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
Some stock footage from other (non-Cinerama) epics were used. The Mexican army marching past the Alamo came from The Alamo (1960) and a Civil War battle was taken from Raintree County (1957). The final scenes of the modern U.S. were from This Is Cinerama (1952). See more »
When Ma and Pa Prescott are first buried, their grave sites are alongside a river. When older Eve is visiting her parent's grave, there is no sign of a river anywhere near the farm. 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.
See more »
I can't believe this movie won an Oscar for best screenplay.
"How The West Was Won" was part epic part gimmick. The gimmick being one of the first non-documentary films made in Cinerama. I agree that a story about the opening of the frontier sounds like a terrific idea for this type of gimmick. But the screenplay, and even some of the acting is so ridiculous that the gimmick can't pay off.
Yes it's great to see all of these great actors on screen together. But what were they thinking when they decided to let Debbie Reynold's character be the thread that holds the stories together? She's not bad through most of the movie, but when she is an old woman, this is cartoon time.
She's not helped by the inane script. Unfortunately, I believe Richard Widmark has the worst of it, as a demanding railroad owner. And could someone please tell me what that scene between Henry Morgan (looking like a dwarf as Ulysees S. Grant) and John Wayne was about?
I did think that Karl Malden, as a Quaker from the waterfront, playing Carrol Baker's father was humorous. And James Stewart as her beau (must have been 30 years older than her)was hard to watch. But wonderful Thelma Ritter saved the day.
Beautiful scenery, great cast, lousy writing, uneven acting, different directing styles that don't mesh, and lines running up and down your screen because of the gimmick, add up to a movie that should be seen but not taken seriously.
6 out of 10
54 of 102 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?