregon." Taking part of the 2,000 miles of hardship between Westport and Oregon is Will Banion (J. Warren Kerrigan), veteran of the Mexican War and selected leader of the Liberty Boys. Though engaged to marry Sam Woodhull (Alan Hale), Molly Wingate (Lois Wilson) very much prefers to put off their wedding until after reaching their destination. Suspecting Molly to be in love with Banion, Woodhull does everything possible to discredit him, even to a point of spreading rumors of he being a cattle thief. A violent battle between the two rivals not only causes Molly to not ever wanting to see Banion again, but forcing the traveling caravans to go on their separate ways - Banion taking charge of one group while Molly's father, Jesse Wingate (Charles Ogle) leads the other, each facing their own unforeseen dangers and hardships ahead.
As westerns being part of American cinema practically from its humble beginnings, with Broncho Billy Anderson, Tom Mix and William S. Hart as legendary names associated in that genre, by today's standards, THE COVERED WAGON, lacks any top marquee names of interest. J. Warren Kerrigan, who slightly resembles the gentle profile of John Boles than a rugged leading he-man type of Kirk Douglas, is one actor who, with an assortment of film roles to his credit, suddenly disappeared from movie making by 1924. Lois Wilson, who never achieved super stardom, resumed further into the sound era, while Alan Hale, the most recognizable face here, would play a variety of character parts until his death in 1950. Overlooking the cliché story and troublesome romantic subplot and Johnny Fox's banjo "singing" of Stephen Foster's "Oh Susannah" on a couple of occasions, this 98 minute epic tale does offer notable highlights of interest, including caravans crossing the deep river, prairie fire, Indian attacks, among others.
With countless imitations over the years, John Ford's THE IRON HORSE (Fox, 1924), a prime example, Paramount's Zane Grey's based story, FIGHTING CARAVANS (1931) starring Gary Cooper (DVD title: "Blazing Arrows"), bears a strong resemblance to THE COVERED WAGON, especially with the support of COVERED WAGON co-stars Ernest Torrence (Bill Jackson) and Tully Marshall (Jim Bridger) reprising their original named roles.
Out of the television markets since its public television presentation of the weekly series "The Toy That Grew Up" (WNET, Channel 13, New York City, 1965-1972) where THE COVERED WAGON was severely edited in to fit into its sixty- minute time slot, the film was later restored to its original length, distributed to video cassette in the 1990s equipped with clear picture quality and excellent Gaylord Carter organ score for viewer's enjoyment. Westward Ho!(***)
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