Springfield, Illinois. Brandon, a surveyor, dreams of building a railway to the west, but Marsh, a contractor, is sceptical. Abraham Lincoln looks on as their children, Davy Brandon and Miriam Marsh, play together. Brandon sets off with Davy to survey a route. They discover a new pass which will shave 200 miles off the expected distance, but they are set upon by a party of Cheyenne. One of them, a white renegade with only two fingers on his right hand, kills Brandon and scalps him. Davy buries his father... Years pass. It is 1862 and Lincoln signs the bill authorizing construction of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railways. Marsh is principal contractor and Miriam is engaged to Jesson, the chief engineer... Crews of Chinese, Italians, and Irish work to build the railway while resisting Indian attack. When the pay train is delayed by Indian ambush, the Italians go on strike. Miriam persuades them to return to work... Marsh needs to find a shortcut through the Black Hills. To ... Written by
The kitchen staff for the film was made up largely of Chinese cooks. Some of them had been workers on the transcontinental railroad in 1869, the same construction project that forms the basis of this film. See more »
In some scenes at least one of the workers can be seen hitting next to the railroad spike instead of actually driving the spike into the railroad tie. See more »
[Referring to Brandon]
With his own hands he has driven the last spike - the buckle in the girdle of a continent.
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In Springfield, the surveyor Brandon dreams on building the first transcontinental railroad while his skeptical friend Thomas Marsh (Will Walling), who is a small constructor, believes he is nothing but a dreamer chasing a rainbow; their children Davy Brandon and Miriam Marsh are best friends. Brandon heads with Davy to the west, where he finds a possible pass for the railroad. However, a group of Cheyenne led by a white renegade kills and scalps Brandon; Davy, who is hidden, sees that the killer has only two fingers in his right hand. In June 1862, President Abraham Lincoln (Charles Edward Bull) authorizes the construction of two railroads: the Union Pacific from Omaha, Nebraska, to West; and the Central Pacific, from Sacramento, California, to East. His old friend Thomas Marsh is responsible for the construction of the Union Pacific and his daughter Miriam (Madge Bellamy) is engaged of his engineer Jesson (Cyril Chadwick). After many incidents during the construction, Thomas Marsh is short of money and he needs to find a shortcut other than the original route through Smoky River. However, the powerful Bauman (Fred Kohler) that owns the lands where the railroad should pass, bribes Jesson to keep the original route. When the grown-up Davy (George O'Brien) appears in the town bringing the mail, Miriam is glad in meeting him and he tells to Thomas that his father had discovered a pass through the Black Hills. Thomas assigns Jesson to ride with Davy to check the ravine, but Bauman convinces the engineer to kill the rival. Jesson cuts the rope that Davy is using to descent to the pass; returns to town and tells that Davy had an accident and died. However, when Davy returns to town, he discloses the truth and the situation of the engineer becomes unbearable. The desperate Bauman uses the two fingered renegade to convince the Cheyenne to war against the workers and Davy has the chance to meet the killer of his father. On 10 May 1869, the locomotives 116 and Jupiter meets each other in the intersection of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific.
"The Iron Horse" is indeed an impressive silent epic western of John Ford. Of course this western is flawed, with excessive patriotism, subplots and running time of 150 minutes. But considering the limited and primitive technical resources in 1924, it is amazing how the director could have made, for example, the scene of the stampede or the Cheyenne attack. Further, there are unusual angles of camera and the take from below the train arriving to save the workers is sensational in the prime cinema that used huge cameras. The plot seems to be based on the true story of the two North-American transcontinental railroads and the lead story of Davy, Miriam and her father is engaging. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Cavalo de Ferro" ("Iron Horse")
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