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 <email@example.com>
According to a news item in the Hollywood Reporter, Cecil B. DeMille directed much of the film from a stretcher, because of an operation he had months earlier. However, studio records indicate DeMille collapsed from the strain of directing three units simultaneously, and used a stretcher for about two weeks. See more »
The golden spike ceremony shown in the movie is not true. The golden spike was lowered into an auger hole not driven. Gold is a soft metal and striking it as they did in the movie would have severely damaged it. The original golden spike now at Stanford University shows no mallet marks on the head. See more »
Don't reach for your handkerchief, Brett. Just use your sleeve if you want to wipe your mouth.
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1939's "Union Pacific" was the final black and white feature for the legendary director Cecil B. De Mille, coming on the heels of John Ford's "Stagecoach," spearheading the revival of Hollywood Westerns from hour long quickies to major productions. Owing a debt to Ford's own 1924 silent "The Iron Horse," De Mille proved again a master showman, a fine cast and epic scenes of destruction and Indian battles, though top billed Barbara Stanwyck's oirish accent calls attention to one of her least rewarding performances. Fortunately, Joel McCrea is everything the script calls for, a towering troubleshooter for the Union Pacific railroad, quick to put an end to problems arising in their goal to combine east and west coasts. Banker Henry Kolker is buttressed by reliable villain Brian Donlevy (already well versed in railroad chicanery in Fox's "Jesse James"), confederates played by Fuzzy Knight, Anthony Quinn, Robert Barrat, and Lon Chaney Jr. Robert Preston is the literal wild card in this stacked deck, Donlevy's partner in crime but soft for pretty Stanwyck. For Chaney fans, coming off a small role as 'One of James Gang' in the aforementioned "Jesse James," his role is nothing more than a bearded extra with no dialogue, less than a minute on screen in just two short scenes, in at 26 minutes (aboard the train when a henchman takes a potshot at a defenseless Indian), out at 36 (seated in the saloon when Donlevy offers up free drinks). Lon would fare better in De Mille's "North West Mounted Police" (in the wake of his triumphant "Of Mice and Men"), but would never work for the illustrious director after that. Another trivia note finds unbilled Richard Denning playing a reporter, only three years before wedding Chaney co-star Evelyn Ankers in a lasting union.
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