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James Robertson Justice
Wagon master James Stephen leads a wagon train of settlers, including his wife and children, across the vast plains. Prominent among the settlers is Doc Grayson, who though not really a doctor provides what medical care he can to the travelers. The wagon train is beset by Pawnees, determined to make off with the horses. A later encounter with presumably friendly Sioux takes a dark turn when the son of the chief appears to be dying, and only Doc Grayson can help. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
How well I remember seeing this film in theaters when it first opened back in 1956. For those of you not old enough to remember the Mickey Mouse Club attained a cult following among juveniles back then. So Westward Ho The Wagons had a built in audience before a dime was made at the theater box office.
The dividing line between Walt Disney's television work and his theatrical work was invisible, both supported the other. As it happened back then his theatrical releases eventually were part of his Wonderful World of Color show and the films were built with the places obvious for commercial break.
This was never more true than with Westward Ho The Wagon. In fact it's like two separate films spliced together, the better for a two part extravaganza on TV. The first part consists of the Oregon bound settlers fending off a Pawnee attack until they can get through a canyon gap. Once through they're in Sioux country where Chief Iron Eyes Cody has taken a fancy to little Karen Pendleton of the Mouseketeers because his medicine man says that blonds are scarce and little blonds bring good luck. Her sister Kathleen Crowley has a big divergence of opinion on that premise.
In addition to the Mouseketeers playing children on the Oregon bound wagon train, the train has Fess Parker fresh from Davy Crockett as the scout. No doubt Parker's presence brought a few dollars in, he was another icon at this height of his career.
Playing the head of the wagon train and father of several Mouseketeers is George Reeves who was making his final attempt to escape typecasting as Superman. Reeves wears a beard, the better to hide his well known face and be accepted as another actor in a role rather than in his iconic character from those days.
Despite being episodic Westward Ho The Wagons holds up very well for today's audience if it were only seen. But Disney's old products for the most part are in the vault while we see endless reruns of Zack and Cody.
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