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Wagon Master (1950)

Approved  |   |  Western  |  19 April 1950 (USA)
7.2
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 2,758 users  
Reviews: 43 user | 24 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.

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(as Frank Nugent) , , 1 more credit »
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Title: Wagon Master (1950)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Travis Blue
...
Denver
...
Sandy
...
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
Edit

Storyline

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

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Western

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| |

Release Date:

19 April 1950 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Wagonmaster  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Goofs

A Golden Retriever is shown in close-up during the credits sequence. Goldens were originally bred in Scotland beginning in the 1860s, and were not registered in America until 1894. It's "possible' that a Golden could have been accompanying the wagon train, but very unlikely. See more »

Quotes

[repeated line]
Travis BlueElder Wiggs: Wagons West!
See more »

Connections

Featured in The American West of John Ford (1971) See more »

Soundtracks

CHUCKAWALLA SWING
Words and Music by Stan Jones
Recorded by Sons of the Pioneers (as The Sons of the Pioneers)
Sung by the Sons of the Pioneers (uncredited)
Called by Russell Simpson
Danced by cast
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Ben Johnson Only Draws on Snakes.
29 December 2005 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

There's a unique place in the pantheon of John Ford films for Wagonmaster, Sergeant Rutledge, and The Sun Shines Bright. It was these three films with no box office names in them that Ford didn't have to tailor the film around the persona of a star being it John Wayne, Henry Fonda, or any of the others he worked with. Not surprising that Ford considered all these as favorites of one kind or another.

Ben Johnson and Harry Carey, Jr. a couple of likable cowpokes sign on to guide a Mormon wagon train to a valley in Arizona territory. Along the way they are joined first by a group stranded players from a medicine show and then by a family of outlaws on the run named Clegg. Their stories merge and what happens is the basis of the film's plot.

Had Wagonmaster been done even 10 years earlier on the strength of the two performances turned in by Johnson and Carey, both probably would have had substantial careers as B picture cowboys. In the case of Johnson it would have been art imitating life. Johnson was a real rodeo cowboy and and first worked with a string horses for John Ford to use in Fort Apache. Ford was struck by his presence and the rest is history.

But the day of the B western was drawing to a close and Johnson and Carey had great careers as two fine character actors.

Ward Bond plays Elder Wiggs leader of the Mormons. Bond is a recent convert though and has trouble remembering to not use some four letter words. But he's the leader because of his strength of character, not his impeccable LDS theology. He turns out to be a wise and compassionate leader.

In portraying the Cleggs, Ford only had to reach back four years to his My Darling Clementine. They are the reincarnation of the Clanton gang and pure evil. In fact if Walter Brennan who after My Darling Clementine refused to ever work for Ford again was willing I could easily see him being cast as Shiloh Clegg the head of the family. As it was Charles Kemper did a fine job, this is probably the role he's most noted for. Shortly after this film was done, Kemper was killed in automobile crash. He might very well have worked for Ford in the future.

Ford makes the Mormons pacifists here and I don't recall that pacifism was part of LDS doctrine. Nevertheless it works here, the whole idea being that these people who carry no weapons are innocents when dealing with evil people like the Cleggs. It takes some gun toting cowboys to properly dispose of them. I think that this post World War II film is trying to say that pacifism isn't always the best policy.

Another carryover from My Darling Clementine is Alan Mowbray playing the same kind of role he did there as head of the medicine show troupe. Part of that troupe is Joanne Dru who's doing another turn as a woman of elastic virtue the same as she did in Red River. Dru used to do so many westerns that she longed to be out of gingham and into some modern fashions.

Wagonmaster is great entertainment and I'm willing to wager in the state of Utah it's a pretty popular film.


23 of 33 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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