One of the last bills signed by President Lincoln authorizes pushing the Union Pacific Railroad across the wilderness to California. But financial opportunist Asa Barrows hopes to profit ... See full summary »
One of the last bills signed by President Lincoln authorizes pushing the Union Pacific Railroad across the wilderness to California. But financial opportunist Asa Barrows hopes to profit from obstructing it. Chief troubleshooter Jeff Butler has his hands full fighting Barrows' agent, gambler Sid Campeau; Campeau's partner Dick Allen is Jeff's war buddy and rival suitor for engineer's daughter Molly Monahan. Who will survive the effort to push the railroad through at any cost? Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The world premiere in Omaha, Nebraska, was a three-day celebration that drew 250,000 people, doubling the population of the city and requiring the National Guard to help keep order. The special train en route from Hollywood to Omaha, carrying Cecil B. DeMille and stars Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea, took three days and made stops along the way, drawing large crowds. The film was shown in three theaters simultaneously; President Franklin D. Roosevelt was reported to have started the premiere proceedings by pressing a button in Washington, DC, which opened the civic auditorium. An ad stated that the premiere, which involved parades, radio broadcasts and a banquet, was the biggest in motion picture history. An antique train continued on a 15-day coast-to-coast promotional tour, stopping at 30 cities around the country. See more »
After the train wreck, and during all the scenes that immediately follow, Barbara Stanwyck suddenly appears with a very stylish 1939 bobbed hairstyle which we had not seen before, and which, of course, is completely inappropriate to the time period during which the story is taking place. See more »
One of the previous reviewers recommended reading Stephen Ambrose's book instead of watching this film. I would recommend reading the book and then supplementing it with Union Pacific.
The whole point of Ambrose's book is that while the financing of the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad was mired in corruption, what must not be overlooked is the remarkable engineering achievement that it was. In that sense Union Pacific is a great tribute to everyone responsible for that achievement including some corrupt politicians.
DeMille in his autobiography says he originally was going to do a film on the Hudson Bay Company and in fact had started preliminary work on same. He changed his mind when he heard that 20th Century Fox was doing one on that same subject. He turned his attention to the Transcontinental Railroad and the President of Union Pacific at that time was one William Jeffers who freely gave DeMille anything he needed to help him with the project. Jeffers and DeMille had the same right wing political views so they got along famously.
DeMille also got Joel McCrea who was one of his discoveries to play the lead. McCrea was the two-gunned railroad troubleshooter who sees the job through. Barbara Stanwyck plays an Irish immigrant's daughter who is the railroad postmistress. McCrea and Robert Preston both have the hots for her, but it's fairly obvious from the first minute who she ends up with. This was Robert Preston's first major part after having done a couple of B films for Paramount. Lynne Overman and Akim Tamiroff are McCrea's sidekicks and supply some comedy relief.
Brian Donlevy is the villain and he's at the height of his career. Later that year he got an Academy Award nomination for another Paramount feature, Beau Geste in the Supporting Actor category. One of his henchmen is Anthony Quinn, who after one reviewer remarked how lucky he was to have the DeMille family connection to get good roles, then swore he would never work for his father-in-law again. Quinn never did.
Two smaller parts are worth remembering. Regis Toomey plays a track layer who has a tragic death early on in the film. And J.M. Kerrigan as Stanwyck's father also dies tragically during a snowstorm.
Good slam-bang special effects. DeMille loved to wreck trains. He did it so well here, he later topped this one with one in The Greatest Show On Earth.
One of DeMille's best pictures. Too bad Cinerama hadn't been invented yet.
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