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
One of the few American films to have its world premiere in London, England. See more »
When the wagon train on its way to California is attacked by Indians, it is in a mountainous area, yet the Indians are identified as Cheyenne. The Cheyenne tribe was a Great Plains tribe, and would not have been that far west. 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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