Vance Shaw gives up outlawing and goes to work for the telegraph company; his brother Jack Slade leads outlaws trying to prevent the company connecting the line between Omaha and Salt Lake City. Lots of Indian fighting and gunplay. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
Studio publicity noted that Fox contract star Henry Fonda had served as technical adviser on the film, due to his experience as a young man working as a lineman. Fonda's "technical advisory" capacity was most certainly a publicity fiction, and in any event Fonda was not credited on the film itself. See more »
In the opening sequence, Vance Shaw escapes a posse by riding through a herd of grazing wild buffalo. But in close-ups of the beasts, cowboys herding them can be seen in the background, despite no such cowhands in the establishing long shots of the herd. See more »
[on the whereabouts of a recently deceased railroad worker]
He's being slapped with a spade right now.
See more »
"Western Union" is something of a forgotten classic western! Perhaps the reason for this lies in the fact of its unavailability on DVD in the United States. However, all is not lost as it has now appeared on Region 2 in England. This - being a blessing in some ways - is not only incongruous but totally ironic when one considers that a movie depicting the founding and establishment of such a uniquely American organization as The Western Union Telegraph Company is without a Region 1 release. It beggars belief! It simply doesn't make sense!
Produced by Fox in 1941 "Western Union" was directed by Fritz Lang. This was only the second occasion the great German director undertook to direct a western! He had done an excellent job the year before with Fox's "The Return Of Frank James" and would have only one more western outing in 1952 with the splendid "Rancho Notorious". Lang was no Ford or Hawks but with "Western Union" he turned in a fine solid western that holds up very well. Beautifully photographed in early three strip Technicolor by Edward Cronjager it boasted a good cast headed by Robert Young, Randolph Scott and Dean Jagger. The female lead is taken by Virginia Gilmore who really has little to do in the picture. An actress who never made anything of her career. Her presence here is merely cosmetic.
It is curious that Robert Young has top billing over Scott! It is clearly Scott's picture from the very beginning when we first see him in the film's terrific opening scene being chased by a posse across the plains. Young doesn't have much to do throughout the movie and seems out of place in a western. He just looks plain silly going up against Barton McLane in a gunfight! An actor who never really distinguished himself - except perhaps with "Crossfire" (1947)- Young appeared in a string of forgettable romantic comedies in the forties and fifties culminating with his greatest success when for seven years he was TV's "Marcus Welby MD" in the seventies. He died in 1998 at the age of 91.
"Western Union" recounts the connection by telegraph wire of Omaha and Salt Lake City. Scott plays a reformed outlaw hired by Western Union boss Dean Jagger to protect the line from marauding Sioux and to also take on McLane and his gang who are trying to destroy the line for their own devious ends. Robert Young is the young engineer from back east who joins the company and vies with Scott for the affections of Miss Gilmore. Some comic relief is provided by - and irritatingly so some would say - by Slim Summerville and John Carradine turns up in a meager role as the company doctor.
Altogether though a spanking good western, albeit on Region 2, but in sparkling good quality that fans will be delighted with. My only crib is that there are no extras, not even a trailer and that terrible cover with those dull graphics. UGH!
Footnote: Interestingly the associate producer on "Western Union" was Harry Joe Brown who later with Randolph Scott would create a partnership that would produce some of Scott's finest westerns in the fifties.
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