27 user 11 critic

Union Pacific (1939)

Not Rated | | Drama, Western | 5 May 1939 (USA)
In 1862, Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads compete westward across the wilderness toward California.



(screen play), (screen play) | 3 more credits »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jeff Butler
Duke Ring
General Casement
Asa M. Barrows
Oakes Ames
Mrs. Calvin
Richard Lane ...
Sam Reed


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 <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


"Union Pacific" is coming!


Drama | Western


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

5 May 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Aliança de Aço  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The company had rented many local pinto horses for the filming of the Indian attack on the train. During filming, however, local cowboys had to be hired to round up the horses, as they would scatter and sometimes stampede because of the noise and confusion of these scenes--all the shooting, yelling, and yards of unfamiliar cloth on the horses, along with kettles and other implements tied to their manes and tails, made them extremely nervous and uncomfortable, and it didn't require much to make them bolt. 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 »


Jeff Butler: [informing Mollie that her husband Dick Allen is dead] He'll be waiting for us ... at end of track.
See more »


Referenced in Hollywood Hist-o-Rama: Cecil B. DeMille (1962) See more »


Polly Wolly Doodle
Played in the gambling tent
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Westward With Mr. DeMille & The Railroad
20 December 2000 | by (Forest Ranch, CA) – See all my reviews

Moving across the American wilderness, east to west, the mighty UNION PACIFIC Railroad stretches to meet its rival - the Central Pacific - taming a continent with steel rails. Overcoming Nature's disasters, hostile natives & corrupt politicians, the engines bring with them the people whose hopes are inextricably tied into the railroad's success or failure.

In 1939, Hollywood's Golden Year, kingpin director Cecil B. DeMille presented his biggest, flashiest film yet. It was to be nothing less than the story of how the American West was conquered by the great railroads & her indomitable builders. To realize DeMille's vision on the screen, Paramount allocated hundreds of extras & large coffers of money to the project. Authentic rolling stock was acquired. The president of the contemporary Union Pacific enthusiastically sent his finest track layers to work in the film. The movie would boost train wrecks (two of ‘em), Indian attacks, assorted villainies & a compelling love triangle.

DeMille demanded scrupulous attention to detail and his crowd scenes are very well conceived & produced. His early reels tend to be a bit preachy in touting the virtues of the railroad, but action scenes quickly follow which amply compensate for this. DeMille's subject matter & obvious patriotism help him to avoid the lapses of taste & vulgarities in which he tended to stray in many of his other film forays.

Even with a fake Irish brogue, Barbara Stanwyck charms in her role as a railroad postmistress & engineer's daughter. Feisty & volatile, always great fun to watch, it's easy to see why she's loved by both Joel McCrea (the hero) & Robert Preston (the antihero). Both gentlemen give good rousing performances in roles that might have strayed into the stereotypical, but never do.

Brian Donlevy, as the villain, gives another vivid portrait in what is rather a small role, but very much like the one he would play that same year in DESTRY RIDES AGAIN.

Akim Tamiroff & Lynne Overman are especially enjoyable as McCrea's scruffy, rather repulsive security enforcers; with whip & guns, these are two hombres you wouldn't want to tangle with. Robert Barrat as a murdering bully & Regis Toomey as a sweet-natured Irish worker, give impressive cameos. Anthony Quinn appears for a couple of scenes as a gambler who unwisely pulls a gun on McCrea, and lovely Evelyn Keyes has a scant few screen moments as a telegrapher's wife.

Sharp-eyed movie mavens may (or may not) be able to spot among the uncredited players Monte Blue, Ward Bond, Iron Eyes Cody, Will Geer, Noble Johnson, Elmo Lincoln & Mala playing various Indians, gamblers or railwaymen.

It would be most intriguing to run UNION PACIFIC in a double bill with John Ford's 1924 epic THE IRON HORSE, which tells the same historical story, but with a different artistic tack & fictional characters.

17 of 24 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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