A young man (Cruise) leaves Ireland with his landlord's daughter (Kidman) after some trouble with her father, and they dream of owning land at the big giveaway in Oklahoma ca. 1893. When ... See full summary »
Sprawling epic which follows the Prescotts, an emigrant family through four generations, from the Erie Canal in the 1830's to their settled home in the West a half a century later. On the way they encounter river pirates, and escape with the help of fur trapper Linus Rawlings, who subsequently marries one of their daughters, Eve. The parents are drowned on a foundering raft, and the other daughter Lilith becomes a riverboat singer and catches the eye of a genteel adventurer Cleve Van Valen. They cross the plains together in a wagon train and make and lose a fortune in California; meanwhile Linus has turned farmer and, comes the Civil War, joins the Union Army and is killed at the Battle of Shiloh. One of his sons Zeb also joins the army and stays after the war as a cavalry officer and is sent to Colorado to help guard the pioneering railroad against the Indians, whose land they are crossing. By this time Lilith is the elderly lady of the family, having survived long enough to see the ... Written by
Since the three lenses of the Cinerama camera sat at angles to each other on the camera itself, it was very problematic for actors to film a scene as they would in front of a single-lensed camera. When their images were projected onto the three panels of the Cinerama screen, it would appear as though the actors were looking either slightly up-screen or slightly down-screen, and not directly at their fellow actors. This is very evident in a few scenes in the previous Cinerama film, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962). However, by the time this film went into production, this problem was solved somewhat. In order to compensate for the lens angles, actors would have to look one-third of the way in and toward the camera, and pretend that they were looking at their fellow actors. Hence, when their images were projected onto the Cinerama screen, it would appear as though they were looking at each other. It was a very difficult process for actors, which is one of the reasons that three-panel Cinerama was abandoned for narrative films after this film was released. See more »
The scene in which Linus Rawlings (James Stewart) arrives to the Prescott camp it is supposedly at night. However, the illumination and environment shows as if it was daylight. See more »
[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.
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I have not been fortunate to view this film in its original Cinerama format, but I have seen various prints of it over the years, and have recently watched the newly released DVD version.
Even in DVD's digital format, I can see how the color in some sections of the film has faded -- a pity, for there are vistas of incredible beauty in this film.
There are several reasons why this film works. The photography is simply breathtaking. The story is epic in proportions, yet as simple as the pioneers. Alfred Newman's score is lovely; This is the best film music that he had written since The Song of Bernadette. Ken Darby's vocal arrangements add just the right feel of authenticity to the sonic scheme. And, the actors are truly actors, not just "personalities". I absolutely fell in love with Thelma Ritter, Agnes Moorehead, Karl Malden, and Walter Brennan. These were just the "supporting" members of the cast. Debbie Reynolds and Gregory Peck made a great duo, James Stewart was independent, strong, yet vulnerable, and Carol Baker was sweet, if just a little conniving.
I was surprised how many times while watching the film I was moved to tears -- and not always during the sad scenes. (The scene at her father's grave when Carol Baker sends her son off to war, long after her husband has also gone, is very moving.) What was it that made me so misty-eyed? I found myself getting caught up in the lives of these pioneers, with their hopes, dreams, and disappointments, and all too human frailties.
Now for the flip side -- I must admit that I cringed when I heard Spencer Tracey's narration stating that "the west had to be won...from primitive man." It made me think about how one-sided this presentation was with regards to our treatment of Native Americans. George Peppard's character is an ally of the Native Americans, but this plot development occurs far too late to provide any kind of real balance to the story.
In the final analysis, we have a film that is not very politically correct, but is a tale told well, filmed beautifully, about people who sacrificed everything they had to pursue their dream.
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