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|Index||37 reviews in total|
This is a William Wellmann's tour de force!In spite of the conventional
macho Taylor,everything rings true ,this film has a smell of
authenticity¨.Performances are so good (all the actors and mainly
actresses) and nobody overacts .Sometimes it looks like a Russian
movie,where the masses are the main hero.The fact that outside of
English,THREE other languages are used (Italian,French and Japanese)
shows Wellmann's respect for his audience.It's something to hear Denise
Darcel sing "auprès de ma blonde " -a song from the seventeenth
century- in the middle of the desert !
Some sequences are absolutely admirable ,I will mention three of them:
-the "recruitment" , the two women who hit the bull's-eyes (here a sheriff's eyes on a poster),the Italian family who registers without knowing what terrible fate lies in store for them (if they made a remake,I wonder what the politically correct world of 2004 would make of the little boy)
-After the attack,the women ,like in an army tell all the names of the dead.An echo adds to the poignancy of the situation.
-And last but not least,the survivors,who are still women,show their coquetterie and demand new clothes to meet their men.
Actually,it's the whole film which is in turn tragic,funny ,poetic,and wonderful.The gauche attitude of the men when they meet their future wives is a delight.
SPOILER:The key to the film is the birth of a child ,under the blistering sun of the desert;after the awful death of the little Italian boy,it gives hope back to the women and (to the audience).It' s the promise for them all that new children will soon be born and carry on their mammoth task.
A Russian western describes this remarkable work.
NB:Although French,Denise Darcel never made a movie in her native country.
This western is gritty and realistic, and does not spare the audience from
the grim facts of an overland trek from St. Louis to California with a wagon
train of women (the "weaker" sex, right?
As far as I know, this movie has no rival in its subject matter, and the stars are magnificent. You will laugh and you will cry, but most of all, you will come away with a deep admiration of those hearty pioneers and especially those wonderful women. I have the video in my library!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The remarkable thing about this little-known Western is that it shows,
in eye-opening detail, what hardships pioneers endured crossing
thousands of miles of wilderness. And the reason it is so honest is
that hardships of the trail are the whole point.
Robert Taylor is hired to drive a wagon train of potential brides--an interesting band of resolute widows, immigrants, and prostitutes, some quite familiar with guns-- to a newly formed community of farmers. At first he refuses, claiming women cannot withstand the demands of the weeks on the trail with only a few male escorts. And therefore the film presents those hardships.
At no point does the movie become predictable. Any of them could perish; several do. There's a rape scene, a murder, a flash flood, a runaway wagon, etc. You begin to hope for each woman's survival. Especially moving are the Italian woman and her young son, the unwed pregnant girl, the big-mama type (fabulous Hope Emerson), and Taylor's Chinese sidekick (their drunk scene is a treat). The movie misses being a truly great Western only becomes of its neatly wrapped up Hollywood ending. But this is a movie that will change your view of Pacific-bound pioneers forever, especially of pioneer women.
If only this movie would come out on DVD . . . As a woman, this is one of my favorite westerns because it shows women who were courageous, brave, and faced the same danger as all men who went west. The movie has times when you will roll with laughter and even though there may be no tears from cowboys, there are some tearjerker moments. The women in this film are not the 2 dimensional beauties who wait patiently in the wagon for the menfolk to save the day. Regardless of how many times I've seen this movie, I enjoy every single time. Unlike most westerns, any and all gunfights move the plot along and show the women evolving on their journey west. To me, this western is along side Fort Apache for the most well written script.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A truly unique western, "Westward The Women" follows the often grueling
months-long trek of several dozen mail-order brides, led by Robert
Taylor, from Chicago to California in 1851.
Lacking any musical score, except a title melody at the outset and some incidental music near the end, the film virtually plays like a documentary, utilizing unglamorous and extensive location shooting (despite a final MGM "Made In Hollywood" credit--little was actually shot inside a soundstage). Taylor, in an atypical role perhaps better suited to James Stewart, is a hard-driving, rough-hewn veteran cowboy who is at first highly suspicious of the women's chance of success, but eventually he is impressed, even overwhelmed, by their courage and fortitude amidst tremendous hardships encountered along the trail--hostile Indians, rough terrain, dust- and rain-storms, rationed water, and the unwanted advances from some of the dozen or so men accompanying them.
Director William Wellman's unpretentious approach to the theme of survival at any cost is enhanced by the stark black and white cinematography and deliberate avoidance of glossing over the harsher aspects of life on a wagon train in the nineteenth century; all the female characters are shot utilizing mostly flat, natural light sources, perhaps a daring choice by Wellman during the glamour-intensive fifties. The frankness with which he deals with the unbridled attraction many of the men and women exhibit toward each other is fascinating--in such a time and place formality is purely an afterthought when individuals are so alone in a land so untamed. Many of the men stare at the women like gold coins in a treasure chest; but the women are equally enthralled, each wondering if this is the match they've worked and waited for, for so long.
The women's eventual arrival in California, at tremendous cost both physically and personally (many of the original 100 or so women have died along the trail), is both touching and bittersweet. Though the outcome is to be expected, it is also tremendously satisfying, not for seemingly sentimental reasons but because the reward has been so hard won. Upon their arrival, the women refuse to meet their future husbands until they are allowed time to make themselves "presentable". What could easily be deemed an exercise in vanity is actually a demonstration of these women's will to fully finish what they've started; their desire to present themselves to the men in their best light is symbolic of their ultimate survival against overwhelming odds. They are, in essence, saying "we have won the battle, we are unscathed, and you must show us the respect we deserve".
One can not help but wonder if such a tale is not far from the truth, that thousands of women like those depicted in the movie braved the prairie for merely the hope of making a new life in the West. And it is that thought that ultimately makes "Westward The Women" resonate--that the West was tamed by both men AND women, and that their brave efforts and tremendous sacrifice should not be all but forgotten today.
John McIntire approaches wagonmaster Robert Taylor with an interesting
job and challenge. He wants to bring brides west to the settlement he's
founded in the southwest United States. Taylor hires on a bunch of
hands to escort the women and issues a no fraternization policy. When
one of them tries to rape one of them, he shoots him out of hand. It's
the unsettled frontier and as wagonmaster he's the law on that train as
much as a captain on a ship at sea. Of course the hands mutiny and
strand Taylor, McIntire, cook Henry Nakamura and the women.
This was a perfect western film for the post Rosie the Riveter generation. No reason at all why women couldn't deal with the rigors of a wagon train. Of course it helped to have the formidable Hope Emerson along.
Of course men and women will be men and women and Taylor breaks his own no fraternization policy with Denise Darcel. Of course this is away from the train when Darcel runs off.
William Wellman delivers us a no frills unsentimental western with gritty performances by Robert Taylor and the rest of the cast. In a bow to his colleague John Ford, Wellman does have a courtship dance at the settlement. I liked the use of the fiddle music playing Believe Me With All Those Endearing Young Charms and Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes. Ford couldn't have staged it better.
Henry Nakamura had made a big hit in MGM's Go For Broke about the Nisei division in Italy. He was a funny little guy, I'm not sure he was even five feet tall. I loved the scene when he and Taylor find a stash of buried liquor and proceed on a toot. This was his last film though, roles for oriental players were hard to come by. I wonder whatever happened to him.
If you like traditional cowboy films, this one ain't for you, but given the constraints of 19th century society for the role of woman Westward the Women is quite a revelation.
that it isn't out on DVD yet! I'd buy this movie in an instant, but knowing
that I would watch it over and over again, the tape would soon wear out. So
I am hopefully waiting for it to come out on DVD.
This movie is great! It's funny. It's touching. It's warm. It's violent. It's campy. It's everything you'd expect from the time period it was made in except for its portrayal of so many strong women. But my guess is that the women who made those journeys were in fact very strong in character.
In any case, I highly recommend it. It's a genuine "feel good" movie, even though it is riddled with many sad and turbulent scenes.
Robert Taylor spent many years trying to overcome the "pretty boy" image
his early years in Hollywood. He yearned for the meatier tough guy roles
he loved the Western genre. He also had a flair for comedy that was not
utilized (or recognized) enough in his career.
Westward The Women is a special film because of the incredible cast of female character actresses that populate it. I couldn't even speculate on the names of most of these delightful women but they are some of the more instantly recognizable faces that we never seem to be able to put a name to.
Each time I watch this film, the last "scene" (so to speak) is like the dessert at the end of a good meal. I eagerly anticipate it but control myself long enough to enjoy the movie. I have seen this movie countless times and seem never to tire of it. I hope others find this movie as special as I have over the last forty years.
This film has a lot of aspects that are quite refreshing and remarkable considering when it was made. The main supporting role is a Japanese cowboy! His character is not a typical stereotype either. Though he is comic relief, he is also given a role as a wise friend to Taylor's character. The unglamourous but brave and capable women in this film are also a nice surprise. They shoot, ride, lift and pull and do all the jobs usually done by men on this trip without complaint. One of the most touching scenes is right after an Indian raid as the women call out the names of the dead and the camera pans down to their lifeless bodies. It's a simple and unsentimental memorial to the sacrifices made.
How this movie got made in 1951 is a miracle. In an age when women were used for decoration and sex objects, Westward the Women is remarkable. It is funny, poignant, historical, and just plain wonderful. The cast is outstanding, especially the women. And, Denise Darcel gives the performance of her career. Hope Emerson almost steals the movie.
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