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Wagon Master (1950)

Approved  |   |  Adventure, Western  |  19 April 1950 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 2,828 users  
Reviews: 43 user | 25 critic

Two young drifters guide a Mormon wagon train to the San Juan Valley and encounter cutthroats, Indians, geography, and moral challenges on the journey.



(as Frank Nugent) , , 1 more credit »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Travis Blue
Elder Wiggs
Charles Kemper ...
Uncle Shiloh Clegg
Dr. A. Locksley Hall
Sister Ledyard
Fleuretty Phyffe
Russell Simpson ...
Adam Perkins
Kathleen O'Malley ...
Prudence Perkins
Floyd Clegg
Francis Ford ...
Mr. Peachtree
Fred Libby ...
Reese Clegg
Jim Thorpe ...
Navajo Indian
Mickey Simpson ...
Jesse Clegg


As Mormon settlers head to the promised land at the San Juan river in Utah, they hire horse traders Travis Blue and Sandy as wagon masters. They have to forge a trail across unknown territory and face many hardships along the way. They quickly come across some stranded travelers, a medicine show run by Dr. A. Locksley Hall which includes the attractive Denver. Along the way however, they are also joined by Shiloh Clegg and his murderous clan of robbers and thieves. An encounter with the Navajo leads to an invitation to their camp but after one of the Clegg boys gets a whipping for attacking one of the Navajo women, Uncle Shiloh plans his revenge. It's left to Sandy and Travis to protect the travelers and get them to their destination. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


John Ford's lusty successor to "Fort Apache" and "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon"


Adventure | Western


Approved | See all certifications »




| |

Release Date:

19 April 1950 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Wagonmaster  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$999,370 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Harry Carey Jr. rode his own horse called "Mormon" and Ben Johnson rode a famous movie horse called "Steel" that was owned by his father-in-law "Fat" Jones, who ran the most well known horse renting stable in Hollywood. In the galloping scenes Johnson rode Steel's stunt double Bingo and was quoted as saying he was just a passenger as "Bingo" thundered down the hills. According to Carey, Steel and Mormon became very attached and ruined quite a number of scenes by calling out to each other. See more »


During the dance, when done going around in a circle, Travis has his hand on Denver's waist, in the next shot it is on her shoulder. See more »


[Sandy fills a bucket of water from the river, and takes it to Prudence]
Sandy: I brought you some water, ma'am
[Prudence gratefully takes it]
Prudence Perkins: Thank you. Won't you stop and have a bit of breakfast with us?
Sandy: [Happily] Yes, ma'am.
[Sandy instantly leaps from his horse]
Travis Blue: [Travis comes riding up] Sandy, lets go!
[Sandy regretfully gets back on his horse, and bows repeatily to Prudence before riding away]
See more »


Referenced in The Last Picture Show (1971) See more »


Words and Music by Stan Jones
Recorded by Sons of the Pioneers (as The Sons of the Pioneers)
Sung (behind credits) by the Sons of the Pioneers (uncredited)
See more »

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User Reviews

8 March 2001 | by (Los Angeles, Calif.) – See all my reviews

One of the most poetic narrative films ever made, WAGONMASTER is nonetheless a difficult film to immediately like. I love this movie, but I recommend seeing some of John Ford's other westerns before taking a look at this one. The first time I saw it I was 18 years old and I hadn't seen too many other westerns, and I hated it. I thought it was incredibly boring. I kept waiting for something to happen. It took several years for me to love this picture. First, I fell in love with westerns in general -- the traditions, characters, landscapes, ways of talking, etc -- and that made me realize when I saw WAGONMASTER again that a lot is happening in it after all.

I also was simply a more experienced moviegoer at that point and had learned to appreciate visual storytelling, and to listen to what each image was telling me. WAGONMASTER is a very visual movie by one of the most visual of directors working near the peak of his career.

The movie is a celebration of a way of life, and its subject matter is more emotional and interior than other Ford westerns. Actually, that's not really as accurate as saying that, rather, it has a lot less exterior action than the other westerns. (The other westerns have exterior action AND interior emotion.) It quite beautifully places its Mormon pioneers in the context of nature. There are many shots of animals and children -- not for any surface, narrative purpose, but for illustrating this idea. That is why the movie can be called a poem. It isn't about the surface story (which barely exists) nearly as much as it is about an emotional idea, and it gets this idea across through composition, editing, sound and music. In fact, one could argue that this is a purer form of filmmaking because the images directly express the emotional idea of the film, rather than having to first service a "story."

Give this movie a chance, and allow it to exist on its own terms, not the terms of other westerns or other movies.

42 of 55 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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