144 user 33 critic

How the West Was Won (1962)

Approved | | Western | 20 February 1963 (USA)
A family saga covering several decades of Westward expansion in the nineteenth century--including the Gold Rush, the Civil War, and the building of the railroads.



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Won 3 Oscars. Another 7 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:


Setting off on a journey to the west in the 1830s, the Prescott family run into a man named Linus, who helps them fight off a pack of thieves. Linus then marries daughter Eve Prescott (Carroll Baker), and 30 years later goes off to fight in the Civil War with their son, with bloody results. Eve's sister, Lily, heads further west and has adventures with a professional gambler, stretching all the way to San Francisco and into the 1880s. Written by Jwelch5742

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The epic journey of four generations of Americans who carved a country with their bare hands See more »




Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

20 February 1963 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Das war der wilde Westen  »

Box Office


$15,000,000 (estimated)


$12,150,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(35 mm prints)| (Westrex Recording System)


(Metrocolor) (uncredited)

Aspect Ratio:

2.89 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Raymond Massey made a career out of portraying Abraham Lincoln, having played him on stage, on TV (Ford Star Jubilee: The Day Lincoln Was Shot (1956)) and on film (Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940)). This film marks the final time he played the President. See more »


When the buffalo stampede through the railway camp, the buffalo cause the roof of an underground bunker to collapse. However, no buffalo are shown to be injured or killed as a result. See more »


[first lines]
Narrator: [as the camera pans over the Rocky Mountains] This land has a name today, and is marked on maps. But, the names and the marks and the maps all had to be won, won from nature and from primitive man.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits: Except for historical events and characters, the events and characters depicted in this photoplay are fictitious and any similarity to actual persons or events is purely coincidental. See more »


Referenced in Relative Strangers (2006) See more »


Rock of Ages
(1763) (uncredited)
Music by Thomas Hastings
Lyrics by Augustus Montague Toplady
Performed by all at the Prescotts' burial
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Bound for the promised land, indeed.
15 April 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

One of the last great epic movies to come out of MGM that was a roaring success, How the West Was Won still has enough quality about it to warrant high praise. The story that drives the film on was suggested by the series of the same name that featured in "Life" magazine 1959. Narrative is formed around one family, the Prescott's, who set out on a journey West in 1839. They and their offspring fill out five segments of film that are directed by three different men, "The Rivers", "The Plains" & "The Outlaws" is under the guidance of Henry Hathaway, and "The Civil War" by John Ford and "The Railroad" by George Marshall.

Filmed in the unique Cinerama format, which in a nutshell is three cameras filming at once to project a fully formed experience for the human eye, the production has an all star cast and four supreme cinematographers aiding the story. To name all the cast would take forever, but in the main all of the major parts were filled by stars who had already headlined a movie previously. The cinematographers are naturally key since such a sprawling story inevitably has sprawling vistas, they come up trumps with some truly special work: William H. Daniels, Milton Krasner, Charles Lang Jr. & Joseph LaShelle, four great names who help to make the film a poetic beauty.

As a whole it's undeniably far from flawless, complaints such as it running out of steam towards the end (the irony of it since a steam train features prominently), and the plot contrivances, are fair enough. However, when the film is good, it's real good: raft in the rapids, Cheyene attack, buffalo stampede and train robbery, each of them are good enough to be a highlight in separate movies. Even the songs are pleasant, particularly when they revolve around the effervescent Debbie Reynolds, while home format transfers are now finally up to a standard worthy of investment, time and cash wise.

Hard to dislike for a Western fan, and carrying enough about it to lure in the casual viewer, How the West Was Won really is a case of they don't make them like they used to. 8/10

21 of 26 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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